Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon/Volume 2/Chapter 2
Gold and silver ornaments — Bridal trip on the Andes — Manufacturers of bark rope — Cotton trees — Winds and currents of the mountains — Population — Cultivation — Flocks of sheep — Frosty nights — Reports of Robbers —Shoemaker — Ancient fortification — Indians travelling — Condor’s wings — A padre on the road — Sugar-cane patches — Spanish Creoles — An African slave — Apurimac bridge — Cabbage patch — Peruvian widow — Bull fight — Fish and horned cattle — Cuzco — Market place — Steamboat navigation — Eastern side of the Andes — Coca plantations — Head of Madre-de-Dios — Rivers Cosnipata, Tono and Pinipini — Forests — Tigers — Monkeys — Chuncho savages — View of the lowlands from a peak of the Andes — Cinchona bark gatherer.
This town was formerly celebrated for manufacturers of beautiful gold and silver ornaments. Exported to Spain they were highly prized. Old ornaments are still for sale, which are of virgin metal, some of them curious imitations of birds and animals. In the small shops around the plaza, cotton goods are sold, but there is little activity in anything. The picture of decay is distressing; blind people walk arm in arm with cripples; no sound of busy wheels or of business is heard; a death-like silence prevails, both day and night, only broken by the chime of enormous steeple bells, where the ragged population kneel before an altar groaning with the precious metals. The priests, with few exceptions, are the only fat looking people in this part of the country, others being taxed for the support of the government and the church.
There are many pleasant families here; the gentlemen frank and agreeable. Several of them came to see me, and expressed great pleasure at the idea of advancing their country by steam navigation. One gray-headed gentleman told me he probably would not live to see the result of the expedition, but he believed his sons would, and daughters too. He gave me his blessing, which was quite sincere. The prefect was also interested in the enterprize, and showed it by presenting maps, and furnishing everything necsssary for an easy passage through a rough country. We were comfortably quartered, and kindly treated by all. The ladies of Ayacucho are handsome, ride well on horseback, are extremely agreeable in conversation, and naturally talented. One who can boast of having been in Lima, is never a “wall flower” among them. With a modest bearing, they speak out, and to the point.
28 ICE-CREAM COUNTRY.
Some answer serious questions affirmatively at the age of twelve years. One of the first they ask is, “are you married?”
Sugar and vanilla beans are produced on the eastern side of the mountains. Ice and rock salt are brought from the glaciers, in sight, with cream from the valley. Ice-cream is made and sold by the Indian women in the plaza. Our pistols kept bright, and burnished steel remains in the open air without rusting. Grapes are not very fine in quality. Goats seem to thrive better, and poultry again appears here. At dinner, seated by a lady, with large gold rings on each hand, and heavy gold chains around her neck, supporting a locket and gold cross, it was remarked that, those wearing expensive ornaments were supposed to be wealthy. She, evidently pleased, asked me to help her cut her chicken bones into tooth picks. Some of the dishes, cups, spoons, and forks were roughly made of solid silver, though there are thought to be few wealthy people in the city.
Breakfast is taken at from 10 to 11 a.m., dinner from 4 to 5 p.m. If supper is taken, it is at a very late hour; coffee is drank early in the morning, and tea in the evening. Tables only are set twice; their meats are served in different forms, highly seasoned with pepper and spices, generally accompanied with potatoes. Quinua, a native plant, considered a delicacy, is also prepared in different ways; the seeds are cooked with cheese, or boiled with milk and pimento.
Monday, August 4, 1851, at 8 a.m., thermometer, 59°; wet bulb, 54°. Our course stretches to the eastward again, over a dry, uninteresting road, hedged in with cactus, bearing the Tuna fruit. The country is uncultivated, except in the valleys. Crossing a well-built stone bridge, over a stream flowing northward, we passed a grist-mill. Peach trees were in blossom, and some few flowers. After a ride over these barren heights, the sight of a fresh rapid brook gladdens the hearts of our mules.
Matara post house is near a gorge in the range of mountains trending southeast and northwest. The potatoes and barley are of good size here; on the northwest side of a hill, I cut eleven stalks of wheat, produced from one seed, and counted four hundred and fourteen grains from the heads of these sprouts. It is not unusual to see twenty stalks produced from one grain — eleven is about the average. These crops are only raised after a careful system of irrigation. The Indians lead the water from the heights to a great distance; this seems to be a favorite occupation with them. Wherever water can be had, there the soil yields a rich harvest; in other places, the mid-day sun kills the young- stalks.
BRIDAL TRIP ON THE ANDES. 29
One of our arrieros — a Quichua Indian — has his wife; being just married, they are very fond. This appears to be her bridal trip. Mounted like a man, on a white horse, her blue dress and scarlet manto show to advantage. She wears a straw hat, with broad ribband. Her hair, after their custom, is plaited and hangs in two braids over her shoulders. The Indians all salute her as she rides by, and have something pleasant to say to both; she bow’s and receives it smilingly, while he looks modestly, and becomes very much engaged attending to his duties; while nearly out of sight, among the mountains, he is constantly talking by her side.
Over these rough roads the arrieros generally travel on foot. They walk for days with more ease than the mules, and quite as fast. On the plains they trot along after the baggage for hours at a time. Messages from the governors and sub-prefects are often sent to the prefect by Indians, on foot, rather than by horse or mule. The man cuts across the mountains and delivers his despatches long before they could arrive by the road. I believe the Indians prefer walking to riding. Sandals protect their feet from the rocky and gravelly road, being at the same time cool. Whatever they have to carry is fastened to the back, leaving the arms free. Sometimes they have a short cane in one hand for protection against dogs, or for support over steep, irregular paths. I have seen them crawling on all fours, up hill.
We expected an extended view over lands to the east of our range, but when we arrived at the ridge in the gorge, we saw mountains beyond mountains, snow peaks and rocky rounded tops, deep valleys and narrow ravines, all thrown about in confused shapes. After travelling for hours, we made leagues by the road; yet the distance from the Pacific to the Atlantic is short on our map.
In the small town of Orcon, the people were threshing barley and twisting bark into rope. A good-looking young man arose from the rope-making party of men and women, and offered us a glass of chicha. It seemed impolite to refuse a kind offer when the people do you a favor and wish you to consider it as such, but I cannot drink it; so declining with thanks, we pass on leaving José, who naturally leans the chichaway. After a long descent, we encamped by a lonely house, enveloped in foliage. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 73°. We have sand flies, musquitoes, bugs, bees, and humming-birds. The whole scene is changed to mid-summer; cotton grows upon small trees, so do peaches and chirimoyas.
The Peruvian mail passed by from Lima on its way to the southern
30 WINDS AND CURRENTS OF THE MOUNTAINS.
departments. The letters are carried in two small hide boxes on the back of a fine mule, with a swallow-tailed red and white flag flying from a short pole fastened between the trunks. The conductor is well mounted and armed; wears a scarlet cloak, and rides after; while the mounted arriero trots ahead, blowing a horn. They travel at a quickened pace up hill and down. I should like to overhaul that letter box; but remittances are often made by the mail, and a desire to look for United States letters on the road might be considered unlawful.
We crossed the Rio Pampas, flowing northwest, upon a suspension bridge made of bark rope. Eight cables are stretched across, over which, small cross-pieces of light wood are fastened to form a floor; two large cables above the sides bear part of the weight, by small ropes laced from the floor over them. Great care had to be taken by leading the mules one by one. My mule, Rose, gave more trouble than any; she was very much frightened, and would not budge until another mule walked just before her, and we all urged her not to turn back. I feared she would rush through the lacing into the river, one hundred and twenty feet below. The creaking and swinging of the bridge was fearful for about forty yards. We saw fishermen in the light green water below; on the rocks sat numbers of cormorants, ready to dive for fish. The stream is rapid and very winding, turning snake-like round the base of mountains on its way through the Apurimac, Ucayali, and Amazon, to the Atlantic. It takes its rise to the south of us, near the tops of the great Cordilleras; our road leads along its banks, ascending through stunted trees, from which sweet air plants hang in full flower. Here the vegetable productions seem to suffer in the struggle between the moisture from the river and the burning rays of the sun, which seem to obstruct and keep down the plant that shows a desire to improve.
