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Title: In the Wilds of South America
Author: Miller, Leo E. (Leo Edward)
Language: English
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IN THE WILDS OF SOUTH AMERICA

[Illustration:

    _From a painting by Louis Agassiz Fuertes._

The cock-of-the-rock at home.]



  IN THE WILDS
  OF SOUTH AMERICA

  SIX YEARS OF EXPLORATION IN
  COLOMBIA, VENEZUELA, BRITISH GUIANA, PERU, BOLIVIA,
  ARGENTINA, PARAGUAY, AND BRAZIL

  BY
  LEO E. MILLER
  OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

  WITH OVER 70 ILLUSTRATIONS AND A MAP

  NEW YORK
  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
  1919



  COPYRIGHT, 1917, 1918, BY
  CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

  Published October, 1918

[Illustration]



  TO
  MY WIFE
  L. E. M.



PREFACE


I have frequently wondered how many of the large number of people who
visit natural-history museums have any conception of the appearance
and actions, in their wilderness homes, of the creatures they see, and
of the experiences of the field-naturalists who visit the little-known
places of the earth in search of them.

My experience as a field-naturalist consists of nearly six years
of almost continuous exploration in South America, and embraces
practically all of the republics of that continent.

The purpose of this narrative is to follow the course of these
explorations into the tropical jungles of the Amazon, Paraguay,
Orinoco, and others of South America’s master rivers, and to the frigid
heights of the snow-crowned Andes.

In these jungles one hears the hoarse cough of the jaguar and the
scream of long-tailed, multicolored macaws as they fly two by two
overhead; the extraordinary chorus of frogs and insects may lull the
weary senses to sleep at nightfall, but the dismal roar of howling
monkeys is sure to awaken one at dawn. To start at the sudden,
long-drawn hiss of a boa or the lightning-like thrust of the terrible
bushmaster, the largest of poisonous snakes, and a creature so deadly
that a man may die within ten minutes after the fatal stroke, and to
shudder as the wild, insane cackle of the wood-rails shatters the
brooding silence of the forest, are merely incidents of the explorer’s
every-day life; and so, too, are visits to deep lagoons teeming with
crocodiles, cannibal fishes, and myriads of water-fowl; lengthy
sojourns in gloomy forests where orchids droop from moss-draped
branches, brilliant butterflies shimmer in the subdued light, and
curious animals live in the eternal shadows; and ascents of the
stupendous mountain ranges where condors soar majestically above
the ruins of Incan greatness. In short, the expeditions recorded in
the book lead through remote wilderness where savage peoples and
little-known animals spend their lives in stealth and vigilance, all
oblivious of the existence of an outer world.

       *       *       *       *       *

The explorations here recounted were undertaken by me as a member or
leader of the following expeditions, all of which were undertaken
under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History, New York
City: Colombia--March, 1911, to September, 1912; Colombia--November,
1914, to April, 1915; Venezuela--November, 1912, to June, 1913;
British Guiana--July to October, 1913; Roosevelt-Rondon South American
Expedition, mostly in Brazil but covering a part of Paraguay, with
stops in Uruguay and Argentina--October, 1913, to June, 1914;
Bolivia--May, 1915, to January, 1916, touching at Panama, Ecuador,
and Peru en route; Argentina--January to September, 1916. The purpose
of these expeditions was to collect birds and mammals; also to study
the fauna in general and to make all possible observations regarding
the flora, topography, climate, and human inhabitants of the regions
visited. The personnel of each expedition is given in the proper place
in the text.

I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to Doctor Frank M. Chapman and
to Colonel Theodore Roosevelt for suggesting and encouraging the
production of this book, also to Mrs. Alice K. Fraser for the great
amount of time and work devoted to typewriting the manuscript.

                        LEO E. MILLER.



CONTENTS


                                 PART I

                                COLOMBIA

  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
      I. BUENAVENTURA TO CALI AND THE CAUCA VALLEY                     3

     II. POPAYÁN AND THE CERRO MUNCHIQUE                              18

    III. THE ANDES SOUTHWEST OF POPAYÁN; CRUISE OF THE “CALDAS”       34

     IV. CARTAGO TO THE PARAMOS OF RUIZ AND SANTA ISABEL              47

      V. THE CHOCÓ COUNTRY ON THE WESTERN COAST OF COLOMBIA           64

     VI. IN QUEST OF THE COCK-OF-THE-ROCK                             76

    VII. CROSSING THE EASTERN ANDES INTO THE CAQUETÁ                  92

   VIII. ACROSS THE ANTIOQUIAN GOLD-FIELDS TO PUERTO VALDIVIA ON
             THE LOWER CAUCA                                         106

     IX. ASCENT OF THE PARAMILLO--COLLECTING ON THE RIO SUCIO        120


                                PART II

                               VENEZUELA

      X. FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES ON THE ORINOCO                        141

     XI. THE MAQUIRITARES’ LAND AND THE UPPER ORINOCO                162

    XII. LIFE IN THE GUIANA WILDS                                    180

   XIII. FIRST WEEKS WITH THE ROOSEVELT SOUTH AMERICAN EXPEDITION    194

    XIV. HUNTING EXCURSIONS ALONG THE UPPER PARAGUAY                 208

     XV. A FORTY DAYS’ RIDE THROUGH WILDEST MATTO GROSSO             223

    XVI. THE DESCENT OF THE RIO GY-PARANÁ                            240

   XVII. DOWN THE COAST OF PERU--LAKE TITICACA AND LA PAZ--THROUGH
             THE ANCIENT INCAN EMPIRE TO COCHABAMBA                  265

  XVIII. CROSSING THE BOLIVIAN HIGHLANDS FROM COCHABAMBA TO THE
             CHAPARÉ                                                 279

    XIX. AMONG THE YURACARÉ INDIANS OF THE RIO CHIMORÉ               303

     XX. THE CACTUS FORESTS OF CENTRAL BOLIVIA--COCHABAMBA TO
             SAMAIPATA                                               321

    XXI. A MULE-BACK JOURNEY ON THE SANTA CRUZ TRAIL TO SUCRE        336

   XXII. SUCRE, THE RIO PILCOMAYO, AND THE UPLAND DESERT TO THE
             ARGENTINE FRONTIER                                      349

  XXIII. BIRD-NESTING IN NORTHWESTERN ARGENTINA                      365

   XXIV. THE CHACO--SUGAR PLANTATIONS AND RICE MARSHES--A SEARCH
             FOR A RARE BIRD                                         378

    XXV. VIZCACHA-HUNTING IN AN ARGENTINE DESERT--GIANT SNAKES       396

   XXVI. THE LAKE REGION OF WESTERN ARGENTINA--THE HEART OF THE
             WINE COUNTRY                                            412

         INDEX                                                       425



ILLUSTRATIONS


  The cock-of-the-rock at home                            _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE
  Buenaventura                                                         4

  Cattle grazing in the Cauca Valley                                  14

  Port of Guanchito                                                   14

  Cerro Munchique                                                     30

  A deserted Indian hut on the Cerro Munchique                        30

  The _Caldas_ fast on a sand-bar in the Cauca River                  44

  Bamboo rafts on the Cauca River                                     44

  The town of Salento                                                 50

  The lake on the paramo of Santa Isabel                              58

  Snow on the paramo of Ruiz                                          58

  Native of Juntas de Tamaná with trail-haunting blacksnake           68

  The author with natives of Juntas de Tamaná                         68

  Nóvita, the largest town in the Chocó                               72

  Threshing wheat                                                     78

  Indian hut in the Valle de las Papas                                78

  The village of Santa Barbara                                        86

  A corner of San Augustin                                            86

  A mountain stream, such as the Rio Naranjos, where the
      cock-of-the-rock spends its existence                           88

  Tree-fern, typical of the Andean forests                            98

  The high, flat-topped panorama of the Andes                        102

  The town of Valdivia                                               108

  The Cauca River at Puerto Valdivia                                 108

  A naturalists’ camp in the forest                                  116

  A native hunter with a red howling monkey                          116

  The porters en route to the Paramillo                              124

  Cuña Indians at Dabeiba                                            124

  Our camp on the Paramillo                                          126

  Dabeiba on the Rio Sucio                                           130

  The village of Maipures                                            156

  The _Hilo de Oro_ at the end of the voyage                         156

  A rubber-camp on the Upper Orinoco                                 170

  Unloading for the portage, Raudal del Muerto                       172

  The Cerro Duida                                                    172

  Wismar on the Demerara River                                       182

  Tumatumari on the Potaro River                                     182

  Camp on the Rio Negro in the Gran Chaco of the Paraguay            200

  Selling oranges in the market at Asuncion                          200

  A street in Buenos Aires                                           204

  Porto Gallileo on the Rio Pilcomayo                                204

  Fort of Coimbra on the Rio Paraguay                                206

  S. S. _Nyoac_ on the Paraguay River                                214

  Corumbá                                                            214

  Colonel Roosevelt in the Brazilian _chapadão_                      226

  A camp in the _chapadão_                                           226

  The Falls of Salto Bello of the Rio Papagayo                       230

  Camp on the Rio da Duvida                                          242

  A rubber-camp on the Rio Gy-Paraná                                 254

  A rubber-camp on the Lower Gy-Paraná                               254

  Country around Arequipa, showing Mount Misti                       268

  The expedition en route via hand-car, Changollo to Arce            268

  An Indian hut in the Yungas of Cochabamba                          288

  The expedition in the Cuchicancha Pass                             292

  Vampire-bat from Todos Santos                                      300

  Tamanduá ant-eater                                                 300

  Yuracarés chewing yucca-roots for making casire                    306

  Yuracaré women and children                                        306

  The great _Puya_, a species of pine growing in the Bolivian Andes
      at an elevation of 13,000 feet                                 324

  The plaza at Mizque                                                326

  Vermejo on the Santa Cruz trail                                    338

  Quechua habitation on the upland desert                            346

  Rio Cachimayo at Peras Pampa, Sucre                                352

  Bridge across the Rio Pilcomayo                                    352

  Quechua Indians wearing the costume used during the reign of the
      Incas, five hundred years ago                                  358

  Ploughing at Rosario de Lerma                                      374

  Tilcara, showing the stream and valley and the snow-capped Andes
      in the distance                                                374

  The lagoon in the Chaco, Embarcacion                               380

  Paramo above Tafí                                                  380

  The great crested tinamou                                          402

  A burrowing owl                                                    402

  Skinning a boa                                                     404

  Boa sunning itself at the entrance to a vizcacha burrow            404

  Oculto, or _Tucotuco_, a rare rodent with mole-like habits         406

  Gray fox, abundant in the semiarid regions                         406

  Long-tailed vizcacha of the high Andes                             410

  Short-tailed vizcacha of the Argentine lowlands                    410

  Rice-fields at the foot of the Andes Mountains, Sarmientos         416


  MAPS

  Sketch map of the south-central part of the Amazon drainage
      system                                                         241

  Routes taken by the author in his South American explorations
                                                  _At end of the volume_



_PART I_

COLOMBIA



CHAPTER I

BUENAVENTURA TO CALI, AND THE CAUCA VALLEY


The voyage from Panama to Buenaventura, the more northern of Colombia’s
two Pacific seaports, requires but two days’ time. Owing to numerous
reefs and rocks that render navigation perilous along the coast of
northwestern South America, it is necessary for ships to sail far out
into the Pacific. Banks of low-hanging fog, encountered at frequent
intervals, add further to the skipper’s difficulties.

The captain of the _Quito_ followed a simple plan for finding port.
It was his custom to steam in a southerly direction about forty-eight
hours, and then head toward the coast. Once in sight of land, there was
little difficulty in getting his bearings, although it frequently meant
steaming back a distance of ten or fifteen miles.

At noon on the second day out we entered what might be called the belt
of perpetual rain, and for three hours water fell in such torrents
that it seemed a solid wall. When the deluge had ceased and the last
wisps of blue-gray vapor melted into oblivion, the shore-line, dim and
distant, could be discerned. The faint outline of a rugged coast became
gradually sharper; jagged rocks, frowning precipices, and dark, gloomy
forests slowly unfolded themselves to the vision. The magnitude of it
all was most impressive.

Then followed a ten-mile sail through the placid water of Buenaventura
Bay. Numberless brown pelicans fished in the shallows while others, in
long files, alternately sailed and flapped through the air on their way
to some isolated nook among the mangroves. The dark, hazy shore-line at
the head of the bay gradually dissolved itself into lines of graceful
cocoanut-palms and low, thatched huts flanked by a seemingly endless
mantle of green. Huge dugout canoes made from logs of great size
swarmed out from the water’s edge, their dusky paddlers vying with one
another in their efforts to be the first to reach the steamer; then
the men quarrelled violently among themselves, and also shouted to the
persons on the deck, soliciting luggage to take ashore. Before long,
trunks were being lowered into some of these wallowing craft while
passengers embarked in others, and the paddle of a mile to shore began.

Unfortunately the tide was ebbing, leaving extensive mud-flats exposed
along the water-front. As there was no pier it was necessary for the
canoemen to carry on their backs the human freight as well as trunks
and other luggage through a wide belt of mud and sand.

Our party consisted of Doctor Frank M. Chapman, curator of birds, of
the American Museum, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and myself. At Buenaventura
we were joined by William Richardson, who had spent many years as a
field-naturalist in Central and South American countries. We were
starting on a zoological expedition--a quest for birds and mammals,
and also to study the country, life-zones, problems of distribution
and many other things inseparable from a biological survey such as we
proposed to make. The original plans of the expedition called for a
rather short stay; but for me, at least, the experience was destined
to cover a period of eighteen months and take me to some of the most
remote and wildest portions of the country.

Viewed from the water, Buenaventura appears most unattractive. The row
of squat, makeshift huts, built on tall poles, extends far beyond the
line of high water; as the tide rises the water swishes and gurgles
underneath the houses and the occupants travel about in canoes. Farther
from the shore the ground is high and the town is more interesting,
though not inviting. The place bears an unenviable reputation. On
account of the superabundant rainfall and hot climate, fevers and other
life-sapping diseases are rife and few foreigners can withstand the
ordeal of a lengthy residence there. This notoriety had reached our
ears long before we embarked on the journey; it was, therefore, with a
feeling of relief that we learned of the departure of a train for the
interior early the next morning.

[Illustration: Buenaventura.]

For a distance of twenty-five miles, after leaving Buenaventura,
nothing was visible but swamps filled with mangrove thickets. Then
the foot-hills of the Andes appeared, the steady climb began and the
character of the vegetation changed. Instead of the low, matted growth
of shrubbery, there grew trees and palms of goodly size. Stops for
wood and water were made frequently; the train usually halted near a
collection of native huts, the occupants of which earned their living
chopping wood for the railroad company. Each habitation was surrounded
by a small clearing in which broad-leaved banana, plantain, and papaya
trees grew in wonderful luxuriance. Jungles of tall bamboo bordered the
plantations and grew beside the track. Plantains and bamboo seem to
be the staples of the people. The former they eat, and of the latter
their houses are built. The flimsy structures were ramshackle affairs
with ragged, thatched roofs, and fitted well into their surroundings.
Frequently we had a fleeting view of the almost nude occupants of the
huts, lolling about in the darkened interior.

The first town of any importance was Cisneros. We were delayed an hour
at this station because the train from the opposite direction had
met with an accident that blocked the track, and, as the people were
celebrating one of their numerous _fiestas_, it was impossible to get
men to clear away the wreckage without great loss of time.

The railroad continued up the slope, following the winding canyon of
the Dagua. It has been said that the cost of constructing it was a
million dollars a mile. Tunnels, deep cuts through spurs and ridges,
trestles and high bridges followed one another in quick succession.
The perpendicular sides of the excavations were covered with long moss
and drooping ferns that waved plume-like overhead. Mountain torrents
poured their crystal streams from openings in overgrown crevices and
were dashed to spray on the rocks below. Hundreds of feet lower down,
the Dagua raged within the narrow confines of a rock-bound gorge. Thick
jungles, dark and impenetrable, cover the slopes. We were conscious
of the perfume of flowers concealed amid the forbidding masses of
deepest green. An iguana, fully four feet long and of a bright green
color dashed across the track a few feet ahead of the puffing engine;
a moment later and the beautiful creature would have been crushed to
death. Overhead, flocks of parrots screamed defiance at the lowly,
wheezing thing that laboriously made its way farther and farther into
their time-hallowed abode; and toucans, clattering their long bills
and yelping, performed queer acrobatics in a lofty tree-top. A violent
lunge recalled us to earth; the train had stopped for more fuel so the
passengers got out and amused themselves touching the sensitive-plants
that grew abundantly along the road-bed.

Not long afterward we emerged suddenly into a peculiar region.
There was an abrupt end to the gloomy forest, and in its place grew
straggling clumps of giant cacti. The dividing-line is as sharp as if
cut with a knife. The fauna also is different; instead of brilliantly
hued tanagers, trogons and toucans, there are wrens, finches, and other
birds of sombre color. This desert-like belt continued for a distance
of some miles, and then forest again appeared, on the top only of the
ridges, at first, but gradually extending downward until the slopes
were entirely covered.

Caldas, the terminus of the railroad, was reached at noon and, after a
good deal of bargaining, the proprietor of the Hotel del Valle provided
us with a room containing four bare, wooden beds; but fortunately our
blanket-bags had come with us, so we rather rejoiced that no bedding
was provided by the innkeeper. The buildings comprising the town are
scattered here and there in small groups, making it difficult to get a
comprehensive idea of their number. The first impression suggests that
there is a population of a few hundred only, when it is really several
thousand. At this time (April, 1911) Caldas was an attractive spot,
as its elevation is two thousand feet, and the country immediately
surrounding it is open; but in recent years sufferers from malaria,
yellow fever, and other diseases have gone there from Buenaventura to
recuperate, and have left the several maladies firmly implanted in the
entire region, making it most unhealthful.

A small tent-show was playing at Caldas, and as this was a most unusual
occurrence it created a certain amount of furor among the people. It
rained heavily the greater part of the afternoon, but darkness had
scarcely crept up from the lowland when troops of people, each one
carrying a chair or box to sit on, came tramping from all directions,
their bare feet making swishing and gurgling sounds as they plodded
through mud and water. The elite--even Caldas boasts of a high-class
social set--arrived later and stood during practically the entire
performance in order to be the better seen and admired by the “common”
people.

So far, Richardson had acted as cashier for the party, and it was
rather startling to see entries in his journal such as “lunch, $200.00;
railroad-tickets, $2,000.00; oranges, $15.00.” The Colombian dollar, or
_peso_, had depreciated in value until it was worth exactly one cent in
United States currency. Practically all the money in circulation was in
bills of from one to one hundred pesos, the former predominating. If
one had only a hundred one-peso notes, equalling an American dollar,
they made quite a bulky parcel; for this reason all the men carry large
leather pocketbooks attached to a strap slung across the shoulder, and
quite incidentally these containers also hold cigars, matches, and
various other little articles dear to the hearts of their owners.

Richardson had arranged for _arrieros_ and a caravan of pack-mules to
meet us early the following morning, but it was almost noon when they
appeared. We were in the land of _mañana_, but had not as yet learned
to curb our impatience at the hundred and one exasperating things that
were constantly cropping out to impede our progress or upset our plans.
One of the first things the visitor to Latin-America must learn is to
take things good-naturedly and as easily as possible. If one employs
servants regularly it is possible to correct many of their customs that
are so annoying to the North American; but the countries, as a whole,
cannot be reformed by any one in a single day, and the person who takes
things too seriously either lacks a sense of humor or conveys the
impression that he is very foolish.

Some of the mules were saddled for riding, while others were equipped
with thick pack-saddles made of burlap stuffed with straw. Bags and
trunks were brought out, sorted as to weight, and then loaded on the
pack-mules, being held in place one on either side of the animal with
cowhide thongs. Each mule carried about two hundred and fifty pounds.
While adjusting cargoes, the _arrieros_, or drivers, place their poncho
over the mules’ eyes; otherwise they would not stand for the rather
rough treatment to which they are subjected.

The road was fairly wide and good. It followed along the gorge of the
Dagua, now a small stream. Within a few hours the village of El Carmen
was reached and we dismounted to await the pack-train and incidentally
to have lunch at the posada, and to see a cock-fight, for the fiesta of
yesterday was still in progress in the rural districts.

We climbed slowly and steadily upward. At fifty-five hundred feet the
zone of clouds and vapor appeared; trees, rocks, in fact everything
seemed unreal and ghost-like, enveloped in the thick, blue-gray haze
that penetrated clothing and sent a piercing chill to the very marrow.
Darkness was fast approaching, so we stopped at a wayside hut called
El Tigre for the night. The house was damp and cold, as might have
been expected, and its occupants were practically without food. A
profusion of vegetation grew in the yard; there were roses, geraniums,
hibiscus, and hydrangeas growing everywhere; monstrous ferns with
lace-like leaves formed a thick, velvety background for the brilliant,
many-colored blooms. In the garden, blackberries, strawberries,
cabbages, coffee, and an edible tuber called _aracacha_ grew; there
were also a few stunted banana and plantain stalks, but on account of
the cold climate it requires two years for them to mature, and the
fruit is small and of poor quality.

Thanks to an early start on the following morning, we reached the
summit of the range, or the Cordillera Occidental, as it is better
known, by ten o’clock. The whole slopes are covered with the densest of
subtropical jungles. A steady downpour had fallen the entire morning,
against which _ponchos_ availed little. A halt of two hours was
therefore called at a rather cheerless inn just beyond the pass, named
San Antonio; the _señora_ who conducted the establishment was glad to
see us, for Richardson had apprised her of our coming; she soon had
plantains roasting on the embers, and her shop provided sardines for
lunch.

The descent of the eastern slope now began. The trail narrowed down and
was rough; in places the decline was 45°. On both sides rose the living
walls of impenetrable, gloomy jungle. One thing could not fail to
impress us, and that was the great, breathless silence of the forest.
Where we had expected to find multitudes of gorgeous birds, a babble of
animal voices and brilliant flowers, there was only the sombre, silent
mass of unvaried green. Within two hours we had left the regions of
cold and penetrating mists. For the first time we beheld the beautiful
valley of the Cauca far below, spread before our vision like a velvet
carpet of softest green that reached the very foot-hills of the Central
Range not less than forty miles distant.

The steady, rhythmic skuff of bare or sandal-shod feet, mingled with
the louder tramp of mules and discordant cries of the _arrieros_, now
reached our ears at frequent intervals, to be followed shortly by the
appearance of pack-trains heavily laden with coffee and hides as they
swung around a bend in the narrow mountain trail, and we knew that the
end of our journey, at least for the present, was near.

Downward we rode, always downward, with the valley still several
hundreds of feet below, and the mountains towering thousands of feet in
the rear.

Here and there a bit of humanity flashed into view near one of the
lonely _haciendas_ snugly nestling in some seemingly inaccessible niche
in the mountainside. To our right, a solitary monastery perched upon
a barren peak, with its separate narrow trail leading from the dizzy
height and winding its tortuous course along the jutting precipice
until lost in the filmy haze.

Ahead, a black mass that dissolved itself into one immense flock of
vultures appeared on the landscape. This was their season of harvest
and the quarrelsome scavengers were reluctant to leave their repast--an
unfortunate burro that had been abandoned on the trail.

With a feeling of repugnance, we spurred our horses on to greater
effort, and at last our anticipations were realized as, rounding an
abrupt point, we beheld Cali directly at our feet. A half-hour later we
had clattered through a green arch formed by four magnificent ceibas
that stood like sentinels guarding the approach to the city, crossed
the bridge spanning the Rio Cali, wended our way up the stone-paved
streets, and drawn rein in the _patio_ of the Hotel Central.

Cali is a typical Colombian city. At first the uniformly low,
whitewashed buildings with barred windows, thick adobe walls, and
pretty _patios_, or inner courts, thrust themselves forcibly upon
the attention, on account of the sharp contrast to the style of
architecture to which the American is accustomed; but later one accepts
them as a matter of course quite in harmony with the monotonous and
easy-going life of most Latin-American cities.

There is nothing particularly modern about Cali; but the city is
interesting, perhaps for that very reason. I saw not a single chimney,
nor was there a pane of glass anywhere except in the huge cathedral
facing the verdure-laden plaza. Churches are numerous, of massive
construction, and built in Spanish style. The bells, of which there
are many, are suspended in open niches in the towers, covered with
verdigris, and keep up an almost continuous clanging.

The streets are narrow and crooked. A stream of water flows through the
centre of some of them; this serves both purposes--as a kind of sewage
system and also to supply water for various needs, although there is a
system of piping in some of the houses, and fountains on a few street
corners supply drinking-water to those who care to fetch it. I have
seen, on several occasions, children attempting to bathe in the little
stream; a short distance below, ducks were swimming in the water; then
a person stepping from one of the doorways threw a pailful of garbage
into it; finally, some one stepped out and unconcernedly dipped up a
pitcherful of the water and took it indoors.

It is quite unusual to see any of the women of the upper class on the
streets during the daytime, except on special occasions, or while
they are on their way to and from church. They remain secluded in
their homes, safe from the gaze of vulgar eyes. Embroidering and music
are the chief diversions, and a large number of them are really very
accomplished in both lines. It was remarkable to notice how many pianos
there were, when we consider that each instrument had to be brought
over the Andes slung on poles and carried by mules.

Practically all work is performed by people of the lower class.
They toil day and night and, in most instances, for very little
remuneration. One may see them engaged in various occupations at all
hours of the day; but during the early hours of the morning, long files
wend their way down the streets with the public market-place as the
point of focus. The huge brick structure is a busy place. It reminds
one of an ants’ nest with its incoming and departing swarms. Inside the
building are rows and heaps of fruit, vegetables, meat, bread, and many
other articles. A motley crowd of women fills the place to overflowing;
each carries a basket, or wooden tray, on her head into which the
purchases are placed, when, after an indefinite amount of bargaining
and haggling, they have been consummated. Invariably each receptacle
contains a curious collection; a number of green and ripe plantains; a
slice of pumpkin; a pepper, garlic, and a tomato; a chunk of meat, and
a papaya. Perhaps there may also be a bunch of _yerba buena_ and some
achiote seeds with which to give a spicy flavor and yellow color to the
soup; but these condiments are, unfortunately, used in such quantities
that a goodly supply is usually kept on hand even when there is no
other food in the house.

The nights are delightful in Cali. A refreshing wind springs up soon
after sundown; the military band plays in the plaza, lights twinkle and
the breeze sighs through the royal palms and orange-trees scattering
broadcast snowy petals and heavy perfume. Only the _gente_ are admitted
into this little fairy-land. Gayly dressed and highly-rouged women,
clothed in the extreme of fashion, parade along the winding walks; but
it is considered in bad taste for them to appear without an escort. The
poorer class, ragged and barefooted, gathers outside the iron fence
and peers through the bars; the children run and play noisily on the
neighboring streets. At last the bells in the cathedral boom the hour
of ten; the band plays the national anthem, when every one stands, the
men with uncovered heads. Then the crowd disperses quietly and orderly.
Soon the town is wrapped in slumber with only the sighing wind and
the occasional shrill blasts of police whistles to disturb the drowsy
solitude.

It was said, that Cali had a population of forty thousand, but that
figure doubtless included the populace of the suburban districts for a
considerable distance. The city is bound to grow, however, on account
of its favorable location in the fertile Cauca Valley, which is one of
the garden spots of all South America.

The Cauca River is about four miles distant from the city, and the
settlement of Guanchito is located on the river-bank. A little toy-like
train makes frequent trips back and forth between the two points
because the _puerto_, as Guanchito is commonly called, is of real
importance. Steamers and launches from Cartago take on and discharge
passengers and freight, and many rafts laden with green plantains and
produce arrive daily. The village presents a scene of great activity
during the morning hours; clusters of ragged little booths, like
mushrooms, have sprung up during the hours of darkness where women,
squatting under the shambling shelters, cook _sancocho_ over charcoal
braziers; files of _peons_ hurry back and forth as they transfer the
cargoes from rafts and canoes to the waiting freight-cars; and there
is a great deal of good-natured raillery between the slovenly _mozos_
who liberally patronize the eating and drinking places, and the
stand-keepers who feign an air of coyness withal. Gradually, as the sun
mounts higher the crowds grow thinner. Their morning’s work over, the
people either depart via the waterway they had come, or take the train
back to Cali.

An interesting ferry service is maintained at Guanchito. A stout steel
cable has been strung across the river, and to a pulley running along
it, two chains are fastened, their other ends being tied to either end
of the boat. The latter is a huge, flat-bottomed affair, capable of
holding many people and horses. Before starting across, the up-stream
chain is shortened, so that the side of the boat presents a sharp angle
to the current, and the craft is speedily pushed to the other side of
the river.

Extensive marshes border the Cauca, a short distance above Guanchito.
During the rainy season the water spreads over many miles of land,
and is very deep; but in the dry season it recedes rapidly leaving a
number of shallow and well-defined marshes and ponds. Wildfowl gathers
in great numbers to spend the hottest months in these friendly havens.
There were ducks of a number of species, including tree-ducks that
make a shrill, whistling noise as they speed by and then drop on
the ground near the marsh, to stand motionless and on the alert for
possible danger before plunging into the water. Great gray herons
croaked and waded sedately among the rushes, spearing frogs and fish
as they went along. The horned screamer--a bird the size of a large
turkey--is also an inhabitant of the marshes. It has rather long, but
thick legs, that enable it to wade into fairly deep water, but also
swims to floating islands of succulent water-plants which form a part
of its food. The bird’s color is slaty black, the back being glossy;
the belly is white; a horn, or caruncle, several inches long grows from
the forehead and curves forward. The feathers are soft, and the tissues
for half an inch under the skin are filled with air spaces; the natives
say that this protects the bird from the bites of poisonous snakes,
and it is not impossible that this pneumatic cushion could serve such
a purpose, although it is hardly probable. The most remarkable thing
about the bird, however, is its voice. Usually a pair sing together;
they walk slowly back and forth, throw the head over the back, and
emit powerful hoots, booms, and long-drawn, clear, ringing notes that,
while harmonious and not unmusical, are nevertheless touched with
pathos and conjure in one’s imagination a picture of some trammelled
spirit of the wild yearning for redemption. Numerous small birds,
mainly tyrant-flycatchers inhabit the thorny thickets growing out of
the water, and build their huge grass nests within the safe barrier of
thorn-armed branches.

The surrounding country of the Cauca Valley is fertile and productive
of most of the things essential to the support of a contented and
thriving populace. A great deal of the land is used for grazing cattle
and horses, but it will soon become too valuable to use for this
purpose on account of the limited amount available. A far greater
revenue can be derived through cultivation.

[Illustration: Cattle grazing in the Cauca Valley.]

[Illustration: Port of Guanchito.]

We paid a visit to a large sugar estate called La Manuelita, near
the town of Palmira. La Manuelita is a little world of its own; it
comprises fifteen hundred acres of the most fertile and attractive
part of the valley. The ranch-house, occupying a site in the centre, is
a rambling two-story building of generous proportions and attractive
appearance. The gardens, surrounding it with a riot of color, give
it a quaint, old-fashioned charm; there has been no studied effect,
no precision in the arrangement of plants or flowers; oleanders,
roses, hibiscus, geraniums, and hollyhocks grow in matted profusion.
Clumps of magnolias, chinaberries and oranges conceal the high stone
fence. Immediately without the wall surrounding the house is the
_peon_ village consisting of some fifty-odd houses of uniform size and
appearance, and the sugar-factory. The _peons_ are of Spanish, Indian,
and negro blood, or of a mixture of any two or all three, and require
constant supervision to secure the best results.

All the land is under cultivation, mostly in cane, for the production
of which it is well suited. The soil is a rich alluvial loam. Some of
the cane-fields at La Manuelita had not been replanted in ninety years;
others on the estate of William Barney, former United States consul in
Cali, had been producing one hundred and twenty years, and were still
yielding eighty tons or more of cane to the acre. It was said, and
all indications substantiate the report, that the entire region was
at one time covered by a great lake! This accounts for the continued
productiveness of the soil.

Cane grows to a height of fifteen feet, there being a dozen or more
stalks to each hill. It requires eight to ten months to mature. The
fields are divided into sections and cut at different intervals so as
to provide a succession of ripe cane for the mill, and furnish steady
employment for the several hundred _peons_.

The factory is modern in nearly every respect; its capacity is from
five to eight tons of sugar daily, of good quality. It required a
number of years to bring the heavy machinery over the mountains from
Buenaventura. The more cumbersome pieces were slowly drawn up the steep
slopes with the aid of block and tackle and oxen; the apparatus was so
arranged that the animals could walk down-hill as they pulled, adding
greatly to their efficiency. It is necessary to carry a complete stock
of duplicate machinery to use in case of an accident; otherwise the
factory might have to shut down a year or two while some badly needed
article was being secured from abroad.

Nearly all machinery is ordered from London, as it can be had more
quickly and better packed than from the United States. I heard
this same statement in various parts of South America. Although
manufacturers were beginning to realize that in order to do business
successfully in South America, they must first make a study of general
conditions, they have not done so in the past, with the natural result
that the bulk of Latin-American commerce has been done with the Old
World. It is frequently necessary to ship merchandise on mule-back,
or in small river-craft a distance of many days after its arrival
at a port and before it reaches its destination; it is exposed to
varying weather conditions--great heat and heavy rains; the treatment
it receives is of necessity very rough. All this means that packing
must have been done with great care and in a special manner. The fact
that we have not adopted the metric system, and that there have been
practically no American banks to discount bills, have been further
drawbacks to the establishment of extensive trade relations between the
two peoples.

Perhaps the most attractive thing of all about the Cauca Valley is its
climate. A record of the temperature kept at La Manuelita during a
period of ten years shows the greatest uniformity. The difference in
the average weekly temperature is only 6° the year around.

A belt of tall bamboo entirely surrounds the _hacienda_; the giant
stalks of steel-like toughness are armed with long, murderous thorns
and form an interlocking mass that is absolutely impenetrable to man.
Contrary to our expectations, birds were not plentiful in this land
of tangled verdure. A few nighthawks dozed on the ground in the deep
shade, and an occasional yellow-headed caracara (_Milvago chimachima_)
that, perched on the tip of a swaying stalk, gave vent to its feelings
in a succession of shrill, long-drawn screams.

Farther away, where clumps of woods grew, birds were more plentiful.
There were many red-fronted parrakeets nesting in holes in dead stubs.
Red-headed woodpeckers (_Chrysoptilus p. striatigularis_) in numbers
hammered on hollow trunks; the strokes are so rapid that the sound
resembles the roll of a snare-drum. Pigmy woodpeckers (_Picumnus_) no
larger than a good-sized humming-bird, worked industriously on the
smaller branches. They are obscurely marked mites of feathered energy,
of a dark olive color with a few red dots on top of the blackish head.
When the nesting season arrives a tiny cavity is excavated in some
partially decayed limb in which two round, white eggs are deposited.
These birds are nearly always found in pairs, and when the young leave
the nest they accompany the parents, forming small family parties that
forage for minute insects among the crevices of rough bark and in
decayed wood.

Occasionally it seemed as if we were not so far from our northern
home after all; for along the edges of the numerous marshes ran an
old acquaintance--the spotted sandpiper. In the reeds yellow-headed
blackbirds chirped and fluttered; but they are slightly smaller than
the North American birds and have even been placed in a different genus
(_Agelaius_). By walking quietly it was also possible to surprise
a deer that had been tempted far from cover by the prospects of a
luscious breakfast in some little plantation. These animals are so
greatly persecuted that they make off at the first sign of danger.



CHAPTER II

POPAYÁN AND THE CERRO MUNCHIQUE


After spending a few weeks in and about the Cauca Valley, Richardson
and I started southward, while the two other members of the expedition
began the homeward journey. I had looked forward very eagerly to my
visit to southern Colombia because I knew that the country, towns,
and even the people were different from those we had seen heretofore.
But, above all, because ahead of us lay a vast region little known
zoologically, and we hoped to penetrate into at least the mountain
fastnesses west of Popayán in our insatiable search for the rare and
interesting wild life that haunted that remote wilderness.

We left Cali at noon, May 13, well provided with riding and pack
animals, and half-breed _arrieros_, and started on the well-beaten
trail that leads toward the south.

At first there was no appreciable change in the valley, but by degrees
the stretches of absolutely level-appearing land increased in size;
instead of extensive cultivated areas there were pastures of large
size, covered with a luxuriant growth of grass. Thousands of head of
cattle were sprinkled over the velvety turf. We rode an hour through
one of these ranches just before reaching the river Jamundi. This
estate is the property of one Angel Mario Borreo, who is reported to be
one of the most influential men in the Department of Cauca, and is only
one of his sixteen similar holdings.

The Jamundi is not over one hundred and fifty feet wide at the point of
crossing, and is spanned by a steel and brick bridge; dense jungles of
bamboo line both banks. Just beyond lies the little town bearing the
same name.

A tent-show had been billed to appear here at some time within the near
future, and the arrival of our pack-train was mistaken for that eagerly
awaited event. The news spread rapidly and before long the populace had
turned out en masse in the hope of getting a glimpse at the wonders our
trunks and duffel-bags were supposed to contain. Not until we had taken
refuge in the little _posada_ or inn could they be convinced of their
error and induced to return to their homes; but another surprise was in
store for us.

The many and enervating tasks of the day called for our early
retirement, and eight o’clock found us in our cots. Great was our
surprise to be awakened an hour later by the sound of music at our very
door. One of our men was sent to the door to learn the cause of the
serenade and was told that the mayor of the town, with a delegation
of the chief officials and the band, had come to pay us a visit. Of
course, there was but one thing to do, and half an hour later found
us out on the special seats that had been prepared, in full view of
the visitors and perhaps half of the villagers who had accompanied
them. Then followed speeches, singing, music, and a few native dances,
interspersed with short intervals for smoking, drinking (a goodly
supply of _aguardiente_ had been brought along), and conversation.
The visitors remained until one in the morning; a rather lengthy
call, to be sure, but a pleasant one, and quite characteristic of the
friendliness of the Colombians.

The next day’s ride of ten hours’ duration brought us to Buenos Aires,
a very pretty little town nestling among and almost obscured by gardens
of flowers and orchards of fruit.

A heavy rain during the night had filled all the sink-holes in the road
with water, making progress slow on the following day. We rounded Mount
Saint Ignacio early in the morning, and shortly after had our first
view of the volcano Purace; we were to learn more of this mountain in
the not distant future. Soon after, the _lomas_ or great barren hills
appeared; they form a kind of connecting-link between the Coast and
Central Ranges. These gently rounded mounds are bare except for a kind
of worthless, wiry grass that in some unaccountable way draws enough
sustenance from the red-clay soil to maintain its meagre growth. These
hills gradually increase in height, but the ascent is by such slow
degrees that one is scarcely conscious of any rise at all. There are
few houses, and the small number of inhabitants seem to be as sallow
and lifeless as the hills themselves. A party of people had gathered
at one of the Philippine-like structures near the roadside; they were
chatting excitedly and drinking a good deal of _chicha_. When we
dismounted we found that a child had died and was being prepared for
burial. It sat propped up in a small, rudely made chair, covered with a
piece of white cloth. No one seemed greatly concerned over the death,
least of all the parents; on the contrary, they were proud of the
_angelito_, and of the attention the event attracted from the people of
the neighboring country.

In perfect accord with our expectations, there was little bird-life on
the cheerless _lomas_. A few blue tanagers and _Veinte-vi_ flycatchers
(_Pitangus_) lived in the bushes that lined the infrequent rivulets
trickling through narrow gullies between the hills. The _Veinte-vi_ was
an old acquaintance; its cheery call is one of the first bird-notes to
greet the ear of the visitor to tropical South America. Its local name
varies with the locality, and is an attempt by the natives to imitate
the bird’s cry. Thus it ranges from _Kiss-ka-dee_ and _Veinte-vi_
to _Dios te di_ and _Christi fui_. This flycatcher is of a rather
vivacious disposition, and pairs of them frequently may be seen singing
together and beating their wings on the branches.

As a general rule these birds are of peaceful habits, except when
nesting; but I have frequently seen them in pursuit of a carrion hawk
at which they darted viciously and continued to follow until lost to
view.

The diet of the _Veinte-vi_ is varied, and the bird is most versatile
in capturing its prey. Thus it will sit on a perch above a brook and
plunge in after small fish or tadpoles, somewhat in the manner of a
kingfisher; it may hover over a field and drop upon an unsuspicious
mouse, lizard, or small snake; beetles, grasshoppers, and other insects
are overtaken and captured on the wing. When a victim of some size has
been captured, it is beaten rapidly upon a branch until its life is
hammered out. It also hops about in fields looking for worms and grubs.

The nest is a huge domed structure, made of grasses and often wool, and
placed in the branches of a tree six to fifteen feet up. Entrance is
gained through an opening in one side, near the top. On account of the
great size of the structure, being about twelve or fifteen inches high
and eight to ten inches thick, it is very conspicuous; the exterior is
carelessly made, with grasses and streamers of nesting material hanging
down on all sides.

The eggs, two to five in number, although four seem to constitute the
usual set, are long and pointed, cream-colored, and lightly spotted
with chocolate-brown and purple blotches--mostly on the larger end.

Besides these species, there were ground-doves, lapwings, and an
occasional sparrow-hawk. The latter is so similar to our common little
terror of the air that it is hard to distinguish between the two.

Shortly after noon we encountered one of the most terrific tropical
storms imaginable. Hour after hour a perfect deluge of rain poured down
upon us from which rubber _ponchos_ afforded little protection. Flashes
of lightning pierced the semiblackness with blinding shafts of light,
followed by deafening crashes of thunder--an indication that we were
approaching the high zone of bleak mountain slopes and paramos.

That night we reached Morales, at an elevation of five thousand nine
hundred feet. Fortunately there was no demonstration of any kind to
interfere with our much-needed rest. Early the next morning, however,
we experienced the thrill inseparably linked with the sudden display
of one of those hidden forces of nature that forever and inalterably
control our destiny.

From out of the gray and penetrating mist that seemed to envelop
all the world there rose a low, ominous rumbling, distant, yet of
thunderous volume; and the mud-walled, grass-thatched inn shuddered
violently in unison with the trembling earth.

Through the open door of the adjoining room I heard the scratching
of matches and saw the flicker of yellow light reflected on the
whitewashed wall. A moment later the pious _señora_, surrounded by her
little ones, was kneeling before the shrine of the Virgin, chanting
a litany in low, monotonous tones. Two tapers flickered hazily. The
gaudy tinsel flowers that decked the image gleamed in the uncertain
light, but the pitiful squalor, ignorance, and general misery of the
surroundings were mercifully left in darkness.

Without, all was silent, save for the barking of a pack of stray
mongrels which had been asleep on the door-steps of Morales. The
village again slumbered, and the chill, damp fog clung to the earth.

Alone I made my way up the only street, through the mud, to the
eminence on which the adobe church stands, overlooking the valley and
affording a view of the tremendous range on each side; for it was
nearly the hour of daybreak and the sun rising above the lofty peaks of
the Andes presents a scene of matchless beauty.

With the first faint glow of light in the east the banks of vapor
became dissipated and gradually disappeared. Peak after peak reared
its head above the ocean of snowy whiteness. First of all was Purace,
the hoary monarch that dominates the southern part of the Cordillera
Central and spreads terror through the land with threats and warnings
similar to those we had just experienced. This great volcano has been
active for untold ages. A huge column of smoke and vapor ascends
continually straight into the clouds, and this, reflecting the light
of the rising sun, makes a magnificent picture. Occasionally at
night the eternal fires within the gaping crater may be seen tinting
the low-hanging clouds and the snow that crowns the summit, fourteen
thousand five hundred feet high, with rosy red. All about, the great
barren lomas are strewn with black boulders, some of immense size,
that serve to remind the wayfarer of the cataclysms of bygone ages.
Everywhere they dot the hillsides and tower above the trail that winds
among them.

Just below rises the silent mass of Sotará, crowned with the snow of
centuries; the precipitous slopes are seamed and worn by the frequent
slides of ice and stones from above, and deep, snow-filled gashes
extend far down below the glittering dome in a ragged fringe. At night
the moonlight steals softly up the frigid heights and reverently bathes
the ancient head in a halo of dazzling splendor.

As the sun mounted higher and higher the peaks of the Western
Range appeared one by one, like islands in mid-ocean, led by the
awe-inspiring Munchique and followed by his lesser satellites. Between
the two ranges, in the fruitful valley of the Cauca, Popayán still
slumbered beneath a blanket of billowy softness.

By six o’clock the _arrieros_ had corralled the mules and
riding-horses, and half an hour later we were on the march.

Replacing the dry and barren _lomas_, we now found a bush-covered
country with occasional long strips of low forest in the hollows; but
the trail was an exceedingly difficult one, owing to the rocky nature
of the country and the great boulders that obstruct the way. Frequently
a small stream had to be crossed, such as the Rio Piendano, which is
spanned by an arched bridge built of large, hand-made bricks, a curious
relic of olden Spanish days. Down goes the trail five hundred feet
or more at an angle of forty-five degrees, and then up again on the
other side, the mules snorting and puffing as they creep along at a
snail’s pace. All the rivers seem to flow through deep gorges. Only
sure-footed mules are of service on this trail, each carrying not more
than two hundred pounds.

The distance from Morales to Popayán is not great; without cargo-mules
it is an easy day’s ride, but with a caravan of tired, heavily laden
animals that have come all the way from Cali it is the part of wisdom
to spend the night at the little _posada_ La Venta and ride into the
city early the next morning. Here a room and a good meal can usually
be had on short notice, but one must carry his own cot and bedding, as
luxuries of this kind are not furnished in Colombian inns except in the
larger cities.

We were up and on our way early the next morning, for it was
market-day--the day when the inhabitants from miles around flock to
the city to buy and sell and to have a good time generally. It was our
first visit and we could not afford to miss such an interesting and
typical sight.

While still several miles distant from Popayán we began to meet small
parties of Indians that dotted the trail, slowly wending their way
toward the Mecca of the Upper Cauca. By the time we had reached Belen,
a settlement of about twenty houses, the trail had widened into a
beautiful thoroughfare and was crowded with oncoming hordes. These
Indians are probably descendants of the ancient Guanacas, while some
are doubtless the offspring of the tribe of Paeces which inhabits the
Cordillera Central to the north. Many, no doubt, still preserve the
original purity of the old stock, but the vast majority have mingled
and intermarried with the native Colombians until one finds every
possible stage of intergradation.

Before us passed the motliest crowd imaginable, each bearing the fruit
of his toil, to be appraised and sold in the public plaza. There were
small family parties, the man leading a decrepit mule that threatened
to collapse at every step, laden with fruit and vegetables, fire-wood,
hemp ropes and bags, calabashes, pottery, or any one of a hundred
different things. The wife, acting as auxiliary beast of burden,
carried the surplus. A band passed over the forehead supported the
heavy pack; usually a small child was carried in a sling at her side,
while several larger children clung to her skirt or trudged behind. As
she walked she worked, spinning from a bunch of wool or cotton tucked
under her arm, the spindle, a sharpened stick with a potato stuck on
the end, dangling from her hands. The most characteristic occupation of
the women is the making of small fibre bags, or _muchilas_, from hempen
cord. They are meshed entirely by hand as the overburdened worker trots
along, and when completed somewhat resemble a lady’s shopping-bag. If
the meshes are close it requires weeks to finish one which would fetch
forty or fifty cents.

The men are dressed in loose white-cotton trousers that come below the
knee; then there is the inevitable square of homespun woollen cloth,
usually brownish, gray, or blue, called _ruana_; the head is thrust
through a hole in the centre so that it drapes down to the waist,
the corners often touching the ground and giving the same effect as
the toga of a Roman senator. At night the _ruana_ takes the place
of a blanket under which the whole family sleeps. A broad-brimmed,
high-crowned straw hat completes the outfit. The women are fond of
dark-blue skirts (also the product of their industry), pink waists, and
shawls of almost any color so long as they have fringes. Their hats
are similar to those worn by the men. The feet of both sexes are, of
course, bare.

Half an hour after leaving Belen we were cantering across the great
brick bridge that spans the Cauca and forms the entrance to Popayán.
This bridge is really a marvel of ancient Spanish architecture, five
hundred feet long, forty feet wide, and supported by a series of arches.

Popayán is one of the oldest and most picturesque of Spanish-American
cities, though by no means the largest. I doubt if its population
exceeds ten thousand. The early history of the city is full of
interest, and from it one gains an insight into the conditions
attendant upon the conquest and colonization of a large part of
South America. Spurred on by the love of adventure and the lust for
treasure, the _Conquistadores_ overran vast portions of the continent,
establishing depots here and there from which they could start anew in
search of El Dorado, which they were destined never to find. In this
manner Popayán was founded in the year 1536 by Sebastian de Belalcazar,
the son of a peasant from the border of Estremadura and Andalusia, in
the south of Spain.

After founding Popayán, Belalcazar extended his raids down the river
and formed the settlement which to-day is Cali, the largest and most
important city in the Cauca. Being a fair example of the usual type
of Conquistador, he showed no mercy toward the Indians, but nearly
exterminated them; the country which had been a fruitful province was
turned into a famine-stricken waste. In the meantime Pizarro had sent
an officer, Lorenzo de Aldana, to arrest his erstwhile lieutenant; but
Belalcazar, satisfied with his conquests, set sail for Spain in 1539
for the purpose of securing a charter before he could be apprehended.

The city lies high up on the level plain, more than six thousand feet
above the sea, surrounded by rugged peaks, some snow-capped, others
unbridled as yet by the hand of time, presaging catastrophe and
disaster; and still others covered with impenetrable growths of virgin
forest, untrodden by human foot, and known only to the wild creatures
that lurk within the dark recesses. Above all hang the fleecy clouds
that encircle the lofty pinnacles, dip low to meet the earth, and
then vanish again into space. About the city prevails an air of calm
repose; an air of sanctity and mysticism that radiates into every nook
and corner, permeating every fibre. The city is famous as a centre
of learning. Its colleges and university, conducted by the Order of
Maristas, attract the youths from all parts of the country. There
are numerous old churches, all very ancient, the gilded interiors
rankling with the damp of untold years. Bells of antique workmanship,
and covered with verdigris, dangle in open niches in the walls or in
the low, square towers, and hourly call the faithful to prayer in
monotonous cadence. The cathedral was completed in 1752 after many
years’ work. In one of the streets a delightful view may be had of
three successive chapels, one above the other, and of the streams of
pious penitents wending their way up the rocky path. There are also
the overgrown ruins of a house of worship, but I could never quite
decide whether the edifice had fallen into decay or whether the medley
piles of bricks and rubbish between the four crumbling walls were still
waiting to be placed in position. The streets, crooked and narrow,
are paved with cobblestones. The buildings are of the old adobe type,
one-story and whitewashed, with red-tile or sod roofs. Glass is not
used except in the churches, but the windows are heavily barred.
Recently a few modern brick structures have been erected. A look into
the corridors and inner courts, of which there may be several in one
house, conveys an insight into the domestic life of the people. The
front courts are very attractive with their flowers, shrubbery, and
trees, but the rear ones are anything but inviting, the dungeon-like
enclosures reminding one of the stories of atrocities and persecutions
carried on here in the turbulent times of the Spanish Inquisition.

On an average, the people are of a higher class, both intellectually
and physically, than in most Colombian cities of equal size;
comparatively few negroes are seen, and the good health and bright
looks of the inhabitants are the natural result of a cool climate and
pure mountain air.

One day, at noon, as I was photographing in the vicinity of Popayán,
after having ridden perhaps five or six miles from the city, I was
accosted by an elderly woman who invited me to stop at her humble
cabin, where she had prepared a really palatable lunch. Her reason for
doing this was that she had recognized me as a foreigner. During the
course of the meal she tearfully related that she had had a son, of
about my own age, who had gone to the States many years before. Had I
met him, and could I give her any tidings? I could have, but I did
not. By a strange and inexplicable coincidence I knew that her son had
not left the country. Instead of going to the coast he had engaged
in one of the revolutions common enough at that time and had been
captured and shot; but what right had I to remove the only support that
maintained the spark of life in her aged body? It was only the hope of
seeing her boy again that gave her the strength to resist the onslaught
of advancing years. Doubtless, she still waits, hoping against hope for
the message that will never come. Hers is the mother-love that never
despairs. How clearly it shows that human nature is very much the same
the world over, even among the lowly!

On June 23 I was fortunate enough, while in Popayán, to behold one of
the religious celebrations formerly all too numerous in Latin America.
It was the _Fiesta del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús_. Troops of soldiers
and bands were lined up in front of the cathedral; all were quiet and
orderly while the sacred rites were being performed within. Suddenly
the doors burst open, bells boomed and jingled, and the contents of the
vast church poured through the portals in a steady stream. First came
the altar-boys in white surplices and red cassocks, carrying gilded
crosses on long poles and lighted tapers in silver holders, followed
by the small children, the girls with tinsel wings, resembling tiny
angels. Then came the governor of Cauca, the prefect of Popayán and
their staffs, each bearing a standard. Next in line were the maidens,
covered with large black shawls, or _mantas_, with folded hands and
downcast eyes which, however, they were not averse to raising to meet
the admiring glances cast by some of the onlookers. The students from
the seminaries and a choir of singers preceded a life-size statue of
the patron of the feast, borne aloft on the shoulders of stalwart
youths; then came the archbishop and the higher ecclesiastics in tall
mitres and gorgeously embroidered and glittering robes. Those of the
general public who chose to march fell in line behind the bands that
followed, chanting prayers. The remainder knelt in the streets with
bowed, uncovered heads as the procession passed. All the buildings,
even the trees, were gayly decorated with banners, a mixture of the
papal and national insignia. Colombia is perhaps the only remaining
country in the New World in which religion still dominates the
government.

If we examine a map of Colombia we will find that the Cerro Munchique,
the highest of the mountains in the Western Range, lies directly
west of Popayán. There is an exceedingly difficult pass across the
Cordillera at this point, leading to a place called the Cocal, still
far distant from the coast. A trail was also being opened a short
distance to the south leading to the Rio Micai. When this is completed
it will require a four days’ journey on mules to the river; then two
days in canoes on the Micai, said to contain many rapids and to flow
through country inhabited by savage tribes, before the coast is reached.

A day’s ride from Popayán took us to El Tambo, and at noon the
following day we were in the Indian village of Chapa at the very base
of Munchique. A heavy electrical storm delayed our departure until
noon the next day. There were but a dozen or fifteen adobe huts in the
village, and during the height of the tempest one of these suddenly
collapsed into a heap of mud and straw; the occupants barely escaped by
fleeing into the deluge when the buckling walls apprised them of their
danger.

After the agitation had subsided the people erected an altar in the
plaza for the celebration of a mass of thanksgiving. Each one brought
some trinket--a few paper flowers, a picture, a bit of tinsel, or a
candle--with which to embellish the sacred structure. Then they all
knelt, with bared heads, and in deepest devotion assisted at the
religious service; that is, all but a plump Indian woman who boiled
_chontaduros_, or palm-nuts, in a huge kettle, in back of one of the
huts and sold them to the worshippers the moment devotions were over.

It required fully a half-day longer to reach the end of the mule
trail, and by that time we had reached an elevation of eight thousand
feet.

From this point up the mountains are covered with a dense growth of
primeval forest. Below this elevation there are occasional strips of
woods and patches of brush interspersed with clearings. Maize grows
splendidly up to an altitude of seven thousand feet; this was proven
by the few small fields cultivated by the Indians. The slope was also
dotted with areas planted in rice.

The ascent of Munchique is very abrupt; there are no streams near the
summit, as the top of the mountain is composed of solid rock that sheds
rain as soon as it falls. The highest pinnacle is a flat, bare rock,
about ten thousand feet above sea-level.

Robert Blake White states that from this spot one may “obtain a view
over more than fifteen thousand square miles of country. The whole of
the Central Cordillera, from the frontier of Ecuador to the confines of
the State of Antioquia, with the valleys of the Cauca and the Patia,
were visible to the north, east, and south; whilst, on turning to the
westward, the Pacific coast from the bay of Tumaco to the mouth of the
San Juan River seemed spread out like a map before us.

“A more gorgeous panorama cannot well be imagined. The belts of
bright-colored vegetation, marked by the valleys with their winding
rivers and streams, were backed with masses of the Cordillera with
their varied tints and snow-capped peaks. On the other hand, the
dark-hued vegetation of the virgin forests of the Pacific slopes
stretched down to the ocean’s margin, which with its thousand bays
and inlets and fringe of foam which was quite visible, looked like an
edging of lace. The island of Gorgona could be distinctly seen.

“The Cerro Munchique should be visited in the dry season, for its
peculiar prominence makes it a grand lightning conductor, as we clearly
saw from the shattered rock on the summit.”

[Illustration: Cerro Munchique.]

[Illustration: A deserted Indian hut on the Cerro Munchique.]

We discovered a deserted Indian hut in the centre of a large,
overgrown, abandoned plantation, and made it our headquarters for a
week or more. The site was ideal. Tall forest hemmed in the clearing
on all sides, and a rivulet of clear, icy water flowed near the
shack. The elevation was eight thousand two hundred and twenty-five
feet. Obviously, the place had been unoccupied for a number of years,
doubtless owing to the fact that maize and rice would not thrive at
this high altitude. However, these same conditions were most congenial
to a host of other vegetation. Blackberries and rhododendrons, with
lilac, red, white, pink, and yellow flowers formed a solid tangle,
acres in extent, and creepers entirely covered the tall, dead stubs,
and crowned them with a thick canopy of green leaves from which
clusters of orange and scarlet trumpetflowers drooped.

At night the temperature went down to about 45°, but this did not deter
giant hawk, owl, and sphinx-moths from appearing at dusk to feast
on the nectar of the myriads of flowers. The little stream was the
rendezvous for numberless frogs. One hardly suspected their presence
during the daytime unless a careful search was made of the rotting
wood that littered the ground, and of the tangled, snakelike stems
of second-growth sprouts and leaves; but at night the concert was
always sure to begin in startling volume. Some of the notes reminded
me of our own spring peeper; others were sharp and metallic, like the
twanging of a banjo-string; and others were low and mellow like the
murmuring of a ’cello. They all blended into a deafening chorus of
unflagging animation and unvaried monotony. At first the din was rather
disconcerting, but gradually there came to us the realization that this
was but the bubbling over of care-free little hearts rendering a song
of happiness and thanksgiving to nature for the pure, unsullied joy of
an unfettered existence.

Birds were not particularly plentiful in the forest. There were,
however, a number of interesting forms, particularly among the
tanagers. One species (_Psittospiza riefferi_) was about the size of
a robin and of a deep grass-green color, with a chestnut-colored face
and abdomen; these birds live singly and in pairs in the tall trees
and are of a wary disposition. Another tanager (_Sporathraupis_) has a
bright-blue head and olive-green back; the breast is deep, dull blue
merging into golden yellow on the legs. The natives called this bird
_jilguero_, a name applied to the solitaire in other localities. It
lives in the lower branches of trees, travelling in pairs or small
flocks and feeds on fruit; the song is not unpleasant, but cannot
compare with any solitaire known to me.

While collecting one morning my attention was attracted by a chorus
of chirps and screams, and following up the sounds I reached a tall
tree where a peculiar bird drama was being staged. A number of
California woodpeckers (_Melanerpes flavigularis_) had drilled numerous
holes in the tree-trunk, from which sap trickled in small streams.
A dozen or more buff-tailed hummers (_Boissonneaua flavescens_) had
apparently come for their daily jag, for the sap very evidently had an
intoxicating effect. Arriving in a bee-line, newcomers landed against
the trunk, where they clung like so many moths, the buff-colored tail
spread wide and against the bark for support. Their antics as the
different stages of hilarity were reached were most amusing. They
twittered, fought, turned, and tumbled in the air; others dozed on
small twigs, and several fluttered toward the ground in an exhausted
condition. This performance continued daily for a week, until the sap
suddenly ceased to flow; then the tree was deserted and silent, the
capricious band having no doubt sobered up from their debauch and gone
back to their normal and more profitable pursuits in life.

In getting water from the brook, one of our men discovered a narrow
trail under a giant log. We justly surmised that animals of some sort
used the runway in journeying to and from the water. A trap was set in
the path, and next morning a fine white opossum of large size had been
safely ensnared. In the days that followed we secured an even dozen of
the animals. They proved to be a form unknown to science that now bears
the name _Didelphis paraguayensis andina_. The cook said that they were
delicious eating, and prepared for us an unusually fat individual; but
we found the meat of rather strong flavor, and not very palatable. A
solitary weasel (_Mustela affinis costaricensis_) was also taken in the
same spot. It would be interesting to know whether this animal came
down to drink, or was in pursuit of some of the other creatures that
frequented the runway. Weasels are courageous, active, and bloodthirsty
little animals; their eyesight is poor, but their sense of smell is
keen and they will tirelessly follow their intended victim until it
falls into their clutches. I have frequently heard that they attack
and kill small deer by clinging to the neck and doggedly chewing their
way through the skin until the jugular vein is severed; this does not
seem probable to me, however, and it is far more reasonable to believe
that rats, mice, frogs, and other small creatures form the bulk of
their prey. On account of their slender proportions, they can trail the
quarry through small holes and crevices; in addition, they are also
expert climbers. On one occasion, while “squeaking” to attract a bird,
a weasel came instead, looking for the supposed helpless creature, and
ran over my feet without suspecting the fraud.

They will fight savagely to protect their nest, usually made in a hole
in the ground or hollow stump, and I know of one instance where one of
the animals sprang into the face of a native who had trapped its mate
at the mouth of a burrow.

Nearly a month had passed since we left Popayán, but the time had been
spent so pleasantly and profitably that it seemed scarcely longer than
a week. Our scheduled time for the region had been exhausted, however,
so we reluctantly retraced our steps to Popayán.



CHAPTER III

THE ANDES SOUTHWEST OF POPAYÁN; CRUISE OF THE _CALDAS_


After our return to Popayán we spent a few days wrapping and packing
the large collection of birds and mammals that had been secured on the
Cerro Munchique; and, during the odd moments when this work became
arduous, we sought information about the mountains south of the place
we had just visited. Eventually our quest took us to the governor’s
palace, where we had the good fortune to meet the executive of the
province of Cauca, Doctor Alfredo Garcés.

The first thing that attracted our attention was a framed poem hanging
above his desk; the title of it was “Death to Foreigners”; but the
kindly and sympathetic governor soon dispelled any doubts we may have
harbored as to his feelings. He was a man of great refinement and
education, and had travelled extensively in the United States. Our
mission interested him greatly. He brought out maps and charts, and
then, with the aid of a pair of powerful field-glasses, showed us the
places he had pointed out on the drawings.

Doctor Garcés proved to be one of our best and most highly valued
friends, despite the rather alarming notice on his office wall. He
called on us at the inn several times each day, and admired the birds
and mammals we had collected. Our rooms were always in the state
of greatest upheaval with packing-cases, equipment, provisions,
and a hundred other things occupying each available place; but the
governor took it all as a matter of course, enjoyed delving among
our possessions in search of things unknown to him, and probably
considered himself fortunate if he could find his silk hat and cane in
the place they had been left when he was ready to leave.

June 24 found us again upon the trail, heading south-westward. Both the
Central and Coast Ranges were visible for many miles, the snow-covered
Purace and Sotará dominating the former, with Munchique standing
unequalled in the latter. Barren, rolling hills stretched away in the
distance like the waves of a storm-tossed sea; this undulating country
is the first indication of a connecting-link between the two ranges.

For two days there was no perceptible change in the country; but on
the morning of the third day, shortly after leaving the settlement of
Monos, we entered virgin forest at an altitude of seven thousand five
hundred feet. A shelter-house, known as San José, is just a thousand
feet higher up, and at ten o’clock we were up ten thousand one hundred
and forty feet. From here one has an unrivalled view of thousands of
square miles of country. The magnificent valley, appearing greener and
more level from our height than was really the case, lay below, and
stretched far to the north. The paramos and volcanoes flanking the
far side were abreast of our station. Frequently, while in similar
positions, there recurred to me the sentiment so aptly expressed by
Hudson: “Viewed from the top of a lofty mountain, the world assumes a
vastness and varied beauty that revive the flagging spirit and refresh
the soul.” And quite as certainly there is forced upon our recognition
the infinitesimal smallness of man when compared to the immensity of
nature--a mere atom existing by virtue of a benevolent force that has
so ordained, but that reserves the power to crush the whole fabric of
life at a breath.

The top of the ridge is ten thousand three hundred and forty feet
high, and the vegetation is typical of the temperate zone; low, dense
bushes, mingled with the gnarled branches of stunted evergreen trees
and shrubs, burdened with clumps of red and lavender flowers. Numbers
of low grass shacks had been built along the trail; some of them
were very long and housed the peons working on the road to Micai.
Although these structures were of comparatively recent origin, many
small rodents had been attracted to them by the corn that formed the
principal article of food of the _peons_. A large brown rat (_Oryzomys
pectoralis_) was very abundant; apparently this rodent had formerly
existed in small numbers only, for it was rare out in the open; but
the artificial conditions created by the settlement of the region had
proved so congenial that it increased rapidly. The same is true of
several other species of rats that almost overran the houses.

In riding or walking along the trail, I frequently encountered a
species of snake resembling in coloration a coral snake; however, it
was not unusual to find an individual five feet or even more in length,
and two or three inches through in the thickest part. They appeared
exceeding sluggish and even refused to move although almost trodden
upon. We never molested them, as they appeared to be harmless, and were
really of striking beauty. Unfortunately, we had no way of preserving
any. A species recently discovered in Nicaragua by Mr. Clarence R.
Halter, which is similar to the one we saw almost daily, belongs to the
genus _Coronella_.

The birds belonged to a typical temperate-zone fauna. Among them was a
new species of beautiful honey-creeper (_Diglossa gloriosissima_); it
is black with blue shoulders and a deep-rufous abdomen. They clambered
about over the clusters of gorgeous flowers, feasting on the nectar
they contained. Another common bird was a tanager (_Iridosornis_) the
size of our redbird, but of a bright-violet color that merges into
greenish blue on the wings. The head is black excepting the crown,
which is deep orange. It is a vivacious creature, travels in small
flocks that frequent the taller shrubbery, but possesses limited
singing powers only.

During our stay we had occasion to witness a christening ceremony
performed by a priest who was travelling through the region for the
purpose of ministering to the people’s spiritual needs. The fact had
been widely advertised, so early on the appointed day many natives
appeared, bringing small children to be baptized. About thirty had been
brought by noon, when the priest commanded the god-parents to line up,
each holding his gaudily dressed and probably fretful little charge.
The priest began at one end of the row, dispensing one part of the
sacrament to each child as he passed; then he went back and began all
over again, giving the second part to each of them, and so on until the
rite was completed.

It so happened that there was a small child in the hut we had chosen
for our several days’ sojourn. To honor the _gringos_ who were stopping
under her roof, the señora asked Richardson to be the little one’s
godfather, while I was permitted to suggest the name. We naturally felt
as if we should give the baby a present, but a thorough ransacking
through my effects revealed only a can of talcum powder, which I
promptly presented to the mother. A few days later she came to me in
distress: “The baby has a slight fever,” she said. “I gave it some of
the white powder you made me a present of, but it did no good. How much
is it necessary to take at one time?”

The western slope of the range is very abrupt. Large forces of men
were engaged in cutting a narrow ledge for a footpath into the face of
the steep mountainside. The trail wound back and forth continuously;
looking over the rim of the narrow shelf one could count six or eight
loops underneath, one below the other.

The work of cutting such a way is hazardous for the men engaged in
it. The soil is loose and saturated with water, so landslides were
of frequent occurrence; and whenever the irresistible avalanche
swept the precipitous terrain, it usually carried one or more of the
laborers with it and buried them under tons of rock and débris. It was
invariably hopeless to try to find the body, so the survivors simply
erected a cross on the spot. Frequently there were several crosses
together, and in one place I counted seventeen standing side by side.

Late in the afternoon we reached a lone hut in a small clearing--the
hastily erected shelter of a group of _peons_. The men invited us
to stop, and as the locality looked interesting we accepted the
invitation; but we erected our tent and lived in it in preference to
the hut.

All the surrounding country was covered with virgin forest. It had
never been trodden by man, at least not within many years; there were
no side trails of any kind, so that it was impossible to penetrate very
far.

Among our first mammals were a doe and fawn of a little forest-deer
(_Mazama setta_). They are commonly known as brockets or spike-bucks,
as each horn consists of a single prong. I believe that these deer
are not so rare as generally supposed, but they are seldom collected
on account of the difficulty of hunting them in the thick jungle. The
_peons_ shot the ones we secured. They had discovered a path leading to
a small stream, and concealing themselves on the opposite side, waited
until the animals came down to drink; then they shot them. The men also
brought in a huge bushmaster that they unearthed while clearing away
underbrush. The deadly reptile is known as _equis_ to the natives on
account of the black X-shaped marks on its back.

The mountainsides were scarred with deep fissures and ravines filled
with the darkest and most impenetrable of forests. It was possible
to look across from one side to the other, but crossing them was
impracticable. Each morning I could see a flock of some thirty-odd
swallow-tailed kites soaring just above the trees on the far side of
one of the ravines. The magnificent birds resembled huge white-bellied
swallows, or swifts, as they circled majestically over the dark forest;
they uttered shrill screams all the while. Apparently they fed on
the wing, and specimens collected by us later had eaten quantities
of large beetles and flying ants. At about nine o’clock the band
always resorted to the top of a tall tree that towered far above its
contemporaries for a short rest; this was rather unusual, as the
birds are rarely seen perched, and the natives said they never alight
during the daytime. Live birds, or specimens freshly killed, have
the glistening black back covered with a beautiful grayish “bloom”
or powder that gives it a soft, velvety appearance. However, this
disappears soon after death.

A species of pigmy squirrel (_Microsciurus_) lived in the forest, but
we seldom saw any of the little creatures scarcely bigger than one of
the larger kinds of mice. I have always found these animals much rarer
than the ordinary squirrels; usually they live in pairs. They seem to
prefer forests abounding in palms and to feed on the various kinds of
palm-fruits and nuts. They frequently evince a great deal of curiosity
and can be approached to within a short distance before taking fright
and scampering out of sight among the leaves.

The minute creatures move rapidly and gracefully and make long, daring
leaps. In running over the leaves and branches they follow the lateral
stems, and on reaching the ends ascend through the tree-top or thick
foliage by leaping crossways from twig to twig, as if ascending the
rungs of a ladder.

I kept one that was given to me by the natives as a pet for some time.
It made its home in the pocket of my flannel hunting-shirt, where it
was always sure to find a bit of cracker or sugar, and to which it
could retreat when frightened. Whenever anything of an unusual nature
occurred, the bright, inquisitive little eyes always appeared suddenly
so as not to miss a single thing that might be of interest. It never
attempted to bite or run away, and seemed perfectly contented with the
company of the friends that fed and protected it.

Eventually we started back toward Popayán. We crossed the high
brush-covered divide July 4; a violent electrical storm had been staged
on the wild mountain-top as if in noisy celebration of the day. It
began with a dark mist that covered everything. Then rain and hail fell
uninterruptedly for more than an hour, while lightning flashed and
blue-green flames seemed to leap toward the blackened rock. Sometimes
the bolts came from above, and again they were below us so that we
were enveloped in a weird, ghastly light. The thunder was terrific and
kept up a continuous crash and rumble. It was impossible to see any
other member of the expedition on account of the thick haze--there was
no shelter of any kind--only the narrow shelf-like trail that snaked
its way along the steep slope. After the storm we made camp; the men
and mules kept straggling in until a late hour; they were very wet and
much bedraggled, but apparently none the worse for the nerve-racking
experience.

Popayán was reached without further incident. Richardson’s contract
having expired, he determined to leave the country, so we returned to
Cali to rearrange the equipment and pack the collections; then he left
for Buenaventura to take a north-bound steamer.

In the meantime Doctor Chapman, who had reached New York, arranged
to send down a man to fill the vacancy left by Richardson. Doctor
Arthur A. Allen, of Cornell University, was selected for the place. He
reached Cali about the middle of August and accompanied me during the
succeeding eight months.

In compliance with instructions received from Doctor Chapman, I
immediately planned an expedition northward, then toward the east to
make a zoological exploration of the forests bordering the Quindio Pass
and of the high paramo of Santa Isabel. The first stage of the journey
was down the Cauca River.

Regular steamboat service is maintained between Guanchito and Cartago
during the rainy season. The _Sucre_, a boat of small size, makes
frequent voyages, requiring about three days’ time each way. On this
vessel one may travel in comparative comfort--if one is not too
squeamish. We had to be content with a smaller craft, however, as
there was not sufficient water to float the _Sucre_ over the numerous
sand-bars.

The _Caldas_ is a little steel launch of not over fifty feet from stem
to stern, with a beam of fifteen feet and drawing eighteen inches of
water. When the river is full the _Caldas_ is used to carry freight
only, for which purpose she doubtless serves admirably; but at other
times she assumes the double responsibility of carrying both cargo and
passengers. Of course there is the alternative of going overland; but
the trip takes twice as long, and after having spent some time on the
muddy trails, the novelty of a river trip is likely to make a strong
appeal, whatever the odds.

On the announced date of sailing thirty-seven individuals of all
sizes, ages, and shades of color gathered on the river’s bank, each
impatient to be the first to cross the narrow plank and board the small
craft. There also waited a huge mound of boxes, bags, bales of hides,
and other freight; this was loaded first and piled in the front and
rear. The engine occupied the centre of the boat, as did the kitchen.
When the people were finally permitted to go aboard, there was a
wild scramble to the top of the heap of boxes and bundles. To sit up
straight under the sheet-iron roof was impossible; fortunately the sun
shone intermittently only or we should have been suffocated.

From the very beginning there was enough of interest to keep one’s
nerves tensed to a high pitch. The crumbling banks, great chunks
of which settled gently into the water as the waves, caused by the
launch’s propeller, washed away the last bit of restraining sand;
the numbers of bamboo rafts laden with bananas, plantains, and other
tropical fruits on their way to the port of Guanchito; the dark-skinned
fishermen who cast their nets into eddies and quiet pools, and the
washwomen, each smoking an enormous black cigar and beating the clothes
upon stones until one expected to see them fly into shreds, were very
interesting. There were also hundreds of cormorants and anhingas that
swam and dived or flew up into the trees; some of them sat on snags
drying their wide-spread wings.

The banks of the river are very high and abrupt in most places, and the
stream runs through a tortuous channel. At each bend the current dashes
with great force against the bank, and then rebounds on down-stream.
The little _Caldas_ could not hope to battle against the rushing
torrent, so she would head straight for the bank; frequently her nose
struck the soft sand and held fast; then the current swung her around
and back into midstream, where after spinning around a few times she
regained her poise and was swept along. As wood was burned exclusively,
stops had to be made every few hours for a new supply. The launch, in
her crowded condition, had little room for fuel, but the brief pauses
gave those on board an opportunity to go ashore--a welcome respite from
the cramped position made necessary by the limited space available on
the boat. At one of these spots an extensive cacao-plantation lined
the bank, the tall _madres de cacao_ reaching high up into the heavens
above their lowly but precious protégés. The “mother of cacao,” it
might be said, is a species of _Erithmas_ planted to protect the
delicate cacao-trees from the sun. A colony of snake-birds or anhingas
had selected this grove for a rookery. Thousands of the birds sat on
the topmost branches while other countless numbers were flying back and
forth in endless streams, each bird a component part of a whirling,
living mass. The slender body, long thin neck, small head, and sharp
bill give the bird a peculiar appearance; when swimming under water
with only the neck protruding it greatly resembles a snake--hence the
name snake-bird. Each tree within an area of several acres contained a
number of nests; they were clumsy structures made of sticks. The eggs,
three or four in number, are white and as long as a hen’s egg but only
half as wide. Later in the day a flock of scarlet ibises approached
from down-stream, flew past, and then disappeared like twinkling bits
of flame.

In the early afternoon the _Caldas_ struck a sand-bar with full force.
The greater number of the passengers had eaten their luncheon--brought
by themselves in small parcels neatly done up in banana leaves--and
were quietly dozing. There was a harsh, grating sound, a shock, and the
water swirled around and past the boat, which moved not an inch. The
engines were reversed and the crew sprang into the river and pushed,
but it availed nothing, so after repeated efforts these attempts were
abandoned. Luckily, the craft carried a small dugout canoe, into which
the passengers were unloaded, three or four at a time, and taken ashore
by two husky negroes who waded to the bank, one pulling and the other
pushing the canoe. There was no break in the abrupt banks for perhaps
a quarter of a mile, so it was some time before all on board had been
landed. The crew then began to dig away the sand that held the launch
fast.

The spot where the passengers had been landed was an open, treeless
plain with not a shelter in sight. At first the heat of the sun was
insufferable; then it began to rain as we had never seen it rain
before. No one had a poncho, so there was nothing to do but stand
quietly and endure the drenching downpour.

When the sand had been dug away the launch, suddenly freed, shot
down-stream a half mile before a landing could be effected. This of
course necessitated a long tramp through deep mud and tall, wet grass,
which added to the cheerlessness of the luckless, half-drowned victims
of backward methods of transportation. The banks were as steep as ever,
but a capybara runway, resembling a giant muskrat slide, had been
discovered, and down this we slid, one at a time, into the arms of two
negroes who acted as a back-stop below.

The delay prevented the launch from reaching Buga, so as soon as
darkness settled, she was tied up for the night. A great tree-trunk,
embedded in the sand with huge branches swaying high above the water,
lay near by. We swung our hammocks between the sturdy limbs, covered
them with mosquito-nets, and spent a miserable night; those who
attempted to sleep aboard had a harder time of it by far.

We were off with the first streak of dawn, startling flocks of muscovy
ducks and herons from near the banks. A faint blue mist was rising
slowly from the water, and the air was chill and damp. The mantle of
silence that falls over tropical South America at nightfall had not yet
been lifted. For some little time we glided on, farther and farther, it
seemed, into a great vacuity that led to some vaguely defined sanctuary
of everlasting peace and oblivion. Then, without warning, a sound so
terrible rent the vast solitude that it seemed as if some demon of the
wilds were taking a belated revenge for the few hours of quiet in which
the earth had rejoiced.

At first there was a series of low, gruff roars that would have done
credit to the most savage of lions, and made the very air tremble; but
this was not all. Added to the majestic frightfulness of the jungle
king’s voice was a quality of hate and treachery, of unfathomed rage
and malicious bitterness. Then followed in quick succession a number
of high-pitched, long-drawn wails or howls of tremulous quality
that gradually died, ending with a few guttural barks. This uncanny
performance lasted a number of minutes; but having perpetrated this
outrage upon a heretofore peaceful world, the weird chorus suddenly
stopped.

The mists of night had lifted, revealing clumps of tall bamboo and
the beginning of heavy forest. In the top of the very first trees sat
a group of large monkeys, red, with golden backs, properly called
howling monkeys; they were the authors of the terrific chorus we had
just heard. How an animal that rarely attains a weight of thirty
pounds can produce such loud sounds is most remarkable; the hyoid bone
is developed into a huge cup which gives resonance to the voice. The
howlers are rather sluggish and seldom descend from the trees. Their
roaring, which can be heard several miles, resounds through the forest
morning and night; whether it is merely a form of amusement with them,
or is used to intimidate enemies, seems to be unknown.

[Illustration: The _Caldas_ fast on a sand-bar in the Cauca River.]

[Illustration: Bamboo rafts on the Cauca River.]

Very little is known about the habits of howling monkeys, despite
their abundance and wide distribution. They are usually found in small
family parties, including young of various sizes; but I have noticed,
on various occasions, that the females desert from the troop when their
babies are males and do not rejoin it until the young are half-grown,
perhaps fearing that the old males will kill them; but I do not know if
this is always the case.

C. William Beebe, in the course of a lecture at the American Museum,
stated that he had on several occasions watched troops of these animals
feed, in British Guiana. The older ones sent their small young to the
tip of the slender branches that they, themselves, could not venture
upon on account of their weight, to pick fruits; then they pulled the
little ones back and robbed them of their food. This was repeated a
number of times.

The second night we tied up near a heavy growth of forest, at a place
called Riofrio. This is one of the few sections of the Cauca Valley
still retaining its original stand of virgin jungle. We slung our
hammocks between the trees. The nets furnished ample protection from
the mosquitoes, but not from an army of foraging ants that chanced our
way. From across the river came the whine of an ocelot, and the sharp
snort of deer, while more than once we were awakened by the pattering
and shuffle of cautious feet close at hand, some light, some heavy as
if belonging to a large animal.

Contrary to her custom, the _Caldas_ steamed on after dark on the third
night of her voyage. A train of bright sparks trailed far behind, and
when the wind blew it carried them into the boat where they set fire
to clothing and baggage alike. Within a short time we had reached the
port of Cartago, found the _arriero_ who was awaiting us with the
animals, and were off for Cartago a league away. The town was enveloped
in inky blackness, and fast asleep, notwithstanding the early hour. A
stray dog barked and a mule whinnied, but there were no other signs of
life.



CHAPTER IV

CARTAGO TO THE PARAMOS OF RUIZ AND SANTA ISABEL


Dawn revealed the fact that Cartago was not materially different from
Cali. It was not so large, however, and the temperature was much
higher. Upon our arrival the preceding night we had finally succeeded
in arousing a sleepy landlord, who admitted us to a dusty, bare room in
the Hotel Colombia. We had learned long before this time that the word
“hotel” usually meant a roof only over one’s head and perhaps food,
so we at no time travelled out of sight of our baggage, with which we
could make ourselves fairly comfortable under almost any circumstances.

The country surrounding Cartago is level and of a dry nature; at any
rate, it does not compare at all favorably with the Cauca Valley at
Cali. We saw few evidences of cultivation and the number of cattle and
mules grazing on the scanty vegetation was very small.

The outskirts of the city are picturesque. The huts are low and lightly
built of slabs of flattened bamboo; fences made of split bamboo neatly
woven in a basket pattern surround them, and cannon-ball trees rear
their slender, awkward branches laden with great glistening spheres
of green fruit, high above the narrow, muddy sidewalks. When the
huge calabashes are ripe they are collected and used as containers
for water, wash-basins, bowls, and a variety of utensils; narrow
sections that have been split carefully and resemble miniature pointed
barrel-staves even serve the purpose of spoons.

A small marsh lies just in back of Cartago. It was filled with several
species of aquatic plants--mostly water-hyacinths and wild lettuce
on which cattle fed, half submerged in the murky water. Swarms of
mosquitoes issued from the stagnant borders and invaded the town at
nightfall, but this was by no means the only breeding-place of the
obnoxious insects. Drinking water, kept in uncovered kegs and pots,
teemed with larvæ, and glasses full of it set before us in one of the
shops were fairly alive with wrigglers.

One thing impressed me as being really appalling, and that was the
number of infirm beggars in the streets. In most Colombian towns
beggars are permitted to ply their profession only one day each week
and are required to wear a cardboard license tag suspended from a
string around the neck; but it seemed as if they were out in full force
every day in Cartago. Some of them presented an offensive appearance;
they were suffering with leprosy and other terrible diseases, and were
in such a pitiful plight that one was literally touched at mere sight
of them. They always asked alms in the name of the Virgin and all the
saints, and if results were forthcoming heaped a copious blessing on
the donor; but in the event that nothing was given the benediction
was in some instances replaced by such a tirade of profanity that one
quickly realized what a good opportunity to acquire merit had been
neglected.

We left Cartago as soon as possible and after a half-day’s ride
over gently rolling, brush-covered country reached the Rio Viejo. A
good-sized dwelling known as Piedra Moller stands near the river; there
one may obtain men and dugout canoes with which to cross the stream.

Beyond the river the trail passes through a little valley or depression
about four leagues across. Tall brush, some first-growth forest, and
extensive jungles of bamboo flank the narrow passageway. I counted
no less than forty species of birds during the afternoon and heard
the notes of several others that I did not recognize. Small green
parrakeets (_Psittacula conspicillata_) were exceedingly plentiful.
They always reminded me of English sparrows--not in appearance but by
their actions. Flocks of them sat on telegraph wires or house-tops,
chirping and chattering incessantly, or fed on fruits or seeds in the
bushes. They are also abundant in towns and villages and nest under
tile roofs, in hollow posts, and in holes in walls. The people are very
fond of the little “love-birds” as they are called and keep them in
their patios as pets.

At Balsas, which served as the first night’s stopping-place, we
discovered a whippoorwill’s (_Stenopsis ruficervix_) nest in a clump of
bamboo. The single egg had been deposited on the leaves near a bamboo
sprout that was rapidly pushing its way upward like a huge stalk of
asparagus. The incubating bird fluttered away as we approached, but we
returned the next morning and Allen secured a photograph of her on the
nest.

Noon of the next day found us at Finlandia, an inviting village with a
population of about four hundred, and situated at an elevation of six
thousand four hundred feet. All this country is the foot-hills of the
Central Andean Range. Rounded hills follow one another in a succession
of gentle billows, the sides of which are so gradual that one hardly
realizes there is a steady ascent. The forest that covers the ridge on
the other side of Finlandia is of a heavy, subtropical character--the
first of its kind we had encountered on this trip. Red howling monkeys
were roaring in the ravine below, but the birds of the forest belonged
to a fauna different from the one we had just left.

The palm-filled valley of the Boquilla had been reached by night.
Salento, with its low, whitewashed houses, was clearly visible on top
of the next ridge. It required just thirty minutes next morning to
reach the town after a climb of nine hundred feet. We did not stop at
the settlement, but continued up the time-honored trail leading to
Quindio Pass; within a short time forest of the most promising kind had
been reached and camp was being made in a sheltered spot about half a
mile above a lone house called Laguneta. The pack-animals were sent
back to Salento, where there was an abundance of pasturage, until they
should be required again.

The woods at Laguneta were rather open and there was little underbrush.
The trees, however, were burdened with moss, bromelias, orchids, and
other epiphytes. Climbing bamboo and creepers filled the few clearings
with impenetrable thickets. Most of the vegetation had small, harsh
leaves, and the stems were gnarled and stunted. Clusters of fruit
resembling pokeberries, on which numerous species of birds fed, grew on
tall bushes near the forest’s edge. Begonias covered with red and white
flowers filled the hollows.

The Laguneta region was remarkable for the number of ant-birds found
there (_Grallaria_, _Chamœza_, etc.) that are rare in collections
on account of the difficulty of collecting them. We secured fifteen
different species in the neighborhood. As they live in thickets and
on the ground, the only knowledge one has of their presence is their
strange whistling notes, distinct in each species, that come from some
gloomy spot deep in the tangled vegetation. _Grallaria squamigera_ was
to me the most interesting species. It is a huge, heavy-bodied bird,
olive above and tawny barred with black below. From a distance the
coloration reminds one of a large immature robin, but the tail is very
short and protrudes only about half an inch beyond the lower coverts,
and the long legs measure fully five inches. The plumage is long and
full. Occasionally we saw the shy creatures as we worked in front of
our tent in the afternoons; we always made it a point to be very quiet
and the reward came in the way of shadowy forms that unconcernedly
pursued their lives among the logs and brush without suspecting our
presence. This shows the advantage of camping in the midst of the
wilderness, where one is sure to see and hear wild things at the most
unexpected times--experiences that are lost if one does not spend his
entire time in the very heart of their environs.

