• Category Archives 1935
  • Ella and Peter trip

  • Traveling abroad is always complicated. And specially, in China.

    jellyfishPeter and Ella had just left Gorumu (Golmud) with Li. “We always called him Brother Li which is the custom of the country. He was not really our servant; we ate together and shared whatever work there was to do, though Li did most of it.” Li was with them from Tangar, short after Xining, he went with them and Prince’s Dzoun Caravan through the Dulan Desert; they departed Tangar in March, 28 ““Then, with joy and incredulity, we remounted, turned our horse’s heads in the general direction of India, and cantered after the camels” (Peter Fleming). Now some time has gone by, one month exactly, this is April, 28, and they leave Gorumu for the unfathomable Teijinar, six camel stages away, were they should meet Borodishin.

    They spent three days in Gorumu, and “Kini even bathed” (it seems that Peter does not feel the same urge), and, on May 1st, they departed. “This time we did feel elated at departure. We had got away quicker than we expected; we were on our own at last; and Teijinar was only five or six stages farther on. The sunlit world seemed a very satisfactory place.

    But after two hours we stopped at a yurt belonging to a Chinese with a Mongol wife, and Li said that we must stay the night there because our Mongol, who lived close by, had yet to grind its samba and make his preparations for the journey. Li had told me this the night before, but I had not understood him. I was angry with myself. The incident reminded me what innocents we were, how effectually the language difficulty prevented us, not only from learning anything worth learning about the people and the country, but from ever really knowing for certain what was happening to us.”

    seacucumberIn my opinion, Peter is wrong this time. Even if he had understood perfectly the words of Li, the fact that departing for a long trip and stopping for the night two hour later was outside his comprehension envelope. We all live in our cultural bubble, and when something is outside it, although we may understand the words, their sense is lost in translation. If Peter had understood the day before what Li said, about making a two hour first stage, and stopping for the night, he had become mad at Li. They probably had had a discussion, to finally leave as Peter wanted, only to find, two hour later, than a camel was limping, or a girth must be mended and they needed to stop. And the Mongol must grind its tsamba, collect his camels, whatever, before they would be able to depart definitively.

    To understand the words is not enough. It may be useful to find the restrooms (男, male, nan, 女, female, nu), and know the differences in a menu between the Jellyfish salad (Liang Ban Hai Zhe 涼拌海蜇), the sea cucumber (Haishen, 海参), and the almost divine Phoenix Claws, aka. chicken feet (Fèng zhuǎ 鳯爪). But, who may know the taste of the Phoenix Claws before eating them? Even understanding the words, we may be as lost as Peter was. Moreover, a culture which calls a dish “Phoenix Claws” would not be easy to understand.

    How to prepare the Phoenix Claws… starting by a manicure.


    and this is the finished dish…


    Photos: Featured Image: Dunes in the Namib : Carlos Griell
    other photos from recipes in the Internet

  • Pietro Orlandini, a rowdy Italian, in China in 1934 and his bike ride in the Takla-Makan

    crescent_lake_gobi_desert_chinaOrlandini, as seen yesterday, was a rowdy Italian, who was sipping his own urine “like a vermut” (his words) when fleeing from a prisoner camp in Abisinia to Kenya.

    Let us follow him in Marco Polesque journey in China, when he decided that he wanted to leave his doctor’s practice in Shanghai and return to Europe by land. We already know, by my previous post, that he was not someone to be afraid of small difficulties, such as the war in the Xinjiang, between so many factions that a cat will not find her kittens, the Cold War “avant-la-lettre” between Chinese Han and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the remnants of the “Big Game” in the Xinjiang, without forgetting the war between the Communists, led by Mao Zedong, Lin Piao et al. against Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuomintang.

    China political situation in 1934 was complex, to define it mildly. Probably nobody in their right mind should have started this journey. But let’s talk Orlandini himself: “Rumors about the lack of safety in the road from Cheng-Tu to Sian-Fu (Chengdu to Xian), the next stage, were not reassuring. There was some fighting, although nobody knew where, nor why, nor against who. It is true that in China there is always a small war somewhere; but if we should listen to all hearsay, we would never take the road”

    kerriya3So, there he went, a mighty journey, it seems that he has no plan, nor schedule. His idea was to arrive to Urumqi through the Hexi Corridor (Langzhou, Xinning, then Northwest to Urumqi, and there to cross the border and continue via the soviet republic of Kazigistan). His trip plan is short: “I will leave, I will cross the whole China, I will follow the ancient Silk Road, until I met the Mediterranean. Wonderful!. The road is already there, it is always the same, I have good legs, why not to do it?”. Ella and Peter analyze how to avoid guarded routes, discuss a lot about passports, are well aware that the documents they have will not allow them to arrive to Kashgar, decide what weapons they need, they pack gifts for local authorities and Worcestershire sauce for Peter.

