Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Frozen Blood on the Path

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 13

Some days later we reached the Quillapatuni Pass, which I found much easier walking up than down. We had, of course, to unload the mules, and pass everything over the cable at the River Toro, and then let the mules climb the pass with half loads, which took us two days. We stopped at the same places as on the way in. At the top of the pass, Miguel had another attack of fever, and I was delayed three days, during which I shot two poujil. The shelters there had evidently been occupied within the last day or so, probably by the two men and boy who had wanted to travel with me.

A few days later, when we had just reached the foot of the Illyapo Range, we were astonished to see Perez’ old white mare walking quietly towards the Tipuani, and behind her in single file the two ponies and the mules. Nobody was with them, and there was no cargo or pack saddles on their backs. Three hours afterwards, as we were ascending the high mountain on the way to Tiquiripaga, we saw frozen blood on the path, and about half a mile further on just this side of Tiquiripaga we met four mounted infantry men on mules, who told us that the little boy had met them the day before and said that his two companions had been murdered by three bad Indians who persisted in accompanying them for two days. They had killed the two men and taken the animals that were carrying the rubber. The boy had gone on to Sorata and given the alarm, and the criminals were being pursued. Eventually two of them were found with all the rubber at a small Indian settlement off the road near the foot of the mountain: they were recognized by the boy and brought to Sorata, where they were imprisoned and convicted. The third man escaped.

I stayed at Manuel’s place that night, and two days later reached Sorata. To my surprise, Gunther told me that word had been brought that I had been killed by the Challana Indians, and that the Government was about to send Captain Cusicanque with some soldiers from La Paz to see what had happened. Word was at once sent to General Pardo that I had arrived and was on my way back to La Paz next day; however, I could not continue for two days, as Miguel and Ricardo required a rest. Before leaving I called on Mrs. Villavicencia to give her letters from her brother and husband, and thanked her for writing them. I told her how well I had been received by the Cacique and the Challanas. I picked up my good black mule which I had left here, and rode the rest of the way to La Paz by easy stages, so as to keep with my men and cargo, getting there on the third day after leaving Sorata. I was met by Captain Cusicanque, and taken down at once to see General Pardo, the President, at his private house. He was very pleasant, and congratulated me, saying he was very glad I had succeeded in getting to Paroma and back. He told me I had managed to do what nobody else had been able to do, and said he would certainly give all the Challana Indians their farms and holdings free, but would not recognize the others, many of whom had escaped from justice. He added that if one of his own countrymen had succeeded in doing what I had done, they would have paid him well, and that I had fully earned my commission, and he hoped I would get it. When I had thanked him for his kind remarks, and shown him the paper given me by Villarde, I weighed myself at the President’s house, and found that after walking 857 miles by the register of the speedometer, besides many more miles when I did not carry it, riding 210 miles on a mule, and leading a fairly rough life, I was just 10lbs. less than when I left Peru, which goes to show that a trip of this sort hurts nobody, so long as you don’t get the fever. I had enjoyed the journey there and back very much, although I was not in too happy a frame of mind before the meeting of the Indians after what Villarde had told me. However, after I began to talk with them, that feeling soon wore off.

Before returning to Lima, I stayed a few days at La Paz. Miguel was still having attacks of malaria, so I sent him back to Chili, via Oruro and Antofogasta. I gave the big tiger skin to Mariano Penny at Oruro: the length was measured green, not pegged out, 8ft. 11ins. After crossing Lake Titicaca, I took the Puno Arequipa train and got out at Jura to spend a week at the baths on the way down. I went on to Arequipa and Mollendo, and there caught the steamer to Callao, where I arrived on August 4th, 1904, just about a year after starting. Mr. Beauclerk, the British Minister, told me I was supposed to have been murdered, and showed me Lima and Valparaiso papers. I was pleased to see how kindly they spoke about me, and I shall always be proud of those notices, and the many kind letters of congratulation from merchants, bank managers, and editors of newspapers in Chili and Peru which I received. I showed Villarde’s paper to Mr. A. B. Leguia, the Minister of Hacienda Lima Peru, afterwards one of the best Presidents Peru ever had, who paid me his share of the expenses agreed to in the arrangement I had made with reference to the Challana concession, and wrote to the New Company, asking them to take over the concession on the terms originally stipulated.

I then went home, and did not return to Lima until March of the next year.

When I got there, I found to my disgust that the Company which was to have bought over the concession from the Challana Rubber Company seemed to want to back out of it now. I was asked if I would take their representative from the States to the rubber district of Challana, and at once said I certainly would, provided we took in at the same time the goods ordered by the natives to exchange for rubber; otherwise I would not go. I was not going to go back on my word to Villarde, the Cacique, and the settlers, and I told them the rubber was there, balled up and ready for immediate transport, and if they did not see their way to taking the whole £5,000 worth ordered until they had seen the country and inhabitants and formed their own opinion we might take £1,000 worth of things for a start. But nothing came of it, and the whole deal fell through. Some few years after my return, a Company was registered called the Tongo River Rubber Company. It is a simple matter for others to follow after somebody else has shown the way. The pioneer of any such undertaking, or the prospector for minerals, seldom derives much benefit for the hard times he nearly always has to go through, and the reward is generally reaped by others who would never think of making such ventures until the ways and means were made clear and easy.

