Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/24

This page needs to be proofread.

6

ASCENT OF GOBI PLATEAU.

—one by the valley of the Hoang-ho along the foot of' the range which borders it, and the other by the western side of the same mountains, i.e. over the highlands of the country of the Urutes. I chose the latter road in order to acquaint myself with the character of this part of the Gobi plateau.

We ascended gradually some of the low out- lying hills of the chain which, as we have remarked, are much lower than the rest. The appearance of the plateau at first, with its sterility and naked sands, reminded us of the desert of Ala-shan. Vegetation is very scanty ; the wild wormwood and prickly con- volvulus being the chief kinds. But as we advanced to the north-west the soil improved, and at length, 80 miles beyond the boundary of Ala-shan, it be- came clayey or clay mixed with shingle, and was covered with short steppe grass. Here we at once found those denizens of the Mongol steppes — the dzerens, which are not met with in the whole of Ala-shan.

On ascending the plateau the climate rapidly changed. The autumn weather during- the whole of October in the plains of Ala-shan was delightful, and the temperature so warm that even in the second half of this month at mid-day the ther- mometer marked 12'5° Cent. (54° Fahr.) in the shade, and on the 6th of November the surface of the sand was heated to 43'5° Cent. (109° Fahr.) ; the night frosts were never severe, and the ther- mometer did not fall below — 7'5° Cent. (20° Fahr.) at sunrise.