Published: April 1913

Stories From Peru

Peru Pasaje Ferry

In the Wonderland of Peru

The Work Accomplished by the Peruvian Expedition of 1912, under the Auspices of Yale University and the National Geographic Society.

By Hiram Bingham, Director of the Expedition
Photograph by Paul Bestor

This article was originally published in the April 1913 National Geographic and retains the original language and spellings.

The Troubles of a Cartographer

Owing to a most unfortunate misunderstanding, occasioned by the difficulty of getting messages transmitted in an uninhabited region, quite a little of (chief cartographer) Mr. (Albert H.) Bumstead's work was unintentionally destroyed. It was necessary for him to leave the Cuzco Basin and work on the Andine cross-section before the Cuzco map was completed. This was occasioned by the rapid approach of the rainy season. Arrangements were made with the chief engineer of the Southern railways to have the map photographed. The permanent contour lines were inked in, but all streams, roads, ruins, terraces, plane-table locations, and many geographical names and all elevations were left on the sheet in pencil.

The photographer thought that the map looked rather badly with all these pencil-marks on it, and a telegram was sent to the director, requesting permission to erase all pencil-marks. This telegram was received six weeks later, on my return from a difficult journey into the interior.

It was then too late to save Mr. Bumstead's work, for the photographer, impatient at the delay, and not receiving permission to clean the map, had gone ahead on his own responsibility and erased what a month of careful field-work could not replace. As Mr. Bumstead says in his report:

"…Only one who has seen his patient and painstaking work destroyed can imagine my feelings when I returned to Cuzco within about a week of the time when the new Peruvian government said we must stop all our work—weary and almost discouraged from a trip that had ended in profitless waiting in a leaky tent for a cold rain to stop and permit the work to proceed through a region where the rainy season had set in in good earnest—only to find that all the above mentioned penciling on the Cuzco Valley map had been completely and absolutely lost."

Hampered for Lack of Time

The new Peruvian government had stipulated in their decree that all the work of excavating and exploring must cease on the first of December, and the local authorities were directed to see to it that this order was carried out. In the limited time that remained it was impossible to finish the map of the Cuzco Valley as carefully as it had been begun.

It was decided, however, that it would be much better to map the area needed by the geologist as well as it could be done before the day set by the government for the conclusion of our work. Accordingly, great pains have been taken to show the true character of the topography.

The scale of the Cuzco Valley map is 1 inch to the mile, and the contour interval is 100 feet. The map covers in all 174 square miles. It includes nearly all the territory that drains into the valley of the River Huatanay, which rises in the mountains back of Cuzco, flows through the city and under part of it between walls constructed by the Incas, crosses the bed of an ancient lake, and finally joins the upper waters of the Urubamba, called at this point the Vilcanota or Vilcamayu.

Peruvian rivers have a habit of changing their names every few miles, and this particular river is no exception. It is called at various times the Vilcanota, the Vilcamayu, the Rio Grande, the Urubamba, the Santa Ana, and finally unites with other rivers to form the Ucayali, one of the great branches of the Amazon.

Mr. Bumstead's map of Cuzco Valley shows the elevations and relative positions of Cuzco, the great cyclopean fortress of Sacsahuaman, and the four historic roads leading out of the ancient Inca capital. It also aims to bring out clearly the chief topographic and physiographic features that are characteristic of the locality. It will be used by Professor Gregory and Dr. Eaton as a basis for their reports on the geology and osteology of this region. If extensive scientific archeological work is ever permitted in this region, this map will be of great service in determining the geographic influences in the location of the ruins.

Exploration of the Aobamba Valley

As part of our plan to cover the area included between the Urubamba and Apurimac rivers, an archeological and topographical reconnaissance was made of the hitherto unexplored Aobamba Valley. Assistant Topographer Heald undertook to approach this problem from the mouth of the valley at the junction of the Aobamba and Urubamba rivers. He met with almost insuperable difficulties.

