Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/2
Orders — Investigation of routes — Lake Rogoaguado — River Beni — Chanchamayo — Cuzco route — River Madre-de-Dios — Gold mines of Carabaya — Route through the cities of Truxillo, Caxamarca, Chachapoyas, Moyobamba, &c. Preparations for the journey — The start.
On the 4th of April, 1851, Lieutenant Lardner Gibbon, of the navy, arrived at Lima, and delivered me orders from the Navy Department, of which the following is a copy:--
NAVY DEPARTMENT, February 15, 1851.
SIR: The department is about to confide to you a most important and delicate duty, which will call for the exercise of all those high qualities and attainments, on account of which you have been selected.
The government desires to be put in possession of certain information relating to the valley of the river Amazon, in which term is included the entire basin, or water-shed, drained by that river and its tributaries.
This desire extends not only to the present condition of that valley, with regard to the navigability of its streams; to the number and condition, both industrial and social, of its inhabitants, their trade and products; its climate, soil, and productions; but also to its capacities for cultivation, and to the character and extent of its undeveloped commercial resources, whether of the field, the forest, the river, or the mine.
You will, for the purpose of obtaining such information, proceed across the Cordillera, and explore the Amazon from its source to its mouth.
Passed Midshipman Lardner Gibbon, a prudent and intelligent officer, has been selected to accompany you on this service, and is instructed to report accordingly.
This, together with a few instruments, necessary for such an expedition, will be delivered to you by him.
Being joined by him, you will commence to make such arrangements as may be necessary for crossing the Andes and descending the Amazon; and having completed them, you will then proceed on your journey without further orders.
The route by which you may reach the Amazon river is left to your discretion. Whether you will descend the Ucayali, or the Huallaga, or any other of the Peruvian tributaries, or whether you will cross over into
Bolivia, and, passing through the province of Yongas, embark on the Mamoré or Ytenes, or whether you will try the Beni or any other route to the Madeira, and thence to the Amazon, the state of the information which you have collected, under a former order, will enable you to decide more judiciously than it is possible for the department, with the meagre state of its information upon the subject, to do.
It is not desired that you should select any route by which you and your party would be exposed to savage hostility, beyond your means of defence and protection.
Neither is it desirable that your party should be so large, on the one hand, as to excite the suspicion of the people, or give offence to the authorities, of the country through which you may pass, nor so small, on the other, as to endanger its success.
You are, therefore, authorized to employ a cook, servant, guide, and interpreter, and to provide them with such arms as it is customary only for travellers generally, in that part of the world, to carry for their own protection. And these arms you will have returned to you at Pará [Brazil].
The Navy Agent at Lima [Peru] has been instructed to furnish, upon your requisition, the necessary articles for the outfit of yourself and party, and to honor your draft for a sum not exceeding five thousand dollars, to cover your expenses by the way. As these expenses will be mostly for mules and arrieros, boats and boats’ crews, it is supposed that the sum named will be much more than sufficient. You will use of it only for the necessary expenses of the party.
The geographical situation and the commercial position of the Amazon indicate the future importance, to this country, of the free navigation of that river.
To enable the government to form a proper estimate as to the degree of that importance, present and prospective, is the object of your mission.
You will, therefore, avail yourself of the best sources of information that can be had in answer to any or all of the following questions:
What is the present condition of the silver mines of Peru and Bolivia — their yield: how and by whom are they principally wrought?
What is the machinery used, whence obtained, and how transported?
Are mines of this metal, which are not worked, known to exist?
What impulse would the free navigation of the Amazon give to the working of those mines? What are their capacities; and if the navigation of that river and its tributaries were open to commerce, what effect would it have in turning the stream of silver from those mines down these rivers? With what description of craft can they be navigated respectively?
What inducements are offered by the laws of Peru and Bolivia for emigrants to settle in the eastern provinces of those two republics, and what is the amount and character of the population already there? What are the productions? The value of the trade with them — of what articles does it consist, where manufactured, how introduced, and at what charges upon prime cost?
What are the staple productions for which the climate and soil of the valley of the Amazon, in different parts, are adapted? What of the state of tillage; of what class are the laborers; the value of a day’s work; the yield per acre and per hand of the various staples, such as matté, coca and cocoa, sugar, rice, chinchona, hemp, cotton, India-rubber, coffee, balsams, drugs, spices, dyes, and ornamental woods; the season for planting and gathering; the price at the place of production, and at the principal commercial mart; the mode and means of transportation? With every other item of information that is calculated to interest a nautical and commercial people.
You will make such geographical and scientific observations by the way as may be consistent with the main object of the expedition, always bearing in mind that these are merely incidental, and that no part of the main objects of the expedition is to be interfered with by them.
It is desirable that you should bring home with you specimens or samples of the various articles of produce from the Amazon river, together with such seeds or plants as might probably be introduced into this country with advantage.
Arriving at Pará, you will embark by the first opportunity for the United States, and report in person to this department.
Wishing you a pleasant journey and a safe return to your country and friends,
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
WILL. A. GRAHAM.
