Adventures in Bolivia by Prodgers, C. H. (Cecil Herbert)
ADVENTURES IN BOLIVIA
[Illustration: GOLD FIRM’S HEADQUARTERS ON THE TIPUANI]
ADVENTURES IN BOLIVIA
BY C. H. PRODGERS :: :: ::
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM
ILLUSTRATED FROM THE AUTHOR’S ORIGINAL SKETCHES AND PHOTOGRAPHS
JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD LTD. LONDON :: :: :: MCMXXII
_Printed in Great Britain by Ebenezer Baylis & Son, Trinity Works, Worcester._
TO RIDERS IN HIGH (AND LOWER) ALTITUDES
This book, that exudes sincerity, just as a pine tree drops its rosin, serves a double purpose. It reveals a curious personality that might have stepped straight from the pages of Purchas or of Hakluyt, and at the same time, all unknown to the writer, helps to dispel some of the mist of ignorance and prejudice that for so long has hung over the lives and actions of the Spanish Conquerors.
Judged by an alien Tribunal, brought before the bar of an opinion adverse to them by religion, race and interest, they have been vilified before the world with scarce a word raised in their defence. To-day their exploits are judged upon their merits. The ancient jealousy, that gave Gondomar the right to brand even the great Sir Walter Raleigh with the stigma of “Pirata,” has long died down. We know that our own withers are not quite unerring. Thus, by degrees and in the hard school of experience, we are learning not to condemn men who acted by the standards of their age by our own code. Take both codes away, and drop me an impartial judge down from the moon, he might not find much real difference between the Spaniards of the age of Charles V and ourselves, the sons of progress and of light. Still, there are fellows of the baser sort, your piffling traveller with his bad jokes, contempt of anything not forged upon his Peckham anvil, or registered so many degrees north, east or west from the meridian of Balham, with clichés from old books as if the course of time changed nothing, and no fresh matter ever came to light, to tell us all the Spanish conquerors were cruel rogues and thieves. He lets us know that in their thirst for gold and zeal for their damned Papism, they exterminated all the Indians, leaving not one alive. He is read, commented on and reviewed by men as ignorant and prejudiced as he himself, and so the ball rolls on, ever increasing like a mass of snow set trundling down a slope. To read or listen to such antiquated bombast one would think that kindly well-disposed and Christian men meticulous in all their dealings with the Indians, such as were Vasco Nuñez de Balboa and Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, had never lived and striven to do good. Of the great Las Casas and the innumerable Jesuits and Franciscans, who gave their lives so freely for the conversion of the Indians, it is unnecessary to speak.
This little book comes as an antidote to all this poison gas.
Written in the language that men speak round the camp fire, with rifles ready to the hand, with ears attuned to catch the slightest rustle in the grass and eyes always a-watch upon the horses where they feed close at hand, hobbled or picketed, it lets fresh air in on the question. The writer tells us, bluntly and in the way a sailor writes his log book, quite without comment, but with circumstance, that he slept in an Ancient Inca Temple on some pass or other of an altitude of 17,000 feet and with a temperature of 8° below. He lifts unwittingly the corner of a page that Protestant historians have always kept dog’s-eared. He jots down at haphazard that he bought a llama, some frozen potatoes, or the carcass of a sheep, from the owner of the hut, who was an Indian. Then further on he comes upon a band of Indians driving llamas; stops in another Indian hut, and by degrees it dawns upon us that his whole journey from the time he left La Paz was amongst Indians. One million Indians, as he tells us, are settled in the republic on the same lands that their forefathers owned, under their Inca princes when the Pizarro brothers burst on their Arcady. Besides this million, that apparently has fluctuated little since the conquest, still in the forests of the Tipuani and the Beni, that Beni of whose wonders I had heard so much from my friend, Colonel Don Pedro Suarez, there still roam, free, naked and unashamed, for shame was brought into the world under a dispensation they had no share in, three hundred thousand of these autochthones.
How the author came to set out on the strange, romantic quest, to reach a lone community of Indians, on the Tipuani, living far from the world, in curious huts much as I have seen in remote capillas in Paraguay, and well depicted by the author in a not ineffective, neo-Japanese style of art, is most curious. Established as he was with a large racing stable, somewhere in Chile, an occupation as one would suppose as little likely as any in the world to furnish an explorer, for diplomats and race-horse trainers are perhaps the men above all others wrapped in conservatism and bound in prejudice.
Still, somewhere in his being he must have had the true Elizabethan spirit that makes a man sell his own land to visit that of other people, for without preface he informs us that in July 1913 he was engaged by the Challana and Tongo Rubber Company to go and find out if the Indians on the Challana river would tap rubber for them. The proposition seemed a tough one, as he might have said himself. The Indians, knowing that to allow white people to settle in their territory must be the ruin of their race, had set strict guards upon the passes of the river.
Twice or three times they had defeated expeditions sent against them, and were now all well armed, having supplied themselves through the good offices of a Bolivian officer, one Captain Villarde, who had originally been sent against them from La Paz. Captain Villarde, and one Sanchez, had thrown their lot in with the Indians and lived half in the capacity of traders, half as military advisers, in Paroma, the mysterious Indian capital, a town that no one single white man had ever seen except themselves.
Like a good trainer, the first thing was to see about his weight. As he weighed two hundred and sixty-five pounds (avoirdupois) one might be pardoned in supposing that as De Quincey said about the Poet Coleridge, he was a little stout for active virtue. Nothing more false. Had he weighed twice as much, it would have been the same.
Three weeks of hot baths reduced his weight by thirty pounds, and he was ready for the road. Every one having advised him against going to Paroma, telling him as they told Columbus, and have told everybody since the beginning of the world who wanted to go anywhere, that the journey was impossible, he thought of what he ought to have hit upon at once, seeing he was a race-horse trainer. Near to Sorata, a little town close to Lake Titicaca, there dwelt “un matrimonio” as they would call it in Bolivia, of the name of Gunther. Next door there lived a lady, one Señora Villavicencia, sister to the Villardes, who had become, either by adoption or by grace, a personage amongst the Indians. The writer, most likely as the old Scottish story goes, either by sophistry or knowledge of the gospel, got the soft side of her. How many times he must have slipped the “Tapujo” over the eyes of a wild mule, an operation that, _experto crede_, has its difficulties, and yet gives one experience with other animals. This lady, having marked, heard and inwardly digested all that the writer had to say, was pleased to send a letter, by an Indian runner, to her brother at Paroma, thus opening an Eden, making this book possible, and incidentally removing from her sex the slur that Eve cast on it when she was instrumental in setting up the board in that fair garden by the Tigris, with “To let” inscribed upon it. Riding a stout mule, and with his old chestnut hurdle racer to serve as bell mare, and well supplied with rum and whisky, sterilized milk, two or three horn lanterns, Liebig’s extract, a nail extractor, and other trifles useful on the road, though as a liberal minded man he does not dogmatize upon a traveller’s needs, for in a qualifying clause he says, “anything else you think you need,” the writer set out towards his Eden in the wilderness.
Much did he see and much set down, as when he stayed with the headman of Tiquiripaga, himself an Aymara. This worthy, called Manuel, was wedlocked to two wives, one of them not bad-looking, who took good care of the writer during his sojourn in the place.
Little by little, passing along the edge of precipices; swung over torrents on a rope, and witnessing the wondrous change of fauna, flora, sky and temperature, that riders from the high Andes see slip beside them in a day’s ride toward the Tropics, the writer gradually advanced towards the unknown.
He saw (he tells us so) the Alpine flora slowly give way to palms and tree-ferns, begonias, white and purple creepers, orchids and parasites spring from the distorted trunks of Ceibas and of Bongos, and butterflies, light and dark blue, purple and yellow, flying about in flocks. Parrots darted high above his head, chattering and shrieking, and flights of green and red macaws glided like hawks about the clearings of the woods. All this he saw and must have smelt the dank and spicy odour rising from the masses of decaying vegetation, seen the snakes hanging from the trees, and heard the monkeys howling, sights, sounds and odours that always make me feel as if I was returning home during such kind of rides. At last he reached the Tipuani and camped upon its banks, being well received by one Noboa, an ex-slave, and startled, though he should not have been so, by the apparition of a tall sun-burned man, stricken with fever, who introduced himself by the name of Mackenzie, and formed of course a unit of the all conquering legions that Scotland sends out to subdue the world. Long did he wait in Tipuani for news from the mysterious Indian capital, for, though he was only a few days’ journey from it, the frontiers were so strictly guarded that a wayfaring man, even although endowed with average intelligence, could just as easily expect to enter heaven without a passport. So in Tipuani he waited, shooting occasionally a man-eating jaguar, bathing, drinking new rum, and no doubt mightily refreshed by the conversation of Mackenzie, the young Spaniard, Perez, who had left the military school in Madrid on a “paseo” to the Tipuani and had been fever stayed for years, and the companionship of other waifs and strays, whose talk is always interesting, as it runs wholly on themselves and things that they have seen, and in such places as Tipuani these kind of men are sure to congregate. When the long wished for order to proceed arrived at last, in three days’ march he reached Paroma, a village set, like some cities of the Scriptures, high upon a hill. A river ran through it and huts were scattered here and there, midst clumps of palm trees. The view extended over miles. Right in the middle stood the Court House, a “long high shed of poles and palm leaves,” and not far off the church, neat, swept and garnished, although there was no priest, nor had been for a long while. Captain Villarde received the writer well, though with anxiety, for it appeared the Indians thought he was a spy.
Early next morning the tryst was set within the Court House, and on raised seats sat Captain Villarde, the two Fernandez, Portugol, and “old man Jones,” who had lived forty years amongst the Indians, and forgotten English. Three hundred Indians thronged the Court House, and the situation was so critical that Villarde advised the author to get up and speak to them. He did so for two stricken hours in the most choice Castilian that he had at his command. The result was magical, for, curious to say, the speech convinced his hearers, a thing that possibly has never happened in a Christian parliament.
All was plain sailing and, his business finished in Paroma, nothing remained for him but to get upon his mule and strike the homeward trail.
Well, well, he had a glorious journey, and one that in the days when joints grow stiff and mules impossible to mount will still console him for all he underwent.
I, having read the book, am glad of his success; but hope when he is asked about Paroma that he will have forgotten both its longitude and latitude, and treat it as a dream. Long may it flourish, just as an unknown orchid flourishes in Colombian everglades, or a fine undiscovered jewel in a mine, quite uncontaminated by the thing that we call progress, and pride ourselves upon, as justly as a man might pride himself upon an ulcer in his leg, a fine harelip, or any other malformation.
I hope the chief will not forget, when the false dawn streaks all the sky with red, to rise up from sleep, and taking down a calabash fill it with chicha, then, winding his poncho round his neck, will make his way through the wet grass, leaving a trail, with his short inturned feet as of a plantigrade, in the white dew. Then in the middle of the square, whilst the God of his forefathers is born again into the world, that he will pour the chicha on the grass, praying, as the Incas prayed in that great temple that they raised in Cuzco, to the sun.
Let him pray on; for prayer is to the soul what most divine tobacco is to the senses, deadening and comforting. For after all it is but giving up oneself unto oneself, and waiting dumbly for something that may come from nothing, or again may never come; but as he prays the sun will rise for all that, just as it rose in Atahualpa’s time, and will continue rising.
R. B. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM.
I THE CHALLANA RUBBER CONCESSION 1
II AREQUIPA AND THE JURA BATHS 6
III LAKE TITICACA, LA PAZ AND SORATA 19
IV THE PEAK OF SORATA AND TIQUIRIPAGA 37
V OVER THE QUILLAPATUNI PASS TO TIPUANI 53
VI FROM TIPUANI TO PAROMA 78
VII THE CABALLO CUNCO TREASURE: FIRST ATTEMPT 142
VIII THE SECOND ATTEMPT 179
IX THE THIRD ATTEMPT 194
X A NOTE ON BOLIVIA AND HOW TO TRAVEL IN THOSE PARTS 221
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
GOLD FIRM’S HEADQUARTERS ON THE TIPUANI _Frontis._
A LLAMA 30
THE PEAK OF SORATA 38
SOME NATIVE TYPES SEEN IN THE INTERIOR OF BOLIVIA 42
NATIVES IN THE INTERIOR OF BOLIVIA 58
AN INDIAN WOMAN OF THE BOLIVIAN INTERIOR 72
JAGUAR AND PUMA SKINS, BOWS AND ARROWS AND WOODEN SPEARS BROUGHT BACK BY ME FROM BOLIVIA 90
MY CHILDREN IN INDIAN HEADGEAR, WITH JAGUAR SKINS AND INDIAN WEAPONS BROUGHT BACK BY ME FROM BOLIVIA 94
PAROMA VILLAGE, SHOWING THE CHURCH, THE CHIEFS’ HOUSES AND COCA PLANTATION 124
YUNGAS POTTERY RECENTLY DISCOVERED IN BOLIVIA, SAID TO BE 6,000 YEARS OLD 138
LLAMAS OUTSIDE THE TOWN OF CAXAMALCA 152
THE CAMP AT SACAMBAJA AND THE CABALLO CUNCO HILL 170
ADVENTURES IN BOLIVIA
THE CHALLANA RUBBER CONCESSION
In July, 1903, I was engaged by the Challana and Tongo Rubber Company to go and find out the conditions on which the Indians of Challana would tap rubber for them. It was freely given out at the time that no white man had been to Paroma, their capital, and returned safely since 1845; and my plan was to go to Paroma and see the chief of the Indians and his head men, and hear what they had to say.
The Challana Tongo Concession was originally bought from the Bolivian Government by the father of Colonel Nuñez del Prado, who paid them a sum of money in cash, and a yearly rental. When he died, he left the concession to his son, who turned it over to a Company in return for a sum down, and a rental of £1,000 a year.
The last expedition into the interior by this Company to pick rubber had turned out a complete failure. Of the three white men in charge, two were murdered by the Indians; the manager, Filippo Barbari, an Italian, had had his hands and feet cut off, and was then thrown into the river, and Rodriguez, the storekeeper, had his head cut off. The third, Donovan, the book-keeper, got away by hiding in the day-time, and following up the river at night, till he got out of the Indian territory; he was the only one who came back to tell the tale. All the rubber and stores were stolen.
The Government at La Paz then thought it necessary to despatch an expedition of 200 soldiers under Captain Cusicanque, with orders to punish the Indians, and also to find out what had happened to Captain Lorenzo Villarde and his lieutenant, Macedonia Villavicencia, who had been sent back as an escort with the Cacique of Challana, after his visit to the authorities at La Paz. Some of the soldiers fell sick with the puna or siroctre (mountain sickness), and others were attacked in the forest by terciana (malarial fever), after crossing the Ylliapo range; however, the rest arrived safely with their captain at the Challana River, which the natives regard as their boundary. To their great surprise, they were met there by Indians armed with rifles, and ready to resist them, under the leadership of Villarde, the very man they had come to rescue. Cusicanque gave the order to fire, but the soldiers refused to obey him, saying that they could not fire on their old captain; most of them actually abandoned Cusicanque, and he was compelled to return to La Paz with 50 men, without their arms. Plans were made to send another expedition at the expense of the Challana Rubber Company, and the Bolivian Government promised to lend 200 soldiers; but it was found that the expense would be too heavy, and it was finally decided to get some one to go in and find out the facts personally, and try to discover what kind of a bargain could be made with the Indians for tapping the rubber.
The Company then made preliminary arrangements to sell the concession to an American Company for £100,000, to be paid half in cash, half in shares, but they stipulated that before anything could be done it would be necessary to send in some reliable man to see what terms could be made between the Indians of Challana and the Government of Bolivia. They realized from the first that to secure such a man a good offer would have to be made, and they promised expenses and £6,000 commission, if the concession was taken over within two years.
The first person to undertake the job was a Mr. Staedlier, the Vice-Consul for Belgium in Bolivia. His mother, who was living with him in La Paz, went to considerable expense to supplement his equipment for the trip.
Accordingly, he started off on his perilous journey. When he got to the boundary, he was met by an Indian with a letter of warning for him on a stick, telling him that his party would not be permitted to cross the River Challana--that they must return at once, and that they must leave behind them all their tents, gear, goods, their diving apparatus, and pipes for gold-washing and their two Kodak cameras, also all their clothes, coats and other garments, with the exception of a shirt and a pair of pants each. They were given till midday the next day to move.
That night they were surrounded by many fires, and when Staedlier saw that he was encompassed by so many armed Indians he thought it only prudent to return. When he got back to Sorata, he had to send a boy back to his mother, asking her to send him some clothes for his journey back to La Paz.
I was told all about this by Mr. Leguia, then Minister of Hacienda, and afterwards President of Peru, and when he asked me if I would care to undertake the trip I accepted at once. An agreement was drawn up whereby I was to be paid all expenses, and a sum of £10,000, if the U.S.A. or any other government took over the concession within two years of my return.
I had several reasons for undertaking this journey. Firstly, I was anxious to visit Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, and I wanted very much to get up close to one of the highest mountains in the world, the Peak of Sorata. Then there was the long and interesting march through the tropical forest to Paroma, the capital of Challana, and getting back again, a thing which no white man had done since 1845. Last, but not quite least, there was the £10,000.
AREQUIPA AND THE JURA BATHS
I left Lima in September, 1903. Mr. Leguia did his best to persuade me not to start, as since he had made arrangements with me Mr. Beauclerk, the British Minister, had called on him and asked him not to let me sign the agreement. He had read and heard of Staedlier’s expedition and its result, and had come to the conclusion that it was far too dangerous for anyone to go in alone. I told Leguia I had already notified the various Chilian horse owners, whose horses I had been training, and had sublet my stable there for the time I would be away; and I said I was prepared to undertake the journey, agreement or no agreement, provided he would agree to abide by the terms if I succeeded in reaching Paroma and getting the information required. He assured me he would do so and expected all the others to do the same.
So in September I left Callao for Mollendo by the s.s. Columbia of the P.S.N. Co. (which, by the way, was lost in a fog on the rocks off the Lobitos Islands the very next year). At Mollendo the landing is generally very rough and the rollers very heavy till you get right in near the jetty; sometimes passengers have to be lowered down in baskets and occasionally they cannot be landed at all, but on this occasion the sea was calm. I put up at the Hotel Ferro Carril where the rooms are large, the food and drinks quite good, and the charges moderate, from 4/-to 6/-a day. There is another hotel in the Plaza, but when I was there the owner was down with bubonic plague and the place had been put in quarantine. Next morning I took the train to Arequipa, 7,500ft. up, a whole day’s journey, and put up at the Hotel Maloni, the best in the place, paying 6/-a day. At this altitude in these parts the atmosphere is the purest and the climate the finest in the world; in fact, all along the Andes Range, from 3,000ft. to 10,000ft., the climate is hard to beat, in my opinion. Over 10,000ft. is rather too high.
In Arequipa itself the streets are well-paved and kept; outside the town there are no roads at all, but just well beaten tracks. The cathedral is one of the finest outside Lima. The police regulations are quite excellent. All policemen are armed with rifles, and at night one of them is posted at every square. Every half-hour throughout the night he blows one sharp call on his whistle which is answered by the next one, and so on; when two sharp calls are blown the men on either side come up to see what is the matter. The inspectors ride round periodically during the night to see that all is well. All the windows are fenced in with stout iron bars built into the masonry so that they can be opened without the risk of thieves breaking in. I went to the Prefect to register my gun, rifle and revolver, and he gave me a special order of permission to use it in self-defence if necessary. Without these documents nobody is supposed to carry arms in Peru.
In this town there is a constant coming and going of Indians, with their strings of llamas; these animals serve them as beasts of burden and food, and their skins provide them with clothes. The town possesses two good clubs where strangers are always made welcome, also a small racecourse. The ladies of Arequipa are justly famous throughout Peru for their beauty.
My next concern was my weight, which was 265lbs., and I thought it was well to reduce this before starting on my long march over the high Andes into the forests below. So I drove over to have a look at the hot springs 21 miles from Arequipa, and the next day I took the train to the famous springs of Jura, 9,000ft. up, which used in former days to be a favourite resort of the Incas of Peru. I decided to remain there till I had reduced my weight to 235lbs.
The regular train from Arequipa to Puno runs twice a week, leaving at 8 a.m. and stopping at Jura to take up water and set down passengers at 9.30 the next morning. The baths are a mile from the station by a stone footpath. The waters are marvellous; they can and do cure almost any disease, and are a remedy for ailments that baffle the cleverest medical men. It is worth while relating here a few cases of almost miraculous cures, that came to my personal knowledge on the several occasions I stayed there. One was the daughter of a well-to-do man, a very pretty girl, who had lupus on one ear. Her father took her to Jura, hired a house from the Municipality of Arequipa, who run the baths, and left her there for nearly a year with her mother, sister, a cook and Indian boy. In three months he told me she was practically cured, but he let her stay a little longer to make certain. I saw her myself shortly after she arrived at Jura, and again nearly a year afterwards, when her father arrived to take her away.
Another was a merchant from Iquique, who arrived so racked with rheumatism that he could not even crawl, and had to be dumped down in the water in a blanket. In six months he left quite cured and restored to his normal weight and more; Morosine, the hotel-keeper, who was my informant, told me that he wrote to him two years after he had left and said that up to then he had not had a single ache or pain. Here is another case: After I had been there a couple of days a gentleman, who was staying in one of the little houses he was renting from the Municipality, came up to me and asked me whether I would mind doing him a favour. He had brought his wife there from Lima, to try the baths for a spinal complaint; he had been told of them by a doctor in Harley Street, London, whom he consulted and who said that he believed they could do more than any medical man. He told me she screamed out with pain when he and his servant carried her down, and asked me if I would mind carrying her down for him while I was there, as he thought it would be easier for her to be carried by one person. I did this for a few mornings, till she could manage to walk down the steps herself with my support, and in three weeks from the time I met her she was able to walk down by herself, and up too; after six months she went away cured. I met the man in Arequipa nine months after his wife’s treatment at the baths, and he said she had been out of pain for months; and a week or two after I had left Jura she was actually able to wait on herself. Yet another case was that of a man whom I met there, an engine driver on the Arequipa-Puno Railway, who was suffering from malignant ulcers which he had got while gold washing in the stream near the Santo Domingo Mine. He had been at Jura two months when I saw him, and had practically been cured, simply by drinking the waters from one of the several springs, and bathing in the baths twice a day. He told me he now had his cocktail, martine or gin and bitters before his lunch and dinner, just as he always did. I could mention many other cases.
There are two ways of staying at Jura. One is to put up at the hotel built by Morosini, an Italian, who was given ground and other facilities rent free by the Municipality of Arequipa for twenty-five years, provided he built an hotel with accommodation for ten or twelve guests, and was allowed to charge 6/-a day. The other is to rent one or more of the little stone houses owned by the Municipality for £3 a month each; these consist of two rooms with two chairs and a table in each, a kitchen and veranda, two mud-built beds, a brick oven, and the usual mudrange to hold four or five pots.
Fresh mutton is brought by the Puno train, and fresh meat by the Arequipa train twice a week. The Indians round about always have fowls and eggs to sell. There is some partridge and duck shooting to be got in the neighbourhood, and occasionally some guanacos; but guanaco meat is not worth bothering about when you can get fine mountain sheep for 6/-and 8/-each. Some of the most beautiful cacti grow hereabouts, and there are flowers of all colours, red, or slate blue, yellow, white, purple or pink, all as large as saucers, with several on each stem. There is a good sized stream or river which runs for twenty miles underground near here, and then appears again. Several families of Indians live in this district with their llamas, and fine-looking long-haired donkeys, which have the peculiarity of four holes in their noses, instead of two; they have the ordinary nostrils and then another pair, about half an inch round, two inches higher up.
Morosini told me that some few years ago when he was keeping a rest house at Juliaca, where the line branches off to Cusco, the capital of the Incas, where they built the Temple of the Sun, he knew an Italian who had discovered where some of the Inca treasure was hidden. Apparently he had made his home near that place for two years, and used to disappear every now and then with two mules, provisions and gear, staying away for five or six days, and coming back with bars of gold weighing two to five kilos each, which he took to the bank at Arequipa.
Morosini tried hard to discover the hiding-place of this treasure, and once he followed the fellow; but he never succeeded in finding the place. All he could gather was that where this gold came from there was a lot more, and that the Italian had been shown the place by an old Indian whom he had accidentally found coming away from it one day. The Indian bound him to secrecy, and made him promise that he would only take away with him just what he could carry up the steep mountain path. There was nobody living anywhere near the place, and it was extremely well concealed; the Italian made several trips to this place during the two years Morosini knew him, and then went back to live in his Italian home. He had come out to Peru to prospect for a gold concession, and had struck this find by pure luck; he was practically a teetotaller, so there was no chance of his disclosing the secret in his cups.
While I am on the subject of the Jura baths I ought to say something about a few more of the old Inca baths. A couple of years before I went to Jura I visited out of curiosity the Lago Huacachina (which means the lake for incurables). To get you there take the steamer to Pisco, two days south of Callao, and then the Pisco-Ica train across the 40 miles of desert which separates the two places. On the way at a little place where the engine takes in water I saw the most magnificent bunch of heliotrope I ever saw in my life anywhere; a wonderful mass of flower it looked in the middle of this sandy desert. On arriving at Ica you hire a horse or a mule and ride 16 miles, then up a 3,000ft. sandhill at the finish, and then down 1,000ft; and there lies the Lago Huacachina. There is a rest-house there with blocks of two rooms each, mud bed, mud fireplace, and oven, table and two chairs in each, and you pay a rent of 2/-a day to the caretaker and find your own food. There is tropical vegetation all round the lake, which is about 300 yards long and half as wide, with a flat-bottomed boat on it which anyone can use; I took it one day in order to find the depth, which was exactly 17ft. on the average, from about 20 or 25 yards off the shore; the deepest part was in the middle.
I met here one John Robson, a rich brewer, who had come because he had got a stroke all down one side. He told me he had been there just three months and could walk about again as well as ever but the trouble in his arm was not right yet. I suggested he should go in like a dog on all fours and give his arm the same chance as his leg. He said he had never thought of that, and would certainly try it. Two years later I met a man who knew him and who told me that John Robson was quite cured and came back well as ever after eight months on the lake.
Another man, Piccione, an Italian, had had a bad fall from his horse while jumping a fence in Italy, which smashed his head and gave him concussion. He recovered, but ever since then used to suffer from severe headaches, and could find no remedy till he went to this lake, stayed there six months and was quite cured. I met Mrs. Piccione and her daughters at Pisco, and she told me that it was now nearly three years since they left the lake and that he had had no trouble with his head since then.
The baths are free to every one and there is no special course of treatment; you simply bathe in the lake and the waters do the rest. It is advisable, however, not to stay in for more than twenty minutes at a time. The caretaker told me that more than one death had occurred through patients staying in too long at a time. The water contains, among other things, iron potash and sulphur.
In Jura the waters contain magnesia as well as the potash and sulphur, and the Municipality have put up a notice forbidding people to remain more than fifteen or twenty minutes in the No. 4 bath. This one is the hottest and most dangerous, and there is a policeman always on duty there.
Another of the old Inca Baths is Cauquenes near Santiago in Chili. This is a pretty place but the waters are not very strong; it is more of a health and rest resort. Then there are the Chillan baths; to get there you take the train from Santiago to Chillan, an all day and all night journey; then you can drive the remaining ninety miles by coach with frequent change of horses or mules. These baths are owned by the Municipality of Chillan, and are only open for the summer months, from November till March, as they are under snow for the rest of the year. There are three hot vapour baths there called El Toro, Novillo, and Vaca; the first, meaning “bull,” is the hottest, the second means “steer,” and the third “cow.” There is a Government doctor kept at the establishment to see that nobody stays more than eight minutes in the Toro, which is like the hottest room in a Turkish bath, only much hotter. There is a good hotel there open from November till March.
Then there is also the Puente Inca on the way across the Andine Railway from Mendoza to Los Andes and several others. But the best of these baths in my opinion are Lago Huacachina and Jura.
While I was at Jura I met a Norwegian who had just returned a few weeks before from the Tipuani River, on the way to Challana. He begged me not to go and told me I would be killed if I tried to cross the river, but, anyhow, he said I would never get there as I would have to walk on foot over the 17,000ft. Ylliapo range of mountains, and that I would never be able to do. When I asked him why not he said I was too big (I was then still 265lbs.), and told me he himself had been offered £500 to go and make a report on the gold washing on the Tipuani and got so knocked up that it took him two years to recover sufficiently from the journey to walk back; he was staying there for three months to recover his health.
After staying at Jura for three weeks or a month, I had reduced my weight from 265lbs. to 235lbs.; so I sold my horse back to the original owner for £16, and left for Puno.
LAKE TITICACA, LA PAZ AND SORATA
I left Jura at 9 a.m. by the Arequipa Puno train, which set me down at Puno, alongside Lake Titicaca at 8 p.m. or a little earlier; there one of the comfortable lake steamers, the “Puno” or the “Quaqui,” awaits the train for passengers for La Paz. The highest point passed by the train on the way to Puno is Crucero Alto (14,666ft.); the country here is just a high, bleak, sandy desert for miles around. Either here or at Juliaca further up the line, you get off to continue the long journey to the Rio Santo Domingo (Sunday) river. At Juliaca, part of the train goes on to Cusco, the old capital of the Incas, and the other part goes to Puno.
After passing Jura, I saw several herds of guanacos, and sometimes a few deer. Further up, over the 12,000ft. line near Crucero Alto and Juliaca, I could see the vicuñas going galloping off on either side of the line, as the train came near. The guanaco is found from 3,000ft. to 9,000ft. or 10,000ft., the vicuña from 9,000ft. to 16,000ft., and the true condor eagle from 14,000ft. to 16,000ft., except when some animal dies down below, then they seem to scent it and go to as low as 12,000ft. to finish it off. At 16,000ft. perpetual snow generally begins in these parts, and over that altitude nothing is to be seen, not a bird, or a beast, or a tree of any sort.
