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'Many of these structures lay too
far out of my line of travel to permit me to observe them, although I may
claim, perhaps, to have travelled more extensively in Peru as a whole than any
other foreigner, as far as leagues covered are concerned.....'
'The Andes and the Amazon' gives an exciting insight in to the past, present and future of Peru. This title welcomes an excellent opportunity to discover the experiences, thoughts, opinions and movements, in Charles' own words, as well as giving a fascinating insight in to his personality and background.
Thursday 5th May, 1904 - The first documented ascent of Huascaran.
'Next in order comes the Huascaran, given by triangulation as 22,180 feet — probably the third or fourth highest peak in the New World, and whose ascent I attempted to make, gaining a point which no human foot has ever yet reached. This peak is in the Eastern Cordillera, or "Cordillera Blanca," of the Peruvian Andes, in the Department of Ancachs ; and in fine weather, at a sufficient distance from the coast, its summit can be seen from the Pacific Ocean.
My ascent was made in May 1904, and the account was read before the Royal Geographical Society by the then President, Sir Clements Markham, on my behalf I do not think this peak is mentioned in any existing work on geography, and indeed it is but little known.
This splendid granite uplift, with its gleaming mantle of perpetual snow, always fired my imagination as I beheld it from Huaraz, during several months' stay there. Seen from that city, it reflects the colours of the morning and evening sun with indescribable beauty, and towers upwards from among its sister members of the chain towards the blue heavens in impenetrable majesty, silent, solitary, eternal. Impenetrable, because no human foot has, so far, ever pressed its summit. Raimondi attempted it, but failed, and only established its height by triangulation— 6,721 metres above sea-level. I had often desired to make the ascent, in spite of the reiterated assertion of the inhabitants of the valley that it was absolutely impossible.
But I have long since found out that the "absolutely impossible"—especially in Spanish America—is only another term for the absolutely untried, and shortly the opportunity presented itself. Some Peruvian friends of Yungay, a pretty and industrious little town in the valley of Huaylas, not far from the peak, took me to examine some gold mines, which proved to be upon the very base of the mountain ; and I resolved, at least, to make a reconnaissance of the possibility of ascending.
I sent back, therefore, to Yungay for blankets, hatchets, provisions, blue spectacles, rope, etc. Guides there were none, as no one had ever ascended much beyond the snow-line.
On the following day, 5th May, 1904, at 6 A.M., I began the ascent, accompanied by a Peruvian friend of Yungay, an Italian from the mines, and five Cholos. The sky was clear. The way at first lay up easy slopes and ravines, and through thickets of flowering shrubs and of light timber—quenua and quishua; often with a carpeting of a hard-wooded, blue lupinus. At 11,500 feet altitude the Italian became fatigued, and returned to the mines, the rest of the party continuing upwards. The slopes of the mountain, below the snow-line, were now very steep, and covered with great blocks of granite, which made walking very fatiguing. Besides, the rarefaction of the air made breathing difficult, and my companion, the Peruvian, fell behind somewhat, but nevertheless continued manfully upwards. We were obliged to stop every twenty or thirty steps to recover breath, and the distance which separated us from the base of the ice-cap, which we beheld above us, diminished by very slow degrees. A damp mist now appeared, and enveloped us, blotting out the view.
Fortunately, this mist disappeared shortly with the heat of the sun, and at 11 A.M. we reached the snow-line, at an altitude of 14,500 feet. Here we called a halt for breakfast, making coffee with a fire of dried grass pulled from between the rocks just below the snow-line. I expected to have suffered from soroche, but was pleased to find myself free from this troublesome effect of high elevation, and attributed it to having lived for some months at the altitude of Huaraz, so becoming somewhat accustomed to the thinner atmosphere. Also the chancaca, which we carried and ate occasionally, seemed to stave it off. This is nothing but small cakes of crude brown sugar, which is made in those regions, and which the natives know from experience to be beneficial. I have noted the effect of this in other similar situations, and the sugar, undoubtedly, has some virtue for mountaineers.
