Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
On Peruvian Soil
We came to the outlet of the lake called the desaguadero , and crossing over a narrow bridge
entered the Republic of Peru. On both sides of the stream are small settlements, one on the
Bolivian side, and the other on Peruvian soil. In the middle of the bridge there is a steel trap-
door that is let down at night, more for show's sake than for practical purposes, for if anybody
ing it. Not a soul was to be seen when we crossed over the bridge, and the few low houses on
the other side seemed to be deserted. Between the rough cobblestones grass was growing, and
in a uniform and cap that gave him the appearance of a French gendarme, came slouching out
of a house, and when he saw me he lazily shuffled in our direction. He introduced himself as
the border official, and asked me a few stupid questions, and when I showed him a recom-
mendationIhadwithme,hisattitudeimmediatelychanged,andhenolongercalledme seƱor ,
but tried to flatter me by addressing me as general and doctor , titles which I later found out
every Peruvian who wears a collar seems to possess.
My first day in Peru was an unpleasant one, for to begin with I could get no fodder in the
settlement nearthe desaguadero ,andinspiteofthelate houroftheday,wehadtocontinue in
the direction of the next village, where I hoped luck would be kinder to us. We had not gone
far when a heavy storm broke out, and an icy rain soon soaked me to the skin. When night
fell I was still chasing around the village, and I considered myself fortunate when somebody
finally sold me a small ration of straw. With all my belongings wet through, and with the pen-
etrating cold of the night, I was glad when the time came to start again.
western shores of the lake. One of them was built by the Jesuits, and some of the old churches
still remain, but, as they were not looked after, most of them are mere ruins today. Like many
Jesuit ruins, they show great architectural skill and artistic taste, and some of the splendidly
carved entrances to these churches are regular gems. Quite a number of the buildings in this
particular village date back to the same period, and the massive police quarters where I stayed
were also of Jesuit origin, as could easily be seen by the arched entrance gate, the massive
walls, and what must have been dungeons in the old times. The gobernador is the local gov-
ernment authority and mayor of the village all in one, and a stranger does well to make it his
first duty to get acquainted with these local tin gods in Peru, for without their assistance it
would be next to impossible to find a roof to sleep under where there are no inns.
When I expressed my desire to visit some of the ruins near the village the gobernador im-
mediately offered to accompany me. It seems that nobody ever takes the trouble to look at
these old churches, some because they are not interested, and others because they are too su-
perstitious. As we entered one of these churches by the big heavy, wooden entrance door that
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