444 KARA-DONG AND THE SEARCH FOR HSÜAN-TSANG'S PI-MO [Chap. XIII
On the following day, with the camels tired out by the last forced march, we could only reach the Yartunguz river. The track led through very low dunes with tamarisk scrub, until close to the left river-bank a broad sandy ridge, about a hundred feet high, had to be crossed. The river flowed here in a bed about twenty yards broad, between steeply-cut banks about 20 ft. high, and carried from 2 ft. to 3 ft. of water. Its ice had evidently melted everywhere up to the foot of the mountains. The two long marches which brought me back to Niya yielded pleasing variety in the little lakes and lagoons we passed. Among them the lakes of Sizütke and Bileklik lay quite close to the route. They are all mainly fed by springs. The water of the latter, which, just released from the grip of frost, was flowing plentifully, comes, no doubt, from the streams that higher up near the mountains are absorbed by the gravel glacis of the Sai. From the Shitala Darya, a stream then fed by springs but receiving water also from the mountains later in the year, there stretched a continuous expanse of fertile jungle with plentiful Kumush and scrubby undergrowth to within a little over three miles from the Niya river. Ample springs were passed near the grazing grounds of Dong-Öghil, Kum-Chaklik, and Kalta-qerin. The eastern bank of the Niya river proved to be flanked just like that of all the other rivers east of Khotan where they enter, or pass through, the desert, by a high ` Dawan ' of sand-dunes. This was crossed near the Mazar of Shitala Padshahim, a conspicuous collection of poles adorned with fluttering rags. The remainder of the march to Niya, leading past the marshes of the Gilem-kul and through almost continuous stretches of boggy ground, vividly impressed me with the accuracy of the description which Hsüan-tsang has left us of the situation of ancient Ni fang 3. Since starting from Niya on January 23, I had covered over 30o miles in a great oval loop. Considering the distance and the deceptive nature of the ground, it was no small satisfaction to me to find, when the positions indicated on the plane-table for the starting and closing points of our route came to be compared, that the difference proved to be only three-fourths of a mile in longitude and a Tittle over a mile in latitude. The astronomical observations for latitude taken at all more important camps have rendered it easy to effect the needful slight adjustments.
Leaving my goods train ' of camels to follow behind, I covered on March 3 and 4 the distance from Niya to Keriya, some eighty miles, in two stages. There I was busy at work with official reports and letters that were to secure for me a minimum of time for preparing a preliminary account of my discoveries on completion of the journey, and with rapid arrangements for my next explorations. Huang-Daloi, the kindly Amban of Keriya or Yti-t`ien, as his district is officially styled, opportunely returned to head quarters from a short tour just after my arrival, and, being endowed like most educated Chinese officials with a keen historical sense, showed very gratifying interest in all my finds and reports. Thanks to his energetic assistance and the unwearied efforts of Ibrahim, my excellent Daragha, a halt of only two days sufficed to make all arrangements for labourers to accompany me for excavation work, for camels to replace part of my worn-out transport, and for the supplies that men and animals needed.. I greatly doubt whether all these arrangements could have been carried out more rapidly and effectively at the head quarters of an Indian District—or anywhere else in Asia.
Special care was required about these preparations, in view of the great distance and the total want of local supplies near my next objective. It was the ruined site of Kara-dong, situated in the desert some i 50 miles north of Keriya, to which Dr. Hedin had paid a short visit in 1896 on his march down the Keriya river 4. I knew from the accounts of Turdi, whose ` treasure-seeking ' expeditions had twice extended to this place, that the structural remains