Adventures in Peru, Chapter 9

The Dog Market

The City of the Kings, Part 3

Lima has always been noted, and justly so, for her beautiful women. They are very partial to oranges, which are known to have a beneficial effect on the complexion. I brought this fact to the notice of a lovely Englishwoman, and was rather tickled to note when I lunched with her on several subsequent occasions, that she invariably finished up with a couple of oranges. This charming lady had a most delightful complexion, which she retained till the day of her death. Whether she owed it all to the diet of oranges, I do not know. The fact remains that the ladies of Lima swear by this delicious fruit, and their facial beauty is remarkable.

To an Englishman there are few more interesting objects than the Dog Market. Many Chinese—chiefly small shopkeepers—have made Lima their home. As is well known, they are very partial to dog-meat. Some of these people have determined never to return to their native land, and they can be easily recognized by their cropped hair. For a Chinaman would never dream of going back to China minus his pigtail. There is a hairless dog, about the size of a poodle, and coloured blue-grey, or slate, which is not allowed to touch meat or bones. Chinamen love the flesh of this little animal. It is fed on yams, sweet potatoes, milk, boiled plantains, etc. Plantains, a species of banana, are treated by the natives of all tropical countries as vegetables, and not as fruit. Boiled with rice, or stewed with mutton, they are very appetising. Fried with butter they are not to be despised. I visited the Dog Market with my old friend, McNeil, Permanent Secretary of the American Legation, and saw quite a lot of little carcasses hanging up, looking for all the world like tiny porkers. They were scraped white like pork. Some birds were also on show, but no other kind of meat. The market where pork, beef, mutton, etc., are sold, is some distance from the Dog Market.

The Peruvian authorities are very particular, and rule these markets very strictly. Many of our colonies might take a tip from them—Trinidad and the West Indies, for instance. All meat exposed for sale, whether in the markets, or in the butchers’ shops, must be hung in rooms lined with marble slabs, to keep everything cool. To ensure an ample supply of fresh air, one side is quite open, but screened off with wire mosquito netting.

Every morning at 7 a.m., Don Pablo, the official Chief Veterinary Surgeon, used to go the round of the markets and shops. I sometimes accompanied him, when my horses were not doing fast work. Don Pablo examined every joint and carcass thoroughly. If he noticed any detriment, such as congealed blood, or a bruise, the whole portion of meat was condemned. “Give it to my soldiers,” he used to say, referring to the scavenger vultures, highly valued, and rightly so, by the authorities, because they keep the beautiful city of Lima free from disease, by clearing away all the garbage and rubbish. For Lima, although bang in the Tropics—she is, in fact, on the 10 line—is acknowledged to be one of the most healthy tropical cities in the whole wide world. And so she has been ever since Manco Capac’s time.

The vultures are very tame and plump. Often, when I have been out riding with my racers, a couple would spring up from the ground, seeming to come almost from under the horses’ feet. They appeared to know they were perfectly safe. No one ever dreams of killing them, for the simple reason that they are protected by the wise Government of Peru. In this matter especially the Peruvian statesmen are shrewd, far-seeing men; for they have decreed that a fine of 10 sols shall be imposed on any man, woman, or child, who wilfully kills one of the scavenger birds. As a natural consequence they are a familiar sight in and around Lima, sitting about upon the housetops, or hovering over the place where the condemned meat is thrown.

The Fish Market is regulated in the same thorough manner. No fish is allowed to be taken in after 9.30 a.m., and none sold after 3 p.m. All fish then left on hand is deposited on the dump-heap. Hence one can always depend on getting nothing but what is fresh and healthy. There is no such thing as fish being caught and put on ice, and held over till the next day, as often occurs elsewhere in the Tropics.

Neither does the Government permit traders to take advantage of the poor. A Market Master regulates the price of everything; he allows the salesmen and butchers to sell at a living profit, and no more.

Bubonic plague is one of the terrors of the Tropics. The enlightened Government of Peru fights it in a most intelligent manner. It is caused by filth, and is conveyed from place to place by fleas that live on sewer rats. It stands to reason that if you can get rid of the rats, you’ll check bubonic. To cope with any disease one must first eliminate the cause. In large cities, at least, the Peruvian laws of sanitation are very strict; and their method of dealing with the rat menace is excellent. For every female rat they offer 2½ cents (gold), and for each buck rat, 5 cents. In this way bubonic is kept at arm’s length. Other South American Governments have adopted these measures with good results. They were certainly in vogue at Buenos Ayres when I was there.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 9

The Bull Ring

The City of the Kings, Part 2

Another great sight is the Bull Ring. Here some of the most famous Spanish matadors and toreadors are engaged six months of every year. I knew the principal matador very well. Although an old man—he told me he was seventy-two—his skill was marvellous. He always despatched his bull with one thrust, and not with two or three like some of the less skilled matadors. When the great beast made his rush, old Mariano didn’t run about all over the ring as some do; no, he just turned elegantly on his heel, and then got in his stroke as the bull plunged past him. He made the killing of the animal look a very simple matter, and one of the softest jobs imaginable. Really it is a very difficult operation, and attended with great danger.

