Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/7

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Itinerary — Tingo Maria — Vampires — Blow-guns – Canoe navigation — Shooting monkeys — Tocache — Sion — Salt hills of Pilluana.

The following table gives the distance between Lima and the head of canoe navigation on the Huallaga river:

  • From Lima to Chaclacayo……18 miles,
  • From Lima to Santa Ana…..…10
  • From Lima to Surco…………18
  • From Lima to San Mateo….....18
  • From Lima to Acchahuarcu….13
  • From Lima to Morococha…...12
  • From Lima to Oroya………....17
  • From Lima to Tarma………...16
  • From Lima to Palcamayo……15
  • From Lima to Junin………….18
  • From Lima to Carhuamayo…..15
  • From Lima to Cerro Pasco…..20
  • From Lima to Caxamarquilla..15
  • From Lima to San Rafael……15
  • From Lima to Ambo………...20
  • From Lima to Huanuco……..15
  • From Lima to Acomayo…….14
  • From Lima to Chinchao…….16
  • From Lima to Chihuangala…20
  • From Lima to La Cueva…….20
  • From Lima to Tingo Maria…10

TOTAL.....................335 miles

This distance of three hundred and thirty-five miles may be shortened twenty-eight by going direct from Lima to Cerro Pasco. (We passed round by Tarma.) The traveller will find that the distance is divided in the table into days’ journeys nearly. Thus it will cost him, with loaded mules, twenty-one days to reach the head of canoe navigation on the Huallaga by this route, and nineteen by the other. The last thirty miles between Chihuangala and Tingo Maria are travelled on foot, though there would be no difficulty in opening a mule-road.


Any number of mules may be had in Lima at a hire of about seventy-five cents a day. I paid more; but this was to be expected, for I bargained with the muleteers that they were to stop where I pleased, and as long as I pleased. The feed of a mule will average twelve and a half cents per day. The load is two hundred and sixty pounds. It would be difficult to persuade a muleteer to take a traveller all the distance. They do not like to leave their own beat, and the traveller has to change his mules, on an average, every hundred miles.

The passage of the Cordillera at the season of the year when we crossed is neither very tedious nor laborious. In fact, we enjoyed much the magnificent scenery; we were pleased with the manners and habits of a primitive people; and we met hospitality and kindness everywhere. In the season of the rains, however, the passage must be both difficult and dangerous.

August 2. — Tingo Maria is a prettily-situated village, of forty-eight able-bodied men, and an entire population of one hundred and eighty-eight. This includes those who are settled at Juana del Rio and the houses within a mile or two.

The pueblo is situated in a plain on the left bank of the river, which is about six miles in length, and three miles in its broadest part, where the mountains back of it recede in a semi-circle from the river, The height above the level of the sea is two thousand two hundred and sixty feet. The productions of the plain are sugar-cane, rice, cotton, tobacco, indigo, maize, sweet potatoes, yucca, sachapapa, or potato of the woods, (the large, mealy, purple-streaked tuberous root of a vine, in taste like a yam, and very good food.) The woods are stocked with game — such as pumas, or American tigers; deer; peccary, or wild hog; ronsoco, or river hog; monkeys, &c. For birds — are several varieties of curassow, a large bird, something like a turkey, but with, generally, a red bill, a crest, and shining blue-black plumage; a delicate pava del monte, or wild turkey; a great variety of parrots; with large, black, wild ducks, and cormorants. There are also rattlesnakes and vipers. But even with all these, I would advise no traveller to trust to his gun for support. The woods are so thick and tangled with undergrowth that no one but an Indian can penetrate them, and no eyes but those of an Indian could see the game. Even he only hunts from necessity, and will rarely venture into the thick forest alone, for fear of the tiger or the viper. There are also good and delicate fish in the river, but in no great abundance.

The inhabitants are of a tribe called Cholones, which was once large and powerful. I like their character better than that of any Indians


whom I afterwards met with. They are good-tempered, cheerful, and sober, and by far the largest and finest-looking of the aborigines that I have encountered. They are obedient to the church and attentive to her ceremonies; and are more advanced than common in civilization, using no paint as an ornament, but only staining their arms and legs with the juice of a fruit called huitoc, that gives a dark, blue dye, as a protection against the sand-flies, which are abundant, and a great nuisance The place is generally very healthy. The common diseases are lymphatic swellings of the body and limbs, (supposed to be caused by exposure to the great humidity of the atmosphere while fishing at night,) and sarna, (a cutaneous affection, which covers the body with sores, making the patient a loathsome object.) These sores dry up and come off in scabs, leaving blotches on the skin, so that an Indian is frequently seen quite mottled. I imagine it is caused by want of cleanliness, and the bites of the sand-flies. They take, as a remedy, the dried root of a small tree called sarnango, grated and mixed with water. It is said to have a powerfully-intoxicating and stupefying effect, and to cause the skin to peel off.

The huitoc is a nut-like fruit, about the size of a common black walnut with its outer covering. It is, when ripe, soft, of a russet color outside, and filled with a dark-purple pulp and small seeds. The tree is slender, and some fifteen or twenty feet high, shooting out broad leaves, with the fruit growing at their base and underneath, like the bread fruit. There is also here a small tree called añil [1], or indigo, with a leaf narrow at its base and broad near the extremity, which yields as deep a dye as the plant. There are also gay and fragrant flowers in the gardens of the Indians.

Ijurra shot a large bat, of the vampire species, measuring about two feet across the extended wings. This is a very disgusting-looking animal, though its fur is very delicate, and of a glossy, rich maroon color. Its mouth is amply provided with teeth, looking like that of a miniature tiger. It has two long and sharp tusks in the front part of each jaw, with two smaller teeth, like those of a hare or sheep, between the tusks of the upper jaw, and four (much smaller) between those of the lower. There are also teeth back of the tusks, extending far back into the mouth. The nostrils seem fitted as a suction apparatus. Above them is a triangular, cartilaginous snout, nearly half an inch long, and a quarter broad at the base; and below them is a semi-circular flap, of nearly the same breadth, but not so long. I suppose these might be placed over the puncture made by the teeth, and the air underneath exhausted by the nostrils, thus making them a very perfect cupping.


