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.