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0088 Innermost Asia : vol.1
Innermost Asia : vol.1 / Page 88 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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Village of Gayal.

Ascent to Shardai pass.

Views from Shardai pass.

that the gate stood near the middle of the east face. The walls were built on foundations of rough but solid stone-work and showed a thickness of close on three feet. Their antiquity was proved by the fact that the timber pieces inserted for strengthening the walls had completely perished away, leaving only their sockets. There could be no doubt that the small fort was built to close the approach to the valley, the left bank of the river being completely commanded by it.

A steep descent to the river and about a mile and a half's progress along it brought us to Gayal. This populous village occupies the right bank of the river at the point where its largest tributary joins it from the Gayal-gah valley. Here at an elevation of about 4,600 feet and within about five miles from the Indus the warmth of the evening was oppressive. With its high massive walls crowning a small spur and its large mosque decorated with fine wood-carvings, Gayal presented a townlike appearance. The terraced land around is famous for its abundance of grapes, reputed the best in Darél and largely used for the production of wine. This is stored for years here and in other villages of Darél also, and as subsequent information showed, its consumption continues more or less openly in spite of the Mullahs' efforts.4 The long Gayal-gah valley, too narrow to permit of much cultivation, appears to contribute greatly to the affluence of the Gayal people by the abundant grazing grounds at its head.

The arrangements made for my further progress admitted of no closer inspection of this side valley. In order to avoid the confined Indus gorge where the great summer heat would have necessitated marching by night and where there was little chance for survey work over a wider range, I readily accepted the proposal to make our way into Tangir by the only other practicable route, leading across the Shardai pass. For this we had to start soon after the midnight following our arrival at Gayal, as the precipitous track which ascends westwards to the high rugged spur dividing Darél from Tangir proved very trying for our porters and they could not at this season have managed its exposed lower portion in the daytime. After a mile's progress in the valley the deep Gayal-gah stream was crossed by a bridge, and then began the ascent in zigzags over steep stony slopes, which up to an elevation of over 7,000 feet were absolutely bare. About a mile above the valley bottom the track led past another ` chiusa ' known as Lohilo-kôt and intended to guard this route into Darél. The rectangular enclosure of stamped clay walls measured outside about 183 by 262 feet. Its condition and constructive features pointed to an origin contemporary with that of the other Lohilo-kbt ; but here the bastions, 12 feet square, at the N E. and SW. corners were built of rough stones of large size.

After passing a zone of Ilex growth the path, extremely steep throughout, at about 8,000 feet entered a forest of scattered Deodars. At last the hard climb of more than five hours brought us to the top of the narrow ridge which the pass crosses at an elevation of 10,050 feet. There grand vistas opened before me. From an isolated rocky pinnacle to the south of the pass there opened extensive views towards Darél, Tangir, the Indus valley and the ranges beyond. Directly facing us stood the big glacier-crowned range, rising to peaks close on 20,000 feet in height, which bounds Tangir on the west. To the west-south-west I saw clearly, though still some twenty miles away, the gap through which the Indus makes its sharp bend to the south, between precipitous snowcapped spurs, rising some 13,000-14,000 feet above it. Access to this famous gorge, where the bed of the mighty river is reported to contract into an exceedingly narrow canon, is closed by independent territory belonging to the tribal communities of Kandia on the north and of Seo on the

   4 A custom prevalent throughout Darél and enforced   until a particular date fixed separately by the ` Jirgah ' of

   with great stringency serves to illustrate the importance   each community and proclaimed with the beating of drums.

   which the Darél people attach to their wine and the care   Those who offend against this law in however small a measure

   taken to safeguard its quality. The picking of grapes, even   are punished with great severity. The custom has its close

   by the owners of the vines, is prohibited under heavy penalties   analogy in many old wine-growing parts of southern Europe.