I never heard it doubted, until my return home, that these animals were blood-suckers; but the distinguished naturalist, Mr. T.[Titan] R.[Ramsay] Peale, [2] tells me that no one has ever seen them engaged in the operation, and that he has made repeated attempts for that purpose, but without success. On one occasion, when a companion had lost a good deal of blood, the doors and windows of the house in which his party was lying were closed, and a number of these bats, that were clinging, to the roof killed; but none of them were found gorged, or with any signs of having been engaged in blood-sucking. I also observed no apparatus proper for making a delicate puncture. The tusks are quite as large as those of a rat, and, if used in the ordinary manner, would make four wounds at once, producing, I should think, quite sufficient pain to awaken the most profound sleeper. Never having heard this doubt, it did not occur to me to ask the Indians if they had ever seen the bat sucking, or to examine the wounds of the horses that I had seen bleeding from this supposed cause. On one occasion I found my blanket; spotted with blood, and supposed that the bat (having gorged himself on the horses outside) had flown into the house, and, fastening himself to the thatch over me, had disgorged upon my covering and then flown out. There was no great quantity of blood, there being but five or six stains on the blanket, such as would have been made by large drops. I presumed, likewise, from the fact of the drops being scattered irregularly over a small surface, that the bat had been hanging by his feet to the thatch, and swinging about.

The discovery of the drops produced a sensation of deep disgust; and I have frequently been unable to sleep for fear of the filthy beast. Every traveller in these countries should learn to sleep with body and head enveloped in a blanket, as the Indians do. I saw here, for the first time, the blow-gun [3]of the Indians called by the Spaniards, cercabatana; by the Portuguese of the river, gravatana, (a corruption, I imagine, of the former, as I find no such Portuguese word;) and by the Indians, pucuna. It is made of any long, straight piece of wood, generally of a species of palm called chonta — a heavy, elastic wood, of which bows, clubs, and spears are also made. The pole or staff, about eight feet in length, and two inches diameter near the mouth end, (tapering down to half an inch at the extremity,) is divided longitudinally; a canal is hollowed out along the centre of each part, which is well smoothed and polished by rubbing with fine sand and wood. The two parts are then brought together; nicely wrapped with twine; and the whole covered with wax, mixed with some resin of the forest, to make it hard. A couple of boars’ teeth are fitted on each side of the mouth end, and one of the curved front teeth of a small animal,


resembling a cross between a squirrel and a hare, is placed on top for a sight. The arrow is made of any light wood, generally the wild cane, or the middle fibre of a species of palm-leaf, which is about a foot in length, and of the thickness of an ordinary lucifer [friction match] match. The end of the arrow, which is placed next to the mouth, is wrapped with a light, delicate sort of wild cotton, which grows in a pod upon a large tree, and is called huimba; and the other end, very sharply pointed, is dipped in a vegetable poison prepared from the juice of the creeper, called bejuco de ambihuasca, mixed with ají, [4]or strong red pepper, barbasco, sarnango, and whatever substances the Indians know to be deleterious. The marksman, when using his pucuna, instead of stretching out the left hand along the body of the tube, places it to his mouth by grasping it, with both hands together, close to the mouth piece, in such a manner that it requires considerable strength in the arms to hold it out at all, much less steadily. If a practiced marksman, he will kill a small bird at thirty or forty paces. In an experiment that I saw, the Indian held the pucuna horizontally, and the arrow blown from it stuck in the ground at thirty-eight paces. Commonly the Indian has quite an affection for his gun, and many superstitious notions about it. I could not persuade one to shoot a very pretty black and yellow bird for me because it was a carrion bird; and the Indian said that it would deteriorate and make useless all the poison in his gourd. Neither will he discharge his pucuna at a snake, for fear of the gun being made crooked like the reptile; and a fowling-piece or rifle that has once been discharged at an alligator is considered entirely worthless. A round gourd, with a hole in it, for the huimba, and a joint of the caña brava, as a quiver, completes the hunting apparatus.

August 3. — Went to church. The congregation — men, women, and children — numbered about fifty; the service was conducted by the governor, assisted by the alcalde. A little naked, bow-legged Indian child, of two or three years, and Ijurra’s pointer puppy, which he had brought all the way from Lima on his saddle-bow, worried the congregation with their tricks and gambols; but altogether they were attentive to their prayers, and devout. I enjoyed exceedingly the public worship of God with these rude children of the forest; and, although they probably understood little of what they were about, thought I could see its humanizing and fraternizing effect upon all.

At night we had a ball at the governor’s house. The alcalde, who was a trump, produced his fiddle; another had a rude sort of guitar, or banjo; and under the excitement of his music, and the aguadiente of the governor, who had had his cane ground in anticipation of our arrival,


we danced till eleven o’clock. The custom of the dance requires that a gentleman should choose a lady and dance with her, in the middle of the floor, till she gives over, (the company around clapping their hands in time to the music, and cheering the dancers with vivas at any particular display of agility or spirit in the dance.) He then presents his partner with a glass of grog, leads her to her seat, and chooses another. When he tires there is a general drink, and the lady has the choice. The Señor Commandante was in considerable request; and a fat old lady, who would not dance with any body else, nearly killed me. The governor discharged our guns several times, and let off some rockets that we had brought from Huanuco; and I doubt if Tingo Maria had ever witnessed such a brilliant affair before.

August 4. — I waked up with pain in the legs and headache from dancing, and found our men and canoes ready for embarkation. After breakfast the governor and his wife, (though I grievously fear that there had been no intervention of the priest in the matter of the union,) together with several of our partners of the previous night, accompanied us to the port. After loading the canoes the governor made a short address to the canoe-men, telling them that we “were no common persons; that they were to have a special care of us; to be very obedient, &c., and that he would put up daily prayers for their safe return;” whereupon, after a glass all round, from a bottle brought down specially by our hostess, and a hearty embrace of the governor, his lady, and my fat friend of the night before, we embarked and shoved off; the boatmen blowing their horns as we drifted rapidly down with the current of the river, and the party on shore waving their hats and shouting their adieus.

