The journey which I was about to undertake was the most memorable of my travels in China, with the exception of those in the unexplored Miao Lands; for I was to pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, the dreaded Salwen Valley. I had made up my mind that I would stay here for a night to see the effects of the climate, but postponed my sojourn intead to a later period, when I stayed two days, and went up the low-lying country towards the source of the river; I am, so far as I know, the only European who has ever traveled here. Not that my journeyings will convey any great benefit upon anyone but myself, as I had no instruments for surveying or taking accurate levels, and might not have been able to use them had I had them with me. However, I came in contact with Li-su, and saw in my two marches a good deal of new life, which only acts as an incentive to see more. My plan on the present occasion was to travel onwards by the following stages:—
of Stage Above Sea
1st day—Tali-shao 65 li. 7,200 ft. 2nd day—Yung-ch’ang-fu 75 li. 5,500 ft. 5th day—Fang-ma-ch’ang 90 li. 7,300 ft. 6th day—Ta-hao-ti 120 li. 8,200 ft. 7th day—Tengyueh (Momien) 85 li. 5,370 ft.
On Friday, February 26th, 1909, I steamed up the muddy mouth of the Mekong to Saigon in Indo-China in a French mail steamer. To-day, February 3rd, 1910, I cross the same river many hundreds of miles from where it empties into the China Sea. I cross by a magnificent suspension bridge.
A cruel road, almost vertical and negotiated by a twining zigzag path, has brought me down, after infinite labor, from the mountains over 4,000 feet below my highest point reached yesterday, and I now stand in the middle of the bridge gazing at the silent green stream flowing between cliffs of wall-like steepness. I am resting, for I have to climb again immediately to over 8,000 feet. This bridge has a wooden base swinging on iron chains, and is connected with the cliffs by bulwarks of solid masonry. It is hard to believe that I am 4,000 feet above the mouth of the river. To my left, as I look down the torrent, there are tea-shops and a temple alongside a most decorative buttress on which the carving is elaborate. At the far end, just before entering the miniature tunnel branching out to a paved roadway leading upwards, my coolies are sitting in truly Asiatic style admiring huge Chinese characters hacked into the side of the natural rock, descriptive of the whole business, and under a sheltering roof are also two age-worn memorial tablets in gilt. My men’s patriotic thermometer has risen almost to bursting-point, and in admiring the work of the ancients they feel that they have a legitimate excuse for a long delay.
At a temple called P’ing-p’o-t’ang we drank tea, and prepared ourselves for the worst climb experienced in our long overland tramp.