The bull-fight at Lima. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

Some of the best pacing horses in Peru participate in the Lima bull-fights. The ritual observed at these functions is as follows: When the toreadors, matadors, and horsemen enter the ring, the master of the ceremonies—always magnificently horsed—rides up to the President’s box, and makes a profound obeisance. The bull-fighters all follow suit, the President having previously taken his place, heralded by a flourish of trumpets. Two trumpeters, stationed at the entrance, now sound a blast, the big door of the enclosure beneath the boxes is flung open, and out rushes a fierce beast into the arena. It is an Andalusian bull, one of a breed originally imported from Spain, and is credited with being one of the fiercest creatures on earth. If one shows any lack of courage, he is hooted out of the ring. A bull, in 1900, cost 700 sols, i.e. £75. It is doubtful whether its value has increased since then in the same proportion as a sheep at Lambourn, Berkshire, England, where a local butcher tells me he now has to pay £7 10s. for what used to cost him 37s. 6d.

Bull-fights are often condemned as dangerous, but in most of the rings in South America the fighters are so adept that although they ride close up to the bull, and excite him to fury by flaunting a red cloth, it is seldom that they, or their steeds, sustain any hurt. The only ones who get into the wars are the new, or raw hands.

In my opinion Mariano was the prince of all the matadors. He was a great lover of pacing horses and Cleveland bays. He used to ride a fine pacer, and was often to be seen driving a pair of Clevelands that he had bought at Milton’s yard in London. He told me that he had retired from the ring ten years before I saw him in 1900; but was obliged to return to the scenes of his former triumphs, because he found it so difficult to teach would-be matadors how to act. They wouldn’t study hard enough to suit him; and when in the ring were inclined to rush matters. Mariano, on the contrary, took things very coolly. Nothing seemed to ruffle him. He was indeed a champion. Every year a big silver shield is presented to the owner of what is considered the best pacing stallion that has participated in the fights. I was present on this gala day, one July, when the awards were made. The principal prize, on this occasion, went to a beautiful chestnut horse that had one white leg, and one white foot, and also a white star on his forehead. The present very popular President of Peru, A. B. Leguia, then Minister of Hacienda, sent him as a gift to George Lockett, one of the principals of the British Sugar Company, a man noted for his fine four-in-hand of greys.

The tickets of admission to the bull ring are 4 and 5 sols, i.e. 5s. and 10s., for seats on the shady side of the arena. For those on the other side (which are exposed to the blazing sun) 2 sols or 2½ sols, i.e. 4s. or 5s., is the charge. Boxes are £2 or £4 each, and orchestra seats, 10s. (There are no boxes on the sunny side.) I rather favoured the latter, but frequently was honoured with a seat in the President’s box.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 9

The City of the Kings

Part 1

Peru is one of the most interesting countries in the world. The climate is ideal. The sun shines all day long and the weather is always fine. Yet there is no lack of water, for the rivers are fed by the snow which dissolves on the Andes, the mighty range of mountains that runs parallel with the coast from end to end of this delightful country. All kinds of fruit grow to perfection on the slopes of the Cordilleras—fruits of every clime, and the ordinary necessaries of life can be obtained for next to nothing. Perpetual Spring prevails in the valleys.

Up to 1824, what is now called Bolivia was included in Peru. In consequence of Sucre’s victory over the Spaniards on the plains of Ayacucho, December 9, 1824, the country gained her independence, and was divided into two separate Republics, viz. Upper Peru, or Bolivia, and Lower Peru, now considered Peru proper.

The mention of Peru makes one’s thoughts naturally turn to Lima, accounted the most fascinating city of South America, next to Mexico, and well named the City of Kings. I became acquainted with it, in the first instance, when I brought some horses over from Chile for Zervallo, C. Watson, and A. B. Leguia. To visit Lima had been to me a long-cherished wish.

Among the many interesting objects that attract attention is the beautiful cathedral, built by Pizarro, so it is said, after he had conquered the Incas. Queen Isabella of Spain sent him a fine statue of Santa Rosa, the patron saint of Lima, to place therein. Adjacent to it were a barrow of silver, worth 1000 marks, thirteen arrows, equalling 1002 marks, and twelve lamps, valued at 732 marks. The altar front was of silver, worth 297 marks, and 411 marks’ worth of the same precious metal was used to make the Virgin’s throne. Santa Rosa is rather more than life-size, and is reputed to be made of pure gold. 39,500 ounces of silver were distributed over this wonderful figure, in addition to 1406 diamonds, 624 rubies, 1179 emeralds, and a bewildering galaxy of amethysts, pearls, and topazes. Many of these gems have disappeared, filched from their resting place. Pizarro fenced the statue round with pure silver, taken from the Incas at the time of Atahualpa’s murder, the space thus set apart being about 20 ft. square.

Pizarro’s remains are preserved in a glass case in the cathedral, the door of which is mahogany. The conqueror of the Incas is shown dressed in full uniform, the head being secured to the body with silver wire.

