CHAPTER XIV. Conservidayoc

When Don Pedro Duque of Santa Aria was helping us to identify places mentioned in Calancha and Ocampo, the references to "Vilcabamba Viejo," or Old Uilcapampa, were supposed by two of his informants to point to a place called Conservidayoc. Don Pedro told us that in 1902 Lopez Torres, who had traveled much in the montana looking for rubber trees, reported the discovery there of the ruins of an Inca city. All of Don Pedro's friends assured us that Conservidayoc was a terrible place to reach. "No one now living had been there." "It was inhabited by savage Indians who would not let strangers enter their villages."

When we reached Paltaybamba, Senor Pancorbo's manager confirmed what we had heard. He said further that an individual named Saavedra lived at Conservidayoc and undoubtedly knew all about the ruins, but was very averse to receiving visitors. Saavedra's house was extremely difficult to find. "No one had been there recently and returned alive." Opinions differed as to how far away it was.

Several days later, while Professor Foote and I were studying the ruins near Rosaspata, Senor Pancorbo, returning from his rubber estate in the San Miguel Valley and learning at Lucma of our presence near by, took great pains to find us and see how we were progressing. When he learned of our intention to search for the ruins of Conservidayoc, he asked us to desist from the attempt. He said Saavedra was "a very powerful man having many Indians under his control and living in grand state, with fifty servants, and not at all desirous of being visited by anybody." The Indians were "of the Campa tribe, very wild and extremely savage. They use poisoned arrows and are very hostile to strangers." Admitting that he had heard there were Inca ruins near Saavedra's station, Senor Pancorbo still begged us not to risk our lives by going to look for them.

By this time our curiosity was thoroughly aroused. We were familiar with the current stories regarding the habits of savage tribes who lived in the montana and whose services were in great demand as rubber gatherers. We had even heard that Indians did not particularly like to work for Senor Pancorbo, who was an energetic, ambitious man, anxious to achieve many things, results which required more laborers than could easily be obtained. We could readily believe there might possibly be Indians at Conservidayoc who had escaped from the rubber estate of San Miguel. Undoubtedly, Senor Pancorbo's own life would have been at the mercy of their poisoned arrows. All over the Amazon Basin the exigencies of rubber gatherers had caused tribes visited with impunity by the explorers of the nineteenth century to become so savage and revengeful as to lead them to kill all white men at sight.

Professor Foote and I considered the matter in all its aspects. We finally came to the conclusion that in view of the specific reports regarding the presence of Inca ruins at Conservidayoc we could not afford to follow the advice of the friendly planter. We must at least make an effort to reach them, meanwhile taking every precaution to avoid arousing the enmity of the powerful Saavedra and his savage retainers.

On the day following our arrival at the town of Vilcabamba, the gobernador, Condore, taking counsel with his chief assistant, had summoned the wisest Indians living in the vicinity, including a very picturesque old fellow whose name, Quispi Cusi, was strongly reminiscent of the days of Titu Cusi. It was explained to him that this was a very solemn occasion and that an official inquiry was in progress. He took off his hat - but not his knitted cap - and endeavored to the best of his ability to answer our questions about the surrounding country. It was he who said that the Inca Tupac Amaru once lived at Rosaspata. He had never heard of Uilcapampa Viejo, but he admitted that there were ruins in the montana near Conservidayoc. Other Indians were questioned by Condore. Several had heard of the ruins of Conservidayoc, but, apparently, none of them, nor any one in the village, had actually seen the ruins or visited their immediate vicinity. They all agreed that Saavedra's place was "at least four days' hard journey on foot in the montana beyond Pampaconas." No village of that name appeared on any map of Peru, although it is frequently mentioned in the documents of the sixteenth century. Rodriguez de Figueroa, who came to seek an audience with Titu Cusi about 1565, says that he met Titu Cusi at a place called Banbaconas. He says further that the Inca came there from somewhere down in the dense forests of the montana and presented him with a macaw and two hampers of peanuts - products of a warm region.

We had brought with us the large sheets of Raimondi's invaluable map which covered this locality. We also had the new map of South Peru and North Bolivia which had just been published by the Royal Geographical Society and gave a summary of all available information. The Indians said that Conservidayoc lay in a westerly direction from Vilcabamba, yet on Raimondi's map all of the rivers which rise in the mountains west of the town are short affluents of the Apurimac and flow southwest. We wondered whether the stories about ruins at Conservidayoc would turn out to be as barren of foundation as those we had heard from the trustworthy foreman at Huadquina. One of our informants said the Inca city was called Espiritu Pampa, or the "Pampa of Ghosts." Would the ruins turn out to be "ghosts"? Would they vanish on the arrival of white men with cameras and steel measuring tapes?