At first I had the idea of continuing the journey to Challana from Puno and not touching La Paz until my return, but I eventually decided to go and call on Staedlier first, and hear what he had to say about his trip.
At Puno I went to call on the Prefect, who received me very well, and wanted me to stay for a month or two to examine some Inca ruins that he knew of some ten leagues off. He offered to find me ten or twelve Indians and llamas, and lend me a good mule for myself. I thanked him, and told him that after I had finished the job on hand I would certainly look him up again and explore the ruins he spoke of.
There was no boat the night the train arrived, as I had come by the weekly cargo train, or extra, so I left Puno by the lake steamer the following night, and got to Quaqui on the Bolivian side of the lake next afternoon.
Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, is 165 miles long, 65 miles broad, and from 100ft. to 600ft. deep. One half of the lake belongs to Peru, the other half to Bolivia; there are several islands peopled chiefly by Indians and Cholos, or half-castes, who sail all over the lake from the islands to the steamer, in their native balsas, made of grass and reeds, with one sail set, in all sorts of weathers. The lake can be quite rough at times when squalls upset the waters.
This great inland sea, replenished by the melting snow of the Andes, is one of the most magnificent sights in the world, and there is no finer view anywhere than the high Ylliapo range and the Peak of Sorata, and the wonderful pyramid-shaped mountains of Yllimani, close to La Paz, two of the most magnificent ranges of the Cordillera of the Andes, which you see from the deck of the steamer.
From Quaqui I took the train to La Paz Alto, thirty-five miles off, over flat ground all the way; this line passes through General Pardo’s big ranch. At La Paz Alto (12,525ft.) there are always several big brakes drawn by six mules or horses, which go down to La Paz at a good hand-gallop along the winding road cut out of the mountain; there is also a steam tram which has recently been constructed in connection with the La Paz and Quaqui line, and which is controlled by the same Peruvian Corporation at Lima that owns the lake steamers.
As you go down the steep mountain road on top of a coach, a magnificent panorama opens before you, and you see the city of La Paz, with its red-tiled roofs, open plazas, gardens, churches and public buildings, and some old ruins on the outskirts, and beyond it, stretching to the foot of the beautiful Yllimani Mountain the rich basin that forms the Yungas Valley.
The city of La Paz (11,000ft. to 10,800ft.) is built in two distinct levels. On the higher ground are the Government buildings, and the Plaza where the fine artillery band plays; and lower down is the big Indian market. Lower down still, just on the outskirts of the city, at 10,000ft. down a beautiful level avenue past the barracks, stands the picturesque house of General Pardo, who led the Liberal Party in the revolution of 1898, and succeeded in replacing Alonso for two years as President of Bolivia. General Pardo was certainly a man who did more for Bolivia than many others, though he did some good for himself as well. It was General Pardo who regulated the rich rubber zone of the Acre with Brazil, and thereby saved his country from war, got a good round sum of money for Bolivia, and undid the work of President Melgarejo, a former President, who had ceded the Acre district over to Brazil, with small compensation for Bolivia. When Pardo came into power, he advised Brazil that this was Bolivian territory, and that the former President had no right to barter away land belonging to the country he governed; but as Brazil had policed the district for a number of years, and as it was now peopled largely by Brazilians, the Brazilian Government did not want to give it up. However, they offered to settle the matter by paying Bolivia £2,000,000, and the transactions were carried out in November, 1903. When I got to La Paz, in the middle of that month, General Pardo was still absent with his staff in the Acre.
While I was at La Paz, I put up at the Grand Hotel Guibert, which is kept by a rich Frenchman of that name. The rooms are all well furnished, the food is very good, and the prices of everything, even the drinks, are extremely reasonable. All the servants and waiters are Pongos (Indians), all of them males; they wear woollen nightcaps to keep their heads warm. The only drawback was that there was no decent lavatory, and not a single bath in the place. So the first thing I did on arriving was to go out and buy the largest tub that I could find for my morning dip.
M. Guibert told me that he came to Bolivia with a fair amount of capital, and had made a good deal more, but he complained of having contracted very bad rheumatism. I advised him to give the Jura baths a trial, and to take some saltpetre every day and see how that worked. I have met him several times since, and he tells me he is cured.
The whole city of La Paz is built on a high gold mountain. Many large nuggets of gold have been found on the banks of the river that runs through the city. One day I rode off on one of my mules to visit the gold washing of a French Company, at the invitation of the manager, a Frenchman, who lived at the place with his wife. The employés consisted of a few whites and several Indians, both men and women, and the Company had four large cranes to lift the big river boulders. The day I was there I saw not just a few, but a considerable number of small nuggets, one of them weighing nearly an ounce, picked up by the Indians and handed to the different overseers; this was before the gravel was got ready to wash, and I thought to myself what a rich place it must be. Imagine my surprise to read in a newspaper two years afterwards, that this Company had gone broke.
As I had intended, I called on the Vice-Consul for Belgium, Mr. Staedlier, who had not long returned from his trip. He repeated and confirmed, more or less, what I had read of his journey in the papers, and said the Indians would never permit anyone to cross the River Challana, let alone go to Paroma, and he strongly advised me to abandon the trip.
Before leaving La Paz I also went to see Sanchez, a Spaniard, who had been supplying the Indians of Challana with rifles and ammunition, and receiving payment in rubber, till the authorities caught him and Villavicencia and imprisoned them in La Paz; but, after a year, the gaol was attacked one night, and the prisoners escaped. Villavicencia got back to Challana, but Sanchez, who was suffering with his chest, was recaptured on his way to Sorata, and again imprisoned. He was eventually released on payment of a big fine to the Government, on condition that he promised not to do any more gun-running, and reported himself once a month to the officials in La Paz. He said he would communicate with the Indians through Villarde, to whom he would explain my object in going in, and he sent off one of his Indians with a message to him. He advised me to go in by way of the Tipuani, instead of the Tongo, and told me that Mrs. Villavicencia, Villarde’s sister, lived at Sorata, and that it would be policy to go and see her on the way, which I decided to do.
At last I was ready to start. I bought a good, strong mule to carry me, hired three others and two Indians from La Paz to carry my provisions and gear, and started off with my old groom, Miguel Cadez.
I had everything ready to make a start on the Tuesday, only to find that no amount of persuasion could induce the Indians to leave on that day. It appears that they have strong superstitious objections to starting on a Tuesday, like many sailors who object to setting sail on a Friday.
However, the next day we started, and M. Guibert, Major Holt, the manager of the Chicago Bolivian Rubber Company, the Argentine Minister, Señor Cabral, a few Bolivians, and many other English and Americans, came over to bid me God-speed, and Wish me luck.
As is my usual custom, we travelled slowly, so as not to knock up the men and animals. After ascending the long hill to La Paz Alto, 12,500ft. up, we marched along the high flats to a place called Acacache, which consists of two huts of mud and stone, one of them a rest-house, where I stopped for the night in a room with a mud floor and a mud bed built up about three feet off the ground. The owner of the huts was an old Colonel, who had fought in the war with Chili and afterwards in the revolution. Unfortunately for him, he had backed the wrong horse, supporting Alonso instead of Pardo, and as all his property had been confiscated after the revolution except this farm he had had to retire up here. From him I bought a supply of barley in the straw, sufficient for the mules, and a sheep for myself and the boy, which the Indians killed and skinned in return for the inside except the kidneys. After skinning it, they rubbed in salt and hung it out to freeze during the night. In this way meat will keep quite well in these altitudes, if the carcase is also protected from the sun during the daytime. I also bought enough potatoes and eschalots to make a good stew for every one. Indian mule men and porters are always supposed to feed themselves, and they generally carry a good supply of parched corn, meal and frozen potatoes, which they call chuño, and which is not bad in a stew when you can’t get the real thing. They also carry a supply of coca leaves, which they suck all day long on the road, and very often cocoa slabs as well; without these, no Indian in Bolivia would dream of travelling. Still, I have always made a practice of cooking enough food to leave a fair amount in the pot for them, and in consequence, unlike many other travellers who have written of their experiences, I never had any bother with them.
After a good dinner, and a most enjoyable cup of Yungas coffee,[A] I went out to see that the mules were still feeding. It is absolutely necessary to look into these small matters yourself, for in some places the seller of fodder is quite capable of taking the stuff away from the animals, and then swearing they have already eaten it. I never think of turning in until after 10 p.m., so that I can be sure my beasts have had a good fill.
Next morning, after an early cup of coffee, I went out at 6.30 to see that the mules had the rest of the barley which had been put aside for them, and then took a bathe in the pond close by, which still had a fair coating of ice over it, except round the edges, which were always kept broken for the animals. The old Colonel was astounded when he saw me bathing, and said that if he did such a thing as have a cold bath it would kill him, to which I replied: “Not at all, so long as you can dry yourself afterwards in a beautiful hot sun like this.” I am certain it is a great mistake to leave off your morning bathe in these altitudes, and I have never done so.
Breakfast consisted of bacon and eggs, tea and wholesome bread made in the Bolivian fashion. The Bolivians always crush the best wheat with stone mills, and in this way all the best quality of the corn is preserved in the flour, instead of being lost, as it is in the newfangled process of machine-crushing.
After saying good-bye to the Colonel, who made me promise to come and see him again, I started off at nine o’clock, my usual hour for morning camp at these heights; for by then the sun has had time to warm up the backs and pack-blankets of the mules. In my opinion, the chief reasons why travellers so often find their animals’ backs galled and sore are, first, that they invariably start before the gear is properly cleaned and dried by the sun, and second, that their mule packs are far too heavy and cumbersome. My own equipment consisted of plenty of blankets, two broad thick pads made of straw and soft Capincha leather to cover each, and a broad strap made of the same leather to join the two together. I seldom had trouble with my animals, and I think these reasons had much to do with it.
As I rode along over the high flats on an easy-paced mule, in the finest atmosphere in the world, the blue sky above my head, behind me the magnificent view of the pyramid-shaped Yllimani mountains, and in front the lofty peaks of Sorata and the Ylliapo, with the whole extent of the immense inland sea of Titicaca spread below me, I thought that nothing could be more wonderful. As on the day before, we passed hundreds of llamas, each with the load of 50 to 75lbs. that they are accustomed to carry on journeys over the flats. The llamas are of all colours, from pure white to black and white, brown or yellow; beside them walk the little Indians in shirt and coloured pants; red and yellow, and black and grey seem to be the favourite colours. They are all barefooted, and each one carries his “poncho,” which is a rug of guanaco or vicuña-skin with a hole cut in the centre for the head to go through; vicuña-skin is much the most expensive and is only worn by the well-to-do. The Indians always take their wives out with them on all their trips, and sometimes they are accompanied by all their women; for an Indian may marry as many women as he can afford to keep during his life and provide for after
[Illustration: A LLAMA]
his death.[B] Before he can marry, he must first of all provide for each wife a hut or materials for building one, corn and meal for one year, seed for the next, the owner finding oxen, ploughs, water for irrigation purposes, if necessary, and land, usually on the share system, also grazing for his llamas. Most Indians have a few llamas, and some have large herds; there are no wild llamas, for, in the time of the Jesuits, Peru, as Bolivia was then, made a law that all these animals were the private property of the Indians. I once met a German who told me that while he was visiting Lake Titicaca he went out shooting and, among other things, killed five of these harmless animals; but when he got back to La Paz he found that the Indian owner had complained, and he had to pay seventeen dollars for each. Of course I told him it served him right, as he ought to have known, and they were no good to him in any case. I also told him of another German, a first-rate shot, who, when we were on a guanaco and vicuña hunting trip with dogs and rifles, actually shot and killed a wild donkey!
At about five in the afternoon we put up for the night just outside a place called Machacamarca, not far from Lake Titicaca, paying the usual 2/-a night for the use of a room with a mud bed and fireplace, and finding food, firewood and other necessaries ourselves. Fowls, potatoes, barley and fresh eggs can always be bought at these places. At this altitude it takes seven minutes to boil an egg, at 15,000ft. it takes even nine to ten minutes. I arranged to rent the accommodation here for two days and bought a double supply of barley fodder for the mules, so that I should have a little time to walk along the shore of this magnificent lake and shoot a duck or two for a change.
Lake Titicaca is full of fish, mostly pejerey, about twelve to fourteen inches long, and very good to eat. Many of the Aymara Indians who live on the shores of the lake, besides growing barley, planting potatoes and looking after llamas, alpacas and sheep, do a good deal of fishing with their small nets from balsas made of reeds that are practically unsinkable. They take the fish twice a week into La Paz, Sorata, Machacamarca and other places, and sell it there. I bathed several times in the lake, but the water was too cold to remain in long. There are geese and duck to be shot on the banks near the shore, and on either side of the lake are stretches of flat lands covered with coarse grass and low bushes. Once a year there is a big fair of llamas, alpacas, sheep and little mules and horses held by the lake on the Peru-Bolivia frontier; another big yearly fair is held at a place called Juare, a few hours away on the Oruro-Antofogasta line. This fair starts on April 7th, and lasts a whole fortnight; all the Indians come from miles around to attend it, and mules are brought to it all the way from the Argentine. I always bought my mules there.
I shot some wild duck and some geese by the lake; the duck are good, but the geese are very coarse. I also shot a guanaco for my Indians; its meat is very rank, and to my mind most disagreeable, but the Indians seemed to enjoy it.
After spending a day on the shores of Lake Titicaca, I went on next day to Sorata, a little town lying in the valley of that name below the Ylliapo range, 8,000ft. high, and some ninety miles from La Paz. There I was put up by Mr. and Mrs. Gunther, who were most hospitable. Gunther is a large rubber buyer with plenty of capital, and the owner of a big rubber estate, also of the largest store in Sorata and the principal brewery in Arequipa. Both he and his wife did their utmost to persuade me not to continue my journey. The first night I was there, Mrs. Gunther told me that Mrs. Villavicencia, who lived opposite, had seen me get off my mule at their house, and had said to the Gunthers’ cook who happened to be over there at the time: “Do you see that big Englishman who has just arrived? He thinks he is going to get to Paroma to spy on the Indians of Challana and report to the Government at La Paz. Tell him they will never permit him to cross the river, and that if he persists they will attack him and kill him.”
When I heard this, I asked Gunther to introduce me to the good lady, which he did next day; he just presented me and then left us to talk together, and I conversed with her for two hours. I told her my object in undertaking this journey, explained to her the proposal I was going to make to the Indians, and begged her to send one of her men to her brother Villarde, asking him to get the necessary permission for me from the Cacique to cross their border and visit him at Paroma. She told me to come back and see her the next afternoon, and she would let me know then what she could do. That night at dinner Mrs. Gunther said to me: “I don’t know what you have been doing, but you seem to have made a very good impression on Villarde’s sister; she says you talked with her and treated her quite differently from all the others who have been to see her about visiting Villarde, and the old chief at Paroma, and she has actually decided to send a messenger for you to her brother.”
Next day, as arranged, I called on Mrs. Villavicencia, who received me in a most friendly way. She told me she was sending a letter on my behalf to her brother, Villarde, by the hand of an Indian whose home was near Paroma. She said her brother had been made a chief by the Cacique, and was also at that time interpreter for the Indians; her husband was there too, working under Villarde. She advised me to let the Indian have a fortnight’s start in case her brother was away when he arrived.
Gunther insisted upon my spending the fortnight with him and his pretty wife, which was very nice of him. While I was at Sorata I used to go down the valley every day and admire the beautiful big cacti that grow everywhere about there, in all colours from pure white to dark purple and bright red; also the brilliant single and double fuchsias, which are much larger than any to be seen at home. This valley is full, too, of rubber vine, a plant that yields an inferior kind of milk.
Most of the Indians living hereabouts are Aymara, and own sheep and llamas. There are some large estancias (ranches) owned by rich Bolivians who spend most of their time in La Paz, leaving their farms in charge of a manager, generally a half-caste, with some Indian shepherds under him. Sheep do well, and give 6lbs. to 10lbs. of wool a head, and 50lbs. to 60lbs. of meat, good mutton and cheap, costing only 4/-to 5/-the head when the wool is off. Alpacas also do well in this district; they prefer the flat ground nearer the lake, while the sheep roam the hills and higher slopes. The sheep are tended by Indian women, who sit near them in sunny places or walk among them with wooden spindles yarning skeins of wool which they pluck from time to time off the sheep’s back. Many of these women make excellent socks and stockings out of this worsted spurn, which they have a special way of treating. I have bought several pairs and always found them far more durable and better in every way than any I have paid good prices for in England; indeed, I am never without them if I can help it. The Indian women sell them in sheep and llama wool at 2/-a pair; they also make them of vicuña wool, but these are more expensive, and run to 4/-or 5/-the pair.
THE PEAK OF SORATA AND TIQUIRIPAGA
The day after Christmas we left Sorata, I on my sturdy saddle mule, two Indians of the Aymara breed, with three other mules I hired for carrying the provisions and baggage, and my man Miguel, who walked.
The day was fine, with a lovely blue sky, and as we marched up the long steep Ylliapo Mountain we could see the magnificent Peak of Sorata in the distance. Before we started, Mrs. Gunther had said to me: “I shall expect to see you back to-morrow night; for when you see the awful climb ahead, and find that the mules will not be able to continue the journey, I am convinced you will have to turn back.” The path was fairly good, but only wide enough for us to go in Indian file; the cargo animals walked in front and the two Indians and myself brought up the rear. We were now passing through a forest of small trees and bushes, profusely covered with bright flowers indigenous to the temperate zone, such as roses, daisies, buttercups and fuchsias. The luxuriant bushes and geraniums and fuchsias were especially fine. Every now and then we met Aymaras with troops of llamas coming down the slope, each with their load of 50lbs. When we passed, the Indians always stopped their llamas and cornered them in any available space to allow us to go by, and they one and all bid us a very civil good day. I have always been given to understand that when they greet one it is a sure sign that they are of a friendly disposition, but when they pass without paying any attention it is not a good sign, and means that you should proceed with care.
It is also common knowledge that when travellers pass through a native village and find all the doors shut, it means, “Go on, don’t stop here, we wish to have nothing to do with you,” and it is then prudent to go on further. This I have proved several times, as when I have pulled up at any of these huts, which often have some one inside although they are shut up, and asked them to sell me some barley for the animals or fowls, the reply has always been: “No, we have nothing,” in spite
[Illustration: THE PEAK OF SORATA]
of the fowls I saw running about, and big stacks of barley straw piled up everywhere.
I have often heard and read of prospectors passing these habitations, who have received that reply, and nevertheless proceed to knock over a few fowls and help themselves to the amount of barley straw they need, leaving payment at the usual current rate on the doorstep; but this, in my opinion, is not at all a good plan. Some travellers have been known not to leave any payment at all, and that has occasionally led to trouble. If a village is found with no inhabitants to be seen, but with some of the doors open, it means: “We are willing to sell you what you want, if we have it, but prefer you to camp outside our village.” When doors are open, and a few men and women are about, it signifies: “We are ready to sell you what you want, and you are cordially welcome to stop in the village as long as you like.” Then the usual thing is to ask for an empty hut, which is willingly offered, generally one of the best they have got, for one shilling a day, and you get another corral and shelter for your mules and men for another shilling. I have nearly always been fortunate in finding the latter, and have sometimes stayed like this for months on end in a village while prospecting and examining old mines close by.
After marching for about three hours, we had occasional hailstorms, but they did not last for more than half an hour or so, and it was quickly fine again. These hailstorms marked the beginning of the rains in the forests and snow and hail in the mountains on this side. Up to about 11,000ft. we passed a few stray huts made of stone. Sometimes I saw a red flag flying on a long pole beside a hut, which means that chicha, a refreshing drink made from corn, is to be had there. At another would be a white flag, which is meant to show travellers that fresh meat could be bought there. After 12,000ft. to 13,000ft. it got very cold, and no other hut was to be seen except one or two isolated huts belonging to Indian shepherds tending sheep or llamas.
At 5 p.m. we reached a height of 15,000ft. (by my aneroid). The sun had disappeared behind the mountain, and it was getting dark, so we decided to stop. I gave the Aymara shepherds a drink of rum each, and they hired a stone hut for my use, another smaller one for the men and the cooking, and a corral for the mules, for 2/-, the usual price for accommodation in these parts. I exchanged some coca and matches for some eschalots, potatoes and eggs; I make it a rule never to trade strong drink with the natives anywhere, and it would be a good thing if all South America would do the same as Guiana does, that is, prohibit the sale of rum to the Indians.
The mules had carried their own fodder for the day’s journey, as we knew that none was to be had on the way. There was plenty of long, coarse grass a little way down the mountain, and the careful Indians took them there to feed for two hours as soon as they got the gear off, while Miguel and I prepared the supper. The thermometer registered 6 below zero inside the hut, at 8 p.m., but that was soon altered when I had a lot of embers brought in and the door well closed.
Next morning, after a cold bath and a good breakfast, I started off at 9.30 a.m.
There are two paths over the mountains, one by a pass of 16,000ft., and the other by one of 17,000ft. I chose the latter, for the reason that it was quite close to the Peak of Sorata; in fact, not many yards from the top of this pass. To the left, on the way up, was a rough, natural kind of shelter, where Sir Martin Conway had made his last camp on his expedition to try to reach the summit of Sorata.
In his report, Sir Martin said that he could not manage to get to the top, and he did not think anybody ever had, and thought it doubtful if anybody ever would. He estimated the height of the mountain at 23,500ft., and based his opinion on the fact that he was carrying the same instruments as he had used in his successful climb to the top of Aconcagua, when he found the height to be 22,500ft. Going up Sorata, his instruments ceased to mark, and he calculated there was still another 1,000ft. to go.
Yet another reason for my taking this pass and climbing the extra 1,000ft. was that, not far from the top at 16,200ft. by the aneroid, a little way off to the right in a hollow, lies a small lake where tradition says, and the Indians firmly believe, that some of the great Inca treasure was thrown when Pizarro had Atahualpa murdered.
We passed this small lake at about 11 a.m. I had been told that about two years previously a Company had proposed to drain this lake, which could easily be done with the labour of Aymara Indians and the necessary provisions. The head of the Company offered the Government a deposit of £20,000 as a guarantee that they meant business, which the Government was to return after they had let out the water, whether there was anything there or not; whatever they discovered at the bottom was to be divided between themselves and the Government. The authorities thought the proposition a very good one, but the reason it was never
[Illustration: SOME NATIVE TYPES SEEN IN THE INTERIOR OF BOLIVIA]
undertaken before was that they feared a rising of the vast Indian population would take place; indeed, it might have caused a general rising of the Indians throughout America, from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, and the biggest massacre the world has ever seen, and this was why they refused consent. Evidently, many people think there is truth in the legend that some of the lost Inca treasure is still in existence. It is also a well authenticated fact that some few years ago an American Company had the idea of looking for the immense Inca chain, formed of links of gold, of 1 kilo each, which was to have been part of Atahualpa’s ransom. It is believed by many that the chain was cast into the Lake Titicaca, near the sacred Island of Tia Guanaco. They eventually came to the conclusion that the water was far too deep, and no proposition was ever made. Up to now this chain and nearly all the treasure of the Inca still remains hidden.
On the top of the pass is a cairn of stones, placed there by the Indians to mark the spot. On the way up we passed, at different places, a lonely grave of stones and a wooden cross, showing where some poor chap had passed away. Nearly all the morning the weather was a constant succession of bitterly cold wind and hail, and then a spell of hot sunshine. Often I found it too steep in places for my mule to carry me, and then I removed my thick poncho and walked. I noticed that during the constant blizzards my Aymaras, to prevent frostbite, put on their vicuña face protectors, which just left holes for eyes, nostrils and mouth. I always made my man put on his, and I did the same.
On the top and for a thousand feet before getting there, nothing was to be seen but snow. There was no vegetation of any sort, and not a single bush or bird. About half an hour after leaving the shepherds’ hut in the morning, I shot a female condor eagle with my large Winchester rifle, but, although it was a fine, large specimen, I was forced to leave it behind, because there was really no room on the cargo mules to carry it. I wanted to wait an hour or more to skin it, but the Indians said the delay of nearly two hours might be dangerous at this height and at this season of the year, and we might yet be caught in a blinding snowstorm and get benighted; if we had been returning now, and going downhill to the shepherds’ hut, they said they would have been able to carry it down between them. It was a great pity.
We got to Tiquiripaga at 3.30 p.m. My Aymaras took us to the house, or rather the hut, of the head man, who kindly gave me a hut and the use of a shed for cooking, for 1/-a day. This man was about 60, tall and active, and was always very civil to me. He had two wives much younger than himself, one of them not at all bad looking; they were both very good to me, and could not have treated me better all the time that I was there with them. The day after I arrived, the old man told me I had better return to Sorata with the mules, as it was a long way and the roads were very rough, and down in the forest it was so hot that none of his tribe was ever able to live there. In fact, he said that when they went down to exchange challonas and salt and flour for cocoa, coca and tobacco, it was always arranged between the parties that at certain times of the year the forest Indians would march up to a meeting place in a clearing in the forest near the River Tipuani, some two days’ march from Gritada, the first hut on the river bank, and there do the exchanging, the mountain men returning to their homes on the Ylliapo Range, and the forest Indians down again to the Tipuani, Beni and other tributaries of the Amazon.
The old man also stated that the path from now on was in places so narrow that nothing larger than a very small mule or llama could travel, and then only in single file. So that I should have to continue on foot for the rest of the journey down, besides which the Indians of Challana would allow nobody to enter their country unless the Cacique ordered them to do so, and nobody had ever been able to enter without his permission. When I told him that Villarde’s sister, Mrs. Villavicencia, had sent in a messenger a fortnight ago, he at once said he could hire me some llamas, and he would go with us himself as far as this side of the Toro River; on the other side, we should find a few families of Indians living in the forest, and a coffee estate owned by a man I met at Sorata, also a man who owned two small mules, which I would very likely be able to hire with Indian carriers to continue the journey as far as the Tipuani River. The proprietor of this coffee estate, a man called Solis, had already given me a letter to his manager, a half-bred Indian. The old Indian arranged to go with me, with one of his wives, and two of his sons, and got me 15 llamas for 7 bols a llama, about 14/-a head, each animal to carry 35lbs., and we arranged never to start before 9 a.m. each day, and to camp every afternoon between 3 and 4 p.m., resting the animals for half an hour at midday. He said the reason he could not allow his llamas to go further down was that it would be too hot for the beasts, and, besides, it was the rainy season in the forest and they would not be able to cross the Toro River; I myself would have to be pulled over on a maroma or wire cable, which is placed there by the Government for the benefit of passengers to and from the Tipuani. He told me if that arrangement would suit me he could start in ten days’ time, not sooner, as his animals had only just returned from La Paz, where they had been with cargo; meanwhile I could have this stone hut for myself, and another smaller one for my man Miguel, and a kitchen for 1/-a day; he would let me have as many fowls as I wanted for 1/-each, guinea-pigs at 1/-, eggs at 1/-a dozen, and sheep at 4/-, the skin to be returned to him; I also used to give him the inside excepting the kidneys; eschalots for 3d. a bunch of twenty, and all the potatoes I wanted at 6d. a measure, which is equal to a big basketful.
I accepted this offer and the next day despatched the hired mules and my saddle mule back to Sorata, after they had eaten a good fill of barley. At 8 a.m. I paid the muleteers their due and gave them a small gratuity each, and some coca leaves to chew on the way. They were profuse with their thanks and gratitude, and said any time I wanted to employ them again they were always ready to come.
The old man called one of his wives, the youngest one, and told her she was to get all I wanted every day, which she always did. He took me to another shed which was full of long dried grass, and said I could use as much of it as I liked to make my bed soft to lie on; so Miguel and I got a whole lot and piled it up three feet high at one end of my hut, and fenced it round with big stones, placing some sheepskins on top, and then my old military valise; this with sheets and blankets made a very comfortable bed. I told Miguel he was to stay in camp all the time to look after everything, and he was to be careful to have lots of hot ashes always ready to keep the fire-hole full in my hut. By keeping this up and leaving the door open all day, it was quite comfortable at night. The first night, before the fire warmed it up, it was 8 degrees below zero.
Tiquiripaga is a straggling village, about half a mile in circumference, consisting of 28 huts and a small church, which is always open; a priest is supposed to make his round periodically, but there had been none now for two years.
The huts belonging to the head man of the village were all built of stone, on a fairly flat piece of grass ground of about 50 acres. Yellow and white buttercups and daisies grew here in wild profusion, and a stream ran down to the valley, getting gradually wider and deeper as it wound its way through the forest below. The water was frozen over at this height, with pools here and there, where the ice was kept broken by the inhabitants for water. Each morning at 7.30 I used to go regularly to one of these pools for my bath.
The little church stood about a quarter of a mile lower down the valley, and was always full of wild flowers, newly gathered and placed about the steps and the altar. I noticed that no traveller ever passed the church without entering to say a prayer. It snowed or hailed several times a day, with spells of sunshine in between, and froze hard each night; the mornings were generally bright and sunny, until about 10 or 11 a.m.; then came hail or snow, and so on, throughout the day. Behind us was the mighty Ylliapo Mountain, with the lofty Peak of Sorata towering in lonely grandeur above all, white with eternal snow. In front was the long path winding down to the tropical forest below. There were many woodcocks, and I got a few. I also saw a good many condors, with their white collars, some of enormous size; I got several long shots at them on the wing with my rifle. I thought I hit one or two, and one we could distinctly see had been struck on the tip of the wing; the head man, Manuel, said it was sure to be found wounded, and we would be able to secure it, but we were not lucky enough to find it. The eagles have to take a short run before they are able to extend their wings and launch themselves into space, and once they get fairly going they appear to sail along high up in the sky without any apparent movement of the wings. It was a wonderful sight to see a dozen or more of these enormous eagles all soaring along high up in the blue sky between the snow-capped mountains above, and the field of enormous yellow buttercups below, with huts of the Indians and the little church all standing out here and there by themselves in lonely spots, and llamas of all colours feeding with the hardy mountain sheep on the hills.
