Salgari in the Ayyak Kum Kul

boron kol_10“Aujourd’hui, 15 Novembre, nous partons vers l’inconnu, vers le Sud”

“Today, November 15, we depart towards the unknown, Southbound”. And this is how Ella starts one of the best passages of her book, a description that may fit in any Salgari’s or Verne’s book, with snow storms, sick horses, narrow river gorges, lost water springs… with of course, some tongue-in-cheek (or not) romantic moments: “Should I write a best-seller, it is now or never that the two heroes of my history, thrilled and grateful, would fall in one other’s arms, after having saved themselves from poisonous food or fatal fogs” says Ella.

And, the couch traveller wonders the exact place of these adventures… where were the Boron Kol Gorges, and Issyk Pakte, and the Ayyagkum Koul (or Ayak Kum Kul)?

Well, let us try to follow their path, until they reach Issik Pakte where Boro has friends. He will return from there “to his isolated yurt in the Tsaidam” and Peter and Niki will continue their journey towards Cherchen.

So, here I am, sitting on a couch, my laptop on my lap, three or four books about the area, a 1:2.000.000 map that I recommend: “Gizi Map Series China 5”, labelled “Tibet Autonomous Region”, and, of course, Google Earth, centered in Xi Taijnar Hu, which means East Lake of Taijnar. Of course, there is no lake there…

Google Earth is fine to find what you know that must be there, but it is not the right tool to navigate, it’s continuous change of scale make almost impossible to see the whole picture. So we take the Gizi map, we locate Teijnar (D-20), from Kini and Peter maps we know that they reach Tchertchen (Qiemo, C-12) and they avoid Charkilik (C-15) on an almost straight path. They must avoid the Mangnai Zhen pass, so they depart due South (Kini) or Southwest (Peter), following the Boron Kol river upstream.

But… where does the Boron Kol flow?… does this river even exists?

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Photos: Caravan in the Boron Kol Valley (Ella Maillard)
Others: From the Internet