126 EXPLORATIONS IN TURKESTAN.
was given at every turn, and the ever-changing clouds gave new and more charming effects on the high peaks in the distance. We were in the Alai range, for glistening snow peaks appeared above the green hills on both sides, while in front there rose a chain of gigantic snow-clad pyramids, partially hidden by the
clouds that streamed from their summits.
From Suph Kurgan to the Taldic pass the mountain sides are dotted with
scrubby cedar trees, which grow smaller, more crooked, and more picturesque as the altitude increases, and below the pass exist as mere stunted spreading bushes hugging the slopes. When about 15 versts below Ak-Busa-Ga we heard, for the first time, the shrill whistle of the marmot, and from there to the border of the Pamir desert this was the characteristic wild animal. At a little after 3 in the afternoon our caravan came to where the valley opened out on the broad, grass-
Fig. 85.—Looking up the Taldic Valley at the Entrance to the Broad Plain of Ak-Busa-Ga.
covered flood-plain of Ak-Busa-Ga (figs. 85 and 86). There we camped over night. At 5.3o p. in. the temperature was 4o° F. At 9.30 p. m. it had fallen to 32° F., and it was snowing heavily.
The next day, July 4, the caravan made an early start, for we were to cross the Taldic. It was a clear, frosty morning, with the white snow peaks above glistening in the sun. In about a verst the broad valley changed to a torrent canyon. Beyond it opened out again in grassy slopes, where many Kirghiz families had pitched their kibitkas (fig. 88). Flocks of sheep and goats, herds pf cattle and horses, and many wandering groups of two-humped camels were grazing by the trail. Above were high peaks, some of craggy rocks and others more heavily covered with great sliding banks of snow. Delicate, steaming clouds trailed from the summits, and others appeared over the ridges, rolling up from the opposite side. One clo.ud swept down the valley for a moment, its refreshing moisture blowing against our faces. Ahead of us we could see where the trail makes its many zigzags before