Prince Yuri Lubovedsky

Having decided this, we all became high-spirited and spoke of the journey ahead of us as though it were no more than crossing the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

The next day we moved to the bank of the river, near the place where it disappears into the fathomless depths of the sand, and there we pitched the tents brought from Russia, which we still had with us. Although the site of our new camp was not at all far from the village, nevertheless no one lived in that place, and it was not probable that it would enter anyone’s head to come there, to the very gates of that arid hell. Some of us, passing ourselves off as clerks and other servants of the eccentric Russian merchant, Ivanov, made the rounds of the bazaars in the vicinity and began buying up thin poles of various lengths, and also sheep and goats—and soon we had a whole flock in our camp.

We then began intensive practice at walking on stilts, first on low ones, and then gradually on higher ones.

One fine morning twelve days later, our extraordinary cortege moved off into the wastes of the sands, amid the bleating of sheep and goats, the barking of dogs, and the whinnies and brays of the horses and asses we had purchased in case of need.

The cortege soon spread out into a long procession of litters, like the grandiose processions of ancient kings. Long rang out our jovial songs and the shouting back and forth to each other from our improvised litters, which followed each other some distance apart. Of course, as always, the remarks coming from Yelov produced roars of laughter.

Although we went through two terrible sand­storms, we arrived several days later almost at the heart of the desert, without any fatigue and fully satisfied with everything—even with having learned the language we needed. We were approaching the spot which was the principal goal of our expedition.