Adventures in Peru, Chapter 16

Snakes and Other Horrors

Part 1

The rivers of Peru are well stocked with fish, of which some afford very good eating. But some are neither good for man nor beast. In the latter category must be placed the piranha, a blood-thirsty little beast ranging from five to twelve inches. Let there be but the very slightest suspicion of blood on any person or animal, and they will swarm to the attack like ferocious sharks. Colonel Roosevelt’s great friend, Colonel Rouden, lost one of his toes while paddling in a stream infested with piranha; and I have often seen Indians who were minus a finger tip. The canderos is even a greater menace to bathers. This veritable fiend measures but one and a half to three inches long, and is a shark in miniature. Its fins are similar, and so are its teeth. The former fold down at will on the back; then the canderos looks like a worm. Their favourite point of attack is the fundament. Directly they force an entrance they spread their fins and begin to burrow, and so to get rid of them then a serious operation is required. The ballanetta, a cross between a buffoon and a sea porpoise, more properly belongs to Venezuela. He is a big fellow, from fourteen to eighteen feet in length. The name is Spanish for “a young whale.” It abounds near La Pastora up the Orinoco River. Colonel Mirandas, whom I met in 1923, had an ingenious theory of how it originated. His idea is that some porpoises brought up from the sea by a phenomenal tide, “nicked in” with manatees and the product of that union interbred with other sea porpoises and so on, till finally the buffoon type became fixed.

The sting ray is another objectionable fish. It occurs more frequently in sea-water than in fresh, and has a whip tail about three feet long and a kind of prong which it sticks into its victim preparatory to dragging it beneath the surface. In form it resembles a skate. The river species is from two to four feet broad, with a three to four inch prong. That found in the Caribbean Sea is much bigger in every particular.

The manatee, or cow fish, is one of the most remarkable objects to be seen anywhere in the world. It is from eight to ten feet long and weighs from two hundred to four hundred pounds. In many respects it bears a startling likeness to the human form divine, and its mode of conception and breeding are similar. When feeding her young—there is never more than one at a birth—the mother fish raises her head and breasts above the water. The baby manatee may then be seen, resting on flappers which protrude from beneath her mother’s breasts. There seems little doubt that the manatee induced the mermaid fiction. This fish is good to eat, and its skin is much valued by the Indians for whip thongs and shoemaking.

Poisonous insects are fairly common. The sting of the scorpion is rarely fatal, although it is generally attended by ill effects. More dreaded is the bite of the tarantula, a spider the size of a small saucer. I bathed every morning for three weeks in a lovely pool near Anhuaqui, made by the Indians with a tree they had felled. Regularly, day after day, a whopping big tarantula put in its appearance on the log. I tried ever so many times to capture it with a large butterfly net, but it was always too smart for me. I wanted him badly to put among my specimens, and offered the Indians all sorts of inducement to secure him for me, but they wouldn’t face him.

Snakes seem to exercise a strange fascination for most people. Some of the reptiles I met with in Bolivia and Peru, without being very dissimilar from those of neighbouring countries, were yet sufficiently distinct in their characteristics to merit at least a passing word. One thing should be borne in mind, and that is that snakes in tropical countries rarely obtrude themselves on one’s notice. In certain circumstances, this of course constitutes a real danger. For instance, you may be forcing your way through thick jungle and step on one unawares; or, when passing up a river, roofed over with gorgeous, tropical vegetation, you may brush against one enjoying a siesta on an old decayed limb. Then you have to look out for squalls, for Mr. Snake doesn’t waste time in idle talk. No, he gets busy, busy in a way that means no good to the party who has interfered with him.

Even so, the majority give warning of their evil intentions, by making certain audible sounds.

The cobra is exactly similar in appearance to the Asiatic reptile bearing the same name, but it has a thicker skin. In length it ranges from three to four feet. When in action it stands on its tail, and its advance is particularly menacing, for it has the power of jumping backwards, a stunt it is prone to indulge in just when you least expect it. Cobra skin is a material much in favour with artistic leather workers. Ladies’ slippers and shoes and hand-bags are made of this material, and really look very nice.

At the present time rattlesnake skin is even more the vogue. The rattler is found where the soil is dry; chiefly round sugar estates and in the Pampas grass lands. He invariably gives notice of his intentions by sounding his rattle. This consists of from two to five round pieces of bone, about the size of split peas, encased in a horny substance at the tail-end of the reptile. The Peruvian Government pay 1 sol per head for every rattler killed. Some of the Indians earn their living in this way. For evidence they have to produce the tail of each snake they claim to have killed.

One of the most dangerous to be met with in this region is the green mamba. Personally I have never come across one in Peru, but it is pretty general in all tropical countries. I once disturbed a green mamba in Pondoland, when coming up from the sea after a bathe. I was tramping along a path that was only very faintly defined. Hearing a hiss, I turned just in time to see Mr. G. M. preparing to make himself obnoxious. He was, in fact, coming after me full rip, and full of pep. I wasn’t dressed to receive visitors, so the situation was rather embarrassing; but, happily, I remembered Sir John Jarvis Bissett’s instructions, viz., to run uphill. Directly I did so I had the snake beat.