We had two canoes: the largest about forty feet long, by two and a half broad; hollowed out from a single log, and manned each by five men and a boy. They are conducted by a puntero, or bowman, who looks out for rocks or sunken trees ahead; a popero, or steersman, who stands on a little platform at the stern of the boat and guides her motions; and the bogas, or rowers, who stand up to paddle, having one foot in the bottom of the boat and the other on the gunwale. When the river was smooth and free from obstructions, we drifted with the current; the men sitting on the trunks and boxes, chatting and laughing with each other; but, as we approached a mal-paso, their serious looks, and the firm position in which each one planted himself at his post, showed that work was to be done. I felt a little nervous at first; but when we had fairly entered the pass, the rapid gesture of the puntero, indicating the channel; the elegant and graceful position of the


popero, giving the boat a broad sheer with the sweep of his long paddle; the desperate exertions of the bogas; the railroad rush of the canoe; and the wild, triumphant, screaming laugh of the Indians, as we shot past the danger, made a scene that was much too exciting to admit of any other emotion than that of admiration.

We passed many of these to-day, and were well soaked by the canoes taking in water on each side; some of them were mere smooth declivities — inclined planes of gravel, with only three or four inches of water on them, so that the men had to get overboard, keep the canoes head on, and drag them down. The average velocity of the river here is three and a half miles to the hour; but when it dashes down one of these declivities, it must be much more. The breadth of the river is a constantly varying quantity, probably never over one hundred and fifty yards, and never under thirty; banks low, and covered with trees, bushes, and wild cane. There were hills on each side, some distance from the bank, but now and then coming down to it. It is almost impossible to estimate the distance travelled with any degree of accuracy. The force of the current is very variable, and the Indians very irregular in their manner of rowing sometimes — paddling half an hour with great vigor, and then suffering the boat to drift with the tide.

Averaging the current at three and a half miles the hour, and the rowing at one and a half, with nine hours of actual travel, we have forty-five miles for a day’s journey at this season. I have estimated the number of travelling hours at nine, for we get off generally at 5 a.m., and stop at 5 p.m. We spend two hours for breakfast, in the middle of the day, and another hour is lost at the shallows of the river, or stopping to get a shot at an animal or bird.

At half-past five we camped on the beach. The first business of the boatmen when the canoe is secured, is to go off to the woods and cut stakes and palm branches to make a house for the patron. By sticking long poles in the sand, chopping them half in two, about five feet above the ground, and bending the upper parts together, they make, in a few minutes, the frame of a little shanty, which, thickly thatched with palm leaves, will keep off the dew or an ordinary rain. Some bring the drift wood that is lying about the beach and make a fire; the provisions are cooked and eaten; the bedding laid down upon the leaves that cover the floor of the shanty; the mosquito nettings spread; and, after a cup of coffee, a glass of grog, and a cigar, (if they are to be had,) everybody retires for the night by eight o’clock. The Indians sleep around the hut, each under his narrow cotton mosquito curtain, which glisten in the moon-light like so many tomb-stones. This was


pleasant. enough when provisions were plenty and the weather good; but when there was no coffee or brandy, the cigars had given out, and there was a slim allowance of only salt fish and plantains, with one of those nights of heavy rain that are frequent upon the Marañon river [5], I could not help calling to mind, with some bitterness of spirit, the comforts of the ship-of-war that I had left, to say nothing of the luxuries of home.

August 5. — Started at eight. River seventy yards broad, nine feet deep, pebbly bottom; current three miles per hour. We find in some places, where hills come down to the river, as much as thirty feet of depth. There are some quite high hills on the right-hand side, that might be called mountains; they run north and south. I was surprised that we saw no animals all day, but only river birds — such as black ducks, cormorants, and king-fishers; also many parrots of various kinds and brilliant plumage, but they always kept out of shot. We camped at half-past five, tired and low-spirited, having had nothing to eat all day but a little rice boiled with cheese early in the morning, My wrists were sore and painful from sun-burn, and the sand-flies were very troublesome, Heavy clouds, with thunder and lightning, in the N. W. In the night, fresh breeze from that quarter. We heard tigers and monkeys during the night, and saw the tiger-tracks near the camp next morning.

August 6. — Soon after starting we saw a fine doe coming down towards the river. We steered in, and got within about eighty yards of her, when Ijurra and I fired together, the guns loaded with a couple of rifle-balls each. The animal stood quite still for a few minutes, and then walked slowly off towards the bushes. I gave my gun, loaded with three rifle-balls, to the puntero, who got a close shot, but without effect. One of the balls, a little flattened, was picked up close to where the deer stood. These circumstances made the Indians doubt if she were a deer; and I judge, from their gestures and exclamations, that they thought it was some evil spirit that was ball-proof. I imagine that the ball was flattened either by passing through the branch of a bush or striking some particularly hard bone of the animal, or it might have been jammed in the gun by the other balls.

These Indians have very keen senses, and see and hear things that are inaudible and invisible to us. Our canoe-men this morning commenced paddling with great vigor. I asked the cause, and they said that they heard monkeys ahead. I think we must have paddled a mile before I heard the sound they spoke of. When we came up to them, we found a gang of large red monkeys in some tall trees on the


river-side, making a noise like the grunting of a herd of enraged hogs, We landed, and in a few minutes I found myself beating my way through the thick undergrowth, and hunting monkeys with as much excitement as I had ever hunted squirrels when a boy. I had no balls with me, and my No. 3 shot only served to sting them from their elevated position in the tops of the trees, and bring them within reach of the pucunas of the Indians. They got two and I one, after firing about a dozen shots into him. I never saw animals so tenacious of life; this one was, as the Indians expressed it, bathed in shot, (bañado en municion.) These monkeys were about the size of a common terrier-dog, and were clad with a long, soft, maroon-colored hair; they are called cotomonos, from a large goitre (coto) under the jaw. This is an apparatus of thin bone in the wind-pipe, by means of which they make their peculiar noise. The male, called curaca, (which is also the appellation of the chief of a tribe of Indians,) has a long red beard.

They are called guariba in Brazil, where they are said to be black as well as red; and I believe they are of the species commonly called howling monkeys.

It is scarcely worth while to say that the Indians use parts of this animal for the cure of diseases, for I know no substance that could possibly be used as a remedial agent that they do not use for that purpose. The mother carries the young upon her back until it is able to go alone. If the dame dies, the sire takes charge. There are vast numbers in all the course of the river, and no day passes to the traveller that they are not heard or seen.

When I arrived at the beach with my game, I found that the Indians had made a fire and were roasting theirs. They did not take the trouble to skin and clean the animal, but simply put him in the fire, and, when well scorched, took him off and cut pieces from the fleshy parts with a knife; if these were not sufficiently well done, they roasted them farther on little stakes stuck up before the fire. I tried to eat a piece, but it was so tough that my teeth would make no impression upon it. The one I killed was enceinte; the fetus about double the size of a wharf rat. I wished to preserve it, but it was too large for any bottles I had; whereupon the Indians roasted and ate it without ceremony.