Lieut. WILLIAM L. HERNDON, U. S. Navy, Peru, or Bolivia.
As the choice of route was thus left to my discretion, this, in connection with the best and most efficient mode of carrying out my instructions, became an object of much consideration with me.
As I had some time previously received intimation of the intention of the department to issue such orders, whilst in Valparaiso and Santiago I had sought what information was to be had there, and conversed with many persons regarding the routes through Bolivia and the navigability of the Bolivian tributaries of the Amazon. Two interesting
routes presented themselves through this country: one from Cochabamba by the river Mamoré, a sketch of which had been given me by Mr. Bridges; and the other by the Beni, (also a confluent of the Madeira,) which seems nearly a terra incognita.
Palacios, an officer of the Bolivian government, who had made some explorations in the country between the Mamoré and Beni, and who visited and navigated on the Lake Rogoaguado, (the existence of which has been a subject of dispute among geographers,) describes the Beni, between its sources and Los Reyes (about half the course of the river,) as being much obstructed by shoals, with very narrow channels, and broken up into rapids, of which he enumerates twenty-two. He thinks, however, that flat-bottomed iron boats would overcome many of the difficulties, and navigate an immense distance up. He says that in some parts of the course of the river are found veins of silver and gold, salt springs, coal, lime, and (in Tequije) diamonds. I think that his description of the Lake Rogoaguado would be a valuable contribution to geography; for though it is evident that his account is not exact, or even correct, yet it settles the point that there is such a lake, and that it does not give rise to many of the large rivers that empty into the Amazon, as was long supposed, and as is so represented in many maps. I give a translation:--
“The supreme government, being desirous of ascertaining if the great Lake Rogoaguado had communication with the Beni or proceeded from it, directed me to explore it for the purpose of facilitating communication between that river and the Mamoré. For this purpose I directed the construction of a boat and commenced my journey. I set out from the town of Exaltacion, (a village on the Mamoré, some distance above its junction with the Madeira,) the nearest point, and directed my course W. N. W. 15 miles, to the estate (estancia) of Santa Cruz, passing (a mile and a half from this point) the river Iruyani, which runs to the N. E., and appears navigable. Its sources are unknown; but it is supposed that it rises in some swamps situated in the flat country about Reyes, or that it runs from the Beni. At this estate of Santa Cruz there is a somewhat flat hill of 300 yards in height, and composed of white ‘soroché,’ the generator (criadero) of gold. It is constantly covered with grass and trees, among which are found those producing the India-rubber.
“Hence I directed my march W. ¼ N. to the estate denominated San Carlos, which is distant twenty-four miles from the first, and is situated among morasses, with some eminences, the good pastures of which maintain large flocks of cattle. The course from here was N. W.,
and at the distance of nine miles I encountered the Lake ‘Ibachuna’, or, of the winds, which is twelve miles broad and twenty-four long from north to south, and whose outlet runs among swamps into Lake Rogoaguado, known likewise by the name of Domú, on whose banks yet exist traces of the ancient tribe of the Cayubabos, who now form the population of the town of Exaltacion.
“Not finding the boat which I had ordered finished, I embarked in a small canoe and directed my course towards two islands in the lake, about three miles from the shore. These are elevated a little above the surface of the lake, which has not more than a fathom (braza, 66 inches) of depth in this part, and are covered with an impenetrable thicket. On the following day I launched the boat; it was 33 feet (12 varas) long, 3 ⅔ feet wide, and 2 ¾ feet deep. It rocked much, and I directed too small canoes to be lashed, one on each side, to serve as counterpoises.
“I weighed from my port with a course N. W. ¼ N. At the distance of fifteen miles I encountered a stream which served as an outlet, and was connected with another small lake called Yapacha, towards the N. E. I changed the course, coasting along W. N. W. for nine miles, continuing on other nine S. W. ¼ S.; thence I changed to south twenty-four miles; to S. W. 4 ½; to S. ¼ E. 13 ½. So that I sailed upon a bow-line” (much he knew about a bow-line) “with a depth of 2 fathoms (brazadas.) running six miles the hour.(!!)
“At the capes, or prominent points, I landed, and observed that the belt of woods surrounding the lake was narrow; and that outside of this the pasturages were so great that they formed a horizon, or could not be seen across. On one occasion I set fire to them, and saw towards the N. W. the answering smoke of the fires of the Chacobos savages. The country of this people was afterwards explored. The tribe was found to consist of three hundred souls; and among them were people white and ruddy.
“I continued on E. ¼ N., and having navigated twelve miles, the north wind came on so strong, and raised such a sea, that I was in danger of shipwreck. I therefore landed and remained twenty-four hours, employing the time in examining the mouth of the rivulet called Ibachuna, where there were large morasses.
“I travelled the next day with oars against the wind, bailing the water from the boat continually. The course was N. N. E.; and eighteen miles brought me to the point whence I originally sailed.
“The lake is of good and clear water. It has a bottom of oxide of iron, with 2 fathoms (brazadas) of water. There are many fish and rays, crocodiles and porpoises.
