Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 10

Prodgers’ Shopping List

A Note on Bolivia and How to Travel in Those Parts, Part 2

For successful travelling in Bolivia, two things are necessary—to be in the best of condition physically, and to have the right outfit and equipment.

The following outfit is the final result of my experience in what was necessary for crossing the passes of the Cordilleras and traversing the steamy tropical forests.

Shoes for all your animals and nails, rasp and pairing knife.

A good roomy native saddle, not a heavy one, for your mule, and a light roomy semi-military saddle for your horse.

A good pair of blunt spurs.

As many strong raw hide nets as required for the cargo.

Plenty of blankets, thick and thin.

A big canvas saddle cloth for the back of each animal.

(The blankets go on top and serve the double purpose of preventing the animals’ backs from getting sore, and keeping the men warm at night.)

A piece of canvas well oiled and dried to go over each cargo.

Two tents—one for yourself and the other for the boys.

Two buckets, two pots with iron legs like Kafir pots, one big one and one little one.

A good big kettle and a small one.

A Collins’ axe, and a cutlass of the same make.

Plenty of rope of Llama wool and a halter of the same for each animal.

A thick long horsehair rope to put round your tents to keep away snakes.

Some cowhide boxes for your clothes.

Thick socks or stockings made by the Indians. (These can be bought at the market in La Paz or Oruro—English socks are no good.)

A good pair of shooting boots.

Several pairs of alpagatas.

Frying pan.

Pair of scales.

Tea pot.

Coffee pot.

Plates and cups of enamel ware.

A folding canvas catre for yourself.

A few loose boards for nailing on to thick branches of trees for a floor to your tent is advisable.

A pick and spade.

A good rifle (personally I have mostly used a fine double barrel Holland and Holland sixteen bore, given me by my father, with very good results).

A good breach loader.

Metal cartridges.

A big six shooter.

A Kodak.

Compass.

Metrometer.

Hexemeter.

Aneroid to mark up to 20,000ft.

Thermometer.

Canvas folding bath.

Baking powder.

Flour.

Sterilized milk.

Small medicine box.

Rum and whisky.

Old port and old Madeira.

Plenty of coca leaves for barter and to give away.

Liebig’s extract.

Some tools; nails and screws.

Two or three horn lanterns.

Plenty of soap.

Each mule should carry half a challona, which you can buy off the Indians living on the slopes of the Cordilleras.

Mackintosh.

Some sugar and rice, sufficient for the trip.

Tinned meats to be used when wanted; at once when opened taken out of the tin and not kept after using.

A big mosquito net, and a small one, to be used as occasion may require.

Fifty pounds of ships biscuits.

Coffee, tea, cocoa.

A small basket with a naphtha stove, small kettle, pot pan, etc., to be used when required in your tent.

A vicuña wool mask and night cap of the same material.

A good pair of sheepskin or bearskin gauntlets.

Two pairs of wind and sun glasses.

Pith helmet.

Panama hat and cap.

Crowbar and drill.

Miner’s hammer and dynamite.

Gold pan and quicksilver.

Big carriage umbrella.

Thick poncho (rug with a hole cut in the middle).

Camp stool.

Seat stick, pulley and tackle.

Nail extractor.

Matches, etc.

No. 5 is the best all round shot to have your cartridges loaded with; but it is as well to have an odd few charged with buck shot as well.

Three or four scout watches, and

Anything else you think you need.

THE END

Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 10

A Note on Bolivia and How to Travel in Those Parts

Part 1

It may be of use to intending travellers in Bolivia to say a few words in conclusion, first about the country in general, and then about the equipment that is necessary for such journeys as I have described.

Bolivia may be divided into four zones.

First: Peaks and mountains above the line of perpetual snow.

Second: The great plateau between the heights of 8,000ft. and 14,000ft. At this altitude the atmosphere is the purest in the world; people consequently live to a great age. Besides the old men I have already mentioned, another old man of the Andes is fresh in my memory. A few years ago while I was looking for old abandoned mines in the most out of the way parts of the Cordilleras, travelling very often over the same paths as the Incas had used, I was told of an old Chilian patriarch, who had at one time been wealthy, but had a lot of his property confiscated by the Government, after the revolution of Balmaceda‘s time, as he had backed the wrong horse. He was still pretty well off, and retired to the Cordilleras and built himself a fine stone house and stables, in a beautiful fertile valley about 9,000ft. above the sea. I stayed with him and his wife for three days. He told me he was 97, and his wife 82. She looked older and more fragile than he did. He told me that a few leagues off there lived a wealthy old Argentine, called Don Antonio, who had lived in the Andes all his life, was 127 years old, and had married his fifth wife. I went to visit him, and was received by a pretty woman, whom I asked whether I could see Don Antonio. “He will be sorry he missed you,” she said. “He has ridden to San Juan” (which was eight days off by mule-back), “and will only be back next week.” She very kindly put me up for the night, and told me she was the old man’s fifth wife, and had been married ten years, and was now twenty-seven years old.