The garter snake is also very deadly. It is often called the coral snake, and is only about twelve to eighteen inches long. Wonderful tales are told by the Indians of its jumping powers. According to them, this sinister little reptile can project its thin whip-like body through the air a distance of ten feet.

I once killed a garter snake when out riding near a tropical forest. It lay asleep in my path. Quietly dismounting, I cut a long bamboo, and from a distance of about eight feet gave him such a whack as quite flattened him out. Then I wrapped him round with wild banana leaves secured with my handkerchief, while I visited a native hut close by to try and get a bottle. I succeeded in my quest, and soon transferred the snake to the glass receptacle, and I have him yet, preserved in spirits of wine.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 15

Death to the Tyrant

The Inca Saga, Part 4

I have often been asked what became of Atahualpa’s judges. This is best ascertained by referring to that fascinating work, Prescott’s Conquest of Peru. A brief résumé of the closing scenes of these tumultuous lives may encourage some of my readers to delve into this fine classic, and they will be amply repaid for their trouble.

When Pizarro’s brother Fernando returned from Spain, after conveying thence the treasure collected for the Crown, he brought with him marks of the King’s high appreciation of all D’Almagro and Pizarro had accomplished. The latter was created a marquess, and the former was empowered to explore and occupy all the country for 200 leagues south of Pizarro’s territory.

When D’Almagro returned from his Chilian expedition he claimed that Cuzco was included in his jurisdiction. Pizarro refused to admit the equity of his demand, and backed up his opinion with a show of force. D’Almagro, nothing loth, tried conclusions with Hernando Pizarro, who then occupied Cuzco. Having taken Hernando prisoner, he next turned his attention to Alvarado, who had also refused to acknowledge him as Governor of Cuzco. Success again attended his arms.

Francisco Pizarro now took a hand, for D’Almagro extended his claims to include Lima. After protracted negotiations both parties agreed to retire to their own territories until the lands in dispute were accurately determined. D’Almagro’s men, however, made no effort to observe the terms of the treaty, so Pizarro advanced with a large force of men, and after a sanguinary encounter at La Salinas just outside Cuzco, defeated D’Almagro’s forces and took the luckless Marshal prisoner. Twelve days later the latter was garrotted by Pizarro’s orders.

Hernando Pizarro was commanded to return to Spain and explain the circumstances attending D’Almagro’s death. Before he set out on his journey he warned his brother to beware of the Men of Chile—meaning D’Almagro’s followers—but Francisco laughed his fears to scorn. The Court sent out Vaca de Castro to inquire into Peruvian affairs generally, so D’Almagro’s men hoped to get some redress. De Castro, however, suffered shipwreck on the way out, hence they determined to take matters into their own hands and remove the tyrant. Accordingly, twenty of them arranged to meet at the house of D’Almagro’s son towards the end of June, 1641, to arrange their plan of action.

One, fainter-hearted than the rest, revealed the plot to his confessor. The priest lost no time in acquainting Ricardo, Pizarro’s secretary, with the news. When the latter told his master, he laughed and said it was only a ruse by which the cleric hoped to secure a mitre. He, nevertheless, decided not to go to Mass on the appointed day. The arrangement had been to kill him on his way back. When the conspirators learnt that Pizarro had not attended Mass, they concluded some one had split on them. So they determined to carry out their programme without delay. Headed by Rada, one of D’Almagro’s officers, they rushed across the square to the Governor’s palace. The heavy iron gate of the outer court was open. Midway over the second court they met with the two keepers of the gate. One they struck down. The other ran back into the palace and gave the alarm.

Pizarro, who was in the dining-room with several friends, ordered Francisco Chaves, one of his officers, to secure the door. Chaves unfortunately attempted to parley with the assassins through the half-opened door. A sword-thrust was his reward.

Hastily brushing the attendants aside, Rada and his companions made their way to the room where Pizarro was, shouting, “Death to the Tyrant.” The Marquess’s half-brother Alcontura barred their entrance with two pages and three of his friends. They were soon desperately engaged, seeing which Pizarro rushed to their assistance. Just as he reached the doorway, Alcontura fell to the ground grievously wounded. Nothing daunted the Marquess wielded his blade vigorously and made his foes give ground. The respite was, however, all too brief; they rallied and advanced to the attack again. Rada, holding the dead body of one of his companions in front of him, made a violent thrust at Pizarro which found its mark. It pierced the latter’s throat even as he ran Rada through. Pizarro sank to the floor. Several swords were plunged into his body. “Jesu,” exclaimed the dying man. With his finger he traced the emblem of Christianity on the floor. As he bent his head to salute the Cross with his lips a shrewd stroke hastened his end.

After passing through various vicissitudes his remains were finally deposited in the cathedral at Lima, where they may yet be seen.

