The Edge of Extinction by Jules Pretty by Jules Pretty - Read Online

Book Preview

The Edge of Extinction - Jules Pretty

You've reached the end of this preview. Sign up to read more!
Page 1 of 1



Ngāi Tahu, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

10° West of Date Line*

The sun rises from the east over an ocean that covers one-third of the planetary surface. Cross the line, as the sun appears to do, from east to west, and you repeat the calendar day; cross from west to east and confusingly a day of your life seems to disappear. It is a jagged imaginary line from Wrangel Island to the Antarctic, in the middle a panhandle recently created to absorb Kiribati, Tokelau, and Samoa into the same time zone as the western ocean. Humans came late, spreading eastward from Asia some five thousand years ago in the world’s first oceangoing vessels. Later the Lapita carried by canoe domesticated pigs, dogs, and fowl, also taro, yam, coconut, and banana, traveling on to Fiji by 1300 bc, Tonga and Samoa two hundred years later, to Hawaii and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) by ad 700, and onward to South America to carry back kumara, the sweet potato, and gourd by ad 1000. Thor Heyerdahl was both right and wrong in 1947. People did travel from South America by sea, but they had come that way first. And they didn’t blunder around in a reed and balsa raft. Those navigators and canoe makers knew what they were doing, even though ocean distances must have seemed interplanetary.

The world’s last substantial landmass, apart from Antarctica, to be peopled was Aotearoa, now New Zealand, in about ad 1300. Using subtropical weather systems, Polynesians made heroic crossings from the Cook and Society Islands. When the Europeans came to the Pacific, first Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, then William Dampier, Abel Tasman, James Cook, and many others, they could not believe the indigenous people navigated without instruments or charts. Yet in this vast ocean, where there are six thousand square kilometers of water for every one of land, it was the navigators who were the most honored. The Europeans came with astrolabes and compasses, yet had no means of calculating longitude until the mid-1700s. By contrast the Pacific navigators had knowledge of stars and sun, swell patterns, clouds, homing birds, deep phosphorescence, wave refraction and reflection, currents and sea marks.

For three hundred years, the Pacific was reckoned to be a vast wilderness to discover and conquer. And to bring back booty. Locals were variously called hostiles, swindlers, heathens, and murderers, or were elevated into romantic myth. Most books about the Pacific and its navigation contain no reference to the locals’ capacity to populate remote islands in the first place, or to continue to move around. Many of those on the expeditions were oddly incurious. There were clues: Cook’s Endeavour, a converted collier thirty-three meters in length, was smaller than Fijian canoes that could carry 250 people. Cook wrote of canoes traveling at speeds of twenty-two knots; his ship could make six knots at top speed. The knowledge of the navigators was detailed, precise, and derived from experience, though in modern times fell away before recent revival by the Polynesian Voyaging Society.¹

Navigators need to know the whole sky, and would have both sidereal star and wind compasses in their minds. At night, horizon stars can be used to steer by for a short time. The belt of hunter Orion, for example, always rises due east and sets due west, but as stars rise four minutes earlier every day, the sky needs to be known throughout the year. A night of sailing thus requires knowledge of the position and bearing of some ten to twelve horizon stars. Another method centers on knowledge of swell patterns, the waves that have traveled hundreds of miles beyond the wind systems that generate them. These are generally long, slow undulations, and the best navigators lie in their canoes and direct helmsman by what they feel of the swell. Navigators can also read the resonance patterns when reflected off distant land or refracted around islands. One technique is to leave a rope trailing behind the canoe, so that if a wave pushes the canoe off course, the rope remains true to the original line of travel. Canoes could also follow migratory birds, such as long-tailed or shining cuckoos, or shearwaters.

There is thus a zone of land indicators around every island. Some birds will travel only ten or twenty kilometers from land; others typically thirty. Terns and noddies are known to visit passing canoes at night, and then fly directly toward land, thus gifting a bearing to the navigator. Many birds also fly toward fishing grounds in the morning, and back to land in the evening. Clouds move more slowly over land, as if stuck, indicating islands over the horizon. If green beneath, they are above a lagoon; if bright, then above white sand or surf. Sea convection clouds over islands can be 150 kilometers away. In A Pattern of Islands, Arthur Grimble recorded sea marks or betia in Kiribati, then the Gilberts, stable lines of leaves or rubbish caught forever between currents. Many navigators also use deep phosphorescence, manifested in the form of streamers, flashes, or glowing plaques of light that are often common on dark, rainy nights, and always point toward land. Many journeys of discovery were search and return that relied on trade winds reversing at different times of the year. Sailing against or across the wind meant a relatively easy return; but traveling downwind would require return by a different route, and thus needed knowledge of other islands.