    Orlandini does nothing of this (or, at least, does not give any importance to the logistics), he skips stages, he pushes forward, until he leaves Shanghai with a suitcase and a bag (Ella and Peter needed two camels, two donkeys and two horses, but of course, they brought with them a phonograph!:) ).

    He navigated the Yang-Tze until he arrived to Chongking, then by bus to Chengdu, then Lanzhou… do you thing that he will go from there to Xining? well, no, in Lanzhou he meets a German and a Swiss, who return from Kunbum to Beijing. “for me, who strolled in China without a clear plan, it was worthwhile to change my itinerary. I will go with them to Pekin (…) then I will cross Mongolia to arrive to Turkestan through the Gobi desert”. Hop-la! soooo easy!

    So, he returns to the coast, he stays for some time in Beijing, then he leaves for Baotou, in Mongolia, and then due West through the Gobi following the old caravan route

    He matter-of-factly explains that he found bandits, he had a fight with an armed soldier (who stepped back with his rifle when Pietro yelled loudly at him), someone tried to poison him because he mistook him for a russian spy, he found quicksands and swamps and rivers without fords. Nothing stopped him. Finally he arrived to Urumqi, and there, in an official dinner, after the Chinese Governor and the Russian Consul speeches, he spoke: he said he was happy to be in the Xinjiang, who was, and will always be, a Chinese province. The Governor was happy with that, but the Russian Consul not really.

    He was applying for a soviet visa.

    He did not get it.

    He must return to Beijing.

    cicling under buranAnd then, the incredible happens “I had gotten firmly into my mind to go back by bicycle, as the road seemed suitable for this mean of locomotion” (!!). Before arriving to Urumqi (and he went back through the same caravan path) he found swamps, quick sands, sand deserts, so, it does not seem really suitable… either he was lying then, or he is lying now.

    In any case, in Urumqi he had the choice between Russian bikes, sturdy but heavy, or Japanese ones, lighter but flimsy. He sold everything and bought a Japanese bike. He just kept food for the first stage (a boiled chicken), a sleeping bag and some toiletries. It was the first bike to rode through the desert. He was happily pedaling in spite of a heavy dysentery which started several days before (!!). But he was strong, he continued pedaling, eat some chicken, without even stopping, and he slept under a shepherd’s tent. And, on the third stage, when starting a mountain pass, the bike broke. And he continued with a caravan, with his bike above a donkey. In Turfan he had the bike repaired by a local blacksmith, and he traded it for a horse… so, it was not strictly true that Orlandini crossed the desert in a bike, as he told Kini.

    But interesting, isn’t it?

    Photos: all from the Gobi desert, taken from the Internet


  • Pietro Orlandini, “il Medico nomade”

    ship in Manaos portI cannot avoid to add the bandeau of the front cover of the first edition of his book: “Stravagante e meravigliosa avventura di un Marco Polo moderno (…)” But, who was Pietro Orlandini? I read Ella Maillard book, and she only said, at the very beginning that in Beijing, when thinking about her journey, she met an Italian, Orlandini, who had covered great distances by bike, the dream transportation in Central Asia… was she speaking seriously? did she talked tongue-in-cheek? But, Orlandini appeared at the very beginning of the book, and Peter did not even talk about him, so I forgot about him, until a different blog spoke about him. The mysterious Orlandini

    His life is extraordinary. It is all true? or was he a liar? In any case, he does not explain the bicycle part as his primary mean of locomotion, but rather as a failure.

    So, I got his book, and I should say that Pietro Orlandini was an uncommon man. Venetian, he doctored in medicine in Padova, one of the oldest medicine faculties.

    Orlandini’s practice started as a ship doctor, then he lived in New York for some months…congo-hands but this was not really interesting, so he enrolled on a Tropical Illnesses course that was given at Bruxelles University. Doctors who finish this course got an assignment in the Belgian Congo; well, not Belgian, rather King Leopold’s Congo, a country ruled as a company that should not have changed a lot since Conrad’s Earth of Darkness description, published some 30 years before. Orlandini commitment was to live and to practice in Congo for three years in exchange of his Tropical Illness course. His stage in Congo shows the colonialist view of the metropolis public-workers, surrounded by a plethora of adventurers wanting to get rich. It fascines the reader because it shows the end-to-be of a way of understanding the world. Pietro, in his own words, lived in an epoch which “was calm (1932 !!), in which it was possible to go, peacefully where we had the leisure to go”. Congo was not calm, China was not calm either, URSS had full steam ahead its Gulag archipelago, Germany Weimar Republic was in its last years, opening the way to Nazis and Hitler… but probably Orlandini was right, if you were European you might go where you had the leisure to go.

