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0228 Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1
Cathay and the Way Thither : vol.1 / Page 228 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000042
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after forming swamps was absorbed by the earth. It flowed from very high mountains which were seen towards the south (east).

On the 8th November they entered the city of KENCHAC. They went from this east towards the mountains, and got among the mountain pastures, where the Caracatai formerly dwelt, a few days later. They found there a great river which they had to cross in a boat ; they then turned into a valley where there were old intrenchments of earth over which the plough had passed, and came to a good town called Equius, where the Mahomedan inhabitants spoke Persian.

Next day they passed the " Alps," which were spurs from the great mountains to the south, and entered an extensive and beautiful plain, which was copiously irrigated by the streams from the mountains. The mountains in question were to the right of the travellers, and to the left, beyond the plain; was a sea or great lake of twenty-five days' journey in

compass.   -

There had formerly been many cities in this plain but the Tartars had& destroyed them. They found, however, one great town called CAILAC, where they halted for twelve days.

The country in which they now were was called ORGONUM ; and here Rubruquis first met with Buddhist temples.

They quitted Cailac on the 30th November (hence they must have reached it on the 18th or 19th), and four days later (3rd December) they came upon the head of the great lake. There was a great island in the lake. The water was brackish, but drinkable. A valley opened upon the head of the lake from the south-east, and up this valley among the mountains was another lake. Through this gorge at times such furious gusts of wind blew that riders were apt to be blown into the lake.

Passing this valley they went north towards great mountains covered with snow.

From December 6th they greatly increased thé length of their journeys, doing two days' journey in one. On December 12th they passed a horrible rocky defile, said to be haunted by demons, etc.

They then entered the plains of the Naiman country. After this they again ascended a hill country, tending northward. On December 26th they entered a great flat plain like the sea, and next day reached the camp of Mangu Khan, apparently not far from KARAKORUM.

Now the points on this journey which we may consider ascertained (besides its departure from the Wolga somewhere near SARAI, and its termination near Karakorum) are two.

The first is the city of KENCHAC. This is known to have been one of the cities of the valley of the Talas, near the city so called (see Quatre-mère in Notices et Extraits, xiii, 224-5-6).

The other is the site of the great rushing wind. This is described in Carpini's narrative in very similar terms (see p. '751). It is also spoken of by the diarist of Hulagu's march ; and in modern times by a Russian traveller Poutimsteff (quoted in Malte Brun, Precis de la Geog. Universelle, ix, p.- 208). These three latter accounts point, and the last indeed, which is singularly coincident with Carpini's, distinctly refers the scene of this phenomenon, to the lake called Ala-kul. Rubruquis had specified the island in the lake ; Carpini says " several islands ;" Poutimsteff says it contains " three great rocks of different colours," with which he connects its name. We now go back to trace the route of Rubruquis.

After riding for six weeks east, but not quite so clue east as he imagines, leaving the Caspian and Aral on the right, about long. 67° he strikes south-east, crosses the Alps" of the Kara-tau to the south-east of the modern town of Turkestan (in the medieval map south-east of Otrar) and enters the valley of the Talas, the river which, as he says, loses itself in swamps and enters no sea. Here he has to the south-east very lofty mountains, the branches of the Thian Shan, or perhaps the

great range itself.

Quitting Kenchak and the Talas, he goes east into the " Alps" that