« AnteriorContinuar »
Three of its sides are encompassed with a mud wall eighteen or twenty feet high, flanked at intervals of two hundred and fifty paces, by bastions, which, with the intermediate spaces, are pierced with numerous loop-holes for the matchlock-men, but no cannon; a face of the mountain, cut away perpendicularly, forms the defence on the fourth side, on the summit of which is the palace of Mahnood Khan, chief of Kelat, and nominal beglerbeg of Beloochistan. The city has three gates. The number of houses inside the walls is upwards of two thousand five hundred; and that of the suburbs may exceed one half of this amount. The streets are broader than is usual in eastern cities, and most of them have a raised pathway on either side for foot-passengers. In the middle is an uncovered kennel to receive all the filth of the streets, which is suffered sometimes to stagnate and become very offensive. The upper parts of the houses project, and almost meet cach other; this obstructs the air, and makes the lower part gloomy and wet. The bazaar is extensive and well furnished with all kinds of goods; fresh ineat, vegetables, and the necessaries of life are procurable daily and at a moderate rate. The town is well supplied with running water from a fountain in one of the hills, the stream of which turns several mills; and Mr. Pottinger tells us, as a remarkable fact, that the water of the spring possesses a considerable degree of tepidity until after sunrise, when it suddenly becomes exceedingly cold, and remains so during the day. This apparent change in the temperature of the water, which is in fact a change in that of the atmosphere, has led Mr. Pottinger precisely into the same error that Mr. Elphinstone recorded on a similar occasion.
The khan of Kelat, with his family, and the principal inhabitants, had, as is usual, gone down to Kutch Gundava, a district that juts into the plains of Sinde, to avoid the severity of the winter, which is here so intense that, on the 12th February, the water with which Lieutenant Pottinger was washing his hands on the sunny side of the house, at mid-day, became ice as it touched the ground. The travellers had nevertheless abundance of visiters at their lodging outside the city walls, which a Hindoo, to whom they were recommended, procured for them, and which he said was very suitable for "horse dealers,' having a walled yard attached to it. Among the numerous visiters were some Baubees, a class of Affgban merchants, one of whom recognized our travellers, and as serted that he had seen them the preceding year in Sinde; this they stoutly denied, which was fortunately ascribed by the Barbees merely to an unwillingness to acknowledge their reduced cir: cumstances and station in life, and not to any fear of detection.
On the 5th March they pursued their route northwards towards Kandahar, chiefly through defiles- of rugged mountains, one of
which Mr. Pottinger describes as the most difficult, beyond all comparison, that he had ever seen in any country; and from the top of which the desert burst on his view, extending as far as the eye could trace, with the semblance of a smooth ocean from the reflection of the sun on the sand. On the following day, having descended the heights for about five hours, and crossed a branch of the desert of about six miles in width, they entered the village of Nooshky on the morning of the 9th March. The appearance of strangers was a novel occurrence that attracted the whole population, who crowded round them and began to be rude and troublesome, when a man habited like a Persian advised them to go to the Mehman Khanu, where, he said, they would be safe and unmolested. The moment they arrived at this spot the conduct of the people was totally changed; they became attentive to their wants, spread carpet for them, brought pillows from the sirdar's house, who was absent, and showed them all the respect due to the guests of the chief, and as strangers entitled to all the rights of hospitality. The · House of Guests' is of Arabic origin, and exists even among the degenerate tribes scattered over the sandy plains of Northern Africa. The sirdar, or chief, on his arrival, was very kind to them, and sent his son with twelve matchlock-men to protect them to Dooshak, for which, however, payment was demanded, and a bargain made : during their stay at Nooshky they were regularly supplied with bread, sour milk, cheese, dhol, or pease-soup;
and fætida plants stewed in rancid butter--more rank and nauceous than the drug itself—but considered by the Belooches as an exquisite dainty. Every soul seemed ready to devour the young plants when brought in by the Brahooes from the mountains, so that the people were not only offensively strong, but the very air was impregnated with the effuvia. It seems doubtful if this was the real assafoetida plant (a species of ferula, or giant fennel) from which the Persians collect the drug, as described by the accurate Kæmpfer; Mr. Pottinger says the Belooche assafoetida plant has leaves resembling those of the Indian large beet root, and the head * much the appearance of a cauliflower.?
