Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 7

Miracle Cures

The Caballo Cunco Treasure: First Attempt, Part 5

I spent most of the fortnight doing prospecting work on Mount Sapo, and shooting bush chickens, which were so plentiful that I got them whenever I wanted. One day I winged a big condor at long range, but failed to get him. In the valley just outside the forest, I several times saw beautiful golden and silver pheasants; there were never more than two at a time, and they were always at the same place. They were far too pretty for me to fire at, and exceedingly tame, as were the bush chickens; all that was necessary was just to go to the roosting trees at dusk, and take a chance shot. Two days after Zam got back, I sent him down the valley, to get half a bag of flour crushed by a water-mill, which only cost 3/6, 2/6 for the wheat and 1/- for the crushing. He returned in the evening with a tall, well-made Indian, who asked me to come down and see his boy, aged fourteen, who had a bad attack of malaria. I promised to do so next day, and the Indian returned to his home. The following day I took Zam to lead his mule and my chestnut horse, and the boy to carry my gun, as there were plenty of fat pigeons on the lower ground where the Indian lived. We walked leisurely down the valley along a good Indian path for about nine miles, taking three hours, and got there at 11 a.m. I saw the boy, and gave him some pills, and told his mother and father before I left to give him hot boiled cow’s milk and stop cramming spoonfuls of pearl barley and boiled maize down his throat, which I found they were doing. I shot six pigeons there, and they gave me some cabbages, young onions and a pine. On the way back, I enjoyed the lovely scenery on both sides of the valley. Next day I went to see the boy again, taking the white mule to ride back on, and the red roan mule to bring back two bags of potatoes. I found the boy improved, put him on weak tea and toast, and hot milk, and gave him a dose of quinine, leaving another dose for his mother to give him two hours after dark. I shot four pigeons, and the Indians gave me six fresh eggs and another cabbage. Next day I went down again with the horse, and found the boy much better, and sitting outside. I gave him some quinine, and made him some hot Liebig’s Extract, giving his mother a big pot, and telling her to make him drink three cups a day for four days, and then come up and let me know how he was. I also left a tin of tea and some sugar for her, and two pigeons to grill for the boy. They were very grateful, and wanted to give me all sorts of things; I accepted a young kid, and had it done on the spit next night for dinner.

Four days afterwards, the Indian came with a large bunch of bananas, his wife with two bottles of milk and a fowl, and his little girl with some pines and eggs. I remonstrated with him, but he said I had cured his boy, and so long as I was here it was his duty to bring me supplies, a sure proof that these people are grateful and easy to get on with if properly treated. At the appointed time, we started off to the home of José Maria Ampuera, getting there early in the morning on the second day. The old man told me he would show the hill to anyone coming from a daughter of General San Roman. He said his father had told him that this was the place, and that his grandfather had been with the priests, Gregorio and San Roman, when they hid the treasure. His grandfather and father had been very well off, and owned land and cattle, and he himself had inherited land and cattle from his father. The Bolivian Government took away his land, and eight hundred of his cattle, leaving him only with his present holding and fifty head; this was in Malgarejo’s time, and for that reason, when President Malgarejo came down to the River Sacambaja with half a regiment of soldiers to dig and hunt for the treasure, he refused to show them the place. He showed me afterwards where President Malgarejo prospected for it; they were not very far off, but on the wrong side of the river. José told me how fifty years ago he and his sons found a gold bell weighing 40lbs., which they sold, and bought land and cattle, but in uncovering the tapada some rocks fell and killed one of his boys; he and his other son took this as a bad omen and never tried to find any more. He promised to show me the place where they found it. The reason he had not sent in for his money from the agent of Father San Roman was that after the priest died he did not know to whom to apply, and he thought the family in Lima would be sure to send something in to him.

José thought it advisable that we should go separately to the place where the treasure was, as if people were to see us travelling together they might suspect something and follow us and the law of treasure is very stringent. So he suggested I should go a roundabout way along the valley of the Calatranca Range, cross over the highest pass, and make for the River Sacambaja below, and he would go by a more direct and easier path and meet me down below on the banks of the Sacambaja. I left the cook to go with the old man, and sent Zambrana to Cuti to get a sheep for 4/- and follow on with the old Indian in two days’ time, while Manuel, his boy and the two other men went the other way with the mules and donkey and horse. We camped that night near the path over the mountain, but soon after we had pitched the tents and let loose the mules, with the chestnut horse as bell mare, Manuel brought me the news that there were other travellers evidently going the same way as we were, and that he could see their fire behind us, but he thought it did not matter, as they would now follow us over the high pass. Where we camped there was no forest, only a few hardy trees and bushes growing in the gully; we were 15,200ft. up, very near the snowline. There was a light layer of frozen snow near the camp on either side of the gully, plenty of long tufty mule grass growing all about, and a stream of very cold water with ice and snow on the edges. After the sun went down it got very cold; but we had a good Irish stew for supper, and plenty of everything, and with two big fires going, one near my tent, the other near the men’s, we passed a comfortable night. Next morning after a bath in the cold stream I dressed in front of a big fire, made a good breakfast and started off at 9.30, riding my mule, but getting off at steep places. The path was one of the Inca tracks, broad and well made, cut out of rock, with very gradual inclines, and I was able to ride most of the way. At 11 a.m. the aneroid registered 17,000ft., and at 1 p.m. we got to the top of the pass; the last hour and a half going over frozen snow. I wrote down 19,000ft. in my diary for the height of the pass, and was probably not far off the mark, as the aneroid does not register over 17,000ft., and Lisandro Mendizabal, the wealthy owner of Cuti and the Alcalde of the district, afterwards told me that was very likely the height as the top of the mountain was 21,500ft., and always covered with snow. We were not followed any more. From the cairn of stones on the summit we saw an immense expanse of country; nobody was to be seen, no dwelling and no living thing, except some big white collared condors sailing magnificently in the clear air without any apparent movement. Down the hill we followed the broad Inca and Jesuit road, which is cut out of the rock and in places runs along the extreme edge of the precipice, and after ten miles, of which the last few miles were through forest, reached the River Sacambaja.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 7

The Lost Mines of Sapo

The Caballo Cunco Treasure: First Attempt, Part 4

The town of Palca consists of a few houses and has a church and a priest. It is noted for its excellent brew of chicha, which makes a wholesome and refreshing drink.

