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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Illustration Beluch Prisoners at Saindak


[Illustration:

The Thana and New Bungalow at Saindak. (Saindak Mt. in background.)]

On my arrival they proceeded to clear one of the chambers for me, and to my astonishment out of it came four wretched men chained together by the hands and feet and in a pitiable condition. Not that their countenances, when one examined their faces, called for much pity. More palpably criminal types could be found nowhere, but somehow or other to see these poor devils stumbling along, with the iron rings round their bruised and sore ankles showing through the torn rags which covered their skeleton legs, and the agonized expressions on their worn, repulsively cruel faces, was not an edifying sight. They had been brought down here to work and, for prisoners, were treated considerately enough, I suppose. But they seemed very ill and suffering. Two were robbers, the other two--father and son--had murdered a man and stolen 400 sheep. They were condemned to captivity for life.

I declined to put up in that room, especially when I happened to peep in and was nearly choked by the foul odour that emanated from inside, and preferred--although it was very cold--to inhabit the unroofed new two-roomed bungalow in course of construction, which I found really very comfortable.

As can be seen by the photograph the thana and bungalow of Saindak are built on rather an attractive site under the shelter of the Saindak Mountain.

Whenever I see a mountain I cannot resist the temptation to go up it, and now, after all the thousands of miles of flat country I had traversed, I felt this desire more strongly than ever. The ascent of the mountain presented no difficulty except that its rocky sides were somewhat steep. I resolved to go up early the next morning before making a start with my camels.

In the meantime during the evening I was instructed by Mahommed Hussein, my camel man, in the Beluch fashion of making bread--really a most ingenious device. A stone of moderate size, say 4 inches in diameter and as round as can be found, is made red hot on the fire, and upon it a coating of paste--flour, water, and salt--is deposited evenly so as to make an envelope of paste one inch thick all over. Three, four, five, or as many of these balls as required being made, they are placed in a circle near a blazing fire, so that the outside may get baked as well as the inside. When ready for consumption the balls are split open and the stones removed. The bread is really most excellent and resembles a biscuit.

[Illustration: Beluch Prisoners at Saindak.]

At Saindak (altitude 3,810 feet) there are a number of wells, mostly very salt, but one has quite fair water, only slightly brackish. The water, however, had a peculiar taste of its own, as if it had gone through lead deposits, and, on mentioning this to some Beluch they told me that lead was, in fact, found on the mountains just above this camp. Having drunk two glasses of this water I was taken with bad internal pains, but I must in fairness own that I do not know whether to attribute this entirely to the water or to indiscreet consumption of an irresistible, extra rich plum-cake which the wonderful Sadek now produced, much to my surprise and delight, from among my provisions.

Travellers, however, would do well to bring their own supply of water from Kirtaka, if they are coming from Robat, or from Mukak, if travelling from Quetta.

The ascent to the summit of the Saindak mountain well repays the traveller for the exertion of getting there, and that not only on account of its geological formation. Looking over the lower mountains one obtained a magnificent view of the Afghan desert as far as the eye could see, to the north-west and north-east, while to the west lay a mountain mass, the Mirjawa mountains, and innumerable sand hills. To the south-south-west towered above everything the double-humped active volcano of Kuh-i-Daftan, with its snow-capped crater. It was smoking, notwithstanding the ridiculous theory entertained by some F.R.G.S. that volcanoes cannot exist so far south in the Northern Hemisphere! We saw this volcano for several days and it threw up considerable volumes of smoke. At night it occasionally had quite a glow above its crater.


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