Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 8

A Queer-Looking Animal

The Second Attempt, Part 4

It was now the middle of September, and the nights and early mornings began to get warmer, but the thermometer still registered seven degrees or four degrees below zero. The first week in October the cold spell ceased, and the nights became more pleasant, and one could sleep comfortably with three blankets on instead of six. The nights continued to get warmer, but not too warm, and the mosquitoes now began to appear, of all varieties, spotted ones and big black ones. I hung up my big net on the hooks in the centre of the tent, and the larger net as well on the inner side of the tent to cover table, bed and other things, and they did not disturb me.

On October 23rd, Mendizabal, his son and several attendants arrived at the camp. He told me Zambrana had died a few weeks after he left here, also the assistant cargo man, and that one of the other men was so bad with fever that when he felt better he started back to Cochabamba, and had taken six weeks to get there. As soon as Mendizabal heard about the four Indians, and the poisoning, he told his son to return to Cuti, take six of the native police with him to the village where these men had said their home was, and bring them down here. He told me he was sorry I had let off the Indian thief, but said it would do him a lot of good, as he would probably think he had been lucky to get away. I had not been troubled with the poison symptoms for some weeks, but the day after Mendizabal arrived I had another attack which was, however, not nearly so bad as the others had been, and only lasted a day and a half. Three days after he had left, his son came back with the news that he had found the huts where the men lived, but they were not there, and had not been to their homes for over four months. The head man of the village had been told to have them arrested and brought to Cuti, when they were found.

I told Mendizabal that the best way, in my opinion, to uncover this big tapada was to work systematically, and uncover the whole of the side I was now working on, up to the end of the roof, as indicated by the formation; it would take six months and require twenty-five workmen. He kindly arranged to provide me with twenty-five of his own good Indians for the next season, I to find wild cattle meat, and he the rest of their food. I was to pay them 6/- every Saturday night, and whenever one wanted to return to his home he was to do so at the end of the week, and another would be sent to replace him. If we succeeded in finding the treasure, it was agreed that I should, at my own expense, go to Arabia, buy him the finest Arab stallion that money could procure, bring him over myself, and deliver him to Mendizabal at Cuti. If we did not succeed next dry season, he said he was willing to go on every year till we gave it up or found the treasure. We started for Cuti on November 1st, just as the wet season showed signs of coming on, leaving Manuel and one of Mendizabal’s men as caretakers. I left Cuti two days after getting there, and went home, intending to return and begin the work again next April on the terms agreed upon. On the way I met a coloured man on the shore at Guayaquil, who was hawking round a queer-looking animal about two feet high, or rather longer, with a tail some eighteen inches long, and paws like a bear. It was stuffed with long grass, and cost me 10/-, turning out eventually to be a bear with a tail. In his book on wild animals, Rowland Ward says, “Amongst the rarest of animals is a bear with a tail; this animal is known to exist, is very rare, and only to be found in the forests of Equador,” and this was where the man who sold it to me said he got it. When I told Mendizabal, he said there were several in the forest near where we were working at Sacambaja.