The tanner’s wife, a pleasant, civil Indian woman, asked her brother to take me to the ranch of a very old Indian, who lived on a sheep and maize farm at the foot of the Sapo mountain, and who, he said, would know all the old men in the district. He took me there the next day, and I put up at the old man’s house. His name was José, and he claimed to be 99 years old; he knew José Maria well, and said that he was some years older than he was himself. He was a strong, healthy fellow, and had lived all his life in this pure atmosphere. The scenery round here was very fine; the lands for leagues around belonged to a man at Palca, and were worked by several families of Indians, who grew maize, wheat and barley on the share system, and had flocks of sheep feeding on the extensive grass lands between the River Cori Mayo and the forest. José sold me sheep whenever I wanted one for 4/- each, rented me two huts, one for myself and the other for a kitchen, and lent me the oven for 2/- a day. By his advice, I sent Zambrana down the river to José Maria Ampuera with a present of tea, sugar, cocoa, tobacco, matches, biscuits and cheese, and a few pounds of coca leaves, with a note, telling him I had come to look for the treasure with the data supplied by Corina San Roman, and wanted to visit him. Mariano was sick just then with a sort of cholera, which had been brought on by his own greed. On the way to Palca, I had bought half a sack of apples at a farm with an orchard, and he had eaten too many. He wanted to return to his home in Cochabamba, so I paid him off, gave him provisions for ten days, and took the Indian boy from Palca in his stead.

José told me that the Sapo Mountain, as far as he knew, had never been visited for thirty-five years, that there were several abandoned socabons (mining tunnels) there, and that the settlers occasionally washed gold out of the Cori Mayo, so I decided to explore this mountain while waiting for Zambrana to come back. The next day, after breakfast, I rode off on the white mule up a path which José showed me, which led to a dip in the mountain where he said I should find a big socabon. I took Juan and the Indian from Palca with me to clear the path when necessary, leaving Manuel to look after the horse, mules and donkey, and his wife to make bread and attend to the kitchen. It was not more than two leagues to the hollow, but it took from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to get there, as we had constantly to clear the track, which was overgrown in most places, so we went down again, intending to go and look at the tunnel next day. I saw lots of bush chickens in the forest on the way up, and decided to take the gun with me next day. Next morning I took Manuel’s son, Juan, and the Indian boy with me, and rode off with the white mule to explore the socabon. It was situated at 14,200ft. just above the forest line, which stops at about 14,000ft. The view from here was quite magnificent; a vast expanse of country could be seen for miles around, entirely unoccupied except for three or four isolated huts. The socabon was thiry-five [sic] yards long, fifteen yards wide, and fifteen high; there was no dump to be seen, and everything had been taken away. The rock was so hard that no timbering up was required at all; in fact, there was not a post to be seen, although there were many hard wood quebracho trees in the forest below, ready to hand. The roof was ventilated in six parts. In the left-hand corner near the entrance it appeared to be hollow on sounding. I took some samples of blue quartz rock and lime from the lode, where the Jesuits had left off. There was no doubt that this was one of the old Jesuit mines, which had been lost to sight and abandoned for many years. There were several other old workings in the vicinity on the mountain, all showing the same clear work, and no dumping. Another big tunnel ran underneath the hill about a quarter of a mile from the first one. This mine had no supports, or timbering of any kind. I saw another tunnel of the same sort high up on the top of the mountain, of the same blue rock quartz. I took samples from the first mine; some of them gave indications only, others which I had essayed later in London by Mix, a mining engineer, gave 2ozs. 3dwt. of gold, and 3ozs. 6dwt. of silver to the ton. The priest at Palca told me afterwards that the lapis lazuli sent to Rome by the Jesuits and the famous chain worn by the Archbishops of the La Paz Province of Ayacucho, called Upper Peru in those days, had come from a mountain called Mount Sapo, but that nobody had ever been able to locate the place, until I found it. On my return to Cochabamba I took up the concession and denounced two hundred per tinencias, which was about five hundred acres. Mr. J. O. Gentry, of Kansas City, a partner of Haggin & McEwan, and the owner of the Cerro Pasco, Peru, told me that if I put on eighty men, got out quartz during the six months’ dry season, and left it there, they would then send one of their mining expert engineers to report, and if the report was favourable they would take it over, putting on as many stamps as the mine would carry, and giving me one-third of the profits. There was plenty of water and wood near and good grazing ground all around, at the foot of the mountain, but up to now I have never been able to get any Company to take up this proposition.

Zambrana returned soon after with an answer from old José Maria, saying that if I would come and see him in a fortnight he would take me to the foot of the hill, where the bulk of the treasure was supposed to be buried.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 7

