‘Did they not have map or compass?’ every reader will doubtless ask.
How not? We had them and even more than necessary, but in fact, it would be fortunate for travellers if these so-called maps of uninhabited regions did not exist.
A map, as my friend Yelov used to say, is called in a certain language by the word khormanoupka, which means ‘wisdom’, and ‘wisdom’ in that language is characterized as follows: ‘Mental proof that twice two makes seven and a half, minus three and a little bit of something’.
In my opinion in employing contemporary maps it would be ideally useful to put into practice the sense of a judicious saying which declares: ‘If you wish to succeed in anything then ask a woman for advice and do the opposite’.
It is the same in this case: if you wish to find the right road, consult the map and take one in the opposite direction, and you can always be sure of reaching just where you want to go. These maps may perhaps be all right for those contemporary people who, sitting in their studies with neither the time nor the possibility to go anywhere, nevertheless have to write books on all kinds of travel and adventures. Indeed, these maps are excellent for such people, because thanks to them they have more leisure for concocting their fantastic stories.
Good maps may perhaps exist for some localities, but with all I have had to do with them in my life, from ancient Chinese maps to special military topographic maps of many countries, I was never able to find one that was of practical use when it was really needed.
Certain maps may, at times, more or less help travellers to find their way in thickly populated areas, but in uninhabited regions, that is to say, where they are the most necessary, as, for instance, in Central Asia, then, as I have already said, it would be better if they did not exist at all. Reality is distorted in them to the point of absurdity.
Such maps have many undesirable and distressing consequences for genuine travellers. For example, let us say that, according to the indications of the map, you will have to cross the next day over a high elevation where of course you expect to find it cold.