After breakfast, I generally took the gun or rifle, and after entering the church for a few minutes went out and shot a woodcock or a mountain partridge, or else took pot shots at a condor. The days passed pleasantly enough, and when night came I had a good dinner, wrote up my diary, and slept well till daylight.
These were the summer months on this side, during which there is alternate snow and sunshine on the Andes, and heavy rains in the forest. Manuel told me one day that he believed treasure was to be found near the Peak of Sorata, and I heard that also in Sorata; in fact, the Indians nearly all claim that it is so, but nobody has ever yet explored there for it, and residents in Sorata say that the natives would never allow anyone to do so. Mrs. Gunther told me that the Indians came in thousands to watch from below Sir Martin Conway’s party trying to ascend the peak, and some of them told her he would never be allowed to remain at the top for very long, even if he got there. She said they claim that the great Image of the Sun was taken there and buried in a niche underneath the snow not far from the top. She knew the Aymara language well, and I jotted down several sentences and words in that language from her tuition that served me very well.
An American lady, Miss Annie C. Peak, had also tried to climb the mountain, but old Manuel told me she did not get higher than the top of the pass which I crossed.
At the end of the ten days, old Manuel came to me at 8 a.m., just as I was returning from my morning bath, and very civilly said he would not be able to make a start the next day, as owing to the heavy falls of snow on the mountains the llamas had to be driven some distance off to get their fill of grass, so he asked me to wait on some days longer. He told me his younger wife would continue to attend to me, and begged me to pay him in future for the sheep and guinea-pigs in coca leaves, instead of money, to which I, of course, agreed.
Mrs. Manuel was a very good hand at making extremely savoury stews with guinea-pigs, and now and then I got her to make one. Occasionally I gave Manuel a drink of gin and bitters, which he liked, but he never asked for one. Before I had been here many days the Mama of the settlement had been to see me. The oldest woman in the place is always called the Mama, and if you make a good impression on her you get along well with the whole lot. This old woman was over ninety, and looked it.
Exactly twenty-three days after I had arrived here Manuel came to announce that he would be ready to make a move next day at 9 a.m.
OVER THE QUILLAPATUNI PASS TO TIPUANI
Next morning we loaded up the fifteen llamas, amongst other things with half a fresh sheep and six challonas. These last are sheep salted, dried and frozen, which keep a long time. All cargo was tied on with ropes made of llama wool, quite the best kind of rope to use in a tropical forest. Manuel took with him the elder of his two wives and one of his sons, a boy about fourteen or fifteen.
The first part of the journey was all easy going and downhill all the way; after the first two hours, the path became a slush of melted snow and the air began to be warmer. We saw no birds and scarcely any trees until 12.30, when we reached a level spot where the forest started on either side. Here we rested for half an hour, without taking off any of the cargo except a billy to make hot water. Miguel and I had some tea and a scratch meal and gave Manuel and the others some coca leaves to chew and two cakes of cocoa and some sugar for themselves; they stirred the cocoa with a wooden spoon and enjoyed it very much.
We started off again, the boy in front leading one of the llamas, old Manuel in the middle and his wife behind him, then the llamas and Miguel carrying my guns and his own pack, and I, bringing up the rear, carrying some cartridges and my flask. The path was still downhill and slushy with recent rains, but the day was fine and the sun was shining. Occasionally we saw a few common looking birds. By this time the forest was beginning to appear, and we were traversing patches of long coarse grass; on the hills round about a little snow could still be seen.
At 3.30 we got to the clearing and saw the owner, who grew barley and had a flock of sheep there. I saluted him and gave him a drink, and he let me have an empty stone hut and mud bed for myself, and another one for Miguel and the cooking, for a Bolivian dollar, which was about 1/10. Miguel went to get firewood while I went to a clear pool in the stream and had a bath and a change, and put on a dry pair of socks made of llama wool, which I had bought from the Indians. Then I changed my shooting boots for alpagatas, unstrapped my kit mattress, fixed up my bed comfortably and helped Miguel to make a good Irish stew. We made an excellent meal, starting with gin and bitters, followed by the stew, rice pudding, sterilized milk and jam; with plenty of good water and a cup of Yungas coffee afterwards. There was some stew left over, which I gave to the owner, in exchange for which he gave me four fresh eggs.
In the evening, after dinner, the owner came over to my hut and we had a smoke and a yarn. He told me that he came from La Paz and that his father had a store there, but he preferred an open air life, so his father had bought him a concession of land here and sent him regular supplies of flour and other things, as well as money to pay the three Indians that worked for him, and llamas to carry the barley to La Paz. The spare hut I occupied, he always kept for travellers at a Bolivian dollar a night, and I was evidently lucky to find it unoccupied.
Next morning, while I was preparing my breakfast, he came over again and advised me to give up the idea of going to Challana, as he had heard it was a very rough and dangerous journey. We loaded up the llamas and started at 9 a.m.; before we left I made a note of the height registered by my aneroid; it was just 12,350ft. After walking for about three hours, we rounded a bend and came suddenly on some of the finest rhododendron bushes I ever saw, growing on both sides of the path, in full bloom, and continuing for two miles or more. At 12.30 we rested for half an hour among the rhododendrons for our usual lunch. In the afternoon the path continued downhill, past banks of fuchsias, roses and flowers of the geranium type. There were also many hardy ferns, and long stretches of bracken and brambles of wild raspberry as large as acorns. The ground was swampy in places, and the path very slushy after the recent downpour. My host of the night before told me it had rained without a break for three days, except for some sleet and hail, but that the weather would probably hold now for some days.
That afternoon we saw several partridges, and some martinettes, a bird the colour of a partridge and the size of a hen pheasant; like the hen pheasant too it tastes well cooked with bread sauce in the same way. As we still had the remains of half a sheep we did not require fresh meat, so I satisfied myself with one martinette. They are easy to shoot, as they sit very close and then run along in full view sometimes for eight or ten yards without getting up to fly, unlike the red-wing partridges which go in pairs, and so fast that they require a pretty good shot.
At 3.30 we camped at an Indian clearing that Manuel knew very well; there were several small sheds of stone and thatch, of which I hired one for myself and one for a kitchen at the usual price of a Bolivian dollar. The owner begged for some coca leaves, as no Indians had come down with any for some time, so I gave him a double handful, and he at once presented me with a young bearsham, which he had trapped in a garden where he had a lot of green corn growing. He told me there were plenty of them about, and said that if I went down to the cornfield I might perhaps get one. After I had bathed and changed my boots, I took my rifle and went down to the field. I had told Miguel to make plenty of ashes to grill the leg over, so that we could have it cold next day for lunch, and also to prepare the Irish stew in the usual way, but not to put it on until I got back. The field was not far off, but after waiting about for an hour or more, and seeing nothing, I went back empty handed.
Next morning we left, in fine weather, at 9 a.m. The path was now all up and down and took us up a very steep hill, then down about twice the length the other side. We saw many birds on the way, several martinettes and some bush chickens, dark, coffee-coloured birds, the size of a fowl, which are very good eating, and easily secured. I did not try to shoot anything, as we already had the small bearsham for lunch, and plenty of fresh meat left. At 3.30 old Manuel branched off and led us a little way up an Indian trail to an empty shelter he knew of, where we camped near a stream. He drove his llamas off to a feeding ground, while I pitched my tent outside, leaving the shed to the Indians and Miguel. My tent was no more than a small canvas lean-to, as the llamas could only carry 35lbs. or 401bs. each. However, my kit mattress was enclosed in a tent, and when this was put up it gave sufficient room for me to lie down and sleep comfortably.
Next morning, about an hour after we started, a heavy rain came on, and continued all day until 3 p.m., when we got to the top of a hill, where we had to make a camp as best we could on two or three acres of grass. I put up my tent bed, and gave the men the sheet of canvas, and soon we got a fire going, as we had taken the precaution of bringing some dry wood with us, which we had distributed among the llamas, and protected from the rain. It was a good thing we had thought of this, as otherwise we could have cooked nothing.
The evening turned out fine and the night also.
In the morning Manuel went down the hill before breakfast to see the river we had to cross,
[Illustration: NATIVES IN THE INTERIOR OF BOLIVIA]
and came back with the information that it would not be possible to cross that day, so we should have to make the best of it and stay here, and if it did not rain again we might go on to-morrow. After breakfast I went down myself to look at the river, while the others were busy putting out all the gear and stuff to dry, getting more firewood and laying it out in the sun. They also started to dig trenches round the shed of poles, and began roofing it in and siding it with plenty of branches in case of more bad weather. Meanwhile, I shot two bush chickens near the camp. At 2 p.m. it looked like another deluge, so we had the things brought into the shed and Manuel cut some long grass, and fastened the big canvas fly over the branches with llama rope. By the time the storm burst things were pretty well arranged. It rained all night and all the next day till early the next morning; then we had lovely weather, but it took two more days for the river to go down sufficiently for us to be able to cross, and it was not until the third day after the rain that we could do so. The road was, as usual, very rough, and there was only room to walk in single file. For the first three hours we were marching up a very steep hill and then down a much longer one, and then, after crossing another river and going up a very steep incline through thick forest, with begonias and many other flowers growing in wild profusion everywhere, we came to the only piece of flat ground that we saw during the whole journey from Sorata. It was a sort of park in the centre of a great forest, with steep hills all round, about 150 acres in extent, and here Manuel branched off along a narrow trail for a couple of hundred yards, and brought us to another small green spot near a stream with a big open palm leaf shed and two smaller sheds, which he said would do for the camp. He told me we had some very stiff climbs to do further on, and that his llamas, which had scarcely had any food for five days, must be rested after the big storm, and allowed to feed for three days. As the fourth day happened to be a Sunday, I suggested stopping there for four days, especially as everything we could possibly want appeared to be at hand; there was wood, water, plenty of bush chickens and wild turkeys, plenty of grass, lovely flowers and beautiful scenery.
We left on the fifth day, and crossed the river at the foot of a long, steep hill. The water was well over the legs of the llamas, and all the cargo had to be taken off and carried across big boulders, which served as stepping stones, and then reloaded on the other side, which took a considerable time. The climate was getting much warmer, and we now saw many beautiful tree ferns as well as begonias and arums. Besides a few bush turkeys and martinettes, we saw two beautiful golden and silver pheasants, a cock and a hen; they were very tame and much too pretty to disturb, so I shot 3 martinette and a turkey. The narrow, winding path now led us up a hill. It was full of puddles and so overgrown and entangled with branches and creepers, that we each had to carry a cutlass and trim them as we walked. Along the road at different spots we came across small empty sheds, without owners, which are used by all travellers; they generally mend them up a little before they leave, often adding another for their own accommodation. After stopping to rest for half an hour in a cool spot at the top, we continued down the hill, again, and met twenty-two mules, loaded with rubber, in charge of a Bolivian and five Indians. We saluted him, and offered him a drink of rum, and he told us that he had made a camp at the bottom of the next hill, near the river, and had rigged up his bed in a sort of cave there, but had to clear out and make up his bed afresh in the open because the cave was full of ants. He said it took three days for himself and his mules to get up the Quillapatuni Pass: he had crossed the Toro River just before the rains had flooded it, and told us we should find two sheds of poles with palm-leaf roofs on the top of the pass, which he had mended and made rainproof. I told him we had done the same where we had camped for five days, and he said he would use our camp to rest his animals and let them feed for a day or two.
We soon passed the cave he spoke of, crossed the river, and walked up a zigzag path. From the top of the hill we looked down on one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever beheld. On the left, at the foot of an almost perpendicular incline, ran the raging torrent of the River Toro, its steep banks covered with tall, graceful tree-ferns and long grass; on the left of the Toro were high hills, covered with dense tropical forest, and five cascades pouring great volumes of water 800ft. or 600ft. down into the river below; in front were high hills, deep valleys and dense forest as far as the eye could see. On the right, for two or three acres at least, stretched an easy slope covered with grass and hundreds of beautiful amaryllis in flower; a gorgeous mass of bloom of scarlet, yellow, blue and every imaginable colour. Round the bend, a couple of hundred yards further on, was a small stream of clear water, about three feet deep, running over big boulders, and on the other side of the stream a little higher up were the two sheds recently occupied by the rubber transport man, on the only piece of flat ground. It was now 4 p.m., and we made up our minds to stop there, and not even attempt to go down the pass until we saw that the river had fallen considerably.
I took possession of one of the sheds for myself, and cut some long grass to put under my mattress.
I had heard that an American, called Salter, had a rather exciting adventure at this pass, and when I mentioned it to Manuel he told me he himself had taken him from Tiquiripaga, with his llamas, and gave me an account of the whole thing. Apparently, they had just started to walk down the hill, when Salter got giddy and fell over. He rolled down about thirty yards, and fortunately fell up against a big tree-fern, which saved him. Manuel and his two men tied together a couple of strong llama ropes, and threw them down to Salter, who made one end fast round his body, and was hauled up. After this escape, he refused to go on any further, and returned at once. Salter told me the story himself some time later. He had been engaged by the Texas Gold Mining Company to go to the lower Tipuani and take charge of a gold washing concession for a salary of £1,000 a year, and all expenses. “When I had gone down about fifty or sixty yards,” he said to me, “I got giddy and fell. The tree-fern saved me, and when they hauled me up I said: ‘No money will induce me to go any further down that devil’s road; they must get somebody else for this job. John E. Salter goes not a step further, I’m going straight back to La Paz,’” and he went. The company subsequently engaged a man named Charest, whom I met down at the Tipuani.
That afternoon I went to have a look at the pass; it was just like an endless succession of narrow stairs hewn out of the solid rock. The ledges were only two or three feet wide, with a sheer perpendicular drop down to the river on the left of a terrifying depth. Perhaps a faint idea of this path may be given by saying that it was much easier to go up than down.
We stayed here for three days. I went out at sunset each day and stalked some bush chickens as they went to roost; and two or three times a day I walked down to feast my eyes on the lovely fields of amaryllis and enjoy the wonderful view. We started on the fourth day at 8 a.m. Manuel said it would be too risky to let the llamas carry the cargo down, so he asked me to engage four other Indians whom he had met walking up with 50lb. loads of coca leaves, which they were going to sell in exchange for barley, matches, and other things. I took them on for 2/-each, and they helped us to transport all the cargo to the foot of the pass on the banks of the Toro River that day. I left them there that night with Manuel’s son to look after the cargo, and walked down myself next day with Manuel and his wife, and Miguel and the llamas. The animals went down one at a time with nothing on their backs, a very pretty sight. Manuel pointed out to me the place where Salter slipped and fell; if he had not struck the big tree-fern he would certainly have been killed. I made the height where the amaryllis were growing about 4,000ft., and the Toro River below about 2,600ft.; the pass itself was half a league. Miguel and I crossed the Toro on a cable made of steel wire, which the Government had placed there for the benefit of travellers. You have to sit on a thick short rope made fast to two pulleys on either side and hold on very tight, while you are hauled across, one at a time, by four or five Indians or other passengers. I went over first, and one of the men shouted to me from the other side, in Spanish, not to look down at the water, or I would get giddy and fall over, thirty feet below. However, I was not a bit giddy, and looked down all the way at the raging torrent of water. The rapid ran at about nine or ten knots an hour; there was a big whirlpool further down, and a huge rock protruding in the middle of the stream. Miguel was hauled over next. He told me he did not look down, and did not like the transit at all. After him all the cargo was transported, and then one of the men, on their way to La Paz, was pulled across by Manuel and his wife and son to their side. At the crossing there were also ten Indians, and twelve small mules, under a Bolivian foreman, on their way to La Paz with rubber and Chinchona bark, belonging to a rich Spaniard, Mr. Perez, who had a concession between the Tipuani and Challana Rivers. I had met Perez at Sorata, and he told me he had not been to the Tipuani for twenty years, owing to the shock of fever he once got there. He said he was able to ride on a small mule nearly all the way, as he was not very heavy, but I was too heavy for a mule, and as I would have to walk all the way he thought I should not be able to manage it, and would soon have to turn back.
He was quite mistaken, as I never felt better in my life. Of course it must be remembered that walking behind llamas only meant going two miles an hour, and six hours a day, with forced delay in between.
Perez also told me that a fortnight before we got to the Toro an Indian messenger whom he had sent from Sorata with important letters to his son, at the Tipuani, and all the rest of the mail from the Post Office of La Paz and Sorata, fell off the rope seat, as he was being pulled across, and was swept away. All the mail was lost, and some money as well, and the body of the poor chap has not yet been recovered. This is why one of the men shouted to me not to look down. Meanwhile, Manuel and his wife and son were driving the llamas to a ford, three miles further up, where the water was shallow, and they could cross, and Miguel and I waited for them. They turned up at 2 p.m., and we walked on, along a narrow track, near the river for a mile, till we reached the home of an Indian rubber picker, who was then down the river picking. His wife and children were at home, and we camped near their ranches for the night; I fixed my bed up on the balcony. On this ranch they grew maize, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, pawpaw, pineapple and oranges. There was another ranch some hundred yards away, belonging to another family, where they grew sugar. The mistress of the house, a rather good-looking Indian woman, from the Tipuani River, was very good indeed to me, and sold me all the fruit and eggs I wanted cheap, as well as some corn meal, some delicious tortillas, made from maize meal, and the meat of young deer that had been shot by her neighbour, the day before, and nicely seasoned, for the equivalent of a penny each. Next day I shot some young parrots for my stew. I saw several toucans here, gaudy scarlet, black and yellow birds with pelican beaks. Orchids of different varieties were growing on the trees close by. The Indian woman told me that her maize field was often troubled by monkeys and bears, but every now and then they managed to trap a bear. The weather still kept fine, and, in the morning, we started off over the hill, and down again over the other side. At the foot of every hill was a river, which we had to wade across. The best foot-gear for marching through the tropical forest is canvas alpagatas, with strips of hides for soles, and one soft broad strap running from the heel to fasten over the instep, and passing in a loop through another strap, which is attached to the straps on either side of the alpagata. A pair of large strong, hob-nailed shooting boots should also be carried for boggy ground.
It may be of interest here to say something about how the traveller can best make himself comfortable on a journey in these parts. Socks should be of llama wool, and pulled well over the bottom of the trousers. No coat or waistcoat should be worn, and all clothing should be taken off, and a towel kept handy, when crossing rivers. It is always advisable to put on one’s coat while sitting down to rest, before getting thoroughly cool. For head gear, a big panama hat or pith helmet is the best, and a large umbrella is very useful. The best way to avoid fever is to change into dry pants and shirt each day, as soon as camp is reached; I was never troubled with fever, I think for this reason. It is quite safe to drink as much water as one likes, on the way, from the streams running over stones. On reaching camp or resting place I advise a tot of whisky, gin or rum. The Indian men never drink water on the march, they always suck coca leaves instead, but I think my way is the best.
Next day we had a rough uphill march nearly the whole time, and when we got to the top of another small mountain, at 3 p.m., the rain began to fall again, so heavily that we were unable to cross the river, and reach the Solis Coffee estate that day, but were forced to spend a very uncomfortable two nights and a day waiting for the rain to stop, and the river to go down. There was no shelter, whatsoever, and we had to make the best of it. When we did cross, we had only three miles to go to reach the coffee estate. I gave the man in charge the letters I had from Solis, and he at once let me have two nice rooms, that were generally kept for the proprietor’s use only, a nice shed and kitchen. I gave his wife plenty of whole meal flour, which she started immediately to make into dough and knead for bread. I was told that I could have the use of Solis House as long as I cared to stay, and could buy eggs for 1/-a dozen, and fowls for 1/-each.
Next day he was going to send an Indian to a man, who had two small mules, and ask him to come and see me, and make a bargain for going the rest of the way to Tipuani. Manuel and his party were returning next day, and taking with them a cargo of coffee to Solis at Sorata. However, it began raining again in the night, and kept on for three days and two nights, so that Manuel could not start back for five days, and the Indian could not go for the mule man either, but it did not matter much, as we were short of nothing, and had plenty to eat and drink, and some nice fresh pines and oranges for fruit.
On the fifth morning Manuel left, and I was sorry he could not go further. He had been very obliging and civil, and most abstemious and unobtrusive, and I shall always look back with pleasure to the weeks spent with him, and his llamas and wives. Two days after he left, the man with the mules turned up, and agreed to come with me, carrying 50lbs. himself and 100lbs. each on his animals, as well as the blankets, and my bed kit, for twenty-eight bolivians (56/-). He told me there were three Indians living near him who were glad to take carrying jobs, when opportunity offered, and one of them had come with him to represent the others. They agreed to come for six bolivians each (12/-), and to carry 50lbs. apiece, but could only be ready to leave in five days time.
While I was waiting for them to arrive, I shot a few parrots and doves; they make a very tasty stew when cooked with plantains and eschalots, with a dessert-spoonful of Liebig’s as a flavouring, and some rice to thicken it. I also did some prospecting here, and panned out a little gold. Nobody appears to have worked on this stream, but there is no doubt it contains gold. It would be quite easy to work, as it runs down at a good gradient to the river below, and there is plenty of grass for animals. Small mules or donkeys could get there without difficulty, and there is plenty of game in the forest, and some Indian families living near. This time we left behind in Solis’s room all the heavy rugs and clothes for mountain wear, and I had a small sack of bread made to carry with us. Antonio and the Indians carried their own food, but, as usual, there was always a little left over from the big stew Miguel and I prepared every night, which they appreciated very much.
When we started Antonio began to drive his animals at about four miles an hour. I told him not to go so fast, but to keep to my pace, which was more like two miles an hour, and six or eight a day. He said we should be more than a week getting to Tipuani at that pace, but it would not matter, as the mules would be fit to take a cargo of rubber back for Perez.
On the way down we heard many toucans, mocking birds, parrots and monkeys, and saw plenty of guavas; we gathered a lot of these, and the mules kept munching at them all the way. At the bottom of this hill there were some beautiful big butterflies with wings half orange colour and half a bright sky blue. I decided to get a few on the way back. On the way up the next hill we saw more butterflies, some light blue, others almost purple, but I noticed that this little valley was the only place, on my whole journey, where the orange and blue winged ones were to be seen, and there were dozens of them. That day, too, we saw several wild turkeys, and came across the spoor of peccary and bear, and occasionally the track of a deer. We made camp that afternoon at 4 p.m., and, as soon as we arrived, I gave the Indians a tot of cheap rum each,
[Illustration: AN INDIAN WOMAN OF THE BOLIVIAN INTERIOR]
and had a gin and bitters myself. Our camp was four sheds of bamboo, with palm-leaf roofs, inhabited by a half-caste and his wife, who were growing sugar cane, to make rum to sell. He told me he was practically a non-drinker himself, and only took a tot in the morning, and another at night, to ward off fever. I hired one shed for myself, and another for the men, at the usual price of 2/-. I managed to get another wild turkey here, quite close to the camp, to take on with us the next day. In the morning we had to go up a very steep hill; the path was cut out of the slippery, red, clayish soil, and was so narrow in places that there was barely room to pass one foot over the other. There were puddles of water all the way up and the trees were so lofty that they often hid the sun from view altogether. We were glad to get to the top of this pass, only to find that the path going down to the river, on the other side, was just as bad and twice as long. The Indian saw two deer on the way down, but I did not spot them. The woods were full of all sorts of gaudy coloured birds, especially yellow and green parrots, which the Indians always take with them to sell, when they go into Sorata or La Paz; they are considered to be the best talkers, especially those with a red patch on their heads. Down by the river there were some fine orchids growing on the trees, and many bright coloured butterflies. After walking up another steep hill and down another long one, we crossed a stream and pitched camp, making use of two small open palm-leaf shelters and putting up a third. Nobody was living there, but there was plenty of long grass about for the mules, which Antonio tied up, and kept shifting to fresh feeding ground. The weather was still fine; in the rainy season, after a good spell of rain, it always holds for a week or ten days. The next day was up and down hill going all the way; the woods were still full of toucans, parrots and mocking birds. Our camp, this time, was in another coffee estate; I found the owner there, and he said he had a farm on the banks of Lake Titicaca, and only came there for a few weeks every year, to load up some small mules with coffee. He did not take much trouble with the place, as though the coffee was very good the transport was difficult. He told me he went to his farm by a different route from the one I had come; it took two days longer, but it avoided the Quillapatuni Pass, and most of the rubber coming from the interior to La Paz and the coast went that way. He thought the Indians would make me turn back when I got to the border. I promised to put up again at his place on my return journey, and he called his wife and his head man, and caretaker, and told her to open his rooms for me when I came back. He advised me, when I came back, to branch off and take the path he had told me of, to avoid the Quillapatuni Pass, but I said I thought it would be much easier walking up that path than down, and would rather return by the same road. The next day our midday stopping place for lunch was a small orange grove, where the owner grew a lot of coffee as well. As soon as he saw me he handed me a note, and said: “This was left by an Indian from Challana, who asked me to look out for you, and deliver it. I knew it was you coming along by your size.”
The note read: “Take the advice of a friend, who wishes no harm to come to you, or any other foreigner. I beg you not to persist in your attempt to enter Challana. The inhabitants say you have been sent by the Government to spy on them and their country, and if you cross the river the same fate will befall you as befell Philip Barbari and his companions. Be warned in time, and turn back.”
It was written in Spanish, and there was no signature. In the afternoon we continued on, over the same kind of ground, through fine tropical scenery, to the banks of another river, where we saw some people were washing for gold. They owned a farm and cattle, and grew maize, bananas and other fruits. At the farm-house on the top of the hill, for nothing they lent me a big palm roofed shed, and sold me some fresh milk and bread. I slept outside that night.
In the morning we walked down a hill, crossed another river, then up and down some more steep hills to the banks of the Tipuani, the great gold river. We camped at a beautiful spot called Gritado, where a man called Ricardo Rodriguez lived, the owner of several small huts of bamboo and palm-leaf roofs. He told me he came from La Paz, and introduced me to his two wives, who were sisters. He was growing sugar and coffee, bananas, oranges, pines and pawpaws; this fruit is delicious and very good for the health, and pepsine is made from the seed of it. He told me there was plenty of gold to be washed out all along the banks of the river near his place; he himself only worked for gold seven or eight weeks in the year, and often got as much as twenty ounces and more in a week. He wanted to go to La Paz when the dry season set in, and offered to let me hire his three small mules, to take my cargo back as far as La Paz, for £3 each, and expenses for food; he said there were some bad Indians about on the road, looking out for travellers whom they could attack and rob. I told him we had met none, but should be very glad to accept his offer for our return journey. From here to the village of Tipuani was only seven hours’ journey, through a forest, mostly easy going by a path that kept near the big river all the way. We passed two small holdings, inhabited by two Barbadian blacks, who had married Indian women; they were growing sugar, chiefly for rum, also maize, bananas and other things. In the afternoon we reached Tipuani.
FROM TIPUANI TO PAROMA
The village of Tipuani is composed of about eight or ten ranches, and one store, which is Perez’ rubber trading quarters. Perez’ place is the first house in the village as you come in from Gritado, and consists of a store, a dwelling house, and a very large shed, where the pickers bring their rubber and rest for a few days before going back to pick. I gave Perez his father’s letter, and thanked him for offering to put me up, but told him I was going to the hut of Noboa, whom Sanches at La Paz had recommended me to see, as he was a kind of agent for the Challana people.
Perez offered me a drink, but I refused it, as I seldom take one on the march, but always wait till the stopping place. When I got to Noboa’s hut I accepted a glass of very good rum, distilled by old Noboa himself, and bought some off him at 2/-a bottle. The old man, who had an Indian wife very much younger than himself and not at all bad looking, called to her to make ready a clean hut for me and a shed for Miguel and the cooking, and we made ourselves at home. After things had been unloaded and straightened out, I paid off the Indians and Antonio, and two days later they started back for La Paz, with cargoes of rubber from Perez. While Miguel was putting the camp to rights, and preparing an Irish stew from challona, yams and eschalots, I went over to see young Perez. He had been educated at the best college in Madrid, and was going to join the cavalry, but asked his father to let him go and see the famous Tipuani River, where so much gold and rubber came from. Not being heavy, he was able to ride most of the way. Unluckily for him, he got the fever at Tipuani, and had been there now for two years and a half, and could not get out. Every time he tried to get away, as soon as he got to higher altitudes, days before he could even reach the Andine Range, the fever came back and he was forced to return. He meant to try again in a few weeks’ time. He was not the only one served in this way by the fever.
Another fellow called Bartelot, whom I met a few leagues from here, told me he had come down to wash for gold sixteen years ago, and had got stuck ever since then, owing to periodical attacks of fever. He found gold frequently, but only worked occasionally, and did not trouble much about it. He lived in a big bamboo and palm shed, partitioned off into rooms, with a young Indian wife.
The saying down there is: “If you get a real good dose of Tipuani fever, you will have to stop here.”
