Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/146

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A WAYFARER IN CHINA

their precious burdens. Between Ya-chou, the starting-point of this traffic, and Tachienlu there are two high passes to cross, seven thousand feet above the level where the journey begins, and the whole length of the road is a wearisome succession of ups and downs. And the loads carried are extraordinary. Baron von Richthofen says, "There is probably no road in the world where such heavy loads are carried by man across high mountains." The oblong package, called "pao," in which the tea is made up, weighs perhaps eighteen pounds, and, according to the German traveller, ten or eleven form an average load. But Baber declares that he had often seen a coolie carrying eighteen pao, and on one occasion a man with a load of twenty-two, certainly equivalent to four hundred pounds. I saw nothing like that, but I passed many a poor wretch sweating under a burden of two hundred and twenty-five or two hundred and fifty pounds. Day after day they creep along, rarely covering more than six or seven miles a day. Every four hundred yards they rest, but the loads are taken off only at noon and night. At other times they relieve themselves for a moment from the intolerable strain by placing an iron-shod crutch under the load. On the march they carry this in the hand, tapping the ground as they go, and all along the road the granite pavement is worn into holes from the taps of centuries. The load, which is fastened to a framework