Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 2

Marvellous Waters

Arequipa and the Jura Baths, Part 1

I left Lima in September, 1903. Mr. Leguia did his best to persuade me not to start, as since he had made arrangements with me Mr. Beauclerk, the British Minister, had called on him and asked him not to let me sign the agreement. He had read and heard of Staedlier’s expedition and its result, and had come to the conclusion that it was far too dangerous for anyone to go in alone. I told Leguia I had already notified the various Chilian horse owners, whose horses I had been training, and had sublet my stable there for the time I would be away; and I said I was prepared to undertake the journey, agreement or no agreement, provided he would agree to abide by the terms if I succeeded in reaching Paroma and getting the information required. He assured me he would do so and expected all the others to do the same.

So in September I left Callao for Mollendo by the S.S. Columbia of the P.S.N. Co. (which, by the way, was lost in a fog on the rocks off the Lobitos Islands the very next year). At Mollendo the landing is generally very rough and the rollers very heavy till you get right in near the jetty; sometimes passengers have to be lowered down in baskets and occasionally they cannot be landed at all, but on this occasion the sea was calm. I put up at the Hotel Ferro Carril where the rooms are large, the food and drinks quite good, and the charges moderate, from 4/- to 6/- a day. There is another hotel in the Plaza, but when I was there the owner was down with bubonic plague and the place had been put in quarantine. Next morning I took the train to Arequipa, 7,500ft. up, a whole day’s journey, and put up at the Hotel Maloni, the best in the place, paying 6/- a day. At this altitude in these parts the atmosphere is the purest and the climate the finest in the world; in fact, all along the Andes Range, from 3,000ft. to 10,000ft., the climate is hard to beat, in my opinion. Over 10,000ft. is rather too high.

In Arequipa itself the streets are well-paved and kept; outside the town there are no roads at all, but just well beaten tracks. The cathedral is one of the finest outside Lima. The police regulations are quite excellent. All policemen are armed with rifles, and at night one of them is posted at every square. Every half-hour throughout the night he blows one sharp call on his whistle which is answered by the next one, and so on; when two sharp calls are blown the men on either side come up to see what is the matter. The inspectors ride round periodically during the night to see that all is well. All the windows are fenced in with stout iron bars built into the masonry so that they can be opened without the risk of thieves breaking in. I went to the Prefect to register my gun, rifle and revolver, and he gave me a special order of permission to use it in self-defence if necessary. Without these documents nobody is supposed to carry arms in Peru.

In this town there is a constant coming and going of Indians, with their strings of llamas; these animals serve them as beasts of burden and food, and their skins provide them with clothes. The town possesses two good clubs where strangers are always made welcome, also a small racecourse. The ladies of Arequipa are justly famous throughout Peru for their beauty.

My next concern was my weight, which was 265lbs., and I thought it was well to reduce this before starting on my long march over the high Andes into the forests below. So I drove over to have a look at the hot springs 21 miles from Arequipa, and the next day I took the train to the famous springs of Jura, 9,000ft. up, which used in former days to be a favourite resort of the Incas of Peru. I decided to remain there till I had reduced my weight to 235lbs.

The regular train from Arequipa to Puno runs twice a week, leaving at 8 a.m. and stopping at Jura to take up water and set down passengers at 9.30 the next morning. The baths are a mile from the station by a stone footpath. The waters are marvellous; they can and do cure almost any disease, and are a remedy for ailments that baffle the cleverest medical men. It is worth while relating here a few cases of almost miraculous cures, that came to my personal knowledge on the several occasions I stayed there. One was the daughter of a well-to-do man, a very pretty girl, who had lupus on one ear. Her father took her to Jura, hired a house from the Municipality of Arequipa, who run the baths, and left her there for nearly a year with her mother, sister, a cook and Indian boy. In three months he told me she was practically cured, but he let her stay a little longer to make certain. I saw her myself shortly after she arrived at Jura, and again nearly a year afterwards, when her father arrived to take her away.

Another was a merchant from Iquique, who arrived so racked with rheumatism that he could not even crawl, and had to be dumped down in the water in a blanket. In six months he left quite cured and restored to his normal weight and more; Morosine, the hotel-keeper, who was my informant, told me that he wrote to him two years after he had left and said that up to then he had not had a single ache or pain. Here is another case: After I had been there a couple of days a gentleman, who was staying in one of the little houses he was renting from the Municipality, came up to me and asked me whether I would mind doing him a favour. He had brought his wife there from Lima, to try the baths for a spinal complaint; he had been told of them by a doctor in Harley Street, London, whom he consulted and who said that he believed they could do more than any medical man. He told me she screamed out with pain when he and his servant carried her down, and asked me if I would mind carrying her down for him while I was there, as he thought it would be easier for her to be carried by one person. I did this for a few mornings, till she could manage to walk down the steps herself with my support, and in three weeks from the time I met her she was able to walk down by herself, and up too; after six months she went away cured. I met the man in Arequipa nine months after his wife’s treatment at the baths, and he said she had been out of pain for months; and a week or two after I had left Jura she was actually able to wait on herself. Yet another case was that of a man whom I met there, an engine driver on the Arequipa-Puno Railway, who was suffering from malignant ulcers which he had got while gold washing in the stream near the Santo Domingo Mine. He had been at Jura two months when I saw him, and had practically been cured, simply by drinking the waters from one of the several springs, and bathing in the baths twice a day. He told me he now had his cocktail, martine or gin and bitters before his lunch and dinner, just as he always did. I could mention many other cases.