My children in Indian headgear, with jaguar skins and Indian weapons brought back by me from Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.
Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Sixty Lost Views

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 12

Challana is a beautiful country, full of dense forests, wide savannahs (grass land) covered with long nutritious grass, undulating hills and valleys, and many rivers and streams. Besides the yams, ochres, ucas and other vegetables and fruit indigenous to the tropics, rice is cultivated, as well as more coffee, sugar and coca than is consumed in the country. The rice grown here is of the very best quality, and the coffee as good as yungas. Coca yields five per cent of cocaine, and cinchona bark five per cent of quinine. Maize is grown by every one. The only things required from the outside world are hardware, drills, cottons and prints, salt, soap and flour. The Indians make their own rum, grow their own cattle for beef, and keep pigs, fowls and turkeys; several have cows and mules. Before I left, I got orders from them through Villarde and other head men to bring them back goods to the value of £5,000, to be paid for in rubber, at 100 bols the quintal, and, besides transporting the rubber to the Challana River free, they even offered to carry it on from there to Lake Titicaca or La Paz, for 17 bols a quintal. This same rubber easily fetched in La Paz 228 bols per quintal. Many of them told me that when I came back they would show me good places for gold washing, and would work for the Company if I was manager.

Not only is this country surprisingly rich and beautiful, but there is also plenty of shooting and fishing. The Indians are friendly, and travelling is not bad after reaching the top of the first steep hill. The climate on the hill-top at Paroma is not a bad one for the tropics, and Europeans with energy and capital could make good money and do well there; but it is not at all suitable for the manual labourer, as the climate will prevent him from doing as much work in a day as an ordinary Indian can; besides which, plenty of Indians will work for 2/- a day and find themselves, or 1/- and be found. This applies really to all the tropical parts of South America. Many a time I have been asked by English, French, German and other Europeans what sort of pay is obtained in these rubber and gold districts, and I have always advised them not to expect more pay than the Indian worker, unless they are mechanics or practised electrical drillers, in which case they would have no difficulty in getting jobs and pay accordingly. The reason one meets so many English and other Europeans down on their luck in the tropics of South America, walking from one district to another or one republic to another with half their clothes worn out, and little or no money in their pockets, is that they will not realize that the sugar planter, coffee grower, farmer or owner of rubber or mining concessions will not pay more than Indian labour will cost them.

The day I left Paroma the Cacique Mamani came to Villarde’s to say good-bye, and told off Cortez and three men all armed with rifles to take me back to Challana, calling them up in front of Villarde’s house, and making them the following speech: “Thomas Cortez, I have decided to send you with the three armed men to escort our friend to the Tipuani side of the River Challana. You are to be careful to look after his welfare in every way: it matters not whether he chooses to take one week, one month or one year on his way to the Challana, you will be held responsible by me if he is hurt in any way.”

Before I left Paroma, Villarde gave me a document, stating that I had visited the Indians at their headquarters, and conferred with them: he signed it himself and it was witnessed by all the other Chiefs and head men. Near the River Challana I helped to get one fine specimen of a man-eating jaguar or tiger while he was chasing wild pig; the skin measured 8ft. 11ins. in the green, which I afterwards gave to the friend I trained horses for, M. M. Penny. The Indians gave me two other skins, and some snake skins, feathered caps, bows and arrows from the Beni and San Antonio.

Jaguar and puma skins, bows and arrows and wooden spears brought back by me from Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

Next day I started back with my escort, taking with me a collection of butterflies, and a little black monkey I had got at Paroma. We did the sixty miles to Cortez’s place at Anhuaqui in two days. I gave them some quinine and a few other things, and we parted the best of friends. Before leaving, Cortez said he had been asked to tell me that when I returned the settlers on the river were going to present me with a big nine pole balsa, so that I could go back down the Challana to the big river, meaning, I expect, the Gy Parana. By the order of the Cacique, Cortez told off an Indian boy to go with me as far as Tipuani, and look to the mule and fag for me. Next day they put me across the Challana, and I stayed for the night with Bartelot, who was down with another bout of fever.

On the third day we got to Tipuani; on the way back I saw some more of the pretty yellow-headed birds, with green body, purple wings and scarlet breasts. I was sorry I had not my gun, or a small bore pea rifle with me, so that I could get a couple of specimens, for this was the only place in which they were to be found. Before the boy returned next day, I made him a present of some tins of sardines and packets of matches, and a cutlass to take back with him for himself and friends; money would not have been much use to him, and I did not want to risk his running amok, as Villarde had told me that drinking to excess was not permitted in Challana. In fact, while I was there I never saw a drunken man, nor yet an immoral woman.

Perez still had the fever, Mac was just getting over his attack, and my man Miguel was still so weak that I had to wait for another two weeks before he could travel. So I amused myself by bathing in the Tipuani, shooting a few birds and catching a lot of butterflies. One day when Mac and I were shooting birds for the pot, we saw a big flock of dark brown pigeons, which Mac called “the lost tribe.” Sometimes Mac and I panned out a little gold, and we got nearly four ounces from pay dirt dug out by Rayo and Charlie in three days’ digging. A few days after I got back to Tipuani, two half-castes and a boy came to me, and suggested that as they were going to Sorata or La Paz with rubber for the house of Perez and Co. it would be safer if they could travel with me, as I was armed and had two men with me; by travelling all together we were less likely to be marauded by cut-throats or brigands on the way. I agreed, but said that I could not start for another week, owing to Miguel’s fever. Rather than travel alone, they waited for me, but unfortunately, just as Miguel began to get fit, Richardo, who was with the three small cargo mules, said he had fever, which meant a few more days’ delay. The half-castes said they could not wait any longer, for fear Perez might find fault, so they started off with Perez’ old grey mare and five small mules and ponies, each carrying a quintal of rubber. Three days after they left, I said good-bye to Mac and began the return journey to La Paz. As the rainy season was now over, walking through the forest and admiring the beautiful tropical plants and ferns was very pleasant. On the second day after leaving Gritado, the path on the edge of the forest gave way, and one of my small cargo mules fell and rolled down through tree-ferns and trees, right into a stream of water below. Unluckily for me, he was the mule carrying all my photographic plates, sixty fine views, as well as ten biscuit tins full of butterflies. The mule was not hurt, but many of the butterflies were spoilt, and when I took the plates to be developed at Lima later on only three came out a success, the rest were hopelessly blurred. This is why there are so few photographs in this book.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Prodgers on Trial

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 11

In the morning I had a pleasant bathe in a lovely cool clear pool in the river just below Villarde’s house, and after a good breakfast we went off at 8.30 to the Court House, escorted by some of the head men.