After breakfasting we continued upwards, but my companion could not advance over the snow ; his feet slipped back at every step, and even the Cholos walked with difficulty. The snow at first was soft below, covered with a thin, hard crust sufficiently strong to bear the weight of a man, advancing with care. For my part, I found I could ascend with considerable ease, so that I soon left the rest of the party behind, and found myself alone, treading those virgin dazzling slopes where human foot had never trod until that moment.
The Peruvian remained below with one of the Cholos, and I continued upward with the other four. We passed various grietas, or crevasses, and arrived at a small saddle-back from which an outcrop of rocks protruded through the ice-cap. At this place one of the Cholos broke through the snow-crust and became buried to the arm-pits ; and, although there was little danger, the occurrence inspired such fear in the timid souls of the others that they declined to go on. The aspect of the glaciers beyond was, it is true, awe-inspiring. Frightful precipices opened to the view, showing where avalanches had fallen ; and even as I watched an avalanche fell— a wave of snow whose resounding roar wound grimly among those high terraces and far fagades, and possibly caused the people in the valley towns below to look upward.
My first intention had been only to pass the snow-line, but the desire to attempt the summit had been taking possession of me as I ascended. The tonic air invigorated the body ; the glorious panorama inspired the mind ; and I felt capable of reaching the crest of one of those beautiful twin peaks of the Huascaran which towered above.
The cowardice of the Cholos inspired me with anger and disgust, and in vain I offered them reward ; they would not leave the point of rocks where they had taken refuge- At length I left them, and went on alone.
At 16,500 feet I stopped. Before me was a deep and narrow crevasse, which it seemed imprudent to cross alone. I long stood on the verge, for the desire to go on was very strong. At the other side, still far away, the twin peaks gleamed like purest porcelain in the rays of the afternoon sun. Blue and pearly shadows shaded gently off upon their flanks, losing themselves in grim profundities, where, far below, the foamy blanket of the avalanche now lay ; the mist of its pulverisation still hanging like a faint white curtain near the base. Nearly 6,000 feet above me the northernmost peak stood out, piercing the blue heavens like the gnomon of a mighty dial, along whose sloping side I could ascend. I was alone in the midst of that awful yet beautiful solitude : alone with Nature upon the highest points of matter—the roof of the world!
But an unstable matter, for at my right hand were millions of tons of ice and snow, so insecurely poised upon the abrupt steeps that a breath, it seemed, might hurl them down upon me, and which, even as I watched, seemed almost to be in movement. Also, the broad ice-field over which my gaze wandered, and which intervened between me and the base of the " gnomon," was crossed by faint blue lines—the surface edges of innumerable chasms and crevasses. Should I go on alone ?
Yes. I passed the crevasse, and continued onward over the ice-cap, slipping at times, and stopping to recover breath from the thin air, and to observe the panorama below. Again I was brought to a halt by an abyss wider and deeper than before, whilst near at hand and all around were others. The ice-cap was folded, rigid and cracked ; a false step might send me down a thousand feet or more : was it wise to proceed alone?
The majesty of that vast solitude fascinated me : I was glad to be alone where no human foot had ever trod. Far below and far away, north and south, extended the valley of Huaylas, threaded by the river Santa, the villages upon its banks scarcely distinguishable through the shimmering mists; whilst to the west the clouds which hung upon the " Black Cordillera " shut out the vast horizon of the Pacific Ocean. But not a cloud rested on the twin peaks of Huascaran, as their "porcelain" slopes pierced the cerulean vault above me. Upon their sides, near the noble crests, enormous banks of ice—vast, unsupported snow-cornices—stood out, overhanging the abyss below in fearful equilibrium, and casting sharp, violet shadows upon the white fagades from which they projected. Again it looked as if a breath might hurl them downwards—as indeed they had been hurled before —and again I seem to see them move. Suppose they fell —why not now, as at any other moment in time and space? I seemed to watch, fascinated, the breaking away— I could imagine exactly what it would be like. A thunderous roar: an engulfing wave of snow and ice whose appalling crest would sweep the tableland between us, more terrible than an ocean billow.
Again I hesitated, still drawn onward, and again I examined the crevasse. Part of the tuft of snow whereon I stood, upon the verge, crunched and gave way, falling down, down, down. Was it a warning? To continue onward might be death. Yet what a resting-place and grave-stone for a wearied mortal! By day rearing its splendour on high, this gnomon peak ; by night ever cutting its silent arc against the purple dome of the starry firmament—a launching point in space whence a last human thought might wing its way, leaving its material temple to eternal preservation in the matter it strove to overcome.