    And Orlandini opened a practice in Shanghai (the New York of Asia on his words), where he met Galeazzo Ciano, then Italian Consul there (this places his stay between 1930 and 1933), and, after a while, his nomad spirit rose again, and he started his Silk Road trip, which will be detailed in the next post, with the explanation of his bicycle and what happened to it.

    Amazonian cruise at Manaos. To make the history short after his failed Xinjiang crossing, he returned to Beijing, Shanghai and then to Italy. There he tried to be appointed as war surgeon in Abyssinia, and, as the appointment took time, he decided to accept the invitation of a retired Italian Admiral who was trying to start an agricultural business in the jungles of Peru. Orlandini landed in Pará, in the delta of the Amazon, navigated upstream through Iquitos, Manaos, then the Marañon river, until Yurimaguas, the end of the navigable part of the Marañon. Then by foot, he escalated the Andes through narrow passages, until his arrival to the Admiral’s plantations. Pietro stayed there for a short time, until he saw that without almost slave manpower (he knew what he talked about, due to his Congo experience), without roads to export the production, and with endemic malaria, the dream of the Admiral (a liar, or, sadly, a man who mistook his desires for realities) was short-lived. So, he left the Admiral, and he went, again by foot (there were no roads), through the Andes until Cajamarca and Lima, where, after one month, he took a ship to Italy… He explains in 20 pages matter-of-factly an amazing journey, of 3.000 Km, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the heat and humidity of the Amazonas until Lima, going through one of most inhospitable jungles in the world, and then crossing the Andes, a journey that for any other traveler would had been the adventure of his life.

    Orlandini book finishes with his evasion from a prisoner camp near Mombasa (he was made prisoner in Abyssinia after Italy capitulation), his eighteen day walk South through the savannah in which he said that he and his comrades drank their own urine (Pietro said, boisterously, that he drank his “pure, like a vermouth” while his comrades needed to leave theirs to cool down and they blended it with sugar and coffee – they had no water, they were lost in the middle of nowhere, but they still carried sugar and coffee, it isn’t amazing?. Or not true, of course 🙂 ).

    Port in Manaus

    Photo credits:
    Photos of Manaos ships: Carlos Griell

  • July 1935: Keriya-Khotan by Camel Train

    MongolCamelTrain&GlacierJuly, 1st, 1935, Ella and Peter left Keriya. They left there the Byronian-eyed camel “Pearl of the Tsaidam”, also camel Number 2, and Cynara, the mare that Peter traded for Greys at Issik Pakte, when it was clear that Greys cannot continue. Their caravan was a small one, although impressive: Four donkeys, Kini’s stallion (rather sick) and a horse with old galls for Peter, plus Aziz, their guide, and Tuzun Ahun, a guard with his horse who had received orders from the aksalal in Tchertchen to convey them to Kaskgar. That was impressive!

    And really, it seems that Peter did not like too much this part of the trip:

    “and before the stage was half over, I discovered that his back was a mass of old galls. So I did the last three hours on foot”

    “I found the others in a place called Karaki, where no food of any sort was available”

    “Next day we started early. I abandoned my horse and did a grilling nine-hour march on foot”

    “At noon we we went on, the heat was terrible” (by the way, we will be there two months early which is not bad)

    “Towards dusk, we came to Chira (…) to hot and tired to care that I was loosing face by traveling on foot”

    “Our inn, in Chira, was grubby and unspacious. Flies, which now played in our life the baleful part formerly allotted, by an inscrutable Providence, to mosquitoes, abounded” (of course we should expect flies, mosquitoes, and probably some fleas, too)

    “Our miserable donkeys from Chira were played out (..)”

    and it goes on and on, until the Caravan arrives to Khotan (Hotan), on July 6, 1935, after 5 miserable stages, although sleeping in oasis: Kariki, Chira, Bäshtograk and Lop

    It is important to note that almost all the humankind has traveled as they did, during 3.000 years and even more. This kind of travel now is a choice, as travelers on the “Camino de Santiago” know well.

