CHAPTER XX. TABREEZ TO TEHERAN.
Two princes and a khan are cantering (not khan-tering) alongside the bicycle as I pull out eastward from Miana. They accompany me to the foot- hills approaching the Koflan Koo Pass, and wishing me a pleasant journey, turn their horses' heads homeward again. Reaching the pass proper, I find it to be an exceedingly steep trundle, but quite easy climbing compared with a score of mountain passes in Asia Minor, for the surface is reasonably smooth, and toward the summit is an ancient stone causeway. A new and delightful experience awaits me upon the summit of the pass; the view to the westward is a revelation of mountain scenery altogether new and novel in my experience, which can now scarcely be called unvaried. I seem to be elevated entirely above the surface of the earth, and gazing down through transparent, ethereal depths upon a scene of everchanging beauty. Fleecy cloudlets are floating lazily over the valley far below my position, producing on the landscape a panoramic scene of constantly changing shadows; through the ethery depths, so wonderfully transparent, the billowy gray foothills, the meandering streams fringed with green, and Miana with its blue-domed mosques and emerald gardens, present a phantasmagorical appearance, as though they themselves were floating about in the lower strata of space, and undergoing constant transformation. Perched on an apparently inaccessible crag to the north is an ancient robber stronghold commanding the pass; it is a natural fortress, requiring but a few finishing touches by man to render it impregnable in the days when the maintenance of robber strongholds were possible. Owing to its walls and battlements being chiefly erected by nature, the Persian peasantry call it the Perii-Kasr, believing it to have been built by fairies. While descending the eastern slope, I surprise a gray lizard almost as large as a rabbit, basking in the sunbeams; he briskly scuttles off into the rocks upon being disturbed.
Crossing the Sefid Rud on a dilapidated brickwork bridge, I cross another range of low hills, among which I notice an abundance of mica cropping above the surface, and then descend on to a broad, level plain, extending eastward without any lofty elevation as far as eye can reach. On this shelterless plain I am overtaken by a furious equinoctial gale; it comes howling suddenly from the west, obscuring the recently vacated Koflan Koo Mountains behind an inky veil, filling the air with clouds of dust, and for some minutes rendering it necessary to lie down and fairly hang on to the ground to prevent being blown about. First it begins to rain, then to hail; heaven's artillery echoes and reverberates in the Koflan Koo Mountains, and rolls above the plain, seeming to shake the hailstones down like fruit from the branches of the clouds, and soon I am enveloped in a pelting, pitiless downpour of hailstones, plenty large enough to make themselves felt wherever they strike. To pitch my tent would have been impossible, owing to the wind and the suddenness of its appearance. In thirty minutes or less it is all over; the sun shines out warmly and dissipates the clouds, and converts the ground into an evaporator that envelops everything in steam. In an hour after it quits raining, the road is dry again, and across the plain it is for the most part excellent wheeling.
About four o'clock the considerable village of Sercham is reached; here, as at Hadji Aghi, I at once become the bone of contention between rival khan-jees wanting to secure me for a guest, on the supposition that I am going to remain over night. Their anxiety is all unnecessary, however, for away off on the eastern horizon can be observed clusters of familiar black dots that awaken agreeable reflections of the night spent in the Koordish camp between Ovahjik and Khoi. I remain in Sercham long enough to eat a watermelon, ride, against my will, over rough ground to appease the crowd, and then pull out toward the Koordish camps which are evidently situated near my proper course.