No visitor should miss Zervallo’s fine picture gallery, which was bequeathed to him by his father, a grandee who had to leave Spain, because his political views clashed with those of the Government then in power. In his will the old nobleman stipulated that his son should never part with the collection for a less sum than £100,000. He was not to sell one picture, or two, or three; it must be the whole lot, or none, the sum thus realized to be invested, and held in trust for the Zervallo family. The collection is housed in a large building. Some of the most interesting pictures refer to incidents in the conquest of Peru by Pizarro. One, fresh in my memory, represents Atahualpa being carried on a litter to Caxamarca. It is a matter of history, that his great ancestor, Huayna Capac, built a wonderful road from Cuzco to Caxamarca, a distance of 1500 miles, levelling mountains and filling up valleys to do so. In places it was 40 ft. wide, and is to this day regarded as affording incontrovertible proof of the astounding engineering skill of the Incas.

An American once offered Zervallo £600 if he would give him the first refusal of the paintings, and close the picture gallery six months, in order that he, in the meantime, might try to induce his people in New York to purchase the contents. Zervallo complied with the request, but, much to the American’s regret, the deal never matured.

The captain of the Ingomar, a vessel I frequently travel upon, told me that, however often he called at Callao, he never failed to visit the Zoo at Lima for the purpose of seeing what he deemed the most magnificent lion he had ever cast eyes on. I quite agree with him. I have seen many lions in various public and private collections—including those in the Zoological Gardens, London—and in their native state in South Africa, but none to compare with the Lima specimen. Doubtless the lovely climate has a lot to do with it, for it suits him down to the ground. This majestic creature has a most imposing head and mane. His skin is sleek as silk, and, although he must be very old, he exhibits not the slightest trace of mange. I have known him twenty-two years, and more.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 8


Inca Treasures, Part 2

Tia Huanaca is 12,500 ft. above sea-level. At Huaqui I met my friend Bruce, formerly third officer on a P. S. N. C. liner. He had surrendered that position to become mate of the Puno, one of the steamers that ply on the sacred lake. This boat was built in sections at Glasgow, and fixed up at Titicaca.

Bruce was considering an offer, which would place him in charge of a tug on the San Domingo River, used for dredging gold for the San Domingo Mining Co. I intend to refer to these famous mines when I deal with mining in Chapter XVII. The story of how Major Gibson, of the English Guards, discovered them is worth telling.

It was on this particular occasion, that I also ran up against my old friend Lord Headley. I accosted him with, “Hulloa! my lord, and what are you doing here? ” He replied, “Hulloa! my boy, and what are you doing here? Prospecting and looking for mines on Mariano Penny’s account, I suppose?”

“Not this time,” I rejoined. “Penny has given me leave to look up a tin proposition for a Lima friend.” Lord Headley then explained that he had come to Titicaca to get his skin cured of an affection he had contracted on an expedition undertaken on behalf of the Peruvian Rubber Co. It was a kind of rash on the back of his hands. When Headley consulted the family doctor on the subject, that worthy said, “It is no use your coming to me. We English doctors can do you no good. You must go back to the country whence you came. Go you to the curative springs Prescott speaks of, near Lake Titicaca.”

Headley told me he had been there a fortnight, and was now intending to return home. I advised him to defer his departure a couple of months, and give the Jura baths a turn. “Hire one of the village huts,” I said, “pot ducks, enjoy the enchanting views of the sacred lake and the majestic snow-capped Yllimani and Ylliampo mountains, and Jura will do the rest.” Doctor Parvin, the justly celebrated practitioner of Lima, says no skin disease can resist the Jura waters, taken in combination with the exhilarating atmosphere of the Andes. (This gentleman also attributes the immunity from contagious diseases, enjoyed by people living in these high altitudes, to the fact that no fleas, sandflies, or insects of any description are to be found above 7500 ft. My own personal opinion is, that all insects perish at about 6000 ft. Bugs, of course, excepted—those enterprising cavaliers seem proof against both cold and heat!)

Lord Headley took my advice. Two years later I came across him at the Great Western Hotel at Southampton. He was just off to Florida, hoping to enjoy some tarpon fishing, which was his great hobby. That he might be free from molestation, he had bought an island off the coast. He thanked me for my prescription, and said it had put him quite right.

Well, I reached Lima in due course and showed my samples to my friend. He had them tested by the Government assayer. The results were as follows: Samples taken at the 9000 ft. level, showed 5 per cent. of tin, those taken at 12,000 ft., 15 per cent. The percentage at 15,000 ft. was 25 per cent.; and at 16,000 ft., 60 per cent. This report was shown to J. B. Minchin, than whom few people in the wide world know more about tin. He was of opinion that my find was a rich one. The great trouble with tin is that, in the majority of instances, it appears only on the surface, or a few feet below. Now my samples gave good results from 9000 ft. right up to 16,000 ft.—proof positive that the lode was deep, and the proposition good enough for any company.

My friend experienced no difficulty in disposing of his rights. Jackson gave him £2000 for them, on behalf of a syndicate he represented. I had the satisfaction of receiving £500, plus £300, which represented my commission and expenses.

I sold my mules to the manager of a gold mining company for work in the mountains near La Paz. He paid me, with very great pleasure, £220 for them. So I made a profit over the animals of £60, after having had the use of them for six months. Altogether I did fairly well out of the transaction. One of General Pando’s aides-de-camp took charge of my chestnut hurdle-racer for me, until I required him again, often riding him at reviews.

My jumping-off points for Bolivian expeditions undertaken on behalf of M. M. Penny and his friends, were La Paz, Oruro, or Cochabamba. When I went into Peru I invariably started from Puno or Arequipa.