    After the photo you will find links, Photos information, contact form and area map


    To May 2017 Trip:
    2017: Hotan Keriya
    May 2017: General View of the trip Part 1
    May 2017: General View of the trip Part 2

    From Internet

    Contact Form

    Area Map

  • 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?


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

  • If Gorumu is Golmud, where is Teijinar?

    10735402_288687784671317_111488443_aKini and Peter are near Teijinar, but Kini writes it Teidjinar, with the keen interest of the cultivated French to show that the “orthographe” lacks secrets for them. Why, for God’s sake, Ella wrote this silent -d- in the middle of the word?.

    Anyhow, we know that on April 28 they were at Gorumu… so, let us Google “Gorumu”, and we find hundreds of thousands references, because a Goromu is “a creature that comes in different shapes and sizes”. And Gorumu Qinghai, or Gorumu China does not give anything (well, on a blog there is a reference to Peter’s text).

    But as we have arrived there plotting the route, stage by stage, bivouac by bivouac, we know that they arrive not to Gorumu, but to Golmud from Nomo Kanthara. And searching in a map, we see that Golmud is also called Kermo. Because in this area places have two (or even three) names, the Han (Chinese) name, the Mongol name and the Uighur name. But, of course, this is only the beginning.

    BauerBecause the spelling changes too… the old “Pekin” became Beijing not so long away when, in 1949, Chinese authorities decided to use the pinyin for the transliteration of Chinese to Western Alphabet. But, old names remain, for instance airport codes (IATA) for Beijing is PEK, and for Guangzhou is CAN, the old Canton of the Opium wars.

    And Ella and Peter try a phonetical transliteration that produces funny results, because Ella, who writes in French, uses French phonetics, while Peter English phonetics. So, the Borodishin yurts are at a place called Arakshatu by Peter and Arakshatou by Kini

    Minor worries? Arakshatu is 2 hour march away from Teijinar. And where is Teijinar? Well, on a 1.200.000 map (yes, not Google Earth, nor a complex Geographical name database, but on an old-fashioned, printed map), we find, NW of Golmud, two lakes, “Dong Taijnar Hu” and “Xi Taijnar Hu”. As we know that Dong means West and Xi means East, and Hu means lake, and the two lakes are on a WE line, we are all set. We have found Teijinar, or Teidjinar, 160 km NW of Golmud.

    But Teijinar is not a city, it is an oasis, and rather large one.

    And Borodishin was at Arakshatu, two hour walk away heading west. But from where?

    Where in the hell is Arakshatu? The problem may seem minor but this lack of certitude will make very complex the plotting of  the 10 day march from there to Issik Pakte (Issyk Pakté for Kini, of course, why use “i” when you can use “y”?)



    Featured image: Ruta 5, near Atacama, Chile, from the author

    Gorumu from the internet

    Caravan from Ella Maillard Book, it is their caravan on the journey Arakshatu – Issyk Pakté

  • And the Oscar to best supporting actor goes to: Borodishin

    Qinghai-Hexi-Corridor--Tsaidam-Basin-6-Gobi--DesertBorodishin, or Borodichine as Ella calls him is the best performing actor in our history. Boro was sergeant in the Russian white army under General Annenkov, who entered China with his decimated troops. After staying with him in the Sinkiang, he decided not to follow him further away (it was a good move, as Annenkov was betrayed by a Chinese warlord Feng Yu-Hsiang, known as the “betrayal general” and also the “Christian general” – I hope that the two appellatives are not related -. Feng returned Annenkov to the Russians, who shot him). They split, and while Annenkov left the Sinking to meet his fate, Borodishin joined the Smigounovs in the Tsaidam.

    Two years later, the Smigs left Teijinar with Narim, due to the complex situation of the region, while Borodishin remained in Tsaidam. Was it because he was “on the hills, buying yak’s tails” – as Peter says -, when they departed, and nobody told him? Did he find the Smigs yurt empty when he returned of his journey?

    I prefer to think that he stayed in the Qaidam waiting for his wife and his children from who he had lost contact. His letters became abruptly unanswered when his family was already traveling towards the frontier to meet him. Did Boro stayed in the Tsaidam expecting their arrival, knowing if they finally arrive to Teijinar, and he had departed, it will be impossible that they meet again? Probably, as Peter says

    He still yearned for them, still (sometimes) had hopes he would see them again


    We were the first Europeans he has seen for two years; his was a terribly desolate life. With us he was always cheerful, or at any rate tranquil; but you had an awful feeling that maybe his heart was broking slowly

    Boro recommends them to avoid the main road, and follow an almost forgotten, barely negotiable path. They will find no guides for this region, and he proposes to go with them until they reach Issik Pakte, twelve marches towards the West. He cannot go further because he had no papers of any sort. And Boro helps them to buy four camels, and to get all the supplies for the march, which is not easy because people in the oasis have an economy of subsistence. They have almost nothing to trade. Boro must travel long distances (people live dispersed) to complete the stock they need.