[Illustration: The town of Salento.]

Squirrel Woods is the name we applied to a spot below Laguneta and
several miles nearer to Salento. On the upward journey the place
had been singled out as being unusually attractive for a week’s
collecting, owing to the number of birds and particularly of squirrels
seen from the trail. This, however, proved to be the one place in all
Colombia where we were not welcome, and in this regard it is unique in
my two years’ experience in that country.

After leaving the Quindio trail we followed a narrow path through
fields and forest for nearly a mile. It led to a neat, new cottage
surrounded by pastures in which there were cattle and horses. The
owner and his wife, middle-aged Colombians of the mestizo class, but
of better appearance than the average, did not seem overjoyed to see
us; they had no room, they said, for strangers. Explanations and the
display of credentials bearing flaring, important-looking seals were
of no avail; the people did not care to have the drowsy tenor of their
ways disturbed by a couple of gringos. The region, however, was too
alluring to forego, so we camped beside the house and took possession
of the veranda for sleeping-quarters. There we remained a week, much to
the displeasure of our unwilling hosts.

We had supposed that the presence of a wheat-field surrounded by
primeval forest had led to an increase in the number of small mammals
indigenous to the region, but this assumption proved right in so far as
squirrels only were concerned. A granary had been built in the centre
of the clearing, which was of considerable extent; bundles of grain
were piled in it from floor to roof. Squirrels of three species came
from the woods, and ensconcing themselves in the structure feasted
on the wheat. They ran the entire distance between the forest and
the house on the ground, taking advantage, however, of any logs or
branches that littered the place. They were especially plentiful in
the early morning and just before sundown. If one crept cautiously to
the border of the field he was sure to see dark little forms scamper
over the ground and disappear in the storehouse. The animals were very
tame at first and did not leave their shelter until one was but a few
yards away; then they appeared on all sides and ran quickly to the
protecting woods. Later they posted a sentinel or remained on the
alert, for no sooner did we reach one side of the clearing than all the
squirrels hurried away on the opposite side, being careful to keep the
granary between themselves and us. There were many stray dogs in the
neighborhood; they pursued the squirrels while making their pilgrimage
across the open space, and devoured any they succeeded in catching.

There were also other marauders that exacted a heavy toll in grain from
the farmer. Yellow-throated woodpeckers (_Melanerpes flavigularis_)
and green and yellow jays (_Xanthoura yucas_) were always about and
frequently came to grief in our traps set for small rodents.

A species of pigmy opossum (_Thylamys caucæ_) lived in the woods. It is
the size of a mouse, but has a longer tail. The slate-colored little
animals prefer small cavities in tree-trunks for their homes, where
they spend the days curled up in sleep; if disturbed they are very
sluggish and may be taken in the hand, their only concern being to find
a dark spot where they can snuggle up to one another and go to sleep
again. At night they are more active and go on foraging expeditions for
fruit, insects, and almost anything of an edible nature they can find.

The camp pet at this time was a young sloth (_Cholœpus andinus_). The
slow-moving little beast reminded one of a “Teddy Bear,” and when
it clambered among the branches of a tree it always recalled to me
Hudson’s description to the effect that he “hugged the branches as if
he loved them.” Our pet had been brought in by a native hunter who had
shot the mother and found the young one clinging to her long, gray
hair. It was easy to handle owing to its inactivity, but occasionally
it struck viciously with its front feet, each armed with two formidable
claws, and also snapped suddenly in an attempt to bite, its strong
teeth enabling it to inflict severe injury. It ate quantities of tender
green leaves at regular intervals, but it was always necessary to first
sprinkle them liberally with water and then feed them to the little
creature one at a time and in quick succession. I have kept a number
of sloths at various times and found that they thrived on young shoots
and buds of many trees and plants, such as cacao, cabbage, lettuce, and
almost any succulent vegetation.

I know of no animal that appears more stupid and lifeless than a sloth.
They move with great difficulty and in a sprawling posture on the rare
occasions when they descend to the ground, on account of the peculiar
formation of the feet; nor do they attain any great speed while moving
in the tree-tops, where they always maintain an inverted position
except when climbing up or down a trunk. When resting they roll up
into a ball, and as a species of green alga not infrequently grows on
the fur, they are very inconspicuous among the leaves and moss-covered
branches of their home--at least when viewed from below. But from above
they do not always escape the sharp eye of the harpy-eagle, which is
their chief enemy.

In spite of its lifeless appearance, it would be difficult to find
a mammal more tenacious of life; in this respect it resembles the
reptiles. Sloths will withstand the most frightful wounds and
frequently make their escape after having been shot many times. The
natives are very fond of the flesh and not infrequently capture the
animals when cutting down trees in clearing land; a favorite way to
kill them is by drowning, but this is a lengthy and barbarous process,
as it requires a long submergence before the creatures cease struggling
and life is extinct.

People of the lower class attribute peculiar powers to the sloth. They
say that when one of the animals finds it necessary to descend to the
ground it is unable to climb back to its lofty perch; but a friendly
cloud is always hovering near by which envelops it and carries it back
to any desired station in the tree-tops. In some localities they also
attribute the wild call of the giant goatsucker to the sloth. The only
time I heard the latter utter any sound was when a mother called to her
young that was a few feet away; she gave a fairly loud ‘peep’ and her
offspring at once went to her.

After a time our work at Squirrel Woods was completed, so, much to the
relief of the inhospitable couple, we left the place and returned to
Salento, where we had better fortune and were well cared for by one
Colonel Martinez; his wife had come from Bogotá, was a well-educated
woman, and, what interested us more just then, was a splendid cook. The
family conducted a fairly good _posada_ and shop and had various other
business interests, including several worthless mining claims along
streams flowing into the Quindio River just below. A few excavations
had been made into the hillsides; the largest was known as _La Mina del
Gallo_ and had yielded hundreds of tons of rocks and earth; but as not
a speck of the elusive yellow metal they so eagerly sought had been
forthcoming, the mine had been abandoned, and owls and bats inhabited
the dark tunnel. The greater part of the mining population had
deserted Salento for a place about ten miles distant, where extensive
cinnabar-fields had been discovered. They expected to acquire fabulous
riches extracting the mercury from the deposits. Some Englishmen headed
by a man named Lloyd-Owen were also interested in the enterprise, but I
learned later that the prospect failed.

At dusk we occasionally had a brief view of the Nevado del Tolima far
to the east. The snow-capped summit is over eighteen thousand feet
high, but we could never see more than a small portion of it on account
of the ridges that surrounded it. At night the snowy dome gleamed
white and frosty beneath a brilliant moon, and chill winds blew from
the frigid heights and roared through the town. The paramos of Ruiz
and Isabel, composed of high, cold valleys, plateaus, and snow-covered
peaks are south of the Tolima. We straightway resolved to visit that
region, and as the rainy season with its severe electrical storms was
fast approaching, no time was lost in starting on the expedition. My
experience on the Cerro Munchique was still too fresh to make me want
to duplicate it or expose any other members of the party to a similar
ordeal.

September 12 found us wending our way along the Quindio River toward
its headwaters. The valley floor is covered with grass that is kept
close-cropped by cattle and horses. Low shrubbery grows along the
river-bank; the stream--not over one hundred feet wide--is clear and
swift and the icy water rushes over a boulder-strewn bed. A scattered
growth of tall palms dots the entire valley and extends up the
mountainsides to an elevation of about nine thousand five hundred feet.

The trail is so indistinct that Allen and I, who were riding in advance
of the pack-mules, lost it and spent two hours in a vain endeavor
to recover the way; then we saw the cargoes and peons far below,
resembling moving black dots, and hurriedly rejoined them just as they
were leaving the valley for the abrupt slope. The trail from here
onward was steep and rough. Before us stretched a seemingly endless
succession of ridges, farallones, tall rocks, and high precipices that
reach a climax in the brown paramo of Santa Isabel, backed by walls of
gleaming snow. In looking back over the way we had just come we could
see the Quindio and the thousands of palms growing in its valley spread
before us like a map.

The lower slopes were barren, having but recently been burned over;
fire was still raging in a number of places and the hissing and popping
of burning vegetation could be heard frequently with distinctness.
Tall, smouldering stumps were clustered here and there like blackened
chimneys from the tops of which wisps and columns of smoke ascended
into a hazy sky. The pungent odor of burning green plants was at times
almost suffocating.

Forest begins at nine thousand five hundred feet. It is at first
somewhat open and reminded us of Laguneta. The rich mould of the
forest floor was very deep and caused us much anxiety lest some of
the pack-animals be lost, for they sank into it to a great depth, and
there was constant danger of their floundering and pitching headlong
down the mountainside. The arrieros took the utmost precautions, but
even then one of the mules became overbalanced and fell off the trail.
Fortunately the trees grew close together and one of the packs became
wedged between two of them and halted the rolling creature a short
distance below. It struggled there with feet in the air until the peons
released it and led it back to the trail.

Toward evening we reached a native hut--the second since leaving the
valley. The elevation of the place was ten thousand five hundred feet.
A large clearing in which white clover grew abundantly surrounded the
house. The inhabitants also had other clearings farther down, where
they planted corn and wheat. They were all suffering with colds and
the dreaded _dengue_, from which I was fortunately able to give them
some relief with the aid of our medical kit. In return for this service
they treated us most courteously and placed one of their two rooms at
our disposal, although it happened that a score or more of chickens
occupied the same quarters. The night was cold and damp. Next morning
the wretched people gave us milk and cheese and we purchased several
dozen eggs--certainly a great luxury in such an out-of-the-way place.
They also showed us the skin and feet of a tapir one of the men had
killed in the forest above. The hide had been used to make bottoms
for chairs and was of a black color. They reported the presence of
two species of bears, one entirely black and the other the tolerably
well-known spectacled bear. Although the latter is the only species of
bear supposed to exist in South America, I have been told repeatedly by
the people that a large black bear is found in the high Andes and have
seen skins that appeared to bear out their statements.

After leaving the house next morning we soon reached heavy mountain
forest. A deserted hut stood near the border of it, so on our return
from the paramo we spent several days there. The chief attraction about
the place was the abundance of white-throated sparrows (_Brachyspiza
capensis capensis_). Their cheerful little song cannot fail to endear
them to any one with even a limited æsthetic nature. Whether one hears
it in the hot, tropical lowlands or on a bleak mountain-top twelve
thousand feet above sea-level, the happy little melody is always the
same. Nor is the music confined to the hours of daylight only. I have
frequently heard it in the darkest hours of night, ringing clear and
sweet from somewhere out in the all-pervading blackness. These birds
are fond of the proximity of man and are most abundant where he has
chosen to break the soil and erect his abode. As a general rule they
are not gregarious, but I have seen them congregate in flocks of many
thousands to spend the night in some particularly attractive spot in
places where sleeping sites were limited in number. Farther south these
sparrows also gather in flocks of varying size during the winter season.

The nest is a neat, cup-shaped structure made of fine grasses; it is
placed in a low bush or on the ground. Two or three pale-blue eggs
thickly spotted with brown are laid and not infrequently two broods are
reared in a season.

During our stay at the solitary house on the edge of the great forest
a white-throat or _chingolo_ came daily and perched on the bannister
of our porch to pour out its overflow of happiness. We grew very much
attached to the confiding feathered mite and eagerly awaited its
frequent visits. After a short time I discovered the runway of some
small rodent under the porch and set a trap to catch the animal. Not
long after we heard the dull snap of the spring, and upon investigation
found the limp body of the unfortunate songster. The place seemed
deserted without the sprightly little bird and we never ceased to miss
it.

The belt of forest through which we penetrated before reaching the
paramo was magnificent. A species of orchid bearing long spikes of
yellow flowers was in full bloom; there were many hundreds of the
thick-leaved plants, some perched on lofty branches, others growing
from crotches but a few feet above the ground, but all surmounted by a
glorious halo of golden blossoms.

We left the forest with its giant moss-covered trees, ensnaring
creepers, and breathless silence that suggests a thousand mysteries,
at about noon. It ends abruptly and is replaced by a narrow strip
of low, dwarfed trees and bushes with small leaves that are either
very stiff or are covered with thick down. There were also clumps of
blueberry-bushes, but the fruit was woody, bitter and inedible for
human beings. Lupines and gentians grew in the hollows and numerous
composites thrived on the slopes; among the latter was one with showy
purple flowers that the peons called “arnica.”

After a stiff climb of an hour we gained the summit of a rise; the
whole panorama of the paramo was spread out before us--a marvellous
series of brown plateaus, sunken valleys with tiny rivulets meandering
through them, and stern ridges dotted with blackened, rocky peaks. The
snow-fields of the higher altitudes were entirely obliterated by banks
of cold, gray clouds.

The word _páramo_ means an elevated plain, barren of trees,
uncultivated, uninhabited, and exposed to the icy blasts of wind from
the higher elevations. This description exactly fitted the country
before us. We descended into one of the valleys, at the head of which
lay a placid lake of small size, and made camp at the base of one of
the protecting walls of rock that flanked it. The elevation of the
valley is about twelve thousand seven hundred feet, and the main peaks
of the range hemming in the paramo rise to a height of sixteen thousand
feet or more.

Long, wiry grass covered the valley floor; the top was bent over,
forming a billowy expanse of brown, variegated here and there with a
diminutive patch of green. Lifting any one of the tufts disclosed a
labyrinth of tunnels and runways apparently made by small mammals;
but, strange to say, we saw a small number only of rabbits, and few
rats came to our traps. If the network of tunnels harbored other
creatures, they effectively succeeded in evading our every effort to
discover them. Probably the denizens of this underworld had learned
the value of extreme caution and wariness because numbers of eagles
(_Lophotriorchis_) were always soaring overhead ready to pounce down on
any of them that for an instant relaxed their vigil.

[Illustration: The lake on the paramo of Santa Isabel.]

[Illustration: Snow on the paramo of Ruiz.]

A large part of the soil was springy beneath our step; it was
undermined by numberless rivulets which trickled from the slopes and
made their way to the stream in the centre of the valley. These wet
places were covered with extensive areas of daisy-like plants having
clumps or rosettes of stiff leaves; the squat, green hummocks were
strong enough to support one’s weight, but walking over them was always
accompanied by the feeling that they might give way suddenly and
precipitate one into the deep mire. Sphagnum flourished along the edges
of the marsh where it was not too wet.

The peculiar, gray, mullein-like plant called _frailejón_ thrives in
rocky places that were sheltered to some extent; but clumps of the
plants also braved the open, wind-swept slopes and grew to the very
edge of the snow-fields.

The heavy, orchid-laden forest through which we passed just before
reaching the paramo encroached upon the valley’s lower end, but for a
short distance only. There were well-worn trails made by tapirs and
deer that came nightly to feed on the abundant grass, for despite the
dry and withered appearance of the upper layer there was a deep carpet
of tender green shoots underneath.

There was an abundance of birds on the paramo, especially along the
bush-grown banks of the streamlet; but all were of dull colors--slaty
blue, gray, black, or deep brown, that harmonized well with the bleak
surroundings. Their habits reminded us of open-country birds of the
northern United States. Gray flycatchers ran over the ground; at
frequent intervals they mounted high in the air, like horned larks, for
which we at first from a distance mistook them. A small wren-like bird,
black with brown flanks (_Scytalopus sylvestris_), lived in the taller
herbage. It had a piping note that could be clearly heard fifty yards
away, but the agile bird was hard to see on account of its obscure
color and mouse-like habits that kept it constantly in the thickest
cover. Numerous marsh-wrens (_Cistothorus æquatorialis_) inhabited the
sedges, scolding and nervously flitting about.

More interesting than the foregoing, however, were large Andean snipe
(_Gallinago nobilis_) bearing at least a superficial resemblance to
the American woodcock. Single individuals or pairs of these birds
were found running over the bogs and drilling in the soft earth.
In many places the ground was perforated with dozens of the deep,
symmetrical holes where the tireless workers had labored diligently for
a meal. Shooting them was good sport. They sprang into the air with
a piping bleat and then sped away in a zigzag course for fifty or a
hundred yards, dropped back to earth and instantly merged into their
surroundings so completely as to be invisible.

The finches were perhaps better represented than any other family of
birds. A few goldfinches, in small bands, frequented the flowering
shrubs. A kind of slaty finch (_Phrygilus unicolor grandis_) was far
more abundant and fairly evenly distributed over the entire paramo.
We discovered a nest of this species among the grass at the base of a
frailejon; the structure was beautifully made of down taken from the
leaves of the plants that sheltered it. It contained two pear-shaped
eggs of a greenish color heavily speckled with fine dull-brown dots.

From a distance the small lake at the head of the valley appeared to
be a promising field for investigation. It yielded, however, but a
solitary Andean teal greatly resembling the gadwall (_Chaulelasmus_),
that was swimming on the unruffled water, and when this had been taken
our work in that particular spot was completed. The bottom of the pond
was covered with a solid mass of long _algæ_ far out as we could see;
these concealed any aquatic life that may have existed in the chilly
depths.

The weather was usually agreeable during the greater part of the day,
the thermometer registering in the neighborhood of 76° at noon, and
dropping to 30° at night. It rained little, but banks of clouds rolled
in frequently and precipitated a superabundance of moisture.

One day Allen and I undertook an exploration trip to the snow-line. We
started at daybreak, taking with us our guns, an abundant supply of
ammunition, cameras, and a small parcel of lunch. We made straight for
the head of the valley, passed the lake, and had soon reached the top
of the weathered ridge that formed the first barrier to our progress.
From the summit, fourteen thousand four hundred feet up, we could see
numerous other isolated depressions like the one we had just left;
in one of them was a newly made trench--probably the work of some
venturesome miner who had drifted to this lonely place in search of
gold. So far we had had not a glimpse of snow on account of the heavy
mist. We followed along the top of a hogback running northward and
gradually leading to higher country that flattened out into a marshy
plateau on its farther end. Progress was difficult. At each step the
bog quivered within a radius of several yards and the clumps of matted
vegetation depressed by our weight were quickly covered with water that
oozed from below. This was an ideal spot for snipe and several sprang
up as we painfully picked our way over the treacherous ground; but the
great exertion and high altitude had a demoralizing effect on our aim,
with the result that we were relieved of a good deal of ammunition
without securing a single bird in return.

A high wall of bare rock rose just beyond the confines of the bog,
and gaining the top of it we were up fifteen thousand feet. It was
covered with blackened rock fragments--mostly the result of weathering,
but some of them probably detached from the many towering crags and
columns by the shattering force of lightning. The highest point in the
wall is fifteen thousand two hundred feet. As we rested a moment to
recover our breath, a procedure necessary every twenty steps, the fog
suddenly lifted and disclosed the snow-bound slopes of Ruiz a short
distance away. Between us lay a valley flanked by perpendicular walls
of rock and hundreds of feet deep. The snow apparently extended down
two hundred feet lower than our station, making its lower limit fifteen
thousand feet.

We stood lost in admiration at the marvellous spectacle that
unfolded itself before us. The hurrying curtains of clouds revealed
ever-changing scenes. One moment miles of slopes covered with a
white mantle of snow stood out in bold relief; the next, they were
whisked from view and bare pinnacles of dark rock, like the spires of
a cathedral, appeared momentarily high above, their ragged outlines
softened by a veil of thin blue haze. Again, the lower edges of the
panorama came into view, revealing glaciers and avalanches of snow and
rocks perched on the brink of the wall ready to plunge with a boom into
the deep valley.

The floor of the valley was a series of ponds and morasses. Ducks
disported in the cold water, all oblivious of our presence, and
apparently safe in their, at least to man, inaccessible retreat. A
raging torrent tore along the base of the wall, adding its roar as a
fitting accompaniment to the general awe-inspiring character of its
desolate and inhospitable surroundings.

A whisp of vapor borne on a chill wind hurried across the intervening
chasm and blew into our faces. Time had passed faster than we realized
and we discovered that half of the afternoon was gone. Hurriedly we
began to retrace our steps along the wall of rock and through the
treacherous bog. By the time the sharp ridge was reached, clouds in
such volumes had rolled in over the paramo that everything was obscured
outside of a radius of a few yards from us. There was no trail of any
kind, and even the most familiar rocks assumed strange shapes swathed
in the dank vapor. A compass is useless under such circumstances.
Before long we reached the interlacing mass of ridges and, after
holding a consultation, followed along the top of one that seemed to
lead in the right direction. We stumbled along for two hours or more,
and then realized that we were lost. Darkness was fast approaching and
a raw wind swept down from the region of perpetual ice and snow. We
began to look for a sheltered spot in which to spend the night, for it
now seemed certain that each step was only taking us farther from camp.
Just then a rift in the clouds appeared, and before it again closed we
caught sight of a faint glimmer far below and to the right. That could
mean but one thing: it was a reflection from the lake at the head of
“our” valley. For more than an hour we had been travelling in exactly
the opposite direction. We gave up the thought of a bed of frailejon
leaves without regret and stumbled down the steep slope straight for
the spot where the lake had flashed into view. After many collapses
from thirst and fatigue we reached the brook with its crystal, ice-cold
water; then progress was easier, and within another hour the glow
of the camp-fire appeared through the haze, and soon we were snugly
ensconced in the depths of our blankets.

A few days after our journey to Ruiz the weather changed greatly.
Low-hanging fogs covered the paramo day and night; lightning flashed
among the clouds, and frigid gales roared over the plateaus. These were
signs of the coming winter and warned us to leave the paramo before
it was too late. Soon there would be only snow and ice, penetrating
mists, the reverberating roll of thunder, and blinding displays of
electricity. The elements would be unleashed and in all their grandeur,
and awe-inspiring frightfulness take possession of the upper world.
Life would then be unendurable, so we accepted the warning and returned
to Salento.



CHAPTER V

THE CHOCÓ COUNTRY ON THE WESTERN COAST OF COLOMBIA


Upon returning to Cartago from our expedition to the bleak paramo
of Santa Isabel, we began preparations for a visit to the notorious
Chocó, which lies along the western coast and within the San Juan River
watershed. This section of the country presents the other extreme
in climatic conditions. It has been rarely visited by naturalists
on account of its inaccessibility; and the few who have succeeded
in forcing their way within its inhospitable borders have found it
impossible to remain any length of time. Malarial and yellow fevers are
endemic among the natives, but quickly sap the vitality and life of
newcomers into the region; rain falls daily--four hundred inches being
the average precipitation for one year--and the heat is so intense that
when the sun appears during the intervals between showers the whole
jungle is converted into a steaming inferno. Small wonder, then, that
the fabulous wealth in gold and platinum of the Chocó has been little
more than touched.

Our plans called for an overland trip to Nóvita on the Tamaná River;
after reaching that point local conditions would have to guide our
subsequent movements. Trail there is none, but a footpath, often so
faint that it loses itself among the vegetation or in the beds of
streams, serves the purpose of partially guiding the stalwart negro who
carries the mail to Nóvita at infrequent intervals, as well as others
who undertake to cross the Western Range into the tropical lowland.

The townspeople of Cartago had heard a good deal, in a general way,
about conditions existing in the Chocó, but they could give no
information of practical value. We haunted the market and other places
where _peons_ congregate in numbers in our endeavor to secure porters
for the trip. The few who reluctantly expressed a readiness to go did
not seem physically fit for such strenuous work, so I rejected them.
One day a caravan of oxen arrived from the settlement of Salencio, and
I hastily engaged them for the return trip, as these animals, while
slow, are sure-footed, and can pick their way through mud and jungle
that horses could not penetrate.

Leaving Cartago, we crossed the arid Cauca Valley; the land west of
the river is more rolling than on the opposite bank, but the character
of the plant life is much the same. Within an hour Ansermanueva, a
cluster of twenty or thirty adobe hovels, was sighted in the distance,
but the trail divided just before reaching the village and we followed
the southern branch. Beyond this fork the climb into the mountains
began; there are two ridges, six thousand eight hundred feet and seven
thousand five hundred feet high respectively, with a ravine of five
thousand eight hundred feet between. The “cloud” forest does not begin
below the top of the first ridge; then there is an abundance of mosses,
ferns, bromelias and other epiphytes forming a growth that is both rank
and beautiful, and equalling in density that found in any other region.
The greater luxuriance of the flora on the western slope indicated a
heavier rainfall on that side; this is accounted for by the fact that
the summits of the various ridges stop the moisture-laden winds from
the Pacific, to a large extent, and cause them to precipitate the water
on the ocean side of the divide.

Within two days we arrived at Salencio, small, dilapidated, situated
on a little plateau between the peaks, and inhabited mainly by
half-breeds. We were advised to wait until the weekly market-day, when
many people from the surroundings would come to town, and it would be
possible to secure porters for the continuation of the journey. In
the meantime we made short excursions into the neighboring forest;
they yielded several novelties, among them a splendid example of the
military macaw (_Ara m. militaris_). This gorgeously colored bird is
rare, indeed, and we have never seen more than two at the same time.
Spectacled bears were said to be common and to come to the clearings
when corn is ripe; the number of pelts exhibited by the inhabitants
amply verified their assertion.

When Sunday came, and with it the gathering of people always present
when market is held, we had no trouble in engaging the required
_peons_, each of whom agreed to carry a pack of seventy-five pounds.
Early the next morning they appeared, eager and ready for their
undertaking. They shouldered their loads and started away at a fast
gait, while we brought up the rear of the column to prevent straggling.

The way lay across a low, forested ridge, and then adhered closely to
the bamboo-covered banks of a small stream called locally Rio Cabeceros
or Rio Vueltas, but which is really the headwaters of the Sipi River.
At one time we waded in the knee-deep water a distance of over three
miles, as it was easier than to force a way through the matted plant
life on either side. I soon discovered that the porters did not possess
the endurance of those we had previously employed on other expeditions,
and I believe this was due to the fact that the use of coca leaves is
unknown in this part of Colombia. Whenever our _peons_ had an abundance
of coca to chew they seemed tireless in the performance of their work;
those not given to the habit required large and frequent meals, ate
_panela_ all day long as they marched, and were capable of covering a
short distance only in the course of a day’s walk. We were compelled to
halt early and chose the top of a knoll for a camping site.

A steady downpour of rain had fallen the entire afternoon, which
continued throughout the night, and this, coupled with the severe
cold (the elevation being seven thousand two hundred feet) and the
desirability of preparing hot food, caused us to long for the comforts
of a huge camp-fire. Dry wood was out of the question, but the men
cut down a tree, the green wood of which burned readily, and had soon
started a fire adequate for working purposes. Their ponchos, which had
become saturated with water, were of no service in keeping them warm,
so they sat up the entire night, singing, telling stories, and drinking
hot coffee in their endeavors to remain cheerful and keep warm.

On the following day the vegetation was far more dense, and advantage
was taken of numerous narrow fissures in the mountainside roofed over
with logs and moss; through these tunnels we crawled on hands and
knees, but that was easier than forcing a way through the tangled mass
of plants growing above. When camp was made that night the base of a
tree was selected for a fireplace. At first glance it seemed that the
diameter of the vine-covered trunk must be at least ten feet, but this
was a delusion. After the men had vigorously plied their machetes on
the creepers, moss, and ferns, a stem not over two feet across was
revealed; they cleared away the lower tangle, leaving a protecting
umbrella-like canopy overhead that shielded the entire party from the
rain while they cooked their food.

We crossed three ridges in all, the elevation of each being slightly in
excess of seven thousand feet, with depressions of from two thousand
feet to three thousand feet between them. All are heavily forested, the
growth above four thousand feet being subtropical in character, while
that lower down is typical of the tropics and comparatively open.

At the end of the third day we heard the welcome roar of water, and
not long after halted on the bank of the Hávita River. A naked negro
came from the far side in answer to our calls, and ferried us across
the stream in a huge dugout canoe. There we found a settlement of half
a dozen bamboo huts filled with lazy negroes clothed in scanty attire.
The place is called El Puente. About one hundred yards below the group
of hovels, the Hávita is joined by the Rio Ingara. The water of both
streams is swift, cool, and of a bluish-gray color. Each of the streams
is about seventy-five yards wide just above the junction.

After crossing another ridge which required two days’ time, we reached
Juntas de Tamaná, on the south bank of the Hávita, a stone’s throw
above the point where this stream empties into the Tamaná, and but four
hundred feet above sea-level. Excepting only the little clearing in
which the fifteen dilapidated negro abodes stand, the entire country is
covered with a forest of tall trees; there is little undergrowth, but
many of the lower branches are covered with epiphytes, and long vines
or “forest ropes” dangle down from the interlocking tree-tops to the
very ground.

The negroes of Juntas are a miserable, sickly lot. They suffer from
lack of food, for the simple reason that they are too indolent to
grow in sufficient quantities the plantains, yuccas, and other plants
that thrive with a minimum of attention in such a favorable location.
Instead of making clearings and cultivating the fertile ground, they
prefer to lounge in their hammocks and take a chance at starving to
death. At irregular intervals, when the pinch of want is too great
to endure longer, the men paddle in canoes to their _fincas_ to cut
sugar-cane, gather plantains, and to pick palm-nuts in the forest. Upon
their return the family gathers about the food and eats until not a
vestige remains. So effectively do they attack the mound of provisions
that one might easily imagine a swarm of locusts had paid the region a
visit.

[Illustration: Native of Juntas de Tamaná with trail-haunting
blacksnake.]

[Illustration: The author with natives of Juntas de Tamaná.]

A day or two after our arrival at Juntas a two-year-old child belonging
to one of the families died. The news spread rapidly and by night
the entire neighborhood had turned out for a wake. We followed the
crowd. The baby, in a white dress, with bright red and green ribbon
trimming, lay in a wooden box on the table. A canopy of muslin had
been erected above the bier which was strewn with wild flowers. The
room was packed to suffocation with the black forms of the populace,
which glistened in the dim, flickering candle-light. At first bottles
of _aguardiente_ were distributed, and every one had a number of
liberal-sized drinks. Then the older folks withdrew against the four
walls and, squatting on the floor, sang or lamented as fancy dictated.
The younger people divided into two parties and played games around
the coffin. One of them was a kind of charade and, when the guessing
side solved the riddle, they pursued and caught the others, amid loud
shouts and laughter. I feared constantly that they might upset the
coffin. Occasionally some one would stop long enough to pet or caress
the dead little form, and address a few terms of endearment to it, such
as _pobrecito_, _angelito_, or _tan lindito_. The revelry lasted until
daylight; then a procession slowly wound its way to a newly dug grave
and deposited its burden, leaving the only little mound visible that
side of the Tamaná.

Christmas was drawing near. We were surprised to see the women
apparently making preparations for a celebration, which is most unusual
in South America. They worked several days cutting the weeds around the
village and cleaning up the place. When we asked about it, they said it
was not on account of the approaching _fiesta_, but a form of penance
they performed annually in atonement of their sins. Apparently the men
were without blemish, for they gazed upon the workers and addressed
jocular remarks to them from the comfortable retreat of their hammocks,
even enumerating particular misdeeds and suggesting special forms of
penance that might be effective.

The next stage of our journey had to be performed on the river. We
secured a huge _bongo_ and stalwart negro paddlers, and December 21
found us speeding down-stream toward Nóvita. The Tamaná is a rapid
stream, varying between one hundred and three hundred yards in width.
Its bed is strewn with boulders, causing rapids easily navigable on the
downward voyage, but difficult and dangerous to negotiate when bound
up-stream. Then there are deep passages between high, crumbling banks,
where the water glides silently onward like an olive-drab stream of
molten glass. The densest of tropical jungles lines both banks; its
matted walls facing the river are interrupted by small clearings at
infrequent intervals, where low hovels stand surrounded by the rich
foliage of banana and yucca plants. Chonta-palms, with bristling, spiny
stems, rear their plumed heads above the other forest-trees, or droop
over the water in a graceful manner, forming a dainty filigree against
the brazen sky. The brassy, merciless sun blazed down with unrelenting
vigor, and we were glad when dark storm-clouds obscured the sky and
provided a greatly needed respite.

It was possible to proceed only to a point called Cabeceros, below
which rapids of a formidable character obstruct further navigation. The
few negroes living on the river-bank can usually be induced to assist
in making the portage, men and women alike undertaking to carry packs
to Tambito at the foot of the rapids. Here it was necessary to secure
another _bongo_ and the trip was resumed.

The Tamaná grows wider constantly. Cataracts are of more frequent
occurrence and present greater hazards in their navigation. The
_bongo_, made of a huge tree-trunk and measuring thirty feet in length,
and a yard in width, was most seaworthy; but frequently it shipped
water in alarming quantities, and scraped and bumped over the hidden
rocks until we expected the craft to be rent asunder and flounder.

During the greater part of the afternoon we were in sight of a high,
isolated mountain, appearing on the map under the name Cerro Torra.
So far as I can learn no explorer has ever succeeded in gaining its
summit, and when I beheld the vast stretch of impenetrable jungle
extending from the river to apparently the very top of the mountain, I
could readily understand why the few men who had attempted this piece
of exploration had failed in their undertaking.

Late in the afternoon we landed at Nóvita. I was somewhat surprised at
the size of the town, which consists of about fifty hovels. The white
population, which was very small, consists mainly of traders, and is
more or less transient. I was told that they remain in the region a
year or two to buy gold and to sell their stock of provisions and
merchandise at exorbitant prices, and then return to a more healthful
climate--to suffer many years afterward from the effects of their
sojourn in the Chocó.

Nóvita is essentially a mining town. A good deal of gold and platinum
are washed out of the small streams that form a network in the
surrounding country. The negroes and Indians bring in the precious
metals in small quantities--wrapped in leaves--and trade them for
tinned food and cloth. However, the town seemed to be on the decline
in favor of Condoto, Pueblo Rico, and Quibdó, where richer mineral
deposits had been located.

The forest contained comparatively little wild life, and that was
typical of the Pacific tropical faunal zone. We daily took long tramps
and discovered numerous things of more than passing interest. Among
them was a colony of nesting black-and-yellow orioles (_Icterus_).
The birds had selected a solitary ceiba-tree standing in the centre
of a banana-field. It was seventy feet to the lowest limbs and the
trunk was so thick and smooth that no predatory animal could climb it,
which insured the safety of the colony from such a source of danger.
The nests, like huge pears, dangled from the tips of the branches; I
counted one hundred and four, and there must have been many others
concealed by the foliage. The adult birds were busy and excited,
and were coming and going in steady streams, keeping up their noisy
chattering all the while. We found numerous bits of egg-shells, white
with black dots, on the ground, indicating that the young were just
hatching.

One evening as we were returning from a long hunt, we noticed lines
of bats emerging from the little church standing on the edge of the
village. Next day (Christmas) I visited this rendezvous accompanied
by several negro assistants. The bats were all concealed within the
board walls, so that it was impossible to get at them, but the negroes
unhesitatingly tore away the slabs of flattened bamboo and soon had
the room filled with a squeaking, fluttering swarm which they attacked
with sticks. This method of attack proving too slow, they grabbed
guns and fired into the masses amid wild shouts of merriment. When
the pandemonium was over and the heap of slain had been collected,
they respectfully removed their hats and in passing out of the church
reverently bowed the knee before the altar.

We had been cautioned to be on the alert for snakes. The deadly
bushmaster or _verrugosa_ was said to be particularly abundant. While
hunting one day, Allen shot a hawk and placed it in the back pocket of
his hunting-coat. To all appearances the bird was dead; while crawling
through a thicket a short time later he felt a sudden sharp sting in
his back and, throwing up his hands in terror, yelled, “Oh, Lord! one
got me at last,” thinking, of course, that he had been struck by a
snake. Hurriedly removing his coat, the discovery was made that the
supposedly dead hawk had been stunned only and, reviving, had promptly
dug its talons in the first thing that offered a firm hold. One may
well imagine the unpleasantness of such an experience.

Occasionally we saw a species of blacksnake that grows to a length
of more than twelve feet. It is perfectly harmless, but has the
disagreeable habit of haunting trails and footpaths near the villages.
When a pedestrian approaches it rears its head several feet above
the ground and calmly gazes into his face. The first few times this
happens, the sudden, upward lunge of the big head, the rapidly playing
tongue and the beady eyes give one a decided shock and provide ample
cause for flight. Later, one becomes more or less accustomed to it.
This snake was also plentiful in tropical Venezuela and Bolivia.

[Illustration: Nóvita, the largest town in the Chocó.]

It was impossible to secure fresh meat at Nóvita; salt beef was
imported in barrels, but it was of such poor quality that we could
not eat it. We therefore depended on toucans and parrots for our
meat-supply, and found both species very palatable.

The paper money used throughout the greater part of Colombia is not
recognized by inhabitants of the Chocó. It rots in the wet, hot
atmosphere and for that reason is valueless. Neither are gold coins
wanted, but some of the shopkeepers accepted them at a twelve per
cent discount. The money that finds favor is composed of silver coins
from Mexico and practically all the other South and Central American
republics; it is valued according to size, the “dollars” passing for
forty cents, the halves for twenty, and so on. I found a number of
United States half-dimes circulating at two cent, and dimes at four
cent values, and “collected” all that came within reach.

After a few days’ hunting around Nóvita we secured another _bongo_ and
resumed our journey down-stream. The Tamaná empties into the San Juan,
about ten miles below Nóvita. The latter river is wider and deeper, but
there is no change in the country bordering it. All day long we glided
steadily onward, stopping at noon only for a brief respite from the
burning sun. At dusk we landed to spend the night near a negro hut. The
floor was raised five feet from the ground and the ragged, thatched
roof nearly touched it; there were no walls. Altogether it was a most
primitive dwelling, in which the dusky forms of the occupants moved
like shadows against the dim light of their cooking fire. Noanamá was
reached the next day. It is not quite so large as Juntas de Tamaná,
and stands on a bluff overlooking the river. The inhabitants are all
negroes; the males wore breech-cloths only, while the costume of the
women consisted of a narrow cloth fastened around the waist with a
string. Both men and women spend a few hours each day washing gold on
the river-bank, securing enough from this work to pay for provisions
brought from Buenaventura. When they have accumulated a small quantity
of the fine, sparkling flakes they embark in their canoes and make
their way to the seaport in three days, there to do their trading. It
was impossible to hire them for any kind of work; one woman had flour,
but could not bake bread for lack of fire-wood, because no one would
carry it from the forest one hundred yards away. Indians came to the
village daily. They wore many ornaments of beaten silver about their
necks and wrists; some of them also had earrings made of the same
metal, the size of doorknobs; they were so heavy that a framework of
sticks placed at the back of the head had to be used to support their
weight. I was greatly amused by the actions of one stalwart young brave
who, with his wife and baby, came to the settlement each day. While
in town, where he might be observed, he paid no attention whatever to
his family; he walked several paces in front of the woman, who, of
course, carried the baby, and not once even condescended to glance in
their direction. However, when they reached the river-bank or some
other secluded spot where he was safe from prying eyes, he snatched the
infant from the mother’s arms, kissed it, tossed it into the air and
acted exactly like any other fond parent. If any one approached, he
hastily returned it to his wife and resumed his taciturn expression.

At times a small steamer, the _Fluvial_, from Buenaventura, visits the
settlements on the lower San Juan. We waited in vain ten days for her
appearance. However, a launch belonging to a miner, a Mr. Stapleton,
chanced to pass, and the owner kindly offered to take us to the coast.

The San Juan grows constantly wider. Its banks are dotted with the
conical huts of Indians; the floors are always raised on poles, high
above the ground, to escape the floods and insects.

As we sped down the river many of the naked, painted savages rushed
out in their canoes, paddling and yelling like demons in attempts to
overtake the launch. I do not know what object they had in mind as we
always outdistanced them. We also saw others catching crabs in places
where the high, sheer banks were honeycombed with holes made by these
crustaceans. They had slender, sharpened sticks with a barb on the
end, which they inserted in the burrows and then withdrew with the
struggling victims impaled on them.

We reached the mouth of the San Juan in two days’ time. The river
is very wide at this point and dotted with low mangrove islands.
A sand-bar almost completely blocks the estuary, and when we left
the next morning we had great difficulty in finding a passage. Then
followed a wild, careening dash of forty miles in the open ocean. The
launch was but twenty-one feet long, and we were compelled to go out of
sight of land to avoid rocks and reefs; but dusk found us well within
the confines of Buenaventura Bay, ploughing through the placid water
at great speed and frightening up innumerable flocks of brown pelicans
that much preferred to float comfortably on the unruffled surface, and
took wing only as a last resort to escape being run down.

Buenaventura had never seemed attractive or inviting to us before, but
after a month in the steaming coastal land, with its almost constant
downpour, insect pests, and terrific heat, it appeared to be altogether
delightful. We returned to Cali and spent weeks on our backs suffering
from the fevers with which we had become inoculated. Allen’s attack was
so severe that he was compelled to return to the United States two days
after reaching San Agustin on our next expedition, and just before the
discovery of some of our most valuable material.



CHAPTER VI

IN QUEST OF THE COCK-OF-THE-ROCK


On my fourth visit to Popayán we had to remain in the city the greater
part of a week, arranging for the continuation of our journey across
the Central Andes to the headwaters of the Magdalena. Hereafter we
were to travel on foot, partly due to the fact that some of the trails
were impassable, both to riding and pack animals, and partly to enable
us to be in a position better to study the wild life of the region we
traversed. I was accompanied on this particular expedition by Doctor
Allen and Mr. J. T. Lloyd, of Cornell University.

On February 27 we left Popayán on foot, the mule-train following some
little distance behind. The route lay through undulating country,
rather well cultivated, where there were numerous huts at which we
found shelter for the nights. At one of these stopping-places the
natives were engaged in thrashing beans. The pods had been heaped upon
a straw mat and the family were beating them with heavy flails. Wheat
was thrashed in the same manner, but after the grains had been beaten
loose from the chaff large pans full were held high above the head and
poured out in a thin, steady stream; the wind blew the chaff from the
falling column and the wheat dropped upon the mat. At another hut men
were manufacturing “cabulla” by stripping off, between two sticks,
the fleshy part of the leaves of the yucca-plant. The tough fibres
remaining were mixed with horsehair and braided into strong ropes. Food
was scarce, the natives subsisting upon the inevitable “sancocho” of
boiled green plantains, and cornmeal “jarepas.” However, we managed
occasionally to pick up a fowl, some green corn, and once, we succeeded
in purchasing a live sheep; this, in addition to the provisions we
carried, enabled us to fare passably well.

On March 7 we had reached the top of a ridge ten thousand three hundred
and fifty feet high, having passed the little villages Timbio, San
Miguel, Santa Barbara, and La Vega. La Vega means “fertile plain,” and
the surrounding country fully justifies the name. Far as the eye could
see the gently sloping mountainsides had been divided into a network
of small, irregular plots by rows of high, thick hedges. Wheat, corn,
cabbage, and rice flourished under the cultivating hand of the Indian;
there were also small flocks of sheep, and occasionally a few head
of cattle. Small mud-walled huts, singly and in clusters, dotted the
maze of green landscape, and over all breathed an air of quiet and
contentment.

The trail had gradually led upward, though often descending into
gorges and ravines a thousand feet deep. We had passed through patches
of barren country, and then entered a wilderness of lovely flowering
rhododendrons. The masses of red wild oleanders were beautiful, but the
lanes of a species of shrub covered with small waxen blossoms of purest
white, mingled with deep-green foliage and the fronds of monstrous
subtropical ferns, surpassed any picture that pen can describe or the
imagination conjure. From afar we could hear the steady buzz of bees
and other insects that swarmed about the flowers, and frequently a
humming-bird whirred into the arena, hovered a few moments, and then
sped away; myriads of nocturnal insects appeared at night, and great
sphinx-moths took the place of the hummers.

The top of the ridge is covered with tall, magnificent forest. We saw
numerous signs of bird and animal life. Toucans of several species
yelped and clattered their bills in the tall trees above. There were
also yellow-shouldered troupials, blue and yellow cotingas, brown
creepers, bright-colored hummers, and many dragon-flies. The latter
possessed a special interest for Lloyd, who immediately erected
breeding-cages and began to study their life history. The larva of the
dragon-fly resembles a good-size black beetle and lives in water. It is
the possessor of a voracious appetite, feeding upon aquatic insects,
the larvæ of mosquitoes, and even upon members of its own kind. Finally
it rises to the top, hatches, and continues the cycle of its existence
as an aerialist, the terror of the winged insects upon which it preys.
Penelopes, small turkey-like birds, were abundant, and proved to be
excellent eating. One day we succeeded in taking two specimens of a
rare, beautiful tanager (_Serricossypha albocristata_) that lived in
small flocks in the tall tree-tops. It was as large as a robin, of
a velvety blue-black color, with a white crown and breast of deep
scarlet. With such a display of lovely colors one might expect harmony
in song; but apparently the vocal ability of the gorgeous creature was
limited to a few shrill “peeps” like those of a strayed pullet. Deer
also were abundant, and one day we caught a fine cat of the ocelot
family.

We pitched camp in the heart of the forest. The vegetation was really
wonderful. In spots the lower growth consisted entirely of climbing
bamboo, so dense as to be impenetrable; the moss carpeting the ground
was often knee-deep, and the trees seemed to be breaking under the
weight of the creepers, orchids, mosses, and lilies that burdened every
trunk and branch. It rained a good deal, and when the downpour stopped
there was always the drip, drip of water that had been absorbed by the
spongy masses overhead.

[Illustration: Threshing wheat.]

[Illustration: Indian hut in the Valle de las Papas.]

The forest zone extends along the top of the ridge for three or four
miles and down about one thousand five hundred feet on the other side,
but the slope immediately below this line is either bush-covered or
cultivated, and bears every evidence of having been cleared. Fifteen
hundred feet lower down we came upon the little settlement Almaguer,
which boasts about one hundred adobe houses and two severely plain
little churches, but all are whitewashed and present a clean
appearance. The main industry is the making of Panama hats of a rather
coarse kind. Many Indians visit the town on market-days, bringing coca
leaves, lime, and _sera_, a kind of vegetable wax, obtained from a
berry that grows in the mountains and used for making candles. Pigeons
are very fond of the berry, and as they ripen the great band-tailed
species congregate in flocks to feed upon them, becoming so fat that
they finally pay with their lives for the short season of feasting.
The candles made of _sera_ are green, but burn well and are generally
better than the ordinary tallow dip. The lime, or “mambe,” is used for
chewing with the coca leaves, which is a confirmed habit in this part
of the country.

As elsewhere, the weekly market at Almaguer is a day of great activity
and is looked upon almost in the light of a fiesta. Early in the
morning, usually at four o’clock, a cow is killed in the plaza and all
the inhabitants gather around to watch the skinning of the carcass.

At eight o’clock the plaza is filled with tradespeople, usually
women, squatting on the ground with their wares spread before them
in wooden trays, bags, or baskets. All that these simple people deem
necessary to existence, and even some luxuries, may be had. There are
rows of venders of bread, cakes, and dulces; others with vegetables,
rice, coffee, corn, and cheese; occasionally peaches, apples of an
inferior quality, oranges, and a few plantains are brought up from some
sheltered valley; but the greatest space is always taken up by the coca
merchants, who unquestionably do the most thriving business, as every
one takes advantage of market-day to have their “mambero” replenished.
Sometimes a buyer of hats visits the market. On such occasions the day
is ushered in with an unearthly hammering noise that proceeds from all
the houses, and investigation will disclose the women industriously
pounding the Panamas into shape on a wooden block. Later they carry
them to market on their heads, where the buyer, after a casual
examination, makes an offer which varies from forty cents to a few
dollars, according to the texture of the hat.

At night the temperature falls rapidly as the cold winds sweep down
from the mountains and howl through the streets. We have every reason
to remember our night’s experience in Almaguer. The pack-animals had
failed to catch up and we carried nothing with us, so we spent the
long, cheerless hours until sunrise shivering in our bare, dusty room
in the _posada_.

The first night from Almaguer was passed at an old mill on the banks
of the Caquiona, built by monks many years ago. They had thoughtfully
provided a large room to house the Indians who formerly came to have
their wheat and corn ground, even to the extent of providing rough
bunks; and just outside stood a massive stocks, doubtless also provided
for the use of the Indians, but it must have detracted somewhat from
the effect of the hospitality extended by the good monks. There
was plenty of tender, luscious grass for the mules. Near the river
large numbers of butterflies settled on the moist sand to drink; the
boulders on the bottom of the clear, cold stream had many houses of the
caddis-fly cemented to them--little pebbly mummy-cases in which the
owner lay snugly ensconced in the silky lining and quickly repaired the
break if we opened them. The next day we passed San Sebastian, the last
settlement, and climbed steadily higher toward the cold, bleak paramo
that marks the dividing-line between the Cauca and the Magdalena.

After four days we reached the marvellous Valle de las Papas, just
below the mist-enshrouded paramo, and took refuge in the pretentious
house of old Pedro, a full-blooded Andaquia, while preparing for our
final dash across the great barrier.

The Valle de las Papas is a great level stretch of marshy land covered
with a growth of tall grass and small clumps of forest, between ten
thousand and eleven thousand feet up. The tops of the ridges hem it in
on all sides and somewhat protect it from the icy winds. It is said
that the ancient Indians cultivated the potato in this valley; hence
its name--“The Valley of Potatoes.” An elaborate network of canals or
drains runs through the valley, but the climate and soil are such that
I doubt if cultivation could be carried on to any great extent. Often,
for many days at a time, rain and hail fall steadily and the mist is
so thick that one cannot venture far on the treacherous boggy soil.
Yet, strange to say, cattle thrive wonderfully on the high plateau, and
their rearing is the occupation followed by the few Indian families
who live on these heights. Beautiful orchids abound in the trees,
especially in the forest that reaches up to the valley; we saw many of
yellow, purple, and snowy-white. Some of the trees are of the evergreen
family, including a kind of holly. There were many indications of
deer and tapirs, although we shot none. Large snipe and ant-thrushes
were plentiful, and on the streams we saw a number of peculiar little
torrent-ducks, or merganettas; large white gulls, which the Indians say
are old birds that come up from the sea to die, soared high overhead.

At one end of the valley lies a small lake, of which we had an
occasional short view when the clouds drifted up the slopes. All about
grew clumps of frailejones. Two streams leave the grassy borders of the
lake, mere rivulets ten or twelve feet wide, through which we waded
daily; one flows down the extreme eastern slope and develops into the
mighty Caquetá that helps to swell the yellow flood of the Amazon; the
other breaks through the ridges to the northeast, and dashing down the
mountains in a series of rapids and cascades forms the Magdalena, which
empties into the Caribbean many hundreds of miles away.

Allen was suffering considerably from the fever contracted in the
Chocó four months before. Instead of being benefited by the high, cold
climate as we had hoped, his condition grew steadily worse, so we found
it necessary to continue our journey sooner than we had anticipated.
I hastened back to San Sebastian to engage Indian porters, as mules
are unable to carry packs beyond this point, and was assisted in
my mission by the schoolmaster, who took a sympathetic interest in
our undertaking. He was a pathetic example of a man who might have
accomplished great deeds had the opportunity presented itself. One of
his most highly cherished possessions was an old magazine containing
illustrations of an aeroplane and an article on wireless telegraphy.

With a great deal of difficulty I succeeded in arranging with a dozen
Indians to carry our luggage across the cordillera the following week.
They were of splendid physique and as fine a looking lot as I had ever
seen. The price agreed upon was about seventy-five cents per _arroba_
of twenty-five pounds, each man carrying from two to four _arrobas_.
The journey would require five days, and each man was to carry his
own food for the trip in addition to the pack. The charge was high,
judged by local standards, but on account of the rainy season the
trail was all but impassable; also, it was the _Semana Santa_, one
of the greatest fiestas of the year, when all good Indians should
roam the streets, dulling their senses with an excessive use of coca
leaves and _guarapo_, and fighting, while the women spent the greater
part of the days in church acquiring grace for themselves and their
delinquent husbands. A small advance was made to each man to enable him
to purchase a supply of ground corn, cane-sugar, and coca. Acceptance
of this advance is considered equal to signing a contract, and they
rarely, if ever, go back on the deal.

On Wednesday, April 3, the day set for our departure, the men appeared,
each provided with a board and strong cords. The packs, consisting of
boxes, steamer trunks, and bags, were tied to the boards which fitted
the men’s backs; a broad band was passed over the forehead and two
bands across the chest. Each man carried in his hand a forked stick,
or “mula,” as a means of aiding him in going up and down the slippery
inclines and in walking the logs that crossed the streams.

After a short, steep climb we were out on the bleak paramo, in the
midst of the rain, hail, and mist. The wind blew a gale and the
cold was intense. Through an occasional break in the banks of fog
we had glimpses of the valley on each side filled with dense clumps
of frailejones. We continued on in the face of the blinding storm
for several hours, but with the coming of darkness the trail left
the wind-swept zone and started downward, winding along the canyon
of the Magdalena; in the failing light the scenery was bewitchingly
beautiful. High, rugged peaks, sheer cliffs, and black masses of
forest towered above the sparkling stream that bounded from rock to
rock in a succession of falls. Allen and Lloyd had gone on ahead, and
after dark I came upon them camped in a unique spot. They had thrown
their blankets on a ledge in the face of a cliff that towered several
hundred feet above them. A tiny waterfall dashed over the edge of the
precipice, cleared the ledge, and joined the greater torrent below.
The regular night’s stopping-place is known as Santa Marta, which the
Indians reached at nine that night.

Immediately after arriving at the camping site the porters boiled
corn-meal, which they ate with brown sugar. Each man had brought a
sheepskin to use as a bed, and these were dried beside the fire while
their food was cooking. Before starting in the morning they had another
meal of mush and sugar. During the gruelling day their mouths were kept
well filled with coca and lime, and the apparent amount of sustenance
and endurance derived from the herb is extraordinary; nor does it seem
to have any bad aftereffect, though in Almaguer I saw a number of shaky
old women with bloodshot eyes and blackened lips and teeth, said to be
due to the result of excessive indulgence in coca.

The second night we failed to catch up with the men who had gone on
ahead. We had waded streams and knee-deep mud the greater part of the
day as the result of the steady downpour which rendered the trail
indescribably bad; everything was drenched and it required more than
an hour of hard work to start a small fire. However, the day dawned
bright and sunny, and we lingered to watch the tribes of feathered folk
that began feeding and chattering in the tree-tops. The ripening fruits
had attracted great black guans, trogons with rose-colored breasts and
metallic green backs, and wonderful curve-billed hummers with long
white tails. Along a stretch of bamboo we saw scores of large, pearly
butterflies flapping about lazily, the iridescence of their wings
flashing like bits of rainbow in the sunlight; but not a glimpse did we
have of the main object of our long wanderings--the rare and elusive
cock-of-the-rock.

In the afternoon the rain again fell in unrelenting torrents, and we
camped beneath a wall of rock hundreds of feet high, which the Indians
called the Peña Seca, or dry stone. Great vines with bunches of scarlet
flowers drooped a hundred feet below the top, like gigantic serpents,
but not a drop of all the downpour reached us. The base of the cliff
was blackened from the numerous camp-fires kindled by Indians on their
way to Tolima in quest of salt. By way of divertisement our Indians
gathered incense, which is a kind of gum that collects on certain
trees, and which they intended to take home with them for use in the
_santa iglesia_. I watched the social bees that live in company with
termites building tubular entrances that may extend out eighteen
inches or more like a coiled pipe-stem to their apartment in the nest;
apparently the two different inmates of the common domicile never clash.

The third night we reached the hut of an old Indian who called himself
Domingo, and who was as surly a creature as ever walked the earth. As
he refused us the hospitality of his hut, we camped outside his gate.

We now occasionally passed through a cleared spot where grain and
vegetables grew; cattle grazed on the long, tender grass, and
dark-brown, wild-eyed children peered at us from under the fringed,
low grass roofs of shambling Indian huts. On the top of every knoll
was a row of tall wooden crosses, some newly erected, others decaying
and ready to topple over; it is the custom of the natives to erect a
new one each year on Good Friday, permitting the old ones to remain
standing. We had reached the frontier of Huila.

On Easter Sunday we had our first glimpse of San Agustin, which was
decidedly disappointing. All that we could see as we descended the last
steep slope was a cluster of some fifty-odd mud huts protruding from
the centre of a wide, barren plain; there is no forest within a mile
in any direction, and very little cultivation is carried on in the
immediate vicinity. The town is very old; the inhabitants are mainly
of Spanish descent, but scattered throughout the surrounding country
can be found small clearings, or _fincas_, cultivated by full-blooded
Indians. These latter are of a reticent though friendly disposition,
emerging from the seclusion of their forest-bound homes only on
market-days to dispose of the products of the soil and of their flocks.

In recent years the name San Agustin has come into prominence on
account of the prehistoric ruins and monoliths that are found in its
vicinity, and which are supposed to be of very great antiquity, dating
back to a culture that has entirely disappeared and of which nothing
definite is known. Even the Indians who to-day inhabit the region have
no traditions or folk-lore of the vanished race, and scientists who
have examined the ruins have, up to the present time, been unable to
account for their origin. It has been suggested that they may represent
the work of the tribe of Andaquias, but this statement is disputed by
Carlos Cuervo Marquez, who points out that the mute reminders of an
ancient civilization already existed in the same unknown condition at
the time the Conquistadores overran the empire of the Chibchas.

The thing that first attracted our attention was the row of twelve
stone images that stand in the centre of the plaza facing the village
chapel, which vary in height from two to eight feet and are carved from
sandstone and granite. Gigantic heads, with round faces and staring,
expressionless eyes, are set upon short, square bodies. Some are
crowned with hats or head-coverings that range in pattern from the
Turkish fez and sugar-loaf to curious curved caps that may have been
intended to simulate the rainbow. Many of the figures are quite naked,
while others are clothed in a narrow band, or loin-cloth. The teeth
of many of the human beings represented are prominent, and each has
two pair of great pointed canines like those of a beast. This row of
images was placed in its present location by order of the priest who
had charge of the parish; we may imagine at what cost of labor when we
realize that many of the stones weigh several tons. Of course, there
are no trails, and the only way was to drag them out of the forest with
ropes.

One of the monoliths represents a woman with a small child in one arm
and a club in the other hand raised in an attitude of defense; on one
is carved a woman meshing a _muchila_, and on another a man is holding
a fish. There is the hewn figure of a large monkey crouching over a
smaller one, and some distance away stands an owl holding a snake in
its beak. A flat slab in a recumbent position bears the engraved figure
of a woman and possibly served as the covering of a coffin or a grave.
Then there is the statue of a woman with a mallet in one hand and a
chisel in the other, thought to represent the goddess of sculpture. It
seems not improbable that the greater number of the images represent
idols which were worshipped by the ancient people.

[Illustration: The village of Santa Barbara.]

[Illustration: A corner of San Augustin.]

The most interesting examples are to be found in the forest above San
Agustin. Under the giant cedars and tall cecropias that cover the
slopes one finds works of a more pretentious nature, scattered among
the dense low palm growths and covered with creepers and epiphytes.
There a huge stone tablet may be seen, supported on four richly
carved stone columns six feet high, which probably served as an altar
for the offer of sacrifice; or it may have been the entrance to a
temple. Near-by is an underground gallery leading to two large caves
in which are carvings of the sun and moon with rays darting in all
directions. There are many other statues within a radius of several
miles, and doubtless a systematic search of the region would reveal
rich archæological treasure-troves. Numerous mounds and caverns furnish
abundant evidence of the existence of ruined temples and the remnants
of works of art that have yielded to decadence with the passing of
the centuries. Most of the known statues have been undermined by
fortune-hunters and have toppled over; others have been broken by the
excavators in their mad search for the small gold replicas or ornaments
that are found in the graves, while several have been demolished by
order of the clergy. The only thing that prevents the removal of the
stones themselves is their great weight and lack of transportation
facilities.

The ruins about San Agustin possess none of the ornate massiveness of
those found in Guatemala and Yucatan, but rather has the work been
executed along severe lines and in bas-relief; nor are they nearly so
well preserved, which might tend to show that they date back to an
earlier period. Hieroglyphics are almost wholly wanting. Doctor Karl
Theodor Stoepel, who spent some time in San Agustin previous to our
visit, has traced a similarity between one of the monoliths and an
example found in Pachacama, Bolivia. In one or two instances the work
resembles that of the Aztecs.

Just how to account for the advance of civilization to a point
where art and architecture were encouraged, and which supported a
well-organized form of government, and then to explain its complete
extinction, is a question on which students of the subject are
at variance. Religion in some form or other has always wielded a
powerful influence upon the life and customs of primitive nations; one
evidence--almost invariably the deities and the temples erected for
their veneration represent the supreme efforts of the ancient artists
and alone have withstood the weathering of ages. This points strongly
to the supremacy of a sacerdotal order; but whether the reigning
classes who withheld their knowledge from the common people for selfish
purposes were annihilated by an uprising of the servile hordes or
by an outside invasion, or whether some great cataclysm of nature
extinguished the progress of ages at a stroke, may forever remain a
secret.

The bird life around San Agustin was varied and abundant. Trees were in
blossom, especially one with a feathery, pinkish flower (_Mimosa_), and
to this scores of hummers came. One species had a slightly curved bill
and was green in color, with a patch of deepest purple on the throat;
another of a blue color had tail-feathers six inches long. In the
ravines there were many chachalacas that kept up a demoniacal cackling.
The bushes were full of finches and lovely velvety red tanagers,
while honey-creepers came to our table daily and gorged themselves on
sugar. In the forest we saw many large, woolly monkeys, some bluish,
others silvery gray. There were kinkajous, agoutis, and peccaries.
The two-toed sloth was abundant; the flesh of all these animals was
greedily eaten by the natives. Numbers of large lizards or iguanas
prowled about the town and feasted on the tiny chickens and ducklings.
A flight of locusts covered the entire upper Magdalena, and for days
the air was black with the pest; millions would rise from the ground in
a steady cloud in front of us as we walked along through the fields. In
a few days not a speck of green remained. The hungry, insatiable hordes
moved on, but behind them remained a wide, brown desert, filled with
sorrow and desolation, for the crops of corn, yuccas, and bananas had
been destroyed and there would be famine for many months to come.

[Illustration: A mountain stream, such as the Rio Naranjos, where the
cock-of-the-rock spends its existence.]

We scouted the forests daily, confining our search to the untrodden
ravines of the Rio Naranjos, a turbulent, wicked stream that joins the
Magdalena a short distance below. Great precipices flank its sides and
the water rushes through dark, narrow gorges. Everywhere the river-bed
is dotted with great boulders against which the water dashes with
a force that sends clouds of spray into the air. The slopes of the
mountains and ravines are covered with a dense palm jungle, the trees
laden with bunches of purple berries. It is in places such as these
that the cock-of-the-rock spends its existence. After several weeks of
the most strenuous work our efforts were rewarded: we came suddenly
upon a flock of male birds in the top of a palm, the bright scarlet
color of the wonderful creatures flaming among the deep-green fronds
in a dazzling manner as they flitted about, and with outstretched
necks and raucous “_eur-rr-ks_” surveyed the disturbers of their
time-honored solitude. We were the first human beings to penetrate
their jungle fastness and excited curiosity rather than fear. The mere
sight of these beautiful birds in their wild surroundings was worth
all the discomforts of the long journey. In size they are no larger
than domestic pigeons, but the color is of a most intense and brilliant
scarlet, with wings and tail of black; the upper wing-coverts are of a
light shade of gray, and the eyes and feet are golden yellow; a flat
crest an inch and a half high completely covers the head and hides the
yellow bill. The female is of a dull shade of brown.

We wanted to find their nests and to study their home life, of which
little was known; also to secure material for the museum group. With
the aid of Indians, and ropes made of creepers, we began to explore the
face of the cliffs, some of which were a hundred feet high. On many
of the steep slopes the palms grew so close together that we utilized
them as ladders. As it rained nearly every day the footholds were very
slippery, and many times one or another of the party fell, being saved
from being dashed on the rocks far below only by the rope that bound us
together.

One day, as we crept along slowly and painfully, we flushed a bird of
sombre brown from a great boulder that rose from the centre of the
stream. We waited breathlessly while she fluttered about in the palms
and then returned to the rock. She flew many times back and forth,
carrying food in her bill, and at last I discerned a dark object
against the face of the rock upon which the bird centred her attention.
There was no longer cause for concealment, so we moved to the edge of
the torrent and saw the grass and mud nest plastered against the face
of the rock; below raged a whirlpool, and on each side there was a
waterfall. A more inaccessible spot could not have been chosen by the
bird, whose haunts had never been violated.

After a consultation the Indians decided to build a raft, and
accordingly cut down trees and lashed the trunks together, but no
sooner had the craft been launched than it was caught by the raging
swirl and spun about until the creepers parted and we found ourselves
struggling in the whirlpool. A great liana which had been securely tied
to the raft and fastened on the bank swept past, and this proved to be
our salvation.

A tall tree was now felled, and its course so directed that the top
should fall across the inaccessible rock island, but it fell several
yards short and again we were outwitted.

The sun was now directly overhead, and the fierce rays entered the
narrow confines of the canyon so that it was stiflingly hot. Angry
peals of thunder warned us of the approaching storm, and red howling
monkeys, disturbed from their midday rest, roared dismally. Above, the
river flowed like a greenish stream of molten glass; below, it dashed
through the gorge with a dull roar, and to the towering boulder in
the centre clung a treasure, to possess which men had risked their
lives; but on the very verge of success we seemed likely to fail. Even
the Indians, pioneers of the jungle, shook their heads doubtfully and
wanted to return.

We tried the only remaining resource. With poles and lines two of the
Indians and myself picked our way to a number of small rocks that
jutted out of the angry flood at the very mouth of the gorge. The other
Indian spliced together joints of slender bamboo and climbed out into
the branch of the fallen tree which had lodged against some rocks. From
this precarious position he made repeated thrusts at the nest; finally
it fell and began its maddening career in the whirlpool. Around it
went, many times, and then shot straight for the gorge, swerving toward
the rock on which Juan stood. As we shouted encouragement Juan dived.
In spite of the fact that he was a powerful swimmer we doubted if we
should ever see him again, but after what seemed minutes he reappeared,
battling furiously with the flood that sought to sweep him into the
maelstrom. We threw him a line and dragged him ashore. In his mouth he
held the precious nest, a young bird, drowned, still clinging to the
grass lining.

Later, and under circumstances hardly less thrilling, we found other
birds and nests with both eggs and young, but we took only those that
were absolutely necessary. The others, and there were many, we left to
the eternal mystery of the wilderness, to dance in the shadows and to
woo their mates beside the rushing waters; to rear their young and to
lead the life that was intended for them from the beginning.



CHAPTER VII

CROSSING THE EASTERN ANDES INTO THE CAQUETÁ


Of the many little-known places in South America, the least known
lie eastward of the eastern base of the Andes. One such region is
the Caquetá of Colombia. We had been considering the feasibility of
undertaking a trip into this country, but the departure for home of my
companion, Doctor Allen, and Mr. Lloyd, from San Agustin, left me alone
in the field, and I doubted the advisability of taking the journey
without their assistance. From all the information I could gather,
the crossing of the Eastern Range presented great difficulties and
would have to be accomplished on foot. The rainy season had set in,
adding to the difficulties of travel. Also, the rivers were swollen
to such an extent that there was danger of our being stopped at any
one of them; or, far worse, of being unable to recross them upon our
return. However, a nearer view invariably changes the perspective, so I
determined to approach the region as near as possible, gather all the
data available, and then follow the course that seemed best.

Accordingly, we bade a reluctant farewell to San Agustin one Sunday
morning. The entire village turned out to see us depart and gave
us numerous tokens of their good-will and friendship in the form
of embroidered handkerchiefs, panama hats, food, and pets. An old
Indian solemnly presented me with a small monkey, which he said could
cry if spanked thoroughly; he offered to give a demonstration of
the creature’s accomplishment, but I assured him that his word was
sufficient. A parrot was contributed by another person who said it
would be good company, as it “conversed” well. The _Vaya con Dios!_ of
these simple, honest folk was touching, and we took away with us only
the most pleasant memories and friendliest feeling.

After a three days’ ride through level plains and gently rolling
grasslands we forded the Rio Suaza and drew rein in the town of
Guadaloupe. It stands at the foot of the Cordillera Oriental. A trail
was being constructed from this point across the mountains and into
Amazonian drainage; however, work had little more than begun, and
the reports of the route we had from the villagers were not very
encouraging.

There was nothing of particular interest about the village. We moved
to a site known as La Danta three thousand five hundred feet up the
slope. There was abundant woods all around in which we hunted with good
results nearly three weeks.

One day a party of Indians made camp on the bank of a creek not
far from La Danta, and immediately built a rock and mud dam across
the little waterway. Then they crushed a great many leaves of the
yucca-plant and threw them into the stream. The milky juice quickly
mingled with the water, and soon scores of catfish came to the top,
stupefied by the poison, and floating on their backs. They were
gathered by the basketful and taken away by the Indians. These catfish,
living in rapid mountain streams, are provided with a sucking disk
which enables them to attach themselves to a rock to rest; otherwise
they would be washed down stream, as they are not very powerful
swimmers.

The cost of being married is so high in some South American countries
that in many cases the ceremony is dispensed with. Occasionally,
however, bands of missionaries visit a region and attempt to undo the
wrong inflicted by the local _padres_ by uniting in marriage free of
charge all those who appear before them for that purpose. The _padres_
are not always to blame; frequently the inhabitants are simply too
indifferent or lazy to go through the formalities, or there may be no
one in their midst to look after their spiritual wants.

While we were at La Danta a half-dozen priests came to Guadaloupe
and urged the _paisanos_ to take advantage of this opportunity to
become united in wedlock according to the ritual of the church. The
people listened to the exhortations, promised to heed the admonitions,
and--failed to show up at the proper time. Then the _padres_ lost
patience and talked the matter over with the _jefe_. The latter sent
out soldiers to scour the country and bring in all the offenders living
together within a radius of many miles; the pairs were frequently
brought in handcuffed together, all objections and excuses being
promptly overruled or ignored by the officiating clergy. Then they were
lined up and married.

Several weeks later I was the guest of a very high government official
in another state. In the course of dinner conversation the _señora_
asked me in the most casual way: “Tell me! In your country, do
people get married, or _así, no más_ like here?” The last phrase was
accompanied by a dainty snap of the fingers. I am afraid I said: “_Así,
no más!_”

From _peons_ working on the new road we learned that their operations
had extended to a point near the top of the range, and that a _tambo_,
or rest-shack, had been built there to shelter the laborers. We
immediately started for the place and by dint of hard travel reached
it in one day’s time. The shack bore the name Andalucia and was seven
thousand nine hundred feet up. The _peons_ gladly shared their quarters
with us, and we divided our rations with them, which must have been a
welcome change from their everlasting boiled corn and _panela_.

The weather at Andalucia was most severe; fog, strong wind, almost
continuous rain, and a freezing temperature reminded us of conditions
on a paramo at the worst season of the year. Also, the forest was
dense, and the vast number of fallen trunks and branches rendered the
greater part of it impenetrable. Birds were scarce and hard to find,
but small mammals were plentiful.

The foreman of the work gang had cleared a few acres of land and sowed
wheat, but the chances of harvesting a crop were very small, because
it seemed as if all the rats and mice for miles around had located the
spot and promptly migrated there to unearth the seed and cut down the
tender shoots.

Water for drinking and cooking was secured from a deep pit dug in the
slope. One of our first cares always is to investigate the water-supply
of the region in which we are working; an inspection of the excavation
near the _tambo_ revealed a most astounding state of affairs; three
earthworms, as large as good-sized snakes, make the reservoir their
home. They resembled the well-known “shiners” that appear on our lawns
after a shower; but the size! The largest, by actual measurement, was
thirty-seven inches long and four inches in circumference. When I
asked the cook for an explanation as to why he did not remove them and
keep the water clean, he promptly informed me that they were _cojures_
(cohoories) that he had dug up in the woods and placed there for
safe-keeping until he had time to use them on a fishing trip in the low
country. Needless to say, perhaps, his pets promptly disappeared; he
always insinuated that they had met with foul play at my hands!

One day a person of distinguished appearance rode up the road and
introduced himself as General Rafael Santos, of Bogotá. He had heard
that we were in the locality and wanted to get into the Caquetá. Could
he be of any service to us? As he was in control of the work being
done on the new trail, he certainly was in a position to be of great
help. He told us of conditions on the eastern slope and also of the
country we were so eager to see; before leaving, one of his _peons_
was despatched down the trail to inform his scouting-parties that we
would follow within a short time, and for them to have camping-places
prepared for us.

We lost no time in starting on the trip. I had with me several natives
who had been with the expedition some months, and their number was
augmented by men from Guadaloupe who were eager to have a hand in the
undertaking. Every one walked, the _peons_ carrying the packs; but
mules were driven ahead to test the trail, and also for use after we
reached the level low country.

The heavy subtropical forest that begins at La Danta continues on to
the top of the range, and down the other side in an unbroken mass of
solid, living green. There were practically no signs of life, but the
wind blew less violently and the cold was less intense and not so
penetrating as at Andalucia.

The slope is less abrupt than on the western side. On the second night
a palm-leaf lean-to called _El Paraiso_ was reached. The elevation was
two thousand four hundred and twenty-five feet. A number of bedraggled
and discontented laborers had erected this shelter and said they would
stay there without doing another stroke of work until their pay,
several months overdue, should arrive. Perhaps they are still camping
there, unless the prospect of starving to death forced them to move,
as we had heard several times that the foremen were in the habit of
drawing the money for all the men under them, and then decamping for
parts unknown.

Beyond “the paradise” the way lay through a region that might well be
called _El Infierno_. There was an unbroken succession of pools and
sinks so that we struggled onward hour after hour through water and
thin mud several feet deep. Contrary to our expectations, we had been
able to use the mules for very light packs on parts of the previous
day’s journey; but now they floundered and caused so much trouble, that
we heartily regretted not having left them behind.

On the following days the country was dotted with steep, rocky
foot-hills, alternated with deep, muddy depressions. Rain fell almost
continuously, but it served to keep away troublesome insects. The
_peons_ were cheerful withal and seemed to enjoy the experience in
spite of the hard work. However, it was with a feeling of relief that
we emerged from the mountainous country and entered a stretch of level
forest, the elevation of which was one thousand feet. From the edge of
this “plateau” we had our first view of the Caquetá--a perfect ocean of
forest stretching out ahead as far as the eye can see, which on clear
days is a distance of many miles. The sight is most impressive. Not a
single rise is visible above the uniform expanse of green, as the trees
appear to be all of the same height.

We stopped at the first native hut encountered, which was but a
ten-minute walk from the settlement of Florencia. There was a clearing
of considerable size; the greater part of it was overgrown with grass
and weeds, but there were also fields of cane and plantains. The latter
were the finest I have ever found in all South America--eighteen inches
long and sweeter and better flavored than the best bananas. It was
almost impossible to grow sugar-cane in any quantity; capibaras were
abundant along the streams and made nightly inroads on the plantation,
devastating large areas on each visit.

The great Amazonian forest extending on all sides was full of
surprising sounds emanating from a fauna entirely new to us. For the
first time we heard the clear, ringing whistle of the “false bell-bird”
(_Lathria cinerea_). The penetrating _whoo-ee-whee-oo_ filled the
woods with music as the birds called to one another, but the obscurely
colored singers were hard to see among the dark branches. The song
contains several low, _churring_ notes that are lost from a distance.

The abundance and variety of wild life was so great as to almost
bewilder us and we worked day and night preparing the wealth of
material that came into our hands. Working conditions were most
unfavorable; it rained daily; sand-flies took away a great deal of
the pleasure that each day brought in the form of new and interesting
creatures, while mosquitoes and fleas insisted on gaining an entrance
under the nets and making the nights disagreeable. Every member of the
expedition suffered from malaria during our entire stay in the Caquetá
region. Notwithstanding these handicaps, we lost not a single day, and
the collections rapidly grew to record-breaking size.

It was, of course, necessary to depend to a certain extent upon native
hunters. They were always carefully instructed as to the area they
should visit and how to work it; from the results they obtained I
could usually tell whether directions had been followed. One of these
_cazadores_ was a lazy, thoroughly good-natured half-breed named
_Abrán_. He came in daily with a tale of woe, recounting in detail
the great distance he had covered, the hardships of such a long tramp
through the jungle, and--bringing few specimens. I pretended to believe
his stories, knowing full well all the while that he had really
selected a comfortable spot a mile or so away and then settled down
on a log for a quiet day of smoking and day-dreaming. When any animal
came within sight he shot it. In this manner he secured many of the
shy, ground-haunting species, such as rails, tinamou, and ant-birds
that one seldom sees while moving about through the forest. This was
exactly what I wanted. It is all but impossible to find a native
hunter with patience enough to sit and wait for these things, so while
_Abrán_ thought he was playing an easy game, he was in reality the
most valuable _peon_ in the outfit. His brother _Moisés_ was of the
opposite temperament; he walked many miles each day and considered it
beneath his dignity to shoot anything but large, brilliantly colored
birds, such as parrots, macaws, cotingas, and tanagers, or monkeys--in
short, game worthy of a man’s efforts. The two brothers made an ideal
combination.

[Illustration: Tree-fern, typical of the Andean forests.]

_Moisés_ had spoken frequently about a marvellous bird called _tente_
which he said was found in the region, and of which he was determined
to secure one as a pet for the _patrón_. One day he brought in a
queer, frightened little creature--all legs and neck--that he proudly
introduced as the _tente_. It was a young trumpeter (_Psophia_). After
being tied up a few days it grew very tame and was given full
liberty about the place. It walked slowly and in dignified fashion,
catching flies and pecking at insects on the ground or walls; but if a
dog should chance to pass near by it darted at it with outspread wings,
making a loud, rumbling sound deep down in its breast; the dog always
fled in terror. The bird increased rapidly in size and before long
the beautiful metallic-blue throat-feathers appeared. When we emerged
from the hammocks in the early mornings it was always there to greet
us with low bows, spread wings, and deep murmurings. In travelling, a
large-meshed fibre bag served as its container; upon being turned loose
when camp was made, it first carefully dried its plumage before the
fire, then strutted around a while, and finally flew into the branches
of the nearest tree to spend the night. We kept this interesting
little pet until our departure from Colombia, and then gave it to an
acquaintance in Neiva, where it was well cared for.

A colony of cultivator-ants had taken possession of a patch of young
_cecropia_-trees near the house. They carried particles of earth to
the branches and formed them into large balls in which the seeds of a
succulent plant were sowed and cultivated. The earth was kept loose
and moistened and the bunch of tender shoots resembled a clump of
mistletoe. In this manner an abundant food-supply was assured.

Florencia was a small village of adobe and bamboo huts, built in
anticipation of the opening of Colombian Amazonia, when the new trail
across the Andes should be completed. The region is undoubtedly rich
in natural resources, and there seemed to be a possibility that the
dreams of these pioneer settlers might some day be fulfilled. However,
five years later, while aboard the S. S. _Vauban_, bound for New York,
I chanced to meet among the passengers a Colombian with whom I had
become acquainted in Florencia. He stated that the climate there had
proved so unhealthful that most of the people had died or gone away and
the settlement was all but deserted. The elevation of the site, though
thousands of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, into which its rivers
drain, is only six hundred and seventy-five feet.

During our stay in the vicinity we had occasion to witness a
celebration of the feast of San Juan. On the eve of the festival a pig
was slaughtered in each hut; those who had none went into the jungle
and shot a wild one. The dressed carcass was placed in an oblong wooden
bowl, surrounded with plantains, yuccas, and yams, and then baked four
hours in a mud oven. The roasts were delicious and every one ate until
not a morsel remained, which was far into the night. Next day the
_fiesta_ proper began with a bull-fight, local talent, shirtless and in
tattered drawers, supplying the places of the gorgeous _toreadores_,
_banderilleros_, and _matadores_. This was a fine chance for the youths
to display their courage to the weaker sex, which had gathered _en
masse_ to witness the performance, and, if one enjoys such spectacles,
he would doubtless say that the showing made was quite creditable.
The men charged the bull, flourishing their bright-colored ponchos,
and when the animal turned the tables and chased them they fled to
shelter, as is the custom of the profession. We did not remain to see
the finish, but later in the day the women were roasting chunks of beef
over open fires. The merrymaking continued for several days, and the
latter part of the period consisted in drinking _aguardiente_, with
the resultant fighting that always marks the wind-up of such affairs.
The _alcalde_ was a leading spirit in the activities of the festive
occasion; he had been a priest at one time, but was excommunicated for
preaching sermons of too liberal a nature. Then he married and was
rearing a family. He told us that he owned a ranch called La Morelia,
two days’ distant from Florencia, and offered to send us there; so
we accepted his courtesy with pleasure, as we were eager to see the
country farther in the interior.

A faintly defined footpath led to La Morelia. The forest is
comparatively open, that is, free from dense undergrowth. The trees are
tall and there are a few tree-ferns and palms; many climbing lilies
and other epiphytes grow on the trunks and branches. Moss is lacking;
near the streams bamboo, wild cane, high grass, and briars, united by
creepers, form dense jungles that are hard to penetrate. Streams and
rivers are numerous and we were at once impressed with their size and
depth. Crossings were effected in dugout canoes. While the current
is swift, the waterways are so silent that one is not aware of their
existence until reaching their very borders.

We saw little of the Huitoto Indians inhabiting this district. They
seem to remain in seclusion in their forest homes and rarely venture
into the path of the settlers. Those we encountered were of low
stature, yellow in color, and had features so nearly resembling the
Japanese that they might be easily mistaken for that race. They are of
a shy and retiring disposition. Their ornaments were very elaborate,
consisting of anklets, amulets, and necklaces of colored seeds and
jaguar and monkey teeth, skilfully wrought into pleasing combinations.

The hut at La Morelia was of large dimensions, built entirely of
bamboo, with palm-leaf roof. An unusual feature was that it contained
two stories, the lower used to store grain and plantains, the upper
serving as living quarters. A clearing about one hundred acres in
extent surrounded it; most of it was grass-covered, providing pasturage
for a few head of cattle, the remainder was under cultivation. The
several acres that had been given to growing plantains produced so
abundantly that hundreds of bunches were going to waste. If left to
mature on the plant the fruit bursts and is destroyed by insects. The
choicest clusters were cut green and then placed in a down-stairs
room of the house to ripen. At night hundreds of small bats visited
the enclosure to feed on the mountain of rapidly yellowing fruit.
We desired some of the creatures for our collections, but found it
difficult to catch or shoot them in sufficient numbers. Finally we
evolved the plan of suspending a fish-net from the ceiling and tacking
out the edges so that it formed a cone with a wide base. A choice
bunch of the ripest plantains was placed in the centre for bait. Bats
soon gathered about the trap in swarms. At first they were suspicious
and circled around the net without attempting to alight; but as their
hunger increased so their caution decreased in like proportion, and
before long they were striking the conical arrangement from all sides
and madly endeavoring to scramble through the small meshes. Some
succeeded in forcing their way through the openings and immediately
fell upon the bait with ravenous appetites; the vast majority, however,
became helplessly entangled in the meshes. Newcomers arrived in a
steady stream; they paid no attention to our presence nor to the
lights we carried, but frantically hurled themselves into the midst of
their struggling brethren, until the net was covered with screeching,
scrambling masses.

The house was within a stone’s throw of the Rio Bodoquera--a stream
two hundred yards wide. One night a jaguar attacked the cattle and
chased them on to a sand-spit that projected out into the stream. We
heard the mad bellowing of the frightened animals as they stampeded
past the shack, hotly pursued by the snarling jaguar. A few shots
sufficed to frighten the big spotted cat back into the jungle, but
the cattle refused to leave the strategic position to which they had
retreated. The river was rising rapidly, endangering the panic-stricken
creatures. Every hand turned out; we took lanterns with us and, manning
the canoes, paddled to the far side of the peninsula and attempted to
drive them back to the mainland. All our efforts were in vain. The work
was very exciting, as enraged members of the herd charged the lights
repeatedly when we approached close to them. Finally the water became
so deep that the animals had to swim, and then they made for the far
side of the river and disappeared from view. It took several days to
round them up, but a number were never seen again.

[Illustration: The high, flat-topped panorama of the Andes.]

One day a Franciscan priest stopped at the _rancho_ for a short rest.
He was engaged in opening a trail to Mocoa. About twenty _peons_
accompanied him, carrying his outfit. His robe was in tatters and his
feet were bare; he had spent months in the jungles and showed the
effects of hard usage. Each of his men carried an animal of some kind
on top of his pack. There were monkeys, parrots, macaws, and a curious
little creature belonging to the agouti family (_Myoprocta_) that
they called _tin-tin_. We had seen numbers of the latter along the
river-bank, where they lived in burrows. The flesh is white and of fine
flavor. In spite of the hardships the priest and his party had endured
they were in the best of humor, and after an hour’s halt shouldered
their packs and resumed the march. No one will dispute the fact that
men of this type have done a great deal toward exploring unknown parts
of South America; usually they are the real trail-breakers and lead the
way for the pioneer settlers who are to follow.

The bird-life of the Caquetá is typical of the Amazonian forest, and
many of the species are found on the lower river two thousand miles
away. This is caused by the uniformity of topographical conditions, and
the lack of a barrier that would interfere with the range of a species.
On all of our visits to the headwaters of the Amazon’s tributaries,
in Colombia, Bolivia, and Brazil, a large proportion of the mammals
collected were new to science and differed greatly from those found
lower down the river’s course. Such large animals as spider-monkeys
(_Ateleus_), “flying” monkeys (_Pithecia_), and cats represented forms
heretofore unknown to science; the smaller mammals also were new in
many instances. Of course, we must not lose sight of the fact that
the power of flight gives greater mobility to the birds and accounts
for the wider range of some of them, but not for the equally vast
distribution of the ground-inhabiting and almost flightless species.

After a strenuous three weeks at La Morelia we returned to our first
stopping-place near Florencia. The rainy season was at its worst, and
low clouds covered the forest day after day, while torrents of water
fell almost continuously. The journey back to Guadaloupe was far more
difficult than had been our entrance into the region, for the greater
part of it lay up-hill and mud and water had accumulated in spots until
it was waist-deep. The cold grew more intense as we neared the top of
the range. We were never warm or dry until we reached our destination.

The maximum time allowed for work in Colombia had expired. Although I
had spent over eighteen months in the republic, they had flown all too
rapidly, and I heartily regretted that it was not possible to visit the
numerous other places that invited exploration. The next best thing
was to hope for a return trip in the future--a hope that was realized
several years later in our expedition to the Antioquian Highlands.

