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THE Parinacochas Basin is at an elevation of between 11,500 and 12,000 feet above sea level. It is about 150 miles northwest of Arequipa and 170 miles southwest of Cuzco, and enjoys a fair amount of rainfall. The lake is fed by springs and small streams. In past geological times the lake, then very much larger, had an outlet not far from the town of Puyusca. At present Parinacochas has no visible outlet. It is possible that the large springs which we noticed as we came up the valley by Puyusca may be fed from the lake. On the other hand, we found numerous small springs on the very borders of the lake, generally occurring in swampy hillocks — built up perhaps by mineral deposits — three or four feet higher than the surrounding plain. There are very old beach marks well above the shore. The natives told us that in the wet season the lake was considerably higher than at present, although we could find no recent evidence to indicate that it had been much more than a foot above its present level. Nevertheless a rise of a foot would enlarge the area of the lake considerably.
When making preparations in New Haven for the “bathymetric survey of Lake Parinacochas,” suggested by Sir Clements Markham, we found it impossible to discover any indication in geographical literature as to whether the depth of the lake might be ten feet or ten thousand feet. We decided to take a chance on its not being more than ten hundred feet. With the kind assistance of Mr. George Bassett, I secured a thousand feet of stout fish line, known to anglers as “24 thread,” wound on a large wooden reel for convenience in handling. While we were at Chuquibamba Mr. Watkins had spent many weary hours inserting one hundred and sixty-six white and red cloth markers at six-foot intervals in the strands of this heavy line, so that we might be able more rapidly to determine the result in fathoms.
Arrived at a low peninsula on the north shore of the lake, Tucker and I pitched our camp, sent our mules back to Puyusca for fodder, and set up the Acme folding boat, which we had brought so many miles on mule-back, for the sounding operations. The “Acme” proved easy to assemble, although this was our first experience with it. Its lightness enabled it to be floated at the edge of the lake even in very shallow water, and its rigidity was much appreciated in the late afternoon when the high winds raised a vicious little “sea.” Rowing out on waters which we were told by the natives had never before been navigated by craft of any kind, I began to take soundings. Lake Titicaca is over nine hundred feet deep. It would be aggravating if Lake Parinacochas should prove to be over a thousand, for I had brought no extra line. Even nine hundred feet would make sounding slow work, and the lake covered an area of over seventy square miles.
It was with mixed feelings of trepidation and expectation that I rowed out five miles from shore and made a sounding. Holding the large reel firmly in both hands, I cast the lead overboard. The reel gave a turn or two and stopped. Something was wrong. The line did not run out. Was the reel stuck? No, the apparatus was in perfect running order. Then what was the matter? The bottom was too near! Alas for all the pains that Mr. Bassett had taken to put a thousand feet of the best strong 24-thread line on one reel! Alas for Mr. Watkins and his patient insertion of one hundred and sixty-six “fathom-markers”! The bottom of the lake was only four feet away from the bottom of my boat! After three or four days of strenuous rowing up and down the eighteen miles of the lake’s length, and back and forth across the seventeen miles of its width, I never succeeded in wetting Watkins’s first marker! Several hundred soundings failed to show more than five feet of water anywhere. Possibly if we had come in the rainy season we might at least have wet one marker, but at the time of our visit (November, 1911), the lake had a maximum depth of 4 1/2 feet. The satisfaction of making this slight contribution to geographic knowledge was, I fear, lost in the chagrin of not finding a really noteworthy body of water.
Who would have thought that so long a lake could be so shallow? However, my feelings were soothed by remembering the story of the captain of a man-of-war who was once told that the salt lake near one of the red hills between Honolulu and Pearl Harbor was reported by the natives to be “bottomless.”
He ordered one of the ship’s heavy boats to be carried from the shore several miles inland to the salt lake, at great expenditure of strength and labor. The story told me in my boyhood does not say how much sounding line was brought. Anyhow, they found this “fathomless” body of water to be not more than fifteen feet deep.