    During the eight days while Boro organizes their departure, Peter and Kini live a relaxed life in the luxurious yurt of the Smigs. Reading, hunting, waiting. Peter killed an antelope, from which she made shashlik on the cleaning rod of the rifle (this is strange, nobody made shashlik there? there had no other metal rod?).

    The next day at noon, when the trio Ella, Peter and Boro departed towards Issik Pakte, no Mongol went with them.

    Boro was a good fellow, cheerful and a good companion (a “brave homme”, as Kini says)

    After something like two weeks they arrived to Issik Pakte, enduring snow storms, being lost without water, and eating samba with melted mutton fat and a little Worcestershire sauce. Once there, Borodishin negotiated with two Turki to guide them through the 12 stages needed to reach Cherchen, and helped them to trade Greys, Peter’s horse, for a young mare, “more amphibian than equine”

    And finally, after two days, they parted. Borodishin,

    At dawn he left with the Mongol, riding back along the way we had come, hunched on his camel, eternally sucking at his long Chinese pipe, his sad loyal eyes staring across the empty lands before him. As I watched him go I tried not to think in the two grubby yurts at Teijinar, were the redshanks called and he and Wang Sun-Lin took it in turns to go it and fetch fuel, and nothing ever happened

    Two years later, he was murdered by bandits. Probably he felt relieved


    Photo credits: from the Internet

  • Leaving Dzoun for Nomo Khantara, or jumping from the pan into the fire

    potd-camel_3349231kThe back of our heroes was against the wall in Nomo Khantara.

    Ella and Peter after a four day rest in Dzoun had left for Teijinar (at least, they thought so), ten camel stage away, or 300 km. With them goes their helper, interpreter and somehow friend, Li, and the camel master, an unnamed mongol. At the end of the first stage after Dzoun they learn that the four camels, already weakened because they are moulting (it is well known issue with camels), will not go further than Nomo Kanthara, two stages away, and as a consequence, they will need to hire another set of animals. And they learn also that it will be difficult to find camels, because summer arrives and the herds are already grazing in some remote pastures.

    When they reach Nomo Khantara, they find someone they knew from the caravan of the Prince of Dzoun, who had already arrived; this guy, the chief of the gold diggers, had left Dzoun earlier, with the aim to overtake Peter and Ella at the Hertz camel shop at Nomo Khantara. Anyway, nobody got camels, nor the gold digger, nor Peter, nor two very holy lamas that were waiting for two weeks already. And if the very holy lamas do not get camels, nobody can get them in the whole Sinkiang.

    And Li says that he will not continue to Teijinar oasis, because they are already in Teijinar, Nomo Khantara being the first oasis belonging to Teijinar. The fact that they have hired Li to go with them until Teijinar does not bother him, and I suspect that Li hired the camels in Dzoun to go to Nomo Kanthara. He did not need going further, as Nomo Kanthara was his home.

    And the child of one gold digger was lost in the desert.

    And mosquitoes did appear.

    They were in deep shit.

    2011-01-09 at 11-51-11

    Photo credits

    Camel moulting from Internet

    Author: Somewhere in South Africa, and view of the Andes

  • Following camel shit (called argol) from Targar to Dzounchia

    The difficulties to follow the path of a caravan.

    I must start by an anecdote. The Paris-Dakar is a race divided in two kind of participants, professional drivers, cars “full equipped”, Air conditioned motorhome to receive a massage before a good night rest, and the others, purely amateurs, who have nothing of that. And several years ago, professional drivers had a GPS (but without waypoints a GPS is, more or less, a compass), but not amateurs. In one of these navigation stages, in the Sahara, an amateur, from Madrid, arrived more than half an hour earlier than the professional riders who had become lost, all together in the dunes. And this guy navigated perfectly, with a mere compass and a watch, not only this time, but in general. And the journalist interviewed him, and he said: ” it is not so difficult, you must follow camel dung, and you follow the path of the caravans”.