The homeward trip was accomplished without noteworthy incident. At
first there was a ride of five days’ duration down the desert-like
valley of the Magdalena to Neiva. The river is not navigable in this
part of its course on account of rapids and shallow water. At Neiva
a _champán_, or flat-bottomed freight-boat, was secured. The crew of
twenty men rowed it down to Giradot in three days; it takes them thirty
days to pull the craft back up-stream to the starting-point.

The remainder of the journey to Puerto Colombia was merely a matter of
travel on river-steamers and train, and required two weeks’ time.

In summarizing the work of the expedition to the Caquetá, Doctor
Chapman, in “The Distribution of Bird Life in Colombia,” writes as
follows:

This “work during the rainy season in the humid Amazonian forests of
the Caquetá, where with only unskilled native assistance he secured
eight hundred and thirty birds and mammals in thirty days, is a feat
in tropical collecting.” And “this locality ... was one of the most
productive of any visited by American Museum expeditions, and many
species were secured which have not heretofore been recorded from
Colombia.”



CHAPTER VIII

ACROSS THE ANTIOQUIAN GOLD-FIELDS TO PUERTO VALDIVIA ON THE LOWER CAUCA


Puerto Berrio is not the most attractive spot in Colombia, but it is
nevertheless of a great deal of importance. All steamers plying on
the Lower Magdalena stop at that port, the up-going ones after a six
days’ voyage from Barranquilla to discharge freight for Medellin, and
those bound down-stream to take aboard gold and other products of the
Antioquian highlands.

The arrival of the steamer always causes a great deal of confusion.
Debarking passengers are required to look after their own luggage,
which is not a simple matter, as it is invariably covered with
mountains of boxes and bags on the lower deck; and after it has been
located it is necessary to secure _peons_ to convey it ashore, the
ship’s crew invariably refusing to render this service.

There is always a rush for the little hotel “Magdalena,” built on a
slight bluff overlooking the river. Accommodations are limited, and
those who arrive first naturally have the advantage of selecting the
cooler rooms in the upper story. However, the advantages gained are
partly imaginary, at best. The climate is insufferably hot in the
daytime, and mosquitoes filtering through rents in the nets protecting
the beds are most annoying at night. Nor is it possible to seek the
cooling comfort of a bath; a small, corrugated iron building in the
garden is supposed to provide for this need, but a tank containing
water for the shower is placed on the roof in the full glare of the
tropical sun, and the water becomes heated to such a degree that it is
almost scalding.

The town of Puerto Berrio is situated a few hundred yards below the
landing. It contains about a hundred low buildings, many of which are
utilized for shops where merchandise and, more important at least to
transients, a great variety of fruit may be had. All the buildings are
low--some constructed of adobe with red tile roofs, others of nothing
more substantial than bamboo, and grass or palm-leaves.

Beyond the town is a low, rambling shed used as a slaughter-house. When
one tires of watching the blue tanagers, orioles, and yellow warblers
quarrel in the cocoanut-palms near the hotel, he may tempt his æsthetic
taste by walking to the pavilion of bovine death, and look upon the
hundreds of black vultures sitting on the roof, strutting and hopping
over the ground, or tearing at the hides that have been stretched out
to dry. These birds are so typical a part of most towns and villages of
tropical Colombia that one soon learns to accept them as a matter of
course. They act as scavengers. Without them the settlements would reek
with foulness.

Puerto Berrio marks the beginning of a narrow-gauge railway, and each
morning at six a passenger-train leaves the station for Cisneros,
covering the first stage of the journey to Medellin. Almost immediately
after leaving the port, the road plunges into the finest type of
Magdalena Valley forest. We therefore debarked at the first settlement,
called Malena, only fifteen minutes after leaving the starting-point.
My assistant on this expedition was Mr. Howarth S. Boyle, of Elmhurst,
Long Island.

At Malena the tropical forest reaches the height of its development.
There is a clearing large enough only to provide room for the village
of some twenty houses, and the stately living wall of trees hems it
in on all sides. The people are most obliging, and while there is no
_posada_, or inn, of any kind, a Mestizo family volunteered to permit
us the use of part of their dwelling.

A short tour of inspection confirmed our first impression of the
region; it was a naturalist’s paradise. One had only to go to the
outskirts of the town to find birds in greatest abundance. A number
of tall dead trees had been left standing in the clearing, probably
because it was easier to merely girdle them and let them die than to
cut them down, and many blue and yellow macaws and Amazon parrots were
nesting in cavities high up in the trunks. They had young at the time
of our visit (March), and screamed and fluttered about the nests all
day long. No one thought of disturbing them. Rough-winged swallows
and martens nested in the same stubs, and apparently lived in perfect
harmony with their noisy neighbors.

A shallow, narrow stream of clear water flows through the clearing, and
a belt of woods and low sprouts mantles each bank with dusky green.
This was the favorite resort of many small birds; oven-birds and
ant-wrens ran about in the deep shade, while night-hawks, aroused from
their slumbers, flapped noiselessly into the air and dropped again a
few feet away. Scores of parrakeets chattered in the branches overhead,
while flocks of large, spotted wrens (_Heleodytes_) added to the chorus
with their incessant scolding.

If we remained close to the stream we were sure to surprise herons
of several species, and black ibises wading in the shallow water. A
species of ani (_Crotophaga_) fluttered in the overhanging bushes; they
were awkward though beautiful creatures, the size of a blue jay, with
brilliant, black iridescent plumage; the mouth was pure white, while
the eyes were of a pea-green color.

If our tramp led to the heavy forest, the character of the birds
changed. Giant orioles (_Ostinops_), grackles, and chachalacas always
remained near the border of the taller growth, and toucans in flocks
seemed to prefer the protection of the more inaccessible cover.

[Illustration: The town of Valdivia.]

[Illustration: The Cauca River at Puerto Valdivia.]

The forest is magnificent, and is composed largely of ceibas with
thick, white trunks and wide-spreading tops. Many _tagua_, or ivory-nut
palms, grow beneath the tall trees; their fruit is one of the important
articles of export from the Magdalena Valley and, during August
and September, many thousands of bags are shipped down the river to
Barranquilla. Wild life, however, was comparatively scarce in the
forest proper, with the single exception of mosquitoes, which were
present in unlimited swarms, even in the daytime; and small troops of
brown marmosets that showed themselves at rare intervals.

While crossing the clearing one day a flock of blue and yellow macaws
passed overhead; we needed a pair for the collection, so I took a
quick shot at the birds as they flew by; however, I succeeded only in
wounding one of their number, which flew to the ground in a long slant
and alighted so far away that it was useless to try to follow. On
reaching home at noon, I was greatly surprised to find the bird perched
on a ladder in the very house we were occupying. It had dropped in the
yard, and having been seen by some children, they tried to catch it,
whereupon it took refuge indoors and kept them at bay with its angry
screams and attempts to bite.

The evenings at Malena were fully as profitable as the mornings.
We always spent a pleasant hour or two at dusk, walking along the
railroad. Pools of water had collected in the hollows where earth
for the road-bed had been excavated, and many water-birds came there
nightly to fish or catch frogs. Great blue herons, bitterns, and
occasionally a cormorant or anhinga were surprised at their nocturnal
feasts. When we returned after dark we started numerous goatsuckers,
which had settled in the open lane to catch insects and to sing; this
habit of resorting to open places, especially trails and roadways, has
earned for them the name _guardacamino_ (road-guard) among the natives.

Malena was such an unusually interesting place that we expected
to remain there several weeks; but, unfortunately, an epidemic of
dysentery had invaded the Magdalena Valley, and the village was soon
writhing in the throes of this fatal disease. Sickness and death in the
family of our hosts made it necessary for us to continue on our way.

It requires exactly six hours to reach Cisneros, the end of the
railroad, from Puerto Berrio. The altitude of the terminus is three
thousand seven hundred feet above sea-level, and as one approaches it
the heavy forest gradually disappears, to be replaced with a lower
growth of brush and bushes; finally the hilltops are barren.

At Cisneros one may secure riding-animals, a carriage, or a motor-car,
according to the mode of travel preferred, for the short ride across
the ridge to Botero, from whence the journey may again be resumed
by train. The road is splendid, and as the highest point, called La
Quiebra, is only five thousand four hundred and twenty-five feet up, a
canter on a spirited horse across the divide is most enjoyable.

Botero is very similar to Cisneros. There are two small hotels where
the traveller may rest in comfort until the train leaves for Medellin,
which is at 4.30 P.M.

Numerous villages are scattered along the railroad, which follows
closely the course of the Medellin River. The country is green and
apparently fertile. Thickets of wild cane grow near the stream, and
the valley is dotted with clumps of tall, slender willows; so dense is
the latter growth in some parts of the region that it forms groves and
woods.

Two and a half hours after leaving Botero the train arrived at
Medellin. Medellin is the third largest city of Colombia, and boasts
of a population of seventy thousand. The city is not modern but very
picturesque, and lies in a depression almost completely surrounded
by mountains. We were fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of
the American consul, Mr. H. B. Meyerheim, who rendered the expedition
invaluable service during our entire stay in Antioquia.

The people of the state differ from the Colombians living in other
parts of the country in that they possess more initiative and business
ability; and for this reason they are frequently referred to as the
Jews of Colombia. Some authorities go so far as to assert that they are
really descendants of a colony of Jews that settled there many years
ago. For this belief there seems to be very little foundation. The fact
that the climate is bracing and that it requires a greater amount of
work to gain a living in the semiarid country probably accounts for the
increased degree of energy displayed by the inhabitants.

Our first expedition was to a point in the mountains southeast of
the city, known as Santa Elena, and only a few hours’ ride on mules
from Medellin. After crossing the ridge we found ourselves on a high,
wild plateau, which had at one time been covered with forest; but the
trees had been felled on the greater part of the area, and only small,
scattered patches of woods were left untouched. There are numerous
little huts in this upland country, and at one of these we decided to
remain for as long a time as the country proved a profitable collecting
ground.

On account of the great change in the flora, occasioned by
deforestation, a corresponding change had taken place in the bird
life. But little remained of the subtropical fauna we had expected to
find; however, there were black thrushes, several species of tanagers,
toucans, trogons, and motmots, besides many commoner species. Weasels
were abundant and occasionally blundered into our traps; these animals
are very easy to call up, and if one sits quietly and imitates the
screams and squeaks of a wounded bird, it is often possible to attract
a weasel to within a few feet, and at times it will run across one’s
lap in search for the supposed victim. There were also squirrels of
several species, and tiger-cats.

Many flowering shrubs dotted the roadside, imparting a blaze of color
to the muddy highway; some of them were covered with brilliant scarlet
blossoms, and others with snowy trumpetflowers of great size. In
addition to this wealth of native flowers, the people cultivated plots
of gladioli and roses, both of which attained great size and beauty in
spite of the cold, wet climate.

We continued on across the highland from Santa Elena to a place called
Barro Blanco, passing through the villages of Rio Negro and Carmen on
the way; but the character of the country did not change appreciably!
One of the products of the high, bleak region that immediately
attracted our attention was a variety of maize; this thrived even on
rocky ground. The ears were large and well-formed, and the huge, even
grains were of a milky-white color and of splendid flavor. Large flocks
of pigeons came to the corn-fields to feed and furnished splendid
shooting; they fly down the mountainsides at terrific speed, and the
rushing noises made by the wings can be heard at a great distance. On
the edges of the fields grew small trees (_Ficus_) bearing quantities
of white berries; birds of many species, including flycatchers, came to
feed on them.

After completing our work in the Santa Elena region we returned to
Medellin. Then we took the train as far as a station called Barbosa,
and started overland for the Lower Cauca. We brought both pack and
riding mules with us on the train, as it was difficult to obtain them
at Barbosa, and when everything had been unloaded at the station, packs
were adjusted and the mules started up the exceedingly steep ridge to
the north. The altitude of Barbosa is four thousand six hundred and
twenty-five feet above sea-level, but there was no break in the narrow,
rocky trail until we had reached the summit, eight thousand one hundred
feet up. A few miles beyond the top lies the village of Don Matias,
almost concealed in a deep depression and surrounded by fruit-trees.
The trail continues to wind across a rolling, arid country. Boulders
of great size are strewn on the ground; they are of a most peculiar
formation, consisting of concentric layers of stone, one or two inches
thick.

Water is scarce, and we passed only one stream, and that of small size,
called the Rio Porce.

Seven leagues is considered a good day’s travel in Colombia, on account
of the mountainous nature of the country and poor trails. However, on
our first day out from Barbosa we covered only five leagues, and spent
the night at a hut called Sabanete, nine thousand feet up. Early the
following morning we reached Santa Rosa, the centre of the Antioquian
gold-fields. The town is of considerable size, but stands in the middle
of a bleak, arid plain, and is about as cheerless a place as one
could find. The surrounding country is exceedingly rich in gold, and
numberless mines pierce the flat, stony surface, and penetrate into the
hillsides. The only drawback to mining operations on a gigantic scale
is the lack of water. During the rainy season the inhabitants of Santa
Rosa gather water in barrels and every available sort of container, and
then wash gold out in the street in front of their homes, or in the
back yards. Despite its many natural disadvantages, Antioquia is one of
the richest states in Colombia, and produces a great proportion of that
country’s yearly output of gold, which in 1916 amounted to $5,400,000.

The country beyond Santa Rosa is practically uninhabited for a distance
of ten or twelve miles; after that a growth of low woods gradually
appears, and with it an abundance of bird life, such as California
woodpeckers, green and yellow jays, black thrushes, warblers, and
parrots. This was in great contrast to the arid country we had just
left behind, where practically the only sign of life was an occasional
hawk hovering in the air for many minutes at a time, in the hope of
surprising an unsuspecting lizard or some small rodent among the rocks
below.

It was in this forest that we again encountered a number of one of the
most beautiful birds found in the entire region--the white-crowned
tanager (_Serricossypha albacristata_). A flock of sixteen sat in the
top of a bush and kept up a continuous shrill peeping.

The third night after leaving Medellin we reached Yarumal, a large
town built on a steep, rocky slope. From a distance it seems as if the
houses were standing one on top of another, and it is difficult to
understand what prevents the whole town from sliding down the steep
mountainside.

The “Hotel de la Madre” is one of the institutions of Yarumal. It is
conducted by an old negress who looked us over suspiciously and found
it hard to decide whether or not to admit us. While deliberating and
fumbling about her shawl she scratched her finger severely on a pin;
to this I immediately applied a few grains of permanganate taken from
my snake-bite lancet. This won her favor, and we were given a room.
Later she confided to us that two Englishmen had stopped there the
week before. “We were frightened to death when we found out that they
were Englishmen,” she said, “because England is at war, you know. But
what do you think? They paid their bill next morning and left without
hurting anybody. However, we made up our minds to be careful about
admitting strangers in the future.”

One may ride from Yarumal to Valdivia in one day; but we broke the trip
by stopping at a large wayside inn called La Frijolera. It was in the
midst of a splendid forest growth, the elevation being five thousand
feet. From a distance the forest looked most promising, but on account
of the density of mosses, ferns, and creepers forming the undergrowth
it was all but impenetrable.

We located a grove of guavas a short distance from the house, and this
proved the most prolific hunting-ground. It was always possible to
shoot squirrels there, as they came out at all hours of the day to feed
on the ripening fruit. Many birds also flocked to the low trees for
their daily sustenance, and even opossums lurked about the roots and
brush to pick up the sweet morsels dropped by the furred and feathered
flocks feasting in the branches.

At La Frijolera we engaged a native hunter who owned a famous
hunting-dog named _Golondrina_ (meaning swallow). Words can hardly
be found to convey an accurate picture of the hunter, but the dog’s
name at once suggests its chief accomplishment. Day after day our
man took his dog afield in search of agoutis, but he always returned
empty-handed, explaining that while he had started a number of the
animals we wanted, _Golondrina_ could never _see_ them, and so she
failed to catch them. However, one day he saved his reputation as a
hunter by making a difficult trip of ten miles to a steep, heavily
wooded ravine, and shooting a number of red howler monkeys. A few days
later the dog accidentally came across a peccary, which some native
hunters were pursuing, brought it to bay on a rock, and kept it there
until it could be shot.

This place presented rare opportunities for hunting by night. A road
had been cut through the forest, dividing it in two clean-cut sections.
However, the tips of wide-spreading branches from each side of the
clear swath met in several places, forming an aerial connection above
the road. These are known as “monkey bridges” because night monkeys
and other animals utilize them in crossing from one section of the
forest to another. As there was a full moon it was only necessary to
sit quietly on a stump near one of the bridges and wait. Before long
a rustling sound would come from the tree-top, so slight as to be
scarcely audible, and occasionally a deep, low grunt; then silent,
shadowy forms emerged from the blackness of concealing foliage and
slowly made their way across the springy passage. Kinkajous also used
these bridges, and as the natives prized the skins of these animals
highly for making chaparejos, they conducted a regular business of
hunting them on moonlight nights. After shooting in one spot for
several nights in succession, it was necessary to leave it undisturbed
for some time, as the animals became wary and sought other bridges.

The town of Valdivia is located on a little ridge four thousand two
hundred feet up, about ten miles from Puerto Valdivia, which is on the
Cauca River. All the intervening country is wooded.

We reached the port on a Sunday afternoon. The people from a distance
of many miles around flocked to the spot on this day for the purpose of
having a “good time,” so that there were upward of a hundred natives
in and about the one corrugated iron and bamboo building comprising
the _puerto_, dancing, drinking, fighting, and trading at the little
shop. The owner of the house received us courteously (and where in all
Colombia was courtesy wanting?) and we soon made ourselves comfortable
in the large wareroom which formed one end of the structure. There was
no thought of work that day, for everybody crowded about to have a good
look at and welcome the _gringos_, but we made the best of the occasion
and secured a good deal of information concerning the surrounding
country.

The Cauca, a swift, muddy stream four or five hundred feet wide at this
point, is hemmed in on both sides by the steep slopes of the Western
and Central Andean Ranges, the forest extending down to the water. It
is navigable from here on down to a small settlement called Cáceres,
but rafts and canoes only are employed in making this journey, which
requires half a day going down and two days coming up. The natives
are a careless lot while on the water, and numbers of lives are lost
annually. About the first thing we saw was the body of a man floating
down the river, with a vulture perched on it. We asked Don José, owner
of the place, why he did not send some of his peons in a canoe to
recover it. He replied that if he did he would be required to care for
the body until a government official from Yarumal came to view it, and
then he and every one present would have to go back with the coroner to
give their testimony as to the finding of the cadaver. This entailed
so much trouble that it was customary not to pay any attention to such
occurrences.

In few places have I seen such an abundance of interesting fauna as
at Puerto Valdivia. The forest was teeming with birds; mammals were
plentiful; shoals of fish and even caimans swarmed in the river; there
were also insects enough to cheer the heart of an entomologist.

[Illustration: A naturalists’ camp in the forest.]

[Illustration: A native hunter with a red howling monkey.]

In such a region the naturalist has no idle moments. When we tired of
working with birds and mammals, which were of chief interest to us, we
had only to step to the river-bank, where vast swarms of brilliantly
colored butterflies settled in thick masses in the mud or rocks to
drink. A single sweep of the net often ensnared several score of the
insects. A species of _Urania_ of a black and green color predominated,
but a _Diana_, deep red above and spotted with silver dots on the
under-side was not uncommon.

Fish could always be secured in abundance. If we attempted to catch
them with hooks we usually landed catfish or small eels. It is unlawful
to use dynamite in Colombia, but Don José had a goodly supply stored
away and did not hesitate to use it when occasion required. The _peons_
detailed for that purpose selected a spot in the river where logs and
brush had grounded to form a drift, or where the water eddied against a
sharp bend; they tied a rock to the explosive, lit the fuse and threw
it into the water. After a few moments, during which the water hissed
and bubbled as the gases from the burning fuse rose and escaped, a
dull thud followed and, almost immediately, the surface was littered
with numbers of dead and stunned fish. They were invariably a species
of “Pacu” (_Prochilodus nigricans_), weighing from one to four or five
pounds, and proved to be excellent eating.

Not far from the port is an old cacao-plantation which has apparently
been deserted for a number of years. The trees are tall and covered
with moss, while the sheltering _cochimbas_ or _madre de cacaos_ form
a high canopy of interlocking branches. To this cool retreat almost
every species of bird common in the region came to feed or to pass the
noonday hours. There were buccos and wood-hewers in abundance--the
former dull, stupid birds, which sat quietly on the lower twigs in
the hope that some insect would wing its way not too far from their
ever-hungry mouths; the latter, agile and alert as they scampered up
the moss-covered trunks, eagerly examining each crevice for a hidden
grub or an ant. Gorgeous trogons with resplendent green backs and
blood-red breasts flitted among the lower branches, and little parrots
of bright green with gold-colored heads screamed and fluttered in the
leafy branches high overhead. Where ferns and brush grew thickest, near
the numerous ravines, flocks of yellow manakins (_Manacus_) sputtered
and whirred in the semidarkness; they proved to be an undescribed form.

Mammals, too, were not lacking. Of chief interest were giant black
weasels with white throat patches (_Tayra_). These are truly dreadful
creatures--at least to the animals on which they feed. They are of
powerful build, the neck muscles being particularly well-developed,
and I can picture them as a dangerous antagonist even to a deer or a
peccary.

The smallest of ant-eaters (_Cycloterus didactylus_) was also found in
this region. This little animal, while not rare, perhaps, is seldom
seen on account of its diminutive size and arboreal habits. It is of
a beautiful golden color, and the fur is so fine and silky that could
it be obtained in quantities sufficient for commercial purposes it
would perhaps rival in value the highest priced fur in use to-day. The
creature lives in the tree-tops and is diurnal in habits. It moves
along the branches with great rapidity, either in an upright position
or inverted like a sloth, the prehensile tail being used constantly.
Ants form the food, and as these ascend even the highest trees, the
little ant-eater has a never-failing and abundant supply; they are
gathered up hurriedly as the little creature moves quickly along.

One day an army of carnivorous ants invaded our quarters while we
were busily occupied preparing the specimens collected during the
morning. The first intimation we had of the arrival of the ravaging
host was when scores of cockroaches suddenly appeared and frantically
ran up the walls of the room. Not long after, several centipedes eight
inches long joined the fleeing cockroaches, and before long a number
of scorpions followed in their wake, hotly pursued by the multitude
of ants. There was nothing for us to do but follow the lead of the
panic-stricken insects, so we hurriedly transferred our collections to
a zone of safety outdoors, and waited a few hours until the ant army
had completed its work and gone on its way. The natives welcome these
visits as the ants act as scavengers and rid the house of vermin.

While at Puerto Valdivia we were presented with a young night monkey
not larger than a good-sized mouse. It was a most interesting pet,
and readily took to a diet of condensed milk, which it drank from a
spoon. My companion, to whom the little animal belonged, kept it on the
window-sill, from which point of vantage it took a lively interest in
all that occurred within its range of vision. It so happened that there
was a very small crack in the sill, and this proved to be a matter of
the utmost concern to the tiny monkey. Hundreds of times each day it
crept timidly to the crack and peered down into it anxiously, although
there was only darkness below. When we held the pelt of an animal near
it paid no attention whatever to it, with the single exception of the
skin of one of its species, which it recognized immediately, and to
which it clung tenaciously. When we left the hot climate of the Lower
Cauca and started on the return journey to Medellin the little creature
was unable to withstand the cold of the higher altitude and died.

The purpose of our zoological exploration of this section of Antioquia
was to secure material that would throw light on the geography of the
country farther north; for, beyond the general knowledge that the
junction of the Cauca and the Magdalena mark the breaking down of
the Cordillera Central, we knew comparatively little of a definite
character about this part of Colombia. It was not until several
months later that our work farther west--on the Paramillo and the
Rio Sucio--provided the material which, viewed from a distributional
standpoint, furnished the clews that aided very materially in solving
our problem.



CHAPTER IX

ASCENT OF THE PARAMILLO--COLLECTING ON THE RIO SUCIO


The return to Medellin from Puerto Valdivia occupied five days. We
again went to our former headquarters, the “Gran Hotel,” and spent a
few busy days packing the large collections brought from the Lower
Cauca. Then we began to gather provisions and cargo mules for a second
expedition.

Upon leaving Medellin we started northwestward, having in view an
ascent of the Paramillo, a lofty spur of the Andes, jutting out of the
Western Range slightly below latitude 7° south. This region, so far as
I am able to discover, had never been explored.

At first the trail is wide and very good, so that within four hours
after starting we reached the summit of the first ridge, eight thousand
seven hundred and fifty feet up. A great cleft in the bare, rocky
peaks forms a natural pass and saves a climb of at least an additional
thousand feet. The slope on the other (western) side is more gentle.

We were immediately impressed with the barren nature of the country,
for, with the exception of a few patches of low brush, and clumps of
withered grass, there was no vegetation. An occasional glimpse of the
Cauca River, far below, presented the picture of a broad yellow ribbon
lying upon a brown, rocky plain.

That night we reached San Geronimo, a small town well down in the
valley. Limited plots of ground are irrigated in the vicinity of the
settlement, where rice, corn, and pasturage are cultivated by the
inhabitants. Yellow-rumped tanagers, anis, and finches (_Sycalis_) make
this little oasis their home, and add greatly to its attractiveness.

Next morning we were in the saddle before six o’clock. A few hours
later, after crossing a low ridge, we came suddenly upon Sopetran, a
beautiful little town completely hidden in groves of palms, mangoes,
and other lovely trees. The cluster of some hundreds of snow-white
houses with red roofs, wide, well-kept streets, and the abundance of
multicolored birds fluttering and singing among the deep green foliage,
render Sopetran one of the most attractive towns of its size I have
seen in tropical America.

At noon we reached the Cauca and crossed that sluggish, muddy stream
on a suspension bridge about eight hundred feet long. The cables are
anchored in picturesque brick piers built into the face of the steep
banks, and hundreds of swallows utilize as nesting-sites the small
openings where the wires enter the masonry. Gravel flats flank the
sides of the river, and bare, sandy islands divide the water into
several channels. The elevation is approximately two thousand feet.

One league beyond the Cauca lies the town of Antioquia. If Sopetran
is the last word in attractiveness, Antioquia must be placed at the
extreme other end of the scale. The wide, arid valley supports no
vegetation except occasional clumps of cacti and dwarfed mimosas,
which rather add to its desert-like appearance. The heat is almost
unbearable, as the Western and Central Andes, hemming in the valley
between huge walls of pink clay and sandstone, shut off all ventilating
winds.

Although it was still early in the afternoon, we decided to spend
the rest of the day in Antioquia, as the pack-mules seemed nearly
exhausted; but it was not long before we heartily regretted not having
avoided the town and made camp out in the open plains. Our _arriero_
had guided us to the little hotel, where a matronly _señora_ received
us with evident joy and a great deal of ceremony, probably because
we were the first guests in some time; we soon discovered, however,
that she was not the only one to whom our visit gave pleasure. Fleas
in droves appeared from the cracks in the brick flooring and made
their way through leggings, trousers, and all other wearing apparel
as quickly and easily as the proverbial rat running through a cheese;
and when we entered our room, vermin of a still more objectionable
character rushed joyfully from the beds, walls, and chairs to gloat in
hungry anticipation at their prospective victims. We erected our cots
in the _patio_ and spent a long, long night out in the open.

Buriticá was reached on the following day. Immediately after leaving
Antioquia, a mere ledge of a trail begins the ascent of the Coast
Range, and while a good deal of anxiety was felt for the safety of the
pack-animals, it was nevertheless a relief to escape from the cheerless
desert wastes and the intolerable heat of the low country. The altitude
of Buriticá is six thousand two hundred feet. On account of the jaded
condition of the mules, we spent a half-day in the town, and also
lightened the cargoes by leaving at the inn all equipment intended for
a subsequent journey in another direction. We had, of course, never
visited Buriticá before, but I had not the slightest hesitation in
leaving with perfect strangers a good deal of valuable material. The
honesty of the Colombians is well known, and we did not lose a single
thing by theft during the entire two years I spent in that country.

At Tabacal, a half day’s ride from Buriticá, we lost sight of the Cauca
River. Our view was shut off by an independent ridge of mountains
several thousand feet high, which rises out of the valley between the
range we were on and the stream. A slight change was also perceptible
in the character of the country; extensive areas covered with brush now
dotted the slopes, although at infrequent intervals; and on the extreme
tops of both ranges a thin fringe of green was plainly discernible.
The country is also very rough and broken, and there are a number of
ridges to be crossed, many of which are two thousand feet high. Several
separate mountains, not connected with the main ranges, stand here and
there like giant, man-hewn monoliths, rising from a basal elevation of
three thousand to eight or nine thousand feet, which magnifies their
tremendous proportions.

On the fifth day we reached an altitude of eight thousand feet, and
entered a fine strip of forest, the first we had seen on this journey.
This is the beginning of the forested zone, and close scrutiny
revealed the fact that it begins at precisely the same height on both
the Central and Coast Ranges, and continues to the very top of the
mountains, several thousands of feet higher up. We travelled along the
top of the ridge for some miles, and then again descended abruptly to
the barren valley where the little village of Peque is situated, and
where our journey by mules ended.

Peque contains about fifty dilapidated mud huts, and its population is
mostly of Indian descent, but includes some pure-blooded Indians. We
had a letter of introduction to one of the latter, Julian David, who
is the chief man in the town, and he rendered us every assistance. He
called together a number of sturdy young half-breeds and requested them
to join the expedition; in other words, told them to carry our packs to
the top of the Paramillo. The men eagerly agreed to do this, for they
had never before been in the service of strangers, and the trip to the
high country and also the society of _gringos_ promised interesting
possibilities. We spent a few days investigating the neighboring
country, while the men had their wives prepare the provisions for their
use during the trip.

Some of the country surrounding Peque once doubtless bore a light
forest growth, with heavier forest in the ravines; but by far the
greater part is naturally barren or covered with brush thickets. I was
told that at the time of the Spanish invasion forty thousand Indians
inhabited the region, and as the several mountain streams supply an
abundance of water, and the soil responds fairly well to cultivation,
there seems to be no reason why it should not have supported an
extensive population; at the present time only a few hundred people are
left, the others having gone to swell the ranks of victims exacted by
the lust of the conquerors.

The forested zone, beginning at eight thousand feet on the ridge we
had just traversed, gradually extends its limits downward as one goes
farther north, until at Peque it reached as low as five thousand feet
in the deeper and well-watered ravines; and, as previously stated, at
Puerto Valdivia it reaches the very edge of the Cauca.

One day an inhabitant of Tabacal rushed into our room and begged me
to show him the wonderful diamond ring he said I wore while in his
village; he had been away at the time, so had not seen it, but tales
had reached his ears upon his return of the marvellous brilliancy
of the stone which lighted up the whole street as we walked along.
At first I wondered from what sort of an hallucination the man was
suffering, for neither my companion nor myself carried any diamonds
with us; finally I remembered that, in trying to find our way through
the street at Tabacal, we had used a small electric flash-light to
avoid falling over the pigs or into the mud-wallows; whereupon I
demonstrated its mysterious powers to him, and he started back on his
two days’ walk a better-informed but nevertheless a most-disappointed
man.

A stream of clear, cold water flows around one side of the hill upon
which Peque stands, and to this we went nightly for a swim. Don Julian
could not quite believe us when we told him of the purpose of our
nocturnal prowls; so one night he accompanied us to the stream and,
wonder of wonders, we actually did go into the water. I invited him to
join us, but he said: “No, such a thing is unheard of; and, besides, an
Indian is just like a cat; when either one gets wet it dies!”

When the half-breed porters who were to carry the equipment finally had
their _charque_ and _jarepas_ all ready, they shouldered their packs
and started for the mountains. As there was no trail, an additional man
was engaged to go in advance and clear an opening with his machete.

[Illustration: The porters en route to the Paramillo.]

[Illustration: Cuña Indians at Dabeiba.]

A three hours’ walk brought us to a point called El Madero, because
a few trees had once been cut down there for their lumber, but the
clearing was overgrown with blackberry-briars, brush, and guavas. Then
we plunged into the unexplored forest.

It was our plan to follow along the top of an undulating ridge
which one of the men said was the shortest and easiest route to the
Paramillo. He knew from experience, having once visited the region some
sixteen years before. It was during the course of a revolution; his
father was pursued by the opposing forces and fled into the forest,
taking his son, who was then a small boy, with him, and eventually
reaching the Paramillo, they spent some time there in concealment.

At first the forest was fairly penetrable, but soon the moss-draped,
liana-garlanded walls closed about us in a compact mass; ferns, palms,
and arums sprang up from the ground in a matted jungle to join the
heavily laden branches above. Then our trail-cutter was pressed into
service, and plied his machete with deadly effect on the vegetation,
with the result that a narrow tunnel was opened, through which we
walked or crawled as occasion might demand.

On account of the long climb, having ascended five thousand feet during
an eight hours’ march, we made camp at three o’clock at an elevation of
ten thousand feet. This gave us an opportunity of observing a few of
the birds living in this untouched wilderness. There were wood-hewers
and yellow-headed tanagers; parrots and blue-throated jays. A large
harpy-eagle sat majestically on a low branch, surrounded by a flock
of California woodpeckers, which screamed and scolded and darted at
his head; but he sat perfectly motionless, utterly disdainful of such
ignominious prey.

There was no water on the ridge, but a supply was secured from a ravine
a thousand feet lower down; it was the last we had until we reached the
Paramillo two days later.

The second day’s march we hoped would be over a gentler slope, but it
was soon discovered that our ridge consisted of a number of knolls
rising from five hundred to a thousand feet above the mean level, and
the forest grew denser constantly. Every foot of the way had to be
cleared. In places we actually walked over the top of the vegetation;
the branches were covered with a solid tangle of creepers, climbing
bamboo, bromelias, and moss, and formed springy aerial bridges. More
frequently it was easier to burrow underneath, so tunnels many yards
long were cut, through which the porters crawled on hands and knees.
The tops of some of the eminences were void of trees, their place being
taken by jungles of bamboo, wild oleanders, shrubs, and clumps of tall,
coarse grass with blades eight feet high and six inches wide, the edges
of which cut like knives. That night we camped at eleven thousand
three hundred and fifty feet up. The men eagerly cut down clumps of
bromelias, hoping to obtain water from the bases of the leaves, but all
they found were a few drops of vile, black liquid filled with drowned
insects. Although we had travelled steadily for ten hours, I doubt if
we had covered more than three miles.

A few hours after starting, on the morning of the third day, we
emerged suddenly from the gloom of the forest. Instead of the tall,
overburdened trees, there were extensive areas covered with brush,
evergreens, stunted pines, and ferns. Beyond stretched the bleak,
wind-swept slope of the Paramillo. At sight of this, the porters
struggled on frantically, for the attaining of the goal meant a release
from their heavy burdens--and water. That afternoon the last knoll
had been crossed and the packs deposited on a rocky flat which was to
serve as a camping-site. Each man started in a difference direction in
search of a brook, and by dusk a pot-hole at the bottom of a ravine,
and only a few hundred yards from camp, had been found containing
several hundred gallons of pure, icy water. Never was a discovery more
earnestly welcomed, and the men sprawled around the edges of the pool
and drank their fill; then it was arranged that they should stay
with us for the night, start back to Peque the next morning, and return
for us after ten days. Our cook was of course to remain with us.

[Illustration: Our camp on the Paramillo.]

The Paramillo region is composed of a series of sharply inclined peaks,
the highest of which has an elevation of thirteen thousand feet, and
is interspersed with ravines and deep fissures. The surface consists
mainly of dark sandstone, so shattered over vast areas that a thin
litter of particles covers the fundamental rock. Occasionally a thin
vein of white quartz crops out to the surface, especially where, as
often occurs, the strata stand in a perpendicular position.

At night the temperature dropped to 28° F., and ice half an inch thick
formed on the reservoir; in the morning the ground was white with
frost. The sparse vegetation on the slope consists of _frailejones_,
blueberry-bushes and tall, tough grass; stunted trees and bushes, all
covered with moss, grow in the deeper ravines. Hunting in these latter
places was a never-ending source of delight; there was no water so
it was possible to walk unrestrictedly underneath the green vault of
brush which fringed the sides and met overhead. Many little mammals’
trails zigzagged over the moss-covered rocks, and burrows opened into
the steep banks; if we stole noiselessly along, or better still, sat
quietly for a few minutes, the inquiring eyes of a paca, a large,
spotted, tailless rodent, were sure to peer timidly out of some dark
opening, to be followed later by the animal’s entire body as it moved
out stealthily to nibble on the tender sprouts. Numbers of woolly,
yellow rats (_Melanomys_) also appeared to stare with beady, black
eyes, and to nervously twitch their noses; sometimes they came out
boldly to chase one another over well-defined runways and through mossy
tunnels; but more often, they were content merely to gaze from the
entrance of some safe retreat into which they vanished at the first
suspicious move on our part. Deer, too, were seen occasionally, but
they were not numerous; they grazed on the slopes in broad daylight,
and had snug lairs in dense clumps of bushes which always commanded a
view of the surrounding country. We saw no cougars or bears although we
found the remains of several deer which had apparently been killed by
these animals.

Birds were extremely scarce and, strange to relate, exceedingly wary.
Collecting them was heart-breaking work; the slopes are so steep,
that it was impossible to walk many yards without becoming utterly
exhausted, and tramping through the high, wet grass chilled the lower
extremities to numbness. The slaty finch (_Phrygilus_) so common at
Santa Isabel, and two species of honey-creepers (_Diglossa_) were
by far the most common; followed by a queer, wren-like little bird
(_Scytalopus_) called tapacola, which lives among the densest ferns and
mosses; it was seldom seen, but a cheery whistle apprised us constantly
of its presence. There was also a gorgeous humming-bird, the whole body
being of the most resplendent, iridescent deep rose and green colors;
we located a nest of this species, a tiny moss cup scarcely an inch
across, suspended from a creeper dangling beneath a bower of protecting
leaves; it held two minute eggs, so fragile that the mere touch of a
finger would crush them.

One day we ascended the highest peak in order to obtain a good view
of the surrounding country. The Paramillo rises like a rocky island,
out of an ocean of forest. Clouds fill the depressions between the
neighboring peaks, and surging, tumbling banks of white roll up the
slopes or ascend in columns to spread out in funnel-shaped masses in
the higher altitudes and become dissipated by the sun. To the southward
rises the lofty Paramo of Frontino, many miles distant, the flat top
dimly outlined in a grayish haze.

Toward the close of the tenth day, we heard loud calls and, soon after,
our faithful porters dashed into camp. We were astonished at their
number for, according to our agreement, only the original number was
to return, there being no need for the trail-cutters; however, several
additional men had arrived. Upon reaching the Paramillo, we had
jestingly remarked that we should ascend the highest peak because we
could perhaps see New York from the top; the extra men heard of this,
and seriously explained that they had come to make the ascent in order
to get a view of “Rome where the Holy Father lives!”

Early the next morning, we broke camp and started back. The homeward
trip was much easier, for the packs were lighter, and the greater part
of the distance was down-hill. After two days we emerged from the
lower edge of the forest, and there was Don Julian and a delegation of
natives waiting to convoy us back to Peque and welcome us home.

Don Julian provided horses for our return to Buriticá. They were
unquestionably the poorest animals I had ever seen, and I disliked
greatly to use them; but as no others were to be had it was a case
of either taking the ones available or remaining in Peque for an
indefinite period. However, they arrived safely in Buriticá after
two days’ time, and having secured a new pack-train we started
northwestward toward Atrato drainage.

Leaving the little town and the semiarid country surrounding it, we
proceeded straight to the top of a ridge eight thousand feet high,
where a narrow strip of forest grew; and then descended on the other
side into the valley of the Rio Canasgordas. At this point the stream
is a mere rivulet, but it widens rapidly and the fertile banks are
planted in sugar-cane, maize, and bananas. Huts built of mud and
grass, half concealed by orange-trees dot the narrow valley; near them
half-naked, dark-skinned children, pigs, and chickens ran about in a
care-free manner or stared at us as we passed.

Lower down the river is flanked by wide belts of tall bamboo. Birds
were not particularly abundant, but occasionally we caught sight of a
yellow-rumped tanager as the bird darted through the foliage; or heard
the familiar _kis-ka-dee_ of a tyrant-bird perched on some high branch
to sing, and to wait for insect victims to come within range of its
snapping, insatiable beak. We spent the first night in the town of
Canasgordas, and the second in a dilapidated house known as Orobajo.
The family living here was in great distress owing to an epidemic of
some kind of virulent fever which had appeared in the district. There
was no food in the house, with the exception of a few beans, but after
scouring the neighborhood our cook succeeded in purchasing a hen and a
dozen _jarepas_ which we divided with the infirm family.

While waiting for supper we went on a tour of inspection over the
premises and located a house-wren’s nest in the roof. It contained
one young bird, and the people told us that the other had been killed
by falling to the ground. Later we found several other nests of this
species, but in no instance were there more than two eggs or birds in
one nest. This fact is most interesting; in a temperate climate the
house-wrens rear a large brood--eight being not an uncommon number of
young; but near the equator two seemed to be the usual amount.

Below Orobajo the river is known as the Heradura. It flows past the
village of Uramita, which was all but deserted. The fever that had
invaded Orobajo had also visited this place and more than half the
inhabitants had died. A few men were engaged in pumping salt water from
shallow wells which was led in bamboo pipes to a battery of low pans
where boiling evaporated the water and left the salt. So far as we
could see there was no other industry in the town.

[Illustration: Dabeiba on the Rio Sucio.]

Dabeiba, our first objective, was reached the third day after leaving
Buriticá. As we gained the summit of the last ridge, a wonderful view
lay before our eyes. The little town, composed of whitewashed houses
with red-tile roofs, glistened in a flat valley carpeted with the
softest green. On one side a river, called the Rio Sucio, raged and
fumed over a rock-encumbered bed; fields of cotton dotted its banks,
the snowy bolls and yellow blossoms almost obliterating the large
green leaves. Forested hills enclosed the peaceful view as with a
protecting hand which would shield it from the terrors of the frigid
Andes on one side, and the steaming Atrato lowlands on the other. In
this garden spot we decided to remain, but our arrival was nearly
marked by a tragedy. On account of the noonday heat I had tucked a
towel under my hat which, hanging down in the back provided, in a
measure, protection from the hot sun. One of our _peons_, in a spirit
of fun, told several small boys we chanced to meet that I was the
bishop come to pay the town a visit; the urchins rushed into the road
and prostrated themselves at my horse’s feet, imploring a benediction.
Fortunately the animal took fright at this unusual occurrence and
bolted to one side before it could be restrained, narrowly avoiding
trampling the kneeling forms in its path.

At Dabeiba we made the acquaintance of a tribe of interesting
Indians--the Cuñas. They lived in banana-leaf huts, scattered over
a wide area, but spent most of the time in town, looking into open
doorways, begging for rum, or standing in silent groups on the street
corners. They are a short, well-knit people of a dark-brown color.
When in the forest they wear a breech-cloth only; but the priest has
provided them with large muslin sheets that they promptly dyed a
dirty-brown hue with _achiote_ seeds, which they wear while in town.
They also wore heavy necklaces of silver coins, and bunches of weeds
tied about the neck for charms. At first sight it appeared as if they
had no teeth, but further scrutiny revealed the fact that their dental
equipment was perfect, though colored black from the juice of a fruit
which they chew continuously. The body is liberally besmeared with
grease--especially before they enter the river to bathe, so that the
water rolls off as from a duck’s back. One of the men was entirely
covered with star-shaped marks of a deep-blue color which had been
stamped on with a die made of wood. They spoke practically no Spanish,
but were a friendly lot and enjoyed being photographed.

In order to reach the best hunting-ground, it was necessary to go to
the other side of the river, but this was not difficult owing to the
fact that a raft ferry was available. Birds were plentiful about the
outskirts of the town, though of species common to open country and
easy to observe in more accessible regions; we therefore spent the
greater part of our time in the forest.

One of our first and most interesting discoveries was a species of
pigmy motmot (_Hylomanes_). It is no larger than a sparrow and has
a very short tail in contrast to the long “pendulum” tails of the
better-known varieties. This little blue-and-green bird lived in the
dense vegetation on the steep slopes, and when several flocked together
they joined in a loud, cackling chorus at frequent intervals.

The cotton-fields sheltered a varied fauna. Hummingbirds came to the
blossoms, and numbers of fat, red insects resembling potato-bugs lived
among the drooping white fibre of the opened pods. Doves ran over the
ground, and small rodents had their burrows at the base of the thick
stems.

While at Dabeiba we met one of the most delightful Colombians--a type
which I am afraid is vanishing, even as the forests and virgin wilds
disappear before the onslaughts of civilization. He had but recently
penetrated farther into the wilderness, cleared a few acres of ground
and erected a humble cabin of bamboo and wild banana leaves; to this
he urged us to come for as long a time as we should care to remain; so
one morning we gathered together the most essential articles of our
equipment and tramped through the intervening eight miles of jungle
to his home. The beauty of the forest is indescribable; and wild life
was so abundant that by the time our journey’s end was reached we
had attained such a stage of thrilling expectancy it was difficult
to restrain our enthusiasm for the few hours needed to seek shelter
indoors from an approaching storm. The shrill cries of parrots cleft
the air; trogons _cooed_ plaintively; toucans yelped and rattled; and
from all sides came the _whush-whush-whush_ of giant orioles’ wings
as the black-and-yellow forms hurried by to seek their pendent nests
swaying dizzily from the branches of some giant ceiba towering regally
above the unbroken forest.

While we waited for the storm to subside, the cook shelled corn and
then, placing it in a wooden mortar together with a handful of ashes,
began to pound it to remove the skins. This operation required about
half an hour, so frequently she paused to rest; but no sooner had
she deserted her post than a swarm of _cargador_ ants invaded the
receptacle, and the first intimation we had of their presence was when
a file of white kernels began to descend the side of the mortar and
cross the floor at our feet. How the small insects are able to carry
the large, heavy grains is a mystery. The burden weighs many times as
much as the ant which bears it, and almost hides it from view. Later,
we saw swarms of the same species at work in the clearing; they cut
sections from the edges of corn leaves by digging one mandible into
the leaf for a secure hold, and then rip toward it with the other;
the cut is always circular. Most of the insects worked from right to
left, but one out of every five seemed to be “left-handed” and worked
in the opposite direction. When the section of leaf is detached it is
dexterously swung over the cutter’s back, and away it marches with the
green banner waving aloft. In addition to carrying this load, several
small ants often mount on the leaf for a free ride to the nest.

That night another denizen of the wilds invaded the house; as we
sat quietly in front of the hut listening to a shrill, uncanny
_oh-ho-ho-ho-ho_ coming from the forest, and which the natives said was
the mating call of the three-toed sloth, but which we recognized as
the song of a giant frogmouth or goatsucker, a cat owned by the family
began to cut queer capers about the fireplace. A light revealed a
good-sized bushmaster making its way across the kitchen floor. Whether
the reptile had been attracted by the warm glow of the embers--for
the rain had been followed by a decided drop in temperature--or
had entered the structure to forage for mice, I do not know; but
fortunately the cat had discovered its presence in time to prevent
some one from stepping on it, and was striking at it playfully with
its paws. After that the cook slept on a bench instead of on the earth
floor, as had been her custom.

Our daily excursions took us far into the forest which invested the
low, rounded hills in all directions. There were few trails, but a
lack of undergrowth made walking easy. On one of our first hunting
expeditions we found the rare ground-cuckoo (_Neomorphus_), a beautiful
iridescent greenish-black bird which, on account of its terrestrial
habits, has nearly lost the power of flight. Once before, I had seen
this bird, and that was on the upper Orinoco, near the foot of Mount
Duida. There the single individual was engaged in a curious game of tag
with a tinamou; the birds chased one another about on the leaf-strewn
ground, over logs, and through the underbrush, and jumped over one
another’s back as if playing leap-frog. We also found the flat-billed
motmot in considerable numbers. These birds usually clung to the lianas
drooping in festoons and loops above the small mountain brooks, and
were exceedingly stupid and unsuspicious. They uttered no note, and
sat motionless many minutes at a time, silhouetted like dark, ragged
spectres on their perches. Among the moss or green leaves their color
blended well with the surroundings, and we doubtless passed numbers
without being aware of their presence.

Not all the birds inhabiting the forests at Alto Bonito are
inconspicuously colored, however. There are gorgeous little tanagers,
humming-birds, toucans, and trogons. The latter, especially, are
creatures of such exquisite beauty that they seem to belong to a world
more ethereal than our own; their brilliant scarlet or yellow breasts
resemble a flower of dazzling color, for which the shimmering, metallic
wing-coverts and back provide a resplendent setting. The bird is as
fragile as it is beautiful, and was evidently not intended to be
defiled by the touch of mortal hands. If a specimen is shot, many of
the feathers are lost before the bird reaches the ground, and at the
impact of the ground many more are shed. The skin is so delicate that
it takes an expert to remove it, and even then the bird is the despair
of field-naturalist and taxidermist alike.

There was also a splendid representation of the parrot family, ranging
from noisy little parrakeets to huge, green amazons. This reminded
me of an interesting provision of nature whereby three families of
birds frequently found in the same locality are able to obtain their
sustenance. They are the parrots, trogons, and toucans, all of which
feed upon fruit, each seeming to secure its food in a different manner.
The zygodactyl feet of parrots enable them to _climb_ out to the tip
of fruit-laden branches and to cling to them in any position while
feeding; toucans, endowed with an enormously elongated bill are able to
_reach_ a long distance for a coveted morsel, which is grasped between
the tip of the mandibles and tossed back with an upward jerk of the
head, to be swallowed; a trogon has a very short beak and neck, and the
delicate feet are not adapted to climbing, but the wings of the bird
are so constructed as to enable it to hover, from which position the
fruit it desires may be snapped off the stem, when the bird returns to
its perch to devour it.

One day our host’s son, aged thirteen, undertook to guide me to a
distant part of the forest, where he said a large herd of peccaries
had their feeding-ground. At first we passed through a part of the
country well known to me, as I had taken a number of hunting excursions
over the same ground; then we ascended a steep slope and, reaching the
top, began to explore a vast stretch of heavy woods but rarely visited
by any one. Although we had come for the express purpose of hunting
peccaries, there were so many rare prizes on all sides that it was
impossible to adhere strictly to our first intention; the temptation to
add new treasures to our collection proved too great. Dainty little
pigmy squirrels played in the top of the palms, or clung like lichens
to the tree-trunks.

Some of the trees bore ripe fruit, and to them many animals came which
are hard or even impossible to find under other conditions, thus making
an ideal spot for the naturalist. A few seeds of the alligator-pear
cast away by a hunter years before had taken root and grown into
good-sized trees; the fruit dropped to the ground as it matured,
attracting agoutis, which collected, apparently from some distance, to
feed on the rich morsels. Other trees were laden with small berries.
Although there was no sound to indicate the presence of a living thing,
we usually discovered that first impressions were deceptive. If we
waited a short time, a gentle patter on the leaves at our feet rewarded
our patience; and then a close scrutiny of the leafy vault revealed
silent, dark forms carefully moving among the tops of the branches and
reaching out to pick the fruit upon which they were feeding. Gradually
the shadowy forms assumed the shape of toucans, parrots, or macaws; the
latter two birds are very wasteful and drop far more food than they eat.

The presence of an ant army is invariably advertised by the sharp
chirp of the ant-wrens attending it. We encountered one, and spent an
exciting half-hour securing two species of ant-birds, one black with
white shoulders (_Myrmelastes_), and the other of a brown color with a
white line running through the centre of the underparts (_Anoplops_);
they had been feeding on beetles and spiders, and examination of the
stomach contents revealed also a few ants. After shooting a bird it was
necessary to enter into the thick of the voracious insects to hunt for
it; but before the trophy could be recovered swarms of ants had climbed
up our legs and clung with a bulldog grip.

Occasionally we saw a flock of manakins--brilliant little sprites of
the forest, always found in the densest thickets. Some are black with
golden heads; others, also black, have yellow breasts and long tufts of
feathers on the throat, giving the bird a comical, bearded appearance;
a third species had a vivid scarlet crest. The males only are brightly
colored; the females are green.

There were signs of peccaries in abundance, but the constant shooting
had frightened them away; so after inspecting an ancient Indian tomb
consisting of a pile of carefully placed stones, overgrown with
creepers, we started for home. Instead of retracing our steps over the
many miles we had come, we followed a narrow gorge which we knew must
lead to the Rio Sucio. Progress was slow and difficult, for the brook
descended in a series of falls, and the rocks were covered with moss
and were slippery; however, having started _via_ this route, it was
impossible to retrace our steps.

There was little of interest along the course of the treacherous
little stream; but we discovered nests of a barred black-and-white
wren (_Thryophilus_) swinging gayly above the water. The basket-shaped
structures had been placed in the wildest, darkest spots, and each
contained a single young bird, dozing peacefully in the entrance
opening, lulled to sleep, no doubt, by the semigloom and the sound of
rushing water.

As we picked our way along slowly and painfully, frequently wading
through water three feet deep, a dark, shadowy form lunged from the
blackness of a cavern among the boulders and clung for an instant
to the cuff of my hunting-coat; then it dropped to the ground, and
slowly disappeared among the rocks. My companion, who was a few feet
in advance, had just turned to make some comment, and it was not until
his frantic shriek brought me back to earth that I fully realized what
had occurred. A bushmaster, apparently four or five feet long had
become exasperated at our close proximity, and aimed a deadly thrust
at the disturber of its diurnal slumber. This habit of the snake is
well known; by nature it is sluggish; one person may pass close by
without arousing its anger, while to a second individual, immediately
following, it will show resentment, although it may not strike; but a
third may consider himself fortunate, indeed, if he does not draw the
full measure of the reptile’s fury.

The exploration at Alto Bonito yielded such rich returns that we
regretted the necessity of leaving; but a field-naturalist’s time is
not unlimited, and presently we found ourselves riding across the
parched Antioquian desert, _en route_ to Medellin.

The work at Alto Bonito provided the last link in the chain of facts
regarding the forestation of northwestern Antioquia, and also throws
some light on the extension of the mountain ranges. For information on
the latter subject we were compelled to rely largely on data furnished
by Señor Cspinas, director of the School of Mines, Medellin; Señor
Ernesto White, an engineer who has made surveys in the region, and the
reports of Indians.

The Western Cordillera terminates in the Cerro Aguila, just below 9°,
near the Golfo de Urubá, and is less than one thousand feet high. The
range breaks down, gradually, north of the Paramillo. In latitude 7½°
the highest peak is known as Alto Esmeralda, four thousand feet high;
and the Abibi, a few miles farther north, reaches an altitude of only
three thousand six hundred feet.

A trail recently built (by Señor White) from Turbo on the Gulf of Urubá
to Montana on the Rio Sinú crosses the very country about which we knew
least; the elevation of its highest point is eight hundred feet, and
every mile of the way was cut through heavy virgin forest.



_PART II_

VENEZUELA



CHAPTER X

FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES ON THE ORINOCO


It seemed as if the declining sun had set the quivering world aflame;
all day long the _Delta_, well remembered but unbeloved by voyagers
on the Master River, had struggled on against the yellow flood toward
her goal two hundred and forty miles above the Parian Gulf. Not a
ripple stirred the placid water which glided ever onward, and no breeze
stirred the heavy, dark vegetation that lined the river’s bank. It had
been one of those days which only the traveller to tropical lands can
adequately picture; when all the earth silently droops beneath the
unrelenting glare of the lurid orb overhead, and eagerly awaits the
coming of night which alone can bring relief.

As the last vestige of the sullen disk dipped into the forest, and only
a faint pink and violet glow lit up the banks of vapors hanging low in
the west, the nightly gales from the ocean sprang up with unrestrained
vigor; soon a choppy sea was raging, and as each white-capped wave
struck her wooden sides with a muffled boom, the fragile, top-heavy
steamer shuddered and threatened to capsize. Morning, however, found
her still battling bravely with the somewhat subsided elements, and,
not long after, the _Delta_ was slowly dragging herself alongside the
high, sandy beach on which stands Ciudad Bolivar.

The first white man to ascend the Orinoco was Ordaz, who in 1531–2 went
as far as the mouth of the Meta; and after him came the usual bands of
treasure-seekers in quest of El Dorado; but instead of wonderful golden
cities they found yawning graves in a hostile wilderness.

In the middle of the eighteenth century missions, founded by the
Jesuit fathers, dotted the river-bank as far up as Esmeraldas; these
have long since vanished. Humboldt made his memorable voyage to the
Cassiquiare in 1800, and a number of other scientific expeditions
followed in his wake at irregular intervals; to enumerate them all
would be a tedious and unwarranted use of time. However, one remarkable
fact must not be overlooked, namely, that even to this day the actual
sources of the Orinoco have not been discovered.

To trace this huge artery to its very beginning, supposedly somewhere
in the Serrania de Parima on the Brazilian frontier was not the object
of our expedition; but rather to explore the regions north of the
inaccurately mapped Rio Cunucunuma, more particularly Mount Duida,
thought by many to be the locality described in a widely read book
entitled “The Lost World.” Of this country, and of the people and
animal life inhabiting its virgin wilds, very little was known.

With the tying up of the _Delta_ the first stage of our journey had
been completed.

Ciudad Bolivar, formerly called Angostura, meaning narrows, on account
of the narrowing of the Orinoco at this point to the width of a mile,
stands on an eminence on the left bank, and is the capital of the
Department of Guiana; it is the largest and only city of importance on
the river. The red-tiled roofs and whitewashed walls of the houses can
be seen from afar. On landing, one is confronted by a strange medley
of low, thick-walled edifices; narrow, crooked streets, and swarthy,
unkempt people. Practically all of the windows are heavily barred, a
custom common in many parts of South America, and retained from the
Moors.

Whatever beauty attached to the place is indoors. There are no green
lawns or flowering gardens to cheer the eye of the passer-by; but a
glimpse behind the sombre walls will invariably reveal an open court or
_patio_ filled with flowers and tropical shrubbery, and occasionally
a fountain; but this is not all. In the _patio_ of the hotel, which
served as our headquarters, there lived in perfect harmony several
large tortoises, a deer, two sheep, about a dozen tree-ducks, turkeys,
chickens, guinea-fowl, and several pigs; fifteen species of birds,
including parrots, orioles, and finches occupied cages hanging on the
walls. The desire to keep caged animals is an inherent trait of the
South American. Back of the city lies an extensive swamp from which, at
least during the month of December, came great numbers of mosquitoes.
As may have been inferred, the heat was very great; but regularly at
nightfall the strong wind came up the river, causing a drop of several
degrees in the temperature; then the town cast off its torpor, lights
twinkled, the band played on the water-front, gayly dressed and painted
women peered from behind the heavily barred windows, the streets
were filled with a roving crowd of men and boys, and Ciudad Bolivar
presented a wide-awake appearance.

On the opposite side of the Orinoco is the small town of Soledad; this
village supplies a large portion of the sailors who man the boats
plying on the river.

Our first care was to try to find a way of proceeding on our voyage.
On account of the low stage of the water from the months of January
to March, steamers do not ascend beyond Ciudad Bolivar regularly,
and at best they go only as far as the Apure. It was, therefore,
decided to charter a sailboat of shallow draft which would take us
to the first great barrier to navigation, the cataracts of Atures.
To secure such a craft was not an easy matter. We visited several of
the large export houses, mostly German, but none of them had vessels
at their disposal. Finally, we heard of a man named Guillermo Montez;
he was a type frequently met with in South America; owning a small
store which contained chiefly long ropes of garlic festooned on the
walls, living in a mud hovel, and apparently poverty-stricken, he
nevertheless possessed great wealth and knew how to handle his fellow
countrymen. This “handling” consisted of keeping them constantly in
debt to himself, so that he owned them virtually body and soul. Montez
immediately sent to Soledad for one of his debtors, and within a short
time we had secured the contract for the transportation needed.

On December 16 word reached us that the boat was ready. We had spent
the intervening days adding to the stock of provisions brought from New
York, and it might be added that the shops of Ciudad Bolivar were well
filled with a splendid assortment of foodstuffs at reasonable prices.

The _Hilo de Oro_ (_Thread of Gold_), for that was the name of the
sloop impatiently bobbing near the bank, was a boat capable of
carrying one hundred and fifty _quintales_, under the command of
one Pedro Solano; her crew consisted of four men, and the captain’s
wife, whose position was that of cook. To properly load the equipment
and provisions required half a day, and with the springing up of
the evening wind we hoisted sail and, skirting the towering rocks
protruding from the centre of the river, glided easily to the other
side. As all the men came from Soledad, there followed a night of the
usual festivities of drinking and leave-taking; but with the rising
sun, the wind still holding out, we started on the real voyage up the
great river.

Fortunately, the wind was favorable and continued to blow
intermittently all day long; by ten o’clock at night we had covered
about thirty miles and cast anchor at a point called _Boca la Brea_.
The width of the river averaged about one mile and a half, and the
entire bed is strewn with huge boulders, rendering navigation at night
impossible.

Next day, a favorable wind did not reach us until late in the
morning, and we had our first glimpse of wild life. The crew, a
piratical-appearing band with unshaven faces, wearing short breeches
only, and red and blue handkerchiefs around their heads, landed a
number of large striped catfish; but their tackle was too light and
others of greater weight broke the lines and escaped. Numbers of
_caimans_, or crocodiles, floated lazily down-stream with only the
eyes and saw-like tails showing above the water; and a school of
fresh-water porpoises jumped and raced around the boat.

On the days that followed, the wind either died down entirely or
blew with terrific violence, so that slow progress was made. The
_chubascos_, or squalls, not uncommon on tropical rivers, come up
suddenly and without warning; a faint, funnel-shaped mass appears on
the horizon, followed by a low bank of black clouds, and fitful little
sandspouts that spring into existence on the vast _playas_. There is
never time to seek the leeward banks, and not a minute is lost in
lowering sails and placing every available object below to prevent its
being washed overboard. While Captain Solano shouted hoarse orders
and the crew worked like mad (the only time they really did work), we
donned our oilskins and awaited the coming of the storm. To go down
into the hatch was impossible, both on account of the lack of space
and the stifling heat. The wait was never very long; with a roar the
hurricane burst upon the quiet river, and in a few minutes everything
was obliterated in the dense fog and wall of falling water. The wind
tore through the rigging with agonized wails, and angry white-capped
waves sprang suddenly into existence, sweeping over the boat and
dashing it about like a cork in a millrace. There was nothing to be
done but wait until the storm subsided and hope that no obstructing
boulder, or the bank, would put an end to the madly careening craft in
the semidarkness. This lasted from fifteen minutes to an hour; then the
wind died down, the rain ceased, and the fog lifted. A changed river
presented itself. Monstrous waves, capped with foam, dashed and tore
at the high, crumbling banks, undermining them so that large sections
tumbled into the water, carrying with them tall trees and massed
vegetation. The agitated surface was littered with _débris_ which bore
good evidence of the violence of the storm.

After this there followed several days of calm; there was not enough
wind to fill the sails, and all the “whistling for a breeze” of the
sailors did exactly as much good as one would expect it to. Finally,
in desperation, a long rope was tied to the mast, and two men going
ahead in a canoe made the other end fast to a tree, a few hundred feet
ahead. The remaining members of the crew then hauled on the rope,
slowly drawing the boat forward. Progress was slow, of course, but
on the 22d we reached the _Puerto del Infierno_, the best possible
name for the narrow, rocky gorge through which the river rushes with
uncontrolled fury. A large mass of granite covered with low vegetation
divides the river into two narrow channels, one of them so protected
by high, rocky banks that no wind ever reaches the water, consequently
making it impossible for boats to sail up the passage. The other is a
narrow, rock-strewn gorge, down which the water thunders in a series
of cascades. On the right bank, perched high on the rocks, are a few
mud huts called _Pueblo de las Piedras_. We spent the greater part of a
day waiting for wind, and then made straight for the seething passage.
Fortunately our pilot was a good one; his method was to steer directly
for some great boulder, below which the water was quiet, and just as
the ship seemed about to strike he swung the tiller, and the boat
painfully nosed her way up the cataract that dashed down the sides of
the rock. If the breeze slackened for a moment the ship drifted back
with the strong current, which was extremely dangerous, as there was no
way of regulating her course; but always, just in the nick of time, the
sails filled and after an hour’s struggle we left the rapids and sailed
into the quiet water above.

Not far above the _Infierno_ is the village of Mapire, a neat
collection of perhaps fifty huts on a high bluff overlooking the river.
In back of the town are vast _llanos_, or grassy plains, which are
capable of supporting numerous herds of cattle. On the opposite side
of the river, and some little distance up, is the mouth of the Caura,
at one time believed to be the home of a tribe of headless people; but
the old superstition has been overthrown, and during the first month of
each year many adventurous parties ascend the river for a considerable
distance in search of the _serrapia_ or tonca-bean. The tree (_Dipteryx
odorata_) upon which the fruit grows resembles a mango, with spreading
branches and deep-green, dense leaves. The fruit also is very similar
to the mango, though green, with tough, fibrous flesh and a large seed.
While the fruit is still green great quantities of it are destroyed by
macaws and parrots, which take a bite or two, then drop the rest on the
ground. Upon ripening, the fruit falls, when it is gathered into heaps
and dried; the seeds are later cracked open and the strong-smelling
kernel extracted to be carefully preserved and sent to Ciudad Bolivar,
where it is treated in casks of rum and then exported. It is used in
making perfumes and flavoring extracts.

The water of the Caura is of a clear dark-red color, and for a great
distance after entering the Orinoco the two waters flow side by side
without mingling in the slightest degree.

The Orinoco widens into a majestic stream above this point, and we
estimated that the distance from bank to bank must in some places be
from three to five miles; also, vast sand-banks stretch along both
sides for a distance of many miles.

Caicara, the only town of importance on the Orinoco besides Ciudad
Bolivar, consisted at the time of our visit of about one hundred and
fifty houses, but on account of a rubber and _serrapia_ boom on the
Cuchivero many of the inhabitants were leaving for the latter place.
The next day we passed the mouth of the Apure, and just beyond the
mouth of the Arichuma; a great low, sandy island rises out of the
centre of the Orinoco at this point, on which thousands of terns,
skimmers, gulls, and other water-fowl were apparently nesting. All day
long and even at night the air was filled with darting, screaming birds
that made such a terrific din that it was impossible to sleep. High
waves prevented our landing on the island, but the natives visit it
regularly, taking away canoe-loads of eggs; for this reason the island
has been named _Playa de Manteca_, meaning in this case land of plenty.

The next settlement is called Urbana, and is on the south bank of
the river, almost opposite the mouth of the Arauca. It consists of
about a score of hovels. The Arauca is a river of considerable size,
and is said to be bordered by vast marshes and swamps, the home of
countless egrets and other water-birds. Hunting-parties ascend during
the nesting-season and kill great numbers of the birds; the plumes are
taken to Ciudad Bolivar and disposed of to the export dealers.

Leaving Urbana on the 29th, we entered one of the most difficult
stretches of the river to navigate. The fish-hook bend of the Orinoco
turns southward, and the eastern bank is dotted with a range of
low granite hills which are, in fact, a chain of giant, blackened,
dome-shaped boulders. The wind from the east, roaring through each
cleft and opening, strikes the river from several directions and with
cyclonic violence. One moment there is scarcely enough to make headway
against the current; the next a gust strikes the sails and sends the
ship wallowing on her beam until the boom drags in the water and it is
an even bet if she will gradually right herself or go over. At such
times of peril as well as on starting each morning it is the custom of
the sailors to pray. Of course they were all Catholics. The captain or
whoever steers said, “_Vamos con Dios_” (let us go with God), and the
others answered in chorus: “_Y con la Virgen_” (and with the Virgin).
Occasionally the person whose duty it was to lead was so occupied
rolling a cigarette or slapping at flies that he neglected his duty;
then some one was sure to remind him with a sarcastic “_Aha! Hoy
vamos como los Protestantes_” (Aha! To-day we are starting like the
Protestants). It often happened that the crew was remiss. The captain
repeated his lead several times without being heard; finally, his
patience exhausted, he shouted at the top of his voice, “_Vamos con
Dios, caramba_,” and the crew immediately yelled back at the top of
their voices: “_Y con la Virgen, caramba_.”

Added to the danger of the shifting gales is a rapids named San
Jorge. There was just enough water to cover the rocks which dot the
river-bed, causing a series of cross-currents and whirlpools which
only a Venezuelan boatman, trusting mainly to luck, can hope to pass
through. The rigging of the _Hilo de Oro_ was old and rotten, and ropes
were constantly snapping and sails splitting. No matter how obvious a
defect was, it was never remedied until an accident had occurred. The
boom had been threatening to break as each sudden gust of wind struck
the mainsail, but a few boards nailed across the weakened place it
was hoped would give sufficient strength for any emergency. An hour
after leaving San Jorge, however, the boom parted with a loud report
and dropped into the water, nearly upsetting the boat. Then, while the
craft wallowed on her side with the deck awash there ensued a good deal
of mingled praying, swearing, and frantic work until the heavy boom was
fished out of the water. We tied up at the bank, cut down a tree, and
worked the greater part of the night replacing the broken member.

One of the curious granite battlements rears its head out of the
water to a height of several hundred feet, and is somewhat suggestive
of a small edition of the famous Sugar-Loaf Rock at the entrance to
the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. This is called Treasure Rock, and no
Venezuelan ever passes the spot without casting envious glances to the
top. In the days when the old Spaniards were still wandering over the
newly discovered lands in search of El Dorado, so the story goes, they
penetrated far into the Cerro Sipapo and found rich treasures in gold
and precious stones. The Guajibo Indians, in whose domain they had
penetrated and whom they had robbed, finally tired of their unwelcome
guests and chased them down the river. In desperation the Spaniards
formed a stronghold on this island rock, driving iron spikes into its
sides as a means of reaching the top; for many weeks they resisted a
siege by the savage hordes, but with the coming of the rainy season the
Indians withdrew to their mountain fastness. Finally the Spaniards
came down, cutting off the spikes as they descended; they feared
pursuit, so left the treasure on the rock, hoping to come for it when
reinforcements had been secured; they never returned, and to this day
the fabulous wealth of the Guajibos lies entombed on the top of the
impregnable boulder.

The Meta is a mighty river coming from the immense prairie region of
eastern Colombia. It is navigable for the greater part of its course,
and should be the means of opening up illimitable grazing areas when
the Orinoco is thrown open to free navigation. Where the Meta joins the
Orinoco, the latter is fully two miles wide; near its mouth the country
is covered with a dense scrub growth. As we neared the mouth of the
great river several large canoes filled with Indians, of the Guajibo
tribe, shot from an invisible hiding-place near the bank and made for
the centre of the stream. They have an unsavory reputation among the
river-men, and Captain Solano added little gayety to the occasion when
he prophesied an attack and armed his men. On they came, swiftly and
silently, the dusky, naked bodies bending in perfect unison, and the
great muscles of the arms and shoulders rippling in the sunlight as
they drove the short, pointed paddles deep into the water with vigorous
strokes; but our suspicions proved to be unfounded. They passed rapidly
on some secret mission of their own without even condescending to
glance in our direction. This utter indifference to strangers, I found
later, is a characteristic common to all Indians of the Upper Orinoco.
A man might be drowning or stranded on a rock, but they would pass him
quietly in their canoes without apparently seeing him; they would pay
not the slightest attention to his cries for help. Their ill treatment
at the hands of strangers has been so great that they have lost all
confidence in any one unknown to them, and so they retaliate by
feigning indifference to him, even in his direst need.

The nights were usually spent aboard ship. If there was no wind it
was safe to tie up to some tree; or if darkness overtook us near a
playa the anchor was carried ashore and buried in the sand. While the
cook prepared supper on the brazier or over a fire built on the bank,
hammocks were strung in the rigging, and then we fished until time to
retire.

Fish were always abundant and of many varieties. One kind that
was taken frequently and that was excellent eating was a catfish,
weighing up to twenty-eight pounds, of a deep brownish color with
wavy bluish-gray lines running along its sides, called _vagre tigre_;
another species of catfish, frequently of a weight of seventy-five
pounds or more, and of a deep slate color, was not uncommon; there was
also a third about eighteen inches long, with a large, narrow head and
“feelers” as long as the body, that was always sure to be among the
catch; but neither of the two last named was ever eaten, as the flesh
was said to be poisonous. The crew was always careful to clean all
fish immediately and place them under cover; if left exposed to the
moonlight overnight they were unfit for food.

The hoarse cough of jaguars was heard almost nightly; it was the season
when great numbers of turtles left the river at nightfall to deposit
their eggs in the sand-banks, and the jaguars left the forest at dark
to dig up and feed on these eggs. One night, just as the boat had
drawn up to the high sand-bank preparatory to tying up, one of the
huge cats was discovered sitting ten feet above us quietly surveying
the scene on deck; there was a rush for the guns, but when they were
secured the jaguar had disappeared. A clear sweep of loose sand with
a low bush here and there stretched back a mile from the river to the
heavy forest, and in the brilliant moonlight it was easy to trace the
animal’s tracks as it started toward cover. Several times its shadowy
form was visible, slinking from one bush to another a few rods away,
but always out of range; after half an hour the tracks were lost in
the edge of the forest. We returned to the ship. Before replacing the
guns in the hatch some one casually broke his, which action led to the
discovery that it contained no shells; neither were the others loaded.
One of the men while cleaning them that afternoon had removed the
cartridges and failed to reload them. Fortunately, the jaguar is not
quite as savage as he is usually pictured, or there might have been a
lively scene on the _playa_.

There is but one other rapid of importance in the Orinoco before
reaching the cataracts of Atures, and that is San Borja, not far above
the mouth of the Meta. Just above this narrow stretch of seething
water we met another boat about the size of the _Hilo de Oro_, which
was cruising back and forth near the bank, her crew directing loud
shouts toward the forest at frequent intervals. Upon inquiry we found
that one of the men had gone into the woods to cut a pole; the other
members of the crew had heard him chopping, as he had not entered the
matted vegetation more than fifty feet; suddenly the chopping ceased,
but the man did not come out; although they had searched far and near,
no trace of him had been found, and this was the fourth day after his
disappearance. The supposition was that he had been killed and carried
away by Indians.

Perrico was formerly the port of call for sailing craft below Atures.
At the time of our arrival there was nothing whatever there, not even
a single hut. We continued up the river half a mile to a place called
Vagre; here we found the remains of two palm-leaf huts, long since
fallen down and overgrown with vegetation. In the small clearing a few
cotton-stalks, beans, pawpaws, and castor-bean bushes still struggled
for existence with the invading hosts of creepers and second-growth
sprouts; the forest was rapidly reclaiming its own. On the sandy
river-bank were the tracks of jaguars and caimans. At this point the
river is divided into a number of branches by islands, and the one on
which Vagre was situated is not over five hundred feet wide. Beyond
this point a boat of any size cannot proceed; it is the foot of the
series of cataracts, six miles long, known as the rapids of Atures. We
sent a man overland to Zamuro for a _falca_, which is a canoe with the
sides heightened with boards; and while our luggage was being rowed up
the swift stream, we walked near the bank.

The aneroid, read at water-level, gave an elevation of three hundred
and fifty feet; perhaps this is somewhat too high. Between Vagre and
Zamuro a row of rounded, black rocks rise to a height of two hundred
and fifty feet above the river, on the eastern side. Many boulders of
enormous proportions lie sprinkled about in the most irregular manner,
as far as we could see, and in spots there are outcroppings of ledges
of quartz. The tops of the rounded granite hills are hard and glazed,
so that they glisten in the sunlight as if covered with a coating
of ice. There are but a few stunted trees, and where any vegetation
can get a foothold tough, wiry grass grows; this is the home of many
rabbits and rattlesnakes.

Zamuro we found to consist of three grass huts newly built and occupied
by sick, miserable Venezuelan families. The heat is terrific, and
mosquitoes and sand-flies first begin to make their presence known
in considerable numbers. The river scenery is really magnificent;
huge boulders of fantastic shape strew the river-bed, and rear their
heads high above the seething torrent; against them the water dashes
ceaselessly, surging and swirling in mad endeavors to destroy them,
only to be baffled by the immovable sentinels and hurled back again to
collide with their brethren equally unrelenting and equally impervious
to the roaring onslaught. The scene is awe-inspiring.

The next step was to secure ox-carts to carry the _impedimenta_ to the
Rio Catañapo, three miles away, and this we crossed in a canoe, landing
practically at Atures. The governor of the Upper Orinoco, General
Roberto Pulido, made Catañapo his home. He was ordinarily supposed to
reside in San Fernando de Atabapo, but on account of his arbitrary
methods of government he was so greatly disliked that he decided it was
“healthier” to live elsewhere.

The Catañapo is a turbulent stream of clear, cold water that dashes
down from the near-by Cerro Sipapo. Not far above its mouth is a
good-sized village of Piaroas, who come down occasionally with
plantains, pawpaws, and other fruits which they exchange for cloth and
sugar at Atures. When the Indians come down they apparently bring with
them numbers of freshly killed monkeys, the flesh of which is greatly
esteemed as food. We saw several heaps of the charred bones near
frequently used camping-sites, here as well as at Zamuro.

The clear water of the Catañapo abounds in fish which may be seen
twenty-five feet or more beneath the surface. Some were fully two feet
long and resembled giant black bass; they refused to be tempted with
meat bait, but rushed greedily for bright-colored objects such as fruit
and flowers; they would take half an orange at a gulp.

Atures, consisting of six or eight mud and grass huts, owes its
existence to the fact that the governor lives on the Catañapo and
all the residents are his employees. Formerly the town was larger
and there were thirty ox-carts plying back and forth across the
portage; but the governor promptly selected the few he wanted and then
discouraged competition in such a manner that he was shortly left alone
in the field. To us he was most cordial, and immediately placed his
carts at our disposal; nor did he examine our luggage, which was his
self-imposed duty, and extract anything that suited his fancy.

The two miles from Atures to Salvajito, the port of embarkation above
Atures Rapids, were covered in ox-carts which lumbered slowly along
over the uneven semiarid country. Salvajito was only a small cleared
space in the forest fringing the river.

The next step of the journey was to traverse the forty miles of river
between Atures and the second great cataract at Maipures. Only a small
canoe was available, so leaving my assistant and a number of the men
to guard the left-over luggage, I started with three paddlers. The
canoe was only eighteen feet long, with about two inches of freeboard,
but fortune favored us and after two days we reached the mouth of
the Tuparo. The first night out had been spent on a _laja_, or shelf
of rock which extends over the water; the men set the dry vegetation
in back of the camp afire in order to keep away jaguars, and built
a fence of brands along the outer edge of the rock to frighten off
the crocodiles. The second night was spent on a large sand-bank just
below the rapid of Guajibo. In approaching this site the canoe had
been caught in a sudden hurricane and swamped before land could be
reached; but fortunately we had gained shallow water, so nothing was
lost. On this sand-bar lived three species of terns, one of very small
size that came in immense flocks after nightfall and, dropping on the
sand, immediately disappeared from view; also numbers of yellow-legs
and a few gulls. The wind blew steadily all night, so that by morning
everything and every one was half buried in the loose sand.

The rapid of Guajibo is one of the most treacherous in the whole
Orinoco. Each year the rubber-gatherers pay heavy toll in lives while
traversing this notorious spot. A great horseshoe-shaped ledge of
rock extends across practically the entire river, and over this the
water rushes at great speed; below is a series of scattered rocks
extending for a quarter of a mile, and forming a raging, roaring gorge.
We portaged around the spot, although the country is very difficult,
owing to the many high rocks and the deep crevices between them. An
acquaintance who had just passed attempted to have his men drag their
boat through, with the result that they lost the canoe and three men.
Shortly after a large _piragua_ coming from up-river attempted to run
the rapids to save time; seven of the crew, as well as the owner of the
outfit, paid for their folly with their lives, and the entire cargo
of rubber, together with the boat, was lost. A few days later another
party wrecked their canoe and lost two men. These are all cases which
came under our notice, and I was told of many others.

The port of Maipures is on the Rio Tuparo, about half a mile above its
mouth. This river, some two hundred yards wide, comes rushing out of
the interior of Colombia down a rocky river-bed. Where the landing was
effected we found only the parched plain, a trail leading away from
the river to the settlement of Maipures, a good three miles away. We
pitched camp near the water, and the canoe and two men were immediately
sent back for another load of the equipment. There was not much life
along this part of the river. Numerous iguanas spent the hot hours
burrowing in the sand, and if disturbed either ran away in the brush
or plunged into the water. Both green and blue kingfishers clattered
noisily on the opposite side, and a few large gray herons flapped up
and down over the centre of the stream. We could constantly hear the
loud roar of the Maipures Rapids, and the water rushing down the course
of the main river was covered with foam.

Five days after our arrival the second load, in charge of my assistant,
arrived. They had met with a mishap in the rapid of Guajibo, and
one man and the canoe were lost. For nearly two days they had been
stranded on an island and besieged by a party of Indians from the
Sipapo; the occupants of a passing canoe, seeing their plight, came
to the rescue, and brought them on to the Tuparo. While the borrowed
canoe returned for the remaining members of the party, we busied
ourselves transferring camp to Maipures, above the head of the rapids.
The intervening country is level and covered with a sparse growth of
clumps of wiry grass and patches of low woods; near the watercourse the
trees are taller and the vegetation more dense. The town, consisting
of six adobe houses with thatched roofs, nestles in a little grove of
mango and tonca-bean trees, and from a short distance away is very
picturesque; but like all the rest of the plain it is insufferably hot
and the myriads of sand-flies quivering like heat-waves in the air make
life almost unbearable.

[Illustration: The village of Maipures.]

[Illustration: The _Hilo de Oro_ at the end of the voyage.]

While waiting for a boat of ample size to take us up the river to
San Fernando de Atabapo, we had time to explore the surrounding country
and to visit the rapids, three in number, which obstruct the river. The
woods are wonderful beyond description; most of the trees are gnarled
and low, as if grown under the guiding hand of a skilful Japanese
gardener, and have the appearance of being hundreds of years old.
Stunted spiny palms rear their crowns here and there, and an occasional
tangle of red-flowered creepers forms an umbrella-like mass on the
tip of some slender, dead stub. The ground is sprinkled with rocks of
fantastic shapes, and some are of enormous size, rising in needle-like,
fluted columns, or as the crumbling tiers of massive walls amid the
curiously distorted vegetation. Along the river are other masses of
rock, but of an entirely different formation; we saw caves and grottos,
and ledges honeycombed with hundreds of pot-holes exposed by the low
water.

Beyond the woods are large areas of cacti, pineapples, and low, thorny
bushes, springing from crevices in the granite ledges. Bird life is
abundant and varied. Quail and red-breasted meadow-larks occupy the
open country, as well as a species of the much-sought tinamou; but
a bird that proved to be the most interesting was a small, obscure
individual called nunlet or swallow-wing. All day long the little
creature, about the size of a king-bird, black above and gray below,
with a saffron band across the throat, sits on the top of some dead
tree, seemingly asleep; but let a fly or an insect of almost any kind
pass along and the bird immediately becomes charged with activity and
darts into the air in hot pursuit, catches its victim, and returns
to its perch with graceful flits of the wings. It remains on the
same twigs for hours, and usually returns day after day. If a stick
is thrown at it the little creature flies away and comes back again
and again. But stupid as the bird appears to be, it is nevertheless
a skilful architect. I have seen them dig perfectly round holes deep
into a bank of sand so loose that the whole mass would crumble at my
touch; while one bird digs with much scratching and working of wings,
the mate sits on a branch near by and gives a twitter of alarm upon
the approach of danger. Some members of the family build a huge pile
of twigs on the entrance to their burrow to hide it. At the end of the
tunnel, a foot or two back, the snow-white eggs are laid upon a thin
layer of straw and feathers.

The highest falls in the river are known as Carretia, and are supposed
to be about thirty feet high; they block the eastern channel of the
river, here divided into two branches by the immense Isla de Raton. In
the western arm the Raudal del Conejo and Raudal Saltinero effectively
block this watercourse to navigation. It is said that the Spaniards
built a road from Atures to the foot of the Cerro Sipapo above the
falls of Carretia, and that the Indians still follow this route
occasionally. If true, this was doubtless a great convenience, as it
did away with the necessity of navigating some fifty-odd miles of the
most difficult and dangerous waterway of the entire river.

A large boat called _piragua_ was obtained at Maipures, and in this
the expedition travelled to San Fernando de Atabapo in six days’ time.
The river is dotted with a number of islands, the largest being the
great Isla de Raton, all heavily forested; the current is frequently
so strong that no headway could be made either by rowing or poling the
heavy boat. At such times a thick cable of the braided fibre of a palm
called _chiquechique_ had to be requisitioned, and everybody walked on
the bank, dragging the boat slowly along. The very first day the man
in the lead ran into a bushmaster fully eight feet long, and narrowly
escaped the vicious thrust of the deadly reptile; a charge of shot soon
put an end to the creature’s menacing career, but the men jumped into
the boat and did not want us to take along the dead snake, or they said
its mate would be sure to follow and inflict a terrible revenge for the
loss of its companion; this kind of superstition is very common among
the natives on the Orinoco. Few of them would dare shoot a jaguar, as
they firmly believe that for every one slain a member of their own
family would be carried away by one of the huge spotted cats.

The country on the Colombian side, from below Atures onward, is level
llano, covered with a good growth of grass, and with an abundance of
water. Some day, no doubt, and in the near future, numerous herds of
cattle will graze in the rich pasturage awaiting them, and another
source will be added to the world’s limited supply of meat. A fringe of
trees grows along the river; among them are the valuable “cachicamo”
and “cedro,” the trunks of which are frequently fashioned into canoes
by the natives.

The Vichada, at this season, had dwindled down until at its mouth it
was not more than a hundred yards wide. We could see a range of hills
far to the west, dimly outlined against the sky and finally fading into
obscurity in the haze; in this direction the river has its origin.
Several Piaroa families had settled near the junction of the two rivers
and built a large hut of palm-leaves and grass. The men lounged in
their hammocks all day long, drinking rum and fighting the clouds of
sand-flies which feasted on their half-naked bodies; at night they
crossed to one of the numerous sand-banks and collected basketsful of
turtle eggs and also as many turtles as their canoes would hold. Some
of their canoes were mere shells, so small that we could never learn
how to negotiate them; no matter how quietly we sat they upset as soon
as pushed out into the current, but an Indian or even two would calmly
squat down in the bottom, take up their paddles, and glide away without
the least concern.