We also saw to-day several river hogs, and had an animated chase after one, which we encountered on the river-side, immediately opposite a nearly precipitous bank of loose earth, which crumbled under his feet so that he could not climb it. He hesitated to take the water in face of the canoes, so that we thought we had him; but after a little play up and down the river-side, he broke his way through the line of his


adversaries, capsizing two Indians as he went, and took to the water. This animal is amphibious, about the size of a half-grown hog, and reminded me, in his appearance and movements, of the rhinoceros. He is also red, and I thought it remarkable that the only animals we had seen — the deer, the monkeys, and the hog — should be all of this color. It is called ronsoco here, and capiuara in Brazil. In these Brazilian names I follow the spelling of Baeña.

We also heard the barking of dogs on the right or Infidel side of the river, in contradistinction to the other, which is called La parte de la cristiandad, supposed to be the dogs of the Cashibos Indians of the Pachitea.

Parrots and other birds were also more numerous than before.

We found the river to-day much choked with islands, shoals, and grounded drift-wood; camped at half-past five, and supped upon monkey soup. The monkey, as it regards toughness, was monkey still; but the liver, of which I ate nearly the whole, was tender and good. Jocko, however, had his revenge, for I nearly perished of nightmare. Some devil, with arms as nervous as the monkey’s, had me by the throat, and, staring on me with his cold, cruel eye, expressed his determination to hold on to the death. I thought it hard to die by the grasp of this fiend on the banks of the strange river, and so early in my course; and upon makling a desperate effort, and shaking him off. I found that I had forgotten to take off my cravat, which was choking me within an inch of my life.

August 7. — We got off at half-past eight; at a quarter to ten passed the port of Uchiza. This is a village nine miles from the river. The port itself, like that of Tingo Maria, is a shed for the accommodation of canoes and passengers. Nearly all the towns on the river are built six or eight miles from the banks, on account of the overflow of the country when the river is full. Some hill on the bank is generally selected as the port, and a road is made thence to the town. This hill is sometimes forty feet out of water, and sometimes covered, and the whole land between it and the town overflowred. At a quarter past ten we passed the Quebrada, or ravine of Huinaguya, on the right. A small stream comeles down this ravine, the water of which is salt. The people of Uchiza ascend it — a day’s journey — to a salt hill, where they supply themselves with this indispensable article. At twenty minutes past eleven we passed another; and at 1 p.m. another, where the people of Tocache get their salt. It is a day’s journey from Tocache to the mouth of the Quebrada, and another to the salt hills. Today presented a remarkable contrast to yesterday for sportsmen.


We did not see a single animal, and very few birds; even parrots, generally so plentiful, were scarce today. It was a day of work; the men paddled well, and we must have made seventy miles. On approaching Tocache, which was their last stage with us, the Indians almost deafened me with the noise of their horns.

These horns are generally made of pieces of wood hollowed out thin, joined together, wrapped with twine, and coated with wax. They are shaped like a blunderbuss, and are about four feet long; the mouth-piece is of reed, and the sound deep and mellow. The Indians always make a great noise on approaching any place, to indicate that they come as friends. They fancy that they might otherwise be attacked, as hostile parties always move silently.

We arrived at five. I was wearied with the monotonous day’s journey and the heat of the sun, and anticipated the arrival with pleasure, thinking that we were going to stop at a large village and get something good to eat; but I was grievously disappointed. We arrived only at the port, which was, as usual, a shed on a hill; the village being nine miles off. There was nothing to eat here: so we determined to start inland and see what we could pick up. A rapid walk of an hour and a quarter brought us to Lamasillo, which I had been told was a pueblo of whites, but which we found to be but a single house with a platanal attached to it. There were other houses near, but none within sight. I had been under the impression that pueblo meant a village, but I think now it signifies any settled country, though the houses may be miles apart. With much persuasion we induced the people of the house to sell us a couple of bottles of aguadiente and a pair of chickens. The governor of the district had been at this place within the hour, but was gone to Tocache, which we understood to be two coceadas further on, or about the same distance that we had come over from the port to this place.

Distance is frequently estimated by the time that a man will occupy in taking a chew of coca. From the distance between the port and Lamasillo, it appears that a chew of coca is about three-fourths of a league, or thirty-seven and a half minutes.

We walked back by moonlight, and had a fowl cooked forthwith; which, as we had had nothing but a little, monkey soup early in the morning, we devoured more like tigers than Christian men. We found at the port several travelling merchants from Moyobamba. One party had been to Huanuco by land, with a cargo of straw hats and tobacco, which they sold at about fifty per cent. advance on prime cost. This is a miserable traffic, for the round trip occupies four months, and is one of great hardship. The other party were going by the river in


canoes to Huanuco, with the same cargo, and in addition some rice and rare birds. Travellers go up by the river when it is low and by land when the river is high. The returning party were going down on balsas, which they had constructed at Tingo Maria. These balsas are logs of a light kind of wood, called balsa wood, placed side by side, half a foot apart, and secured by other pieces lashed athwart them. A platform raised on small logs is elevated amidships for the cargo to rest on; and the rowers, standing upon the lower logs, have their feet in the water all the time. After getting clear of all the rapids of a river they of course may be built of any size, and comfortable houses erected on them. I should have preferred coming down the Amazon in that way, but that I contemplated ascending other rivers.

We made our beds in the canoes under the shed, and, tired as we were, slept comfortably enough. It seems a merciful dispensation of Providence that the sand-flies go to bed at the same time with the people; otherwise I think one could not live in this country. We have not yet been troubled with musquitoes. The sand-flies are here called “mosquitos,” the diminutive of mosca, a fly; our musquitoes are called sancudos. The sand-flies are very troublesome in the day, and one cannot write or eat in any comfort.

Every body’s hands in this country are nearly black from the effects of their bite, which leaves a little round black spot, that lasts for weeks. It is much better to bear the sting than to irritate the part by scratching or rubbing.