“In the woods there are almonds of various kinds and superior quality. Towards the east there is another small lake called Puaja, whose waters (united with those of Rogoaguado and Yapacha) form the river Yatachico, or Black river, which is a confluent of the Mamoré. I presume the Yata Grande is only an arm of the Beni from the clearness of its waters, from the declivity of the land towards the Mamoré, and because its sources are not found in the Steppes, (Llanos) there only arising from the Black river of the Lake Rogagua of Reyes, which is a confluent of the Beni.
“The navigation of the Yata Grande is a matter of interest; and I would have attempted it when I descended the Mamoré had I had at my disposal an armed party, which is absolutely necessary on account of the multitude of savages which dwell upon its banks; nevertheless, I did ascend to its first rapids, where there is an abundance of pitch. The Iruyani should be explored for the same reasons as the Yata Grande.”
It was suggested by Mr. Pissis that I should take the route of the Beni on account of the honor of discovery, and the addition I should make to geographical knowledge; and General José Ballivián, ex-president of Bolivia, who was then in Valparaiso forming plans for revolution in that country, which he afterwards endeavored to execute, but without success, strongly urged me to take one of the Bolivian rivers; but an unanswerable objection to this in my mind was, that such a route would bring me into the Amazon very low down, and make the necessity of ascending that river to its sources; a work which would occupy years in its execution, and probably break down a much stronger man than I am.
Upon my arrival in Lima, I immediately set to work to investigate routes. The best informed people of Peru are wide awake to the importance of opening an inland communication between their territories to the east of the Andes and the Atlantic, and many attempts have been made to secure the aid of government in the opening of such a communication. From time immemorial a jealousy has existed upon this subject between the people inhabiting points on the three most feasible routes; that is, that of the valley of Huanuco, that of Chanchamayo, and that of Paucartambo, to the eastward of Cuzco. This jealousy originated in the fact that the valley of Huanuco, the first settled, at one time supplied all the coca that was used in Peru. The people of that valley saw in the opening of the Montaña of Chanchamayo a rival interest that would decrease their gains, and at one time they had such interest at Court as to get an order dismantling the
fort that had been built in Chanchamayo, and breaking up the roads. The Tarma people never forgave this, and in 1808 Urrutia, the Intendente of that province, addressed a pamphlet to Abascal, the Viceroy, setting forth the advantages of the Chanchamayo, and depreciating the Mayro or Huanuco route to the Montaña.
“Surely, surely,” says he, (and I entirely agree with him,) “nothing but the especial concitation of the devil (thus interfering with the conversion of the heathen) could have induced the government to so suicidal a step as to break up so thriving a colony as that at Chanchamayo.” He says that he can scarcely refrain from tears at thinking to what it would have grown in the twenty-five years that have been lost between then and now. He writes with earnestness; and probably would have succeeded in obtaining the aid of the government, but that the cloud of the revolution was then above the horizon, and Viceroy and Intendente soon had other matters to think of.
In 1827 General La Mar again ordered the opening of the Chanchamayo country. The direction of the work was given to my acquaintance and very good friend General Otero, then prefect of the department. He pushed the matter of opening the roads with success for some time; but the roughness of the country, the difficulty of obtaining supplies, and the steady hostility of the Indians, interposed so many obstacles, that the work languished and was finally abandoned; the Indians taking possession of the few plantations that had been made.
In 1847, however, the people of Tarma resolved to take advantage of so fine a country so near them. They republished the pamphlet of Urrutia; made an appeal to the government, and themselves broke into the country under the lead of Colonel Pablo Salaverry. They drove the Indians over the rivers of Chanchamayo and Tulumayo; and Don Ramon Castilla, the President, (ever alive to the interests of his country,) sent a company of eighty soldiers, under a captain in the navy named Noel, with engineers, artificers, tools and supplies, and constructed the little stockade fort of San Ramon, at the junction of these rivers. Under the protection of this fort the Tarma people have begun to clear and cultivate, and the former desert is now beautiful with the waving cane, the yellow blossom of the cotton, and the red berry of the coffee.
Juan Centeno, deputy in Congress from Cuzco, in strong and earnest terms advocated the propriety of taking the Cuzco route, telling me that ten thousand dollars, appropriated by the government for the survey of the river Amarumayo, now lay in the treasury, waiting the
proper time and man to take it up; and that he had no doubt but that I might organize a surveying party and employ this money for that purpose. It was a tempting proposition, but I feared the proverbially dilatory action of the Peruvian government; and what I had seen in the journals of Smyth and Castelnau regarding the efficiency of the cooperation of Peruvian officials, revived school-boy recollections, and brought to my mind Virgil’s
This route had, moreover, the same objections as that by the Bolivian tributaries; that is, that it would bring me into the Amazon too low down. It is, however, a route of great importance, and well worth investigation. Señor Centeno placed in my hands a pamphlet (“El brillante porvenir de Cuzco”) written by the confessor of his family, an Italian Franciscan, Father Julian Bobo de Revello, in which the advantages of this route are strongly and ably argued; and which argument induced the above-mentioned appropriation by the Peruvian government. The Father declares that he himself, in visiting the valleys of Paucartambo, in company with Don José Miguel Medina, prefect of the province, saw from the heights of Acobamba an interminable horizon of woods towards the N. E.; and in the midst of this immense plain, the winding course of the great navigable river Madre de Dios. He labors to prove that this Madre de Dios is the same river which, under the name of Purus, enters the Amazon a few days’ journey above the Barra de Rio Negro.