After a long and tiresome ascent we reached Bombam post house; the postmaster offered his house, and seemed astonished that we did not seek it in preference to our tent. He sent us chicken soup and boiled corn for supper. A group of kids came playing about our tent; their faces resemble those of monkeys. The Indians killed a large hog, and the women made blood pudding. José assured me it was good with chicha; he seems to fancy the custom of living among the Indians.
There is no regular wind in this region; currents of air draw in through the mountains from all directions; although the clouds far above us show wind, we are unable to tell that it comes from any particular direction, and below it is quite calm. While encamped on the high places, frequent efforts were made to distinguish the satellites of
REPORTS OF ROBBERS. 31
Jupiter by the naked eye, but we are not high enough for that yet, though our sight is very good. The rivers around flow to every point of the compass, and make it difficult to decide if the waters make the winds, or the relative positions of the mountains alone cause these drafts. The winds are very gentle, and curl the cirrus or hairy clouds in most graceful shapes about the hoary-headed Andes in rich and delicate clusters; when the peak is concealed, all but the blue tinge below the snow, we see a natural bridal veil. An easterly wind lifts and turns them to dark, cumulus clouds, settled on the frosty crown, like an old man’s winter cap; the physiognomical expression is that of anger. The change is accompanied by thunder, and seems to command all around to clothe themselves for storms. The cold rain comes down in fine drops upon us; the day grows darker, and the clouds press close upon the earth. Our oil-cloth hat covers and India-rubber ponchos were admired at a small settlement. The children were at school under a shed, pulling their bare feet under them to keep them warm; they looked as if they wished school was out. The people are better looking as we travel south, and are more cheerful. A girl stowed José’s saddle-bags with fresh bread and cheese from a door-way, and said she would rather travel than keep shop. José said his work was wet; she answered, hers was too dry. The road becomes very slippery when wet; it is best to have the mules shod for safety as for the comfort of the animal. They worry very much sliding about under heavy rain; some of the baggage mules fall upon the ground. The flat lands are thickly populated, and well cultivated. On the rolling mountains we come to grazing again; the flocks roam in the desert, where we pass the night. At supper the arriero tells José, in Quechua, this is a dangerous country; robbers live in numbers among the mountain-tops. They meet the travellers at night upon this uninhabitable part of the road, and make what terms they please. Their modes of attack differ. If they see the party in day time, and know the number, they come boldly up and make their demands; if they are in doubt, their guide comes alone; inquires after the traveller’s health; requests a light for his cigar, keeping his eyes about him. After expressing a wish to purchase, he returns to his party, with a full report of his reconnoissance. Whether they attack or not, the chances are that they will steal the mules at pasture during the night. José doesn’t feel at ease; is anxious, after telling me the story, to know what we shall do. The plan for the night was arranged. If the guia comes, he was to be made fast to the baggage as soon as he lit his cigar. José was to keep hot water at the fire; one arriero to sleep with a lasso at hand, the other to watch the mules. Should any
one approach our tent, the arriero was instructed to lasso and haul him in under José’s hot water. Richards was armed with a carbine and two large ship pistols; my double-barrelled gun and five-shooter, with rifle bore, made us in all ten shots. At midnight José peeped into the tent, and after several anxious calls, said, “Sir, the guia is coming,” José did not admire the general plan of action, but it was not changed. Upon close examination, we found the supposed guia to be a donkey gazing at the fire. The weapons used by the robbers is a short thick club, slung stone balls, and knives. They seldom use fire-arms, but dread them. The savage, dissipated negro, or Peruvian robber, may come up bravely with his dagger, intent to commit murder; but let him hear the click of a revolver and he vanishes; the noise is offensive to him. Robbers waylay travelling merchants, lonely strangers, and trains of merchandise with loads of silver. The mules are turned from the road into a wild mountain gorge, where none but robbers live, and forever lost to the owner. The Montoneros, as they are called, control the country around.
About daylight in the morning, José was heard grumbling to himself. While he was asleep a shepherdess’s dog robbed his saddle-bags of our bread and cheese. Sketched the encampment; called it Ladron; and pushed on. A thick fog, and snow under foot. At 6 a.m., thermometer, 89°; wet bulb, 37°. The pasture is improved by burning down the grass at this season. While the rain storm beats from the eastward, flock of vicuñas are grazing to the west of us. The rain turns to hail as the wind veers to northeast. In the valley of Andahuylas, we see the wild cherry tree for the first time in South America. After sundown, the bright pink light, which often attracts attention at Lima, and sometimes alarms the natives, appears not unlike the aurora borealis, rising far above the Cordilleras in the west, while the bright moon lights our path over the Andes to the east. In Andahuylas we joined the sub-prefect and family at breakfast. Our baggage was placed in a large room, and mules in the corral. If hospitality was not quite so highly seasoned with hot pepper it would go down easier. The rough life on the mountains agrees with body and mind much better than the luxuries of the valley seem to do.
This town has a population of fifteen hundred; mostly Indians. The valley contains six thousand. There is a great deal of poverty. The cultivated portions of land seem to be over populated. Deaf and dumb lounge about. A good-looking woman, with a baby in her arms, came to my door begging bread. Her intelligent face was sad.
MESTIZO SHOEMAKER. 33
When I gave her money, the poor creature nearly bent on her knees before us. My gun-cover wanted repairs; and while applying to a mestizo shoemaker, with three or four apprentices, the sub-prefect joined me. I unguardedly told him what I wished, and remarked that the man had so much business he could not repair it in time, when I was astonished to hear the sub-prefect order him in a loud and passionate way to do the work. The shoemaker pointed to the large amount of work on hand, and said he could not possibly attend to it; when he was at once ordered to do what he was told by the next morning, and to bring it to the government house. The cover was repaired, and shoemaker paid. Afterwards I was more careful.
There are abandoned silver mines five leagues south, one of which has been re-opened by a North American — Charles Stone. I did not see him, but understood he hopes to work profitably.
The productions of the valley are maize, barley, wheat, lucerne, beans potatoes, small apples and peaches, with a few chirimoyas of inferior quality. The tanas fruit is very abundant; the cactus flower beautiful. The wine drank at the sub prefect’s table was manufactured from the Yca grape. The wife of the sub-prefect was a very kind person. At breakfast and dinner hours, ten to twelve poor Indians were sometimes fed by her. She teaches her little son to treat them politely, telling him to help them to water, &c. Entering the small town of Heronimo, we find all the inhabitants bare-headed, on their knees in the streets and doorways; church bells ringing; host on the way through the town. A padre walks, with book in hand, attended by a man with a large umbrella to keep off the sun. A number of women and men follow, uttering prayers. One of them rings a small bell. We halted under the shade of a house while the host entered the church. As the people rose, we travelled on. Six leagues brought us to Pincor post, where we enjoyed a supper of wild pigeons, six of which were killed at one shot. They are large, and very like tame pigeons. The arrieros and José cooked them on sticks before our camp fire. Here, for the first time, we saw a snake. The songs of frogs are heard among lofty mountains. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 65°; August 15th. Next morning at 6 a.m., thermometer, 38°; wet bulb, 36°; temperature of a spring, 46°.
On a narrow ridge, with deep valleys on both sides, we have a view of snow-clad mountains to the east; by the road-side an ancient fort, called by the arrieros “Quramba.” The arrieros (Quechua Indians) expressed pleasure and surprise when they saw the sketch, wrapping themselves up in their ponchos, and kneeling on the ground, looking on.
