About nine o’clock in the evening we ran our traps with a lantern and besides several mice (Apodemus) found two rare shrews and a new mole (Blarina). I went out with the hunters at dawn but saw nothing except an old wapiti track and a little sign. All during the following day a dense fog hung close to the ground so that it was impossible to hunt, and, on the night of December 2, it snowed heavily. The morning began bright and clear but clouded about ten o’clock and became so bitterly cold that the Lolos would not hunt. They really suffered considerably and that night they all left us to return to their homes. We were greatly disappointed, for we had brilliant prospects of good wapiti shooting but without either men or dogs and in an unknown country there was little possibility of successful still hunting.
The mafus were very much worried and refused to go further north. They were certain that we would not be able to cross the high passes which lay between us and the Mekong valley far to the westward and complained unceasingly about the freezing cold and the lack of food for their animals. It was necessary to visit the Mekong River, for even though it might not be a good big game region it would give us a cross-section, as it were, of the fauna and important data on the distribution of small mammals. Therefore we decided to leave for the long ride as soon as the weather permitted.
STALKING TIBETANS WITH A CAMERA
The road near which we were camped was one of the great trade routes into Tibet and over it caravans were continually passing laden with tea or pork. Many of them had traveled the entire length of Yuen-nan to S’su-mao on the Tonking frontier where a special kind of tea is grown, and were hurrying northward to cross the snow-covered passes which form the gateways to the “Forbidden Land.”
The caravans sometimes stopped for luncheon or to spend the night near our camp. As the horses came up, one by one the loads were lifted off, the animals turned loose, and after their dinner of buttered tea and tsamba [Footnote: Tsamba is parched oats or barley, ground finely.] each man stretched out upon the ground without shelter of any kind and heedless of the freezing cold. It is truly the life of primitive man and has bred a hardy, restless, independent race, content to wander over the boundless steppes and demanding from the outside world only to be let alone.
They are picturesque, wild-looking fellows, and in their swinging walk there is a care-free independence and an atmosphere of the bleak Tibetan steppes which are strangely fascinating. Every Tibetan is a study for an artist. He wears a fur cap and a long loose coat like a Russian blouse thrown carelessly off one shoulder and tied about the waist, blue or red trousers, and high boots of felt or skin reaching almost to the knees. A long sword, its hilt inlaid with bright-colored bits of glass or stones, is half concealed beneath his coat, and he is seldom without a gun or a murderous looking spear.