When the wind was favourable we sailed, but it never is favourable for any length of time, on account of the huge serpentine bends which the river takes, sweeping as it does round three parts of a circle, to turn abruptly on itself and twist the other way. When not sailing we tracked, with four or five men on the tow-line, and under these conditions thirty miles was a good day's journey. Progress however, if not breathless, was steady for several days, and then came disaster. The heavens were opened, down came the rain, and for three days the cloud canopy dripped mercilessly upon us. To sail was impossible, for there was no wind to track was out of the question. For the banks gave no foothold. Central and Western China had been very hardly handled by the unprecedented rains of early autumn, and in many parts of Hupeh, Honan and Shensi roads were impassable, river banks bursting, crops ruined, and food at famine prices.