The women were making cassava bread; after the tubers (_Manihot
utilissima_) are ground and the juice has been extracted a thin layer
of the coarse meal is spread on the bottom of a shallow pan about
three feet in diameter; the heat causes the particles to adhere,
forming a tough, round wafer which can be turned without breaking; it
is thoroughly baked on both sides. When cold it hardens, and the huge
slabs are then done up in bundles of twenty to forty each, tied up in
plantain leaves, and in this way it can be kept indefinitely. This is
the bread of the Orinoco, and is always carried as the main article
of provision by Indians and travellers alike; when needed pieces are
broken off, dipped in the river to soak a few minutes and then eaten.
While not particularly appetizing, the slightly acid flavor is not
unpleasant, and if there is time to freshly toast it just before using
it is really quite palatable. Another article commonly prepared by the
Piaroas is the bark of a certain tree, called “tabari.” Long, narrow
strips are cut from the trees and alternately soaked in water and
beaten between rocks until the thin layers separate into tissue-like
sheets; these are used in rolling cigarettes.

One of the granite ledges flanking the river just above the Piaroa
dwelling bears on its surface a number of curious figures, carved in
the face of the rock; unfortunately the water was so low that we passed
far beneath them, and I was unable to make out just what they were; but
the canoemen who had seen them a number of times said they were figures
of men and date back to prehistoric times.

The country now rapidly grows wilder; tall forest replaces llanos
or scattered growth, and the camps of rubber-collectors dot the
river-banks. One afternoon, as we poled quietly along, we came upon a
huge anaconda coiled up on a sand-bank; all about were iguanas three or
four feet long, digging nesting burrows in the loose sand. The snake
had just caught one of the big lizards and was crushing it into a limp
mass, but the others paid not the slightest attention to the tragedy
which was being enacted in their midst, and ran about or worked but a
few feet away. When we approached to within twenty feet the anaconda
dropped its victim and flung itself into the water; some of the iguanas
followed it, and others scampered away over the sand.

That night we reached the low, sandy island of Tanaja and, ascending
one of the branches of the river, made camp on the rocky mainland. The
water was sluggish and shallow, so that we could easily see the muddy
bottom six or eight feet below. As the boat moved slowly along we
became aware of masses of black, flitting shadows underneath, and soon
made out vast shoals of fish of various sizes that literally covered
the bottom. There were rays, electric eels, catfish, and _piranhas_ by
the thousands, besides many others which we could not identify; the
reason for their congregating in this shallow place is hard to guess.

The boulders on the bank were dotted with what we at first took to be
lichens; but examination showed them to be night-hawks (_Chordeiles
rupestris_) of a light gray color, which clung to the rounded tops
silent and immovable, as if carved out of stone. When we paddled across
to the island a short while after, we found scores of others, but
these were the females squatting on one or two fragile speckled eggs
which had been laid in shallow hollows scooped out of the warm sand.
They were very tame and permitted me to walk up to within a few feet
of them; then they took wing and with noiseless, graceful flaps flew a
short distance away and dropped back on the sand.

Flocks of red-and-blue macaws flew screaming across the river in
quest of some favorite tree in which to spend the night, far in the
depths of the forest; after them trailed parrots of various sizes and
colors, always flying two by two. Herons flapped lazily up-stream, and
snake-birds perched on snags looked down at the masses of fish below,
apparently regretting their limited capacity for eating. Exciting as
this naturally must be to a field-naturalist, it was but a foretaste of
what we were to find each day farther up the river.

As the morning of January 24 sped by, the water of the Orinoco began to
assume a dark color, and by four o’clock that afternoon we had reached
the mouth of the Atabapo; an hour and a half later we had ascended the
clear red water of that river for a distance of three miles, and tied
the _piragua_ to the ledge below San Fernando.

San Fernando de Atabapo is the last settlement on the Orinoco and was
the base from which we hoped to make our dash to the unexplored regions
about Mount Duida.



CHAPTER XI

THE MAQUIRITARES’ LAND AND THE UPPER ORINOCO


San Fernando, on the Atabapo, consists of about fifty adobe huts of the
usual type, and at the time of our arrival was all but deserted. Almost
the entire population had gone up-river to the scattered rubber-camps,
as this was the season for collecting the valuable latex.

The town is situated on the Atabapo, where this river and the Guaviare
unite, and its elevation above sea-level is three hundred and seventy
feet. The mean temperature is about 80° F., although in the sun the
mercury ascends to 112° F. or more, but the place is not particularly
unhealthful.

The water of the Guaviare is muddy, while that of the Atabapo is of
a clear red color and unfit for drinking. There are few fish, no
crocodiles or sand-flies, and practically no mosquitoes, all of which
is attributed to the discolored water. Two small springs near the
town furnish an abundant supply of potable water, and when during the
rainy season these are covered with the overflow from the river it is
necessary to paddle across and fill the water-jars from the Guaviare.

To secure a crew of men for our trip up the river was a difficult
undertaking and required a great deal of time. This gave us an
opportunity of exploring the surrounding country.

In the immediate vicinity of San Fernando the forest has been cut down
and tall second-growth sprouts form dense thickets; this is a favorite
resort of many small birds, and several species of night-hawks make
it a daytime rendezvous. The basic granite crops out in many places,
the strata occasionally standing on end, and it is often streaked
with narrow seams of quartz. There is no cultivation of any kind;
the inhabitants lack all initiative for work and eat tinned foods and
mandioc received in exchange for trinkets from the Indians.

When we returned a few months later a changed town confronted us. The
rubber-collectors had returned from their several months isolation in
the interior, and were spending the fruits of their labor as rapidly as
possible. Dance-halls, gaming-dens, and almost every conceivable device
for relieving men of their money had sprung up like mushrooms, and
there was drinking and merrymaking day and night. Then suddenly, and
without presage, a tragedy occurred; it will never be forgotten by the
few who survived.

Governor Pulido, so it was rumored, had imposed a new tax on all
rubber collected in the district, and had come to San Fernando to
personally collect the extortion. Naturally, there was a good deal
of dissatisfaction, and one night, just after we had been provided
with a canoe and secretly advised to leave as soon as possible, the
storm broke. A band of men, said to be under the leadership of one
Colonel Funes, an Indian and the most notorious man in the district,
attacked the town, killed the governor, and practically the entire male
population, and rifled the shops and dwellings. If one may believe the
tales of the few who escaped the brutalities committed that night, the
deeds rival those of the most barbaric ages.

Perhaps some of those who perished deserved their fate, others
assuredly did not; but it is a fact that government offices had been
conducted abominably. In the post-office, for example, stamps were sold
for twice their face value, and if one did not purchase them there and
place them on the letters in full view of the postmaster, the mail was
destroyed. A physician who chanced to be there, named La Page, and
who apparently belonged to the military organization as he wore the
regulation uniform, tried to collect over four hundred dollars gold for
a few injections of quinine; and so the robbery went on until the whole
band was exterminated.

Having engaged a captain with some experience on the Upper Orinoco, and
a crew, we on February 3 loaded the low _batelão_ and started on our
mission, reaching a point called _Puerto Ti Ti_ that night; from this
spot a wide trail leads through the magnificent forest to the clearing
wherein stands San Fernando.

For six days we made slow but steady progress up the river, and then
entered the formidable _Raudal de Santa Barbara_, which extends across
the entire delta of the Ventuari.

The Orinoco is wide but with few exceptions so shallow that we pushed
along with long poles. Where the water was deep and the current swift,
long-handled hooks were used to catch the overhanging vegetation
and pull the boat along. This latter mode of travel was always slow
and dangerous and the swarms of wasps and other insects living
among the leaves, and shaken down, were far from being agreeable
travelling companions. The banks were covered with dense, virgin
forest; but there were extensive sand-banks and flat ledges of rock at
convenient intervals, and one of these was always chosen for a night’s
camping-site. If we chanced to be on a _playa_, the early hours of
the evening were spent in fishing. Armed with _machetes_, a bag, and
acetylene-lamps, we waded out in the shallow water and “shined” the
shoals of fish much in the manner that frogs are caught in parts of
this country. At night the fish swam near the surface, and by directing
the rays of the strong white light upon them one could approach to
within a short distance and then strike with the knife: in this manner
large numbers were taken. Occasionally a stingray, electric eel, or
crocodile was suddenly encountered and then there ensued a hurried
scramble in the other direction; this gave the pastime a decided
element of sport. We also became more familiar with the dreaded
_caribe_ or cannibal fish, known as the _piranha_ in Brazil, with which
the water teemed. In the Orinoco they attain a weight exceeding three
pounds and are formidable indeed. The natives will not go in bathing
except in very shallow water, and I know of two instances where men
were attacked and severely bitten before they could escape. The fish
somewhat resembles a bass in shape, although the mouth is smaller; the
jaws are armed with triangular, razor-edged teeth; and as they travel
in immense shoals they are capable of easily devouring a man or large
animal if caught in deep water. Floundering or splashing in the water
attracts them, but they seldom attack unless their appetite has been
whetted by a taste of blood; and then woe to the unfortunate creature
which falls into their power. To catch them, we used a large hook
secured to a long wire leader and baited with any kind of raw meat, and
they always put up a good fight. Without a wire, a line would be bitten
in two every time a fish struck. When taken from the water they are
first killed by a blow on the head with the _machete_, and then removed
from the hook.

At night there was always a heavy dew, and it rained intermittently
each day. On dark nights, and often after a shower, the banks of the
river where there was forest glowed with twinkling phosphorescence.
Examination showed that the decaying vegetation was filled with
myriads of small, wriggling insects, greatly resembling our well-known
cellar-bug (_Isopod_), and one day we paddled for many hours through
a mass of flying ants which had come to grief in the river. The water
was covered with them and the waves had tossed them up on the banks to
a depth of several inches. Another thing that attracted our attention
was the large number of bats. On one occasion we heard a dull rumbling
among the granite ledges near camp, and not long after a stream of
bats began to emerge from the cracks; from a distance they resembled
a cloud of smoke. There must have been many thousands, for the black
masses continued to rise until darkness obscured them from our view.
Spruce records that on one occasion he saw not less than a million
under similar circumstances. This brings up an interesting problem.
The individual range of these bats is probably not very great, the
result of which is that immense numbers of them are distributed over
a comparatively small area. Now, if the struggle for existence is as
keen as is often supposed, how can the female, encumbered with her
offspring fully three-fourths as large as herself, compete successfully
with the unhampered males, and secure enough food not only for herself
but also for her young? The fruit-eating varieties might not suffer
seriously from this handicap, but it does seem as if the agility of the
insectivorous kinds catching their food on the wing would be greatly
affected.

There are numbers of curious formations along the river which cannot
fail to attract the interest of the traveller, no matter what his
particular mission might be. One of these is the Cerro Yapacana, a
square block of granite not over one thousand five hundred feet high;
it is a very conspicuous landmark as it towers above the forest like
a giant monument, and can be seen many miles away. We did not come
abreast of it until eight days after first sighting it.

There are few rubber-camps along this part of the river, but several
Indian families had come to spend some weeks collecting turtles
and eggs on the sand-banks. At night absolute quiet reigned on the
_playas_ so long as the moon shone; but no sooner had the brilliant orb
disappeared below the horizon than the water was broken with ripples
as numbers of turtles emerged to deposit their eggs in the loose, warm
sand, and jaguars came from the dark forest to feast on the defenseless
creatures and rend the still night air with ugly coughs and grunts.

In returning from fishing excursions we usually cut across the several
miles of sandy waste toward camp, guided by the bright fire which the
cook was required to keep burning, and in this way learned a good deal
about the turtle’s habits. After leaving the water the creature wends
its way toward the highest point on the island or _playa_, and with a
few powerful strokes of the flippers excavates a deep hole; the eggs,
twenty to a hundred in number, are then deposited, after which the sand
is scooped back into place and patted down so carefully that it takes a
very experienced eye to locate the spot. The turtle then hurries back
to the water, where it apparently remains until the following year.
When the eggs, warmed by the sun’s rays, finally hatch, the _playas_
swarm with small turtles which are eagerly collected by the natives,
boiled entire and eaten. The egg contains a great deal of oil, and
although cooked a long time always remains soft. Iguana eggs are taken,
also, and boiled and eaten, even when about to hatch.

Besides the turtles there were many other signs of life on the
sand-banks. Water-birds, squatting low in some cup-shaped hollow,
looked stupidly at the dazzling light of the gas-lamps, and could be
approached to within a few feet; downy young birds waited quietly until
nearly touched with the hand and then ran away into the darkness, like
puffballs rolling before a breeze.

The _Raudal de Santa Barbara_ is a wicked stretch of water. The
Ventuari, coming from the neighborhood of the Brazilian border, forms
an extensive delta near its mouth. There are many islands, some of
great size, and all heavily forested. The Orinoco is very wide, and
hundreds of sharp, tall rocks protrude above the water, causing a
series of rapids which are hard to ascend. It took us three days of
the most trying kind of work to traverse this stretch of agitated
water, and finally to haul the boat up the falls, which come as a
sort of climax at the end. A strong wind blows from the north almost
constantly, whipping the water into a choppy sea. On the bank stands
a good-sized rubber-camp, and extra hands can usually be secured to
help pull the boat through the rapids. The men from this place had
just returned from a hunt in the forest, bringing two jaguars and an
armadillo weighing sixty-five pounds. One of the jaguars was black.
All of these animals were eaten, and of the two species the flesh of
the jaguars was the better. One night, not long after, one of these
animals invaded our camp. As the sand-bank we had selected was a narrow
one, the crew chose to sleep on the forest side; they greatly feared
the crocodiles in the river. Early in the morning I was awakened by a
jaguar’s roaring mingled with frightened wails, and upon investigation
discovered that the men had come to our part of the camp near the
water, leaving the captain’s wife in their former location. They had
reasoned that she was the least useful member of the party and had
compelled her to remain as “bait.” Maria was sent back to San Fernando
in the next canoe we met bound down the river.

The abundance of the big, spotted cats and their harmlessness under
ordinary circumstances is astonishing, although at times they will
attack human beings. At one of the rubber-camps we were shown the skin
of a recently killed animal which had stalked a two-year-old child at
play not far from the hut; the mother, a negress, seeing the animal in
time, attacked it with a _machete_ and killed it.

The next river of any importance to be encountered was the Rio Lao,
reached February 17. Up to this time the strong north wind had
continued to blow without interruption, and the course of the river
was dotted with islands. Rubber-camps were situated on the river-bank,
and we had our first glimpses of the Maquiritare Indians. Owing to
the frequent rains, the year had been a bad one for the _patrones_,
or managers of the camps; also, a kind of malady had broken out among
the _peons_ and Indians which killed many and frightened others away.
Nevertheless, those who remained seemed quite contented, and if we
chanced to spend the night at a camp or _barraca_, our men always
joined them in their pastime of drinking, playing the guitar, and
singing songs about one another, far into the night. Some of the men
were clever at improvising songs apropos of the occasion. At one place,
for instance, they heard of the jaguar’s visit to the sand-bank, and
that the captain’s wife had been sent back to San Fernando. Without
hesitation one of the peons sang:

    _Qué tristeza en nuestro campamento,
    Pobrecito Ildefonso está llorando,
    A caramba, nadie está alegre,
    Será porqué Maria fué á San Fernando._

The largest _barraca_ by far which we saw was owned by an old Turk
named Parraquete. He received us cordially, shook our hands, and
embraced us, apologetically explaining that a slight fever prevented
his rising from the hammock; later we found out that he was a leper
in the last stages of the disease. He had fifteen Maquiritares in
his employ, each of whom collected the latex from several hundred
rubber-trees every morning; in the afternoon the milk was smoked, one
hundred pounds of the liquid yielding about forty or fifty pounds of
crude rubber. A species of heavy, deep-red wood called _mazarandul_
was used to produce the dense smoke necessary to coagulate the latex.
_Hevea_ only was gathered here, although _balata_ was also collected
farther down the river and on the Guaviare. The governor of the
district told me that about fifteen million trees of the _balata_ had
been cut down along the latter river during the last ten years, as the
method used to secure this class of rubber necessitates felling the
trees.

The proprietors of rubber-camps use the same system of keeping their
employees that the commission merchants in Ciudad Bolivar, who are the
purchasers of the crude product, employ in dealing with themselves;
namely, they keep them constantly in debt by advancing quantities of
merchandise at exorbitant prices. It is not unusual for one _patrón_ to
sell some of his men to another for the amount of their indebtedness,
or more, if he can get it, and sometimes an unsatisfactory _peon_ is
turned loose in the wilderness to shift for himself; we picked up one
who had been abandoned on a sand-bank, in a half-starved condition.

The Cerro Carriche is another granite mass similar to Yapacana, but
not quite so high. It stands on the south bank of the river, between
the mouths of two small rivers called Carriche and Trocoapure.

Early on February 21 we had the first distinct view of the Cerro Duida,
looming, faintly outlined, in the distance. From afar it resembled a
high, level plain, but as the vapor clinging to the huge, dark mass
slowly dissolved itself, a well-defined short range appeared with twin
peaks showing high above the rest of the mountains.

The Orinoco steadily decreases in width until the distance across
is not more than half a mile; in many places the banks are high and
composed of pink and white clay streaked with layers of dark-blue clay.
On both sides the jungle presents an unbroken wall of tangled verdure;
occasionally a slender palm rears its delicate head high above the
riotous mass, as if gasping for one more breath of air before being
strangled by the figs and creepers slowly entwining its stem with
their death-dealing tentacles. Among the lower growth are vast areas
of palms, known as _coco del mono_, with long fronds resembling those
of the _Seaforthia_, and bearing small, hard nuts; the leaves are used
in thatching huts and the _carroza_ or covering of the boats. Another
palm, tall and thorny, resembles the well-known _chonta_ of Colombia;
it bears large clusters of red nuts, which are very palatable when
thoroughly boiled.

The heat was always intense and most oppressive; even the cool nights
brought no respite, and in the early morning a thick vapor slowly rose
from the water, to be later wafted above the tree-tops and disappear.

Flocks of hoatzins, or lizard-birds (_Opisthocomus cristatus_),
were seen almost daily. They fussed and fluttered among the dense
vegetation, but could not be induced to leave their dark retreat. There
were also nesting-trees of the black and yellow orioles, better known
as caciques, which are about the size of a blue jay; sometimes a single
tree contained thirty or more nests placed close together, and also
invariably a number of large wasp-nests were placed in the same
tree. The nests of these birds differed from those of the giant orioles
(_Ostinops_) in being smaller and having the opening at the top instead
of at the side of the swinging bag.

[Illustration: A rubber-camp on the Upper Orinoco.]

At the end of the twentieth day we reached the mouth of the Cunucunuma,
and camped upon its sandy banks for the night. This river is
approximately five hundred feet wide at its mouth, shallow, with dark,
clear water, and flows southward, joining the Orinoco at right angles,
as the course of the latter river at this point is eastward; a low,
forested hill called _Ventana_ rises to the north. One may cover the
distance from the mouth of the Cunucunuma to the Cassiquiare in a day,
and reach the plains on which was located Esmeraldas by continuing his
journey an additional day.

Not far above the mouth of the river is the dry bed of a stream, said
to have been the former course of the Cunucunuma; short, soft grass
now covers the ancient, sandy route and the lines of trees on each
side present such clean-cut edges as to suggest well-kept hedgerows.
Tapirs and capybaras have worn many paths through the luxuriant sward;
apparently these animals come out into the open at night to feed.

The current of the river is so strong that we could not average more
than four or five miles a day. Through the clear water we could see
shoals of fish and numbers of large sting-rays darting about over the
bottom. One fish, resembling a beautifully spotted trout, rose eagerly
to a trailing hook baited with a strip of white cloth; it weighed
about a pound, and was called _pabón_ by the natives; on two occasions
members of this species leaped clear of the water and into the boat
as we poled along after nightfall. Another kind greatly resembled a
flying-fish, and leaving the water singly or in pairs, skimmed over the
surface for a distance of twenty yards or more, and then dropped with
a splash; when “flying” it left a train of ripples in its wake, as if
long appendages were trailing after it.

There now followed a series of low, disconnected mountains which might
be called the foot-hills of Duida. The first of these is the Cerro
Piapoco, one thousand three hundred feet high; parts of it are covered
with low scrub growth, and the river winds around three sides of it.
Next comes the Cerro Tapicure, a rounded granite mass approximately
one thousand four hundred feet high. At the base of the latter is a
Maquiritare plantation of _yucas_ (Manihot), pineapples, and plantains,
on the edge of which stood the communal house, conical in shape and one
hundred feet in diameter. The place was temporarily deserted, as the
Indians were down-river gathering the rubber harvest. Near by also grew
a palm new to us, the _Tamiche_; it is thirty feet high, with erect,
undivided leaves, and the crown resembles a huge, green, opening tulip.

While tramping in the forest across the river from the Indian
plantation we came suddenly upon a Maquiritare woman and her four small
children, squatting around a small fire built under a rough lean-to.
She was roasting a curassow and tearing off pieces for her young brood,
which was devouring them with the voracity of wolves. The frightened
glances of these wild people and their gnawing at the half-cooked
flesh was quite in keeping with their surroundings, and stamped them
immediately as a perfect part of the virgin wilderness.

Rapids are not wanting in the Cunucunuma. The first is the _Raudal del
Muerto_, formed by a wide ledge of rock which extends across the river,
and over which the water rushes with a deafening roar. Next comes the
_Raudal del Sina_, which is longer but not so difficult to navigate.
Just above this we entered the Sina, a small stream which comes from
the direction of Duida, and ascended to its highest navigable point;
this, however, was only a few miles above its mouth.

[Illustration: Unloading for the portage, Raudal del Muerto.]

[Illustration: The Cerro Duida.]

The Cunucunuma, it may be stated, rises in the vicinity of the
little-known Cerro Cuachamacari, and may be ascended to the foot of
the Cerro Maravaca. On most maps its course has been marked east
of Duida, while in reality it is on the western side. Its tributaries
from the east are the Tabarí, Sina, Cua, and Rio Negro; and from the
west the Yacaré and Cumichi. There are numerous rapids. Besides the two
mentioned, the Indians named the San Ramón, Rayao, Chacherito, Vaquiro,
Mapaco, Chipirima, Picure, and Culebra, all of which must be passed
before reaching Maravaca.

When rocks and low water barred a farther ascent we made camp on the
high bank and began the arduous work of cutting a trail to Duida,
about six miles distant. We had secured the services of a number of
Maquiritares; two men, two women, and a boy, and these, together with
the members of our crew, were immediately put to work on the trail.
While this was in progress we devoted ourselves to the exploration of
the forest and its inhabitants.

Apparently the Indians, who in common with many South American tribes
seek the smaller streams for their habitations, and who live in small
groups all along the Cunucunuma, rarely visited this locality. Game
was so abundant and so tame that it was impossible that the animals
had been persecuted to any considerable extent. We also visited the
house of the chief of the tribe, named Antonio Yaracuma, whose _cunuco_
(clearing) was on the Cunucunuma, a few miles above the mouth of the
Sina (Sina is a Maquiritare word meaning wolf). This place he chose
to call Yacaré. Surrounding the great, conical house was a small
patch of _yucas_ and pineapple-plants, walled in on all sides by the
interminable forest. The edge of the roof came down to within five feet
of the ground, and there were eight fireplaces, equal distances apart,
showing that eight families occupied the dwelling. A perfect network of
poles and beams supported the ragged grass and palm-leaf canopy, and
from these various articles were suspended: Drums, made of sections
of hollow tree-trunks and covered with the skin of a red howling
monkey on one side and of a peccary on the other; long tubular baskets
of wickerwork used to express the poisonous juice of the _yuca_
root in making _mandioca_; blow-guns ten feet long, hammocks, and
fishing-tackle. Everything was immaculately clean and well arranged. On
one side two small rooms had been built of adobe, one for the chief,
and the other for storing baskets of _mandioca_, each of which held
about a hundred pounds.

A walk around the edge of the clearing disclosed an obscure trail which
zigzagged and wound through the forest about a mile and then opened
into an immense plantation, which we estimated contained not less than
a hundred acres. The trees had been cut down and burned, and _yucas_
neatly planted in hills stretched to the very edge of the clearing.
Through the centre ran lanes of plantain and banana plants, bordered by
rows of pineapples, sugar-cane, and cashews. The ground was carefully
cultivated, and there were no weeds; the stalks of uprooted plants had
been piled around the edge of the field forming a thick fence. The
reason for maintaining such large plantations is that the women make
a good deal of _mandioca_ to sell to the traders for cloth, matches,
perfume, and trinkets. The men clear the ground; the women plant and
care for the crops. From the juice of the _yuca_ a very intoxicating
drink called _casire_ is made, and of this great quantities are
consumed during the wild orgies which take place at frequent intervals.
Boiling and fermentation destroy the poisonous effect of the fresh
juice.

We found the forest around camp to be all but impenetrable on account
of the underbrush and creepers. Also, there were a number of windfalls
where cyclones had cut wide, clean swaths through the forest, leaving
an upheaved barrier that could not be crossed without the liberal
use of axe and _machete_. Small birds were abundant and travelled in
mixed flocks. Of the larger birds there was an unfailing supply; guans
and curassows strutted unconcernedly about, or flew into the lower
branches of the trees to look at us with surprise or resentment; large
tinamou ran about in pairs like chickens and were slow to take wing.
Occasionally we ran into a flock of trumpeters (_Psophia_), which
stared at us in curiosity for a few moments and then flew into a tree,
and raised an unearthly din, cackling and screaming until dispersed by
a few shots.

The Indians told a curious story about a trumpeter and a curassow.
In the very beginning of things two of these birds decided upon a
matrimonial alliance, but domestic troubles soon broke out and there
was no possibility of a reconciliation; it was thereupon decided to
lay the case before the gods who live on the summit of Mount Duida.
The wise gods ordered them to fight it out; in the course of the
combat that followed, the curassow pushed the trumpeter into the fire,
burning off the feathers of the latter’s tail; the trumpeter promptly
retaliated by pushing her mate into the fire, singeing his crest.
Thereupon the gods decreed that they should remain in this humiliating
plight for the rest of their days, and so even to this day the curassow
wears a curled crest and the trumpeter has a very short tail.

No matter how far we chanced to go during the morning’s hunt it was
always easy to determine the exact location of our camp. A colony of
caciques had built their nests in the top of a tree near the tent, and
quarrelled and chirped so noisily all day long that we could not get
out of hearing of them.

After the trail had been completed for a distance of several miles,
hunting was rendered much easier. It was a delight to wander
noiselessly along the clean path and watch the wild things pursuing
their daily activities. Tapirs moved quietly across the narrow lane,
like shadows; but if disturbed crashed through the brush and thundered
away like frightened horses. Large red squirrels frisked in the trees
or fed in the nut-bearing palms. Monkeys were always about; there were
red howlers, cebus, and small black woolly monkeys with gold-colored
hands; the latter travelled in small troops and raced through the
tree-tops at great speed, making long jumps from branch to branch; at
frequent intervals during the morning and evening they raised their
voices in shrill little cries of distress, resembling a series of
quickly repeated ohs.

The river was teeming with fish. At night, after their work had been
completed, the Indians, who camped on the water’s edge, threw in their
lines and never failed to catch a goodly supply. While in our presence
the men always wore blue cotton trousers and the women loose dresses of
the same color, but when alone they threw aside all clothing.

Occasionally a light canoe containing women and children passed our
camping-site, but they always remained as near as possible to the
opposite bank and paid no attention to us whatever if we chanced to
call to them; in fact, they could not even be induced to look in our
direction.

The nights were always sultry and it rained frequently. If the weather
permitted, a huge fire was built; into this a steady stream of
fireflies or click-beetles winged their way to destruction. Late one
night we heard a queer pattering on the top of the tent-fly; back and
forth scurried the little feet, and up and down the sloping roof. Our
acetylene-lamps revealed a family of opossums which had discovered an
ideal playground. Often, too, we heard cautious footsteps near by, and
the suddenly flashed light disclosed the glowing eyes of a deer, tapir,
or jaguar, which gazed stupidly a moment into the dazzling brilliance
and then darted away.

On account of the dampness mould formed so rapidly that cameras and all
leather goods had to be cleaned daily, and there was great difficulty
in drying specimens.

We had frequent views of Duida. Each morning at about ten the mist
drifted from the summit and revealed the jagged, rocky peaks; our
calculations placed the altitude of the mountain at approximately five
thousand five hundred feet. Toward the Orinoco the mass presents a
bold front, the sheer walls of granite rising to a height of several
thousand feet. The western slope is gradual and any attempt to ascend
the mountain should be made from that side.

Cutting the trail required more time than we had anticipated. It was
our intention to remove the equipment to the very base of Duida,
and this was impossible until a suitable way had been prepared. The
intervening country is rolling and the hollows are filled with a
network of deep, water-filled canyons; across these trees had to be
felled to provide a means of crossing. Also, neither the Maquiritares
or the Venezuelans proved to be very industrious, and were about as
poor a class of assistants as can be found. However, work progressed
steadily, and there came the day when the last bridge had been placed
across the winding river, and we were able to proceed to the foot of
Duida.

Near the mountain the forest assumes a different aspect. Instead of
the tall trees there are vast groves of palms which form such a dense
canopy that the sunlight never penetrates to the ground; for this
reason there is no undergrowth, but the earth is covered with a soft
carpet of dry leaves. Some of the plants attain such giant proportions,
with fronds thirty or forty feet long and fifteen feet wide, they form
great tent-like shelters.

As we neared the mountain the Indians became restive and finally
refused to go any farther. They firmly believe that it is the abode of
spirits who will be quick to resent any intrusion into their sacred
precincts. Besides, the rainy season was fast approaching, and at night
blinding flashes of lightning played among the crags, and the dull boom
of distant thunder pierced the sultry blackness. Wind swept through the
forest in fitful blasts, and it rained frequently. Sometimes the blasts
attained the velocity of a cyclone and sent tall trees crashing down on
all sides. The Indians could endure the strain no longer, so one night
they quietly disappeared, taking the boat with them. At first this loss
seemed anything but pleasant, but a raft was soon constructed, and two
of the men were sent down to the nearest rubber-camp on the Orinoco
for another craft. We never saw our Indians again, but one afternoon
two men of the tribe visited our camp. They emerged silently from the
forest, having concealed their canoe somewhere above or below, laden
with baskets of plantains, sweet potatoes, and bananas, and several
cakes of cassava bread, also a large, freshly killed curassow--enough
provisions to keep two men a week. I thought they wanted to stop with
us for the night, and showed them the fireplace. They paid no heed
to my implied invitation, but dropped their burdens at our feet,
reluctantly accepted a few fish-hooks which were offered to them, and
then departed as mysteriously as they had come. Perhaps they had been
sent by our erstwhile companions, who may have been conscientious
enough to make some reparation for the theft of the canoe.

The rainy season advanced with such rapid strides that further work was
impossible. Vapor hung over the forest like a pall for days at a time,
and the river, rising with each passing hour, was quickly inundating
the lowlands. The sight of the new canoe coming up the river was
therefore a welcome one, and it did not require many days to pack our
collections and outfit, stow them aboard, and steer a course downward
with the rapid current. It required only nine days to reach San
Fernando de Atabapo.

The results of the expedition are surprising and interesting. Duida is
not the isolated “mountain island” it was commonly supposed to be, but
is connected with the mountains of the Ventuari and Parima by a series
of hills, some of which reach a height of over a thousand feet. Its
elevation is comparatively low, being less than that of the Maravaca.
To attempt its ascent from the Orinoco side seems hopeless on account
of the frowning precipices facing the plains near Esmeraldas. The
proper placing of the Cunucunuma and an elaboration of the map of the
region are other results.

It should be remembered that the dry season is much shorter on the
Upper Orinoco than on the lower river, and work must be pushed with
the utmost speed. The tributaries of the Orinoco, as well as the
main river, leave their banks soon after the beginning of the steady
downpours, and the whole country is flooded many miles inland; in
places the river is then one hundred and twenty miles wide; all the
rubber-camps we had seen on the upward trip were totally deserted when
we passed them going down, and of some of the huts the roofs only
showed above the water; others had vanished with the yellow flood.

The collections of birds and mammals were large and interesting; they
yielded a number of species and one genus new to science.

And finally, a word about assistants; under no circumstances should
Venezuelans or Indians be depended upon. It is possible to secure
experienced river-men in Trinidad, and with proper treatment they make
faithful and efficient companions.



CHAPTER XII

LIFE IN THE GUIANA WILDS


A naturalist might spend many years in Venezuela and still exhaust
but a very small fraction of the possibilities offered to the
field-observer--so vast are the resources of that zoological
wonderland. Exigencies beyond our control, however, recalled us to
Trinidad, and after a brief rest we turned our eyes toward British
Guiana.

The distance between the island and the low Guiana mainland is not
great; it required just two days of uneventful sailing for the
_Sarstoon_ of the Quebec Line to plough through the deep water and
schools of flying-fish, and finally nose her way carefully through the
mud to Georgetown.

The city is built on the low coastal land, and a great stone wall
prevents the sea from reclaiming its own at high tide. The streets are
wide and bordered with trees. No more suitable style of architecture
could be desired for a tropical country than that employed in
constructing the houses of the better class of inhabitants; they are
practically all doors and windows, giving admittance to every passing
breeze. The wide verandas are carefully screened.

Numerous canals, spanned by picturesque little wooden bridges, divide
the city into sections. At low tide the locks in the sea-wall are
opened to permit the excess of water to escape; at high tide the
locks are closed to keep the lowlands from being flooded. Growing in
the water are masses of _Victoria regia_ lilies with white or pink
flowers; the giant leaves, with upturned edges, and often several feet
across, resemble huge pies; but the plant is lovely from a distance
only, as the veins and midribs are covered with long, sharp spines
that effectively prevent any intimate advances on the part of an
overenthusiastic admirer.

Mosquitoes are not lacking, but they appear at night only, when one
can easily evade them by remaining indoors; and through the hours of
darkness the twanging and peeping of myriads of frogs fill the air with
a not unmusical din.

The population is the most cosmopolitan imaginable. It ranges from
dignified, helmeted British officers down to the meanest Chinese or
Hindu coolie living in a dilapidated shamble on the border of a marshy
rice-field.

Our first care was to secure the admission of our equipment by the
customs officials. This was accomplished without an undue amount of
difficulty; and within a short time we had also obtained a permit to
pursue our scientific work, for in British Guiana birds are wisely
protected. We also opened negotiations with Sproston’s, Ltd., who
operate many large lumber, rubber, and mining enterprises in the
interior of the country. This step is a most essential one, as the
concern, through its agents, can be of the greatest assistance to the
traveller.

On July 7, we boarded a comfortable little steamer and started up the
Demerara. Rain fell in torrents throughout the day so that it was
impossible to see anything but the fleeting, yellow water against which
the straining craft battled vigorously, and the long rows of trees
faintly outlined in a world of blue-gray mist. Wismar was reached
that night and passengers and luggage were hurried aboard the waiting
train, which soon covered the eighteen miles of intervening country
to Rockstone, on the Essiquibo River. A delightful bungalow hotel is
maintained by Sproston’s at the latter place, and every need of the
visitor is superabundantly supplied.

A launch of considerable size, towing a house-boat provided for
first-class passengers, left Rockstone early the following morning. The
Essiquibo is truly a very great river, and the height and magnificence
of the forest covering its banks is not exceeded in any part of South
America. In some instances, the trees are one hundred and seventy-five
feet high; cottonwood, greenheart, and wallaba mingled their leafy
crowns far above the mere rabble of palms and lower growth, shutting
out the light and effectively killing their competitors until--after
hundreds of years of successful fighting--the strain begins to tell
and the monarchs are compelled to bow before the inevitable onslaught
of old age. At the first signs of weakness enemies spring up on every
side. The struggle for life is constant and in deadly earnest. Of the
hundreds, perhaps thousands, of saplings which appear as the light and
air gradually penetrate through the opening made by the dying giant,
only one can eventually survive. Naturally, the strongest and fittest
possesses every advantage in the mad fight for existence, and as it
quickly outstrips its weaker rivals they wither and die.

The launch called at a number of rubber-plantations and lumber-camps.
Great quantities of greenheart (_Nectandra rodiæi_) are cut and
exported; the wood is very hard and durable, and resists decay when
under water, for which reason it is used largely for submerged work
such as wharfs and piles. Next in importance is crab-wood (_Carapa
guianensis_) employed in building houses; third in value are several
varieties of wallaba (_Eperua_); this wood has a coarse but even grain
and is very resinous, being suitable for the manufacture of shingles
and vat-staves.

The rubber industry ranks third in importance in British Guiana. By far
the greater part of this product is balata, collected from indigenous
trees that are tapped under careful government supervision. _Sapium_
yields the better quality of rubber, but exists in limited quantities
only, and the majority of the trees on plantations have not yet reached
the productive age.

Our first headquarters were made at Tumatumari, a short distance above
the mouth of the Potaro River. The river is at this point encumbered
with a series of rapids ending in a fall of twenty or thirty feet.

[Illustration: Wismar on the Demerara River.]

[Illustration: Tumatumari on the Potaro River.]

Tumatumari is a small negro settlement, and owes its existence to the
gold-mines scattered throughout the surrounding country. We made
headquarters in a comfortable bungalow provided by Sproston’s. A good
trail leads through the tall forest, a distance of many miles, with
numerous side trails branching off in various directions. Along the
latter we immediately began to prosecute our work. On our very first
excursions we heard the enchanting song of the Guiana solitaire, or
quadrille-bird as it is locally known. From the depths of the dark
forest there arose a low, mournful note, so liquid and melancholy that
the music of no instrument made by the hand of man could equal it in
ethereal beauty; gradually it swelled louder and louder, but always
preserving the same exquisite quality until the eight notes had been
uttered and the song died with a wistful sob. To hear this song is
to experience one of the most enchanting of earthly delights, the
memory of which will remain as long as life itself and gild the other
reminiscences of sweltering days spent in tropical lowlands, of plagues
of insects, of fever, and even the hard-fought battles against odds
that seemed overwhelming. The bird is a shy little creature, and is
obscurely colored; among the deep shadows where it spends its lonely
existence the brown and gray of its modest attire blend so well with
its surroundings that it is rare indeed to have even a fleeting glimpse
of the captivating songster.

Perched in the dead tops of some of the tallest trees, we found a
bird which, seen from below, resembled a giant long-tailed hummer;
but a short time spent in observation soon disclosed the fact that
it belonged to another family, so different were its habits. It sat
motionless many minutes at a time, and darted off a short distance,
presumably in pursuit of an insect, at infrequent intervals, only
to quickly return to its perch. This was the paradise jacamar, a
resplendent bird with a metallic green back and black underparts.
The jacamars form a peculiar family, and have been frequently called
“forest-kingfishers” because of their superficial resemblance to the
_Alcyones_. The greater number of species are gorgeously colored and
inhabit the lower branches of forest-trees, feeding on insects. The
nest is placed in a hole in the bank of some wild ravine or river.

The abundance of bird-life, and also the variety, found in the
lowland forest of British Guiana is bewildering, even to the seasoned
field-observer; and nowhere in all South America are the feathered folk
clothed in more brilliant and gorgeous colors. Evolution, it seems,
has run riot in almost every conceivable direction in an effort to
provide each species with some special color or characteristic that
might enhance its beauty or better suit it to compete successfully
with its hosts of neighbors. Thus we find the king-tody, a species
of small flycatcher that preys upon insects. The body of the bird is
inconspicuously colored, but the head is adorned with a crest of the
most vivid scarlet feathers. As the bird sits quietly upon some low
perch, the crest is depressed and invisible; then suddenly the flaming
crown is erected and spread in fan-shaped formation, when it resembles
a brilliant flower newly burst into bloom. Is it not possible that this
flashing bit of color may attract some passing insect, which instead of
finding nectar meets destruction?

However, I do not believe that the survival of every species is
dependent upon some one particular patch of color or exotic appendage
which it may possess. It does not seem to me possible, for instance,
that one species of humming-bird owes its existence to a green
throat-patch, or another of similar size and habits to a red or blue
one; nor that one bird of paradise persists because it has curious,
long appendages on its head or shoulders while a second one may have
similar ones in its tail; but rather does it show that evolution tries
many experiments. Each animate thing is full of latent buds, it would
seem, any one of which might break out at any time, prompted by an
impulse or conditions of which we know nothing. If the result of such
newly acquired variation is beneficial, the species would naturally
persist; if injurious, it would result in extermination; if indifferent
(neither harmful nor of value) it would have no effect one way or
the other, and might still be retained. This latter, I believe, has
occurred in a number of instances.

Our visit to Tumatumari was supposedly at the end of the wet season;
notwithstanding this, it rained copiously nearly every day, and
invariably each night. We spent the evenings on the wide veranda of
our habitation, preparing specimens or writing notes. Myriads of
insects, attracted by our bright lamps, fluttered in and out of the
darkness and settled on the white walls. Our two colored assistants,
whom we had brought from Georgetown, were trained and enthusiastic
entomologists, having been employed by Doctor Rodway of the Georgetown
Museum, and spent several hours each night with net and cyanide bottle.
Frequently they caught several hundred specimens in a short time. They
also prepared cages of fine wire netting in which caterpillars were
imprisoned and carefully fed, and glass boxes, or “incubators” for
cocoons; in this work they were most successful, and a number of moths
of rare and desirable species were reared to a state of perfection.
Sometimes the downpour was so heavy that it disturbed small birds in
their sleep in the bushes; on several occasions finches (_Sicalis_)
fluttered up to the lamp in a dazed or bewildered manner, when we
caught them easily and placed them in a cage, liberating them the next
morning.

Numbers of Indians of the Patamona tribe live in the surrounding
forest. They are a friendly though primitive people, and some of
them speak or understand a few words of English. We accompanied the
Protector of Indians, a British official living at Tumatumari, to one
of the Indian dwellings one day. It seems that a negro had promised
to marry a Patamona woman, then ran away, when she promptly married a
man of her own tribe. Learning of this, the former suitor had written
a letter to the officer demanding either his bride or damages. The
official spent a very bad hour trying to explain the situation to the
woman in the limited Patamona vocabulary at his command, while she
sat stolidly in a hammock. When he had finished, she calmly remarked,
“Well, you tell him I think he is a damn fool,” in perfect English!

This tribe of Indians has a curious custom of torturing themselves
in various ways, which performance is called “beena.” It is supposed
to insure success in any undertaking. A favorite method is to insert
tough, pliable creepers into the nostrils and draw them out through
the mouth. Another consists of slashing the breast, arms, and legs,
and rubbing into the wounds the acrid juice of a plant. The official
to whom I have previously referred had an Indian in his employ whose
duty it was to supply the table with fresh meat. He hunted daily in
the forest, bringing in deer, peccaries, agoutis, and other game in
abundance; but on one occasion fortune conspired against him. Thereupon
he tried his favorite beena, but it failed to bring him luck; every
other means of mutilation known to the man was then resorted to in
rapid succession, but still his long tramp and careful stalking yielded
no meat. He became greatly discouraged and told his employer that he
would make one more attempt at hunting, and should he fail in this
would use his weapon upon himself. The officer thought it unwise to
permit the discouraged man to return to the forest on the day following
this declaration, so ordered him to cut weeds in his back yard. This
the Indian reluctantly consented to do, but scarcely had he begun when
he cut down a bush containing a wasps’ nest and was severely stung. He
immediately took his gun and hurried away, saying that a new “beena”
had been sent to him, and that at last the evil spell was broken.
Strange to relate, that night he returned laden with game.

A daily launch service is maintained from above the falls at Tumatumari
to Potaro Landing, a day’s journey up-stream. The boat’s crew are all
negroes, and are ordinarily a careless, slovenly lot. A short time
before, they had failed to make proper allowance for the strength of
the current when approaching the landing, and the launch, together
with its thirty or more occupants, was swept over the falls and lost.
Accidents such as this have caused the government to make wise and
stringent rules regulating navigation on all streams, and applying to
all craft, even canoes, containing passengers other than the owner; as
a result accidents are now of rare occurrence.

One day’s time is required to reach Potaro Landing, the end of launch
navigation, from Tumatumari. Tourists who visit the justly famous
Kaieteur Falls proceed overland from this point, a distance of seven
miles, and then embark in canoes manned by full-blooded Patamona
Indians. There are other but shorter portages farther up the river,
though as a whole the journey is not difficult and well worth making.

The appeal of Potaro Landing was irresistible to us, so we decided to
remain a week or two. Unfortunately, Sproston’s maintains no rest-house
here, as touring-parties continue to Kangaruma, at the other end of the
portage, to spend the night. However, we found a good-natured Chinaman,
who operates a store in the one lonely building at the landing, and he
permitted us to use half of his barn; he had to remove his horses in
order to supply even these limited quarters.

A good cart-road leads through the forest a distance of eighteen miles
to the mining country on Minnehaha Creek, and many negro miners passed
along this way each day; the greater part of them are what is locally
known as “pork-knockers,” because they live largely on salt pork and
knock about from one place to another. They secure a small stake from
the government with which to buy a pick and shovel, and then go into
the interior to prospect. If, as frequently occurs, they strike a rich
pocket, or find a nugget of considerable size, they immediately drop
their implements and rush back to Georgetown to spend their newly
acquired wealth. Carriages are engaged by the day, servants employed,
and clothes of a bright and flashy nature are purchased in quantities.
For a short time they revel in luxury and live in contempt of their
erstwhile companions. Quite naturally their wealth soon disappears,
and the tawdry finery is pawned to provide money for more necessary
things; but there is an end even to this resource. Soon they again seek
the stake of a few dollars and hie themselves back to the wilderness
to once more try their luck as ordinary pork-knockers. To strangers
the negroes are courteous and obedient, but among themselves they are
quarrelsome, unfeeling, and even cruel. I heard of an instance where a
number of them had been commanded to take a very sick companion down
the river in search of medical treatment. As they paddled along the
pilot frequently called to the man nearest the sufferer: “Ain’t dead
yet?” The person addressed roughly turned the sick man over with his
paddle to inspect him, and then answered with a curt “No.” “My! dat
man dead hard,” replied the pilot. They were most eagerly awaiting his
death because it would save them a long trip, and they had planned to
divide among themselves his possessions the moment life departed.

We met an American at the landing, who had experienced several
unpleasant encounters with the negroes. He was engaged in searching
for diamonds and had many of the colored folk in his employ. So far
all the stones discovered had been of small size, but one day two of
his men found a gem of good proportions. They immediately entered
into an argument as to whether or not it was a real diamond, and to
settle the dispute placed it on an anvil and hit it repeatedly with
a sledge-hammer. “If it a diamond, it can’t broke,” was the gist of
their theory. However, it was a real diamond, and it also broke; their
outraged boss found the worthless particles a short time later. On
another occasion this same man was confined in a hospital at Georgetown
with a severe attack of fever. One night the colored head nurse swept
in majestically, gave him a short, condescending look, and then
directed his private nurse as follows: “Look through Mr. M.’s drawer
to see if he’s got a white shirt to bury him in!”

At frequent intervals throughout the day we heard a deep, powerful note
coming from the forest. It was a long-drawn _Wow_ that lasted eight
or ten seconds, and exactly resembled the sound made by a circular
saw cutting its way through a log. This we found was made by the
bald-headed cotinga (_Gymnocephalus_), a bird the size of a crow, and
of a dark-brown color; the head is entirely devoid of feathers, like a
vulture’s. Invariably several of these curious creatures were together,
fluttering about among the lower branches and making the woods ring
with their queer, outlandish cries. Another species of cotinga
(_Xipholena_) was very rare; it was of smaller size and of the deepest
wine color, with long, graceful wing-coverts and white primaries. When
several were together in some tall tree-top they kept up a continuous
quacking like a flock of ducks. If a skin of this bird is exposed to
heat the color rapidly fades to a sickly bluish-gray.

One day an Indian hunter brought in a very small red howler monkey,
and as I was aware that the species had not been known to live in
captivity more than a few weeks, I was very eager to see if I could
rear it. On account of its small size it had, of course, to be fed
on milk (condensed), which it soon learned to take from the point
of a fountain-pen filler. While it thrived and grew rapidly, it was
always a sad little fellow and made no attempt to play or show signs
of great friendliness. The only advance it ever made was to come up
to me occasionally when I spoke to it, and feel of my face with its
little black hands. After a time it was given full liberty about the
camp, when it would spend hours sitting quietly beside a basin of
water gazing at its reflection. After two months, and just as I was
congratulating myself on having raised it past the danger-point of its
existence, it climbed to a high shelf and ate a quantity of the arsenic
compound used in preparing specimens.

Learning of our presence at Potaro Landing, a Mr. McKenzie, manager
of the Minnehaha Development Company, very kindly invited us to his
bungalow, eighteen miles away, and later sent a carriage for our
transportation. The distance was covered in half a day, and lay
mainly through the heavy forest, although there was occasionally an
area of considerable extent covered with tall, rank grass and bushes.
The company was operating one small dredge in Minnehaha Creek, and
notwithstanding the fact that the entire region had been gone over
before, quantities of gold were being recovered from the bed of the
stream. As there had been no “clean-up” for two weeks, one was arranged
for our benefit. The gold, which was in very fine particles, was
brought up from the dredge in tin cans, and then placed in an iron
retort and heated to a very high temperature; this freed the mercury
with which the yellow metal had been collected from the mud and water
in passing over the sluiceway of the dredge. Later it was again placed
in the retort, together with pulverized glass and borax, to gather up
the impurities, and melted; then it was poured into moulds. Four bars,
weighing one hundred and twenty-five ounces each, were recovered. It
was then inspected and passed by an official, who also made a note of
the amount of tax due the government. A coolie servant was despatched
to take it to Georgetown to the company’s headquarters, and although
he would be on the way a number of days and be compelled to mingle
with all sorts of people, he carried no weapon of any kind with which
to protect his precious burden. This speaks well for the law and order
maintained throughout the colony.

The country along Minnehaha Creek is rolling and covered with a good
stand of timber. Numerous small streams flow through ravines between
the hills, and while the current is strong the streams are not deep. A
footpath continues to a point seven miles beyond, on the Konamaruck,
and from this a network of short, narrow trails branch out in all
directions. The rainfall is very great in the entire region; during the
month of August (1913) it was twenty-seven inches, while only nineteen
inches fell at Tumatumari in the same period of time. One result of the
great amount of moisture is that there is an increase in density of the
lower growth, and the branches are covered with hanging moss.

As one moves quietly along the narrow lanes, enclosed on both sides by
walls of trees, the lofty tops of which form a leafy vault overhead, he
cannot fail to be impressed with the great breathless silence of the
forest. The gloomy solitude seems pregnant with mysterious forces that
draw the thoughts of the lonely wayfarer to far-off regions of blissful
oblivion. Then, suddenly, a low, wailing cry of anguish rising in
tremulous crescendo, but with liquid smoothness, smites the wanderer’s
revery and brings him back to earth with palpitating heart and
throbbing pulses; the whinny rapidly decreases in volume and dies with
a few short sighs. “Something, perhaps the combination of all these,
makes one feel as if he had been caught with his soul naked in his
hands; when, in the midst of subdued and chastened revery, this spirit
voice takes the words from his tongue and expresses so perfectly all
the mystery, romance, and tragedy that the struggling, parasite-ridden
forest diffuses through the damp shade.” It is the voice of the forest
tinamou.

The notes of several species of ant-thrush (_Grallaria_ and _Chamæza_)
are remarkable for their quality and even beauty. One of them has a
peculiar call resembling the words _compra pan_ (buy bread), and by
this name it is known among the natives of Colombia. Another gives a
very good imitation of a moon whistle, the song lasting fifty seconds
at times, without the slightest intermission. These birds are very
long-legged, almost tailless, and obscurely colored above; the breast
is frequently streaked. They spend their entire lives in the damp gloom
of the forest floor, and although the song may come from but a few feet
away, it is impossible to get even the briefest glimpse of the bird in
ninety-five per cent of the cases where it is heard.

If we stopped to rest on the buttressed roots of some great cottonwood,
we saw a few of the minor creatures whose existence is hardly
suspected by the casual observer. What at first appeared to be a maze
of cobwebs filling the entrance to a dark cavern under the roots,
resolved into a moving, living mass. A closer inspection, and small,
black specks could be distinguished in the madly weaving and revolving
haze, and also long, threadlike legs dangling so idly that one wonders
why they do not become hopelessly entangled with those of their
neighbors. This peculiar, wavering flight of the crane-fly seems to
form the delicate, spidery creature’s chief occupation, for I rarely
found them at rest. Presently, other little insects, encouraged by
the silence, make their appearance. First among them may be a small
_Gastaracantha_ spider, slowly letting itself down from an overhead
twig on a thread of finest gossamer. At first glance one may easily
mistake the insect for a minute crab that has fallen from the leafage
into a silken snare, but when, at the watcher’s first movement, it
either runs nimbly up the dangling thread, or drops to the ground with
a rapid slacking of line, one is convinced that it must be a spider.
The hard shell, or back, is fringed with sharp, upturned spines and is
of an orange color marked with a number of small black dots.

After a shower, mosquitoes were numerous and attacked with the utmost
persistency. This irresistible thirst for blood is very extraordinary;
it does not seem possible that more than a very small proportion of
the countless millions of these insects living in a given area ever
have an opportunity for satiating their appetite for blood during their
entire lifetime; yet the instinct remains, and they attack on sight
ferociously and without hesitation any living thing whose skin their
beaks can penetrate. It is also a well-known fact that malarial fever,
so prevalent in the tropical lowlands, is transmitted by a genus of
mosquito, _Anophiles_. The germ of this fever, however, passes only one
period of its existence within the insect’s body, and the spores must
be secured from some living creature, and after development transmitted
to another to complete the life cycle. Some of the areas in which
malaria abounds are practically uninhabited by human beings, so this
agent in the propagation of the disease is of course lacking--at least
to a considerable extent. It naturally follows, therefore, that some
other creature or creatures, may be preyed upon and inoculated by
_Anophiles_. I have on several occasions observed pet cebus and woolly
monkeys (_Lagothrix_) that showed decided symptoms of suffering from
malaria, and to me it seems highly possible that monkeys may be at
least one of the animals that serve to keep the infection alive.

While at Minnehaha Creek I received the information that Colonel
Theodore Roosevelt was shortly to embark on a voyage to South America;
and also, much to my pleasant surprise, that I had been selected as
a member of his expedition. The time remaining at our disposal was
very limited, so we rather reluctantly gave up our intended visit to
Kaieteur Falls and Mount Roraima, and returned to Wismar for our last
work in British Guiana. A strip of land several miles wide on either
side of the railroad connecting Rockstone and Wismar, is owned by
Sproston’s, and the greater part of it has been cleared of forest.
Instead of the dense growth of tall trees there are now impenetrable
thickets of high slender sprouts and bushes. These jungles harbor
almost every bird and animal found in the region, and while it is
impossible to enter them for any great distance, we had not the
slightest difficulty in making large and varied collections along the
borders. One evening the superintendent of the line was returning from
a tour of inspection, and as the motor-car in which he was riding
slowly rounded a curve, a jaguar suddenly appeared on one side of the
track; he promptly killed it with a shotgun as it was only a few yards
distant.

We returned to Georgetown, from which place Mr. Igleseder, who had been
my assistant, started for New York, while I sailed for Barbados, where
I planned to await the arrival of Colonel Roosevelt and join him on his
expedition into the wilderness of Brazil.



CHAPTER XIII

FIRST WEEKS WITH THE ROOSEVELT SOUTH AMERICAN EXPEDITION


The S. S. _Van Dyck_ of the Lamport and Holt Line, with Colonel
Roosevelt and his party on board, arrived at Barbados on the morning of
October 10, and late that afternoon pointed her nose southward toward
Bahia. The plans of the expedition, with which I was immediately made
acquainted, called for a rather short and not too difficult trip up the
Paraguay River and down the Tapajos, having for its prime object the
study of the fauna and collection of zoological specimens in the region
traversed; but all this was changed within a very few days as we shall
subsequently learn. Besides Colonel Roosevelt, the expedition consisted
of Geo. K. Cherrie, Anthony Fiala, Jacob Sigg, Father Zahm, and myself.

Bahia was reached on the 18th; Kermit Roosevelt joined the expedition
at this place. The _Van Dyck_ remained at anchor the entire day, thus
allowing sufficient time for a casual inspection of the city. Two
days after, we arrived in Rio de Janeiro. The paucity of the English
language does not permit of an adequate description of the natural
beauties of the harbor and the city. All steamers entering the bay
must sail through the narrow passage between the famous _Pão de
Azucar_ and the mainland on the opposite side. The great loaf-shaped
rock rises to a height of twelve hundred feet above the water; if one
craves excitement, it is possible to ascend to the top in a small car
travelling on steel cables.

In few cities is there such a display of great wealth. The main street,
the Avenida Central, is wide and beautiful, and the sidewalks are of
coarse mosaic. There are numerous palatial buildings, though some of
them are too ornate to appeal to North American taste, and gold-leaf
and carved marble have been used lavishly in their decoration. The
public squares, filled with the finest of tropical trees and plants,
give a park-like appearance to at least parts of the city.

Of interest to the tourist, perhaps, are the numerous curio-shops
filled with a varied assortment of almost everything ranging from
minute, brilliantly hued beetles, to feather flowers and the skins of
anacondas. Brazil is of course popularly believed to be the land of
huge snakes; one dealer calmly told us that he frequently had skins
forty _metres_ long, but the longest he happened to possess measured
less than twenty feet in length. The number of stories in common
circulation concerning serpents of monstrous proportions in South
American countries, is astonishing; and it was interesting to note that
the farther south we went, the longer the reptiles grew.

Thus, in Barranquilla, near the Caribbean coast of Colombia, I was told
that specimens thirty feet long were to be had frequently; this did not
seem quite probable. In Venezuela thirty-five feet was not considered
unusual, and I was sorry that none were to be obtained during my visit.
In British Guiana, snakes forty feet long were said to be fairly
common, although I could find no one who had actually seen one of that
size. The climax was reached in Rio de Janeiro, when a curio-dealer
told about the forty-metre snakes. I frankly expressed my doubts, and
he proceeded to tell of how a man standing beside a snake of this size,
that was coiled up, could not look over the top of it--it was such a
great heap.

It must be admitted that Brazil with its great Amazon basin
produces many strange and unusual creatures; but when it comes to
one-hundred-foot snakes, it can only be said that there is absolutely
no proof of their existence. No dealer I ever visited, and there were
many, could ever produce a skin over twenty feet long.

The traveller into the interior hears many stories of great serpents
and their doings; for instance, the story of the horned snake is famous
all over South America, and while the details may vary, the main
features are always the same. It is the tale of a person (usually the
one telling the story) who came suddenly upon an enormous snake with
a long horn on either side of the head. Of course, the reptile was
immediately killed, sometimes with a rifle or revolver, or occasionally
with a knife, after a desperate struggle. As the slain monster writhed
its last, the heroic hunter made a startling discovery; the snake did
not actually have horns; it had merely swallowed an ox, which feat it
performed without difficulty until the head was reached; this refused
to go down on account of the spreading horns lodging crosswise in the
corners of the snake’s mouth. Hence the old, old story of the horned
snake.

Another favorite anecdote which I have heard repeated a number of
times is that of the man who with his wagon, to which two oxen were
hitched, attempted to ford a stream; suddenly an anaconda of enormous
size emerged from the water and, enveloping both animals in its coils,
crushed them to death. I never encouraged those telling this story
to continue, because I was afraid that they might say the snake had
swallowed both oxen and perhaps even the wagon at the same time!

Not many years ago a South American explorer brought back photographs
of the “trail” made by a huge snake in crawling along the sand. It
would be easy to manufacture such a trail by dragging a bag full of
sand along the ground, and while it is impossible to say that this was
really done, such a photograph would be of no value, anyway, as it
would be impossible to determine the size of the reptile from such a
picture.

In this way the evidence of the existence of gigantic snakes gradually
dwindles away, and we are compelled to look for material on which we
can lay our hands, whereon to base our knowledge. That is, the stories
of the average traveller and native as well must not be taken too
seriously; and only the skins or living specimens known to exist can be
taken into consideration.

The longest South American snake of which I could obtain any definite
information is in a Brazilian museum, and was said to be about
twenty-five feet long. A skin of this size may be stretched several
feet during preparation, so the snake may have been somewhat shorter
in life. In the Bronx Zoological Gardens, New York, there is a living
anaconda fourteen feet long; the largest boa-constrictor is eleven feet
in length.

No visit to Rio de Janeiro is complete without an inspection of the
botanical gardens, which cannot fail to appeal to all lovers of the
beautiful. Immediately upon entering, one is confronted by avenues of
stately royal palms, ninety to one hundred feet high. The “mother of
the palms,” towering above all the others, is pointed out with pride
by the gardeners. It is said that this was the first of the species
to be planted, and that all of the others were grown from seed taken
from this one plant. There are also attractive little lagoons filled
with flowering pond-lilies and fishes, and bordered with graceful
travellers’ palms introduced from Madagascar. Rows of bamboo form
sheltered lanes where the visitor may seek relief on comfortable
benches from the midday sun.

The palace Guanabara, dating back to the time of Dom Pedro, was
opened for the use of Colonel Roosevelt. Its location is in the most
attractive spot imaginable. Sitting at the table in the immense
dining-room, one may look down a palm-lined avenue to the blue water
of the bay, a half-mile distant; it was through this lane of tall,
beautiful trees that Isabella, daughter of the King, drove to her daily
bath in the surf.

Acting upon the invitation of officials of the Brazilian Government,
Colonel Roosevelt abandoned the plans he had made previously and
changed the character of the expedition from a zoological to a
geographical one. Colonel Rondon, who had been engaged some years
in making a survey through Matto Grosso for a telegraph-line, had
discovered the headwaters of an unmapped river. This he had called the
_Rio da Duvida_, or River of Doubt, for no one knew whither it went.
The invitation to explore and map this stream was tendered to Colonel
Roosevelt, and he accepted it.

We left the colonel at Rio de Janeiro, after making arrangements to
meet subsequently, and continued on to Buenos Aires, spending a day _en
route_ in Santos, and one in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.

Although we had read and heard a great deal about the city of Buenos
Aires, we were hardly prepared for the pleasant surprise that
awaited us. The population of this metropolis of the south is more
than a million and a half, and the city presents a clean, dignified
appearance. In many respects it is as modern as New York City. There
are numbers of tall edifices patterned after our own skyscrapers,
large hotels, and theatres. An electric subway was just being opened,
and the crowds in the Calle Florida in the late afternoon rival those
of Broadway. The climate is cool and agreeable. One of the things
that particularly attracted our attention was the presence one day of
swarms of dragon-flies flying in a steady stream high above the city;
they were blown in by violent winds, or pamperos, which sweep across
the level plains country, and gave one the impression of a raging
snow-storm.

As Mr. Cherrie and I were eager to devote every available moment to
zoological work, we left Fiala and Sigg, whose duty it was to look
after the rather appalling amount of luggage, and secured passage
on the Argentine Northwestern Railroad, which had just inaugurated
through service to Asuncion, Paraguay. We took only the small amount
of equipment necessary for few weeks’ work, as the two others were
to come up with the remainder of the baggage on the first available
freight-boat. Our train was the second to make the through trip and
was scheduled to run biweekly. It was composed of seven Pullmans,
two baggage, and a dining car; the service was good. Leaving Buenos
Aires on the afternoon of Sunday, November 2, we reached Rosario at
dark. Here the train was run onto a steel boat and carried up-river a
distance of sixty miles, after which it continued the journey on the
east bank of the Paraná. The next night we recrossed the river on a
ferry, and were landed at Encarnacion, Paraguay. Asuncion was reached
late on the afternoon of Tuesday.

The railway journey had been through level plains, interspersed at
long intervals with small clumps and strips of low woods; but it
is essentially a grazing country and we passed numerous herds of
cattle feeding on the vast, fence-enclosed ranges. Stalking about
unconcernedly among the herds were small bands of semi-domesticated
rheas, but they were not abundant; I doubt if we saw a hundred during
the entire trip. Caracaras, or carrion-hawks, glossy ibises, our old
friends the jacanas, which resembled huge grasshoppers when on the
wing, rails, and spur-wing plovers, or lapwings, were plentiful.
Frequently we saw the domed mud-nests of oven-birds perched upon fence
or telegraph-poles, or on the lower branches of trees. Villages are
few and far between, and the natives, a motley crowd of dark-skinned
individuals, usually left their shambling, grass-thatched huts and came
down _en masse_ to see the train.

Asuncion is a quaint old town, plainly showing the marks of violence
that have been left by frequent revolutions. Mr. Ferris, the American
consul, who met us at the station and rendered us every assistance
possible, had witnessed five revolutions in as many years; there had
been seven presidents in the same period of time. The streets of the
city are narrow and paved with cobblestones; the buildings are low,
constructed of adobe, and have red-tile roofs. There are one or two
banks, a college, several churches, a public market and good hotels,
as well as fair electric car and light service; there is also the
inevitable lottery. We noticed little business activity. An air of
depression seemed to hang like a pall over the people, and this
may be readily accounted for when one recalls the tragic history of
their country. Many of the women were in deep mourning. One authority
estimated that the proportion of women to men was eleven to one,
although this is probably an exaggeration.

One of the most interesting places in Asuncion is the market.
Paraguayan lace is offered for sale in quantities. It is made in
intricate and dainty designs, and many of the pieces consist of
numerous small “wheels” or squares that are made separately and then
united to form collars, handkerchiefs, or covers. One is astonished
at the quantity of fruit displayed; oranges are brought from the
surrounding country in cars and barges, and shovelled, like coal, into
piles or carts. Some of them are of large size, delicate texture,
and excellent flavor. The choicest of these are exported and may be
purchased in Buenos Aires at rather high prices.

After spending a few days at Asuncion we were invited to the home of
one Professor Fiebrig, who lives at Trinidad, a few miles from the
city. Professor Fiebrig is a scientist of more than local note, an
instructor in the University of Paraguay, and curator of the museum.
While journeying to his place we entered into conversation with two
Paraguayans, apparently men of the upper class, who were travelling in
the same car. When they learned our identity they shook their heads
in a pitying and condescending manner. “How sad,” said one of them;
“you North Americans do nothing but pursue the almighty dollar. Now,
in Paraguay we live for art, literature, and science.” We had visited
the natural history museum in Asuncion a few days before, and had
taken note of the bullet-holes in the walls, the rents made in the
stuffed animals by bayonet thrusts, and other marks decidedly not of an
artistic or scientific nature.

[Illustration: Camp on the Rio Negro in the Gran Chaco of the Paraguay.]

[Illustration: Selling oranges in the market at Asuncion.]

Our first zoological work was done in the country near Trinidad. All
about were tracts of land of considerable size, covered with low
forest, patches of brush country, grassy fields, and cultivated
plots. Birds were plentiful, and as practically all of them were new
to us, work in this region was doubly interesting. We here formed our
first intimate acquaintance with the white ani (Guira), member of a
subfamily of cuckoos, large flocks of which sat like rows of beads
on the fronds of palm-trees. They are slender birds, about fifteen
inches long, and are striped with brown, black, and white; a row of
long, narrow feathers forms a high crest. They remained soberly on
their perches, awkwardly jerked their tails from side to side, and
mewed dolefully. The birds seemed utterly out of place among the
vivacious tanagers, creepers, and finches, and seemed to belong more
properly to some remote and unrecorded past. Their flight is slow and
uncertain, the birds flapping their wings and sailing alternately;
when alighting they strike a most ludicrous pose and barely avert
falling over frontward before finally securing their balance. The long
tail helps the bird to keep its equilibrium, although adding to the
awkwardness of its appearance. The bird always gives one the impression
of being exceedingly miserable, and particularly so during cold, rainy
weather. Then all the members of the flock will crowd close together
for warmth and protection, often placing their wings over one another
in an affectionate manner, and even standing perhaps on the backs
of their companions. On account of its scanty covering of feathers,
_Guira guira_ is not well suited to resist cold weather. When the
breeding-season arrives a huge nest is built in a cactus or low bush,
usually at no great height from the ground; but the mass of sticks is
not conspicuous, despite its bulky size. Occasionally a number of birds
occupy the same nest, when many eggs are laid; the adults keep up a
constant wailing and shrieking if their domicile is approached.

The eggs are among the most beautiful laid by any bird. They are
elliptical in form and of a deep turquoise color, covered with a
lace-work deposit of calcareous material. As incubation advances the
shell becomes stained and the white, decorative layer wears away where
the eggs rub together. Then the heretofore lovely egg bursts, and from
it emerges the ugliest creature imaginable. Apparently the natives
can think of no homelier object, for when they wish to call attention
to the fact that one of their neighbor’s children is of a superlative
degree of ugliness, they call it _Pichón de Urraca_ (young urraca).

Mammalian life was scarce, but considering the short time available, a
comparatively representative collection was made, including specimens
of a small gray wolf (_Cerdocyon_), which roamed singly and in pairs in
the country bordering the Paraguay River. A few rabbits and opossums
visited the mandioc-fields at night to feed upon the succulent tubers.
We had abundant opportunities to observe the rural populace in the
vicinity of Trinidad. They are of a rather unambitious type, and seemed
contented only when taking their noonday nap or _siesta_, or while
drinking _maté_. The general language of Paraguay is Guaraní, although
Spanish is used by the upper classes.

“Yerba maté” is the modern name for the _caá guazú_ of the Guaraní.
It is applied to the dried leaves of a species of South American
holly (_Ilex_) growing abundantly in parts of Brazil, Argentina, and
Paraguay. The tree is very bushy and beautiful, and remains green
the year around; the leaves are small, and those of a light-green
color make the best quality of tea. Several methods are employed in
gathering the leaves: one is to cut down the branches, pile them into
huge stacks, and apply heat for about twenty-four hours, when they
are dry and ready for the next stage of manufacture, consisting of
pulverization. The heating and drying process is known as torrefaction.
In preparing the beverage a quantity of the powdered leaves, and
sometimes sugar, also, are placed in a small, hollowed gourd, and
the container is then filled with boiling water. The liquor is taken
through a metal tube called _bombilla_, with a hollow, spoon-shaped
expansion filled with small holes on the end that is placed in the
gourd. It is customary to refill the container with water many times
before recharging it with leaves, and to pass it around among all the
members of a family and any guests who chance to be present. Everybody
drinks in turn from the same maté and tube. A kettle of boiling water
is kept on a charcoal brazier near at hand. Some of the containers or
matés are very elaborate affairs, made of pure silver and elegantly
carved or chased.

The amount of _yerba maté_ consumed annually is enormous. It is
estimated that no less than ten millions of persons in South America
indulge in the habit. In Chile the annual consumption per capita is
about one hundred and twelve pounds; in Paraguay thirty-four pounds,
and in the Argentine twenty pounds. Quantities of it are also exported,
principally to Holland. Some years the supply falls short of the
demand, but plantations have added very materially to the available
wild growth.

_Yerba maté_ has much in common with both tea and coffee, but does not
contain as much tannin as either; of caffein it contains about as much
as coffee, and this imparts to it the sustaining virtues. In many parts
of the maté-drinking belt the beverage only is taken for breakfast,
and I have seen a man in western Argentina take thirty-two matéfuls in
rapid succession. The flavor is very agreeable and not unlike that of
rather strong tea.

After spending a few days at Trinidad we returned to Asuncion. A launch
was placed at our disposal, through the courtesy of the President of
the republic, and on November 11 we started on a short voyage up the
Rio Pilcomayo, into the Gran Chaco of Paraguay. Several men had been
sent with us to look after the luggage, which was carried in a separate
boat towed behind the launch, and three local naturalists, representing
the museum of Asuncion, went along to collect specimens for their
institution.

The Pilcomayo is a river of great size, coming from the northeast
and emptying into the Paraguay a short distance above Asuncion. The
greater part of its course is in the Gran Chaco, a wild, uninviting
region inhabited by savage Indian tribes, and of the interior of
which practically nothing is known. We proceeded up the river but
a comparatively short distance to the little settlement of Porto
Gallileo, the headquarters of a concern engaged in extracting tannin
from quebracho-logs. A comfortable home had been erected for the
management, and their attention and courtesy were most touching. They
were a polyglot community, consisting of a Frenchman, a Brazilian,
a Swede, an Argentinian, a Paraguayan, and a German. However, they
lived on the friendliest possible terms, and all co-operated for the
general good of the company. We came unexpectedly, so no preparations
had been made for our accommodation; but each man had a private store
of treasured articles from home hidden away somewhere, and before long
one brought sheets, another blankets, a third monogrammed towels, etc.,
until we were as comfortably provided for as any one could wish. The
men were very fond of a pet jaguar which they had taken when a cub,
but as the animal grew older its temper became uncertain, so it was
necessary to confine it in a barred cage. Its wild brethren came from
the forest at night to pay it a short visit occasionally, as attested
by the footprints left in the soft ground near the cage.

The factory at Porto Gallileo for the manufacture of tannin was of
considerable size. Upon arrival from the forest the trees were stripped
of bark, ground, and boiled in huge vats. The extract was boiled down
to a concentrate and pressed into small cakes; it is very valuable in
tanning hides, and its use shortens the time usually required for the
process. A number of valuable by-products are also obtained, including
dyestuffs.

A narrow-gauge railway line was being built farther and farther
into the interior as the land was cleared; this had been completed
a distance of fifteen kilometers, and the road-bed was in course of
construction for forty additional kilometres. The morning after our
arrival at Porto Gallileo we proceeded to the end of the line on the
daily work-train, and pitched camp on the bank of a small stream, the
Rio Negro.

[Illustration: A street in Buenos Aires.]

[Illustration: Porto Gallileo on the Rio Pilcomayo.]

Our camp was merely a rough shed built of sheets of corrugated iron
supported on poles driven into the ground. The river-water was salt
and unfit for use, so each morning several large jugs of fresh
drinking-water were sent in from Porto Gallileo, together with a supply
of provisions. All about lay marshes, swamps, and large grass-covered
areas, the latter type of country predominating.

The Rio Negro teemed with a species of _piranha_. They are deep-bodied
and blunt-nosed, and the jaws are armed with sharp, triangular teeth.
Although they grow to a length of eighteen inches in the Orinoco and
some of the other large South American rivers, those we found in the
Rio Negro did not exceed eight inches in length; but they travelled
in enormous schools, and made up in numbers what they lacked in size.
During the hours of late afternoon, when our day’s work was over, I
tried many experiments with the _piranhas_. They have a bad reputation
and are known to attack animals much larger than themselves, and even
human beings who enter the water. Usually they are slow to attack
unless their appetite has been whetted by a taste of blood from a
wound; then, however, their work is done with lightning-like quickness,
and unless the luckless victim succeeds in reaching the shore
immediately nothing but the skeleton will remain within a very short
time. If I fished with a hook and line baited with any kind of raw meat
the fish would scarcely wait for the bait to sink below the surface
of the water. The number caught depended entirely upon the amount of
time spent in fishing. The bodies of large mammals, such as monkeys,
after we had skinned them, were thrown into the stream; instantly
the ravenous hordes charged the spot and tore greedily at the bloody
flesh; so great were their numbers that they threw one another out of
the water in their mad struggles to reach the gory repast. On several
occasions I threw dead or stunned individuals of their species into
the midst of the frenzied mob, but, strange to relate, they floated on
the surface of the water untouched. Unplucked birds were not molested,
either. A struggle in the water seems to attract the fish, but I must
admit that their behavior is very erratic. While washing my hands in
the edge of the stream one day a _piranha_ snapped a piece out of a
finger; a few days later a man in passing over the river on a bridge
dropped his purse into the water in almost the exact spot where I
fished, and where the _piranhas_ were most abundant; he stripped, waded
out very slowly and cautiously so as not to create a disturbance, and
felt about with his toes for the lost article; although the water was
over four feet deep and he remained in it fully fifteen minutes, he
remained untouched.

It is in the dark swamps dotting the chaco like low, glossy islands
that the precious quebracho-trees grow. It was also from these same
swamps that clouds of ravenous mosquitoes issued with the first signs
of failing daylight, and drove us to the refuge of our net-covered
hammocks. There we sweltered through the long hours of the night,
listening to the angry buzzing of our outwitted assailants, which
was not unlike the sound produced by a swarm of enraged bees. I
could distinguish a number of different pitches and qualities in the
music, blending harmoniously in one general chorus. The varying size
of the insects, which ranged from individuals nearly an inch long to
the small infection-bearing _Anopheles_, doubtless accounts for the
different tones produced by the vibrations of the wings. Brockets
were seen occasionally; they left the forest morning and night to
feed. In the tall pampas-grass cavies abounded. They came out into the
opening beside the railroad just before sunrise and ran about, or sat
motionless, when they resembled clods of earth or shadows. Ocelots had
worn well-defined paths through the fields in their nightly raids on
the cavy community. In the trees we found black howlers, night-monkeys,
and giant weasels (_Tayra_); opossums and various species of small
rodents held sway on the ground.

[Illustration: Fort of Coimbra on the Rio Paraguay.]

While there was no scarcity of birds, they were largely species already
known to us, and one day one of the men brought in an anaconda ten feet
long, that he found basking on the river-bank.

After spending a week on the Rio Negro we returned to Asuncion, where
we were joined by the commissaries who had just arrived with the
equipment. Two days later we boarded the comfortable little steamer
_Asuncion_ and started for Corumbá.

The four and a half days’ trip up the Paraguay was most interesting,
although the heat and insects at times were troublesome. We had entered
the great pantanal country, and the vast marshes teemed with bird-life.
As the _Asuncion_ fought the strong current and moved slowly onward
countless thousands of cormorants and anhingas took wing; lining the
pools and dotting the marshes were hordes of wood and scarlet ibises,
together with a sprinkling of herons and spoonbills; egrets covered the
small clumps of trees as with a mantle of snowy white, and long rows of
jabiru storks patrolled both shores. Scarcely a moment passed in which
we did not see hundreds of birds. Some of the passengers were armed
with rifles and revolvers, with which they kept up more or less of a
fusillade on the feathered folk; but fortunately their aim was poor so
that little injury was inflicted.

The day before reaching Corumbá we passed an interesting old landmark.
It is the fort of Coimbra, built on a rocky hillside with a cluster of
thatch-roofed huts nestling against the base. As Coimbra is near the
Bolivian border, the fort figured prominently in several of the bloody
controversies of bygone years between the neighboring republics.



CHAPTER XIV

HUNTING EXCURSIONS ALONG THE UPPER PARAGUAY


Corumbá is a very hot, dusty town built on a high, rocky elevation on
the west bank of the Paraguay. The settlement bears the unenviable
reputation of being the rendezvous for fugitives from justice from many
climates, but we saw nothing of the lawlessness and disorder said to
prevail, and the treatment we received was all that could be desired.
The heat at midday was great, but frequently a breeze came up at night.
Rows of low, spreading mimosa-trees lined some of the streets and cast
a welcome shade; their branches were covered with clumps of gorgeous
scarlet flowers.

A railroad in course of construction will soon connect Corumbá with
Rio de Janeiro. There is also a cart trail leading through the heart
of the chaco to Santa Cruz, Bolivia; to travel over it is a difficult
undertaking, the ox-drawn carts requiring a minimum of thirty days
for the trip. During the rainy season a large part of the country is
inundated, when the caravans must, of course, suspend their activity.
I met two men who had made this journey but a short time before. One
night a party of Indians attacked and killed all the members of a
caravan, stopping only a half-mile distant from the spot where one of
these men and his family had made their camp. The tribes along this
route are the Penoquies, Guaranokas, and Potoreras, and they are said
to be of a treacherous, hostile disposition.

As there was little zoological work to be done in the immediate
vicinity of Corumbá, we moved to a place called Urucúm, about nine
miles away. The road lay through scrub growth and forest, and was all
but impassable on account of the deep mud and rocks. Numbers of native
cabins are scattered along the wayside; some of the occupants conduct
dairy-farms, and the cows carry bells tied to the tips of their horns.

Urucúm proved to be a garden spot of clear, cold springs, shady
groves, and plantations of tropical fruits and vegetables. In the
centre of all stood comfortable cottages with large, well-ventilated
rooms and delightful shower-baths. Fields and forested hillsides,
marshes, and lagoons were easy of access; in them dwelt an abundant
and varied fauna. A grove of magnificent mango-trees grew near the
house that had been assigned for our use; hundreds of bats came to the
trees each morning just as dawn was breaking, to seek their diurnal
sleeping-quarters among the dense foliage. They arrived in unbroken
streams and spent a great deal of time whirring through the branches,
squeaking and making queer little noises that sounded as if they were
grating their teeth. Then they finally settled in clusters of from
six to a dozen individuals in some particularly thick clump of leaves
and, suspended by the claws of their hind feet, began their daytime
slumbers. On windy or rainy days they lost little time in becoming
settled, and did not seek the swaying branches, but clung to the
tree-trunks or on the under-side of the thick limbs. This species of
bat (_Vampyrops lineatus_) has a leaf-shaped appendage on top of the
nose which may be of some use to the animal, but is probably of little
consequence. This “leaf,” the nose and face, including the tips of the
ears, were tinged with delicate green. As the bats hung head downward,
the green-tinted extremity naturally pointed toward the earth; but if
the color was intended as a protection it was of little or no avail,
as it could not be seen unless the animal was examined at close range.
Other individuals of the same species were collected in a dark cave in
the near-by mountains. They, however, showed only a very faint or no
trace at all of the green coloring on the face. I am convinced that
this color is not a vegetable stain, but that the pigment exists in the
skin; it fades soon after death.

A footpath leading through the forest a distance of several miles
ended at a manganese-mine which penetrated into the mountainside about
three hundred feet. Although the mine had been by no means exhausted,
it was no longer worked, owing to the great expense of transporting
the ore. The dark, deserted tunnel was an ideal resort for bats of
not less than four species; one of them (_Mimon bennetti_) was of
considerable size. We entered the mine with a lighted candle, but
the bats invariably soon put out the light with their wings. Each
kind, it seemed, occupied a different part of the tunnel. At first
they were slow to leave their places of concealment in the crevices
between the rocks, but after a few days’ persecution numbers of them
rushed from the mine and disappeared over the top of the mountain at
the mere appearance of the lighted candle in the entrance. The men who
accompanied me on these excursions refused to enter the dark opening in
the mountainside, as they said it was infested with poisonous snakes;
but, although we explored it thoroughly on several occasions, not a
single reptile was ever seen.

In walking through the forest we always saw animals that were of
more than passing interest. One day I surprised a tiger-cat in the
trail; it ran a few yards and then started up a tree, rapidly climbing
about twenty-five feet, and then clung to the rough bark; it remained
perfectly motionless and permitted me to walk up to within a short
distance of the base of the tree. A short time later I came upon two
cebus monkeys feeding in the branches above the trail. I shot at one of
them, wounding it. The other was fully ten yards away, but rushed to
the rescue, and taking up the wounded animal started off with it at a
rapid pace. Most South American monkeys will promptly desert a comrade
in danger or trouble, but in this instance it was a female with her
two-thirds-grown offspring, and the mother-love was so much stronger
than her fear that she exposed herself to danger without hesitation, in
saving her distressed young.

One of the most surprising animals encountered in the forest was a
large, red, hairy armadillo (_Euphractus_). It sprang up suddenly,
almost beneath one’s feet, and bounded away with such great speed that
it always reminded me of a boulder hurtling down a hillside. Within
a few moments it was lost from view among the undergrowth, but the
bumping noise as it struck the earth at each jump could be heard for
some time after the animal had disappeared. At night these armadillos
came out into the clearings and did a great deal of damage in the
fields newly planted in corn. We desired to trap some of the creatures,
so, following the advice of the natives, we cleared a path one thousand
metres long and one metre wide on the edge of the field, and next to
the forest. Four salt-barrels were sunk in this cleared lane, their
tops flush with the earth; then we covered the openings with a thin
layer of dried grass. Grains of corn were strewn all along the cleared
stretch, and a liberal amount was sprinkled on the grass covering the
pits. The armadillos, in their nocturnal excursions from and to the
forest, were attracted by the line of corn and followed it, eating the
kernels as they went; when they arrived at one of the barrels they
plunged into it and were unable to clamber out. We caught several
in this manner. One of them was despatched to the Bronx Zoological
Park, but it died _en route_. It is a remarkable fact that after the
armadillos fell into the barrels, which contained no wooden bottoms,
they made no attempt to burrow out. Their long claws and strong limbs
enable them to dig with ease and rapidity. When cornered they fight
viciously with the claws and teeth and are capable of inflicting
dangerous wounds.

One of the owners of Urucúm stated that at one time he owned a pet
jaguar that subsisted entirely on armadillos caught in the manner
described above. The flesh is esteemed by the people, also.

On several occasions we saw the gaping entrance to the tunnel of a
_Tatu canasto_, or giant armadillo, but at no time did we have a
glimpse of its occupant. This is one of the curious, archaic creatures
persisting, together with the giant ant-bear, sloth, and hoatzin, long
after the star of their age has passed its zenith. Apparently they
were not at all uncommon, for we saw scores of the enormous carapaces,
looking like casques of armor, in the curio-shops at Asuncion. The
animal is fully four feet long, and weighs upward of sixty pounds. A
single claw that I found on the Upper Orinoco was seven inches long.

Another visitor to the plantations was a kind of small, red forest-deer
or brocket (_Mazama_) with single-spike horns. They spent the days in
the heavy timber or dense, low thickets and wild banana-brakes. They
were particularly fond of growing beans and destroyed quantities of the
legumes in a single night. The natives’ way of ridding themselves of
the plunderer is to erect a high platform on poles in the centre of the
field, commanding a view on all sides, and then shoot the animal as it
emerges from its hiding-place.

We also secured a good specimen of one of the rarest animals found
in South America. It is the red wolf (_Chrysocyon_), or guaraguasú,
of the Brazilians. However, very little is known of the animal’s
habits even by the Indians and natives who are usually so prolific
with stories about the wild creatures coming under their observation.
My own experience is limited to two fleeting glances of the huge red
forms dashing away at breakneck speed several hundred yards distant,
and to hearing the weird, strange wail at night. It equals or exceeds
in size the gray wolf of our north woods. It is said to live singly,
frequenting the _chapadão_ and papyrus marshes, and to travel great
distances in quest of rabbits, cavies, and other small mammals that
form its principal items of food.

There were also peccaries, black howler monkeys and marmosettes, and
among the smaller mammals living in the deep forest was a curious
little woolly opossum (_Metachirus_) that ventured out only after dark
in search of fruits, insects, birds, or almost anything of an edible
nature. It is essentially an animal of the deep shadows; if taken
out into the brilliant sunshine it dies within a very short time.
Frequently our traps were sprung by black lizards three or four feet
long (_Dracæna_); they fought fiercely and clung tenaciously to a stick
or other object within their reach. Their teeth are so strong that they
scratched the steel barrel of a shotgun. Rattlesnakes were not rare in
the open country, but they were of small size; I saw none more than
three feet long.