Still, though, two great islands between the southern latitudes of 34 to 48 degrees remained undiscovered. Pharaohs and their pyramids had come and gone, the Roman Empire too, William and the Normans had arrived in Britain, dispatched Harold and stayed, and still Aotearoa remained off the human map. Then a group of Polynesian navigators and mariners looked south and west from the central Pacific, and set off in their great canoes with outriggers to cross sixteen hundred miles of open ocean. The originating homeland became known as Hawaiki, and the people settled the two islands of endemic ground birds, dark fern forests, deep harbors, and crumpled mountains. According to Māori whakapapa genealogies, settlement occurred twenty-four to twenty-seven generations ago, confirming those first arrivals at about seven hundred years before today. Some say there was one great arrival, others that there were waves. Some may have been pushed onward by conflict, others guided by migratory whales.

It was too cold for coconut, breadfruit, and banana, but taro, yam, mulberry, cabbage trees, kumara, and gourds thrived. There were extinctions: moa and other species of large land birds were gone within two hundred years. In 1642, Tasman was the first European to arrive on the west coast, then 140 years or so later came Cook to stake his country’s ownership of New Zealand. Cook’s three voyages of discovery in the 1770s, as they were called, produced a new map of the Pacific, though this son of a Yorkshire laborer was to meet his end on the Sandwich Islands. But unlike many Aboriginal groups in Australia, Cook’s arrival did not bring the end for the many Māori cultures.

The waves of new colonialists took lands and resources, brought their own plants, animals, and language, yet within seventy years had signed the crucial Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 that formalized political and institutional space for Māori peoples. But still the Māori population fell dramatically, the result of disease, loss of land and resources, and despair: from eighty thousand in 1840 to half that by 1900. During the twentieth century, kā Māori people shifted from being almost all rural or coastal based to nearly nine-tenths urban by 2000. For urban Māori, identity tends now to be toward generalized Māori rather than the particular tribe or iwi. Māori in New Zealand, though, obtained the vote from 1902; Aboriginals in Australia had to wait until the 1960s.

My navigators will be members of the Ngāi Tahu iwi of South Island, and from the local university in Dunedin.² The Ōtākou marae was the first Māori village encountered by Presbyterian settlers and whalers who had ventured into Dunedin’s deep fjord of a harbor. They rendered Ōtākou to Otago. I sleep at Tahu and Megan’s spare bungalow overlooking the slate-gray harbor, and had intended to rise early to walk the hills. In vivid dreams populated by cabbage trees, muttonbirds, wild harvest, and sacred lakes, I find myself wondering why it is so light so early in the country when it had been dark ten miles away in the city. In those becalmed dreams, all urgency has gone. Eventually I lean over to check the clock and find it is four minutes before our agreed departure time.

I leap up and bolt a warm coffee, breathe deeply, and step quickly down the hillside.

Tahu is relaxed. He is sitting at the kitchen table completing his weekly article on laptop. His hair is prematurely gray, Megan’s tousled brown. Their daughter is at school, younger son running around. No one’s in any hurry.

I remember how Pacific time can slow like this. I ran a course in a village in eastern Fiji. In sweltering humidity we sat in the chief’s house with three other leaders opposite a new bora communal barn, its steep roof being freshly thatched almost to the ground. The sea breeze hurried the curtains, and palm trees bent and quivered. The azure sky was deep and unending. We had brought peppery yaqoma roots, also known as kava, Piper methysticum, and these were pounded in a large communal bowl. For most of the humid afternoon, the ceremony continued, coconut bowls of muddy brown liquid exchanged and drunk, one clap of hands from the receiver, three by the giver, then two more by the receiver on completion. We exchanged murmured speeches. We the visitors could then enter the village; I stayed with the chief’s party. The kava filled the afternoon that was both long and too short. Outside plates rattled in bowls, chickens squabbled, a child called, leaves rustled. The wooden house was painted cream and blue. I remember watching white cumulus start to drift over. Each day started in the same way, and proceeded with a measured South Seas’ pace. Small is the voice of a chief, said Arthur Grimble on the Gilberts to the northwest.