I kept a favourite mule, called El Pasha, at one or other of these places. It took its name from a celebrated horse belonging to Emilio Casal, owner of the famous sprinter Huron. This animal was never seen to best advantage in a race, unless El Pasha accompanied him to the post. The two invariably started off well together. El Pasha couldn’t live with his companion more than three furlongs. When he died out, Huron used to sail away on his own, no matter how heavily burdened in handicaps, and win weight for age races, hard held, by one or two lengths. Bismarck was the only horse with any pretensions of tackling him in the last-named sort of race. I only saw Huron run twice without El Pasha, and he seemed to go with less dash than usual. One race he won by a neck; the other he lost by a head. As a consequence, Don Emilio decreed that El Pasha should, ever after, accompany Huron to the post, and not run in inferior class races. This was a bit hard on him, for he was a champion in minor events.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 8

Inca Treasures

Part 1

I decided to break my journey at Tia Huanaca, where I got a very nice room at an Indian’s house. I catered for myself and the Indians whom Rameres had procured for me. (They were to be disbanded at Huaqui.) My object in going to Tia Huanaca was to search for Inca relics. All the land round here, right up to the lake, belonged to my good friend and patron, General José Pando, President of Bolivia. He gave me permission to explore, prospect, and excavate anywhere on his property where I thought something of Man’s handiwork lay hid. The only conditions he imposed were, that I should prove to his satisfaction that I had sufficient capital to employ the requisite number of men, and that I would let him see whatever was uncovered during the operations. Pando himself wished to share in the profits, or losses, of the transaction, and thus was prepared to fulfil the obligations imposed by the Mining Laws.

I spent a week in one of the houses belonging to the head Indian of the district. It is his son who is seen standing alongside the colossal statue represented opposite page 84 [below]. The old Indian’s name was Pablo Guiterez. He was full of information respecting the ancient remains that are to be met with on every side. The principal were called, so he told me, the Ruins of the Gentiles.

Remains of pre-Incaic civilization near the ruins of the Gentiles, Tiahuanaca, Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

It must have been originally a stupendous place, this ancient Peruvian palace. The inner courts are 360 ft. square, and composed of tremendous stones, some of which weigh 60 or 70 tons.

According to well-known authorities these buildings and the big images—which are carved out of the solid rock—were anterior to the time of the Incas. They are very similar to those one knocks up against on the sacred island.

Day after day Pablo and I, and his two sons, and two other Indians used to ride over to some old forts about five miles distant from his house. There were natives living close by, as was indeed the case with most of the ruins we visited. As a consequence I was often able to purchase relics they themselves had come across. Among many items of interest that I acquired at Tia Huanaca, was a card case of delicate filigree work. This was a personal gift from Pablo. It is a delightful example of the silversmith’s art.

Besides the forts, we visited numerous other likely places. Sometimes our luck was in, sometimes it was out. At one spot that looked very promising, we dug away for two days and found nothing. We were more than compensated for this disappointment, however, by a nice little find that we made when striking across country towards La Paz Alto. Whilst we were engaged upon a mound Pablo had pointed out, we hit on what seemed like an old well. Before we gained access to it we had to remove a lot of big stones, and finally a pretty large slab of slate. After that we dug down a good five feet or more through loose earth and stones that packed the steyning of the well, which was very nicely built of stones and bricks, intermixed. At the bottom of the hole we found a bag of raw cowhide, similar to those made by Indians of to-day around Jumbez and Titicaca. It was sewn together with leather thongs, and the hairy side was outside. There is no doubt this kind of bag is much handier than the ordinary valise for travellers in the bush. The one we found was black with age, but for all that, in fairly sound condition. Inside it were a number of old silver ornaments.

When I told General Pando of our good fortune he said, “Keep the lot, my boy, and try and form a company to take the matter in hand on a big scale. I shall get Pablo to fossick about and find some more relics for my own collection.” This was very good of him; it gave me a fine start and encouraged me to acquire other specimens of ancient art work. I laid out £100 with Don Pablo, paying him at the rate of half a crown an ounce for old silver articles that he had dug up from time to time. Altogether I rounded up a nice little lot.

The ruins of Pachacamaca, near Lima. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

I took toll from Inca ruins in other places besides Tia Huanaca, e.g. at Pachacamaca I lighted on many interesting things, manufactured of silver and gold. Amongst the most notable were a miniature lady’s slipper, artistically fashioned of silver filigree, and a marvellously fine model of a soldier in solid gold. The uniform depicted is very similar to that Pizarro’s men used to wear. It stands about three inches high, and the plinth is encrusted with brilliants. I had my father’s crest engraved on the base and gave it to him. At his death it reverted to me. After selling £700 worth, I still had a tidy lot left over. Some of these I distributed among my friends, but the majority I gave to my parents, who had two tables set apart in the drawing-room at Kington, upon which they were displayed, and very proud of them they were.

The specimens I retained for my own pleasure would delight the heart of any student of antiquities. At times I am inclined to regret having parted with so many choice relics of old-time civilization at bargain prices, especially when experts call me an old fool for my pains, but still the satisfaction of finding them was worth the sweat, and it isn’t as if there were not plenty more where they came from.

