National Geographic : 1936 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE TWO APPRENTICE SHEPHERDS TALK OF THE FLOCKS THEY HOPE SOME DAY TO OWN The infinite variety of the Tekes Valley makes it the ideal nomad stamping ground. In the lowlands are broad, sparsely treed, well-protected grass flats along a rushing, tumbling mountain stream--climate, quite temperate. Riding up the mountainside several hours on horseback, one reaches rolling hills, richly vegetated in summer and often covered with impenetrable forest climate, subarctic. The man drew rein and swung his horse around, his face a complete transformation. Where before had been sullen distrust, there was now smiling friendliness. "This trail does not lead to the Tekes," he explained. "If you follow it you will be lost in the mountains and have to spend the night in the open." Then he gave me elaborate directions for retracing my steps and picking up the right trail. "And carry greetings from the Kalmucks to the chief of the highland Kirghiz," he called after me as we parted. He probably was a sentinel stationed to protect the Tekes pastures of the Kalmucks. Following his directions, at the first fork beyond an old sheep corral I dismounted to examine the muddy trail. It was even as he had described; there were many tiny tracks made by a flock of goats which had recently passed up the slope to the right. I mounted and rode off in pursuit on a trail that led over a series of hogbacks until suddenly I came out on the crest of the last ridge. THE GOAL OF THREE YEARS' TRAVEL At my feet lay the goal I had been aiming at for three years-the Tekes, the valley of valleys, the nomad paradise of Central Asia. My eye sought the opposite valley wall, above which the foothills of the Celestial Mountains leveled off to a great plain which stretched away to meet the snow line. On that undulating plateau were those far famed highlands I had come to see. Even in distant Istanbul we had heard tales of how the nomads migrate to these Tekes highlands, bringing with them their flocks and herds to spend the summer months in a veritable earthly paradise for Mohammedans, drinking the famous mare's milk, feasting on mutton, sporting, loving, and marrying.