34 CONDOR’S WINGS.
A party of Indians came silently up the ridge; on a journey they are quiet; when at home they play upon wind instruments and drums. The girls often sing, but I never heard any whistling; they are not great talkers, except when excited, and then the women’s tongues are remarkably fast. Nor do I believe they are active thinkers. Their eyes are constantly moving, for they are sharp-sighted, and notice every thing near them by a quick, sly glance. Their hearing is very good; so is their knowledge of the manners, habits, and peculiarities of animals, being constantly on the watch for game, which they trap, as they are not practised in the use of fire-arms; nor do these Indians use the bow and arrow. A boy in the party had a pair of condor’s wings; one of them four feet five inches from the body joint to the tip end. The bone and joints remind one of heavy iron door hinges. The boy had caught the condor in a trap, and the bird being too much for a load, he cut off the wings and seemed to be troubled with the weight of them on his back. The condor is often seen along the sea-shore, feeding upon cast-up dead fish; but it is among the lofty peaks of the mountain this wild bird builds its nest. The most daring and experienced climbers among the boys are unable to reach their young, or rob their eggs. We looked for the nest and longed to see the extraordinary bird rise from the valley, bearing in beak and claws a young lamb to its little ones; or flying from one mountain to another with a young vicuña . The Indians are fond of baiting condors; they sometimes hide close enough to the bait to lasso them, and have been known to conceal themselves under the bait and catch them by the legs.
Huancarama, a small Indian town situated in a valley, with a little old church, and Indian population. We met the priest on the road returning to town; he was followed by a number of persons, to whom he read aloud as he rode along up hill. Our baggage mules met him in a very narrow pass; all came to a stand-still, and the not over-cleanly padre was addressing the arriero in a loud and excited voice. José assured him it was up-hill work for his party to back out; if he would be kind enough to stand on one side, we would pass on, which was done. As we cleared each other, after some chafing of baggage, the extreme politeness of the padre was more becoming. Sometimes arrieros engage in dreadful fights with stones, followed up with knives; on such occasions the weaker party are forced to give way to the strong. It is generally considered proper for those coming up, to halt on one side to give their mules a rest. Those standing with heavy loads, head down hill, suffer, and are anxious to push on. Noises made in the valley resound through the mountains; an uproar on the summit causes little
SUGAR-CANE PATCHES. 35
noise; the echo among these hills is very great. These people are very careful to unsaddle animals only after they are cool; otherwise, they say bumps rise on the back, which become sore. They even leave the bridle a while for fear that taking it off suddenly will give the mule cold in the head.
We see at the bottom of the valley of Carquacahua the first sugar plantation. An old Indian, with hoe in hand, is leading the snowy waters of the Andes between rows of sugar plants, which are now two feet high, with rich, yellow leaves. Man seems to suffer like the plant from the heat of the sun; both would perish under it in this valley, without sufficient water for irrigating the soil; with it, he plants and produces a crop every year. A little above his head, on the mountain side, there appears another climate, with stunted clusters of cactus, small dry bunches of grass, rocks, and dusty soil, deserted by animal life, except a green lizard basking in the parching rays of the sun. A little higher the surface is covered with a lead-colored coat of grass, turning a little greenish as the eye ascends; when suddenly a streak of dark earth is capped by the pure white snow, and as you look up it seems to get deeper and deeper, until the soil is completely enclosed in a pyramid of eternal snow. The old Indian exchanges his sugar crop in the plaza for Massachusetts cotton goods.
Crossing a stone bridge, dated 1564, over a stream of water flowing northwest, we met a party — ladies and gentlemen — travelling on horseback. The gentlemen wear green goggles, and the ladies green veils, to protect the eyes from the glare of the sun, as the reflection of the rays on the snow often causes inflammation of the eyes, said to be very painful in the rainy season, when the snow-line reaches below the road. Though we experienced no inconvenience from the surumpe, as this affection is called, the Creole portion of the population seem to be much afraid of it, particularly the gentlemen. When a middy, on a visit to Lima, eleven years ago , I formed a high opinion of the Peruvian horseman as he pranced through the alameda in the evening, on a well-trained animal. The Peruvians, anxious to make a show before strangers, put spurs to their spirited horses, ride at full speed, halt suddenly, and worry the animal by turning short round and jumping him. A man rode by me at full speed, and drew up just before my mule; in doing so he pulled rather hard on the Spanish bit, and the horse throwing up his head, struck the rider in the mouth, cutting his lips and displacing six of his teeth, which saved him from pitching over the horse’s head.
36 AN AFRICAN SLAVE.
The ladies and their maids are fresh-looking, and manage their horses with ease. A negress rode a man’s saddle, and wore a flat straw-hat, trimmed with fancy colored ribband. The riding skirt is dispensed with under the bloomer style; she wore very long orange-colored silk stockings, and on the heel of a small and neat black shoe were buckled her woman’s spurs. Her horse had a rocking pace, her hat gracefully placed on one side of her plaited wool, with a large cigar between white teeth; she smoked her way through the mountains, carefully guarding her smiles, only condescending to deal them out to her mistress’s most deserving friends. African slavery exists in Peru.
On arriving at the town of Abancay, the sub-prefect was in the country. The governor kindly offered me a house, but as I wished to make some observations upon the stars during the night, we passed on, and encamped in the neighborhood. At 2 p.m., thermometer, 77°. The mules were well fed with lucerne. They suffer and begin to show effects of the travel. The parrots are talking in the bushes near our tent, and a cricket lives with us.
The climate is delightful in this sugar valley. Near town is the ruin of another fort. Flowers, vines, and bushes cover it so thickly that the traveller would not suspect he was passing a masked fortification. The road from it leads over the mountains to the northeast. At 11 a.m., temperature of a spring, 54°; air, 55°; sun, 60°; cumulus clouds and northerly wind. The road seems to be getting worse, and the overhanging rocks are so low, we occasionally bump our heads. By way of resting our animals, we march on foot. A few hours travel, over a wild country, brings us into another valley, where the cattle are larger than any we have yet seen. Passing an idle great mill, on a stream flowing east, we came to the hacienda Lucmoj , a grove of willow trees shaded the avenue; the house was of two stories, large and neatly white-washed, the garden richly supplied with fruits and flowers; the peach tree in full blossom. The out-buildings for the Indian servants were in good order; the shelter for sheep, horned cattle, horses, mules, jackasses, and numbers of goats, showed unusual kind treatment. The owner of this valuable estate was a young bachelor, of intelligence and hospitality. The death of his father gave him possession of the property. He talked with me about his country, and remarked that “the government did nothing for the people.” Upon being asked, why the people depended upon the government, he looked surprised, and wanted to know whether all the improvements in North America were not made by the government! The few silver mines in the neighborhood have been abandoned.