I turned away regretfully, and followed my own footprints— the only ones which had ever been made there by man—downwards again, passed the crevasse, crossed the tableland, and shortly arrived at the place where the Cholos anxiously awaited my return. There I made them build a cairn of loose granite blocks ; it was with a species of satisfaction that I saw them groan and sweat—a punishment for having failed to accompany me, so preventing the probability of arriving at the summit.
Within the cairn I enclosed a bottle containing my name, the date and the altitude at which I had arrived — 16,500 feet. Then we descended to the lower edge of the snow-line where my Peruvian companion was still awaiting me, and we made and took some tea, which was very acceptable.
I found it relatively easy to descend over the ice-cap, by the method of sliding in an erect position, down the slopes, digging my heels and staff into the snow when I began to attain too great a velocity. The Cholos seeing me perform this, were much amused, and bursting into laughter endeavoured to imitate the method, but generally fell over in the attempt, or lost their sandals in the snow.
We arrived later at the mine again, and the following day I returned to Yungay, where news of the attempted ascent had preceded us, people turning out to observe the Englishman who had undertaken such a dangerous and .—to their way of thinking—useless adventure. " Only an ingles would have done it," was their comment.
I consider that the ascent of the Huascaran could be made without great difficulty, with proper companions and appliances. I felt a species of regret as I looked back at the virgin slopes above where I had ascended ; that regret which he might feel who has loved, whose love has been reciprocated, but who had been separated by the iron hand of circumstance from the beloved object before the consummation of his affections.'
'I have often stood upon the summit of the Andes, on that perpetual snow-cap where the aneroid shows 16,500 feet above the sea, and watched the snowflakes falling'.
‘Twelve times I have crossed these summits.’
In the middle of the desert.
‘I was just about to mount the unfortunate mule again in order to try to urge it to something speedier than a crawl, when the attention of both of us was drawn towards an extraordinary object which was rapidly advancing in our direction, accompanied by a singular banging noise. At first sight I could not explain what it was, and indeed my attention was diverted towards the mule, who, affrighted, endeavored to bolt, notwithstanding its lameness. The object rapidly neared us, and I was able to see what it was-nothing more fearful or dangerous than a large, square petroleum tin, which had been caught up by a small cyclone, or dust whirlwind, and was bounding along in the centre of a dusty column, giving forth a characteristic banging every time it struck the ground. I could scarcely refrain from laughing, but it proved to be no laughing matter, for, terrified out of its senses by the object, which was heading straight for us, the mule bolted; and as I had wound the reins around my wrist for further security in holding it, I was jerked over and dragged along in the dust.’
‘On my journey along the coast I passed through a jaguey (pronounced “ha-why”), or small wood, and which had an evil reputation. The name is given especially to thickets or woods in a sandy desert which are due to the presence of water underground, from a stream or river which sinks in such places, not being of sufficient volume to reach the sea. The word is possibly, allied to the Brazilian word jaguar, from the animal which inhabits the woods on the Amazon.
'Well the evil reputation of this place was due-so my attendant, who knew it, informed me-to the murder by some thieves of a messenger who was journeying to an adjacent mine with bags of silver coin to pay the miners, years ago. The robbers had waylaid him in the wood, slain him, and appropriated the money. Other outrages, he said, had been committed upon travellers here, and he looked fearfully around in the growing dusk as we entered the place, as if momentarily expecting to behold the forms of some robbers, or the apparitions of some murdered wayfarer, and only gathering some reassurance from contemplating the large Colts’ revolver which I carried in my belt. An old ruined wattle house stood near the trail, and as nightfall was at hand, and a sand-storm impending, I decided to halt and make use of the shelter: a proceeding which by no means met with my servants approval, in view of the matters previously related. The night fell; the door was barred. The wind whistled drearily about the place, and the Pacific rollers beat upon the shore but a thousand yards away. The impatient mules stamped their indignation at the scant fodder which had been given them, and snorted from time to time as if apprehensive of some prowling footsteps. The portable spirit-lamp was lighted, and coffee and food partaken of, and my cot having been set up, I laid down to slumber; whilst my attendant, spreading his poncho in one corner, also endeavored to woo some fitful and nervous repose.'