Notwithstanding my disappointment at the depth of Parinacochas, I was very glad that we had brought the little folding boat, for it enabled me to float gently about among the myriads of birds which use the shallow waters of the lake as a favorite feeding ground; pink flamingoes, white gulls, small “divers,” large black ducks, sandpipers, black ibis, teal ducks, and large geese. On the hulks were ground owls and woodpeckers. It is not surprising that the natives should have named this body of water “Parinacochas” (Parina = “flamingo,” cochas = “lake”). The flamingoes are here in incredible multitudes; they far outnumber all other birds, and as I have said, actually make the shallow waters of the lake look pink. Fortunately they had not been hunted for their plumage and were not timid. After two days of familiarity with the boat they were willing to let me approach within twenty yards before finally taking wing. The coloring, in this land of drab grays and browns, was a delight to the eye. The head is white, the beak black, the neck white shading into salmon-pink; the body pinkish white on the back, the breast white, and the tail salmon-pink. The wings are salmon-pink in front, but the tips and the under-parts are black. As they stand or wade in the water their general appearance is chiefly pink-and-white. When they rise from the water, however, the black under-parts of the wings became strikingly conspicuous and cause a flock of flying flamingoes to be a wonderful contrast in black-and-white. When flying, the flamingo seems to keep his head moving steadily forward at an even pace, although the ropelike neck undulates with the slow beating of the wings. I could not be sure that it was not an optical delusion. Nevertheless, I thought the heavy body was propelled irregularly, while the head moved forward at uniform speed, the difference being caught up in the undulations of the neck.
The flamingo is an amusing bird to watch. With its haughty Roman nose and long, ropelike neck, which it coils and twists in a most incredible manner, it seems specially intended to distract one’s mind from bathymetric disappointments. Its hoarse croaking, “What is it,” “What is it,” seemed to express deep-throated sympathy with the sounding operations. On one bright moonlight night the flamingoes were very noisy, keeping up a continual clatter of very hoarse “What-is-it’s.” Apparently they failed to find out the answer in time to go to bed at the proper time, for next morning we found them all sound asleep, standing in quiet bays with their heads tucked under their wings. During the course of the forenoon, when the water was quiet, they waded far out into the lake. In the afternoon, as winds and waves arose, they came in nearer the shores, but seldom left the water. The great extent of shallow water in Parinacochas offers them a splendid, wide feeding ground. We wondered where they all came from. Apparently they do not breed here. Although there were thousands and thousands of birds, we could find no flamingo nests, either old or new, search as we would. It offers a most interesting problem for some enterprising biological explorer. Probably Mr. Frank Chapman will some day solve it.
Next in number to the flamingoes were the beautiful white gulls (or terns?), looking strangely out of place in this Andean lake 11,500 feet above the sea. They usually kept together in flocks of several hundred. There were quantities of small black divers in the deeper parts of the lake where the flamingoes did not go. The divers were very quick and keen, true individualists operating alone and showing astonishing ability in swimming long distances under water. The large black ducks were much more fearless than the flamingoes and were willing to swim very near the canoe. When frightened, they raced over the water at a tremendous pace, using both wings and feet in their efforts to escape. These ducks kept in large flocks and were about as common as the small divers. Here and there in the lake were a few tiny little islands, each containing a single deserted nest, possibly belonging to an ibis or a duck. In the banks of a low stream near our first camp were holes made by woodpeckers, who in this country look in vain for trees and telegraph poles.
Occasionally, a mile or so from shore, my boat would startle a great amphibious ox standing in the water up to his middle, calmly eating the succulent water grass. To secure it he had to plunge his head and neck well under the surface.
While I was raising blisters and frightening oxen and flamingoes, Mr. Tucker triangulated the Parinacochas Basin, making the first accurate map of this vicinity. As he carried his theodolite from point to point he often stirred up little ground owls, who gazed at him with solemn, reproachful looks. And they were not the only individuals to regard his activities with suspicion and dislike. Part of my work was to construct signal stations by piling rocks at conspicuous points on the well-rounded hills so as to enable the triangulation to proceed as rapidly as possible. During the night some of these signal stations would disappear, torn down by the superstitious shepherds who lived in scattered clusters of huts and declined to have strange gods set up in their vicinity. Perhaps they thought their pastures were being preempted. We saw hundreds of their sheep and cattle feeding on flat lands formerly the bed of the lake. The hills of the Parinacochas Basin are bare of trees, and offer some pasturage. In some places they are covered with broken rock. The grass was kept closely cropped by the degenerate descendants of sheep brought into the country during Spanish colonial days. They were small in size and mostly white in color, although there were many black ones. We were told that the sheep were worth about fifty cents apiece here.