APURIMAC BRIDGE. 37
After declining a polite invitation to remain some days, we took a short cut across the corn-field to the town of Curahuasi, a miserable little Indian place. The water from the mountains passes down the ravine to small patches of sugar-cane. The mountains are wild; winding around one of them, we suddenly came in sight of the long-looked for river Apurimac. Its waters foam as they dash over its rocky bed. Our view was cut off by another turn, and leaving the surface of the earth, we enter a tunnel, cut into the mountain, which stands like its strata, perpendicular, by the side of the river. Sky-light holes are cut through the rock, and as we travel along, in alternate light and darkness, the arrieros shout at the top of their voices at the train. The mules are fearful of proceeding. Coming to a house, which was open on both sides, we looked over the Apurimac bridge, and then down into the river, a fearful distance below. The toll-house is inhabited by two women, a man, a child, a dog, and two jugs of chicha. The ropes of this suspension bridge — of bark, about the size of a sloop-of-war’s hemp cable — are made fast to the posts which support the roof of the house. It is best for travellers not to be too particular in their examinations, how these ropes are fastened. A windlass in the middle of the house kept the ropes hauled up when they slack off. One woman, a good-looking black, was seated by a large jar of chicha, which she sold to travellers, with her child on the other side; she spun cotton, with a smoking fire close by to keep off the sand flies. These little insects are here in swarms. A white woman was seated by the windlass, holding her head in her hands. I thought she had the small-pox, but the red bumps on her face were caused by these annoying flies. The baggage was taken off the mules as they were brought through the house, and one by one taken across the river, when the arrieros carried over the baggage on their own backs. When Rose, a most sensible animal, saw the bridge, she held down her head, laid her ears back, switched her tail, and plainly kicked out the words, “I won’t go over.” She is generally indulged and coaxed; an old mule was put forward, and she behind to follow him. As the arriero walked on with the bridle, the toll man pursued the old mule with a rope’s end, when it backed, kicked with both heels, pulling the arriero along. We took shelter behind the windlass, with a barometer, the woman screamed, picked up the child with one hand by the neck, and the chicha jug by the same extremity, and beat a retreat. She mounted the windlass, and, in a towering passion, commanded with her tongue, telling the men to secure the animal at once. José stood out of the way with Rose, for the old mule had charge of the house, and was getting warm; he succeeded in putting his hind-legs in the fire,
38 CABBAGE PATCH.
when the chunks flew in all directions; the mule became angry, as if it had been abused here before. As soon as he cooled down a little, the bridle was taken off; a hide rope put over his head and hitched round his nose; each fore-leg was also fastened by the end of a rope, and three men held the three ropes. The nose-rope was fast pulled until the mule’s neck was stretched out; one foot-rope advanced one leg; the other foot-rope being then pulled, brought the first foot down, getting one pace ahead; so they gradually walked him over. Rose had been looking on at the effects of his obstinacy, and gently followed. Two dollars were paid for our two mules and the baggage; the arriero paid six and a quarter cents apiece for his mules; this is the custom of the country. The bridge is eighty yards long and six feet wide, distant one hundred and fifty feet above the dark green waters. There are six floor-ropes, crossed by small sticks, lashed with strips of hide to the cables. This platform is hung to two side-cables by small bark ropes. The river flows northwest, with a width of twenty yards.
The Apurimac empties into the river Santa Ana, and is an important tributary to the Ucayali, after it receives the waters of the Juaja. We are told the Apurimac was the western boundary of the Inca territory during the reign of the first Inca — Manco Cápac. The road from this bridge to Banca post-house winds up the mountain. In some places the rock has been cut like stairs. The arrieros help up the mules by pushing against the lower part of the baggage; we were continually stopping to have the loads fastened on. There are few houses near the post — uninviting in appearance — the people being mostly mestizos. A party of women and men, all intoxicated, seated by the road-side drinking chicha, politely invited us to join them; some looked very thin and sickly; an old woman was groaning on her bed at the door; a boy close by her had some horrible disease breaking out on his face; he was deformed and looked like a person on the edge of the grave, but amused himself by playing in the dust; his ghastly stare made us fear he had some infectious disorder. On the other side was a woman shaving a boy’s head — the shape of a mule’s more than that of a human being. An enclosure, containing a patch of cabbages, was found near a stream of cold water, which flowed rapidly from the snow peaks in sight, through an expensive aqueduct, supported on pillars of stone, neatly white-washed, leading to a sugar plantation some distance below us, on the east side of the Apurimac. We encamped here without permission of the owner, who was absent. While our mules were feeding and we enjoying our supper, a woman came in, and in a hurried and excited tone of voice, addressed me in Quechua.
Our difficulty was
BULL FIGHT. 39
with a Peruvian widow, very good-looking, but who talked at a terrible rate. José concealed himself behind a peach-tree full of blossoms, preparing tea. She said she was poor, but had sons full grown, and that we had taken her garden fence down, and turned eight mules among her cabbages. José told her, when we arrived, tired, after a long march, she was not at home to give consent; her grounds had particularly pleased us, and we had taken the liberty to enter them for the night; in the morning the fence should be repaired to her satisfaction, and money paid for the use of her grounds; the arrieros’ mules should go out, and ours be fastened and fed close to the tent, which was not among the plants, but at a proper distance on our side. She, smiling, accepted a cup of tea, and they spent the evening sociably together, in the clear moonlight, with no sand-flies, and a westerly wind.
Cabbage, salad, onions, and garlic transplanted here, do not thrive as well as on the coast, and are less cared for than the potato; except the garlic, which is a favorite with the Creoles. Leguminous plants are used in the chupe when nicely made.
August 19. — At 6 30, a.m., thermometer, 53°; the widow’s fence being repaired, she received pay, saying “God bless you, good-bye.” As we rode off we caught José receiving an answer to his farewell smile. At 11:30, thermometer, 70°. The country has a dry, uninteresting appearance near the town of Mallepata, yet the animals and vegetables seem to be in larger proportion. Flocks of parrots and pigeons increase in numbers ; the sheep appear to be smaller in size; horned cattle and horses are plenty; the mountains are lower; sugar plantings more numerous. Tall willow trees grow by the side of a stream we cross, flowing south, and another running west, with milky colored water, which the arrieros prevent their mules from drinking, saying it is not good for our use. The people we meet look like Chinese in the face and dress like gentlemen of the olden time — short breeches, long coats, with big buttons and large pocket-flaps, in cloth of scarlet and of blue.
As we rode through the Indian town of Limatambo, our attention was drawn to a crowd of people on the plaza, which was barricaded at the corners, and seats put all around. Flags of different colors were waving in the air; drums beating to a singular noise of wind instruments. We had arrived in time to see a bull fight. The matadores were dressed like the clowns of a circus. People were busy receiving and arranging large chicha jars by the walls. All were dressed, and behaved well. The boys gathered round an enclosure with a door opening into the plaza. The girls sat up straight on their seats, and looked cheerful and pleasant. Among them all, I only observed two
40 FISH AND HORNED CATTLE.
white persons, who were of Spanish descent, and neatly dressed in blue. The town was filled with people from the surrounding country. Musicians marched round the plaza in the rear of six Indian matadores, who taking their positions, a strict silence followed. A door opened, and out popped an immense condor, fastened by the bill with a line, and to the other end of which a large man was attached. This surprise brought forth shouts and laughter. The bird flapped his large wings and ran about trying to escape. The music commenced again, and he was taken out, when, during another silent pause, in bounced a young wild bull. As the Indians shouted, he came to a stand in the centre as though waiting to be heard. He soon began to play; shaking his head, he made a dash, and knocked a man down. The Indian lay flat upon the ground; the bull bellowed with rage, while he endeavored to get his horns under the body to toss him, throwing back dirt with his fore-foot. Not succeeding, he got down on his knees, yet the Indian was too flat for him to lift. Others came up and teased the bull away, when he charged at several, until the animal was completely exhausted. Then he made for the door, and the people so laughed at him, that he came back in a rage; but there were many on the ground, and he was bewildered, and could not make up his mind who among us all he could attack. He retired with the music; others entered, till the afternoon passed away. When we were far on our road, José said the people were merrily dancing away the night. The chicha is brought from a distance on jackasses, in large raw-hide bags, well corked; two bags are slung over the sides of the animal.
In the flat bottom near the town of Suriti, some small fish were bottled from a snow-water stream. During a heavy hail storm from the southeast, sheep flocked together in small gangs, and stood in a ring, with heads out, like a drove of partridges going to rest. The hail-stones were as large as peas. Thunder clapped about our ears. At mid-day thermometer, 65°; two hours after, amidst the hail storm, it fell to 41°.