'I had scarcely been asleep for half an hour when I was aroused by a frightful yell, and starting up, I hastily lit a match. My man was on his feet, with signs of fear upon his countenance-it was he who had cried out-and in response to my question, informed me that there were robbers about, and that some one had pushed against the frail wall of the hut from the outside. I certainly heard footsteps in the cleared space outside the house and, fearing for the safety of the mules, I hastily put on my boots, and grasped the revolver. Then I bid the boy open the door, and rushed suddenly out into the moonlight with cocked weapon, ready to fire, if such were necessary. But this truthful narrative has to record that no dramatic sequel was experienced. What I found was that the arriero had arrived with the pack-mules – he had been delayed at the last stopping-place – and was peacefully engaged in unloading the animals, so I turned in and slept peacefully until morning.’
Offering the locals advise.
'I have spoken elsewhere of the vestiges of the great earthquake wave which devastated the coast long ago, and even now the people retain the recollection, handed down to them, of that fearful time when “salio la mar” (“the sea came out”), as they put it. At that, and subsequent periods, the buildings, and especially the churches, in the interior towns were cracked or ruined. At one of these, a small town, the cura and principal inhabitants requested me to examine their church, and give them, as an engineer, some idea as to its possible restoration, and which I did gladly for them. The building was in a dangerous condition. The boveda, or vaulted roof – for it had been well constructed of stone – had partly fallen, and was rendered useless, whilst the walls were leaning outwards, seriously far from the perpendicular. To restore the roof was hopeless, but I advised attempting the drawing in of the walls by means of placing iron bars across and screwing them up at the ends – a suggestion which filled them with delight, and which, I believe, was subsequently carried out. As to the roof, it was hopeless; and the cura informed me with much pride that he intended to re-roof it with “a beautiful modern material, worthy of a house of God!” Can you guess, kind reader, what he had in view? Corrugated iron! That most prosaic and hideous product: that horrible material whose appearance marks the frontiers of civilisation: the exile of beauty and of art, and the edge of decency and order! Shades of Ruskin and the poets! Corrugated iron upon an ancient temple! But I condemned the idea in toto, and after due consideration of all available material, advised the use of tiles. These tiles are of a beautiful red colour, made in the vicinity, in the form of pan tiles, such as are common in Europe; and the corrugated iron was not ordered, for which I congratulated myself.’
'I was invited to attend the ceremony of opening a bridge of this nature, of considerable span ; and, seeing the dangerous bending of the poles in the centre, I showed the native carpenter there how to make an ordinary " Howe " truss with the same material and a few iron bars and bolts. This was looked upon as a remarkable piece of work.'
Helping the locals.
'I even found him at times at the entrance of the club, waylaying me with a persistence worthy of a better occupation. "Do but buy a ticket, and your fortune is made," he implored ; and really he seemed more animated by the desire to make my fortune than of selling his tickets. One day I became impatient. " Do not trouble me any more," I said, '' or I will hand you over to the police; I never buy lottery tickets." The poor fellow stopped abruptly, as if hurt. He was probably a little dazed mentally, and I examined him by the light of the electric arc which swung above. An old frock-coat, tightly buttoned about a shirtless body, and ancient boots upon sockless feet, as evidenced by the suspicion of human leather protruding from gaping holes therein. An old man, unshaven and hungry-eyed, yet with a certain air of reserve or pride about him— a type of most pathetic poverty. He told me his story. He had been a Government employe during a past regime—a Prefect, or Sub-Prefect, quite an important position—but a change of party had deprived him of his post ; an ungrateful Government refused him other employment, and he had drifted to indigence and the selling of lottery tickets. I had taken him to a restaurant on a side street to appease the hunger which he said devoured him, and learnt that his only remaining desire in life was to present a certain petition to the Government about some matter. "But," said the poor old fellow, " I cannot enter the palace, for the sentinels at the entrance would not let me pass in these clothes." It was certainly pathetic. Here was this man, who had commanded soldiers and policemen formerly, who had been " one in authority," and at whose word of " Do this" it had been done, now unable to obtain audience. I gave him an old shirt, a collar, and a black coat and hat which I no longer used, and promised to meet him on the morrow to conduct him past the gendarmes at the palace entrance. So it befell. I hardly knew in the old ex-Prefect the wretched lottery ticket-seller of yesterday. His figure was upright, he had been shaved with the few coins I had given him, and was now as dignified as in prefectural days when he had haughtily ordered his inferiors, in some interior city. The entrance to the palace is, of course, free to the public, but in any case there would now be no need of my accompanying him, for he strode towards the entrance with commanding mien, and—could the poor fellow's cup of happiness be fuller? —the soldiers on guard at the portal actually saluted as we passed ! Moreover, the confidence in himself which he regained from this bore him on to the interview he desired ; and, as he afterwards informed me, he positively obtained a small post in a Custom House, which would keep him in comfort —a post too insignificant, fortunately, to be marked as the prey of any more influential political adherent of the governing power.'
