But these pleasing associations were soon dispelled by the steep and rugged features of the pass through which we ascended on leaving the plain. It is called the Suffaed K[=a]k or White Earth, and we found by the barometer, that the gorge of the ravine was about a thousand feet above our last encamping ground. The hills on either side were ragged and abrupt, but of insignificant height: the length of the pass itself was about two miles, and from its head to Koteah Shroof the road was stony and difficult; but, as we had been careful at starting not to overload our baggage animals, they got through their work without being much distressed.
I find it difficult to convey to the reader an adequate conception of the strange character of the hilly country we had now entered: no parts of Wales or even the varied groupings of the Swiss mountains offer a correct analogy. After passing the defile of the Suffaed K[=a]k the hills recede to a distance of about two miles on either side of the road, and the whole space thus offered to the labours of the peasant is very highly cultivated; but the barren rocks soon hem in the narrow valley, and as you approach nearer and nearer you find your enchanting gardens transformed into a dreary and desolate defile,—this succession of small plots of fertile ground, alternating with short rugged passes, extends to Julrez, ten miles beyond Koteah Shroof; which latter place is an insignificant fort, situated in the centre of one of the little green spots so pleasingly varying this part of the country.
At Koteah Shroof we gained the banks of the Cabul river, a placid flowing stream, and as the neighbourhood of our camp did not offer any features of peculiar interest, I determined to try my luck in fishing; but first I had to tax my ingenuity for implements, as I had neither rod, line, nor net. A willow stick and a bit of string was all I could command; and yet my primitive apparatus was very successful, for the fish also were primitive, affording me ample sport and taking the bait with extraordinary eagerness. My occupation attracted the attention of a few peasants who gathered round me, and stood wondering what potent charm attached to the string could entice the fish from their native element. I endeavoured to explain the marvel, but was utterly unsuccessful; indeed, the peasants did not accept my explanation, which they evidently considered as a fabrication invented to deceive them and conceal my supernatural powers. The inhabitants of these valleys seemed a simple and inoffensive race, and, as in Europe, their respectful demeanour became more conspicuous as we increased our distance from the capital.