Old Noboa told me that he had been one of two hundred slaves brought over by Count Noboa from Brazil up the Amazon, and through the Acre and Challana districts to this famous gold river. The Count was here for four years and a half, and got a lot of gold. He was a very good master, and told all his men that those who wanted to return with him could do so and each one would receive his small holding and some stock, and those who wished to remain on the river could stay behind. Most of them went back to Brazil, but a few remained, and with his assistance fixed up their chacras and planted sugar, coffee, corn, fruit and other things. The old black man Noboa was one of them, and he christened himself after the Count, his benefactor. As far as I could learn he was the only one left; the rest had either died or gone away.
He told me that some men from Challana would probably arrive in a few days and he would send them over to me that I might arrange to return to Paroma with them.
The day after we arrived, a tall, wiry man appeared while we were at lunch, and introduced himself as “Mr. Robert A. Mackenzie, at your service”; he joined us in our lunch, which we washed down with good water and old Noboa’s rum. He told me he had been here sixteen years; six years ago his father had left him a nice property at Epsom, and ever since then he had been trying to get back to England, but the fever had prevented him. Whenever he got a little stronger he would start off on his old mule, but as soon as ever he got up into the cooler atmosphere the fever recurred and he found it impossible to continue, and had to come down again to the forest. He proposed that I should shift camp to his place, where there was plenty of room; he was in the house where the late Colonel Villamil used to live when he was working on the big placer mine below. I promised to come and bring my own food with me.
Next day Miguel and the two West Indians who were digging for gold with Mackenzie helped me to get all my provisions and gear pulled across by a long steel cable, affixed to a high platform on each side, which had been placed there by old Villamil and was kept in good repair by his heirs and by Perez for his rubber business. After all the goods had been hauled over, Miguel was pulled across and then myself. The river was quite wide just here, and the rope cable was fully fifty feet above the water. Mackenzie was on the other side, waiting to welcome me, and we walked together up a neat gravel path, with tropical flowers, creepers and palms growing in wild profusion on either side. Soon we passed a tunnel under the hill, which had been built and dug out by Villamil, and which Mackenzie was now working with his two West Indians; and a big artificial pond five feet deep and about twenty yards by fifteen, all stoned up at the sides with a canal running into it at one end; and a heavy movable shutter of iron and wood at the other; all this had also been built by Colonel Villamil and his men. Then there were sheds, houses, a kitchen, and, further on, a four-room house and a very large carpenter’s shed, a smithy and some other sheds, all put up by him. Mackenzie lived in the principal house, and his two men and an Indian cook near the kitchen. It was a beautiful spot for a camp, a green patch surrounded on all sides by the forest, which was a mass of wild flowers, begonias and anthurciums, with red, white and purple creepers, parasites and orchids growing on the trees. Big butterflies of all colours were flying about, light blue, dark blue, purple, red and white and yellow; all kinds of parrots were chattering and flying over in flocks, and now and then a gorgeous macaw would perch on the top of a high tree close by.
Villamil had grub-staked Mackenzie and his brother and two or three more, but somehow or other it was not a success. His brother had gone home six years ago, and all the rest had drifted off except Mac and an old Indian and his family. All they did was to send gold into La Paz, in return for which they received provisions; if they sent no gold they got no food. There was plenty of gold about, and whenever they washed up they always got some, but as they only worked two or three days a week they could not expect to get much; also it was really far too hot to be a white man’s country, and the natives will only work enough to satisfy their immediate wants. The two West Indians only worked on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Mac paid them at the rate of 4/-each a day, and they paid 1/-a day each for food, and did their own cooking. They did not appear to want to return to the West Indies, and were quite satisfied to put in only three days’ digging. These two men were part of a gang brought from the West Indian Islands by an American who tried to molest an Indian girl on the way down. Her people went to La Paz to complain, and when he found out that the authorities were taking up the matter he cleared out through the forest, and was last heard of in Paraguay. These two stayed on with Mac; the others had drifted away on their own.
While I was here Mac showed me an old cutting from a La Paz paper, giving an account of the late Colonel Villamil’s Tipuani concession. He had as many as five hundred Indians working for two years; then he went to Paris for three years, and came back for another two years, taking out altogether in that time 356,586ozs. of gold. When he died he left his family a million of money and this rich concession. His eldest son, the present Colonel Villamil, is now the head of the business; he has never been down here, but lives partly in France, partly in La Paz. He still keeps up the payment of the yearly licence to Bolivia, and wants to turn over the concession to a rich Company who will work it properly. Besides other improvements, the old Colonel made a narrow open drain two feet deep and three feet wide, which wound down in long curves for three miles from a stream at the top of the hill, tapping two or three small streams on the way, and so diverting the water into the big artificial pond near his camp, whence it could flow down whenever required to the washings below. The whole thing formed a ready-made placer working for any big company. It may be taken up now for all I know, but it was still unworked in 1904. Mac told me that the richest part of the working lay between the village of Tipuani and a point beyond Gritado. Old Colonel Villamil was Commander-in-Chief in Melgarejo’s time, and I was given to understand by several people that he and Melgarejo were partners in the gold business, and used to make the prisoners work in it, feeding them all well, and putting by a part of the profits for them, according to the gold each gang found.
Next day, after breakfast, while Mac and I were in the carpenter’s shed, helping to make some sleepers out of hard wood for the mine trolly, the cook brought us a native with a finger tip of his left hand chopped off. Mac was a vet by profession, and after fixing the finger up and giving him some lint and bandages, to take with him and cut up as he needed them, we asked him how the accident happened. He told us that while he was in the forest picking guavas, he was bitten on his finger by a large “tucandera” ant. He said these ants were deadly poisonous, and that it was usual for the natives, if bitten on the finger, to cut it off at once; so he had chopped his finger tip off. If they were bitten on the head it was probably fatal. The male ant is black and the female brown, and they are about 1½ inches long. Luckily for the natives living on the Tipuani there are very few of these pests about. Mackenzie had never seen one, although he had often heard of them, and he told me this was the fifth Indian that had come to him to be treated for chopped fingers in seventeen years.
In the afternoon Mac and I took our guns and walked up the path alongside the stone canal the late Colonel Villamil had made for a distance of a league and more to shoot some bush chickens for the larder. There are plenty of these birds about and it is easy enough to get them; all you have to do is to wait about near the big trees where they go to roost every evening an hour or so before sunset, and simply take a pot shot at them. After we had got seven in three shots we hurried off down the path again, as the sun had just set, and it is soon dark in these parts. Mac told me he had once been benighted on this path and did not want to experience it again. On the way back a flight of about fifty pigeons passed us in three lots; they were all one colour, a chocolate brown, and the size of the ordinary wood-pigeon. We neither of us fired at them; Mac said he had seen them often before, always about the same hour, and always flying in the same direction. We called them “the lost tribe.”
The next day old Noboa sent us word that he had finished distilling his rum, that it was very good, and that he was selling what he did not want to keep at 2/-a quart. So I went over with the West Indians, Charlie and Rayo, to bring back half a dozen bottles, or a dozen if I could get them. We got the dozen, Mac taking one half and I the other. Charlie and Rayo bought themselves two bottles each. Rayo was a very steady, sober chap, and never by any chance took more than one or two small tots a day. Charlie, on the other hand, never did any work at all until his rum was finished, which did not take long; consequently he never had any money, as he seldom worked more than three days a week. Gold digging is usually paid according to the amount found, but Mackenzie paid his two or three men differently, giving them 4/-a day of 10 hours, and deducting 2/-a day for their grub, which was given out in weekly rations every Saturday for the next week, and then deducted from their pay the following Saturday. Noboa’s place was on the other side of the big river, and we always crossed over by the steel cable originally fixed by the late Colonel Villamil and now kept in order by his heirs. We crossed over all right, but on the return journey, when I was about three parts of the way over, the rope snapped, leaving me sitting on the swinging board about forty feet above the river. Mac had a small sack brought, and in it a stone. Round the stone he tied a good stout rope and then tried to chuck it gently into my lap. It took some time, as he always missed me, and of course I could not render any assistance by trying to catch it for fear of overbalancing and toppling over into the river below. At last it dropped into my lap and I made it fast and was pulled across. A few days after this an Indian who was crossing overbalanced and fell into the river near the bank, hurting his back rather badly. I suggested we had better rub in a sweating blister and then let him remain quiet until the effects were over. So we had him carried on a stretcher to his hut, let his wife rub the blister in, and left him. Next day he and his wife came over and brought presents of eggs, fowl, bananas, pines and oranges. When I returned from Challana and Paroma Mac told me the cure had fixed him up well.
Next day I went over again to see Noboa, who told me no Challana men had come yet; it was the rainy season and the big Challana river was probably up and they could not cross. I bought a bottle of rum from him for 2/-, and a big bunch of plantains for 1/-, and gathered a lot of fine, pipless oranges, which his son, a boy of twelve, carried to the cable for me. I looked in to see Perez on the way back, and found he had another attack of fever coming on. I was hauled over by Miguel, and then went into the tunnel which had been started by Villamil and his men, and was now being worked and continued underneath the hill by Mac and his West Indians, Charlie and Rayo. It was very damp, and had to be well boarded up all the way, with good heavy iron wood logs, and roofed up all over with the same hard wood. They were working as far down as the false bed rock in a layer of black gravel; Charlie and Rayo by themselves, and Mackenzie mostly up at the house and carpenter’s shed. There was no doubt this was a rich place.
Next day I made a lot of bread and caught a good many very beautiful butterflies for my collection. The best way to carry them is to squeeze them behind the head and then put them in a piece of paper and fold it up in a V shape. To make their wings open out again when you wish to set them up, place them on some hot sand, and the wings will expand.
That evening, while Mac and I were smoking after dinner, an old Indian came to tell us that near his sugar-cane field, some six leagues down the river, a big man-eating tiger, as he called it, had tried to attack his sixteen-year-old boy, and had also killed a small mule belonging to a rubber picker. As a matter of fact, these animals are of the jaguar species, only much larger. It seemed his boy was cutting sugar cane, and before going home went into the bush near the banks of the river, to get guavas, when he suddenly came across the animal eating a mule he had just killed; the beast, on seeing the boy, growled, and the boy jumped into the river just as the animal made his spring. Fortunately, he did not follow him into the water, although it is well known that these beasts swim well, and Indians have told me they have seen them in the water crossing over.
Mackenzie could not join in the hunt, as he had only just got over a bout of fever, and Perez, too, was down with fever; so it was decided that the
[Illustration: JAGUAR AND PUMA SKINS, BOWS AND ARROWS AND WOODEN SPEARS BROUGHT BACK BY ME FROM BOLIVIA]
Indian should take me next day to the dead mule, where I would sit up for the night on the chance of the jaguar or tiger returning to his prey.
The Indian, Miguel and I started off next morning after breakfast at 7 a.m., and crossed the river by the wire cable. We took a cooking pot, a kettle and provisions for three days, including a bottle of rum. The first part of the journey was by a path through the forest, close to the river. Some six miles from the village we saw some beautiful birds sitting on a big wild cotton tree, of a kind I had never seen before. They were about the size of doves, light green in body, with purple wings, scarlet breasts, yellow heads and black beaks, but they were not of the parrot species. This was the only spot in the forest where I noticed these pretty birds, and I saw them at the same place coming back. The path here took a turn to the right for about a league, amongst beautiful flowers and creepers, and some very large trees, of which several were rubber trees. It was fairly easy going, but we had to use the cutlass every now and then, and it was up and down hill all the time, though not nearly so steep as what we had been used to. Soon the path turned to the left again, and led down to the River Tipuani, just opposite the Texas Gold Mining Company; there was a small settlement here, where two Indian families lived; one of the men was away picking rubber for Perez, the other was working with the women and children in their sugar and maize plantation.
We rested here for a little, and made some tea, while one of the boys went across in his father’s balsa to Charest, the Manager of the Texas Gold Company, with a message from me, asking him to come along and join the jaguar hunt, but he sent back word that he could not come as he had a touch of fever just then.
From here we followed down the banks of the Tipuani for a mile to a spot where the river took a bend to the left, and another small stream came down from the hills on the right and joined it. This spot was, to my mind, one of the prettiest I had come across. On the left was the powerful and swiftly flowing Tipuani, on the right the stream, and all around was the forest, and the high hills crowned with patches of green grass with valleys between them. There were high palms everywhere, and big green heart trees in flower, which stood out prominently against the dark green of the forest. Beautiful flowers and creepers were growing on the banks of the rivers, and gorgeous blue butterflies, seven or eight inches from tip to tip, and green and yellow, and green and blue parrots were continually flying from one side of the river to the other. Overhead the sky was a clear blue; here and there were a few big vultures, flying high up, and waiting to swoop down on some dead animal which they would pick clean to the bones. I thought to myself how strange it was that this beautiful spot should be a haunt of malaria, where only the forest Indians could live without constant attacks of deadly fever. I took some views here with the kodak I carried.
Up the stream to the right was the place where the man-eating tiger had killed the mule. On the way we stopped for a few minutes at the home of my Indian guide, and saw the sugar plantation where his son was engaged cutting cane. This man owned a few head of cattle, which he had driven originally from the forest; there are a good many wild cattle to be found in the forest, though not nearly so many down here as in other parts. About two miles from his place we came to the dead mule, and found that the loins and part of one flank had been eaten away, and the throat torn open. I asked the man whether the animal had been poisoned, and he told me “not yet.” Jaguars and pumas always seem to find out if a beast is poisoned and, if so, often leave it and kill a fresh beast; I have seen this happen more than once. Nevertheless, these beasts have very often been poisoned, and I think what happens is this. If a horse, mule or a bullock has been killed, and the jaguar or puma, when returning to his prey, sees other animals near, he will kill a fresh one for the sake of the warm blood, which he will suck from the gullet of the newly-killed beast, but if the others have been driven away then he will go for the original kill. The dead mule had been dragged just inside the bush from a small green spot where it had been killed. The water in the stream here was about four feet deep, and the stream about fifteen yards wide. Miguel and I crossed over to the other bank six feet above the stream at the foot of the forest, where I decided to wait for the jaguar. It was then 5.30 p.m., and the Indian returned to his home, promising to bring back fresh milk and eggs for us in the morning. After a good dinner of challona stew, we sat down to await developments; I had my big Winchester rifle and the magazine was full. The night was fine, the moon almost at full, and fireflies everywhere. Nothing happened until 9 p.m., when a big tapir walked slowly across the green into the forest on the other side. A little later there was a distant peal of thunder, a sign that a storm was coming, and a cloud passed over the
[Illustration: MY CHILDREN IN INDIAN HEADGEAR, WITH JAGUAR SKINS AND INDIAN WEAPONS BROUGHT BACK BY ME FROM BOLIVIA]
moon for a few minutes, but it was soon clear again. I looked at my watch, and it was a few minutes before ten. A minute or two after, we heard a movement in the bush opposite, and a long animal the size of a small donkey walked out on to the green patch in front. He noticed us at once, stood still broadside on, and turned his head and looked at us. It was the man-eater and mule-killer, and a splendid chance to get him. The moon was clear of clouds, and he could be seen quite distinctly. I took steady aim, with the muzzle pointing dead behind the shoulder, and pulled the trigger, only to find that the cartridge missed fire. I quickly slipped it out again, and pushed in another, but the same thing happened. In went a third, to no purpose, and then without turning round I said to Miguel, who was a few feet behind me, “Something has gone wrong with my rifle; if he comes across to us, you take the cutlass, and I will take the axe, and we will club him if we can while he climbs up the bank.” Fortunately, he never came, but after looking at us for a minute or two he turned round quietly and went back into the forest, and we saw no more of him that night.
The misfiring of the rifle was most unfortunate, but entirely my own fault, as I discovered a few days later. I had kept it well cleaned and oiled, both inside and out, but had forgotten to fire a trial shot before leaving Mackenzie’s place, and on taking the trigger off I found a small bit of gravel grit jamming it, with the result that, although the trigger worked well enough, it failed to touch the cap. As soon as I put it on again, it fired as usual, and here was I abusing the cartridges, when it was my fault all the time for not trying a shot first. It just shows that you can’t be too careful.
A little after 11 p.m. began a regular tropical downpour of rain which never ceased till about 6 a.m., when the sun came out in all its warmth. The air was delightfully fresh, the birds began to fly, and everything looked bright again, but we were both soaking wet, and the stream had turned into a torrent. The water had risen about five feet, nearly to the top of the bank on the side we had camped, and the green patch on the other side where the tiger and tapir had appeared was entirely submerged. It had been an uncomfortable night, and for a few minutes we had been in a real funk. I stripped naked and put all my things out to dry in the sun, and after drying some wood we soon got a fire going. Although the matches were carried in a tin, and that again in another tin, they still had to be sundried first. We had filled our kettle, pot and water-flasks with water after dinner the night before, and it came in very useful now. It is always advisable to procure water overnight for the next morning, especially in the rainy season; I always did this and got my firewood as well. We soon had a wholesome challona stew and some hot coffee ready, which made a welcome breakfast.
Miguel had now a severe dose of fever coming on; in fact, this was the start of his Tipuani terciana, and from this time on he had it constantly for the rest of the journey. It was partly owing to his own perverseness, as instead of keeping pace with Manuel, myself and the llamas, he would often walk off quickly up the hills, and sit down on the top grinning and waiting for me; and he did not take his wet clothes off and hang them out to dry, as I did. My clothes soon dried in the sun, and Miguel thought better of it, and began to dry his. The river began to go down again, and at three in the afternoon the Indian came walking up the stream, with the water up to his middle nearly, probing the bottom with a long, thick stick. He sympathized with us very much over our bad luck the night before. I told him I would not like to go back without another try for the man-eater, and he said there was a rubber-picker living not far from his place who had a rifle, though not as big a one as mine, and he would send his boy with a note from me for the loan of it. As I had not yet discovered what was wrong with my rifle, I was glad to accept his offer, and so we walked, or rather waded, along the edge of the stream to his place, I carrying my pants and boots, and wearing alpagatas to shield my feet from stones.
When we got to the bend, we found that the river was full of a good volume of water running down at nine or ten knots. I could see by the banks that it had risen fifteen feet as a result of the storm, and the Indian said more than that. It had been my intention to go over to Charest’s place, but no balsa could have lived in that turbulent stream. So I put up at the Indian’s place. His wife had just killed and plucked a fine fat fowl, which she gave me with some maize tortillas, and a pineapple, refusing all payment. Her husband told her I had walked twenty miles to his place to try and rid them of the man-eater.
The rubber-picker soon came over with his rifle and mauser and five cartridges. He looked pretty sick with fever, and was out of quinine and coca leaves. I told him I would be very glad to give him a little of each, as I had a good supply, and a bottle of Noboa’s rum as well, if he would send some one with me to bring them back; he was very thankful for the offer, and I was also grateful for the use of his boy, who could carry back my rifle and gear for me. Miguel was sick and, although the two days’ rest would probably freshen him up a bit, he would have quite enough to do to walk back the twenty miles with nothing to carry.
Next morning, after an early breakfast, I started off again along the stream to the dead mule, with the Indian, his son, and three other Indians, and six mongrel dogs. I went first, about an hour ahead of them, to the spot opposite the green patch, and waited there while they walked through the bush on the other side, beating the trees with sticks, and making a good noise.
The first thing that came out and crossed the long narrow gully at the back of the green patch in front of me was a small bush buck, then soon afterwards a good-sized tapir, and finally a young swamp deer, but no jaguar; I could have got each of these easily, but wanted to keep my shot for the man-eater. When the Indians came out and had had a rest, I sent them up the stream on my side, and told them to walk on for an hour or two, and then beat down the other side. I promised them to get a deer for fresh meat if another was driven out. After another two hours, a second tapir crossed the narrow gully further up, about two hundred yards from the green patch; I did not see him until he was just entering the bush on the other side, so did not fire. Half an hour later came another small bush deer, and at the same time I heard a rustling in the bushes on the other side, close to the stream, and out came a fine swamp deer, which I secured for our lunch.
The yelping of the dogs now announced the approach of the beaters. They said they had seen the tracks of the jaguar, evidently made quite freshly that morning or the night before, and had gone on over the hill on the way to Challana. If we had beaten this side first, instead of the other, we might possibly have caught him, though he might have gone on quite early in the morning. Anyway, he had not touched the mule, which was now beginning to smell, and to attract a dozen or more vultures, which were hovering round about waiting to finish it off, as soon as the coast was clear.
In the morning we went back to Tipuani village. Miguel was better, and the rubber-picker lent me his rifle to take on to Challana with me in case I could not repair mine. I eventually found out what was wrong, as has already been explained. On the way back we saw the same pretty green, purple and scarlet birds as we saw coming; they were in exactly the same place, and were flying to and fro near the same cotton tree.
On the way back I looked in at Noboa’s, and he told me no Challana men had come yet, so I asked him to try and get me five or six men from the neighbourhood to go on with me. He said he would, and promised to come over and let me know the result in a couple of days’ time. Perez was still down with fever, and during my absence three men had come in with rubber; one of them, a half-caste, was pretty sick with fever. I noticed that many of the rubber balls were sliced down the middle, and was told this was done now and then to see that there was not a good round heavy water stone put in the middle to make weight, as some Indian pickers are very crafty.
When I got back I found Mackenzie was going to wash up next day, so I asked him to lend me a pan, and let me help him. I was anxious to see how much gold came out of the heap of dirt and gravel, dug out of the mine tunnel by the two men in three days. Mac and I panned it out next day, and it gave 3ozs. 6dr. 1scr. of beautiful straw-coloured Tipuani gold. There were no nuggets of any size, and no rough gold, which showed that it had travelled far, and, in my opinion, that there was no reef near at hand. They said on the Saturday that they were not going to work again until Tuesday, and as a matter of fact they did not start till Wednesday.
A curious incident occurred one day about this time. Some Indians returning to the Beni district had met some women belonging to the Tipuani district and wanted to marry two of them and take them to the Beni district, but the women were unwilling and this led to a quarrel among the men. The relations of the women attacked the ten men from the Beni; they chopped one another about a bit with cutlasses and fought with hard wood sticks, while the two women and their friends tried to pacify them. Finally it was suggested that they should all go over to see the two Englishmen across the river. Mac and I were in the carpenter’s shop making sleepers when they arrived in a body. There were twenty-seven of them in all, several of the men with their heads bandaged. They told us the cause of the row, and we told them that if the women were of age they should be allowed to please themselves. If they wished to marry the two men from the Beni then they should be allowed to do so, and leave with them; if not, the Beni men had no right to make trouble over it and should cease to molest them, and continue their return journey in peace. After some talking this was agreed to, and the women were asked their wishes. They both said they did not wish to leave their own district and cared nothing at all for the two men that wanted them. Mac and I then told the men from the Beni that they were to blame for the quarrel, and we also told the others they were wrong in coming in as they did and attacking the Beni men, whose wounds were chiefly on the back of their heads which showed they had been attacked from behind. Eventually they came to an understanding, and after we had mixed up a big bottle of water with a little lysol and a little lint and dressed their heads they left with many thanks to us, and much shaking of hands among themselves. The Beni men crossed the river in the canoes belonging to the Tipuani men and took the path back to the Beni, while the others and the two women over whom the dispute had arisen returned to their homes.
A few days after this Bert Morton, an American miner, passed through the Tipuani village. I met him walking behind his three large mules on the way back to La Paz, he had been prospecting for rubber for a house in Lima, and about a month before he had blown off the half of two fingers of his right hand in doing what I call the silly trick of throwing dynamite in the river pools to get a supply of fish. One cartridge had exploded and caused the injury. Fish got this way are never much good; they don’t have the same flavour.
On the next Monday Noboa came over and told me that no natives had come yet from Challana; and that nobody from the neighbourhood cared to go in with him, as they said the Indians and half-castes in Challana were hostile, that they had guards with rifles all along the river Challana wherever you could cross by balsa, and that the river was deep and the current strong, and there was no balsa ever kept on this side. He strongly advised me not to continue the journey; and thought they would not let me cross, and if they did they might not allow me to return. Mac was of the same opinion, and said he had been here sixteen years and had never ventured into their country, but if I still insisted on going he would lend me his old mule, which I accepted with thanks. I told them that if my way was barred when I got to the river I would turn back.
The following day I got together provisions and gear for a fortnight--bread, half a challona, some plantain, eschalot, coffee, tea, salt, six tins of corned beef, three bottles of Noboa’s rum, a water-flask, my rifle and fifty cartridges, my six-shooter, cutlass and bedding--a good load for Mac’s mule.
Next day I started, with Miguel leading the mule. We crossed the river by the cable, Miguel going first with the help of the two Barbadians living opposite, then all the provisions and myself; the mule swam across behind the balsa which was paddled and propelled by the Indian. Noboa met me on the other side, and took me along to a small trail, which led to a stream; by following it he said I would come out in full view of the big River Challana. There was a nearer way, by a better trail, which I thought it better not to take, as I wanted to get to the banks of the river without meeting anyone. I felt sure that when I got there I should find an order from Villarde to let me cross over.
The path was a narrow one, overgrown below with bushes and creepers, and overhead with branches of trees which often had to be cut off to make room for the mule to pass. I was using the machete most of the time, while Miguel was resting; he had only just got over his first attack of fever. Often we took off our trousers and walked for a long way in the stream itself; it saved cutlassing, and was easier going. The forest was alive with birds of all sorts and butterflies of all colours. I got a big martinette with a pistol shot on the ground at a few yards’ range, and we saw the spoor of deer and the tracks of wild pigs. The first day we did ten miles, which was pretty good, but the first four were easy going. That night we made camp on the banks of the stream near a beautiful cool pool over five feet deep in the middle. Growing low down on some trees close to the pool were two lovely orchids of a brilliant scarlet colour, with yellow centre. One had three blossoms and the other four; they were growing together as one plant, and had five more blossoms ready to burst in a day or so. I should say this was a scarlet cattleya; in any case, it must have been a very rare specimen of orchid, because, although I saw many varieties on my journey, and often the same specimens repeated, I never came across this particular specimen again.
The next day we made six miles and camped near the stream on a stony beach, where there was plenty of grass in patches for the mule; the previous night the grass had been rather scanty. While I was bathing in a pool near, a fine swamp deer came out of the forest to the waterside; he did not seem at all scared, but stood and looked at me for quite a few minutes, which showed that human beings were scarce in these parts. I have frequently noticed vicuñas doing the same thing in some of the fastnesses of the Andes near the snow line, when I have been prospecting.
The next day was a failure, for after it had taken us about three hours to go the same number of miles, I doing all the cutlass work, we came to an enormous tree across the path with such thick, heavy-looking undergrowth on one side, and so little clear space on the other, that I decided to go back to the scarlet orchids of the night before, which we did. The next morning, while bathing, I had another look at them. Three more beautiful petals had burst, and there were now ten opened out.
After breakfast I started to open up another dim trail that could be seen nearer the river, a much narrower one than the path of the day before. It was rough hot work, hewing and chopping down bush and small trees to make way for the mule; all these paths made by the forest Indians are low and narrow. Amongst other things I saw that day were forty or fifty big coffee-coloured monkeys, which were very tame, and seemed to follow us along the trees from branch to branch. I have seen some monkeys in different parts of the world in my time, but I never came across such climbers as these. They simply walked up and down big high trees and jumped from one to the other with the most perfect ease, chattering and talking all the time till late in the afternoon, when they would disappear.
We made camp by the stream that night, and I hung up the remains of the challona on a tree a few yards away from the camp, together with about six or eight plantains that were still green. In the morning when Miguel went to look for them, after he had put the kettle and stewpot on, he found them gone. I examined the ground, and came to the conclusion that one of the big dark brown bears that inhabit the hills must have come down the valley and taken them off. We had to put up with corned beef for breakfast, but there were always plenty of guavas as well; the guava trees were all round, and the mule seemed to enjoy eating them: he was always munching them off the trees.
Once we had started, the trail was fairly easy going, in comparison, that is, to what it had been, for about five miles. Then we came across a hardwood tree; it was not a very big one, but it took me an hour and a half’s sweating work to chop it through.
A little way further on, the mule absolutely refused to move. I went on a few yards to see what the ground was like, and found a lot of bush cut down and lying across the path. I probed it with my long stick, and found it quite hollow underneath, and could not touch the bottom. It turned out to be one of the “tiger” traps made by the Indians. They dig a hole with perpendicular sides, about twelve feet deep, four or five feet wide, and eight or ten feet long, and then cover it over lightly with branches and bush. The tiger falling into one of these cannot get out, and is easily despatched; sometimes two or three stakes are driven in at the bottom. My mule had evidently smelt the earth that had been thrown up, which we had not noticed. I opened out another path on the right, and about half a mile further on we came to a clearing and a well-kept bamboo and palm shelter, with a good stream of water running down in the hollow below, and some big blue and mauve cattleyas growing on some branches near. Near the shelter was a large cairn of stones with a flat piece of iron sticking up. I was told that this spot marks the commencement of Challana, according to the Indian claim. The River Challana is fifteen miles from here.
The next day when I was half-way up a hill, I heard the tap tap of a rubber-picker, and shouted to him. A few minutes afterwards, an Indian came out of the forest by a narrow path on the left; he proved to be from Challana, and lived on the other side of the river. He was picking rubber with another man, and said there were not so many rubber trees on this side, but on the other side there were a good many, and further on many more. He told me I was expected and that Villarde had notified his lieutenant, Cortez, to put me across at a place called Anhuaqui, about eight leagues from here. He said I could not cross before reaching there, as the river was wide and deep and the current swift. Evidently, no Indians lived on this side at all, they just came over the river to pick rubber. The Indian said that Thomas Cortez was the head man at Anhuaqui, and nobody could cross the river without his permission. He took his orders from Villarde, and Villarde did nothing before getting the consent of the old Cacique of Challana, who lived at Paroma on the hills, twenty leagues from Anhuaqui.