Pizarro was seventy years of age when he made his hurried exit from this vale of tears. He left behind him a son, who died young, and a daughter—the result of his union with Atahualpa’s daughter. The girl eventually became the wife of Hernando Pizarro, at the time a prisoner in the fortress of Medina. Hernando survived his twenty years’ “stretch” all right and lived till he had topped the century. Strong evidence this of the invigorating climate of Peru. In the reign of Philip IV. one of his descendants, Don Juan Hernando Pizarro, was created a Marquess and granted a liberal pension by the Government of the day as a mark of gratitude for the distinguished services rendered by his ancestors. Members of the family still reside at Truxillo.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 15

An Aztec Invitation

The Inca Saga, Part 3

The last of the Incas was Manco, second son of Huayna Capac. Shortly before his death, Atahualpa had caused Huascar to be drowned in the river Andamarea. Manco accordingly came next in the succession, and one fine day surprised Pizarro by calling upon him. He informed the Spaniard what his pretensions were and claimed his protection.

It suited Pizarro’s plans to listen favourably to the young chief; and so it came to pass that in the year 1534, he caused him to be acclaimed Inca, and placed on his head the scarlet fringe held sacred to the Emperors of Peru. This exclusive mark of royalty was made from the feathers of an extremely rare bird that lives in the mountains of the desert. Some naturalists profess to identify this bird with the Peacock Trogen of Colombia, but that in my opinion is a moot point.

Father Valverde officiated at the coronation, and said Mass. Pizarro’s act made a good impression on the Indians, who were really greatly attached to the House of Capac, and hailed with delight the restoration of the monarchy. The Spaniards, however, kept a pretty strict eye on Manco and didn’t give him much rope. He, after awhile, made friends with Pizarro’s brother Hernando, and showed him some of the Inca treasure-haunts. When they had become very well acquainted Manco told his friend that the famous statue of his father, Huayna Capac, fashioned in solid gold, lay hid in a part of the Andes accessible only to one who knew the secret paths.

Hernando rose to the bait and permitted Manco to go in search of the image, accompanied by some of his nobles. A couple of soldiers were detailed to act as kind of policemen. A week passed, and then Hernando realized that he had been duped. So he sent his brother Juan with a force of cavalry to bring the Inca back.

Twenty leagues from Cuzco, in the valley of Yungay, Juan met with the soldiers who had accompanied Manco. They told him the whole country had risen in revolt against the Spanish rule, and that he would never be able to secure Manco again, except at the point of the sword. Juan held on his way, however, till he reached the river Yucay, six leagues from Cuzco. There he found his passing barred by Manco, who had assembled a vast army of men armed with native weapons. In no wise daunted by this display of force, the Spaniards attempted to cross to the other side, but after losing a number of men and horses were obliged to return to Cuzco.

Manco and his forces followed them hot-foot, and finally shut them up in the city. Juan Pizarro and his two brothers, Hernando and Gonzales, put up a resolute defence for five months, and then were delighted to see many of the Inca’s followers were being sent home to attend to the land. Juan now made the bold resolve to sally out and try and capture Manco, who had his headquarters at Tambo. Under cover of the darkness he led his men to the attack, but found, much to his disappointment, the Inca occupied an impregnable position. The only side that seemed to offer the least chance of success was that next the river. Upon Juan directing his energies to that point, the natives opened the sluices and diverted the waters of the stream so that the Spaniards were soon in imminent danger of being drowned like rats in a pail. In the circumstances, there was only one thing left for Juan to do, viz. to get back to Cuzco as soon as he could, and thank his lucky stars matters were no worse. Shortly after, D’Almagro appeared upon the scene with reinforcements of seasoned Spanish troops, so Manco raised the siege, and, with his wives and followers, betook himself to the remotest fastnesses of the Andes.

For some long time the Spaniards were too occupied in quarrelling among themselves to trouble what had become of the Incas, and when at last they attempted to pick up his trail, found that it led to parts of the country only accessible by secret paths that were a dead letter to them.

Nothing definite was ever known of what became of the Incas subsequently. According to Indian tradition they held high court for many years in a great city, hidden away among the mountains. Here and there, one very occasionally meets with old trappers who assert that in their wanderings they have chanced upon this secret stronghold; but I am afraid one must treat these narratives as fairy tales, although I am fain to admit that for many years people refused to believe in the existence of the Aztecs. And yet I know men who claim to have had dealings with that mysterious race quite recently. As a matter of fact, I was invited to go and classify their cattle and supply new blood for their stock.

In the face of that, who shall say the Children of the Sun are extinct? Some day the riddle may be solved. Until then, one is entitled to keep an open mind. For my part I have hopes of finding the answer in Ecuador.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 15

A Spanish Adventurer of Obscure Birth

The Inca Saga, Part 2

It was just at this time that the eyes of Spain were attracted to the Southern Seas, in consequence of the exploits of Cortes, Balbao, and others. A Settlement had been established at Panama, whence several expeditions put out from time to time, hoping to discover the great Peruvian empire of which rumour spoke so highly—a land where the natives drank out of golden vessels and constructed their baths and household utensils of silver. After three or four abortive attempts Pizarro, a Spanish adventurer of obscure birth, landed near Tumbes in 1532, and made the most of the opportunity the fratricidal struggle between Atahualpa and Huascar presented him with.