Among the hosts of birds parrakeets were by far the most abundant.
They came to the mango-trees by hundreds and were so noisy that they
became a decided nuisance. In feeding they frequently took a bite or
two out of a fruit and then, letting it fall, proceeded to another. In
this way a great amount was wasted, but the people were good-natured
over the matter and doubtless realized that there was fruit enough for
all, as they never molested the parrakeets. Many of the birds were
nesting. A red-breasted thrush (_Planesticus_), not unlike the robin,
had its mud and grass nest in the low crotch of a tree on the edge of
the forest, but the three eggs were heavily speckled with rusty brown
instead of being of a plain-blue color. There were cunning little pigmy
owls in the brush-patches, but in spite of their small size they are
very bold and ferocious and kill birds nearly as large as themselves.
In turn they are preyed upon by members of their own family. Some of
the larger owls habitually catch small owls whenever possible. One day
my attention was attracted by a commotion in a clump of dense bushes
and, as I neared the spot, an owl of moderate size (_Ciccaba_) made a
number of attempts to fly up from the ground, but apparently it was
carrying something too heavy to permit it to fly. Finally it deserted
the object and flew to a branch a few yards away. Going to the spot, I
found a screech owl with a portion of its head eaten away. Pigmy owls
are eagerly sought for by the natives. They become very tame and are
supposed to bring good luck to their owners. We had brought a small
owl of another species with us which had been named “Moses.” When we
found him in the market at Asuncion he was a forlorn and hungry little
creature, but showed such a friendly disposition that he was promptly
purchased and soon became the very popular mascot of the expedition. At
Urucúm Moses was given his liberty among the rafters of our home; he
walked about gravely overhead and came down only when hungry or when
the half-filled wash-basin lured him to the delights of a cool bath.
Sometimes I put him out in a tree for an airing, but carnivorous ants
were abundant and nearly always discovered him before very long; then
he danced about, clattered with his bill, and made queer little cooing
noises until I rescued him.

We spent nearly three weeks at Urucúm. They passed very quickly, for
Urucúm is one of those delightful places found all too rarely in South
America. Word reached us that Colonel Roosevelt and his Brazilian
escort had reached Corumbá, so we hastened back to town; there we met
the entire party and made the acquaintance of Colonel Rondon and the
other members of the Brazilian Commission.

A hunting-trip on the Taquary had been planned to secure some of the
large game that is found in the region. December 16, therefore, found
the hunting-party aboard the _Nyoac_. This boat, which was a river
steamer of considerable size, had been placed at the disposal of the
expedition by the government, and served as our “home” during the weeks
that followed, until we reached Porto Campo. Besides Colonel Roosevelt,
there were on board Colonel Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Kermit
Roosevelt, Captain Amilcar de Magalhães, a photographer, physician,
taxidermist, and myself. Mr. Cherrie had returned to Urucúm to finish
the work in that locality, and Mr. Fiala remained in Corumbá to
complete the examination of the enormous amount of impedimenta which he
had so ably brought together.

[Illustration: S. S. _Nyoac_ on the Paraguay River.]

[Illustration: Corumbá.]

The _Nyoac_ steamed up the Paraguay a few hours, and then turned
into the mouth of the Taquary. The water of the latter river being
pretty low, a steam-launch was towed along as a precaution; should
the steamer become stranded it would have been possible to proceed
on the launch. We had been travelling but a short time, when cries
from members of the crew drew our attention to the water; and there,
where the launch had been but a moment before, were only a few sticks
of fire-wood floating on the water. A man had been placed aboard the
smaller craft to operate the steering-gear; he had fallen asleep at his
post, and in rounding a sharp bend the launch had capsized and sunk. We
spent several hours trying to drag the submerged boat to the bank, but
the task had to be abandoned, and the launch was left--a total loss.

There were scores of caimans along the Taquary. As these reptiles are
justly classed as vermin they may be destroyed on sight. Frequently
rows of them dotted the edges of the sand-banks, lying with wide-open
mouths. A shot in the head was instantly fatal, and the only movement
perceptible was the sudden closing of the mouth as the bullet went
home. Crocodiles frequently enter the forest to quite some distance
from the water; I know of no more repulsive sight than to come
suddenly upon one of the huge saurians lying quietly in wait among the
shadows; the evil, grinning expression; the leering green eyes and the
glistening, scaly body of the creature suggest treachery and cruelty
combined with agility and cunning. One of the reptiles that we saw had
cornered a school of fish in a small inlet, blocking the entrance with
its body. As the frantic fish tried to escape by jumping out of the
water and over the obstruction, the crocodile caught them in mid-air
and swallowed them.

Late in the afternoon we saw a giant ant-eater galloping across a
grassy field. The steamer was brought to the bank instantly and a
hunting-party with dogs landed. Soon the animal was brought to bay and
shot. When it was brought aboard darkness had set in, so no photograph
could be made of it, and as game spoils within a few hours in the damp,
hot climate, the animal could not be left until morning. We took the
necessary measurements, skinned the creature, and then spread the hide
out on the upper deck. Later we found that the tamanduá bandado, as it
is called, was not at all rare in the _pantanales_. This occasioned
some surprise, as a great deal of this country is marshy and there are
consequently few termites, on which it was thought to feed exclusively.
Recent observations by Mr. Cherrie, however, explain why this animal
can exist in the _pantanal_ type of country. He found it _climbing
trees_ and devouring the soft part of nestling birds, both of which
acts are about the last things one would expect of such a highly
specialized animal.

The tamanduá bandado stands about two feet high and is six feet long.
The body is covered with long, coarse hair. The color is gray. A
broad black band, bordered with white, begins on the chest and passes
obliquely over the shoulder, ending in a point as it approaches the
loins. This marking gives the animal a peculiar, “cut-up” appearance.
The nose is greatly elongated, and the mouth is a mere slit through
which the pensile tongue is thrust in licking up ants. As it gallops
clumsily along, for the enormous back-turned claws of the front feet
impede its progress, the flattened tail is thrown up and seems to aid
in balancing the animal. When pursued by either men or dogs, it runs
until closely pressed, and then rears up and makes short dashes at
its assailants. It is easily capable of inflicting fatal wounds with
its claws. P. Lydekker (Royal Natural History) states that its habits
are nocturnal and that it has “usually a regular lair ... generally
situated among tall grass, where it spends the day in slumber....” In
the same paragraph he speaks of the animal tearing open the hillocks of
termites with the powerful claws of the forefeet; and “as soon as the
light of day is let into their domicile the ants or termites rush to
the surface....” Without commenting on this inconsistency, I believe
that the giant ant-eater is at least partially diurnal. The stomachs
of the specimens shot by Colonel Roosevelt and his son Kermit contained
ants and termites, a quantity of earth, and bits of dry and green
leaves. The colonel expressed the opinion that the earth and leaves
had been picked up with the ants. The walls of the stomach are thick
and muscular, like the gizzard of a fowl. In captivity they thrive on
finely chopped meat.

We spent the night aboard the _Nyoac_, which had been made fast at a
landing where there was only a dilapidated thatched-roof shed. Early
the next morning horses were brought up and saddled and we started on a
five hours’ ride to the ranch-house that was to serve as camp.

Before us stretched vast marshes, dotted here and there with little
islands of pastureland and groves of trees or thorny bushes. It was
typical pantanal country. Parrots, parrakeets, and macaws flashed by
with raucous shrieks, and _kis-ka-dee_ flycatchers calmly surveyed the
cavalcade from the uppermost branches. Sometimes we flushed a small
flock of beautiful Brazilian teals, and in the distance we saw ibises
and jabiru storks standing in the long grass, like foam-flecks on a sea
of green. For the greater part of the distance we rode through water
knee-deep to the horses, but in spots the marshes were drying. In the
little pools that were all that remained of what had formerly, perhaps,
been an immense lagoon, myriads of imprisoned fish wriggled and churned
the water into thin mud. They formed an almost solid mass, and at the
borders numbers were constantly leaping out; the ground was strewn with
the dead and dying by thousands, and of many species. The stench from
the decomposing fish was almost overpowering. Numerous animals coming
out of their hiding-places at night to gorge on the bountiful repast
left their foot-prints in the soft mud. Apparently opossums, coatis,
tiger-cats, and even jaguars haunted these places. In the daytime the
countless numbers of water-birds exacted their share of the spoil.

The _fazenda_, or ranch-house, called Palmiras’, was reached at noon.
It was an interesting place; the long, low, rambling buildings formed
a square with an open court in the centre, in which trees and flowers
grew and pigs and chickens roamed at will. All about lay marshes,
papyrus swamp, fields, and forests. Herds of half-wild cattle grazed on
the vast range, and marsh-deer stalked among them or along the borders
of the thick papyrus growths. The main object of this excursion was
to obtain the lordly jaguar. Men were sent out to locate fresh spoor
of the animals, and after a several days’ hunt were successful. Then
a motley cavalcade, headed by the colonel, set out to find the big,
spotted cat. Some of the party rode horses or mules, and a number
of natives were mounted on steers. A pack of dogs, used to tree the
quarry, trotted excitedly beside the riders. After many hours the faint
call of a bugle far away announced the return of the hunting-party.
Other bugles took up the signal, and by the time camp was reached
all of the natives were lined up and eager to inspect the trophies.
Within a week two jaguars, a second ant-eater, and a few deer had been
secured. There was not sufficient time to undertake a systematic study
of the bird life, but the species found in the immediate vicinity
of the house were of ample interest to occupy the attention of a
naturalist for many months. Foremost among them was the hyacinthine
macaw, largest of the entire parrot family. The dazzling blue creature
is more than a yard long, and the beak is so powerful that it can
gnaw through the tough hull of the _castanha_, or Brazil nut, a feat
unequalled, perhaps, by any other bird. It is a powerful flyer and
usually there were only two or four together; but some of the flocks
we saw numbered ten or twelve birds. But as a whole, the bird is rare,
and as it inhabits the wildest _pantanales_ and jungles, its graceful
flight and loud screams are one of the rare rewards of those only who
venture far beyond the beaten route of travel. The closet naturalist
may inspect the stuffed skin, but it can no more convey to him an
impression of the gorgeous, living bird, than the dry, shrunken bush
at midwinter suggests the flowering rose.

Small colonies of blackbirds dwelt in the papyrus swamp. Their heads
were of a fiery red color, and as they sat on the swaying reeds they,
from a distance, resembled brilliant blossoms. However, these birds
were not abundant.

The preparation of the skins of large mammals was a difficult
undertaking. No provision had been made for this branch of the work,
as the object of the expedition was not zoological but geographical.
However, none of the large game was thrown away; it was skinned and
preserved in the best manner possible under the circumstances.

Returning to Corumbá on the evening of December 21, we were joined by
the other members of the expedition and immediately proceeded on the
up-river voyage toward São Luis de Caceres. A short side-trip was made
up the Rio São Lourenço, with brief stops at various points where there
were evidences of game, but very little was added to the collections.

On January 1, early in the morning, we halted at a place where there
were fresh jaguar tracks on the river-bank. Colonels Roosevelt and
Rondon, and Kermit, accompanied by a number of _camaradas_ and the
dogs, immediately took up the trail and disappeared among the trees.
We spent a part of the day on board the steamer, and the remainder
collecting in the immediate vicinity. One of the men ran into a nest
of maribundi wasps; one of the enraged insects stung him on the head
and for several hours the poor fellow was in great agony. His head was
swollen to an enormous size, and his companions bathed it constantly
with water to relieve the pain; they feared he would die. I have very
good reasons for remembering these wasps. While on the Chaparé River,
in Bolivia, one of them crawled under the mosquito-net covering my
cot; when I retired at night I put my arm on the insect and was stung
four times before it could be captured. The effect of the poison was
as rapid as it was remarkable. It produced a kind of paralysis within
about five minutes, which the prompt action alone of my companion
prevented from ending fatally; but more extraordinary still, the
same symptoms returned regularly at six months’ intervals during the
following two years. Each attack lasted from a week to ten days.

The day gradually drew to a close, and finally darkness settled over
the landscape, but there was no sign of the hunting-party. The captain,
therefore, began to cruise up and down the river, giving frequent
blasts of the ship’s whistle, for it was feared that the hunters might
have become lost. After an hour or so we suddenly rounded a sharp bend
and heard a loud voice singing cheerfully somewhere on the bank. A boat
was sent in the direction whence the sound came, and after a short time
it returned with Colonels Roosevelt and Rondon. They had been pursuing
the jaguar through forest and swamp for twelve hours on foot, and
without food or drink. Their clothing was torn and covered with mud; it
had been necessary to swim frequently, in their clothes, holding their
rifles above their heads; the lagoons were infested with _piranhas_ and
crocodiles. In running through the vegetation fire-ants and wasps had
been swept from the leaves and branches, and the insects had been quick
to retaliate with bites and stings. But Colonel Roosevelt had enjoyed
the experience thoroughly and at once sat down to a hearty dinner,
during the course of which we heard the story of the hunt. Kermit
returned some hours later. Most of the _camaradas_ were so tired they
spent the night in the forest and did not come in until late the next
morning.

We always passed the nights ashore; the temperature in our cabin aboard
the _Nyoac_ was 118° F., so we much preferred to sling our hammocks
among the trees, where it was cooler. One morning upon awakening I was
surprised to see the gently waving palm-leaves overhead. It seemed
queer that I should have forgotten to adjust the mosquito net the
night before; but an investigation showed that the greater part of the
netting had been carried away during the night by the _carregador_
ants. In my several experiences with these insects I have never known
them to carry away woollen clothing, but all articles of cotton to
which they had access were destroyed.

The jabiru storks were nesting on the São Lourenço; we saw several
of their great platform nests of sticks perched in the crotches of
giant trees. The young storks, two in number and fully feathered, were
continually exercising their limbs by running back and forth in the
nest, flapping their wings all the while, preparatory to launching
forth into the big world. If we tossed short sticks up to them they
caught them in their bills, held on for a few moments, then dropped
them. Caimans were particularly plentiful on the upper Paraguay. Scores
of the evil-looking reptiles lay on the sand-banks, with wide-open
mouths and staring, glassy eyes. A fringe of trees flanked the water;
through them we could see the boundless wastes of _pantanales_ beyond.
Troops of black howler monkeys ambled leisurely away as the boat drew
near; the males only were black, the females being of a straw-color.
There were immense flocks of a species of gray-throated, green
parrakeets; some of them were building enormous nests of sticks in
the branches. When a single tree contained three or four of the huge
structures, its strength was strained to the breaking-point, for some
of the nests were five or six feet across and contained hundreds of
pounds of material; but not all of them were of this size; some were
composed of no more than an armful of sticks and were occupied by a
single pair of birds. The larger ones harbor dozens of birds. The
nesting cavities had been in the under-side of the structures; entrance
to them was gained through tubular openings underneath.

The number of water-birds in the _pantanales_ bordering the upper
Paraguay is almost unbelievably large. There were such countless
thousands of cormorants and anhingas that they confused the eye.
Colonel Roosevelt never permitted useless slaughter, and when one
day, one of the _camaradas_ forgot himself and shot a bird, he was
compelled to go for it in a rowboat; then the bird was skinned and
preserved. After that no one ventured to shoot at the winged hosts.
Egrets were present in such vast numbers that the trees were white
with them; and when they flew the twinkling wings filled the air like
snowflakes. They were not molested in this locality for the reason
that their habitat is impenetrable. I later learned in another region
that thousands of these birds are killed for their plumes, in a most
atrocious manner. About the time the egret’s feathers are at their
best, which is also the time when the nests are filled with young
birds, the annual floods have begun to recede, leaving small lakes
and marshes teeming with imprisoned fish, such as we had seen _en
route_ to Rancho Palmiras. This is the season of harvest for the
water-birds, and they repair daily to some favorite resort to gorge
on the luckless fish. The plume-hunters, taking advantage of this
combination of circumstances, collect quantities of fish, poison them,
and then scatter them over the birds’ feeding-grounds. Occasionally
poisoned shrimp are used if the inundations extend beyond the usual
time. This method is, of course, cheaper than shooting; the birds are
not frightened away as they are by the loud reports of guns, and the
success of such relentless persecution must be obvious. A whole colony
could be exterminated in its feeding-grounds even if the rookery is
impregnable.

São Luis de Caceres was reached January 5, and at noon the next day
the _Nyoac_ weighed anchor again and started up-stream. A short stop
was made at a small landing called Porto Campo, where a few days’ hunt
produced tapirs, deer, and white-lipped peccaries. January 13 found the
expedition aboard a launch, struggling against the swift current of the
Sepotuba. A heavy house-boat full of provisions and luggage was towed
alongside, and we made not over a mile an hour. The end of the river
journey came on January 16. We had reached Tapirapoan, the farthest
outpost on the frontier, and immediately preparations were begun for
our long dash across the _chapadão_ of Matto Grosso.



CHAPTER XV

A FORTY DAYS’ RIDE THROUGH WILDEST MATTO GROSSO


Tapirapoan presented a scene of festive gayety upon the arrival of
the expedition. The large, open square around which clustered the
low, mud-walled huts was decorated with lines of pennants, while the
American and Brazilian flags fluttered from tall poles in the centre.
Flag raising and lowering were always impressive ceremonies; everybody
lined up and stood at attention while the banners were elevated or
taken down, as the case might be, to the strains of martial music.
However, if Tapirapoan bore a festive outward appearance, it acted
merely as a mask to cover up the general confusion that even a casual
inspection could not fail to disclose. Numbers of horses, mules, and
oxen had been gathered from the surrounding country; an array of
natives or _camaradas_ who were to have charge of the animals and the
impedimenta, had assembled, and several warerooms were filled with
provisions and equipment. To organize properly a cavalcade of such vast
proportions required some little time--in fact just six days. We did
not particularly regret the delay, for it gave us an opportunity of
making daily excursions into the near-by country. This was mostly of an
open character and yielded no big game, but it teemed with interesting
little creatures. Several small tracts of land were fenced in and
planted in maize, and it was wonderful to note how these restricted
areas had been discovered by small rodents which apparently came
from the surrounding wilds, found an abundance of food and favorable
conditions, and multiplied so rapidly that within a short time they
were so abundant as to be decidedly harmful. One would almost expect
their natural enemies to increase in the same proportion, but such
was obviously not the case. Wherever there was a patch of ground under
cultivation, rats and mice teemed, particularly the latter, belonging
to the genus _Oryzomys_; they are several times the size of a house
mouse, have rather short tails, and are of a very deep brown color. The
small burrows in which they live are made at the bases of weed-stalks,
bushes, and under fences and logs; or, lacking these protective agents,
they dig down into the ground almost anywhere. If one sits still for
a few minutes, preferably at dusk, they may see the beady-eyed little
animals steal forth, whiskers twitching nervously, and ears alert to
catch any sound which might apprise them of danger. I have never seen
them go very far from the protection of their underground runways;
and even while nibbling hurriedly at some tempting bit of food, they
frequently dash away suddenly, then stop short, look around, and come
back--all apparently without the slightest provocation.

Some of the men had caught a huge tortoise known in various parts of
South America as the _morrocoy_, farther down the river. This became
a sort of general pet, and while it was at first intended to use
“Lizzie”--for that was the name that had been given to the friendly,
inactive creature--for food, it was later decided that the animal was
worthy of better treatment. It was therefore agreed upon that Lizzie
should go to the Bronx Zoo. A comfortable crate was constructed, and
just before loading it on the launch bound down-stream, we gathered
around the box and dropped an abundant supply of sliced melon and other
succulent food through the bars. Then we learned an interesting bit of
natural history. One of the _camaradas_ had stood by until he thought
enough perfectly good food had been wasted on the tortoise. “Don’t give
her all that,” he advised, “a turtle is just like the camel and the
elephant; it can go six months without eating.” We were glad to learn
later that Lizzie survived the trip to New York, and proved to be the
largest of her species in the Zoo collection.

Order was finally restored out of chaos, and each member of the party
was given a mule and a complete saddle outfit. The pack-animals were
divided into squads, each in charge of a chief mule-man and his
assistants; then the impedimenta were sorted out and arranged for easy
and quick packing on the mules.

At noon, January 21, the first detachment of the expedition started.
This included all of the Americans and several of the Brazilians to
whose number Lieutenants João Lyra and Joaquin de Melho Filho had been
added. Captain Amilcar was to follow the next day with the remainder of
the caravan. This division of the party was absolutely necessary as, on
account of the great number of men and animals required, the expedition
would have been unwieldy if it had attempted to move in one body.

The first day’s ride was a short one. Early in the morning the men
started to load the pack-animals, many of which were apparently fresh
from the ranges and had never been broken to work of any kind; as a
result of this there was a good deal of confusion at first. The corrals
reminded one of a wild-west show. Guachos, wearing fringed leather
aprons, and wicked, keen-edged knives in their belts, and who swore
fluently in two or three different languages, lassoed the panicky
animals, blindfolded them, and adjusted the packs. When the covering
was removed from the animals’ eyes they frequently gave a few sharp
snorts, and then started through the corral in a series of rabbit-like
leaps, eventually sending the packs, saddles, and all flying in every
direction. After freeing themselves of their burden, they gave a few
extra high kicks of exultation, and then ran into the huddled mass of
their fellows for concealment. Gradually, however, the men became more
adept at their work, the mules and oxen quieted down and little groups
left the corrals, wound up the trail, and disappeared in a cloud of
dust.

Our mounts were good, strong animals. We cantered up the trail at a
brisk gait while Mr. Fiala, who had gone on a few miles in advance,
took a motion-picture of the entire outfit, beginning the long journey
through wildest Brazil that would end--we knew not where. Unfortunately
Mr. Fiala was not present to take a film of the expedition when it
emerged at Manaos; the two pictures side by side would have told an
interesting story.

A few hours’ ride through forest and brush-covered country brought us
to the Rio Sepotuba again, but quite some distance above Tapirapoan,
and we crossed the stream on a pontoon made by laying a platform of
boards across three dugout canoes. There were a number of new palm-leaf
houses on the river-bank, so these were used for the night’s camp
instead of erecting the tents.

Next day we were in the saddle by nine, riding through tall virgin
forest with occasional stretches of sandy soil in which an expanse of
low bushes only grew. It was evident as we penetrated farther into the
interior that the forest zone was fast disappearing, to be replaced by
the vast _chapadão_; this latter type of country is high, nearly level,
and covered with widely scattered, stunted trees. The heat was intense;
there was no rain, but troublesome insects were lacking. At three
o’clock we entered an old clearing. Formerly rice, plantains, mandioca,
and corn had been cultivated here, but now the place was deserted and
overgrown with weeds. Kilometre 52, as the place was called, had been
an important camp of the telegraph commission while work was being
prosecuted in that region, but had long since been abandoned.

[Illustration: Colonel Roosevelt in the Brazilian _chapadão_.]

[Illustration: A camp in the _chapadão_.]

On January 23 a 32-kilometre ride took us to the site of an old Indian
village known as Aldeia Queimada, meaning burnt settlement. A single
hut was all that remained, and in this lived two Indian women, each of
whom had two husbands and a number of small children. We were adhering
closely to the telegraph-line, following the wide swath that had been
cleared to protect the wires from falling trees and branches, except
when a short détour was desirable to find a better crossing for some
small stream. The country was of a gently undulatory character,
covered with wiry grass and a very sparse growth of scrubby, gnarled
trees. This vegetation is typical of a great part of Matto Grosso. With
the exception of a few small deer and a limited number of wood-hewers
and jays, there were no evidences of animal life. A clear, cold spring
rippled over a pebbly bottom near our night’s camp. It was the last
stream we should see that discharged its water (via the Sepotuba) into
the Rio de la Plata system.

Colonel Rondon had employed a number of motor-trucks in constructing
this section of the telegraph-line; several of them were still in
serviceable condition. It was therefore thought advisable to send a
portion of the baggage ahead on the cars as far as the trail permitted,
and as it would take several days for the rest of the expedition to
catch up, Mr. Cherrie and I went along to devote to collecting the
time thus gained. Father Zahm and Mr. Sigg also went in this party.
We started from a point called Rio Mandioca, two days beyond Aldeia
Queimada. There were three trucks, great, well-built machines of
foreign make, laden to their fullest capacity with the heaviest and
most cumbersome pieces of equipment. It was a strange sight to see them
racing across the uninhabited _chapadão_ at a speed of thirty miles an
hour. It rained frequently, but the powerful cars charged through the
blinding sheets of falling water, and sent streams of mud flying from
the inundated trail. Each car was provided with two wide belts of heavy
slats; one of them was fitted over the wheels on each side of the car,
so they formed a sort of endless trail and gave greater traction in the
uneven roadway. Surely this was exploring _de luxe_; but we were to
reach the other extreme before long.

The car in which we travelled had a full-blooded Indian mechanician,
who seemed to be fully initiated into the mysteries of handling an
automobile, from gathering up branches and stones with which to fill up
the roadway when the cars mired deep in the loose sand, to repairing
the engine on the rare occasions when such a procedure was necessary.

On the afternoon of the third day we reached a point called Macacos.
A few decaying huts marked the spot, and in them lived a number of
Parecís Indians, the first we had seen. They were a wild-looking
lot; some of them wore breech-cloths, others loose, long, shirt-like
garments, and all had a thick mop of tousled black hair. A few of
the children were nearly covered with ropes of black beads cut from
sections of thin rattan or bamboo. They rubbed their stomachs with
their hands and said “_fome_,” meaning hungry; so we gave them half
of a deer that had been killed a short time before, and they rushed
into the huts to feast. We continued on a distance of four leagues.
This brought us to the Rio Sacre--the end of the wide road. The river
is here broken by a fall of one hundred and fifty feet. As elsewhere
in South America, we were impressed with the appalling lack of animal
life. So far we had seen only a few rheas, a seriema or two, and
several small deer.

On the morning of the 29th we crossed the Sacre on a pontoon boat and,
using a number of mules that had been previously sent there, rode the
two leagues to the Parecís Indian village of Utiarity. From afar we
could hear the deafening roar of water, and the Indians eagerly guided
us to a spot just below the settlement, where the Papagayo rushes over
the edge of a precipice and falls into the gorge below in one sheer
drop of two hundred and eighty feet. The river is fully five hundred
feet wide, and the quantity of clear, cold water it flows is enormous.
The spectacle of the descending wall of snowy water streaked with
various shades of green and blue, the idly floating mist-clouds, and
the thunderous roar is awe-inspiring. When it is remembered that these
falls are higher than Niagara, one can easily picture the wonderful
sight that meets the eye of the traveller in this virgin country.

The Parecís are a small tribe of semicivilized Indians who live in
substantial huts and cultivate fields of mandioca, corn, and sweet
potatoes. Formerly they were far more numerous, but an incessant
warfare with the neighboring tribes and contact with the outside world
have thinned their ranks until they are well on the road to extinction.
Some of them wore clothes, while many wore only a breech-cloth of their
own weaving. They also make hammocks and various articles for useful or
ornamental purposes.

In stature the Parecís is rather short, but he is well built and
sturdy. His color is a light shade of brown. The youths of the tribe
engaged in a curious game of head-ball, using for the purpose a hollow
rubber sphere a foot in diameter, manufactured by themselves. They
chose sides and batted the ball back and forth across a line with their
heads. At no time were the hands or feet used to strike or kick the
ball. They displayed remarkable dexterity and tireless energy at this
form of amusement; if the ball came bounding along the ground they made
headlong dives for it like a baseball-player sliding to home plate.

One evening just before sundown practically all of the men joined
in a sacred dance. On this occasion they were clothed in gaudy red
head-bands, bead neck-chains and belts, also anklets made of bunches
of curious dry seeds that kept up a continuous rattling sound as the
dancers stamped in rhythm with the low, sighing music of reed flutes.
They stopped at short intervals to drink chicha, and during certain
parts of the dance they sang the names of their dead warriors and
mighty hunters, calling upon them for guidance and assistance. We had
previously seen a blue-and-yellow macaw about the village; it had the
run of the place and seemed to be a great favorite with everybody.
While the dance was in progress the bird sat disconsolately on top of
one of the huts. Then we discovered that the Indians had pulled out its
tail-feathers and used them to decorate their head-dresses.

The women were not permitted to witness the first part of the
performance, but later the dancers visited each home and exacted
tribute from the squaws in the form of several gallons of chicha.

Utiarity was a profitable collecting-place. Many small rodents and a
few larger mammals, including a soft-shelled armadillo collected by
Colonel Roosevelt, were taken, and a number of birds besides. We spent
five days in the village (Colonel Roosevelt arrived three days after
we did), at the end of which time Father Zahm and Mr. Sigg started
back home. A short time later Mr. Fiala left the expedition for his
trip down the unexplored Papagayo. Mr. Fiala undertook this work
voluntarily, well realizing the hazardous nature of the venture ahead
of him. He carried the undertaking to a successful close, but barely
escaped with his life.

The first telegraph-station along the line was located at Utiarity. It
was conducted by a young Brazilian; his wife acted as schoolmistress
and was doing a really noble work in educating the younger generation
of Parecís along mental and moral lines. The second telegraph-station
was on the banks of the Rio Juruena, approximately one hundred
kilometres away; it required five days to reach this place.

[Illustration: The Falls of Salto Bello of the Rio Papagayo.]

By this time the order of the expedition had settled down to a regular
routine. We arose as the first sharp blasts of a bugle smote the
silence of early morning. A short time later the faithful Juan, a
colored man who was as big-hearted and obliging as he was tall and
powerful, appeared with coffee. At about eight o’clock a bountiful
breakfast was served. Then we mounted the riding animals which were
brought and saddled by the _camaradas_, and started on the day’s ride.
Each person was advised in advance of the distance to be covered,
and it was easy to locate the camping-site by watching the numbers
on the telegraph-poles; there were eleven of these to the kilometre,
and as they were numbered consecutively it was of course simple to
arrive at the numeral that marked the end of the day’s ride. Usually
we made camp at about 4 P. M., but sometimes it was much later. The
cook and his assistants immediately began to prepare supper, and
always had it ready in a short time, much to our relief, as there was
nothing to eat between meals. The other men cleared spaces, erected the
tents, and cared for the luggage and animals. Cherrie and I occupied
a fifteen by twenty-five foot balloon-silk fly that I had used on the
Orinoco, and this was one of the few shelters that withstood the entire
trip; it was used later on the Rio da Duvida by Colonel Roosevelt. If
there was time we went on a short hunting-trip and usually secured
at least a few interesting and little-known mammals and birds. Night
in camp was invariably delightful; when the weather was favorable
the peons gathered great heaps of wood and made a huge bonfire. Then
we sat around it and listened to Colonel Roosevelt telling of his
hunting adventures on the Western plains, in the north woods, or on
the African veldt--all told in such a way that we were enthralled and
could visualize pronghorn, cougar, bear, and lion, as well as their
actions in their native wilderness. Should the weather be unfavorable,
Cherrie and I repaired to the colonel’s tent for a visit; or the
colonel and Kermit came to see us. We discussed history, literature,
and science, and sometimes, if the conditions were propitious, we were
favored with tales of ghosts, the werewolf, and other supernatural
beings. I always looked forward to these occasions; they are among the
never-to-be-forgotten events incidental to our journey through the
wilds with Colonel Roosevelt.

It required four days’ time to reach the Juruena. We had been compelled
to reduce the amount of baggage very materially shortly after leaving
the Parecís village, as many of the cargo-animals had given out on the
trail, and the others were weakening perceptibly. It was of course
impossible to carry along grain for the animals; each night they were
turned loose to shift for themselves, and while there was an abundance
of grass, the long-continued strain began to tell. We abandoned most
of the tents, and all superfluous clothing was left behind. The
equipment for collecting and preserving specimens had to be reduced
to a minimum also, on account of its weight; we retained only a few
hundred cartridges and about a dozen traps with which to prosecute the
natural-history work. This reduction of the impedimenta was unavoidable
and affected every member of the party, either directly or indirectly.
It was one of the several instances where individual interests had to
be sacrificed for the good of the whole expedition.

At Juruena we made the acquaintance of a primitive tribe of Indians who
probably represent the lowest type of savage to be found anywhere on
the South American continent. They are known as the Nhambiquaras. As we
drew up on the river-bank they gathered about and stared in curiosity
at the party, but betrayed no hostile feelings. Colonel Rondon had but
recently succeeded in establishing amicable relations with them. On
his first visits into Matto Grosso, numbers of his men had been slain
by the Nhambiquaras, and they had resented his every step into their
stronghold. In the days that followed, Colonel Rondon related some of
his experiences with these Indians. As accompanied by a few companions,
among whom Lieutenant Lyra figured prominently, he made his way slowly
and painfully through the _chapadão_, parties of the savages constantly
followed his movements. On account of the open character of the country
they remained in concealment during the daytime; but when night spread
a protecting cloak of darkness over the land, the Indians became bolder
and harassed the camp. It was impossible to build a fire, for that
would have enabled the lurking fiends to see their victims and make
easy targets of them. After trying many schemes for making friends
with the savages, Colonel Rondon took a phonograph into the wilds with
him, and played it at night. The Indians were unable to understand
the music, and finally their curiosity prompted them to leave the
sheltering blackness and come timidly into the Brazilians’ camp in
search of the sound.

Colonel Rondon has persistently treated the wild people with kindness.
During all their persecution of himself and his men, he permitted no
one to retaliate in any manner whatever. They have therefore learned to
look upon him as a friend and some even appeared to be heartily glad to
see him.

In stature the Nhambiquara is short, but well built and of a rather
dark-brown color. It seems possible that some of them have a slight
amount of negro blood in their veins, obtained from runaway slaves many
years ago; a few of this class had a light growth of hair on the face.
The others were beardless and their bodies also were entirely devoid of
hair.

Clothes are entirely unknown to these Indians, and practically the
only ornaments in their possession were strings of beads given to
them by Colonel Rondon. The men had the septum of the nose and upper
lip pierced, and wore quills or slender pieces of bamboo in these
perforations. They had the unpleasant habit of coming close up to one
and jabbering at a furious rate of speed; this caused the labrets to
move uncomfortably near one’s eyes, and it was necessary at times to
retreat a short distance in order to get out of range of the menacing
ornaments. This tribe builds curious round huts or _maloca_ of grass
or leaves, and cultivates small areas of mandioca; but forest fruits,
game, and wild honey form important articles of diet. Ants, snakes, and
almost any creature they can capture are eaten. One day I saw several
children playing with a calabash of honey, when they accidentally upset
it on the ground; this, however, caused them not the slightest concern;
they gathered around the spot, and scooped up handfuls of the saturated
sand, which they ate. When they had finished, a deep hole remained to
mark the site of their banquet!

The weapons of the Nhambiquaras consist of bows six feet tall, made of
tough black or red palm-wood, and long bamboo arrows. The points of the
latter vary according to the purpose for which they are to be used,
and some of them are poisoned. A bamboo cap is placed over the points
that have been treated with curare, to prevent the owner’s causing
injury to himself, and also to keep the rain from washing the poison
off. Hunting-parties take long tramps at frequent intervals, subsisting
on the fruits of their prowess. At night a rude lean-to is built of
branches; a fire, started by rubbing two sticks together, is placed in
front, and the game is roasted and eaten; then they stretch themselves
on the bare ground to sleep, like so many sheep or dogs.

Colonel Rondon was always kind to the Indians. He gave them beads,
trinkets, and food. A herd of steers was driven along with the
expedition, and one of the animals was killed whenever meat was
required. The Indians always received an entire quarter of beef. They
built a huge fire, tore off pieces of the meat and threw them into the
embers, where they were left until charred; then they were raked out
with a stick and eaten. This was continued far into the night, until
not a morsel remained. Sometimes the Indians danced for us, and once we
joined them. They clasped hands and stamped about in a circle singing
in a loud, shrill voice, words that sounded like “_Nã-na-ha-ha-ha_.”
After a time we regretted having entered into their pastime, for they
kept up the dancing for an hour or more and refused to permit us to
drop out.

We remained a day at Juruena to rest and develop films. The pictures
taken by an expedition always form one of its important records, and
great care must be exercised in developing all exposed films promptly
or they will spoil in the hot, damp climate.

When we were ready to continue our journey on the second morning, we
discovered that the Nhambiquaras in departing had taken two of the dogs
with them. Colonel Rondon spent some hours hunting for the Indians,
but their start was too long and he could not come up with them. I
regretted heartily that they had not taken all of the dogs, as they
were a mongrel, worthless lot; they were of no assistance in hunting,
nor did they watch camp. On the contrary, they brought fleas and ticks
into the tents, insisted on eating and drinking out of our dishes,
and consumed quantities of food that might have been used to better
advantage later.

The country beyond the Juruena is somewhat rolling, but there is no
appreciable change in the vegetation. We rode twenty kilometres the
first day, camping on the banks of the Rio da Fomiga (February 10).
Next day we travelled but twelve kilometres, reaching the Jurina, a
shallow though rapid stream six hundred feet wide; the crossing was
slow and laborious, as there was only one very small _balsa_ or ferry.
Camp was pitched on the banks of a small stream a league beyond. Near
by were several deserted thatched huts and the comparatively new graves
where two Brazilian soldiers and one army officer had been buried. The
Indians had killed them, and interred them in an upright position with
the head and shoulders protruding out of the ground. The following
night, on the Rio Primavera we saw two other graves; the men who were
buried there had been slain while asleep in their hammocks. This was
the most dangerous part of the whole Nhambiquara country.

When we reached a place called Mutúm Cavallo in the afternoon of the
15th, the mules Kermit and I had ridden were so tired that we decided
to give them a day’s rest; that meant walking to the next camping-site,
and rather than undertake the long journey during the hot hours of
the next day we planned to start immediately after supper. There was
still some time to spend, however, so we went about our work as usual.
An army of ants was foraging near the tents; they had discovered a
large, hairy caterpillar, but the half-inch long “bristles” with which
it was covered protected its body from the onslaught of the marauding
host. The ants, however, were not to be deterred from their purpose;
they made repeated rushes at the caterpillar, clipping off a bit of
hair each time they struck. After continuing these tactics for twenty
minutes, a small patch of the plump insect’s body had been cleared of
hair, and one ant got a good hold with its vise-like mandible. The
caterpillar, upon feeling the pain, promptly began to wriggle, thus
exposing its unprotected under-side, and the ants immediately rushed at
that vulnerable part and soon succeeded in overwhelming their victim.

Near by lay the dry, bleached skull of a steer. A fer-de-lance three
feet long had apparently been struck with the possibilities as a safe
hiding-place presented by the interior of the skull, and proceeded to
crawl into it _via_ the nasal openings. Then it discovered that this
was not the proper entrance and tried to back out; but bits of sharp,
splintered bone caught under the plates and scales of the reptile’s
body, holding it as securely as a trap, until it died, perhaps of
starvation.

At 8.30 P. M. we started on our long walk. It was very dark at first,
so that it was impossible to see the trail. We had taken one of the
dogs with us, and this is the only time, so far as I know, that he was
of the slightest use. He was of a light color, so we could make out his
dimly outlined form in the darkness. He was therefore permitted to go
in advance, and we followed in his footsteps; not once did he lose the
trail.

Each of us carried a hammock and blanket, also a gun, as Colonel Rondon
had warned us against bands of prowling Indians and jaguars. But to
our disappointment we saw absolutely nothing, and did not hear so much
as even the hoot of an owl. The only excitement was occasioned when
streams blocked our way, and it was necessary to start across without
knowing just exactly what was ahead. At midnight we saw a bright light
in the distance, and soon after passed the sleeping sentinel and
entered Captain Amilcar’s quarters; he was camped on a grassy knoll
called Campo Novo.

Formerly the third telegraph-station was located at this point, but it
now stands on the Rio Nhambiquara, a league away. We were now on the
border of the great Cerro do Norte, a vast tract of country composed
of high, broken plateaus or mesas covered luxuriantly with grass.
Many small streams flow through deep gorges, and near some of the
watercourses tall, dense forest grows. The soil is fertile and would
produce abundant crops of corn and vegetables. Countless herds of
cattle could be reared on the extensive plains, and the climate is cool
and healthful. There are few portions of South America so well suited
to colonization by Europeans, but on account of the remote location and
the lack of means of communication it will be several decades before
this vast and fruitful region will become inhabited.

It required about a week’s time to cross the extensive Cerro do Norte.
The type of country gradually changes. The vegetation of the _chapadão_
gives way to a taller growth, and the banks of the numerous streams are
heavily forested. Occasionally all other vegetation is superseded by
extensive areas of wild pineapples. Many square miles are covered with
dense thickets of the plants; during the greater part of three days’
ride we were seldom out of sight of them. The fruit was just ripening
by countless millions; it was small but of delicious flavor. The
Indians ate quantities and also made wine of it.

We added few specimens to the collection after leaving Utiarity. Animal
life was not abundant, and the rapid pace at which the expedition was
compelled to move left no time for collecting. The Nhambiquaras came
to our camp almost daily. They usually approached unarmed, having
concealed their bows and arrows some distance away; that was a sign of
peaceful intentions. One day we passed one of their settlements; it
contained a few low, round huts made of poles covered with grass; one
small opening served as the doorway. We also encountered a number of
them on the march. A solitary man walked first, carrying his bow and
arrows only; about fifty yards behind came a woman, heavily burdened
with baskets, calabashes, and children. Another man followed, and then
a second woman, and so on until the whole band had passed. The reason
for this formation is apparent. As the men are first and are the
fighters, they must be on the alert and ready to face danger without an
instant’s delay; were they encumbered with the family impedimenta the
delay occasioned in ridding themselves of it before being able to use
their weapons might be fatal to the whole family.

We found an interesting little animal called cururú (_Ctenomys_) at a
place named José Bonifacio, reached February 23. It is of gopher-like
appearance and habits, and is said never to come out of the ground. It
throws up mounds of earth at irregular intervals of from a few feet to
ten yards apart, and some of them are very large--three feet across and
eighteen inches high. We were very desirous of securing one of these
animals, but as there were no traps available for the purpose, six
Nhambiquaras were induced to dig open one of the burrows. At first the
Indians, guided by the mounds and aided by a sharpened stick, followed
the galleries, which were about a foot beneath the surface, and at
intervals of ten yards blocked them by stamping down the earth into the
hole. We returned a half-hour later and found that the plug between two
of these sections had been opened, so knew just where the creature was
bottled up.

The Indians now opened the entire section of the gallery and found a
hole going almost straight down, which, they explained, led to the
nest. A soldier was now called with a hoe, and the work of excavation
was begun. In order that the hole might not be filled up, a long,
pliable stick was inserted, and this served as a guide. The Indians
worked with pointed sticks and threw out the loose earth with their
hands. Frequently they relieved one another. When near the end of the
work the animal could be felt with a stick; they became greatly excited
and worked in feverish haste, as a fox-terrier might after a rat, and
kept up a continuous yelling. They were covered with earth from head
to foot; ears, eyes, nose, and hair were caked with sand and clay, and
the naked bodies looked as if they had just emerged from a mud-wallow.
Finally one threw away his stick, inserted his arm into the hole, and
with a yell of triumph jumped up, holding aloft the kicking little
creature by the tail. Then he flung it from him into the grass. The
animal seemed bewildered above ground and could not run fast.

The hole, after leaving the upper gallery, descended eight feet, and
then ran in a horizontal direction fifteen feet. At the end was a small
cavity, but no nest. Small bunches of grass were found in the gallery
which had been pulled down by the roots.

The excavation measured fifteen feet long, eight feet deep and three
feet wide, and it required half a day for the Indians to complete the
work.

The Indians are fond of the animal’s flesh, and often dig them out to
eat.

At a camp named Sete de Setembro the two divisions of the expedition
were reunited. Captain Amilcar and his party had arrived a day or two
before, and a halt was made to divide the equipment and provisions
between what were to be the Duvida and Gy-Paraná parties. The Rio da
Duvida was only ten kilometres away, and on February 27 we reached its
banks. It is a silent, swift stream about sixty-five feet wide at this
point, spanned by a substantial wooden bridge. A number of canoes, some
of them old and water-logged from use, were tied at the landing. No
time was lost in loading them and making ready for the start into the
unknown.



CHAPTER XVI

THE DESCENT OF THE RIO GY-PARANÁ


While we were on the Paraguay River it was decided that upon reaching
the Rio da Duvida the expedition should be divided into two sections,
as a large party always decreases the chances of success in an
unexplored region. Colonel Roosevelt suggested that Cherrie and I draw
lots, or to settle the matter in any way we chose as to which one
should accompany him. After due consideration it seemed to me that, as
Cherrie was the older and more experienced man, he was justly entitled
to accompany the colonel on the journey down the new river; so I
volunteered to join the party which planned to descend the Gy-Paraná.

The eventful day arrived at last, when the expedition must separate;
we had looked forward in eager anticipation to the end of the long
ride across the Brazilian _chapadão_ and the beginning of river work,
but now that the goal had been attained without serious mishap,
thirty-seven days after leaving the Upper Paraguay, the division of the
expedition seemed to have come all too soon.

To better organize the two different forces, our party had halted at
a point called Sete de Setembro, ten kilometres this side of the Rio
da Duvida, while the other division had pushed on to the point of
embarkation. We reached their camp early February 27, 1914, just as
the tents were being taken down and the canoes loaded, preparatory
to the plunge into the unknown. A short time later everything was in
readiness, and farewells were exchanged with Colonel Roosevelt and with
the Brazilian officers. Then, with a parting “Good luck!” their dugouts
swung into the current and were whisked away. For several minutes we
stood upon the fragile structure that bridged the unexplored river and
stared at the dark forest that shut our erstwhile leader and his
Brazilian companions from view; and then, filled with misgivings as to
whether or not we should ever see them again, we turned our thoughts to
the task before us.

[Illustration: Sketch map of the south-central part of the Amazon
drainage system.

Scale, °1:12,000,000.

    The party of which the writer was a member descended the Rio
    Commemoração and the Gy-Paraná to the Madeira. From here Manaos
    on the Amazon was reached by the regular steamer route down the
    Madeira.

    The drainage between the Upper Paraguay and the Madeira is based
    on the surveys of the Brazilian Telegraph Commission, so far as
    available. Note the recently explored course of the Rio Ananás
    (_The Geographical Review_, January, 1916, p. 50, and February, pp.
    143–144), and the completed telegraph-line from Cuyabá to Santo
    Antonio (_Bulletin American Geographical Society_, September, 1915,
    p. 693). The latter is taken from a map in the Rio de Janeiro
    newspaper _A Noite_ for October 25, 1915.
]

Our party consisted of Captain Amilcar de Magalhães, a remarkably
skilful and wholly tireless leader, and Lieutenant Joaquim de Melho,
of the Brazilian Army, Doctor Euzebio Paulo de Oliveira, a geologist,
and Señor Henrique Heinisch, a taxidermist, all of the Brazilian
Telegraph Commission, besides myself; then there were some thirty-odd
_camaradas_, or native assistants. We had a very large pack-train of
mules and oxen, as that wing of the expedition, in charge of Captain
Amilcar, which had hitherto travelled ahead of the main party, was to
proceed with us from this point. Our plan was to continue overland
to the headwaters of the Gy-Paraná and to descend that stream to the
Madeira, taking observations as we went, for, in common with many of
the rivers of the South American continent, the course of this stream
has not been accurately mapped.[1] Zoologically speaking, we were in a
most interesting and almost unknown country, and no opportunity could
be lost to add to our already large and constantly growing collection
of both mammals and birds.

    [1] The Gy-Paraná had been descended by two parties which
        Colonel Rondon detached for this purpose from his main
        expedition of 1909. The first, under the zoologist Alipio
        de Mirando Ribeiro, went down the Pimentá Bueno and the
        Gy-Paraná to the Madeira; the second, under Lieutenant
        Antonio Pyrineus de Souza, descended the Jarú and the
        Gy-Paraná (see map). It was the reconnoissance survey made
        by the first party that established the fact that the
        Gy-Paraná, instead of flowing northwest throughout its
        course, as until then supposed, turns abruptly north in
        11½° south latitude, and flows in this direction for nearly
        three degrees, until, at another abrupt bend in 9° south,
        it turns west and empties into the Madeira.

We left the Duvida (now Rio Theodoro) shortly before noon; but it had
rained nearly the entire day and the trail was indescribably bad;
besides, the animals had completed their thirty-eighth day of travel
without proper food or rest. That night we camped beside the trail on
a site cleared for the purpose by the _camaradas_; we had taken
only the canvas flies, as it had been found necessary to abandon the
wall-tents some little distance back on account of their great weight.
There was no feed for the animals, but the men had cut a quantity of
palm-leaves growing abundantly in the forest, which the oxen refused to
eat, however.

[Illustration: Camp on the Rio da Duvida.

From this point the exploration of the river was undertaken by Col.
Roosevelt.]

The trail had now left the open _chapadão_ and wound between high walls
of dark forest; instead of the monotonous level of the plain, the
country was broken and hilly, with numerous small streams trickling
through the dividing ravines, and it rained almost continuously; if we
had succeeded in evading the rainy season heretofore, it descended on
us now with doubled vigor.

A very wide swath had been cut through the forest for the
telegraph-line to protect the wires from falling trunks and branches;
so recent had been the work that the shrivelled leaves still clung to
the prostrate trees, and the thick second growth, which springs up
immediately where the sunlight is permitted to reach the ground, was
just sprouting. The ground was covered with fruits of many kinds, most
of them insipid or of acrid flavor, but the herds of peccaries seemed
to relish them; and the flocks of parrots and macaws quarrelled noisily
overhead in their struggles to reach some particularly appetizing
morsel. One of the things that especially attracted our attention was
the great number of hard, cannon-ball-like shells that littered the
trail; they were the empty casques of the _castanha_, or Brazil nut,
which grew abundantly throughout the forest. The Indians had opened
most of them, in what manner I am unable to say, as they are so hard
the blows of a hammer fail to make any impression, and extracted the
dozen or more triangular nuts from each. The trees upon which they grow
are remarkable for their height and great thickness; not infrequently
we saw one a hundred and fifty feet high and four feet in diameter
without a single branch lower than sixty or seventy feet. Graves
were numerous by the wayside; I counted fifteen, near one another,
each newly made mound being marked by a rude cross without name or
inscription; they indicated the burial sites of _camaradas_, victims to
the dread beri-beri and malaria.

During our second night’s camp we heard the gruff, cough-like roar
of a jaguar not far away, and next morning the men reported that the
creature had killed one of the oxen. I went to see the slain animal
and found that it was badly bitten about the neck and that one of the
thighs had been partly eaten; in its enfeebled state the ox had been
an easy kill for the big spotted cat. We made no attempt to follow the
jaguar, but shouldered our guns and started on the home-stretch of
the long journey. Again it rained heavily, though intermittently, and
frequently the mud was knee-deep: but the knowledge that the river and
rest lay but thirteen kilometres away acted as a stimulus to the men,
and even the weary animals responded to the ceaseless urging of their
drivers and panted along as if they, too, understood that the end of
their toil was at hand.

At about four o’clock that afternoon our destination was reached.
From the top of a rather high hill we had an unobstructed view down
the wide, newly cleared lane through the forest; a small cluster
of mud-walled, palm-thatched huts nestled in the depression at the
foot of the hill, with a patch of corn and rice growing to one side;
a hundred yards beyond sparkled the river, and on all sides of the
little clearing rose the Amazonian forest. The little building housing
the telegraphic equipment was placed at our disposal, and tents were
erected for the _camaradas_, who straggled in with the footsore
pack-train until a late hour. The animals were given their liberty
and bountiful feeds of corn and fodder, so that within a week many of
them were in condition to start on the back trail, a comparatively
easy trip, as there were no heavy loads to carry. Many of the natives
were also sent back, while others were retained in the service of the
expedition; one detachment was sent to the camp of the laborers who
were working on the telegraph-line, which extended two kilometres
beyond. This was the end of the survey, Barão de Melgaço being the
name of the last station, and a force of about fifty men were engaged
cutting an opening for the continuation of the line. At the rate
they were working it was estimated that the line to Manaos would be
completed in about two years.

We had expected to find a craft of some kind awaiting us so that we
might immediately pursue our journey down the river, but in this we
were disappointed, although, as it later developed, a boat was then
on its way to us, sent by order of Colonel Rondon. There were only
two small dugouts available, which were entirely inadequate for our
purpose, so the men were put to work cutting down a tree of large size
and hollowing out a canoe which would hold the party and the necessary
luggage. This work we estimated would take some weeks, so in the
meantime we busied ourselves exploring the country in the vicinity of
Barão de Melgaço.

A short reconnoissance through the forest revealed a veritable
zoological wonderland. I was consequently very glad that we were
delayed, as this gave me an opportunity to study the fauna of a
zoologically unknown region, and to work on some of the problems
of nature with which we are constantly confronted, but of which so
little is known. One of the facts that no field-naturalist can fail
to have thrust upon his notice is the exact precision and nicety with
which the balance in nature is preserved. Take the familiar example
of the oyster. In its early stages of development it is subject to
the raids of such a host of enemies and adverse conditions that out
of a million eggs only a few bivalves reach maturity; to offset this
wholesale destruction nature has provided that a single oyster may
lay several millions of eggs, and thus the race is preserved. Birds,
to a less extent, are subject to this same thoughtful provision;
therefore we find that the species which are subject to many
dangers during the nesting-period or which undertake long, perilous
seasonal migrations, lay comparatively large sets of eggs; this is
best evidenced by ducks and quail. Species which are subject to
the natural dangers of migration only and are protected during the
nesting-season, comparatively speaking, rear small broods of young;
warblers, thrushes, and a number of our own native birds would come in
this category; to further offset the loss, some of these latter may
even rear two broods in a season. When we reach the tropics a marked
change is noticeable; the extremes in climatic conditions are usually
represented by the wet and dry seasons; there are few enemies and food
is abundant, consequently the loss of life is comparatively small.
If reproduction proceeded there at the same rate as in the northern
lands, it must be obvious that the country would soon be overstocked;
but again it has been decreed that the equity should be preserved, and
the great majority of tropical birds nest but once a year, and then
the full complement of eggs is but two. Of course there are a number
of exceptions on each side, and on such matters it is difficult to
generalize, but in the majority of cases this will be found to be true.

On one of my walks in the forest I came upon a troop of peculiar little
monkeys of the saki family (_cacajão_) feeding in the top of a tall
wild fig-tree. They differed from all other known members of the genus
by being entirely black, with snow-white noses. While feeding they
were quiet, and the only thing that betrayed their presence was the
constant pattering of small particles of fruit upon the dry leaves
carpeting the ground. Presently they took fright, and away they went in
a series of leaps and bounds, so that the tree-tops were agitated as
by a violent gust of wind; they uttered queer little whining squeaks
as they ran and soon disappeared from view. A small one of the same
species which I owned was a most amusing little pet and never failed
to gain a place in the affections of any one who beheld it--even the
most calloused _camarada_; it was of a most playful and friendly
disposition and, if petted, made the most ridiculous faces and bubbled
with laughter. Another monkey that was common in the forest was a
species of _Ateles_, or spider-monkey, which is very appropriately
named on account of its slender build and long, wiry arms and legs; it
also is of a black color, and swings its way through the branches much
after the order of a gibbon, although it lacks the latter’s agility.
The Indians are very fond of this species, both for food and as pets;
but whatever epicurean merits may attach to the flesh, in appearance
the creatures are most repulsive. The face is pinched and drawn, with a
long-suffering expression about the eyes, while a tuft of long, stiff
hair extending over the forehead like a ragged cap gives it a greater
look of misery and grotesqueness. One specimen which I collected
measured six feet two inches from the tips of the fingers to the tip of
the tail.

Birds were not uncommon, but rather hard to observe on account of the
density of the vegetation. Near the river stretched a wide band of
bamboo, beautiful to look upon but impossible to penetrate without
the aid of a machete. Just beyond, the trees grew tall and in close
proximity, giant _castanhas_, _heveas_, and ironwoods intermingling
their branches to form a canopy of deepest green, impervious to
sunlight and through which rain filtered slowly; palms, ferns, and
thorny shrubbery formed a dense undergrowth near the streams, so that
progress at best was slow. From all sides came the clear, ringing
“_hoo-whee-whee-hoo_” of the gold-bird, or whistling _cotinga_, often
misnamed the bell-bird, and although the sound came from but a few feet
overhead, it was usually impossible to locate the dull, slate-colored
songster perched motionless on a well-screened branch. The smaller
species of birds travelled in large flocks, doubtless deriving some
mutual benefit from this mode of living; usually the band was preceded
by a few scouting brown wood-hewers, some with slender bills four
inches long bent in a half-circle, flitting silently from trunk to
trunk, lighting low down and running up rapidly, while they searched
the crevices in the bark for insects; then came the vast host of
vireos, warblers, flycatchers, tanagers, and woodpeckers, completely
investing the trees in their all-absorbing quest of a livelihood.
Twigs snapped, seeds dropped, the woods seemed full of fluttering
wings and chirping voices; but in a few moments the noise grew faint
and stopped; the tireless army had gone its way, and the vanguard of
trogons suddenly appeared, hovered in mid-air to snap off an enticing
fruit, and then hurried away. Occasionally we were fortunate enough to
shoot a curassow, a large turkey-like bird, and then our Brazilian chef
prepared the national dish called _canja_; it consists of a fowl and
rice boiled together and is delicious.

On account of its large size, work on the dugout progressed slowly; a
section of the trunk, some thirty feet long, had been cut off where
the tree had fallen, and this was being hollowed out with adzes,
while short-handled axes were used in dressing down the exterior.
After twelve days of continuous hewing the dugout began to assume the
appearance of a seaworthy craft, and we figured that she would be ready
to launch at the end of another two weeks; but the next day a _batelão_
arrived. Her captain had been fighting his way up the Gy-Paraná over
three months in his efforts to reach Barão de Melgaço, having been sent
from the Madeira by order of Colonel Rondon.

We loaded our meagre outfit into the _batelão_, which was a good-sized
craft built of boards nailed over heavy wooden ribs, and with a squared
tree-trunk for a keel; an arched palm-leaf roof covered a section in
the centre, under which we sat to avoid the rain or sun. This style of
boat is in general use on the larger tropical rivers and corresponds
with the _falca_ of the Orinoco and the _champan_ of the Magdalena. A
crew of eighteen men was mustered, all of whom were more than willing
to leave their pestilential environs, and we were soon shooting
down-stream with the rapid current. Captain Amilcar had gone on ahead
with the small canoes in order to survey the river. They carried a
sighting-rod with red disks and a telemeter for measuring distances; a
compass gave them the direction.

A quarter of an hour after starting we reached the camp of the
telegraphic commission and made a short stop to take aboard a number
of men who were suffering with fever and beri-beri; shattered wrecks
of humanity whose only hope of life lay in flight. I saw a number
of the _camaradas_ who had come across Matto Grosso with us, and it
was surprising to note the great change which only two weeks in the
steaming, insect-infested forest had wrought; several of them were
already suffering from violent attacks of malaria, and their faces
were colorless and sallow; others who had been in the region longer
stared at the _batelão_ with sunken, lustreless eyes in which not
even a vestige of interest in our visit or of hope was evident; a few
had apparently reached the stage where the sight of the twelve newly
made mounds on the hilltop no longer aroused feelings of dread or
apprehension, but rather of indifference tempered with longing for a
welcome release.

The Commemoração, the headwater branch of the Gy-Paraná, on which we
were, is a deep river from three hundred to a thousand feet wide, with
reddish water and a swift current. It was not necessary for the men to
ply the oars except when rounding some sharp bend where steerage-way
was required, and this was fortunate, as it rained so much of the time
that the men were glad to seek the protection offered by the covered
portion of the boat. In the intervals between the deluging showers the
sun blazed down mercilessly; trees on both sides of the narrow lane of
water sparkled as if bedecked with jewels. In places the forest rose
from the river’s edge in sheer walls of variegated green; tree-trunks,
brush, and palms united into one solid battlement by mosses, climbing
lilies, and ensnaring creepers. Again, clumps of graceful ita-palms
leaned far out over the water and then rose in a series of stately,
feather-crowned columns. At frequent intervals we had glimpses of the
animal life that lurked within the impenetrable barrier of the forest
fastness. Monkeys were especially plentiful, and within an hour after
starting we had seen four distinct species, representing as many
families; there were files of black howlers, the males jet-black,
while the females are of a straw-color, moving leisurely through the
branches; troops of dainty squirrel-monkeys, with deep-chestnut backs,
grayish heads, and white faces, scampered over the tops of the lower
trees. Black spider-monkeys sat in the highest crotches and gazed down
at us in stupid perplexity, and once we startled a family of woolly
little night-monkeys of a grayish color, which had selected a thick
clump of overhanging vegetation as their diurnal sleeping-place. Large
flocks of blue-and-yellow macaws, flying two by two, crossed the river
high overhead, doubtless on their way to some choice feeding-ground.
Kingfishers sped away in front of the hurrying _batelão_, and from the
depths of the woods came the muffled sound of an ivory-bill’s tapping
on a hollow trunk.

That night we reached the junction of the rivers Commemoração and
_Pimentá Bueno_, the latter a stream not less than a thousand yards
wide, with a great volume of water. The river formed by the confluence
of these two streams is known as the Gy-Paraná. We had covered a
distance of eighty kilometres. In ascending, it had taken the _batelão_
nineteen days to cover the same stretch of river that we had just
descended in one day.

Of course, the surveying canoes could not travel at this rapid pace,
so the two parties became separated. In the very beginning Captain
Amilcar’s party had suffered an accident which came near ending fatally
for several of the men in his canoe. Their work necessitated frequent
halts, and to bring the dugouts to a stop while racing down-stream
was no easy task; so they had adopted the method of driving them into
the vegetation and then holding on to the branches while a sight was
taken with the telemeter. On one of these occasions a bushmaster fully
seven feet long was shaken from the overhanging brush and fell into the
canoe; the panic-stricken crew leaped into the water. Captain Amilcar
retained his presence of mind and shot the snake, but in the meantime
several of the men had been swept down-stream and were on the verge
of drowning before he could reach them; the geologist had gone to the
bottom, but was rescued and revived with some difficulty; thereafter he
travelled with us in the _batelão_.

There were numbers of small alligators in the river, not over four feet
long, called _jacaretinga_; later on we had the cook prepare one, as
they were said to be good to eat. The flesh was of a white color when
cooked, and tender, but it possessed an objectionable muddy flavor, so
that we could eat but little of it; however, the natives liked it.

The next day we covered a distance of one hundred and eight kilometres.
The current in the Gy-Paraná is not so strong as in the Commemoração,
but, the weather being fair, the men pulled at the oars steadily
during the twelve hours’ travel, with only short periods for rest and
refreshment. All meals were cooked aboard, on a fire built on a box
of sand in the prow. Insects were not particularly troublesome, as
we kept to the middle of the stream, which, receiving the water of
numerous good-sized tributaries, was constantly growing wider. There
were abundant signs of the close proximity of Indians on both sides of
the river. We saw some palm-leaf lean-tos used for overnight stops,
with the charred sticks of a camp-fire in front; where the water
eddied slowly against a crumbling bank, bamboo stakes protruded above
the muddy stream--remnants of an ancient fish-trap--and occasionally
we passed a small cleared spot, now overgrown with rank weeds and
second-growth sprouts, which marked the site of an old plantation.

Realizing the importance of obtaining the good-will of the wild folk
of whose existence in the surrounding forest there was such abundant
evidence, the Brazilian Government had erected a number of small bamboo
and palm-leaf sheds various distances apart, near some of the more
recently used trails that led from the water into the dark jungle.
Under each rough shelter a bench, made of long poles laid across
sticks driven into the ground, had been built. It was the custom of
the officials in going up or down the river to stop at each of these
stations and place beads, knives, and trinkets on the benches as a
peace-offering to the Indians; but so reticent had been the latter
that not one of the articles had hitherto been touched. Great was our
surprise and joy to find that all the precious offerings had been
removed, and that the Indians themselves had left a number of tokens
of friendship in return. They were arrows six feet long, beautifully
adorned with the bright-colored feathers of trogons, toucans, and other
birds; parcels of Brazil nuts neatly done up in leaves; a few ears of
maize, a feather head-dress, and a small pottery bowl. We collected all
these treasures and left many more presents in exchange.

As we neared one of the last stations the sound of loud hallooing came
from the forest on our right. We swung the great _batelão_ toward the
shore. We landed, but no sooner had we climbed to the top of the steep
bank than we realized how cleverly had been arranged the plan by the
Indians to effect a meeting with the mysterious strangers who were
passing through their country. Following a wide path that led into the
dense forest for a distance of twenty yards, we suddenly came upon
a small, swift stream that sped through a dark tunnel-like opening
under the dense canopy of leaves and branches. As we stared in blank
amazement into the impenetrable tangle of vegetation on the other
side of the stream, there emerged from the forest four nude, bronze
figures, gesticulating wildly and chattering in a strange jargon which,
of course, we could not understand; they were of good build, though
inferior in physique to the Nhambiquaras we had seen on the _chapadão_,
and not over five feet tall, with long, straight hair, and, remarkable
though it is, the tangled hair of two of them was of a decided auburn
color. Their bodies were plentifully besmeared with dark-bluish paint,
applied in queer zigzag designs and giving a grotesque effect. No
wilder scene can be imagined than the quartet of naked, trembling
savages faintly outlined against the dim background of merging shadows
and sombre green; somehow they seemed to fit into the picture and to
complete the impression of primality conveyed by the vast wilderness
of the Brazilian hinterland. Our captain held up bunches of bright-red
beads and started to wade into the stream toward them, but they
immediately withdrew into the thick cover, so he came back. A moment
later they reappeared and again began talking and waving their arms; by
signs we tried to induce them to come nearer and to assure them of our
peaceful intentions. Finally, after a powwow with his companions, one
of their number approached to the margin of the stream and held out his
hands. He then pointed to one of our men and motioned for him to take
off his clothes and come over with the presents, which was done; the
Indian grabbed the trinkets from the native’s outstretched hands, gave
him a violent push back, and fled to his companions. This was repeated
a number of times. Then we refused to permit our man to go farther than
the centre of the stream--the water was nearly up to his chin--and
after lengthy entreaties the Indian waded out and met him half-way.
We laid out an attractive assortment of beads, knives, hatchets, and
bright-colored trinkets on our side of the river and, retreating ten
or fifteen feet with extended arms, invited the Indians to come over.
Slowly they came, apparently with many misgivings. We approached them
in a friendly manner; they made no attempt to flee, but cast meaning
glances behind them where, obviously, an armed force was concealed near
by to protect them in the event that our actions aroused suspicion. The
chief was an intelligent fellow; his first deed was to enact before
our eyes a drama that we shall never forget. Assuming a rigid pose, he
pointed straight in front of him with one hand, as if taking aim; then
with a sudden “pong” he clutched at his breast and fell upon his knees,
gradually sinking to the ground, where he lay moaning. We understood
the accusation; one of his tribe had been shot to death by our people,
probably a rubber-collector farther down the river; that was the reason
why they had mistrusted us. We showed them how to use the _machetes_
and hatchets, and they seemed delighted; but when we demonstrated the
use of matches their joy knew no bounds; they yelped and danced, made
weird grimaces, and tried to set the trees and bushes afire, like so
many monkeys. Finally, upon our urgent invitation, the chief shouted a
guttural command, and three more savages appeared instantly and joined
the group, making seven in all; the late arrivals were also treated in
a generous manner, and then we withdrew to our boat. Before leaving,
however, we promised to return and bring more _machetes_ and matches,
which they seemed particularly to appreciate, and they in turn promised
to have the bench in the palm-leaf shed heaped with bows and arrows and
other things of their making, promises which were religiously kept on
both sides.

Our next halt was forty kilometres farther down-stream at a rubber-camp
known as Urupá. There were several palm-leaf huts standing on a slight
elevation, so we took our hammocks and mosquito-nets and spent the
night ashore. Travelling eighty kilometres the next day, we reached
another rubber-camp called La Pena. The surrounding forest appeared
most attractive, and it was said that a footpath led far into the
interior to the side of an old Indian village, so I decided to remain
at this point a few days to collect. However, a short walk down the
trail soon showed that this plan was not feasible; the whole country
was inundated to a depth of several feet, and there were so many fallen
trees and clumps of thorny undergrowth that hunting was out of the
question.

[Illustration: A rubber-camp on the Rio Gy-Paraná.]

[Illustration: A rubber-camp on the Lower Gy-Paraná.]

The next day we reached Monte Christo, the depot of a large rubber
concern which has its headquarters on the Madeira; about one hundred
men had congregated here to await the coming of the dry season, when
they would begin collecting rubber-latex from the _hevea_-trees which
abound in the forest. Several long, thatched sheds housed the
waiting crowd; hammocks were strung from every available post and
rafter, giving the interior a cobwebby appearance, and around the
edges of the huts, protected from the rain by the low, ragged roof of
grass and leaves, numerous small fires smouldered, over which the men
boiled their rations of beans or _farinha_. There were pure blacks,
descendants of slaves who had been imported into Brazil from Africa
many years before; also Indians, Portuguese, and men in whose veins
flowed the blood of all three of these races. Many of them were ill
with fever, and had large, vile-looking ulcers or “jungle” sores,
which were said to result from the bite of a small fly. This was not
surprising, as the place was entirely surrounded by pools of black,
stagnant water in which clouds of mosquitoes hatched, and no sanitary
precautions whatever were taken against infection.

The natives are very fond of pets, and numbers of animals taken from
the forest while young were enjoying their full liberty, but never
ventured far from the houses. There was a collared peccary, full grown
and very amiable, which liked to be petted, and emitted short, low
moans and grunts when any one was near it; three curassows, dignified
but restless, spent much of their time preening their feathers on a
half-submerged log. They were beautiful creatures of a deep blue-black
color, with white under parts and a wonderful curled crest. A pair of
trumpeters strutted about the camp; monkeys of the _Cebus_ family and
parrots of several species climbed about in the network of hammocks and
added their chorus of screams and squawks to the general confusion.

We had to leave the _batelão_ at Monte Christo on account of the
cataract which obstructs the river at this point, and carry our luggage
around for a distance of half a mile. Below the rapid we found another
craft similar to the one we had just left--perhaps a trifle larger--and
towed by a small wood-burning launch. On the 18th of March all our
things, and the sick men, several of whom were in a serious condition,
were carried aboard the waiting _batelão_, and the next morning again
found us on our way. The Gy-Paraná was rapidly becoming a vast, muddy
sea, comparing favorably in size to some of the larger affluents of
the Orinoco, such as the Caura and the Ventuari. The character of the
vegetation remained essentially the same, but some of the creepers
that drooped from the tall trees and trailed in the water were covered
with clusters of yellow, pink, and pale-blue flowers. We saw and heard
little of the animal life, as we travelled too far from the banks. In
the afternoon a violent wind-storm blew up the river, accompanied by a
terrific downpour.

Soon after the storm cleared we reached São João, another rubber-camp,
not unlike Monte Christo. The water was so high at this station that
we had to use a canoe in going from one hut to another, and the
whole place reeked with pestilence. It is infinitely more dangerous
to traverse country of this kind than to pass through an entirely
uninhabited region; the huts are fertile propagators and harborers
of contagion of all kinds, to say nothing of the danger to which one
is exposed on account of the more or less constant mingling with the
natives. Just below São João the river is again broken by rapids; we
rowed down to the beginning of the turbulent water in a canoe and then
carried around to the foot of the falls. The distance is not great,
but we had to cross a high, rocky hill, so that we were delayed a day
in making this portage. The rapids are called São Feliz and are of
a formidable character, as the bed of the river is dotted with huge
granite boulders over and among which the water rushes with a roar
that can be heard half a mile away. During the dry season these rocks
are exposed by the receding water and left covered with a thin scum of
mud impregnated with salt; it is said that parrots, parrakeets, and
macaws then come in thousands to eat of the saline deposit, and that
they become so tame great numbers of them are killed with sticks and
eaten by the rubber-collectors. I saw two macaws nearly three feet in
length, and of a blood-red color with blue-and-golden wings, that had
been caught the previous year; they were beautiful creatures, but had
the curious habit of spending the entire day squatting in a dark hole
under the floor of their owner’s hut, coming out only when hungry and
at night, when they climbed to a perch above the door to sleep.

After dark our men indulged in a curious native dance which I had never
seen before in South America; they collected a great heap of wood
and soon after supper had a roaring bonfire going; then they formed
a circle, with one man in the centre who began to sing in a high,
strained voice, and after each line the whole chorus answered with
a wail that sounded something like “_oh-tee-oh-tee-ah_.” The centre
man bowed and hopped about on one foot in a most ridiculous manner
and made frequent sudden charges into the surrounding company, and if
he succeeded in knocking one of them down that man took his place in
the middle of the ring. The whole performance looked very much like
an imitation of a cock-fight. Some of the onlookers had rattles made
of small calabashes full of pebbles stuck on a short piece of bamboo,
which they shook in rhythm with the singing; they seemed perfectly
insatiable of this form of amusement, and the dancing and howling
lasted far into the night.

Below São Feliz we found another small launch towing a _batelão_, which
in the course of a day took us to a camp called Tabajara. We had not
gone more than a few miles the next morning when further progress was
again barred by rapids. After a short walk we crossed a branch of the
river in small dugouts and then started on a two-mile portage through
the flooded forest. Another launch was waiting below the rapids, but
within twenty minutes after weighing anchor we again heard the roar of
troubled waters ahead of us; the river raced between high, rock-strewn
banks. In the distance we could see flecks of foam dotting the surface,
while a cloud of mist hung over the river; but from beyond the veil
that obstructed our further view came the ominous roar of a great
cataract, growing in intensity as we drew near. The landing was about
a hundred yards above the brink of the first fall, but the current
proved to be too strong for the launch’s little engine, and we were in
danger of being swept past; the moments that followed were exciting,
but fortunately we managed to reach the bank. This same thing had
occurred but a short time before, but the result had been disastrous;
the boat was swept over the falls, and, of the thirty-one men aboard,
twenty-seven were never seen again. The portage around these rapids,
called São Vicente, was about a mile and a half in length and led over
gently undulating country, all heavily forested. In many places the
bed-rock had been uncovered by the torrential rains. This consisted of
fine-grained, dark granite; usually there was a shallow layer of sand
on the rock, with a thick covering of rich black mould. From the top of
a high knoll we had a fairly good view of the falls and of the rapids
below; after leaping over a twenty-foot ledge the river rushes through
a narrow rock-filled gorge; enormous boulders tower out of the channel
like so many black, unvanquished monarchs. Tongues of spray leap to a
height of forty feet, and clouds of vapor rise in a constant stream.
With the exception of the Salto Bello of the Rio Sacre and Utiarity
Falls of the Papagaio, we had seen nothing to compare with São Vicente
during our entire journey across Brazil.

That night we reached the first settlement, a small village named Doze
de Novembro. We arrived tired and wet, for it had rained the greater
part of the afternoon, but we congratulated ourselves upon having
performed a remarkable day’s work.

The place was overrun with ants, not the comparatively harmless
_carregador_ ants, which are content to carry away your clothing
piecemeal while you sleep, but with endless armies of the fierce black
carnivorous species that prey upon every living being. These ants are
one of the scourges of the tropics; whether in the fever-stricken
Chocó on the west coast of Colombia, at the base of Duida on the
Orinoco, or in the wilds of Matto Grosso, the ravaging hordes seemed
always the same. One moment they hurry along in solid formations,
the next side-lines have been thrown out in all directions, covering
many square yards of ground. Not one leaf or crevice escapes the
alert scouting-parties, which ascend even to the top of the tallest
tree. When a victim is discovered the news in some mysterious way
is flashed to the main column, and battalions of reinforcements
immediately rush to the encounter, charging the prey and clinging
with vise-like mandibles to any part of its body that offers a hold.
Usually the approach of the devastating host is preceded by a swarm
of panic-stricken insects, crawling, hopping, and flying in their
endeavors to escape destruction; large, hairy tarantulas crawl to the
tops of bushes and leap from leaf to leaf, only to be discovered and
routed, until in despair they spring to the ground, which by this time
is one surging mass of ants, where they are despatched in short order.
I have seen scorpions and centipedes eight inches long suffer a similar
fate; no living thing seems to escape the avalanche of destruction.
Flocks of ant-birds usually follow in the wake of the army, feeding
upon the ants and upon the insects that have been driven from their
hiding-places. One of the questions that naturally arises in this
connection is how the callow young of birds escape from the ants, as
caged birds are not immune from their attacks, and dead or wounded
birds placed near the army’s line of march are quickly discovered,
torn to shreds, and carried away. While in British Guiana I had been
watching the nest of an ant-wren containing two helpless young, placed
in the crotch of a tree a few feet above the ground, for several days;
one morning the whole region was swarming with ants and the nest was
empty; however, not long after, and also on subsequent days, both
parent birds were seen contentedly carrying food into a thicket fifty
yards away. A casual search failed to reveal the new nest, but to my
mind there was no doubt that the young birds had been removed upon the
approach of danger; one of the adults was marked in a peculiar manner,
so that there was no mistake in the identity of the pair. Doubtless
this was an exceptional case, and in the vast majority of instances
young birds perish in common with the other creatures which are
overwhelmed by the ants.

On the day following our arrival at the little village we boarded a
waiting launch sent from the Madeira to meet us--the _Jayme_, she
was called--and started on the final stretch down the stream; within
an hour we reached the boundary-line of Matto Grosso and entered the
great state of Amazonas. The Gy-Paraná had assumed the proportions of
a mighty river; it is doubtless one of the largest, if not the longest
affluent of the Madeira, and frequently the distance between banks was
not less than half a league. The water was yellow and there was little
current; frequently we ran into drifts of floating trees, branches, and
patches of grass that had been washed out of the flooded areas. There
was no opening in the tall, tropical forest which stretched into the
distance and disappeared in one long, unbroken vista of deepest green.
Toward evening we reached the mouth of the Gy-Paraná and entered the
vast, muddy expanse of the Madeira; we crossed to the other side and
landed at a small port called Calama, the home of Senhor Asensi, owner
of the rubber-camps we had passed on the last days of our journey down
the river. Senhor Asensi very courteously placed his comfortable home
at our disposal and suggested that we remain as his guests until we
had in some measure recuperated from our rather trying experiences,
and we were glad to accept his hospitality. Practically every member
of the party had suffered from frequent and severe attacks of fever,
although half a gram of quinine had been taken by each one daily,
and some of the _camaradas_ were so ill that they had to be carried
ashore; the latter were sent to Manaos on the first available steamer
for medical treatment. I was particularly eager to spend some time
at Calama, as the locality appeared to offer unusual opportunities
for zoological work. After a few days of thorough rest the Brazilian
members of the party started up-river to Santo Antonio, for a tour of
the Madeira-Mamoré railroad, while I remained to investigate the fauna
of the region.

The country back of Calama is high and undulating, so that it remains
untouched by the water that covers the lowlands during the wet season.
A small space which had been cleared around the building was covered
with a fine growth of grass and low bushes, and served as pasture for
a few head of cattle; small birds, such as flycatchers, grass-finches,
and tanagers teemed in the opening, and many thick-billed green
parrots squawked in the tree-tops at the edge of the forest. A short
distance below the landing there was an extensive swamp and many small
brush-covered islands; masses of aquatic plants floated in the quiet,
open pools, conspicuous among which was the beautiful _Victoria regia_,
with leaves four feet in diameter. In the dense, tangled vegetation
that grew out of the black depths of the murky swamp-water we found
flocks of _hoatzins_, or lizard-birds, curious archaic creatures which
retain some of the characteristics of their reptilian ancestors; they
are about the size of a pheasant, of an olive color above and yellowish
below; a high crest crowns the head, and they possess only a limited
power of flight. It was the height of the nesting-season, and many of
the fragile platforms of sticks contained two or three yellowish eggs,
heavily spotted with reddish-brown; the wings of the young are provided
with long, sharp claws which enable them to climb about over the
branches like lizards; hence their name.

All travelling through the swamp had to be done in a canoe; and pushing
the dugout through the almost solid mass of branches and creepers was
a difficult task. Every twig seemed to swarm with small red ants,
called fire-ants, on account of the intense burning sensation produced
by their bites, and they were constantly dropping upon us in scores.
Several times we blundered into _maribundi_ nests, and in each instance
the outraged wasps promptly retaliated. Large _iguanas_ jumped out of
the trees into the water with a loud splash as we passed underneath,
and troops of woolly monkeys deserted the wild cashew-trees in which
they fed and beat a hasty retreat. The swamp was full of life, but we
rarely recovered anything we shot; the caymans and _piranhas_ with
which the water was infested usually snapped up our specimens before
we could reach them. At night we set throw-lines and caught the great
_pacu_, a fish of the _piranha_ family; but unlike its bloodthirsty
relative it prefers a vegetable diet. A _pirarucú_, six feet long and
weighing two hundred and fifty pounds, was also taken; this is the
largest fish that inhabits Amazonian waters; the scales are an inch and
a half in diameter and of a silvery color, those of the latter half
of the body being margined with deep scarlet. It is delicious, either
fresh or salted.

The forest back of Calama contained about as much game as is ever found
in one spot in South America. There were deer, agoutis, and peccaries,
but it was impossible to penetrate far into the interior on account of
the Parintintin Indians, who make this region their stronghold. These
Indians have always maintained a hostile attitude toward the settlers.
An attack was made on Calama one day at noon just as luncheon was being
served; from out of the dead silence of midday there suddenly came a
shower of arrows; this was promptly answered by rifle-shots from the
house, and the Indians immediately fled. Thirty bamboo arrows were
gathered up, many of them five feet tall, with barbs on each side of
the head; some of the shafts were wrapped with hair and skin taken from
the victims of previous raids.

The Parintintins are of medium stature and well built; they are
frequently at war with their near neighbors, the Mundrucus; when
hostilities are in progress, which is nearly always, the front of the
head is shaven, leaving only a round spot of short hair no larger than
a silver half-dollar in the centre; the hair on the back of the head
remains long.

The Mundrucus have the curious custom of preserving the heads of the
Parintintins slain in battle; one of these I subsequently saw, prepared
somewhat in the same manner as those formerly so highly prized by the
head-hunters of Ecuador. Apparently the head had been smoked, and the
eyes had been replaced with balls of pitch; it was a weird trophy,
suggestive of wild orgies and cannibalistic rites performed in the
depths of the jungle by the light of flickering pitch-torches, and to
the music of wailing reeds and deep-voiced tom-toms.

Captain Amilcar reached Calama about a week after our arrival. He
had suffered a second accident, in which his canoe, all his personal
effects, the instruments, and practically all of his scientific data
had been lost. These incidents emphasize the uncertainty of travel and
exploration on the great South American waterways, and the dangers to
which every one is constantly subjected who ventures beyond the beaten
paths of steamships and tourists’ routes.

On April 7 the _Fortaleza_, a good-sized steamer plying between Manaos
and Santo Antonio, called at Calama on her down-stream journey, and we
embarked for the last stage of our journey. We made excellent time,
stopping only at long intervals for the purpose of taking aboard
Brazil nuts. On the 9th of April we entered the Amazon, and the next
morning found us steaming up the Rio Negro, with Manaos visible in
the distance. It had been fifty-two days since the division of the
expedition at the River of Doubt.

Upon reaching Manaos we found that as yet no word had been received
from Colonel Roosevelt and his party, who were supposedly still on the
_Rio da Duvida_. A steamer, provided with comforts which would indeed
be welcome to the explorers after their long, arduous voyage in canoes,
had been sent up the river; with each passing day the excitement grew
more intense in Manaos, and many conjectures were made as to the
probable date of the return of that expedition.

Before embarking on the unknown river Colonel Roosevelt had requested
me to wait for him should I reach Manaos first, and in the event of his
arriving in advance of our party he would await our return. I therefore
spent a pleasant week in the city, and was treated with the utmost
courtesy by the governor and the inhabitants.

I had become acquainted with a Senhor Ramos, who invited me to visit a
ranch he was opening some distance up the Solimões, so I accompanied
him, hoping to add new treasures to the large collections we had
brought from the Gy-Paraná and the Madeira. After spending a profitable
week at this _fazenda_ we repaired to another locality on a different
branch of the river.

The latter region proved fully as interesting as the first, but
scarcely had we become well established in our new surroundings than
we were awakened one morning about one o’clock by the sharp blasts of
a siren from the river below. We reached the water’s edge in a few
moments, and there found a large steam-launch resting at anchor, the
captain of which brought the good news that the long-absent expedition
had arrived at Manaos. Half an hour later we were aboard, steaming at
full speed down the river, arriving about seven o’clock in the city.

The story of Colonel Roosevelt’s experiences on the unexplored river is
well known. Owing to illness during the many weeks’ struggle against
all but insurmountable difficulties, he had wasted to a mere shadow of
his former self; but his unbounded enthusiasm remained undiminished.

Shortly after noon on May 1 we boarded the S. S. _Dunstan_, on which we
proceeded down the Amazon to Pará, and at that city transferred to the
_Aiden_ for the long, uneventful voyage home.



CHAPTER XVII

DOWN THE COAST OF PERU--LAKE TITICACA AND LA PAZ--THROUGH THE ANCIENT
INCAN EMPIRE TO COCHABAMBA


The coast of Peru looked decidedly uninviting as day after day the
S. S. _Palena_ of the Chilean Line nosed her way southward through
the placid water of the Pacific. The high, rocky shore stretched on
interminably, it seemed; no graceful palm or speck of green of any kind
gladdened the eye; there were only the barren cliffs, against which the
swell dashed itself into snowy spray and, above them, slopes of hot
brown sand.

This was in sharp contrast with the low Ecuadorian shore-line; that
was bad enough, with its dense, dark jungles growing to the water’s
very edge, its overhanging masses of black clouds, and its breathless
heat and silence that seemed to exude all the fatal maladies of a
tropical clime. Nevertheless, there was a suggestion of life of
some sort--inhospitable though it might be. It was not as if an
outraged divinity had seared the land with withering breaths of hate,
annihilating everything that possessed or gave promise of life, and
leaving only the scorched desert as a fearsome reminder of celestial
vengeance. But if the land appeared forsaken, the ocean teemed with
life. Flocks of gulls always remained in the vicinity of the ship, and
occasionally we saw petrels, shearwaters, and albatrosses; whales were
not particularly plentiful, but porpoises appeared practically every
day. Toward the end of the voyage seals also grew abundant.

There are numbers of ports along the Peruvian coast and the _Palena_
stopped at many of them. The enormous swell coming from the south
and scarcely felt at sea spends its violence along the shore, making
landing very difficult, and often impossible. Steamships dare not
approach close to the jutting rocks. All freight is unloaded into
lighters; passengers are lowered in a chair operated by a steam-winch
and dumped into the huge, flat-bottomed freight-carriers, together with
their belongings. This always causes a good deal of excitement and not
infrequently slight injuries are inflicted, as the boats are low one
instant and come racing up the next on the top of a mountainous swell.

At noon on the eighth day out from Panama we reached Paita. The town
lies on the beach and just below the edge of a high sandy plateau. This
is the centre of Peru’s oil-fields. Tanks were visible in the country
near the town, and a thin film covered the water for several miles
off-shore.

Salavery is a small town with flat, square board houses. In back of
it rise high escarpments of rock and sand. It never rains, so water
is brought from a little valley far distant in the foot-hills. A
narrow-gauge railroad connects the valley with the port, and sugar is
brought out for export.