Among the many interesting things I collected were several stone axes, and one made of tempered copper. I am one of the very few men who know the Inca secret method of tempering copper. The tools they and the Aztecs manufactured from this metal were keen as any made of the very best steel.

It was very cold here at night, and, like Donovan, all the inhabitants seem to consider a fire quite unnecessary. The atmospheric conditions were very similar to those I encountered in the district of Tres Cruces. During the daytime one didn’t notice the cold so much, because of the brilliant sunshine; nevertheless it was freezing hard all the time. It may seem strange, but it is a fact, notwithstanding, that at Cerro Volcan and Cerro San Pedro, two peaks on one side the great Atacama desert, a thermometer placed in the shade would register three or four degrees below zero; and when shifted not a hundred yards into the sunshine, would run up to seventy-five degrees above. On one or two occasions my instrument registered eighty degrees. This was in 1921, when I went to collect samples of the beautiful Chinchilla pelts, with a view to opening up business with several of the leading furriers in London.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 7

The King of Rugs

The Tres Cruces Mine, Part 2

Lots of white and yellow flowers grow upon the sides of the mountains in this district. They are very similar to those one meets with in the Alps. The late Bishop Brown, of Bristol and Gloucester, who was a famous Alpinist, showed me some he had brought home from Switzerland, and one could hardly tell them from mine. The scenery was sublime. On every side glorious snow-capped mountains towered up to the sky, clothed in a profusion of tussock grass about two feet long, and very coarse, but the mountain cattle and sheep seem to thrive on it. This grass extends to within 2000 ft. of the snow-line. Guanacos and vicuñas were plentiful. So unused to man were they that one could get quite close to them without attracting their notice; hence securing meat for the camp presented no difficulty. I saw many foxes. They were of a greyish colour. I shot several, sufficient to make me a fine poncho or cape, which I still possess. It is very warm and comfortable. Originally a number of tails depended from it, but in 1922 I induced a Berkshire lady friend to remove them, as they inclined to make the cape look too conspicuous for English wear.

Some years after I visited Donovan, white fox and black became all the rage. Even Chilian, Peruvian, Bolivian foxes, and those of the Andes, came into favour. They were trapped or shot in thousands by the Mountain Indians, and their pelts sold at £1 apiece. I never saw a white fox in the Andes. The Andean foxes are mostly grey, with fine, long brushes. One I remember very well indeed—a very cheeky fellow. I was sitting outside my camp at night, after dinner, waiting on the off-chance of getting a puma, the spoor of which one of my Indians had discovered close by. All of a sudden a great, reddish-grey dog-fox stepped out from some bushes, and stood looking at me. He had an immense brush, the longest I think I have ever seen. I could have shot him easily, but I let him go free, as I didn’t wish to frighten any pumas that might be lurking about. Indians, like those in the Yllimani and Ylliampo ranges, live chiefly on wild guanaco meat—with an occasional buck thrown in—guinea pigs and potatoes. Although they all keep sheep, and used to sell me some at 4s., 5s., and 6s. apiece, I never saw them kill any for themselves. But they always expected the insides of mine in return for killing, skinning, and fixing up for challona.

After spending eight weeks in this exhilarating atmosphere, where the blue sky is always visible, save when overcast by an occasional hailstorm, and the sun shines all day long, I collected my samples and took them to a friend of mine, a Mr. Horne, who was employed by M. M. Penny and J. B. Minchin as an assayer. I had, as usual, placed them in separate sacks, with a ticket giving particulars of where I had found them, and at what height. It took him three days to examine and test my little lot. His report was most satisfactory, so I attached it to mine, and hied me away to my friend in Lima.

On my way back over the Andes to Sicasica, I called on Don Ramon, and put in three days with him. We had another hunt after pumas, but failed to locate any. At our parting, Ramon presented me with a magnificent rug, composed of white alpaca skins. This I gave to my father when I returned to England. He was very proud of it, and showed it to many of his friends and acquaintances—to Lord Methuen, among others. That gallant officer was charmed with it, and told my father it was the king of rugs. To buy these rugs, whether white or black, one has to approach the Mountain Indians, men who don’t give much away. Nowadays they have a much keener sense of values than when I first made their acquaintance, twenty odd years ago. The skins cost them nothing, but they have to be cured in a special manner, and properly dressed, before the various suitable portions are ready for making up. Then the putting together has to be taken into consideration. People who have never seen this process would be amazed at the skilful handiwork of the Indian women.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 7

The Megrims

The Tres Cruces Mine, Part 1

Next day, after thanking Don Ramon for his hospitality, and for giving me so enjoyable a time, I started off for the camp at the foot of the mountains near Tres Cruces. Here a man named Donovan kept a little store, and worked a tin mine for my Lima friend. This same Donovan was one of the first to come to La Paz and congratulate me when I returned from my momentous journey to Challana. Readers of my Bolivian adventures may remember that I had passed through some ticklish experiences, and had been reported dead.

