Adventures in Peru, Chapter 14

Hell for Leather

Tales of Far Peru, Part 3

When I left Antonio’s place to return to Jura, I rode El Pasha. My other horse, Luftibus, was still feeling the effects of a good gallop I had had, three days previously, after guanacos. The hunt had been arranged by Antonio partly for my entertainment, and partly for the sake of his own larder. He had nine big dogs of the crossed deerhound type, just the sort for the job we had on hand.

Our party consisted of Antonio and his two sons, mounted on good mules, a couple of Indians on horseback, and several on foot. The mounted men were all expert bola-throwers, and carried their native weapon with them coiled up ready for use on the peak of their saddles. I was the only rifleman of the company, and had my big-bore Winchester.

One of the Indians notified Antonio that there were some guanacos over the other side of some hills that stretched up to the horizon about three or four leagues away. Our way lay through delightful scenery resplendent with dazzling cacti, but we were all too much engaged in weighing up our chances of a successful hunt to pay a great deal of heed to our sublime surroundings. I rode El Pasha up to the hills and then changed to Luftibus. We were now on the feeding ground of the guanacos and vicuñas, called by the Indians for that reason Los Guanacos. To reach the other side of the mountain range we had to negotiate a rather awkward pass. It was only 12,500 ft. up, but in some respects it was a bit of a teaser. The track was an old Inca path, so narrow that we had to proceed in Indian file. First rode the Indian scout, then came Antonio, next followed my unworthy self, and behind me Poncho carrying my rifle. I took charge of the cartridges, in accordance with my usual custom.

After reaching the summit we rode downhill, a matter of six miles or more, and then came to a part of the High Flats which our scout said was much frequented by guanacos. We continued on our way for half an hour, keeping a bright look-out for any signs of our quarry. Soon we picked up the spoor, and, after following it for another half-hour, saw in the distance a big herd of guanacos. To get within range of them without giving them notice of our approach was a stiff problem. Happily Antonio knew of a convenient gulley that enabled us to outflank the timid animals. This brought us to the border of the High Flats. When we had approached within 300 yards of them, the herd scented us and took fright. I at once dismounted and, sighting my rifle at 300 yards, pulled trigger. By great good fortune I killed one of the guanacos. For my second shot I raised my sight to 500 yards, and let drive. Another member of the herd at once dropped behind his fellows and limped along on three legs, evidently hit pretty hard.

Antonio slipped his dogs, and followed “Hell for Leather,” dinging along at a good hard gallop over an expanse of ground as flat as a billiard table. For full twenty minutes I enjoyed one of the finest rides of my life. Then the dogs got to the heels of the wounded animal, and soon brought it to bay. They had been so well trained that they didn’t attempt to molest it, but simply circled round, barking until their master arrived upon the scene. Antonio at once threw his bola, and entangled the animal at the first attempt. Poncho then ran in and cut its throat.

Five miles at least was, I guess, the extent of our jolly little spin. By the time it concluded, old Luftibus knew that he had done a bit of weight carrying, for I rode about 19 stone.