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tentate or ruler. Here was I, as it were, between two continents and two mighty oceans, with
my faithful friends of hundreds of miles both making the best of a bad meal beside me, but I
knew they were satisfied, for experience had taught the three of us to be contented, even with
the worst.
My thoughts wandered back to my boyhood and to the school bench for which I had an in-
born dislike. Then I recalled some incidents of my boisterous age and chuckled to myself. As
I tried to penetrate the infinite distance, pictures of city life appeared before me, the strife for
wealth and fame, the hurry and worry of mankind, some rising, others falling, foolish pleas-
ures, the struggle of humanity, and then I came back to reality - where was I? - Strange coin-
cidence. La Muerte - Death.
When the first purple streaks on the horizon announced the arrival of a new day I returned
to the shelter to prepare coffee. The horses followed me in hopes of something good and, al-
though we had none to spare, each one received a good chunk of unrefined sugar which they
munched until their mouths foamed and dribbled. After a welcome can of hot coffee we star-
ted out, following the bare ridges for some time, and then we began the descent. We slipped
over rocks and stones and had to pick our way step by step. Dark clouds began to collect, and
suddenly a terrific downpour set in. With it a strong wind blew that made it impossible to pro-
tect ourselves against the icy water that soon seemed to penetrate to the very marrow.
The guide stumbled along with his head down and his teeth chattering. I always carried a
flask of aguardiente (cane alcohol) in case of sickness, and knowing this the poor man could
resist no longer. He asked me for a cupful which I gladly gave him and took one myself. To
this day I cannot explain how we got the horses down these slopes without crippling them.
Towards evening we found another shelter where we warmed and dried ourselves near a fire
we had built. My boots were all in pieces now, and my feet had been cut by the sharp rocks.
We were again in an oak forest, and once more the animals had to be content with a feed of
leaves of small woolly palms that grew here and there among the hoary giants of the primeval
forest. The rain lasted throughout the night, and I realised that we had beaten the rainy season
- and defeat - by barely twenty-four hours.
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