Donovan greeted me warmly, and said he had been expecting me for several months, his boss having apprised him of my coming to prospect around. I was to make his house my headquarters. This abode comprised two rooms and a kitchen, all built of solid stone. The walls were two feet thick or more; and the whole was roofed with corrugated iron. Donovan, I found, had only two Indian assistants. He said the store wouldn’t run to more; his takings barely sufficed to pay their wages and provide grub for himself and them. I could quite believe this, for the nearest hut was eighteen miles off, and his only likely callers would be prospectors.

Well, I started work with his two Indians and my three. Nine-thirty every morning saw me hard at it, taking samples where I thought proper, both on my Lima friend’s property and on the virgin soil belonging to the Government of Bolivia.

All went well for the first five days. Then two Indians went sick and had to rest in camp for the best part of a week. Three days later, another Indian got the “megrims.” He, of course, had to be excused. This sort of game became the vogue. I seldom had my full complement of men. The reason for this is a simple one. The Indians in Bolivia and Peru are mostly “Colonials,” i.e. their owner or master, or whatever you like to call him, provides them with everything they want in reason; they, for their part, do all the farm work on half-shares with the owner of the estancia. Every year, after the harvest is safely gathered in, accounts are balanced up, and any surplus is divided equally between master and man. If the harvest has been a poor one, and the balance is on the wrong side so far as the workers are concerned, then the debt is wiped out, and the position is “As you were.” This system suits the “Colonials” very well; so well, in fact, that they rarely trouble to seek work outside the boundaries of the estancia to which they belong, except for a very special purpose, like mine at Sacambaja. Those pretty gentlemen wanted something storekeeper José hadn’t in stock—one a red shirt, to cut a dash in, and another a sewing-machine for his wife—so their headman told me. Donovan’s Indians were of the same kidney. Directly they had made sufficient money to satisfy their special needs, they returned to their master’s estate. I was thus frequently left with only my three Indians, one of whom was my personal attendant, whose duty it was to help me drill whatever lode I was prospecting.

Round about this district I found the temperature pretty cold. During my two months’ stay here the thermometer ranged between 4 degrees and 32 degrees in the shade, and 4 degrees to 8 degrees below zero at night. You can imagine how delightful it would have been for me to come home after a hard day’s work in the mountains, and find a nice roaring fire in my room. But not a bit of it, no such luxury was provided. There wasn’t even a fireplace! My Lima friend had never visited Donovan’s. I often wished he had. I’m sure a week in that cold atmosphere would have made his hair curl! He paid me, however, to go there for him, and paid me well, so I mustn’t grumble. With the exception of Sundays and seven days when I went guanaco hunting for the camp, i.e. the Indians, Donovan and I were content to feed off challona and martinette. I generally potted this bird on the ground. “Pots” are the order of the day in out-of-the-way places. One has no use for fancy shooting. I also got some wild duck from a small lake in the vicinity. They don’t seem to frequent any water above the 12,000 ft. mark; their billet ranges from 9000 ft. to 12,000 ft. On one occasion I shot a few wild geese. They were pure white, and afforded fairly good eating, i.e. the young ones, but the old birds were tough as hemp.

Only two of my seven trips after guanacos proved successful. On these occasions I bagged one each time. On three others I drew blank, through shooting badly; and twice I quite failed to get within range of them. I happened once upon a herd of vicuña, however, as I turned the corner of a valley through which a mountain stream ran. I raised my rifle to fire, but they looked so beautiful that I felt I could not pull trigger on them. Besides martinette, I came across a few woodcock occasionally in this valley. Once I shot a martinette as it was running, and two woodcock squatting on the ground; but missed a woodcock on the wing, and two others.

Talking of shooting, I once met a fellow who was looking for mines in the district of Incasivi. He was a crack revolver shot, and brought down bird after bird. I travelled with him three days. Never once did I see him miss his mark.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 6

The Luck of the Deal

Hunting Pumas and Guanacos, Part 3

Guanaco hunting with expert bola throwers is most exhilarating sport, if one has a good horse under you, and decent galloping ground to ride over—almost as inspiring as riding after the rhea, or wild ostrich, in the Argentine. Not quite so fascinating, however, as the pastime I enjoyed on Hamilton Langley’s estate, where I learned how to run an estancia. I got “nowt,” as the Yorkshiremen say, for wages, during my apprenticeship, and had to find my own grub and horseflesh.

Langley was a fine horseman, a grand rider over any kind of country; and with him hunting was a passion. He kept a pack of dogs, consisting of two staghounds, and four of the greyhound lurcher type. I had a similar lot of lurchers, a prize-bred French pointer, and a King Charles. The latter was a smart little chap, and absolutely fearless, as the following incident will show.

One day my groom came to me about 8.15 a.m., full of news about a tiger cat. He said it was the biggest he had ever seen and that it had just run into a clump of bushes not far away. I called up my dogs, and, six-shooter in hand, proceeded to the spot indicated. I tried my best to persuade the big dogs to try and rout the tiger cat out; but they didn’t relish the task. Imagine my surprise when the little King Charles dashed into the clump, and drove the cat out into the open! The other dogs then joined in the fray, and soon settled matters to their entire satisfaction. My lurchers and Hamilton’s dogs made up a useful pack, and we used to put them on the scent of any mortal thing that came our way. Deer, however, provided our chief diversion.

