Annamite journeys

Wayne McCallum

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The saola, known as the Asian unicorn, was discovered in 1992. Photograph: World Wildlife Fund

“Strange paths lead to unexpected places, and sometimes the world opens up.”

William deBuys, The Last Unicorn

In a time defined by speed, connectivity and the desire to know ‘everything’, it can be reassuring to discover that there still remain places where human footprints are rare. The Annamite Mountains are such a place, a domain of rugged ranges, dense jungle and remote river valleys, stretching from the borderlands of southern Laos, through central Vietnam and down into the Virachey region of northeast Cambodia. It is a wilderness that speaks of isolation, and is home to peoples, plants and animals found nowhere else. With little known or written about this region, the Annamites have been ripe for literal exploration, something that two recent publications, Ghosts in the Forest by Corinne Purtill and The Last Unicorn by William deBuys have set out to do.

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