Ducks, geese, snipe, and a large black curlew, are found in the valley in great numbers. In the rainy season, a portion of the lands are flooded. Now the cattle have good pasture. This land shows the remains of a large lake, to judge from appearances. The annual deposits washed from the mountains decrease the depth of water at the end of each rainy season. The land gradually rises, channels are formed, and the water is drained off, which in time will leave the valley free of floods. When fish become extinct, horned cattle and the shepherd’s herd occupy their places. The Indians are breaking up their barley stubble with ploughs. Population increases. The road is paved as we
rise to the top of a small gap, and pass under a large arch, which supports a well-built stone aqueduct. We halted, and gazed with delight at the ancient curiosty of the New World — the city of Cuzco, centuries ago the seat of the Incas. The view is beautiful. Close against the hills, at the west of the valley, we see the ruins of the Temple of the Sun; Catholic church steeples rise amidst smaller buildings of a large city. The floor of the valley is carpeted with green, while afar off, opposite the churches, are the white snow-capped Andes in a clear blue sky. Suddenly a heavy cloud came over the city from the south, and we arrived in the plaza under a heavy rain. Entering the government house, I found the prefect of the department of Cuzco very sick in bed with “peste,” (influenza,) attended by a doctor and a priest. His aide-de-camp appeared in full uniform, and laughingly told me he was a lieutenant in the Peruvian navy, with a major’s commission in the army. We arrived in time for a good dinner: soup, fish from the Apurimac, beef, poultry, potatoes, yuca, rice, and salad, with pine-apples, chirimoyas, plantains, oranges, and granadillas. The wine made in the valley is sweet and mild, superior to that of Yca; excellent coffee is grown on the eastern slope of the Andes. José hung his saddle-wallets behind the door, for fear the dogs might again eat his bread and cheese. The old man and the mules need rest. We have been forty-five days on the road from Tarma. Upon paying off the arrieros from Andahuialas, I advised them to be more particular with their money; never to spend it on chicha for themselves before they buy food for their mules, which they promised me should not occur again. When leaving, they wished to kiss my hand — a practice encouraged by the priests and authorities, but particularly offensive to the North American, especially after the poor Indian has faithfully performed his duties.
August 23, 1851. — At 8 a.m., thermometer, 57°; wet bulb, 55°. In the plaza we find, for sale, maize, barley, wheat, beans, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, chirimoyas, plantains, bananas, oranges, limes, papayas, watermelons, granadillas, and dried figs, in their season; also peaches, apples, grapes, and cherries. There is a great display of pottery, well made, and fancifully colored. White and printed cotton goods bring high prices; so do coarse woollen cloths, particularly those of blue and scarlet. The whole population requires thick clothing here. The Indians consume the coarse goods, and fancy large dark bone buttons. The Creoles generally wear broad-cloth. Everbody has a cloak, worn out against the door-post, or at the corners of the streets, where the wearer lounges in the sun. White sombreros or Texan hats are worn during the week, but on Sundays black beavers. Scull-caps are very
much the fashion, made of wool and cotton, with ear-flaps, and strings to tie under the chin. The ladies, at church, wear black silk dresses, fancy silk shawls and stockings; bonnets are not yet worn. On Saturday, the shoemakers enter the plaza, where their wives and daughters sell the week’s work. It is an amusing sight to see the inhabitants trying on shoes; gentlemen take this opportunity to compliment the ladies upon their small feet, which never offends.
The city of Cuzco has a scanty population. The department contains 346,031 souls. There are very few African slaves in the southern departments.
I found a very friendly disposition towards the expedition, with a desire to aid me. The prefect offered twenty soldiers as an escort in the low country, to the east of the Andes. A number of young men volunteered to accompany me. A meeting of the citizens was held for the purpose of forming a company to join me. At their suggestion, the President of Peru was applied to for the payment of twenty thousand dollars, appropriated by Congress, for the exploration of the Rio Madre-de-Dios, supposed to be the same with the river Purus, rising among the mountains to the eastward of Cuzco. I was very much pleased also to hear a spirited young officer had applied to command the soldiers. From investigation made, I learned that the head of the Rio Madre-de-Dios, was some distance beyond the line between civilization and the savages, the Chuncho Indians.
September 16. — The day for my departure had arrived, but neither volunteers nor regulars were ready. Richards was sick, and left behind with the baggage. The party was reduced to José and an Indian boy, who drove an old horse, with a box of instruments, a little camp furniture, and biscuit as his load. The mules were in good order. We mounted the hills to the left of the valley, taking the short or twelve leagues road to Porcotambo. The wind and course were easterly, with a cold rain falling in small drops; temperature of a spring, 60°; the air, 54°. A bridge over the river Urabamba is constructed of brush-wood cables. Our mules gave us much trouble to get them across. José was sent some distance below to wade the mule — “Bill” — as a phthisically fat woman declared his heels were too dangerous to her charge — the bridge. The river flows north, between mountains, ranging north and south, with perpendicular strata of rock and red clay, and is a tributary of the Santa Ana. We met droves of mules, loaded with bales of the coca leaf, on their way to Cuzco. At daylight, in the morning, as we entered a deep gorge, the warm east breezes, mixed with the cold mountain air, remind me of spring time at home.
A PHILADELPHIAN. 43
A well-dressed old Indian, with a scarlet vest, kindly offered us part of his breakfast; he was taking it in the doorway of his lonely little hut, among these rugged mountains. At 6 a.m., thermometer, 60°, and at 6 p.m., 66°. We crossed a well-built stone bridge over the Mapacho river, which is said to flow north into the Santa Ana, but this is doubtful. The houses of the town of Porcotambo are small, and the population seven thousand; miserable looking, excepting the Indians, who are full of health and life. Many of them have noble faces, and are willing to do anything required of them, except to enter the low country to the east. Like the Creoles of the town, they have great fear of the Chuncho tribe of Indians, who are at war with the Peruvian government. The sub-prefect and his wife were very kind; twenty-five able-bodied Creoles volunteered to accompany me; I accepted their services, but the next day the arriero being alarmed, deserted; the volunteers backed out to a man, when José suggested an opinion that volunteers did not act so in North America; at the same time he frankly acknowledged he was afraid of the Chunchos.
Our road lay along the river in the narrow valley, where Indians were ploughing with oxen; peach, apple, and cherry trees in blossom. The Indians build their houses partly of wood; they carve spoons, bowls, plates, and baskets, beautifully, with iron chisels. At 5 p.m., thermometer, 68°. At Totora farm, we halted for the night, and met a young Philadelphian, named Charles Leechler, engaged in collecting Peruvian bark for a number of years. At first, he spoke with difficulty in his native language, but with a true American spirit assured me I might depend upon him as a companion. He knew parts of the country I was directed to explore; his services were the more acceptable. He joined me.
Turning from the river we ascend a steep ridge of mountains — the eastern range at last. A heavy mist wafts upwards as the winds drive it against the side of the Andes, so that our view is shortened to a few hundred yards. We hope the curtain will rise that we may view the productions of the tropical valley below; but the mist thickens, and the day gets dark with heavy, heaped-up black clouds; a rain storm follows. The grasses are thrifty, and the top of the ridge covered with a thick sod. By barometer we stand eleven thousand one hundred feet above the level of the sea. I was obliged to leave my box of instruments in Porcotambo on account of bad roads, and take barley for the mules. By law, the cargo of a mule descending the eastern slope of the Andes is one hundred and fifty pounds — one-half the usual load. Wild ducks are seen feeding in the small lakes.
44 EASTERN SIDE OF THE ANDES.
September 21, 1851. — At mid-day, thermometer, 54°. Riding along the ridge to the northward, the road suddenly turned east, and immediately descending, we met with foliage, flowers, and fruit; among them a few intimates — the common blackberry and whortleberry; the fruit large, but very acid. At every step we take the growth increases in size, until, after descending the mountain-side, we are enclosed in forest trees. Our course in winding down being towards the centre of the earth the compass is of no use to us. The way is lined with the bones of mules and horses killed by falling down these precipices, which don’t deserve to be called roads. Among the limbs of the trees parrots were chattering with monkeys; trains of large ants cross our path. This insect is never seen on the top of the Andes. Under a rude shed by the side of the mountain torrent, Cherimayo, we found shelter from heavy rain in large drops. Thermometer, 61° at 5 p.m. There is no pasture for our mules; they are confined to the path by the dense growth of bushes and vines, and are kept near all night by fencing the track on both sides. Upon inquiring of Leechler the number of inhabitants, he informed me a few men were gathering Peruvian bark in the woods, but it was difficult to tell where they were, as the cinchona trees are thinly scattered over the country. The bark is represented as inferior near the base of the Andes here. The best quality sells at twenty-five dollars the hundred pounds in the market of Cuzco.
