Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
tain had formerly been bewitched and that the devils had been tamed by firing guns. One man
told me that there was a place where the dead were standing up like tree trunks, frozen stiff,
and the devils danced among them at night.
Beforewereachedthefootofthemountainitbegantorainandthegroundbecame soslip-
perythat thehorsescontinually slipped andfell. Wecouldonlyscramble afewyardsandthen
we had to stop for breath or hack steps so that the animals could get a grip with their hoofs.
This went on for some hours until we reached higher altitudes, where we entered oak forests.
There the temperature was cool but the perspiration was falling off us in drops. The guide's
pony had fallen so often and was so tired that it began to refuse to get up, so every time it fell
again one of us had to pull in front whilst the other helped the animal to rise by lifting it by
the tail. Late in the evening we came to a shelter that had been built by government men some
years before. We cut small palm leaves which formed the only fodder we could find, but in
spite of their toughness and bitter taste all had disappeared by morning. The night was bitterly
cold but we built a fire and one of the hens was soon in our cooking-pot with some rice and
Next day we continued the difficult ascent, stumbling over a regular network of roots of
the huge, lichen-covered oak trees. I feared that a horse might break a leg at any moment, but
get a glance of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the distance.
Finally we found another shelter where we prepared to spend the night. It was bitterly cold
and a little spring nearby was completely surrounded by ice. It was easy to see that my horses
were accustomed to this, for they did not step on the icy edge but began to paw and break it
to make sure that they would not fall into a deep hole. The guide's animal seemed puzzled
and nervous and only drank when I offered him the water in my sombrero. Some coarse grass
grewnearthere, soIturnedtheanimals loose.Thispoint-slightly over11,500feet abovesea
level - is called 'Muerte' (Death), but this fantastic name did not seem to affect our spirits as
we watched the second hen broiling in the pot whilst we puffed away at our cigars. During
the night the moon was so bright that I thought it was early morning, and as I could sleep no
more I went out to keep the horses company. They seemed glad when they saw me and all
followed me when I went where the grass was better and where they had feared to go alone,
their instinct for danger having kept them near the shelter where we slept.
I sat down and wrapped a heavy poncho and a blanket about me and blew puffs of smoke
into the icy night air. I observed that the horses felt the cold, for every now and again they
gave some of those peculiar little snorts horses give when the cold air freezes their nostrils.
Sitting out there on the mountain all alone, my thoughts began to wander, as they had often
gave the mists below a ghostly appearance. I felt lonely but happy and did not envy king, po-
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