He told me I would not be able to reach Anhuaqui that day, as the next hill was a very hard one, but when I got to the top I would see the big river way down on the left, and was to take a path to the right, at a fork where there were two big shelters of poles and palm-leaf roofs. I asked him about the “tiger” trap we passed the day before, and he said there was another one not far from that one down a little path to the left. When a jaguar or tiger, as they call them, is known to be about, they tie up a mule or calf overnight close to the pit, and come back in the morning to see what has happened. The Government pay 25 bols (about £2 10s.) for the skull and jaws of every jaguar of the larger size, and of course the hide can be sold as well. This man talked Spanish, as he was not a pure Indian. His father, he said, came from Sorata, and was now living at Anhuaqui, and his mother was a pure Indian woman. He asked me for a little coca, which I gave him: he said they were short of coca just then, as they had only brought a supply for two or three days, and expected a companion next day from Anhuaqui with two mules and provisions for a fortnight.
Just after crossing the stream, I heard the movement of an animal in the forest, took my rifle, and had a lucky shot. It was a small swamp deer, for which I was thankful, and we looked forward to our venison stew that night. We got to the top of the hill mentioned by the rubber-picker at three in the afternoon, and made camp in the two shelters. The view was like a park--long grass and clumps of trees for miles around, and high forest as far as the eye could see. On the left the stream we had just crossed continued its course to the river below, and near it stood the ruined walls of a stone building. Nobody was in sight, and no dwellings could be seen. Parrots large and small screeched overhead, and macaws could be heard on the trees close by. I went to look at one, of a beautiful heliotrope colour, which was sitting on a high palm at the edge of the forest; I stood below the tree for ten or fifteen minutes admiring it, and it never moved.
That evening Miguel had another attack of malaria, and so we had to remain here the next two days, and I had to cut firewood, cook, look after the mule, and do everything. The first day the man referred to by the Indian rubber-picker passed the camp with his two mules. I got another bush turkey at close range with the six-shooter in the evening at sundown. On the third morning at 7 a.m. we left: the first eight or nine miles took us up and down hill through the beautiful park-like scenery, then came dense forest again, downhill all the way for seven miles, to the big River Challana. The road was pretty good, and I had no cutlass work to do. At the bottom of the hill, a couple of hundred yards along the bank, there was a clearing and a fair-sized shed, open at the two ends; it was closed up on the forest side with palm leaves and bamboo and open on the river side.
As soon as we got to the river, I fired off two cartridges in the air, as a signal to the inhabitants on the other side. A few minutes afterwards three men came over in a balsa; by poling for three hundred yards close to the bank on their side, and then crossing over with the long poles as fast as they could, they brought up the balsa to within a few yards of the hut. One of the men, who was a half-caste, a middle-aged man, and spoke Spanish, had a rifle, and took a letter from his buckskin bag, and handed it to me. It was from Villarde, and read: “I am glad to welcome you in our country and have ordered my lieutenant, Thomas Cortez, to prepare a house for you at his place, where you had better stop for ten days and rest after your long rough journey; in the meantime, I shall call a meeting of the chiefs and principal Indians, to receive you at the Court House in Paroma in fourteen days from the day you get this letter. You must cross over and come by yourself, and not bring any followers with you. Cortez has orders to provide you with a servant. With salutations, I remain, your attentive servant, Lorenzo Villarde.”
In any case Miguel, with his continual breakdowns of fever, was not of much use as far as serving me was concerned; and I decided it would be best for him, on the whole, to go slowly back to Tipuani by the regular path, which the rubber-pickers would direct him to, at the place where we had met them.
The man with the note, whose name was José, said he would now return to tell Cortez, who would despatch a messenger to Paroma. I asked them to return again next day for me, and he said he would bring over a big balsa of five stout poles for me, and a platform with seat attached next morning after breakfast. All that night the mule was very restive and kept on coming into the shelter, which made me think that some jaguar was about, so we put plenty of wood on the fire, and made a big blaze and kept the lamp burning in the shed; I always carry a horn lantern for a candle. I sat up near the fire with my rifle till close on eleven. No animal appeared, but I distinctly heard movements in the forest, and the mule fed very close to the shed. In the morning I had a good bathe, being careful to keep my eyes on the bottom most of the time, as in most of these tropical rivers there are man-eating fish, called piranhas, only eighteen inches long, but very ferocious, with teeth like a saw, which attack you and bite lumps out of you on the slightest provocation. In some rivers in these parts, when a balsa has been capsized and its occupants have been thrown out and got cut about on the sunken rocks, these little monsters seem to come from all around, attracted by the sight of blood. They will often snap a finger or a toe off, and have been known to strip a dead body of every particle of flesh, leaving the bones bare. Another of the dangers to beware of in bathing in tropical rivers or streams of South or Central America is a kind of slimy leech, three or four inches long, called Kandiros, which get up the rectum. They are as thick as a worm, and have a small dorsal fin that acts as a barb. The only way to get rid of them is to have them cut out.
The Rivers Tipuani, Challana and Beni contain a good many fish, most of them good to eat, and some very large, but, like most of the fish in tropical rivers, too full of bones.
After my bath, while Miguel was preparing breakfast, I found tracks of a big jaguar, evidently the disturber of the mule the night before. The marks showed that the beast had made for the pampas we had passed the day before.
After breakfast the men came over with a big five-pole balsa, and took me across. They told me that the river at this crossing was seventeen feet deep in parts. There were several settlements on the bank, inhabited by Indians; Thomas Cortez’s place consisted of five sheds made of poles and roofed with palm branches and wild banana leaves. He gave me a good big one with a bamboo bed almost three feet high and three feet broad and seven feet long. There were some fowls, turkeys and pigs and two cows tied up close by. I told Cortez that I was not tired, and could easily continue the journey, but he replied that we could not proceed for ten days, as those were his orders. He had been told to look well after me, and every day his wife brought me good food, eggs, milk and coffee in the morning, stewed fowl and rice and fruit and bread at 1 p.m., and a good meal again at night. She also washed my clothes. They had guns and rifles there, and shot a good deal of game, especially poujil (pronounced pooheel), which are birds about the size of a big fowl, and very good to eat; they shoot them as they are roosting on the trees. They never fire unless they are quite close to the bird, as powder and shot are too scarce in this out-of-the-way place to be wasted on fancy shots. All the natives here sleep either on the floor or on a bamboo bed, and very few of them have hammocks, unlike the natives of Guiana and Venezuela, where every one carried his bed, a light net made from fibre or strong cotton, which is hung up between poles on branches of trees. While I was here, I shot a big swamp deer on the run, as he was crossing one of the narrow Indian trails; to the great satisfaction of Cortez, who said that the meat would be good roasted. Every night Cortez slept in my hut, at the further end, and there was always a man on sentry duty all night. When I went for my bath each morning at 6 a.m., two armed men always stood a little distance off, though the stream I bathed in was only a few yards from my hut, as I used to go down in my nightshirt and dress by the river. After breakfast I generally took a net and went down to the banks of the Challana to catch butterflies. I was always escorted by two armed men with rifles, who followed a short distance behind. They took every precaution never to let me out of their sight; later on Villarde told me the reason why. Cortez told me that they had a great quantity of rubber for sale both here and at Paroma, and that the price was regulated by the Cacique at Paroma, nobody being allowed to sell for more than one hundred bolivians a quintal; this worked out at 1/10 per lb., and the market price in La Paz was then 4/6. Out of every 100 bols, ten bols was paid to the Cacique, and all rubber collected by the Indians in this district and Paroma paid ten bols per 100lbs. to Villarde as well. On the Tongo side where Villavicencia, Villarde’s brother-in-law, was in charge, the same payment was made. Villarde was a rich man, for out of his share he kept half, the balance going to his various lieutenants in the different districts. Each district paid separately, so that some were better off than others. By this system the pickers got 80 bols clear per 100lbs. (£7 6s. 8d.).
No trader was allowed to pay more than 100 bols per quintal, nor to charge more for his goods than they would fetch at the biggest and most important stores in La Paz. The year before last a trader from La Paz had come down to the river with twenty little mules loaded up with goods to exchange for rubber, and paid the Indians in goods and money at the rate of 105 bols instead of 100. He thought himself very smart, but it soon got to the ears of Villarde, who told the Cacique. It was decided when this man, Hernandez, returned, to confiscate the whole of his stock and all his mules, and to order him never to return to the Republic of Challana again. Last year Hernandez turned up with thirty-five mules and goods; the Cacique’s orders were carried out, and all his mules and goods were taken to Paroma. Cortez said the reason this order was made was that if the natives were given permission by the Chief to make their own prices they would get out of hand. There were watchmen always guarding the river at every available ford, and it was quite impossible to cross except in balsas, which were never left on the Tipuani side. Cortez told me that you could travel by balsa down the river without any difficulty to Port San Antonio, that this river joined another big river, probably the Gy Parana, which in turn joined the Madero and then the Amazon; the River Beni flows into the Mamore, then into the Amazon. My opinion is that the Tipuani and Challana have their source from the stream just above Tiquiripaga, but of course I am not sure, as I have never myself tried to trace the source of any of these large tropical rivers.
The scenery about here was very grand. The river ran between two high cliffs of red sandstone and red clayish soil. Large trees came right down to the water’s edge in some places, and in other places the banks were perpendicular precipices of deep red coloured soil and rock without any trees. All round was dense forest land, except at the Anhuaqui Settlement, where there was a wide stretch of prairie reaching to the foot of a very steep and densely wooded high hill with a red path leading up to the top. This hill was some nine miles from here, and Cortez pointed out this particular path to me as our way to Paroma. It did not look at all pleasant to have to walk up there, but it had got to be done the next week.
There were many beautiful birds in these parts, mostly gorgeously coloured macaws, parrots, snake birds, toucans, bell birds and tropials, and plenty of good game birds as well, especially wild turkey, poujil, martinette and long-billed snipe. The lovely cattleya superba grew in clumps on the trunks or branches of trees, wherever the ground was of a rocky nature, and parasites and smaller orchids grew everywhere. Butterflies of brilliant colours abounded, but there was also the loathsome berni fly, that lays its eggs and breeds maggots in animals and human beings. If it is not treated at once, this fly works nearly into the bone; my mule was troubled with it, but, fortunately, I noticed it in time.
One night I asked Cortez what wild animals there were about, and he told me, wild cattle, bear, many kinds of monkeys, pumas, panthers, tiger cats, jaguars and tigers. The two last are very plentiful and very troublesome and dangerous, and pits are dug for them everywhere. Besides these, there are tapirs, antas, wild pigs and many sorts of deer. I myself got three sorts of deer while in Challana, swamp deer, pampas deer, which are something like fallow deer and the little peti buck. One day in England I was talking with Bostock of menagerie fame, and he asked me whether I had ever come across what they call a tiger, when I was in the forests of Bolivia. I told him I had, and had got three skins of these beasts, but I thought they ought rather to be called a large specimen of jaguar. He said I was wrong and the natives were right: it was quite a different animal from a jaguar, and up to now no museum or zoological garden had a specimen; it would be very interesting and quite easy to secure a live one.
The weather was beautiful while we were here, but on the day we had fixed for leaving for the Challana headquarters at Paroma the rain fell in a tropical downpour for six hours. It cleared up in the afternoon, but the path was slippery, and the hill very steep on the other side. At the bottom there was another settlement consisting of one fair-sized building and six or eight smaller ones; the proprietor had gone to Paroma by Villarde’s orders, to attend the conference which was going to receive me. We camped here that day; the scenery was very fine, with large tracks of pasture land, abundance of grass, a few head of cattle in good condition grazing, several small streams of clear water and one small river called the Mula Muerta, which Cortez told me was a good river for gold washing, and had produced several good nuggets. At this place I saw the coca bush growing, for the first time. The leaf is a small green one and contains five per cent of cocaine; the habit of chewing it grows on the natives until eventually they find they cannot do without it. They claim to be able to travel through the dense forest or over the high passes all day long for weeks at a time as long as they have coca leaves in their pouches to give them endurance. Personally, on the many long journeys I have undertaken while prospecting and exploring in this fascinating country during five years, I never yet took to the habit. The natives also claim that the cinchona bark in Challona gives five per cent of quinine, and they are often seen trotting along with big loads of 50 and 60lbs. weight and even more, a bottle of water with two or three bits of cinchona bark in it, and a buckskin pouch filled with coca leaves.
The men here dress in shorts of drill or cotton, and over these they wear a shirt of the same material. They also carry a poncho, or vicuña rug, with a slit in it for the head to go through, and a short jacket of drill on the top of their loads. The loads are not made to weigh up on the shoulders or the forehead, but are tied across the chest, leaving the shoulders free. Frequently, these carriers have such a heavy load that a friend has to help them on their feet to get started.
At 4 p.m. on the third day after leaving Anhuaqui we reached the famous Indian village of Paroma. It is situated on the top of a green hill, with a river running through it, and houses and huts scattered everywhere about and the large trees that grew singly or in clumps of eight or ten or more made the spot very beautiful. The view was splendid, and you could see for a long distance for miles around. The first thing to catch the eye was a long high shed, built of poles and roofed with big palm branches; this was the Court House, and not far off stood a nice little church. I stopped and went inside and found fresh flowers in all the vases and empty bottles, and the whole building swept clean and kept in perfect order, though there was no priest and had been none for a long while.
I was taken to Villarde’s house, not far from the Court House and church, which stood high up on the banks of the river amongst enormous boulders and deep pools that reminded me of bonnie Scotland. That evening Villarde and I had a long talk. He told me that since he had received his sister’s letter about me and had sent word to her that the Cacique and his people would receive me at their capital village Paroma, some Challana men had returned from La Paz with the story that it was not to facilitate the trading of rubber for the good of their country and its inhabitants that I had undertaken this trip, but quite the contrary was the case. They said that I had come as a spy from the Bolivian Government, to find out what sort of paths they were between the River Challana and Paroma, the depth of the river, the number of Indians as near as could be judged from observation and information, how they were armed, and if there were many rifles and a good supply of cartridges, and that when I had returned to La Paz with all the details they required I was to be despatched again with Captain Cusiquanqui with mules, mountain artillery, and 200 men. This, he said, was the story that the Indians were being told by their countrymen just back from La Paz. I told him of the message that was delivered to me on my way to the Tipuani, and showed him the note of warning,
[Illustration: PAROMA VILLAGE, SHOWING THE CHURCH, THE CHIEFS’ HOUSES AND COCA PLANTATION]
which he said was sent to try and get me to turn back; but when they heard through Cortez that I had got to the River Tipuani the Indians under their Cacique had been consulted, and had told him to let me cross over, into their territory. Villarde said that a meeting of the three hundred head men had been called by the old Cacique Mamani; the first sitting was to take place next morning at 8 a.m., and he would have to put to me all the questions the old Chief told him to ask me, and interpret my reply to him. He told me I would have to prove to their entire satisfaction that the story circulated about me by the Indians recently back from La Paz was untrue. He assured me that Villavicencia, Portugol, the two Fernandez and himself knew quite well I was not a spy for the Government, but he said it would be difficult to convince the Indians, many of whom were ready to condemn me without a hearing; but in the last resort they were absolutely under the control of the Cacique Mamani and his head men, and he had ordered this meeting.
After dinner we discussed the situation till nearly midnight, and both came to the conclusion that this malicious story had been circulated by some of the traders who periodically came down to the river since they knew that, as soon as the Government and the Challana people had settled their difficulties, they would not be able to buy rubber for 100 bolivians, and sell it in La Paz for 228 bolivians; the Company that took over the concession from the Government would soon stop that.
Villarde, of course, knew all about the country, and he told me he had sold a lot of rubber and gold in the sixteen years that he had been here, and showed me a shed near his house that was full of rubber. It appeared that every time he wanted to get away, the Indians themselves stopped him; they would let him go a certain distance, but then he had to turn back. Besides, he could not go to La Paz by the Tongo, as the Government would catch him, and at that time there was a reward of £2,000 for his capture. The way for him to go if the Indians would let him, was down the Challana to the Gy Parana and out at Para. He told me he had made over £40,000.
In the morning I had a pleasant bathe in a lovely cool clear pool in the river just below Villarde’s house, and after a good breakfast we went off at 8.30 to the Court House, escorted by some of the head men.
The Court House was a very long shed, with logs of whole trees placed all round for seats, and a raised platform of logs at one end, where the old Cacique Mamani sat. Villarde sat on one side of him, and another man, named Portugol, on the other; beside these were Villarde’s other lieutenants, the two Fernandez, two more whose names I have forgotten, and an old man called Jones, who told me he had been in Challana for forty-two years and had quite forgotten his own language; he never said why he had come to this out-of-the-way place, nor why he had remained so long, and of course I never asked him.
There were three hundred Indians congregated in the building; thirty armed head men kept walking round between the logs and in the centre of the house to keep order, and there were others keeping order outside.
The sitting lasted until five in the afternoon, when they all dispersed until eight the next morning. Many questions were put and answered, and there was a good deal of talking in their language; Villarde interpreting to me in Spanish, and I answering him in the same language.
When I got back, I had another bathe in the deep pool before dinner. Next day the conversation was renewed till finally Portugol said to Villarde in Spanish, “What can we do, Don Lorenzo? We shan’t be able to contain them much longer.” Villarde then asked me to get up and speak to them myself. I told him I could only speak Spanish, but he said that would do very well, as he was there to translate what I said, and if he did not translate correctly there were forty Indians there who understood Spanish and would correct him. So I got up and talked to them for two hours, telling them I was their friend and had come there to do what I could for them with the Government for their own benefit. I asked them what good it would do them to kill me, and told them that although I had heard that they intended to keep me there as a prisoner I came on alone, because wherever I had been I had heard the Challana Indians always spoken of as Christians, and I was quite sure they would do me no harm. I said I had come quite unarmed to see their country and visit their Chief, having left my revolver, rifle and cartridges with Cortez at Anhuaqui, and assured them that there was no truth whatever in the story of my being a spy; the Government of La Paz never sent me or anybody else there for that purpose. The Cacique then got up and embraced me, saying I was to consider myself their friend, and could come and go when I pleased. He told me I was a brave man, because I had come there alone, in spite of what I had heard about them; that they respected me and welcomed me, and were ready to listen to the Company’s proposals, and to tell them, through me, what they thought of them.
I then explained the Challana Company and Government’s suggestions, which were that five hundred of the inhabitants should pick rubber for the new Company at the rate of 100 bolivians a quintal placed on the Tipuani side of the River Challana, or on the other side of the River Tongo, the payment to be made half in cash and half in goods. Further, I was to see General Pardo, the President of Bolivia, with a view to his granting the settlers in Challana their holdings free. The Cacique told me through Villarde this proposal was approved by him and the settlers in Challana, and he said that, out of the nine hundred inhabitants of his country, certainly five hundred at least would pick rubber.
Villarde told me later on that at one time he and the other white men feared that the situation would become really serious. “I thought,” he said, “we might be able to save your life, but we were afraid they would not let you leave the country again. However, the yarn you told them about your hearing of the Challanas in London and New York as brave Christians and not savages, and all that, saved you; by keeping your head, you saved it, and if it had not been for the way you spoke and the impression you made they would undoubtedly have kept you their prisoner.”
Once they had decided in my favour, the Indians treated me very well, and old Mamani presented me with a valuable silver necklace, the buckle of which showed it to be the work of the Incas.
I subsequently took it home to give to my mother with a few other things.
Challana is a beautiful country, full of dense forests, wide savannahs (grass land) covered with long nutritious grass, undulating hills and valleys, and many rivers and streams. Besides the yams, ochres, ucas and other vegetables and fruit indigenous to the tropics, rice is cultivated, as well as more coffee, sugar and coca than is consumed in the country. The rice grown here is of the very best quality, and the coffee as good as yungas. Coca yields five per cent of cocaine, and cinchona bark five per cent of quinine. Maize is grown by every one. The only things required from the outside world are hardware, drills, cottons and prints, salt, soap and flour. The Indians make their own rum, grow their own cattle for beef, and keep pigs, fowls and turkeys; several have cows and mules. Before I left, I got orders from them through Villarde and other head men to bring them back goods to the value of £5,000, to be paid for in rubber, at 100 bols the quintal, and, besides transporting the rubber to the Challana River free, they even offered to carry it on from there to Lake Titicaca or La Paz, for 17 bols a quintal. This same rubber easily fetched in La Paz 228 bols per quintal. Many of them told me that when I came back they would show me good places for gold washing, and would work for the Company if I was manager.
Not only is this country surprisingly rich and beautiful, but there is also plenty of shooting and fishing. The Indians are friendly, and travelling is not bad after reaching the top of the first steep hill. The climate on the hill-top at Paroma is not a bad one for the tropics, and Europeans with energy and capital could make good money and do well there; but it is not at all suitable for the manual labourer, as the climate will prevent him from doing as much work in a day as an ordinary Indian can; besides which, plenty of Indians will work for 2/-a day and find themselves, or 1/-and be found. This applies really to all the tropical parts of South America. Many a time I have been asked by English, French, German and other Europeans what sort of pay is obtained in these rubber and gold districts, and I have always advised them not to expect more pay than the Indian worker, unless they are mechanics or practised electrical drillers, in which case they would have no difficulty in getting jobs and pay accordingly. The reason one meets so many English and other Europeans down on their luck in the tropics of South America, walking from one district to another or one republic to another with half their clothes worn out, and little or no money in their pockets, is that they will not realize that the sugar planter, coffee grower, farmer or owner of rubber or mining concessions will not pay more than Indian labour will cost them.
The day I left Paroma the Cacique Mamani came to Villarde’s to say good-bye, and told off Cortez and three men all armed with rifles to take me back to Challana, calling them up in front of Villarde’s house, and making them the following speech: “Thomas Cortez, I have decided to send you with the three armed men to escort our friend to the Tipuani side of the River Challana. You are to be careful to look after his welfare in every way: it matters not whether he chooses to take one week, one month or one year on his way to the Challana, you will be held responsible by me if he is hurt in any way.”
Before I left Paroma, Villarde gave me a document, stating that I had visited the Indians at their headquarters, and conferred with them: he signed it himself and it was witnessed by all the other Chiefs and head men. Near the River Challana I helped to get one fine specimen of a man-eating jaguar or tiger while he was chasing wild pig; the skin measured 8ft. 11ins. in the green, which I afterwards gave to the friend I trained horses for, M. M. Penny. The Indians gave me two other skins, and some snake skins, feathered caps, bows and arrows from the Beni and San Antonio.
Next day I started back with my escort, taking with me a collection of butterflies, and a little black monkey I had got at Paroma. We did the sixty miles to Cortez’s place at Anhuaqui in two days. I gave them some quinine and a few other things, and we parted the best of friends. Before leaving, Cortez said he had been asked to tell me that when I returned the settlers on the river were going to present me with a big nine pole balsa, so that I could go back down the Challana to the big river, meaning, I expect, the Gy Parana. By the order of the Cacique, Cortez told off an Indian boy to go with me as far as Tipuani, and look to the mule and fag for me. Next day they put me across the Challana, and I stayed for the night with Bartelot, who was down with another bout of fever.
On the third day we got to Tipuani; on the way back I saw some more of the pretty yellow-headed birds, with green body, purple wings and scarlet breasts. I was sorry I had not my gun, or a small bore pea rifle with me, so that I could get a couple of specimens, for this was the only place in which they were to be found. Before the boy returned next day, I made him a present of some tins of sardines and packets of matches, and a cutlass to take back with him for himself and friends; money would not have been much use to him, and I did not want to risk his running amok, as Villarde had told me that drinking to excess was not permitted in Challana. In fact, while I was there I never saw a drunken man, nor yet an immoral woman.
Perez still had the fever, Mac was just getting over his attack, and my man Miguel was still so weak that I had to wait for another two weeks before he could travel. So I amused myself by bathing in the Tipuani, shooting a few birds and catching a lot of butterflies. One day when Mac and I were shooting birds for the pot, we saw a big flock of dark brown pigeons, which Mac called “the lost tribe.” Sometimes Mac and I panned out a little gold, and we got nearly four ounces from pay dirt dug out by Rayo and Charlie in three days’ digging. A few days after I got back to Tipuani, two half-castes and a boy came to me, and suggested that as they were going to Sorata or La Paz with rubber for the house of Perez and Co. it would be safer if they could travel with me, as I was armed and had two men with me; by travelling all together we were less likely to be marauded by cut-throats or brigands on the way. I agreed, but said that I could not start for another week, owing to Miguel’s fever. Rather than travel alone, they waited for me, but unfortunately, just as Miguel began to get fit, Richardo, who was with the three small cargo mules, said he had fever, which meant a few more days’ delay. The half-castes said they could not wait any longer, for fear Perez might find fault, so they started off with Perez’ old grey mare and five small mules and ponies, each carrying a quintal of rubber. Three days after they left, I said good-bye to Mac and began the return journey to La Paz. As the rainy season was now over, walking through the forest and admiring the beautiful tropical plants and ferns was very pleasant. On the second day after leaving Gritado, the path on the edge of the forest gave way, and one of my small cargo mules fell and rolled down through tree-ferns and trees, right into a stream of water below. Unluckily for me, he was the mule carrying all my photographic plates, sixty fine views, as well as ten biscuit tins full of butterflies. The mule was not hurt, but many of the butterflies were spoilt, and when I took the plates to be developed at Lima later on only three came out a success, the rest were hopelessly blurred. This is why there are so few photographs in this book.
Some days later we reached the Quillapatuni Pass, which I found much easier walking up than down. We had, of course, to unload the mules, and pass everything over the cable at the River Toro, and then let the mules climb the pass with half loads, which took us two days. We stopped at the same places as on the way in. At the top of the pass, Miguel had another attack of fever, and I was delayed three days, during which I shot two poujil. The shelters there had evidently been occupied within the last day or so, probably by the two men and boy who had wanted to travel with me.
A few days later, when we had just reached the foot of the Illyapo Range, we were astonished to see Perez’ old white mare walking quietly towards the Tipuani, and behind her in single file the two ponies and the mules. Nobody was with them, and there was no cargo or pack saddles on their backs. Three hours afterwards, as we were ascending the high mountain on the way to Tiquiripaga, we saw frozen blood on the path, and about half a mile further on just this side of Tiquiripaga we met four mounted infantry men on mules, who told us that the little boy had met them the day before and said that his two companions had been murdered by three bad Indians who persisted in accompanying them for two days. They had killed the two men and taken the animals that were carrying the rubber. The boy had gone on to Sorata and given the alarm, and the criminals were being pursued. Eventually two of them were found with all the rubber at a small Indian settlement off the road near the foot of the mountain: they were recognized by the boy and brought to Sorata, where they were imprisoned and convicted. The third man escaped.
I stayed at Manuel’s place that night, and two days later reached Sorata. To my surprise, Gunther told me that word had been brought that I had been killed by the Challana Indians, and that the Government was about to send Captain Cusicanque with some soldiers from La Paz to see what had happened. Word was at once sent to General Pardo that I had arrived and was on my way back to La Paz next day; however, I could not continue for two days, as Miguel and Ricardo required a rest. Before leaving I called on Mrs. Villavicencia to give her letters from her brother and husband, and thanked her for writing them. I told her how well I had been received by the Cacique and the Challanas. I picked up my good black mule which I had left here, and rode the rest of the way to La Paz by easy stages, so as to keep with my men and cargo, getting there on the third day after leaving Sorata. I was met by Captain Cusicanque, and taken down at once to see General Pardo, the President, at his private house. He was very pleasant, and congratulated me, saying he was very glad I had succeeded in getting to Paroma and back. He told me I had managed to do what nobody else had been able to do, and said he would certainly give all the Challana Indians their farms and holdings free, but would not recognize the others, many of whom had escaped from justice. He added that if one of his own countrymen had succeeded in doing what I had done, they would have paid him well, and that I had fully earned my commission, and he hoped I would get it. When I had thanked him for his kind remarks, and shown him the paper given me by Villarde, I weighed myself at the President’s house, and found that
[Illustration: YUNGAS POTTERY RECENTLY DISCOVERED IN BOLIVIA. SAID TO BE 6000 YEARS OLD]
after walking 857 miles by the register of the speedometer, besides many more miles when I did not carry it, riding 210 miles on a mule, and leading a fairly rough life, I was just 10lbs. less than when I left Peru, which goes to show that a trip of this sort hurts nobody, so long as you don’t get the fever. I had enjoyed the journey there and back very much, although I was not in too happy a frame of mind before the meeting of the Indians after what Villarde had told me. However, after I began to talk with them, that feeling soon wore off.
Before returning to Lima, I stayed a few days at La Paz. Miguel was still having attacks of malaria, so I sent him back to Chili, via Oruro and Antofogasta. I gave the big tiger skin to Mariano Penny at Oruro: the length was measured green, not pegged out, 8ft. 11ins. After crossing Lake Titicaca, I took the Puno Arequipa train and got out at Jura to spend a week at the baths on the way down. I went on to Arequipa and Mollendo, and there caught the steamer to Callao, where I arrived on August 4th, 1904, just about a year after starting. Mr. Beauclerk, the British Minister, told me I was supposed to have been murdered, and showed me Lima and Valparaiso papers. I was pleased to see how kindly they spoke about me, and I shall always be proud of those notices, and the many kind letters of congratulation from merchants, bank managers, and editors of newspapers in Chili and Peru which I received. I showed Villarde’s paper to Mr. A. B. Leguia, the Minister of Hacienda Lima Peru, afterwards one of the best Presidents Peru ever had, who paid me his share of the expenses agreed to in the arrangement I had made with reference to the Challana concession, and wrote to the New Company, asking them to take over the concession on the terms originally stipulated.
I then went home, and did not return to Lima until March of the next year.