The regular rainy season will soon set in, widen all the cascarilleros (as the bark gatherers are called) carry the bark home. They enter about the commencement of the dry season, or about the middle of May; roam through the wilderness. When they meet with trees, a little house is built for protection at night, under which the bark is kept dry. The tree is felled by an axe, the bark stripped off, dried, made into small bundles, and carried on the backs of men — who are generally mestizos — to the nearest point at which a mule may be brought.
This life is one of great hardship; the workmen are often caught in the forest without a supply of provisions. In case of fever, however, they are well supplied with quinine; but many of them die. The climate is very changeable; a cold, heavy rain falls, alternating with the rays of a tropical sun. Leechler pointed out the cinchona trees; the cascarilleros distinguish them at a distance by their bright-colored leaves; very smooth and light green, with here and there a yellowish leaf. Standing on one side of a ravine, the men count the value of the opposite side, or they climb to the tops of the loftiest trees and survey the country around. The forest trees here are very valuable for their varieties of ornamental woods. Leechler undertook also to give me an
PERUVIAN PIONEERS. 45
idea of the number of beautiful and valuable tiger-skins to be found in the bushes. I had been thinking of the water-power dashing by us for a saw-mill; when, before going to sleep, he said, “Cover your head, sir, at night; for the serpents here are very large.” These are productions not always enumerated in a commercial list.
At 5:30, a.m., thermometer, 49° ; temperature of stream, 49°. Clear morning. The road was much obstructed by bamboo, and in a very bad condition. We have to halt and repair the road, or cut away the brushwood; the wet branches keep us clamp; now and then a mule ahead runs into a bee’s nest, which sets all into activity. Our mules plunge into great mud-holes, and are fretted among the roots of the trees. At mid-day, thermometer, 74°, showing an increase of 20° since yesterday at this time. The country is rough; the hills completely enveloped in forest trees. The descent is still great. Arriving at the house of a squatter, we put up for the night. Cascarilleros bring their bark here to deposit it. The place is called Cueba. Three families live in bamboo houses; the men and women are engaged in clearing little patches of ground, where they plant sugar-cane, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peppers, plantains, oranges, potatoes, watermelons, cotton, and yuca. Probably there may be 40 acres in all cleared. Yuca serves for bread where they have no flour; it is a species of potato like the yam of Panama. It is a root shaped like a beet, from a small tree, which grows to the height of a man, with a trunk as large as his thumb, having crow-foot-shaped leaves in a bunch at the top of the stalk. It is planted from cuttings in rows apart, that the plant may be kept free of weeds. The yuca is valuable and delicious, either boiled or roasted.
The people are very fond of it, and boast about the enormous size of some of them. I never saw one more than 18 inches long, and of ten or twelve pounds weight; generally smaller; though seriously told by persons at a distance from their habitation that in the Montaña one is enough for a mule load. Yuca is at once liked as a vegetable by most strangers. Clearing the land is a tiresome business; trees cut down at the end of the wet season, when they are full of sap, burn with great difficulty. The brushwood and thick undergrowth is troublesome, though the soil is very productive, after being well cleared. Our mules found a blue grass, which springs up upon exposing the soil to the sun, and keeps cattle in good order. The people are mostly Spanish Creoles, and seem to lead a miserable life. Including cascarilleros, there are about twenty- five people who may be said to belong to the houses. There are no others in the neighborhood. They are glad to see travellers to hear the news, for they are shut out from the world. This place might be
46 COCA PLANTATION.
reached by a less precipitous way, crossing the ridge nearer Porcotambo , and entering the montana further south. Such is the report
of the cascarilleros, who are the best authorities with whom we are willing to consult.
At night, I was politely given the centre of the floor of one of the houses for my bed. Three men slept on one side of me, and the very pretty woman of the house on the other, with a sucking baby between us, which seemed to have a most extraordinary appetite for milk, and kept a constant snuffling and pulling like a young pup. The houses are built with bamboo, placed about four inches apart, that air may pass. After we all got to sleep, something made a noise near our heads, and in the morning tracks of a large tiger indicated his desire for a baby. The men thought he must be a monster by the foot prints; and pointed to where he had his paw through the opening, but his arm was not long enough. They are seldom so daring, and he must have been very hungry.
Gradually descending, we crossed the Tono river. Water, 63°; air, 74°, at 9:30, a.m. The hills are getting smaller; the road in some places more level, until we suddenly come to a cleared pampa, covered with a rich pasture, on which are grazing a drove of mules. Four houses are built close to one another, and near them a large patch of pine-apples. One Indian woman was at home; she was Quechua. We afterwards arrived at San Miguel farm, where a number of houses are built in a hollow square, with a little wooden church, and fine orange trees in the centre, under the shade of which I was embraced by Padre Julian Bovo de Revello, a Franciscan missionary, honorary member of the Agricultural Society in Santiago de Chili.
Monday, September 22. — At 3 30, thermometer, 81°. We are now on the eastern frontier settlement, where one hundred men are engaged cultivating the coca plant. The seed is planted in rows like maize. In two years the bush, five or six feet high, is full grown, bearing bright green leaves, two inches long, with white blossoms, and scarlet berries. The women and boys are now gathering the ripe leaves, while the men are clearing the fields of weeds. The gathering takes place three times a year, in cotton bags. The leaf is spread out in the sun on mats and dried. In wet weather they are spread under cover, and kept perfectly dry, otherwise the quality is injured, and the market price very much reduced. The bushes produce from forty to seventy years, when a new planting becomes necessary. The leaves are put up in cotton cloth bales of seventy-five pounds each, and sent to Cuzco, where it sells for fifteen dollars per bale. The Indians masticate the leaf, and sometimes
TERRITORY OF THE CHUNCHO SAVAGES. 47
drink it as tea. There is a constant demand for it. Those who work in the mines are inveterate chewers. On long journeys, or while undergoing fatigue of any kind, it supplies the place of the tobacco leaf. It has a soothing effect. Slacked lime or ashes from certain roots are used by some of the old chewers to give it a finer flavor. The plant can only be raised in a moist climate. It is never found in the deep valleys of the Andes. It offers the most important inland trade in the department of Cuzco, and is the inducement for settlers to venture to the base of the Andes. Though the tropical productions can be raised, they are seldom cultivated to great extent.
Coffee, sugar-cane, cotton, rice, chocolate, tobacco, limes, and lemons, are to be had. The padre pays attention to experimental farming and cattle raising; he has a little drove, a few cows brought from the tops of the Andes; also ducks, pigeons, and chickens, which he feeds upon corn cultivated by his own hands. His upland rice is fine, without flooding. The padre is a perfect representative of Robinson Crusoe; though he has no goats, he has four dogs. An old Santa Cruz soldier acts as his man Friday. In his little hut he has a few books and two old hats. He wears one when he works on his farm, the other an old hen lays an egg in every day. He seems to be happy, but said he wanted very much to go home to Italy, by the way of the Rio Madre-de-Dios and the Amazon, for he thought if he could find a road to the Atlantic by which his countrymen might come up, he would make a fortune.
I had arrived at the end of the road for mules. The only way to shorten the distance between us and the Atlantic was to dismount and cut a way through the forest on foot. The undergrowth is so thick, that it is difficult to see where the tigers and other wild animals get through.
