By Peter Fleming. Foreword by Heinrich Harrer. First published in 1936. J. P. Tarcher, 1982, 384 pp.
In 1935, Peter Fleming, a special correspondent for The Times (London), set out with Kini Maillart to travel from Peking to India. Their route would take them through North Tibet and Sinkiang, a region recently besieged by civil war and closed to foreign travelers. In the end their journey took around 7 months, covered some 3500 miles, and cost about 150 pounds each.
Most people—even those who have traveled rough—would consider this an extremely difficult journey. The pair had long hauls over tough terrain on camels, donkeys, horses, or on foot. They slept in a tent, and endured extremes of heat and cold. They ate quantities of tsamba (parched barley meal which could be mixed with tea and rancid butter), and they often drank brackish water, plain or in their tea, the salt fighting it out with the sugar. They bathed out of a frying pan. And they dealt with a slew of agents from the various groups trying to control the area—nationalist, Soviet, rebel—who demanded papers they didn’t possess.
But Fleming didn’t see this as a hard life, and anyone seeking insight into the makeup of the true traveler will find it in News from Tartary. (more…)