Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/126

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

found its way everywhere. Occasionally the march had to be given np because the camels could not make head against the violence of the wind.

A great ridge of bare sand, destitute of vegetation, at the western end of the Husku Hills, about forty miles long and nine hundred feet high, is associated with a tradition of a large military force having once been collected and preparing to march to China, when a mighty wind arose, blowing the sand against them and burying them all, together with several villages and temples.

The Altai Mountains are perfectly barren, with the upper portion composed of bare rock and the lower of long gravel slopes, formed of the débris of the rocks above. This débris is formed under the influence of the extremes of the climate upon the unprotected rock, with no rainfall sufficient to wash it away. So it accumulates in a uniform slope, often thirty or forty miles in length, leaving only a few hundred feet of the original jaggy outline of the mountain visible at the top. A prominent Altai peak was pointed out to the traveler as covering a grassy hollow which is frequented by wild camels. The Mongols are said to shoot these animals for the sake of their skins, and also to catch the young ones and train them to be ridden. They will go two hundred miles a day for a week, but can not be broken to carry a load. They are smaller than the tame camels, and are said to have short, smooth hair, in place of the long hair of the ordinary Mongolian camel. Considerable numbers of wild asses, and wild horses, the Equus Prejevalski, were seen roaming around the plains.

The most trying march in the desert was that of the last day, which was performed in sight of the Tian Shan, or "Heavenly Mountains." It was seventy miles in length, "and not a sign of water could be found throughout, while the heat was intense, for the wind blew off the heated gravel as from a furnace, and I used to hold up my hand to protect my face from it, in the same way as one would in front of a fire." On the next evening a friendly voice welcomed the party as it was ascending the lower slopes of the Tian Shan to a Turki house, with a stream of water running by it. The country on the southern slope of the range still continued desert, but with a small oasis every fifteen or twenty miles, containing a village and cultivated lands. A difference was at once observed between the Turki and ordinary Chinese towns. "In China the houses are, as a rule, large and well built, with pent roofs and overhanging eaves. The shops are of a respectable size, with plenty of room inside for the storage of goods for sale, and for several bustling shopkeepers, who serve their customers from behind good solid counters. In Turkistan the houses and shops are more after the Indian style. They are built of mud, low, and flat-roofed, and the shops small and heaped up all round with goods,