Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/299

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a desert as wild and barren as that of Ala-shan, but of a somewhat different character. The sand-drifts, so vast in the latter country, are here of comparatively small extent, and in their stead we find bare clay, shingle, and naked crumbling rocks (chiefly gneiss) scattered in low groups. Vegetation consists of stunted half-withered clumps of saxaul, karmyk, budarkana, and a few herbaceous plants, the chief amongst which is the sulhir; the elms[1] are the most striking features in the Urute country, forming in places small clumps; bushes of wild peach[2] are also occasionally met with, such as are never seen in the desert of Ala-shan. Animal life in these regions is very scant; birds and mammals are the same as in Ala-shan. You may often ride for hours together without seeing a bird, not even a stone-chat or a kolo-djoro; nevertheless, wherever there are wells or springs, Mongols are to be found, with a few camels, and large numbers of sheep and goats.

During our progress through this country, in the latter half of August, the heat was excessive, although never so high as in Ala-shan. Winds blew ceaselessly night and day, often increasing to the violence of a gale, and filling the air with clouds of saline dust and sand, the latter choking up many of the wells; but these were more frequently destroyed by the rains, which, although rare, came

  1. These trees are from 15 to 20 feet high and 2 to 4 feet thick; they are mostly met with in dry rainwater courses, probably because they find more moisture here.
  2. There is no wild peach in the Ala-shan mountains, or in those of Kan-su and Northern Tibet.