Another traveller came across us this day, who had resided for some years at Kok[=a]n, and furnished us with some account of the nature of the Chinese garrison of that fort. It is situated on an isolated rock, and every five years relieved with men, provisions, and ammunition; the flanks of the bastions are armed with ponderous wall pieces, requiring three men to work them. Chambers are also bored in the live rock, from whence enormous masses of stone might be discharged on an assailing foe. The Kok[=a]nese have often attempted to dislodge the intruders, but owing to the good state of defence in which the fort is kept, and the strong escorts under which the reliefs are regularly forwarded, they have been always repulsed with severe loss. My informant had been in the service of the Kok[=a]nese, and was now on his way to Hindoostan; in military notions he must have been of the famous Captain Dugald Dalgetty’s school, for I afterwards met him as a non-commissioned officer in Shah Seujah’s Goorkah battalion.
A march of eighteen miles brought us on the 19th July to Koollum.
[Illustration: Drawn by J. Cowell Esq! Pelham Richardson Litho
View of Koollum, from the eastward.]
The road continued along the banks of the river, through a wide valley bounded by low distant hills for nearly the whole way. Towards the end of our journey a spur from these hills struck right across the direction of the river, which had forced for itself a passage through the obstacle without deviating much from its rectilinear course, but considerably disturbing its previously placid character, for here it rushed with impetuous violence through the narrow cleft which it had formed, through this, the most advanced outpost of the glorious range of the Hindoo Khoosh. The defile, though short, was difficult of access and capable of being long defended; there is a small tower about the centre, slightly removed from and commanding the road: but a mere handfull of troops stationed on the crags above could, by hurling down the loosened masses of rock which totter on the edge of the cliff, for a time effectually stop the progress of a hostile army from either side. I should imagine, however, that this as well as every other pass I have ever seen except the Khyber and Bolun would be more easily turned than forced.
On emerging from this last defile, a prospect presents itself strongly contrasting with the romantic scenery we had recently been witnessing. Immediately before us lay the populous city of Koollum, the fortress standing on a small isolated eminence, and the dome-shaped houses embosomed in the deep foliage of their gardens and orchards clustered round it for miles on every side. Immediately on the outskirts of the city the desert commences, which, stretching away to Bokhara as far as the eye could reach, formed a melancholy and uninviting background to the busy scene before