From the kitchen window and beyond a picket fence, I can see white horses dashing across the two-mile-wide harbor flanked by scalped hills. The native vegetation hugs the hills, the imported stands out, explains writer Khyla Russell later. We drive north on the inside of the peninsula for formalities at the marae. This seems a straightforward arrangement, but there had been many prior discussions. You do not just come to the land without acknowledgment of history and intentionality. My coming had provoked talks about how formal or informal should be the arriving. There is always a proper way. You do not just show up like Cook and the others. The previous night at Edward Ellison’s six-hundred-acre farm, in the family since 1880, we had shared a meal of salty muttonbirds, with mashed potatoes and greens, and glasses of red wine from a South Island winery, the wood fire blazing in the stove.

We arrive at the marae, meeting place and spiritual center for the community. It is for encounters, a creative space alive with ancestors. Above the door is written Tamatea, the name of the legendary traveler from Hawaiki. Everything begins and ends here, where nature and culture cohere. At the gate, brick-red carvings span the entrance, and a plaque notes their centennial memorial in 1940, a hundred years after the treaty was signed here, and we walk up the curved path to the cream hall with sweeping red roof that almost meets the ground. All the pillars, eaves, and windows are carved with spiral forms and stacked ancestors standing on one another’s shoulders. In this bitter southeasterly that tugs and pulls, it still puts me in mind of that communal hall in Fiji. Inside, a stage is hidden by crimson curtains, and electric heaters hanging from the ceiling glow. A stained-glass window depicts a Māori soldier with bayoneted rifle, khaki shirt rolled above elbows, shorts and long socks with dark shoes. The sky is blue, and at the top is a face with bulging eyes and tongue outstretched. On the left is a roll of honor with one Ōtākou name under the Boer War, fourteen for 1914–18, and on the right another sixteen from 1939–45. Many are repeated, including three Ellisons, Robertsons, and Forsyths.

The group gathers on a line of chairs beneath the stage, and I sit tentatively in the audience with Megan, Edward’s daughter. Tahu welcomes, Khyla stands to add more, her lips blue with mata, two parallel lines down her chin, curling back in spirals. I stand to give thanks, announcing myself to the Māori ancestors here in the marae. I’m left with a feeling that I could have done this better. We chat about memories of the hall. Of playing badminton, and of community events with all the kids sleeping on mattresses and the grown-ups drinking outside. Death is a theme. It brings people together. Bodies are brought inside the marae before going to the cemetery next door. Everyone gets used to death, to living with ancestors.

Sometimes you only know someone when they’re dead, observes Tahu, as others nod.

There used to be a school associated with the marae, but it’s closed now. Yet the country’s first Māori doctor and lawyer were from Ōtākou, right here.

With a slow stride, we walk north along the thin strip between coast and cliff. Wrapped in coats and hats we talk along the bay. Long waves race through the narrow opening in the harbor. On the beach oystercatchers pipe mournfully and crouching shags gaze at the water. Other waders skitter as the waves rise and crash and retreat. On the hills above the houses and gardens are cabbage trees tall and branched, and clumps of golden gorse, a pest here, the parched pasture cropped by rabbits and sheep. We turn into Riki and Eleanor’s and stroll up the garden to where they run forty sheep on the hill.

By a thin stream that drains into a seasonal pond, Riki has built a fifteen-foot arch of rare kauri wood and carved an intricate pattern depicting ancestors and marking this particular piece of homeland. These native kauri, Aganthis, can reach fifty meters in height with trunk diameters of five meters or more, and normally live for six hundred years, the oldest a couple of thousand, rivaling the great sequoias of California on the other side of the Pacific. It’s a hard wood, says Riki, yet soft enough to carve. There is something dependable about very old trees. Some have seen off whole civilizations, stuck where their roots first took hold. When the Europeans came, they logged kauri for ship masts and spars; only a tenth of the original forests remained by 1900.