When I got there, I found to my disgust that the Company which was to have bought over the concession from the Challana Rubber Company seemed to want to back out of it now. I was asked if I would take their representative from the States to the rubber district of Challana, and at once said I certainly would, provided we took in at the same time the goods ordered by the natives to exchange for rubber; otherwise I would not go. I was not going to go back on my word to Villarde, the Cacique, and the settlers, and I told them the rubber was there, balled up and ready for immediate transport, and if they did not see their way to taking the whole £5,000 worth ordered until they had seen the country and inhabitants and formed their own opinion we might take £1,000 worth of things for a start. But nothing came of it, and the whole deal fell through.
Some few years after my return, a Company was registered called the Tongo River Rubber Company. It is a simple matter for others to follow after somebody else has shown the way. The pioneer of any such undertaking, or the prospector for minerals, seldom derives much benefit for the hard times he nearly always has to go through, and the reward is generally reaped by others who would never think of making such ventures until the ways and means were made clear and easy.
THE CABALLO CUNCO TREASURE: FIRST ATTEMPT
While I was stopping for a week at Jura baths, on my return from Challana, Morosini, the proprietor of the hotel, came up to me one day and told me there was a lady staying there who wanted to have a talk with me--Doña Corina San Roman, daughter of the late General San Roman, a former President of Peru. Morosini presented me, and after a few minutes’ conversation she showed me an original document left by Father San Roman to his brother, the Prefect of Callao, and handed down to her by her father, which gave particulars of a large treasure that had been hidden by the Jesuits. She told me that as I had been into Challana, and got back safely, I would be just the man to go and look for it, if I cared to do so, and she made me two alternative offers. If I tried to find the place with the help of the data she would give me, she would pay me £80 per month for the six dry months of the next year, which was as much as I was getting from Mariano Penny for training his racehorses, and if I found it she would pay all the expenses of unearthing it, and give me ten per cent of the full value found. The other suggestion was that I was to take the copy of the document, and go myself, paying all my own expenses, and give her ten per cent of the treasure if I found it. I accepted the second proposition without hesitation.
The document gave no indications as to how to find the place, but simply described the kind of place, and mentioned that it was near the banks of the River Sacambaja. It ran as follows: “If you find a steep hill all covered with dense forest, the top of which is flat, with long grass growing, from where you can see the River Sacambaja on three sides, you will discover on the top of it, in the middle of the long grass, a large stone shaped like an egg, so big that it took 500 Indians to place it there. If you dig down underneath this stone for five yards, you will find the roof of a large cave, which it took 500 men two and a half years to hollow out. The roof is seventy yards long, and there are two compartments and a long narrow passage leading from the room on the east side to the main entrance two hundred yards away. On reaching the door, you must exercise great care in opening. The door is a large iron one, and inside to the right near the wall you will find an image made of pure gold three feet high, the eyes of which are two large diamonds; this image was placed here for the good of mankind. If you proceed along the passage, you will find in the first room thirty-seven large heaps of gold, and many gold and silver ornaments and precious stones. On entering the second room, you will find in the right-hand corner a large box, clamped with three iron bars; inside this box is $90,000 in silver money and thirty-seven big heaps of gold. Distributed in the hollows on either side of the tunnel and the two rooms are altogether a hundred and sixty-three heaps of gold, of which the value has been estimated at $60,000,000. Great care must be taken on entering these rooms, as enough strong poison to kill a regiment has been laid about. The walls of the two rooms have been strengthened by large blocks of granite; from the roof downwards the distance is five yards more. The top of the roof is portioned off into three distinct esplanades, and the whole has been well covered over for a depth of five yards with earth and stones. When you come to a place twenty feet high, with a wall so wide that two men can easily ride abreast, cross the river, and you will find the church, monastery, and other buildings.” Corina San Roman told me that the monastery spoken of in this document was built by the Jesuits in 1635 and abandoned in 1735. The treasure, accumulated from eleven years’ working of the famous gold mines of El Carmen, and the Tres Titilias, and from the gold and diamond washings carried on near Santa Cruz by 2,000 Indians under Fathers Gregorio and San Roman and seven other priests, who died, was all hidden under the hill indicated in this document with the exception of £70,000 for each of the priests. Out of the 500 Indians employed in burying the treasure 288 died of an epidemic of fever in the last three months of the work.
Corina San Roman also told me that her father used to send £25 every Christmas to an old Indian named José Maria Ampuera, who, he said, knew where the hill was. He used to send Macedonia Zambrana, one of his own men, who lived near Cochabamba, with this money and several pounds of tea, sugar and other things. The Indian was paid this to keep the secret, to visit the place from time to time, and to notify him if anybody started exploring there. He used to say he had a good enough income himself, and did not care to risk getting malarial fever in looking for it. He kept the paper himself and gave it to his daughter shortly before he died; she put it inside one of the books in the library, and after his death she could not find it, but her uncle, the brother of the General, who was a priest and lived at Cochabamba, had a copy, which is the one I saw! Many expeditions had been fitted out to look for this treasure. One had been sent by Malgarejo, the President of Bolivia, another was fitted out at Valparaiso in 1895, but both were unsuccessful. Doña Corina told me that her uncle had died in 1896, that Zambrana had not been heard of for the last eight years, and that if the Indian was still alive he must be over 100.
The first thing to be done was to find Zambrana, so in March, 1905, I left La Paz on my way to Cochabamba to look for him. I went first to Oruro by the Diligence Mail, which does the journey of 180 miles in two days, starting at 6 a.m., and changing the five mules and galloping horse every nine miles. The coach stops for half an hour at 9 a.m. for breakfast, and for lunch at 1.30, reaching the rest-house at 7.30 p.m. for dinner, leaving again next morning at 5 a.m., and reaching Oruro at 5 p.m. After La Paz Alto they go full gallop all the way; the driver has a long whip, and a box full of stones to throw at the mules, and an Indian boy, who sits on the step behind, gets off every now and then to flog them. The coach carries nine passengers, eight inside, at $25 each, and one on the box seat for $35, which I took. Luggage and mails are strapped on the top; only 35lbs. of luggage was allowed to each passenger, and the heavy gear leaves the day before in a big mule waggon, and is charged for per 100lbs. Riding on the box seat beside the driver, and driving at a hard gallop across the level high flats 12,500ft. above the sea, through the pure and exhilarating air, under a wonderful blue sky, I found the journey most enjoyable.
The highest place registered on the road was 13,200ft. Oruro is 12,800ft. up.
At Oruro I found that Mariano Penny, the owner of the rich San José silver mine, was away in Chili, and J. B. Minchin, who owned rich tin mines, was also away, but Dr. Shrigley kindly lent me his place on the outskirts of the town, where there was a big walled-in grass field. There I engaged an Indian called José, with his wife and boy, the man to look after my animals, the boy to fag and wife to cook, with another Indian to help with the cargo, and bought four good mules, two donkeys and a horse.
After a stay of two weeks, I started for Cochabamba, riding the horse on the first day, and next day a good little white mule. The journey of 190 miles took eight days’ easy travelling. We started each morning at 9 a.m., and camped every afternoon at 3 p.m., renting an Indian hut for the night. Each evening, after buying fodder for the animals, eggs and mutton, and whatever else was wanted, I generally took the gun for an hour or two, and shot some doves and other birds, which we ate cold for lunch next day.
The first day’s journey was over the high flats, a sandy desert, with little feed for the animals. Indians with llamas, each carrying a small load, passed us frequently on their way to Oruro, and now and then we met long strings of mules, led by their bell mare. The bell mare carries nothing; her job is to lead the mules, and they follow her in single file, stopping only when the bell stops.
The rest of the way was through a more fertile district, which bred sheep, llamas, cattle, donkeys, mules, and even a few horses. I saw Indians ploughing the fields with the same wooden ploughs as were used hundreds of years ago. Occasionally we passed small wooden carts drawn by oxen, with heavy wooden wheels made of one piece.
The crops in these parts are barley, wheat, potatoes and, further on near Cochabamba, maize, ochres and yucas. Fresh mutton can be bought, the usual price being about 4/-to 5/-a sheep; also home-made bread, fowls, eggs, and guinea pigs, ochres, chuño, potatoes, onions, barley in the straw, green barley and alfalfa. The native drink of chicha, made from corn, can also be bought quite cheap every few miles.
The weather was fine the whole time, warm in the day-time, and cool at nights, and the journey was a much more enjoyable one than going down by diligence. There were several rivers to be crossed on the way; between November and April, they are difficult to get over, and people don’t travel much from Oruro to Cochabamba during those months.
Cochabamba stands 8,200ft. high, with a climate which is one of the best in the world; it is never too hot in the day, and cool at night. Rents and living are very cheap. The market master regulates the prices of all meats, beef, mutton and pork. Vegetables are plentiful, and fruit of all kinds may be purchased on the market. There are no hotels to speak of, and no street cars or cabs for hire. The streets are all well paved with stone with a gutter down the centre. All the houses have heavy iron bars to the windows, and big, solid bolts to the doors as well. Murders are not uncommon, and the criminal is seldom caught, which is due not so much to the negligence of the police as to the number of hiding-places where the criminal can easily conceal himself for a time. When a murderer is caught he is made to undergo a public trial in the square of the Court House, and if he is found guilty he is taken to the spot where the crime was committed and shot there. I saw one such trial in Cochabamba. A bad Cholo had asked and received the hospitality of a man and his wife for the night, and while they were asleep had killed them with an axe, and stolen a sum of money he knew was in the house. His bloodstained clothes convicted him, and he was shot. I was told by a man who knew that this was the first occasion for a long time that a murderer had been caught. The cathedral, which is built of stone, faces the big square and garden; the Hall of Justice, military barracks, and police station are on the opposite side. Six hundred priests live in the town. Chiquitos, where the Jesuits found a lot of gold, is twenty days’ journey by mule, and the famous Espirito Santo gold mine worked by them is ten days by mule. There is bear shooting three days away. I rented a nice little house on the outskirts of the town near the river, with large garden and open air concrete bath. Only a very few houses contain proper lavatory accommodation; otherwise they are very well built and quite comfortable. I made this house my headquarters for three years, while prospecting for old mines and looking for the Jesuit treasure. In front of my place were the Municipality grown alfalfa fields for the Government animals; they were guarded day and night by two armed watchmen, to prevent them being cut by thieves. It costs little to keep animals here; barley and alfalfa can be bought by the load, one mule cargo for about 4/-, and two cargoes, one barley and one alfalfa, served for my horse and four mules a day.
Opposite Cochabamba, on the other side of the river, a German Company had a large brewery, and made very good beer; a dozen large bottles cost 2/-, and the bottles cost as much as the beer. Imported Bass beer cost 2/-for one big bottle, a bottle of good whisky 10/-or 12/-, and Three Star brandy 16/-.
After a considerable amount of trouble, I located Zambrana, who lived a day’s ride from Cochabamba. He had not seen old José Maria for many years, and the priest, Father San Roman, who used to pay him, had died, but he said he knew José Maria lived near a place called Cuti, which was thirty-five miles from Palca. Zam, as I always called him, had never been to either of these places, but knew the way as far as a mountain village sixty miles from Palca. He agreed to join my expedition as campman and butcher, get water and wood, and help the cook, so I took him on; he was to find his own mule.
I had two tents made here, one for myself 16ft. by 12ft. and 9ft. high, and the other was 10ft. by 10ft. and 9ft. high; also a strong folding-up canvas catre 3½ft. broad and 7ft. long, which, with a horse-hair mattress, made a most comfortable bed. I also got together provisions for four months: sugar, rice, biscuits, jams, tea, cocoa, coffee, and some tinned meats, salt, ship’s biscuits and other things. Zambrana told me that round about the department of Palca both sheep and flour were plentiful and cheap. The Indian wife of Manuel, the mule man, made splendid bread, and at the different stopping places we often borrowed the use of a bake-oven, and stayed a couple of days to make bread. It is well worth the extra trouble to get good, wholesome bread made with flour that retains all the good ingredients of the wheat, which is always possible if it is crushed by the stone mill process. I also took two dozen bottles of rum, one dozen of the best for myself, and a dozen of a
[Illustration: LLAMAS OUTSIDE THE TOWN OF CANAMALCA]
stronger, but inferior, quality for the men. With the exception of the things I brought out with me, such as Liebig’s Extract, a thing I never travel without, everything was bought from Barber & Co., who traded goods for rubber up the Beni, by advancing money and goods to traders for rubber to be delivered in two years’ time. Alfred Barber was the manager for this firm in Bolivia; in London and Hamburg the firm was Brandt & Co. Of course all the traders who dealt with the firm on the two years’ credit system had to show substantial guarantees in the form of unmortgaged property, otherwise such firms would soon come to grief. Barber himself had to put up a guarantee of several thousands of pounds (a legacy left him by his godmother) to be made managing partner in Bolivia.
On the 2nd May, at the beginning of the dry season, I left Cochabamba with Zambrana, Manuel, his wife and boy; two more men, Mariano and Ricardo, my saddle horse and white riding mule, four cargo mules and a donkey. Zambrana rode his own mule. The first day we got to Anacoraira, below the Turani range of mountains, where I bought a sheep and camped for the night. The road as far as here was an easy one; the surrounding country was flat, with little grass and a few trees, and the scenery was very uninteresting. The next day we climbed a long steep path up the mountain, passing a good many Indians and llamas, also several Indian women tending their sheep, and spinning wool at the same time, with a sling made from llama wool. From time to time they throw a stone at the sheep to drive them on. Half-way up the mountain Ricardo gave out, and I had to leave him with some provisions and tell him when he was rested he had better return to Cochabamba; I was afraid he would not be able to stand going up the heights. We crossed the Turani Pass in good weather at 15,000ft. The height of Mt. Turani is about 17,000ft. We pitched our two tents on the other side at 12,000ft., near some Indians and llamas, who were halting for the night on their way to Cochabamba, with cargoes of wheat. There was plenty of grass about and several pools of clear water, and a running stream. It froze hard all night, and in the morning the pools were frozen over with an inch of ice, which did not, however, prevent me from having my morning bath. Before breakfast I got two partridges. We let the sun warm up the blankets and packs, and we started at 9.30 down the mountain, through a pleasant fertile valley of long flats covered with grass. There were streams running in all directions, and on either side low hills covered with small shrubs and grass. Only a few habitations were to be seen, and near them cattle, sheep, horses, mules and llamas were grazing. At a place called Morochata I hired a mud hut for myself for 2/-, and bought some barley in the straw for the mules and horse. As I wanted to replace Ricardo here, we stayed the next day, and I eventually found and engaged another boy called José. I took the opportunity here of buying flour, got the loan of an oven, and the cook made bread, and we replenished our stock of potatoes and onions, which seemed to do very well here. Everything was extremely cheap. The village consisted of about twenty huts; the land round about belongs partly to the Government, and partly to a gentleman living at Cochabamba, who finds the land, seed, oven, ploughs, mud bricks and thatch for the huts, and keeps a foreman who looks after the property for a small salary, also cultivating his own small piece of land. At harvest-time the crops are divided between the cultivators and the proprietor, who sends in what is wanted from his store at Cochabamba, and takes it out of their share of the crop. I have often thought this system would answer well in other countries besides Bolivia. Next day we continued the journey, and after a few miles came to the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains. The path up the mountain was a long one, but not too steep, and the ground at the top of the pass was covered with a thin layer of frozen snow. The height of this pass was 16,000ft. There are always large heaps of stones piled up in pyramid shape at the top of every pass, and one or two solitary graves with crosses where somebody has passed away. The path down to the river was long and winding, through partial forest, with very few birds, and not many flowers. I got off my white mule, and led her down the hill, wearing the speedometer, or hexemeter, as some people call it, which registered nearly nine miles from the pass to the river. None of the land on either side appeared to be occupied at all, and we met nobody on the road. We decided to pitch two tents just across the river where there was plenty of grass growing on a wide bank and up the hill the other side, plenty of wood and water near, and no dwellings to be seen in the distance.
The country was now new to old Zam, who had never been further than Morochata, the place we left that morning, and the boy, José, said it was another seven leagues from here to the top of the hill this side of Palca, with a swamp to cross over on the way. On these occasions, as we had no bell mare, my chestnut horse, an old hurdle racer from Santiago, was hobbled, and a bell was tied round his neck with a long rope and a stone at the far end for further security. The mules and donkeys would follow him like a dog, and he was always led to the best grazing ground.
The next day, after two hours and a half’s marching up and down hill, we got to the top of another range of hills. At the bottom was a wide green valley, with several small streams; as we came closer we could see that it was very swampy in places, and I was told afterwards in Palca that during the rainy season these swamps are very often impassable for days together. There was only one place where it was possible to cross, and fortunately the boy from Morochata knew where it was, as nobody else did. Even at this place when one of the mules went a few yards off the beaten track, he began to sink, and floundered back only just in time. Palca was some five leagues further on, in the belt of forest at the foot of a valley, and surrounded by hills. In this valley I saw many bushes and flowers very similar to what is seen in Trinidad, which was rather strange, considering that the height of Palca is 7,500ft. and the highest hill in Trinidad is, I think, only 2,800ft. Near Palca are a good many large farms where wheat, barley and maize are grown, and sheep, cattle, mules and horses are reared. I hired a hut on the banks of the river this side of the village, from a very obliging Indian, whose business was tanning hides with the quebracho bark, and decided to take on from him an Indian who knew Cuti, so remained there for the next day. From here there was no real path between Palca and Cuti, only a few beaten tracks leading over the hills to the different Indian settlements. With the exception of a few large farms owned by seven or eight men, who work them on the share system already described, all these vast lands are quite unoccupied and unexplored: there are just a few Indian squatters here and there living far apart.
The town of Palca consists of a few houses and has a church and a priest. It is noted for its excellent brew of chicha, which makes a wholesome and refreshing drink.
The tanner’s wife, a pleasant, civil Indian woman, asked her brother to take me to the ranch of a very old Indian, who lived on a sheep and maize farm at the foot of the Sapo mountain, and who, he said, would know all the old men in the district. He took me there the next day, and I put up at the old man’s house. His name was José, and he claimed to be 99 years old; he knew José Maria well, and said that he was some years older than he was himself. He was a strong, healthy fellow, and had lived all his life in this pure atmosphere. The scenery round here was very fine; the lands for leagues around belonged to a man at Palca, and were worked by several families of Indians, who grew maize, wheat and barley on the share system, and had flocks of sheep feeding on the extensive grass lands between the River Cori Mayo and the forest. José sold me sheep whenever I wanted one for 4/-each, rented me two huts, one for myself and the other for a kitchen, and lent me the oven for 2/-a day. By his advice, I sent Zambrana down the river to José Maria Ampuera with a present of tea, sugar, cocoa, tobacco, matches, biscuits and cheese, and a few pounds of coca leaves, with a note, telling him I had come to look for the treasure with the data supplied by Corina San Roman, and wanted to visit him. Mariano was sick just then with a sort of cholera, which had been brought on by his own greed. On the way to Palca, I had bought half a sack of apples at a farm with an orchard, and he had eaten too many. He wanted to return to his home in Cochabamba, so I paid him off, gave him provisions for ten days, and took the Indian boy from Palca in his stead.
José told me that the Sapo Mountain, as far as he knew, had never been visited for thirty-five years, that there were several abandoned socabons (mining tunnels) there, and that the settlers occasionally washed gold out of the Cori Mayo, so I decided to explore this mountain while waiting for Zambrana to come back. The next day, after breakfast, I rode off on the white mule up a path which José showed me, which led to a dip in the mountain where he said I should find a big socabon. I took Juan and the Indian from Palca with me to clear the path when necessary, leaving Manuel to look after the horse, mules and donkey, and his wife to make bread and attend to the kitchen. It was not more than two leagues to the hollow, but it took from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to get there, as we had constantly to clear the track, which was overgrown in most places, so we went down again, intending to go and look at the tunnel next day. I saw lots of bush chickens in the forest on the way up, and decided to take the gun with me next day. Next morning I took Manuel’s son, Juan, and the Indian boy with me, and rode off with the white mule to explore the socabon. It was situated at 14,200ft. just above the forest line, which stops at about 14,000ft. The view from here was quite magnificent; a vast expanse of country could be seen for miles around, entirely unoccupied except for three or four isolated huts. The socabon was thirty-five yards long, fifteen yards wide, and fifteen high; there was no dump to be seen, and everything had been taken away. The rock was so hard that no timbering up was required at all; in fact, there was not a post to be seen, although there were many hard wood quebracho trees in the forest below, ready to hand. The roof was ventilated in six parts. In the left-hand corner near the entrance it appeared to be hollow on sounding. I took some samples of blue quartz rock and lime from the lode, where the Jesuits had left off. There was no doubt that this was one of the old Jesuit mines, which had been lost to sight and abandoned for many years. There were several other old workings in the vicinity on the mountain, all showing the same clear work, and no dumping. Another big tunnel ran underneath the hill about a quarter of a mile from the first one. This mine had no supports, or timbering of any kind. I saw another tunnel of the same sort high up on the top of the mountain, of the same blue rock quartz. I took samples from the first mine; some of them gave indications only, others which I had essayed later in London by Mix, a mining engineer, gave 2ozs. 3dwt. of gold, and 3ozs. 6dwt. of silver to the ton. The priest at Palca told me afterwards that the lapis lazuli sent to Rome by the Jesuits and the famous chain worn by the Archbishops of the La Paz Province of Ayacucho, called Upper Peru in those days, had come from a mountain called Mount Sapo, but that nobody had ever been able to locate the place, until I found it. On my return to Cochabamba I took up the concession and denounced two hundred per tinencias, which was about five hundred acres. Mr. J. O. Gentry, of Kansas City, a partner of Haggin & McEwan, and the owner of the Cerro Pasco, Peru, told me that if I put on eighty men, got out quartz during the six months’ dry season, and left it there, they would then send one of their mining expert engineers to report, and if the report was favourable they would take it over, putting on as many stamps as the mine would carry, and giving me one-third of the profits. There was plenty of water and wood near and good grazing ground all around, at the foot of the mountain, but up to now I have never been able to get any Company to take up this proposition.
Zambrana returned soon after with an answer from old José Maria, saying that if I would come and see him in a fortnight he would take me to the foot of the hill, where the bulk of the treasure was supposed to be buried.
I spent most of the fortnight doing prospecting work on Mount Sapo, and shooting bush chickens, which were so plentiful that I got them whenever I wanted. One day I winged a big condor at long range, but failed to get him. In the valley just outside the forest, I several times saw beautiful golden and silver pheasants; there were never more than two at a time, and they were always at the same place. They were far too pretty for me to fire at, and exceedingly tame, as were the bush chickens; all that was necessary was just to go to the roosting trees at dusk, and take a chance shot. Two days after Zam got back, I sent him down the valley, to get half a bag of flour crushed by a water-mill, which only cost 3/6, 2/6 for the wheat and 1/-for the crushing. He returned in the evening with a tall, well-made Indian, who asked me to come down and see his boy, aged fourteen, who had a bad attack of malaria. I promised to do so next day, and the Indian returned to his home. The following day I took Zam to lead his mule and my chestnut horse, and the boy to carry my gun, as there were plenty of fat pigeons on the lower ground where the Indian lived. We walked leisurely down the valley along a good Indian path for about nine miles, taking three hours, and got there at 11 a.m. I saw the boy, and gave him some pills, and told his mother and father before I left to give him hot boiled cow’s milk and stop cramming spoonfuls of pearl barley and boiled maize down his throat, which I found they were doing. I shot six pigeons there, and they gave me some cabbages, young onions and a pine. On the way back, I enjoyed the lovely scenery on both sides of the valley. Next day I went to see the boy again, taking the white mule to ride back on, and the red roan mule to bring back two bags of potatoes. I found the boy improved, put him on weak tea and toast, and hot milk, and gave him a dose of quinine, leaving another dose for his mother to give him two hours after dark. I shot four pigeons, and the Indians gave me six fresh eggs and another cabbage. Next day I went down again with the horse, and found the boy much better, and sitting outside. I gave him some quinine, and made him some hot Liebig’s Extract, giving his mother a big pot, and telling her to make him drink three cups a day for four days, and then come up and let me know how he was. I also left a tin of tea and some sugar for her, and two pigeons to grill for the boy. They were very grateful, and wanted to give me all sorts of things; I accepted a young kid, and had it done on the spit next night for dinner.
Four days afterwards, the Indian came with a large bunch of bananas, his wife with two bottles of milk and a fowl, and his little girl with some pines and eggs. I remonstrated with him, but he said I had cured his boy, and so long as I was here it was his duty to bring me supplies, a sure proof that these people are grateful and easy to get on with if properly treated. At the appointed time, we started off to the home of José Maria Ampuera, getting there early in the morning on the second day. The old man told me he would show the hill to anyone coming from a daughter of General San Roman. He said his father had told him that this was the place, and that his grandfather had been with the priests, Gregorio and San Roman, when they hid the treasure. His grandfather and father had been very well off, and owned land and cattle, and he himself had inherited land and cattle from his father. The Bolivian Government took away his land, and eight hundred of his cattle, leaving him only with his present holding and fifty head; this was in Malgarejo’s time, and for that reason, when President Malgarejo came down to the River Sacambaja with half a regiment of soldiers to dig and hunt for the treasure, he refused to show them the place. He showed me afterwards where President Malgarejo prospected for it; they were not very far off, but on the wrong side of the river. José told me how fifty years ago he and his sons found a gold bell weighing 40lbs., which they sold, and bought land and cattle, but in uncovering the tapada some rocks fell and killed one of his boys; he and his other son took this as a bad omen and never tried to find any more. He promised to show me the place where they found it. The reason he had not sent in for his money from the agent of Father San Roman was that after the priest died he did not know to whom to apply, and he thought the family in Lima would be sure to send something in to him.
José thought it advisable that we should go separately to the place where the treasure was, as if people were to see us travelling together they might suspect something and follow us and the law of treasure is very stringent. So he suggested I should go a roundabout way along the valley of the Calatranca Range, cross over the highest pass, and make for the River Sacambaja below, and he would go by a more direct and easier path and meet me down below on the banks of the Sacambaja. I left the cook to go with the old man, and sent Zambrana to Cuti to get a sheep for 4/-and follow on with the old Indian in two days’ time, while Manuel, his boy and the two other men went the other way with the mules and donkey and horse. We camped that night near the path over the mountain, but soon after we had pitched the tents and let loose the mules, with the chestnut horse as bell mare, Manuel brought me the news that there were other travellers evidently going the same way as we were, and that he could see their fire behind us, but he thought it did not matter, as they would now follow us over the high pass. Where we camped there was no forest, only a few hardy trees and bushes growing in the gully; we were 15,200ft. up, very near the snowline. There was a light layer of frozen snow near the camp on either side of the gully, plenty of long tufty mule grass growing all about, and a stream of very cold water with ice and snow on the edges. After the sun went down it got very cold; but we had a good Irish stew for supper, and plenty of everything, and with two big fires going, one near my tent, the other near the men’s, we passed a comfortable night. Next morning after a bath in the cold stream I dressed in front of a big fire, made a good breakfast and started off at 9.30, riding my mule, but getting off at steep places. The path was one of the Inca tracks, broad and well made, cut out of rock, with very gradual inclines, and I was able to ride most of the way. At 11 a.m. the aneroid registered 17,000ft., and at 1 p.m. we got to the top of the pass; the last hour and a half going over frozen snow. I wrote down 19,000ft. in my diary for the height of the pass, and was probably not far off the mark, as the aneroid does not register over 17,000ft., and Lisandro Mendizabal, the wealthy owner of Cuti and the Alcalde of the district, afterwards told me that was very likely the height as the top of the mountain was 21,500ft., and always covered with snow. We were not followed any more. From the cairn of stones on the summit we saw an immense expanse of country; nobody was to be seen, no dwelling and no living thing, except some big white collared condors sailing magnificently in the clear air without any apparent movement. Down the hill we followed the broad Inca and Jesuit road, which is cut out of the rock and in places runs along the extreme edge of the precipice, and after ten miles, of which the last few miles were through forest, reached the River Sacambaja.
José Maria, Zam and Manuel’s wife were waiting down below, and we pitched camp there for the night. Next day, after nine miles of fairly level going up the river, we got to the foot of the Caballo Cunco Hill, where José said the treasure was buried. I pitched my two tents and kitchen on the level river beach which is about half a mile wide, and extends all the way up and down the Rivers Cato and Sacambaja, and Manuel ran up a rough shed for the mules to feed in, and another for himself. There was plenty of wood all over the beach, and the forest all around was full of fat wild cattle. Near the camp just inside the forest was a clear stream of water with some deep pools, and there were plenty of guava trees in the forest. The big Rivers Cuti and Sacambaja were only two hundred yards away, but their water is not very good to drink, as the broad sandy beach is full of nitrate. José Maria told me that in the rainy season, which starts down here in the middle of October, these two rivers form one big sheet of water; the Caballo Cunco Hill becomes an island, and the water is so deep and the current so strong that no one can cross for weeks and months at a time.
José Maria was too old to walk up the very steep path which could be seen leading up to the top of the hill where the big stone was. Next day I went up with Manuel, Zambrana and the two boys, all carrying machetes to clear the way. At the top I found the big stone shaped like an egg; and on looking to right, left and behind we saw the Rivers Cato and Sacambaja down below, running into one main stream. The scenery was exactly as described by the paper in my possession. I took the exact position of the hill, and at once sent Zam to inform Don Lisandro Mendizabal, who lived at Cuti, twenty-seven miles off. The nearest house was José Maria’s, eighteen miles off. Through Don Lisandro I sent my application to the Government in La Paz, who two months later sent down one of their officials with six soldiers to give me the documents of formal possession. These documents still hold good, and are in my possession, signed by the Minister of Mines, and witnessed according to law.
