KARA-DONG AND THE SEARCH FOR I-ISÜAN-TSANG'S P`I-MO
SECTION I.-EXPEDITION TO THE KARA-DONG RUINS
ON February 26 my explorations at the Endere site were completed, thanks to the energy with which the work had been carried on from early morning until after nightfall by the light of bonfires. The information collected during the last weeks showed that there were no ruins known eastwards nearer than Charchan, where, besides the remains of the ` old town ' close to the modern oasis which M. Grenard had already examined, some ruins were mentioned to me at a day's journey to the north, probably the same as those referred to by M. Grenardl. But the journey alone to and fro would have cost a fortnight, and the time that remained at my disposal seemed none too ample for the expeditions I had yet to make to ancient localities north of Keriya and Khotan. Though the nights were still bitterly cold and the occasional winds light, yet the increasing warmth of the day-time and the prevailing haze intimated that the season of sandstorms and heat was steadily approaching. I knew that its arrival would effectively bar what excavations I had planned in the desert nearer to Khotan. So I reluctantly decided that the time had come to set my face again westwards.
The rapid marches which, between February 26 and March 2, carried me and my caravan back to Niya, need only to be indicated here in the briefest outlines. The first took me across the Endere river at a point known as Körgach, where I found the main current, about fifteen yards broad, covered with ice still strong enough • to bear heavy loads. The deeply-cut bed, some eighty yards wide, demonstrated the extent of the floods which the river carries down in the spring and summer. Beyond, after passing through a belt of closely packed sand-cones covered with tamarisk scrub, we struck an old bed of the river and marched along it through luxuriant Toghrak jungle to a deserted shepherd's hut known as Tokuz-kol. The name means ` Nine Lakes,' but of water there was none. On February 27 we steered due south over a Kumush-covered plain. All traces of the true desert disappeared for a time ; and, as if to make the contrast with the scenery seen for the last month still more striking, a temporary lifting of the screen of dust haze allowed us in the morning clearly to sight and fix on the plane-table a series of prominent peaks in the great rampart of the Kun-lun, with the glaciers descending around them. The portion of the range seen lay to the south-east, from sixty to eighty miles distant2. The mountain view vanished like a vision when a strong north wind again raised the usual dust haze, just as we had reached the Niya-Charchan route. Along the lonely desert track which has taken the place of what once was the great line of communication to China, we continued over a gravel Dasht, with scarcely any dunes, and bare of vegetation, until after a march of over thirty-two miles Yoka-toghrak was reached. There some brackish water was obtainable in wells about 6 ft. deep, while a small patch of tamarisks and Toghraks offered scanty fuel.
' See Mission D. de Rhins, i. pp. 183 sq. 2 Comp. the small-scale map accompanying my Ruins of Khotan.