Anthony Jenkinson was already an experienced traveller in the East when he was entrusted by the Russia Company with the command of their voyage of 1557. It was then four years since the famous voyage of Willoughby and Chancellor had opened up the northern trade route to Russia. Though the journey to Moscow round the North Cape to the White Sea port of St. Nicholas and then overland almost 1,000 miles, was immensely long and arduous, it only carried Jenkinson to the starting-point of one of the most extraordinary journeys of a century already remarkable for the number of intrepid voyages and journeys to lands hitherto unvisited by western Europeans. In April 1558, accompanied by two other Englishmen, Richard and Robert Johnson, and a Tartar interpreter, and armed ‘with divers parcels of wares’, Jenkinson set off in search of trade along the ancient caravan routes of Central Asia. His journey took him 1,800 miles down the Volga to Astrakhan at its mouth, across the pirate-infested Caspian, and a further 750 miles overland to the ancient trading city of Bokhara (the ‘Boghar’ of Jenkinson’s narrative). In the extract below, Jenkinson describes the journey from Astrakhan across the Caspian to the first halting-place on the last lap to Bokhara. Jenkinson and his companions completed this journey successfully, and returned to Moscow in September 1559.
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