Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/278

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CROSSING SAND-DRIFT.

CHAPTER VIII.

RETURN TO ALA-SHAN. ROUTE TO URGA BY THE CENTRAL GOBI.

Departure from Ala-shan — Nearly lost in the desert — A dilemma — We follow the wrong road — A night of suspense — Looking for landmarks — The 'obo' — Water at last! — Meeting with pilgrims — Din-yuan-ing — Letters from home — Excursion to Ala-shan mountains — Their changed appearance — Their flora and fauna — Sudden flood — Collections endangered — Caravan re-organised — Start for Urga — Terrible heat— Guide at fault — Death of 'Faust' — Desperate situation — Saved — Grief at the loss of our dog — Route across the Gobi — Urute country — The Galpin Gobi — Wells choked by rain — Similarity between Gobi and Sahara — The Hurku range — Mountain goat (Capra Sibirica) — Trade routes — The desert north of the Hurku — Shortlived oases — Large and flourishing herds — Polluted water — The mirage — Migration of birds — More trade routes — Altered aspect of country — Rich pasturage—Abundance of animal life — Climate — Impatience to reach Urga — Arrival there — End of the Expedition.


The second week in June we left the high lands of Kan-su, and crossed the threshold of the desert of Ala-shan. The sand drifts now lay before us like a boundless sea, and it was not without sundry misgivings that we entered this forbidding realm.

Without sufficient means to enable us to hire a guide, we went alone, risking all dangers and difficulties, the more imminent because the year before, while travelling with the Tangutan caravan, I could only note down by stealth, and often at haphazard, the landmarks and direction of the route. This