A Journey into the Interior of Peru
BY C. REGINALD ENOCK IN GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNAL.
As the world becomes better and better known, readers will be deprived by degrees of those most entertaining accounts of travelers’ journeys into untrodden lands. Such a story as that related by Mr. Enock will lose its charm. So, while there is still an opportunity let us accompany the writer, as he proceeds into the almost unknown regions of central Peru.
TO reach the interior of Peru, and the rich mineral-bearing zone upon the eastern slope of the Andes, the traveler must, from the Pacific littoral, invariably cross the summit of the Cordillera, for this vast natural barrier runs parallel with the coast and leaves no pass, speaking generally, at a less altitude than 14,000 or 15,000 feet above sea level.
The Department, or State of Huancavelica, which I visited in November, 1904, is one of the richest of the mineral-bearing regions of Peru, but it is difficult of access, due to its mountainous nature and to the fact that no roads, worthy of the name, have yet been constructed to give outlet to its products or communication with the coast. My way lay by the port of Pisco, about one day’s steamer journey south of Callao, and past the town of Ica, a few miles from the port, with which it is connected by a railway. Ica is the centre of a fertile agricultural district, where cotton, sugar cane, wine, brandy, etc., are produced. The crops here, like all those of the agricultural regions upon the coast zone, are grown under irrigation, for, as is well known, the whole of this vast stretch of continent, from Ecuador to Chile, is a rainless region. Vegetation exists by virtue of the streams of water descending the western slope of the Cordillera—streams which have their origin in the ceaseless thawing of the ice-cap, and the heavy rains of that lofty region. For the Andes,
having deprived the western zone of its rainfall by reason of the climatic conditions brought about through its agency, has, in part, remedied the defect by giving origin to these torrential streams.
My first day’s journey lay across the usual sterile desert zone between the coast and the foothills of the Cordillera—deserts over which the wearied horseman toils from sunrise to sunset. There is a group of extensive Inca ruins upon the desert, which I examined in passing. The principal feature is a large courtyard some hundreds of feet in length and width, with a series of doorways opening therefrom. Between these doorways, which are symmetrically spaced, are niches, and both are of the tapering form so often seen in Inca architecture. The walls are of adobe and rough pieces of stone, the whole being made into a smooth surface with plaster formed of mud or clay. The general face of the walls has been colored with red paints, and the niches with yellow paint or pigment. Parts of this coloring still remain, notwithstanding the centuries that have passed over it. The pigment may have been formed of iron oxides, or possibly Vermillion from the cinnabar mines of the interior.
Regarding these ruins upon the coast zone, it has been a matter for observation that they are not built like those of the interior — of cut stone—and they still exist only by reason of the rainless climate and the climatic conditions, which tend
towards exceedingly slow disintegration.
At nightfall I arrived at Humay, a hacienda upon the Pisco River, from which its extensive vineyards are irrigated, This place, although peaceful and picturesque, has not left a pleasant impression upon me, for during the night my room was invaded by swarms of mosquitoes, whose stinging was the cause, undoubtedly, of the. “tercianas,” or intermittent fever from which I suffered afterwards.
Upon leaving this point I knew little of the hardships I should be obliged to endure for the remaining four days of my journey to my destination. The road by which I had been directed passed through a portion of the country void of towns or villages, and consequently of food of any kind, notwithstanding that I had been informed that such was available. The arriero who conducted my pack-mule and served as guide was almost constantly drunk with aguardiente, and, as far as I could observe, took no other nourishment ( ! ) during the last three days’ travel. On two occasions I searched his saddle bags and confiscated and destroyed the bottle* of alcohol he carried, but he again obtained supplies of this from acquaintances among the Indian shepherds en route. These people were also drunk, even early in the morning, and there is no doubt that the effect of alcohol is beginning to ruin the inhabitants of these regions, as I have elsewhere observed. Due to the effects of the fever, I could not touch the coarse and scanty food of these shepherds’ huts ; at night the cold was intense, for we were now at a considerable altitude, and I had foolishly neglected to bring my cot
or a mattress, desiring to travel rapidly without impedimenta.
