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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

This was one of the worst bits of the Robat Nushki road


The reader may perhaps gauge what the loss of a camel would have been when he is told that between Sher-i-Nasrya, Sistan, and Nushki--a journey of some 500 miles--neither camels nor any other mode of conveyance are, under ordinary circumstances, to be procured.

We passed a conical hill, by the roadside, which had thick deposits of gypsum on the south-east side of its base, while on the north-west side the process of petrification of the sand was fully illustrated. The thin surface layer when moist gets baked by the sun, and thus begins its process of solidification; then another layer of sand is deposited on it by the wind and undergoes the same process, forming the thin, horizontal strata so common in the section of all these hills. The lower strata get gradually harder and harder, but those nearer the surface can be easily crumbled into sand again by pressure between one's fingers.

These were the main altitudes registered on the day's march: Plain, 3,220 feet; 16 miles from Mukak, 3,200 feet; while a mile and a half further we had gone as low as 2,500 feet on a wide plain with undulations. The rocky mountain, when seen edgewise from a distance, had appeared like a tower; now, on approaching it on its broad side, its silhouette altered its semblance into that of an elongated crouching lion.

Great quantities of gypsum could be seen in layers under the sand and fragments that covered the surface. In places the ground was quite white as if with snow. The track, until we had passed the isolated "lion" mountain (about 20 miles from Mukak), maintained a direction of east, east-south-east, and south-east, but about a mile further, it turned sharply northwards in a bed of soft sand, between sand mounds to the north-east and a sand bank facing north, the top of which, full of humps, was not unlike a crocodile's back.

To the right we had an open space where one got a view of the desert and mountains to the south, and then we wended our way, in zig-zag, among sand hills bearing no unusual characteristics, and travelled across a very sandy plain with clusters of _regheth_ here and there.

This was one of the worst bits of the Robat-Nushki road. The sand was troublesome and the track absolutely obliterated by it in this portion. Twenty-three miles, 660 yards from Mukak we arrived at Sahib Chah, a spot which no traveller is ever likely to forget, especially if a few drops of water from one of the wells are tasted. When the road was made it was very difficult to find drinkable water in this part, and this well--renowned all over Beluchistan and Sistan for its magic powers--has up to the present time been the only successful attempt; but I understand from Captain Webb-Ware, who is in charge of the road, that he hopes to find or has found water further north, on the other side of the hill range, and that in future the traveller will be spared the good fortune of visiting this heavenly spot.

Most attractive iron troughs had been brought here and placed near the four wells, and up-to-date wooden windlasses had been erected on the edge of each well--conveniences that were not quite so common at the stations we had already passed. This may lead the unwary traveller to believe that the water of these wells must have some special charm.

One well was, fortunately, absolutely dry. The water of two was so powerful in its lightning effects that unfortunate was the wretch who succumbed to the temptation of tasting it; while the water of the fourth well, one was told, was of a quite good drinking kind. I had been warned not to touch it, but my men and camels drank some and it had equally disastrous effects on men and beasts. Sadek, who was requested to experiment and report on such occasions, thought his last hour had come, and he and the camel men moaned and groaned the greater part of the night. The water seemed not only saturated with salt, but tasted of lead and phosphorus, and was a most violent purgative.


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