Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/302

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

276

TRADE ROUTES.

whole course of our three years' wanderings we only found this animal in the Hurku hills, and our eagerness to secure its skin for our collection was proportionately great. But in this we were unsuccessful, for the simple reason that our make-shift boots[1] were unfit for climbing over the steep rocky ledges, and this caused us frequently to miss our footing, to the great risk of our guns, or still worse, of our necks. Nevertheless we climbed half a day over these hills, at times literally 'on all fours,' and after completely exhausting ourselves we were convinced that shod as we were it was impossible to slay this wary animal.

South of the Hurku lies the great trade route from Peking, viâ Kuku-khoto and Bautu, to Hami, Urumchi and Kulja,[2] branching off near the spring of Bortson, where we encamped for the night, whence one branch leads to the town of Suh-chau. We were told that before the Dungan insurrection the traffic along these roads was considerable, and wells were dug at frequent intervals; now, however, nobody goes that way.

The Hurku hills are the northernmost limit of the distribution of saxaul,[3] of the sand-martin and sparrow (Passer ammodendri) of Ala-shan; here too we saw for the last time Perdix Chukor.

  1. Chinese boots with felt soles are unfit for the European. We tried wearing them, but after an hour's walk rubbed our feet sore.
  2. The former province of Ili.
  3. However, Mongols say that saxaul grows north of the Hurku chain, in the bare sands near the trade route between Kuku-khoto and Uliassutai.