There is no doubt that there is a great unknown river in these parts. Every expedition made into this country brought back accounts of it, and represented it under various names — such as Amarumayu; Tono; Mano; Inambiri; Guariguari; and Madre de Dios, according to the nomenclature of the various tribes that live upon its banks — as great, and containing much water — (Grande y Caudaloso.) It is impossible to say whether this river turns to the N. N.W. and joins the Ucayali, flows straight N. E., and, as either the Yavari, the Jutay, the Jurus, the Teffe, the Coari, or the Purus, empties into the Amazon; or, flowing east, is tributary to the Beni. It is, of course, likewise impossible to say whether or not it is free from obstructions to navigation; but it is reasonable to suppose, from the fact that the country through which it flows (supposing it to take the general direction of the rivers there and run N. E.) is very far from the Andes on one side, and the Cordillera Geral of Brazil, which form the obstructions to the Madeira, on the other, that it is free from impediments for an immense distance up. This route, however, takes its importance, in a commercial point of view, from the following facts:--
It will be recollected that I stated, in the preceding chapter, that the defeated followers of Almagro, hiding themselves in the valleys and dens of the broken country to the eastward of Cuzco, called Carabaya, discovered, in the small streams that dashed down from the neighboring Cordillera, washings of gold of great value — that they built villages, and sent immense treasures to Spain.
In the month of June, 1849, two brothers named Poblete, seeking Peruvian bark in the valleys of Carabaya, discovered grains or pits (pepitas) of gold in the “Gulch” of Challuhuma. They were soon joined by other hunters of bark; the news spread in the province; companies were formed; and petitions made to the board of miners for titles: quarrels arose about priority of discovery and rights, and the paths were broken up, and bridges and rafts for crossing the rivers destroyed, so that, up to the time of my information, little had been done in gathering the gold.
It appears from an official letter of Pablo Pimentel, sub-prefect of the province of Carabaya, in answer to certain questions propounded to him by the Treasury Department, that the mining district is situated in the valleys to the N. and E. of Crucero, the capital of the province, and is reached from that place by the following routes and distances. (It will be as well to premise that Crucero is situated in about latitude 14° south, and longitude 74° west from Greenwich; and that to reach it by the nearest route from the Pacific coast, one should land at Islay; and travelling on horseback through the cities of Arequipa and Puno, he will arrive at Crucero, by easy stages of fifteen miles a day, in about twenty days.) From Crucero the route, running to the eastward, and crossing the Cordillera at probably its highest and most difficult pass, conducts the traveller to the small and abandoned village of Phara, forty-two miles from Crucero.
Here he puts foot to ground, and travels seventy-two miles (four days’ journey) to the banks of the great river Guariguari; although his provisions and implements may be carried to this point on mules or asses. He crosses this river on a perilous swinging bridge, called Oroya, and makes his way thirty miles further towards the north without any broken track, save an occasional one made by the bark hunters. This brings him to Challuhuma.
This valley, or gulch, is from thirty to thirty-six miles long from the top of the mountains, whence descend the three small torrents which form the auriferous stream called Challuhuma, to its entrance into the Guariguari; but it is calculated that only about a fifth part of this can be worked, as the other four parts are hemmed in by precipitous rocks
on each side; and to turn the course of the river at these parts, so as to get at its bed, would be about as easy a task as to remove the Andes.
Pimentel supposes that from the time of the discovery, in June, to the date of his letter, in November, about one hundred thousand dollars had been collected; but that the best parts had been worked, and such success was no longer to be looked for. He says, moreover, that the difficulty of obtaining provisions and supplies is very great, from the small number of persons engaged in agriculture, the general laziness of the people, and the difficulty of transportation.
It is quite evident that Pimentel is disposed to throw difficulties in the way, and to distract attention from Challuhuma by dwelling upon the undiscovered riches in other valleys, and the great vegetable wealth of the country a little to the eastward of it. Other accounts from this district give a different version, and represent Pimentel as a party in one of the mining companies, and interested in keeping secret the true state of affairs. The quarrel on this subject ran very high in the department of Puno, and even the motives and conduct of General Deustua, then prefect of the department, and now governor of the “Provincia Littoral” of Callao — a man of the very highest standing and character in his country — were impugned. He vindicated his reputation in a very spirited letter to the Secretary of State for the Treasury Department, demanding to be relieved, and receiving an apologetic reply from the government.