There was nothing for it but to get out of the situation, and although I could scarcely mount my mule I wTas obliged to keep on, driving in front of me the drunken arriero and the pack-mule. Towards the close of the last day a violent attack of vomiting came on me, and I fell rather than got down from the saddle, and lay upon the plain utterly exhausted. The altitude was 16,000 feet above sea level, the air exceedingly rarified, and a bitter blast swept across the plateau. I thought for some time that I should never rise again from the spot, and it was only by an effort of will that I did so. But I managed to swallow two or three spoonfuls of condensed milk, and, mounting with the aid of the arriero, who was now sober and penitent, I continued onward, and near midnight arrived at my objective point—Santa Inez.
Situated here are the silver mines of Quespisisa, or Santa Inez, which have produced great quantities of that metal. They contain extensive bodies of ore, which will be made available upon further working. Hydrographically, the region is interesting also, for there are two large lakes of true Andean character here. The higher, known as Lake Orcococha, is 16,000 feet, and the lower, Lake Choclococha, 15,600 feet above sea level. They are separated only by a distance of a few thousand yards, the upper being dammed up with a natural dam formed by a moraine of soil and gravel. A noteworthy feature of this lake basin is that, although it is upon the western or Pacific side of the summits of the Andes it nevertheless is drained into
the eastern or Amazonian watershed, by means of the River Pampas, which breaks through the Cordillera and so into the Apurimac River and headwaters of the Ucayali and Amazon. Close at hand, to the west, and at slight difference of elevation, are other smaller lakes, which give rise to the Pisco River flowing to the Pacific.. Here, then, is another of those numerous instances which are met with in the Andes, where the water-parting of the continent is defined by a lake, a part of whose waters in times of abnormal flow may positively belong to the one or to the other of its adjoining watersheds. There is no fish-life within their waters, a common characteristic of the lakes in these high regions. Each is 5 or G miles in length and about 1-in breadth, whilst at a depth of 250 feet, I was informed, bottom was not reached in the middle.; Their blue surfaces reflect the snow-capped range to the east, but in the rainy season are lashed into fury by the terrific thunderstorms of this altitude.
The whole of this region, from Caströvirreyna on the west to Ayacucho on the east, is exceedingly rich in minerals, including silver, copper, gold, as well as salt, and in places coal, all of which, when the country becomes more known and opened up, will be valuable elements of industry. The highest elevation at which I arrived was 17,500 feet, just below the ice-cap.
After a sojourn of about two weeks in the neighborhood, I continued my journey in a north-westerly direction. But my troubles were not yet over, for I was again attacked by the “tercianas,” and rendered unable to go on.! These intermittent fevers have the characteristic of quite sud-
denly depriving one of one’s strength, and there was nothing for it but to give up the idea of reaching the next village and to sleep out upon the “puna,” or plateau. Fortunately, the temperature fell but little below freezing point. During the night the arriero—not the former one—let the mules escape, and was obliged to follow them, leaving me alone and unable to get up for the whole of the following day. The sun blazed down and I was consumed with thirst, and nevertheless unable to reach the shimmering blue lake which lay within 100 yards of me ! At length I beheld afar off an Indian approaching with some llamas, and I hailed him. But, after the manner of his kind, he was afraid, and instead of coming towards me he quickened his pace and soon disappeared. I suffered greatly from thirst, and with the sun and the fever was almost delirious, and still no signs of the arriero. I managed to reach my saddle bags and took a mouthful of extract of coffee, which revived me a little, but what I wanted was water. Again I saw another Indian, towards the close of day, and as he came within hearing, I called him, not this time, however, in Spanish, which might have had the same effect as before, but in the few words of Quechua which I was able to employ. “Shami ! yacu-t-apami !” (“Come here ! bring some water !”) I shouted ; and the poor Indian, gathering probably some confidence from being addressed.in his own tongue, came up to me, and, following my directions, brought me water from the lake. I rewarded him with a silver dollar, and he stayed by me until nightfall, when the arriero returned with other animals from the hacienda.