On our first arrival at Parinacochas we were left severely alone by the shepherds; but two days later curiosity slowly overcame their shyness, and a group of young shepherds and shepherdesses gradually brought their grazing flocks nearer and nearer the camp, in order to gaze stealthily on these strange visitors, who lived in a cloth house, actually moved over the forbidding waters of the lake, and busied themselves from day to day with strange magic, raising and lowering a glittering glass eye on a tripod. The women wore dresses of heavy material, the skirts reaching halfway from knee to ankle. In lieu of hats they had small variegated shawls, made on hand looms, folded so as to make a pointed bonnet over the head and protect the neck arid shoulders from sun and wind. Each woman was busily spinning with a hand spindle, but carried her baby and its gear and blankets in a hammock or sling attached to a tump-line that went over her head. These sling carry-alls were neatly woven of soft wool and decorated with attractive patterns. Both women and boys were barefooted. The boys wore old felt hats of native manufacture, and coats and long trousers much too large for them.
At one end of the upland basin rises the graceful cone of Mt. Sarasara. The view of its snow-capped peak reflected in the glassy waters of the lake in the early morning was one long to be remembered. Sarasara must once have been much higher than it is at present. Its volcanic cone has been sharply eroded by snow and ice. In the days of its greater altitude, and consequently wider snow fields, the melting snows probably served to make Parinacochas a very much larger body of water. Although we were here at the beginning of summer, the wind that came down from the mountain at night was very cold. Our minimum thermometer registered 22° F. near the banks of the lake at night. Nevertheless, there was only a very thin film of ice on the borders of the lake in the morning, and except in the most shallow bays there was no ice visible far from the bank. The temperature of the water at 10:00 A.M. near the shore, and ten inches below the surface, was 61° F., while farther out it was three or four degrees warmer. By noon the temperature of the water half a mile from shore was 67.5° F. Shortly after noon a strong wind came up from the coast, stirring up the shallow water and cooling it. Soon afterwards the temperature of the water began to fall, and, although the hot sun was shining brightly almost directly overhead, it went down to 65° by 2:30 P.M.
The water of the lake is brackish, yet we were able to make our camps on the banks of small streams of sweet water, although in each case near the shore of the lake. A specimen of the water, taken near the shore, was brought back to New Haven and analyzed by Dr. George S. Jamieson of the Sheffield Scientific School. He found that it contained small quantities of silica, iron phosphate, magnesium carbonate, calcium carbonate, calcium sulphate, potassium nitrate, potassium sulphate, sodium borate, sodium sulphate, and a considerable quantity of sodium chloride. Parinacochas water contains more carbonate and potassium than that of the Atlantic Ocean or the Great Salt Lake. As compared with the salinity of typical “salt” waters, that of Lake Parinacochas occupies an intermediate position, containing more than Lake Koko-Nor, less than that of the Atlantic, and only one twentieth the salinity of the Great Salt Lake.
When we moved to our second camp the Tejada brothers preferred to let their mules rest in the Puyusca Valley, where there was excellent alfalfa forage. The arrieros engaged at their own expense a pack train which consisted chiefly of Parinacochas burros. It is the custom hereabouts to enclose the packs in large-meshed nets made of rawhide which are then fastened to the pack animal by a surcingle. The Indians who came with the burro train were pleasant-faced, sturdy fellows, dressed in “store clothes” and straw hats. Their burros were as cantankerous as donkeys can be, never fractious or flighty, but stubbornly resisting, step by step, every effort to haul them near the loads.
Our second camp was near the village of Incahuasi, “the house of the Inca,” at the northwestern corner of the basin. Raimondi visited it in 1863. The representative of the owner of Parinacochas occupies one of the houses. The other buildings are used only during the third week in August, at the time of the annual fair. In the now deserted plaza were many low stone rectangles partly covered with adobe and ready to be converted into booths. The plaza was surrounded by long, thatched buildings of adobe and stone, mostly of rough ashlars. A few ashlars showed signs of having been carefully dressed by ancient stonemasons. Some loose ashlars weighed half a ton and had baffled the attempts of modern builders.
In constructing the large church, advantage was taken of a beautifully laid wall of close-fitting ashlars. Incahuasi was well named; there had been at one time an Inca house here, possibly a temple — lakes were once objects of worship — or rest-house, constructed in order to enable the chiefs and tax-gatherers to travel comfortably over the vast domains of the Incas. We found the slopes of the hills of the Parinacochas Basin to be well covered with remains of ancient terraces. Probably potatoes and other root crops were once raised here in fairly large quantities. Perhaps deforestation and subsequent increased aridity might account for the desertion of these once-cultivated lands. The hills west of the lake are intersected by a few dry gulches in which are caves that have been used as burial places. The caves had at one time been walled in with rocks laid in adobe, but these walls had been partly broken down so as to permit the sepulchers to be rifled of whatever objects of value they might have contained. We found nine or ten skulls lying loose in the rubble of the caves. One of the skulls seemed to have been trepanned.
