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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration Beluch Black Tents at Mahommed Raza Chah


Kirtaka,

the next rest-house, was by no means an attractive place, but was interesting, inasmuch as, besides the track over the mountains leading to Mirjawa, a direct route went from this point to Sher-i-Nasrya in Sistan, which city could be reached in three days, by crossing Afghan territory, and cutting off the long westerly detour via Robat--the Malek-Siah; and yet another track to Cabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which could be reached in twenty days. The latter track was said to be absolutely waterless for the first three days' march, no wells and therefore no villages being found, but after three days, on striking the Halmund, plenty of water, fuel, and food could be obtained, and plenty of people were to be met with.

South-east of the old towered enclosure, which had five rooms, a new bungalow of two rooms and bathrooms, with kitchen buildings apart behind, was being built. It was sheltered by a rugged background of mountains of no great height, but picturesque enough and highly coloured when the sun shone upon them. Being, however, well rounded and looking like petrified accumulations of sand, they did not quite compare in interest with the fantastic cutting edges of the Malek-Siah and neighbouring ranges. They formed the southern barrier to the Beluchistan extension of the Afghan desert.

The altitude of Kirtaka was 3,710 feet.

There was a curious Beluch grave here made of

white stones with an edge of grey pebbles, and a circle round it, with a smaller outer kneeling place, such as may be seen in the numerous Mesjids so common all over the country, the various styles of which will be duly described in a subsequent chapter.

Innumerable sand hills and, in fact, a long hill range some 350 feet high stood to the west in front of the rocky mountains behind. These caused a great many ups and downs on the track, the principal heights I measured being: 3,800 feet, 3,700 feet, 3,420 feet (8 miles from Kirtaka), this latter altitude where the road lay close to the mountains. Beyond this point the track was south-east (125 deg. bearings magnetic) with picturesque mountains on the east-south-east and high red sand hills in the east, one isolated high black hill lying in the desert beyond. A very pointed conical hill was noticeable, and another like a small replica of Fujisan of Japan fame. This latter hill was in Afghan territory. A number of great rocky pillars stood upright above the hill tops. Twelve miles from Kirtaka we crossed a river bed 150 feet wide, which lost itself in the Afghan desert. Then a mile further we came to another river bed.

[Illustration: Beluch Black Tents at Mahommed Raza Chah.]

[Illustration: Rock Pillar between Kirtaka and Saindak.]

The track here (about 13 miles from Kirtaka) turned south-west following the river bed, then due south, where among the mountains we saw a huge pillar of a brilliant yellow colour and over 50 feet high, standing up by the roadside. The illustration gives a fair idea of it. To the south-east in the direction of our track, which for a change was quite tortuous, were mounds of sand and debris. The red rock of the mountains seemed crumbling towards the east, whereas the hills to the west were well rounded and padded with sand and gravel.


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