Up and Down Hill

The Caballo Cunco Treasure: First Attempt, Part 3

On the 2nd May, at the beginning of the dry season, I left Cochabamba with Zambrana, Manuel, his wife and boy; two more men, Mariano and Ricardo, my saddle horse and white riding mule, four cargo mules and a donkey. Zambrana rode his own mule. The first day we got to Anacoraira, below the Turani range of mountains, where I bought a sheep and camped for the night. The road as far as here was an easy one; the surrounding country was flat, with little grass and a few trees, and the scenery was very uninteresting. The next day we climbed a long steep path up the mountain, passing a good many Indians and llamas, also several Indian women tending their sheep, and spinning wool at the same time, with a sling made from llama wool. From time to time they throw a stone at the sheep to drive them on. Half-way up the mountain Ricardo gave out, and I had to leave him with some provisions and tell him when he was rested he had better return to Cochabamba; I was afraid he would not be able to stand going up the heights. We crossed the Turani Pass in good weather at 15,000ft. The height of Mt. Turani is about 17,000ft. We pitched our two tents on the other side at 12,000ft., near some Indians and llamas, who were halting for the night on their way to Cochabamba, with cargoes of wheat. There was plenty of grass about and several pools of clear water, and a running stream. It froze hard all night, and in the morning the pools were frozen over with an inch of ice, which did not, however, prevent me from having my morning bath. Before breakfast I got two partridges. We let the sun warm up the blankets and packs, and we started at 9.30 down the mountain, through a pleasant fertile valley of long flats covered with grass. There were streams running in all directions, and on either side low hills covered with small shrubs and grass. Only a few habitations were to be seen, and near them cattle, sheep, horses, mules and llamas were grazing. At a place called Morochata I hired a mud hut for myself for 2/-, and bought some barley in the straw for the mules and horse. As I wanted to replace Ricardo here, we stayed the next day, and I eventually found and engaged another boy called José. I took the opportunity here of buying flour, got the loan of an oven, and the cook made bread, and we replenished our stock of potatoes and onions, which seemed to do very well here. Everything was extremely cheap. The village consisted of about twenty huts; the land round about belongs partly to the Government, and partly to a gentleman living at Cochabamba, who finds the land, seed, oven, ploughs, mud bricks and thatch for the huts, and keeps a foreman who looks after the property for a small salary, also cultivating his own small piece of land. At harvest-time the crops are divided between the cultivators and the proprietor, who sends in what is wanted from his store at Cochabamba, and takes it out of their share of the crop. I have often thought this system would answer well in other countries besides Bolivia. Next day we continued the journey, and after a few miles came to the foot of the Santa Rosa Mountains. The path up the mountain was a long one, but not too steep, and the ground at the top of the pass was covered with a thin layer of frozen snow. The height of this pass was 16,000ft. There are always large heaps of stones piled up in pyramid shape at the top of every pass, and one or two solitary graves with crosses where somebody has passed away. The path down to the river was long and winding, through partial forest, with very few birds, and not many flowers. I got off my white mule, and led her down the hill, wearing the speedometer, or hexemeter, as some people call it, which registered nearly nine miles from the pass to the river. None of the land on either side appeared to be occupied at all, and we met nobody on the road. We decided to pitch two tents just across the river where there was plenty of grass growing on a wide bank and up the hill the other side, plenty of wood and water near, and no dwellings to be seen in the distance.

The country was now new to old Zam, who had never been further than Morochata, the place we left that morning, and the boy, José, said it was another seven leagues from here to the top of the hill this side of Palca, with a swamp to cross over on the way. On these occasions, as we had no bell mare, my chestnut horse, an old hurdle racer from Santiago, was hobbled, and a bell was tied round his neck with a long rope and a stone at the far end for further security. The mules and donkeys would follow him like a dog, and he was always led to the best grazing ground.

The next day, after two hours and a half’s marching up and down hill, we got to the top of another range of hills. At the bottom was a wide green valley, with several small streams; as we came closer we could see that it was very swampy in places, and I was told afterwards in Palca that during the rainy season these swamps are very often impassable for days together. There was only one place where it was possible to cross, and fortunately the boy from Morochata knew where it was, as nobody else did. Even at this place when one of the mules went a few yards off the beaten track, he began to sink, and floundered back only just in time. Palca was some five leagues further on, in the belt of forest at the foot of a valley, and surrounded by hills. In this valley I saw many bushes and flowers very similar to what is seen in Trinidad, which was rather strange, considering that the height of Palca is 7,500ft. and the highest hill in Trinidad is, I think, only 2,800ft. Near Palca are a good many large farms where wheat, barley and maize are grown, and sheep, cattle, mules and horses are reared. I hired a hut on the banks of the river this side of the village, from a very obliging Indian, whose business was tanning hides with the quebracho bark, and decided to take on from him an Indian who knew Cuti, so remained there for the next day. From here there was no real path between Palca and Cuti, only a few beaten tracks leading over the hills to the different Indian settlements. With the exception of a few large farms owned by seven or eight men, who work them on the share system already described, all these vast lands are quite unoccupied and unexplored: there are just a few Indian squatters here and there living far apart.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 7

Murders are Not Uncommon

The Caballo Cunco Treasure: First Attempt, Part 2

After a stay of two weeks, I started for Cochabamba, riding the horse on the first day, and next day a good little white mule. The journey of 190 miles took eight days’ easy travelling. We started each morning at 9 a.m., and camped every afternoon at 3 p.m., renting an Indian hut for the night. Each evening, after buying fodder for the animals, eggs and mutton, and whatever else was wanted, I generally took the gun for an hour or two, and shot some doves and other birds, which we ate cold for lunch next day.

The first day’s journey was over the high flats, a sandy desert, with little feed for the animals. Indians with llamas, each carrying a small load, passed us frequently on their way to Oruro, and now and then we met long strings of mules, led by their bell mare. The bell mare carries nothing; her job is to lead the mules, and they follow her in single file, stopping only when the bell stops.

Llamas outside the town of Caxamalca. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

The rest of the way was through a more fertile district, which bred sheep, llamas, cattle, donkeys, mules, and even a few horses. I saw Indians ploughing the fields with the same wooden ploughs as were used hundreds of years ago. Occasionally we passed small wooden carts drawn by oxen, with heavy wooden wheels made of one piece.

The crops in these parts are barley, wheat, potatoes and, further on near Cochabamba, maize, ochres and yucas. Fresh mutton can be bought, the usual price being about 4/- to 5/- a sheep; also home-made bread, fowls, eggs, and guinea pigs, ochres, chuno, potatoes, onions, barley in the straw, green barley and alfalfa. The native drink of chicha, made from corn, can also be bought quite cheap every few miles.

The weather was fine the whole time, warm in the day-time, and cool at nights, and the journey was a much more enjoyable one than going down by diligence. There were several rivers to be crossed on the way; between November and April, they are difficult to get over, and people don’t travel much from Oruro to Cochabamba during those months.