After a loss of various days I ar-
rived at the City of Huancavelica, 14 leagues from Santa Inez, and which can be accomplished in one long day’s hard riding. The country passed over was the usual treeless puna, alternating with lakes, swamps, rocks, and streams, and generally covered with grass, which gives pasturage for herds of cattle and sheep. The climate is exhilarating and the views magnificent, and in the intervals when the fever did not trouble me, I enjoyed the ride and the unfolding landscape.
At Huancavelica are the famous quicksilver mines, which are generally mentioned in all geological treatises. The history of the mines would fill a bulky volume. They were discovered in 1566, and were administered under a Spanish viceroy, and since that period have produced approximately 60,000 tons of mercury from the cinnabar ores, which exist in an enormous lode, or “farallón,” to use the Spanish term. In 1786 bad work caused the mine to collapse, and it is stated that five hundred Indian miners remained entombed therein. Huancavelica was visited and described by both Bufón and Humboldt, as also Raimondi. I penetrated into some of the vast subterranean caverns which have been excavated to extract the ore, and made an examination of the general conditions of the region, in order to draw up a report thereon. The workings are about 2,400 feet above the level of the cathedral and city of Huancavelica, which latter is at an elevation of 12,300 above sea level. The Huancavelica River flows through the city, emptying lower down into the Mantaro, which in its turn falls into the Apurimac, before mentioned, and so into the fluvial system of the Ucayali and Amazon.
The Mantaro River, almost alone of Peruvian rivers, runs in . this part of its course to the south-east, or directly opposite to their general north-west direction, over nearly 3 degrees of latitude to where its course abruptly changes near Huanta. The climate of Huancavelica is cold, but temperate. Alfalfa and cereals are not produced, owing to the altitude, and the principal industry is that of cattle, but was formerly, and some day must again Recome, mining. The general geological formation is limestone and sandstone, and hot springs occur, and are used as baths.
Leaving this remarkable place, my way lay across a lofty “puna,” some thousands of feet above the town ; for, notwithstanding the marevllous wealth in minerals that the region has produced, no road has been made beyond the primitive mule trail to the outside world. Such wras the Spanish method of mining, from which no benefit accrued to the community, who toiled and died to enrich an arbitrary and distant monarch. The arms of Spain carved on the stone at the portals of the mine, with figures of saints, and ruined churches, are the principal remaining vestiges of this regime.
Descending rapidly from this plateau, the track passed into the valley below. The change from these dreary and inclement altitudes to the warmer climate of this valley was very agreeable, especially in my still weak state. The piercing wind gives place to a balmy breeze, and the dry grass of the puna changes to other vegetation. I pass a tree, and recollect “Thalaba and the Sledge”—
“Behold ! the signs of life appear,
The first and single fir !”
It is not a fir ; there are no firs
on the Andes, but it is a real tree although a wind-beaten specimen, drawing its scanty nourishment from the rocky soil, and stretching its attenuated boughs athwart the path. A tree ! the first I have seen for weeks. It has green leaves, and, moreover, a bird carols in its branches. A little lower down a patch of celandines and dandelions bring to my senses a waft as from England’s lanes. Here, also, are glorious masses of yellow acacia, and other flowers and shrubs on either hand, through which my mule brushes as we descend. But what is this — this sweet familiar perfume which suddenly greets me ? Familiar, although for the moment I cannot recognize it. I look about, and, behold ! there it is—a low hawthorn bush in flower. Its leaves are somewhat different in form from those of English hawthorns, but there is no mistaking the well known dark-green hue and glossy sheen of the leaves, nor the little white flowers and the sweet subtle perfume which carries the mind momentarily to another land. It is “may” !