August 8. — I sent Ijurra to Tocache to communicate with the governor, while I spent the day in writing up my journal, and drying the equipage that had been wetted in the journey. In the afternoon I walked into the woods with an Indian, for the purpose of seeing him kill a bird or animal with his pucuna. I admired the stealthy and noiseless manner with which he moved through the woods, occasionally casting a wondering and reproachful glance at me as I would catch my foot in a creeper and pitch into the bushes with sufficient noise to alarm all the game within a mile round. At last he pointed out to me a toucan, called by the Spaniards predicadcor, or preacher, sitting on a branch of a tree, out of the reach of his gun. I fired and brought him down with a broken wing. The Indian started into the bushes after him; but, finding him running, he came back to me for his pucuna, which he had left behind. In a few minutes he brought the bird to me with an arrow sticking in his throat.

The bird was dead in two minutes after I saw it, and probably in two and a half minutes from the time that it was struck. The Indian said that his poison was good, but that it was in a manner ejected by the flow of blood, which


covered the bird’s breast, and which showed that a large blood-vessel of the neck had been pierced. I do not know if his reasoning were good or not.

Ijurra returned at eight, tired, and in a bad humor. He reported that he had hunted the governor from place to place all day; had come up with him at last and obtained the promise that we should have canoes and men to prosecute our journey. My companion, who has been sub-prefect or governor of the whole province which we are now in, (Mainas,) and who has appointed and removed these governors of districts at pleasure, finds it difficult to sue where he had formerly commanded. He consequently generally quarrels with those in authority; and I have to put myself to some trouble, and draw largely upon my bon homie to reconcile the differences, and cool down the heats, which his impatience and irritability often occasion. He, however, did good service to the cause, by purchasing a hog and some chickens, which were to appear to-morrow.

August 9. — We had people to work killing and salting our hog. We had difficulty in getting some one to undertake this office, but the man from whom we purchased the hog stood our friend, and brought down his family from Lamasillo to do the needful. We had very little benefit from our experiment in this way. We paid eight (dollars for the hog, twenty-five cents for salt, twenty-five cents to Don Isidro, who brought him down to the port, and fifty cents to the same gentleman for butchering him. The wife and children of the owner took their pay for salting and smoking out of the hog himself. Our friends going up stream (according to Ijurra) stole half; and what was left spoiled before we could eat it.

Every body is a Don in this country. Oar Indian boatmen, at least the Poperos, are Dons; and much ceremonious courtesy is necessary in intercourse with them. I have to treat the governors of the districts with all manner of ceremony; when, while he exacts this, and will get sulky, and afford me no facilities without it, he will entertain the proposition to go along with me as my servant.

I had a note from the governor, not written, but signed by himself, requesting to know how many men I wanted, and saying that he hoped to see us in the pueblo early to-morrow. We excused ourselves from going to the town, and requested him to send the men down to the port for their pay. This he would not do, but insisted that we should pay at least at Lamasillo. We always pay in advance, and the boatmen generally leave their cotton cloth, in which they are nearly always paid, with their wives.

These have preferred their pay partly in money.


August 10. — The party for Huanuco got off this morning, and left the shed to Ijurra and me. Whilst bathing in the river, I saw an animal swimming down the stream towards me, which I took to be a fox or a cat. I threw stones at it, and it swam to the other side of the river and took to the forest. Very soon after, a dog, who was evidently in chase, came swimming down, and, missing the chase from the river, swam round in circles for some minutes before giving it up. This animal, from my description, was pronounced to be an ounce, or tigercat. It is called tigre throughout all this country, but is never so large or ferocious as the African tiger. They are rather spotted like the leopard, than striped like the tiger. They are said, when hungry, to be sufficiently dangerous, and no one cares to bring them to bay without good dogs and a good gun.

We talked so much about tigers and their carrying off people whilst asleep, that I, after going to bed, became nervous; and every sound near the shed made me grasp the handles of my pistols. After midnight I was lulled to sleep by the melancholy notes of a bird that Lieutenant Smyth calls “Alma Perdida,” or lost soul. Its wild and wailing cry from the depths of the forest seemed, indeed, as sad and despairing as that of one without hope.

August 11. — Ijurra went to Lamasillo to pay the boatmen, some of them having come down to the port to carry up the cotton cloth. This left me entirely alone. The sense of loneliness, and the perfect stillness of the great forest, caused me to realize in all its force the truth of Campbell’s fine line —

The solitude of earth that overawes.

It was strange, when the scratch of my pen on the paper ceased, to hear absolutely no sound. I felt so much the want of society, that I tried to make a friend of the lithe, cunning-looking lizard that ran along the canoe at my side, and that now and then stopped, raised up his head, and looked at me, seemingly in wonder.

I could see no traces of the height of the river in the crecido, or full; but, from a mark pointed out by one of the Indians, I judged that the river has here a perpendicular rise and fall of thirty feet. He represents it at a foot in depth at high water on the hill upon which we now are, and its borders at three-fourths of a mile inland. Smyth speaks of the river having fallen ten feet in a single night.

The hill on which the port of Tocache is situated, is about thirty feet above the present level of the river, and by boiling point is one thousand five hundred and seventy-nine feet above the level of the sea.

A canoe arrived from Juan Juy, and a party of two from Saposoa by


land. These are towns further down the river. Each party had its pitakacs, (hyde trunks,) containing straw hats, rice, tobacco, and tocuyo listado, a striped cotton cloth, much used in Huanuco for “tickings.” It is astonishing to see how far this generally lazy people will travel for a dollar.

August 12. — Had a visit from the governor last night. He is a little, bare-footed Mestizo, dressed in the short frock and trousers of the Indians. He seemed disposed to do all in his power to facilitate us and forward us on our journey. I asked him about the tigers. He said he had known three instances of their having attacked men in the night; two of them were much injured, and one died.

Our boatmen made their appearance at 10 a.m., accompanied by their wives, bringing masato for the voyage. The women carry their children (lashed flat on the back to a frame of reeds) by a strap around the brow, as they do any other burden. The urchins look comfortable and contented, and for all the world like young monkeys.

The Indians of this district are Ibitos. They are less civilized than the Cholones of Tingo Maria, and are the first whose faces I have seen regularly painted. They seem to have no fixed pattern, but each man paints according to his fancy; using, however, only two colors —the blue of Huitoc and the red “Achote.”

The population of the district is contained in the villages of Tocache, Lamasillo, Isonga, and Pisana, and amounts to about five hundred souls. The road between the port and Tocache is level and smooth; the soil dark, of a light character, and very rich, though thin. Nothing is sent from this district for sale, and the inhabitants purchase the cotton for their garments from the itinerant traders on the river, paying for them with tobacco. I should judge from the periodical overflow of the lands, the heat of the sun, and the lightness and richness of the soil, that this would be the finest rice country in the world.

