While my wife waited to direct me from the rim of the gorge, I climbed down into the jungle to try and make my way up the opposite side where the other monkeys had fallen. It was dangerous work, for the rocks were covered with a thin layer of earth which supported a dense growth of vegetation. If I tried to let myself down a steep slope by clinging to a thick fern it would almost invariably strip away with a long layer of dirt and send me headlong.
After two bad falls I reached the bottom of the ravine where a mountain torrent leaped and foamed over the rocks and dropped in a beautiful cascade to a pool fifty or sixty feet below. The climb up the opposite side was more difficult than the descent and twice I had to return after finding the way impassable.
A sheer, clean wall almost seventy feet high separated me from the spot where the gibbons had fallen. I skirted the rock face and had laboriously worked my way around and above it when a vine to which I had been clinging stripped off and I began to slide. Faster and faster I went, dragging a mass of ferns and creepers with me, for everything I grasped gave way.
I thought it was the end of things for me because I was hardly ten feet above the precipice which fell away to the jagged rocks of the stream bed in a drop of seventy feet. The rifle slung to my back saved my life. Suddenly it caught on a tiny ragged ledge and held me flattened out against the cliff. But even then I was far from safe, as I realized when I tried to twist about to reach a rope of creepers which swung outward from a bush above my head.
How I managed to crawl back to safety among the trees I can remember only vaguely. I finally got down to the bottom of the canon, but felt weak and sick and it was half an hour before I could climb up to the place where my wife was waiting. She was already badly frightened for she had not seen me since I left her an hour before and, when I answered her call, she was about to follow into the jungle where I had disappeared. We left the two monkeys to be recovered from above and went slowly back to camp.
The gibbons of Ho-mu-shu are quite unlike those of the Nam-ting River. They represent a well-known species called the “hoolock” (Hylobates hoolock) which is also found in Burma.
The males, both old and young, are coal black with a fringe of white hairs about the face, and the females are light brown. Their note is totally unlike the Nam-ting River gibbons and, instead of sitting quietly in the top of a dead tree to call to their neighbors across the jungle for an hour or two, the hoolocks howl for about twenty minutes as they swing through the branches and are silent during the remainder of the day. They called most frequently on bright mornings and we seldom heard them during cloudy weather.
Apparently they had regular feeding grounds, which were visited every day, but the herds seemed to cover a great deal of territory. Like the gibbons of the Nam-ting River, the hoolocks traveled through the tree tops at almost unbelievable speed, and one of the most amazing things which I have ever witnessed was the way in which they could throw themselves from one tree to another with unerring precision.