Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
descending a slope the horses and myself were suddenly startled by the appearance of a huge
man. He was amazingly broad and tall, and had a darkish copper-coloured skin. His features
were sharp and long black hair fell over his shoulders in thick strands. He wore short trousers
which did not quite reach to his knees, thus showing legs of unusual muscular development.
All this and his aquiline nose and lively, very black eyes gave him the appearance of some
being belonging rather to imagination rather than to reality. He slowly advanced towards us,
and I noticed that he had a 'machete' in his right hand, which made me think there was going
quite good Spanish. He enquired in what direction I was travelling and seemed altogether to
be a very amiable person in spite of his looks. Whenever I was asked where I was bound for,
I invariably mentioned the nearest town or village as my goal, and when I had given my usual
reply the terrible-looking stranger explained to me that he carried the mail from the interior
and presently I saw his mule grazing behind some bushes. So for a few hours we travelled
together, and then my newly made friend's trail branched off. Later I found out that he was
a 'Runa' Indian. I had occasion to see many more, but never did I come across another such
The 'Runas' are chiefly agriculturists and many are employed as bricklayers, street clean-
ers, etc. The 'Jibaro' or 'Jivero' Indians inhabit the interior and are of a very different type.
ness and cruelty have been invented by travellers and writers who write more with the help of
imagination than knowledge of facts. True, the Jibaros are much more primitive and fiercer-
looking than the quiet and industrious Runas, especially when they paint their faces or cut
their flat noses and cheeks for adornment, or when they wear wooden spikes in their ears, or
a spike in the lower lip, a custom especially among their women. They often cross the moun-
for knives, gunpowder, shotguns and other articles. They arrive wearing only a cloth wrapped
around the hips, or perhaps short trousers. Some bind their hair with a piece of thick string
that goes from the forehead clear around the head. I have seen some wearing collars or rather
necklaces made of coloured feathers, and others of dried wings of insects, of blue, green, or
violet tints. They usually have long wooden lances with which to defend themselves in case
they are attacked by some wild animal. They carry their loads on their backs, but the weight
is supported by the forehead by means of a broad strap, the way in which all Ecuadorian In-
dians carry loads. It can easily be imagined how hardy these people must be if they can resist
such long journeys over high mountains, wearing practically nothing to protect them against
the bitter cold and snow in those high regions.
When the Jibaro kills an enemy he has a strange process of shrinking his head without
spoiling its features. I have seen heads reduced to the size of a man's fist, and at one time pos-
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