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Chapter 38

A long march--Karodak--Sandstorm--A salt
plain--Yadgar--Padag--Beluch huts--Fierce wind--Plants--Kuchaki
chah--Another double march--Mall--Two tracks--Peculiar cracks--A
gigantic geological fault--An old Beluch fort--Nushki.

Captain Webb-Ware having most kindly arranged to "dak" camels for me, I was enabled to remain here one day by sending my own camels with loads ahead, I proposing to catch them up by going three marches on January 27th. The distance was 54 miles 980 yards, and I covered it in nine hours, which was quite good going.

"Sand mounts and high hill ranges were to the north and south, and the track lay east-north-east (70° b.m.) with parallel sand ridges to the north. Three long sand banks from 30 to 50 feet high, facing north, accumulated by wind coming through gaps in the hills. To south, high mountains as one approaches Karodak."

That is the only entry I find in my note-book for the march between Dalbandin and Karodak (16 miles 380 yards). Here the camel that had been sent ahead for me to ride to the next post-house had unluckily bolted, and after wasting nearly an hour the Beluch were unable to capture him. I bade good-bye to the jemadar and his men, who had politely escorted me thus far, and had to continue upon the same camel.

At Karodak (3,220 feet) there was a small thana surrounded by sand hills, with high tamarisks and good grazing for camels, but the water of the wells was salt.

We trotted along in a terrific wind storm, with yellowish dust obscuring everything like a fog, and went over numerous big stretches of mud and salt, cracked by the sun in semicircles like the scales of a fish. Low hills could now be perceived to north, south and east, when the wind slightly abated and the dust settled down.

After crossing a sand ridge extending from north to south, we still going east-north-east (70° b.m.), another large salt plain disclosed itself before us. The old track went from this point towards the south, but the new one was in a perfectly straight line. For the first time since entering Beluchistan one began to see some little vegetation on the hill sides, and a few high tamarisks could be noticed in the plain itself.

At Yadgar (altitude 3,100 feet) we found a four-towered thana, with one duffadar, four sepoys, five mari camels, and three wells of good water, as well as a new bungalow, but I only remained just a few minutes to change my belongings from Captain Webb-Ware's camel to mine, which was waiting here for me, and speedily proceeded for Padag where, in a terrible wind which had risen again after sunset, I arrived at eight o'clock in the evening.

At Padag (3,080 feet) a number of semi-spherical Beluch huts, 4 to 5 feet high, with domes thatched with tamarisk and palm leaves, were to be seen. Most dwellings were in couples, enclosed in a circular wall for protection against the wind as well as from the observation of intruders. Although a cold wind was blowing fiercely at the time, and the thermometer was only four degrees above freezing point, there were some twenty children playing about perfectly naked, and they seemed quite happy and comfortable.

From Padag we went across another plain of salt and mud, with sorag grass and drog, two plants much cherished by camels. To the north of our track was an extensive surface of salt deposits, extending from west to east, which looked just as if the country were covered by snow. Quantities of eshwerk--very pretty to look at when in flower, but most poisonous--were now found, and brug, good for horses. There were three parallel ranges of broken-up mountains on our south, and lots of tamarisks on the south edge of the salt deposits. It was rather curious that to the north of our track the vegetation consisted entirely of drog grass, whereas to the south there was only eshwerk.

A few yards from the track to the south we came upon a graveyard (a Kabistan) with some fifteen or twenty graves. Water we had seen flowing in two or three channels from the mountain to supply villages and forming pools here and there. We passed between two mountains into another plain with dried up karankosh bushes, much liked by camels. Good grazing for horses was to be found north, and extended as far as the foot of the mountains.

Kuchaki Chah, an unroofed rest-house a few feet square--a photograph of which can be seen in the illustration here appended--lies between two high ranges of rocky mountains with high accumulations of sand to the south-west and north-east respectively. The rugged mountains to the south were called Bajin. Another shrub, trat, also much cherished by camels, was plentiful here. Black precipitous rocks in vertical strata, splitting into long slabs and blocks, were to be seen along the mountain range to the South.

We had made another double march on that day, and reached Mall in the middle of the night. Padag to Kuchaki Chah, 13 miles, 756 yards; Kuchaki Chah to Mall, 15 miles, 1,154 yards. Total, 29 miles, 150 yards.

It was freezing hard, thermometer 28° Fahrenheit, and the wind bitterly cold. My men felt it very much and so did my camels, which all became ill.

We left Mall again very early the following morning, as I intended to proceed direct to Nushki. There were two tracks here to Nushki, the old and the new. The old track went in a straight line and was in consequence some miles shorter; the new track more or less follows the foot of the mountain range, probably taking this course for the convenience of the several Beluch villages to be found in the Nushki plain.

The rocky mountain range to the south got lower as we approached Nushki, and was then crossed by another low range extending from north to south while the longer and higher range stretched from north-north-east to south-south-west. A few miles from Nushki we came across some most peculiar and very deep cracks in the earth's crust. One could plainly see that they were not caused by the erosion of water, but by a commotion such as an earthquake. In fact, we came, soon after, to a place where the whole sandy plateau had actually collapsed, and when we stood on the edge of the portion which still remained unchanged, we could see it end abruptly in perpendicular cliffs. What was the evident continuation of the valley lay now some hundred or more feet below its former level. In this lower valley there were a number of Beluch villages.

This crack and depression extends for no less than 120 miles, according to Major MacMahon, who in 1896 went, I believe, along its entire length into Afghan territory, and he describes it as "a well-defined, broad line of deep indentations, in places as clearly defined as a deep railway cutting. Springs of water are to be found along its course. The crack extends north from Nushki along the foot of the Sarlat range, and then diagonally across the Khwajah Amran range, cutting the crest of the main range near its highest peak and crossing the Lora River. A well-marked indentation was traceable at the edge of the plain near Murghachaman, some 18 miles north of Chaman."

MacMahon states that the Beluch themselves attribute it to three different earthquakes, of which accounts have been handed down by their fathers, and at the time of which deep fissures appeared that have subsequently extended. Major MacMahon adds that this crack marks the line of a gigantic geological fault, with sedimentary rocks to the east of it and igneous rocks to the west, and he believes, rightly, I think, that the length of this fault line exceeds that of any other fault line yet discovered.

On the upper plateau on which we travelled tamarisks altogether disappeared for the last twenty miles or so, and tagaz shrubs, varying from one to six feet high, were practically the only plant we saw. In the underlying plain tamarisk was most plentiful. Facing us on the mountain side a white cliff could be seen from a a long distance, with a most regular row of double black marks which looked exactly like windows.

On approaching Nushki we saw some patches of cultivation (wheat)--quite a novelty to us, being the first crops of any extent we had seen since leaving Sistan--and near at hand an old Beluch fort, of which a photograph is given in the illustration. The fort possessed a picturesque composite old tower, partly quadrangular, partly cylindrical.

We reached Nushki at night (31 miles, 1,320 yards from Mall).