It seems as if most of the coastal towns are merely ports or outlets
for products from the interior. There are many fertile little spots
between the ridges branching off from the main range; they are well
watered by melting snow on the lofty summits, and a great variety of
fruit, vegetables, cotton, and cane are grown.

After ten days the ship anchored off Callao; it is but a thirty
minutes’ train ride from this port to Lima. The route is flat and
runs through corn, banana, and yucca fields and truck-gardens. We
visited the creditable zoo and then accepted an invitation to inspect
the medical college. The latter is surprisingly well equipped and had
an attendance of over eight hundred students. The great cathedral
next occupied our attention; the massive temple was in itself most
interesting, but curiosity led me to spend the most of our limited time
viewing the remains of Pizarro, which are exhibited in a glass-panelled
marble casket. An inscription informs the viewers that the
_conquistador_ founded Lima in 1535; he died June 26, 1541, and was
buried under the cathedral; in 1891 the bones were exhumed and placed
in their present resting-place. If one may believe the statements of
historians, a monument built of the skeletons of his helpless victims
would be a far more suitable memorial to the bloodthirsty outlaw than
the place of worship which his remains of necessity must defile.

We had heard a great deal about the difficulty of landing at Mollendo.
At times the rollers from the south are so immense that ships do not
attempt an anchorage, but continue the voyage down to Arica. We were
relieved to find the sea perfectly smooth upon our arrival. The town
differed from Paita and Salavery only in that it was somewhat larger.
We found it possible to purchase through tickets to La Paz, and noon
saw us on our way. The railroad started up the barren slope almost
immediately; occasionally the incline was very gentle--so gentle, in
fact, that the country lay like a great brown desert on each side
of the track. These stretches were covered with crescent-shaped
sand-dunes, some of them fifty feet high and several hundred feet from
tip to tip. They creep slowly forward as the wind blows the sand up
their rear slope to the crest, when it topples over into the centre of
the half-moon.

At times the grade was very steep. The deep blue Pacific was visible
several hours, sometimes on our right and then on our left, as the
train wound up the mountainside, but always receding until it resembled
a vast mist-enshrouded amethyst losing itself in the distance.

Alkali-dust entered the coaches in clouds and threatened to suffocate
the passengers, but the impressiveness of the scenery more than
compensated them for this annoyance.

Not far from Arequipa a deep gorge appeared with a stream threading its
way through the bottom. Its banks were covered with trees and green
vegetation--a veritable oasis amid the desert that hemmed it in on
both sides. The Indians who now came to the car-windows when the train
stopped to get up steam brought grapes, figs, oranges, guavas, and
_empanadas_, or meat pies smelling strongly of onions. They were an
unkempt, wild-looking lot and had apparently come from the green vale
below. At seven o’clock we were up seven thousand feet, having ascended
to that height from sea-level in six hours, and drew in at the station
of Arequipa.

There was no train for Puno the following day, so ample time was at our
disposal in which to see the city and its immediate environs.

We found Arequipa to be a most delightful place. It was cool enough
to permit the wearing of top-coats with comfort. The people were well
dressed and healthy appearing. Electric trains provided adequate
means of journeying from one part of the city to another, and if one
preferred a carriage it also was obtainable. Beautiful plazas, ancient
churches, and wooden buildings are distributed promiscuously among
the rabble of low adobe or stone huts which predominate, and herds of
llamas thread their way through the stone-paved streets. The atmosphere
is so clear the year around that a spot near the city has been chosen
for the site of the Harvard Observatory. One has a good view of the
great snow-capped Mount Misti from every part of the city; the peak is
conical in shape and nineteen thousand two hundred and fifty feet in
height.

Continuing the trip from Arequipa, the first stage of the route passes
over barren, gently rolling country. Small irrigated plots are not
uncommon where some rivulet trickles down from the upper world of snow
and ice; they support a limited population of Indians, which must lead
a forlorn and miserable life among their desolate surroundings. Farther
on, the slopes assumed a friendlier appearance; sparse vegetation in
patches appeared and grew denser toward the snow-line, where there was
naturally more moisture. Life followed closely in the wake of the grass
and bush covered areas. Native hovels became more numerous, and flocks
of llamas, sheep, and goats, with a sprinkling of horses and cattle,
fed on the herbage.

[Illustration: Country around Arequipa, showing Mount Misti.]

[Illustration: The expedition en route via hand-car, Changollo to
Arce.]

The top of the divide is fourteen thousand five hundred feet above
sea-level. As we approached it numbers of passengers became violently
ill of _soroche_, or mountain-sickness. They acted very much like
people aboard a steamship on a stormy voyage, although this illness
seemed far worse than any seasickness I had ever seen. Several of
the stricken ones rolled about on the floor and tried to tear off
their clothing; a feeling of suffocation accompanies the nausea, and
occasionally some one dies.

Beyond the ridge the country is level or gently rolling and there are
numerous clear blue lakes--some of considerable size. Immense flocks of
doves make this upland region their home, and ducks, gulls, and herons
teemed about the water.

Just after dark we reached Puno, and a few minutes later embarked on
the _Coya_ for the trip across Lake Titicaca. The night was so cold and
stormy that it was impossible to spend much time on the upper deck, and
the cabins were so crowded that sleeping in comfort was impossible.
The ship was small and overcrowded with people of many colors and
nationalities; most of them spent the night in the dining-saloon
drinking and gaming.

Dawn came at last, and shortly afterward the _Coya_ slowly wended her
way through the reed-grown marshes bordering the lake and tied up
at the pier at Guaqui, on the Bolivian side. Indians in reed rafts
with sails made of rushes dashed past and disappeared among the
cattails, and water-fowl of several species--mostly ducks, coots, and
grebes--paddled out into the ruffled water left in the wake of the boat.

It is unfortunate that this passage of the lake is made at night.
Nearly every one visiting the vast body of water for the first time is
eager to see as much of it as possible, both on account of its being
the highest great lake in the world (twelve thousand five hundred feet
above sea-level) and by reason of its associations with the nation of
the Incas.

Guaqui is a garrison town. There were numerous soldiers in evidence
on the streets, and a troop of lancers, under the command of a German
officer, were giving a skilful display of their prowess on the lake
front. Their mounts were not much to look at and the uniforms of the
men were rather shabby, but both were well drilled.

The train for La Paz left at noon. It moved at a good rate of speed
across the high, level upland. The scenery is impressive. We were
always in sight of snow-covered peaks, although there was little snow
on the plateau itself. Indian huts built of stone, some very ancient,
are scattered about abundantly, but it requires some experience in
locating them before they can be readily distinguished from their
immediate surroundings. There were numerous fields of wheat and oats,
and llamas without number nibbled the scant vegetation on the slope.
In a few isolated spots small herds of cattle, horses, and pigs were
visible. Indians came to the coach-windows to sell fruits when the
train stopped; they were doubtless brought from the deep, sheltered
fissures that have been cut into the range by snow-water from high
peaks.

Within a short time we had reached the ruins of an enormous city called
Tiahuanaco, which is said to date back many centuries before the Incan
era. When discovered it was buried in the sand level with the surface
of the plateau, but archæologists have excavated many of the larger
buildings and brought to light ancient treasures of rare beauty. Later,
in La Paz, we met a man named Poznaski who had done a great deal of
work in this region. He had a remarkable collection of hundreds of
skulls, pieces of pottery, gold ornaments, and well-preserved cloth.
Among the ceramics was a “death’s head” of exquisite workmanship, life
size, and painted in gorgeous colors. He considered it the finest bit
of pottery ever discovered in Bolivia and stated that a North American
museum was negotiating for its purchase at a price that ran into five
figures. This, however, did not seem probable. As we neared La Paz,
the great mountains of Illimani, Murarata, and Huana Potosi loomed
constantly more lofty and forbidding before us. They are the patriarchs
of the Bolivian Andes, and are twenty-two thousand five hundred and
eighty-one, twenty-one thousand, and twenty thousand two hundred and
eighty-nine feet high respectively. The summits of all three have been
reached by venturesome exploration-parties, but the task of climbing
the steep, slippery slopes perpetually covered with deep snow and swept
by frigid gales is a trying one that is not often attempted. Huana
Potosi, the more distant of the group has a flat top, contrasting
conspicuously with the sharp, pointed summits of the other two. The
Indians tell a legend that explains this peculiar formation. In the
days of long ago, when the world was young, vapors enveloped all the
earth; suddenly the sun-god appeared and, beaming down from heaven,
caused the mists to become dissipated and vanish. Illimani awoke to
life and from his dizzy height beheld the queenly Huana Potosi smiling
up at him. At the same time, however, Murarata emerged from the clouds
and beholding the beautiful Huana Potosi fell violently in love with
her. Illimani became insanely jealous and in a blind fury hurled forth
fire, smoke, and stones of great size at his rival’s head; the latter
promptly replied in kind and fought valiantly. For days the earth
quaked and trembled with the thunderous roar of the death-struggle,
while heavy clouds covered the terrifying spectacle with a mantle
of darkness. After a seemingly endless time the combat stopped;
daylight returned, revealing an appalling state of affairs. Finding it
impossible to vanquish the rival suitor, Illimani had beheaded his fair
lady-love to prevent her from falling into the other’s hands. The many
streams of water rushing down the steep sides of Illimani are but the
tears of grief and remorse over his hasty action; thus he is doomed to
mourn and weep until the end of time. The legend has doubtless been
handed down through many generations and obviously refers to one of the
many volcanic disturbances that must have occurred when the Andes were
young.

Shortly before sundown we came suddenly to the brink of a crater-like
rent in the plateau and, on the bottom of the huge gash, thirteen
hundred feet below, we could see the compactly built mass of edifices
and green gardens of La Paz. The situation of the city is unique. One
has no intimation of its nearness while speeding over the high, cold
_plano alto_ (which has an elevation of thirteen thousand three hundred
feet) until the very edge of the fissure is reached. The sides are
precipitous, but numerous footpaths make their way up or down the steep
declivity. The far slopes of the Andes are checkered with cultivated
fields; a roaring stream, the Choqueyapu, tears its way through the
floor of the amphitheatre, and the series of snow-covered summits form
a magnificent background for the unusual spectacle.

The steam-locomotive was taken off and an electric one substituted, and
then the train slowly backed down along the face of the incline to the
station below.

The impression of La Paz, gained from the first brief view above, is
soon dispersed upon nearer and more intimate acquaintance. The streets
are narrow, crooked, paved with small stones from the river-bed,
and very steep. Walking any length of time entails a great amount
of exertion on account of the high altitude; fortunately, carriages
are not lacking, and a tramway also provides a ready means of
locomotion, or I am afraid few travellers would ever see very much
of the inner life of the city. With the exception of a few churches
and government buildings that are worthy of note on account of their
size and architecture, the buildings are low and of a primitive type,
whitewashed and covered with tiles or thatched.

Ordinarily the streets are all but deserted, but on Sundays and
fête-days a motley crowd throngs the winding thoroughfares. There are
full-blooded Indians of the Aymará race, clothed in picturesque though
not beautiful garments; half-breeds or Cholos are far more gayly clad
in very full skirts and shawls of bright colors, round, flat-brimmed
straw or felt hats, and imported shoes with high heels and tops that
reach almost to the knees; the number of townspeople, creoles and
foreigners, seems negligible compared to the throngs of Indians and
Cholos; in fact, some authorities state that there are one hundred of
the latter to one of the former. On market-days long lines of llamas,
burros, and mules thread their way through the crowded streets, bearing
fire-wood, charcoal, meat, and vegetables for the sustenance of the
city.

About the most interesting place in La Paz to us, and at the same time
the most repellent, was the Museo Nacional. It contained several dark,
cavernous rooms crowded with a wealth of specimens, mostly in the form
of ceramics, minerals, and mummies. They were piled promiscuously
everywhere in the most slovenly and disgusting manner. Naturally, this
treatment did not tend toward their preservation; rats had undermined
the mounds of human remains, gnawed holes into the bodies, and made
their nests in the interior; pottery had crashed from unstable shelves,
and bird and mammal skins were badly moth-eaten. I trust that a more
efficient management may rescue these treasures.

The plazas, of which there are four or five, are small and not
particularly attractive. The cold climate prevents the growing of
tropical decorative plants that are always so conspicuous in cities and
towns of the lower country. The _gente decente_, or upper class, meet
in the Plaza de Armas on Sundays for a chat with friends, a stroll to
exhibit their finery, and to listen to the music.

The Aymarás who inhabit the entire highlands are of a treacherous
disposition and have several times organized their forces preparatory
to making war on the Bolivians. As their number is very great they are
a menace that is very real and serious. When an uprising is threatened,
the chiefs are arrested and punished, and then the rebellion dies down
for want of leaders. These Indians still retain the _despeñadora_, or
death-doctor, in the more remote and inaccessible regions. This person
is a woman who possesses the knack of doing away with the aged and
infirm of her district, and the office is handed down from mother to
daughter. When any one within her jurisdiction becomes too old to work,
or is ill with a malady thought to be incurable, the _despeñadora_ is
called in; she straddles the poor unfortunate and ends his existence
by deftly dislocating the vertebræ of the neck. Whenever government
officials learn of the operation of one of these women, they are taken
into custody and punished.

One of the favorite sports of the _Paceños_ is to hunt wild cattle
in the high valleys between the peaks. Numerous herds are still in
existence and it is said that they are of a savage disposition and
furnish good sport. I met an American who had been thrown from his
horse and gored by a wild bull that charged him from a distance of
several hundred yards.

The country between La Paz and Oruro is very similar to that we had
crossed coming from Guaqui. There are the same vistas of barren plains,
green fields, llamas, and asses on the slopes, and dazzling snow-fields
in the background. The plateau is strewn with marine fossils, mostly
_trilobites_, reminders of the days when Lake Titicaca was many times
its present size. We covered the one hundred and twenty-seven miles
to Oruro in six hours, and spent the night there. This city owes its
existence to the many mines located near by--some within the city’s
limits--and to the wealth they yield in tin, silver, and other metals.
Next morning the journey was continued toward Cochabamba. Shortly
before noon the level country was left behind and we started down the
eastern slope of a ridge that leads into the lower country. This part
of the road-bed is new; the greater part of it is laid on a narrow
shelf of rock carved and blasted out of the mountainside. Perpendicular
walls of granite tower above to a height of hundreds of feet on one
side; in places the top of the huge masses seems to hang over the track
in a tottering position and one expects the rumble of the train to set
it in motion and bring an avalanche of destruction down upon one’s head.

A small stream flows through the bottom of the gorge. During the
greater part of the year it is a mere rivulet that trickles harmlessly
over the shallow, pebbly bottom of its course; but when the torrential
rains of winter fall it rises rapidly to the proportions of a mighty
river and sweeps away sections of the railroad. Long rows of breakwater
have been placed alongside the base of the road-bed to protect it from
the ravages of the flood; they consist of loaf-shaped piles of stone
bound together with wire netting; these would be effective against the
water alone, but they cannot resist the demolishing force of the huge
boulders that are rolled down from the mountains by the strong current.

A number of breaks in the line had been made by landslides just
before our visit, so the train could not proceed beyond Changollo,
a settlement of half a dozen Quechua Indian huts and a good-sized
station, the elevation of which is ten thousand feet. We were met by a
representative of the railway company and given quarters in the station
buildings; the other passengers immediately engaged mules and llamas
and started for Cochabamba. The reason for our delay was that we had
just received a shipment of ammunition and supplies from New York, and
some time would be required to repack them in parcels of equal weight
suitable for transportation by pack-train.

Changollo was headquarters for the construction-gangs working on the
line. About half a dozen Englishmen and Scotchmen were in charge of the
work, and they showed us every possible courtesy and attention during
our brief stay there. I regret constantly that it is not possible to
give detailed credit to all the people, South Americans and foreigners
alike, who treated us with such unfailing courtesy throughout our
years of travel in the southern continent, and to whose assistance we
are so heavily indebted for the success that attended our efforts; but
to do so would fill the pages of a volume several times the size of
this one without leaving space for my narrative.

All of the railroad men boarded with an Englishman named Cole and
his wife. The Coles were a middle-aged couple who had spent the
greater part of their lives together travelling around the world.
Among other places, they had lived in India and in Africa. They had
a score of parrots, cockatoos, and dogs that accompanied them in all
their wanderings; caring for this miniature menagerie must have been
a troublesome job while moving from place to place, but they took the
place of children and were looked after just as tenderly. Cole claimed
that he was the only man on earth who had been bitten by a black
mamba--a species of giant cobra--and lived to tell the tale. He was
following a path through the silent jungle one day at dusk when a black
form lunged down upon him from some branches that overhung the trail;
at the same time he felt a dull, throbbing pain in his left arm, and
realized what had occurred. His first impulse was to flee in terror;
however, better judgment prevailed and he opened and sucked the wound
and applied a tourniquet above it. Then he hurried home and drank large
quantities of ammonia and also applied some to his arm. He stated
that he was very ill for several weeks but that persistent use of the
ammonia overcame the effects of the poison and he gradually recovered.

Through the kindness of our new friends we secured hand-cars on which
to resume the journey to the end of the line--about ten miles distant.
The baggage was placed on some of them while we occupied another.
The way lay down-hill and we dashed along at a great pace, taking
curves without diminished speed. There were several short tunnels, the
entrances of which loomed up like the black openings in a grotto; in a
flash we were plunged into absolute darkness; a moment later we raced
back into bright sunshine. Whenever an obstruction in the track ahead
was sighted the brakes were applied and then everything was carried
around and the trip continued. We met a good many Indians on the
road-bed; they preferred its use to the rocky trail along the river,
and even drove their burros and llamas on it. All employees of the
company had orders to punish any one found on the track, in order that
they might learn to keep off it, as there would otherwise be a great
loss of life when trains begin their runs over the line. The favorite
form of chastisement consisted of pouncing on the Indians and taking
their hats away from them. The head-gear was taken several miles down
the track and thrown into the top of a cactus or thorny tree. If the
offender resisted the seizure of his hat he was told that he might have
it by calling on the foreman of the nearest construction-camp; when he
arrived a good lecture was given him and in some instances a fine was
imposed.

It took several hours to reach the end of the line, as landslides and
the attendant portages around them had been numerous. We spent the
remainder of the day and the night at Arce, an Indian village. Several
hundred Quechuas had gathered, as it was market-day; they brought a
good deal of cloth and beautiful blankets to sell, but their prices
were several times those asked in more remote regions. At night the
assembly played on reed flutes and native guitars, sang, danced, and
drank _chicha_; the revelry lasted until the first gray streaks of dawn
appeared over the mountain-top, and then the mob dispersed to their
distant homes in the high valleys.

Our journey was continued the morning after reaching Arce. We had
secured a train of good, strong mules and expert Indian _arrieros_.
The trail lay along the river-bed, which was very wide and paved with
small pebbles. At numerous points Quechua women had put up small shacks
of stones and reeds; they squatted within the makeshift shelters all
day long. A white rag floating above from a tall bamboo announced
to the weary wayfarer that _chicha_ was for sale within, and all the
travellers we saw religiously stopped at each of these road-houses to
slake their thirst. At one point a wall of rock rises from the stream
to a height of three thousand feet; two condors were perched upon the
very tip, their black forms clearly outlined against the sky, while two
others circled swiftly above. We passed through the towns of Yberta and
Sacamolla without stopping to rest, and after fifteen and a half hours’
continuous riding reached the home of the manager of the railroad, a
Mr. Taylor, with whom we spent the night. The place is called Parotani,
and we subsequently spent some time there investigating its interesting
fauna. At noon on the following day we reached Vinto, which marks
the beginning of an electric tram-line to Cochabamba. We did not
take advantage of this easy means of transportation, but continued
the journey on mule-back, and two hours later found ourselves at our
destination.



CHAPTER XVIII

CROSSING THE BOLIVIAN HIGHLANDS FROM COCHABAMBA TO THE CHAPARÉ


Cochabamba is one of the more important cities of Bolivia. In size it
ranks next to La Paz, although it is not nearly so modern, and in point
of activity it is far in advance of Sucre. The population is about
thirty-five thousand.

The plain upon which the city is built was at one time the bottom
of a lake, which fact is indicated by its ancient name of Oropeza,
a Quechua word meaning “plain of the lake.” On account of its high
elevation, which is approximately eight thousand five hundred feet
above sea-level, the region enjoys a mild climate; the average annual
temperature is 66° F. Rain falls in abundance during the months from
November to April; and during the dry months irrigation is resorted to
for providing water to the fields of alfalfa and grain. The country is
naturally of a decidedly semiarid character.

The city boasts a number of fairly modern buildings, although by
far the greater number are of the low adobe type with thatched or
tile roofs; delightful little plazas filled with tropical trees and
shrubbery relieve the monotony of the rows of white edifices.

The shops are filled with provisions and dry-goods at remarkably low
prices; the city market is supplied with a superabundance of produce,
flowers, and articles of native manufacture; the people are courteous
and obliging, and the great numbers of Indians and Cholos give a touch
of gayety and color to the throngs which fill the streets.

Among the city’s institutions deserving of special mention is the
Cochabamba Institute, founded in 1911. The instructors are nearly all
Americans of the type one meets all too rarely in South America,
and who are really doing a great and noble work in furthering the
educational and moral progress of the country. Several hundred students
of both sexes, from many and remote parts of Bolivia, attend the
literary and business classes of the college, live under the care
and refining influence of its instructors, and, as I subsequently
discovered, introduce into their homes the desirable and elevating
qualities which they have acquired.

To the northwest towers the Cerro Tunari, a mountain over fifteen
thousand feet high and of imposing appearance. It rises in majestic
proportions above the uneven summits of the cordillera, in a manner
befitting a snow-crowned monarch of the range.

We spent several days in the city, adding to our outfit and purchasing
mules, and then started eastward _en route_ to the Beni district; it
was our intention to go slowly and stop at places which offered a
suitable field for our operations.

Leaving Cochabamba on the afternoon of May 9, 1915, we rode the fifteen
miles to the town of Sacaba, arriving there at dusk. The intervening
country is thickly settled, and large areas are irrigated and planted
in alfalfa, maize, wheat, grapes, and vegetables. Nearly all the
inhabitants are Indians of the Quechua race.

Beyond Sacaba the trail adheres closely to the bed of a small stream,
and ascends at a steep angle. Numerous little canals carry the water
along the mountainside, and the country is dotted with small stone huts
surrounded by carefully cultivated fields; this is made possible by the
fact that the rivulet never dries, but, on the contrary, supplies a
constant stream of water of sufficient volume to irrigate a large area.
The canals have been dug with great precision; each family uses only as
much as required, and at stated intervals, so there is enough for all.

The trail goes up steadily until an elevation of twelve thousand feet
is reached. As we neared the top a strong wind sprang up, so that it
was difficult to keep one’s place in the saddle. The mountainside is
covered with small, round rocks of uniform size, such as one would
usually expect to find in a dry river-bed.

Beyond the high summit of the first ridge lies the high mountain
valley in which is located the Quechua village of Cuchicancha (meaning
“pig-pen”). There are several score of huts scattered about in little
groups, and built of rocks, with thatched roofs. The Indians speak
practically no Spanish, and live in much the same way as they did
in the days of Atahualpa. In order to cultivate the land they have
gathered the rocks which everywhere carpet the ground into huge piles,
and also built fences of them; large quantities of potatoes, ocas, and
avas are grown.

Each family owns a flock of sheep, which apparently replace the llamas
of olden days, although flocks of the latter animals are still to be
seen frequently; also a few pigs and burros. They have likewise taken
to cultivating wheat, oats, and rye.

We decided to spend a week at Cuchicancha and succeeded in persuading
an old Quechua man to rent us his hut for that length of time. He spoke
not a word of Spanish, or at least pretended that he knew nothing
whatever of that language, so all conversation had to be carried on
through an interpreter. As our coming was a complete surprise to him,
he asked if he could occupy the habitation with us for a few nights
until he had time to find sleeping-quarters elsewhere; to this we, of
course, consented. One night I was awakened by loud talking, and much
to my astonishment found that the aged Indian, who had evidently taken
too much _chicha_ during the day, was restlessly tossing on his pile
of sheepskins and blankets, and talking in his sleep--in excellent
_Spanish_. After that we conversed with him without the aid of an
interpreter, and he understood every word of it, too.

The weather at Cuchicancha was splendid; it was autumn, and while the
nights were cold, the days were always comfortably warm. The Indians
were friendly and brought us eggs, goats’ milk, chickens, and bread.
Each morning the children took the flocks to the narrow river-bed to
feed on the sparse vegetation, and at night they brought them back to
the stone corrals; they took a few boiled potatoes with them for lunch,
and also their spinning for pastime. All spin except the men; and every
one had an abundance of blankets and _ponchos_; even the bags for grain
and potatoes are made of homespun wool.

The harvest had been gathered and every one seemed contented. One
day a party of Indians collected to thresh wheat; from a distance I
could hear the boom of a drum and the shrill wail of reed flutes; as
I approached, a strange sight met my eyes. Bundles of grain had been
piled in a high mound, on the top of which sat the musicians; a dozen
mounted Indians were driving a herd of mules and burros around the
base. Around and around they went at a frantic pace, keeping perfect
time with the music; as the animals circled the stack a man on top
cast armfuls of wheat down in their path, so that in running over it
repeatedly they naturally trampled out the grain. About a hundred men,
each holding to a long rope, formed a circular fence around the racing
mob and prevented any of the animals from escaping.

We were surprised at the abundance of life in this naturally barren
region. There were practically no indigenous trees, but a long line of
willows had been planted near one of the houses, and to these thousands
of cowbirds, doves, and finches came each night to sleep. A short walk
across the stubble-fields always revealed something new. There were
tinamou which rose with a loud _whir_, reminding one of partridges;
many species of brownish birds belonging to the wood-hewer family, one
of them with a long, curved bill, but they ran about on the ground or
perched on the stone fences; large flickers lived among the rocks, and
condors soared above; and there were even flocks of gulls and plovers.
The most unusual birds were two species of very small parrakeets which
clambered about over the rocks and slept in holes in the high banks.
Vast numbers of cavies lived in the rock-piles, from which they sallied
at all hours of the day in quest of food, and many small rodents
inhabited the grain-fields.

A good trail leads eastward from Cochicancha; the summit of the range
rises about two leagues from the settlement. At the time of our visit
the black, rocky peaks were covered with a mantle of snow and an icy
wind swept through the cleft which serves as a pass. The elevation of
the trail is thirteen thousand four hundred feet. At the base of the
towering masses which rise several hundred feet above the passage,
lies a placid little lake, and ducks, and gulls were swimming on its
peaceful surface. Condors swept down from above to inspect us, and then
soared back to their dizzy perches among the unscalable crags.

On the eastern side of the divide the trail leads downward abruptly,
and the character of the country changes; at eleven thousand feet a
sparse growth of bushes appears, growing denser with each passing mile.
Suddenly we found ourselves on the rim of a gorge through which the
Incachaca River rushes--a raging mountain torrent fed by snows melting
in the high altitudes. The path is a mere shelf cut in the face of the
cliff; to the left rise the smooth walls of frowning, black rock; to
the right is a sheer drop to the river. We could peer over the edge of
the precipice and see drifting clouds two thousand feet below, filling
the chasm and shutting from view the bottom hundreds of feet lower down.

At seven thousand seven hundred feet the forest begins; a collection
of half a dozen huts called Incachaca nestles in its inner border,
and there we decided to remain for a few weeks. We secured space in a
large house belonging to an organization which is engaged in digging a
canal along the opposite side of the gorge; when this work is completed
the water of the river will be turned into the artificial course and
utilized for running dynamos to furnish electricity for the light and
street-car service of Cochabamba. A power-house had been constructed at
the bottom of the ravine, and the lines for transmitting the current
had been strung across the mountains.

At Incachaca the river flows through an underground channel; while
exploring the forest one day we came suddenly upon the narrow cleft in
the mountainside, scarcely a dozen feet across, and with a great deal
of effort were finally able to distinguish the roaring white torrent a
hundred feet below. The edges of the cleft are so overgrown with ferns
that one has no idea of its existence until the very brink is reached.
A short distance below, the river emerges from the darkened cavern, and
plunging over the face of a precipice, thunders into a pool in a sheer
drop of fifty or sixty feet.

We found the upper limit of a subtropical fauna at Incachaca.
Bird-flocks travelled hurriedly through the trees; they were composed
of bright-colored tanagers, finches, and cotingas. Honey-creepers and
hummers were plentiful in the flowering shrubs. Queer little ducks
called merganettas disported in the pool below the falls, and dippers
ran nimbly along the edge of the water. In one of the tall trees near
the river we discovered the nest of an eagle. We found it impossible to
climb the tree, but a German named Ricardo Marquardt, who was in charge
of the workmen along the river, succeeded in reaching the huge mass of
sticks seventy feet above the ground, and brought down a beautifully
spotted egg. To my companion, Mr. Howarth S. Boyle, who accompanied
me on the entire trip, belongs the credit of taking the rarest
birds from this locality; they were a pair of white-eared thrushes
(_Entomodestes_), which, so far as I can learn, exist in only two other
museums. Among the lower growth lived many ant-thrushes (_Grallaria_),
whose clear call could be heard at all hours of the day. This is one
of the hardest of all birds to collect. The long-legged, tailless
songsters never leave the thick growth of ferns and brush, and the
only way to secure them is to enter the dense cover, sit quietly, and
imitate the clear, ringing call in the hope of attracting the birds;
sometimes this requires hours of patient work, and more often than not
the effort is futile.

Coatimondis, or raccoons, roamed in the woods in small bands, sniffing
in the damp mould and searching for insects; while feeding they uttered
deep grunts, but when frightened they gave a succession of rapid
bird-like chirps. These animals spend a good deal of their time in the
trees, but are almost invariably found on the ground in the daytime;
when pursued they are very pugnacious and it takes an exceptionally
agile dog indeed to avoid being severely torn by the sharp teeth and
claws. In captivity they become very tame, and make nice little pets,
although their mischievous disposition often gets them into trouble.

From Incachaca to Locotál is a distance of only eight miles, but the
scenery along a part of the route is as impressive as any to be found
in the entire Andean chain; perhaps the gorge of the Urubamba, in Peru,
alone equals it in grandeur and awe-inspiring magnificence. The bare,
shattered, and split crags reach many hundred feet above the trail,
and stand in a leaning position so that the tops actually hang over
the narrow passageway as if threatening to topple over at any moment;
below, the steep slope is covered with huge boulders which have fallen
from the towering masses above.

At Locotál there are but half a dozen houses, occupied by Quechua
families who subsist mainly on the profits derived from the sale of
_chicha_. We stopped a few days in a hut owned by a kind-hearted old
woman who gave us permission to use it; next day we found that we were
occupying the schoolroom, and the teacher followed by his half-dozen
ragged scholars came to take possession. He tried to show us how
important it was to have the place at once, but we saw no reason why he
could not conduct his class out under the trees just as well as under
the shelter; this suggestion offended him very much, so greatly to
the delight of the pupils he declared a vacation until the _gringos_
should move on.

_Chicha_, the native drink of Quechuas and Bolivians alike, is a kind
of corn-beer; it is made by grinding maize into a fine meal, after
which the women and children thoroughly masticate a part of it; water
is added to the mass and the thick liquid is boiled several hours,
after which it is poured into jars to ferment; it is of a yellow color,
has a tart, agreeable taste, and is intoxicating.

The forest at Locotál is somewhat taller than at Incachaca, but the
birds are of a similar character. Very abundant and beautiful were the
brilliant cocks-of-the-rock; the bright, orange-red creatures flashed
through the deep green of the forest like fiery comets and, perching
on the low branch of a tree, quietly surveyed their surrounding, or
uttered hoarse, croaking calls. This bird is most conspicuous in its
natural environment. Among the other large birds were green toucans
(_Aulacorhynchus_); the natives hunted them on every possible occasion
for the sake of obtaining the bill, which they use as _remedio_, the
rasping sound made by rubbing the mandibles together being supposed to
be an unfailing cure for epilepsy.

While pursuing our work at Locotál, a man named Quiroga chanced to
pass, and begged that we pay him the honor of stopping at his house
some distance below; it was a charming place, he said, in the very
heart of the wonderful Yungas. We gladly accepted his invitation, and
one morning loaded our outfit on mules and started down the trail. For
a mile there is only a narrow ledge in the face of a rounded mountain
of dark sandstone; a few stunted sprouts, and myriads of orchids
covered with purple blooms, have secured a precarious foothold in
crevices in the glazed surface; hundreds of feet below, but invisible,
the river tears through a narrow gorge. At one point a strip of the
shelf upon which we travelled had entirely disappeared; we could not
see the bottom of the canyon--its depth was too great--but there were
evidences we could not mistake, telling us the history of the gap in
the trail. Vultures hovered over the spot and perched on the scant
vegetation, and from below came an overpowering stench. What more was
needed to reveal the fact that the missing section of trail, in its
mad dash through space, had taken with it the pack-train of mules, and
probably the men attending them, which chanced to be passing at the
time.

Miguelito is only three miles below Locotál, and consists of three or
four huts in the centre of a grassy clearing. The Quechuas who live
there are friendly, and one may be sure of a welcome for a night’s stop.

At five thousand five hundred feet the forest becomes taller and the
trees attain a greater diameter. The vegetation of the subtropic zone
reaches its highest development at this altitude. After crossing a
ridge six thousand seven hundred feet high, the trail descends a long
slope into the Yungas, properly known as the Yungas of Cochabamba. At
the base of the ridge, and shortly before entering the cultivated area,
we crossed the dry, narrow bed of a stream which was filled with rocks
bearing the imprints of leaves, and also fossil shells.

Yungas is the name given to the fertile mountain slopes which have
been cleared of forest and cultivated; it stretches along the sides
of the Rio Yungas for a number of miles, and huts dot the roadside
at frequent intervals. When we visited the region in June only the
Indian caretakers lived in the habitations, the coca, which is the
principal product, having been collected a short time before, and the
_propietarios_ having gone back to Cochabamba. The owners visit their
plantations three times a year, supervise the picking and packing of
the leaves and, after a month, return to Cochabamba to sell the drug
and live on the proceeds until the next harvest.

After spending an hour in questioning the occupants of the various
houses which we passed, we succeeded in locating the house to which we
had been invited. It was a low, one-room board structure, open at both
ends, and with wide entrances on each side, situated in the centre
of a large banana-field. An Indian, so old that he could hardly walk,
lived in the hovel and refused to admit us; however, we flourished our
letter of introduction from the owner of the premises, took possession,
and remained a week. When we left, the aged tenant implored us to
remain, as we had daily provided him with all the game he could eat,
and had provided him with some medicines that he greatly needed.

The climate at this season, June, was most trying. Although the
elevation is only three thousand five hundred feet, the whole region
was covered with fog each night, and the cold and damp penetrated
everything; during a part of the year the weather is good, and then
life in the Yungas is more bearable. We had a trying time at Señor
Quiroga’s hut, and while the pleasure of investigating a new region
is always intense, our joy at leaving was in this particular instance
vastly greater.

There is no flat valley along the river, which is of considerable size,
and all cultivation is done on the steep mountainsides. Coca is planted
in terraces and occupies the greatest acreage; then there are red
bananas, plantains, guavas, and sugar-cane.

The fauna of the country seems to represent a transition zone. There
are birds typical of the higher country, and others which are common
lower down; also, a number found at approximately this altitude only.
Near the house, and on the edge of the banana-plantation, was a tall,
isolated tree. Flocks of birds, in their flight from one side of the
canyon to the other, would invariably alight in its branches for a few
minutes’ rest. There were many brilliantly colored little tanagers
(_Tanagra_) which came to the tree in considerable numbers and chirped
and quarrelled as they flitted about examining the leaves for insects,
or reached out to pick the small fruits with which the tree was
covered; one day not less than seven species of these birds visited
this resort within a short time.

[Illustration: An Indian hut in the Yungas of Cochabamba.]

Giant orioles (_Ostinops_) were also very plentiful, and travelled in
large, noisy flocks. One of the more interesting birds was a species of
small, red-tailed parrakeet (_Pyrrhura_) which clung to and crawled up
the sides of trees like squirrels; it was almost impossible to see them
unless they moved, so well did their coloration, and more particularly
their actions, conceal them.

We had travelled to the Yungas on mules owned by the expedition, and
upon our arrival turned them loose to feed as usual. Next morning the
animals were in a sorry plight; they had been visited by vampire-bats
during the night, and bled so badly that we had to send them back to
Locotál without delay. Severe as this attack seemed to be, it was mild
compared to what we were to see later on. We discovered clumps of the
small bats guilty of the execution spending the days under the roof
of our hut, and despatched many of them, but this made no impression
whatever upon their vast number. People, also, are bitten on any part
of the body which is left exposed at night, and I have frequently seen
Indians which had been attacked on nose, forehead, and arms.

After completing our work in the Yungas we returned to Cochabamba in
order to await more favorable weather for the trip into the lowlands of
eastern Bolivia, and to restock our outfit with articles which had been
used, and others which it seemed necessary to acquire for the difficult
undertaking ahead.

After spending several weeks in the vicinity of Cochabamba, we made
arrangements with the mail-carrier which enabled us to travel jointly
to the Chaparé. He usually made the trip at six weeks’ intervals during
the dry season, and, consequently, he knew the trail better than any
one else. His _peons_ were also accustomed to the country and knew how
to adjust packs so they would meet the varying conditions of the road,
which is an “art” that can be learned through long experience only.

On July 12 we left Cochabamba. Besides my companion and our personal
attendant there were the mail-carrier and his three _peons_; twelve
good, strong mules carried the luggage, and there were half a dozen
riding and spare animals--quite a cavalcade for the kind of undertaking
in hand.

Three days after starting we reached our old camping-spot in the
Yungas, and, after stopping for a short chat with the old caretaker of
Señor Quiroga’s hut we proceeded into what was for us _terra incognita_.

Numerous huts of flimsy construction are scattered along the entire
twenty miles or more of cultivated slopes; each has a fenced-in area
paved with flat stones upon which coca leaves are dried. We stopped at
a number of these dwellings in an attempt to buy fruit or vegetables,
but unfortunately the men were all away working in the fields, and any
one who has attempted to purchase anything from the average Quechua
squaw knows how hopeless a task it is. Although they may have a
superabundance of the article desired, they seem to take great delight
in refusing to sell anything to a stranger; then the only method to
follow is to take what is needed, offer a fair price for it and pass
on, leaving them in the midst of their wild rantings; the men are
easier to deal with.

The _peons_, and the _patrón_ as well, stopped at each hut where the
white flag announced that _chicha_ was for sale, and attempted to drink
enough to last them until their return; after their money gave out they
left articles of clothing in payment for the drinks. It was therefore
a great relief when the last abode of the intoxicating beverage had
been left behind, and we plunged into the wilderness. Immediately
after leaving the Yungas we ascended a precipitous slope, the top of
which was seven hundred feet above the surrounding country, and then
descended on the other side until the elevation was only two thousand
feet; here the forest was more tropical in character, and some of the
trees, especially the cottonwoods, reached a height of one hundred and
fifty feet, and measured twenty-five feet through the buttressed roots
at the base.

The day after leaving the Yungas we reached the most dangerous part of
the whole trail. After crossing a number of steep, high ridges, we came
to an abrupt slope, the side of which is seared by a huge gash where
the treacherous white clay keeps sliding constantly into the river,
many hundreds of feet below. Each caravan desiring to pass must first
cut a ledge in the moving mass of soft, muddy earth, and then hurriedly
lead the mules across, one at a time, before the newly made trail is
obliterated. The spot is very appropriately named _Sal-si-Puedes_ (pass
if you can), for any one succeeding in crossing this slide is very apt
to possess the ingenuity required to negotiate the remainder of the
trail.

That night we made camp early on the banks of the Rio San Antonio,
called _Chuspipascana_ by the Indians, which means Mosquito River. The
altitude of the site is only one thousand eight hundred feet above
sea-level. The river was a clear, rapid stream one hundred feet wide,
flowing through a rock-strewn bed a quarter of a mile across. Swarms
of black flies, sand-flies, and other stinging or biting insects
immediately came out to greet us. Birds were very abundant. In addition
to the jays, ant-wrens and manakins, which remained in the forest,
flocks of parrots and toucans flew across the open spaces. One of the
most unusual occurrences was the great flocks of a new species of giant
oriole; there were not less than one thousand of these birds in a
single flock, and they roamed almost everywhere, coming close to camp
to inspect the tents, and to discuss them in hoarse cries of curiosity
or resentment. They were beautiful creatures, of a deep chestnut color
with light olive-green head and neck; the face is devoid of plumage and
of a flesh-color, while the tip of the bill is deep orange. The flesh
is highly esteemed by the natives and we found it quite palatable.

As soon as the cargoes had been neatly placed in a pile and covered
with a tarpaulin to keep them dry the _peons_ cooked their supper;
this consisted of a thick soup made of corn-meal and _charque_ (dried
beef). They had a meal in the morning and another at night; during the
long walk throughout the day they chewed coca leaves. The mules were
turned loose to shift for themselves, but as plenty of wild cane grows
near the rivers, they had an abundance of food. One of the animals
carried a bell tied to its neck, and the others would seldom stray out
of hearing of the constant clanging. In the morning the men easily
located the bell-mule and led it back to camp, the others following in
single file. Should one be missing, which was a rare occurrence, it
was only necessary to take the bell and shake it vigorously; this soon
brought the stray member to the spot.

The remainder of the journey was through the heavily forested lowland;
the last of the mountain ridges had been left behind.

During the dry season the caravans follow the courses of streams as
much as possible. The water is low, and the wide, rocky margins serve
as roads. This is far from being easy on the mules; the animals go
stumbling and slipping along, but a good many miles are cut from the
total length of the journey. Streams are encountered with frequency,
and as one penetrates farther into the interior they become wider
and deeper. We crossed not less than six fords in a single day, all
between two hundred and three hundred feet wide, the water averaging
from three to four feet deep. Although the current is strong, the
mules are accustomed to this kind of work and usually manage to cross
safely, often stopping in the deepest, swiftest spot to unconcernedly
take a drink. Occasionally, however, one of the animals slips on a
moss-covered boulder and falls; then it is a difficult matter to
assist the drowning creature to his feet, as the swift water may roll
him over, and the weight of the pack keeps him down. In any event,
the least result of such an accident is the thorough saturation of
everything in the pack, and this means a day’s loss of time while
the soaked effects are spread out to dry. During the rainy season
streams rise with startling rapidity, and parties have often been
forced to camp on the river-bank many days until the water went down.
To turn back is hopeless, as the last stream crossed is just as high as
the one ahead; there is nothing to be done but wait.

[Illustration: The expedition in the Cuchicancha Pass.]

Wild animals are particularly abundant in this section of the country.
All day long we could hear the raucous scream of long-tailed,
multicolored macaws (_Ara_) as they flew two by two overhead. Many
hawks sat alertly on dead snags near the water, and black-and-white
gulls flapped hurriedly up and down along the river. Occasionally we
caught a glimpse of a small flock of muscovies, the largest of South
American ducks, as the great, black birds flew heavily up-stream. There
were also black guans, resembling small turkeys, which sat quietly in
the tops of tall trees until we approached quite near to them; then,
emitting a loud, mule-like bray, they set their wings and soared across
the river or down into the underbrush. At night the forest was usually
quiet, reminding one of “Pools of Silence.” Occasionally, however, the
still air was suddenly rent by the most unearthly noise that mortal
man ever heard, and the woods rang with the wild, insane cackle of
forest-rails (_Aramides_). Beginning with a shrill _oohoo-hee-cra_,
the demoniacal chorus continued several minutes without interruption,
swelling constantly and finally ending with a few low, explosive
_cow-cow-cows_. A number of birds always sang together, and the first
time one hears the performance it is enough to make the flesh creep and
the hair to stand on end; but even after becoming somewhat accustomed
to the noise, it falls short of conducing to peaceful slumber,
suggesting as it does the agonized shrieks of some tortured spirit of
the jungle.

Night-monkeys (_Douroucouli_) were apparently plentiful, but we never
saw them in the daytime. After darkness had fallen they began to move
about in the tree-tops; one night a troop selected the tree under
which we camped for the scene of their frolic, and kept us awake the
greater part of the night. They jumped about in the branches, and
from the swishing noises which reached us it was easy to imagine them
enjoying a good swing up and down upon some particularly springy limb.
They dropped leaves and twigs down upon the tent-fly, probably through
accident, but perhaps prompted by the desire to find out if anything
would happen. At frequent intervals they drew together in a close group
to chatter in low, grunting tones, and then, coming to the conclusion
that the queer-looking objects below them must be capable of performing
some interesting action, again began to tempt fate by showering down
more twigs and leaves.

In many places the receding water of the river had left isolated pools;
these were teeming with fish of many species; some of them were of
large size. A number which we caught had practically the entire tail
and fins eaten off; their cannibalistic brethren had no doubt taken
advantage of the circumstances in which they were all placed, and begun
to devour them piecemeal, at their leisure.

The trees were tall and straight, and there was dense undergrowth near
the rivers only. Mosses and epiphytes, so typical of the subtropical
zone, were almost lacking, but frequently the wind brought the
delightful fragrance of ripening vanilla-beans and the perfume of
flowers. Great clusters of scarlet trumpetflowers dangled from the tips
of slender vines, and from the tops of many of the trees drooped long
garlands of huge white-and-blue flowers that resembled sweet peas; some
of these blooms were two inches in diameter. There were also clumps of
terrestrial orchids on some of the rocks, with slender spikes of deep
purple flowers waving daintily under the impulse of each passing breeze.

Seven days after leaving Cochabamba we came suddenly upon the little
cluster of grass and bamboo houses known as Todos Santos; there were
exactly seven of them, two of which were of large size, partially
enclosing a wide plot of ground carpeted with soft green grass. Tall
forest hemmed in the settlement on three sides, and the Rio Chaparé,
flowing through deep banks, formed the boundary on the fourth side.

The largest building was occupied by the _corregidor_, or federal
agent, who generously provided us with accommodations; in addition to
the several living-rooms there was an immense wareroom stored with
hides, salt, and other articles of commerce. The remainder of the
houses were occupied by families of Bolivians who possessed land or
concessions in the neighborhood, and owned numbers of Indians of the
Yuracaré tribe; these latter lived in long sheds built in the rear of
the dwellings of the people they served. There was also a small church,
but no shops of any description. In spite of its inconsiderable size,
Todos Santos is a place of importance because it serves as an outlet
for commerce from Cochabamba and Bolivia in general, and is the port
of entrance for hides from Trinidad, and merchandise entering by way
of the Amazon and Madeira-Mamoré Railroad. A small steamer, the _Ana
Catarina_, was tied up against the bank, waiting for the water to rise
sufficiently for her to proceed down the river; this boat plies more or
less regularly between Todos Santos and Trinidad, and requires three
days for the downward trip, and five days coming up. From Cochabamba
to Trinidad is a distance of approximately two hundred and sixty-five
miles, one hundred and sixty-five overland and one hundred on the river.

During the dry season steam-navigation on the Chaparé is very
irregular, but canoes of large size and native paddlers may always be
had. During the rainy season there is a small steamer or launch each
fortnight.

Several years before, the government had by law abolished the practice
of keeping Indians in the condition of semislavery, and had ordered all
owners to turn them over to the missions; this, however, had not been
done, and each Bolivian family living at Todos Santos had a number of
Yuracarés in its service. Not far from the settlement were a number of
clearings, some of considerable size, where fruits and vegetables were
cultivated for the benefit of the _amos_, as the owners of Indians are
called; the Indians cleared the ground, cultivated it, and then brought
in the results of their labor, receiving nothing in return. They seemed
fairly contented, however, and did not appear to be suffering from ill
treatment. They frequently spent days at a time in their shelters on
the edges of the fields, or in hunting and fishing trips far from their
homes.

Each Yuracaré woman kept a number of Amazon parrots which she looked
after carefully and refused to sell, even at a good price. Upon asking
the reason for this I was told that they reared them for the sake of
the tail-feathers, which are in great demand by the Aymarás. Each
parrot will grow three “crops” of feathers a year, each of which is
worth fifty _centavos_. The Aymarás from the vicinity of La Paz send
down agents at regular intervals to purchase these feathers, as they
use them in making ornaments worn during their annual festivals.

In the branches of one of the tall trees near the village a neat little
hut had been built of bamboo and leaves, reminding one a great deal of
a Philippine tree-dwelling. Indians armed with bows and arrows would
conceal themselves in this house, forty feet above the ground, and
shoot many of the birds which came to feed on the fruit covering the
tree; other Indians, hidden about the base of the tree, watched where
the birds fell, gathered them up and skinned or plucked them. In this
way quite a number could be shot without alarming a feeding flock.

The forest around Todos Santos abounds in wild life. Squirrel-monkeys
(_Saimiri_) are very numerous and travel in troops of from twenty to
fifty individuals; we saw them daily, playing about in the trees, and
feeding on fruits, buds, and insects. They are delightful little pets,
and one that we owned spent the greater part of the day catching the
mosquitoes which infested our habitation. It searched every nook and
crevice for insects, and one of its chief pastimes was to look through
a pack of cards in the hopes of finding mosquitoes between them. Harpy
eagles also are very plentiful, and feed on the squirrel-monkeys to a
great extent, as they are easy to catch. However, monkeys are not the
only animals which suffer; we one day found the remains of a sloth
which had been dropped by an eagle, the entire fore part of which had
been eaten away.

There were numerous trees covered with vivid-scarlet blossoms,
scattered throughout the forest, and forming gaudy little islands of
color, which stood out very conspicuously amid the green tree-tops.
These trees are known as _madres de cacao_, because they are frequently
planted in cacao-groves to shield the young plants from the sun. The
flowers contain so much nectar that numbers of birds feed upon them,
including parrots, macaws, and orioles; when the brilliant blooms fall
into the river they are greedily snapped up by fish.

Of small birds there was such a variety that it would be impossible to
mention all of them, but one in particular deserves attention. It is
a species of manakin called the “child of the sun” by the Yuracarés,
who look upon the tiny creature with reverence and would not harm it
under any circumstances. The bird is not as large as a sparrow, but is
of stocky build, with a bright orange-red head and neck, the remainder
of the body being black. As it whirs from branch to branch it makes a
loud sputtering, crackling noise which reminds one of a bunch of small,
exploding firecrackers. The female of the species is of a dull-green
color.

At Todos Santos, as elsewhere, local migrations of birds in the heart
of the tropics were several times forcibly brought to our attention. We
had been hunting in the forest a number of weeks and were pretty well
acquainted with its inhabitants; suddenly a species entirely new to us
appeared in great abundance in all parts of the region; each member of
the expedition, including the native assistants, brought in specimens
of it the same day. This can be explained only by the fact that flocks
of these particular birds had arrived suddenly from some distant part,
probably attracted by a fruit or insect which chanced to be plentiful
at the time, and upon which they fed.

Several miles from port, and entirely concealed by the forest,
stretches a lagoon of considerable size; it is connected with the
Chaparé by a small, brush-clogged creek, but the water is stagnant
and filled with decaying vegetation and detritus. Masses of bushes
and swamp-grass grow all along the borders, and in some sections the
surface of the water is covered with floating, aquatic plants. As may
be supposed, many species of birds live both about the water and in
the dense thickets that line the banks. Among the former was the rare
little sun-grebe, but it was by no means abundant; the few solitary
individuals we saw were always surprised out in the open water and,
after giving a series of hoarse, loud cries, either flew or swam as
rapidly as possible to the nearest clump of vegetation, which offered
a secure retreat. Graceful jacanas stepped about daintily on the
lily-pads; their toes are very long and give the feet a wide spread,
thus enabling the birds to walk on the floating little islands of
water-hyacinths and wild lettuce; for this reason the natives call them
_pájaro de Jesu-cristo_, because they can “walk on the water.”

Several species of flycatchers and large, noisy wrens (_Donacobia_)
lived in the partly submerged bushes; we found several of the bulky,
domed grass nests of the former, but it was almost invariably
impossible to reach them as they always harbored colonies of biting
ants, which rushed out in maddened frenzy when the nest was touched;
however, the birds and ants seemed to live in perfect harmony.

In the tangles of tall bamboo growing on the bank and drooping out over
the water lived flocks of hoatzins and numbers of several species of
_dendrocolaptine_ birds or wood-hewers; also an occasional water-turkey
and cormorant. Many black-and-white ibises soared above in circles
and at a great height; they acted not unlike vultures, but the long,
outstretched neck and legs immediately gave a clew to their identity.

The forest was full of surprises. One morning my companion encountered
a tamanduá ant-eater which was on the ground, and refused to realize
that the close proximity of man meant danger; he was but lightly armed,
and shot the tough, thick-skinned animal with the 32-bore auxiliary
tube of his shotgun, and number 12 shot--an unheard-of feat.

It was, however, not always necessary to go into the forest to hunt;
the open plot in which the settlement lay attracted many birds, such as
scarlet tanagers, vermilion flycatchers, swallows, and others, which
were never found in the forest, and small mammals in abundance lived in
the houses. We frequently caught five species of rats in a single house
in one night, and at least two species of bats lived in the palm-leaf
thatch of the roof. Some of the rodents, particularly a large, spiny
rat, lived under the floor, while others made the walls and ceiling
their homes; each species seemed to adhere more or less to its own
part of the dwelling, thus dividing the houses into well-defined
“life-zones.”

The natives are very fond of the flesh of the spiny rat and often
begged for any which chanced to come to our traps.

Ocelots were not wanting in the neighborhood; they visited the
hen-houses occasionally at night, but never entered by the doors,
preferring to tear holes in the side of the structures; they killed a
large number of fowls, on one occasion nearly twenty on a single visit,
and prompted apparently by the mere lust for killing.

At night vampire-bats came out in hordes; they attacked everything
from human beings on down; even the few miserable pigs kept by the
Indians were severely bitten and kept up a continuous squealing as
the bloodthirsty creatures settled on them, usually at the base of
the ears, and began their painful operations. The worst sufferers
by far, however, were our mules. As soon as the sun set our _peons_
brought the animals to the corral and strapped canvas covers over
them; this precaution was of little avail, for the bats attacked all
exposed parts, causing the mules to kick and roll, with the result that
their covers were soon torn off. We went out frequently to watch these
obnoxious creatures at work; after circling above their prospective
victim a few times, they dropped suddenly, usually upon the neck or
flanks, and at once began to bite and suck, making a grating sound
with the teeth all the while. They paid no attention to us, although
we stood but a few feet away, but clung with folded wings to their
prey, perfectly motionless and in an upright position; if we moved they
uttered a few squeaks, but made no attempt to fly until we reached for
them and came to within a few inches, when they reluctantly fluttered
up, but almost immediately settled on the other side of the animal.
Desiring specimens of them for our collection, we went one night to the
corral armed with a butterfly-net and, approaching one of the mules
on whose back were a dozen or more bats, made a hurried sweep with
the net; as the large, white bag of netting scraped the back of the
nervous animal he sank to his knees with a groan of despair, wondering,
no doubt, what new monster had swooped down upon him to add fresh
suffering to his already unbearable existence.

In the morning the mules were in a pathetic condition; blood continued
to flow from the wounds made by the bats’ sharp teeth, so that the
ground was red and the animals were covered from head to foot. It
was always necessary to take them to the river and wash them, then
disinfect the numerous punctures; if this is not done flies attack the
sore spots, infesting them with their larvæ, and the animals die of
blood-poison. After three nights we were compelled to start the mules
back to Cochabamba, as they were on the verge of exhaustion.

[Illustration: Vampire-bat from Todos Santos.]

[Illustration: Tamanduá ant-eater.]

While at Todos Santos we learned of a mission among the Yuracaré
Indians about twelve miles distant, and near the Rio Chimoré. We
expressed a desire to visit it, but the _intendente_ told us that
such a move was impossible. He said that the priest in charge of the
mission was absolute monarch of the territory under his control; that
he would permit no one to come near his retreat, and that this mandate
had never been disobeyed. Such statements made the place seem of
especial interest to us, and we were eager to go there at almost any
cost; we devised many plans which we hoped would lead to an interview
with the priest, but all of them failed miserably; finally, however,
the opportunity came to us in an unlooked-for manner. A misfortune to
one person frequently comes in the guise of a blessing to another,
and so it happened in this instance. As we were pursuing our work one
afternoon in the open corridor in front of our room, a long canoe drew
up at the river-bank, and the priest, followed by a dozen Indians,
stepped ashore and marched across the clearing to the _intendente’s_
quarters. We immediately recognized him as Padre Fulgencio, the
missionary of whose despotic rule we had heard so much; but he did not
even glance at us as he passed. While debating upon some diplomatic
move which might serve as an excuse for an interview, for now or never
was the time to obtain the coveted permission, he suddenly emerged from
the house and came straight to us. A few curt remarks were exchanged,
and then he began to relate his trouble. To make a long story short,
he was suffering from a severe toothache; it had kept him awake many
nights, and at last he was forced to come out of his retreat in search
of a remedy. The _intendente_ could do nothing for him; could we?

How I thanked my lucky star for a limited knowledge of medicine!
After an examination, conducted with much formality, the trouble was
pronounced curable. He submitted bravely to the injection of cocaine,
and soon after was relieved of the aching member. Tears rolled down his
cheeks as he expressed his gratitude, and then, taking note of the work
upon which we were engaged, he suddenly asked: “Why don’t you come to
the mission; I have four hundred Indians who spend several days each
week in hunting, and they can take you anywhere, and also bring you all
kinds of animals.”

We needed no urging, and within five minutes the day was set when
porters in abundance should come to convey our equipment, and we should
start on our journey to the mysterious stronghold of Padre Fulgencio,
and the boundless jungles bordering the Rio Chimoré.



CHAPTER XIX

AMONG THE YURACARÉ INDIANS OF THE RIO CHIMORÉ


True to his promise, Padre Fulgencio sent the Indians to Todos Santos,
and on the morning of August 2 we packed into canoes such of our
equipment as was necessary for the trip and started across the brown
water of the Chaparé.

On the other side of the river there was no clearing; the trees grew
down to the water’s edge, and the moment the canoes were left behind we
plunged into the perpetual gloom of the forest.

An indistinct trail led into the heart of the jungle. The Indians
adjusted our belongings on their backs, securing them with broad strips
of bark placed across the forehead; then they set out at a good pace,
a number of women and children carrying boiled yuccas and plantains,
trudging at the rear of the procession.

There was not much undergrowth, but the ground, from which there is
little evaporation on account of the dense canopy overhead, was very
muddy. Every few rods we came to a deep streamlet which had to be
crossed on the trunks of fallen trees; some of these slimy bridges were
sixty feet long and almost impassable to us, but the Indians strode
across as unconcernedly as geckos. Half-way to the mission the Indians
stopped for lunch and a short rest, and by noon we reached the edge of
the clearing, having covered a distance of twelve miles.

After a tramp of half a mile through weedy fields of maize and yuccas,
we reached the mission-buildings--a few dozen low grass huts clustering
around an open square. At one end rose two structures of large size
which served as the church and general meeting-place. Near the centre
of the clearing a stately cross had been erected, hewn from the heart
of a giant ceiba.

The priest was delighted to see us and spared no effort to make us
comfortable. We were soon installed in a room of one of the buildings
which served as a boys’ dormitory, and a short time later started out
to inspect our surroundings.

At first the Indians were reticent and would peer at us from a
distance. This was true particularly of the children, but as the days
wore on we made friends with them, and from both the people themselves
and the priest we learned a great deal about their history and habits.

The name Yuracaré, according to D’Orbigny, was given to them by the
Quechuas, and means “white man”; this is most inappropriate, as they
are of a decided brown color, although perhaps averaging lighter than
the Quechuas. They were first discovered by Viedma in 1768.

At the present time, at least, the Yuracarés are a people of the hot,
humid lowlands. Those who have not been captured and brought to the
missions, or who escaped the unenviable fate of having been taken
from their forest home by private “slaving expeditions,” live along
the smaller branches of the streams, which eventually find their way
into the Mamoré; this includes particularly the Chaparé, Chimoré, the
Ichilo, and the Isiboro.

There were about four hundred Indians residing at the mission. Although
attempts have been made intermittently to civilize these people for
more than a hundred years, there were long intervals when the work had
to be abandoned, and the families naturally returned to their homes in
the wilderness. Nearly all of the present aggregation had been brought
together during the last few years. Newcomers are added to their number
frequently. The priest, learning of other families far up some unmapped
_quebrada_ or streamlet, takes a few of the men who have learned to
place confidence in him and whom he trusts, and starts forth on long
canoe voyages in search of them. They approach the hidden dwelling
suddenly, surround it, and persuade the occupants to accompany them
immediately, giving them only an hour or two in which to collect
their few belongings. Occasionally the Indians whom they seek learn
of the approach of the emissaries and hide before their arrival; then
the priest returns to the mission, his long trip having been made to
no purpose. When, should the expedition prove to be successful, the
families have departed to the waiting canoes, their huts are burned and
the plantations destroyed. Knowing that neither home nor food have been
left behind, they are not so apt to run away from their new quarters
and go back to their old dwelling-places. I heard of no instance where
they resisted this deportation.

The Yuracarés are a tall, well-built people of a rather docile
disposition; however, the older generation never wholly becomes
reconciled to the new mode of life, and remains at the mission only for
reasons which I will explain later.

In their wild state they live in small family parties, obtaining their
subsistence from the forest, which abounds in game, and from their
fields of yuccas. Their native costume, a long, shirt-like garment
called _tipoy_, is made from the fibrous bark of a tree; at the mission
this has largely been replaced by cotton clothes. Each family has been
provided with a separate hut of adequate size, where the parents and
very small children live. The boys and girls over five or six years
of age are under the constant supervision of the priest, and attend
his classes; at night they sleep in separate locked dormitories, which
prevents their returning to their homes, and also keeps the parents
from running away, as they will not leave without their children.

Padre Fulgencio also explained that this kept them from observing and
copying the customs of their elders. He recognizes the impossibility of
reclaiming the forest-reared savage, and devotes practically all his
efforts to the younger generation.

The Indians marry at an early age, the boys at sixteen and the girls at
fourteen. In their wild state each family rears four or five children;
at the mission never more than two, and frequently none at all. Should
the first-born be a girl, she is permitted slowly to starve to death.
The priest has inflicted severe punishment upon them in his efforts to
break this custom, but so far all his work has been in vain.

As far as possible they are discouraged in the celebration of their
native festivals, but it frequently occurs that the entire populace
appear with faces gayly decorated with black and blue dots, and all
join in weird songs and dances, the purpose of which remains a secret,
as they cannot be induced to tell. They worship no divinity, being in
this respect in a class almost by themselves.

Food at the mission is abundant. The clearing comprises several hundred
acres and is planted in maize, rice, yuccas, plantains, and sweet
potatoes. Like most savages, they have an intoxicating drink, made of
the boiled root of the yucca. The women dig great quantities of it,
peel and thoroughly cook it, after which a certain per cent is chewed
and expectorated into a huge earthenware jar; the remainder is mashed
and thrown in also, and water added. The following day fermentation has
started and the greenish yellow liquid is ready for use.

At the mission the Indians have learned the use of salt, and this fact
perhaps as much as any induces them to remain, for deprived of it they
cannot long exist. A small amount is given to each individual at stated
periods--only just enough to supply his wants until time for the next
distribution. There are instances on record where families have escaped
and gone back to their nomadic life for eighteen months, then returned
voluntarily to promise future obedience, so great was their craving for
salt.

[Illustration: Yuracarés chewing yucca-roots for making casire.]

[Illustration: Yuracaré women and children.]

The rites attending the death and burial of a man are among the curious
and persisting ceremonies of the Yuracarés. When the husband dies the
wife removes all her wearing apparel and casts herself upon his
body, where she remains weeping and lamenting until the time of the
funeral, which is a day or two later. All the women squat in a circle
around the deceased, raise their voices in sorrowful wails, and recount
the heroic deeds and good characteristics of the dead. The men drink
_casire_ and dig a deep hole in the ground; when the time for the
burial arrives the body is carefully deposited therein, together with
all his possessions, and the wife’s clothing is placed on top, after
which the earth is thrown in.

The weapons of this tribe consist entirely of bows made of
_chonta_-palm wood, five or six feet high, and various kinds of arrows.
The shaft of the latter is always composed of slender bamboo, but the
points vary greatly; thus for large game there is a long double-edged
blade of another variety of bamboo; slender, barbed points of _chonta_
are used for birds, and a long, sharp spike of palm-wood for fish. They
are wholly ignorant of the use of the deadly _curare_ poison.

We were fortunate in timing our visit to the Chimoré for the dry
season. Additions were being made to the already large areas under
cultivation, and for this purpose the Indians were cutting down
forest. They were required to work four days each week, the remaining
three being devoted to fishing and hunting. All the men and boys
participated in this work and seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. At first
the undergrowth was removed; this naturally led to the discovery of
many strange animals, all of which were promptly brought to us for
examination. The number and variety of snakes was astonishing; even
after having spent years in a similar type of country, I had never
suspected that so many existed, which shows how inconspicuous they are
until one actually goes over the ground with a comb, as it were. They
captured green boas, several species of the fer-de-lance, and many
others which we did not recognize. Some of them were poisonous, and
others were innocuous. Among the former was one which in appearance
closely resembled the green boa, but its attitude was defiant and even
aggressive; examination showed that it possessed long fangs. One day
several of the men came running into our room and shouted “_Pisisi_.”
We followed them to the clearing, and found that they had discovered
a huge bushmaster coiled under a log. They tried to drive the reptile
out with long poles, but it refused to move; finally the priest pulled
the enormous creature bodily from its hiding-place with the aid of a
hooked stick; it was very sluggish and made no attempt to strike. After
shooting it we found that it measured nearly seven feet in length, with
a diameter of five inches. The fangs, over an inch long, emitted about
a tablespoonful of yellowish poison.

The bushmaster, called _surucucú_ in Brazil, is truly a terrible
creature. It grows to a length of ten feet or more, and attains a
great thickness. A snake of that size has fangs an inch and a half
long and injects nearly a tablespoonful of poison at a single thrust.
The ground-color is reddish yellow crossed by black bands, sometimes
forming a series of X’s along the back. It does not take kindly to
captivity and dies of starvation after a few months of confinement. It
is one of the few snakes which are supposed to incubate their eggs.
After selecting a hole in the ground or in a stump the reptile lays a
dozen or more eggs; then it coils up on top of them and does not leave
the vicinity until they hatch; at such times it is very irritable, and
will strike with deadly results any creature which disturbs it. The
poison acts rapidly, and I heard of a case where an Indian died in less
than half an hour after having been bitten.

There were also small brown salamanders and lizards with spiny backs
that resembled horned toads. Perhaps the rarest catch of all was a
splendid example of the curious cane-rat (_Dactylomys_), an animal
seldom encountered on account of its rarity and secretive habits.
It resembles a large rat, being twenty-five inches long, and of a
dark-gray color; the toes are divided into pairs in order to enable it
to easily climb slender stalks, and instead of claws it has nails.
The pupils of the eyes are elliptical, like a cat’s; when annoyed it
uttered a hoarse scream, a sound occasionally heard at night, but which
we did not heretofore recognize.

After the brush had been removed for the distance of a hundred yards
or more from the edge of the clearing, the Indians began to cut down
the trees; some of these were of enormous size, especially the ceibas;
one that I measured was twenty-five feet through the base, counting
the supporting, bracket-like roots, and fifteen men hacked at it at
the same time. When the tree fell they set up a wild cheering and took
great delight in watching this monarch of the forest tumble to the
ground.

Three days of each week were devoted to hunting and fishing. Usually
the Indians went many miles away, in small parties, returning promptly
at the expiration of their time. The children rarely accompanied them,
and then only after having obtained special permission from the priest.
Upon their return they brought baskets of fish and meat--enough to
last them until their next journey into the wilds. Nearly all fish
and game were taken with bow and arrow. To secure the former they
selected a small creek up the shallow water of which huge shoals of
fish went to feed, and then shot them. After a sufficient supply had
been obtained they erected a framework of sticks, built a fire under it
and slowly roasted and smoked them; later they were packed in baskets
between layers of green leaves and taken home. They also brought
numbers of freshly killed animals for our examination, for in keeping
with his promise Padre Fulgencio had announced from the pulpit that
all creatures taken by them were to be shown to us first, and we were
permitted to select any that were of scientific value. In this manner a
number of animals new to us were added to the collection.

The curl-breasted toucan (_Beauharnaisia_) is one of those birds
of the Amazonian basin which is seldom seen by travellers, or even
naturalists, who make every effort to learn something of its
habits. Bates records having seen a number during his eleven years
of exploration, and on one occasion he was attacked by a flock after
he had wounded one of them. We therefore considered it an unusually
good streak of fortune to find a large flock inhabiting a section of
the forest several miles from the mission. They were wary, nervous
creatures, and spent their time in the top of tall trees from which
one of our men succeeded in shooting several with arrows before
the remainder took alarm and flew away; they never returned to the
locality. The bird is black above, with yellow underparts barred with
black; the feathers on the top of the head are flattened and curled,
resembling shining scales, and are drawn together to form a ridge.
On the throat and breast the brilliant yellow feathers are tipped
with glossy black dots, resembling beads of jet. Unfortunately they
were not nesting, but the Indians reported having found the two white
eggs in cavities in the taller trees. Another bird not frequently
encountered is the giant frogmouth (_Nyctibius_), which, while not
so rare, perhaps, is seldom seen, as it is nocturnal in habits and
spends the days squatting horizontally upon some thick branch, where
it resembles a gray lichen, or is altogether invisible. When the time
for domestic cares arrives the bird lays a single white egg on the
branch which has served as its perch, or at the junction of a limb and
the tree-trunk, without making any sort of a nest. Doubtless many eggs
roll off this precarious location and are broken. It feeds upon beetles
and insects which are caught on the wing, and some observers say that
it also catches small birds; this latter I am inclined to question.
One individual that we collected was twenty-two inches long, with an
expanse of wings of thirty inches. The mouth when opened measured five
inches from tip to tip of the bill, and was three inches wide; but the
œsophagus was less than half an inch in diameter, which would prevent
it from swallowing anything larger than a humming-bird.

The nights at the mission were always pleasant. The priest usually
conducted a short service in the chapel, and then we sat in front of
his hut for an hour’s chat, while the children romped and played before
being sent to bed. Sometimes one of the boys brought out a queer drum;
the ends were made of skin taken from the neck of a jabiru stork. He
beat it in slow rhythm, swaying his head from side to side with each
low thud. The girls placed their arms around one another’s waists,
forming lines of threes, and shuffled forward three steps and back,
swinging their bodies all the while; suddenly they would whirl around
once, take hold of one another’s hands, and then the long line swept
around at such a rapid pace that the individuals at the ends invariably
went sprawling some distance away. After tiring of this or any other
pastime upon which they were engaged, they lined up and said a “_Buenas
noches, Padre_,” in chorus. Then they ran away to the sleeping quarters.

After spending nearly two weeks at the mission we accepted the priest’s
invitation to accompany him on a short trip down the Chimoré. Twenty
young men and boys were selected as paddlers; they started early one
morning, taking all of our personal luggage with them; a large number
of girls and women followed soon after, carrying baskets of plantains,
yuccas, and other provisions. The missionary, Boyle, and I brought up
the rear, and encouraged the few stragglers we met on the way, for the
distance from the mission to the river is three miles, through the
virgin forest.

The Chimoré is of about the same width as the Chaparé, although the
water is in normal times somewhat clearer. It rises far to the south
and is formed by the junction of the Blanco and Icona. Some distance
below it unites with the waters of the Ichilo, a mighty river flowing
from the south, through a solitary and unknown wilderness, and up which
Padre Fulgencio had ascended a number of miles on a previous trip. In
latitude 15° 30´ South, the Ichilo and Chaparé join, and form the Rio
Mamorecillo, which lower in its course is known as the Mamoré.

The meaning of Mamoré, which is a Yuracaré word, is “mother of the
human race.” They have a legend to the effect that far away, at
the source of the Sajta, which is the beginning of the furthermost
tributary of the mighty river, there are three rocks of pyramidal
shape that rise in terraces, one above the other, and in the heart of
which the stream rises. In the very beginning of things this rock gave
birth to the first people, for which reason it is called “Mamoré.”
Later the name was also given to the river because its water, teeming
with fish, supplied them with food and offered an easy highway for the
dissemination of the race.

Arrived at the point of embarkation, the men began to load the five
canoes which were waiting, and the women built a fire and cooked
lunch. In a short time everything was ready and the canoes moved
easily down-stream. The paddlers were adepts at their work, and as a
good deal of rivalry existed between the different crews, they kept
up an almost continuous race, with the natural consequence that we
made good time. The scenery along the Chimoré is exactly like that on
the upper courses of the many rivers of tropical South America; there
is the same monotony of the yellow water highway, flanked by walls
of deepest green. One thing that impresses the traveller as much as
any other is the immensity of the silent, uninhabited areas; and also
their comparative worthlessness. For days and even weeks one may enter
deeper and deeper into the heart of the undefiled wilderness, and see
always the same dark forest, the hurrying, mysterious streams, and
the rafts of low, threatening clouds; hear the annoying buzz and feel
the poisonous sting of the insect swarms, and swelter in the humid,
enervating climate. The greater part of this country can never be
cultivated to any extent, as the annual floods cover it to a depth of
many feet; there are very few eminences safe from the inundations,
and these are of inconsiderable size. The person who pictures the
untrodden tropics as a paradise of fruits and flowers, teeming with
gorgeous-colored creatures and inhabited by tribes of gracious Indians
whose one desire in life is to serve the traveller or explorer, has yet
to cut his eye-teeth in the field of exploration.

Our Indians were all well armed and frequently took long shots at
some of the creatures that ventured to show themselves in the early
mornings or just before dark. They were expert archers and even shot
large birds on the wing as the flocks passed overhead. Occasionally
an otter appeared, always a hundred yards or more away, swimming
rapidly with only the head showing above the water. These animals were
favorite targets, and from my seat in the middle of the canoe I had an
unobstructed view of the arrows in flight as they left the bow of the
man in front; he did not aim at his prey, but quite some distance above
it. At the twang of the bow the arrow sped into the air, ascending
slightly at first, and then dropping as it approached the mark; it
described a curve exactly like a bullet fired from a rifle, and
remained in a perfectly horizontal position during the entire flight.

When making camp on a sand-bank the Indians stuck their bows and arrows
in the ground, near the shelters; this prevented their being stepped
on and broken. In damp or rainy weather the arrows warped badly, but
it was only a few minutes’ work to heat them near a fire and bend them
back into alignment.

Tropical rivers are noted for their treachery. One can never be
certain of their actions or character, even a few hours hence. We
had a striking example of this on the Chimoré. Camp had been made on
an extensive sand-bank one day at noon, as we planned to spend a few
hours hunting and fishing in the neighborhood. The sun shone brightly
and there was nothing to indicate a change of conditions in any manner
whatever; but scarcely had the canoes been unloaded and a fire built
over which we intended to do the cooking when we were startled by a
dull roar that grew louder with each passing second; before we had
time to hurriedly gather our belongings and throw them into the canoes
a foam-capped, seething wall of water was upon us, sweeping down the
river and carrying away everything in its path. As the tidal wave,
several feet high, dashed over the sand-bank, the imprisoned air shot
up from the great cracks and rents in the sun-baked earth, and set the
raging mass of muddy water to hissing and boiling. In a few minutes
only the higher mounds of sand projected above the roaring inferno,
and against these hungry tongues of water lapped greedily until their
bases were undermined. Then the whole mass crumbled and disappeared
in the seething flood. Where our peaceful camp had stood but a few
minutes before there was now a sea of agitated water. The explanation
of this phenomenon is simple: A heavy rain had fallen in the mountains
where the tributaries of the river rise, and the torrent of water
dashing down the precipitous slopes had rushed into the lowlands. After
this the water was so muddy that it was unfit for use without special
preparation. In order to secure a supply for drinking and cooking we
boiled a quantity of it; the sand was quickly precipitated to the
bottom as the temperature rose, after which the clear water could
be poured off the top. In some instances the amount of solid matter
carried by the water was fully 50 per cent of the total volume.

Animals were not abundant on the river-banks, although we saw a deer
or a small flock of curassows at infrequent intervals. If we went
into the forest a short distance, however, we were sure to find game
in abundance. On one occasion the Indians demonstrated their skill at
calling up monkeys. A large troop of cebus and squirrel-monkeys were
feeding in the tree-tops, but for some reason the men did not give
chase as they usually do; they concealed themselves in the thick lower
growth and whistled a few plaintive _kee-oows_. In a short time the
animals began to evince a great deal of interest or curiosity, and
many of them descended to the lower branches. Then the hunters shot a
number with their arrows before the band realized what had occurred and
took flight.

Large areas covered with an impenetrable cane-jungle are scattered all
along the borders of the Chimoré. The tall stalks rise to a height of
fifty feet or more, and are beautiful to look at, but impossible to
penetrate until a trail has been cleared with hatchet or machete. The
plant resembles the well-known sugar-cane of our Southern States, but
grows much taller, and the stems are thin and hard. A large, white,
feathery plume crowns each stalk. This plant is of inestimable value to
the natives. The long poles are used almost exclusively in constructing
their dwellings, and the leaves make an impervious thatch. Practically
every stalk is infested with thick white grubs which live in the pith.
These are extracted by the Yuracarés, who call them _chata_, and used
for bait when fishing. Many runways perforate the matted growth; these
have been made by capybaras, agoutis, and numerous other animals. Even
tapirs seem to appreciate the protection afforded by the thick cover
and resort to it in the daytime, while jaguars noiselessly steal along
the paths in the course of their nightly prowls. One night we had an
excellent illustration of how useful the cane-plant, or _chuchilla_,
as the Indians call it, can be in an emergency. We had landed on a
sand-bank rather early in the evening, spurred to this action by
rapidly approaching black clouds, flashes of lightning, and the
rumbling of distant thunder which bespoke the arrival of a tropical
rain-storm. At first it looked as if we should be compelled to endure
a thorough drenching, but Padre Fulgencio issued a few orders to the
canoemen, and they hurried away to neighboring cane-brakes, with
machete in hand; soon they returned, dragging an immense quantity of
the plant; four of the strongest poles were firmly planted in the sand
to form a square, about fifteen feet apart, and the tops bent over and
tied together with strips of their leaves. These served as the corner
posts of a shelter. Other stalks were laid across the top to form
rafters, and firmly tied. The men then piled many more on top, binding
each one to the rafter, until a complete hut had been built; although
the height of the roof was fully eight feet, the ragged edges came down
to the ground, entirely enclosing the sides and forming a snug retreat
against which the elements raged without avail. After the first deluge
had subsided other and smaller shelters were built. The Indians enjoyed
the experience thoroughly; they threw aside all clothing, built fires
over which fish and game were placed to roast, and squatted around the
embers in a circle, doubtless indulging in pleasant reminiscences of
the days before civilization with its restricting influences, and had
come into their care-free existence.

Early next morning we were awakened by the reverberating howls of
monkeys. The Indians rushed in a body from their shelters and,
snatching up bows and arrows, ran in pursuit. A troop of red howlers
had come to the _chuchilla_ near our shelters; we could see none
of the animals, but the tops of the canes waving as if agitated by
a violent gust of wind told us of their whereabouts. Soon we heard
shouts followed by the twang of bows and the snarl of arrows as they
ripped through the flesh of the luckless victims. This continued until
the creatures disappeared in the interior of the dense jungle, and
then the hunters returned, dragging their quarry after them. We were
eager to continue on our way, but in view of the efficient and willing
service rendered by the men the night before it was decided to wait a
few hours and permit them to have a feast. A huge fire was built, and
the monkeys, after having been skinned and washed, were set on spits
to roast. The Indians crowded around, sang and shouted, and tore off
and ate chunks of the half-roasted flesh. In a short time our orderly
Yuracarés had returned to the realms of savagery, and were indulging in
a performance such as I had repeatedly seen among the wild Nhambiquaras
of Matto Grosso.

Lower down we saw numerous islands, some of large size and of a
peculiar formation. The river, which had risen so rapidly a few days
before, had gone down to its normal level and left these obstructions
in the channel exposed high above the surface. A matted mass of logs
and branches of which a layer fifteen feet thick protruded above the
water, formed the base of the islands; on this soil had gathered to
a depth of five or six feet, and supported a luxuriant growth of
vegetation. These islands are composed of deposits of driftwood which
were left stranded on sand-banks during the season of high water,
and while the edges are torn and jagged the force of succeeding
floods seems to be of insufficient strength to wash them away. As we
paddled along quietly near the banks the priest or the Indians pointed
out many interesting and curious plants. One of these is the _palo
santo_, or holy tree; it grows to be a great height, but the trunk is
comparatively slender. The peculiar name is derived from the fact that
it is as carefully guarded as any sacred object should be, but in this
instance by myriads of fire-ants, which live in the hollow interior of
the trunk. If the tree is struck sharply with a stick the ants pour out
in endless files through minute openings. They are vicious insects,
and the bite smarts and burns many hours after it is inflicted. The
_tacuara_, a species of tall, feathery bamboo, is another interesting
plant of this region. When the stalk is cut down the leaves shrivel
and dry within a few minutes. Large numbers of cabbage-palms grew
throughout the forest. The beautiful, plume-shaped leaves droop in a
great umbrella-like mass from the top of a column sixty or seventy feet
high; thick clumps of straight, tough roots branch out eight or ten
feet above the ground and form a solid support to the stem. A delicious
salad is made from the tender leaves, folded up in the bud; or if
boiled the flavor is similar to that of asparagus. To secure the bud it
is, of course, necessary to cut down a tree which has taken the greater
part of a century to mature, but in a region where many millions are
growing one is not inclined to be sentimental, and will only bemoan
the fact that it requires an hour’s hard work to chop through the
steel-like trunk before the coveted morsel is brought down.

The country between the Guapay and Ichilo is probably as little
known as any part of South America. This strip of land, covering
approximately five thousand square miles, is heavily forested, and is
the home of a tribe of savages known as the Sirionós. Judging from the
accounts given to us by our canoemen and the priest, they must be a
terrible and indomitable race. The Yuracarés fear them greatly, and as
we neared the Ichilo they preferred to keep the canoes in the centre of
the river and seemed reluctant to land; if they shot at an animal and
the arrow missed its mark and dropped in the forest they did not go in
search of it; a half-day of careful work is needed to make an arrow,
and as a general rule Indians are very particular to hunt for any they
may lose; but in this instance they preferred the loss of the arrows to
risking their skins in the dense cover.

There were four Yuracarés at the mission, one, a girl of twelve years,
who bore unsightly scars--the result of having been ambushed by parties
of the Sirionós tribe; I was also told that occasionally some of them
are killed.

The Sirionós seem to have no permanent homes and cultivate the ground
to a very limited extent, if at all. They are a tribe of wanderers, and
roam the forest in small parties, killing game for food. In appearance
and stature they are not unlike the Guarayos, but in temperament they
are totally different and have successfully resisted every attempt made
to subdue them. Their weapons are bows and arrows, the former of great
height and so powerful that they cannot be drawn with the arms alone.
In order to shoot the Indian throws himself on his back, grasps the
bow with the feet and draws the cord with both hands; the arrows, of
which the priest had collected a number, are seven or eight feet long
and made of wild cane or _chuchilla_. Apparently they are unacquainted
with the use of poison.

Probably the Guarayos suffer more at the hands of the Sirionós than
the Yuracarés, because the former two tribes come in contact more
frequently. Padre Wolfgang, in charge of one of the missions of Santa
Cruz de la Sierra, was on one occasion attacked and several of his men
were captured. A few days later he found them nailed to trees with
numerous long thorns. On another occasion he surprised a party of
Sirionós and succeeded in capturing seven; these he took back to the
mission, but they proved to be intractable. He found it necessary to
tie them to posts in order to prevent them from escaping. They steadily
refused food and water, and after a few days four died of starvation
and sullenness. The priest took pity on the remaining three and
released them.

After five pleasant days crowded with interesting and unusual
experiences on the Chimoré we returned to the mission and spent a few
days there packing the valuable zoological collections. We then went
back to our base on the Chaparé; for this journey we decided to go
by way of the Coni, a small stream emptying into the Chaparé, a few
miles above Todos Santos. We followed a path through the forest for
a distance of three miles, arriving at a large clearing which was
planted in sugar-cane; but what surprised us greatly was the fact that
the owner was a Quechua, who had deserted his home in one of the high
valleys near Cochicancha, and had come to live in the hot tropics. He
had constructed a crude wooden mill for expressing the juice from the
cane-stalks, erected a still, and was making alcohol. We had gone to
the mission with the intention of remaining a week, and filled with
many misgivings as to the outcome of our visit; but the good missionary
had proved to be one of the most kind-hearted and generous of men
imaginable, and more than three weeks had flown before the many and
imperative duties ahead forced us to return reluctantly to the port.

Padre Fulgencio walked to the Coni with us, and supplied men and canoes
for the six hours’ journey to Todos Santos. His regret at our departure
was as genuine as our own, and I look forward with the utmost pleasure
to another and longer visit to the mission and the boundless country of
the upper Chimoré in the not far-distant future.



CHAPTER XX

THE CACTUS FORESTS OF CENTRAL BOLIVIA--COCHABAMBA TO SAMAIPATA


The journey from Cochabamba to Sucre presents difficulties, no matter
which of the two available routes is selected. It is possible to take
a pack-train to the beginning of the railroad at Cala Cala and proceed
by train to Potosi, thence by cart or pack-train (or by motor-car in
the dry season) to Sucre; but we preferred to go the whole way by
pack-train, following the roundabout Santa Cruz trail, as this would
enable us to see the country and also to stop at any time we chose to
investigate the fauna of a promising region.

It is an easy matter to rent mules and _arrieros_ in Cochabamba, either
by the trip or month, and the latter way is the more satisfactory
if one does not expect to spend too much time en route. We had been
told, however, that it was better to secure the animals at Tarata, a
small town southeast of Cochabamba, so we decided to make that the
expedition’s starting-point.

A narrow-gauge railroad connects Cochabamba with Arani, almost due
east; Tarata is about half-way between the two. We took the train and
sent our own mules overland, in charge of one of the men. It required
but two hours to make the trip. The entire region is naturally of a
barren, desolate nature; nevertheless it is densely populated with
Quechua Indians. The low, earthen huts cover the desert-like plain and
are so like it in color that it is at first impossible to distinguish
them. During the short rainy season crops of wheat and other grain are
sown, and their growth is later promoted by means of irrigation. They
also cultivate grape-vines, and their small clumps of peach and apricot
trees were in full bloom.

The train stopped at numerous little stations, and at each of them
gayly dressed Quechua squaws sold fried eggs, boiled corn, and bread.
Occasionally they also had stew or meat pies, but these were always to
be regarded with suspicion. Our boy told us that cavies are ordinarily
used in preparing the meat foods; but a woman tried substituting toads
on one occasion, with the result that those who partook of the delicacy
became violently ill.

