[* Note: Since receiving the proof sheets for correction I have been kindly supplied by my friend Major Wade with a map taken principally from the one executed by the late Lieutenant Sturt.]
To the traveller whose experience of mountain scenery is confined to Switzerland, the bold rocks and rich though narrow valleys of the frontiers of Toorkisth[=a]n offer all the charms of novelty; the lower ranges of hills are gloomy and shrubless, contrasting strikingly with the dazzling, yet distant splendour of the snowy mountains. It is an extraordinary fact, that throughout the whole extent of country occupied by these under features, which presents every variety of form and geological structure, there are scarcely any hills bearing trees or even shrubs; every valley, however, is intersected by its native stream, which in winter pursues its headlong course with all the impetuosity of a mountain torrent, but in the summer season glides calmly along as in our native meadows.
The multitude and variety of well-preserved fossils which are imbedded in the different strata of the Toorkisth[=a]n hills would amply reward the researches of the Geologist, and to the Numismatologist this portion of Asia proves eminently interesting, Balkh and other localities in its vicinity abounding in ancient coins, gems, and other relics of former days; and I much regret that I was unable to reach the field from whence I expected to gather so rich a harvest.
In accordance with the golden rule of restricting our baggage to the least possible weight and compass, we allowed ourselves but one pony a piece for our necessaries, in addition to what were required for our small tent and cooking utensils, Sturt’s surveying instruments being all carried by Affgh[=a]n porters whom he hired at Cabul for that purpose.
On the 13th of June we commenced our ramble, intending to proceed to Balkh by the road through Bamee[=a]n, as we should then have to traverse the principal passes of the Hindoo Khosh, and our route would be that most likely to be selected by an army either advancing from Bokh[=a]r[=a] on Cabul or moving in the opposite direction. The plundering propensities of the peasantry rendered an escort absolutely necessary, and ours consisted of thirty Affghans belonging to one of Shah Soojah’s regiments, under the command of Captain Hopkins. As Government took this opportunity of sending a lac[*] of rupees for the use of the native troop of Horse-Artillery stationed at Bamee[=a]n, our military force was much increased by the treasure-guard of eighty Sipahis and some remount horses; so that altogether we considered our appearance quite imposing enough to secure us from any insult from the predatory tribes through whose haunts we proposed travelling. Our first day’s march was merely to make a fair start, for we encamped two miles north-west of the city in a grove of mulberry-trees, and the wind, as usual