The roads in general from Yuen-nan-fu to Tali-fu were worse than any I have met from Chung-king onwards, partly owing to the mountainous condition of the country, and partly to neglect of maintenance.
Where the road is paved, it is in most places worse than if it had not been paved at all, as neither skill nor common sense seems to have been exercised in the work. It is probably safe to say that there are no ancient roads in Yuen-nan, in the sense of the constructed highways which have lasted through the centuries, for the civilization of the early Yuen-nanese was not equal to such works. As a matter of fact, the condition of the roads is all but intolerable. Many were never made, and are seldom mended—one may say that with very few exceptions they are never repaired, except when utterly impassable, and then in the most make-shift manner.
My highly-strung Rusty received a shock to his nervous system as I led him leisurely from the incline leading into Anning-cheo (6,300 feet), through the arched gateway in a pagoda-like entrance, which when new would have been a credit to any city. The stones of the main street were so slippery that I could hardly keep on my legs. Frightened by one of their number dragging its empty wooden carrying frame along the ground behind it, a drove of unruly-pack-ponies lashed and bucked and tossed themselves out of order, and an instant afterwards came helter-skelter towards my ten-inch pathway by the side of the road. All of my men caught the panic, and in their mad rush several were knocked down and trampled upon by the torrent of frightened creatures. I thought I was being charged by cavalry, but beyond a good deal of bruising I escaped unhurt. Closer and closer came the hubbub and the din of the town—the market was not yet over. As I approached the big street, throngs of blue-cottoned yokels, quite out of hand, created a nerve-racking uproar, as they thriftily drove their bargains. I shrugged my shoulders, gazed long and earnestly at the motley mob, and putting on a bold front, pushed through in a careless manner. Ponies with salt came in from the other end of the town, and in their waddling the little brutes gave me more knocks.