Escape to Adventure

Escape to Adventure

Escape to Adventure

Escape to Adventure

Excerpt

ONE THING was quite certain. I should not get permission from the Soviet Government to travel in Central Asia. The older residents among the diplomats laughed at the idea of my even applying for it. The whole of Turkestan had long been a forbidden zone and now, with the spy scare and purge at their height, steps were being taken to restrict the movement of foreigners even in other parts of the Union. In short, if I went at all, I should have to go unofficially. The question was whether or not, if I traveled without permission, I should succeed in evading the vigilance of the N.K.V.D.

The map showed three main lines of approach to Turkestan. You could travel direct by train across the Orenburg Steppe from Moscow to Tashkent. This was the simplest way, but people who tried to buy a ticket to Tashkent at the Moscow railway station were, it appeared, simply told that they could not have one unless they first produced a permit from the "competent authorities." Alternatively, you could travel across Siberia as far as Novosibirsk, and then change trains and go south to Turkestan by the recently completed Turksib Railway. But here, too, I felt, at some stage, the traveler would be faced with an embarrassing request to produce a permit or pass. Finally- and this looked to me the most promising route--you could travel by train to Baku on the Caspian, a perfectly normal and legitimate journey, even for foreigners. There, if you were lucky, you might find a ship to take you across the Caspian to Krasnovodsk and so, via the Transcaspian Railway, to Samarkand, Bokhara and Tashkent. Perhaps in Baku the "competent authorities" might be less vigilant than in Moscow; perhaps there would be a chance of slipping aboard one of the ships in the harbor unnoticed. And anyhow, if the worst came . . .

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