Cochabamba stands 8,200ft. high, with a climate which is one of the best in the world; it is never too hot in the day, and cool at night. Rents and living are very cheap. The market master regulates the prices of all meats, beef, mutton and pork. Vegetables are plentiful, and fruit of all kinds may be purchased on the market. There are no hotels to speak of, and no street cars or cabs for hire. The streets are all well paved with stone with a gutter down the centre. All the houses have heavy iron bars to the windows, and big, solid bolts to the doors as well. Murders are not uncommon, and the criminal is seldom caught, which is due not so much to the negligence of the police as to the number of hiding-places where the criminal can easily conceal himself for a time. When a murderer is caught he is made to undergo a public trial in the square of the Court House, and if he is found guilty he is taken to the spot where the crime was committed and shot there. I saw one such trial in Cochabamba. A bad Cholo had asked and received the hospitality of a man and his wife for the night, and while they were asleep had killed them with an axe, and stolen a sum of money he knew was in the house. His bloodstained clothes convicted him, and he was shot. I was told by a man who knew that this was the first occasion for a long time that a murderer had been caught. The cathedral, which is built of stone, faces the big square and garden; the Hall of Justice, military barracks, and police station are on the opposite side. Six hundred priests live in the town. Chiquitos, where the Jesuits found a lot of gold, is twenty days’ journey by mule, and the famous Espirito Santo gold mine worked by them is ten days by mule. There is bear shooting three days away. I rented a nice little house on the outskirts of the town near the river, with large garden and open air concrete bath. Only a very few houses contain proper lavatory accommodation; otherwise they are very well built and quite comfortable. I made this house my headquarters for three years, while prospecting for old mines and looking for the Jesuit treasure. In front of my place were the Municipality grown alfalfa fields for the Government animals; they were guarded day and night by two armed watchmen, to prevent them being cut by thieves. It costs little to keep animals here; barley and alfalfa can be bought by the load, one mule cargo for about 4/-, and two cargoes, one barley and one alfalfa, served for my horse and four mules a day.

Opposite Cochabamba, on the other side of the river, a German Company had a large brewery, and made very good beer; a dozen large bottles cost 2/-, and the bottles cost as much as the beer. Imported Bass beer cost 2/- for one big bottle, a bottle of good whisky 10/- or 12/-, and Three Star brandy 16/-.

After a considerable amount of trouble, I located Zambrana, who lived a day’s ride from Cochabamba. He had not seen old Jose Maria for many years, and the priest, Father San Roman, who used to pay him, had died, but he said he knew Jose Maria lived near a place called Cuti, which was thirty-five miles from Palca. Zam, as I always called him, had never been to either of these places, but knew the way as far as a mountain village sixty miles from Palca. He agreed to join my expedition as campman and butcher, get water and wood, and help the cook, so I took him on; he was to find his own mule.

I had two tents made here, one for myself 16ft. by 12ft. and 9ft. high, and the other was 10ft. by 10ft. and 9ft. high; also a strong folding-up canvas catre 3 and a half ft. broad and 7ft. long, which, with a horse-hair mattress, made a most comfortable bed. I also got together provisions for four months: sugar, rice, biscuits, jams, tea, cocoa, coffee, and some tinned meats, salt, ship’s biscuits and other things. Zambrana told me that round about the department of Palca both sheep and flour were plentiful and cheap. The Indian wife of Manuel, the mule man, made splendid bread, and at the different stopping places we often borrowed the use of a bake-oven, and stayed a couple of days to make bread. It is well worth the extra trouble to get good, wholesome bread made with flour that retains all the good ingredients of the wheat, which is always possible if it is crushed by the stone mill process. I also took two dozen bottles of rum, one dozen of the best for myself, and a dozen of a stronger, but inferior, quality for the men. With the exception of the things I brought out with me, such as Liebig’s Extract, a thing I never travel without, everything was bought from Barber & Co., who traded goods for rubber up the Beni, by advancing money and goods to traders for rubber to be delivered in two years’ time. Alfred Barber was the manager for this firm in Bolivia; in London and Hamburg the firm was Brandt & Co. Of course all the traders who dealt with the firm on the two years’ credit system had to show substantial guarantees in the form of unmortgaged property, otherwise such firms would soon come to grief. Barber himself had to put up a guarantee of several thousands of pounds (a legacy left him by his godmother) to be made managing partner in Bolivia.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 7

There’s Gold in Them There Hills

The Caballo Cunco Treasure: First Attempt, Part 1

While I was stopping for a week at Jura baths, on my return from Challana, Morosini, the proprietor of the hotel, came up to me one day and told me there was a lady staying there who wanted to have a talk with me—Dona Corina San Roman, daughter of the late General San Roman, a former President of Peru. Morosini presented me, and after a few minutes’ conversation she showed me an original document left by Father San Roman to his brother, the Prefect of Callao, and handed down to her by her father, which gave particulars of a large treasure that had been hidden by the Jesuits. She told me that as I had been into Challana, and got back safely, I would be just the man to go and look for it, if I cared to do so, and she made me two alternative offers. If I tried to find the place with the help of the data she would give me, she would pay me £80 per month for the six dry months of the next year, which was as much as I was getting from Mariano Penny for training his racehorses, and if I found it she would pay all the expenses of unearthing it, and give me ten per cent of the full value found. The other suggestion was that I was to take the copy of the document, and go myself, paying all my own expenses, and give her ten per cent of the treasure if I found it. I accepted the second proposition without hesitation.

The document gave no indications as to how to find the place, but simply described the kind of place, and mentioned that it was near the banks of the River Sacambaja. It ran as follows: “If you find a steep hill all covered with dense forest, the top of which is flat, with long grass growing, from where you can see the River Sacambaja on three sides, you will discover on the top of it, in the middle of the long grass, a large stone shaped like an egg, so big that it took 500 Indians to place it there. If you dig down underneath this stone for five yards, you will find the roof of a large cave, which it took 500 men two and a half years to hollow out. The roof is seventy yards long, and there are two compartments and a long narrow passage leading from the room on the east side to the main entrance two hundred yards away. On reaching the door, you must exercise great care in opening. The door is a large iron one, and inside to the right near the wall you will find an image made of pure gold three feet high, the eyes of which are two large diamonds; this image was placed here for the good of mankind. If you proceed along the passage, you will find in the first room thirty-seven large heaps of gold, and many gold and silver ornaments and precious stones. On entering the second room, you will find in the right-hand corner a large box, clamped with three iron bars; inside this box is $90,000 in silver money and thirty-seven big heaps of gold. Distributed in the hollows on either side of the tunnel and the two rooms are altogether a hundred and sixty-three heaps of gold, of which the value has been estimated at $60,000,000. Great care must be taken on entering these rooms, as enough strong poison to kill a regiment has been laid about. The walls of the two rooms have been strengthened by large blocks of granite; from the roof downwards the distance is five yards more. The top of the roof is portioned off into three distinct esplanades, and the whole has been well covered over for a depth of five yards with earth and stones. When you come to a place twenty feet high, with a wall so wide that two men can easily ride abreast, cross the river, and you will find the church, monastery, and other buildings.” Corina San Roman told me that the monastery spoken of in this document was built by the Jesuits in 1635 and abandoned in 1735. The treasure, accumulated from eleven years’ working of the famous gold mines of El Carmen, and the Tres Titilias, and from the gold and diamond washings carried on near Santa Cruz by 2,000 Indians under Fathers Gregorio and San Roman and seven other priests, who died, was all hidden under the hill indicated in this document with the exception of £70,000 for each of the priests. Out of the 500 Indians employed in burying the treasure 288 died of an epidemic of fever in the last three months of the work.