José was left in charge of the mules. With a barometer and poncho slung to my back, revolver in belt, long knife in hand, I pushed through the woods, accompanied by the padre, Leechler, and four Indians; the padre whistled up his dogs. After a most difficult struggle, twelve hours brought us to the bank of the Cosnipata river, in the territory of the Chuncho savages. The stream is very swift, with a rocky bed, forty yards wide; the water of greenish color. This stream takes its rise to the south, in the mountains of Carabaya, where the people are washing for gold. The day’s march was through a level country, with the exception of two small hills. Leechler shot two wild turkeys, and a fine fish, which helped out boiled rice and parched corn for supper. We had been very much bitten by ants and stung by bees. The right arms were tired of cutting a way with the machetes. According to our
48 LAUNCHED A RAFT AT FOOT OF ANDES.
reckoning, we have travelled nine miles; a bush house was constructed; our beds, the bare ground; the dogs lay by us; they had ranged about in all directions during the day, and were well tired. The padre called one of them Paititi, after a large town of the Chunchos, in the wilderness to the northeast of us; another Alerto, (vigilant;) a third Cabezon, (big head;) and the fourth, Valedor, (protector.) Paititi was a middle-sized, short-tailed, chocolate-colored dog, the bravest and most active. The padre kindly presented him to me. One of the Indians was taken sick; I administered three anti-bilious pills, which cured him after a sleep. Cutting enough balsa wood early in the morning, the logs were fastened together, and the first North American-built raft launched upon this tributary of the Amazon. I embarked with Leechler and one old Indian for the opposite shore. There were falls above and below us; the current swift; we poled part of the way, but soon found the river too deep for that process. We landed on a rocky little island, after being nearly carried over the falls; Leechler lost the balsa on his return for the padre; the current was too swift for him, and he had to swim for life, while our bark was swiftly carried down stream, and wrecked against the rocks. At 1 p.m., thermometer in the sun, 100° ; temperature of the river water, 70°. In the evening, Leechler had been working with the padre and the Indians, cutting more timber. He swam over, and spent the night on the island with me, in preference to sleeping in the woods; we lay down upon the rocks, under a heavy rain, with loud claps of thunder, which echoed up the Andes. At midnight, the old Indian called us from our bed of water; the river was rising; the night was dark, and rain poured down. A match was lit, when it was discovered we could not escape; we saw the rushing waters between us and the shore; a sudden rise of three feet would carry us off. Leechler assured me we could not gain the shore by swimming. The old Indian said “I was a bad man for bringing him there, when he could not swim.” A mark was placed by the edge of the water, and we seated ourselves very uncomfortably to await our fate. The roaring of the waters was terrible. Leechler looking at the mark, finds our island very much reduced in size by the flood. The old Indian hears the dogs bark, and we think the Chunchos are attacking the padre on the main land; I blamed myself for bringing these people so far. Should the stream continue to rise at its present rate, we must be lost; suddenly, the old Indian looking up, turned to me with brightening eyes, pointed to the southeast, and said in Quechua, “day-break.” This was great relief, particularly as I saw the Indian smile; it was expressive, natural, and knowing. As the day-light came, the storm cleared off, and we survey our prison. The
RESCUE OF THE OLD INDIAN. 49
waters had turned muddy, the drift-wood came dancing by us, great logs rolled over as they floated down; the wild Toucan, with its large beak, screamed as it flew over us to its nest; the fish seemed to rejoice at the flood, jumping up in the air as though making signs for the river to rise; while the good old padre, dressed in his snuff-colored robes, motioned to us the waters were subsiding. The waves made by the rapid motion of the water in mid-channel were quite as high as our heads, and the island much reduced in size. The water runs off very soon after the storm passes away, and we gained the opposite mainland. Leechler lost a second balsa in trying to cross the stream to the island again for the Indian, and another night was spent with the party divided. Our provisions were getting short. A small bamboo balsa was now constructed, the barometer, pistols, and clothing put upon it. My provisions were left with the old Indian, and he was told to remain there until we returned. He said, “if he was left alone, the Chunchos would murder him, or the tigers would devour him at night; if we left him he would jump into the river;” but he was again directed to remain where he was while we sought help, to take care of his provisions, and he would soon be with his friends. He told Leechler he would obey, but “he must first bring over his coca,” which was on the opposite side.
With Leechler on one side of the bamboo raft and I on the other, we jumped into the stream, and after hard work, swimming, we gained the padre in time to save our raft from passing over the falls. In the evening we were at San Miguel farm, after three days’ hard work, and two nights without sleep. Resting ourselves we found great difficulty in getting persons to go with us after the old Indian. The padre made a spirited speech to them, which had the desired effect. In the evening we encamped at the junction of the Tono and Cosnipata rivers. To my great joy, the old Indian came down opposite to us, after being called by Leechler. In the morning early, we felled a tree across the Tono, where it cuts through a mass of rocks, and descending along the banks of that stream for some distance, we came to a smooth place in the river. Another raft was built which rescued the old Indian, but was also lost, and we saved the men by felling a large tree on the rocks to which they clung.
The old Indian had eaten all he had the night we left him, and was now very hungry; he was delighted to get his coca, and handed me the cigars I gave him to smoke. He amused the other Indians, telling them how the white man had treated him. After following the Tono all day, we came to the river Piñipiñi, a stream as large as the Tono, with an average width of forty yards. I saw at once we could get no further, but it was a satisfaction to behold these two
50 RIO MADRE-DE-DIOS.
rivers, the Tono and Piñipiñi, join and form the head of the river called by the Quechua Indians Amaru Mayu, (serpent-river,) which Padre Revello had not long since named “Rio Madre-de-Dios,” for the reason the Chunchos had killed a number of Creoles and Quechua Indians and after destroying their little church, had thrown the catholic image into a tributary stream, whence it had floated down, and was found on a rock in the centre of Amaru-Mayu.
This stream is very swift, about seventy yards wide, and not navigable at the point I saw it, which is in latitude 12°32’ south, longitude 70°26’ west of Greenwich, and by barometrical measurement 1,377 feet above the Pacific ocean; showing a descent from the first flower on the side of the ridge in sight of 9,723 feet; small hills intercept our view of the river after it turns. Leechler informs me that the cascarilleros, from prominent places on this side of the Andes, have seen Indians crossing the “Madre-de-Dios “ in canoes, among the islands, a short distance below us; and that the river is very winding in its course through a level country. The padre has seen a stream called “Marcapata,” to the west of us, flowing northwest, which probably falls into the Madre-de Dios below.
The country is a beautiful one; well watered, and from its general appearance adapted for cultivation, though wild and unpopulated as far as we have seen, except by monkeys of different species, who are very busy in the evening cutting into the bamboo stalks for the water therein, which they take as their tea.
We feel great anxiety to visit the island in a Chnncho canoe; to make friends under the shade of a plantain orchard; to contract at the door of these Indians for a passage to the Amazon, and go home by this route. Besides, I wished to see the effect produced on these wild men by a present, from the padre, of angels, pictures drawn from a long tin box under his arm; but it is impracticable, and we lay down by the head of the Madre-de-Dios, to sleep till morning, with thirty-eight leagues by the road to travel back to Cuzco.
The ants troubled us. Before the break of day, we all rose suddenly from our sandy bed; the dogs skulking in with tails between their legs; all more or less uncomfortably aroused by the growling of two large tigers on the opposite side of the Piñipiñi. A light breeze was passing from us to them; they snuffed a breakfast, while the Indians silently hung their heads. I was looking upon the water, expecting to see them plunge in and swim towards us. Leechler examined my double-barrelled gun, and laughingly called out in English, “thank you kindly, the rains on the mountains during the night have flooded the Piñipiñi, and we therefore, cannot breakfast together this morning.”
