Sec. ii] TO P`O-CH`ÊNG-TZO AND SHINDI 731
2 to 4 feet. These, together with the dust haze which accompanied us since leaving Shindi, made
it abundantly clear that erosion by the wind had its share, though a minor one, besides decomposition
and erosion by water in the creation of the surface forms of this dreary Kuruk-tâgh region. Farther
on the stony Sai became absolutely barren, except where the Chikanda shrub could be seen in the
wide shallow beds that we had to cross in succession. They all joined a big depression skirting
the foot of the Charchak hills and draining towards Yârdang-bulak. In one of the flood-beds
dusk obliged us to halt for the night.
Until we approached close up to this point we had been able to follow the trail, still fresh looking, Track of
of a small party of hunters from Tikenlik whom Muhammad B5.gir knew of as having shot a wild wild camels.
camel, apparently towards the end of December, near the south-eastern extremity of the Charchak-
tagh. Before reaching our camping-place we noticed a wild camel's track running for some distance
close along this trail and evidently quite recent. This led to our guide offering an observation which
was not without a certain antiquarian interest. On his own hunting expeditions, he said, he had
noticed in those parts of the Kuruk-tâgh which wild camels visit that the animals are often in the
habit of keeping close to the hunters' trails leading from one salt spring to another. Needless
to say that the wild camels, with their extraordinary sense of locality and keen scent, do not adopt
this habit from any need of such human guidance. Whatever the explanation of it might be, and
Muhammad Baqir was not able to offer any, he was positive in asserting from his personal experience
that the wild camel was not afraid of human trails if these are more than a few days old. This
information was of interest as supporting what had suggested itself to me, when following the
line of the ancient Lou-lan route along the shore of the ancient Lop Sea north-west of Kum-
kuduk, as regards the significance of the much-trodden track of wild camels that keeps to it.'
It may be also recorded here that according to the information received by Muhammad Bâgir
from his father wild camels were in the latter's youth frequently to be found as far west as the
Kavûta valley, while now the vicinity of Charchak-tâgh and Yârdang-bulak is the western limit
of their haunts in the Kuruk-tâgh.
On the morning of March 4th we had marched only about six miles over ground as utterly Arrival at
barren as before, and crossed a low decayed ridge between two wide flood-beds, when almost suddenly Yard ang
we dropped down into a well-defined hollow sheltering the reed-beds which the salt spring of
Yardang-bulak, or Dolan-achchik as it is also known to the Singer people, provides with moisture.
They extend for about 500 yards from north to south with a width of about 150 yards across the
middle. The salt spring rises about 30o yards from their northern end, and the ice sheet it had
formed stopped just where we camped close to the lower end. I knew from Muhammad Bâgir's
statement and the account of Dr. Hedin who had visited Yârdang-bulak on his first journey to
Lou-lan in 1900, that grazing was better here than at Yaka-yardang-bulak, the other salt spring
near to the Kuruk-daryâ bed. So I decided to allow here the day of halt of which our camels and
men were in need, before starting for the exploration of the cemetery sites that Lal Singh had
discovered on his march along the Kuruk-daryâ in February, 1914.
There was plenty of work to keep us all busy while the camels and ponies were enjoying their Halt at
grazing, coarse as it was : the men had repairs of all sorts to do, and I myself much writing and map b lydang-
inking. There were anxious thoughts, too, to keep my mind occupied. Apart from the persistent
dust haze which I knew must be seriously impending Lai Singh's triangulation in the hills of the
western Kuruk-tâgh, I was in suspense also with regard to Afrâz-gul. If he had been able safely
to overcome the difficulties and risks attending his survey along the western shore of the Lop sea-
bed and across the sands of the Lop Desert, he ought about this time to be passing Yârdang-bulak
7 See above, i. pp. 316 sq.