Corina San Roman also told me that her father used to send £25 every Christmas to an old Indian named Jose Maria Ampuera, who, he said, knew where the hill was. He used to send Macedonia Zambrana, one of his own men, who lived near Cochabamba, with this money and several pounds of tea, sugar and other things. The Indian was paid this to keep the secret, to visit the place from time to time, and to notify him if anybody started exploring there. He used to say he had a good enough income himself, and did not care to risk getting malarial fever in looking for it. He kept the paper himself and gave it to his daughter shortly before he died; she put it inside one of the books in the library, and after his death she could not find it, but her uncle, the brother of the General, who was a priest and lived at Cochabamba, had a copy, which is the one I saw! Many expeditions had been fitted out to look for this treasure. One had been sent by Malgarejo, the President of Bolivia, another was fitted out at Valparaiso in 1895, but both were unsuccessful. Dona Corina told me that her uncle had died in 1896, that Zambrana had not been heard of for the last eight years, and that if the Indian was still alive he must be over 100.

The first thing to be done was to find Zambrana, so in March, 1905, I left La Paz on my way to Cochabamba to look for him. I went first to Oruro by the Diligence Mail, which does the journey of 180 miles in two days, starting at 6 a.m., and changing the five mules and galloping horse every nine miles. The coach stops for half an hour at 9 a.m. for breakfast, and for lunch at 1.30, reaching the rest-house at 7.30 p.m. for dinner, leaving again next morning at 5 a.m., and reaching Oruro at 5 p.m. After La Paz Alto they go full gallop all the way; the driver has a long whip, and a box full of stones to throw at the mules, and an Indian boy, who sits on the step behind, gets off every now and then to flog them. The coach carries nine passengers, eight inside, at $25 each, and one on the box seat for $35, which I took. Luggage and mails are strapped on the top; only 35lbs. of luggage was allowed to each passenger, and the heavy gear leaves the day before in a big mule waggon, and is charged for per 100lbs. Riding on the box seat beside the driver, and driving at a hand gallop across the level high flats 12,500ft. above the sea, through the pure and exhilarating air, under a wonderful blue sky, I found the journey most enjoyable.

The highest place registered on the road was 13,200ft. Oruro is 12,800ft. up.

At Oruro I found that Mariano Penny, the owner of the rich San Jose silver mine, was away in Chili, and J. B. Minchin, who owned rich tin mines, was also away, but Dr. Shrigley kindly lent me his place on the outskirts of the town, where there was a big walled-in grass field. There I engaged an Indian called Jose, with his wife and boy, the man to look after my animals, the boy to fag and wife to cook, with another Indian to help with the cargo, and bought four good mules, two donkeys and a horse.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Frozen Blood on the Path

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 13

Some days later we reached the Quillapatuni Pass, which I found much easier walking up than down. We had, of course, to unload the mules, and pass everything over the cable at the River Toro, and then let the mules climb the pass with half loads, which took us two days. We stopped at the same places as on the way in. At the top of the pass, Miguel had another attack of fever, and I was delayed three days, during which I shot two poujil. The shelters there had evidently been occupied within the last day or so, probably by the two men and boy who had wanted to travel with me.

A few days later, when we had just reached the foot of the Illyapo Range, we were astonished to see Perez’ old white mare walking quietly towards the Tipuani, and behind her in single file the two ponies and the mules. Nobody was with them, and there was no cargo or pack saddles on their backs. Three hours afterwards, as we were ascending the high mountain on the way to Tiquiripaga, we saw frozen blood on the path, and about half a mile further on just this side of Tiquiripaga we met four mounted infantry men on mules, who told us that the little boy had met them the day before and said that his two companions had been murdered by three bad Indians who persisted in accompanying them for two days. They had killed the two men and taken the animals that were carrying the rubber. The boy had gone on to Sorata and given the alarm, and the criminals were being pursued. Eventually two of them were found with all the rubber at a small Indian settlement off the road near the foot of the mountain: they were recognized by the boy and brought to Sorata, where they were imprisoned and convicted. The third man escaped.

I stayed at Manuel’s place that night, and two days later reached Sorata. To my surprise, Gunther told me that word had been brought that I had been killed by the Challana Indians, and that the Government was about to send Captain Cusicanque with some soldiers from La Paz to see what had happened. Word was at once sent to General Pardo that I had arrived and was on my way back to La Paz next day; however, I could not continue for two days, as Miguel and Ricardo required a rest. Before leaving I called on Mrs. Villavicencia to give her letters from her brother and husband, and thanked her for writing them. I told her how well I had been received by the Cacique and the Challanas. I picked up my good black mule which I had left here, and rode the rest of the way to La Paz by easy stages, so as to keep with my men and cargo, getting there on the third day after leaving Sorata. I was met by Captain Cusicanque, and taken down at once to see General Pardo, the President, at his private house. He was very pleasant, and congratulated me, saying he was very glad I had succeeded in getting to Paroma and back. He told me I had managed to do what nobody else had been able to do, and said he would certainly give all the Challana Indians their farms and holdings free, but would not recognize the others, many of whom had escaped from justice. He added that if one of his own countrymen had succeeded in doing what I had done, they would have paid him well, and that I had fully earned my commission, and he hoped I would get it. When I had thanked him for his kind remarks, and shown him the paper given me by Villarde, I weighed myself at the President’s house, and found that after walking 857 miles by the register of the speedometer, besides many more miles when I did not carry it, riding 210 miles on a mule, and leading a fairly rough life, I was just 10lbs. less than when I left Peru, which goes to show that a trip of this sort hurts nobody, so long as you don’t get the fever. I had enjoyed the journey there and back very much, although I was not in too happy a frame of mind before the meeting of the Indians after what Villarde had told me. However, after I began to talk with them, that feeling soon wore off.