It may be of interest here to give the rules issued by General José Manuel Pardo regarding tapadas (hidden or buried treasure).
“A tapada shall be the property of the finder provided he comply with the following conditions:
“The finder must not absent himself from the spot even for a day until he has been given formal possession. He must notify the owner of the soil, if it has an owner. The finder on finding buried treasure must at once notify the authority appointed by the Government of La Paz, who will at once inform the supreme authorities in La Paz;
[Illustration: THE CAMP AT SACAMBAJA AND THE CABALLO CUNCO HILL]
they will despatch a detachment of soldiers and one or more mining engineers to take out the buried treasure, which will be divided up in La Paz, 25 per cent going to the Government and 75 per cent to the finder.
“The owner of the soil may participate in one half of the finder’s share, provided he comply with the following conditions. Six weeks or forty-two days after the authorities have been notified, he must present himself at La Paz, and give information. He must then within the time specified render assistance to the finder by providing, paying and maintaining thirty men to uncover the tapada. If he fails to comply with these conditions within the time allowed, namely, forty-two days, he loses all rights.”
Keeping my saddle mule down here to use when wanted, I sent Manuel with the horse and the other animals up the valley where the grass was good, telling him to come down in a week’s time for more provisions. José Maria wanted to make himself useful, so I gave the old man the job of bringing down a 4/-sheep and 2/-worth of potatoes every Saturday. One day I asked José how old he was, and he replied he did not exactly know, but was certainly several years over one hundred. He said his father told him the convent was completed in 1705, but in 1745 the Jesuits abandoned Sacambaja, knowing they were going to be expelled from Peru. The remains of the convent, several other buildings, some stone mounds, and the great mud and stone wall still exist.
I started off the excavation by blowing the big, egg-shaped stone to pieces with dynamite. The stone was exactly ten feet high above the ground, five feet below, and fourteen feet wide round the middle. The roof of the cave was covered over by earth and grass for eighteen inches or two feet, except at the end where the big stone was, where it was covered rather deeper. The roof itself was divided into three equal squares, each twenty-five feet long, and the whole roof was, as far as could be judged, seventy-five feet long and thirty feet broad; it was covered all over with stone, cut and shaped like bricks, and large slabs of big slate stone. The partitions were divided by stone bricks, six inches high. All the work was very well and carefully done. After we had exposed the roof, the question was, which side to tackle first. Eventually, I decided to make a start on the south side. Mendizabal, who always took, and still takes the greatest interest in the uncovering of the top of this hill, had sent me a reinforcement of three Indians, or colonias as they are called, whom I paid 1/-per day, and their food, and I replaced Manuel’s son by Manuel himself, letting the boy tend the animals. This made four men and a boy, and myself for the work. We started at 7.30 every morning, and dug away for all we were worth until six o’clock at night, knocking off only from twelve o’clock to one o’clock for the cold lunch and water which we carried with us.
After a breakfast of Irish stew at 7 a.m., we walked at once up the hill, which was so steep that no mule was ever made to go up with more than 50lbs. of cargo. The distance was measured by hexemeter as 2,600 metres. Manuel and the men always got to the top before me, but not by much.
During the whole time I did the crowbar work myself, and the others rested while I was moving the big stones to be rolled down the cliff and through the forest to the river below. After working on the south side for two days, I abandoned that end, as I saw no signs of the hand of a man, and began digging down on the north side facing the River Cato. It was soon evident by many indications that the formation here was the work of man, and not of nature. I found the bones of birds, guinea-pigs, some snail shells that are generally found on trees, and stones and pebbles from the river beach below, and when, at the depth of nine feet, I picked up a wooden cork, and, at twelve feet, a yellow altar slab with flowers nicely engraved on it, there was no longer any doubt in my mind. Mendizabal, who had just arrived with the authorities from La Paz, was of the same opinion. Don Tomas, the engineer, told me that the journey back to La Paz would take them eight to ten days, and they wanted meat, so, before the officials returned to La Paz, we organized a hunt for wild cattle, and got two young bulls and a cow, which we made into charque or dried meat, by cutting them into strips, and then salting them out in the sun. I shot one bull and the cow, and Mendizabal the other with my double sixteen bore Holland and Holland. All the cattle without a brand in Bolivia are considered wild, and belong to the Government, and anybody may catch or kill as many as they like, provided they pay the nearest authority £2 a head on behalf of the State. Mendizabal told me that a few years ago, some twenty days’ journey further, he bought two thousand heads in that way down the River Sacambaja near the Brazilian frontier. He made four trips, two each year in the dry season, and drove down two hundred tame cattle to the vast grassy prairies in the interior where the wild cattle were plentiful. The Indians living there make a business of rounding up wild cattle; they first fence in big tracts of land, and drive numbers of cattle into these open savannas, then they round off a certain number into a corral, and the tame cattle are then allowed to mingle with them, and they are eventually driven off to their new home. The Indians always accompany the herds for the first four or six days for about 10/-a head, and in this way very few are lost. Mendizabal drove back one hundred of the tame cattle with each batch of five hundred of the wild. Don Lisandro also told me he bought his big estancia (ranch) at Cuti, from the Government; it is nine leagues wide, mostly grass with plenty of water. The boundary on the north is the River Sacambaja. There are all sorts of climates on this estate, from tropical heat to the intense cold of the Calatranca Range. When he bought the place, there were one hundred and five families of Indian squatters on the land, whom he valued more highly than the land. They all stayed and became Colonists under him, and he has a code of rules which are just and strict. They all look up to him very much, and call him Tata (father). There is no drunkenness and no thieving. When any man wants to marry, he has to show a hut and a plot of ground, ready for sowing, and enough food in the house for one year, and seed for the next. Everything is done on the half share system, Don Lisandro supplying the land, implements and seed. When the harvest comes round all the grain is taken to the estancia house, and equally divided between him and the growers. They are at liberty to go and work outside whenever they like, provided they get his permission, which is always given except in crop time. I had several of his men working for me at various times, but they never stayed very long; they used to say there was no necessity for them to work outside, except when they wanted some money to buy something. Don Lisandro did not keep any stock, but grew maize, barley, wheat, ochres, potatoes and onions in large quantities; he had sheep and llamas feeding on the higher ground, and horses, mules and cattle on the more sheltered ground. He took great pride in his horses, and bred from a pacer and a half-bred Arab; he was a great believer in the Arab strain. The estancia house, stables, wool-shed, granary and other buildings form a square round a large open yard with grass plots in the middle, and the whole is surrounded by a broad walk twenty feet high, and entered by a gate of the same height, opening from within.
The climate is good and the scenery grand; there is plenty of shooting, and no neighbours nearer than thirty-six miles. There was a horse and mule-breaker and a carpenter kept on the premises. The farm was not fenced in at all, there were merely a few paddocks near the house for convenience, as the Bolivian law does not, like Argentine law, oblige the owner of an estancia to fence it in within so many years, a very expensive item. He has a church, which he built himself, and he keeps it in very good order; the door is kept open from daylight to dark, as the custom is in these countries, and a priest comes from Palca twice a year, and remains a week or ten days. All the produce is sent to Oruro and La Paz by cargo mules.
Don Lisandro said he had often been looking for the Jesuit treasure during the last twenty-five years. He once found a lot of skulls and bones near the convent, and opposite on the hill called the “Negro Muerto,” where the men were buried that died in the fever epidemic. He never found any treasure, but the Indian owner of the Caballo Cunco Hill, that I denounced, had found over £20,000 worth, and he had bought large tracts of land and many cattle and sheep with the money. Just before I left Sacambaja the owner of the soil sent his wife to say he hoped I would be lucky enough to get something, and, as far as he was concerned, he did not wish to participate.
The dry season was now at an end. I left Manuel at the hill, with provisions, as caretaker, and returned in the middle of October to Cochabamba, going on from there to Oruro by the same way by which I came. I disposed of the mules at an advantage. I stayed a few days there, and went on by train from Oruro, which takes two days and two nights, travelling only by day, down to the important town of Antofogasta, the nearest port to Bolivia--and so home.
THE SECOND ATTEMPT
In March of the next year I started off again for the hills to renew the search. I got to Oruro at the end of the month, bought four mules for cargo and a saddle mule for myself from an Argentine trader, and went on to Sacambaja via Cochabamba and Palca. At Cuti I stayed for five days with my old friend Mendizabal, who came on with me to the hill. The first two days were spent in going for wild cattle, as Mendizabal wanted to make some charque for his own use, and I wanted some for my camp; we got four cattle, and divided up the meat.
On the third day I started uncovering the top of the hill, working downwards in a “V” shape from where I had left off. Exactly fifteen feet down I came to a solid mason work, one big square stone; and then a slab of slate stone; this formation went on for twelve feet down. Then I came on a stone cobble path, which I concluded was the bottom of the cave, but there was no sign of any door, so I decided to drill a hole between two blocks of stones. I consulted Mendizabal, and he thought with me that this was the work of man, and not a natural formation. He brought his son and five Indians to lend a hand. Before we started to drill, one old man said we ought to offer up a gift of a cock, some wine and bread, and leave it there for the night. Mendizabal said we must humour these people. So the offer asked for was duly left. In the morning the things had gone! They had probably taken them themselves but swore they had not done so. We pretended to believe them.
We drilled a hole for three feet and a half, and then pushed a thin bamboo twelve feet long through; it appeared to touch nothing except in one corner where it seemed to prod something soft.
Suddenly a very powerful smell began, so strong that it made us all feel bad; it smelt like oxide of metal of some sort. Mendizabal and his son both went home feeling bad, but he got over it in two days, his son felt unwell for a week, but I got over it in a few hours. Three of my men left feeling bad and never returned. The other three men I had went up with me again two days after, and when we were near the top we saw over a dozen big condors, hovering about quite close to the works. Zambrana and Manuel both told me that the three Indians said this was a sign there was something buried inside; they all seemed rather funky, so I said I would give it a rest for a fortnight to let it get well ventilated, bearing in mind what the paper said about there being enough poison inside to kill a regiment. This was on June 3rd, 1906.
On the night of June 4th, the weather completely changed, and at 8 p.m. the thermometer stood at four degrees below zero. In the morning at 7 a.m. it was seven degrees below zero, but at 9 a.m. it began to get warm again, and at 12.30 it was eighty-seven above zero, going down again after sunset quite suddenly. At 8 p.m. that evening it was fourteen degrees below, next day between 12 to 1 p.m. eighty-six degrees above. This was a phenomenal year; there was a black frost every night, and a lovely blue sky all day. On the sixth night after the change had begun, the thermometer actually went to twenty-seven degrees below zero, and in the morning was twenty-eight degrees below. Zambrana said he could not stand the cold nights even with good food, a tot of rum and a good fire, and would have to go home; he promised to return in a month. The three Indians also said they had had enough, and left the camp two days after Zam, also promising to return. I had already sent Manuel to Barber’s at Cochabamba for some provisions, so I was now left quite alone. I made it a point never to let the two fires go out. One night, at about 10.30, I had turned in with a big log fire burning outside my tent door, when I heard a rifle shot, then another and yet another, as though some one was firing a rifle, and the bullets were whistling over my tent. I got out of bed and lay under the bed with my good double-barrel rifle loaded and my colts as well. I counted seven shots, and then came to the conclusion that it was somebody trying to scare me, but with no intention of shooting me. So I got back to bed and shouted out, “Who is there?” Two more shots came in quick succession, and then they ceased. The next morning nothing was to be seen. That night the same performance took place from eight to ten, but this time I did not bother, being convinced it was a case of trying to scare me to leave. This was four days after my men had gone.
After this, I heard nothing further and never found out who fired the shots. Two days afterwards I was very pleased to see four likely looking Indians with their packs come into the camp asking to be taken on. I took them on gladly at 1/-a day, and their food, which was the price they asked. Next day I left one in the camp to attend to the kitchen, and took the other three with me. I decided not to disturb the stones any more, but to go working away to the left, leaving the stone path as a starting point.
The weather continued the same and was even colder at nights, and in the early morning, with tropical sunshine all day. I kept in good health and enjoyed it although it was rather too cold at nights.
One night two men, on their way to La Paz, camped down near the convent, with five mules loaded with coca leaves. During the night one of the mules strayed away, and, in the morning, one of the men left to look for him. His companion remained with the other mules, and, while there, began to uncover one of the numerous tapadas near the north bank of the river. Two days afterwards the other man turned up with the lost mule. They said that as the mules and cargo belonged to them they would stop and finish uncovering the mound of earth and stones, which they did in eight days. The day after they had left, which was Sunday, I rode over on my mule to their camp, about a mile and a half away; and found all the cargo left, and covered over, so that it was clear they had been successful in their search. Some weeks afterwards I heard that they had found the hole full of old silver plate, which I understood they sold for £1,500.
Some days afterwards Manuel arrived with the stores, also Mendizabal, who joined him at Cuti. He told me that when he heard strange Indians had come down to work for me he felt very uneasy, as he did not know them. His wife was also alarmed, and begged him to tell me to be careful not to take anyone who was not sent with a note from him. He also said that three days before, one of the Indian girls on his place had come and told his wife that they had heard that strange Indians had gone down there, and that they were up to no good. She sent me a letter by her husband, begging me to return to the house with him. To my regret, Mendizabal said that though he would have liked to have stayed for a few days he did not dare, for fear of ague. I told him that the weather was the same, beautiful sunshine all day, and very cold at night. I promised him to be careful about the Indians, and wrote to his wife, thanking her for the interest she was taking in me. He then went back with Manuel, who was to leave the mules and horses at Cuti with Mendizabal’s animals, and return to do the camp work and cooking.
The following day I saw José Maria from the top of the hill, crossing the river, and at 2 p.m. he turned up with the usual weekly sheep. He told me Manuel was at his house with a bad attack of malaria, and would come on when he was better.
The four strange Indians had now been with me nearly three weeks; they all worked well, and there was no trouble, and nothing amiss to my knowledge. One morning a few days after Mendizabal left, I went round as usual, after I had got up, to the kitchen fire, which always burned night and day, and was never allowed to go out. To my surprise I found nobody there, and the fire nearly out. All their clothes had gone too! After breakfast, on looking round, I discovered all their food of the night before in the bush about fifty yards off. About two hours after this, I began to feel very queer, and soon my right leg went numb, and then my arm. I at once looked up the symptoms in Doctor Andrew Wilson’s “Symptoms and Treatment of Poisons” which I had with me, and soon discovered that I was poisoned. This lecture went on to say, “When your finger nails become blue, you must make yourself vomit quickly for the time is short.” My finger nails were now turning that colour, so I promptly took some hot tea with salt, which fortunately had the desired effect. The feeling came back to my leg and arm, and I felt all right again. This went on several times a day for eight days, and then every three or four days for two months or more; later these attacks would only come on every fortnight or so, and I did not get properly well for a year or more. When I got to La Paz in November, the doctor said I had had enough poison in me to kill twenty men, and the prompt measure I took every time the attacks came on had saved me. At La Paz they gave me strychnine, which made me worse instead of better, and sometimes I was very ill. In England the treatment was altered to arsenic, and I at once began to pick up. Nobody knew what the poison was, but all were convinced it was poison, and not fever. Next year, however, I found out that it was the Aba de San Ignacio, or the Saint Ignatius Bean, which is very much like a Lima bean, and grows on a vine. On the way home in November of that year, I met a fellow passenger, who told me that three years before he had been poisoned in exactly the same way, with the same symptoms as myself, and that some Indians who saw him showed him the bean, and told him it contained strychnine. I found later that this was quite correct; the remedy is arsenic.
The Indians left the camp on July 5th, leaving their last week’s pay behind them; I never saw them again. From the day they left until October 23rd, the start of the first rains, nobody came to the camp, for I had told old José Maria not to bring down any more sheep until I advised him by messenger, as I had nearly a whole bullock hanging up both fresh and dried. During these weeks, I generally pottered round the camp, and now and then went up the hill for a change, when the poison fits would allow me. I shot several doves, which were very tame in the mornings before the sun melted the frost. The temperature twice touched forty degrees below zero, and the average from the beginning of June to the middle of September was twenty-two degrees below zero at 7 a.m., and eighty degrees above at 1 p.m.
One morning soon after daylight, a fine-looking mule came and stood outside my tent, I put a rope halter on him, and tied him up to a tree, and a few hours after, the owner came up on another mule with two Indians. He thanked me profusely for catching his mule, but asked me how I managed to put the halter on. I told him it had been quite easy, as I had found him standing outside the tent early in the morning. He then told me that the mule had never yet been handled, and was one of a hundred mules and horses he had bought for his farm, at the yearly sale of animals, held on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This mule and another one had strayed away from his camp three days ago, and he said he was sure the other one had been killed by a jaguar, and this one, seeing my camp, came and stayed for protection. After taking some refreshment, he and his men left the mule I had caught with me, and followed up its spoor to look for the other. Next day about 2 p.m. they returned, having found the second mule killed, and partly eaten, in the forest to the north of the River Sacambaja. Two nights after this occurrence, I was awakened in the night by a stampede of cattle in the forest, the other side of the stream, where my drinking water came from. In the morning I counted twenty head of cattle on the beach, the other side of the Cato River, which showed that jaguars or pumas had come up from the forest below. The following day I was gathering wood near the camp, and just as I got to the tent I looked up, and saw a magnificent black panther, or puma, walking slowly along the beach on the south side of the river Sacambaja. I rushed into the tent and got my rifle, and just managed to fire a hurried shot at the beast as he was entering the forest. I put the sight at three hundred yards, and missed him; the bullets seemed to strike the ground some few yards behind. I was sorry, for he was rather a rare specimen of the black panther, I think. He was too big for a puma. I examined the beech for signs and saw the spoor of three or four jaguars or pumas, and came across a big fat cow which they had killed near the forest, close to my fresh-water stream on the other side. As it was just then clear moonlight every night, I sat up and watched on this side of the stream, just opposite the cow, for five nights. The only thing I saw was a big brown fox, with a splendid brush, which, one night after I had been waiting for an hour, appeared, stopped, looked at me for a minute and trotted off. He was certainly the biggest fox I had ever seen, and could easily have been shot, but I let him go for two reasons: first, because I was waiting for larger game, and second, because no one who had ridden with the Duke’s pack would have thought of doing such a thing. After five days, the cattle left the beach, and returned to their feeding ground, which showed that the jaguars and pumas had gone too. I was now more careful about my two big fires, which were kept going night and day, one in front of my tent door, and the other near the kitchen; they served two purposes, to frighten off any wild animals, and to keep the camp cheery and warm at nights. One morning after breakfast, I was on the edge of the cliff, half-way up the Treasure Hill, taking a look at the surrounding country, to see if anyone was coming my way, when I saw an Indian come out of the forest on the south side of the River Sacambaja, walk along the beach, and cross the river to my side. Thinking he had come from Mendizabal with a message for me, I did not hurry back, but walked slowly down. When I got to the stream, I saw the Indian calmly walking off with a big load of my charque (dried beef) on his back. I shouted to him, but he took no notice, and hurried on faster across the first arm of the river; so I took my rifle from the tent, and fired two shots at him. I did not want to kill him, and deliberately fired a few yards wide of the mark, which answered the purpose. He dropped the charque and a good long llama wool rope as well, and when I fired two more shots for luck he ran as hard as he could along the beach, and disappeared into the forest at the other side, while I carried back my beef and his rope.
It was now the middle of September, and the nights and early mornings began to get warmer, but the thermometer still registered seven degrees or four degrees below zero. The first week in October the cold spell ceased, and the nights became more pleasant, and one could sleep comfortably with three blankets on instead of six. The nights continued to get warmer, but not too warm, and the mosquitoes now began to appear, of all varieties, spotted ones and big black ones. I hung up my big net on the hooks in the centre of the tent, and the larger net as well on the inner side of the tent to cover table, bed and other things, and they did not disturb me.
On October 23rd, Mendizabal, his son and several attendants arrived at the camp. He told me Zambrana had died a few weeks after he left here, also the assistant cargo man, and that one of the other men was so bad with fever that when he felt better he started back to Cochabamba, and had taken six weeks to get there. As soon as Mendizabal heard about the four Indians, and the poisoning, he told his son to return to Cuti, take six of the native police with him to the village where these men had said their home was, and bring them down here. He told me he was sorry I had let off the Indian thief, but said it would do him a lot of good, as he would probably think he had been lucky to get away. I had not been troubled with the poison symptoms for some weeks, but the day after Mendizabal arrived I had another attack which was, however, not nearly so bad as the others had been, and only lasted a day and a half. Three days after he had left, his son came back with the news that he had found the huts where the men lived, but they were not there, and had not been to their homes for over four months. The head man of the village had been told to have them arrested and brought to Cuti, when they were found.
I told Mendizabal that the best way, in my opinion, to uncover this big tapada was to work systematically, and uncover the whole of the side I was now working on, up to the end of the roof, as indicated by the formation; it would take six months and require twenty-five workmen. He kindly arranged to provide me with twenty-five of his own good Indians for the next season, I to find wild cattle meat, and he the rest of their food. I was to pay them 6/-every Saturday night, and whenever one wanted to return to his home he was to do so at the end of the week, and another would be sent to replace him. If we succeeded in finding the treasure, it was agreed that I should, at my own expense, go to Arabia, buy him the finest Arab stallion that money could procure, bring him over myself, and deliver him to Mendizabal at Cuti. If we did not succeed next dry season, he said he was willing to go on every year till we gave it up or found the treasure. We started for Cuti on November 1st, just as the wet season showed signs of coming on, leaving Manuel and one of Mendizabal’s men as caretakers. I left Cuti two days after getting there, and went home, intending to return and begin the work again next April on the terms agreed upon. On the way I met a coloured man on the shore at Guayaquil, who was hawking round a queer-looking animal about two feet high, or rather longer, with a tail some eighteen inches long, and paws like a bear. It was stuffed with long grass, and cost me 10/-, turning out eventually to be a bear with a tail. In his book on wild animals, Rowland Ward says, “Amongst the rarest of animals is a bear with a tail; this animal is known to exist, is very rare, and only to be found in the forests of Equador,” and this was where the man who sold it to me said he got it. When I told Mendizabal, he said there were several in the forest near where we were working at Sacambaja.
THE THIRD ATTEMPT
Early in April 1907, when I had recovered from the poison, I returned to Oruro, getting there in time for the great Indian Market at Juare. I bought five fresh cargo mules at the market, and engaged a man, his son, wife and daughter to cook for me and look after the camp as far as Cochabamba. The women rode on two donkeys. At Cochabamba I discharged them, and picked up Manuel’s son and another man to look after the mules and horse, and his daughter to cook and look after the camp on the way, and arrived at Mendizabal’s place at Cuti on May 4th.
Mendizabal had bad news, old José Maria Ampuera was dead. He had gone down one day with a sheep for the two caretakers at Sacambaja, who signalled to him not to cross the river, as it was too high. He insisted, and in mid-stream his horse lost its footing, and was taken off its legs by the current, but managed to get ashore with the old man on his side of the river. He rode back to his home, got fever that night and died of the effects a few days after. He was 110 years old, according to his own reckoning, but Mendizabal said he was probably older. He was a little deaf, but, otherwise, had all his faculties about him; all his teeth were in good order, and he had never been to a dentist in his life; he could eat ship’s biscuits without soaking them, and take a tot of rum without showing it. He used often to ride down from Cuti with a sheep for me, and go down the river next day another nine leagues to get bananas, oranges, pines and other things. But for this accident he would probably have lived some years longer.
Mendizabal’s Indians now begged him not to ask them to go down and work at the Caballo Cunco Hill. They said it was so unhealthy that many would die, and if they were to die they preferred to die in their own homes. Three of the eight men that had worked there last year had died, and the dead nigger hill was exactly opposite. They told him they would go anywhere else for him, or his English friend, but implored him not to ask them to work down there. However, I went down with Manuel and his family and all the gear, and Manuel and I went up the hill and worked alone most days, while his wife and daughter attended to the camp, and the boys stayed with the mules. The weather was perfect, eighty-two degrees at 1 p.m., and seventy degrees at 8 p.m., and I sent Manuel up to tell Mendizabal, who soon came down with the priest and his two head men. They stayed a week cattle hunting, and tried their best to convince the Indians that last year was a phenomenal year, and probably we should not have one like it for a long time; but it was no use, they could not be persuaded. Mendizabal then decided to send a letter to his friend Solis at Palca, who owned a big estancia, some leagues from there with over a hundred families of colonias. In the meantime, there was nothing to do, but wait.
I often tried to find one of those bears with a tail that Mendizabal said existed here. Several times I saw the track of what he said were tree bear, but I never even saw one.
On 4th June Mendizabal sent me down a note, saying there were jaguars (or tigers as he called them) about again; that the night before they had killed three mules and a colt, four miles further down the river from where I was, and that they had laid down poison.
Three days later he wrote again that the poison was no good; they never touched the carcasses again, but killed another of his mules and four of the Indians’ llamas. He said he had laid down more poison.
Next day came another note saying that they never touched the poison, but had gone further up my way, that there were several, and the tracks showed big footprints, and smaller ones which looked like two lots. He promised to come up next week and get up a hunt.
A few days later the cattle came out of the forest, and remained about the beach, showing that jaguars or pumas were disturbing them, and soon an Indian came from down the river, and told me that if I came with him for a mile or so along the beach he would show me the track of several pumas. I went along, and he pointed them out, but I told him I thought the pads looked too big for the pumas, and were more like jaguars, the larger ones anyway. That evening about nine o’clock, we heard animals moving in the bush, on the other side of the stream. Manuel looked carefully out, and saw what he thought was a big jaguar gazing over at the fires; he pointed it out to me, and soon after it moved off. I got the rifle and sat near the kitchen fire, but I did not see anything again. In the morning we found several tracks on the edge of the forest on the beach, only thirty yards from the fires. They were spoor of jaguars right enough, there had been at least two of them. In the morning the cattle were still on the beach, showing that jaguars were still about, and in the afternoon Mendizabal, his son, and ten of his men arrived with several dogs, and pitched his tent near mine. He had poisoned the dead animals, but the jaguars had left them entirely alone, whether by instinct, or because they were not hungry, I do not know. That night at about 10, when we were just thinking of turning in, and were sitting with our rifles by the fire watching the edge of the forest, on chance of anything appearing, a big fellow showed himself about seventy yards off. We could make out the form, but not the colour as, although the night was clear and the moon bright, he was in the shadow on the outside of the forest. I had a shot at the body of the beast, and he turned round sharply, and entered the bush again. We both thought he was hit with the ounce ball, and in the morning we found marks of blood in his track. Quite near the place where we saw the jaguar, we came across the dead body of a big black cow, which had been killed and partly eaten by the beasts. We cut her up, and appropriated all the meat, deciding that it was of no use to poison it, as experience had shown that the jaguars would not return to poisoned meat. The Indians then followed up the spoor of the wounded jaguar, and we told them to be careful, and return if they saw that he had gone into the thick of the forest. They came back and said that he had gone into the forest, and must have been badly hit. In the afternoon the Indians and the dogs went along a path at the edge of the forest, which the wounded animal had made for last night, while Mendizabal and I waited about a mile further down in an open spot, the other side of an arm of the Sacambaja. Nothing came out and soon the jaguar was found dead by the Indians. It was a well marked male, in very good condition, and measured 7ft. 11ins. when skinned. A week afterwards the Indians found another jaguar, a female, that had been shot by some one else, and brought me the skin. It was smaller than the other, but a better colour, and measured 7ft. 7ins. I have still got both of these skins. Next day Mendizabal and his men left.
Three days after our big jaguar hunt and two days after Mendizabal and his men had left, an Indian came to the camp early in the afternoon to tell me he had seen what he called a black tiger. He said that the beast was well known to the Indians for leagues round; it was very savage and as large as a big donkey, and killed cattle and mules frequently. They were afraid it would take to killing people. I thought the size was exaggerated, and in fact I took it to be an unusually large black puma. As the native told me he had seen it cross the path in the forest about two leagues from the river on the other side and nearly opposite my camp, I hoped to be lucky enough to get a shot at it, so I crossed the river on my good little white mule, and walked about or sat on logs of wood on the banks. About 6 p.m. I was rewarded by seeing the beast. He crossed the path in the forest, walking slowly about two hundred yards up the hill. I took my father’s good double barrel sixteen bore rifle by Holland and Holland, put the sight at three hundred yards, fired, and missed him; the bullet appeared to strike the ground just about a yard or two exactly below him. The Indian had not exaggerated; he was no black puma, he was a black jaguar and seemed to be as large as the one I got on the banks of the Challana River, which was 9ft. 2ins. long. He was black and looked in splendid condition, and I thought what a pity it was that Mendizabal and his son Juan were not with me, as if we had all of us taken a shot at him one bullet would have hit him. Anyhow, I am sorry to say I was duffer enough to miss this beautiful and rare specimen and never had the luck to see him again.