'The traveller in these regions should not fail to carry with him certain essential matters in the way of provisions, as tea, coffee, bread, cocoa, sugar, and other matters. Fowls, eggs, cheese, meat and vegetables he may obtain in the villages through which he passes, unless he is in the heart of the No hay zone, which I have elsewhere described. One general axiom may be borne in mind—that tinned meats and other provisions should be avoided. They suffer from two causes : the first being, especially in the American products, the doubtful nature or quality of the material ; and secondly, the fact that the tin undoubtedly exercises a deleterious effect on the contents. I recollect nearly dying from excessive vomiting on one occasion, on the top of the Andes, due to having eaten some Chicago "salt horse," or other tinned quadruped masquerading under the name of meat ; and on another, a tin of sardines rendered me incapable of action for nearly two days. I will forbear to give the names of the makers of these, although they deserve to be denounced.'
'It was during this expedition that I experienced several narrow escapes of disaster. Our way lay across some of the vast swamps which are encountered on the high tablelands of the Andes, and my guide somehow got us right into the middle of one of these, on to a species of island of unstable matter. There we remained a moment, seeking the way out, whilst the whole " island " slowly began to sink beneath the weight of the mules. One of the pack- - mules, loaded with heavy sacks of mineral samples, broke through the crust and began to sink, the poor beast making frantic endeavours to flounder on towards a rocky promontory some few hundred yards away. But its efforts seemed futile ; it sank deeper at every struggle, and was already up to its knees in the ooze. Dismounting for an instant, I cut the ropes which held its pack, and the sacks soon disappeared below the surface. It seemed that we might all share their fate, for the whole crust of the " island ' was becoming submerged ; the black ooze slowly rising all around. Action was necessary. " Seek a way out at all hazards," I said to the guide ; and that individual, who was, fortunately, accustomed to pass these swamps, applied the spurs to his beast, and leaped towards another island similar to that on which we were, for there ejqisted a series of such at varying distances apart. The guide's mule landed with his fore-feet on the firm part and his hind-legs in the treacherous mud. A few inches less and he would have been lost, but the animal scrambled up and regained its footing. It was my turn now. It was a long leap from such insecure footing. Between, lay the chasm of ooze of unknown depth ; but it was useless to ponder. I drove my spurs into the flanks of my mule — the same good beast I have before described—and he responded nobly, although trembling in every limb with fear and apprehension, for he knew perfectly well the risk he ran. But like a deer he bounded over, and we landed in the middle of the island.'