Here our two travellers separated in order that they might obtain a more extensive knowledge of the country, Captain Christie proceeding northerly to Herat, and Lieutenant Pottinger westerly towards Kirman. Here also they learned that the umeers of Sinde had sent two men to Kelat in order to seize and carry
them to Hyderabad, having discovered that they were not horse dealers but Europeans, whose object was to survey the country, and that one of them was known to have been with the British envoy in Sinde the year before. Captain Christie had already departed with the sirdar's son; and Lieutenant Pottinger now found it prudent to hasten his
bargain with Moorad Khan, the sirdar's nephew, (against whom the old chief cautioned him as a great rascal,) to protect him to Surhud on the western frontier of Beloochistan, for sixty rupees.
Between Nooshky and the desert are some ancient remains of buildings that were probably erected by the Guebres or Parsees, the worshippers of fire : one was a sort of cupola, near which, tradition says, is the site of an ancient town whose inhabitants were 80 wealthy that they mixed the chunam or cement, for the erection of their houses and other edifices, with milk instead of water, an unnecessary and ostentatious waste, which so incensed the deity, that a curse was denounced on the place, and it gradually sunk into misery and decay; another was a range of large stones at twenty or thirty yards distance, which were said to be placed there by Rustum (the celebrated Persian hero) to commemorate the pace at which his favourite steed galloped; a third consisted of a great number of quadrangular tombs, as they appeared to be, each surrounded by a wall of open freestone work, extending along the banks of the Bale river, and near them were scattered, over the edge of the desert, several large mounds of earth and stones, but Mr. Pottinger could not discover any inscriptions : his guide told him that the buildings were of a stone that was not to be found in any part of the country.
After travelling five days over a dry, rugged, and nearly uninhabited country, Mr. Pottinger arrived, on the 31st March, at the skirts of the Red Sandy Desert, which presents to the reader's imagination such a scene of dreary desolation, and is so unlike every thing that any other part of the world affords, so much worse even than the Sahara of Northern Africa, that we shall make no apology for extracting this part of the narrative at full length, Having filled every thing that could contain water so brackish as. barely to be palatable, though drawn out of a well 150 feet deep, Mr. Pottinger says,
• We quitted this well just as the sun rose, and proceeded the greater part of the way on foot, twenty-seven miles farther, over a desert of red sand, the particles of which were so light, that when taken in the hand they were scarcely more than palpable; the whole is thrown by the winds into an irregular mass of waves, principally running east and west, and varying in height from ten to twenty feet; most of these rise perpendicularly on the opposite side to that from which the prevailing wind blows, (north-west,) and might readily be fancied, at a distance, to resemble a new brick wall. The side facing the wind slopes off with a gradual declivity to the base (or near it) of the next windward wave. It again ascends in a straight line, in the same extraordinary manner as above described, as to form a hollow or path between them. I kept as much in these paths as the direction I had to travel in would admit of, but had nevertheless exceeding difficulty
and fatigue in urging the camels over the waves when it was requisite to do so, and more particularly where we had to clamber up the leeward or perpendicular face of them, in which attempt we were many times defeated, and reduced to go round until an easier place or turn in the wave offered. On the oblique or shelving side the camels got up pretty well, as their broad feet saved them from sinking deeper than we did ourselves, and the instant they found the top of the wave giving way from their weight, they most expertly dropt on their knees, and in that posture gently slid down with the sand, which was luckily so uncon. nected, that the leading camel usually caused a sufficient breach for the others to follow on foot. All symptoms of vegetation had ceased for the latter ten miles of my journey this day, except a few stunted bushes of the taghuz, (a species of tamarisk,) and a hardy little plant called, by the Belooches, shirrikoh (mountain-top) bearing a purple flower with a very powerful odoriferous smell. My guide appeared to be regulated in bis movements by a chain of mountains that were at times just descernible to the southward. We spent the night under the shelter of one of the sand-waves, where the atmosphere was uncommonly bot and close.
