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lateral road; all the others project, like my fingers, into the valleys, with no lateral connections, and terminate at Afghan territory.
You saw to-day (in the Khyber, represented by my little finger) some of the traders, or powindahs, as they are called, who bring goods from Samarkand and Bokhara, by Kabul, to the Peshawar market. If you had driven on about a dozen miles farther you would have reached the Afghan border, but you would still have about fifty miles farther to go before you reached the first town of importance, Jalalabad, and beyond that you would still have about 100 miles of wild mountainous country before you reached Kabul. There is a good road the whole way, which was made by us in the winter of 1879-80, and presumably has been maintained ever since. Part of the road which you drove over to-day was made by the British in 1838-40, and we found it forty years later in quite useful condition. It takes a good deal to destroy a road. Some of those over passes within fifty miles of us here were made by Alexander the Great, and with a little addition can still be utilised for pack animals, if not indeed for carts. course a road is a most potent factor in the civilisation and settlement of a country, for by it merchandise comes and goes, and, as Alexander and Cæsar found, it is necessary for the passage of troops to
maintain law and order. I think, for the defence of a frontier such as this, money is more profitably spent on roads than on forts. You saw some of the latter to-day, and I quite admit they are necessary for the protection of the Pass. But, personally, I think we go in for too elaborate a system of work in them, and I think a cheaper and rougher form would be equally effective and less costly. Whereas all money spent on roads is useful both for commerce and military movements.'
"What about the four other routes!"
"My third finger represents the Kurram Valley route from Kohat, penetrating far nearer to Kabul than any of the others. The scenery is beautiful in parts, and the climate more bearable than in the others, but the route crosses in Afghan territory a high pass about 10,000 feet above sealevel, which is blocked with snow for several months every year. But for this the road would be used for commercial purposes more than it actually is. Our present jurisdiction extends to the foot of the Peiwar Pass, where Lord Roberts defeated the Afghans in 1878, and it was by this route that he entered Kabul the following year. I have been over that route once, and the impression it left was one of beauty and fertility, but full of practical difficulties for road construction.
"The middle finger corresponds to the Tochi Valley, leading from Bannu to the Afghan city of Ghazni, a route which presents no great physical difficulties. We had a lot of trouble with the tribes there a few years ago, and we have done a good deal of work in making a good road fit for wheeled traffic, like that you were on to-day, as far as our farthest outpost, sixty miles or so beyond Bannu. We have built also many defensive posts, so I hope we shall not have much trouble there in the immediate future. Hordes of nomad traders come that way every cold weather. They leave their families at Bannu, and go off to sell their wares all over India, returning again when the weather gets warm.
"The forefinger corresponds to the Gomal Pass, which debouches at a place about fifty miles north-east of Dera Ismail Khan. Here, too, vast numbers of the powindah people come, leaving their wives at Dera Ismail for the cold weather, and going off as far east, I am told, as Calcutta. The road through the Pass has been begun, but a great deal remains to be done. The gorges of the Gomal River are for the most part sheer precipices, and the river is subject to sudden and violent floods. Besides this, the tribesmen are about the most savage of any on the border, and that is saying a good deal. One of my survey parties was am
bushed the other day, and, escort and all, cut to pieces, very few escaping. Still, we must make that road, difficult though it may be, for not only can we join up with some of the routes from Quetta to Kandahar by it, but the alternative to ten miles of difficult gorges along the river is a waterless and shadeless climb of nineteen miles over a rugged mountain pass. The kafilas do come that way now, but some of them avoid it by a route farther south (represented by my thumb, the fifth route I have spoken of), which also is terminated at Dera Ismail.
"This is, to my mind, a very important route, for at its west end it joins one of the roads in the Beluchistan agency at Fort Sandeman, and troops could come by this way from Quetta to Dera Ismail and the northern frontier without going round the long circuitous route by Sind. The road has barely been begun. It passes through a wild and rugged tract of country at the back of a mountain called the Takht-i-Suleiman (throne of Solomon), and part of it necessarily traverses for about two miles a narrow rift or gorge, where the rocks rise in an almost vertical precipice in height about 800 feet, and a stream brawls over the débris at the bottom. Over the sharp rocks in the bed of this stream the laden camels stumble, cutting their legs, and sometimes tumbling down, poor brutes! but at least they have not the long waterless climb
that at present they have to face in the Gomal. After passing through the rift they have seven or eight miles of very rough mountain paths; then easier going for another twenty miles, until the road emerges on the plains near a little village about forty miles from Dera Ismail Khan. The intervening country is a bare waterless desert, but easy enough for travelling. We are beginning road work, and have collected tools and plant, explosives, &c., at the entrance to the mountain part; but the young civil assistant engineer in charge is evidently not happy about it. I think the lonely and somewhat risky life has appalled him, and he does not relish close association with the tribesmen.
extent this applies also to the Tochi.
But in the Gomal and on the Fort Sandeman road we are only beginning to substitute a properly graded road, suitable for camels, for the old native tracks. Of course there are many subsidiary roads for military purposes only in various directions, but these do not affect the main commercial routes.