He sought the first named at Caxamarca, and gave him to understand that he appeared as the ambassador of Charles V. of Spain, who as the Over-lord would be only too glad to see the quarrel properly adjusted.

Pizarro’s chaplain, Valverde, who subsequently became first bishop of Cuzco, took a prominent part in what followed. He called upon Atahualpa to acknowledge himself as Charles’s liegeman, and to embrace the Roman faith, the tenets of which he outlined.

The Inca heard him with ill-concealed impatience, and then addressed him as follows: “I will be no man’s tributary. I am willing to hold your Emperor as a brother, but the Pope of whom you speak must be crazy to talk of parting up lands that don’t belong to him. As for your faith, you tell me your God was put to death by the very men he created; but mine,” he concluded, pointing to the Sun, “still lives and looks down from Heaven upon his children.”

When Valverde heard these words he told Pizarro what was required was deeds not words. Thereupon the latter gave a signal to his artillery as previously agreed and set about making a prisoner of Atahualpa. The latter’s men fought hard and well for their lord and master, but their bows and arrows were no match for the Spaniards’ fire-arms. So, though they largely outnumbered the invaders, they soon had to own themselves beaten.

Atahualpa was kept prisoner in his own house. Although allowed the company of his wives and occasional intercourse with his nobles, he soon pined for liberty, and in hopes of securing it by playing on the greed of his captors, made the famous offer to which reference has already been made.

Pizarro led him to think that his proposal was acceptable; so Atahualpa gave orders that his subjects were to set about collecting the ransom forthwith.

Within a few weeks many massive pieces of gold plate and silver were brought in to Caxamarca. Some weighed as much as 50 lbs. to 75 lbs. Messengers sent to Pachacamaca to hurry up the Indians resident in that district, returned with 200 loads of gold, besides much silver.

Some idea of the rich store of treasure poured out at Pizarro’s feet may be gained from the fact that before Atahualpa’s men had half completed their task, Pizarro allocated to his own use 57,222 pesos in gold and 2350 marks silver, and in addition the great golden throne of the Inca, valued at 25,000 pesos. His brother, Hernando, got 31,500 pesos gold, and 2300 marks silver. De Soto’s share was 17,700 pesos, and 724 marks; while D’Almagro received 20,000 pesos gold, and his men 15,000 between them.

Pizarro was now for setting his prisoner at liberty, but the majority of the Spaniards were against that, and insisted on his being brought to trial. As is usual in such circumstances, the voice of the majority prevailed. The trial duly took place and Atahualpa was found guilty. The sequel I will narrate later on.

After Atahualpa had paid the death penalty the Indians broke out and plundered the temples and palaces of all their treasures. These they buried in caves in the fastnesses of forest and mountain, so that they should not fall into the hands of the Spaniards.

It is generally believed throughout Peru and Bolivia that some of the Indians know where the great bulk of this treasure lies hid; but the man who may induce them to reveal the secret has not yet appeared upon the scene.

Now and then some one is so lucky as to stumble across a small hoard, but what has been brought to light up to now represents only an infinitesimal portion of the wealth that was put in the safe keeping of Mother Nature.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 15

The Inca Saga

Part 1

About 500 years before the coming of the Spaniards is the date generally assigned to the institution of the great Inca Empire.

Manco Capac and his spouse, Mama Oello Huaco, then descended from the heights of the Andes and established themselves on the island of Titicaca. They claimed to be heavenly messengers from the court of the Sun, the great God of the Indians. The word Inca means Child of the Sun. The people received them with open arms, and they became all-powerful. Then little by little they extended their empire till it comprehended not only Peru but Quito also.

This vast dominion they administered in a manner that compels admiration. Proper cultivation of the land was insisted on, and, because the chief need was moisture, the rivers were diverted by means of aqueducts. Terraces were cut out of the mountain sides to carry these irrigating canals, and walls were constructed to keep the water from escaping.

Eventually they built Cuzco, which was looked upon as the capital of the empire and regarded with special veneration. Here may yet be seen the remains of the great Temple of the Sun. 20,000 men, it is said, were employed for fifty years on this magnificent structure. Manco Capac’s successors were deeply imbued with his wise ideas and under their fostering care the empire prospered exceedingly.

In the middle of the fifteenth century Topa Yupanqui, 11th Inca, grandfather of Atahualpa, led his armies across the desert of Atacama and extended the Inca Empire to the banks of the river Maule. His son, Huayna Capac, the best and most famous of the Inca chiefs, founded Quito.

One lawful wife, his Coya, or Queen, was permitted to the reigning monarch, and the sceptre descended to the issue of this union, but his entourage also included many concubines. As the representative of the Sun, the Emperor was also considered the Head of the Priesthood. He wore robes woven of vicuña wool and richly ornamented with emeralds. The court etiquette was very strict, not even the proudest noble being permitted to enter the Imperial presence without first removing his sandals. He had, in addition, to shoulder a burden in token of homage.

