CHAPTER XV. FROM THE KOORDISH CAMP TO YUZGAT.
From the Koordish encampment my route leads over a low mountain spur by easy gradients, and by a winding, unridable trail down into the valley of the eastern fork of the Delijah Irmak. The road improves as this valley is reached, and noon finds me the wonder and admiration of another Koordish camp, where I remain a couple of hours in deference to the powers of the midday sun. One has no scruples about partaking of the hospitality of the nomad Koords, for they are the wealthiest people in the country, their flocks covering the hills in many localities; they are, as a general thing, fairly well dressed, are cleaner in their cooking than the villagers, and hospitable to the last degree. Like the rest of us, however, they have their faults as well as their virtues; they are born freebooters, and in unsettled times, when the Turkish Government, being handicapped by weightier considerations, is compelled to relax its control over them, they seldom fail to promptly respond to their plundering instincts and make no end of trouble. They still retain their hospitableness, but after making a traveller their guest for the night, and allowing him to depart with everything he has, they will intercept him on the road and rob him. They have some objectionable habits, even in these peaceful times, which will better appear when we reach their own Koordistan, where we shall, doubtless, have better opportunities for criticising them. Whatever their faults or virtues, I leave this camp, hoping that the termination of the day may find me the guest of another sheikh for the night An hour after leaving this camp I pass through an area of vineyards, out of which people come running with as many grapes among them as would feed a dozen people; the road is ridable, and I hurry along to avoid their bother. Verily it would seem that I am being hounded down by retributive justice for sundry evil thoughts and impatient remarks, associated with my hungry experiences of early morning; then I was wondering where the next mouthful of food was going to overtake me, this afternoon finds me pedalling determinedly to prevent being overtaken by it.
The afternoon is hot and with scarcely a breath of air moving; the little valley terminates in a region of barren, red hills, on which the sun glares fiercely; some toughish climbing has to be accomplished in scaling a ridge, and then. I emerge into an upland lava plateau, where the only vegetation is sun-dried weeds and thistles. Here a herd of camels are contentedly browsing, munching the dry, thorny herbage with a satisfaction that is evident a mile away. From casual observations along the route, I am inclined to think a camel not far behind a goat in the depravity of its appetite; a camel will wander uneasily about over a greensward of moist, succulent grass, scanning his surroundings in search of giant thistles, frost-bitten tumble-weeds, tough, spriggy camel thorns, and odds and ends of unpalatable vegetation generally. Of course, the "ship of the desert" never sinks to such total depravity as to hanker after old gum overshoes and circus posters, but if permitted to forage around human habitations for a few generations, I think they would eventually degenerate to the goat's disreputable level. The expression of utter astonishment that overspreads the angular countenance of the camels browsing near the roadside, at my appearance, is one of the most ludicrous sights imaginable; they seem quite intelligent enough to recognize in a wheelman and his steed something inexplicable and foreign to their country, and their look of timid inquiry seems ridiculously unsuited to their size and the general ungainliness of their appearance, producing a comical effect that is worth going miles to see. It is approaching sun-down, when, ascending a ridge overlooking another valley, I am gratified at seeing it occupied by several Koordish camps, their clusters of black tents being a conspicuous feature of the landscape. With a fair prospect of hospitable quarters for the night before me, and there being no distinguishable signs of a road, I make my way across country toward one of the camps that seems to be nearest my proper course. I have arrived within a mile of my objective point, when I observe, at the base of a mountain about half the distance to my right, a large, white two-storied building, the most pretentious structure, by long odds, that has been seen since leaving Angora. My curiosity is, of course, aroused concerning its probable character; it looks like a bit of civilization that has in some unaccountable manner found its way to a region where no other human habitations are visible, save the tents of wild tribesmen, and I at once shape my course toward it. It turns out to be a rock-salt mine or quarry, that supplies the whole region for scores of miles around with salt, rock-salt being the only kind obtainable in the country; it was from this mine that the donkey party from whom I first obtained bread this morning fetched their loads. Here I am invited to remain over night, am provided with a substantial supper, the menu including boiled mutton, with cucumbers for desert. The managers and employees of the, quarry make their cucumbers tasteful by rubbing the end with a piece of rock-salt each time it is cut off or bitten, each person keeping a select little square for the purpose. The salt is sold at the mine, and owners of transportation facilities in the shape of pack animals make money by purchasing it here at six paras an oke, and selling it at a profit in distant towns.