Before returning to Lima, I stayed a few days at La Paz. Miguel was still having attacks of malaria, so I sent him back to Chili, via Oruro and Antofogasta. I gave the big tiger skin to Mariano Penny at Oruro: the length was measured green, not pegged out, 8ft. 11ins. After crossing Lake Titicaca, I took the Puno Arequipa train and got out at Jura to spend a week at the baths on the way down. I went on to Arequipa and Mollendo, and there caught the steamer to Callao, where I arrived on August 4th, 1904, just about a year after starting. Mr. Beauclerk, the British Minister, told me I was supposed to have been murdered, and showed me Lima and Valparaiso papers. I was pleased to see how kindly they spoke about me, and I shall always be proud of those notices, and the many kind letters of congratulation from merchants, bank managers, and editors of newspapers in Chili and Peru which I received. I showed Villarde’s paper to Mr. A. B. Leguia, the Minister of Hacienda Lima Peru, afterwards one of the best Presidents Peru ever had, who paid me his share of the expenses agreed to in the arrangement I had made with reference to the Challana concession, and wrote to the New Company, asking them to take over the concession on the terms originally stipulated.

I then went home, and did not return to Lima until March of the next year.

When I got there, I found to my disgust that the Company which was to have bought over the concession from the Challana Rubber Company seemed to want to back out of it now. I was asked if I would take their representative from the States to the rubber district of Challana, and at once said I certainly would, provided we took in at the same time the goods ordered by the natives to exchange for rubber; otherwise I would not go. I was not going to go back on my word to Villarde, the Cacique, and the settlers, and I told them the rubber was there, balled up and ready for immediate transport, and if they did not see their way to taking the whole £5,000 worth ordered until they had seen the country and inhabitants and formed their own opinion we might take £1,000 worth of things for a start. But nothing came of it, and the whole deal fell through. Some few years after my return, a Company was registered called the Tongo River Rubber Company. It is a simple matter for others to follow after somebody else has shown the way. The pioneer of any such undertaking, or the prospector for minerals, seldom derives much benefit for the hard times he nearly always has to go through, and the reward is generally reaped by others who would never think of making such ventures until the ways and means were made clear and easy.

My children in Indian headgear, with jaguar skins and Indian weapons brought back by me from Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Sixty Lost Views

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 12

Challana is a beautiful country, full of dense forests, wide savannahs (grass land) covered with long nutritious grass, undulating hills and valleys, and many rivers and streams. Besides the yams, ochres, ucas and other vegetables and fruit indigenous to the tropics, rice is cultivated, as well as more coffee, sugar and coca than is consumed in the country. The rice grown here is of the very best quality, and the coffee as good as yungas. Coca yields five per cent of cocaine, and cinchona bark five per cent of quinine. Maize is grown by every one. The only things required from the outside world are hardware, drills, cottons and prints, salt, soap and flour. The Indians make their own rum, grow their own cattle for beef, and keep pigs, fowls and turkeys; several have cows and mules. Before I left, I got orders from them through Villarde and other head men to bring them back goods to the value of £5,000, to be paid for in rubber, at 100 bols the quintal, and, besides transporting the rubber to the Challana River free, they even offered to carry it on from there to Lake Titicaca or La Paz, for 17 bols a quintal. This same rubber easily fetched in La Paz 228 bols per quintal. Many of them told me that when I came back they would show me good places for gold washing, and would work for the Company if I was manager.

Not only is this country surprisingly rich and beautiful, but there is also plenty of shooting and fishing. The Indians are friendly, and travelling is not bad after reaching the top of the first steep hill. The climate on the hill-top at Paroma is not a bad one for the tropics, and Europeans with energy and capital could make good money and do well there; but it is not at all suitable for the manual labourer, as the climate will prevent him from doing as much work in a day as an ordinary Indian can; besides which, plenty of Indians will work for 2/- a day and find themselves, or 1/- and be found. This applies really to all the tropical parts of South America. Many a time I have been asked by English, French, German and other Europeans what sort of pay is obtained in these rubber and gold districts, and I have always advised them not to expect more pay than the Indian worker, unless they are mechanics or practised electrical drillers, in which case they would have no difficulty in getting jobs and pay accordingly. The reason one meets so many English and other Europeans down on their luck in the tropics of South America, walking from one district to another or one republic to another with half their clothes worn out, and little or no money in their pockets, is that they will not realize that the sugar planter, coffee grower, farmer or owner of rubber or mining concessions will not pay more than Indian labour will cost them.

The day I left Paroma the Cacique Mamani came to Villarde’s to say good-bye, and told off Cortez and three men all armed with rifles to take me back to Challana, calling them up in front of Villarde’s house, and making them the following speech: “Thomas Cortez, I have decided to send you with the three armed men to escort our friend to the Tipuani side of the River Challana. You are to be careful to look after his welfare in every way: it matters not whether he chooses to take one week, one month or one year on his way to the Challana, you will be held responsible by me if he is hurt in any way.”

Before I left Paroma, Villarde gave me a document, stating that I had visited the Indians at their headquarters, and conferred with them: he signed it himself and it was witnessed by all the other Chiefs and head men. Near the River Challana I helped to get one fine specimen of a man-eating jaguar or tiger while he was chasing wild pig; the skin measured 8ft. 11ins. in the green, which I afterwards gave to the friend I trained horses for, M. M. Penny. The Indians gave me two other skins, and some snake skins, feathered caps, bows and arrows from the Beni and San Antonio.

Jaguar and puma skins, bows and arrows and wooden spears brought back by me from Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

Next day I started back with my escort, taking with me a collection of butterflies, and a little black monkey I had got at Paroma. We did the sixty miles to Cortez’s place at Anhuaqui in two days. I gave them some quinine and a few other things, and we parted the best of friends. Before leaving, Cortez said he had been asked to tell me that when I returned the settlers on the river were going to present me with a big nine pole balsa, so that I could go back down the Challana to the big river, meaning, I expect, the Gy Parana. By the order of the Cacique, Cortez told off an Indian boy to go with me as far as Tipuani, and look to the mule and fag for me. Next day they put me across the Challana, and I stayed for the night with Bartelot, who was down with another bout of fever.

