Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
and other things, we found the bones of a llama, probably the remains of a sacred animal; the
ancient Indians having adored white llamas.
Putting my hand into one grave we had just opened, a small thorn entered one of my fin-
gers, and within a few hours a very nasty infection set in and after a few days the consequent
swelling, but when the infection broke out in the other hand, in my face and in the right leg, I
days before I reached a village where there was a more or less qualified medical man who
could not even as much as guess what kind of poisoning it was, and in spite of his treatment
me that even if I were cured I was not in a condition to undertake so arduous and dangerous a
journey as the crossing of the mountains to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.
However, I had not come all this distance only to return home again and be laughed at by
fools who get pleasure out of making others look ridiculous, even if they themselves are not
capable of doing anything better, and so I sadly packed up, willing to risk it and to see if fate
would be kind to me. We were in high altitudes where mountain sickness affects strangers,
and that morning, when I was pulling at the girth whilst putting on the pack saddle, my nose
began to bleed profusely; I had puna , as this affliction is called in this region. It was a sick
and sad man whoslowly and painfully woundhis way upthe rocky riverbeds, even the horses
seeming to sense that something was wrong with their master.
in the neighbourhood, and when I agreed to it somebody went to call him. After four days
the messenger arrived with him. He was an elderly and obviously poor Indian, and not of the
type who might inspire the average patient with confidence, but when he asked me a series of
highly intelligent questions, which were interpreted to me by a person who could speak both
Quichua and Spanish, I began to realise that he knew far more than I had given him credit for.
He declared that the case was not a serious one and immediately set to work boiling some dry
herbs which he carried in a poncho on his back. When they were ready for use, the steaming
herbs, which looked very much like spinach, were laid on the open sores. He stayed with me
for two days, and prior to leaving he recommended that I should drink no alcohol, eat no meat
nor eggs, and drink tea made from herbs he gave me. His fees for his 'professional services',
including the long journeys, amounted to one boliviano, or roughly 1s. 6d., and when I gave
I was able to proceed, but, of course, the wounds were not closed and I could not wear a boot
on my right leg, so I made myself a sandal and wore some thick woollen stockings over the
bandages. These stockings are made of llama wool and are skilfully knitted by the industrious
We were still in a vast and desolate valley, where nothing grows excepting a few cactus
plants and where terrific winds come down from the cold regions above, making travelling
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