I pass through the villages of Acobambilla and Huando, as'cend and pass a high-ridge, and again descend by steep and rapid zigzags down the sides of its canon to the River Mantaro, or Jauja, before mentioned, and sleep at the Town of Izcuchaca, 10 leagues • of a broken, steep, and tortuous road from Iluancavelica.
Izcuchaca is somewhat of a strategic point. A stone bridge crosses the river, and the place was generally promptly taken and held by various revolutionary forces in times past, as it commands the road to the interior of a large and important part of the country. I found the greatest difficulty in obtaining any-
thing to eat along the whole of this route. The Indians are of a surly and suspicious character, and will sell absolutely nothing to the traveler. In Izcuchaca I had expected to find an inn and some comforts, but the place was dominated by a Chinaman, who was the “gobernador,” as well as the owner of the inn. This individual, due to some caprice which I was unable to explain, absolutely denied me food and shelter, and even several Peruvians of respectable appearance who were standing by failed to offer such or indicate where it could be secured, notwithstanding that they knew I was a stranger, a traveler, and that night had fallen and a heavy rain set in. This is the only place in Peru where I have experienced such a lack of hospitality, and I retain an unpleasant impression of the place. But I found shel, ter at length in the hut of a humble but honest individual, who, moreover, obtained alfalfa for my animals, which was the most important, for they had eaten but little for several days. There was no food in the house, and it was too late to purchase anything in the place, and all that I and my arriero could obtain was a cup of weak tea and a piece of dry bread from my saddlebags, the only food of which we partook until the following night upon arriving in Huancayo.
On the next morning at daybreak I shook the dust off my feet of Izcuchaca. My road now lay along the bank of the rapid river for some distance. Leaving that I crossed another high ridge and plateau, and at length descended into the large and fertile plains of Jauja, and slept in a fairly comfortable inn within the important city of Huancayo, 13 leagues from my last stopping place.
This plain, through which runs the River Mantaro, or Jauja, that I had heen more or less following, is one of the finest agricultural regions in Peru, and crops of every description are produced. Not far away are extensive and valuable mines of good coal, as well as of copper and silver.
From Huancayo to Jauja, my next day’s journey, the road is flat, and passes through numerous towns and villages, which, with their cathedrals, squares, and trees, present a restful and old-world appearance. The altitude of Huancayo is 10,686 feet, and that of Jauja 11,874 feet, the distance between the two cities being 10 leagues. The small Indian shops all along this route seem to contain little but bottles of “aguardiente,” or rum, and a great deal of drunkenness is encountered among the Indian laborers.
On the morrow I began my last day’s journey in the saddle. The road left the pleasant valley and wound up on to a high, cold plateau. Fourteen leagues lay between Jauja and my objective point, Oroya, the terminus of the famous Oroya Railway, where I should take the train for Lima. It is a remarkable thing that the inhabitants of Jauja and of the numerous towns of the valley have been content to live through the many years since that railway was
constructed without making any attempt at a road for vehicles which would give them cheap and comfortable communications therewith. The existing trail is simply a track over the limestone strata, where the wearied pack trains stumble ceaselessly, in the same condition almost as when the Andes were upraised from chaos. However, this is now being remedied by the construction of a branch railway from Oroya.
The altitude of the latter place, where I arrived in the late afternoon, is 12,178 feet above sea level, and the railway thence rises at the summit of the Andes to the west to 15,642 feet, the highest in the world, and doubtless the only existing instance where the traveler is carried from the limit of the perpetual snow-cap to sea level in a few hours. Near Oroya great activity is being displayed upon the Cerro de Pasco mines, which are said to be the largest copper deposits in the world.
The region which I traversed is but little known outside the country. It is a region of great resources, and will undoubtedly be the scene of an early development, for the dawn of an era of progress is upon the old empire of the Incas, awakening it from its years of stagnation, and giving it a place among the progressive nations of its hemisphere.
The courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest to the grateful and appreciating heart. It is the picayune compliments which are the most appreciated ; far more than the double ones which we sometimes pay.—Henry Clay.