We started at twelve with two canoes and twelve men; river fifty yards broad, eighteen feet deep, and with three miles an hour current; a stream called the Tocache empties into it about half a mile below the port. It forces its way through five channels, over a bank of stones and sand. It is doubtless a fine, large-looking river when at high water.

The country is hilly on the right and flat on the left-hand side. At 3 p.m. we entered a more hilly country, and began to encounter again the malos pasos; passed the Rio Grande de Meshuglla, which comes in on the left in the same manner as the Tocache, and soon after, the port of Pisana; no houses at the port; saw an old white man on the beach, who was a cripple, and said he had been bedridden for nine years. He


begged us for needles, or fish-hooks, or anything we had. We gave him a dollar. He is the first beggar for charity’s sake that I recollected to have seen since leaving Lima. There are beggars enough, but they ask for presents, or, offering to buy some article, expect that it shall be given to them.

The river is now entirely broken up by islands and rapids. In passing one of these, we came very near being capsized. Rounding suddenly the lower end of an island, we met the full force of the current from the other side, which, striking us on the beam, nearly rolled the canoe over. The men, in their fright, threw themselves on the upper gunwale of the boat, which gave us a heel the other way, and we very nearly filled. Had the popero fallen from his post, (and he tottered fearfully,) we should probably have been lost; but by great exertions he got the boat’s head down stream, and we shot safely by rocks that threatened destruction.

At six we arrived at the port of Balsayacu. The pueblo, which I found, as usual, to consist of one house, was a pleasant walk of half a mile from the port. We slept there, instead of at the beach; and it was well that we did, for it rained heavily all night. The only inhabitants of the rancho seemed to be two little girls; but I found in the morning that one of them had an infant, though she did not appear to be more than twelve or thirteen years of age. I suppose there are more houses in the neighborhood; but, as I have before said, a pueblo is merely a settlement, and may extend over leagues. The sandy point at the port is covered with large boulders, mostly of a dark-red conglomerate, though there were stones of almost every kind brought down by the stream and deposited there. We travelled today about twenty-five miles; course N. W. by N.; average depth of the reaches of the river sixteen feet; current three and a half miles to the hour.

August 13. — Last night Ijurra struck with a fire-brand one of the boatmen, who was drunk, and disposed to be insolent, and blackened and burned his face. The man — a powerful Indian, of full six feet in height — bore it like a corrected child in a blubbering and sulky sort of manner. This morning he has the paint washed off his face, and looks as humble as a dog; though I observed a few hours afterwards that he was painted up again, and had resumed the usual gay and good-tempered manner of his tribe. Between ten and eleven we passed the mal-paso of Mataglla, just below the mouth of the river of the same name, which cones in on the left, clear and cool into the Huallaga. The temperature of this stream was 69°; that of the Huallaga, 74°.

Ijurra thought its waters were

152 SION.

decidedly salt, though I could not discover it. This mal-paso is the worst that I have yet encountered. We dared not attempt it under oar, and the canoe was let down along the shore, stern foremost, by a rope from its bows, and guided between the rocks by the popero — sometimes with his paddle, and sometimes overboard, up to his middle in water. I am told that “balsas” pass in mid-channel, but I am sure a canoe would be capsized and filled. The mal-paso is a quarter of a mile long, and an effectual bar, except perhaps at high water, to navigation for anything but a canoe or balsa. Just before reaching Sion we passed the Pan de Azucar, a sugar-loaf island of slate rock; white when exposed long to the atmosphere; seventy or eighty feet in height, and covered with small trees. It appears to have been a promontory torn from the main land and worn into its present shape by the force of the current.

The river to-day averages one hundred yards of breadth, eighteen feet of depth, and with four miles of current. Its borders are hilly, and it runs straighter and more directly to the north than before.

At 1 p.m., we arrived at the port of Sion. This is the port de la madre, or of the main river. There is another port situated on a caño or arm of the main river, nearer the pueblo.

The village lies in a S. W. direction, about a mile from the port. As our Tocache men were to leave us here, we had all the baggage taken up to the town. The walk is a pleasant one, over a level road of fine sand, well shaded with large trees. Ijurra, who went up before me, met the priest of Saposoa (who is on the annual visit to his parish) going south, and about to embark at the Caño port; and the governor of the district going north to Pachiza, the capital. This last left orders that we should be well received; and the lieutenant governor of the pueblo lodged us in the convento, or priest’s house, and appointed us a cook and a servant.

I slept comfortably on the padre’s bedstead, enclosed with matting to keep off the bats. The people appear to make much of the visit of their priest. I saw in the corner of the sala, or hall of the house, a sort of rude palanquin, which I understood to have been constructed to carry his reverence back and forth, between the city and port.

August 14. — We employed the morning in cleaning the aims and drying the equipage. Had a visit from some ladies, pretty Mestizos, (descendents of white and Indian,) who examined the contents of our open trunks with curiosity and delight. They refrained, however, from asking for anything until they saw some chancaca with which we were about to sweeten our morning coffee, when they could contain themselves no longer; but requested a bit. This seems an article of great request, for no sooner had the news spread that we had it than the

SION. 153

alcalde brought us an egg to exchange for some; and even the lieutenant governor also expressed his desire for a little.

We refused the dignitaries, though we had given some to the ladies; for we had but enough for two or three cups more. Their wants, however, were not confined to sugar.

They asked, without scruple, after a while, for anything they saw; and the lieutenant wanted a little sewing cotton, and some of the soap we brought to wash ourselves with, to take for physic. These things we could more easily part with, and I had no objection to give him some, and also to regale his wife with a pair of “pinchbeck” [6] earrings. There is nothing made or cultivated here for sale. They raise a few fowls and some yuccas and plantains for their own use; and it was well that we brought our own provisions along, or we might have starved.

I do not wonder at the indifference of the people to attempt to better their condition. The power of the governor to take them from their labor and send them on journeys of weeks’ duration with any passing merchant or traveller, would have this effect. At this time they have furnished canoes and rowers for the priest, and a Señor Santa Maria, bound up the river; and for the governor and us, bound down; which has taken thirty-eight men out of a population of ninety. (The whole population of the town and neighborhood, reckoning women and children, is three hundred.)

