"It Had Been My Wish To Visit The Land
Of Darkness, Which Can Only Be Done From Bolghar.
There is a distance of
40 days' journey between these two places.
I had to give up the intention
however on account of the great difficulty attending the journey and the
little fruit that it promised. In that country they travel only with small
vehicles drawn by great dogs. For the steppe is covered with ice, and the
feet of men or the shoes of horses would slip, whereas the dogs having
claws their paws don't slip upon the ice. The only travellers across this
wilderness are rich merchants, each of whom owns about 100 of these
vehicles, which are loaded with meat, drink, and firewood. In fact, on
this route there are neither trees nor stones, nor human dwellings. The
guide of the travellers is a dog who has often made the journey before!
The price of such a beast is sometimes as high as 1000 dinars or
thereabouts. He is yoked to the vehicle by the neck, and three other dogs
are harnessed along with him. He is the chief, and all the other dogs with
their carts follow his guidance and stop when he stops. The master of this
animal never ill-uses him nor scolds him, and at feeding-time the dogs are
always served before the men. If this be not attended to, the chief of the
dogs will get sulky and run off, leaving the master to perdition" (II.
[Mr. Parker writes (China Review, xiv.
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