This part of Bolivia is the home of the beautiful chinchilla fur. The chinchilla is only found in certain parts of the Andes, and lives at 15,000ft. to 16,000ft. There are three classes, the Chinchilla real, the Moskat and the Raton; the first is by far the best, but the second is not bad, and looks beautiful when seen by itself, but when seen side by side with the first looks quite common.

When wealthy merchants send some one to buy up these skins from the Indians, they must take care to pick out a man who knows the difference between the three classes of skins. I knew a big firm once that sent the wrong man and lost heavily over the buying up of these rare skins; the Indians had sold him a lot of the second class skins (the Moskat) as the Chinchilla real. But their representative had never been further than the railway train could take him, did not know Spanish, and had never done any travelling with mules; in fact, he was an absolute greenhorn at the work, and got badly swindled. On the other hand, I met a man who had been in the mountains for six months, and had bought a good lot of skins from the hunters for a New York firm, and sold them at a profit of £8,300; he got 1,800 of the Chinchilla real and 1,700 of the second class. Once when I was on a mine-hunting job far away from any town, I bought several of the Chinchilla real skins for £1 10s. each and sold them at £50 per dozen, and at the same time I bought some second class for 2/6 each and sold them at £6 per dozen. I could have bought many more, but had not the cash with me.

Third zone: Semi tropical valleys 4,000ft. to 8,000ft., in my opinion the finest climate in the world. Not too warm in the daytime and cool at nights. All kinds of fruit grow at these altitudes, and there is plenty of shooting of different varieties to be had without much trouble.

Fourth zone: Low lying lands of the Beni, Madeiro, Mamore, Tipuani, Challana and other tributaries of the Amazon, and lands sloping to the River Paraguay. This is a great rubber country in the interior; very beautiful and very unhealthy. To get to it you have to cross the highest ranges of the Andes. There is plenty of game, but it is very hard to get at. In this zone you find some of the rarest and most beautiful orchids known, as well as gorgeous butterflies, lovely creepers and tropical plants, and flowers in wild profusion.

The Mamore district is full of rubber trees of the best class. It is calculated that six hundred trees give 30 to 40 arobas of rubber during the first month; in the second month the trees give less, and in the third less still, so that a good seringuero must know when and how to tap. In wet weather the trees give more latex, but the quality is not so good, as water mixes with it. Only the bark must be tapped, and there is a fine of £50 for cutting down a tree. Several methods are employed for coagulating the latex. Here is one of them. The latex is poured into a wooden bowl two feet long, half a foot wide, and a foot and a half deep, and a solution of alum and hot water is poured on it, causing coagulation. In order to compress the latex, a heavy wooden bar is inserted into the cavity of a tree, and heavy logs of wood, or big stones are suspended at the end. One night is sufficient for the rubber to become white. This method was discovered by Strauss. Another method, supposed to be the best, is to place the latex near a fire, and stir it round continuously with a stick; this makes it remain a dark brown, nearly black. For every estrada the Bolivian Government charge a rent of 32/- yearly, payable in advance, half yearly. If any half yearly payment is not paid, the concession may be confiscated and taken up by anybody else. An estrada measures 150 by 150 metres, and contains anything from twenty-five to one hundred trees. A good rubber property means a thousand estradas or more. Trees are supposed to be at their best from twenty to one hundred years old; after fifty years they do not give so much latex, and after one hundred they give still less. Most of the seringueras are in the hands of rich merchants, who have given them goods up to the value of twenty pounds, and even over one hundred pounds or more on credit; consequently, the picker is usually in the debt of the merchant. The life is a hard and unhealthy one. Some rubber experts say that plantation rubber will go back after twenty-five years, and will not contain the same degree of elasticity as the wild rubber; if that is so, it will be a heavy blow for the plantations. I am not in a position to say either way. But it is pretty well known in Brazil that in San Paolo the rich Dumont Coffee Estate, to satisfy its shareholders, planted rubber at 2,100ft. Only the Ceara did at all well, and that gave very little latex; at ten years old the rubber trees planted on this estate proved a complete failure.

The chief tribes of Indians in Bolivia are the Quichua, Aymara and Guarani. All the principal towns here have schools, doctors, and many lawyers, but very few dentists and not many undertakers. Approximately there are in the country:

  • Whites .. 250,000
  • Half-castes .. 500,000
  • Tame Indians .. 1,000,000
  • Savages or Untamed .. 250,000

The people are hospitable, and the Indians are quite easy to get along with, if you go the right way to work, though of course there are good and bad, as there are in most parts of the world. The dry season is from April to October, and the other months are wet. When it rains in the forest, it snows in the mountains. The limit of forest is 14,000ft. and the snow line 16,000.

