Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/47

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21
ACROSS TONKING

change a few words at the station as the train went through.

On leaving Lao-kai our way led up the valley of the Namti, a small mountain river coming in from the east. The scenery was now much wilder, and as we rose to higher levels the vegetation changed, the pathless jungle which comes up to the very doors of Lao-kai gave way to sparsely covered grass slopes, and they in turn to barren, rocky walls. It was here that the French engineers encountered their most difficult problems. We wound up the narrow valley in splendid loops and curves, turning upon our tracks, running through numerous tunnels, and at one time crossing a chasm so narrow and with sides so steep and precipitous that it was found necessary to build the bridge in two parts, each against the face of the cliff, and then gradually lower them until they met above the river, three hundred and fifty feet below. Finally by an almost intolerable gradient we topped the divide and found ourselves overlooking a wonderful, well-watered plain five thousand feet above the sea, and cultivated as far as the vision could carry with the care and precision of a market-garden.

That night I spent at A-Mi-chou in a semi-Chinese inn. The cooking was good, and, thanks to the thoughtfulness of a railway official who wired ahead, I had one of the two good rooms of the house, the others being given over to rats. This was truly China,