Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/304

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THE CENTRAL GOBI.

moisture and withers the grass, trampled under foot by the enormous herds of cattle; the Mongols depart; the dzerens seek other pastures; the larks fly away; and the desert remains as silent as the grave.

The elevation of the Gobi between the Hurku hills and Urga along our line of march nowhere exceeds 5,500 feet, nor falls below 4.000. No depressions occur in this tract, like those of Djaratai-dabas and the Galpin Gobi, or that along the Kiakhta-Kalgan road; the whole region is a lofty plateau, varying in height between these two extremes.

The Central Gobi, like the other parts of this desert, is absolutely wanting in irrigation; even wells are fewer than in the tract south of the Hurku; yet such as there are, the nomads depend entirely for their supply of water in summer on them, and on the temporary lakes formed after heavy rains, and retained on the surface of the hard clay, while in winter they satisfy their wants with snow, removing at that season to pastures which have been left untouched during summer on account of the absence of water.

The population of the Central Gobi, as in general throughout the Khalka country, is numerous and well to do. Enormous flocks of sheep roam near the encampments; camels, horses, and horned cattle in smaller numbers. Towards the end of summer all these animals become remarkably fat, a surprising circumstance if the scanty pasturage be considered. I think their good condition is mainly attributable to the freedom they enjoy, and also to the absence of