On one occasion, I remember, we got to the end of Langley’s big paddock, or potrero, and found the gate closed against us. The boss promptly put his horse at it, and landed over in magnificent style. We, who were not so well mounted, had to open the gate and ride through. My horse was of the half or three-quarter type raised by the late William Kemmis. When sent to England they fetched good prices as high-class hunters. Lots of fellows of my acquaintance had, at various times, hunters bred by Kemmis or Langley on shares, i.e. they kept them and rode them for several months, and then sold them. What they got over and above the original price, they divided with the owner. The usual figure the breeders charged was £100. In the days I am speaking of, there were heaps of wild horses in the Argentine. When I took up my quarters at Bella Vista, I bought seventeen (“al corte”) for £2 apiece; and was extremely gratified to find that three of them were up to my weight. Six others made fine carriage horses, after they had been broken in. I frequently drove them in my big, heavy dog-cart three at a time, native fashion, i.e. one in the shafts, and one on either side of him. The way they went hell for leather over the Camp was a sight for sore eyes!

Before proceeding further, I ought, perhaps, to explain the meaning of al corte. The words are the Spanish equivalent for “as they come.” A number of animals are driven out of a herd of maybe five hundred, into a corral. The gates are then closed, and the Peons, with much cracking of whips, induce the horses, or mules, or what-not, to stampede round the corral. When they have got pretty lively, the gate is suddenly flung open. Then one has to look smart, or you’ll get overwhelmed in the rush. Note particularly the first ten animals that come out. They are yours, if you are the fellow who is buying. In that little lot you may get several horses—if horses are your game—worth £20 apiece. On the other hand the majority may consist of useless yearlings, and one or two old brood mares. It is all in the luck of the deal.

When I bought my horses two separate hundreds were driven into the corral. I had ten out of the first hundred, and seven out of the second. Only three were “stumers,” and these I turned over to my groom, who found them very useful for rough work.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 6

Whirling Bolas

Hunting Pumas and Guanacos, Part 2

Don Ramon persuaded me to prolong my stay so that I might help him get some guanaco and vicuña skins, the former to make mats with, and the latter, rugs.

It was a very jolly experience. We started off, attended by four Indians, Ramon riding a pacer, and I my galloping chestnut. The Indians were mounted on mules and carried bolas, a kind of lasso made of raw hide. At one end of the bola are two thongs. On each of these a wooden ball about as large as a cricket ball is threaded. At the other end of the bola—which, by the way, is about two yards long—another, but smaller wooden ball depends from a two-foot thong. The bola is used as follows: The Peons, when the animals they have rounded up are comparatively still, ride at them, swinging their bolas as they go. This starts them on the run again, when the Peons throw their bolas, aiming to entangle the animals’ feet. Some are so expert that they rarely fail to accomplish their purpose.

A couple of hours’ ride brought us to the grazing ground of the guanacos. It was in a beautiful valley, about 10,000 ft. above sea-level. We soon sighted a herd of fifteen, and went after them full lick. I easily took the lead, and soon had to steady my horse so that Ramon and the Indians might get into line with me. The sandy soil, which carried barely sufficient herbage for ostriches, afforded pretty good galloping ground, so we streaked along at a tidy pace. But after twenty minutes or so my weight began to tell, and then my gallant steed didn’t need much steadying—he steadied himself. The big Borzoi led the other dogs, a good fifty yards up the Flat. By and by the Indians caught up with the dogs, and got quite close to the guanacos, who finally came to a standstill on a green patch which was fifty yards square, or thereabouts. The hunted animals turned round and lined up like a regiment of soldiers, gazing about them in an inquiring kind of way, as if to say: “What is all this commotion about; and why do you follow us?”

Now was the time for our bola throwers! In they rode, whirling their bolas in the air as they went. Meantime, Don Ramon and I dismounted, and took up a favourable position whence we might get a shot at the guanacos when they stampeded. The animals kept their formation until the Indians were within seventy yards of them; then they broke and fled. Ahead of them in their line of flight was a cleft in the rocks. But it was too small for them to get through; so they took a half-right turn, and made for the hills. In anticipation of this manoeuvre, the Indians had galloped off to the left, in order to intercept them, and, as they passed at a distance of about fifteen yards, threw their bolas. Good luck attended their efforts. They brought two of the animals to the ground, and soon administered the coup de grâce. Don Ramon and I killed a couple more with our rifles, and, as the survivors were gaining the shelter of the hills, let fly at the two hindmost. I sighted at 300 yards and was fortunate enough to hit my guanaco in the thigh, so that it had to hop along on three legs. Ramon missed his. We despatched two of the Indians to track down the wounded animal, while the others proceeded to disembowel the four we had already secured, preparatory to loading them up on their mules. In about an hour’s time we sighted the trackers returning over the foothills, one leading his mule with the dead guanaco on top.

“A very successful hunt,” said Don Ramon. The meat would come in very handy to help feed the twenty families that he kept on his estate; and the skins would make some beautiful mats. We saw only five vicuña on this trip, and they were too far off for us to fire at with any hope of success.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 6

Going for the Throat

Hunting Pumas and Guanacos, Part 1

Next day I went round the estancia and had a look at Don Ramon’s alpacas. He lent me a fine pacing horse for this purpose. My animals in the meantime were turned out where there was plenty of excellent pasture.

