Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/32

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GAME. INORDINATE TEA.

and present channels of the Hoang-ho which dry up during the hot weather, but are full of water at flood-time. Besides the main river and its channels, there is no water in the valley, except in wells, which are invariably very deep. The streams which rise in the border range disappear immediately in the soil, not one of them flowing as far as the Hoang-ho.

We found several wintering kinds of birds in the valley, viz. Falco tinnunculus Circus sp. ? Plectrophanes lapponica, Otis tarda, Coturnix muta, Anas rutila, and innumerable pheasants (Phasianus torquatus). The latter haunt the long grass called dirisun, and owing to the absence of water come to drink at the wells, where they may be shot in any numbers from a place of ambush. I preferred, however, shooting them with my setter, Faust, and the first day bagged twenty-five, besides losing some wounded birds, which were difficult to find owing to the length of the grass, and the pace at which they run.

When the nature of the valley of the Hoang-ho became steppe-like, kara-sultas and dzerens appeared in numbers, and every day's sport included some of these animals, which replenished our supplies of provisions. However, the favourite delicacy of the Mongol whom we hired at Ala-shan, as well as of our Cossacks, was brick tea, which they consumed in inordinate quantities, especially when milk was procurable, which, to use an expression of the Cossacks, 'whitened' the tea and gave it a dainty relish. A bucketful of this nectar was the usual