It appears from some notices of this country, written by Manuel Hurtado, a citizen of Puno, “that the province of Carabaya has an extent of one hundred and eighty miles, from north to south, rendered more to the traveller, who wishes to pass over its whole length, on account of his having to cross the spurs of the mountains, which divide the whole country into valleys, having auriferous [containing gold] streams; for, from Cuia to Quica, there are eighteen miles; to Sandia, forty-two; to Cuyo-Cuyo, twelve; to Patambuco, eighteen; to Phara, thirty-six; to Uricayas, forty-five; to Coasa, eighteen; to Thiata, thirty; to Ayapata, eighteen; to Ollachea, forty-two; and to Corani, eighteen; making three hundred and seven miles. All these villages, except the last, are in the line of the edge of the Montaña. The villages of Macusani and Crucero are on this other side of the Cordillera. The population of the province is thirty thousand souls, over and above strangers, who come to collect the gold and cascarilla.
“The exportation of the products of the province for the last year were about three hundred thousand pounds of cascarilla, twenty-five thousand baskets of coca, (of twenty-one pounds each,) and one thousand
pounds of coffee. The small crops of maize &c., are only for the consumption of the country. The only two plantations that have been opened in the last two years, by D. Augustin Aragon and D. Lorenzo Requelme, will begin to render their crops in the coming year.
“According to the notices acquired from different persons, and particularly from Pimentel and the Pobletes, we know that the gold taken from Challuhuma, from the middle of June to September, amounts to seven hundred pounds, of which the Pobletes hold three, and the balance has been sold by various individuals in the fairs and markets of Azangaro, Tangazuca, and Crucero, over and above the many pounds that have been sent for sale to Puno and Arequipa, and that which the Indians indubitably hold, seeing that they only sell enough to purchase themselves necessaries; although one has been known to sell the value of six hundred dollars. About the end of September the associates of the company styled ‘Descubridora’ destroyed the hanging bridges, (oroyas,) the rafts, and even some parts of the road, saying that in Challuhuma there is nothing, and advising all to return to their houses. This rather encouraged them to proceed. They plunged into the woods where human foot had never trodden, and, crossing the great river on temporary oroyas, many persons settled themselves in Challuhuma; whence they have been taking gold without its being known how much has been collected in the month and a half which has intervened. It is worthy of note that these people and the Pobletes have very imperfect means of extracting the gold: being reduced to what they call ‘chichiqear’, which is, to place earth in a trough, wash it a little while in the stream, and collect the gold that has settled; which may be one, two, or more ounces, according to the fortune of the washer. They repeat this operation as many times a day as their strength will permit. On one occasion the sub-prefect Pimentel obtained from one trough-full twenty-odd ounces of gold, as he himself related to us; and no trough-full yields less than one ounce.”
There seems exaggeration in this account; but an anonymous publication from Puno on this subject of Carabaya goes beyond this. It says:--
“In the year 1713, a mine of silver was discovered in a hill called Uncuntayo, among the heights (Altos) of Ollachea, which gave more than four thousand marks to the caxon. (Six marks to the caxon is a paying yield in Cerro Pasco.) These riches gave rise to such disturbances, violence, and murders, that the Viceroy had to march to suppress the disorders; but after a few years the hill fell in and closed the mines,
“It has been always known that much gold existed in all the ravines of the district of Phara, and the proof is the discovery of it, in the present year, at the points called Beinisamayo, Rio Challuhuma, and Acomayo, from which ‘placeres’ it is certain that even in this short time many arrobas (twenty-five pounds) of fine gold, in the shape of melon seeds, have been taken and seen in Puno, Arequipa, &c. The sight of this gold, and the conviction which is entertained of the existence of abundance of this metal, have awakened the avarice of all, and are attracting to Carabaya a concurrence of the people of the departments of La Paz, Puno, Arequipa, and Cuzco. The work must cease, on account of the rains, towards the end of October; but from May onwards, we shall have growing up there a society, heterogeneous, avaricious, and needing authorities and judges, that the ‘placeres’ may be appointed among the workers according to law; that property may be secured; and that those disorders which may be expected to grow out of such a state of affairs may be checked: for the sub-prefect, besides being a principal associate in the companies for collecting gold and cascarilla, has not the weight of character necessary in these cases. Moreover, the person who directs in mining matters (Diputado de Mineria) resides in Puno, two hundred miles from the point whence the gold is extracted. The companies endeavor, by every means in their power, to hide the riches which exist in the already discovered mines, and to throw difficulties in the way of getting there; but we know that every trough-full of the earth which is washed gives six ounces and upwards, and that there are only three days on horseback from Phara to the banks of the great river, though the road is somewhat rough; and from the other side of the river (which may be crossed by an oroya or on rafts) to the mines is only one day on foot. The climate of the greater part of the Montaña of Carabaya is entirely healthy, and of an endurable heat. Its lands are so rich that they give three crops a year, and produce fine coca, coffee that rivals that of Mocha, superior cacao, potatoes, maize, fruits, raisins of every kind, the vanilla, superior and most abundant woods, and the cascarilla, called calisaya, with all the other classes. Added to this there are rivers with immense fisheries, so that people would do well to colonize there even if there were no gold. The savages, in tribes of more than two hundred souls, live scattered about sixty or ninety miles to the eastward of the placeres. It is necessary to adopt some measures of precaution to anticipate attacks which they would be likely to make on small parties.”