It will be seen by the short description given in this book that Bolivia, or Upper Peru as it was until 1805, was one of the richest parts of the Inca kingdom. Many of the remains of the work done by these people can be seen still, and some of them are kept in good repair, especially the old roads which they used. One of their famous stone bridges is still in existence and kept in repair. In Bolivia you have every sort of climate, from the most freezing cold of the Cordilleras to the steamy atmosphere of the tropical forest. Hundreds of rich old mines still remain to be re-discovered in the mountains, which are known to many Indians but to very few whites. I suppose I know of about as many as most people, all accessible, and most of them very rich. It would pay any Companies interested in silver, gold, copper or tin to send some one to locate some of these old workings; and take samples. Personally I enjoy those long mule rides in that healthy atmosphere, and hope to go again on another trip.

yungas_pottery_recently_discovered_in_bolivia
Yungas pottery recently discovered in Bolivia, said to be 6,000 years old. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.
Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 9

The Richest Part of the Empire

The Third Attempt, Part 5

Upper Peru, now called Bolivia, was always considered by the Incas as the richest part of the Empire. The Jesuits came to the country some years before the last Inca Chief died, and found and continued to work many of the richest gold and silver mines belonging to the Incas, prospecting and exploring the Andes and the tropical rivers all the time they were in Peru. They thought so much of Upper Peru for its great mineral wealth that they actually plotted a revolution against the Government, their idea being to form a republic of their own in the country that is now Bolivia. It was for this reason that the Government of Lima, on discovering this plot, expelled them from the country.

The Jesuits never worked for long at a mine that was not a good one, and in prospecting for old mines the good can always be told from the bad by the way they have been worked. There are many fabulously wealthy mines which have been lying idle since their times, and up to the present have never been denounced. I personally know of several, gold, silver, copper, lapis lazuli, quicksilver and others. I have a sample of copper out of a lode six feet wide taken from one of these old mines, which gives fifty-nine per cent of copper and is still undenounced. Mining companies, instead of sending men to prospect for new fields, would do well to send and look for some of these abandoned Jesuit mines.

In the provinces of San Juan and Rioja in the Argentine and in Bolivia I have seen many so rich that the lodes are actually in sight and no dump is to be seen. The famous silver mines of Potosi, to which I have already referred, gave in three hundred years a total value of £340,000,000 worth of silver, and is still giving £40 to £50,000 worth a year. The Cerro Potosi is 15,400ft. high, the town 13,200ft., and the atmosphere is so rarified that many children die soon after birth. The Indians in this district eat clay dumplings which they put in their stew. Then there are the silver mines of Muanchaca, 13,200ft. high, which exported 8,000,000 ozs. of silver annually between 1892 and 1897, till the lower workings of the Pulacago mine were flooded with water.

The silver mines of Oruro for years yielded 1,700,000 ozs. a year, Colguechaca 1,500,000, and Guadaloupe, 700,000. The most valuable tin mines are those on the Huanuni near Oruro; there are others at Inquisivi, Tres Cruces (?), Arque, and other places. I discovered one at the Tres Cruces that was afterwards taken up and sold for £19,000. The tin mines of Bolivia are very rich, and the higher altitudes seem to yield a bigger percentage than the lower, and the workings are more accessible. I once located a tin property that gave at 13,000ft. 9 per cent, 15 per cent at 14,000ft., 25 per cent at 15,000ft., and at 16,000ft. as much as 60 per cent, according to samples essayed at Lima. The same thing happens in the case of gold, silver, and copper; the richest mines are often found in the most inaccessible places.

Prospecting for old mines is a rough life, but when your journeys take you along the Cordilleras you are sure of a healthy and enjoyable time in an exhilarating climate. You have bright sunshine all day and freezing cold at night. There is a fair amount of sport to be had on these trips, and it is advisable to take both gun and rifle. For the gun there are geese, duck, martinettes, partridges, woodcock, and snipe; and for the rifle you get jaguar, bear, wild cattle, puma, vicuña, deer, guanaco, and the white-collared condor, the biggest bird that flies. On several occasions when I was far away from any kind of civilization, and there was no habitation in sight so far as the eye could see, vicuñas have remained staring at me, and allowed me to get up quite close to them before galloping off. I remember once suddenly coming across a herd of eleven vicuñas, which stood up in a line not more than fifty to seventy yards off, and remained stationary for quite two minutes; they were wondering I suppose what object it was that suddenly appeared on a big black mule. They looked so graceful that I did not disturb them and never fired at all. I have shot them for their pelts when the Indians have told me the fur is at its best, and on two occasions for meat when we ran short; their flesh is not very nice to eat, but not quite so nasty as llama. I managed also to get three puma on these prospecting trips; one was a pretty good one measuring 7ft. 7ins. when green, another was 7ft. 2ins. and the third 6ft. 7ins.

While on one of these trips to locate silver mines and bring back samples for a German firm, I was travelling one day with fourteen cargo mules, two saddle mules, bell mare and horse, and happened to be riding along with a gun in front about halfway up the forest, with my boy walking behind carrying the rifle, when I heard some poujil. I got off the mule to get a stalking shot, and on turning the corner just round the bend came on a magnificent jaguar, lying down sunning himself on a green bank not twenty yards off. I was much relieved when he got up and trotted quietly away into the jungle. These beasts will never attack a man in daylight unless they are hungry or angry. The natives in the interior of Bolivia near Santa Cruz hunt them with the spear, rifle, and dogs, when they can locate them in the savannas or grass plains, and the Government pay them £2 10s. for each skull, as they are known to be dangerous man-eaters. But they only go after men when they get too old and inactive to catch wild cattle, deer and pigs. It is also said that once they have tasted human blood they prefer it to any other kind of food.