CHUNCHO SAVAGES. 51
After our breakfast of boiled rice, we turned, and on our way saw the tracks of five Chunchos on the sands. Their feet are very small, and they walk with toes much turned in. They hunt in small parties of from five to seven, always accompanied by a woman, who carries their fish and game, cooks and does all the hard work, while they stroll along with their bows and arrows. They are very bitter against the Peruvians, and give them no quarters; waylay them on the roads to Porcotambo, and turn up their noses at all offers of friendship. We are on their hunting grounds. Here they find large fish, wild turkeys, and a species of pheasant, the size of guinea fowls. It is said they worship brave animals and reptiles, such as tigers and poisonous snakes; are generally smaller men and women than the Indians on the Andes. The inner corners of their eyes are turned down; they walk with their heads hanging; the expression of face is morose, without the least sign of a smile. Such are the reports of the men with me.
We halted at Chapemayo, which joins San Miguel, to see the old Indian safely in the hands of his wife, who had been told by the Indians, when we returned without him, that he was murdered by the Chunchos. The meeting was a very modest one.
José was delighted; the old man had expressed great fears that he would never see us again. The mules were in good pasture, but very much bitten by vampire bats, which strike them at night in the skin of the neck, and they bleed so much as to weaken them. The padre was very sad at the result of our reconnoissance. He was kind enough to give me an extract from a meteorological table he is in the habit of keeping. Three crops of corn may be raised here in one year, yet the people do not descend the Andes to settle in this productive country.
The farmer labors under great disadvantage. He never leaves his house in the morning to cultivate the field without fire-arms. They are at the expense of keeping a watch constantly stationed, lest they be surprised by the Chunchos. People are afraid to pass from farm to farm alone. Some have been murdered; others died from sickness brought on by fatigue, a hot sun by day, and loss of sleep at night. The coca planter generally leaves his wife and children behind him in Porcotambo when he enters upon his ordinary duties on this montaña.
I am told there are some cleared lands a short distance to the east of these four farms which have been abandoned, or rather nearly all were murdered by the Chunchos some years ago, and others have not ventured there since.
Upon gaining the top of the Andes, we found the barometer tube had been broken on the way. A hole was cut in the top of our coffee pot,
52 VIEW OF THE LOWLANDS.
large enough to insert a thermometer, and the height of the mountains determined by boiling water.
The day is pleasant, and we take our last blow and rest; the clouds lift, and while seated on the smooth top of a peak of the Andes, we see afar off to the east the magnificent view we have been anxiously expecting. The rich lowlands are looked down upon from a height of over nine thousand feet. It is like looking upon the ocean; those regular ridges trending northwest and southeast, decreasing in height as they increase in distance, seem like the waves of the sea rolling towards the mountains. The whole surface is covered with a beautiful growth of forest trees, whose foliage appears of a deep-blue color. Looking at the compass, following the direction of the northeast point, we see interruptions in the ridges, where the Madre-de-Dios cuts her way through the rollers towards the Atlantic ocean, striking them at right-angles. Upon looking at our map on the east, the river Beni flows in an easterly direction into the Madeira; and again on the west, as our previous remarks go to show, the Santa Ana empties into the Ucayali. We know that a great river pours from its four mouths a large quantity of water into the Amazon in latitude 4° south, and longitude 61° west, where it is called the river Purus. The geographical position of the Madre-de Dios forces us to believe it to be the same as the Purus. This is a matter of importance. If it is navigable for steamboats to where we now see, it forms the natural highway to South Peru. All the silver and gold of Peru are not to compare with the undeveloped commercial resources of that beautiful garden. The wealth, strength, and greatness of a nation depends upon a well-cultivated and productive soil and people, aided by commerce and manufactures. Veins of gold or silver run out; without other industry, poverty follows, particularly where the people have been principally schooled in poetry and Latin grammar, as found to be the case on some parts of our route.
Leechler tells me he has not heard his own language spoken for ten years; that he would like much to go with me; “but,” said he, “I have a wife and two fine boys in Porcotambo.” He has been of so much service and stood by me in my troubles, that I feel inclined to sit still and talk with him in plain English. The cascarilleros have seen islands in the bed of the Madre-de-Dios. During the rainy season the mountain torrents wash away the soil about the roots of large trees; a tree falls into the stream, and is carried away by the waters; that tree is borne rapidly down until it reaches the level country, where the current of the larger river runs slow; there it turns up-side down, the branches sink, and the roots stick out of the water; the branches evidently hold
AMAZON ROUTE. 53
to the bottom of the river, while earth and sand are heaped upon them; drift-wood and vegetable matter catch in the roots or lodge against the trunk. This is work by the laws of the Almighty. A little island is thus built; it grows larger and larger every year; as it increases in size, in the middle of the river, it occupies space which before was covered with water. The same body of water must pass; as it does so, it cuts a deeper channel, while it also caves away the banks, whose earth and growth are carried farther down by the freshets. One channel grows larger than the other; the smaller one probably fills up, and then our island is lost by its attachment to the main land. Should the river be large enough to float a vessel, and there be no falls between it and the sea, that island is the head of navigation. Suppose it is in latitude 12° south, longitude 70° west, of Greenwich, the distance from the island to the mouth of the river Purus is 735 miles; course N.E. ½ E. from the mouth of the Purus down the Amazon to the sea, a straight line is 806 miles; course E.N.E. ¾ E. 735 + 806 = 1541, which distance a steamer can run in six days. Triple this time for turnings and stoppages for fuel, we have eighteen days then from the mouth of the Amazon up to this island.
A ship, loaded with woollen and cotton goods, and with hardware ploughs, and farming utensils — of which there are none, except some miserable old muskets — with corn, rice, buckwheat, hemp, tobacco, all kinds of flower and garden seeds, plants, vines, and shoes, would require twenty-five days to the mouth of the Amazon, eighteen days to the island, and ten days to Cuzco: in all 53 days. On the route travelled at the present day, by Cape Horn to Yslay, on the Pacific — the nearest seaport to Cuzco — the passage would occupy 105 days, and 15 days from there to Cuzco: in all 120 days. Time with merchants is money.
But the great river must be explored from its mouth up. When we swam across the Cosnipata, with our bamboo balsa, I lost my straw hat in the middle of the stream. Should it be found in the mouth of the Purus, I shall hereafter maintain that it is fully entitled to the honor of having decided that the Cosnipata is a tributary of the Purus. The India-rubber [gutta-percha -wmm] trade is increasing every year. It is now the most important export from the Amazon, and is destined to be of much greater value. Few trees are found near us.
The mules being well rested and fed on the mountain grasses, we overtook a red-haired, thin, sallow-complexioned man, slowly walking after an old horse, loaded with Peruvian bark. This was a cascarillero returning from the labors of the season in the forest. He had been sick, and went homeward with a slim reward. He presented a striking contrast
54 ARRIYAL AT CUZCO.
to his wife, who met him with the horse. She was a smiling negress, very black, with beautifully-white teeth, who had been a slave, but bought her freedom when her former master died. He left her money which the cascarillero married and spent for her.
We rode into Porcotambo late by moonlight. An Indian girl took me into the sub-prefect’s room, where he and his wife were in bed. I drew back surprised, but not in time to escape being seen. He and his lady called out to come in. I apologized through the door; this was not considered necessary; they both insisted upon my entering. As they sat up in bed, I, in a seat close by, answered their many questions while the servants prepared supper and bed for me in another room. The amount of fancy-work about a lady’s nightcap was becoming to dark hair and eyes. Women, I find, are much interested in steamboat navigation and the productions of other countries. This town is remarkable for beautiful señoras.
At the end of the sixth day, from the head of the Madre-de-Dios, we arrived in Cuzco, after an absence of twenty-one days. Richards was still much reduced, but gaining health. The prefect expressed his regrets at not being authorized to send troops with me, and asked the favor of a written account of my visit to the east, in behalf of the Peruvian government.