The Emperor used to travel sumptuously when he moved about from city to city, in a sedan chair ablaze with gold and emeralds. At convenient intervals he had rest houses erected along the principal roads. To this day they are known as tambos. They occurred most frequently on the royal highway that runs from Quito to Cuzco, and the remains of some may yet be seen.

The Royal palaces were magnificently constructed of stone, or porphyry, to withstand the convulsions of Nature to which this territory is subject. On the internal walls were carved all manner of figures, birds, beasts, flowers, and so forth, ornamented with precious stones.

One is enabled to form some idea of the scope of these ancient buildings by viewing the remains of the old palace of Callo, in Colombia. They form a square, each side measuring thirty yards and more. Eight rooms, or divisions, are still traceable, and four doorways, similar to those met with in Egypt. Perhaps they would be better described as gates. In each wall are several niches.

The favourite residence of the Incas was, however, situated at Yucay fifty miles distant from Cuzco, in a lovely valley, sheltered by the mountains and Sierras.

Wise men were deputed to look after the welfare of the heir to the throne, and it was their duty to see he was instructed in the art of kingship. His school companions were the sons of Inca nobles, each of whom was of the blood royal. A fringe of vicuña wool, bound round his forehead, distinguished the Prince from his young companions.

The Incas had an Order something akin to our ancient Order of Knighthood. When they had attained the age of sixteen years, the pupils of the military school were called upon to publicly prove their proficiency in wrestling, boxing, and running, to fast for days on end, and finally to take part in a series of sham fights that extended over thirty days. At the conclusion, those candidates deemed worthy were presented to the Emperor, who pierced their ears with a golden bodkin. One of the highest nobles in the land then anointed the candidate’s feet, bound on the distinctive footwear of the Order, and placed the sash in position round the loins.

When an Inca died, his entrails were deposited in the temple of Tampo, twenty-five miles from Cuzco. The body was embalmed and placed in the Temple of the Sun. Often gold and silver and costly jewels were buried in the tomb; and sometimes the royal concubines sacrificed their lives, to show their sense of loss.

The Inca territory was divided into three portions, one for the Sun, one for the reigning monarch, and one for the people.

Every man was required to marry at a certain age. He was then given so much land. Annually this grant was revised according as his family had increased or diminished. For each child an additional portion was granted, a boy being entitled to twice as much as a girl. All the common people had to work on the land. First they had to cultivate what belonged to the Sun; next that of the sick, the widows’ and orphans’ portions and those belonging to soldiers engaged on service. When these tasks had been accomplished, they were at liberty to attend to their own land, and, so that they should not idle over that, they had last of all to put the Inca’s land into proper fettle. The flocks of llamas were allocated in the same way. Only the males were killed, and grievous penalties attached to the killing of any female llama.

Every year the llamas were sheared; the clip was stored in public buildings, and distributed to each family according to their need. The womenfolk were instructed in the art of spinning and weaving. To-day the self-same methods are in vogue with the Indians of Peru and Bolivia.

All the mines were considered to belong to the reigning monarch, and were worked for his benefit, by skilled miners, who laboured in shifts. Out of the revenue accruing from this source the Inca furnished relief to the sick and poor all over his dominions.

Inventories were taken at frequent intervals in each district, of the various natural products, likewise a register of births and deaths. Copies were periodically forwarded to Cuzco.

Gambling and rash speculation were discouraged. Theft, adultery, and murder were punished by death, and rebellions were drastically repressed.

Under the enlightened rule of the Incas the people of Peru prospered exceedingly, and were content for a period of 500 years. Then the great Huayna Capac died. He was succeeded by his eldest son Huascar. Five years elapsed, and then Atahualpa, Huascar’s youngest brother, quarrelled with him and tried to wrest the kingdom from his hands. His initial enterprise proved a failure. His adherents were defeated, and he, himself, cast into prison at Tomebamba. Escaping thence he gathered round him a considerable body of men, and gave battle to his brother about sixty miles from the mighty Chimborazo mountain. Victory on this occasion rested with his arms, and again subsequently at Cuzco, where the final, decisive battle of the Civil War took place.

Atahualpa’s treatment of his brother and his followers was characterized by great cruelty. He ruthlessly slew the common people, and encompassed the death of the nobles who favoured Huascar’s cause by a despicable subterfuge.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 14

Treasure Hoards of the Incas

Tales of Far Peru, Part 9

At Caxamarca visitors are shown the room which Atahualpa had to fill with gold and silver. There was to be a heap of golden ornaments and vessels, as high as the unfortunate Prince could reach, and as wide and long as his outstretched arms. The residue was to be silver. It is estimated that the room would hold treasure to the value of £100,000,000. Its dimensions are variously given as 22 ft. by 16 ft., and 27 ft. by 22 ft. Once part of an Inca palace, it is now used as a school.

A water-colour sketch by the author of the old Inca castle near Caxamarca. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

Not far from Caxamarca are the remains of a most tremendous building erected by the ancient Peruvians. It would hold, I should say, 4000 to 5000 persons, and was constructed of colossal stones. The vast ransom of Atahualpa represented not a tithe of the Inca hoards. There is no doubt that an immense amount of gold and silver (including the portion of redemption money that was being conveyed to Caxamarca when Atahualpa was condemned to die) was buried by the Indians directly they realized that the Spaniards had played them false.