On the third day we got to Tipuani; on the way back I saw some more of the pretty yellow-headed birds, with green body, purple wings and scarlet breasts. I was sorry I had not my gun, or a small bore pea rifle with me, so that I could get a couple of specimens, for this was the only place in which they were to be found. Before the boy returned next day, I made him a present of some tins of sardines and packets of matches, and a cutlass to take back with him for himself and friends; money would not have been much use to him, and I did not want to risk his running amok, as Villarde had told me that drinking to excess was not permitted in Challana. In fact, while I was there I never saw a drunken man, nor yet an immoral woman.

Perez still had the fever, Mac was just getting over his attack, and my man Miguel was still so weak that I had to wait for another two weeks before he could travel. So I amused myself by bathing in the Tipuani, shooting a few birds and catching a lot of butterflies. One day when Mac and I were shooting birds for the pot, we saw a big flock of dark brown pigeons, which Mac called “the lost tribe.” Sometimes Mac and I panned out a little gold, and we got nearly four ounces from pay dirt dug out by Rayo and Charlie in three days’ digging. A few days after I got back to Tipuani, two half-castes and a boy came to me, and suggested that as they were going to Sorata or La Paz with rubber for the house of Perez and Co. it would be safer if they could travel with me, as I was armed and had two men with me; by travelling all together we were less likely to be marauded by cut-throats or brigands on the way. I agreed, but said that I could not start for another week, owing to Miguel’s fever. Rather than travel alone, they waited for me, but unfortunately, just as Miguel began to get fit, Richardo, who was with the three small cargo mules, said he had fever, which meant a few more days’ delay. The half-castes said they could not wait any longer, for fear Perez might find fault, so they started off with Perez’ old grey mare and five small mules and ponies, each carrying a quintal of rubber. Three days after they left, I said good-bye to Mac and began the return journey to La Paz. As the rainy season was now over, walking through the forest and admiring the beautiful tropical plants and ferns was very pleasant. On the second day after leaving Gritado, the path on the edge of the forest gave way, and one of my small cargo mules fell and rolled down through tree-ferns and trees, right into a stream of water below. Unluckily for me, he was the mule carrying all my photographic plates, sixty fine views, as well as ten biscuit tins full of butterflies. The mule was not hurt, but many of the butterflies were spoilt, and when I took the plates to be developed at Lima later on only three came out a success, the rest were hopelessly blurred. This is why there are so few photographs in this book.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Prodgers on Trial

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 11

In the morning I had a pleasant bathe in a lovely cool clear pool in the river just below Villarde’s house, and after a good breakfast we went off at 8.30 to the Court House, escorted by some of the head men.

The Court House was a very long shed, with logs of whole trees placed all round for seats, and a raised platform of logs at one end, where the old Cacique Mamani sat. Villarde sat on one side of him, and another man, named Portugol, on the other; beside these were Villarde’s other lieutenants, the two Fernandez, two more whose names I have forgotten, and an old man called Jones, who told me he had been in Challana for forty-two years and had quite forgotten his own language; he never said why he had come to this out-of-the-way place, nor why he had remained so long, and of course I never asked him.

There were three hundred Indians congregated in the building; thirty armed head men kept walking round between the logs and in the centre of the house to keep order, and there were others keeping order outside.

Natives in the interior of Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

The sitting lasted until five in the afternoon, when they all dispersed until eight the next morning. Many questions were put and answered, and there was a good deal of talking in their language; Villarde interpreting to me in Spanish, and I answering him in the same language.

When I got back, I had another bathe in the deep pool before dinner. Next day the conversation was renewed till finally Portugol said to Villarde in Spanish, “What can we do, Don Lorenzo? We shan’t be able to contain them much longer.” Villarde then asked me to get up and speak to them myself. I told him I could only speak Spanish, but he said that would do very well, as he was there to translate what I said, and if he did not translate correctly there were forty Indians there who understood Spanish and would correct him. So I got up and talked to them for two hours, telling them I was their friend and had come there to do what I could for them with the Government for their own benefit. I asked them what good it would do them to kill me, and told them that although I had heard that they intended to keep me there as a prisoner I came on alone, because wherever I had been I had heard the Challana Indians always spoken of as Christians, and I was quite sure they would do me no harm. I said I had come quite unarmed to see their country and visit their Chief, having left my revolver, rifle and cartridges with Cortez at Anhuaqui, and assured them that there was no truth whatever in the story of my being a spy; the Government of La Paz never sent me or anybody else there for that purpose. The Cacique then got up and embraced me, saying I was to consider myself their friend, and could come and go when I pleased. He told me I was a brave man, because I had come there alone, in spite of what I had heard about them; that they respected me and welcomed me, and were ready to listen to the Company’s proposals, and to tell them, through me, what they thought of them.

Some native types seen in the interior of Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

I then explained the Challana Company and Government’s suggestions, which were that five hundred of the inhabitants should pick rubber for the new Company at the rate of 100 bolivians a quintal placed on the Tipuani side of the River Challana, or on the other side of the River Tongo, the payment to be made half in cash and half in goods. Further, I was to see General Pardo, the President of Bolivia, with a view to his granting the settlers in Challana their holdings free. The Cacique told me through Villarde this proposal was approved by him and the settlers in Challana, and he said that, out of the nine hundred inhabitants of his country, certainly five hundred at least would pick rubber.

Villarde told me later on that at one time he and the other white men feared that the situation would become really serious. “I thought,” he said, “we might be able to save your life, but we were afraid they would not let you leave the country again. However, the yarn you told them about your hearing of the Challanas in London and New York as brave Christians and not savages, and all that, saved you; by keeping your head, you saved it, and if it had not been for the way you spoke and the impression you made they would undoubtedly have kept you their prisoner.”

Once they had decided in my favour, the Indians treated me very well, and old Mamani presented me with a valuable silver necklace, the buckle of which showed it to be the work of the Incas.

I subsequently took it home to give to my mother with a few other things.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

The Famous Indian Village of Paroma

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 10

Paroma village, showing the church, the chiefs’ houses and coca plantation. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

At 4 p.m. on the third day after leaving Anhuaqui we reached the famous Indian village of Paroma. It is situated on the top of a green hill, with a river running through it, and houses and huts scattered everywhere about and the large trees that grew singly or in clumps of eight or ten or more made the spot very beautiful. The view was splendid, and you could see for a long distance for miles around. The first thing to catch the eye was a long high shed, built of poles and roofed with big palm branches; this was the Court House, and not far off stood a nice little church. I stopped and went inside and found fresh flowers in all the vases and empty bottles, and the whole building swept clean and kept in perfect order, though there was no priest and had been none for a long while.