The town appears to have been once in better condition than it is now. There are remains of a garden attached to the convent, and also of instruments of husbandry and manufacture — such as rude mortars, hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, for beating (with pestles) the husk from rice, and a press for putting into shape the crude wax gathered from the hollow trees by the Indians, used by the friars “lang syne” [long ago] — all now seem going to decay. The people are lazy and indifferent. They cultivate plantains sufficient to give them to eat, and yuccas enough to make masato to get drunk on; and this seems all they need. Most of their time is spent in sleeping, drinking, and dancing. Yesterday they were dancing all day, having a feast preparatory to going to work to clear ground, and make a chacra for our “Lady of something,” which the priest, in his recent visit, had commanded; (the produce of this chacra is doubtless for the benefit of the church or its ministers;) and I have no doubt the Indians will have another feast when the job is done.

The dance was a simple affair so far as figure was concerned — the women whirling round in the centre, and the men (who were also the musicians) trotting around them in a circle. The music was made by


rude drums, and fifes of reed; and it was quite amusing to see the alcalde, a large, painted, grave-looking Indian, trotting round like a clog on a tread-mill, with a penny whistle at his mouth. I am told that they will dance in this way as long as there is drink, if it reach to a month. I myself have heard their music — the last thing at night as I was going to bed, and the first thing in the morning as I was getting up — for days at a time. The tune never changes, and seems to be the same everywhere in the Montaña. It is a monotonous tapping of the drum, very like our naval beat to quarters.

We embarked at the Caño port, and dropped down the Caño, a mile and a half to the river. We found the river deep and winding, and running, generally, between high cliffs of a white rock. The white, however, is superficial, and seems to be imparted by age and weather. Where the action of the water had worn the white off, the rock showed dark brown, and in layers of about two feet thick, the seams running N. N. W. and S. S. E., and at an angle elevated towards the north of 45°. It is argillaceous schist, which is the character of most of the rock of this country.

We passed the mal-paso of Shcapiama, and, with fifteen minutes’ interval, those of Savalayacu and Cachihuanushca. In the first two the canoes were let down with ropes, and we shot the last under oar, which I was surprised at, as I had heard that it was one of the worst on the river. Malos pasos, however, which are formidable when the river is full, are comparatively safe when it is low; and vice versa. Smyth passed when the river was high — I at the opposite season; and for this reason our accounts of the rapids would vary and appear contradictory.

After passing the last we found the hills lower, the country more open, and the river wider and with a gentler flow. The average depth today in the smooth parts is thirty feet; current, three miles.

We passed the port of Valle on the left. A small stream enters here. The town, containing five hundred inhabitants, is six miles from the port.

About sunset we arrived at Chualluayacu, a settlement of twenty houses. All the inhabitants, except those of one house, were absent. We were told that they had been disobedient in some matter to the governor of the district, and that he had come upon them with a force and carried them off prisoners to Juan Juy, a large town further down the river, where authority might be brought to bear upon them.

The village is situated in a large and fertile plain, which reaches from near the town of Valle, on the S. W., to Pachisa, on the N.; but this is not yet settled or cultivated, and, as at Sion, nothing is produced


except the bare necessaries of life. Some attempt, however, had been made at improvements, for there were two small houses, in tolerable condition, wandering about among the deserted houses of the village, They eat the tops of the sugar-cane, the shin of the plantalin, or almost any vegetable. They were brought from somewhere below to tarn a trapiche; but everything seems abandoned now, and, there being no one to take care of the horses, I fancy the bats will soon bleed them to death.

August 16. — Lovely morning. On stepping out of the house my attention was attracted by a spider’s web covering the whole of a large lemon-tree nearly. The tree was oval and well shaped; and the web was thrown over it in the most artistic manner, and with the finest effect. Broad flat cords were stretched out, like the cords of a tent from its circumference to the neighboring bushes; and it looked as if some genius of the lamp, at the command of its master, had exhausted taste and skill to cover with this delicate drapery the rich-looking fruit beneath. I think the web would have measured full ten yards in diameter.

The river opposite Challuayacu is one hundred yards broad, shallow and rapid. A few miles below, it spreads out to one hundred and fifty yards; and in what seemed mid-channel, there was but six feet water, with a bottom of fine sand, and a current of four miles the hour. Hills on the right, but retiring from the shores; a perfect plain, covered with trees, bushes, and wild cane, on the left.

At noon we arrived at the mouth of the Huayabamba, which is one hundred yards wide, has six feet water, and a beautiful pebbly bottom, A quarter of an hour’s drag of the canoe along the right bank brought us to the village of Lupuna, the port of Pachiza. It contains fifteen houses and about seventy-five inhabitants. A little rice is grown but the staple production is cotton, which seemed to be abundant. This may be called a manufacturing place; for almost every woman was engaged in spinning, and many balls of cotton-thread were hanging from the rafters of each house. A woman, spinning with diligence all day, will make four of these balls. These weigh a pound, and are worth twenty-five cents. They are very generally used as currency, there being little money in the country. I saw some English prints, which were worth thirty-seven and a half cents the yard; (cost in Lima twelve and a half;) they come either by the way of Huanuco or across the country, by Truxillo, Chachapoyas, and Moyobamba; and are paid for in hats, wax, or these balls of cotton.


We had a visit from the governor of Pachiza, which town is situated on the right bank of the river, three miles above Lupuna. I asked him why he had carried away as prisoners nearly all the population of Challuayacu. He merely said that they had been rebellious, and resisted his authority, and therefore he had taken them to Juan Juy, where they could be secured and punished. I thought it a pity that a thriving settlement should be broken up, very probably on account of some personal quarrel.

The district comprises the pueblos of Pachiza, of eighty matrirmonios; Valle, eighty; Huicunga, thirty; Sion, thirty; Archiras, sixteen; Lupuna, fifteen; Shepti, twelve; Bijao, four; and Challuayacu, three. The number of souls in a village, proportionate to the number of matrimonios, or married couples, is generally estimated at five for one. This would give the population of the district thirteen hundred and fifty. The people are indolent and careless; and although there could not well be a finer or more productive country than all this district, yet they barely exist.