The alpacas were exceptionally good. Most were of a mixed colour; several were pure white; only a very few were black. These animals are bred for their wool, which is extremely fine, and expensive to buy. Carosses, i.e. rugs, are made from their skins. Their flesh is highly esteemed by the natives. In flavour it comes between goat and mutton. White alpaca rugs are worth money. I have frequently brought some home and sold them for £40 and £50 apiece. Black alpaca rugs fetch much more, being rarer. My favourite is the white variety. Odd bits of alpaca skin, left over from rug-making, are made up into foot-warmers. The alpaca is built on the same lines as a guanaco, but somewhat sturdier. Like the llama, it is indigenous to Peru and Bolivia.

Ramon was good enough to sell me three white alpaca rugs for £20 apiece. One I gave to my father; the others brought me in £100. Since the Great War the prime cost has increased 50 per cent. or more.

The following morning, just after breakfast, one of Ramon’s Indians brought word that a cow had been killed by pumas. His dogs had chased the raiders to a hill about two miles from the estancia, where there were a lot of rocks and several small caves. Don Ramon had a very fine strain of Borzoi, and five hounds beside, that he had bred by mating one of the Borzois with a wild-dog bitch. He had captured the latter a few years previously when hunting guanacos. He shot her mother as she came rushing out of one of the self-same caves where the Indian had now located the pumas. Close by he found a litter of pups, which he took home and brought up by hand on milk. There were five in all. Ramon gave two away, but retained two dogs and a bitch for himself. The dogs he kept separate by themselves; the bitch he put to one of his Borzois, with the result already mentioned.

Well, we started off without delay after the pumas, taking with us the five hounds and their parents. I rode a grand chestnut pacing horse, bred by Ramon, and he rode a bay. They both showed plenty of quality and blood. The Indian trotted on ahead, until we arrived within about three hundred yards of the caves. We then dismounted, and, while he held our horses, stalked our quarry cautiously. The well-trained dogs followed at our heels until fifty yards or so from the rocks. Ramon then laid them on the trail. They quickly picked it up; but though they nosed about for an hour, and searched every corner and hole, where even a cat might hide, they found nothing. So we remounted our nags, and rode off to another mix-up of rocks and caves about a mile and a half away. We hadn’t ridden half a mile before the big Borzoi dog, Czar, gave tongue, followed at once by Florita, the wild-dog bitch. How I longed for my galloping chestnut, for though the pacers could pace eight or nine miles an hour, they couldn’t gallop for toffee! At any rate the dogs quite outdistanced them.

On reaching the rocks we dismounted, and in the usual South American way, threw the reins over our horses’ heads to the ground—having, of course, unbuckled them first. There was no fear of the horses getting away: they had been trained to stand until the reins were picked up. The dogs were now barking furiously outside a long, low cave that looked most forbidding. None of them appeared anxious to enter, but Ramon persuaded the big Borzoi to go in. About two minutes later, out rushed three pumas. Ramon was standing about thirty yards away from the cave, and I about the same distance to the left of him. He had his Martini and I my father’s 16 double-barrelled Holland and Holland. The biggest puma was one of the largest I had ever seen. I was fortunate enough to get him with my first barrel. With the other I fired at another puma not quite so big. My bullet broke his leg, and the dogs soon put an end to him. Don Ramon accounted for the third puma. He hit it in the ribs and it got away; but we followed its trail on our horses, and after a lovely ride of five miles or so, over the High Flats, caught up with it in a small valley leading towards a distant range of mountains. Our dogs flung themselves on to their quarry. Then ensued a rare rough and tumble. Brought to bay, the puma fought desperately. Spitting and snarling like a fiend incarnate, she threw the dogs off again and again. But they would not be denied, and, although more than one was severely mauled, pressed home the attack. At last Florita, snapping up a favourable opportunity, dashed in and seizing the puma by the throat, hung on till she had torn a hole in its windpipe. Ramon was very glad when the end came, for he was fond of his dogs, and we had not dared to fire a shot for fear of hurting them.

Had Ramon been using my weapon, the puma would never have got away at all. Don Lisandro Mendizabal, who was a great friend of his, told him he wouldn’t mind going anywhere with my rifle, because it made so big a hole, nothing could stand up against it.

On our way back to the estancia, we each fired two shots at some big condors, three of which were flying overhead. Don Ramon missed altogether; but I was lucky enough to break the wing of a big male bird with my second shot and so brought it to the ground. We waited till the Indian came up, and left it in his charge. He skinned the bird and preserved it “Indian fashion,” in order that I might take it home as a trophy to my father. It measured 9 ft. 7 in. from tip to tip of its expanded wings. Don Ramon showed me one in his drawing-room, that went exactly 11 ft. 7 in. That also was a male bird with a white collar. The different varieties of condor are fully described in Adventures in Bolivia wherein is quoted Baron von Humboldt’s description of these wonderful birds. Mr. Hudson, the great authority on South America, wrote me on three separate occasions about the Condor Real, or king of the condors, a bird reputed to be pure white. He doubted the existence of such a bird, and suggested that if one really existed, it had probably grown white with age. Not long before his death, however, he was good enough to write and say certain facts had come to his knowledge which convinced him that I was right in contending the Condor Real is a distinct species, and a pure white bird.