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36

PACE OF THE DROMEDARY.

six hours to reach the wells of El Gaytah, where we arrived dreadfully fatigued from our inexperience in this new mode of travelling—for the motion of the dromedary is, to a novice, peculiarly wearying. The animal's long step throws the body forward, and produces a constant action of the back, which is painfully increased if the saddle be not placed quite even on the animal's broad shoulder.

At his usual pace, the dromedary gets over the ground at the rate of about two miles and a half an hour, but when made to step out, he will travel three and a half. His pleasantest pace is a sort of amble, or what the Spaniards call paso, at which he goes at from five to six miles an hour. His trot is to be recommended only to rheumatic subjects, and is utter destruction to all friable articles. His stumble—at whatever pace he

may
be

proceeding—is awful !

A dromedary is merely a finer race of camel, whose paces are rather quicker, and motion more springy, and therefore less disagreeable. These animals undergo hunger and thirst

WELLS AT EL GAYTAH.

37

with great patience; but they by no means carry a hurthen in proportion to their size. I have seen a little donkey with half a camel load upon

his back outwalk them with ease. In crossing the desert, however, travellers will find it to their advantage to use the larger animal ; the rider being removed to so much greater a distance from the heated sand, and put in the way of getting any little air there may be stirring. We found a wonderful difference in the heat whenever we dismounted. That operation, by the way, is by no means an agreeable one, particularly to the tyro in camelestrianism, who, from the suddenness with which the animal drops on his knees, risks having his nose brought in collision with the camel's poll.

El Gaytah, where we arrived very late, consists of three wells of bad water, and two wretched hovels for the accommodation of travellers, but has no permanent inhabitants. We found a large caravan encamped round the wells, but the buildings unoccupied; so, giving up the larger of the two to our ser

38

MOUNTAIN RANGE.

vants and camel-drivers, we spread our mattresses and carpets upon the floor of the other, (a small mosque or the tomb of some saint) glad to have four walls to shelter us from the cold night-blast of the desert.

Resuming our march at daybreak, much refreshed by our night's rest, we pushed our camels on at a brisk pace; and, in about an hour and a half, reached the foot of the intricate belt of mountains that extends between the Nile and the Red Sea, spreading its labyrinth of ramifications in all directions.

Since leaving the village of Beerahambah, our road (a hard sandy track, covered with large coarse pebbles) had been perfectly level; the country on all sides a dreary expanse of desert, the horizon broken only by occasional ranges of shifting sand-hills. Not a house, nor a tree, was to be seen any where; and there was nothing but the extraordinary effects of the mirage, and an occasional drove of camels, bearing supplies to the Egyptian army employed in Arabia, to break the wearisome sameness of the journey.

MOUNTAIN RANGE.

39

The change to a narrow valley, bounded by hills, which gradually increased in height as we proceeded onwards, was, at first, pleasing enough; but the reflected heat from the white cliffs, and want of air, soon made us regret the

open desert.

The numberless windings of the valley always gave us something to look forward to, however; and, as we got further into the heart of the mountains, we did occasionally see an old tower perched upon the summit of some crag that, in former days, interdicted the advance of an enemy by the narrow pass.

The formation of this mountain range is very peculiar; stretching from the confines of Nubia, as far north as the latitude of Cairo -where it terminates abruptly in the steep cliffs of the Mokattan and Ettagah rangesthe chain, though broken constantly by isolated peaks, no where presents a continuous ridge, running north and south. On the other hand, it is furrowed laterally by innumerable valleys, whose rugged, bounding ledges completely intersect it from east to west.

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The beds of these valleys are very narrow, and so flat, that in proceeding along them, the rise and fall of the ground is barely perceptible. The mountains sometimes rise perpendicularly along them for several miles, broken only by the gorges of other ravines,

The road, by constant traffic, has become well defined; otherwise, without a guide, it would be next to impossible to make one's way across this intricate country, the ravines being all so much alike, and that by which the road proceeds often winding in the very direction

you

think you ought not to take. Besides the tramp of feet, the way

has now become well marked by the bleached bones of the numerous animals that have fallen under the joint weight of years and an oppressive burden. Sometimes a flight of hungry vultures swoops round the startled traveller, fixing their keen eyes upon the emaciated brute he rides, as he moves slowly and mournfully along, as if to judge what length of time he will yet have to wait for his repast. At others, they may be seen disputing over the carcase

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