After we had retired to our mats beneath the shed for the night, I asked the governor if he knew a bird called El alma perdida. He did not know it by that name, and requested a description. I whistled an imitation of its notes; whereupon, an old crone, stretched on a mat near us, commenced, with animated tones and gestures, a story in the Inca language, which, translated, ran somehow thus:

An Indian and his wife went out from the village to work their chacra, carrying their infant with them. The woman went to the spring to get water, leaving the man in charge of the child, with many cautions to take good care of it. When she arrived at thle spring she found it dried up, and went further to look for another. The husband, alarmed at her long absence, left the child and went in search. When they returned the child was gone; and to their repeated cries as they wandered through the woods in search, they could get no response save the wailing cry of this little bird, heard for the first time, whose notes their anxious and excited imagination “syllabled” into pa-pa, ma-ma, (the present Quichua name of the bird.) I suppose the Spaniards heard this story, and, with that religious poetic turn of thought which seems peculiar to this people, called the bird “The lost soul.”

The circumstances under which the story was told — the beautiful, still, starlight night — the deep, dark forest around — the faint-red glimmering of the fire, flickering upon the old woman’s gray hair and earnest face as she poured forth the guttural tones of the language of a people now passed away — gave it a sufficiently romantic interest to an imaginative


man. The old woman was a small romance in herself. I had looked at her with interest as she cooked our supper. She wore a costume that is sometimes, though not often, seen in this country. The body, or upper part of the dress, which was black; consisted of two parts — one comning up from the waist behind and covering the back, the other in front, covering the breast; the two tied together over each shoulder with strings, leaving her lank sides and long skinny arms perfectly bare.

August 17. — We procured a canoe sufficiently large to carry all our baggage, (we had hitherto had two,) with eight peons. We found hills now on both sides of the river, which a little below Lupuna has one hundred and twenty yards of breadth and thirty feet of depth. We passed a small raft, with a house built of cane and palm upon it, containing an image of the Virgin, which was bound up the river seeking contributions. The people buy a step towards Heaven in this way with their little balls of cotton.

We passed abreast of Juan Juy; but, a long island intervening, we did not see it. It is a large village of five hundred inhabitants; it is situated in a plain, a great part of which is overflowed by the river at the full; and much rice is cultivated there. I have met with the rice of Juan Juy everywhere on the river. Soon after we passed the mouth of the river Sapo, which is fifty yards broad, and muddy; navigable for large canoes for twenty miles to the town of Saposoa, which contains one thousand inhabitants, and is the capital of the comparatively populous district of that name.

The Huallaga, which for some miles above this has but six feet of water, at this place has eighteen; but it soon diminishes to six again.

We stopped at a collection of three or four huts called Oge, where there was a trapiche to grind sugar-cane; but the people only made bad rum of it. We tried to purchase yuccas and plantains; but though they had them, they did not care to sell. They only plant enough for their own necessities. Great quantities of yuccas are used, to make their masato. Below this we passed a rancho on the right-hand side, where there was a fine field of maize. This is the first settlement we have seen on that bank; fear of the savages, (or Infidels,) as they are called, who dwell on that side, preventing it.

We stopped for the night at Juan Comas, a small village situated on a bluff of light sandy soil, on the left bank. The hills on the other side are much more bare than is common, having only a few small trees and scattering bushes on them. We were quite objects of curiosity, and most of the people of the village came in to see us; one man, a


strapping fellow, came in, and after a brief but courteous salutation to me, turned to one of the women, and drove her out of the house with kicks and curses. He followed her, and I soon after heard the sound of blows and the cries of a woman; I suppose the fellow was either jealous, or the lady had neglected some household duty to gratify her curiosity.

August 18. — Just below Juan Comas the river has one hundred yards of width and forty-two feet of depth. This part of the river is called the “well” of Juan Comas; it is half a mile in length, and the current runs but one and a quarter mile the hour. The hills terminate just below this, and we have the country flat on both sides. We passed some rocky hills on the right-hand side, in one of which is a cave called “Puma-huasi,” or Tiger-house. It is said to be very extensive. Soon after we passed the mouth of the river Hunanza, a small stream coming in on the Infidel side of the river. Our popero says that the Infidels dwell near here, and the people of Tarapoto go a short distance up this river to capture the young Indians and take them home as slaves. I believe this story; for I found servants of this class in Tarapoto, who were bought and sold as slaves.

Slavery is prohibited by the laws of Peru; but this system is tolerated on the plea that the Infidel is Chistianized and his condition bettered by it. It is very easy for only a few white men, armed with guns, to rob the savages of their children; for these rarely live in villages, but in families of at most three or four huts, and widely separated from each other. They never assemble except for the purpose of war; and then the sound of a horn, from settlement to settlement, brings them together.

They are also a timid people, and will not face the white man’s gun. It is possible that the story of the popero is not true, and that the whites may buy the children of the Indians; but if so, I imagine that the advantages of the bargain are all on one side.

Below the mouth of the Hunanza we have the same comparatively bare hills that I noticed opposite Juan Comas. They present ridges of red earth and dark stone, which curve from the south towards the northeast, and are elevated in that direction to about 20°. I suspect that they have veins of salt, particularly as the salt hills of Pillcuana are of the same range, and present at a distance nearly the same appearance.

The hills of Pilluana, which we now soon passed, have their base immediately upon the river, on the right-hand side. They are about three hundred feet in height, and stretch along the banks of the river for a quarter of a mile. The salt shows like frost upon the red earth at


a distance; but seen nearer, the heavy rains seem to have washed away the loose earth and left the nearly pure salt standing in innumerable, cone-shaped pinnacles, so that the broken sides of the hills look like what drawings represent of the crater of a volcano, or the bottom of a geyser. Where the hills have been excavated, beautiful stalactites of perfectly pure salt hang from the roof in many varieties of shapes, There are much higher hills back of these, that appear also to contain salt; so that there seems a supply here for all people and for all time.

We passed the mouth of the river Mayo that comes in on the left between moderately high hills, and five minutes after arrived at Shapaja one of the ports of Tarapoto. The

river just above the junction of the Mayo narrows to forty yards, has thirty and thirty-six feet of depth, and increases much in velocity. This is preparatory to its rush over the Pongo, a strait of forty-five miles in length, where the river is confined between high hills, is much broken with malos pasos, and has its last considerable declivity.

Shapaja has twenty houses, mostly concealed in the high groves of plantains which surround them. Nearly all the men were away fishing, but the women (as always) received us kindly, and cooked our supper for us.