On top of the ridge are the remains of an ancient road, fifty feet wide, a broad grassy way through fields of loose stones. No effort had been made at grading or paving this road, and there was no evidence of its having been used in recent times. It runs from the lake across the ridge in a westerly direction toward a broad valley, where there are many terraces and cultivated fields; it is not far from Nasca. Probably the stones were picked up and piled on each side to save time in driving caravans of llamas across the stony ridges. The llama dislikes to step over any obstacle, even a very low wall. The grassy roadway would certainly encourage the supercilious beasts to proceed in the desired direction.
In many places on the hills were to be seen outlines of large and small rock circles and shelters erected by herdsmen for temporary protection against the sudden storms of snow and hail which come up with unexpected fierceness at this elevation (12,000 feet). The shelters were in a very ruinous state. They were made of rough, scoriaceous lava rocks. The circular enclosures varied from 8 to 25 feet in diameter. Most of them showed no evidences whatever of recent occupation. The smaller walls may have been the foundation of small circular huts. The larger walls were probably intended as corrals, to keep alpacas and llamas from straying at night and to guard against wolves or coyotes. I confess to being quite mystified as to the age of these remains. It is possible that they represent a settlement of shepherds within historic times, although, from the shape and size of the walls, I am inclined to doubt this. The shelters may have been built by the herdsmen of the Incas. Anyhow, those on the hills west of Parinacochas had not been used for a long time. Nasca, which is not very far away to the northwest, was the center of one of the most artistic pre-Inca cultures in Peru. It is famous for its very delicate pottery.
Our third camp was on the south side of the lake. Near us the traces of the ancient road led to the ruins of two large, circular corrals, substantiating my belief that this curious roadway was intended to keep the llamas from straying at will over the pasture lands. On the south shores of the lake there were more signs of occupation than on the north, although there is nothing so clearly belonging to the time of the Incas as the ashlars and finely built wall at Incahuasi. On top of one of the rocky promontories we found the rough stone foundations of the walls of a little village. The slopes of the promontory were nearly precipitous on three sides. Forty or fifty very primitive dwellings had been at one time huddled together here in a position which could easily be defended. We found among the ruins a few crude potsherds and some bits of obsidian. There was nothing about the ruins of the little hill village to give any indication of Inca origin. Probably it goes back to pre-Inca days. No one could tell us anything about it. If there were traditions concerning it they were well concealed by the silent, superstitious shepherds of the vicinity. Possibly it was regarded as an unlucky spot, cursed by the gods.
The neighboring slopes showed faint evidences of having been roughly terraced and cultivated. The tutu potato would grow here, a hardy variety not edible in the fresh state, but considered highly desirable for making potato flour after having been repeatedly frozen and its bitter juices all extracted. So would other highland root crops of the Peruvians, such as the oca, a relative of our sheep sorrel, the aņu, a kind of nasturtium, and the ullucu (ullucus tuberosus).
On the flats near the shore were large corrals still kept in good repair. New walls were being built by the Indians at the time of our visit. Near the southeast corner of the lake were a few modern huts built of stone and adobe, with thatched roofs, inhabited by drovers and shepherds. We saw more cattle at the east end of the lake than elsewhere, but they seemed to prefer the sweet water grasses of the lake to the tough bunch-grass on the slopes of Sarasara.
Viscachas were common amongst the gray lichen-covered rocks. They are hunted for their beautiful pearly gray fur, the “chinchilla” of commerce; they are also very good eating, so they have disappeared from the more accessible parts of Peru. One rarely sees them, although they may be found on bleak uplands in the mountains of Uilcapampa, a region rarely visited by any one on account of treacherous bogs and deep tarns. Writers sometimes call viscachas “rabbit-squirrels.” They have large, rounded ears, long hind legs, a long, bushy tail, and do look like a cross between a rabbit and a gray squirrel.
Surmounting one of the higher ridges one day, I came suddenly upon an unusually large herd of wild vicuņas. It included more than one hundred individuals. Their relative fearlessness also testified to the remoteness of Parinacochas and the small amount of hunting that is done here. Vicuņas have never been domesticated, but are often hunted for their skins. Their silky fleece is even finer than alpaca. The more fleecy portions of their skins are sewed together to make quilts, as soft as eider down and of a golden brown color.
