Very few natives crossed at the ferry during our stay, for it is a long way from the main road and the climb out of the gorge is too formidable to be undertaken if the Salween can possibly be crossed higher up where the valley is wide and shallow. While we were camped at the river the heat was most uncomfortable during the middle of the day and was but little mitigated by the wind which blew continually. During mid-summer the valley at this point must be a veritable furnace and doubtless reeks with fever. We slept under nets at night and in the early evening, while we were watching for peacocks, the mosquitoes were very troublesome.
THE GIBBONS OF HO-MU-SHU
It is a long hard climb out of the Salween valley. We left on March 24 and all day crawled up the steep sides on a trail which doubled back and forth upon itself like an endless letter S. From our camp at night the river was just visible as a thin green line several thousand feet below, and for the first time in days, we needed a charcoal fire in our tents.
We were en route to Lung-ling, a town of considerable size, where there was a possibility that mail might be awaiting us in care of the mandarin. Although ordinarily a three days’ journey, it was more than four days before we arrived, because I had a sharp attack of malaria shortly after leaving the Salween River and we had to travel half stages.
When we were well out of the valley and at an altitude of 5,000 feet, we arrived at a Chinese town. Its dark evil-smelling houses, jammed together in a crowded mass, and the filthy streets swarming with ragged children and foot-bound women, were in unpleasant contrast to the charming little Shan villages which we had seen in the low country. The inhabitants themselves appeared to no better advantage when compared with their Shan neighbors, for their stares and insolent curiosity were almost unbearable.
The region between the Salween River at Changlung and Lung-ling is as uninteresting to the zooelogist as it could possibly be, for the hills are dry and bare and devoid of animal life. Lung-ling is a typical Chinese town except that the streets are wide and it is not as dirty as usual. The mandarin was a jolly rotund little fellow who simulated great sympathy when he informed me that he had received no mail for us. We had left directions to have a runner follow us from Yung-chang and in the event that he did not find our camp to proceed to Lung-ling with the mail. We learned some weeks later that the runner had been frightened by brigands and had turned back long before he reached Meng-ting.
We had heard from our mafus and other natives that black monkeys were to be found on a mountain pass not far from the village of Ho-mu-shu, on the main Yung-chang-Teng-yueh road and, as we were certain that they would prove to be gibbons, we decided to make that our next hunting camp. It was three stages from Lung-ling and, toward evening of the second day, we again descended to the Salween River.