'It might have been supposed that the day's dangers were now past, but fortune seemed determined to frown upon us still. Having left the swamps behind, the trail wound along a steep hillside, and entered upon the face of a precipice formed of loose and sliding shale, which terminated in a roaring torrent hundreds of feet below. The track or path had been narrowed by the rains and landslips to a width which rendered passage perilous, but—saving the way across the swamp—there was no other route. I had found that my own mule had strained a leg somewhat in the leaping before described, and I had exchanged it for that which my servant had ridden, whilst he mounted the pack-mule. As we were proceeding along the path, with the mule, after the manner of his kind—which seems to prefer the outer edge of a precipice to the inner—walking along with my left leg hanging over the abyss, I suddenly felt his hind-quarters giving way. Now, I am ever prepared for this in such places, and always ride with the outside foot loose in the stirrup, ready for instant dismounting. The habit served me in good stead. In less time than it takes to relate, I had swung from the saddle, as the mule went over the precipice, a part of the road going with him, and leaving me insecurely poised on a narrow ledge of rock. I retained the long bridle in my hand, instinctively ; and as the mule slid slowly downwards amid the dibris, I endeavoured to stay him by pulling gently, hoping he might regain a footing on some rocky prominence. It was useless. The bridle strained to breaking, and pulled me towards the verge. I must let go, or be dragged to destruction. I loosed it. The animal turned with the pressure of the sliding earth ; rolled over and over with gathering impetus amid the shouts of my men, who were in front, and were witnessing the occurrence ; gave a final somersault and disappeared from view, A second later a loud splash in the water below announced its fall, and I discerned its body beihg fast carried away by the whirlpools. I looked around, and only then observed that I was a prisoner on that rocky ledge. The road, both in front and behind, had fallen away; above me was a sheer rock-face ; below, the loose earth and shale still poured gently downwards towards that fatal verge. What if I were to slip? A vertigo seized me. I clutched the rock. Ha !—was I slipping in reality ? I took a last glance at the sky and cliff overhead, my eyes closed — and . . . The tent was comfortably pitched in a green hollow by a clear, trickling stream ; and whilst I lie at ease on my camp-bed after supper, with coffee and cigarettes at hand, and my men smoking contentedly outside by the fire, I will apologise, kind reader, if I have harrowed your feelings in my narration of these truthful chronicles. I did not fall. I conquered the vertigo by an effort of will; took a running jump, passed the chasm between me and the road, and landed safely, and am now as comfortable here as you in your armchair.'
'The icy blast blew through and through us, and the water poured in beneath the bottom edge of the canvas. Just previous to this my mule had slipped and fallen, rolling on to me, not doing me more injury, however, than that of a broken finger : the pain of which by no means detracted from the discomfort which I experienced.'
‘During one journey in the interior I almost starved, as the people would absolutely give nothing; and I was obliged to burst open the door of a hut of forcibly appropriate a basket of eggs, leaving its value in the hands of its protesting owner.’
'I recollect on a certain evening—it was my birthday—in a Peruvian town where I was staying, feeling awfully ennuied. There was no distraction of any kind ; all the good people were shut up in their houses behind the customary barred windows, and for a number of days the band had failed to play, due to the lack of contributors for its support among the inhabitants of the city. Indifferent as the music of these performers was, it would have broken the deadly monotony of the evening, and an idea occurred to me. If the people of the place were too stingy or poor to have the band to-night, I would have it myself, on my own account! To think was to act. I despatched my boy to find the bandmaster, who shortly appeared. " How much will you charge," I asked him, "to play me an hour's retreta in the plaza? " " Four soles, Senior (about eight shillings)," he replied ; and the bargain being struck, he departed to collect his musicians. Having dined, I repaired to the deserted plaza at the hour I had indicated, and took solitary possession in the chair which my servant had brought, and waited for the band. It came. A battered violin, a harp of huge size, and a drum, and a stirring march was whanged and thumped out upon the air. The effect was marked. Doors and lattices were hastily thrown open in the houses adjoining the plaza ; curious persons issued forth, anxious to learn the reason of this unexpected and unannounced retreta ; others followed, a small crowd collected, and soon pretty girls came forth to promenade, asking among themselves who was the cause of the entertainment. Afterwards, when the band made an attempt at " God save the King," they learned that it was provided by the solitary and eccentric Britisher—the stranger within their gates ; and I received various congratulations upon my birthday anniversary. A dance was got up at the house of one of the principal families, which I attended. Some of my men, having imbibed too much chacta in honour of the occasion, made a great disturbance in one of the fondas, or small houses of refreshment; struck a gendarme, who wished to arrest them, and caused a large crowd to collect in the street. The Sub-Prefect, who came to enquire the meaning of the disturbance, was hissed by some of the people—he was not popular—and several arrests followed. I was obliged to go and bail my servant out. So that my innocent endeavour to break the monotony of the evening had the unexpected effect of putting the whole place into an uproar.'