I was taken to Villarde’s house, not far from the Court House and church, which stood high up on the banks of the river amongst enormous boulders and deep pools that reminded me of bonnie Scotland. That evening Villarde and I had a long talk. He told me that since he had received his sister’s letter about me and had sent word to her that the Cacique and his people would receive me at their capital village Paroma, some Challana men had returned from La Paz with the story that it was not to facilitate the trading of rubber for the good of their country and its inhabitants that I had undertaken this trip, but quite the contrary was the case. They said that I had come as a spy from the Bolivian Government, to find out what sort of paths they were between the River Challana and Paroma, the depth of the river, the number of Indians as near as could be judged from observation and information, how they were armed, and if there were many rifles and a good supply of cartridges, and that when I had returned to La Paz with all the details they required I was to be despatched again with Captain Cusiquanqui with mules, mountain artillery, and 200 men. This, he said, was the story that the Indians were being told by their countrymen just back from La Paz. I told him of the message that was delivered to me on my way to the Tipuani, and showed him the note of warning, which he said was sent to try and get me to turn back; but when they heard through Cortez that I had got to the River Tipuani the Indians under their Cacique had been consulted, and had told him to let me cross over, into their territory. Villarde said that a meeting of the three hundred head men had been called by the old Cacique Mamani; the first sitting was to take place next morning at 8 a.m., and he would have to put to me all the questions the old Chief told him to ask me, and interpret my reply to him. He told me I would have to prove to their entire satisfaction that the story circulated about me by the Indians recently back from La Paz was untrue. He assured me that Villavicencia, Portugol, the two Fernandez and himself knew quite well I was not a spy for the Government, but he said it would be difficult to convince the Indians, many of whom were ready to condemn me without a hearing; but in the last resort they were absolutely under the control of the Cacique Mamani and his head men, and he had ordered this meeting.

After dinner we discussed the situation till nearly midnight, and both came to the conclusion that this malicious story had been circulated by some of the traders who periodically came down to the river since they knew that, as soon as the Government and the Challana people had settled their difficulties, they would not be able to buy rubber for 100 bolivians, and sell it in La Paz for 228 bolivians; the Company that took over the concession from the Government would soon stop that.

Villarde, of course, knew all about the country, and he told me he had sold a lot of rubber and gold in the sixteen years that he had been here, and showed me a shed near his house that was full of rubber. It appeared that every time he wanted to get away, the Indians themselves stopped him; they would let him go a certain distance, but then he had to turn back. Besides, he could not go to La Paz by the Tongo, as the Government would catch him, and at that time there was a reward of £2,000 for his capture. The way for him to go if the Indians would let him, was down the Challana to the Gy Parana and out at Para. He told me he had made over £40,000.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

I Get No Kick From Cocaine

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 9

There were many beautiful birds in these parts, mostly gorgeously coloured macaws, parrots, snake birds, toucans, bell birds and tropials, and plenty of good game birds as well, especially wild turkey, poujil, martinette and long-billed snipe. The lovely cattleya superba grew in clumps on the trunks or branches of trees, wherever the ground was of a rocky nature, and parasites and smaller orchids grew everywhere. Butterflies of brilliant colours abounded, but there was also the loathsome berni fly, that lays its eggs and breeds maggots in animals and human beings. If it is not treated at once, this fly works nearly into the bone; my mule was troubled with it, but, fortunately, I noticed it in time.

One night I asked Cortez what wild animals there were about, and he told me, wild cattle, bear, many kinds of monkeys, pumas, panthers, tiger cats, jaguars and tigers. The two last are very plentiful and very troublesome and dangerous, and pits are dug for them everywhere. Besides these, there are tapirs, antas, wild pigs and many sorts of deer. I myself got three sorts of deer while in Challana, swamp deer, pampas deer, which are something like fallow deer and the little peti buck. One day in England I was talking with Bostock of menagerie fame, and he asked me whether I had ever come across what they call a tiger, when I was in the forests of Bolivia. I told him I had, and had got three skins of these beasts, but I thought they ought rather to be called a large specimen of jaguar. He said I was wrong and the natives were right: it was quite a different animal from a jaguar, and up to now no museum or zoological garden had a specimen; it would be very interesting and quite easy to secure a live one.

The weather was beautiful while we were here, but on the day we had fixed for leaving for the Challana headquarters at Paroma the rain fell in a tropical downpour for six hours. It cleared up in the afternoon, but the path was slippery, and the hill very step on the other side. At the bottom there was another settlement consisting of one fair-sized building and six or eight smaller ones; the proprietor had gone to Paroma by Villarde’s orders, to attend the conference which was going to receive me. We camped here that day; the scenery was very fine, with large tracks of pasture land, abundance of grass, a few head of cattle in good condition grazing, several small streams of clear water and one small river called the Mula Muerta, which Cortez told me was a good river for gold washing, and had produced several good nuggets. At this place I saw the coca bush growing, for the first time. The leaf is a small green one and contains five per cent of cocaine; the habit of chewing it grows on the natives until eventually they find they cannot do without it. They claim to be able to travel through the dense forest or over the high passes all day long for weeks at a time as long as they have coca leaves in their pouches to give them endurance. Personally, on the many long journeys I have undertaken while prospecting and exploring in this fascinating country during five years, I never yet took to the habit. The natives also claim that the cinchona bark in Challona gives five per cent of quinine, and they are often seen trotting along with big loads of 50 and 60lbs. weight and even more, a bottle of water with two or three bits of cinchona bark in it, and a buckskin pouch filled with coca leaves.

The men here dress in shorts of drill or cotton, and over these they wear a shirt of the same material. They also carry a poncho, or vicuña rug, with a slit in it for the head to go through, and a short jacket of drill on the top of their loads. The loads are not made to weigh up on the shoulders or the forehead, but are tied across the chest, leaving the shoulders free. Frequently, these carriers have such a heavy load that a friend has to help them on their feet to get started.