The next morning after my bathe in the river, I took my gun with me and strolled along a small stream that runs into the big river, to have some pot shots at the parrots as they settled on a big wild cotton tree. This tree was a very favourite one for birds of all sorts to alight on, and nearly every morning and evening you could be pretty sure to get either parrots or bush chickens for a savoury stew. Before I got to the big cotton tree, I saw a young bull calf standing in the stream, about a year and four or five months old I should say, fat, and in nice condition. He was standing on three legs and easing his near fore. On closer examination I found that he had been wounded in that limb, so I thought to myself somebody has been after the wild cattle, never thinking for a moment it could have any connection with our late cattle hunt. I returned at once to the camp and brought Manuel with a lasso, which we threw over his neck. With the help of four Indians we dragged the calf ashore and after killing and skinning we found that one of my bullets had penetrated the flesh, injured the bone, and lodged in his leg. The only way I can account for it is this. When we were shooting wild cattle five days before, one of the three that fell to my rifle was a big fat cow, I aimed behind the left shoulder and hit her just above the root of the tail, breaking the bone. We went up and killed the cow with a shot in the head behind the ear. There were seven or eight head of cattle stampeding in a body quite close to us, and as they passed I aimed at the big cow with the result described, and the bullet must have glanced off the cow, and lodged in the shoulder of the year and half old calf. So I had killed two head of wild cattle with one shot, which does not occur very often, I should say. The wild cattle live all through the forest round hereabouts; you can see their fresh dung in different Indian paths every now and again. There is very little grass about and yet the cattle are all in good fat condition; the natives say they eat leaves from the various trees and guavas. My mules got very thin on being turned into the forest to cater for themselves, and the only thing they seemed to go for was the wild guava. When I found they were losing condition I sent Manuel’s son José up the mountains on part of Mendizabal’s estate to cure the mules and graze them, leaving only my white saddle mule and one of the donkeys in camp, with plenty of barley in bundles for them. Another reason for sending them up the mountain was that the dun coloured mule had been bitten by a vampire bat three weeks before. I healed it up and washed it every day, morning and night, with lysol and water and plugged it up with a little cotton wool dipped in balsam, sprinkling the withers over with a powder of iodoform and zinc mixed, to keep off the loathsome Verni fly.
One day while walking up the long steep path to work, I was stung on the back of the neck by a big black ant, called tucanderos. The sting was very painful, and swelled up as big as a walnut, but I cured myself by hot fomentations, and the application of young castor oil leaves, which grew everywhere about. The ants measure an inch or more; the males are black, and the females brown; they are fortunately not common.
On one part of the Treasure Hill just where the big egg-shaped stone blasted out, there were also dozens of big scorpions, of which I preserved a few. No one was stung by them. A few days after Mendizabal left, one of his mountain Indians, who came down with a sheep, eggs, butter and other provisions, told me that there was a Condor Real (King of the Condors) which lived up the mountains near his shepherd’s hut.
He said there were several common condors with the Condor Real, which was much bigger than any condor he had ever seen before. This man had lived all his life in the high Andes, and was, therefore, competent to judge.
It will be interesting here to quote what Baron von Humboldt says about these birds in his book “Earth and Sea”:
“The condors of the Cordilleras are the biggest birds that fly. They are black with a white collar; the females are just as large, but are a coffee colour brown and have no collar. They live at a height of fourteen to sixteen thousand feet and measure anything from tip to tip from 7ft. to 14 ft. The Condor Real or King of the Condors is a pure white bird, and measures as much as twenty to twenty-five feet from tip to tip. In the whole range of the Andes, I do not think twenty-five exist.”
I arranged to go to the home of the Indian the following week, and he agreed to sell me a llama for 28/-, which we would kill and leave near the place where he had seen the big bird, and then I would try to get him with a rifle. I gave him a note to Mendizabal, telling him about it, and asking whether I might go to his shepherd’s hut in eight days. He readily gave me permission, and very kindly sent down his favourite Arab grey to bring me up to his place, so that my saddle mule could be kept for the mountain climb. He also said he would come with me both for the sport, and also to see his sheep feeding in the mountains.
Six days later I left on Mendizabal’s horse, starting after breakfast at 7 a.m. It was nine leagues to Cuti, and all uphill. At about 7 p.m., when it was just dark, and the stars were out, but not the moon, I got off my horse to walk down a few yards for a drink of water, and not taking sufficient care and notice of the path I stepped over the side, and slid right down the steep bank, dragging the horse with me, till I fell up against a big rock with the horse against me. I helped him to slue round, and scramble up again, and, by hanging on to his tail, I got dragged up again. I found that I had hurt my back and side so much that I could not mount, and I had to sit there in my white tropical clothes, with my big poncho over me, for the whole night. In the morning, at daylight, an Indian came along, and, with his help, I mounted and rode the three miles down to Mendizabal’s place. This piece of stupidity kept me on my back for four weeks, and the worst of it was that I had to give up the Condor Real, and it was six months before I could do without plaster or bandage. Three weeks previously a man fell over this same spot, and when picked up dead his body was in a pulp.
While I am on the subject of the Condor Real I will relate what I was told by C. Franc, whom I met with his wife and sister at Jura. His father who was a very good shot, and extremely fond of sport in the Andes, heard from the mountain Indians that there was a big white bird far larger than any condor living in the mountains, at the back of Inquisivi near some old abandoned mines. There were several white-necked condors guarding the King of the Condors, and bringing him food. No house was near and nobody was working there. The father, who had a fine collection of birds in his house in Italy, knew at once that this bird was a specimen of the Condor Real. He got two of the men to accompany him and his mule men, and started off with provisions for a fortnight. They camped near some of the abandoned mines, killed two llamas they had brought for the purpose, and abandoned the carcasses about half a mile from his camp. The next day the white-necked condors began to fly down and circle round the dead llamas. His father and the men remained watching, quietly, in the camp, and on the third day the big white bird was seen feasting on one of the dead llamas, with some of the other condors sitting at a distance, and others hovering overhead. He started, very carefully, to stalk the white bird, so as to get a sure shot, but, when he got a little less than three hundred yards away, the big bird looked as though it were disturbed, and fearing he might miss his chance he fired, sighting the Winchester at three hundred yards, and was lucky enough to kill the bird stone dead. But as soon as the other birds saw what had happened to their King they began to circle round over him, making angry noises and flapping their wings, so fiercely that, though he saw the big white bird lying still, he was afraid to go nearer, and thought it prudent to return to the shelter of his camp in the mines. The condors came flying round his camp, flapping their wings angrily against the entrance of the mines. All that afternoon and the whole of the next day, the condors kept flying about the mine close to the entrance, flapping their wings and shrieking. On the third day everything seemed quiet, and they ventured out again, only to find that all the white-necked condors had gone, and the big white bird had disappeared too. He said there was no doubt that the condors had carried away their King. This was in July, 1903, and the next year he made a special trip out from home to try and locate the bird again, but was unsuccessful. A Condor Real is worth a good sum, I should say about £500 or more. Before closing with the Jesuits and their mines and treasure, I will relate three instances of discovered treasure that came to my knowledge. All three finders were personally very well known to me. The first concerned a very rich gold mine in Peru, which we will call the Monte Cristo mine, formerly worked by Jesuits, and abandoned by them when they were expelled from Peru. A captain formerly belonging to an English cavalry regiment was staying at San Francisco a few years ago, and made friends there with a Jesuit Father, who told him he had all the papers relating to the rich Monte Cristo mine, with all directions where to go and how to find it. He said he would hand the captain the papers if he liked, and should he succeed in locating the mine he could denounce it and give the priest ten per cent of the proceeds. The captain gladly accepted on these terms, and eventually found the mine and denounced it.
I must explain here that there are strict rules laid down by all the republics of South America and British Guiana, which have existed for hundreds of years, and which are called the old Spanish Laws of Mines. These rules are meant to prevent mining concessions lying idle, and once ground is applied for, and old mines or new ones denounced, when the concession is granted the mines have to be worked and must not remain idle. Often the owner, who either cannot afford to work the ground or else has no intention of doing so, simply pays up the annual rent to the Government of the country, which is not a very costly thing to do, and then calmly waits for some big Company to come along and give him a good lump sum for doing practically nothing. This happens occasionally, but not very often, as Company owners know the mining laws, and most of them are not in the habit of throwing money away for nothing.
Here are some of these rules:
(1) After a discoverer has denounced a mining property and asked for the concession, a notice shall appear for fifteen days in any newspaper of the district. Should no opposition be made at the end of that time the concession shall be granted.
(2) Forty-two days after the concession has been granted a stone monument at least three feet high, with four corner stones, must be erected, and then possession will be given.
(3) Forty-two days after possession has been given work must be started, two men to be employed to each hectare applied for.
(4) If the discoverer does not comply with these conditions the mine may be re-denounced by anybody, and the original discoverer loses all right to the ground.
(5) Anyone re-denouncing the claim must, after notifying the Minister of Mines or his agent, put an advertisement in any paper published and sold in the district, calling on the original owner to comply with the law within fifteen days, and also paste up a copy in the District Court House. If he does this, and the owner of the claim does not comply with the law and gives no satisfactory reason for his delay to work his mine according to law within the said time of fifteen days, he loses all right, and the mine is then transferred to the re-denouncer.
Two years after the captain had denounced the rich old Jesuit mine, Monte Cristo, he returned ready to start work and re-develop the property, but on arriving there he was disagreeably surprised to find work going on in full swing. He was told by the manager that his discovery had been re-denounced by Don Fulano six months after he left, under the Mining Laws No. 3 and No. 4 quoted above, and as neither he nor his authorized representative had answered the notice as per Rule No. 5 quoted, after fifteen days it was made over to him, and he worked it with a considerable number of men for eight months, and then sold it to a company for £72,000. The manager said the Company gave him a salary of £1,200 a year. He told the captain it was very hard lines on him, but it showed how fatal it was to denounce a rich discovery and apply for a concession, until he was certain of being able to comply with the mining laws. The captain was so disappointed and grieved at his loss that he immediately went on a shooting trip into the forest, where he got malarial fever and died.
A similar thing happened to me once. One year I bought two good saddle mules, hired some cargo animals, two men and a boy, and went shooting guanacos, and vicuñas, and looking for old mines in the Cordilleras. I was away for four months, and during this time I came across a good many Indians who lived there with their sheep and llamas far away from any town, and in some cases miles from the nearest neighbour, and they showed me many old gold and silver mines and one copper mine. I made a note of them all, and took samples from each one. On returning to civilization, I denounced one, not the best, but a good mine, paid the dues, and exactly a year afterwards forfeited the property through not complying with the law respecting labour. The man who re-denounced it put on forty men for six months, and sold it to a Company for £7,000. Personally I think the mining law respecting the proper working of concessions a very good one and most fair. You should always be careful not to denounce unless you know you are going to derive benefit by doing so. There are many people who are quite ready to reap the profits of any rich find, but who would never dream of taking the trouble, and going through the rough preliminary work of finding them.
The second instance I am going to relate refers to a great silver mine in Bolivia, which we will call San Carlos, and which was worked by the Jesuits and subsequently lost sight of for many years when they left Peru. In this case there were two partners concerned, both of whom I know personally; the one was a rich man who found all the money for expenses, and the other a well known mining engineer, who did the rough part of the work, and went to locate the lost mine. After two years among the Indians they showed him the place, and he was guided there by two Indian girls. The mine was opened out and proved to be so rich in silver that in a few years the two men were worth half a million sterling and over. This mine is still in work, and still belongs to the finders, whom we will call Don Alfredo and Don Jorge. Don Jorge died, and left his share to his eldest son, who has extensive properties at home and in Bolivia, is a good sportsman, and divides his time between England and Bolivia and Chili. The other partner is still alive and enjoys the income derived from his half share. Many workmen are employed on this property, and much expensive machinery has been erected. In this case no one received any benefit except the discoverers.
The third case was that of a gentleman whom we will call Mr. Clarke from San Francisco. He got hold of some documents relating to an old Jesuit mine, which we will call San Martin, and which they had worked till they left Peru. There were a lot of silver bars ready for shipment, supposed to be buried in this mine, and he started off with the documents to locate the place. He found nothing but a big high hill; the place to all appearances had been covered over by a slide of earth and stones caused by the earthquake shocks of 1842 and 1867. However, he began the work of uncovering this big mound, with the help of two men and a boy. Clarke had a few thousand pounds to start with, and after working away for fourteen years with a few men, never more than five and sometimes not so many, and being convinced he was on the right spot, he went to the States to see his brother, who had done pretty well with his horses in South America, and try and persuade him to help. His brother, however, did not believe in this old mine hunt and refused to stand in. But Clarke found another man, a manager of a big store, who thought he was on the spot right enough, and offered him £40 a month of his £60 monthly pay, to enable him to employ more labour. In two years’ time he removed the big mound of hill and found the mine. Six months afterwards the bank shipped on Clarke’s account silver bars worth £400,000. He gave his friend £3,000 in cash, and £1,500 a year for life, and continued the working of the mine, which proved a valuable one, making his friend manager with an additional salary of £1,500 a year. Clarke died in London a few years ago, leaving £2,000,000.
Upper Peru, now called Bolivia, was always considered by the Incas as the richest part of the Empire. The Jesuits came to the country some years before the last Inca Chief died, and found and continued to work many of the richest gold and silver mines belonging to the Incas, prospecting and exploring the Andes and the tropical rivers all the time they were in Peru. They thought so much of Upper Peru for its great mineral wealth that they actually plotted a revolution against the Government, their idea being to form a republic of their own in the country that is now Bolivia. It was for this reason that the Government of Lima, on discovering this plot, expelled them from the country.
The Jesuits never worked for long at a mine that was not a good one, and in prospecting for old mines the good can always be told from the bad by the way they have been worked. There are many fabulously wealthy mines which have been lying idle since their times, and up to the present have never been denounced. I personally know of several, gold, silver, copper, lapis lazuli, quicksilver and others. I have a sample of copper out of a lode six feet wide taken from one of these old mines, which gives fifty-nine per cent of copper and is still undenounced. Mining companies, instead of sending men to prospect for new fields, would do well to send and look for some of these abandoned Jesuit mines.
In the provinces of San Juan and Rioja in the Argentine and in Bolivia I have seen many so rich that the lodes are actually in sight and no dump is to be seen. The famous silver mines of Potosi, to which I have already referred, gave in three hundred years a total value of £340,000,000 worth of silver, and is still giving £40 to £50,000 worth a year. The Cerro Potosi is 15,400ft. high, the town 13,200ft., and the atmosphere is so rarified that many children die soon after birth. The Indians in this district eat clay dumplings which they put in their stew. Then there are the silver mines of Muanchaca, 13,200ft. high, which exported 8,000,000ozs. of silver annually between 1892 and 1897, till the lower workings of the Pulacago mine were flooded with water.
The silver mines of Oruro for years yielded 1,700,000 ozs. a year, Colguechaca 1,500,000, and Guadaloupe, 700,000. The most valuable tin mines are those on the Huanuni near Oruro; there are others at Inquisivi, Tres Cruces (?), Arque, and other places. I discovered one at the Tres Cruces that was afterwards taken up and sold for £19,000. The tin mines of Bolivia are very rich, and the higher altitudes seem to yield a bigger percentage than the lower, and the workings are more accessible. I once located a tin property that gave at 13,000ft. 9 per cent, 15 per cent at 14,000ft., 25 per cent at 15,000ft., and at 16,000ft. as much as 60 per cent, according to samples essayed at Lima. The same thing happens in the case of gold, silver, and copper; the richest mines are often found in the most inaccessible places.
Prospecting for old mines is a rough life, but when your journeys take you along the Cordilleras you are sure of a healthy and enjoyable time in an exhilarating climate. You have bright sunshine all day and freezing cold at night. There is a fair amount of sport to be had on these trips, and it is advisable to take both gun and rifle. For the gun there are geese, duck, martinettes, partridges, woodcock, and snipe; and for the rifle you get jaguar, bear, wild cattle, puma, vicuña, deer, guanaco, and the white-collared condor, the biggest bird that flies. On several occasions when I was far away from any kind of civilization, and there was no habitation in sight so far as the eye could see, vicuñas have remained staring at me, and allowed me to get up quite close to them before galloping off. I remember once suddenly coming across a herd of eleven vicuñas, which stood up in a line not more than fifty to seventy yards off, and remained stationary for quite two minutes; they were wondering I suppose what object it was that suddenly appeared on a big black mule. They looked so graceful that I did not disturb them and never fired at all. I have shot them for their pelts when the Indians have told me the fur is at its best, and on two occasions for meat when we ran short; their flesh is not very nice to eat, but not quite so nasty as llama. I managed also to get three puma on these prospecting trips; one was a pretty good one measuring 7ft. 7ins. when green, another was 7ft. 2ins. and the third 6ft. 7ins.
While on one of these trips to locate silver mines and bring back samples for a German firm, I was travelling one day with fourteen cargo mules, two saddle mules, bell mare and horse, and happened to be riding along with a gun in front about half-way up the forest, with my boy walking behind carrying the rifle, when I heard some poujil. I got off the mule to get a stalking shot, and on turning the corner just round the bend came on a magnificent jaguar, lying down sunning himself on a green bank not twenty yards off. I was much relieved when he got up and trotted quietly away into the jungle. These beasts will never attack a man in daylight unless they are hungry or angry. The natives in the interior of Bolivia near Santa Cruz hunt them with the spear, rifle, and dogs, when they can locate them in the savannas or grass plains, and the Government pay them £2 10s. for each skull, as they are known to be dangerous man-eaters. But they only go after men when they get too old and inactive to catch wild cattle, deer and pigs. It is also said that once they have tasted human blood they prefer it to any other kind of food.
In spite of all the trouble I had taken, I had eventually to give up the search for the treasure on the Caballo Cunco Hill. Neither Solis Mendizabal nor I could get the necessary number of men to continue the work satisfactorily, and we tried several times to form a small company from Chili to go into the work, and also to uncover the many smaller tapadas that still remain intact near the convent and the church, but without success. Colonel Trollope, of Lord’s Castle, Barbados, who was interested in the project and promised me the money to take over fifty men from Barbados in 1912, unfortunately died before this could be done. A well known mining engineer came all the way from Tacna at my suggestion to look at my handiwork, and see whether he thought what was being uncovered was the work of man or nature; I have his report in which he forms the same idea as I do.
Now what has this big cave been dug out of the mountain side for, and why has it been covered over with so much care? Not for any amusement, I am sure. The only thing I know for certain is that José Ampuera found a big gold bell there, sixty years ago, but ceased excavating because one of his sons was killed by a piece of rock. Then there is the case of the two mule men, who uncovered one of the numerous smaller tapadas, and in eight days took out £1,500 worth of treasure. I still have hopes of being able to bring, say, forty men from the West Indies for each dry season, May to September, and finish the job. It might or it might not be a success; who can tell?
A NOTE ON BOLIVIA AND HOW TO TRAVEL IN THOSE PARTS
It may be of use to intending travellers in Bolivia to say a few words in conclusion, first about the country in general, and then about the equipment that is necessary for such journeys as I have described.
Bolivia may be divided into four zones.
First: Peaks and mountains above the line of perpetual snow.
Second: The great plateau between the heights of 8,000ft. and 14,000ft. At this altitude the atmosphere is the purest in the world; people consequently live to a great age. Besides the old men I have already mentioned, another old man of the Andes is fresh in my memory. A few years ago while I was looking for old abandoned mines in the most out of the way parts of the Cordilleras, travelling very often over the same paths as the Incas had used, I was told of an old Chilian patriarch, who had at one time been wealthy, but had a lot of his property confiscated by the Government, after the revolution of Balmaceda’s time, as he had backed the wrong horse. He was still pretty well off, and retired to the Cordilleras and built himself a fine stone house and stables, in a beautiful fertile valley about 9,000ft. above the sea. I stayed with him and his wife for three days. He told me he was 97, and his wife 82. She looked older and more fragile than he did. He told me that a few leagues off there lived a wealthy old Argentine, called Don Antonio, who had lived in the Andes all his life, was 127 years old, and had married his fifth wife. I went to visit him, and was received by a pretty woman, whom I asked whether I could see Don Antonio. “He will be sorry he missed you,” she said. “He has ridden to San Juan” (which was eight days off by mule-back), “and will only be back next week.” She very kindly put me up for the night, and told me she was the old man’s fifth wife, and had been married ten years, and was now twenty-seven years old.
This part of Bolivia is the home of the beautiful chinchilla fur. The chinchilla is only found in certain parts of the Andes, and lives at 15,000ft. to 16,000ft. There are three classes, the Chinchilla real, the Moskat and the Raton; the first is by far the best, but the second is not bad, and looks beautiful when seen by itself, but when seen side by side with the first looks quite common.
When wealthy merchants send some one to buy up these skins from the Indians, they must take care to pick out a man who knows the difference between the three classes of skins. I knew a big firm once that sent the wrong man and lost heavily over the buying up of these rare skins; the Indians had sold him a lot of the second class skins (the Moskat) as the Chinchilla real. But their representative had never been further than the railway train could take him, did not know Spanish, and had never done any travelling with mules; in fact, he was an absolute greenhorn at the work, and got badly swindled. On the other hand, I met a man who had been in the mountains for six months, and had bought a good lot of skins from the hunters for a New York firm, and sold them at a profit of £8,300; he got 1,800 of the Chinchilla real and 1,700 of the second class. Once when I was on a mine-hunting job far away from any town, I bought several of the Chinchilla real skins for £1 10s. each and sold them at £50 per dozen, and at the same time I bought some second class for 2/6 each and sold them at £6 per dozen. I could have bought many more, but had not the cash with me.
Third zone: Semi tropical valleys 4,000ft. to 8,000ft., in my opinion the finest climate in the world. Not too warm in the daytime and cool at nights. All kinds of fruit grow at these altitudes, and there is plenty of shooting of different varieties to be had without much trouble.
Fourth zone: Low lying lands of the Beni, Madeiro, Mamore, Tipuani, Challana and other tributaries of the Amazon, and lands sloping to the River Paraguay. This is a great rubber country in the interior; very beautiful and very unhealthy. To get to it you have to cross the highest ranges of the Andes. There is plenty of game, but it is very hard to get at. In this zone you find some of the rarest and most beautiful orchids known, as well as gorgeous butterflies, lovely creepers and tropical plants, and flowers in wild profusion.
The Mamore district is full of rubber trees of the best class. It is calculated that six hundred trees give 30 to 40 arobas of rubber during the first month; in the second month the trees give less, and in the third less still, so that a good seringuero must know when and how to tap. In wet weather the trees give more latex, but the quality is not so good, as water mixes with it. Only the bark must be tapped, and there is a fine of £50 for cutting down a tree. Several methods are employed for coagulating the latex. Here is one of them. The latex is poured into a wooden bowl two feet long, half a foot wide, and a foot and a half deep, and a solution of alum and hot water is poured on it, causing coagulation. In order to compress the latex, a heavy wooden bar is inserted into the cavity of a tree, and heavy logs of wood, or big stones are suspended at the end. One night is sufficient for the rubber to become white. This method was discovered by Strauss. Another method, supposed to be the best, is to place the latex near a fire, and stir it round continuously with a stick; this makes it remain a dark brown, nearly black. For every estrada the Bolivian Government charge a rent of 32/-yearly, payable in advance, half yearly. If any half yearly payment is not paid, the concession may be confiscated and taken up by anybody else. An estrada measures 150 by 150 metres, and contains anything from twenty-five to one hundred trees. A good rubber property means a thousand estradas or more. Trees are supposed to be at their best from twenty to one hundred years old; after fifty years they do not give so much latex, and after one hundred they give still less. Most of the seringueras are in the hands of rich merchants, who have given them goods up to the value of twenty pounds, and even over one hundred pounds or more on credit; consequently, the picker is usually in the debt of the merchant. The life is a hard and unhealthy one. Some rubber experts say that plantation rubber will go back after twenty-five years, and will not contain the same degree of elasticity as the wild rubber; if that is so, it will be a heavy blow for the plantations. I am not in a position to say either way. But it is pretty well known in Brazil that in San Paolo the rich Dumont Coffee Estate, to satisfy its shareholders, planted rubber at 2,100ft. Only the Ceara did at all well, and that gave very little latex; at ten years old the rubber trees planted on this estate proved a complete failure.
The chief tribes of Indians in Bolivia are the Quichua, Aymara and Guarani. All the principal towns here have schools, doctors, and many lawyers, but very few dentists and not many undertakers. Approximately there are in the country:
Whites 250,000 Half-castes 500,000 Tame Indians 1,000,000 Savages or Untamed 250,000
The people are hospitable, and the Indians are quite easy to get along with, if you go the right way to work, though of course there are good and bad, as there are in most parts of the world. The dry season is from April to October, and the other months are wet. When it rains in the forest, it snows in the mountains. The limit of forest is 14,000ft. and the snow line 16,000.
It will be seen by the short description given in this book that Bolivia, or Upper Peru as it was until 1805, was one of the richest parts of the Inca kingdom. Many of the remains of the work done by these people can be seen still, and some of them are kept in good repair, especially the old roads which they used. One of their famous stone bridges is still in existence and kept in repair. In Bolivia you have every sort of climate, from the most freezing cold of the Cordilleras to the steamy atmosphere of the tropical forest. Hundreds of rich old mines still remain to be re-discovered in the mountains, which are known to many Indians but to very few whites. I suppose I know of about as many as most people, all accessible, and most of them very rich. It would pay any Companies interested in silver, gold, copper or tin to send some one to locate some of these old workings; and take samples. Personally I enjoy those long mule rides in that healthy atmosphere, and hope to go again on another trip.
For successful travelling in Bolivia, two things are necessary--to be in the best of condition physically, and to have the right outfit and equipment.
The following outfit is the final result of my experience in what was necessary for crossing the passes of the Cordilleras and traversing the steamy tropical forests.
Shoes for all your animals and nails, rasp and pairing knife.
A good roomy native saddle, not a heavy one, for your mule, and a light roomy semi-military saddle for your horse.
A good pair of blunt spurs.
As many strong raw hide nets as required for the cargo.
Plenty of blankets, thick and thin.
A big canvas saddle cloth for the back of each animal.
(The blankets go on top and serve the double purpose of preventing the animals backs from getting sore, and keeping the men warm at night.)
A piece of canvas well oiled and dried to go over each cargo.
Two tents--one for yourself and the other for the boys.
Two buckets, two pots with iron legs like Kafir pots, one big one and one little one.
A good big kettle and a small one.
A Collins’ axe, and a cutlass of the same make.
Plenty of rope of Llama wool and a halter of the same for each animal.
A thick long horsehair rope to put round your tents to keep away snakes.
Some cowhide boxes for your clothes.
Thick socks or stockings made by the Indians. (These can be bought at the market in La Paz or Oruro--English socks are no good).
A good pair of shooting boots.
Several pairs of alpagatas.
Pair of scales.
Plates and cups of enamel ware.
A folding canvas catre for yourself.
A few loose boards for nailing on to thick branches of trees for a floor to your tent is advisable.
A pick and spade.
A good rifle (personally I have mostly used a fine double barrel Holland and Holland sixteen bore, given me by my father, with very good results).
A good breach loader.
A big six shooter.
Aneroid to mark up to 20,000ft.
Canvas folding bath.
Small medicine box.
Rum and whisky.
Old port and old Madeira.
Plenty of coca leaves for barter and to give away.
Some tools; nails and screws.
Two or three horn lanterns.
Plenty of soap.
Each mule should carry half a challona, which you can buy off the Indians living on the slopes of the Cordilleras.
Some sugar and rice, sufficient for the trip.
Tinned meats to be used when wanted; at once when opened taken out of the tin and not kept after using.
A big mosquito net, and a small one, to be used as occasion may require.
Fifty pounds of ships biscuits.
Coffee, tea, cocoa.
A small basket with a naptha stove, small kettle, pot pan, etc., to be used when required in your tent.
A vicuña wool mask and night cap of the same material.
A good pair of sheepskin or bearskin gauntlets.
Two pairs of wind and sun glasses.
Panama hat and cap.
Crowbar and drill.
Miner’s hammer and dynamite.
Gold pan and quicksilver.
Big carriage umbrella.
Thick poncho (rug with a hole cut in the middle).
Seat stick, pulley and tackle.
No. 5 is the best all round shot to have your cartridges loaded with; but it is as well to have an odd few charged with buck shot as well.
Three or four scout watches, and
Anything else you think you need.
* * * * *
A MERRY BANKER IN THE FAR EAST
(and South America)
By WALTER H. YOUNG (Tarapacá)
New Edition. Crown 8vo. =6s.= net.
Mr. Walter H. Young was formerly of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, and is the late General Manager in Chile of the Bank of Tarapacá (now the Anglo South American Bank).
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“Mr. Young is at all times racy and frank, lively and piquant. He is a _bon vivant_ of a type which we pray may never become extinct.”--_Daily Telegraph._
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THE ADVENTURES OF A TROPICAL TRAMP
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CAPT. C. A. W. MONCKTON
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With numerous Illustrations
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LAST DAYS IN NEW GUINEA
Being further Experiences of a New Guinea Resident Magistrate
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THE REAL MALAY
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ALSO AND PERHAPS
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THE CIVILIANS SOUTH INDIA
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THE FORESTS OF INDIA
By E. P. STEBBING
Professor of Forestry, Edinburgh University; Author of “Stalks in the Himalayas”; “The Diary of a Sportsman Naturalist,” etc.
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* * * * *
RIFLE & ROMANCE IN THE INDIAN JUNGLE
Being the Record of Thirteen Years of Indian Jungle Life.
By MAJOR A. I. GLASFURD (_Indian Army_)
With numerous Illustrations by the Author, and Reproductions from Photographs. Crown 8vo. =12s. 6d.= net.
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By MRS. W. W. BAILLIE
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THE DIARY OF A SPORTSMAN NATURALIST IN INDIA
By E. P. STEBBING
Profusely Illustrated from Photographs and Sketches by the Author. Demy 8vo. =£1 1s.= net.
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BYGONE DAYS IN INDIA
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[A] This coffee, grown in the Yungas Valley, near La Paz, is famous all over the world for its excellence and flavour. It should be toasted with sugar and ground up the same day; when mixed half and half with Costa Rica, it is hard to beat.
[B] N.B.--This is one of the old Inca Laws, and still in force with all Indians who are colonials, that is, who belong to an Estanciero, and work for him on shares.