1st April. I travelled to-day twenty miles across a desert of the same description as yesterday, and consequently the like impediments opposed me, which were trifling, however, compared with the distress suffered not only by myself and people, but even the camels, from the Boating particles of sand : a phenomenon which I am still at a loss to account for. When I first observed it, the desert seemed, at the distance of half a mile or less, to have an elevated and flat surface from six to twelve inches higher than the summits of the waves. peared to recede as we advanced, and once or twice completely encircled us, limiting the horizon to a very confined space, and conveying a most gloomy and unnatural sensation to the mind of the beholder : at the same moment we were imperceptibly covered with innumerable atoms of small sand, wbich, getting into our eyes, mouths, and nostrils, caused excessive irritation, attended with extreme thirst, that was increased in no small degree by the intense heat of the sun. tioning my Brahooé guide, who, though a perfectly wild savage, had more local knowledge than any other person of the party, he said that this annoyance was supposed by his countrymen and himself to originate in the solar beams causing the dust of the desert (as be emphatically styled it) to rise and float through the air; and judging from experience, I should pronounce this idea to be partly correct, as I can aver that this sandy ocean was only visible during the hottest part of the day.'
This vapour ap.
We will not stop to criticise the Brahooe's explanation, or Lieutenant Pottinger's theory, both of which we suspect, when weighed in the balance, would be found wanting ; but we are quite satisfied that he is perfectly right in distinguishing this misty, murky, and palpable atmosphere, from that luminous illusion which tantalizes the thirsty traveller with the appearance of water, so well
known to the natives of these dry and sandy regions by the name of suhrab, and to the French savans by that of mirage.
On the 2d April the desert was less sandy, but not less solitary; and a surface of hard black gravel, without a trace of verdure or even a bush to be seen, was but a gloomy sort of relief from the dazzling glare of the preceding day. In such a solitude, even the strife of the elements is not contemplated without sensations that are not apt to be felt by those who are placed in more happy circumstances.
• I experienced this forenoon a violent tornado or gust of wind, accompanied by a torrent of rain, which continued for half an hour, and was absorbed by the earth as it fell. It came on most unexpectedly, and had the guide not apprized me of its strength, we should probably bave fared worse than we did, for it would have been an act of temerity to have tried to sit on the camels during its impetuous fury. Before it began the sky was clear, save a few small clouds in the north-west quarter ; and the only antecedent warning it afforded was the oppressive sultriness of the air, and a vast number of wbirlwinds springing up on all sides ; the moment the Brahooe saw these whirlwinds disperse, which they did as if by magic, and a cloud of dust approacbing, be advised us to dismount, and we had hardly time to do so, and lodge ourselves snugly behind the camels, when the storm burst upon us with a furious blast of wind; the rain fell in the largest drops I ever remember to have seen, and the air was so completely darkened, that I was absolutely unable to discern any thing at the distance even of five yards. Moorad happened to place himself about so many paces in front of me, and when I looked up, during the beight of the tempest, I saw nothing of him, and therefore concluded he had shifted his position ; but when it was over, I found bim still in the same spot. These bursts are by no means rare, and though unpleasant at the instant, have their attendant advantages, as they cool and purify the atmosphere, which would otherwise be quite intolerable at any season, and is so notwithstanding their prevalence throughout the hot months from June to September.'-p. 135.
During these months the desert is indeed absolutely impassable; these blasts, called sometimes the Julot, (the flame,) and sometimes the Badé Sumoom, (pestilential wind,) being destructive of every organized being that is exposed to it.
• Its effects on the human frame were related to me by those who had been eye-witnesses of them, as the most dreadful that can be imagined: the muscles of the unhappy sufferer become rigid and contracted ; the skin sbrivels; an agonizing sensation, as if the flesh was on fire, pervades the whole frame; and, in the last stage, it cracks into deep gashes, producing hemorrhage that quickly ends his misery. In some instances life is annihilated instantaneously, and in others the unfortunate victim lingers for hours, or perhaps days, in the excru. ciating tortures I have described. To render this terrible scourge still