Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
There was no time for much thinking, so I tied the pack-horse to a loose rock, and jumped
tion was as to whether it would be safer to bring back one animal or to cross the other. After
a good look at the trail I thought the latter way would be the safer. I unsaddled Gato, who
jumped across like a goat, after which I brought the pack and saddle over by means of a rope,
having to cross from side to side several times to accomplish this primitive and ticklish piece
of engineering. Another fright, a good lesson, and many miles saved.
Buzzards, the street cleaners and sanitary police of the Pacific coast of South and Central
hut fixing the saddles and mending straps when I observed a little dog, of no definite breed, a
kind of one-volume edition of all breeds of little dogs, staring up into the sky. Several buzza-
rds flew over, and the dog pricked up his ears and stared after them so intently that he fairly
trembled, until suddenly he rushed off and disappeared over the next hill. My host, a dark
mestizo, who was sitting near me shelling corn, laughed as he noticed the way I watched the
strange behaviour of his dog. He told me there must be some dead animal in the direction the
buzzards flew, and the dog, fully aware of this, had followed them knowing that he would
soon be able to have a good feed, a thing no canine companion ever gets from his master in
these parts.
Drinking is the vice all along the Andes, and the noise made by drunkards made me lose
many hours of much-needed sleep. Jogging along a lonely trail one day, I met a man who at
once started a conversation with me. He said that he had sold a troop of mules in some distant
village. He was riding a fine mule and had obviously been imbibing freely, the effects having
loosened his tongue. At short intervals he pulled a bottle of aguardiente (spirits) out of his
saddlebags and offered me a drink, a thing I always refused from strangers whom I met out
in the open. In the evening we came to a hut in a valley where I was given permission to un-
saddle. As alcohol was sold there, as in most huts, my new acquaintance laid in a new stock,
and when it was already dark he continued his journey, saying his mule knew the way as well
as he did, even during the darkest night. My host and myself made our beds on the floor and
wriggled into position to sleep.
It must have been considerably after midnight when we were awakened by somebody
knocking at the door. It proved to be our friend the mule dealer, who came staggering in and
asked if anybody had passed with his mule. Crying like a baby and reeling about, trying hard
to keep his balance, he related that he had tied his mule to a tree and had then entered some
hut to have another drink. When he returned to the place where he had left his animal if was
no longer there. His mule had gone, saddle, saddlebags, and all his money. He called upon all
the saints to have pity on him, and finally dropped off to sleep, and when I last saw him in the
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