In spite of all the trouble I had taken, I had eventually to give up the search for the treasure on the Caballo Cunco Hill. Neither Solis Mendizabal nor I could get the necessary number of men to continue the work satisfactorily, and we tried several times to form a small company from Chili to go into the work, and also to uncover the many smaller tapadas that still remain intact near the convent and the church, but without success. Colonel Trollope, of Lord’s Castle, Barbados, who was interested in the project and promised me the money to take over fifty men from Barbados in 1912, unfortunately died before this could be done. A well known mining engineer came all the way from Tacna at my suggestion to look at my handiwork, and see whether he thought what was being uncovered was the work of man or nature; I have his report in which he forms the same idea as I do.

Now what has this big cave been dug out of the mountain side for, and why has it been covered over with so much care? Not for any amusement, I am sure. The only thing I know for certain is that José Ampuera found a big gold bell there, sixty years ago, but ceased excavating because one of his sons was killed by a piece of rock. Then there is the case of the two mule men, who uncovered one of the numerous smaller tapadas, and in eight days took out £1,500 worth of treasure. I still have hopes of being able to bring, say, forty men from the West Indies for each dry season, May to September, and finish the job. It might or it might not be a success; who can tell?

Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 9

The Mining Laws

The Third Attempt, Part 4

Before closing with the Jesuits and their mines and treasure, I will relate three instances of discovered treasure that came to my knowledge. All three finders were personally very well known to me. The first concerned a very rich gold mine in Peru, which we will call the Monte Cristo mine, formerly worked by Jesuits, and abandoned by them when they were expelled from Peru. A captain formerly belonging to an English cavalry regiment was staying at San Francisco a few years ago, and made friends there with a Jesuit Father, who told him he had all the papers relating to the rich Monte Cristo mine, with all directions where to go and how to find it. He said he would hand the captain the papers if he liked, and should he succeed in locating the mine he could denounce it and give the priest ten per cent of the proceeds. The captain gladly accepted on these terms, and eventually found the mine and denounced it.

I must explain here that there are strict rules laid down by all the republics of South America and British Guiana, which have existed for hundreds of years, and which are called the old Spanish Laws of Mines. These rules are meant to prevent mining concessions lying idle, and once ground is applied for, and old mines or new ones denounced, when the concession is granted the mines have to be worked and must not remain idle. Often the owner, who either cannot afford to work the ground or else has no intention of doing so, simply pays up the annual rent to the Government of the country, which is not a very costly thing to do, and then calmly waits for some big Company to come along and give him a good lump sum for doing practically nothing. This happens occasionally, but not very often, as Company owners know the mining laws, and most of them are not in the habit of throwing money away for nothing.

Here are some of these rules:

  1. After a discoverer has denounced a mining property and asked for the concession, a notice shall appear for fifteen days in any newspaper of the district. Should no opposition be made at the end of that time the concession shall be granted.
  2. Forty-two days after the concession has been granted a stone monument at least three feet high, with four corner stones, must be erected, and then possession will be given.
  3. Forty-two days after possession has been given work must be started, two men to be employed to each hectare applied for.
  4. If the discoverer does not comply with these conditions the mine may be re-denounced by anybody, and the original discoverer loses all right to the ground.
  5. Anyone re-denouncing the claim must, after notifying the Minister of Mines or his agent, put an advertisement in any paper published and sold in the district, calling on the original owner to comply with the law within fifteen days, and also paste up a copy in the District Court House. If he does this, and the owner of the claim does not comply with the law and gives no satisfactory reason for his delay to work his mine according to law within the said time of fifteen days, he loses all right, and the mine is then transferred to the re-denouncer.

Two years after the captain had denounced the rich old Jesuit mine, Monte Cristo, he returned ready to start work and re-develop the property, but on arriving there he was disagreeably surprised to find work going on in full swing. He was told by the manager that his discovery had been re-denounced by Don Fulano six months after he left, under the Mining Laws No. 3 and No. 4 quoted above, and as neither he nor his authorized representative had answered the notice as per Rule No. 5 quoted, after fifteen days it was made over to him, and he worked it with a considerable number of men for eight months, and then sold it to a company for £72,000. The manager said the Company gave him a salary of £1,200 a year. He told the captain it was very hard lines on him, but it showed how fatal it was to denounce a rich discovery and apply for a concession, until he was certain of being able to comply with the mining laws. The captain was so disappointed and grieved at his loss that he immediately went on a shooting trip into the forest, where he got malarial fever and died.