After Mr. Tucker finished his triangulation of the lake I told the arrieros to find the shortest road home. They smiled, murmured “Arequipa,” and started south. We soon came to the rim of the Maraicasa Valley where, peeping up over one of the hills far to the south, we got a little glimpse of Coropuna. The Maraicasa Valley is well inhabited and there were many grain fields in sight, although few seemed to be terraced. The surrounding hills were smooth and well rounded and the valley bottom contained much alluvial land. We passed through it and, after dark, reached Sondor, a tiny hamlet inhabited by extremely suspicious and inhospitable drovers. In the darkness Don Pablo pleaded with the owners of a well-thatched hut, and told them how “important” we were. They were unwilling to give us any shelter, so we were forced to pitch our tent in the very rocky and dirty corral immediately in front of one of the huts, where pigs, dogs, and cattle annoyed us all night. If we had arrived before dark we might have received a different welcome. As a matter of fact, the herdsmen only showed the customary hostility of mountaineers and wilderness folk to those who do not arrive in the daytime, when they can be plainly seen and fully discussed.
The next morning we passed some fairly recent lava flows and noted also many curious rock forms caused by wind and sand erosion. We had now left the belt of grazing lands and once more come into the desert. At length we reached the rim of the mile-deep Caraveli Canyon and our eyes were gladdened at sight of the rich green oasis, a striking contrast to the barren walls of the canyon. As we descended the long, winding road we passed many fine specimens of tree cactus. At the foot of the steep descent we found ourselves separated from the nearest settlement by a very wide river, which it was necessary to ford. Neither of the Tejadas had ever been here before and its depths and dangers were unknown. Fortunately Pablo found a forlorn individual living in a tiny hut on the bank, who indicated which way lay safety. After an exciting two hours we finally got across to the desired shore. Animals and men were glad enough to leave the high, arid desert and enter the oasis of Caraveli with its luscious, green fields of alfalfa, its shady fig trees and tall eucalyptus. The air, pungent with the smell of rich vegetation, seemed cooler and more invigorating.
We found at Caraveli a modern British enterprise, the gold mine of “La Victoria.” Mr. Prain, the Manager, and his associates at the camp gave us a cordial welcome, and a wonderful dinner which I shall long remember. After two months in the coastal desert it seemed like home. During the evening we learned of the difficulties Mr. Prain had had in bringing his machinery across the plateau from the nearest port. Our own troubles seemed as nothing. The cost of transporting on mule-back each of the larger pieces of the quartz stamping-mill was equivalent to the price of a first-class pack mule. As a matter of fact, although it is only a two days’ journey, pack animals’ backs are not built to survive the strain of carrying pieces of machinery weighing five hundred pounds over a desert plateau up to an altitude of 4000 feet. Mules brought the machinery from the coast to the brink of the canyon, but no mule could possibly have carried it down the steep trail into Caraveli. Accordingly, a windlass had been constructed on the edge of the precipice and the machinery had been lowered, piece by piece, by block and tackle. Such was one of the obstacles with which these undaunted engineers had had to contend. Had the man who designed the machinery ever traveled with a pack train, climbing up and down over these rocky stairways called mountain trails, I am sure that he would have made his castings much smaller.
MR. TUCKER ON A MOUNTAIN TRAIL THE MAIN STREET OF
NEAR CARAVELI CHUQUIBAMBA
It is astonishing how often people who ship goods to the interior of South America fail to realize that no single piece should be any heavier than a pack animal can carry comfortably on one side. One hundred and fifty pounds ought to be the extreme limit of a unit. Even a large, strong mule will last only a few days on such trails as are shown in the accompanying illustration if the total weight of his cargo is over three hundred pounds. When a single piece weighs more than two hundred pounds it has to be balanced on the back of the animal. Then the load rocks, and chafes the unfortunate mule, besides causing great inconvenience and constant worry to the muleteers. As a matter of expediency it is better to have the individual units weigh about seventy-five pounds. Such a weight is easier for the arrieros to handle in the loading, unloading, and reloading that goes on all day long, particularly if the trail is up-and-down, as usually happens in the Andes. Furthermore, one seventy-five-pound unit makes a fair load for a man or a llama, two are right for a burro, and three for an average mule. Four can be loaded, if necessary, on a stout mule.