The Court House was a very long shed, with logs of whole trees placed all round for seats, and a raised platform of logs at one end, where the old Cacique Mamani sat. Villarde sat on one side of him, and another man, named Portugol, on the other; beside these were Villarde’s other lieutenants, the two Fernandez, two more whose names I have forgotten, and an old man called Jones, who told me he had been in Challana for forty-two years and had quite forgotten his own language; he never said why he had come to this out-of-the-way place, nor why he had remained so long, and of course I never asked him.

There were three hundred Indians congregated in the building; thirty armed head men kept walking round between the logs and in the centre of the house to keep order, and there were others keeping order outside.

Natives in the interior of Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

The sitting lasted until five in the afternoon, when they all dispersed until eight the next morning. Many questions were put and answered, and there was a good deal of talking in their language; Villarde interpreting to me in Spanish, and I answering him in the same language.

When I got back, I had another bathe in the deep pool before dinner. Next day the conversation was renewed till finally Portugol said to Villarde in Spanish, “What can we do, Don Lorenzo? We shan’t be able to contain them much longer.” Villarde then asked me to get up and speak to them myself. I told him I could only speak Spanish, but he said that would do very well, as he was there to translate what I said, and if he did not translate correctly there were forty Indians there who understood Spanish and would correct him. So I got up and talked to them for two hours, telling them I was their friend and had come there to do what I could for them with the Government for their own benefit. I asked them what good it would do them to kill me, and told them that although I had heard that they intended to keep me there as a prisoner I came on alone, because wherever I had been I had heard the Challana Indians always spoken of as Christians, and I was quite sure they would do me no harm. I said I had come quite unarmed to see their country and visit their Chief, having left my revolver, rifle and cartridges with Cortez at Anhuaqui, and assured them that there was no truth whatever in the story of my being a spy; the Government of La Paz never sent me or anybody else there for that purpose. The Cacique then got up and embraced me, saying I was to consider myself their friend, and could come and go when I pleased. He told me I was a brave man, because I had come there alone, in spite of what I had heard about them; that they respected me and welcomed me, and were ready to listen to the Company’s proposals, and to tell them, through me, what they thought of them.

Some native types seen in the interior of Bolivia. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

I then explained the Challana Company and Government’s suggestions, which were that five hundred of the inhabitants should pick rubber for the new Company at the rate of 100 bolivians a quintal placed on the Tipuani side of the River Challana, or on the other side of the River Tongo, the payment to be made half in cash and half in goods. Further, I was to see General Pardo, the President of Bolivia, with a view to his granting the settlers in Challana their holdings free. The Cacique told me through Villarde this proposal was approved by him and the settlers in Challana, and he said that, out of the nine hundred inhabitants of his country, certainly five hundred at least would pick rubber.

Villarde told me later on that at one time he and the other white men feared that the situation would become really serious. “I thought,” he said, “we might be able to save your life, but we were afraid they would not let you leave the country again. However, the yarn you told them about your hearing of the Challanas in London and New York as brave Christians and not savages, and all that, saved you; by keeping your head, you saved it, and if it had not been for the way you spoke and the impression you made they would undoubtedly have kept you their prisoner.”

Once they had decided in my favour, the Indians treated me very well, and old Mamani presented me with a valuable silver necklace, the buckle of which showed it to be the work of the Incas.

I subsequently took it home to give to my mother with a few other things.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

The Famous Indian Village of Paroma

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 10

Paroma village, showing the church, the chiefs’ houses and coca plantation. Illustration from Adventures in Bolivia.

At 4 p.m. on the third day after leaving Anhuaqui we reached the famous Indian village of Paroma. It is situated on the top of a green hill, with a river running through it, and houses and huts scattered everywhere about and the large trees that grew singly or in clumps of eight or ten or more made the spot very beautiful. The view was splendid, and you could see for a long distance for miles around. The first thing to catch the eye was a long high shed, built of poles and roofed with big palm branches; this was the Court House, and not far off stood a nice little church. I stopped and went inside and found fresh flowers in all the vases and empty bottles, and the whole building swept clean and kept in perfect order, though there was no priest and had been none for a long while.

I was taken to Villarde’s house, not far from the Court House and church, which stood high up on the banks of the river amongst enormous boulders and deep pools that reminded me of bonnie Scotland. That evening Villarde and I had a long talk. He told me that since he had received his sister’s letter about me and had sent word to her that the Cacique and his people would receive me at their capital village Paroma, some Challana men had returned from La Paz with the story that it was not to facilitate the trading of rubber for the good of their country and its inhabitants that I had undertaken this trip, but quite the contrary was the case. They said that I had come as a spy from the Bolivian Government, to find out what sort of paths they were between the River Challana and Paroma, the depth of the river, the number of Indians as near as could be judged from observation and information, how they were armed, and if there were many rifles and a good supply of cartridges, and that when I had returned to La Paz with all the details they required I was to be despatched again with Captain Cusiquanqui with mules, mountain artillery, and 200 men. This, he said, was the story that the Indians were being told by their countrymen just back from La Paz. I told him of the message that was delivered to me on my way to the Tipuani, and showed him the note of warning, which he said was sent to try and get me to turn back; but when they heard through Cortez that I had got to the River Tipuani the Indians under their Cacique had been consulted, and had told him to let me cross over, into their territory. Villarde said that a meeting of the three hundred head men had been called by the old Cacique Mamani; the first sitting was to take place next morning at 8 a.m., and he would have to put to me all the questions the old Chief told him to ask me, and interpret my reply to him. He told me I would have to prove to their entire satisfaction that the story circulated about me by the Indians recently back from La Paz was untrue. He assured me that Villavicencia, Portugol, the two Fernandez and himself knew quite well I was not a spy for the Government, but he said it would be difficult to convince the Indians, many of whom were ready to condemn me without a hearing; but in the last resort they were absolutely under the control of the Cacique Mamani and his head men, and he had ordered this meeting.