A similar thing happened to me once. One year I bought two good saddle mules, hired some cargo animals, two men and a boy, and went shooting guanacos, and vicuñas, and looking for old mines in the Cordilleras. I was away for four months, and during this time I came across a good many Indians who lived there with their sheep and llamas far away from any town, and in some cases miles from the nearest neighbour, and they showed me many old gold and silver mines and one copper mine. I made a note of them all, and took samples from each one. On returning to civilization, I denounced one, not the best, but a good mine, paid the dues, and exactly a year afterwards forfeited the property through not complying with the law respecting labour. The man who re-denounced it put on forty men for six months, and sold it to a Company for £7,000. Personally I think the mining law respecting the proper working of concessions a very good one and most fair. You should always be careful not to denounce unless you know you are going to derive benefit by doing so. There are many people who are quite ready to reap the profits of any rich find, but who would never dream of taking the trouble, and going through the rough preliminary work of finding them.

The second instance I am going to relate refers to a great silver mine in Bolivia, which we will call San Carlos, and which was worked by the Jesuits and subsequently lost sight of for many years when they left Peru. In this case there were two partners concerned, both of whom I know personally; the one was a rich man who found all the money for expenses, and the other a well known mining engineer, who did the rough part of the work, and went to locate the lost mine. After two years among the Indians they showed him the place, and he was guided there by two Indian girls. The mine was opened out and proved to be so rich in silver that in a few years the two men were worth half a million sterling and over. This mine is still in work, and still belongs to the finders, whom we will call Don Alfredo and Don Jorge. Don Jorge died, and left his share to his eldest son, who has extensive properties at home and in Bolivia, is a good sportsman, and divides his time between England and Bolivia and Chili. The other partner is still alive and enjoys the income derived from his half share. Many workmen are employed on this property, and much expensive machinery has been erected. In this case no one received any benefit except the discoverers.

The third case was that of a gentleman whom we will call Mr. Clarke from San Francisco. He got hold of some documents relating to an old Jesuit mine, which we will call San Martin, and which they had worked till they left Peru. There were a lot of silver bars ready for shipment, supposed to be buried in this mine, and he started off with the documents to locate the place. He found nothing but a big high hill; the place to all appearances had been covered over by a slide of earth and stones caused by the earthquake shocks of 1842 and 1867. However, he began the work of uncovering this big mound, with the help of two men and a boy. Clarke had a few thousand pounds to start with, and after working away for fourteen years with a few men, never more than five and sometimes not so many, and being convinced he was on the right spot, he went to the States to see his brother, who had done pretty well with his horses in South America, and try and persuade him to help. His brother, however, did not believe in this old mine hunt and refused to stand in. But Clarke found another man, a manager of a big store, who thought he was on the spot right enough, and offered him £40 a month of his £60 monthly pay, to enable him to employ more labour. In two years’ time he removed the big mound of hill and found the mine. Six months afterwards the bank shipped on Clarke’s account silver bars worth £400,000. He gave his friend £3,000 in cash, and £1,500 a year for life, and continued the working of the mine, which proved a valuable one, making his friend manager with an additional salary of £1,500 a year. Clarke died in London a few years ago, leaving £2,000,000.

Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 9

King of the Condors

The Third Attempt, Part 3

One day while walking up the long steep path to work, I was stung on the back of the neck by a big black ant, called tucanderos. The sting was very painful, and swelled up as big as a walnut, but I cured myself by hot fomentations, and the application of young castor oil leaves, which grew everywhere about. The ants measure an inch or more; the males are black, and the females brown; they are fortunately not common.

On one part of the Treasure Hill just where the big egg-shaped stone blasted out, there were also dozens of big scorpions, of which I preserved a few. No one was stung by them. A few days after Mendizabal left, one of his mountain Indians, who came down with a sheep, eggs, butter and other provisions, told me that there was a Condor Real (King of the Condors) which lived up the mountains near his shepherd’s hut.

He said there were several common condors with the Condor Real, which was much bigger than any condor he had ever seen before. This man had lived all his life in the high Andes, and was, therefore, competent to judge.

It will be interesting here to quote what Baron von Humboldt says about these birds in his book Earth and Sea:

The condors of the Cordilleras are the biggest birds that fly. They are black with a white collar; the females are just as large, but are a coffee colour brown and have no collar. They live at a height of fourteen to sixteen thousand feet and measure anything from tip to tip from 7ft. to 14 ft. The Condor Real or King of the Condors is a pure white bird, and measures as much as twenty to twenty-five feet from tip to tip. In the whole range of the Andes, I do not think twenty-five exist.

I arranged to go to the home of the Indian the following week, and he agreed to sell me a llama for 28/-, which we would kill and leave near the place where he had seen the big bird, and then I would try to get him with a rifle. I gave him a note to Mendizabal, telling him about it, and asking whether I might go to his shepherd’s hut in eight days. He readily gave me permission, and very kindly sent down his favourite Arab grey to bring me up to his place, so that my saddle mule could be kept for the mountain climb. He also said he would come with me both for the sport, and also to see his sheep feeding in the mountains.