At the far end of the bay, we stop at the house of elders Paul and Natalie, and cramp in the front room warmed by a portable gas heater. The metal-framed windows are soon covered in condensation. Paul has a shock of white hair above broad face, his torso seeming to speak of rugby forward. Natalie glides around the room, smiling. They rent land out for cribs, small houses, but there’s a constant dance over rents. The edge is over commerce: is it right to be making a living, or is it the density of social relationships that matters most? Family members, for example, want housing rent-free, and almost everyone is family in some way. Paul was helping in the construction of a community garden with John Reid of Lincoln University when they discovered riwai potatoes growing wild on a tiny ledge by a cliff towering above. It’s now part of their kotahitanga cultural revitalization program.

Paul comes out in cardigan, blue jeans, and black slippers to wave us off, and we return past the tussocky grasses on the sand dunes. Riki points to the spit jutting out from Aramoana on the far side, a name forever marked by an appalling disaster. Towering container ships heading to Dunedin harbor sweep in a tight semicircle, and invasive wash floods these dunes with aggressive waves. Beware, says a sign, there is danger to public. Young George smiles from inside padded jacked and hood, describing how well they surf these industrial waves in small boats. But never tell their parents, he chuckles. Today, natural waves thrash the shore.

Riki is salt-scorched and wind-tanned, one of the deepwater fishermen whose battle for resources is far from over. There may be treaties, but implementation and protection of rights is still political. Lives close to the land have changed too. The Ngāi Tahu hold 80 percent of the land of Te Waipounamu, the Greenstone Isle, South Island. But conflicts continue. In this harbor are important beds of tuaki cockles. The Ōtākou hapū wish to declare a harvesting moratorium to protect stocks. But a commercial cockler on the north side will have none of it. He’s taking 650 tonnes a year on his research permit, not bothered by concepts like rotation patterns. Now average shellfish sizes are getting smaller. The company commissioned research on the sustainability of the cockling, but when the results were published, it dismissed them. The Ōtākou rūnanga assembly has still chosen not to take up its quota, preferring to protect the stock. The government minister responsible for fishing rights is felt not to care for Māori views. He’s the one who will arbitrate.

Riki’s own fishing territory is one hundred miles south at Bluff. We look at the map. The straits between there and Stewart Island are notorious for vicious wind and tide. They get only about a hundred days of safe fishing a year, and Riki often takes risks in weather that regularly brings fifty-to-sixty-foot waves. For the first time ever, Riki’s boat lost a trawl net yesterday, the glittering catch cast free. It will cost them thousands of dollars to replace. The flatfish should never run out though, he says. But again, quotas are set in distant Wellington, and there is little desire from there to listen to localized conditions. Māori fishermen are allocated one-third of the regional quota.

Have you ever been asked for your views? I ask.

Never, he rolls his eyes. If we catch the wrong fish, we’re also supposed to pay the government.

Across from Bluff, though, is the place for the annual cultural event central to Ngāi Tahu. Māori have always been part cultivators, part hunters, gatherers, and fishers. The wild harvest, mahinga kai, has cultural significance, as it is about obtaining unique foods from specific locations at particular times, which are then shared, bringing people together. On Rakiura / Stewart Island, it is the annual harvest of tītī in late autumn that does precisely this.

Over that dinner of tītī muttonbirds in gravy, Ngāi Tahu elder Edward Ellison, tall and balding, cream shirt buttoned at wrists, explains. The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi legally bound in agreement the British crown and Māori chiefs. It allowed the colonists to settle, and granted Māori full, exclusive, and undisturbed possession of their lands, estates, forests, and fisheries. Despite the apparently unequivocal language, room for interpretation was later assumed. There is long-standing skepticism across New Zealand over whether Māori can manage their own resources, despite the irony that ecological problems are widespread elsewhere in modern society. The harvest of young sooty shearwaters, Puffinus griseus, between the beginning of April and end of May takes place on thirty-six tītī islands around Rakiura, and whānau extended families hold exclusive rights to birding areas. These manu are deeply valued: once allocated, they stay with each family forever.

The shearwater is an apex marine predator, spending much of the year over the South and Central Pacific. Shearwaters nest in southern New Zealand, also in Australian Tasmania, New South Wales, and Victoria. The population of these dark brown petrels is reckoned to be forty to sixty million birds. Each year Māori families spend four to six weeks down on their manu, harvesting the young birds from burrows at night, and plucking them during the day.