One has but to read the writings of Benzoni and Raleigh to get some inkling of the limits the Spaniards went to. Raleigh relates how he saw Indian chiefs chained to stakes in the merciless sun, and their bodies basted with burning bacon, in order to make them disclose some of the hiding places. Benzoni tells of Indians stripped and laid on the ground tied to a piece of wood, and then lambasted till their bodies bled profusely. Boiling oil or pitch was next thrown over them, and a mixture of pepper and salt well rubbed in. This doesn’t afford pleasant reading. Happily it is not the record of cultured Spaniards, but only what one might expect of a band of ruffians burning with gold lust, and led by men of doubtful origin. Such uncongenial soil rarely produces much in the way of consideration for other folks’ feelings. I quote this by way of showing that, as far back as 1540, the belief in Inca treasure hoards was firmly held. I cannot help thinking the Italian referred to in my book on Bolivia obtained his gold ingots from one of these secret caches which he had discovered between Juliaca and Cuzco.

The author of The Antiquities and Monuments of Peru, and Markham in his history refer to a hoard concealed in the ancient fortress of Cuzco, by the Incas. According to them, a certain Donna Maria Esquivel was not satisfied with the style in which her husband maintained his household. She deemed it quite unworthy of his rank, and bitterly reproached him with having deceived her. “You call yourself Inca—a Lord—but you are only a poor Indian.”

Don Esquivel bore with her as long as he could, but eventually decided to open her eyes. (The Esquivels, I may say, lived on the outskirts of Cuzco and kept sheep and alpacas.) So he blindfolded her, turned her round thrice, and conducted her a little distance from her apartment to a vault, it is thought, under the ancient fortress. Then he removed the bandages from her eyes.

Donna Esquivel stared about her with amazement, for she found herself in a veritable chamber of Aladdin. Immense quantities of gold and silver ingots and ornaments littered the floor; and ranged round the room were statues of all the Inca kings, fashioned of pure gold. They were about the size of a boy of twelve. It is worthy of note that Donna Esquivel saw no golden image of the Sun—the treasure upon which the Incas set the greatest store.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 14

In the Mountains

Tales of Far Peru, Part 8

Huanuco, about 200 miles north-west of Lima, is situate in a beautiful valley 6000 ft. up. The climate is lovely, neither too hot nor too cold. Nearly all the houses are surrounded by delightful gardens. Huanuco’s principal industry is sweet-meat making. The country round is devoted to mining and farming. The local cattle are rather small, and I think the breed would be much improved by the introduction of a few Hereford bulls. Land is cheap, the scenery magnificent, and there is a certain amount of game. Bush-chicken, bush-turkey, and martinette are fairly common, and there are two sorts of deer. Jaguar may be met with in the woods, and pumas, foxes, and lynxes abound. High up in the mountains bears are pretty numerous. I got one once and had the hams cured. They were not at all bad eating. I shot specimens of both species of deer. One of the brown, or larger sort, measured 3 ft. 10 in. at the shoulder. It had a nice head and a symmetrical pair of horns. They now hang in my hall, in company with a pair of slender prongs belonging to one of the other species of deer. This last-named delightful little animal isn’t much bigger than a buck hare, but the speed it develops on the run is amazing. lt somewhat resembles the Pete buck, known as Agouti in Venezuela.

Huanuco was founded by Gomez Alvarado in 1539. Old Inca ruins are visible on every side. I spent a month here prospecting, and had a nice house and kitchen and corral for 10 sols, or £1 a week. Horses are plentiful, but they are not weight-carriers. For £20 to £30 one could buy an animal up to about 12 stone. Guanacos used to roam over the pampas here in herds of fifteen to twenty.

From Huanuco I went on to Huaraz, the chief town of the Department of Ancacho, situate about 75 leagues north and north-west of Lima, a fertile valley on the banks of the Santa River. Here I fell in with a man named Julio Hernandez, who owned a good deal of land in the vicinity and a lot of cattle. Sugar and all tropical things grow here all the year round, for the soil is very rich. Hernandez had a fine coffee estate about three days’ journey from Huaraz. I went there to examine the banks of the river which runs through the property, and see if there were any gold there. Hernandez lent me six Indians. They removed the top soil, but found no alluvial. A little farther down, however, one day’s work in a small stream which runs into the Santa yielded ½ oz. of the precious metal.

I put in a week at this spot, and then set on twenty Indians. Within three weeks we netted 16 oz. more, a result Hernandez deemed altogether satisfactory. I would have liked to stay here longer, but was due back in Chile. Hernandez, besides giving me £20 for superintending the operations, promised me 10 per cent. of all the gold found during the ensuing six months. This promise he did not fail to redeem. Altogether I benefited £300 by this transaction. Hernandez was a real good fellow. He was reputed to be a lineal descendant of the Hernandez Soto who figured prominently in Pizarro’s time. My suggestion re improving the quality of his cattle so appealed to him that he afterwards imported a couple of fine Hereford bulls.

