Sec. ii] CHILAS AND ITS PAST II
rock slopes cleft by dry and steep ravines. They reminded me curiously of the fantastically eroded mountain gorges I had seen in the high K`un-lun range south of Khotan, or in the outermost Tien-shan south of Lich-Turf-dn. The only exception to this forbidding scenery was the little oasis of Singal, a narrow stretch of rich village land ensconced among fruit trees and vines on the left bank of the river. But the clouds of flies and mosquitoes that assailed us here, a plague dreaded at most seasons throughout lower Childs, made me glad to leave the otherwise grateful shelter for the heat and glare of the gorge. About seven miles from the Niat—Thak junction we sighted the deep defile of the Indus, impressive in its utter desolation. Here a steep zigzag path led up to the curious peneplain, rising to more than a thousand feet above the Indus, that divides the Thak and Buto-gdh valleys at their outflow. It is formed by a gently sloping gravel glacis, entirely bare just like a typical ` Sai ' at the north foot of the K`un-lun about Khotan, and shows with remarkable clearness the effects of erosion, probably aided by wind-driven sand. Having crossed for about two miles this strange bit of Central-Asian landscape, I had before me the deeply hollowed mouth of the Buto-gdh valley flanked by a corresponding peneplain, even larger, on the west. Where the Buto-gdh stream emerged from its narrow rocky gorge into a triangular trough widening towards the Indus (Fig. 4), there nestled a small but delightfully green oasis, the Assistant Political Agent's bungalow set in a large garden and shaded by fine trees.
Captain (now Major) C. T. Daukes, I.A., then in charge of Childs, accorded me the kindest welcome. It was through his care that all the preliminary arrangements with Raja Pakhtûn Wall had been made, and these involved my starting for Darél on the very next day. The time thus left available for my halt at the chief place of Childs was barely sufficient for the many things that required attention after the hard travelling of the previous ten days and before I set out on the exacting journey which was to take me over new and wholly unexplored ground. It was hence impossible to secure leisure for ethnographical and similar local observations. In respect of the appearance of the people I can only state that like other observers I thought the Chilasis generally inferior in physique to the Dards of Gilgit, Astôr, or Guréz. Yet something in their expression and bearing seemed to indicate that spirit of independence and disposition towards violence and fanaticism with which the people of Childs have been credited on account of their ancient predatory habits and the former inaccessibility of their territory."
In Captain Daukes's company I paid a visit to the fort of Childs situated on the edge of the plateau which overlooks from the west the mouth of the Buto-gdh Nullah, about a mile from where its stream falls into the Indus. It is garrisoned now by a double company of Imperial Service troops, and is adjacent to the ruined ` Bhot fort ' of Childs destroyed by the Kashmir expedition
of 1851, and also to what was until recent times the chief village of Childs. This visit allowed me to obtain the clue to what otherwise might have appeared a series of very puzzling observations.
Already on first approaching Childs earlier in the day I had noticed the big tree-lined canal running
high up above the Buto-gàh stream along the edge of the plateau which flanks its outlet on the west. I was at once struck by the extensive cultivation terraces, now completely abandoned,
that covered the whole of the slopes below the canal line right down to the bottom of the valley
for a distance of more than a mile. On arriving at the fort and looking down from its commanding position over the broad easy slopes which descend from the plateau edge to the Indus, I had the
same striking view before me. Over the whole of this ground there appeared wide terraces carefully levelled for cultivation, but, except for small patches of poorly tilled land, all completely deserted and overrun by coarse scrub and reeds. The contrast between this big area of neglected but manifestly fertile ground, comprising many hundreds of acres, and the luxuriant growth of big
14 See Biddulph, Hindoo Koosh, p. is.
Brief halt at Childs.
Visit to fort of Childs.