Crowds of Indians boarded and left the train at each station. The
accommodations at their disposal resemble cattle-cars from the outside,
but have two long benches running through the centre. The fare is
very low, and the Indians are fond of travelling, so the cars were
invariably crowded to suffocation. In addition to the mass of humanity
each person carried a huge parcel, pail, or basket, that filled the
few interstices. The Quechuas and Cholos are a good-natured lot among
themselves, and do not in the least mind being placed in such close
proximity with one another.

We reached Tarata in two hours. It is a town of considerable size;
the elevation is nine thousand eight hundred feet, and it is desolate
beyond description. The inhabitants are largely Indians of an
independent temperament, though living in abject poverty. We found
it almost impossible to secure lodging, or to find help to carry our
luggage up from the station, so appealed to the chief of police, who
rounded up a number of men and placed them at our disposal. Perhaps our
difficulty was due partly to the fact that the Indians were celebrating
a religious holiday. They had taken an image of a saint from the church
and were carrying it back and forth through the streets. A group of
them preceded the procession and set off pinwheels and cannon crackers,
while those following also employed explosives of various kinds with
which to add to the din. The people are so fond of this sort of pastime
that it is difficult to persuade them to desist long enough to perform
any service, no matter how slight; and the guise of religious fervor
gives them license to indulge in acts that would not be tolerated at
other times.

Padre Fulgencio, with whom we had become acquainted at the mission on
the Chimoré, had told me a great deal about the monastery of San José,
located at Tarata, and had given us a letter of introduction to the
abbot. We therefore called upon that personage at the first available
moment.

The huge building stands on an eminence overlooking the town and
surrounding country, and is said to be the largest of its kind in
Bolivia. We were ushered through long, gloomy corridors, past rows of
small, cell-like rooms, and finally into the quarters of the abbot.
This good man received us in his cell, and cordially offered to assist
us in any way possible. He also invited us to make the monastery our
home during our stay in Tarata. A group of monks added their invitation
to their superior’s, but the edifice, with walls eight or ten feet
thick, small, narrow windows, bare, gloomy rooms, and the chill damp
as of a dungeon was not very inviting, and we preferred to return to
the Quechua hut that seemed to belong more to the every-day world. One
of the priests, however, secured an _arriero_ and mules to take us the
first stage of the journey.

Our man arrived about noon on Sunday, September 18. Much to our
surprise we saw that he had but one arm, but this did not prevent him
from being one of the best mule-men we ever employed. He had evolved
a clever system of loading the packs that was admirably suited to his
needs. Instead of the long ropes or thongs ordinarily used to tie on
the cargoes he had strong nets that fitted over the packs, with loops
that could be hooked over pegs in the pack-saddle. He lifted the
trunks, each weighing one hundred and twenty-five pounds with his one
arm, slipped them into place, and then tied them securely to prevent
them from bouncing up and down as the animals trotted along.

The first afternoon’s ride was short and ended at the _arriero’s_
house in a village called Uaiculi. There, as at Tarata, scores of
yellow finches lived about the houses; they were fully as plentiful as
English sparrows are in the United States, and acted not unlike them.
The soil in this entire region is so arid and rocky that even cacti
grow in limited numbers only. There are no streams, so water of a poor
quality is obtained from deep wells. Nevertheless the whole country
is thickly settled. The Indians are adepts at conserving the scanty
water-supply, and at irrigating. They grow fruit and also cultivate
small, isolated fields of grain, but the greater part of their
subsistence is derived from the flocks of sheep and goats that seem to
thrive in the desert-like country.

The climate is very cold and during the winter months there is a high
wind. We could see funnel-shaped masses of dust moving across the plain
all day long; occasionally a dozen or more, resembling small cyclones,
were visible at the same time.

After leaving Uaiculi the way lay along the edge of the barren plain
for some miles. A ridge of high peaks, some of them covered with snow,
rises on each side. Then the trail ascended the slope to the east,
rising gradually in a series of terraces, four to six hundred feet
high. Sometimes low hills flanked the trail, and often we passed along
the top of flat plateaus.

The slopes of the highest peaks were littered with fields of broken
sandstone that resembled a quarry-dump for shattered rocks of large
size; groves of gnarled trees, not over twenty-five feet high, grew in
these rock-strewn areas, and we found them nowhere else. Where there
were no rocks thick clumps of tall grass stood. When we reached the
elevation of thirteen thousand four hundred and fifty feet we found a
very peculiar plant belonging to the bromelias (_Puya_); the smooth,
trunk-like stem was about eighteen inches through; this served as a
pedestal for the dense clump of slender, bayonet-like leaves; a tall
spike of small yellow flowers rose from the centre of the plant.
Numbers of giant humming-birds (_Patagona gigas_) came to sip nectar
from these flowers.

[Illustration: The great _Puya_, a species of pine growing in the
Bolivian Andes at an elevation of 13,000 feet.]

The mountains seem formed of solid sandstone. Here and there a ledge,
worn and rounded by the elements, projects conspicuously and resembles
an impregnable fort or castle of majestic though fantastic design.
We reached a lone Indian hut late at night, and, while the _arriero_
was loath to halt, the mules were too tired to go much farther. The
neighborhood was in bad repute on account of a number of robberies and
murders that had recently taken place there, and not long after our
arrival we saw mysterious signal-fires spring up on the surrounding
slopes. We therefore camped in a corral, the enclosing stone walls
serving as a barricade, and alternately did sentry duty throughout the
night. I believe one of the reasons for our being left severely alone
was that each member of the expedition was advised to display casually
his pistol to the inhabitants of the hut, and to acquaint them with
its possibilities. This same ruse has prevented serious trouble in a
number of instances. I have found that by far in the greater part of
South America there is not the slightest necessity of carrying a weapon
of any kind; but there are isolated regions where the moral effect
on the natives produced by wearing a revolver of generous size in a
conspicuous place is so great that one may tread with impunity what
would otherwise be dangerous ground.

The next night was spent on the banks of a narrow creek called
Usiamayo, the elevation being only seven thousand nine hundred feet.
Many Indians live on both sides of the stream. They own numerous flocks
of sheep and goats and cultivate extensive areas of maize and wheat.
Their huts are low, primitive affairs, and of such small size that they
resemble overcrowded rabbit-hutches. Freshly cut grain was piled in
neat heaps that were surrounded by fences of thorny brush to keep the
sheep and cattle away. Corn fodder was stored in the tops of low trees.
From a distance these aerial storage-places looked as if they might
be the nests of some giant bird. Invariably a little shelter or wigwam
stood in the centre of each field, or in several instances it had
been built in the branches of a stunted tree. These are the Quechuas’
guard-houses; they are occupied by a watchman day and night so long as
crops are in the field, and thieves have but slight chance, indeed, of
escaping his vigilant eyes.

It was less than half a day’s ride from the Usiamayo to Mizque, a town
of small size, the capital of the Province of Mizque. The cactus-forest
belt of central Bolivia has its beginning in this region, although it
does not reach its maximum development until some distance farther
south. A part of the surrounding country, however, is fertile and
provides pasturage for horses and cattle, and areas of some extent are
also cultivated; this is particularly true of the land near the small
stream bearing the same name as the town and province. A great deal of
the acreage is planted in peppers, for which there is a good demand
throughout the country, and which fetch a high price. The seeds are
sown in small, sunken squares or “pans,” where the plants remain until
several inches high. They are then transplanted to the fields. I saw
numbers of Indians weeding in the plantations, and when they neglected
their work or accidentally pulled up a few of the precious plants
together with the grass, their employers did not hesitate to cuff or
kick them. When the peppers are ripe they are dried and done up into
bales of about fifty pounds each; the natives are very fond of them and
eat quantities just as we eat an apple or other fruit.

The fauna of the Mizque region is typical of the arid highlands; but
many species of birds belonging to a different zone were met with
for the first time in Bolivia. I immediately recognized the white
anis (_guiras_) that were so common near Asuncion, and there was also
a species of puff-bird, or bucco, and a little finch of a deep-red
color (_Coryphospingus_). The number of doves in the open fields was
astonishing; they fed on weed-seeds, and when disturbed flew to the
nearest bush or low tree which they covered much in the same manner
that passenger pigeons are said to have done in this country not so
many years ago. One could easily have secured thirty or forty with a
single charge of number ten shot.

[Illustration: The plaza at Mizque.]

Near Mizque lies a narrow valley enclosed on both sides by ridges of
low mountains. We repaired to this space and camped in a decaying
structure that formerly served as a sawmill; for, strange to relate,
this little valley was originally wooded. Most of the trees had been
cut down and converted into lumber, and while a large part of the land
was under cultivation, there were also extensive patches of brush and
second growth. Tujma, as the place is called, deserved more time than
we could give it. In addition to the birds found at Mizque were many
species unknown to us; among them a blue-fronted and a red-fronted
parrakeet, and a gorgeous Amazon parrot. There was also a kind of macaw
(_Ara_) that we saw in that region only, and even there it was rare;
the forehead and shoulders are of a blazing crimson, and the underparts
of a pale-yellow color, the rest of the bird being green. Most members
of the parrot family were feeding on cactus fruits that were ripening
in great abundance.

A hummer of rather modest attire, being of a grayish color, but larger
than our own ruby-throat, had a dainty little nest, containing two
white, bean-like eggs, suspended from the ceiling of our hut. At first
the bird was greatly distressed at our appearance and darted out each
time we came in; but finally it became more confident and returned,
frequently hovering overhead to inspect us several minutes at a time,
and then slipping quietly into the nest where it sat unconcernedly, its
long tongue playing in and out of the bill, like a snake’s.

Our next station was the large Indian town of Totora. We covered the
entire distance of more than thirty miles in a day. The country is
rough and the trail runs up and down over numerous mountain-tops,
varying between seven thousand one hundred and ten thousand feet in
height. There are a number of deep ravines filled with low, dry woods;
they form the connecting-links with the lowland forest, and it is up
these avenues that the new fauna we were constantly observing finds an
easy means of invading the uplands. Before reaching Totora we had seen
guans, and jays of a dark-blue color.

There were many Indians on the trail; most of them were driving burros
laden with fire-wood, peppers, or sundry articles. When the tired
animals stopped for a moment’s breathing-spell, their owners beat
them unmercifully with stones and clubs so that some of them dropped
senseless in their tracks. The drivers also used sticks with sections
of cactus stuck on the end as prods to urge on the worn-out creatures.

Totora is to me the most desolate and unattractive place in all
Bolivia, and the inhabitants are quite in keeping with their town. It
is frequently spoken of as the miniature La Paz because, like that
city, it is built in a crevice in the mountains, and one does not see
it until on the very brink of the precipice above. The inhabitants are
practically all Quechuas, or Cholos of a low type who spend most of
their time drinking, swearing, and fighting; then they unburden their
souls of guilt by celebrating a religious fiesta. We witnessed one such
performance the day after our arrival. Indians and Cholos formed the
inevitable procession, headed by members of the clergy; they halted at
each corner and sang a hymn to the tune of a few blaring brass horns.
The _gente decente_ stood on the upper balconies of their mud huts and
showered home-made confetti and firecrackers on the heads of the sacred
statue and the marchers.

The Indians of Totora make some of the loveliest blankets found in all
Bolivia and--since the introduction of cheap German dyes--some of the
most atrocious. They are woven of coarse yarn, are thick and heavy and
of large size, being about seven or eight feet square. Usually there
are wide stripes of two colors merging gradually into one another,
and when some harmonious combination is used, such as dark green and
yellow, the effect is very pleasing. The price of a blanket, requiring
months to make and containing six or eight pounds of wool, was about
three dollars.

Continuing our journey by way of Duraznillos and Lajma, we reached
Chilón at the end of three days. A more tiresome trip is hard to
imagine; the country is so uneven that one is constantly going either
up hill or down, and the altitude varies from that of Totora, nine
thousand eight hundred feet to ten thousand five hundred feet. The
broken, arid landscape becomes monotonous, and the climate is trying
owing to the heat at midday and the freezing temperature at night. The
Indians scattered along the way are not of a particularly friendly
nature, and are only indifferent at best.

At Chilón we entered the heart of the giant-cactus forest--and it can
be properly known by no other name. The country, far as the eye can
see, is covered with the thorny plants; some of the giant club-cacti
rear their fluted columns to a height of sixty to seventy-five feet,
and are of majestic appearance. There are also immense clumps of
prickly-pear and several other varieties, while low, trailing kinds hug
the rocky earth; the latter are rather unpleasant as one frequently
strikes against them in walking, and the sharp spines penetrate
shoe-leather and are extracted from the foot with difficulty; mules
frequently get them into their noses while nibbling on leaves or the
few blades of coarse grass, and are driven almost frantic with the
pain. Many of the club-cactus plants bore an abundance of round fruit
about two inches in diameter and covered with long, velvety down; when
the outer covering was brushed off a smooth, red berry was revealed; it
is very sweet and the flavor reminds one of strawberries.

Chilón is a settlement of twenty-five or thirty huts; its elevation
above sea-level is five thousand six hundred feet, but the climate is
very hot. We put up in one of the hovels where there was also a corral
for the mules, and proceeded to work along the banks of the Rio Chilón,
which is a small tributary of the Rio Mizque. The stream is rapid and
shallow, and flows over a rock-strewn bed. Numbers of fish, including
rays, were plainly visible through the clear water. The majority of
the birds inhabiting the thorny jungle that grows on both sides of
the watercourse, were still of the arid upland type; but there was
a further encroachment of a foreign fauna, and the brown-shouldered
orioles, coral-billed tinamou, and red-tailed parrakeets left no doubts
in our minds of the origin of their distribution. They were the advance
ranks of a stream of bird-life flowing up the valley of the Rio Grande
and its tributaries, where conditions are at least somewhat similar to
those obtaining in the chaco country to the east, which is their normal
habitat.

Apparently the red-tailed parrakeets were mating. Large groups sat on
the branches of some stunted tree, preening one another’s plumage, and
emitting queer ani-like wails. If one observed closely, however, it
could be seen that the flocks were always broken up into pairs that
were snuggled up as closely together as possible.

Comarapa, the next station, is very similar to Chilón, but somewhat
larger. The town is built near the base of a high range that towers
to the east. A stream of small size flows past the settlement; it is
known as the Rio Comarapa, and is thought to be the headwater of the
Ichilo and Mamoré. The Indians said that the river flows through a deep
cleft in the mountains, impossible to follow or navigate; also that an
exploration-party of Germans once crossed the range with the object
of locating the Ichilo on the other side, but after spending several
months in the wilderness they returned without having found the river.
There was at one time a well-known trail across the mountains, over
which war-parties of Yuracaré Indians crossed to attack the settlers,
and later they came to work in the pepper-fields; but the location
of this passageway doubtless leading to the Ichilo or some other
navigable stream, has been forgotten.

A few of the older families of Comarapa possess wonderful collections
of ancient silverware made by the Spaniards centuries ago. One finds it
difficult to refrain from openly admiring the massive ladles, bowls,
plates, and cups that are unostentatiously placed on the table before
the guest, but such a procedure would be considered unpardonable, as
any comment on such possessions is looked upon with suspicion. To
attempt to purchase an article of this kind is regarded as a very grave
breach of etiquette; but not infrequently the owners of these treasures
experience the need of ready money and will offer them for a fraction
of their value.

The elevation of Comarapa is six thousand six hundred feet. But a
short distance away rises the first outlier of the Andean Range, eight
thousand three hundred feet high; from its summit we could see two
other ridges, both of greater height, that must be crossed before
reaching the forested slopes on the eastern side; and there may be
more. We descended one thousand seven hundred feet into a small valley
called California, settled by a few Quechua families. These people were
squalid beyond description. Their dilapidated huts swarmed with fleas,
and vermin of many kinds was so numerous that during the three days and
nights we spent in the valley, no member of the party found it possible
to get an hour’s sleep altogether. We left sooner than we had expected,
as the insect plague drove us to the verge of exhaustion. Practically
all the Indians we saw were suffering from consumption. Many of them
had lost the sight of one eye, and I was told that in fighting among
themselves they invariably try to gouge out one another’s eyes with
their thumbs.

From a short distance the valley and the slopes above California appear
to be heavily forested, but a close inspection showed that there was
but a dense growth of low, dry woods, the trees not exceeding forty
feet in height; the interlocking branches were draped with long
streamers of grayish moss. The ground was perfectly clean and one could
see a long distance ahead in the greenish-gray light. The surroundings
were almost weird; subconsciously one expected to find strange
sacrificial altars, and bearded Druids officiating at some gruesome
rite of a mythical religion. Beautiful little deer walked timidly among
the column-like trunks of the garlanded sanctuary, sniffing the air,
and nibbling daintily at a leaf or twig, and made the hunter feel like
an intruder in a consecrated place.

Upon our return to Comarapa we met a gentleman representing a
mercantile establishment in Cochabamba. He was making his semiannual
tour of the region, taking orders for merchandise, and collecting for
goods sold on the previous trip. Most of his customers paid with silver
and nickel coins, so that he had several mule-loads of money in his
possession. One night our Indian boy came to us in a state of great
excitement. He had been drinking _chicha_ in an Indian liquor-store
together with the _peons_ belonging to the merchant, and one of them,
while under the influence of drink, boasted that he expected to murder
and rob his _patrón_. A plan had been carefully formed to suddenly
attack the man from behind, while riding along a lonely and precipitous
part of the trail. The body was then to be thrown over the precipice
into the river below, where no one would ever discover it, and the
money taken by the highwayman and his accomplice. Naturally, we lost
no time in imparting this information to the traveller, and he at once
interviewed the would-be assassin. He first of all questioned the man
carefully, and when he had succeeded in obtaining a partial confession,
he mauled him back and forth across the room until he was tired out.
Thereafter we all travelled together, and the plotter, as further
punishment, was deprived of his horse and compelled to walk in advance
of the party day after day. He had been in the merchant’s employ six
years, and the latter did not care to turn him over to the police, but
was certain that the punishment inflicted was sufficient to inspire
proper respect in the future.

A brisk canter of eighteen miles took us from Comarapa to Pulcina, also
known as San Isidro. A tame condor was standing dolefully in the centre
of the open square about which the houses were built; it was a friendly
bird and liked to be petted and to romp, but was pretty rough at times,
and picked off pieces of skin during the course of its rather too
affectionate caresses.

As we unloaded the mules the bells in the tiny box-like church began
to tinkle, and all the people rushed out of their houses, bearing
lighted candles in their hands. They hurried to one of the huts where
a youth lay dying, and crowded into the one dingy room, filling it
to overflowing, and raising their voices in wails and lamentations;
this continued for half an hour. No priest or physician was present;
only the noisy mob of half-wild people, to whom death comes as a
divertisement from the daily humdrum of half-lived lives, to speed the
parting soul to the great beyond.

Pulcina was swarming with dogs. It seemed as if each family owned at
least half a dozen. They were a hungry mongrel lot, that roamed at
large, snarling at passers-by and rending the night with howls and
fighting. It was impossible to keep them out of the houses, and no
matter how often they were driven away they always returned to rummage
among the luggage and attempt to tear open the provision-sacks. Toward
morning, when the dogs had departed, pigs came to take their place.
Each of them wore a long, forked stick over the neck, like an inverted
Y; another stick was lashed across the bottom so that the pig’s neck
was enclosed in a complete wooden triangle. This arrangement would have
kept the pigs from crawling through fences, had there been any. Some
of the contrivances were so large that they had apparently been made
in the hope that the animals would eventually grow to fit them; but as
it was, they touched the ground and made the wearers think they were
constantly about to step over something, so they walked along raising
their front feet like well-trained circus horses.

A ride of thirty miles next day brought us to Pampa Grande. The town
was anything but what the name led us to expect. Instead of a vast,
grass-covered pampa, there was but a semiarid plain; near by extended
the wide, rocky bed of a river that contained not a drop of water.
The inhabitants had dug deep down into the gravel and scooped up the
small quantity of thin mud that had collected; it is a place about
the size of Mizque but wretched-looking and forsaken. Formerly it had
a population of sixty thousand and was noted for the brilliancy and
gayety of its annual fairs, that drew crowds even from the Argentine.
Epidemics of fever, it is said, killed off many of the people, and
others fled from the threatening shadow of the pestilence, until to-day
the once thriving city has all but ceased to exist.

At Pampa Grande we had a very good illustration of two extreme types of
Bolivian character. When we entered the town, our travelling companion
met an acquaintance who owned practically the only house of any size.
The Bolivian greeted him in the friendliest and most polite manner
possible, and insisted that all of us spend the night at his home; he
directed us to the house and then excused himself, saying that he would
return presently. We found the place without difficulty, but the wife
refused to admit us and told us we might wait--in the street--until
the return of her husband. The school-teacher, seeing our predicament,
ventured to offer us the use of the classroom; he apologized because
it was so small and the roof leaked; and the next day he refused to
accept a single _centavo_ for the accommodation. The first man had
not returned home when we were leaving the following morning; from
my experience with the same type of person, I am certain that had he
returned and admitted us to his home, he would have made an exorbitant
charge that courtesy demanded our paying.

There now remained but one day’s ride to Samaipata, where the trail
divides--one branch leading toward Sucre, and the other to Santa Cruz
de la Sierra. The farther eastward one goes the greener the country
becomes. Between the five-thousand-foot elevation of Pampa Grande and
Samaipata, which is six thousand feet above sea-level, there are two
peaks to be crossed, one seven thousand three hundred and twenty-five
feet, and the other six thousand seven hundred feet high. The top of
the former is known as the Alto de Mairana; it is a cold, dreary little
plateau where half a dozen wretched Indians live. The town of Mairana
is on the lower plain between the two peaks. Patches of low brush
replace the cacti and thorny, arid-region type of vegetation; there is
a sufficient water-supply; and the whole country seems to present a
transition zone of reviving life between the alternately hot and frigid
upland deserts and the green slopes stretching toward Santa Cruz.



CHAPTER XXI

A MULE-BACK JOURNEY ON THE SANTA CRUZ TRAIL TO SUCRE


Samaipata is in no particular different from the towns through which
we had passed during the previous two weeks. Perhaps provisions were
somewhat more abundant, and a small number of mules and sheep grazed
in the nearby pastures; but the general distress and dejection were
very much the same, and never failed to give one the impression that
the settlements were tottering on the brink of obliteration. Everywhere
we heard tales of woe about the prevalence of malarial fever during a
part of the year, and that this disease was the cause of the desolation
and extermination of the people; but as none of the places was lower
than five thousand feet above sea-level, and the country is of a
semiarid type, I am unable to understand how malaria could work such
havoc, and am inclined to attribute the dreadful inroads to some other
little-known underlying cause.

Since leaving Cochabamba we had made very good time; although there
had been several halts en route, the distance covered each day was
comparatively great, ranging sometimes up to forty miles, considering
that we always travelled with our pack-train. Such long rides were
made possible by the fact that all _arrieros_ were mounted; if they
travelled on foot, as in Colombia, the distance traversed each day
would be about half. Fast travelling, however, was hard on the mules.
When we reached Samaipata our animals were in poor condition, so we
left them in charge of an attendant and engaged a complete new outfit
for a short side-trip toward Santa Cruz.

One of our main objects in undertaking this entire long, arduous
journey was to attempt to determine the southern limit of the
subtropical forest zone. This type of forest grows on the eastern
slopes only of the Bolivian Andes; a section directly eastward would,
therefore, take us through this zone and possibly enable us to find the
solution to the problem. It was not intended to cover the entire one
hundred and ten miles from Samaipata to Santa Cruz, but only to go far
enough to secure the desired information.

The mountain range breaks down rapidly east of Samaipata, but the road
to Santa Cruz is, nevertheless, neither an easy nor a level one. There
are still four steep ridges to cross, called Cuevas, Negra, Herradura,
and Guitara; between them lie small, well-watered valleys, planted in
cane and fruits, and settled by Bolivians of Spanish extraction. There
are no more Quechuas, nor is their language spoken; after many months
we were once again in a Spanish-speaking world.

The trail, at least during the second day’s travel, lies near the
course of the Rio Piray, and the scenery flanking this watercourse
is among the most picturesque found in the Bolivian Andes. There is
a bewildering succession of dome-shaped peaks, unscalable cliffs and
overhanging precipices, all of red sandstone. Many of the formations
are spotlessly clean and smooth, as if scoured, or cut with a knife.
The river laves the base of the rugged chain, and dark caverns worn
into the frowning battlement open alluringly to tempt the adventurous
spirit to explore their unknown depths.

Vermejo is the name given to a fertile region that may be called
_yungas_, between the Negra and Herradura ridges. Several houses are
scattered along the trail; the inhabitants grow maize, potatoes, and
large quantities of cane that is used in making _chancaca_ (brown
sugar) and molasses. The people also make bread and a peculiar
“food-drink” called _somo_ to sell to passers-by. _Somo_ is made of
boiled maize that has been left standing until fermentation sets in,
and is taken with molasses. To us, the taste was very disagreeable,
but the natives were fond of it and purchased a bowlful at frequent
intervals. _Chicha_, made from peanuts, was also to be had at some of
the dwellings.

With the exception of the tracts cleared for cultivation, and the bare
sandstone summits, the country is covered with light forest. There is
practically no moss, but a dense undergrowth of climbing bamboo and
a few palms and ferns. As a whole, the vegetation does not greatly
resemble that of the true subtropic or cloud-forest zone, and as this
was its upper limit and three thousand and five hundred feet above
sea-level, it should have been of the subtropic type, if any exists
in the region. We may, therefore, safely conclude that this marks the
ending of the zone of cloud forest existing on the eastern slope of the
Andes during practically their entire course north of this point.

Birds were not very common, and of comparatively few species; but the
fauna is entirely different from that of the uplands. The brilliant
little tanagers (_Calliste_), so typical of the mountain forest, are
conspicuously absent. There were, however, several kinds of warblers,
and wrens, parrots, and other birds properly belonging to such a
region. A black-and-white guan (_Pipile_) was really plentiful, and
while the distribution of the species is very great, I had always
considered it a rare bird. It is about twenty-eight inches long, and
of a bronzy-black color. The top of the head and a large blotch on the
wings are white; the naked cheeks and a long throat-caruncle are of a
delicate shade of grayish blue. The bird’s rasping cry may be heard
morning and evening, as it takes wing and alternately soars and flaps
from one tree to another, or skims over the top of the forest. Adult
birds weigh up to four pounds and are killed for food on every possible
occasion, as the flesh is very good. The individuals I examined had
been feeding on green leaves swallowed whole.

Jays in flocks followed us about in the forest and kept up a constant
screaming and scolding. It was impossible to escape them without using
drastic measures. They were a great nuisance, as their cries frightened
other forms of wild life away; both the black-fronted blue and the
green-and-yellow species mingled in the same flocks.

[Illustration: Vermejo on the Santa Cruz trail.]

One day we rode to the top of the next ridge, the Herradura, which
is six thousand feet high. The trail winds up along the face of
the slope and is very poor in places; a row of wonderful crags and
cathedral-shaped mountains stands like the ruins of a city on the
opposite side of the ravine. On the face of one of the cliffs we
saw what seems to be a gigantic serpent carved in the red sandstone
directly above two massive stones that stand as if forming a gateway.
The people say this is the entrance to a secret hiding-place used by
the Indians many years ago; or perhaps it might have been a prehistoric
shrine. The outline of the supposed snake can be discerned with ease,
and the body is marked with transverse black bands. It seems that the
natives have never taken the trouble to visit the spot, owing to the
difficulty of crossing the wild gorge.

We continued to the crest of the ridge; from this point of vantage it
was possible to secure a good view of the country to the east, but as
it did not differ from that we had just left, there was no reason for
going farther.

The vicinity of Vermejo had been headquarters of a band of brigands
that preyed upon travellers and caravans going to and from Santa
Cruz. They had had their rendezvous in one of the numerous caves, and
for a long time conducted their nefarious occupation with impunity.
Eventually, however, their depredations became so bold and wide-spread,
that a body of soldiers was sent against them. The bandits, brought to
bay among the hills, found it impossible to withstand the onslaught
of their assailants, and surrendered. It was said that a great many
horses and other property were recovered, and of the men captured a
number were taken to Santa Cruz, and others to Cochabamba and executed.
After that, thieving stopped for a while, but a new band was beginning
operations at the time of our visit.

The amount of traffic along the trail was surprising. Most of the
caravans were from Cochabamba; they took merchandise to Santa Cruz and
brought back cigars and low-country products.

The language spoken by the _Cruzeños_ is very peculiar; the diminutive
_ito_ is changed to _ingo_, so instead of saying _pocito_, _horita_,
or _chiquito_, they say _pocingo_, _horinga_, and _chiquingo_, for
instance. There are also other changes that sound either confusing or
amusing at first. At any rate, they speak the language of the country,
and do not copy that of the Indians. I have frequently wondered how
any country, such as Paraguay or Bolivia, for example, could hope to
advance when its inhabitants adopt the language and customs of its
Indian population, instead of introducing their own mode of living and
institutions which should, at least, be on a higher plane. The former
procedure might be excusable to a limited degree in isolated cases
when, for instance, a missionary goes among savages who have no reason
for being interested in the white man, and who do not recognize his
authority unless he can propound his doctrine in a way they can readily
understand. It may be argued that a large proportion of the inhabitants
of Paraguay or Bolivia are half-breeds and therefore naturally adhere
to the ways of their Indian ancestry; but that only shows more
conclusively than ever the weak, moral fibre of the Spanish half, that
so readily succumbs to the Indian half. It is very safe to wager that
if such a country were completely isolated from the remainder of the
world for a few generations, savagery would again come into its own and
obliterate the traces of to-day’s civilization.

In the course of years of almost constant hunting one is compelled to
have some very peculiar and unusual experiences. One of these occurred
at Malena, Colombia, when the wounded macaw entered our room. Another
took place at and near Vermejo. The evening before starting back to
Samaipata, we noticed a flock of swifts soaring high above the hut.
Boyle and I grabbed our shotguns and each took a quick shot before
the birds disappeared; my companion scored a clean hit; apparently I
had missed; but the next morning we were astonished to find a dead
bird of the same species lying on a rock beside the trail, about two
miles distant, and more than one thousand feet above the place we had
left. I am convinced that it was the identical bird I had aimed at,
and that it had continued flying until it died and fell in the spot
where we chanced to find it. The natives do not shoot birds on the
wing, because ammunition is too costly to take any chances with; under
no circumstances would a charge be wasted on a small swift-winged
bird; and also, when I prepared the bird I found a number-ten shot in
its head, which is what we used; such small shot is not to be had by
natives, as none is used in the country. The coincidence of finding the
bird is one that is not likely ever to be repeated.

From Samaipata we turned southward toward Vallegrande. It required two
days’ travel to reach that town, over the same monotonous, broken,
barren country ranging in elevation from five thousand three hundred
feet to eight thousand two hundred and fifty feet. There are a few
trees near some of the small watercourses, but as a whole the country
is unproductive. At Vallegrande, however, the ground is not so sterile.
The town also is more attractive, and the more cheerful environment
is reflected in the dispositions of the people. I was particularly
glad to find that some of the inhabitants showed traits of character
unmistakably alien to the average Bolivian, and it did not require a
great effort to trace them directly to the wholesome influence exerted
by the American College at Cochabamba. It was forcibly demonstrated
that at least some of the students of the Cochabamba Institute
introduce into their houses and home towns the admirable precepts of
temperance, morality, and sincerity with which they have become imbued.

Travel in the highlands of Bolivia presents a succession of
difficulties, chief of which is the scarcity of mules and also the lack
of forage.

There is no natural pasturage, so the animals must subsist entirely
on oats grown by the Indians in irrigated areas. The cost of keeping
animals is prohibitive; instead of the one or two cents a day charged
in the settled parts of Colombia, one is compelled to pay fifty cents
or more. We should probably have been forced to remain in Vallegrande
a long time, had it not been for one Señor Villazón who provided the
pack-mules for the rest of the journey to Sucre.

The first day’s ride took us to the village of Pucará. A part of the
distance had been over a grass-covered plateau ten thousand feet high,
cut in places by deep ravines filled with light woods. The second day
we faced the unpleasant prospect of having to cross the Rio Grande.
The few natives we met said that the river was probably very high and
were inclined to be pessimistic concerning our ability to get across;
they also advised us to return to Aiquile, near Mizque, as the stream
is narrow and spanned by a bridge at that point; but as this meant
retracing our steps the greater part of the way, we could not consider
the suggestion.

One has the first view of the Rio Grande from the top of a rocky
mountain nine thousand five hundred feet high, of which we reached
the summit a few hours after leaving Pucará. Far below lay the dull,
brown ribbon of water, looking like a painted streak across a grayish
background. The descent to the watercourse is so abrupt that in many
instances the trail consisted of a succession of steps hewn into the
rock; toiling down the tortuous trail was life-sapping work for the
pack-animals; we relieved the riding animals by walking. Downward,
always downward, led the indistinct way, seemingly into a bottomless
abyss. The mountainside is dry and cheerless; no dainty flower or blade
of grass relieves the grim desolation of desert dust and shattered
rock, and even the few grayish, stunted cacti seem to shrivel and die
in the burning glare of a hostile sun. After hours that seemed more
like days we arrived at the dry bed of a narrow stream and followed
down its angular course. The aneroid showed that we were exactly one
mile lower than our starting-point, but still the river seemed like a
mirage, near, yet unattainable.

Although the declivity was now gentler, the lofty walls of gray
sandstone flanking the dismal canyon through which we rode shut off any
ventilating breeze that chanced to pass above, and made a stifling oven
of the narrow fissure. For two hours we travelled over the rock-strewn
stream-bed, and then suddenly entered a narrow belt of mimosas and
cacti; the Rio Grande flows through the centre of the green little
valley.

Although the river had appeared peaceful enough from the summit five
thousand seven hundred feet above, we found it to be a wide, brown
sheet of ruffled water racing over a boulder-encumbered bed. Our
mule-drivers were filled with alarm and dared not venture into the
treacherous flood. It was as we had feared; the spring rains had
begun in the mountains, and the surplus water was rapidly swelling
the lowland streams. While we were debating on the proper course to
pursue, an Indian youth chanced along and consented to guide us to a
ford about half a mile up-stream. Arrived at the spot, he stripped and
waded cautiously into the river, which here spread over a wide bar.
Fortunately the water was not over four feet deep; the youth returned
to the bank and led the mules across one by one. When the river is too
high to ford, the natives use tub-shaped boats made of ox-hide in which
to cross; there is no way of controlling the craft, so the current may
carry them a mile or so below the starting-point before it reaches the
other side.

The water of the river was unfit for drinking. It contains about thirty
per cent solid matter, although the reason for this was that it was
rising rapidly and bringing down a great quantity of sand from the
mountain.

Numbers of small ravines emerge from the barren slopes flanking the
Rio Grande, and streams of inconsiderable size pour their water into
the larger artery. All these openings are filled with brush and low
trees; we followed up one of them and, within a few hours, reached a
habitation called Bella Vista. The shambling structure stood on the
edge of a clearing planted in sugar-cane. Dense jungles of wild cane
and brush bounded the plantation. As I was already convinced that the
Rio Grande is the avenue up which the chaco bird-life was penetrating
into the higher regions, we determined to remain at Bella Vista
sufficiently long to substantiate my views; it required only one day
for this purpose. The species that had been found in limited numbers
farther up, and that seemed to belong to a strange fauna, exist in
abundance at Bella Vista; among them are brown-shouldered orioles,
white anis (_Guira_), fork-tailed goatsuckers, white-throated toucans
(_Ramphastos_) and many others.

Pigeons (_Leptoptila_) were so numerous that they suffered for lack of
food. I am unable to say whether there had been an abnormal increase
in the number of the species, or if the food-supply was unusually low;
but one thing is certain--they were in a very emaciated condition and
some of them had become so weakened that flight was impossible, and
they fell an easy prey to the natives or predatory animals. I also
noticed that all the pigeons were infested with parasites, but the
weaker individuals were covered with them, including many winged,
fly-like bird-ticks (_Hippoboscidæ_) that skipped among the feathers at
bewildering speed, and finally flew away with a loud buzz; sometimes
the repulsive insects settled on our hands or faces, when it was almost
impossible to displace them, owing to their agile movements and to
their clinging ability caused by the hooks on their feet.

This furnished a very good illustration of the survival of the fittest,
and one that I believe is typical of what happens in many instances.
Owing, perhaps, to unusual or long-continued favorable conditions,
the species had become exceedingly numerous. So long as there was no
shortage in the food-supply, the birds were able to hold their own
and keep increasing; but, as the season of famine approached, as I
believe it must occasionally do, though not necessarily at regular
intervals, the weaker individuals were the first to feel the pinch of a
reduced subsistence which automatically rendered them still less suited
to obtain a livelihood. Their rapidly failing vigor also prevented
them from coping with their natural enemies--whether parasitic or
predaceous, so that they were soon eliminated and only those that
entered the struggle in the strongest, healthiest condition stood a
reasonable show of surviving.

While tramping through the cane-thickets, we found the nest of a pair
of red-breasted thrushes. Both parent birds fluttered over our heads
and with loud, angry cries expressed their resentment and anxiety.
The nest was betrayed by the birds’ very actions. It was cunningly
concealed in a dense tangle of leaves and creepers, and was not unlike
that made by our own robin; but the three eggs were heavily spotted
with brown instead of being of a plain blue color.

When dusk overtook us on the first day out of Pescado, thirty-six
miles southeast of Bella Vista, we were riding over a grass-covered
plateau with a stream flowing along one side of it. It was therefore
unnecessary to seek an Indian dwelling for the purpose of securing
forage. We picketed the mules, and slept out in the open. The next
morning a Quechua woman with a fowl under her arm passed along the
trail; we asked her the price of the bird, as we suspected that she
was taking it to some village to sell. “Four bolivianos,” she replied
promptly. The mule-driver remarked, very emphatically, that the price
was exorbitant. “But,” she protested, “this is a game-cock. It is a
good fighter and can whip any rooster in the country.” The arriero then
informed her that we wanted the rooster to eat, and not to fight. “Oh,”
said the woman, “that is another matter; sixty _centavos_,” and the
sale was concluded without further argument.

Apparently the birds of the highlands were nesting. We saw numbers of
newly constructed nests in the cacti and small-leaved vegetation; they
belonged to mocking-birds, pigeons, and finches; but only a few of them
contained eggs. The Indians had filled many of the little domiciles
with stones before they were completed in an attempt to prevent an
increase in the numbers of birds. Large flocks of several species
gather in the grain-fields during the fall months and exact rather
a heavy tribute, and it is for this reason that the Indians try to
prevent their increase.

While riding along one morning we flushed a red-crested woodpecker
(_Chrysoptilus cristatus_) from a hole in a stub near the road. The
entrance to the cavity was about eight feet up, but the nest was
down low in the hollow trunk. An investigation brought to view four
pear-shaped, glossy, white eggs lying on a pad of chips.

This species is one of the commonest, and therefore one of the
best-known woodpeckers. We found it very abundant throughout the
uplands near, and south of Cochabamba, where there was a growth of
cacti and low trees. Invariably there were two birds together, and not
infrequently we saw flocks of four or five. It has a clear, powerful
note, and a swift, undulating flight. I have frequently seen it on the
ground in company with long-billed wood-hewers (_Drymornis_) and brown
cachalotes (_Homorus_) searching for insects and larvæ among the débris
always littering the ground beneath the giant club-cacti.

As we neared Sucre, a marked change was noticeable in the appearance of
the Indians. Instead of the unattractive lot that we had encountered
daily, they were a uniformly garbed, more primitive and more
picturesque people. The greatest change was evident at Pulqué, which we
reached a few weeks later.

[Illustration: Quechua habitation on the upland desert.]

Tarabuco is the name given to a town of large size, located on a
frigid _mesa_ over ten thousand feet up. When we arrived there snow
was falling and an icy wind blew at terrific velocity; but the natives
seemed not at all discomfited by the blizzard, and were conducting the
weekly market with the usual hilarity. Provisions of many kinds
were to be had in abundance; mutton, bread, peaches, and eggs were
particularly plentiful; but the lack of fruits and vegetables requiring
a warm climate and rich soil was very noticeable. One could purchase
all the necessaries of life in any of the numerous stores; most of them
were imported from the United States and Europe.

We spent the night before reaching Sucre in a cluster of Indian
dwellings called Cghilka. The pronunciation of the name is difficult to
a foreigner, because two of the three “cliks” employed in the Quechua
language are used in saying the word. Cghilka consisted of half a dozen
low hovels, built of irregular stones and roofed over with grass.
Flocks of sheep and a few burros nibbled the short grass, and goats
clambered along the face of precipices unscalable to human beings; some
of the latter also stood on the top of stone fences, or roofs, and
several times we saw individuals that had climbed into the branches of
a leaning mimosa and were unconcernedly browsing on the leaves.

The Indian women, it seemed to us, were everlastingly spinning in order
to keep up the necessary supply of clothing. Those at Cghilka were no
exceptions; but they also made unusually pretty blankets. In spite of
the fact that many colors, such as red, blue, green, yellow, and white
were used in the same blanket, the combination was so harmonious that
the result was most pleasing. As a whole, the work somewhat resembles
that of the Navajos, but the texture is not quite as fine. They also
work attractive geometric designs into the pattern that immediately
distinguishes the product of this region from that of any other. This
is, perhaps, a retention of an ancient custom, for, it seems as if in
olden times the inhabitants of each locality wore _ponchos_ or blankets
of a distinctive design; then, when the nation gathered in the holy
city of Cuzco to celebrate some religious festival, it was possible to
tell by these insignia from which part of the empire they came.

From Cghilka to Sucre is a distance of only eighteen miles, over a
practically level plain, the elevation of which is in the neighborhood
of ten thousand feet. There are few habitations until the immediate
vicinity of the city is reached.

The approach to Sucre is quite attractive. We could see the assemblage
of dazzling white edifices from a distance; and not long after we were
galloping over the cobblestones between rows of neat, clean buildings
on our way to the Hotel Español. In our journey from Cochabamba we had
travelled nearly a thousand miles, and counting the several delays, had
spent fifty-six days en route.



CHAPTER XXII

SUCRE, THE RIO PILCOMAYO, AND THE UPLAND DESERT TO THE ARGENTINE
FRONTIER


The inhabitants of Sucre insist that their city is still the capital
of the country, and that the removal of the government to La Paz is
temporary only, owing to the greater accessibility of the latter place.
They are confident that with the completion of the railroad from Potosi
the old régime will return, and with it the gayety and activities that
such an event occasions. This, however, does not seem probable.

The city is built on a plateau over nine thousand feet up, on the
site of an ancient Indian village known as Choquesaka. Its climate
is that of perpetual spring. The streets are very wide, paved with
cobblestones, and are kept exceedingly clean. The buildings are, for
the greater part, low, although edifices of pretentious dimensions and
imposing appearance are not lacking, and numbers of most attractive
summer homes dot the surrounding country. The Medical Institute is
well-known throughout the neighboring republics, and annually supplies
them with thousands of tubes of vaccine. The markets are abundantly
supplied with provisions of all kinds, at reasonable prices, including
many fruits and vegetables of a temperate climate--brought from the
eastern lowlands.

The inhabitants of the upper class are well educated, refined, and
charming. There is a total population of about twenty-five thousand,
but by far the greater part of it consists of Quechuas and Cholos.
As a whole, Sucre is one of the most delightful spots in all Bolivia
and, when the vast country to the east with its unlimited resources
is made accessible, the city will unquestionably enjoy the growth and
prosperity to which it is so well entitled.

However, South American cities, with few exceptions, possess little
attraction for me. I touch upon them almost reluctantly, and am
impatient to return to the wild, free life of the boundless jungle,
desert, or plain.

Within a few days after reaching Sucre, our necessary business affairs
had been looked after and we had decided upon the upper Rio Pilcomayo
as our next field of operations. Pack-mules were not to be had; the few
_patrones_ who owned herds of these very necessary beasts were all en
route to or from Cochabamba. A weekly motor-bus service is maintained
between Sucre and Potosi, and the powerful cars passed within a
stone’s throw of the spot we decided to visit; but the list of waiting
passengers was long, and even though a little monetary persuasion might
have been helpful in securing an early passage for ourselves, the
transportation of our luggage by that means was out of the question.
We therefore secured the services of a _coche_. Six mules hitched to a
lumbering vehicle that had seats inside for ourselves, with the luggage
festooned about the exterior, took us thundering over the rocky, uneven
road at a fast pace. The driver sat in front and diligently plied a
long, thin whip that cracked with reports like those of a pistol, but
inflicted little punishment on the mules, while a Quechua boy ran
alongside and encouraged onward the panting animals with ear-splitting
whistling and volleys of stones. I was never able to understand how
these urchins could keep up the fast gait maintained by the mules,
and at the same time have sufficient wind left with which to do the
whistling.

Within an hour after leaving Sucre we had reached a point where the
road ran along the rim of an attractive valley filled with trees,
shrubbery, flowers, and pools; a number of queer structures combining
Chinese, Arabian, Greek, and several other styles of architecture, were
scattered about promiscuously and detracted greatly from the natural
beauty of the spot. This place, known as _El Recreo_ is the property
of a Bolivian woman who calls herself a princess, and who for reasons
unknown to me makes her home in far away Paris.

Soon after leaving El Recreo with its lovely vegetation and disfiguring
minarets, stained glass, and other hall-marks of poor taste, the large
town of Yotala was reached. Yotala is well-known throughout Bolivia
for the excellent quality of the peaches and apricots that are grown
and preserved there; and locally it enjoys the reputation of producing
the best bread of the vicinity, although I could never agree with the
latter assertion. The finest bread we had in all Bolivia was prepared
by the hospitable señora living on the banks of the Pilcomayo, and in
one of whose huts we resided the following eight days.

After an hour’s halt at a house called Pulqué, where the mules were
fed and watered, and where we refreshed ourselves with weak coffee at
thirty _centavos_ the cup, we resumed the journey, and 3 o’clock P. M.,
found us on the bank of the great river we had sought--having come a
distance of nine leagues since 7.30 o’clock that morning.

The Pilcomayo at this point varies in width from a few hundred feet
to half a mile, is crossed by a suspension bridge, and flows between
high, barren, rocky hills. There was comparatively little water, but
the current was strong. For me the Pilcomayo possesses an unusual
fascination. While looking at the hurrying, muddy torrent underneath,
I could not help picturing the awe-inspiring stretches of wilderness
through which those same waters must flow before mingling with the
less fearsome Paraguay hundreds of miles farther down: little-known
savages indulging in wild orgies and cannibalistic dances on its
banks, or paddling silently and mysteriously on its glassy bosom to
some jungle rendezvous unknown to white men; jaguars eagerly lapping
up a refreshing draft after a gory meal of deer or peccary; myriads
of _pirañas_ lashing its surface into spray in their mad struggles
to tear the flesh off some struggling, despairing victim; lines of
crocodiles sunning themselves on mud-banks or slowly patrolling the
water’s edge, like drifting logs, with only the ever-vigilant eyes
showing the faintest animation; boundless wastes of pestilential
swamps and lagoons, where mosquitoes and other obnoxious insects in
clouds forestall the advent of man, but where millions of egrets,
storks, cormorants, and other water-loving birds find a safe haven
and lead their wild, joyous lives in blissful ignorance of despoiling
plume-hunters; but, a shout of “_Ya está, señor_,” from the mule-driver
reminded me of the fact that day-dreams must soon end. The man had
unloaded the luggage at a little hut surrounded by shade-trees and
fields of alfalfa. He had been unable to find the owner, but thought
we could arrange to stay there should that personage appear. Most
important of all, he wanted his money--and then he was off with
twenty-seven miles of up-hill road ahead of him, before reaching Sucre
that night.

While taking stock of our outfit and arranging it conveniently in the
little adobe hovel that was to serve as our home, an elderly Bolivian
woman came from one of the alfalfa-fields near by, and I rightly
guessed that she was the owner of the property. To my request that we
be permitted to remain, she promptly replied that she would consider
it an honor to have us do so. I wondered if there are many places in
our own country where courtesy to utter strangers is so universal as
in Spanish America. Frequently, after long and trying journeys afoot
or on mule-back (sometimes of hundreds of miles) our appearance was
disreputable; but with one or two exceptions only during the entire
course of my travels in South America, the kindness and politeness of
the inhabitants was unfailing. When we left the Pilcomayo, the _señora_
accepted not a cent of payment.

The country for many miles about was arid, excepting only the few
irrigated flats near the river where fodder, grain, and vegetables
grew luxuriantly. Cacti and thorny shrubbery dotted the slopes,
but even these plants of the dry lands were not abundant. Numerous
small streams empty into the river during the wet months; but now
(November) their courses were dry and parched.

[Illustration: Rio Cachimayo at Peras Pampa, Sucre.]

[Illustration: Bridge across the Rio Pilcomayo.]

Birds were plentiful, but the species varied little from those typical
of the uplands. However, they were nesting and this circumstance
furnished a new and interesting field for study.

One of our first walks took us to an old mill, fallen into decay
through neglect. There were hundreds of dollars’ worth of machinery
ruined through lack of care and the use of improper lubricants. I have
frequently seen machinery of various kinds, ranging from typewriters
and sewing-machines to Pelton wheels, seriously damaged because lard
or tallow had been used instead of oil, and the wearing surfaces never
cleaned. In one of the dust chutes a pair of chestnut flycatchers
(_Hirundinea_) had built a flimsy nest of twigs and feathers. It
contained two cream-colored eggs speckled with red. The birds remained
in the vicinity all day long and paid no attention to the Indians
working near by, but when a dog chanced to pass they darted at it
furiously, making quick dashes at its head and snapping their bills
with a loud, popping noise. Another pair of birds of the same species
had a nest above the door of a near-by house.

Leaf-cutting finches also called tooth-billed finches (_Phytotoma_),
were very abundant. The inhabitants destroyed them whenever possible,
as the birds cut the blossoms off the fruit-trees and grape-vines.
The bright, saffron-breasted male sat in the top of some thorny bush
and uttered queer, unmusical wails that reminded us of the mewing of
a forlorn alley cat, while his gray-and-black-striped mate incubated
the eggs in a small but compact nest hidden farther down among the
spine-armed branches. We examined numbers of the nests; each one
contained three eggs of a deep-green color, marked with a few black
lines about the large end.

Oven-birds built their dome-shaped mud nests on fence-posts or the
larger branches of the few poplar-trees that had been planted about
the huts for shade, and sang in unison from dawn to dusk as if their
hearts were overflowing with happiness.

Parrakeets had excavated holes in the face of steep banks, and
chattered and quarrelled noisily over their domestic affairs. I suspect
that they also appropriated the cavities prepared by swallows, as there
seemed to be frequent disputes between these neighbors.

Of humming-birds there were a number of species, including the giant
hummer, which was truly monarch of all he surveyed, for when one
appeared the smaller members of the group found it advantageous to
depart to other regions. Doctor Frank M. Chapman, in Chile, saw an
individual of this species pursue and catch in its claws a small
humming-bird and fly away with it; for what purpose he did not know,
unless from “sheer cussedness.” It is a well-known fact that hummers
possess a pugnacious disposition, are almost constantly fighting among
themselves, and frequently pursue and strike at large birds such as
flycatchers and even hawks, apparently for no reason other than the
pleasure it affords them to torment their victims.

One afternoon we had the first indication of the coming rainy season
in the form of a severe rain and thunder-storm. Before long the river
was a seething, muddy torrent that continued to rise rapidly until well
into the night. The next morning the water had subsided to its low
level, leaving numbers of fish of several kinds stranded in depressions
in the _playas_. A flock of caracaras appeared with daylight and,
wading daintily into the shallow pools, extracted and devoured the
stranded and helpless fish at their leisure.

Not long after we were fortunate in meeting an American by the name
of Kolle, who was in the employ of a wealthy Bolivian owning estates
in various parts of the country. To one of these we were subsequently
invited, but before accepting the invitation of the affluent señor
we decided to spend a few days at Pulqué where some variation in the
avifauna from the upland type had been noticed. We had also seen
numbers of Quechuas apparently living in much the same manner as their
predecessors during the height of the Inca’s glory.

As frequently occurs in semiarid country, and as I have stated before,
birds were very abundant; but there was little else to indicate the
close proximity of other forms of life unless one took into account
the herds of goats clambering about on the steep ledges and seeming
to delight in bombarding with showers of small stones every one who
passed below; or the caravans of burros and llamas passing on the main
highway. A visit to the nebulous peaks of the adjacent mountains,
however, revealed a different story. Patches of green dotted the
isolated little depressions to which the name “valleys” can hardly be
given, and thin pillars of smoke ascended from them straight into a
cloudless sky. After long and patient looking a small, stone hut set
among rocks would invariably be discovered, and sometimes we could even
distinguish minute, moving forms which we knew were Indians. There,
tucked away among the towering peaks they love so well, they were
living a life of peace and plenty, apparently safe from the gaze of
vulgar interlopers, and knowing or caring little about the outer world.
It was as if one tore a page from the history of bygone centuries,
or found himself suddenly transferred into the midst of a contented,
pastoral community as must have existed in places unnumbered throughout
the vast Incan Empire before its despoliation by the gold-crazed
invaders. In this connection it might be well to go back briefly into
the history of the events that brought about the present state of
affairs.

The boundaries of the Incan Empire had been gradually extended until
within five hundred years after the arrival of Mamo Capac and Mama
Occlo, supposed Children of the Sun, it covered nearly one-third of the
South American continent. Near the middle of the sixteenth century,
when Pizarro and his insatiable band invaded the sacred precincts of
Atahualpa’s dominion, the star of the Inca seemed to have reached
the apex of its ascendancy. Under the beneficent rule of their
venerated sovereign the several tribes lived contentedly, if not always
peaceably; agriculture thrived, arts and crafts were encouraged and,
responsive to the efforts of many thousands of laborers, numerous mines
poured a constant stream of precious metals into the kingdom, adding to
its wealth and splendor.

We are all familiar with accounts of the advanced state of
civilization, governmental organization, and fabulous riches of the
ancient nation. Temples, palaces and forts--stately edifices of hewn
stone--dotted the mountainsides and crowned the eminences; beautifully
constructed highways connected many of the remote districts with the
capital; countless herds of llamas fed on the slopes, and streams of
water flowing through a system of aqueducts poured into the heretofore
arid wastes and transferred them into fruitful fields capable of
supporting a numerous population. The present-day republics of Ecuador,
Peru, Bolivia, as well as a part of Colombia and Chile, were included
within the limits of the vast kingdom.

Suddenly a dark cloud appeared on the horizon, and omens of evil import
presaged the downfall of all this greatness and splendor. The fatal
apparition quickly assumed the form of bearded strangers, some of
whom were mounted on terrible beasts which filled the ranks of Indian
warriors with panic, and who seemed to have succeeded in harnessing
the thunder and lightning for the furtherance of their wicked designs.
Suffice it to say, that before the avarice of the Spaniards had
been abated, eight million subjects of the Inca perished and the
organization of the nation was destroyed. With the single exception of
the Aztecs of Mexico, who were practically exterminated by the same
people, there has never been another example of such rapid and complete
devastation in the history of the world.

The Quechua of to-day is a cowed, almost pathetic, individual; he has
been kicked about by the descendants of the _conquistadores_ until he
has learned to become reconciled to his lot; but while it seems as
if this recognition might, in many instances at least, give way to
despair, such is not the case.

The partiality of the Quechuas for the high _puna_ is well known--some
of the ancient dwellings having been discovered at an elevation of more
than seventeen thousand feet.

Those living near Pulqué seldom come down into the lower country;
doubtless they are happier in their almost inaccessible fastness than
if they lived nearer to their Bolivian neighbors. In appearance and
dress these Indians differ greatly from the other members of the tribe
living in the more populous sections of the country. Instead of the
more or less conventional attire adopted by the latter, they still
adhere to a form of dress at least a part of which may date back to
the time of Atahualpa. The women wear a quantity of clothing--short,
full skirts of dark blue, and shawls of varied colors. The men are
garbed in loose, white knee-breeches, a gray or blue shirt, and belts
which are neatly embroidered in gay colors and are very wide at the
back so that they form a kind of sash; also, they wear the inevitable
_poncho_. Strange as it may seem, the small children always wear very
long clothing, and the little girls waddling along in their full,
almost trailing skirts, resemble dwarfed aged women. All the apparel is
made of woollen cloth of home manufacture. The men permit their hair
to grow long and braid it in a queue which hangs down the back. Both
sexes use peculiar little hats made of some kind of skin prepared by a
process which renders it very hard; this head-gear reminded me of steel
helmets. With the exception of huge spoon-shaped pins of copper, which
the women used to fasten their shawls, we saw no metal ornaments or
jewelry of any kind.

The home life of these Quechuas is tranquil and uneventful. Usually the
little stone huts contain two or three rooms; potatoes, avas, and other
produce are stored in one of them, and the rest are used for cooking
and sleeping-quarters. In very cold weather a fire is kept burning
day and night, and all the occupants of a house burrow deep into a
pile of sheepskins and blankets close to the smouldering embers. We
persuaded one of the women to bring goat’s milk to camp each morning,
but in this we had the greatest difficulty. Only by payment for a
week’s supply in advance could she be induced to perform this service.
With past experiences with their fellow countrymen these Indians have
learned to regard all strangers with apprehension. On several occasions
we had ample opportunity to observe how the average _paisano_ treats
the Quechua. Should night overtake him on the trail, he stops at
the nearest hut and demands food for himself and his horses. In the
event that the owner has nothing to offer, he draws revolver or rifle
and shoots any fowls that may be running about or, lacking these, a
sheep or goat, and seizes whatever else he can find. Should he see an
attractive blanket, it also is taken. In the morning a few _centavos_
are thrown on the ground and he continues on his journey.

As a general rule, we found that if these Indians were treated in a
frank, honest manner they were quite amiable. The little woman we had
engaged to bring us milk trudged down from the mountain-top daily in
faithful compliance with her obligations. She brought cheese also, and
occasionally a few eggs. As it gradually dawned upon her that we really
could be trusted, she became talkative and seemed to take an interest
in our occupation. She spoke Quechua only in common with practically
that entire tribe, which makes no attempt to learn Spanish; or, if they
are able to understand it, will make no effort to speak the language.

[Illustration: Quechua Indians wearing the costume used during the
reign of the Incas, five hundred years ago.]

Upon seeing a woodpecker we had collected, she gave a sigh of
satisfaction; for, according to the Indian’s belief, they are birds
of ill omen. If a pair of them make a nest near one of the huts, they
are said to be excavating a tomb for a member of the family who will
soon die. Oven-birds are looked upon with favor and are encouraged to
remain in the vicinity of the dwellings. Should a pair of the cheery
singers place their large, domed nest of mud near by, good fortune will
follow in their wake. Any one guilty of robbing a bird’s nest will
become violently ill; but as birds flock to the planted areas in such
great bands that an appreciable amount of damage is done to the fruit
and ripening grain, their increase in numbers is discouraged by filling
many nests with small stones. After the seeds have been planted, a
network of strings is stretched across the fields, and sometimes a
dead hawk suspended from a post in the centre serves as a scarecrow to
frighten away the marauding visitors. When the crops ripen, a small boy
called the “_piscomanchachi_” is stationed in each sector. He is armed
with a sling and keeps up an incessant fusillade of stones; fortunately
his aim is poor, but he succeeds in killing a few birds each day.

These Quechuas lead a sedentary life. There are no more long, arduous
journeys to far-away Lake Titicaca and Cuzco to participate in solemn
festivals and gorgeous pageants. Their fields supply potatoes as of
yore, and they still convert the tubers into their beloved _chuño_
by simply allowing them to freeze and dry. From the wheat they have
learned to cultivate, a splendid quality of bread is made. Their flocks
provide flesh and milk, and the wool so essential to the preservation
of human life and well-being in the high altitudes. _Tola_ bushes and
a peaty growth known as _yareta_ furnish an adequate supply of fuel;
but should these be lacking, dung is used. The demands of civilization,
however, will alter this mode of existence until little remains to
remind us of the contented nation which at one time willingly bowed to
the rule of the Children of the Sun.

Birds were not quite so numerous as at the Pilcomayo, but we found
several forms new to us. Among them was a large, white-fronted
parrakeet (_Myiopsitta luchsi_) that we saw in no other place. It
banded in flocks of ten to fifty and seemed to prefer the fruit-trees
near the house. A species of humming-bird built nests in doorways and
suspended under the thatched roofs of houses, often in the midst of
a colony of swallows (_Atticora_). Tinamou were not uncommon in the
dry ravines and provided a welcome change from the goat-flesh which is
the staple meat of the people and the only kind we could purchase; the
latter animals were killed when very young (about the size of a cat),
and we could never become enthusiastic over this, locally considered,
great delicacy.

In a region such as the country around Pulqué, there are few available
nesting-sites, and nests are very conspicuous objects when placed in
a cactus or thorny bush; however, the sharp thorns and spines with
which they are surrounded protect them, alike from predatory animals
and humans. The disused mud nests of oven-birds are collected as
needed and made into a poultice that is supposed to cure stomachache.
Judging by the quantity they gathered, this ailment must be of frequent
occurrence. A bird of the wood-hewer family (_Upucerthia_) excavated
burrows in banks and deposited two white eggs in a small, feather-lined
nest placed in a roomy chamber at the end of the tunnel.

The _señora_ at whose _rancho_ we stopped complained that tiger-cats
were killing her chickens; so one afternoon I set a steel trap at the
base of a near-by stone wall, baiting it with a dead bird. I had not
gone a dozen paces from the spot when the trap sprung with a loud
twang, securely imprisoning the much-sought culprit. The cat’s greed
had overcome its discretion, at which we rejoiced, for it made a
desirable addition to our collection. On another occasion one of these
beautiful animals bounded out from under the roots of a huge tree and
seized a bird as I was stooping to pick it up--and made a clean getaway
to its hiding-place with the spoils.

Our hosts on the Cachimayo were awaiting us, in order that we might
be present at the ushering in of the “month of baths,” as December is
called in this part of Bolivia. Whether or not they thought we were in
need of the daily ablutions, I am unable to say; but this I do know,
that we shocked the good people on numerous occasions by having a swim
at every possible opportunity, even if the month was not in keeping
with local traditions.

Peras Pampa is an immense estate on both sides of the Cachimayo, and
but an hour’s trip by motor from Sucre. We spent a delightful ten days
amid pleasant surroundings, living in a comfortable bungalow, and
passing the evenings at the _casa grande_ where the elite of Sucre’s
society gathered for music, games, and dancing.

The grounds were a succession of orchards, fields, and vineyards.
Scores of Indians lived and worked on the place, cultivating the
ground, building stone fences, and taking care of the stock. At night
they met and played very well on reed flutes of various sizes, each
musician taking a separate part, so that the combined effort was
somewhat like that produced by a well-organized band. Their favorite
piece was “Red-Wing”--apparently learned from a phonograph record.

The evening parties were always enjoyable affairs. They began with a
sumptuous dinner--including several kinds of wine; then a series of
eight or ten well-chosen courses, followed by liqueurs and smoking. The
women did not smoke.

After that there were charades, story-telling, music, singing, dancing,
and perhaps a walk _en masse_ in the moonlit grounds, through arbors
of honeysuckle and other flowering vines and over paths bordered with
hedges of roses. There were always more refreshments just before the
party broke up at midnight. All the Bolivians we met at Peras Pampa
were charming, and we heartily regretted that our time for combined
work and play was not unlimited.

The majority of the people who formed the gay evening crowd lived in
separate cottages on the estate--the guests of the owner. Each day
they repaired faithfully to the river for a dip, although the water
was usually very muddy, and there was about an even chance whether one
would emerge without yesterday’s coat of grime or with an additional
one. December is chosen for this purpose because it is the warmest and
most pleasant month of the year.

The time allotted us for work in Bolivia had nearly expired. We had
thoroughly enjoyed our lengthy sojourn in the republic, and look
forward to revisiting it in the future. Our schedule called for rather
extensive work in the Argentine, so, after a great deal of difficulty,
we succeeded in collecting a caravan of riding and pack mules for
the ride of over three hundred miles to La Quiaca, on the Argentine
frontier. Ordinarily the trip from Sucre to La Quiaca should not be
undertaken on mule-back. One should go to Potosi in one day’s time,
utilizing the semiweekly motor-car service. A railroad connects the
latter place with a small station a few miles this side of Tupiza, and
from this point one may reach La Quiaca in two days by carriage. During
the rainy season, however, both automobile and carriage service are
suspended; and the difficulty of twice securing mules on which to cover
the two stretches of road between railway terminals and the delays and
other inconveniences are so great that we decided to travel the entire
distance with a pack-train. This also gave us an opportunity to see the
country.

The expedition left Sucre December 22. The caravan was appallingly
large, for we were taking our entire outfit, and it required no less
than six Quechuas to look after the mules and burros. All supplies,
also, had to be taken with us, as very little is to be had from the
Indians, who are virtually the sole inhabitants of the cheerless
highlands. There are a number of large villages, it is true, but the
person who relies on the natives for maintenance is as likely as not to
have to live on coca and _chicha_, or suffer for his improvidence.

By noon we had reached the Cachimayo at a point where, ordinarily,
it is fordable; but a heavy rain had caused the river to rise and we
were confronted by a series of roaring cataracts covered with foam and
débris washed down from the mountains. The mules were unloaded and
driven into a corral. Soon other caravans arrived, until there were
several hundreds of men and animals gathered on the river-bank. We
spent the afternoon strolling through the adjacent apricot-orchards and
vineyards. The former trees were laden with fruit, all ripening; it
was small in size, but of delicious flavor. By seven o’clock the water
had subsided many feet, and one of the _arrieros_ having previously
ridden across the river to test its depth, the caravan started across.
The stream was three hundred feet wide and the current very strong,
so that crossing it seemed an endless operation; the mules struggled
onward gamely, but to the rider it seemed as if they stood stock-still
while a maze of rushing water seethed and raged all around him in
frantic efforts to sweep away everything in its path. Our own animals
got across safely, although some of the packs were drenched; but a
long train of burros laden with huge boxes of the popular _Sucrenses_
cigarettes fared badly, and a number of the poor creatures were upset
and whirled away down-stream. We continued onward in the darkness two
leagues to Poste Escalera, a lone hut on a hillside, and spent a trying
night at this flea-infested post. Next day we reached the Pilcomayo at
a point where the river is divided into many narrow channels, although
there is one main stream spanned by a swaying wooden bridge.

A detailed narration of each day’s ride would mean the recounting of
practically the same things. There were, however, a few things of
unusual interest, and these will be mentioned later.

The country is dry, rolling, and unproductive. In some places there
is a sparse growth of cacti and thorny shrubbery, but vast areas are
rocky and barren of all vegetation. We crossed ridge after ridge,
the elevation of the trail varying between eight thousand and twelve
thousand feet. Travel in this type of country is most trying. Water is
so scarce that long distances must be covered in order to find suitable
camping-sites; in one instance we were compelled to ride thirty-six
miles in the course of a day, between streams. The temperature varies
100° each twenty-four hours. At two in the afternoon the thermometer
registered 132° F.; at night ice formed on the water in our pails.

Christmas day was spent at Puno, with every member of the party ill
from the effects of the climatical changes. The inhabitants went
about their occupations as usual, quite ignoring this all-important
opportunity for a _fiesta_.

All the dwellings of the Indians were made of adobe. In the walls of
some of them rows of disused earthenware pots had been used as building
material. When the huts crumbled, a fine collection of pottery was
covered up in the mound. This is probably an ancient custom and may
account for much of the material found in old ruins to-day.

Two days later, the last of the long, weary miles across the cheerless
upland had been left behind, and at noon we galloped briskly into
Villazón, on the Bolivian side of the border.

Villazón contains about a score of scattered, low, adobe buildings. We
arrived on a Sunday, when the customhouse was closed, but the officials
in charge very courteously permitted us to proceed on our way. A brook
three or four feet wide separates the two republics and, stepping
across this, we found ourselves in La Quiaca and--in Argentina.



CHAPTER XXIII

BIRD-NESTING IN NORTHWESTERN ARGENTINA


La Quiaca is similar in size and appearance to Villazón. There are a
number of stores or trading-posts where miners from the surrounding
mountains secure their outfits and provisions. It is also the terminus
of the railroad from the south. One may go by rail directly to Buenos
Aires. The settlement stands on a level, wind-swept plateau, and the
weather was very cold. The neighboring peaks of the Andes are rich in
mines, and multitudes of llamas and mules come down the steep trails
each day, laden with copper, bismuth, silver ore, and gold ore. They
discharge their burdens at the railroad-station, where it is loaded on
cars to be hauled to the smelters in Buenos Aires.

Our object in coming to the Argentine was to continue the biological
survey we had carried on in Bolivia; and also to secure specimens of
a rare little bird (_Scytalopus_) which was thought to exist in the
province of Salta. The acquisition of this bird was most important for
the light it would throw on certain problems of distribution.

The little wren-like birds of this genus (_Scytalopus_), known commonly
as “tapacolas,” are perhaps among the most difficult to collect of
any species in South America, and for this reason they are invariably
only poorly represented in museum collections. Native collectors,
hunting mainly with blow-guns, have gathered many thousands of birds,
the greater number of which have eventually found their way to
millinery establishments and scientific institutions in many parts of
the world; but usually only those of brilliant plumage, and others
which could be taken with little difficulty, have been collected. The
small, slate-colored or blackish tapacolas, found only in the densest
of subtropical forests or among the tangled vegetation bordering
bleak, frigid _paramos_, have usually been overlooked. This is not
surprising when we find how seldom even the trained field-naturalist
of to-day finds it possible to lure the tiny, feathered creature from
its secure retreat among the mosses, roots, and ferns to which its
mouse-like habits confine it, and how rarely he succeeds in recovering
the inconspicuously colored bird after it has been shot. Even after a
long, patient search has revealed the specimen lodged somewhere in the
deep stratum of matted plants, it is by no means sure of reaching the
museum; I know of instances where birds, slipping from the hunter’s
hands and dropping at his feet, have been forever lost in the riot of
vegetation which everywhere carpets the ground.

Our quest for this little creature was destined to extend over a period
of months, and to take us into many an out-of-the-way place. We were
eager to begin the search, so took the first available train which left
La Quiaca two days after our arrival and started southward.

Leaving the desolate settlement, the railroad winds upward through
a narrow, rocky gorge to the station Tres Cruces, the altitude of
which is twelve thousand four hundred feet. There it descends at a
steep grade--so steep in fact that a rack and pinion are used part
of the way. The rocky knobs flanking the gorge are old and weathered
and very picturesque. A small stream winds back and forth across a
boulder-strewn course; the water is clear and cold. About mid-afternoon
we encountered an abrupt change in the type of country. The bare crags
and narrow, rocky floor of the gorge gave way to a wide expanse of
brush-covered land and green pasture. This change was first noticeable
at a small station called Leon (elevation five thousand feet); the
vegetation grew thicker and the landscape more inviting as we continued
the journey. At dusk we reached Jujuy, a city of some pretensions;
the buildings are attractive, the streets are broad, and the people
appeared clean and intelligent. Following Jujuy were numerous small
towns and stations; also many truck-farms owned by Italians who were
settling in Argentina in great numbers. There were also vast green
meadows in which fine-looking cattle, horses, and sheep were grazing.

Our first stop was at Salta. The journey from La Quiaca had required
fifteen hours.

Salta has about thirty thousand inhabitants, and is a modern city.
It possesses wide, paved streets, buildings of imposing dimensions,
electric trolleys, and lights, a zoological park, good hotels, and
a college. The contrast between being in a city where comforts and
luxuries abounded, and living on the bleak, Andean uplands amidst
stolid Quechuas guarding their herds of llamas, was great, and we
enjoyed the change to the fullest extent. After frozen potatoes and
canned provisions, the inviting coffee-houses were irresistible;
and the “movies” made us forget the miles of inhospitable desert.
Fortunately there were enough of each of these attractions so that we
could spend a whole day visiting them, alternating from one to the
other, without repeating.

Our first headquarters in the Argentine were made at Rosario de Lerma,
one hour by train from Salta. This is a most delightful spot and
afforded rare opportunities for work and observation. The town contains
about one hundred houses and is surrounded by fields, pastures, and
patches of low, open woods. There is an abundance of water, and
excellent meat, fruits, and vegetables may be had in abundance.
The people are industrious and of good appearance, and treated us
courteously.

We soon discovered that in Argentina we were not at liberty to carry
on our work in any place or manner that suited our purpose; in other
words, there were game-laws, closed and open seasons, and it was
necessary to secure permits from the owners of all lands on which we
proposed to hunt. Of all these restrictions we were ignorant, and
spent a blissful three days doing as we pleased; then a sergeant of
police called and notified us that we were under arrest, and to call at
headquarters as soon as convenient. I lost no time in going to see the
chief, explained the nature of our work to him, and then acting on his
suggestion took the next train to Salta to get a permit which entitled
us to hunt anywhere within that province. All this was accomplished
within a few hours. The various officials with whom I came in contact
were most courteous and obliging.

Our study of bird-nesting at Rosario de Lerma was confined largely
to observing the parasitic habits of the black cowbird (_Molothrus
b. bonariensis_), referred to by the Spanish-speaking people as the
“tordo.” The bird usually called tordo, however, is a species of
oriole, highly esteemed as a cage bird on account of its not unmusical
singing ability. This bird is of slender, graceful build, about the
size of a red-winged blackbird, and of a uniform glossy, purplish-black
color except on the wings and tail, which have a pronounced greenish
sheen. The female is of a dark, ashy-brown color.

We saw flocks of them daily in the fields, on the backs of cattle
grazing in the pastures, in the courtyards of houses, in corrals, and
more particularly in the scattered trees, which were almost certain
to contain at least one nest of the oven-bird (_Furnarius_) or of
some species of brush-bird (_Phacellodomus_). Usually the flocks were
composed of from ten to twelve individuals, the bright, glossy males
outnumbering the dull, grayish females in the proportion of four to
one. Azara gives the proportion of males to females as ten to one, but
this disparity is too great for any part of the Argentine known to me.

The birds are noisy, keeping up a loud chatter, especially where a
flock is on the wing, or when preparing for the night’s sleep. The male
bursts into a short, pretty song with frequency, dropping his wings and
moving in a nervous manner while singing. Apparently the female does
not sing.

It has been said that the females of this species lay eggs during a
period of three or four months; to know how many are laid by a single
bird would be interesting, as the number must be very great in order
to make allowance for the incalculable numbers that are wasted, and
still provide enough to keep the ranks of the multitudes at their
normal level.

We did not find a single egg of _M. b. bonariensis_ on the ground,
although Hudson states that in the vicinity of Buenos Aires these birds
“frequently waste their eggs by dropping them on the ground.”

Dropping the eggs on the ground might entail a deliberate waste, as
we know of no reason why the bird should suppose that they would be
hatched and the young reared, if scattered broadcast over the country.
On the other hand, this might merely indicate that the birds had found
no suitable place in which to deposit their eggs. The form of waste
caused by the birds laying in old, disused nests, or by laying such a
large number of eggs in a single nest that it is impossible for the
rightful owner to incubate them and rear the young, can hardly be said
to be deliberate, as it is doubtless caused by a lack of intelligence;
if the bird designedly scatters its eggs broadcast on the ground, it is
wantonly wasteful; if it merely lays in disused nests, or overcrowds
nests actually occupied, the bird may simply be stupid.

It would be impossible to say what per cent of eggs laid by this
species of cowbird is wasted. Hudson estimates that each female lays
from sixty to one hundred eggs in a single season, and it does not
seem to me that this statement is an exaggeration. One female which
I dissected had laid three eggs within the few preceding days, and a
fourth was almost ready to be deposited.

The bird which suffers most from the parasitic habits of the cowbird
in the vicinity of Rosario de Lerma, is the oven-bird (_Furnarius
rufus_); however, of the great number of eggs laid in the nests of the
above-named species, our observations tend to show that the greater
part are lost. Among the scores of oven-bird nests which we examined,
only two were still occupied by the owners, the desertion being
apparently due to the invasion of the cowbirds. So persecuted were the
oven-birds that it is difficult to understand how any of them survived
in this immediate locality. The nests were common enough, it being
not unusual to find several of them in a single tree, but the birds
themselves were not abundant. It is possible that some of the pairs
may have built several nests each in their vain attempts to escape the
attentions of the cowbirds.

In no instance had the walls or top of the oven-birds’ nests been
broken or perforated in any manner, in order that light could
penetrate to the interior; they were not tampered with in any way, and
the cowbirds seemed content to use them just as the oven-birds had
constructed them.

I believe that the greater number of _M. b. bonariensis_ that reach
maturity are reared by the smaller birds, such as finches, warblers,
and vireos, in whose nests only a few eggs are laid, which increases
the favorable chances of their incubation. Also, the larger and heavier
eggs of the cowbird frequently crush at least a part of the smaller
eggs which naturally have a more fragile shell, thus forestalling to a
marked degree the competition that might arise between the young birds
in the nest.

We collected about two hundred eggs of this species, nearly all of
them at Rosario de Lerma, and a great variation in marking exists;
there is also some difference in color. As a general rule the eggs are
greenish or bluish, rather heavily spotted with reddish-brown; in a
very few specimens the background is of a pale flesh-color, and in a
small number of others it approaches white, having, however, a dull
grayish tinge; of the entire lot, four only are so lightly marked as to
appear unspotted. Not a single egg is pure white or has a pure white
background (my standard of comparison is an egg of the oven-bird) “like
the eggs of birds that breed in dark holes”; the majority of these eggs
were taken from the darkened interiors of oven-birds’ nests.

A type of egg not uncommon is heavily and evenly marked all over with
fine dots and larger spots of reddish-brown. Judging from the material
at hand I should say that there is a characteristic type of marking
running through the eggs of the species if we except the two extremes,
_viz._, those almost unspotted, and those so entirely covered with
heavy blotches that they appear to be of a uniform chocolate color.

However, the eggs of each individual seem to vary in some respect from
those of any other, as it is impossible to find two exactly alike in
comparing series from different places. Frequently, two or more eggs
found in the same nest resemble each other so closely in size, shape,
and coloration, that I think it reasonably safe to say that they were
laid by the same bird.

The nests of the smaller birds contained from one to four eggs of these
parasites, in addition to those of the rightful owners. On January 12,
I opened an oven-bird nest and was surprised to find fifteen cowbirds’
eggs in the dark interior. This I considered a record, but Boyle
brought one in on the same day containing twenty-six of the speckled
eggs. In the days that followed, we discovered numerous “sets” of from
ten to twenty. The nest that contained the final record number was
found January 16, it contained thirty-eight eggs--one of the oven-birds
and thirty-seven of the cowbirds.

Later, we again met these old acquaintances wintering in the
rice-fields and rush-grown marshes of Tucuman.

The white ani (_Guira guira_) or Guiraca, first seen near Asuncion,
and later in Bolivia, was plentiful at Rosario de Lerma. The bird was
usually found in small flocks and fed on the ground.

We found several of their nests near Rosario de Lerma. They were large,
loosely built of sticks and placed in the crotch of a cactus or other
thorny plant, at no great height from the ground. However, the nest is
not conspicuous in spite of its size.

Pablo Girard, an Argentine naturalist, informed me that these birds
frequently nest in communities and that a number of females lay their
eggs in the same nest, although this is not always the case. The
natives verified this statement. This seems probable as I at no time
saw the groups split up into pairs; on the contrary, there were always
numbers of birds in the vicinity of each domicile. Our record set
contained twelve eggs.

After ten days at Rosario de Lerma, we returned to Salta and then took
the train to Perico, a ride of three and a half hours northward. At
this station a branch railroad runs northeastward into Argentina’s
vast Chaco region. The track was being extended as rapidly as labor
and material can be obtained for the work, and we desired to go to the
end of the line where is located a station called Embarcacion. Before
starting on this journey, however, we spent some time at points noted
on the downward journey from La Quiaca. Perico is a busy little town,
owing its activity to the traffic occasioned by the railroad junction.
The buildings are low and dilapidated, and most of them consist of a
shop, or _venta_, in front, with living-rooms in the rear.

The shops are always worthy of exploration. In some, huge piles
of watermelons were displayed for sale; others offered fruits and
vegetables, and still others groceries and dry-goods. Drinking-places
were abundant.

We were particularly interested to find numbers of rhea eggs on sale
in the outdoor market. They brought forty _centavos_ each and were
delicious; the contents of each was equal to about a dozen hen’s eggs.
I was told that they were gathered from the nests of wild birds in the
Chaco. Each nest contains from ten to twenty or even thirty eggs, which
are more than one man can carry. When fresh, the shell is of a deep
cream-color; after incubation has started or if the egg is addled, the
color is pale, ashy gray. The birds are killed and eaten--the flesh
resembling that of a goat’s in flavor.

One day a number of Indians arrived from San Pedro. They brought huge
baskets and crates of young amazon parrots. These birds are taken when
very young from nests placed in the cavities of trees, and are reared
by hand until they are able to eat unaided. Usually two are found in
a nest--occasionally three. They also brought a tame coypu rat and
several three-banded armadillos.

Perico is surrounded by miles of cattle lands, light woods, and limited
areas covered with vegetation of a semiarid type. In the latter places
small deer or brockets are not uncommon; they hide in the low, thorny
growth of Spanish bayonet until one is within a few yards of them, then
dash away at great speed; the inhabitants hunt them with dogs trained
for the purpose, and rarely fail to bag their quarry, though usually
after a long chase.

We found the coral-billed tinamou not uncommon in the wooded districts.
They are essentially birds of the tree-covered regions and are
difficult to secure on account of their terrestrial habits, and also
owing to the fact that they adhere closely to the densest cover. I have
on a number of occasions seen captive specimens, but they seem to not
take kindly to the restricted life of a cage or aviary, and spent most
of the time dashing wildly about, injuring themselves so seriously that
they did not long survive.

A number of the birds of this locality are not included in the avifauna
of Rosario de Lerma, but belong to the Chaco type, and I recognized
some species which were common near Asuncion, Paraguay; among them a
large blue jay and a brown-shouldered oriole.

Our next station was at Volcan. About the only attractive thing about
this place was a great lake almost entirely surrounded by high hills,
and teeming with water-fowl. The Quechua boy we had brought from
Bolivia was the first to find the lake. He rushed back to us excitedly
with the information that there was a large body of water near by with
a huge, white duck on it; he had shot at the queer bird, that had a
black neck, a number of times but failed to hit it. Fortunate for
all of us that his marksmanship was poor! The “duck” was of course
a black-necked swan belonging to the owner of the terrain, and its
untimely demise would have cost us dearly. There were, however,
hundreds of ducks; teals, ruddies, shovellers, and pintails; also, many
coots, grebes, and rails.

The body of water had an area of over a square mile, and in its edges
a tall fringe of cattails grew. Marsh-wrens and military flycatchers
haunted these swaying green thickets, and grebes stole silently in and
out of their ragged borders. There were many disused nests of coots and
ducks; but while making our way through the high, tangled growth we
came suddenly upon the nest of a giant grebe (_Fulica gigantica_); it
consisted of a huge mass of reed stems, slightly concave on top, and
extending about a foot above the water; in it were four pointed, brown
eggs, heavily dotted with deep brown and black. This was apparently a
second clutch, the first, perhaps, having been destroyed. There were
scores of other nests, but all were empty and falling into decay.

We spent a busy day tramping about the borders of the hidden lake,
watching the flocks of coming and departing ducks and bagging such as
we needed--whenever a duck or cormorant plumped into the water Boyle
swam out and got it; this was risky work that I did not encourage,
as the water was ice cold and many fathoms deep, and the ensnaring
under-water growths of reeds and cattail stems formed dense, slimy
masses capable of holding a man who might become entangled in them
until he became exhausted and drowned.

While at Volcan we stayed at the house of an Italian trader. He asked
if we had any recent reports of the war, and then expressed the hope
that it would last years longer, as he owned part interest in a
copper-mine, and was receiving war prices for the much-needed metal.
We decided not to accept his hospitality any longer and took the train
to Tilcara. I have often met foreigners in South America (including
some from the United States) who were representative of anything but
the better class of citizens of their respective countries; it is
unfortunate that many Latin Americans base their estimate of a people
upon the appearance and doings of these few misguided and objectionable
characters.

[Illustration: Ploughing at Rosario de Lerma.]

[Illustration: Tilcara, showing the stream and valley and the
snow-capped Andes in the distance.]

At Tilcara we lived with another Italian family, but of an entirely
different type. The village, the elevation of which is eight thousand
feet, stands about half a mile from the railway-station. We were
engaging _peons_ to carry our luggage there when the man stepped up
and offered us the use of part of his humble home, which stood within
a hundred feet of the spot. We accepted the invitation, and during our
entire stay were treated with great courtesy.

There is a narrow valley between high, rugged, barren peaks, some of
which are snow-capped. Parts of the depression are dry and semiarid;
others, marshy and covered with high, rank grass. Small Indian huts
built of stones or adobe are strewn about, and there are numerous
fields from which the rocks have been gathered through years of effort
so that the land may be cultivated.

There were many birds. They represented a fauna intermediate between
that of the high, cold plateau and that found lower down at Rosario de
Lerma. Large red-breasted meadow-larks (_Troupialis_) were common and
always found in pairs. Of hummers there were numerous kinds, attracted
by clumps of flowering shrubs that grew alongside the fences; the giant
humming-bird and the gorgeous coppery-tailed comet were particularly
plentiful. The former are very stupid. They came fluttering along like
awkward swallows and often settled comfortably on a branch near to us,
from which they would inspect us at their leisure, while they chirped
and darted out the tongue like a snake. One of the comets that we
collected had eaten quantities of gnats and small ants.

The walls of a deserted Quechua hut had been appropriated by a flock
of bay-winged cowbirds (_Molothrus badius_) for their nesting-sites.
Dozens of small, round holes penetrated the thick, earthen walls, and
some of them extended entirely through; the latter were not occupied.
Apparently whatever birds had drilled the cavities, frequently
surprised themselves by emerging suddenly into the daylight they were
trying to get away from, at the far end of the burrow. However, not
to be discouraged, repeated other attempts were made, some of which
were successful as the walls varied in thickness. A small, flat nest
of sticks lined with a few feathers comprised the bay-wing’s domicile.
Some of them contained young birds, and one had five eggs in it. The
adult birds always remained in a flock in the vicinity and kept up a
shrill screaming while we were near.

Large, blackish rails inhabited the reedy marshes; they came in flocks
to feed in the velvety green islands interspersed among the weed and
water covered areas. Watching from a concealed position, we could see
them strut unconcernedly about, flicking their tails over their backs
and jerking their necks and picking up the tiny mollusks and insects
that were so abundant. When alarmed they craned their necks, looked
about inquisitively, then gave a few hoarse cackles and ran into the
weeds; within a few moments they returned, one at a time, and at first
slowly and cautiously; but soon, forgetting that danger might lurk
near by, they rushed for the spots where food was most abundant. Rails
are peculiar and interesting birds. The body is narrow and compressed
like a flea’s; this enables them to slip through the dense reeds and
water-plants in which they live. The comparatively long bills make
it possible for them to pick up food in shallow water. Their long,
slender toes, giving the feet a wide spread, make walking on floating
vegetation and soft mud easy; nevertheless, at least some species are
good swimmers.