From this point right up to Ayacucho and beyond, vicuñas are very plentiful. Guanacos, after a lean time, are making headway. The vicuñas are sheared like sheep. There is no wool in the world to equal theirs. It is finer and stronger and better and silkier than any other. Indians ask from £15 to £30 for ponchos made of this wool and enriched with designs picked out in silk. The king of rugs, the Carosse, is not now made in Peru, but may be met with occasionally in parts of Bolivia. Owing partly to the £2 tax imposed on each rug exported, they cost three times as much as they did before 1910.

Hernandez was full of information respecting the Incas. He said that the town of Chota, near Caxamarca, was destroyed by the Chilians during the war of 1882, after they had ransacked the churches of their treasures of gold and silver and precious stones.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 14

In the Forest

Tales of Far Peru, Part 7

A few days’ mule ride from Piura, in the Province of Jaen, are five very rich and fertile valleys, watered by the Huana, the Cabamba, and the Upper Maranon. In former times more than a million wild cattle grazed there; but their numbers have been sadly depleted of recent years. I am glad to say, however, that the herds are now on the upward grade. As in Bolivia, all unbranded cattle are considered the property of the Government. When I was through this district in 1903-1907, one could buy these animals at £2 a head, and land cost but 1000 to 1500 sols (about £50 to £75) per league. Visitors should take a good gun and rifle with them, for game is very plentiful. Deer, jaguars, pumas, and all manner of fur and feather abound. The best eating bird is, in my opinion, the martinette. Although the climate of the hills and uplands is most agreeable, the valleys near the coast are no white man’s country, for they are unbearably hot. (Only a rough rule or two are necessary to enable one to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy country, almost at a glance. Where coffee, sugar, and tobacco grow is always salubrious. Fever lurks where the ground produces cocoa and rubber.) Very fine coffee is cultivated hereabouts, which compares well with the best Mocha. The addition of a little Costa Rica or Blue Mountain (Jamaica) puts the crowning touch on a beverage fit for a king. The High Flats are wonderfully invigorating.

It is possible to obtain two crops of tobacco every fourteen months, and one of alfalfa every five. The second crop of the latter is better than the first, and the third best of all.

Rubber trees abound in the forests. They are at their best when from twenty-five to sixty years old. They begin producing at the eighth year, Hevea No. 1 yields from 10 lb. to 11 lb. per tree; Hevea No. 2, from 5 lb. to 6 lb.

In the forest. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

Gold is to be found in many Peruvian rivers. One in particular I bear in mind. Some Indians showed me a lot of gold dust they had brought with them to sell at Tumbez and Truxillo. I gave them £200 for a quantity which I resold at Lima later on for £300. They were very decent fellows, and offered to wash for me on the share system; I was to find them in implements, food, etc., plus 1s. per day, and to reimburse myself the cost out of the gold found. This they were willing should be appraised at 6s. per oz. less than the price obtainable at Lima. Half of the residue was to be mine; they would be content with the other half. I should dearly like to take on this proposition with fifty or sixty men. It would, of course, require a bit of capital, for a crowd of that size cannot be fed and looked after for nothing.

Near Tumbez. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

The Indian method of cultivating the soil is very primitive. For a plough they use the forked boughs of some hardwood tree, such as the pouie tree—as in Inca times. The only difference is, that whereas in the old days a team of Indians used to do the donkey work, now their place is taken by oxen. High Flats and the sides of mountains are ploughed in ridges like Saxon lynchets, big boulders and stones being so placed as to block up the ends.

Because they loved the cold, invigorating atmosphere, the Incas built their castles high up on the hills. Round Cuzco granite and ironstone are very plentiful. The Incas were fond of making stone steps up to their houses, and many of these still remain.

In Northern Peru there are immense deposits of salt. This commodity and tobacco are Government monopolies, so one can only buy them in licensed shops.

In the Province of Jaen the Government used to pay 10 dollars (gold) for 69 kilos of tobacco, I was told.

Sugar grown in the fertile valleys is made into rum and chancaca, i.e. native sugar. Chancaca can be bought for 4 cents a pound.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 14

The Inca Ruins of Cuzco

Tales of Far Peru, Part 6

To reach Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Incas, one should branch off at Juliaca and take another train. Here, at an altitude of 11,400 ft., the atmosphere is extremely dry and clear throughout the day, but intensely cold o’ nights. To avoid the risk of contracting fever and dysentery travellers would be well advised not to drink any water without first boiling it, or diluting with a little whisky. The best thing, by the way, to drink in the Andes is old Madeira.


Ruins of the Inca palace of Colcampata of the Manco Capac at Cuzco. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.
Part of the uncovered Inca wall at Cuzco. Illustration from Adventures in Peru.

About 700 ft. above Cuzco is situated the fine old Inca fort of Sacsahuanan. The illustrations facing page 196 [above] give some idea of the strength of their buildings. Down below stretches the beautiful Huatenay valley. Here almost anything can be planted with the certainty of obtaining most bountiful returns. The soil acts like magic. Some of the loveliest cacti imaginable grow in wild luxuriance. It is said that Humboldt was first seized with a longing to travel when shown some specimens of these amazing plants.