Pimentel says that the Indians on some of the beaches of the great
river “Inambari,” which flows through this Montaña, make a sort of scaly pavement (empedrado, en forma de escama) just before the increase of the river, caused by the rains, so that the gold borne down by its current may be deposited. They call these their chacras, or farms of gold, and collect their crop at the falling of the river.
It will be perceived, from the above accounts, that, if the river “Madre de Dios” of Father Bobo should be identical with the Purus, and there should be a navigable communication between this country and the Atlantic, the advantages to commerce would be enormous, and the “Brillante Porvenir,” or dazzling future of Cuzco, would be no dream. I judge, from the description of the country through which this “great river” (as it is called in all the accounts of people who have visited these parts) flows, that it is not navigable; and it is certain that neither the cascarilla nor the gold can be collected for six months in the year. Yet I judge that there is a much nearer and easier communication with the Atlantic, by this route, than that by the passage of the Cordillera, and the voyage around Cape Horn; and that the opening to trade of a country which produces, in abundance, gold, and the best quality of cinchona, would soon repay the courage, enterprise, and outlay of money which would be necessary to open, at most, but a short road, and to remove a few obstructions from a river.
Since writing the above I have received from Mr. Clay, our distinguished chargé at Lima, a slip from the Comercio, a Lima journal, containing an account of the fitting out of an expedition for the exploration of this river by the people of the town of Paucartambo. These, tired of waiting the tardy action of the government, met in council on the 10th of June, 1852, and subscribed one hundred and fifteen dollars to pay the expenses of the exploring party. Twenty Indians were hired, for twenty days, at five dollars a head, and ten dollars given as gratification to their overseer; the remaining five were expended in repairing the axes and other tools supplied by the farmers. The party, consisting of young volunteers, having their expeditionary flag blessed by the Curate [cleric], being exhorted by their governors and elders, and placed under the especial protection of our blessed Lady of Carmen, marched out, under the guidance of Don Manuel Ugaldi, amid the strains of music and the “vivas” blessings and tears of their relatives and friends. We have yet to see the result of so enthusiastic an outburst. I was so much impressed with the importance of this route, that I left Lima undecided whether I should take it or not; and at Tarma, after long and anxious deliberation, (the measure being supported by
Mr. Gibbon’s advice and earnest personal solicitation,) I determined to take the responsibility of dividing the party, and did so, furnishing Mr. Gibbon with the following instructions, and verbally calling his attention to the river Beni:--
TARMA, JUNE 30, 1851.
Sir: From a careful perusal of my instructions from the Navy Department, it appears to be a matter of importance that as much of the great South American basin, drained by the Amazon and its tributaries, should be explored as the means placed at my disposal will allow; and having now arrived at a point where, if the party is kept together, some objects of much interest will have to be abandoned to secure others, I have determined to divide the party, and confide a portion of it to your direction. You will, therefore, with “Mr. Richards” and a guide, proceed to “Cuzco,” and examine the country to the eastward of that place. It is said that a large and navigable river, called the Madre de Dios, has its source in the mountains of Carabaya, and may be approached at a navigable point by descending the Andes from “Cuzco.” Many arguments have been adduced to show that this river is the “Purus,” which is known to empty into the Amazon. It is desirable that this should be determined; and you will make such inquiries in Cuzco as will enable you to decide whether it is practicable to descend this river. I am under the impression that its shores, near where you would be likely to embark, are inhabited by tribes of savage and warlike Indians, who have committed frequent depredations upon the “haciendas” established in the neighborhood. You will constantly bear in mind that your loss will deprive the government of the after-services expected of you in the prosecution of our important and interesting enterprise. You will therefore run no unnecessary risk, nor expose yourself or party to unreasonable danger from the attacks of these savages. The inhabitants of Cuzco are said to be so much interested in this discovery that they may furnish you an escort past the point of danger. Should you find this route impracticable, you will proceed south, to Puno, on the banks of the “Lake Titicaca;” thence around the southern shores of this “lake” to La Paz, in Bolivia; thence to Cochabamba; and, descending the mountains in that neighborhood, embark upon the “Mamoré,” and descend that river and the “Madeira” to the Amazon. You will then ascend the Amazon to the “Barra do Rio Negro,” and, making that your headquarters, make excursions for the
exploration of the main stream and adjacent tributaries, until my arrival, or you hear from me. You are already possessed of the views of the department regarding the objects of this expedition. A copy of its instructions is herewith furnished you. You will follow them as closely as possible. Should you go into “Bolivia,” I would call your attention to the @cacarilla,” or Peruvian bark, which is of a better quality in that country than elsewhere. Make yourself acquainted with its history and present condition.
Wishing you success,
I remain your obedient servant,
WM. LEWIS HERNDON, Lieutenant U. S. Navy
Passed Midshipman LARDNER GIBBON, U. S. Navy.