Six days later I left on Mendizabal’s horse, starting after breakfast at 7 a.m. It was nine leagues to Cuti, and all uphill. At about 7 p.m., when it was just dark, and the stars were out, but not the moon, I got off my horse to walk down a few yards for a drink of water, and not taking sufficient care and notice of the path I stepped over the side, and slid right down the steep bank, dragging the horse with me, till I fell up against a big rock with the horse against me. I helped him to slue round, and scramble up again, and, by hanging on to his tail, I got dragged up again. I found that I had hurt my back and side so much that I could not mount, and I had to sit there in my white tropical clothes, with my big poncho over me, for the whole night. In the morning, at daylight, an Indian came along, and, with his help, I mounted and rode the three miles down to Mendizabal’s place. This piece of stupidity kept me on my back for four weeks, and the worst of it was that I had to give up the Condor Real, and it was six months before I could do without plaster or bandage. Three weeks previously a man fell over this same spot, and when picked up dead his body was in a pulp.

While I am on the subject of the Condor Real I will relate what I was told by C. Franc, whom I met with his wife and sister at Jura. His father who was a very good shot, and extremely fond of sport in the Andes, heard from the mountain Indians that there was a big white bird far larger than any condor living in the mountains, at the back of Inquisivi near some old abandoned mines. There were several white-necked condors guarding the King of the Condors, and bringing him food. No house was near and nobody was working there. The father, who had a fine collection of birds in his house in Italy, knew at once that this bird was a specimen of the Condor Real. He got two of the men to accompany him and his mule men, and started off with provisions for a fortnight. They camped near some of the abandoned mines, killed two llamas they had brought for the purpose, and abandoned the carcasses about half a mile from his camp. The next day the white-necked condors began to fly down and circle round the dead llamas. His father and the men remained watching, quietly, in the camp, and on the third day the big white bird was seen feasting on one of the dead llamas, with some of the other condors sitting at a distance, and others hovering overhead. He started, very carefully, to stalk the white bird, so as to get a sure shot, but, when he got a little less than three hundred yards away, the big bird looked as though it were disturbed, and fearing he might miss his chance he fired, sighting the Winchester at three hundred yards, and was lucky enough to kill the bird stone dead. But as soon as the other birds saw what had happened to their King they began to circle round over him, making angry noises and flapping their wings, so fiercely that, though he saw the big white bird lying still, he was afraid to go nearer, and thought it prudent to return to the shelter of his camp in the mines. The condors came flying round his camp, flapping their wings angrily against the entrance of the mines. All that afternoon and the whole of the next day, the condors kept flying about the mine close to the entrance, flapping their wings and shrieking. On the third day everything seemed quiet, and they ventured out again, only to find that all the white-necked condors had gone, and the big white bird had disappeared too. He said there was no doubt that the condors had carried away their King. This was in July, 1903, and the next year he made a special trip out from home to try and locate the bird again, but was unsuccessful. A Condor Real is worth a good sum, I should say about £500 or more.

Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 9

The Loathsome Verni Fly

The Third Attempt, Part 2

Three days after our big jaguar hunt and two days after Mendizabal and his men had left, an Indian came to the camp early in the afternoon to tell me he had seen what he called a black tiger. He said that the beast was well known to the Indians for leagues round; it was very savage and as large as a big donkey, and killed cattle and mules frequently. They were afraid it would take to killing people. I thought the size was exaggerated, and in fact I took it to be an unusually large black puma. As the native told me he had seen it cross the path in the forest about two leagues from the river on the other side and nearly opposite my camp, I hoped to be lucky enough to get a shot at it, so I crossed the river on my good little white mule, and walked about or sat on logs of wood on the banks. About 6 p.m. I was rewarded by seeing the beast. He crossed the path in the forest, walking slowly about two hundred yards up the hill. I took my father’s good double barrel sixteen bore rifle by Holland and Holland, put the sight at three hundred yards, fired, and missed him; the bullet appeared to strike the ground just about a yard or two exactly below him. The Indian had not exaggerated; he was no black puma, he was a black jaguar and seemed to be as large as the one I got on the banks of the Challana River, which was 9ft. 2ins. long. He was black and looked in splendid condition, and I thought what a pity it was that Mendizabal and his son Juan were not with me, as if we had all of us taken a shot at him one bullet would have hit him. Anyhow, I am sorry to say I was duffer enough to miss this beautiful and rare specimen and never had the luck to see him again. The next morning after my bathe in the river, I took my gun with me and strolled along a small stream that runs into the big river, to have some pot shots at the parrots as they settled on a big wild cotton tree. This tree was a very favourite one for birds of all sorts to alight on, and nearly every morning and evening you could be pretty sure to get either parrots or bush chickens for a savoury stew. Before I got to the big cotton tree, I saw a young bull calf standing in the stream, about a year and four or five months old I should say, fat, and in nice condition. He was standing on three legs and easing his near fore. On closer examination I found that he had been wounded in that limb, so I thought to myself somebody has been after the wild cattle, never thinking for a moment it could have any connection with our late cattle hunt. I returned at once to the camp and brought Manuel with a lasso, which we threw over his neck. With the help of four Indians we dragged the calf ashore and after killing and skinning we found that one of my bullets had penetrated the flesh, injured the bone, and lodged in his leg. The only way I can account for it is this. When we were shooting wild cattle five days before, one of the three that fell to my rifle was a big fat cow, I aimed behind the left shoulder and hit her just above the root of the tail, breaking the bone. We went up and killed the cow with a shot in the head behind the ear. There were seven or eight head of cattle stampeding in a body quite close to us, and as they passed I aimed at the big cow with the result described, and the bullet must have glanced off the cow, and lodged in the shoulder of the year and half old calf. So I had killed two head of wild cattle with one shot, which does not occur very often, I should say. The wild cattle live all through the forest round hereabouts; you can see their fresh dung in different Indian paths every now and again. There is very little grass about and yet the cattle are all in good fat condition; the natives say they eat leaves from the various trees and guavas. My mules got very thin on being turned into the forest to cater for themselves, and the only thing they seemed to go for was the wild guava. When I found they were losing condition I sent Manuel’s son José up the mountains on part of Mendizabal’s estate to cure the mules and graze them, leaving only my white saddle mule and one of the donkeys in camp, with plenty of barley in bundles for them. Another reason for sending them up the mountain was that the dun-coloured mule had been bitten by a vampire bat three weeks before. I healed it up and washed it every day, morning and night, with lysol and water and plugged it up with a little cotton wool dipped in balsam, sprinkling the withers over with a powder of iodoform and zinc mixed, to keep off the loathsome Verni fly.

Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 9

Hunting a Jaguar

The Third Attempt, Part 1

Early in April 1907, when I had recovered from the poison, I returned to Oruro, getting there in time for the great Indian Market at Juare. I bought five fresh cargo mules at the market, and engaged a man, his son, wife and daughter to cook for me and look after the camp as far as Cochabamba. The women rode on two donkeys. At Cochabamba I discharged them, and picked up Manuel’s son and another man to look after the mules and horse, and his daughter to cook and look after the camp on the way, and arrived at Mendizabal’s place at Cuti on May 4th.

Mendizabal had bad news, old José Maria Ampuera was dead. He had gone down one day with a sheep for the two caretakers at Sacambaja, who signalled to him not to cross the river, as it was too high. He insisted, and in mid-stream his horse lost its footing, and was taken off its legs by the current, but managed to get ashore with the old man on his side of the river. He rode back to his home, got fever that night and died of the effects a few days after. He was 110 years old, according to his own reckoning, but Mendizabal said he was probably older. He was a little deaf, but, otherwise, had all his faculties about him; all his teeth were in good order, and he had never been to a dentist in his life; he could eat ship’s biscuits without soaking them, and take a tot of rum without showing it. He used often to ride down from Cuti with a sheep for me, and go down the river next day another nine leagues to get bananas, oranges, pines and other things. But for this accident he would probably have lived some years longer.

Mendizabal’s Indians now begged him not to ask them to go down and work at the Caballo Cunco Hill. They said it was so unhealthy that many would die, and if they were to die they preferred to die in their own homes. Three of the eight men that had worked there last year had died, and the dead nigger hill was exactly opposite. They told him they would go anywhere else for him, or his English friend, but implored him not to ask them to work down there. However, I went down with Manuel and his family and all the gear, and Manuel and I went up the hill and worked alone most days, while his wife and daughter attended to the camp, and the boys stayed with the mules. The weather was perfect, eighty-two degrees at 1 p.m., and seventy degrees at 8 p.m., and I sent Manuel up to tell Mendizabal, who soon came down with the priest and his two head men. They stayed a week cattle hunting, and tried their best to convince the Indians that last year was a phenomenal year, and probably we should not have one like it for a long time; but it was no use, they could not be persuaded. Mendizabal then decided to send a letter to his friend Solis at Palca, who owned a big estancia, some leagues from there with over a hundred families of colonias. In the meantime, there was nothing to do, but wait.

I often tried to find one of those bears with a tail that Mendizabal said existed here. Several times I saw the track of what he said were tree bear, but I never even saw one.

On 4th June Mendizabal sent me down a note, saying there were jaguars (or tigers as he called them) about again; that the night before they had killed three mules and a colt, four miles further down the river from where I was, and that they had laid down poison.

Three days later he wrote again that the poison was no good; they never touched the carcasses again, but killed another of his mules and four of the Indians’ llamas. He said he had laid down more poison.

Next day came another note saying that they never touched the poison, but had gone further up my way, that there were several, and the tracks showed big footprints, and smaller ones which looked like two lots. He promised to come up next week and get up a hunt.