Machu Picchu presents many features of interest to the antiquarian. It was visited in 1911 by an expedition sent from the United States of America, and headed by Professor Hyram Bingham of Yale. Much of the jungle that formerly cumbered the ground has been cleared away, hence the historic ruins are now comparatively easy to view. Machu Picchu is 8200 ft. up, and lies at the foot of a range of mountains bearing the same name, the river running 2000 ft. below. The climate here is simply grand.

Sixteen miles from the coast, round about Payta and Piura, the best pacers in all Peru are to be found. The price of a decent specimen of this famous breed is from 2000 sols to 4000 sols. (about £200 to £400); but for a stallion one must be prepared to pay much more.

The breed originated in the Spanish palfrey, introduced by Pizarro. It is said that up till then the Indians had never seen a horse, and were filled with amazement when one of Pizarro’s men, who had been wounded, fell from his charger. They thought man and beast were one—centaurs in fact. By the importation of the celebrated Koklani strain—the bluest blood of Araby—and high-class thoroughbreds, the pacers have been much improved.

In 1903 I brought from Chile a beautiful chestnut named Dougal. He was by Rodilard out of Clarabella, a St. Mirin mare. Don Julio Subercaseaux practically presented him to the Peruvians as a token of his friendship. I have reason to know his generosity was greatly appreciated by all classes of Peruvian sportsmen. Certainly no horse could be better qualified to add stamina to the famous pacing breed.

Catachaos, six miles from Piura, is a small town where Panama hats are made out of a very fine tough grass which grows in the vicinity. They are very nice, but not to be compared with those manufactured at Monte Christi in Ecuador and Cuenca. On the other hand, they are superior to the hats made in Colombia and Jamaica. The Catachaos hats range from 8s. each to £10. More expensive ones are manufactured, but are only made to order.

Adventures in Peru, Chapter 14

Too Horrible for Words

Tales of Far Peru, Part 5

Lupus is a terrible disease, but Sana is even worse. Sana is a variety of pox that sometimes affects llamas, and is contracted by human beings who come in contact with their sputum. A fruitful source of infection is also the bestial habits of some of the natives. To counteract this menace, the Governments of Peru and Bolivia will not allow Indians to travel with llamas for a period of more than fourteen days unless they take their wives with them. If the natives have a spite against anyone they frequently find means to infect them with this unsavoury disease. It generally manifests itself in unsightly sores and scabs which extend all over the subject’s head till it is a mass of putridity. The Indian remedy is a simple and efficacious one, but few Europeans would care to take it. Some, in fact, would esteem it too horrible for words. Whenever the malady yields to treatment prescribed by ordinary practitioners, the disease leaves behind it remembrancers in the shape of white tufts of hair. The native method is not attended with such distinctive souvenirs.

Some doctors confuse it with syphilis. I can assure them the two maladies are quite distinct, and call for different treatment. Maybe the idea was induced by the fact that syphilis was introduced into Europe by Pizarro’s men, who, it is said, caught it from the Indians of South America.

It is just on the cards that I may bring home to England, one of these days, the carcass of a diseased llama. For I have been approached by the head of a certain tropical hospital, who thinks that if the disease could be exactly diagnosed medical science would greatly benefit. I am quite willing to go and procure a suitable animal, and fetch it over here in the form of Challona, but the cost would be a matter of £500. Perhaps some philanthropic individual will put up that sum in the interests of medical research. If so, the job could soon be carried through.

A certain Englishman of my acquaintance married a girl belonging to a tribe of Mountain Indians, and tried to smuggle her out of the Indian territory. On the border line he was stopped, and ordered to take the girl back to her people. Knowing the penalties attached to disobedience, he lost no time in complying with the command. He was not permitted to return to the outer world for some time. During his detention he got too near a herd of llamas. One of them that was obviously suffering from Sana and savage with pain, spat on his head. Before many days had passed foul-smelling ulcers made their appearance. He consulted several doctors, and they told him he had contracted syphilis. On mentioning the matter to his wife’s father, he said that if the culprit was really sorry he had broken their Indian law, he could soon be cured. The Englishman readily gave the required assurance, and was then taken in hand by the medicine man, who plastered his head with clay and other ingredients. Within a very short time he “got shot” of his malady; but to the day of his death little white tufts of hair denoted where the ulcers had been. He came to Jura for change of air while I was there, and in hopes of enjoying some guanaco hunting, brought his horse with him. During his stay there he pointed out to me a Peruvian miner who was suffering from Sana. Several ugly-looking ulcers were distinctly visible on his head. I asked Morosini to keep an eye on the fellow, and let me know if he derived any benefit from the waters. My friend told me subsequently, that three weeks’ treatment sufficed to render the Peruvian’s cuticle as clean as a baby’s. He made no mention of any white tufts of hair being left behind.

Dyspeptics find relief at Jura. I know one lady who went there on the recommendation of an eminent Italian physician, and after undergoing the cure for three months, she could digest anything.