After dinner we discussed the situation till nearly midnight, and both came to the conclusion that this malicious story had been circulated by some of the traders who periodically came down to the river since they knew that, as soon as the Government and the Challana people had settled their difficulties, they would not be able to buy rubber for 100 bolivians, and sell it in La Paz for 228 bolivians; the Company that took over the concession from the Government would soon stop that.

Villarde, of course, knew all about the country, and he told me he had sold a lot of rubber and gold in the sixteen years that he had been here, and showed me a shed near his house that was full of rubber. It appeared that every time he wanted to get away, the Indians themselves stopped him; they would let him go a certain distance, but then he had to turn back. Besides, he could not go to La Paz by the Tongo, as the Government would catch him, and at that time there was a reward of £2,000 for his capture. The way for him to go if the Indians would let him, was down the Challana to the Gy Parana and out at Para. He told me he had made over £40,000.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

I Get No Kick From Cocaine

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 9

There were many beautiful birds in these parts, mostly gorgeously coloured macaws, parrots, snake birds, toucans, bell birds and tropials, and plenty of good game birds as well, especially wild turkey, poujil, martinette and long-billed snipe. The lovely cattleya superba grew in clumps on the trunks or branches of trees, wherever the ground was of a rocky nature, and parasites and smaller orchids grew everywhere. Butterflies of brilliant colours abounded, but there was also the loathsome berni fly, that lays its eggs and breeds maggots in animals and human beings. If it is not treated at once, this fly works nearly into the bone; my mule was troubled with it, but, fortunately, I noticed it in time.

One night I asked Cortez what wild animals there were about, and he told me, wild cattle, bear, many kinds of monkeys, pumas, panthers, tiger cats, jaguars and tigers. The two last are very plentiful and very troublesome and dangerous, and pits are dug for them everywhere. Besides these, there are tapirs, antas, wild pigs and many sorts of deer. I myself got three sorts of deer while in Challana, swamp deer, pampas deer, which are something like fallow deer and the little peti buck. One day in England I was talking with Bostock of menagerie fame, and he asked me whether I had ever come across what they call a tiger, when I was in the forests of Bolivia. I told him I had, and had got three skins of these beasts, but I thought they ought rather to be called a large specimen of jaguar. He said I was wrong and the natives were right: it was quite a different animal from a jaguar, and up to now no museum or zoological garden had a specimen; it would be very interesting and quite easy to secure a live one.

The weather was beautiful while we were here, but on the day we had fixed for leaving for the Challana headquarters at Paroma the rain fell in a tropical downpour for six hours. It cleared up in the afternoon, but the path was slippery, and the hill very step on the other side. At the bottom there was another settlement consisting of one fair-sized building and six or eight smaller ones; the proprietor had gone to Paroma by Villarde’s orders, to attend the conference which was going to receive me. We camped here that day; the scenery was very fine, with large tracks of pasture land, abundance of grass, a few head of cattle in good condition grazing, several small streams of clear water and one small river called the Mula Muerta, which Cortez told me was a good river for gold washing, and had produced several good nuggets. At this place I saw the coca bush growing, for the first time. The leaf is a small green one and contains five per cent of cocaine; the habit of chewing it grows on the natives until eventually they find they cannot do without it. They claim to be able to travel through the dense forest or over the high passes all day long for weeks at a time as long as they have coca leaves in their pouches to give them endurance. Personally, on the many long journeys I have undertaken while prospecting and exploring in this fascinating country during five years, I never yet took to the habit. The natives also claim that the cinchona bark in Challona gives five per cent of quinine, and they are often seen trotting along with big loads of 50 and 60lbs. weight and even more, a bottle of water with two or three bits of cinchona bark in it, and a buckskin pouch filled with coca leaves.

The men here dress in shorts of drill or cotton, and over these they wear a shirt of the same material. They also carry a poncho, or vicuña rug, with a slit in it for the head to go through, and a short jacket of drill on the top of their loads. The loads are not made to weigh up on the shoulders or the forehead, but are tied across the chest, leaving the shoulders free. Frequently, these carriers have such a heavy load that a friend has to help them on their feet to get started.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Rubbery Figures

