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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

A thick deposit of salt and gypsum


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volcano, I need not say, is in Persian territory, and is some 60 miles distant, as the crow flies, from Saindak, although in the clear atmosphere it does not appear more than a few miles off. It is a most impressive mountain.

Parallel ridges of sand hills, facing east, were to be seen to the south-west of the Saindak mountain, and then a wide flat plain, beyond which four successive mountain ranges, formed a powerful barrier. To the south-east also were high mountains.

On the top of the mountain we came upon some of the holes that contain lead and _Surmah_ or _Surf_--a substance much used by women in Persia, Afghanistan, Beluchistan and India for blackening the lashes and lower eyelids. Surmah was plentiful enough, especially between two layers of perpendicular rock, and also in surface pebbles when split open. Calcareous rock with galena was to be found, besides fragments of calcite, gypsum, and slag.

It appeared that the natives must at some time have tried to exploit these mines in a primitive manner, for there were many holes bored all over the top of the mountain, and near them bits of coal embedded in slag. These excavations were generally bored in mounds of yellow earth, or, rather, the mounds were of that colour because of the earth which had been extracted from the borings, the colour of the surrounding earth and rock being grey and black. Lead filaments in brittle

layers were also noticeable mixed with the earth. Two inches below the ground one found, on digging, a thick deposit of salt and gypsum.

My camels with loads had made an early start, and on my returning to camp some three hours after their departure I proceeded to catch them up on my excellent _mari_. There was very little of interest on the march. We rose over a gentle incline, travelling due south upon undulating ground to an altitude of 3,870 feet, beyond which we descended into a flat basin with a broad outlet to the south-south-east, and another south-west by a narrow defile in the mountain range. We then crossed a broader plain, about two miles broad, with good grazing for camels, and here again, being well out in the open, we got a magnificent view of the Daftan volcano (south-west) in all its splendour.

We reached Mukak (3,580 feet) in the afternoon, the distance from Saindak being 13 miles, 880 yards, and, owing to my camels being tired, and the small beady plant called _regheth_--much cherished by camels--plentiful, we halted for the remainder of the day.

At this place we found the usual _jemadar_, a _duffadar_, and four men, and were cordially received by the _palawan's_ moonshee, a nice fellow who wore a peaked turban of gigantic size, and a brown coat beautifully embroidered on the back and sleeves with violet-coloured silk. The embroidery, he informed me, took six years to make--it was not fully completed yet--and, on inquiring the cost of it, he said that it would certainly fetch as much as 10 rupees (13_s._ 4_d._) when quite finished! The pattern on it was most cleverly designed and produced a graceful effect. On the middle of the sleeves were a number of superposed T's made of ribbon bands and with delicate ornamentations round them, such as little squares with radiating threads, a frieze going all round the arm, and parallel lines. On the back was a large triangle upside down, the base at the neck and the point downwards, joining at its lower end a square the inside of which was most elaborately embroidered.

The _palawan_, or strong man, in charge of this station, was a man with a romantic history of his own, and perhaps the British Government were very wise to employ him. He is said to possess enormous muscular strength, being able to perform such amazing feats as reducing to dust between his first finger and thumb a silver rupee by merely rubbing it once, or breaking any coin in two in his hands with the same ease that one would a biscuit. Aid Mahommed, that was his name, was unfortunately absent on the day I passed through, so I was not able to witness his marvellous feats--of strength or palming(?)--and the accounts of his native admirers were not to be taken _au pied de la lettre_.


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