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of our Olympic Marathon runners, who would look like mere babies alongside these tough
and rugged sons of the mountains.
possible, and had given them as much of the straw as the postero was willing to sell, I entered
the big stone hut again and spread my blankets out on my stone-block bed and prepared to
pass the night as well as was possible under circumstances. The straw is brought up from the
valleys by Indians, who carry it on their backs. Instead of doing military service they are ex-
pected toworkinthe postas foracertain lengthoftime, ortohelpintheconstruction ofroads
and trails.
I had been asleep for a short time when I was awakened by the trampling of hoofs and
people talking in loud voices. This meant that I had to get up to see that the newly arrived an-
Indian was outside with two heavily packed mules, and he told me that he was carrying mail
to some mine in the interior. As soon as I had seen the animals accommodated I returned to
my hard and cold bed, where I was soon dreaming of better places! A tired body is the softest
The stars were still glittering when everybody began to stir, and as my stomach was out
of order I made myself some tea with coca leaves, which I found to be a good remedy. I re-
membered my ducks and an old South American verse that goes as follows:
'El que comió, tomó y montó,
No preguntes de que murió.'
(He who had eaten, drunk, and mounted,
do not ask what he died of.)
When the postman's mules were ready for the day's march he came back into the house,
where he went through an extraordinary ceremony. In the middle of the large stone table that
stood in the spacious room he placed a bottle filled with alcohol, and in each corner he depos-
ited some coca leaves and some grains of corn on which he later put pieces of smouldering
embers. Once the coca leaves began to smoke he blew the rising fumes towards the alcohol
bottle in the middle, and moving from corner to corner repeated the performance, all the time
going through a series of most complicated manœuvres. I watched him with the interest of a
child following the mysterious movements of a conjurer, and when he had finished I asked
him what the meaning of all this was. In good Spanish he told me that this was to protect
himself against bad weather and accidents on the journey, and that he never undertook a trip
without first going through this ceremony, which he said was commonly observed among his
Saddling up was no easy matter, for my fingers were stiff and painful with the cold, and as
usual in such cases, I could only tighten the girth by pulling with my teeth, which is the cus-
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