Morad Khan Kella--The horrors of a camera--Seven high
dunes--Three tracks--Where the railway will be laid--A fine old
tamarisk turned into a Ziarat--Pagoda-like rest-houses--Science
versus comfort--Kanak--Afghan women--The Kandahar road--How we
butcher foreign names--Quetta and Chaman--The horse fair and
Durbar at Sibi--Arrival in Calcutta--The first mishap--The death
of faithful Lawah--The end.
There was a ruined fort at Morad Khan Kella, and half a mile off a Beluch village with two towers. Each house had a separating wall extending outwardly. The Beluch is wretched if he is not secluded. The first thing he ever wants to know is the exact extent of his property, then he is quite happy and can live at peace with his neighbours. As folks live more outside their houses than indoors, I suppose such a demarcation of property is necessary. Moreover, people and beasts live in friendly intercourse, and no doubt the beasts, which may be the cherished pets of one man, may be just the reverse to his neighbours. The houses were rectangular and plastered over with mud.
The people here were not quite so friendly as in other villages, and one began to feel the effects of nearing civilisation. Somebody, too, had been at this people with a camera before, for I hardly had time to take mine out of its case before the whole population, which had collected around, stampeded in all directions in the utmost confusion. Only a little child--whom the mother dropped in the hurry-scurry--was left behind, and he was a quaint little fellow clad in a long coloured gown and a picturesque red hood.
We left Morad Khan Kella (5,430 feet) again on February 2nd, along the vast plain which is to be crossed by the future railway from north to south (190°). On nearing the Killi range we came again to some high sand dunes rising in a gentle gradient to 250 feet, their lowest point being to the north, the highest to the south. The plain itself on which we were travelling (stretching from south-west to north-east) rose gradually to 5,650 feet on undulating ground with a number of sand hills, seven high long dunes, and some minor ones.
We then came to a flat plain slanting northwards and with high sand accumulations to the south near the hill range. A rivulet of salt water losing itself in the sand was found next, and then we had to cross a pass 6,020 feet. One obtained a beautiful view of the Mustang Mountains to the south-east with two plains, intersected by a high mountain range between us and them. There were three tracks from this pass. One south-east, called the Mustang track, the other (north-east) the Tiri Road, and one, on which we were travelling, north-north-east (50°) to Kanak. The very high Kuh-i-Maran peak could be seen in the distance to the south-east.
The railway will here follow the river which, coming from Mustang, flows south-west to Panchepoy. Then the line will proceed through the gorge in the mountains to the west. Some few miles from Kanak at the entrance of this gorge were curious cuts in the sand, evidently caused by water. Tamarisk was most luxuriant here.
A small graveyard and a semi-natural Ziarat, formed by a much contorted centenarian tamarisk tree of abnormal proportions, were also to be seen here. The branches had been twisted to form a low doorway leading to a huge grave in the centre of the enclosing oval formed by the old tree and some other smaller ones. Large round stones, as well as palm leaves, brooms, and various implements had been deposited on the grave; while suspended to the tree branches over the doorway hung brass camel-bells and tassels from camel collars.
During that day we had come across a great many Mesjids, either single or in sets of three, and several other Ziarats of no special importance. In the valley of Kanak there were a number of Beluch towns and villages, two at the foot of the Shalkot Mountain and one in each valley to the south of the track.
We made our last halt at the pagoda-like Bungalow of Kanak, a comfortable large, black wood verandah with a tiny dwelling in the centre, whitewashed walls, and a corrugated iron roof. The man who built it was apparently more of a mechanical engineer than an architect, and every detail is carried out on some highly scientific principle which impressed one much after the less elaborate but very practical abodes we had inhabited further east.
Here there was a gate suspended on long iron rods besides the usual hinges, each screw had a bolt at the end, and on proceeding inside, the ceiling was supported on very neat but most insecure-looking wooden bars no thicker than three inches. A most ingenious theory of angles kept up the heavy roof--why it did, Heaven only knows! In contrast to the other bungalows, where we had no glass at all, here we had glass everywhere. One's bedroom door was two-thirds made of the most transparent panes of glass that could be got, and so were the two doors of the bath-room--one leading directly on to the outside verandah. The boards of the floor had shrunk, and between the interstices one got a bird's-eye view of what went on in the underlying room.