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 8

After breakfast the men came over with a big five-pole balsa, and took me across. They told me that the river at this crossing was seventeen feet deep in parts. There were several settlements on the bank, inhabited by Indians; Thomas Cortez’s place consisted of five sheds made of poles and roofed with palm branches and wild banana leaves. He gave me a good big one with a bamboo bed almost three feet high and three feet broad and seven feet long. There were some fowls, turkeys and pigs and two cows tied up close by. I told Cortez that I was not tired, and could easily continue the journey, but he replied that we could not proceed for ten days, as those were his orders. He had been told to look well after me, and every day his wife brought me good food, eggs, milk and coffee in the morning, stewed fowl and rice and fruit and bread at 1 p.m., and a good meal again at night. She also washed my clothes. They had guns and rifles there, and shot a good deal of game, especially poujil (pronounced pooheel), which are birds about the size of a big fowl, and very good to eat; they shoot them as they are roosting on the trees. They never fire unless they are quite close to the bird, as powder and shot are too scarce in this out-of-the-way place to be wasted on fancy shots. All the natives here sleep either on the floor or on a bamboo bed, and very few of them have hammocks, unlike the natives of Guiana and Venezuela, where every one carried his bed, a light net made from fibre or strong cotton, which is hung up between poles on branches of trees. While I was here, I shot a big swamp deer on the run, as he was crossing one of the narrow Indian trails; to the great satisfaction of Cortez, who said that the meat would be good roasted. Every night Cortez slept in my hut, at the further end, and there was always a man on sentry duty all night. When I went for my bath each morning at 6 a.m., two armed men always stood a little distance off, though the stream I bathed in was only a few yards from my hut, as I used to go down in my nightshirt and dress by the river. After breakfast I generally took a net and went down to the banks of the Challana to catch butterflies. I was always escorted by two armed men with rifles, who followed a short distance behind. They took every precaution never to let me out of their sight; later on Villarde told me the reason why. Cortez told me that they had a great quantity of rubber for sale both here and at Paroma, and that the price was regulated by the Cacique at Paroma, nobody being allowed to sell for more than one hundred bolivians a quintal; this worked out at 1/10 per lb., and the market price in La Paz was then 4/6. Out of every 100 bols, ten bols was paid to the Cacique, and all rubber collected by the Indians in this district and Paroma paid ten bols per 100lbs. to Villarde as well. On the Tongo side where Villavicencia, Villarde’s brother-in-law, was in charge, the same payment was made. Villarde was a rich man, for out of his share he kept half, the balance going to his various lieutenants in the different districts. Each district paid separately, so that some were better off than others. By this system the pickers got 80 bols clear per 100lbs. (£7 6s. 8d.).

No trader was allowed to pay more than 100 bols per quintal, nor to charge more for his goods than they would fetch at the biggest and most important stores in La Paz. The year before last a trader from La Paz had come down to the river with twenty little mules loaded up with goods to exchange for rubber, and paid the Indians in goods and money at the rate of 105 bols instead of 100. He thought himself very smart, but it soon got to the ears of Villarde, who told the Cacique. It was decided when this man, Hernandez, returned, to confiscate the whole of his stock and all his mules, and to order him never to return to the Republic of Challana again. Last year Hernandez turned up with thirty-five mules and goods; the Cacique’s orders were carried out, and all his mules and goods were taken to Paroma. Cortez said the reason this order was made was that if the natives were given permission by the Chief to make their own prices they would get out of hand. There were watchmen always guarding the river at every available ford, and it was quite impossible to cross except in balsas, which were never left on the Tipuani side. Cortez told me that you could travel by balsa down the river without any difficulty to Port San Antonio, that this river joined another big river, probably the Gy Parana, which in turn joined the Madero and then the Amazon; the River Beni flows into the Mamore, then into the Amazon. My opinion is that the Tipuani and Challana have their source from the stream just above Tiquiripaga, but of course I am not sure, as I have never myself tried to trace the source of any of these large tropical rivers.

The scenery about here was very grand. The river ran between two high cliffs of red sandstone and red clayish soil. Large trees came right down to the water’s edge in some places, and in other places the banks were perpendicular precipices of deep red coloured soil and rock without any trees. All round was dense forest land, except at the Anhuaqui Settlement, where there was a wide stretch of prairie reaching to the foot of a very steep and densely wooded high hill with a red path leading up to the top. This hill was some nine miles from here, and Cortez pointed out this particular path to me as our way to Paroma. It did not look at all pleasant to have to walk up there, but it had got to be done the next week.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Bathing with Piranhas

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 7

That evening Miguel had another attack of malaria, and so we had to remain here the next two days, and I had to cut firewood, cook, look after the mule, and do everything. The first day the man referred to by the Indian rubber-picker passed the camp with his two mules. I got another bush turkey at close range with the six-shooter in the evening at sundown. On the third morning at 7 a.m. we left: the first eight or nine miles took us up and down hill through the beautiful park-like scenery, then came dense forest again, downhill all the way for seven miles, to the big River Challana. The road was pretty good, and I had no cutlass work to do. At the bottom of the hill, a couple of hundred yards along the bank, there was a clearing and a fair-sized shed, open at the two ends; it was closed up on the forest side with palm leaves and bamboo and open on the river side.

As soon as we got to the river, I fired off two cartridges in the air, as a signal to the inhabitants on the other side. A few minutes afterwards three men came over in a balsa; by poling for three hundred yards close to the bank on their side, and then crossing over with the long poles as fast as they could, they brought up the balsa to within a few yards of the hut. One of the men, who was a half-caste, a middle-aged man, and spoke Spanish, had a rifle, and took a letter from his buckskin bag, and handed it to me. It was from Villarde, and read: “I am glad to welcome you in our country and have ordered my lieutenant, Thomas Cortez, to prepare a house for you at his place, where you had better stop for ten days and rest after your long rough journey; in the meantime, I shall call a meeting of the chiefs and principal Indians, to receive you at the Court House in Paroma in fourteen days from the day you get this letter. You must cross over and come by yourself, and not bring any followers with you. Cortez has orders to provide you with a servant. With salutations, I remain, your attentive servant, Lorenzo Villarde.”

In any case Miguel, with his continual breakdowns of fever, was not of much use as far as serving me was concerned; and I decided it would be best for him, on the whole, to go slowly back to Tipuani by the regular path, which the rubber-pickers would direct him to, at the place where we had met them.