The trip revitalizes everyone, explains Eleanor, rubbing delicate hands. Even though the work is physical, people can look ten years younger by the end of the trip. Mobile phone contact is only possible from the roof, and so everyone gets used to the personal reconnections, the being there rather than not somewhere else. The harvest is thus not just about gathering food, it is about reaffirming family, friends, wider social links as well as ancestral ones, and being out in a wild place that helps wash away other pressing troubles.

But there is a problem. There seems to be a long-term decline in tītī.

Henrik Moller of the University of Otago began working with Māori on Rakiura in 1994.³ The combination of scientific methods and knowledge and māturanga traditional knowledge had led to new insights, including one on climate change that is yet to be accepted by the scientific community. The research relationship has not always been easy, as preconceptions on methods and worldviews differ. But trust was steadily built. Birders claim that there is a greater breeding density closer to the edge of islands, and that fledging birds emerge from burrows earlier on western sides of islands: both were shown scientifically to be true. Birders prefer to take fat chicks, but scientists are troubled: they know that survival from fledging to breeding age is closely correlated with chick weight. Recently, fat chicks have become rarer, but the reason is not known. The scientists now acknowledge that birders’ māturanga relates not just to the harvest but to a wider understanding of ecological patterns and relationships. Birders then took a great leap and offered Henrik diaries that had been kept for up to fifty years, many of which contained details of weather, tallies, harvest effort, and unusual weather.

This unique data led to a breakthrough. Statistical analyses revealed a link between harvests and the onset of El Niño years. Climatologists with knowledge of the Southern Oscillation had never before made a link to traditional knowledge of birders. Crucially, it was found that low harvests in April–May predict the onset of an El Niño shift later in the same year. It is not known why, but something must be happening out in the Pacific prior to breeding. El Niño changes the abundance of anchovy and sardines; tītī can dive down to sixty meters’ depth to catch prey. It could be food; it could be wind patterns. Birds that lock wings to travel enormous migratory distances must somehow find their breeding sites, and be well-enough fed to make it.

At the time of my visit, Henrik is saying an El Niño is on the way. But no one believes him. Later, in November, he sends an e-mail at the time of severe weather conditions in eastern Australia and the washing up of thousands of tītī along coastlines. Everyone will be helpless if the problem originates in the vast Pacific. The El Niño was going to be a bad one.

These shearwaters survive by ocean navigation, as do other important wild foods. The freshwater short- and long-fin eels are important wild food. They too engage in their own heke, or migratory journeys, traveling out from freshwater rivers and lakes to swim to the waters of Samoa, Fiji, and Tonga to breed at about twenty years of age. The elvers’ return takes six months. But where coastal wetlands have been lost, or rivers blocked, or others polluted with dairy farm runoff, the eels cannot now escape to sea or return. Many habitats are permanently amended or lost. At Lake Ellesmere on the Banks Peninsula, Ngāi Tahu, who have rights to the lake bed but not the inflowing waters, have opened up the water to the sea. But how to collaborate with dairy farmers who have become increasingly intensive to remain competitive on the world market? How to find a new model that allows farming and wild foods to coexist? Edward observes that his aunt Mary, born in 1899, said it was the mahinga kai foods that got them through the depression of the 1930s.

The value of wild food has never declined: sixty species are still eaten and shared.

If the land is changed, he says, then this also changes the way people see themselves.

Many hundreds still go to the islands off Rakiura. The traditions remain strong, and thus the transfer of knowledge is not at threat. But Edward notes that there is much to do elsewhere. Advocacy and involvement in environmental issues is toward habitat restoration, particularly of inland waterways and lakes, and recovery of native vegetation. Some 15 percent of the population of New Zealand is Māori. For many, alienation from the land has created social and identity problems, and Māori in general are recognized as suffering more health problems than the rest of the population. Government chose to call its policy Closing the Gap, but this echoes policies elsewhere: indigenous people can be saved by being more like, in this case, the pakeha—those of European descent. Ngāi Tahu, though, have grown in number from fifteen hundred in 1901 to nearly fifty thousand in the early 2000s. There is much that can be done.