A great deal of space and expense has been devoted to outer show and scientific detail, whereas the rooms were small, and unfortunate was the man who tried to occupy the upper room when a fire had been lighted in the chimney of the room below. The bungalow was, however, comfortably furnished, and from its spacious verandah afforded a most magnificent view all round.
The high Chiltan Mountains above Shalkot were on one side, and various picturesque hill ranges stretched across the large plane dotted with a Beluch village here and there.
In front of the entrance gate at the bungalow a nice pool of water reflected in its more or less limpid waters the images of over-leaning leafless trees.
Whatever remarks one may make about the construction of the bungalow it must be confessed that it photographed well. (See illustration facing page 438).
The altitude of Kanak was 5,730 feet.
We made an early start on this our last march, steering between the handsome Takatu Mountain and the Chiltan, between which Quetta lies. We met a number of Afghan women in long, loose black gowns from neck to foot, and silver ornaments round the neck and arms. They had austere but handsome features with expressive eyes.
About six miles from Quetta we struck the wide Kandahar Road at the foot of the Takatu Mountain. From this point we got the first glimpse of Shalkot or Quetta. "Quetta" is the English corruption, abbreviation, or adaptation, if you please, of the word "Shalkot!" One almost wished one could have trembled when one stopped for a moment to read the first notice in English on approaching the town, warning new-comers of the dreadful things that would happen to any one entering the town carrying a camera or found sketching or taking notes!
It came on to snow as we approached the place, and shortly after sunset my caravan entered the neat, beautifully-kept roads of Quetta, and behold, joy!--I heard for the first time since August last the whistle of a railway engine. This was on February 3rd, 1902.
I met with unbounded civility and hospitality from everybody in Quetta as well as at Chaman, our most north-westerly point on the Afghan boundary. For those who believe in the unpreparedness of England, it may be stated that, from this point, we could with ease lay a railroad to Kandahar in less than three weeks.
A most charming invitation from the Honourable the Agent to the Governor-General and Chief Commissioner in Beluchistan, Col. C. E. Yate, C.S.I., C.M.G., etc., took me almost directly to Sibi, where the annual horse show and Beluch Durbar were to take place. A great many locally-bred animals were exhibited, some very good indeed. Camel, horse, and cow races enlivened the show, and a very weird representation of a Beluch raid was performed with much entrain. At the Durbar, the leading Chiefs were presented by Col. Yate with handsome gold and silver embroidered coats, waistcoats, scarves and turbans, and the scene was very impressive.
One could not help again being struck by the dignified, manly behaviour of the Beluch on one side, and their frank respect for the British officers,--a respect indeed well-deserved, for a finer set of men in every way than our Political Service Officers can be found nowhere. It is a pity we have not similar men all over India.
From Sibi I travelled by rail across country to Calcutta, where I arrived at the beginning of March, having completed my journey overland--if the short crossing from Baku to Enzeli be excepted--from Flushing (Holland).
It never does to boast. I was feeling somewhat proud to have travelled such a long distance with no serious mishaps or accidents, when, much to my sorrow, Sadek, my Persian servant, returned one evening to the hotel dreadfully smashed up. He had been attacked in the bazaar by three Englishmen of Calcutta, two of whom had held him down on the ground while the third kicked him badly in the head, body and legs. It appears that these three ruffians had a grievance against Persians in general, hence their heroic deed against a man who had done them no harm.
It was indeed too bad to have to register that, in a journey of over 10,000 miles, the only people who had shown any barbarity were--in a sort of way--my own countrymen!
Much as I love Beluchistan, I like India less and less each time I go there. Maybe it is because I always have misfortunes while in the country. Indeed, I received a last and severe blow while proceeding by train from Calcutta to Bombay to catch a homeward steamer. My faithful cat Lawah died, suffocated by the intense moist heat in the carriage. The other two cats I just managed to keep alive by constant rubbing with ice.
From Bombay I despatched Sadek back to Teheran via the Gulf and Bushire, and the two surviving cats and I sailed by P. & O. for England, where we all three arrived happy, safe, and sound.