The man with the note, whose name was Jose, said he would now return to tell Cortez, who would despatch a messenger to Paroma. I asked them to return again next day for me, and he said he would bring over a big balsa of five stout poles for me, and a platform with seat attached next morning after breakfast. All that night the mule was very restive and kept on coming into the shelter, which made me think that some jaguar was about, so we put plenty of wood on the fire, and made a big blaze and kept the lamp burning in the shed; I always carry a horn lantern for a candle. I sat up near the fire with my rifle till close on eleven. No animal appeared, but I distinctly heard movements in the forest, and the mule fed very close to the shed. In the morning I had a good bathe, being careful to keep my eyes on the bottom most of the time, as in most of these tropical rivers there are man-eating fish, called pirauhas, only eighteen inches long, but very ferocious, with teeth like a saw, which attack you and bite lumps out of you on the slightest provocation. In some rivers in these parts, when a balsa has been capsized and its occupants have been thrown out and got cut about on the sunken rocks, these little monsters seem to come from all around, attracted by the sight of blood. They will often snap a finger or a toe off, and have been known to strip a dead body of every particle of flesh, leaving the bones bare. Another of the dangers to beware of in bathing in tropical rivers or streams of South or Central America is a kind of slimy leech, three or four inches long, called Kandiros, which get up the rectum. They are as thick as a worm, and have a small dorsal fin that acts as a barb. The only way to get rid of them is to have them cut out.

The Rivers Tipuani, Challana and Beni contain a good many fish, most of them good to eat, and some very large, but, like most of the fish in tropical rivers, too full of bones.

After my bath, while Miguel was preparing breakfast, I found tracks of a big jaguar, evidently the disturber of the mule the night before. The marks showed that the beast had made for the pampas we had passed the day before.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

The Tiger Trap

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 6

We made camp by the stream that night, and I hung up the remains of the challona on a tree a few yards away from the camp, together with about six or eight plantains that were still green. In the morning when Miguel went to look for them, after he had put the kettle and stewpot on, he found them gone. I examined the ground, and came to the conclusion that one of the big dark brown bears that inhabit the hills must have come down the valley and taken them off. We had to put up with corned beef for breakfast, but there were always plenty of guavas as well; the guava trees were all round, and the mule seemed to enjoy eating them: he was always munching them off the trees.

Once we had started, the trail was fairly easy going, in comparison, that is, to what it had been, for about five miles. Then we came across a hardwood tree; it was not a very big one, but it took me an hour and a half’s sweating work to chop it through.

A little way further on, the mule absolutely refused to move. I went on a few yards to see what the ground was like, and found a lot of bush cut down and lying across the path. I probed it with my long stick, and found it quite hollow underneath, and could not touch the bottom. It turned out to be one of the “tiger” traps made by the Indians. They dig a hole with perpendicular sides, about twelve feet deep, four or five feet wide, and eight or ten feet long, and then cover it over lightly with branches and bush. The tiger falling into one of these cannot get out, and is easily despatched; sometimes two or three stakes are driven in at the bottom. My mule had evidently smelt the earth that had been thrown up, which we had not noticed. I opened out another path on the right, and about half a mile further on we came to a clearing and a well-kept bamboo and palm shelter, with a good stream of water running down in the hollow below, and some big blue and mauve cattleyas growing on some branches near. Near the shelter was a large cairn of stones with a flat piece of iron sticking up. I was told that this spot marks the commencement of Challana, according to the Indian claim. The River Challana is fifteen miles from here.

The next day when I was half-way up a hill, I heard the tap tap of a rubber-picker, and shouted to him. A few minutes afterwards, an Indian came out of the forest by a narrow path on the left; he proved to be from Challana, and lived on the other side of the river. He was picking rubber with another man, and said there were not so many rubber trees on this side, but on the other side there were a good many, and further on many more. He told me I was expected and that Villarde had notified his lieutenant, Cortez, to put me across at a place called Anhuaqui, about eight leagues from here. He said I could not cross before reaching there, as the river was wide and deep and the current swift. Evidently, no Indians lived on this side at all, they just came over the river to pick rubber. The Indian said that Thomas Cortez was the head man at Anhuaqui, and nobody could cross the river without his permission. He took his orders from Villarde, and Villarde did nothing before getting the consent of the old Cacique of Challana, who lived at Paroma on the hills, twenty leagues from Anhuaqui.

He told me I would not be able to reach Anhuaqui that day, as the next hill was a very hard one, but when I got to the top I would see the big river way down on the left, and was to take a path to the right, at a fork where there were two big shelters of poles and palm-leaf roofs. I asked him about the “tiger” trap we passed the day before, and he said there was another one not far from that one down a little path to the left. When a jaguar or tiger, as they call them, is known to be about, they tie up a mule or calf overnight close to the pit, and come back in the morning to see what has happened. The Government pay 25 bols (about £2 10s.) for the skull and jaws of every jaguar of the larger size, and of course the hide can be sold as well. This man talked Spanish, as he was not a pure Indian. His father, he said, came from Sorata, and was now living at Anhuaqui, and his mother was a pure Indian woman. He asked me for a little coca, which I gave him: he said they were short of coca just then, as they had only brought a supply for two or three days, and expected a companion next day from Anhuaqui with two mules and provisions for a fortnight.

Just after crossing the stream, I heard the movement of an animal in the forest, took my rifle, and had a lucky shot. It was a small swamp deer, for which I was thankful, and we looked forward to our venison stew that night. We got to the top of the hill mentioned by the rubber-picker at three in the afternoon, and made camp in the two shelters. The view was like a park — long grass and clumps of trees for miles around, and high forest as far as the eye could see. On the left the stream we had just crossed continued its course to the river below, and near it stood the ruined walls of a stone building. Nobody was in sight, and no dwellings could be seen. Parrots large and small screeched overhead, and macaws could be heard on the trees close by. I went to look at one, of a beautiful heliotrope colour, which was sitting on a high palm at the edge of the forest; I stood below the tree for ten or fifteen minutes admiring it, and it never moved.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