After our walk along Harrington Point Road, Tahu, Megan, and I go in search of blue penguins. At Pilots Beach we see pathways pattered through the grass, and burrows under lupine bushes. But no gift of yellow eyes peering out. No seals or sea lions on the deserted beach, either. All is quiet. This was once Measly Beach, where Māori afflicted by the 1835 measles epidemic came to bathe, and die, and also Hobart Town Beach, where whalers set up their huts and homes. We climb up to Taiaroa Head and its eighty-meter cliffs facing eastward over ten thousand miles of ocean. It’s the wrong time of year for toroa, the royal albatross: they are out in the Pacific sailing the trade winds, their own long-lived narratives of migration on three-meter wingspans. Here more spotted shags are circling, sweeping up on the wind, rendered motionless, winging wide again. Waves are pounding rocks below. We’re looking toward Chile, but see no dusky dolphins, no southern rights or humpback whales. Inside the harbor the water is many shades of gray and sandy yellow; outside the Pacific is pure aquamarine. There’s nothing like this color at all in our own northern seas. The clouds are breaking up, whipped sideways by this howling wind. This bay is Waiwhakaheka, the place where the bodies are thrown into the sea.

Later Khyla takes me over the top road of rolling hills and widely spaced farms to meet with Hugh Campbell again. We set off for Blueskin Bay to go floundering with John Fairweather, rural sociologist from Lincoln University, who’s been doing this from his gimcrack crib overlooking the water for a good half century.

The boat is lowered into the estuary, and across the mudflats comes the wheeping of waders. The oars creak in the rowlocks and the sun drops to the edge of the distant inland hills. The wind is direct, sharp. We step out on the sticky mud shore, wavelets slapping quietly. John takes one end of the nylon net and rows out in a great semicircle back to the shore fifty meters further up. He’s comfortable in his white boat, out on these waters so many years, wearing chest waders and brown woolen hat, sharp gray beard with no mustache. I’ve borrowed a battered red jacket and Wellington boots. We pull the white nylon ropes attached to the gray net, now clogged with a fine crop of sea lettuce, fingers numb with salty cold. The flounders are identical in hue to the mud, distinguished only by two surprised eyes.

John unsheathes a curved knife and pulls a wooden block from the red box. He guts each flounder, slices off the head, food now for the squabbling gulls. We set the nets several times, and the sun flashes free of cloud for several minutes to light the hills over Doctors Point. The cold waters are briefly golden. Waders peep and cry again. At his lodge, John gives me the blue feather of a pigeon. Later, in the way of these things, I gave it to an elderly gypsy in Essex, and tell him about those marshes and mudflats. Hugh grills the flounders that evening, which we eat with a fine red wine. These are things that should go onward the same.

On the plane north, I sit next to an elderly woman from a farm in Middlemarch, who says at the end of our conversation, We still think of England as home.

Khyla visits. I meet her at the rail station, and we sit in my garden drinking tea among summer flowers. At her home, it is wet and wintery. Here bees and hoverflies buzz the quiet afternoon away. On the way back, people stare at her striking blue mata on neck and jaw.

Then Edward e-mails to say it has been a wet spring too. The paddocks are now unusually green. Hugh and John are continuing their work on creating sustainable food systems for the South Island, reclaiming both modern and traditional practices, of interweaving the farmed and wilder parts of the landscape.

*Day begins at the Pacific Date Line.



Huangshan, China

62° West of Date Line

The land was vacant for more than a thousand years. Then the people came back. They walked out of mists, through bamboo groves, up granite steps, and into the heavens. And looked down on seas of clouds where ancient pines grew from rock faces, and waterfalls poured past pagodas offering green tea and noodles. For centuries, only painters and poets were permitted by emperors; for the last half century only party leaders came, also keeping the mountains to themselves. But Huangshan, these Yellow Mountains of Anhui, made famous by those artists, was opened up in the 1990s, now declared a World Heritage Site. It has been reclaimed. A typical day may see ten thousand walkers, during the holiday weeks in October and May up to thirty thousand.

It is said you will not want to visit any other mountains once you come here. Not entirely true: you will do if you want to be alone. Yet Huangshan has sacred beauty combined with a very public claiming. The tops are not high, the seventy-two granite peaks reachable, the highest, Lotus Peak, at 1,860 meters. Like the Great Wall and Yangtze River, Huangshan is now one of the great symbols of China. And now it is available not just on silk and canvas. People are coming to the land. It was Rob Macfarlane who planted the idea of walking these mountains, but we couldn’t match up timetables. I went alone; he was to go west to sacred Minya Konka instead.¹

Long before the Tang emperor Xuan Zang gave Huangshan its name in the eighth century, enduring traditions in Chinese landscape painting were