Other reasons that induced me to take this step were, that I might carry out the instructions of the department as fully as lay in my power; and while I gave my own personal attention to the countries drained by the upper Maranfon and its tributaries, Mr. Gibbon might explore some, and gather all the information he could respecting others, of the Bolivian tributaries of the Amazon. The objections were, that the department had not sanctioned the step, and that by seParáting we were deprived of the comfort and assistance to be derived from companionship —no small item in so long and lonely a journey. But I did not conceive that these should weigh against the consideration that we could cover more ground apart than together. I felt that, under my instructions requiring me to explore the Amazon from its source to its mouth, I could not neglect the route I finally determined to take. This route would enable me to form a judgment respecting the practicability of a transitable connectionbetween Lima and the navigable head waters of the tributaries of the Amazon — would lead me through the richest and most productive mineral district of Peru — would put under my observation nearly all the course of the Amazon — and would enable me to gather information regarding the Pampa del Sacramento, or great plain, shut in between four great rivers, and concerning which the “Viagero Universal” says “that the two continents of America do not contain another country so favorably situated, or so fertile.” The last and most commonly used route to the Montaña is through the
cities of Truxillo, Caxamarca, Chachapoyas, Moyobamba, &c. The Andes here break into many chains, sending off spurs in all directions, but none of any great height, so that there is a tolerably good mule road all the way to Moyobamba; and almost all articles of foreign manufacture — such as cloths and the necessary household articles used in the small towns that border the Huallaga and the Maranon — are supplied by this route. The climate and productions of this country are, on account of its precipitous elevations, and, consequently, deep valleys, very various; and here the sugar-cane and the pine-apple may be seen growing by a spectator standing in the barley field and the potato patch. This route crosses the Amazon, or rather the Marañon, where, according to Lieut. Maw, it is sixty yards wide, and rushes between mountains whose summits are hid in the clouds. This point is about three degrees north of its source, in Lake Lauricocha; but the river is nowhere navigable until Tomependa, in the province of Jaen de Braca Moros, is reached; whence it may be descended, but with great peril and difficulty, on rafts. There are twenty-seven “pongos,” or rapids, to pass, and the water rushes over these with frightful velocity. Four days of such navigation passes the last, called the Pongo de “Manseriché,” near the village of San Borja, and I am satisfied that an unbroken channel, of at least eighteen feet in depth, may be found thence to the Atlantic Ocean.
That the rains might be entirely over, and the roads on the mend in the Cordillera, I fixed upon the 20th of May as the day of departure, and Mr. Gibbon and I set about making the necessary preParátions. I engaged the services of Don Manuel Ijurra, a young Peruvian, who had made the voyage down the Amazon a few years before, as interpreter to the Indians; and Capt. Gauntt, of the frigate Raritan, then lying in the harbor of Callao, was kind enough to give me a young master’s mate from his ship, named Henry C. Richards, of Va., USA; besides supplying me with carbines, pistols, ammunition, and a tent. Capt. Magruder, of the St. Mary’s, also offered me anything that the ship could supply, and furnished me with more arms, and fifteen hundred fathoms of the fishing-line now put on board ships for deep-sea soundings. Our purchases were four saddle-mules, which, through tle agency of Dr. Smith, we were fortunate enough to get young, sound, and well bitted, (indispensable requisites,) out of a drove just in from the mountains. We consulted the learned in such matters on the propriety of having them shod, and found the doctors disagreeing upon this subject very much. As they were from the mountains, and their
hoofs were round, sound, and apparently as hard as iron, we decided not to shoe; and, I believe, did better than if we had followed a contrary course. We also purchased about a thousand yards of coarse cotton cloth, made in the mills at Lima, and put up for mountain travel in bales of half a mule-load; hatchets, knives, tinder-boxes, fish-hooks, beads, looking-glasses, cotton handkerchiefs, ribbons, and cheap trinkets, which we thought might take the fancy of the Indians, and purchase its services and food when money would not. These things were also put up in boxes of the same size and shape, and each equal to half a mule-load. Our trunks were arranged in the same way, so that they might be lashed one on each side of the mule’s back, with an India rubber bag, (also obtained from the Raritan,) which carried our bedclothes, put on top in the space between them. This makes a compact and easily-handled load; and every traveller in the Cordillera should take care to arrange his baggage in this way, and have, as far as possible, everything under lock and key, and in water-tight chests. Such small, incongruous articles as our pots and pans for cooking, our tent, and particularly the tent-pole, which was carried fore and cft above a cargo, and which, from its length, was poking into everything, and constantly getting awry, gave us more trouble than anything else.
Our bedding consisted of the saddle-cloths, a stout blanket, and anything else that could be packed in the India-rubber bag. An Englishman from New Holland, whom I met in Lima, gave me a coverlet made of the skins of a kind of raccoon, which served me many a good turn; and often, when in the cold of the Cordillera I wrapped myself in its warm folds, I felt a thrill of gratitude for the thoughtful kindness which had provided me with such a comfort. We purchased thick flannel shirts, ponchos, of India-rubber, wool, and cotton, and had straw hats, covered with oil-cloth, and fitted with green veils, to protect our eyes from the painful affections which often occur by the sudden bursting out of the sunlight upon the masses of snow that lie forever upon the mountain tops.
