Plessen is tall, sensitive, and nervous
about catching trains and buses, exact, correct, speaking public school
English. Müller is small, pleasantly
cynical, and philosophical. Does not
worry about anything, jokes all the time, as do all my German friends. When we are almost bumped to pieces going
over a mound he grins; if the lorry nearly tumbles on one side he roars; he
never loses his good humour and is an excellent companion.
Thus the train left Peking with
its ‘Three Musketeers’. We travelled
towards the fine, towering mountains about 20 - 30 miles to the north of
Peking, and saw the Great Wall; or rather there are many walls, which defended
China against the Mongols. The Mongols
have been slowly driven back for over 150 miles to the north of the previous
frontier and all the villages we passed through are Chinese. Poor old Mongols!
They have a hopeless position and have been losing their land to
the Chinese. We went under the Great
Wall in a tunnel, came out and saw a magnificent view, a vast plain surrounded
by blue mountains, which are full of iron ore and which the Japanese wish to
3.30 in the afternoon (after 8 ½ hours), we came to a huge collection of mud houses, with
some stone in the middle surrounded by hills. It was Kalgan, the outpost for trade between the Mongols and China.
There, two magnificent cars were waiting for
us. We were to be the guests of Mr
Purpis, a Latvian, the “King of Kalgan” who is the chief trader in Inner
Mongolia and sells about 30,000 horses each year to the Chinese Army. Our chauffeur was the former chauffeur of
the Panchen Lama, who with the Dalai Lama is the chief lama of Tibet and
Mongolia. He drove us through the dirty
town to a kind of mud-wall fortress on the outskirts of the town. It was Wostwag, the company for trading with
the Mongols, a German firm. We entered
a courtyard, which was full of hides, tobacco, boxes of silks, wool. There were many lorries, which go from
Kalgan across part of the Gobi Desert to Urga in (Soviet) Outer Mongolia. Mr Purpis, a very lively man, very strong
and vigorous, in breeches and leather boots, came to welcome us. He gave us a wonderful dinner that night.
We had a warning to beware of Mongol dogs
that are said to leap at men’s throats if the men are afraid. (But I do not have the slightest trouble
with Mongol dogs. Either they take a
liking to me or they are terrified of me and slink away. They can tell at once that I have no fear of
Gareth at the Lama service.