Although the work looked easy as far as we could see from the mouth of the valley, he found that 4 miles from the mouth, up the winding stream, the jungle was so dense as to be almost impassable. There was no trail and the trees were so large and the foliage so dense that observations were impossible even after the trail had been cut. During a hard afternoon's work in jungle of this kind, with four or five men aiding in making the path, they succeeded in advancing only one mile.

Reconnaissance work in this type of jungle is extremely discouraging and unprofitable. Furthermore, there are occasionally some dangers—as, for instance, the following from Mr. Heald's account of his reconnaissance:

"On the way back to camp one of the men had a narrow escape from a snake, being grasped and held by another of the peons just in time to prevent his stepping on it. It was a small, dust-colored snake, about 10 inches long, and on being examined was found to possess two small poison fangs far back in the jaw. The fangs differed from those of most poisonous snakes in that they slanted back very little, coming almost straight down to the lower jaw."

Three New Groups of Ruins Reported

There was little of archeological interest in the portion of the valley which Mr. Heald succeeded in reaching. Quite unexpectedly, however, I got into the upper reaches of the valley about ten days' later and found some interesting ruins and had an unexpected adventure. It happened on this wise:

The largest and richest estate in the Urubamba Valley, Huadquiña, is owned by the Señora Carmen Vargas, who inherited from her father about 1,000,000 square miles of land lying between the Urubamba and Apurimac rivers. Some of the land is occupied by sugar plantations; other parts are given over to the raising of sheep and cattle, while a large portion is still tropical jungle. Señora Carmen has always received us most hospitably and done everything in her power to further our efforts.

Her son-in-law, Don Tomas Alvistur, an enthusiastic amateur archeologist, took a considerable amount of interest in our work and was quite delighted when he discovered that some of the Indians on the plantation knew of three localities where there were Inca ruins, so they said, that had not previously been visited by white men.

Don Tomas invited me to accompany him on a visit to these three groups of ruins, but when the time came to go he found that business engagements made it impossible for him to do more than accompany me part of the way to the first group. He went to the trouble, however, of securing three Indian guides and carriers and gave them orders to carry my small outfit whenever it was impossible for the pack-mule to be used, and to guide me safely to the three ruins and home again.

They did not greatly relish these orders, but as they were all feudal tenants, holding their land on condition of rendering a certain amount of personal service every year in lieu of rent, they were constrained to carry out the orders of their overlord.

After Don Tomas departed I was left to the tender mercies of the Indians and of my faithful muleteer, Luis. The Indians had told us that one could visit all three ruins and return the next day. This information, however, did not prevent me from putting in supplies for at least a five days' journey, although I little anticipated what was actually going to happen.

The end of the first day's journey found us on top of a ridge about 5,000 feet above the place where we had started, in the midst of a number of primitive ruins and two or three modern huts.

Llacta Pata, the Ruins of an Inca Castle

This place was called Llacta Pata. We found evidence that some Inca chieftain had built his castle here and had included in the plan ten or a dozen buildings. They are made of rough stones laid in the mud, with the usual symmetrical arrangement of doors and niches. It would be interesting to excavate here for three or four weeks and get sufficient evidence in the way of sherds and artifacts to show just what connection the people who built and occupied this mountain stronghold had to the other occupants of the valley.

After measuring the ruins and taking a few photographs, I asked the Indians how far it was to the next group of ruins, and was told it was "two or three hours journey."

Possibly it could be done by an Indian runner, with nothing to carry, in four or five hours, but we had three mules, that is, our two saddle-mules and the one pack-mule, whose load, weighing about 100 pounds, included a small tent, cooking outfit, blankets, and enough provisions for five days.

Although I had selected for this journey one of the best and strongest pack mules which we possessed, and although his load was not much more than a third of what he could comfortably carry on a good road, he found it impossible to carry this load over the trail that we found before us.

During the first two or three hours the trail passed through a dense tropical jungle. We repeatedly had to make detours to avoid deep sloughs, and occasionally had to stop in order to have branches cut away so that the mules might get through.

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