“Have you ever been there?”
“Yes; it is only a few steps.”
“How long will it take to get there?”
“About the time of one meal.”
We were not to be deceived, for we had had experience with native ideas of distance, and we ate our tiffin before starting out on the “few steps.” A steep trail led up the valley and after three hours of steady riding we reached the hunter’s village of three large houses on a flat strip of cleared ground in the midst of a dense forest.
The people looked much like those of Phete but were rather anemic specimens, and five out of eight had enormous goiters. They were exceedingly shy at first, watching us with side glances and through cracks in the wall. Wu learned that we were the first white persons they had ever seen. I imagine that much of their unhealthiness was due to too close intermarriage, for these families had little intercourse with the people in Phete who were only “a few steps” away.
As we were leaving they began to eat their supper in the courtyard. The principal dish consisted of mixed cornmeal and rice, boiled squash and green vegetables. All the women were busy husking corn which was hung to dry on great racks about the house. These racks we had noticed in every village since leaving Li-chiang and they seemed to be in universal use in the north.
The hunter had a flock of sheep and we purchased one for $4.40 (Mexican) but there was considerable difficulty in paying for it since these people had never seen Chinese money even though living in China itself. For currency they used chunks of silver the size of a walnut and worth about one dollar (Mexican). The Chinese guide finally persuaded the people of the genuineness of our money and we purchased a few eggs and a little very delicious wild honey besides the sheep. These people as well as those of Phete spoke the Li-chiang dialect but with such variation that even our mafus could understand them only with the greatest difficulty.
When we returned to camp we found that the coolie who had been engaged to carry the motion-picture camera and tripod had left without the formality of saying “good-by” or asking for the money which was due him. We had had considerable trouble with the camera coolies since leaving Li-chiang. The first one carried the camera to the Taku ferry with many groans, and there engaged a huge Chinaman to take his place, for he thought the load too heavy. It only weighed fifty pounds, and in the Fukien Province where men seldom carry less than eighty pounds and sometimes as much as one hundred and fifty, it would have been considered as only half a burden. In Yuen-nan, however, animals do most of the pack carrying, and coolies protest at even an ordinary load.
We left Phete in the early morning and camped about five hundred feet above the hunter’s cabin in a beautiful little meadow. It was surrounded with splendid pine trees, and a clear spring bubbled up from a knoll in the center and spread fan-shaped in a dozen little streams over the edge of a deep ravine where a mountain torrent rushed through a tangled bamboo jungle. The gigantic fallen trees were covered inches deep with green moss, and altogether it was an ideal spot for small mammals. Our traps, however, yielded no new species, although we secured dozens of specimens every night.