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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

We stopped at Mahommed Raza chah


A quaint rock resembling a huge camel's head could be seen to our left above a hill. Then, six miles from Robat, sand-hills began again. The track here lay only a few yards from the Afghan boundary which was marked by stone cairns, six feet high, painted white. To the south was a rugged chain of mountains with low sand-hills before it, and to the north across the Afghan border could now be plainly seen the interesting salt deposit of God-i-Zirreh, and another whose name I do not know. I crossed into Afghan territory with the object of visiting them, and a description will be found in the next chapter.

I returned into Beluchistan to the spot, 14 miles from Robat, where a small salt rivulet swelled by tributaries, descends from the mountains to the south and west. When in flood this stream, which must be enormously enlarged, carries down a great quantity of tamarisk wood, much of which could be seen deposited a long distance from the water's normal banks.

The road stretched in front of us in a perfectly straight line, with neat stone borders on either side, and one got so tired of seeing that line in front of one's nose that one welcomed the smallest change--even a slight ascent or a curve--in its endless, monotonous straightness. We came by and by to a little ascent--quite steep enough for camels. We could have easily avoided it by leaving the road and making a detour at the foot of the hill close to the Afghan boundary. Some caravans do.

From the highest point of the road as we looked back to the north-north-west we saw behind us sand hills, that showed traces of being still much at the mercy of the wind. Further behind, still north-north-west, was a high pointed peak, and then a long blue chain extending from south-west to north-east just rising out of the sand mist. The highest peaks were at the most extreme north-east point. Then the mountains became lower and lower, and the horizon met the flat long line of the desert.

A fine view of the Afghan desert, with its two extensive salt deposits, can be obtained from Laskerisha, a name given to a brackish well on the hill side (3,590 feet) with a ditch and hollow next to it for the convenience of camels. A triangular unroofed shelter has been erected some 80 feet below the well on the hill slope, and other wells have been bored close by, the water of which is undrinkable. This was the highest point of the road 3,590 feet, on that march. Before reaching it we saw a castle-like structure surmounting a peak of the mountain that we had been following to the south; there appeared to be actual windows in it, showing the light through, and a track leading up to it. Unfortunately, the sun--quite blinding--was just behind it when I passed it, and I could not well ascertain with my telescope whether it was a natural formation of rock or a real ancient fortress, nor could I get any information on the subject from the natives, and it was too far out of my track for me to go and visit it.

On our descent on the south-east side of the hill we came across semi-spherical sand mounds in great numbers; the mountains on our right were apparently of volcanic formation. They were very highly coloured, generally bright red with green summits; then there were mountains deep red all over, and further on stood one green from top to bottom, although there was not a thread of vegetation upon it. At the foot of the mountains on the edge of the desert were a few dried up tamarisks.

We stopped at Mahommed Raza-chah, where there are five wells, three of good water and two brackish ones. There was a mere mud _thana_ at this place, but wood and bricks were being brought up to construct a bungalow.

[Illustration: Rest House at Mahommed Raza Chah overlooking Afghan Desert.]


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