May 23, 2012

Walking through the Valley of the Cataract, 1836

Walking through the Valley of the Cataract, 1836
Lord Lindsay


In this black chain of mountains is an extraordinary ravine, called Wady Shellal, or the Valley of the Cataract. Hussein took us through it, while the caravan went °n by the usual route; the valley is not a stone’s jerk wide, but the scenery is awfblly grand; not a sound was heard except the sigh of the wind among the rocks, and the solitary chirp of a bird. Hussein and I walked on quicker than William,

who was looking out for partridges and quails; as we ascended the Wady, enormous rocks, fallen from the heights, of every shape, and in several instances inscribed with the same unknown characters that I shall have to mention presently, lay on either side of the way, becoming gradually more numerous, till, at last, they formed a little valley of themselves within the large one, which, gradually diminishing into a narrow winding passage, brought us to a perpendicular rock, beyond which there seemed to be no passage. It is impossible to describe the extraordinary appearance of this cul-de-sac.

Hussein and I now sat down in the shadow, and talked after our fashion, till William and his attendant Arab overtook us; Hussein then started up, and, climbing up the rocks, led the way to an upper valley, of which I had not suspected the existence, broader than the lower, but quite as extraordinary; the ground in some places was as smooth as a gravel walk. In the rainy season the torrents pour down it, and over the rocks into the lower valley, to form the magnificent cascade from which the Wady takes its name.

We walked on some distance to a well, which we found full of sand; Hussein scooped it out with his hands, and the water rose; all of us drank I never tasted anything so delicious, always excepted the waters of the Nile, to which no other beverage is comparable; but then I was very thirsty, for the day was by far the hottest we had yet travelled on. Returning a few steps, we climbed over the hills, and across two or three small ravines, till we reached Wady Boodra, where we saw tracks of the camels. It was well we had drunk at the spring, for the ascent and descent of the hills was dreadfully hot work; my tongue felt in my mouth like a parrot’s, the sides of my throat clove together, and I could scarcely articulate when we over took the caravan. One of the most delightful walks, however, I ever took! What a blessing water is! None can appreciate it, who has not thirsted in the desert. It is a bad policy to drink during the march, if one can possibly avoid it.

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