We carried two small kegs — one containing brandy, for drinking, and the other, the common rum of the country, called Ron de Quemar, for burning; also, some coarse knives, forks, spoons, tin cups and plates. I did not carry, as I should have done, a few cases of preserved meat, sardines, cheese, &c., which would have given us a much more agreeable meal than we often got on the road; but I did carry, in the India rubber bags, quite a large quantity of biscuit, which I had baked in Lima, which served a very good purpose, and lasted us to Tarma.
We had the mules fitted with the heavy, deep-seated box saddles of Peru.
I believe the English saddle would be much more comfortable, and probably as safe to the rider accustomed to it; but it would be almost impossible with these to preserve the skin of the mule from chafe. The Peruvian saddles rest entirely upon the ribs of the animal, which are protected by at least six yards of a coarse woollen fabric manufactured in the country, called jerga, and touch the back-bone nowhere. These saddles are a wooden box frame, stuffed thickly on the inside, and covered outwardly with buckskin. They are fitted with heavy, square, wooden stirrups, which are thought to preserve the legs from contact with projecting rocks, and, being lined with fur, to keep the feet warm. There is also a heavy breast-strap and crupper for steep ascents and descents; and a thick pillon, or mat, made of thrums of cotton, silk, or hair, is thrown over the saddle, to make the seat soft, The reins and head-stall of the bridle should be broad and strong, and the bit the coarse and powerful one of the country. Our guns, in leathern cases, were slung to the crupper, and the pistols carried in holsters, made with large pockets, to carry powder flasks, percussion caps, specimens that we might pick up on the road, &c. A small box of instruments, for skinning birds and dissecting animals; a medicine chest, containing, among other things, some arsenical soap, for preserving skins; a few reams of coarse paper, for drying leaves and plants; chart paper, in a tin case; passports and other papers, also in a tin case; note books, pencils, &c., completed our outfit. A chest was made, with compartments for the sextant, artificial horizon, boiling-point apParátus, camera lucida, and spy-glass. The chronometer was carried in the pocket, and the barometer, slung in a leathern case made for it, at the saddle-bow of Mr. Gibbon’s mule.
On the 15th of May, I engaged the services of an arriero, or muleteer. He engaged to furnish beasts to carry the party and its baggage from Lima to Tarma at ten dollars the head, stopping on the road wherever I pleased, and as long as I pleased, for that sum. An ordinary train of baggage mules may be had on the same route for about seven dollars the head. The arrieros of Peru, as a class, have a very indifferent reputation for faithfulness and honesty, and those on the route, (that from Lima to Cerro Pasco,) to which my friend particularly belonged, are said to be the worst of their class. He was a thin, spare, dark Indian of the Sierra, or mountain land, about forty-five years of age, with keen, black eye, thin moustache, and deliberate in his speech and gesture. I thought I had seldom seen a worse face; but Mr. McCall said that he was rather better looking than the generality of them. He managed to cheat me very soon after our acquaintance.
Arrieros, when they supply as many mules as I had engaged, always furnish a peon, or assistant, to help load and unload, and take care of he mules. Mine, taking advantage of my ignorance in these matters, said to me that his peon was “desacnim Cado.” (disheartened,) was afraid of the “Piedrae Paráda” or upright rock, where we were to cross the Cordillera, and had backed out; but that he himself could very well attend to the mules if I would be good enough to let him have the occasional assistance of my Indian servant. I unwarily promised, which was the cause of a good deal of difficulty; but when the old rascal complained of over-work and sickness on the road, I had an answer for him which always silenced him — that is, that it was his own cupidity and dishonesty which caused it, and that, if he did not work and behave himself, I would discharge him without pay, and send back to Lima for another.
I directed him to bring the mules to the hotel door on the 20th; but, upon his finding that this was Tuesday, he demurred, saying that it was an unlucky day, and that no arriero was willing to start on that day, but that Monday was lucky, and begged that I would be ready by then. This I could not do; so that on Wednesday, the 21st of May, we loaded up, though I had to cajole, and finally to bribe the old fellow, to take on all the baggage, which he represented to be too much for his beasts.
I did wrong to start, for the party was short of a servant allowed by my instructions. (I had not been able to get one in Lima, except at an unreasonable price, and depended upon getting one in some of the towns of the Sierra.) The arriero needed a peon, and the mules were overloaded. I would strongly advise all travellers in these parts to -imitate the conduct of the Jesuits, whose first day’s journey is to load their burden-mules, saddle, and mount their riding-mules; go twice round the patio, or square, on the inside of their dwelling, to see that everything is prepared and fits properly; and then unload and wait for the morning. However, I foresaw a longer delay by unloading again than I was willing to make; and after a hard morning’s work in drumming up the Peruvian part of the expedition, (these people have not the slightest idea that a man will start on a journey on the day he proposes,) the party, consisting of myself, Mr. Gibbon, Mr. Richards, Mr. Ijurra, Miauricio, an Indian of Chamiczuros, (a village on the Huallaga,) and the arriero, Pablo Luis Arredondo, with seven burden mules, defiled out, by the Gate of Marvels, (Puerta dle Mcarvillas,) and took the broad and beaten road that ascends the left bank of the trimac.