Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/164

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A WAYFARER IN CHINA

this stage, but so gradual is the ascent that one realizes it only in watching the stream, which is almost continuous rapid and cataract. For miles there was scarcely a square yard of smooth water. The only means of crossing from one bank to the other is by the rope bridges, of which I saw three. Several times I had a chance to watch some one making the trip. From a bamboo rope securely anchored on either bank with heavy rocks, a sling-seat is suspended by means of a section of bamboo which travels along the rope. Seated in the sling the weight of the voyager carries him more than halfway across, but after that he must haul himself up by sheer force. A slip would mean certain death, and it is said that often on reaching the middle of the stream the impulse to let go is uncontrollable. Hardy Western explorers have frequently confessed their dread of these bridges, which are found throughout the mountains of eastern Asia, but I saw men and women crossing as though it were all in the day's work. But then the Chinese have no nerves, you know.

Fortunately the need of crossing here did not seem very imperative, for there was little sign of life on the north bank of the Tarchendo. Indeed, on our side there were no villages for the whole distance, only a few hamlets and now and then a solitary resthouse. The river is so closely shut in by the mighty rock walls on either hand that there is scarcely room