Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
able skins vicuñas have been so much persecuted that they are threatened with extinction and,
although the law today protects them, they are still being hunted by whites and Indians alike.
With their wool, expensive and excellent rugs and blankets are made, and the South Americ-
an who possesses a vicuña poncho feels very proud of it. These ponchos are waterproof and
protect against the heat and cold alike. Up in these mountains the rare and almost priceless
chinchilla real issometimesfound,anotherinoffensivelittleanimalwhichhaspractically dis-
appeared owing to its highly valued fur.
I rarely ate at midday, but if I found a spot where there was a little grass I unsaddled and
let the horses roll and graze for an hour or so whilst I made my notes, took the altitude and
the temperature. If I had anything to smoke with me, I puffed away, and before saddling up
again I revised the animals' backs and hoofs and then changed horses, that is to say that the
one which had carried the pack in the morning had to carry me in the afternoon. Very often
pending on the type of country we were travelling through, or again on the conditions of their
backs. There is one thing I am very proud of today, which any horseman will appreciate, and
that is to be able to say that my horses never had sore backs, excepting, of course, little minor
troubles that are inevitable.
The journey from the lagoon on was pleasant, partly because the trail was fair and easy
to follow, and partly because we had eaten well, and possibly the idea that there was another
cold duck in my saddlebag helped to make things appear rosy. In the evening we arrived at a
posta , where I immediately prepared to spend the night. This was the busiest posta I struck on
my way through Bolivia, the movement being due to the proximity of a mine, and to the fact
on their way to and from Challapata, a small town down on the main plateau, where they go
to sell their goods and products, and whence they return loaded with salt and other supplies
which their region does not provide.
Owing to the rarefied atmosphere in these high parts the Indians, by constant deep breath-
ing, have developed enormous chests, and the capacity of their lungs, as well as their ex-
traordinary physique, enables them to perform amazing feats of endurance, and this in alti-
tudes and over rough and steep mountain trails where a white man could hardly move and
where strangers frequently suffer from fainting fits, caused by puna or mountain sickness. I
a long journey, which they do practically entirely at a slow trot, they would halt at some posta
or hut, and when they had taken their loads off I actually saw some who had sore backs on
place lie on their backs near a wall and put their feet up against it, and when I asked why they
were doing this, I was told that this was the most restful position after a long run and that it
made the blood run back into the body. I often wondered what a Bolivian Indian would think
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