"Bridges are expensive, relatively, and our policy, rightly or wrongly, has been to make the roads first and leave the main bridges, if possible, till later.
For perhaps 300 days in the year there is little water in the streams, and they can therefore be crossed, without trouble, by pack-animals, and, with some jolting, by carts. Obviously, however, this is only an interim arrangement, and bridges are necessary when money can be found, for floods are sudden and violent, and might happen in the middle of important military operations. At the present moment I have three big bridges in hand in various places, the longest about 900 and the shortest nearly 500 feet in length, all three over mountain torrents of great violence and velocity in the rains, and each presenting a special and interesting problem. Then there are a whole lot of smaller bridges."
"Have you difficulties with labour? I should think contractors would hardly care to face the many risks which are evidently involved."
"As far as unskilled labour is concerned the tribesmen are useful. They are independent and masterful, but they are amenable to firm and fair treatment, and they can do quarrying and rock cutting quite well. Strikes, except in the very literal sense of the word, are unknown. But when skilled labour is imported, as it often has to be, there is apt to be trouble. The people of the land regard it with jealousy, and so it has to be protected frequently. I do not think matters are so bad now as they were twenty years ago, when I first came to this part of the world. A massacre of imported labour took place on a canal which was being made then-just before I arrived, and to make that canal we had to build a series of protective forts along the whole length for housing labour. We officers then had always to go about armed and with an escort, which now I seldom require. But a great deal depends on the personality of individuals at the head. I was some years ago personal assistant to Sir James Browne on the construction of the Harnai Railway from Sibi, on the plains of Sind, to Quetta.1 It is one of the most difficult railways in the world from the engineering point of view, and involved much skilled labour. We had altogether about 20,000, skilled and unskilled, employed, but although we made no special
arrangements for protection, we had no 'regrettable incidents.' This I attribute solely to the strong personality of Sir James himself, whose influence with the tribes was very high. Contractors, of course, are reluctant to take up work, and any system of competitive tenders, such as you have at home, would be impossible. But there are some contractors of a sporting turn of mind who rather like the chances of profit to be gained here, especially if they know and trust individual officers. The rules that, very rightly, are framed for the carrying out of works in peaceful circumstances are hardly applicable in their entirety here, though it is difficult to persuade the Simla pundits that this is so. During my time with Sir James Browne he was dreadfully worried by them, and their preposterous demands for estimates, &c.; indeed, I think the strain and annoyance shortened his valuable life."
"I suppose you have difficulties, too, with climate. It is delightful here now, but it must be very hot in the Khyber in summer, and in winter at high altitudes unbearable."
Yes; without going so far as to agree with one writer on the subject, that nature has here poured out all the climatic curses at her command,' there is no doubt that the extremes are trying. At the far end of the Khyber, about twenty miles beyond
1 See 'Maga,' May 1905, “Sir James Browne and the Harnai Railway."
where you were to-day, I have known the temperature 130° F. in the shade. The rocks radiate the sun's rays unmercifully. In winter, in the upper parts of the same road, the north wind from the frozen wastes of Siberia seems to penetrate the warmest clothing, and animals will not face the icy blast. But both extremes are rare, and at worst do not last very long. The climate has at least produced an extremely virile race, though they will not work in the passes during the summer months. One has to face the chances of fever and other ailments, and I have been in three cholera epidemics, which is a very gruesome experience, but that, of course, is possible anywhere in the East, and is part of the day's work. Take it all round, I think my officers are cheery and contented."
"How many have you ? "About twenty, though the numbers are being reduced, I am sorry to say. Each of the big bridges has to have a resident engineer, and there are a few other special tasks requiring constant personal supervision by one officer, so this does not leave much for the scattered work, civil and military. I am constantly on the move myself, and it takes me about three months to go round all the province and inspect. I come in here for a few days every six weeks or so, and I am particularly glad that I met you yesterday in one of these brief visits. I have a
VOL. COXV.-NO. MCCCIV.
personal assistant here to carry on routine work, and take a native clerk with me, so as to keep in touch with current work when travelling. This means long hours-longer than most of your constituents would like,-seventy hours a week at least; but a good deal of it is out-door work on horseback, and it is a vigorous healthy life.
The actual work is full of variety, and often calls for the solution of problems out of the common run. In making the road near Kabul, for instance, we had to think not only of the big guns that would pass over it, but of the elephants that dragged the guns, and design our bridges accordingly. To-day you saw some of the camels that traverse our roads, and you can judge that such a beast, with a bulky load on each side of it, is an awkward and troublesome some creature on a narrow road, especially if he takes fright, barging about to the danger of everybody. So we have to see that he does not take fright, at least on our bridges, and that means using few suspension bridges, for the oscillation alarms the nervous creatures. Then in many of our mountain gorges there is only the roughest track available, and carting materials to the bridge sites is not possible, so we are limited in our bridge designs to such lengths and weights of girders, &c., as can be transported on a camel's back, and quickly put to
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