The Silly Trick of Throwing Dynamite

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 5

A curious incident occurred one day about this time. Some Indians returning to the Beni district had met some women belonging to the Tipuani district and wanted to marry two of them and take them to the Beni district, but the women were unwilling and this led to a quarrel among the men. The relations of the women attacked the ten men from the Beni; they chopped one another about a bit with cutlasses and fought with hard wood sticks, while the two women and their friends tried to pacify them. Finally it was suggested that they should all go over to see the two Englishmen across the river. Mac and I were in the carpenter’s shop making sleepers when they arrived in a body. There were twenty-seven of them in all, several of the men with their heads bandaged. They told us the cause of the row, and we told them that if the women were of age they should be allowed to please themselves. If they wished to marry the two men from the Beni then they should be allowed to do so, and leave with them; if not, the Beni men had no right to make trouble over it and should cease to molest them, and continue their return journey in peace. After some talking this was agreed to, and the women were asked their wishes. They both said they did not wish to leave their own district and cared nothing at all for the two men that wanted them. Mac and I then told the men from the Beni that they were to blame for the quarrel, and we also told the others they were wrong in coming in as they did and attacking the Beni men, whose wounds were chiefly on the back of their heads which showed they had been attacked from behind. Eventually they came to an understanding, and after we had mixed up a big bottle of water with a little lysol and a little lint and dressed their heads they left with many thanks to us, and much shaking of hands among themselves. The Beni men crossed the river in the canoes belonging to the Tipuani men and took the path back to the Beni, while the others and the two women over whom the dispute had arisen returned to their homes.

A few days after this Bert Morton, an American miner, passed through the Tipuani village. I met him walking behind his three large mules on the way back to La Paz, he had been prospecting for rubber for a house in Lima, and about a month before he had blown off the half of two fingers of his right hand in doing what I call the silly trick of throwing dynamite in the river pools to get a supply of fish. One cartridge had exploded and caused the injury. Fish got this way are never much good; they don’t have the same flavour.

On the next Monday Noboa came over and told me that no natives had come yet from Challana; and that nobody from the neighbourhood cared to go in with him, as they said the Indians and half-castes in Challana were hostile, that they had guards with rifles all along the river Challana wherever you could cross by balsa, and that the river was deep and the current strong, and there was no balsa ever kept on this side. He strongly advised me not to continue the journey; and thought they would not let me cross, and if they did they might not allow me to return. Mac was of the same opinion, and said he had been here sixteen years and had never ventured into their country, but if I still insisted on going he would lend me his old mule, which I accepted with thanks. I told them that if my way was barred when I got to the river I would turn back.

The following day I got together provisions and gear for a fortnight—bread, half a challona, some plantain, eschalot, coffee, tea, salt, six tins of corned beef, three bottles of Noboa’s rum, a water-flask, my rifle and fifty cartridges, my six-shooter, cutlass and bedding—a good load for Mac’s mule.

Next day I started, with Miguel leading the mule. We crossed the river by the cable, Miguel going first with the help of the two Barbadians living opposite, then all the provisions and myself; the mule swam across behind the balsa which was paddled and propelled by the Indian. Noboa met me on the other side, and took me along to a small trail, which led to a stream; by following it he said I would come out in full view of the big River Challana. There was a nearer way, by a better trail, which I thought it better not to take, as I wanted to get to the banks of the river without meeting anyone. I felt sure that when I got there I should find an order from Villarde to let me cross over.

The path was a narrow one, overgrown below with bushes and creepers, and overhead with branches of trees which often had to be cut off to make room for the mule to pass. I was using the machete most of the time, while Miguel was resting; he had only just got over his first attack of fever. Often we took off our trousers and walked for a long way in the stream itself; it saved cutlassing, and was easier going. The forest was alive with birds of all sorts and butterflies of all colours. I got a big martinette with a pistol shot on the ground at a few yards’ range, and we saw the spoor of deer and the tracks of wild pigs. The first day we did ten miles, which was pretty good, but the first four were easy going. That night we made camp on the banks of the stream near a beautiful cool pool over five feet deep in the middle. Growing low down on some trees close to the pool were two lovely orchids of a brilliant scarlet colour, with yellow centre. One had three blossoms and the other four; they were growing together as one plant, and had five more blossoms ready to burst in a day or so. I should say this was a scarlet cattleya; in any case, it must have been a very rare specimen of orchid, because, although I saw many varieties on my journey, and often the same specimens repeated, I never came across this particular specimen again.

The next day we made six miles and camped near the stream on a stony beach, where there was plenty of grass in patches for the mule; the previous night the grass had been rather scanty. While I was bathing in a pool near, a fine swamp deer came out of the forest to the waterside; he did not seem at all scared, but stood and looked at me for quite a few minutes, which showed that human beings were scarce in these parts. I have frequently noticed vicuñas doing the same thing in some of the fastnesses of the Andes near the snow line, when I have been prospecting.

The next day was a failure, for after it had taken us about three hours to go the same number of miles, I doing all the cutlass work, we came to an enormous tree across the path with such thick, heavy-looking undergrowth on one side, and so little clear space on the other, that I decided to go back to the scarlet orchids of the night before, which we did. The next morning, while bathing, I had another look at them. Three more beautiful petals had burst, and there were now ten opened out.

After breakfast I started to open up another dim trail that could be seen nearer the river, a much narrower one than the path of the day before. It was rough hot work, hewing and chopping down bush and small trees to make way for the mule; all these paths made by the forest Indians are low and narrow. Amongst other things I saw that day were forty or fifty big coffee-coloured monkeys, which were very tame, and seemed to follow us along the trees from branch to branch. I have seen some monkeys in different parts of the world in my time, but I never came across such climbers as these. They simply walked up and down big high trees and jumped from one to the other with the most perfect ease, chattering and talking all the time till late in the afternoon, when they would disappear.