A few days later the cattle came out of the forest, and remained about the beach, showing that jaguars or pumas were disturbing them, and soon an Indian came from down the river, and told me that if I came with him for a mile or so along the beach he would show me the track of several pumas. I went along, and he pointed them out, but I told him I thought the pads looked too big for the pumas, and were more like jaguars, the larger ones anyway. That evening about nine o’clock, we heard animals moving in the bush, on the other side of the stream. Manuel looked carefully out, and saw what he thought was a big jaguar gazing over at the fires; he pointed it out to me, and soon after it moved off. I got the rifle and sat near the kitchen fire, but I did not see anything again. In the morning we found several tracks on the edge of the forest on the beach, only thirty yards from the fires. They were spoor of jaguars right enough, there had been at least two of them. In the morning the cattle were still on the beach, showing that jaguars were still about, and in the afternoon Mendizabal, his son, and ten of his men arrived with several dogs, and pitched his tent near mine. He had poisoned the dead animals, but the jaguars had left them entirely alone, whether by instinct, or because they were not hungry, I do not know. That night at about 10, when we were just thinking of turning in, and were sitting with our rifles by the fire watching the edge of the forest, on chance of anything appearing, a big fellow showed himself about seventy yards off. We could make out the form, but not the colour as, although the night was clear and the moon bright, he was in the shadow on the outside of the forest. I had a shot at the body of the beast, and he turned round sharply, and entered the bush again. We both thought he was hit with the ounce ball, and in the morning we found marks of blood in his track. Quite near the place where we saw the jaguar, we came across the dead body of a big black cow, which had been killed and partly eaten by the beasts. We cut her up, and appropriated all the meat, deciding that it was of no use to poison it, as experience had shown that the jaguars would not return to poisoned meat. The Indians then followed up the spoor of the wounded jaguar, and we told them to be careful, and return if they saw that he had gone into the thick of the forest. They came back and said that he had gone into the forest, and must have been badly hit. In the afternoon the Indians and the dogs went along a path at the edge of the forest, which the wounded animal had made for last night, while Mendizabal and I waited about a mile further down in an open spot, the other side of an arm of the Sacambaja. Nothing came out and soon the jaguar was found dead by the Indians. It was a well marked male, in very good condition, and measured 7ft. 11ins. when skinned. A week afterwards the Indians found another jaguar, a female, that had been shot by some one else, and brought me the skin. It was smaller than the other, but a better colour, and measured 7ft. 7ins. I have still got both of these skins. Next day Mendizabal and his men left.

Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 8

A Queer-Looking Animal

The Second Attempt, Part 4

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

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

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

Standard
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 8

The Black Panther

The Second Attempt, Part 3

One morning soon after daylight, a fine-looking mule came and stood outside my tent, I put a rope halter on him, and tied him up to a tree, and a few hours after, the owner came up on another mule with two Indians. He thanked me profusely for catching his mule, but asked me how I managed to put the halter on. I told him it had been quite easy, as I had found him standing outside the tent early in the morning. He then told me that the mule had never yet been handled, and was one of a hundred mules and horses he had bought for his farm, at the yearly sale of animals, held on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This mule and another one had strayed away from his camp three days ago, and he said he was sure the other one had been killed by a jaguar, and this one, seeing my camp, came and stayed for protection. After taking some refreshment, he and his men left the mule I had caught with me, and followed up its spoor to look for the other. Next day about 2 p.m. they returned, having found the second mule killed, and partly eaten, in the forest to the north of the River Sacambaja. Two nights after this occurrence, I was awakened in the night by a stampede of cattle in the forest, the other side of the stream, where my drinking water came from. In the morning I counted twenty head of cattle on the beach, the other side of the Cato River, which showed that jaguars or pumas had come up from the forest below. The following day I was gathering wood near the camp, and just as I got to the tent I looked up, and saw a magnificent black panther, or puma, walking slowly along the beach on the south side of the river Sacambaja. I rushed into the tent and got my rifle, and just managed to fire a hurried shot at the beast as he was entering the forest. I put the sight at three hundred yards, and missed him; the bullets seemed to strike the ground some few yards behind. I was sorry, for he was rather a rare specimen of the black panther, I think. He was too big for a puma. I examined the beech for signs and saw the spoor of three or four jaguars or pumas, and came across a big fat cow which they had killed near the forest, close to my fresh-water stream on the other side. As it was just then clear moonlight every night, I sat up and watched on this side of the stream, just opposite the cow, for five nights. The only thing I saw was a big brown fox, with a splendid brush, which, one night after I had been waiting for an hour, appeared, stopped, looked at me for a minute and trotted off. He was certainly the biggest fox I had ever seen, and could easily have been shot, but I let him go for two reasons: first, because I was waiting for larger game, and second, because no one who had ridden with the Duke’s pack would have thought of doing such a thing. After five days, the cattle left the beach, and returned to their feeding ground, which showed that the jaguars and pumas had gone too. I was now more careful about my two big fires, which were kept going night and day, one in front of my tent door, and the other near the kitchen; they served two purposes, to frighten off any wild animals, and to keep the camp cheery and warm at nights. One morning after breakfast, I was on the edge of the cliff, half-way up the Treasure Hill, taking a look at the surrounding country, to see if anyone was coming my way, when I saw an Indian come out of the forest on the south side of the River Sacambaja, walk along the beach, and cross the river to my side. Thinking he had come from Mendizabal with a message for me, I did not hurry back, but walked slowly down. When I got to the stream, I saw the Indian calmly walking off with a big load of my charque (dried beef) on his back. I shouted to him, but he took no notice, and hurried on faster across the first arm of the river; so I took my rifle from the tent, and fired two shots at him. I did not want to kill him, and deliberately fired a few yards wide of the mark, which answered the purpose. He dropped the charque and a good long llama wool rope as well, and when I fired two more shots for luck he ran as hard as he could along the beach, and disappeared into the forest at the other side, while I carried back my beef and his rope.

Standard