The hospitable mining engineers urged us to prolong our stay at “La Victoria,” but we had to hasten on. Leaving the pleasant shade trees of Caraveli, we climbed the barren, desolate hills of coarse gravel and lava rock and left the canyon. We were surprised to find near the top of the rise the scattered foundations of fifty little circular or oval huts averaging eight feet in diameter. There was no water near here. Hardly a green thing of any sort was to be seen in the vicinity, yet here had once been a village. It seemed to belong to the same period as that found on the southern slopes of the Parinacochas Basin. The road was one of the worst we encountered anywhere, being at times merely a rough, rocky trail over and among huge piles of lava blocks. Several of the larger boulders were covered with pictographs. They represented a serpent and a sun, besides men and animals.
Shortly afterwards we descended to the Rio Grande Valley at Callanga, where we pitched our camps among the most extensive ruins that I have seen in the coastal desert. They covered an area of one hundred acres, the houses being crowded closely together. It gave one a strange sensation to find such a very large metropolis in what is now a desolate region. The general appearance of Callanga was strikingly reminiscent of some of the large groups of ruins in our own Southwest. Nothing about it indicated Inca origin. There were no terraces in the vicinity. It is difficult to imagine what such a large population could have done here, or how they lived. The walls were of compact cobblestones, rough-laid and stuccoed with adobe and sand. Most of the stucco had come off. Some of the houses had seats, or small sleeping-platforms, built up at one end. Others contained two or three small cells, possibly storerooms, with neither doors nor windows. We found a number of burial cists — some square, others rounded — lined with small cobblestones. In one house, at the foot of “cellar stairs” we found a subterranean room, or tomb. The entrance to it was covered with a single stone lintel. In examining this tomb Mr. Tucker had a narrow escape from being bitten by a boba, a venomous snake, nearly three feet in length, with vicious mouth, long fangs like a rattlesnake, and a strikingly mottled skin. At one place there was a low pyramid less than ten feet in height. To its top led a flight of rude stone steps.
Among the ruins we found a number of broken stone dishes, rudely carved out of soft, highly porous, scoriaceous lava. The dishes must have been hard to keep clean! We also found a small stone mortar, probably used for grinding paint; a broken stone war club; and a broken compact stone mortar and pestle possibly used for grinding corn. Two stones, a foot and a half long, roughly rounded, with a shallow groove across the middle of the flatter sides, resembled sinkers used by fishermen to hold down large nets, although ten times larger than any I had ever seen used. Perhaps they were to tie down roofs in a gale. There were a few potsherds lying on the surface of the ground, so weathered as to have lost whatever decoration they once had. We did no excavating. Callanga offers an interesting field for archeological investigation. Unfortunately, we had heard nothing of it previously, carne upon it unexpectedly, and had but little time to give it. After the first night camp in the midst of the dead city we made the discovery that although it seemed to be entirely deserted, it was, as a matter of fact, well populated! I was reminded of Professor T. D. Seymour’s story of his studies in the ruins of ancient Greece. We wondered what the fleas live on ordinarily.
Our next stopping-place was the small town of Andaray, whose thatched houses are built chiefly of stone plastered with mud. Near it we encountered two men with a mule, which they said they were taking into town to sell and were willing to dispose of cheaply. The Tejadas could not resist the temptation to buy a good animal at a bargain, although the circumstances were suspicious. Drawing on us for six gold sovereigns, they smilingly added the new mule to the pack train; only to discover on reaching Chuquibamba that they had purchased it from thieves. We were able to clear our arrieros of any complicity in the theft. Nevertheless, the owner of the stolen mule was unwilling to pay anything for its return. So they lost their bargain and their gold. We spent one night in Chuquibamba, with our friend Seņor Benavides, the sub-prefect, and once more took up the well-traveled route to Arequipa. We left the Majes Valley in the afternoon and, as before, spent the night crossing the desert.
About three o’clock in the
morning — after we had
been jogging steadily along for about twelve hours in the dark and
quiet of the
night, the only sound the shuffle of the mules’ feet in the sand, the
sight an occasional crescent-shaped dune, dimly visible in the
starlight — the
eastern horizon began to be faintly illumined. The moon had long since
Could this be the approach of dawn? Sunrise was not due for at least
In the tropics there is little twilight preceding the day; “the dawn
like thunder.” Surely the moon could not be going to rise again! What
the meaning of the rapidly brightening eastern sky? While we watched
marveled, the pure white light grew brighter and brighter, until we
in ecstasy as a dazzling luminary rose majestically above the horizon.
splendor, neither of the sun nor of the moon, shone upon us. It was the
star. For sheer beauty, “divine, enchanting ravishment,” Venus that day
surpassed anything I have ever seen. In the words of the great Eastern
who had often seen such a sight in the deserts of Asia, “the morning
together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”