Piotr Karpenko

At night while packing your baggage, you take out your warm clothes and other things for protection against the cold and put them aside. Tying up all the remaining things into packs and loading them on your animals—horses, yaks or whatever they are—you put the warm things on top of the packs in order to have them ready as soon as they should be needed.

Well then, it almost always turns out that the next day, in spite of the indications of the map, you have to go down through valleys and lowlands, and that instead of the cold you expected, there is such a heat that you want to take off literally all your clothes. And as the warm things are neither packed up nor fastened tightly on the backs of the animals, they slip and shift at every step, disturbing the balance and bothering not only the animals but also the travellers themselves. And what it means to have to repack on the way, he alone can understand who has had to do it, even if only once, on a long day’s journey over the mountains.

Of course, for journeys undertaken on behalf of some government or other for a certain political aim and for which large sums are allocated, or on a journey for which the funds are disbursed by a banker’s widow, an ardent Theosophist, one might hire as many porters as one wishes to pack and unpack everything. But a genuine traveller has to do all this himself, and even if he should have servants he would be bound to help them, as in the midst of the hardships of travel it is difficult for a normal man to look on idly at the exertions of others.

These contemporary maps are what they are, evidently because they are prepared by methods such as I myself once witnessed. It was when I was travelling with several members of the group, Seekers of Truth, through the Pamirs, past the Alexander III Peak. At that time the headquarters of the surveyors from the Turkestan Military Topographic Department was located in one of the valleys near this peak. The chief surveyor was a certain colonel, a good friend of one of our travelling companions, and because of this we made a special visit to their camp.

The colonel had several young staff officers with him as assistants. They welcomed us with great joy as they had been living for several months in places where, for hundreds of miles, there was scarcely a single living soul. We stayed with them three days, intending to have a good rest in their tents.