Flocks of night-herons spent the days in a small clump of willows
fringing the marsh. At dusk they grew very active and we could hear
them croaking from afar. They are splendid eating.

As at Pulqué and the Pilcomayo, birds were hard pressed for
nesting-sites. Giant club-cacti apparently were at a premium. The
old, disused nests of brush-birds (_Synallaxis_), or _leñateros_, were
inhabited by mocking-birds which built a nest of their own within
the huge structure of twigs; and, when the mocking-birds were away,
cowbirds slipped in and deposited a few eggs. One mocking-bird had been
so unwise as to place its nest in a thorny bush covered with dense
foliage so that it could not be watched from a distance and defended
from cowbirds; before the owners were ready to use their new home, it
had received many visits from the black parasites (_M. b. bonariensis_)
who left their cards in the shape of fourteen speckled eggs. We
collected this “set” but have the idea that this only encouraged the
cowbirds to increased efforts.

The abundance of ducks in South America in places where one least
expects to find them, is a source of never-ending surprise. A small
stream flows through the valley at Tilcara. It is nowhere more
than twenty feet across, and two or three feet deep, but flocks of
green-winged teals visited it regularly at dawn and dusk. They swam in
the rapid water, and then lined up on the rocky bank for a quiet nap.

The inhabitants of Tilcara shot many, but others came to the same place
daily.

Of mammals there were but few. Cavies, as usual, lived among the
rock piles and in the stone fences, and a few other small rodents
inhabited the grain-fields. One day we secured a fine specimen of
the rare, elusive yellow cat called _gato pampero_, or pampas-cat.
It was stealing cautiously along the river-bank; but I am unable to
say whether it had come in quest of fish or merely for the purpose
of quenching its thirst. Our work in this region being completed, we
returned to Perico, and prepared for the journey to Embarcacion.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE CHACO, SUGAR-PLANTATIONS AND RICE MARSHES--A SEARCH FOR A RARE BIRD


The train for the Chaco left Perico at 9 P. M. It was composed largely
of second-class coaches crowded with immigrants, mostly Italians bound
for various parts of the great land that is being rapidly thrown open
to colonization. There was, however, also a compartment-car in which we
had taken the precaution of making a reservation some time in advance.
The darkness prevented our seeing the landscape through which we
passed, but on our return we noted that there was little change from
that around Perico as far as San Pedro. There were, however, numerous
fields of sugar-cane, some of very great size. Beyond San Pedro the
country is all of the Chaco type; that is, vast stretches of pampas
liberally sprinkled with islands of forest. The Vermejo, a river about
the size of the Wabash, was crossed on a steel bridge three miles
before reaching our destination, which was at six o’clock the following
morning.

A group of newly erected shacks, low and so lightly built of
packing-cases and corrugated sheet iron that many of them resembled
mere skeletons of houses; narrow, crooked streets; shops loaded with
fruits and conducted by Italians, and others festooned with bandanna
handkerchiefs, gaudy wearing apparel and cheap jewelry, and owned
by Turks or Syrians; gambling and liquor houses; a motley crowd of
slovenly, not overdressed people, and a tropical sun blazing down
mercilessly on the whole assemblage. That is Embarcacion, the “farthest
east” to date in the north-eastern part of Argentina’s vast Chaco. I
was told that as the railroad is extended farther and farther into the
interior, many of the residents take down their abodes and ship them to
the new station where they are re-assembled; and so a great portion of
the town moves bodily at different intervals.

On all sides lies the seemingly limitless Chaco. There is practically
no cultivation and but few herds of cattle had been introduced to date.
In addition to the great possibilities for cattle-raising, the country
also possesses enormous wealth in quebracho-wood; at present quantities
of it are cut for use as fuel in the locomotives of several of the
railroads. Within a short time, no doubt, these assets will be utilized
in a manner that will be advantageous to both the exploiters and the
country at large.

One of the interesting discoveries in the pampas was a wintering-place
for bobolinks. The extent of this bird’s migration had been shrouded
in mystery, and but a single specimen in winter plumage had ever been
recorded. We found them in flocks of thousands, perched in the top
of the tall grass or picking up seeds from the ground. Their cheery
song was conspicuously absent. They were in spotted plumage. Small
red-breasted meadow-larks (_Leistes_) mingled freely with the bobolinks.

Another place that never failed to attract us was a small lagoon
flanked by forest on two sides, and by prairie on the others. This
region was the resort of many birds. Flocks of Brazilian cardinals
(_Paroaria_) numbering up to thirty individuals congregated in the
bushes, their flaming red heads reminding one of clusters of brilliant
flowers. We discovered a nest of the species, a shallow affair of grass
stems, placed in the end of a branch twenty feet above the ground;
in it were two eggs resembling those of the English sparrow. Small
black-and-white flycatchers (_Fluvicola_) found the lagoon a most
attractive spot. Their pear-shaped bag nests of interwoven grasses
and feathers were scattered about in the overhanging bushes and also
fastened to the stems of aquatic plants, sometimes but a foot above
the water. There were also numbers of grebes, coots, and gallinules,
and occasionally a pair of beautiful Brazilian teals visited the
quiet, secluded body of water. Night-herons kept well to the tops
of the taller trees; and everglade kites flew gracefully and swiftly
overhead, usually singly, and rarely in pairs. We heard the weird call
of chachalacas almost daily, but these birds had been persecuted by
native hunters until they had acquired enough wisdom to avoid hunters
and human beings in general. In one wet strip of woods we found
limpkins in limited numbers. They did not seem to ever come out into
the open country. There was not time to study the frogs, fish, and
small snakes that we saw occasionally; nor to more than admire the
myriads of flowers and curious plants growing on all sides. There was,
however, another naturalist (José Steinbach) working in the locality
at the time of our visit, and fortunately he devoted practically all
his energies to the study of the very things we had to omit, so between
both expeditions the fauna and flora were pretty well covered.

Many of the available trees were burdened with the huge stick nests
of the leñateros (_Synallaxis_). Some of the structures measured six
feet long and two feet through. They were built of thorny twigs, at the
ends of branches. A heap of material is first placed at the very tip of
a limb, and as the weight causes it to sag downward, more sticks are
added until the huge mass hangs suspended in a vertical position. The
thorns cause the whole affair to hold together so well that opossums
and other predatory animals find it impossible to burrow their way
through the walls to the interior cavity where the four or five white
eggs, or the young birds, are cleverly concealed in a downy cup. There
is usually a second chamber near the top of the nest; this is the male
bird’s night quarters while his mate is incubating or brooding in the
lower story.

Blue-headed tanagers (_Thraupis_) preferred to nest in the trees and
bushes near to some human habitation, while blue grosbeaks selected
more secluded sites in some little woods or thickets. The latter birds
breed before the male changes his brown nestling plumage to the deep
indigo-blue coat of the adult.

[Illustration: The lagoon in the Chaco, Embarcacion.]

[Illustration: Paramo above Tafí.]

The most beautiful of all South American birds’ eggs are laid by the
tinamou. They are placed in a depression in the ground, usually under
a tuft of grass or near a log or stone. Their color varies in the
different species, running through turquoise and deep blue, lavender,
brown, green, and gold. The shape is rounded or broadly ovate and
the shell is very smooth so that it glows like a varnished or highly
polished sphere. In spite of the glossy texture of the surface, minute
scrutiny will reveal the fact that it is pitted like that of the eggs
of the rhea to which the tinamou are closely related.

We saw a fox occasionally, slinking across a trail and always well out
of gun-range. Each morning there were tracks of cats and large cavies
in the dusty paths, but mammals were scarce and few came to our traps.

There were no mosquitoes during the day, and only enough at night to
make the use of a net desirable. Sand-flies, however, often appeared in
considerable numbers and were troublesome. The climate was intolerably
hot during the greater part of our stay. Each day the thermometer rose
a few degrees higher until we found even the lightest and scantiest
amount of clothing uncomfortable; all through the long afternoons we
sat shirtless with streams of perspiration pouring down our backs,
preparing the specimens that spoiled within a few hours unless properly
preserved. About every fourth or fifth day the weather broke and a
deluge of rain falling throughout the afternoon and night brought with
it a lowered temperature and welcome respite from the oppressive heat.

Our greatest problem was dealing with the hosts of small red ants
that persisted in getting at our specimens. We kept the latter on a
table the legs of which stood in tin cans half full of kerosene; but a
trailing thread, a piece of paper blown by the wind, or any one of a
dozen other trivial things that happened daily furnished bridges over
which the insatiable hordes promptly swarmed to destroy our hard-gotten
trophies.

We next headed toward Tucuman and upon our arrival there were
pleased to find a city of sixty thousand inhabitants, delightful
from practically every point of view. The people were particularly
interesting. We saw few of them on the streets during the daytime,
but in the late afternoon after the shops and offices had closed and
bolted their doors, the men appeared in crowds, all well and neatly
dressed. They congregated in the saloons and cafés fringing the plaza,
and drank beer and small cups of strong, black coffee until about
seven o’clock. In many instances the tables were arranged on both
sides of the pavement so that one walked through a lane between rows
of sleek-combed youths twirling gaudily banded straw hats or canes,
and noisily discussing--what-not, and grave-faced men with gray hair
and beards everlastingly talking politics. After going home to supper
they reappeared with the womenfolk, the wealthier ones circling about
the plaza in carriages or motor-cars, the less opulent afoot. The band
played every other night.

The great Province of Tucuman, of which the city bearing the same
name is the capital, is one of the most fertile in all Argentina.
Its principal products are sugar, rice, and cattle. Land values are
high--too high in some cases, but it cannot be denied that there is
good reason for the rapidly rising scale of prices.

In Tucuman we found the chief of police a hard proposition to handle
when it came to securing the hunting-license. To begin with, we had
great difficulty in entering his sanctuary. The door was guarded
by a mammoth negro who rushed into the inner chamber each time the
_intendente_ rang for him. First he always jerked a huge club out from
under his coat--ready perhaps to take the first whack at the official
if some one started anything, instead of defending him. Finally we
succeeded in entering the holy of holies, and found a small, rather
elderly man sitting behind a large, flat desk, sipping tea while
several _secretarios_ hopped wildly about him and yelled into an
ear-trumpet held in position by one of his hands. He failed utterly to
understand our request, and curtly refused to have anything to do with
any _millinery establishment_. We argued in vain, then retired to think
of some new move, for the permit was necessary if we wished to keep out
of jail, and I must admit that such was our ardent desire.

There being no United States Consul in Tucuman, I appealed to the
British Consul for assistance. He very kindly spent many hours calling
on various officials, from the governor down, explaining our mission
and asking that the small matter be arranged for us. Our quest seemed
hopeless until one day a copy of one of the large daily newspapers
arrived from Buenos Aires, and in this I found an account of how
representatives of Latin-American countries who were attending the
scientific congress in Washington had been received and entertained at
the American Museum of Natural History during their visit to New York.
Armed with this clipping I again invaded the _palacio_. Ordinarily I
should not have done such a thing, as there are many reasons why it
is not commendable, but the situation was desperate and called for
aggressive tactics. Suffice it to say that this visit was the last. A
mild comparison of how their people were treated in our country, and
the difficulties we had in theirs was sufficient, and when I left the
building the permit was in my pocket.

The Sierra de Tucuman, a range of comparatively low mountains, rises
directly west of the city. This we found to be covered with a growth
of tall, dense forest, so we lost no time in moving there. We left the
city by rail and proceeded southwestward to a small station called San
Pablo, a short distance away. This is in the heart of the sugar region
and vast fields of cane stretch on either side of the railway. Here and
there the tall brick chimneys of a refinery rise above the waving green
fields, and wide, deep canals divide the cultivated areas into sections
and supply water for irrigation.

A good cart-road leads from San Pablo up the side of the mountain to
the very summit, four thousand six hundred feet high, where the little
town of Villa Nougués is situated. This settlement is a favorite resort
of the wealthier class of people who come up from Tucuman to spend the
summer months in pleasant châteaux, thereby avoiding the heat of the
lower country.

The view from the top of the range is superb; the country to the east
is perfectly level, and is laid out in symmetrical fields of cane as
far as the eye can see. A small, muddy river, threading its way through
the ocean of green divides it into two sections and vanishes into the
horizon in a haze of purple mist. To the west stands the stern Andean
chain, barren and precipitous, its summit hidden in banks of cold, gray
clouds.

We made a first camp in the forest below Villa Nougués, at an altitude
of four thousand feet. From the very first day we had heard the shrill
little call of a bird which we attributed to the much-coveted tapacola
(_Scytalopus_) we were looking for; but the elusive creature always
remained in concealment among the ferns and mosses and not once did we
get a glimpse of it. Then we secured ox-carts and moved to the other
side of the mountain, where, we were told, hunting was not so difficult.

Birds were not abundant, the fall migrations having left the forest
almost deserted. The few species which remained, however, such as
wood-hewers, thrushes, tanagers, and jays, were plentiful, and
several kinds of humming-birds added life and color to the sombre
green of the vegetation. After many days we succeeded in tracing
the mysterious chirp to its source, and found, not the bird we were
seeking, but a dainty little wood-wren of the shyest possible nature.
The minute, secretive creature seemed to spend its entire time among
the buttresses, roots, and moss-draped undergrowth, where no ray of
sunlight ever penetrated to dispel the chill and semidarkness, or give
a touch of warmth to the soggy mould. Its glimpses of daylight must
be brief indeed, and at infrequent intervals. We had come to the
mountains in a state of enthusiasm and expectancy, for here it seemed
we should succeed in ending our long quest for the tapacola. As the
days passed, thrilling excitement gave way to exasperation, and finally
disappointment alone remained to fill the void created by the flight of
the other emotions.

We returned to Tucuman for a brief time, and then struck for the forest
farther south. This time we left the railroad at a station called
Acherál two and one-half hours from Tucuman, and camped in the forest
at the foot of the ridge. Again we were doomed to disappointment. Birds
were more abundant than at Villa Nougués, but the tapacola was not
forthcoming. There were, however, numerous other interesting species.
Pigmy woodpeckers (_Picumnus_) selected the patches of high brush and
second-growth woods just without the edge of the forest proper. They
are little larger than a good-sized humming-bird, dark or black above,
white underneath, and have a red cap. Their industrious hammering
always advertised the presence of a pair as they hopped quickly along
the trunks and branches, tapping for worms or excavating a nesting-site.

The woods were undermined with tunnels made by the queer _tuco-tuco_,
or _oculto_ (_Ctenomys_), a species of which we had come in contact
with in Brazil. We set a steel trap in one of the subterranean runways,
carefully covering with a log the opening we had made; soon a series of
low grunts emanated from the spot, and we found a fine, large specimen
of the strange rodent safely held by the steel jaws.

Bottle flies were so numerous as to prove a most disagreeable pest.
Blankets, clothing, food, and specimens alike were covered with “blow”
if left exposed for but a few minutes. We were lucky in possessing
enough netting with which to rig up covers for everything, but even
then numbers gained entrance, and we had to clean the infested articles
frequently by passing them over a fire or by scraping and brushing.

After a few days we concluded that a visit to the top of the range,
which at this point attains an altitude of over ten thousand feet,
was necessary. We secured a pack-train of mules from Acherál, and one
morning at one o’clock started up the steep slope. A full moon showered
a flood of light upon the earth, but the overhanging branches formed
a thick canopy over the trail, impermeable to the silvery radiance
save when an occasional breeze stirred the leafy arch, thus permitting
fitful shafts of light to pierce the darkness of the tunnel, and to
fall in quavering, dancing blotches on the ground. We could almost feel
the impenetrable blackness which closed in from all sides like water
in a deep, dark pool. The light touch of a streamer dangling from the
moss-festooned branches overhead, or the velvety swish of fern leaves
protruding beyond the protecting walls of tree-trunks, made it seem as
if the forest were peopled with hovering, invisible forms. No sound
disturbed the brooding silence of the night except the dull hoof-beats
of the mules as, guided by some mysterious instinct, they cautiously
picked their way through the muddy and rock-strewn lane.

Hour after hour we followed blindly in the wake of the bell-mule,
winding back and forth along the mountainside, but mounting ever
upward. The latter part of the way seemed to lie near the course of a
small mountain torrent, for we were almost constantly within hearing
distance of rushing water. Finally, we emerged from the forest, and,
just as day was breaking, reached a brush-covered strip of country, the
elevation of which is five thousand feet. This continued to the top
of the ridge, two thousand feet above. Then there was a depression of
considerable extent, filled with rank, low vegetation and infested with
swarms of bloodthirsty flies which render it uninhabitable.

After ascending another ridge, the trail led gently downward into a
level valley a dozen miles long and from one to two miles wide. Herds
of cattle were grazing on the abundant grass; a few small areas had
been enclosed within stone walls and planted in maize; and at the far
end, half concealed by willows and fruit-trees, lay a village of
whitewashed houses. At half past four in the afternoon we reached the
settlement, called Tafí del Valle, and soon after were comfortably
ensconced in a hut hospitably provided by one of the inhabitants. After
the fifteen and a half hours’ uninterrupted ride over a difficult trail
we were ready for a journey into a still more remote region, and the
sun was shining brightly the following morning when we again returned
to the stern realities of this world.

Tafí del Valle is a most delightful place. Even though the altitude
is seven thousand feet, the surrounding peaks shut in the valley and
protect it from the icy winds. There is no natural forest in this
region, but groves of willows have been planted near the houses; to
these, large numbers of birds came to spend the night. Hawks were
especially abundant and of many kinds--we collected no fewer than
seventeen species during our ten days’ stay; then there were also
burrowing owls, larks, flycatchers, thrushes, and many other birds.
Some species which ordinarily live in brush-covered country had
become adapted to their barren surroundings and were nesting in holes
excavated in banks of earth. When the birds had reared their broods,
rats, mice, and pigmy opossums occupied the old nesting-sites.

A clear, cold stream, which flows through one side of the valley,
spreads out at the lower end over a large area, forming lagoons and
marshes. Geese, ducks, coots, night-herons, and sandpipers made these
places a favorite resort. Pectoral sandpipers were not uncommon, and
were so fat that they were unable to fly and could be taken with the
hands. There were also flocks of stilts; they are beautiful creatures,
either when flying in compact formation, with measured wing-beats
and outstretched necks and legs, or when standing motionless in the
shallow water, their snowy underparts reflected in quivering outlines.
Lapwings screamed and cackled in resentment of our visit and frequently
frightened away flocks of water-fowl which we were stalking.

Apparently our _Scytalopus_ was not a bird of the open highlands. We
even began to wonder if it existed at all, because, so far, the most
thorough search had failed to reveal any trace of it. There remained,
however, the high _paramo_ above, and to this we next turned our
attention.

Our sudden arrival at Tafí had caused much comment among the
inhabitants. They found it impossible to believe that we had come
to that remote region in search of a small, dull-colored bird, and
after a few days it became an open secret that we were regarded
as spies--though just what nature of information we sought, could
not be determined. They even went so far as to refer to the matter
occasionally in a good-natured manner; and when we were away on hunting
excursions, it was their custom to put our cook, a Bolivian, through
a sort of “third degree” in an effort to compel him to confess the
real object of our visit. Therefore, when we planned to move to the
high peaks bordering the little valley, the natives considered their
evidence complete; we were going, they said, to prepare a diagram of
the country from our new point of vantage. The only person who really
understood the purpose of our mission was a man from Tucuman who had
been sent up to vaccinate the Indians. He started out each morning
accompanied by two or three soldiers, rounded up all the Indians of
a given locality, and vaccinated them. The natives did not at the
time realize the significance of this act; but when, a few weeks
later, the inoculations had had time to become effective, they grew
frantic, and grim-faced little parties began to scour the country in
search of the person who had “poisoned” them. Fortunately, none of the
scouting-parties came our way, for to them all strangers look very much
alike, and there was the possibility that one of us might have been
mistaken for the doctor.

The _paramo_ above Tafí is a bleak region, almost perpetually enveloped
in mist. Work in this type of country possesses its disadvantages, for
in addition to the intense cold and the lack of fuel, there is always
the possibility that one may be trapped far from camp by banks of
clouds which roll in unexpectedly! The cold, penetrating mist is so
dense that it is impossible to distinguish objects but a few yards
away, and the most familiar landmarks assume strange and fantastic
outlines. In the event that one is overtaken by this phenomenon, there
is nothing to do but wait until the mist lifts, which may be in a
few hours, or perhaps, not until the next day. Strange to say, the
inhospitable _paramo_ supports a varied fauna. Herds of wary guanacos
feed on the tall, wiry grass growing in the more sheltered places; when
alarmed, they flee to the inaccessible rocky slopes. The _paja_, or
grass, harbors also a species of large tinamou, but the bird is loath
to leave its safe cover, for no sooner does it take wing than hawks,
which are always hovering about, swoop down and carry it away.

Numbers of deep ravines have been worn in the mountainsides by water
coming from the melting snows on the higher peaks. These are filled
with a rank growth of shrubbery. The sides are so abrupt that we could
find no spot where a descent was possible without the aid of a thousand
feet or more of rope. After a number of days, however, a narrow fissure
was discovered leading to one of the ravines from which came faint
bird-calls that we at once recognized with a fair degree of certainty.
On account of the high altitude and tangled plant-life it was slow,
tiring work to follow along the bottom of the jagged gash; there was
also the unpleasant possibility of breaking through the matted brush
and falling into deep crevices among the rocks.

As we struggled along slowly, high-pitched, whistling calls rang clear
and loud from numerous places near by, but still it seemed as if our
efforts might be of no avail; for among that chaos of vegetation it was
impossible to move without causing great disturbance and frightening
the birds away. Then there recurred to us the old saying about Mahomet
and the mountain and we resorted to quiet concealment.

Presently there was a crisp little chirp and a rustle among the
mosses a few yards away; one, two, five minutes passed; then a minute,
shadowy form darted out of the darkness, perched on a moss-covered
boulder, and turned a pair of bright, inquisitive eyes upon the strange
monsters which had invaded its snug retreat. The white throat gleamed
conspicuously among the deep-green surroundings as the bird paused a
moment to complete its inspection; then up went the short, barred tail,
straight into the air, and a succession of low, scolding notes emanated
from the feathered mite as it hopped about in angry excitement.

We found that the bird existed in numbers; once we had discovered a
way of entering its stronghold, it was possible to make the desired
studies. Thus our difficult search, covering so many hundreds of miles,
came to a pleasant and successful close.

Our work in the Argentine, however, was by no means completed. After
a short return trip to our base, we went some distance farther south
to Aguilares, a village similar to San Pablo and Acherál. Persimmons
and tangerines were in season, and at each station women came to the
car-windows offering great bunches of the fruit for sale. The former
were most attractive while on the trees; they were as large as a hen’s
egg, of a deep-red color, and were evenly distributed among the dense,
green foliage. The flavor of both was excellent.

Within an hour after reaching Aguilares we had been invited to visit
the estate of a wealthy rice-grower named Da Costa, and soon after
we were on our way, his son taking us there in a carriage while
the luggage went in a cart. At the ranch we found a large, rather
dilapidated house occupied by the family of the caretaker. On one
side were great rice-fields; on the other, totora marshes, pastures,
and woods. The place was most attractive, and the people altogether
delightful, so that we spent over two weeks busily engrossed in the
abundant work at hand.

The marshes covered many acres and were filled with cattails except
for a few narrow lanes of open water. Coypu rats had their runways
crisscrossing in every direction--sometimes neat, rounded tunnels
with the bottom just under water, and again, wide trails where the
vegetation had been trampled down. They look like very large musk-rats
and their skins, known commercially as _nutria_, are exported by
hundreds of thousands each year to be manufactured into felt hats of
the better quality. We caught several that gnawed down all the stalks
within reach and piled them into neat islands on which to sit. They
feigned death until touched with a stick when they attempted to bite
and fought viciously. Jumping mice and large, light-brown, woolly rats
used the same paths as their bigger relatives. One afternoon a fine
individual of the great red wolf we had secured at Corumbá appeared at
the edge of the rushes for a moment only to vanish into the dark marsh
at our first movement; a few minutes later he was seen loping into the
brush several hundreds of yards away.

Ducks came to the region daily, mostly teals and rosy-bills, but in
small numbers only. They were hard to get, as wading in the waist-deep,
ice-cold water and mud was slow work and they invariably took warning
and left while still out of range. At night flocks of painted snipe
(_Rostratula_) ventured to the open borders to feed. While we were
quietly waiting, a dusky form appeared and began to probe the mud
frantically, to be joined by others in a short time. They skipped
about on the flats adjoining the reed-beds in a most erratic manner,
reminding one of the actions of water-beetles, and upon the first sign
of danger promptly disappeared in the labyrinth of stems and grasses.
They seldom took wing, and then it was but to flutter up above the
tallest reeds and immediately drop out of sight in the thick cover.

It is to this region of dense totara marshes that the cowbirds
revert to spend the winter season, arriving from all directions in
comparatively small flocks, but increasing in numbers until there are
tens of thousands.

As the rice was ripening about this time, the birds did an enormous
amount of damage. All day long, men on horseback rode back and forth
through the fields, armed with slings and a bag full of pebbles; they
hurled stones and shouted themselves hoarse in a vain endeavor to
frighten away the marauding hosts.

The birds, in bands of a few individuals to several hundred, arrived
each morning at daybreak, flying low and swiftly, and making a
“swishing” sound as they cut through the air. When immediately over the
rice-fields, the band would suddenly swerve as if to circle, but drop
almost instantly and eat greedily without a moment’s delay. Upon seeing
a flock approach, the men threw stones and shouted, often succeeding in
making it pass straight over or leave the vicinity after circling once
or twice. Should the birds alight, the hail of stones soon put them
to rout, but not until a few grains of the much-coveted rice had been
secured by each individual.

As the day advanced the birds spread out over the surrounding country
where they were not persecuted, and spent most of the time on the
ground near the cattle and horses, often perched on the backs of the
grazing animals. At nightfall they returned to the cattails, and in
passing over the rice-fields again took toll from the planters. The
flocks in the marshes assumed tremendous proportions, and the babble of
voices resembled a rushing wind; the roar of wings, if the masses were
suddenly startled by the report of a gun, was not unlike the roll of
distant thunder. Before finally settling down for the night they spent
some time hopping about on the mud-flats and eating minute animal and
vegetable matter.

Carlos S. Reed, F. Z. S., Director of the Natural History Museum,
Mendoza, Argentine Republic, gives the results of his investigations
as to the food of _Molothrus bonariensis_ in a paper in the _Revista
Chilena de Historia Natural_, año XVII, No. 3, 1913. The following is a
translation, as literal as possible, of a part of the original paper,
which is written in Spanish:

“In the summer of 1910 there occurred in various departments of
the Province of Mendoza, a great invasion of _Isocas_ (larvæ of a
lepidopteran) and in various inspections which I realized in the
infected countryside I was able to confirm that a number of birds
occupied themselves in eating the larvæ and adults of these _Isocas_
(_Colias lesbia_ Fabr.) and among them _Molothrus bonariensis_
predominated.

“It is also a voracious destroyer of the white worm (larva of _Ligyrus
bidentulus_ Fairm.) when these are exposed in ploughing furrows in the
vineyards. The ‘_bicho de cesto_’ (_Æceticus platensis_ Berg) is also
very much persecuted by the bird with which we are occupied.

“The corn-fields suffer damages by reason of _Molothrus bonariensis_,
but only during the period between the beginning of the ripening of the
ear and its collection; certainly, one ought not to take this damage
into consideration when, during eleven months, _Molothrus bonariensis_
has fed in the cultivated country on other products, not on maize, and
among these has predominated the larva of _Chloridea armigera_, the
most formidable enemy of the maize-fields.

“I have examined the stomach contents of more than sixty specimens
of _Molothrus bonariensis_, freshly shot, in the various seasons and
have encountered about 90 per cent of substance of animal origin and
the rest grains, principally maize, but the maize they have generally
obtained from the offal of horses and mules, as in Mendoza a good deal
of maize is given to working animals, and, as the grain is fed entire,
a goodly percentage of it is eliminated without having been digested.
It is for this reason that one frequently finds this bird scratching
among and turning over the offal. This custom is why it has been given
the name of _virabosta_ in Brazil. Therefore, _Molothrus bonariensis_
may be looked upon as a bird helpful rather than destructive to
agriculture.”

Rice is planted in “boxes” about twenty-five feet square. Water is
supplied through a system of canals some of which are many miles long,
and its level is regulated by sets of locks and gates. A few of the
fields had already been cut over and the sheaves piled in stacks to
dry. Small rodents--rats and mice--were so numerous that they worked
great havoc. We ran over our traps thrice daily and always found all of
them filled. At dusk short-eared owls came to the vicinity and perched
on the mounds from which they could swoop down and capture the mice
that teemed in the stubble below. I fired several heavy charges of shot
at these birds one evening, and the weather being clear and quiet,
the sound carried to the village about a mile and a half away. Early
next morning a police sergeant rode up and informed us that we were
under arrest. We thanked him for the information, and he left while
we went on with our work. At noon another orderly came to repeat the
message of the first, and to add that we were expected to report at the
police-station immediately. The next day we went to see what all the
trouble was about. The “jefe” was waiting for us at the entrance to the
jail, surrounded by a curious audience of townspeople. He looked sad,
grave, and offended as he began: _“Señores_, I heard five shots night
before last.” “Yes, _señor_,” I interrupted, “I fired at least eight or
ten.” “_Pues_, that is absolutely prohibited here; one may not shoot
under any circumstances whatsoever, so I am compelled to place you in
confinement.” At this part of the proceedings I merely flashed our
permit and asked him why the governor of the province should give out
such a document, and charge two _pesos_ for it, if one could not hunt
under any circumstances. He was taken completely by surprise and did
not know what to say, so we wished him good morning and went home, much
to the amusement of the crowd which had a good laugh at the _jefe’s_
expense.

The Argentinians are inveterate drinkers of _maté_. It is taken from
a _bombilla_, as in Paraguay, and all classes of people indulge in
the habit. I heard that a law had recently been passed requiring each
person to use an individual tube as the old system of everybody’s
using the same one indiscriminately had caused the spread of various
diseases, among them cancer of the mouth, at an alarming rate. Our
good friends at Los Sarmientos were very fond of their daily brew, and
usually took nothing else for breakfast. They at first very generously
passed the steaming bowl to us, but soon grew accustomed to our
refusals and refrained from extending further invitations to drink.

The weather grew rapidly colder and rain or snow fell almost daily. A
mantle of white completely covered the Andes stretching in an unbroken
range to the west of us; the picture presented in the early mornings
was one of great beauty, as the sun lit up the snowy summits with a
rosy light, while a thin bank of purplish vapor enveloped the foot of
the range in a soft mantle of regal splendor.

Hunting in the marshes grew most difficult on account of the cold,
and the thin ice through which we had to crunch to reach the better
collecting-grounds. We therefore decided to seek a friendlier clime,
and returned to Tucuman to prepare for a visit to the desert regions of
Santiago del Estero.



CHAPTER XXV

VIZCACHA-HUNTING IN AN ARGENTINE DESERT--GIANT SNAKES


Our stay in Tucuman lasted but a few days. During this time our
Quechua boy, who had been with us constantly since our first arrival
in Cochabamba, spent most of his time at the zoological park. The
lions, the tigers, even the camels did not interest him greatly; but
the elephant! It was impossible that there could be any such animal.
He spent hour after hour seated on the ground silently contemplating
the great creature. I wondered what his people would say to him when he
returned to them and attempted to describe what he had seen.

As our next efforts were to be directed toward a new province, it was
again necessary to secure the very essential permits. This time there
was no trouble. At Santiago del Estero, a backward city of small size
and not particularly attractive appearance, we were required merely
to be photographed and have our finger-prints taken, after which we
received certificates stating that we had no police record in that
state and were assumed to be respectable and trustworthy; the licenses
to hunt were attached. We wasted no time in the city and took the first
available train to Suncho Corral, about a five hours’ ride.

Suncho Corral is a collection of perhaps fifty adobe shacks, and its
inhabitants seemed to be mostly Turks and Syrians. We paid our respects
to the local _jefe_ without delay and he secured for us permission
to camp on the landholding of a friend of his; the place was about a
mile distant. We pitched the tents in a delightful grove on the bank
of the Rio Salido. All the country is covered with a dense growth of
cacti, shrubbery, and tall, thorny trees; it was unlike any we had seen
before. There were a few small areas cleared of the indigenous growth
and planted in corn, which thrived; water was supplied by irrigation.
However, the people, who lived in widely separated huts, seemed to
subsist mainly on their flocks of sheep, goats, and the limited number
of cattle. There were so many dogs in the neighborhood that they were
a plague. Each night numbers prowled about camp, barking, fighting,
and trying to tear open bags of provisions. We did not know how to get
rid of them without killing them, and this we did not wish to do; but
our boy found a way. One night we heard series after series of yelps
followed by frantic rushes to distant parts. Next morning we discovered
that Antonio had set a dozen large, powerful “rat-killers” around the
tent, baited with tempting morsels of meat. When a dog attempted to
take the food it received a terrific blow across the nose--hence the
yelps. We of course stopped the practice, but the dogs did not return
in sufficient numbers to be troublesome.

The water of the Rio Salido is brackish and unfit for drinking. There
were few fish--catfish and a species of _pacu_. We had no time for
angling, but occasionally saw a string caught by some villager.

About the first bird to attract our attention was a species of
wood-hewer with a curved bill three or four inches long. They were
always seen in pairs or small flocks, often in company with the very
common woodpecker (_Chrysoptilus_). Occasionally there were half a
dozen of the former and twenty or more of the latter in a single party,
on the ground, feeding on insects and larvæ that lived in the litter
of bark and leaves under the giant cactus plants. They formed a noisy
group, especially if alarmed, when they took to the trees or cacti and
kept up a continuous chirping. They tried to keep on the far side of
the trunks and branches, but curiosity prompted them to peep around
the edges frequently to see what was going on. The giant wood-hewer
(_Xiphocolaptes major_), as large as a mourning-dove and with a long,
powerful beak, was far less common. Another bird frequently found
in company with any or all of the former was a species of brush-bird
the size of a blue jay, but of a brown color; it built stick-nests
three feet across that must have weighed up to fifty pounds. We also
saw for the first time a bird whose habits reminded us greatly of
the road-runner. It ran along the ground with crest erected and tail
held high, and was so wary that one could not approach it within
shooting distance. But the moment it reached a thicket and hopped up
into the branches it lost practically all caution and we could get
to within a few yards of it. Perhaps the bird’s chief enemies are
terrestrial--hence its extremely suspicious nature while on the ground,
and the apparent feeling of safety when in a bush or tree.

Next, we again headed for the Chaco, having as our goal a station
called Avia Terai, about half-way to Resistencia on the Paraguay
River. The train was packed with Italian home-seekers; they were a
noisy, quarrelsome lot. Many of them were drunk or ill, and so many
unsavory things were occurring constantly in the coaches (there were no
compartment-cars), that we remained in the buffet-car. An aged bishop,
accompanied by two priests, were fellow passengers. The prelate got
off at each stop to bless the crowds that had collected to see him,
and then as many as possible knelt to kiss his ring before the train
pulled out. After the trio returned to their table, the two priests
promptly fell asleep while their venerable superior read from a small
prayer-book. I wondered why he tolerated such sleepy, uninteresting
companions. At midnight we reached Añatuya and changed to another
train. This place was one of wild confusion. There were mountains of
luggage piled on the platform, and mobs of excited people rushing
wildly about in vain attempts to locate their belongings. I was alarmed
over the safety of our own possessions, so stationed the faithful
Antonio near the door of the baggage-car with instructions to let me
know when unloading began; we then secured _peons_ to immediately carry
the trunks and bags to our train, thus avoiding their being dumped on
the huge piles, and perhaps lost.

In the early morning we reached Quimilí, at which place a siding
branches off to Tintina; most of the immigrants went in this direction.
The country was all flat and covered with grass. Later on clumps of
forest appeared which grew larger and denser as we went farther east.
There were numerous stops but no towns of any importance. At 2.30
P. M., the train halted at Avia Terai, and we were soon encamped in the
rear of one of the two huts comprising that station.

About all we could see from our abode was an immense area covered
with tall weeds, surrounded by dense forest. Sand-flies, called
_polvoriños_, filled the air like flecks of dust so that we had to keep
a smudge going most of the time. The people said there was a great deal
of malaria in the neighborhood, and one look into their faces was ample
to substantiate the statement. Usually it was very hot; it rained most
of the time, but occasionally the nights were very cold--an altogether
disagreeable combination of weather.

One of our trunks, containing all the instruments, had mysteriously
disappeared from the baggage-car, so we had only a pocket-knife with
which to work; but, by putting in longer hours we managed to keep up to
our average daily number in preparing specimens. We gave the conductor
of a passing train a tip of several _pesos_, and on his next run he
brought us the missing trunk, saying that he had found it at a station
a few miles below.

It was impossible to explore the country as thoroughly as we should
have liked on account of the almost incessant rain. When the downpour
did stop, which was at dusk, flocks of large, white-bellied night-hawks
appeared and circled above the grass, catching insects. They were
beautiful creatures, and always came back to the same restricted areas
to feed on small black beetles that flew up in great numbers from
the grass. As darkness settled over the Chaco the flocks suddenly
dispersed and they disappeared singly in all directions. We found them
spending the days in open places--out in the hot sun or rain. The
railroad-track, or small plots where there was not even grass, were the
favorite sleeping-sites chosen, and sometimes two or three were found
together.

After a week we returned over the route we had come to a station called
General Pinedo. This was a new settlement and several dozen board huts
were being constructed on both sides of the track. Here there were
seemingly limitless stretches of fine pampas with occasional small
clumps of red quebracho-woods. Numbers of cattle grazed in the rich
grass, and this place was much more attractive than the one we had just
left. As might be supposed, the fauna was typical of the open country
and included an abundance of short-eared and burrowing owls. The latter
sat on fence-posts or on the mounds near their burrows all day long; at
night they became very active and flew back and forth over the fields
grabbing up beetles and small rodents with their feet. Their long,
tremulous screeches pierced the darkness all night long.

On Sunday all the men congregated at the two rum-shops and tested their
capacities for strong drink. Often the day ended in a series of brawls
when knives and machetes were plied freely--once with fatal result to
one of the _compadres_. I asked one of the guards what would be done
with the murderer, who had promptly been arrested. He said that if he
could give two hundred _pesos_ to the _commisario_ and ten to each of
the guards, the matter would be dropped. Later I was told that the
matter had been “fixed up” satisfactorily, but of course could not
verify this.

June 14 found us in the village of Lavalle, in the heart of Argentina’s
desert regions. When the train from Tucuman pulled out, leaving
ourselves and our belongings on the station platform, we at once
began to regret that we had come at all. The place looked decidedly
uninviting. There was only the small cluster of adobe hovels, while
all around stretched the cheerless waste of sandy desert. That there
could be any considerable amount of wild life in the region seemed
impossible; but, as we soon discovered to our unbounded delight, it was
only one of the instances where first impressions are deceptive.

Our first care was to find a place where we could put up as we had
come prepared to remain a week; so we inquired of the station agent if
there was a _posada_ in town. He promptly said that there was none.
Then we called on the judge, to whom we had a letter of introduction.
He took us to the home of a kind-hearted old woman who immediately
agreed to give us a room and board; and here let me insert that in
no place in all South America were we treated with more courtesy and
consideration than in the home of this venerable old woman, during the
entire month we finally remained. Learning of our mission, her three
daughters became very enthusiastic and plied us with information about
the country, and the vast numbers of animals to be found within a short
distance of their very doors. They told us that the country was teeming
with vizcachas--large rodents that weigh up to twenty-five pounds and
come out of their burrows only at night. We wanted to go out and hunt
them at once but, unfortunately, there was no moonlight during the
first part of our stay, so it was impossible to go in quest of them. We
therefore devoted our time looking for other things.

Investigation showed that the country was not quite so barren as it had
at first appeared. A short walk took us into a region where there was
a dense growth of cacti and thorny shrubbery--so thick in fact that
it was almost impossible to get through; many of the former plants
were in bloom, the spiny columns being covered with large white, waxy
flowers. Here and there a native hut adorned the top of a small rise
in the landscape, and near by we were sure to see the inevitable flock
of goats nibbling on the leaves of acacia and mimosa, and guarded by
bad-tempered dogs. A little distance away from each hovel was a pond
of considerable size; these fill up during the short rainy season and
their contents are used to water the stock and to irrigate the small
patches of corn and potatoes.

Everywhere we came across evidences of the animals about which we had
heard so much. The country was dotted with huge mounds out of which
large tunnels opened. From the mouths of the burrows lead deeply worn
paths and in these the ground had been trampled into dust six inches
deep. The mounds are built up by the vizcachas, of the earth thrown out
of the tunnels, and they take advantage of the hillocks thus created
by using them as observation-posts before going far away from their
homes. The tops are often strewn with skulls and bones of the large
rodents that have died in the burrows and which have been thrown out by
the survivors. Burrowing owls sat on the mounds, and swallows flitted
in and out of the openings below. There were also the telltale little
foot-prints of numerous small animals which appropriated the vizcacha’s
dwelling for their own use and apparently lived on peaceful terms with
it. We wondered how far the tunnels ran underground, and how many
species of animals occupied them, but there was nothing to give us a
clue to the answer of either conjecture. As the time flew by, however,
we learned many things, and one at least was of a startling character.

[Illustration: The great crested tinamou.]

[Illustration: A burrowing owl.]

The days were cold and the sun shone at infrequent intervals. Desirous
of taking some photographs, we selected one of the brightest days, and,
armed with guns and cameras, we sallied forth. After a time we found
a vizcacha mound which was conveniently situated, and walked around
it a few times in order to find the best spot from which to take the
picture. We noticed nothing unusual about it, and finally set up the
camera and began to focus. While thus engaged, with my head under the
black cloth, I was suddenly startled by a wild yell from my companion
and looked just in time to see him make a long jump to one side. The
reason was apparent. There, not three feet away, lay a huge boa
emitting a hiss that resembled a jet of escaping steam. Why we had
not seen it before is hard to understand, as it lay fully exposed on
the bare ground; but probably it was because the great reptile had
lain motionless. Now it was slowly crawling, and the broad, mottled
back glistened beautifully in the sunlight, with a purple iridescent
sheen. We poked, and finally touched it, but as it did not resent
these advances we took its picture; then it seemed to grow weary of
our attentions and made for the nearest hole, whereupon we shot it.
Upon taking the snake to the village the natives told us that they
were very abundant and lived down in the burrows with the vizcachas.
During the cold season they crawl out at noon for a sun-bath, but are
very sluggish. Subsequently, we saw many more, and even kept a number
of them alive; they grew tame and friendly almost at once and never
attempted to bite.

There are two distinct species, namely: the boa-constrictor, or
land-snake; and the anaconda, which spends the greater part of its life
in and near water. This latter attains the greater length. A fully
grown boa-constrictor does not exceed twelve feet in length; ten or
eleven feet is the usual size attained. There is a great difference in
the tempers of the two species. A boa soon becomes very tame, and in
many places the natives keep them running at large in the huts to catch
rats. The anaconda is of a restless disposition and easily irritated.
Both will bite if annoyed, and while they are not poisonous, they hold
very tight with the strong, curved teeth so that if one tried to pull
away from them the flesh would probably be torn to shreds.

Of course it is a well-known fact that snakes are descendants of the
lizards; they have lost their legs, but in the boa two good-sized claws
are still found on the under-side, near the tail, extending out a
little distance from between the plates.

We collected a number of the giant reptiles for their skins. Skinning a
boa-constrictor is not an easy undertaking. We always made an incision
all along the under-side, from the neck to the end of the tail, and
then loosened the skin from the tail end with a knife. This would leave
enough of the body exposed for a good hand-hold; after this, one took
hold of the body, and the other of the skin; then a real tug-of-war
ensued as the skin very slowly peeled off. Sometimes it was necessary
to throw a hitch around a tree in order to get a better grip on the
body. After the skin was removed, it was scraped and tacked out on the
wall and left for a few days to dry; it could then be rolled up and
packed for shipment.

The skins tan beautifully, and make very desirable decorations for the
mantel for den or library.

Other days we spent hunting tiger-cats, deer, jack-rabbits, rheas
(South American ostriches), and others of the animals which were so
abundant.

Early morning was the best time for cats. They could then be found
in the open paths stalking cavies, with which the country swarmed,
or tinamou. They are prettily spotted, and somewhat larger than a
house-cat. Upon being seen they pause for a moment to gaze at the
intruder, and then vanish into the bushes in a single bound. Small deer
with spike-horns are not rare but are hard to get. They hide in the
thick cover and can usually hear a person coming far enough away to
disappear from the neighborhood without being seen. Rheas travel about
in bands but are wary; it is almost impossible to approach them on
foot, and they soon learn to regard a man on horseback with suspicion.
The natives kill large numbers with rifle and bolas; they eat the
flesh and sell the feathers. Three years ago I saw sixty tons of rhea
feathers in a single warehouse in Buenos Aires, all of which had been
taken from killed birds and were destined to be used in making feather
dusters. However, the bird is still abundant. Many large flocks are
kept on cattle-ranches. The eggs, the contents of which are equal to a
dozen hen’s eggs, are sold in the markets during the laying season.

[Illustration: Skinning a boa.]

[Illustration: Boa sunning itself at the entrance to a vizcacha
burrow.]

At last the long-awaited time arrived when the full moon lighted up
the landscape, so we made preparations to go in pursuit of the wily
vizcacha. The judge sent word for us to be ready early one afternoon as
he was going to accompany us, and we could spend a few hours beforehand
to advantage looking for other things. Two o’clock found us clamoring
at his door, and a few minutes later we had started on our excursion.

The judge carried a double-barrelled shotgun of European make; his
ten-year-old son, whom he always called the _secretario_, had a
“nigger-killer,” a large bag full of pebbles and a machete; he was a
fine little fellow, always friendly, always polite, and nothing suited
him better than to tramp at his father’s heels on the long excursions
into the country. I had my Parker which had served me so splendidly in
many places.

For an hour or two we tramped broad reaches of cactus desert; but it
was silent as the very sphinx, and we saw nothing. However, as the sun
began to drop slowly out of sight, things began to stir. At first we
heard a shrill turkey-like gobble some distance away, and holding up
his hand to command silence, the judge whispered: “_Chuña_; they are
right over there. You and the _secretario_ go down this little path,
and I’ll go on this side; _quien sabe?_ we might head them off.” His
fine Spanish face beamed with excitement as he turned away.

We sneaked along for a distance of a hundred yards, and presently I saw
a pair of gray forms moving swiftly away underneath the thorny growth.
They looked like fleeting shadows, and there was time for a hurried
shot only. The _secretario_ rushed forward and triumphantly brought
back a large, crested, crane-like bird of a uniform gray color, the
common name of which is seriema. In some ways the bird resembles a
hawk. It lives on the ground and eats grasshoppers, cavies, mice, and
almost anything it can catch and swallow; at night it roosts in the
trees. Its flesh is excellent. Perhaps no bird is more wary or harder
to hunt in this entire region, so we were highly elated with our first
shot.

Many birds began to appear now; there were the long-billed brown
wood-hewers we had seen at Suncho Corral; Argentine “road-runners”
which perked their tails and sped away into the thickets; large
brownish _leñadores_, singing on the edges of their huge nests; there
were also woodpeckers, hawks, cardinals, and doves.

The judge suggested that we visit one of the reservoirs as we might
find ducks there, and calmly floating on the very first one we came to
was a small flock of shovellers; they saw us just too late, and one was
added to the bag as they rose from the water.

We now cut across a little field from which the corn had been gathered,
and here we were kept busy for some time picking off the swift-winged
tinamou as they rushed away at our approach. I know of no bird which
furnishes better shooting or better eating, and the pity of it is that
it does not exist in our own country. After we had shot a number, the
judge suggested that we might try for a fox as they would soon be
prowling about, so he tied a string to the foot of one of the freshly
killed birds and the _secretario_ dragged it on the ground after him
as he walked along. Some time later we sat down to rest, and much to
my surprise a fox appeared on the trail of the bird; as he stopped
short, at sight of us, the judge bagged him, and he proved to be the
largest and the finest of the dozen or more we succeeded in getting
during our entire stay. These foxes, which are of a rich gray color,
silver-tipped, spend a great part of their time in dens in the vizcacha
burrows, but seem to feed principally on tinamou and other birds.

Cavies without number ran about under the low bushes, and uttered
queer little squeaks as they became frightened and dashed into the
holes which honeycombed the ground; but of the giant cavy we had not
a glimpse until we entered a dry, little gully; there we were just
in time to see a fleeing, rabbit-like form, which was added to our
assortment.

[Illustration: Oculto, or _Tucotuco_, a rare rodent with mole-like
habits.]

[Illustration: Gray fox, abundant in the semiarid regions.]

As the sun set, large flocks of blue-crowned parrakeets flew screaming
overhead to seek their sleeping-quarters in the tops of the gnarled,
stunted trees; and gray-throated parrakeets hurried to their bulky
stick nests to chatter and quarrel before settling for the night. The
latter species is an abundant bird in the Chaco of Brazil and Paraguay
as well as in the Argentine. In the Argentine its range extends
eastward into the province of Tucuman, while it is most plentiful in
Santiago del Estero. They are extremely noisy and live and travel in
flocks of a dozen to several thousand individuals. Should one approach
a tree in which a band is feeding or resting, all chatter is hushed.
But the birds crane their necks and noiselessly clamber to points of
vantage from which they suspiciously eye the intruder. Then there is a
sudden burst of wild screams as the whole colony takes wing and swiftly
departs at great speed. They feed largely upon the thistle and on
cactus fruits as well as on grain when it is to be had.

The nests vary in size from those containing not more than an armful
of twigs, and occupied by a single pair of birds, to huge structures
weighing several hundred pounds and harboring a dozen families.
Frequently three or four nests are placed in the same tree, and usually
a number of trees in a given area are occupied. The ground beneath the
domiciles is strewn with a thick litter of old nesting material that
has fallen from the disused bulky masses above.

The nesting cavities are in the under-side of the “apartments,” and
entrance to them is gained through tubular openings underneath, which
prevents opossums from entering them. It is not unusual to find a
family of the marsupials living in a cavity in the upper part of the
structure, but so strongly are the twigs interlaced that they are
unable to tear their way through the thorny mass to the toothsome
morsels that are so tantalizingly near. The birds occupy the nests
throughout the year and it is rare to find them entirely deserted at
any hour of the day. The eggs are white, slightly glossy, and of an
oval shape; five to eight comprise a set. With the approach of darkness
small birds seemed to disappear among the cacti. The _secretario_ kept
up a constant fusillade with his sling, but he was a poor shot and did
no damage.

Finally the judge suggested supper, so we sat down on a fallen cactus
trunk from which the spines had decayed, and enjoyed the bread,
sausage, and tangerines which the boy fished out of the bag containing
his pebbles and sundry articles; then, in answer to our call, a plump
Quechua squaw brought a gourd of water from her near-by hovel; we gave
her a cigarette in return, which pleased her so much that she showed us
a wonderful vizcacha village not far distant, which, she said, harbored
the largest and fattest of the rodents to be found in the district; she
also agreed to take charge of our game so that we would not be hampered
with it the rest of the evening.

The great silvery moon now began to peep above the cloudless horizon,
and in a few minutes the whole country was flooded with light. Not a
plant grew on the broad acres the Indian woman had pointed out; there
was only the dead stump of a cactus here and there, but these loomed
tall and ghostlike in the mellow light. Soon we heard deep, guttural
grunts, followed by shrill squeaks, and in a low tone the judge said
“vizcachas.” Then he dug down into his pockets and produced some
beeswax and cotton, so each of us fixed a small fluff on the sight of
our guns, and were then ready for business. We had not gone a hundred
yards, after this, when the judge pointed to a mound ahead, and there,
looming high above the yellow earth, sat some great, restless creature,
squeaking and grunting. My companion had explained to me the business
of stalking, a score of times, so I set out as directed, making a wide
détour in order to get behind a cactus stump; but I am afraid the
excitement was too great and I went too fast, for the first thing I
knew there was a glimpse of a fleeting, shadowy form, a sharp, shrill
squeal, and the mound was bare.

A few minutes later we could make out another animal some little
distance away, so the judge went after it; he crept up cautiously,
pausing at frequent intervals; then there was a bright flash, followed
by a loud report, and we all rushed forward to pick up the first
vizcacha. His disappointment was great when he found that he had
“potted” a nice little cactus stump.

It was not long before we saw another of the animals. It being my
turn, I began to stalk, profiting by past experience. The creature was
outlined clearly, and frequently it sat up to look about; then the
white breast showed distinctly. When the vizcacha sat up, I stopped;
when it dropped down on all fours, I crept on. At forty yards I took
the shot, and this time luck was with us. When we reached the spot the
animal was tumbling about, and the judge yelled not to touch it, as
they can inflict serious wounds with their sharp teeth and claws. At
this stage of the game the _secretario_ came in for his share of the
work; he followed the dancing form in its erratic course, and finally
dealt it a blow on the neck with the blunt side of the machete, killing
it. It was a splendid specimen, weighing a trifle over eighteen pounds,
as we later discovered. It differed from the species found in the high
mountains in having a shorter tail and coarse fur, besides being much
larger; the appearance of the former had always brought to my mind a
combination of a squirrel and a rabbit; this creature was, well, simply
a vizcacha; there is nothing else like it. The color is slaty-blue on
the back and white underneath.

After that the animals began to appear on all sides as the village
was very large and there were numerous mounds; it was therefore a
comparatively easy matter to secure the half-dozen we wanted, although
I am compelled to admit that each of us shot at least one more stump
before the evening was over. If not killed by the first shot, the
creatures frequently tumble into their burrows and are lost. The males
leave the hiding-places first, and after spending a short time looking
about from the top of the mounds, spread out over the surrounding
country to feed; the females follow a short time later, and both return
at the break of day. On account of their great numbers in some parts
of the country, they destroy vast areas of pasturage and are therefore
looked upon as vermin. We heard the reports of guns frequently, not far
away, indicating that other hunting-parties were out. The flesh of the
animal is greatly esteemed by the natives.

Another of the _secretario’s_ duties was to carry the game; but this
was soon too heavy for him, so we helped. Then he made the discovery
that the animals were covered with fleas, ticks, and other parasites,
and that this host of unwelcome guests preferred him to the dead
creatures he was carrying; we made the same discovery, so hired an
Indian to lug the trophies home for us.

While homeward bound we crossed a small open place where not a plant
grew, and the sand shimmered with a dull glow. Coming directly for
us was a white, plume-like, waving object which could hardly be
distinguished from its surroundings, but when both the judge and the
_secretario_ shouted _Zorino_ I knew enough to shoot, and shoot to
kill. We waited a moment to see whether the animal was dead, then
approaching carefully, I picked up a fine skunk. Just then his mate
put in an appearance on the edge of the opening, and there was no
choice but to add her to the collection. When it came to carrying home
these additions to the bag, even the Indian balked, so I tied them to
the end of my gun-barrel and carried them in this manner. Early the
next morning the entire town came to see the _Zorinos_; the scent had
penetrated into the furthermost hut, and they had unerringly traced it
to its source.

[Illustration: Long-tailed vizcacha of the high Andes.]

[Illustration: Short-tailed vizcacha of the Argentine lowlands.]

Few things could be more delightful than the tramp home across the
desert; the clear moonlight, the crisp air, and the tremulous wail of
an owl, all added enchantment to the night’s outing; and, above all, we
had had a capital good time, and cemented a friendship, as only a
trip of this kind can, with our kindly Argentine host. He is a splendid
fellow, a peerless companion; and one of my fondest hopes is that I may
some day again tramp the moonlit Argentine deserts in his company.



CHAPTER XXVI

THE LAKE REGION OF WESTERN ARGENTINA--THE HEART OF THE WINE COUNTRY


Inhabitants of the vine-growing districts of Argentina claim that their
country produces more wine than California; and, judging by appearances
as we entered the Province of San Juan, there seemed to be abundant
evidence to support the belief that the yield of grapes is enormous.
The soil is sandy and the seepage of snow-water from the mountains is
ample to make up for the lack of rainfall.

Many of the vineyards are of great extent. Grapes of numerous varieties
are grown, and for size and flavor they are unequalled by any I have
ever seen anywhere. Wines of many kinds, and grades, are made, and they
are of uniformly excellent quality. Even the champagnes are good. The
price at which they sell is low in that part of the country--so low
in fact that even the laboring class drink them with their meals. In
Buenos Aires they cost as much as the imported article, owing to the
fact that freight between San Juan or Mendoza and Buenos Aires equals
or exceeds shipping charges from Spain, Portugal, and France.

The city of San Juan reminded us of Salta; perhaps it is not quite so
large or up-to-date, but it is nevertheless not unattractive; we spent
little time there as we had been invited to a _finca_, where there is a
lake of considerable size, to shoot ducks.

One of my ambitions had always been to find a place where ducks and
geese were really plentiful--in fact abundant enough to furnish
an interesting pastime, observing them under conditions that were
not too trying, and where they would also furnish good sport. We
had heard of the wonderful shooting on Lake Titicaca, but upon our
arrival the season was closed and there was little besides coots and
grebes; however, at certain times of the year there is an abundance
of water-fowl and sportsmen from La Paz get enviable shooting
opportunities.

The marshes along the Cauca River, Colombia, had given better results.
Teals, tree-ducks, ruddies, and an occasional pair of big muscovies
could always be found; but the ducks were loath to take wing, and going
after them in the dense grass and thorny shrubbery growing in the
marshes was very trying work.

Then we had reached the rice-growing district around Los Sarmientos.

“Ducks?” they said. “Why, _hombre_, they are bringing them into Tucuman
by the thousands. The government is paying a bounty of five cents a
head on them as they are destroying all the rice. They are swooping
down by the tens of thousands; all the lakes in the south have dried
up, so they are coming here. When the flocks rise from the fields, the
earth trembles.”

That was certainly good news; but when we arrived, the birds had
departed for regions unknown.

Leaving San Juan at 6 P. M., we reached a station called Media Agua
(half water) two hours later. Our new friend had sent a _peon_ to meet
us, bringing a wagon; so as soon as we could extricate our luggage from
the pile on the station platform, we loaded the vehicle and started on
the long drive across the cold, barren country. It was very dark and
there was not much of a road anyway, so the wagon jolted along over
the rocks or dragged heavily through deep sand. The cold was intense;
we wrapped up in heavy Indian blankets, which, however, did not give
complete protection from the stinging blasts.

At midnight the driver refused to go any farther and drew up at a
lonely hut, where we spent the rest of the night. Early next morning
we were off again. We now passed through large irrigated fields where
wheat was grown, and also a good deal of maize. Then the desert began
again, and from appearances there was not a drop of water within many
miles.

We questioned the driver about the lake, and whether there were any
_patos_ (ducks); but he only shrugged his shoulders and said: “_Quien
sabe?_”

Suddenly we saw the shimmer of placid water ahead, and soon drew up
at a board shack some little distance from the lake. Our man had told
us to take nothing but our guns and ammunition, as his caretaker, who
lived in the hut we had just reached, would provide everything else. We
took a tent and a few provisions anyway, just to be safe, and it was
lucky that we did. Not only had nothing been provided, but the tenant
had not even been advised of our coming. He had only one dirty little
room, but this he very generously placed at our disposal; however,
we preferred to camp outside, although it was bitter cold. His wife
consented to do the cooking.

The tent was hastily put up; then we hurried to the lake, leaving the
family busily engaged in slaughtering a goat for lunch.

All the surrounding country is a wind-swept desert, there being no
trees and but a few thorny bushes. In spots the sand and alkali dust
is several feet deep. It seemed impossible that there could be a lake
in such a parched-looking locality; but there lay the glistening sheet
of water, stretching away into the distance as far as the eye could
see. Along the edges were vast, shallow marshes, covering hundreds of
acres; in these, sedges grew abundantly, forming shelter and providing
a limitless feeding-ground for water-fowl. Half a mile from the bank
stood great clumps of _totoras_, or cattails, rearing their tough,
slender stems to a height of seven or eight feet above the water.
What was infinitely more interesting to us, the whole surface of the
lake, from its marshy edge to the rows of _totoras_ fading away in the
distance, was teeming with water-birds.

There were no boats to be had in the neighborhood, as the natives use
reed rafts. They cut quantities of cattails, bind them into long,
thick bundles and, lashing several of them together, form a craft that
will support a man, although his feet are always under the icy water.
Shooting from such a contrivance, unless it is larger than any I have
seen, would be impossible. Therefore we started to walk along the muddy
banks in the hope that something would fly over.

After having gone a short distance, a commotion among the sedges
attracted our attention, and a moment later a large gray fox appeared
and trotted away. A charge of No. 4 shot stopped him; he was in
splendid fur and made a desirable addition to our lot of trophies.
Later, we saw them frequently; they haunt the edges of the marsh and
feed upon coots and wounded ducks. Carrion-hawks, also, were always
about in considerable numbers and reaped a rich harvest.

Coots of several species were running around everywhere. They wandered
far away from the water, apparently to pick up toads or lizards, and
as we approached, scurried back to the marsh or hid in the dense,
low bushes, where they remained motionless until the cause of their
fright had passed. Ducks were all well out of range and refused to fly
over. I hesitate to estimate their numbers, there were such countless
thousands, but in many places the water was covered with them, and
there were large white geese and black-necked swans. Black rails of
good size darted about or waded boldly out in the open, jerking their
tails and clucking.

It did not take us long to discover that we were too late in the day
for ducks, so we started back to camp, cutting across the country.
Several tinamous got up singly, with a loud whir of wings; they flew
straight and fast, a great contrast to the slow, wavering flight of the
forest-inhabiting species.

When we reached camp, some of the goat-meat had been roasted and we had
a feast! The rest of the day was spent in straightening up camp.

Our eight by twelve foot “balloon silk” tent had been put up under a
shed adjoining the house; this protected it from the wind on at least
one side. To be of any use in the tropics, the tent must of course be
provided with a ground-cloth and bobbinet curtains; it should also
contain a window, screened with netting, in the roof. We did not need
the curtains, so tied them back. A brazier was kindled, and after it
was filled with glowing embers, it was taken into the tent; it warmed
the tent thoroughly within a few moments and kept a fire all night. The
window, which was always kept open, served its mission splendidly as a
means of ventilation.

The owner of the hut had gone away to look for a boat, and that night
returned with one of ample size; but next morning a furious wind was
blowing, so hunting was out of the question. The air was so filled
with dust that one could not see anything more than a few yards away,
and huge waves rolled in from the lake and tore hungrily at the sandy
banks. These storms are very common during the winter months and blow
up several times a week.

The third day of our visit was beautiful. We pushed the boat out of
the tangle of sedges and made straight for the cattails. The birds
were stirring, and flock after flock passed overhead. When we paddled
quietly into the midst of the green islets, we seemed to enter a new
world, filled with surprises and wonderful beyond description. The
tall, graceful stems of the totoras swayed gently with the swell made
by the passing boat, and cast long shadows in the narrow lanes of
glassy water they enclosed. Coots and grebes, like shadows, paddled
silently away and lost themselves among the reeds; ruddy ducks popped
up here, there, and everywhere, stared a moment, and then dived again
with a splash; they seemed to spend a good deal of their time under
water, and the fishermen frequently caught them in gill-nets set along
the bottom of the lake. The male ruddies were in fine plumage, with
deep chestnut backs, white throat-patches, and bright-blue bills;
they seldom tried to fly, and then skimmed the water for a few
yards only; the ones we shot were so fat that it is hard to understand
how they could fly at all. Occasionally we saw a giant grebe. From a
distance it resembled a loon; they are fast swimmers and expert divers.
Our boatman always begged us to shoot these birds, as the natives are
very fond of the flesh and, also, the skin of the breast with its
beautiful white, silky feathers, brings a good price in the feather
markets. Needless to say, none was shot for this purpose.

[Illustration: Rice-fields at the foot of the Andes Mountains,
Sarmientos.]

Among the reeds flitted a wonderful little bird, known as the military
flycatcher, or “bird of seven colors.” It is little larger than a
wren, yellow underneath and green above, with the crest and under
tail-coverts bright red; there are yellow stripes on the sides of the
head and the cheeks are blue; the wings and tail are black. The bird is
a sprightly little fellow, flitting and jumping about among the reeds
in pursuit of small insects, and uttering its cheerful “_cheeps_” at
frequent intervals; it gives a touch of color and dainty life to the
sombre green of the vegetation, and to the reflections in the murky
water below.

Presently we left the region of the _totoras_ and emerged into the
open lake. The surface was dotted with ducks, coots, and grebes--a
squawking, diving, racing mass that defies description. We made right
for the centre of action. The coots always waited until the boat was
but a few yards away and then, after giving a few clucks, started to
run and flop across the water, leaving a myriad of silvery, rippling
paths in their wake, and making the marsh reverberate with the noise.
Often this would frighten the ducks, and flocks would jump up all
around in such vast numbers that we were lost in admiration watching
the wonderful sight of the thousands of swishing, black forms hurtling
into the wintry sky.

Our method of hunting was to paddle along slowly, squatting low in
the boat until within range of a flock of ducks; then, by standing up
suddenly, the flock would be frightened into taking wing, and the
individuals we had selected could be picked off. We wanted birds in
good plumage only, and this manner of hunting gave us the opportunity
of selecting each individual separately. There were shovellers and
cinnamon teal without number; the handsome males, in brightest plumage,
were dashing around the inconspicuously colored females, swimming low
and with bills flat on the water; usually there were not more than
a dozen or fifteen in a party. Then there were scaups, tree-ducks,
pintails, blackheads, and rosy-bills. The latter were wary; they always
passed high above, in large flocks, and the rushing sound made by their
wings could be heard a long distance away.

Dabbling in the mud-banks along the edge of the marsh were flocks of
from four to thirty large white geese (_Casa-roba_). Black-necked
swans, singly or in small groups, sailed about majestically. Of the two
birds the geese were the more graceful, and by far the more beautiful.
The swans were not very wild, but when the boat approached they began
to utter shrill “_kee-wee’s_”; finally they would launch into the air
with a great deal of flapping, beating the water with powerful strokes
of the wings, and keeping up their cry all the while. When we neared a
flock of geese, they began to patrol the water ahead, swimming back and
forth, and eying us with suspicion; they swam well out of the water,
with a graceful carriage of the head and neck, and uttered constant
loud, penetrating cries that sounded like “_honk-honk-queenk_.” What
is more thrilling than the clear, piercing challenge of this spirit
of the wild? Wafted across the watery waste on the wings of a crisp
autumn wind, it comes as a message from the regions of snow and ice--a
foreboding of the bleak, dark days to follow. I never tired of hearing
it, and lost more than one shot at a flock coming over from another
direction because I was so interested in listening to the fascinating
notes of other birds ahead of us. When they finally decided to take
wing, they rose from the water quickly and gracefully, and flew at
great speed, stringing out in various formations. They always went far
away before again dropping down into the water.

We continued paddling through the centre of the open water to a large
mud-flat in search of flamingoes. The natives called them _choflos_,
and said that a great many came to this spot each day to feed on the
small snails and other mollusks which abound in the shallow places.
When still a good distance away we could make out what seemed to be
a long row of old piles driven into the centre of the mud-flat. The
water had become so shallow that the boat could not proceed, so there
was nothing to do but wade, not an altogether pleasant experience, as
it was bitter cold and sheets of thin ice floated about everywhere.
When we moved, the flamingoes stood stock-still and looked at us; when
we stood motionless they lowered their heads, dabbled in the mud, and
walked about. From a distance they seemed to be of enormous size, and
until we were near by they appeared coal-black. Finally they became
restive, ran back and forth a few steps and then, beating the air
with laborious strokes of the wings, flew away. Frequently, on other
occasions, they circled around a few times before departing from the
locality.

We returned to camp by way of the sedge marshes, although, on account
of the bushes and shallow water, poling the boat through the tangle
was hard work. In the tops of many of the bushes were immense nests,
built of sticks and reed-stems; they apparently belonged to the giant
coots, as many of these birds still used them for resting-places; also,
nearly all of the platforms were piled with dead frogs which the coots
had disembowelled. Our man said that during the months of December and
January all the people living near the lagoons camp on the edge of the
water and collect eggs; they gather immense numbers and take them to
the markets of the neighboring towns to sell.

There were ducks everywhere, feeding or playing among the sedges, and
flocks coming from the surrounding sloughs whistled past constantly and
plumped down with a splash. Black-headed gulls flew back and forth
overhead, and cormorants stood on snags, drying their outstretched
wings. To shoot birds under such circumstances would be mere slaughter,
and the number one could kill is limited only by the amount of
ammunition at hand. The natives kill four or five hundred ducks each
day during this season, and have done so for years, but the number of
birds does not seem to diminish.

There were also numbers of noisy stilt-sandpipers, storks, and
screamers, and occasionally we ran across a pectoral sandpiper which,
as at Tafí, was so fat that it did not attempt to fly and could be
caught by throwing a hat over it. Lapwings, too, passed over in small
bunches, screaming and quarrelling as they went.

Nearly all the ducks were feeding on the small seeds of the
water-plants, and were rolling in fat; but on several occasions we ran
into small flocks of shovellers and teals which were near the bank and
refused to fly; an examination of several of them showed that they were
very light and probably diseased.

As we neared the landing, dusk was just enveloping the landscape.
Red-breasted meadow-larks sang in the desert, yellow-shouldered
blackbirds babbled in the thick reeds, and black ibises in flocks of
many thousands were returning from their feeding-grounds miles away, to
spend the night in the marshes.

We desired our birds principally for scientific purposes; that is, to
prepare the skins for museum specimens, and had shot only a limited
number of the best-plumaged individuals of each species; but even then
our bag amounted to over half a hundred ducks, a number of geese and
swans, and a fairly good collection of coots, grebes, herons, and other
birds typical of the vast Argentine lake region.

The preparation of all this material presented a stupendous task.
First they were cleaned thoroughly of all spots, then hung up in a
safe place, where they remained in good condition on account of the
cold. The days that followed were so stormy that outdoor work was
impossible, so we were glad to remain in the tent disposing of the work
in hand.

When the weather cleared we took other boat-trips through the marshes
and out into the lake, but our bag was always limited to things we did
not possess or needed for food. The geese were leaving in small flocks
to breed in the high Andes, the natives said. Swans also started to
drift southward; but still the number of remaining water-fowl, mostly
ducks and coots that did not migrate, was incalculable. The water was
constantly ruffled by the myriad of moving forms and, at times, the
roar of rapidly beating wings reminded us of distant thunder.

The few people living in widely separated hovels around the borders of
the lake lead miserable lives. They cultivate small areas in grain, but
live mostly on fish, water-birds, and goat’s milk. The winter season is
most trying. Snow falls infrequently and in small quantities, but the
cold is intense. The dust-storms, however, are the real tribulations
which render life well-nigh unbearable. They frequently last many days
at a time; the fine sand sifts through and into everything and is
almost suffocating. One breathes it, eats it, wakes up in the morning
covered with a layer, and lives in it continuously as in a thick, brown
haze that is most exasperating and invites almost constant profanity,
at least in thought. We were glad we visited Media Agua; but we were
glad indeed when we found ourselves back in San Juan.

It requires but four hours to reach Mendoza from San Juan by train.
This attractive city is really in the heart of the wine country, but
the vineyards were almost depleted from the inroads of an insect called
the _bicho de cesto_. The vegetation all about was covered with small,
ragged cocoons from which the hungry hordes of destructive creatures
would emerge in the spring. In places wide areas of weeds had been
burned over to destroy the pest while still in the incipient stage; but
enough always escaped to undo the work of the few careful growers who
attempted to stamp out their enemy of the grape-vines. The slaughter
of birds on a vast scale may account for the increase of the _bicho
de cesto_. We saw vendors on the streets carrying baskets full of
small birds of several species--mostly sparrows--which they sold by
the dozen. The number killed weekly must run into the thousands. As a
natural result of this wholesale killing, birds are not plentiful in
the environs of Mendoza.

From the outskirts of the city one has a superb view of the Andean
Range. The lofty mountains extend in an unbroken, snow-capped line as
far as the eye can see. Aconcagua, the peer of the Argentine Andes, may
be seen from a point several miles south of Mendoza, lording over his
lesser satellites in a majestic, awe-inspiring way. The shifting mists,
cloud-banks, and intermittent sunlight playing on the white peaks
present an ever-varying series of pictures that are unexcelled for
beauty and grandeur.

At Mendoza we met an Italian who claimed to be the champion
condor-hunter of all South America. During his ten years of collecting
he had killed more than sixteen thousand of the magnificent birds. His
record for one day was one hundred and fourteen. Naturally, they had
become greatly reduced in numbers, for the condor lays but a single egg
and it takes many months to rear the young. His method was to drive a
burro to some lonely gorge among the bleak mountain-tops favored by the
birds, and then to kill the animal. He was very particular in stating
that the burro had to be fat--a poor one would not do for bait. He then
spread nets about the carcass, and when the condors gathered about to
feast he pulled a rope and ensnared them; on one occasion he trapped
sixty-seven at one throw of the net. The prisoners were despatched with
a club and the long wing-feathers extracted to be exported to France to
decorate women’s hats. Formerly he had received about twenty _pesos_
per bird. With his accumulated wealth he built a powder-mill; this
promptly blew up, so he was again practically penniless. Of course
there were still condors in the mountains--in fact, he knew of a ledge
where upward of eight hundred congregated to spend the nights, but the
price of feathers had gone down fifty per cent on account of the war.
He ended his speech in a very dramatic manner: “What,” he said, “me go
out and slaughter such a wonderful, magnificent, and rare bird as the
condor _for ten pesos each_? No, señor! Not me.”

About the only animal that was abundant near Mendoza was the
jack-rabbit, introduced into the Argentine some forty years ago. It has
increased to such an extent as to be harmful, and has spread over the
entire southern part of the plains country. Many are killed and sold in
the markets under the name _liebre_.

We met Doctor Chapman at Mendoza. He had come from Chile over the
Trans-Andean Railroad. A wire had been sent us to join him at Santiago,
but it arrived three weeks too late to be of any service. After a
few days spent in taking photographs of the country and collecting
accessories for a habitat group of the rhea, we started eastward to
Buenos Aires.

We left Mendoza at one o’clock P. M., September 3. At first there was
a seemingly endless succession of vineyards; then a vast expanse of
arid country more barren even than the desert of Santiago del Estero.
At midnight we left the parched plains and entered the fertile wheat
and grazing lands which constitute one of Argentina’s chief sources
of wealth and justly entitle that country to rank among the producing
and great nations of the New World. Commodious ranch-houses standing
in fields where thousands of head of live stock grazed were passed in
steady succession. In some of the pastures hundreds of half-tamed rheas
fed unconcernedly among the horses and cattle. Frequently we saw flocks
of snowy gulls following a plough or resting in a bunch on the ground;
lapwings circled about with angry screams, and ducks swam unconcernedly
in the little sloughs beside the railroad. There were also rows of
solemn, sedate storks, gravely contemplating the train as it passed,
and flamingoes dabbling for mollusks in shallow pools.

After a continuous ride of twenty-five hours we reached Buenos Aires,
and two weeks later the _Amazon_ of the Royal Mail Line was speeding us
homeward.

I am writing these last few pages in an aviation concentration-camp
awaiting orders to go to new lands, and new and possibly far more
exciting experiences; but almost daily my thoughts go back to the great
wonderland that lies south of us, and which I have learned to love.
Speed the day when I may again eagerly scan the horizon for a first,
faint tinge of its palm-fringed shore-line!



INDEX


  agriculture
    of Argentina, 390, 412
    of Bolivia, 287, 321, 326, 337
    of Colombia, 13, 42, 76–7, 108, 112
    of Peru, 270

  Andes. _See_ mountains

  Angostura, 142

  animals
    of Argentina, 391, 401, 404 _ff._
    of Bolivia, 285, 289, 293, 296, 299, 308, 377
    of Brazil, 224, 238, 246, 249
    of Colombia, 6, 13, 36, 38, 44, 51–2, 56, 88–9, 101–3, 111,
          115, 118, 127
    of Paraguay, 202, 206, 209–13, 215
    of Venezuela, 151, 167, 175–6

  ant-eater, 118, 215

  Antioquia, 113, 121

  ants, 99, 118, 133, 235, 258, 261, 317, 381

  Arauca, 148

  Arequipa, 268

  armadillo, 211

  Asuncion, 199

  Atures Cataract, 152, 154

  Aymará Indians, 273


  bat, 101, 209, 289, 299

  _beena_, 186

  beverages:
    _chicha_, 286;
    _somo_, 337;
    _yerba maté_, 202, 394

  birds
    of Argentina, 365, 368 _ff._, 373, 375 _ff._, 379 _f._, 384, 387,
          391, 397, 407, 417 _ff._
    of Bolivia, 282, 284, 288, 291, 293, 297–8, 309, 314, 326–7, 330,
          338, 344 _ff._, 353, 359
    of Brazil, 247, 250, 256, 259, 261
    of Colombia, 6, 13, 20, 31 _f._, 36, 42, 48, 50, 57, 59, 71, 77, 81,
          88, 97 _f._, 103, 108 _f._, 111, 113, 117, 125, 128 _f._, 132,
          134 _ff._
    of Paraguay, 199, 201, 207, 213, 217, 221
    of Venezuela, 157, 161, 170, 174, 183, 189, 191

  boa-constrictor, 403

  Buenaventura, 3, 110

  Buenos Aires, 198

  Buriticá, 122

  bushmaster, 72, 133, 308


  Cabulla, 76

  cacao, 42

  cactus, 329

  Caicara, 147

  Calama, 261 _ff._

  Caldas, 6

  Cali, 10 _ff._

  Callao, 266

  Caquetá, 92 _ff._

  Carretia Falls, 158

  Cartago, 47

  cassava, 159

  Catañapo River, 153

  catfish, 117, 151

  Cauca, 12, 40 _ff._, 116

  Caura, 146 _f._

  Cerro do Norte, 236

  Cerro Munchique, 29

  Cerro Torra, 70

  Chaco, 378 _f._;
    Gran Chaco, 203

  _chicha_, 286

  Chilón, 329

  Chimoré River, 311 _ff._

  Chocó, 64

  Cisneros, 5, 110

  Ciudad Bolivar, 142

  climate
    of Argentina, 381, 399, 421
    of Bolivia, 288, 324
    of Colombia, 3, 8, 21, 54, 61–3, 64, 80, 83, 94
    of Venezuela, 176, 185, 190

  coca, 287

  Cochabamba, 279

  cock-of-the-rock, 89 _ff._

  Comarapa, 330 _f._

  Commemoração River, 249

  Cordillera Occidental, 8

  Corumbá, 208

  crocodile, 215

  Cuchicancha, 281 _ff._

  Cuña Indians, 131

  Cunucunuma River, 171

  customs. _See_ Indians


  Dagua River, 5

  “death-doctor,” 274

  dress, native, 25


  El Carmen, 8

  Embarcacion, 378

  Essiquibo River, 181


  fer-de-lance, 236, 309

  fish
    of Bolivia, 294
    of Brazil, 262
    of Colombia, 117
    of Paraguay, 205
    of Venezuela, 151, 164, 171
    catfish, 117, 151
    method of fishing, 117, 154, 164
    _piranha_, 164
    _pirarucú_, 262
    _pacu_, 117

  food, native, 76

  fruit-culture, 390

  funeral customs, 68


  Georgetown, 180

  gold, 187, 190

  government
    abolition of slavery, 295
    dishonesty of, 163

  Gran Chaco, 203

  Guajibo Indians, 150;
    Rapids, 155

  Guaviare River, 162

  Guiana, 180–193

  Gy-Paraná. _See_ Paraná


  Hávita, 67

  Huitoto Indians, 101


  Iguana. _See_ reptiles

  Inca civilization, 355 _ff._

  Indians, customs:
    (_beena_), 186;
    (dances), 229, 257;
    (“death-doctor”), 274;
    (dress), 25;
    (festival of San Juan), 100;
    (friendly offerings), 252;
    (funeral), 68;
    (marriage), 93;
    (religion), 28, 322
    tribes:
      Aymará, 273;
      Cuña, 131;
      Guajibo, 150;
      Huitoto, 101;
      Maquiritare, 172–3;
      Mundrucu, 262;
      Nhambiquara, 232 _ff._;
      Parecís, 228;
      Parintintin, 262;
      Patamona, 185 _ff._;
      Piaroa, 159;
      Quechua, 277, 281, 321, 347, 356 _ff._;
      Sirionó, 318;
      Yuracaré, 295 (mission of), 300 _ff._

  industries, 79, 147, 156, 169, 204

  insects
    of Argentina, 385, 421
    of Bolivia, 291, 317
    of Brazil, 235, 258, 261
    of Colombia, 78, 80, 99, 118, 133
    of Paraguay, 206, 219
    of Venezuela, 192

  ivory-nut, 108


  jaguar, 102, 151, 167–8

  jarepas, 76

  Juntas de Tamaná, 68

  Juruena, 231–4


  Kaieteur Falls, 187


  Laguneta, 49 _ff._

  language
    of Bolivia, 340
    of Paraguay, 202

  Lao River, 168

  La Paz, 270–3

  Lima, 266


  Maipures, 154, 156

  maize, 112

  Malina, 107 f.

  Maquiritare Indians, 172

  marriage customs, 93

  _maté_. _See_ _yerba maté_

  Matto Grosso, 223 _ff._

  Medellin, 110

  Mendoza, 421

  Meta, 150

  Minnehaha Creek, 187, 190

  Mizque, 326 _f._

  Mollendo, 267

  money, 7, 73

  monkey, 175, 210, 246, 249, 293, 296, 314;
    howling, 44;
    bridges of, 115

  Monte Christo, 255

  mosquito, 206, 192

  mountains:
    Cerro Munchique, 29;
    Cerro Torra, 70;
    Cordillera Occidental, 9;
    Huana Potosi, 271;
    Illimani, 271;
    Mount Saint Ignacio, 19;
    Murarata, 271;
    Nevada del Tolima, 54;
    Paramillo, 120;
    Purace, 19, 22;
    Sotará, 23

  Mundrucu Indians, 262


  native. _See_ Indian

  negroes, 187

  Nevada del Tolima, 54

  Nhambiquara Indians, 232 _ff._

  Novitá, 64, 71


  Orinoco River, 141–179


  _pacu_, 117

  Panama hats, manufacture of, 79

  Papagayo Falls, 228

  Papayán, 23 _ff._

  Paramillo, 120

  _páramo_, 58

  Paraná River, 240

  Parecís Indians, 228

  Parintintin Indians, 262

  Patamona Indians, 185 _ff._

  Perico, 372 _f._

  Perrico, 152

  Peru, 265 _ff._

  Piaroa Indians, 159

  Pilcomayo River, 203, 350 _ff._

  _piranha_, 164, 205, 262

  _pirarucú_, 262

  plants
    of Bolivia, 294, 297, 315, 317, 324, 329, 338
    of Brazil, 243, 249
    of Colombia, 8, 30, 47, 57–9, 78, 81, 101, 108, 111, 125
    of Venezuela, 157, 170, 180, 182

  Porto Gallileo, 204

  Purace, 19, 22


  Quechua Indians, 277, 281, 321, 347, 356 _ff._


  raccoon, 285

  rapids:
    Atures, 152, 154;
    Guajibo, 155;
    Maipures, 154;
    San Borja, 152;
    São Feliz, 256

  rat, 224;
    cone-rat, 308;
    coypu-rat, 390–1

  reproduction, rate of, in tropics, 245–6

  reptiles, size of, 195–7
    of Argentina, 403
    of Bolivia, 307–8
    of Brazil, 236, 262
    of Colombia, 36, 72, 88, 133
    of Paraguay, 215
    of Venezuela, 160

  rice, 390, 393

  Rio de Janeiro, 194 _ff._

  Rio Grande, 342 _f._

  rivers:
    Arauca, 148;
    Catañapo, 153;
    Cauca, 12, 40 _f._, 116;
    Chimoré, 311 _f._;
    Commemoração, 249;
    Cunucunuma, 171;
    Dagua, 5;
    Essiquibo, 181;
    Guaviare, 162;
    Hávita, 67;
    Lao, 168;
    Meta, 150;
    River of Doubt, 198;
    Orinoco, 141 _ff._;
    Paraná, 240;
    Pilcomayo, 203;
    Sacre, 228;
    San Antonio, 291;
    San Juan, 74 _f._;
    Tamaná, 70;
    Vichada, 159

  rubber, 155, 169, 182, 254


  Sacre River, 228

  Saint Ignacio, 19

  Salavery, 266

  Salencio, 65

  Salta, 367

  Salvajito, 154

  San Agustin, 85

  San Antonio River, 291

  San Borja Rapids, 152

  San Cocho, 76

  San Fernando de Atabapo, 157, 162

  San Jorge Rapids, 149

  San Juan, 74 _f._;
    feast of, 100

  São Feliz Rapids, 256

  Sirionó Indians, 318

  sloth, 88

  Sotará, 23

  Sucre, 346 _ff._

  sugar, 13


  Tamaná, 70

  tannin, 204

  Tapirapoan, 223

  Tarabuco, 346

  Tiahuanaco, 270

  Titicaca Lake, 269

  Todos Santos, 295

  tonca-bean, 147

  torture. _See_ _beena_

  Totora, 328

  Treasure Rock, 149

  tribes. _See_ Indians

  Trinidad, 200

  Tucuman, 382 _f._

  Tumatumari, 182

  turtle, 151, 166


  Urucúm, 209


  Vagre, 152

  Valdivia, 114

  Valle de las Papas, 80

  Vermejo, 337 _ff._

  Vichada River, 159

  vineyards, 412

  vizcacha, 401;
    hunting of, 405 _ff._

  Volcan, 373 _f._


  wasps, 219


  Yarumal, 113

  _yerba maté_, 202, 394

  Yungas, 287–291

  Yuracaré Indians, 295;
    mission to, 300 _ff._


  Zamuro, 153

[Illustration: Routes taken by the author in his South American
explorations.]



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left
unbalanced.

Illustrations in this eBook have been positioned between paragraphs
and outside quotations. In versions of this eBook that support
hyperlinks, the page references in the List of Illustrations lead to
the corresponding illustrations.

The illustration on the Copyright page is the publisher’s logo.

The original text omitted accent marks from many Spanish words.

The index was not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page
references.

Page 138: “Señor Cspinas” was printed that way.

Page 316: “influences, and had” was printed that way.





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