'Looking up I beheld two
isolated balconies opposite each other, and the occupants—some ladies whom I
knew—were making signs to me to approach. I did so, little suspecting
treachery, for as one of them laughingly engaged me in conversation, the
others, without warning, shot out a bucket full of water, which, had it struck
me fairly, would have drenched me from head to foot. This was too much. Even
the sangre fria of an Englishman was aroused, and I decided on
vengeance. Calling some of the boys, who are always about on these occasions
with cloths full of globos for sale, I purchased a large heap of
ammunition, and proceeded to wage a fearful war upon the balconies at both
sides of me, my volleys being hotly replied to by the ladies. Taking careful
aim, I succeeded in scarcely losing a shot, and had the satisfaction of seeing
the globos burst on my fair antagonists' heads or limbs, soaking them
to the skin. The street was narrow, and buckets of water, globos, and
bags of flours, from both sides, freely reached me, with the effect that may
be imagined ; but I waged the single-handed war, until a large crowd collected
in my aid. This, however, seemed ungallant, and I retired, when the ladies
closed the shutters of the balcony windows. I did not mind the wetting. I was
charitable enough to know that I had at least afforded them some sport, for it
was an unfrequented spot, and, indeed, they afterwards informed me that they
had only had the opportunity before my arrival of soaking a few wretched
Indians and a postman, and that when they saw me they were about to send out
their servant to implore me to come and play.
‘The incident reminded me of a former one, wherein I had also been invested with some “holy” attributes. I had at that time a very intelligent mozo, or servant, who was fond of reading, and who had studied the Bible – a rare thing in Spanish-American countries. I had been making endeavours for several days to arrange a certain matter regarding the title to some mines with the owners, who were principally women, and which had been difficult to bring to an end. In conversation with my servant, casually, I mentioned how obstinate these people were. He went out on an errand soon afterwards, and when he returned he informed me that he had sent the women, and that the affair was satisfactorily arranged. “And what have you told them, to cause them to accede?” I asked in surprise. “I said,” he replied gravely, “ladies, you must concede what this gentleman wants, because he is of the same family as Jesus Christ!” Astonished, and almost shocked, at this assertion, I commanded him to explain; which he did by reminding me that my name (Enock) was similar to the Enoch of early Bible history, who was of the line of ancestry of the Holy Family!’
‘The valley below us was filled with a sea of mist, but a sea with a surface on which we looked down as upon an ocean of waters, so sharply defined was it, and so remarkably did the mist-billows roll against the rocky promontories. At length we came down to the surface of this sea –all below being invisible. The road wound along the edge of a precipice, and looking down from my mule upon the mist – I was in advance – I beheld a strange phenomenon. There, a few yards away, was the image of a man mounted upon a beast, and around his head was a glorious halo of rainbow light and colours. It kept pace with me, stopped when I stopped, and moved when I moved. For a moment I was dumfounded, so remarkable was the apparition. I halted, watching it in amaze, and at length the truth flashed upon me. It was an Anthelion – a halo or nimbus projected from my own figure by the rays of the sun upon the mist, and such as occur in Alpine regions and elsewhere. In fact, I recollected having seen the same phenomenon, though far less perfect, in the flying foam at the foot of Niagara falls, years ago. My men came up, and as they approached, wishing to mark the effect upon them of this magical apparition, I bid them halt, and pointed to the precipice. Exclamations of astonishment arose from them. “It is Christ riding upon an ass,” they said; and really the image was very similar to the popular coloured pictures representing Jesus of Nazareth, which are common in Spanish-American countries. The men became quite excited; and one threw himself from his horse in an attitude of adoration. And I thought it time to undeceive them.
“No,” I said, “it is my shadow; the ‘gloria,’ as you call it, is around my head.” “Then,” replied one of them, as they gazed in astonishment at me, “the Senor must be a holy personage,” and they seemed bent – poor fellows – on rendering me some adoration or homage. This was rather embarrassing, and better to explain the matter to them, I said: “Look, I will make it disappear; “ and I advanced away from the edge of the precipice, so that the sun’s rays should no longer project the image upon the mist below. But to my surprise they replied that the halo had not gone; and for a moment I was puzzled. Of course – how stupid! – each head projected a halo! That which I had seen was my own; that which they had seen was not mine, but their own.