    Well, this is what I did today, not with camel dung (in the Takla-Makan they use it, when dry, as combustible, argol, so probably I had not find a lot), but with the beads that Peter Fleming left in his “News from Tartary” book, as well as the information everybody (at least, Peter, Ella, and Lattimore) shares: a caravan starts at 6 in the morning, and walks for 8 hours approximatively, doing 30 km per day… well, this is not exactly true, average is less than that (due to cold, to water points, or for no stated reason), but sometimes they put two stages in one day (a four hour stop, and a night march) so they increase the average.Etapa 2

    They made an approach from Tangar until meeting the caravan of the Prince of Tzoun, near the East bank of Qinghay Lake (Stage 4, Valley of Daotang River). Their second stop was a Lamasery, that can be found on Google Earth with Panoramio
    Image 14-3-16 at 20.54

    They walked three days on the South Bank of Kinghai Lake, roughly in a NW direction, until Stage 7, then they take a SW direction passing on the North Bank of Chakayan Lake (the Salt Lake in Peter’s text, Stage 10), and, after two mountains passes, they arrive to the Tsaidam (after a few hours of Stage 13), and they cross the Dulan desert (Stages 14, 15 and 16) partly at night, because they are already near their goal.

    With all this background I located Dzhounchia,(Stage 17, they arrived there on April 12, 1935), which is at


    and this position agrees with the three camel days that Li, their interpreter, says are needed to reach Nomo-Khantara, which is 80 km away

    This is the link to the caravan path:

    (a new window will open with a file. You click and a window of Google Maps will open)

    link to stages

    note: I may upload also the Google Earth file, with includes the distance between stages, but I am searching a Map application.

  • Going up, towards Dzoun

    Ella and Peter joined the relatively small caravan of the Prince of Dzoun, who was a young man going back home, from Tangar to … well, not to Dzungharia, because this region lies to the North of the Tarim mountains, (above Urumqi) but to Dzoun, apparently a place in the middle of nowhere. The caravan was formed by 250 camels and 40 horses.

    I am still looking for Dzoun (Ella) or Dzunchia (Peter). The Caravan took 16 days to reach it. Some authors identify it with Gormud, but Gormud is the Gorumu of Peter, and it is 150 km (5 days) too far. Based on the information that a loaded bactrian camel walks at 3 to 4 kilometers per hour, that the stage is usually 8 hours, and confirmed by Ella who says that 30 km is the daily fare of a caravan, in the following post(s) we will place the stages, at least from Tangar to Dzunchia.

    They left Tangar with a helper, Li, four rented camels, two horses. Of course, Ella needed to bring her portable gramophone with three records :), and Peter two rifles, two pounds of marmalade, four boxes of cacao, six bottles of cognac, plus a bottle of Worcester Sauce). Two days later, they meet the 250 camels of the Prince of Dzoun and they started the Caravan life.
    Awake at 4 am, two hours to load the camels (each one of their four camels was in a different lien, so, their are not loaded at the same time), departure at six, eight hours walk, unloading camels and horses, meal preparation, eating, and then staying into the tent. During the march, or eventually in the afternoon, Peter went to hunt geese, or hare, or antelope. Geese were sacred for Mongols, Peter’s killings were not butchered following the rituals for muslim, the fact that these acts may seem offensive were not really a problem for them, except for the first goose, that they almost gave to the Prince.

    Lattimer caravan organization does not agree with Ella (Peter almost does not speak about it, he is more interested in hunting every animal that moves). The Prince’s caravan had people riding camels, although the were going “up”, and each lien was approximatively of 10 camels, instead of 18, but we recognize in her description the “camel pullers”, the Master Cook, in this case a woman, and, of course, the Caravan Master, in this case the Prince.

    So they walked, they hunted (Peter), they cooked (Ella), and, apparently, they had a lot of fun. Arriving to Dzunchia Peter says something, curious to say the least:

    The place (Dzunchia) has nothing impressive. It is impossible, even in the most romantic mood, to find anything enticing in it

    “Even in the most romantic mood”? well, this says everything, don’t you think so?

    And to end this chapter, another quote, this time from Ella Maillart:

    It is said that Mongols do not wash because they are afraid to become fishes after their death. Moreover, water from wells seems full of spells; coming from inside the Earth, were are the female spirits, it will only become healthy when exposed to the Air and the Sun, who belong to the male world of superior regions. But this unheard-of dirtiness is not annoying in winter, when cold weakens the smell of rancid butter their fur is imbibed

    2006-12-12 at 23-27-06

    Photos, but for the map, are from the Author