Adventures in Bolivia, Chapter 6

Miguel’s Fever

From Tipuani to Paroma, Part 4

A little after 11 p.m. began a regular tropical downpour of rain which never ceased till about 6 a.m., when the sun came out in all its warmth. The air was delightfully fresh, the birds began to fly, and everything looked bright again, but we were both soaking wet, and the stream had turned into a torrent. The water had risen about five feet, nearly to the top of the bank on the side we had camped, and the green patch on the other side where the tiger and tapir had appeared was entirely submerged. It had been an uncomfortable night, and for a few minutes we had been in a real funk. I stripped naked and put all my things out to dry in the sun, and after drying some wood we soon got a fire going. Although the matches were carried in a tin, and that again in another tin, they still had to be sundried first. We had filled our kettle, pot and water-flasks with water after dinner the night before, and it came in very useful now. It is always advisable to procure water overnight for the next morning, especially in the rainy season; I always did this and got my firewood as well. We soon had a wholesome challona stew and some hot coffee ready, which made a welcome breakfast.

Miguel had now a severe dose of fever coming on; in fact, this was the start of his Tipuani terciana, and from this time on he had it constantly for the rest of the journey. It was partly owing to his own perverseness, as instead of keeping pace with Manuel, myself and the llamas, he would often walk off quickly up the hills, and sit down on the top grinning and waiting for me; and he did not take his wet clothes off and hang them out to dry, as I did. My clothes soon dried in the sun, and Miguel thought better of it, and began to dry his. The river began to go down again, and at three in the afternoon the Indian came walking up the stream, with the water up to his middle nearly, probing the bottom with a long, thick stick. He sympathized with us very much over our bad luck the night before. I told him I would not like to go back without another try for the man-eater, and he said there was a rubber-picker living not far from his place who had a rifle, though not as big a one as mine, and he would send his boy with a note from me for the loan of it. As I had not yet discovered what was wrong with my rifle, I was glad to accept his offer, and so we walked, or rather waded, along the edge of the stream to his place, I carrying my pants and boots, and wearing alpagatas to shield my feet from stones.

When we got to the bend, we found that the river was full of a good volume of water running down at nine or ten knots. I could see by the banks that it had risen fifteen feet as a result of the storm, and the Indian said more than that. It had been my intention to go over to Charest’s place, but no balsa could have lived in that turbulent stream. So I put up at the Indian’s place. His wife had just killed and plucked a fine fat fowl, which she gave me with some maize tortillas, and a pineapple, refusing all payment. Her husband told her I had walked twenty miles to his place to try and rid them of the man-eater.

The rubber-picker soon came over with his rifle and mauser and five cartridges. He looked pretty sick with fever, and was out of quinine and coca leaves. I told him I would be very glad to give him a little of each, as I had a good supply, and a bottle of Noboa’s rum as well, if he would send some one with me to bring them back; he was very thankful for the offer, and I was also grateful for the use of his boy, who could carry back my rifle and gear for me. Miguel was sick and, although the two days’ rest would probably freshen him up a bit, he would have quite enough to do to walk back the twenty miles with nothing to carry.

Next morning, after an early breakfast, I started off again along the stream to the dead mule, with the Indian, his son, and three other Indians, and six mongrel dogs. I went first, about an hour ahead of them, to the spot opposite the green patch, and waited there while they walked through the bush on the other side, beating the trees with sticks, and making a good noise.

The first thing that came out and crossed the long narrow gully at the back of the green patch in front of me was a small bush buck, then soon afterwards a good-sized tapir, and finally a young swamp deer, but no jaguar; I could have got each of these easily, but wanted to keep my shot for the man-eater. When the Indians came out and had had a rest, I sent them up the stream on my side, and told them to walk on for an hour or two, and then beat down the other side. I promised them to get a deer for fresh meat if another was driven out. After another two hours, a second tapir crossed the narrow gully further up, about two hundred yards from the green patch; I did not see him until he was just entering the bush on the other side, so did not fire. Half an hour later came another small bush deer, and at the same time I heard a rustling in the bushes on the other side, close to the stream, and out came a fine swamp deer, which I secured for our lunch.

The yelping of the dogs now announced the approach of the beaters. They said they had seen the tracks of the jaguar, evidently made quite freshly that morning or the night before, and had gone on over the hill on the way to Challana. If we had beaten this side first, instead of the other, we might possibly have caught him, though he might have gone on quite early in the morning. Anyway, he had not touched the mule, which was now beginning to smell, and to attract a dozen or more vultures, which were hovering round about waiting to finish it off, as soon as the coast was clear.

In the morning we went back to Tipuani village. Miguel was better, and the rubber-picker lent me his rifle to take on to Challana with me in case I could not repair mine. I eventually found out what was wrong, as has already been explained. On the way back we saw the same pretty green, purple and scarlet birds as we saw coming; they were in exactly the same place, and were flying to and fro near the same cotton tree.

On the way back I looked in at Noboa’s, and he told me no Challana men had come yet, so I asked him to try and get me five or six men from the neighbourhood to go on with me. He said he would, and promised to come over and let me know the result in a couple of days’ time. Perez was still down with fever, and during my absence three men had come in with rubber; one of them, a half-caste, was pretty sick with fever. I noticed that many of the rubber balls were sliced down the middle, and was told this was done now and then to see that there was not a good round heavy water stone put in the middle to make weight, as some Indian pickers are very crafty.

When I got back I found Mackenzie was going to wash up next day, so I asked him to lend me a pan, and let me help him. I was anxious to see how much gold came out of the heap of dirt and gravel, dug out of the mine tunnel by the two men in three days. Mac and I panned it out next day, and it gave 3ozs. 6dr. 1scr. of beautiful straw-coloured Tipuani gold. There were no nuggets of any size, and no rough gold, which showed that it had travelled far, and, in my opinion, that there was no reef near at hand. They said on the Saturday that they were not going to work again until Tuesday, and as a matter of fact they did not start till Wednesday.