‘Now, caves have always had a peculiar attraction for me since, as a boy, I read about Robinson Crusoe’s Cave. You may recollect, good reader, for you have doubtless perused that interesting volume, that when Crusoe discovered his cave he penetrated to the far end of it, and discerned in the gloom a pair of gleaming eyes! But Crusoe was a devout man-rendered so by trial and misfortune; and being perfectly sure that Devil could not lie concealed there, he investigated the matter au fond, and as a result routed out an old goat. So it befel me! Investigating the depth of my cave, I heard in the farthest corner a curious snorting, or breathing, and seemed to discern a dark form, with the occasional gleam as of demoniacal eyes! Have you ever experienced that curious sensation, good reader, when “gooseflesh” covers your body, and the scalp seems to be slowly lifted from your head? I felt it then, and these truthful chronicles must record it. But the feeling of fear, if such it were, was also accompanied by one of anger-a curious psychological combination-and I advanced with cocked carbine slowly towards the object. There was a horrid snort; a bound; a rush, and…..It was nothing more than a wild bull…..’
'But I did once play an old trick on a community of the No hay type—for whose invention I am not responsible, as it is based on an anecdote known to South American travellers. Arriving one evening at a place of the No hay description, with empty saddle-bags, I petitioned the inhabitants for rice, potatoes, fowl, or anything wherewith to make some soup. Useless ; they would not part with anything, either for love or money ; so I bid my servant collect and wash a dozen small, smooth stones. A pot of water had been put on the fire, and—in the presence of several of the villagers who had collected there—I carefully placed the stones therein. When the contents boiled I stirred it vigorously ; and ordering my servant to pour out the "soup," partook thereof with manifest relish, whilst the persons present who stood around, gazed with wondering eyes at this curious performance. "You see," I said, "I am able to dispense with you people's miserable attentions. Behold and taste this excellent sopa de piedras (soup of stones)"—and, suiting the action to the words, I ladled out a cupful and handed it round. The Indians smelt and tasted, and found the mixture excellent, especially with the addition of a little salt and pepper. After concluding my meal, I ostentatiously ordered the stones to be thrown away, and retired into my tent, from an aperture of which I watched the Indians surreptitiously collect them again, and depart to their houses, with the object—as I well knew—of endeavouring to make more of the excellent soup for themselves and their families ! But it transpired that, notwithstanding that they boiled and stirred them vigorously, the water remained clear, and the soup refused to materialise! I did not find it necessary to inform them that at the moment of stirring I had surreptitiously let fall into the pot the contents of a jar of "Liebig's Extract of Beef"! And to this day the people of that place speak of the marvellous sopa de piedras, of which they partook.'
'In considering the
conditions of the Roman Catholic Church in South America, and the priests
which officiate there, the observer should strive to be impartial in his
criticism. It must be borne in mind that the Church is an organisation which
was primarily established for good ; and, really, it is necessary at times to
remind oneself of the fact. It is an organisation with a complicated and
powerful machinery, which, whatever its defects, could not be hastily replaced
by another system, supposing it were suddenly banished. It is, in Peru, a
restraining authority, especially among the semi-savage population of Indians,
and as such performs certain useful functions. It is also the religion of an
intelligent upper class, and as such may not be too hastily considered. As a
restraining and organising device, therefore, exist its principal merits ; and
as a medium of real religious thought and a vehicle for the teachings and
operations of truth and reason, it is perhaps not much more faulty than other
systems in other countries and Churches.'
Lost in the forest.
'The feeling which overtakes the traveller who is lost in a forest, at the moment when he realises it, is hardly describable. Some men have been known to become insane, and to lose their power of reflection altogether, dashing onwards like a frightened horse with no idea save that of instant escape. I retain vivid recollections of losing my way in an almost unknown forest, and of experiencing the exceedingly unpleasant sensation of returning to a spot which seemed familiar—why? because I had left it a few hours ago in endeavouring to find the proper way!'
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Page updated 16th July 2014.