Prince Yuri Lubovedsky
It must be said that, had it been possible to cross this bridge blindfold, it would have been much better for us. Whether it was because we had gone for a long time before that with our eyes covered or for some other reason, I shall never forget the nervousness and terror we experienced in crossing this bridge. For a long time we could not bring ourselves even to set foot on it.
Such bridges are very often met with in Turkestan, wherever there is no other possible route, or in places where to advance one mile would otherwise require a twenty-day detour.
The sensation one has when one stands on one of these bridges and looks down to the bottom of the gorge, where there is usually a river flowing, can be compared to that of looking down from the top of the Eiffel Tower, only many times more intense; and when one looks up, the tops of the mountains are out of sight —they can only be seen from a distance of several miles.
Moreover, these bridges hardly ever have a handrail, and they are so narrow that only one mountain packhorse can cross at a time; furthermore, they rock up and down as if one were walking on a good spring mattress—and I will not even speak about the feeling of uncertainty as to their strength.
For the most part they are held in place by ropes, made from the fibre of the bark of a certain tree, one end attached to the bridge and the other fastened to some nearby tree on the mountain side or to a projection of rock. In any case, these bridges are not to be recommended even to those who in Europe are called thrill-chasers. The heart of any European crossing these bridges would sink, not into his boots, but somewhere still lower.
The second time our eyes were uncovered was when we were about to pass a caravan. Evidently not wishing the peculiar cowls over our eyes to attract attention or excite suspicion, our guides considered it advisable that we remove them for this encounter. We did so just as we were going by a monument typical of Turkestan, standing right at the top of a mountain pass. In Turkestan there are many of these monuments, which are very cleverly placed; without them, we travellers would have no possibility of orienting ourselves in this chaotic, roadless region. They are usually erected on some elevated spot so that, if one knows the general plan of their placement, they can be seen a long way off, sometimes even from a score of miles. They are nothing more than single high blocks of stone or simply long poles driven into the ground.