CHAPTER XI. The Search Continued

Machu Picchu is on the border-line between the temperate zone and the tropics. Camping near the bridge of San Miguel, below the ruins, both Mr. Heller and Mr. Cook found interesting evidences of this fact in the flora and fauna. From the point of view of historical geography, Mr. Cook's most important discovery was the presence here of huilca, a tree which does not grow in cold climates. The Quichua dictionaries tell us huilca is a "medicine, a purgative." An infusion made from the seeds of the tree is used as an enema. I am indebted to Mr. Cook for calling my attention to two articles by Mr. W. E. Safford in which it is also shown that from seeds of the huilca a powder is prepared, sometimes called cohoba. This powder, says Mr. Safford, is a narcotic snuff "inhaled through the nostrils by means of a bifurcated tube." "All writers unite in declaring that it induced a kind of intoxication or hypnotic state, accompanied by visions which were regarded by the natives as supernatural. While under its influence the necromancers, or priests, were supposed to hold communication with unseen powers, and their incoherent mutterings were regarded as prophecies or revelations of hidden things. In treating the sick the physicians made use of it to discover the cause of the malady or the person or spirit by whom the patient was bewitched." Mr. Safford quotes Las Casas as saying: "It was an interesting spectacle to witness how they took it and what they spake. The chief began the ceremony and while he was engaged all remained silent .... When he had snuffed up the powder through his nostrils, he remained silent for a while with his head inclined to one side and his arms placed on his knees. Then he raised his face heavenward, uttering certain words which must have been his prayer to the true God, or to him whom he held as God; after which all responded, almost as we do when we say amen; and this they did with a loud voice or sound. Then they gave thanks and said to him certain complimentary things, entreating his benevolence and begging him to reveal to them what he had seen. He described to them his vision, saying that the Cemi [spirits] had spoken to him and had predicted good times or the contrary, or that children were to be born, or to die, or that there was to be some dispute with their neighbors, and other things which might come to his imagination, all disturbed with that intoxication." [9]

Clearly, from the point of view of priests and soothsayers, the place where huilca was first found and used in their incantations would be important. It is not strange to find therefore that the Inca name of this river was Uilca-mayu: the "huilca river." The pampa on this river where the trees grew would likely receive the name Uilca pampa. If it became an important city, then the surrounding region might be named Uilcapampa after it. This seems to me to be the most probable origin of the name of the province. Anyhow it is worth noting the fact that denizens of Cuzco and Ollantaytambo, coming down the river in search of this highly prized narcotic, must have found the first trees not far from Machu Picchu.

Leaving the ruins of Machu Picchu for later investigation, we now pushed on down the Urubamba Valley, crossed the bridge of San Miguel, passed the house of Senor Lizarraga, first of modern Peruvians to write his name on the granite walls of Machu Picchu, and came to the sugar-cane fields of Huadquina. We had now left the temperate zone and entered the tropics.

At Huadquina we were so fortunate as to find that the proprietress of the plantation, Senora Carmen Vargas, and her children, were spending the season here. During the rainy winter months they live in Cuzco, but when summer brings fine weather they come to Huadquina to enjoy the free-and-easy life of the country. They made us welcome, not only with that hospitality to passing travelers which is common to sugar estates all over the world, but gave us real assistance in our explorations. Senora Carmen's estate covers more than two hundred square miles. Huadquina is a splendid example of the ancient patriarchal system. The Indians who come from other parts of Peru to work on the plantation enjoy perquisites and wages unknown elsewhere. Those whose home is on the estate regard Senora Carmen with an affectionate reverence which she well deserves. All are welcome to bring her their troubles. The system goes back to the days when the spiritual, moral, and material welfare of the Indians was entrusted in encomienda to the lords of the repartimiento or allotted territory.

Huadquina once belonged to the Jesuits. They planted the first sugar cane and established the mill. After their expulsion from the Spanish colonies at the end of the eighteenth century, Huadquina was bought by a Peruvian. It was first described in geographical literature by the Count de Sartiges, who stayed here for several weeks in 1834 when on his way to Choqquequirau. He says that the owner of Huadquina "is perhaps the only landed proprietor in the entire world who possesses on his estates all the products of the four parts of the globe. In the different regions of his domain he has wool, hides, horsehair, potatoes, wheat, corn, sugar, coffee, chocolate, coca, many mines of silver-bearing lead, and placers of gold." Truly a royal principality.