CHAPTER XV. The Pampa of Ghosts

Two days later we left Conservidayoc for Espiritu Pampa by the trail which Saavedra's son and our Pampaconas Indians had been clearing. We emerged from the thickets near a promontory where there was a fine view down the valley and particularly of a heavily wooded alluvial fan just below us. In it were two or three small clearings and the little oval huts of the savages of Espiritu Pampa, the "Pampa of Ghosts."

On top of the promontory was the ruin of a small, rectangular building of rough stone, once probably an Inca watch-tower. From here to Espiritu Pampa our trail followed an ancient stone stairway, about four feet in width and nearly a third of a mile long. It was built of uncut stones. Possibly it was the work of those soldiers whose chief duty it was to watch from the top of the promontory and who used their spare time making roads. We arrived at the principal clearing just as a heavy thunder-shower began. The huts were empty. Obviously their occupants had seen us coming and had disappeared in the jungle. We hesitated to enter the home of a savage without an invitation, but the terrific downpour overcame our scruples, if not our nervousness. The hut had a steeply pitched roof. Its sides were made of small logs driven endwise into the ground and fastened together with vines. A small fire had been burning on the ground. Near the embers were two old black ollas of Inca origin.

In the little chacra, cassava, coca, and sweet potatoes were growing in haphazard fashion among charred and fallen tree trunks; a typical milpa farm. In the clearing were the ruins of eighteen or twenty circular houses arranged in an irregular group. We wondered if this could be the "Inca city" which Lopez Torres had reported. Among the ruins we picked up several fragments of Inca pottery. There was nothing Incaic about the buildings. One was rectangular and one was spade-shaped, but all the rest were round. The buildings varied in diameter from fifteen to twenty feet. Each had but a single opening. The walls had tumbled down, but gave no evidence of careful construction. Not far away, in woods which had not yet been cleared by the savages, we found other circular walls. They were still standing to a height of about four feet. If the savages have extended their milpa clearings since our visit, the falling trees have probably spoiled these walls by now. The ancient village probably belonged to a tribe which acknowledged allegiance to the Incas, but the architecture of the buildings gave no indication of their having been constructed by the Incas themselves. We began to wonder whether the "Pampa of Ghosts" really had anything important in store for us. Undoubtedly this alluvial fan had been highly prized in this country of terribly steep hills. It must have been inhabited, off and on, for many centuries. Yet this was not an "Inca city."

While we were wondering whether the Incas themselves ever lived here, there suddenly appeared the naked figure of a sturdy young savage, armed with a stout bow and long arrows, and wearing a fillet of bamboo. He had been hunting and showed us a bird he had shot. Soon afterwards there came the two adult savages we had met at Saavedra's, accompanied by a cross-eyed friend, all wearing long tunics. They offered to guide us to other ruins. It was very difficult for us to follow their rapid pace. Half an hour's scramble through the jungle brought us to a pampa or natural terrace on the banks of a little tributary of the Pampaconas. They called it Eromboni. Here we found several old artificial terraces and the rough foundations of a long, rectangular building 192 feet by 24 feet. It might have had twenty-four doors, twelve in front and twelve in back, each three and a half feet wide. No lintels were in evidence. The walls were only a foot high. There was very little building material in sight. Apparently the structure had never been completed. Near by was a typical Inca fountain with three stone spouts, or conduits. Two hundred yards beyond the water-carrier's rendezvous, hidden behind a curtain of hanging vines and thickets so dense we could not see more than a few feet in any direction, the savages showed us the ruins of a group of stone houses whose walls were still standing in fine condition.

One of the buildings was rounded at one end. Another, standing by itself at the south end of a little pampa, had neither doors nor windows. It was rectangular. Its four or five niches were arranged with unique irregularity. Furthermore, they were two feet deep, an unusual dimension. Probably this was a storehouse. On the east side of the pampa was a structure, 120 feet long by 21 feet wide, divided into five rooms of unequal size. The walls were of rough stones laid in adobe. Like some of the Inca buildings at Ollantaytambo, the lintels of the doors were made of three or four narrow uncut ashlars. Some rooms had niches. On the north side of the pampa was another rectangular building. On the west side was the edge of a stone-faced terrace. Below it was a partly enclosed fountain or bathhouse, with a stone spout and a stone-lined basin. The shapes of the houses, their general arrangement, the niches, stone roof-pegs and lintels, all point to Inca builders. In the buildings we picked up several fragments of Inca pottery.

Equally interesting and very puzzling were half a dozen crude Spanish roofing tiles, baked red. All the pieces and fragments we could find would not have covered four square feet. They were of widely different sizes, as though some one had been experimenting. Perhaps an Inca who had seen the new red tiled roofs of Cuzco had tried to reproduce them here in the jungle, but without success.

At dusk we all returned to Espiritu Pampa. Our faces, hands, and clothes had been torn by the jungle; our feet were weary and sore. Nevertheless the day's work had been very satisfactory and we prepared to enjoy a good night's rest. Alas, we were doomed to disappointment. During the day some one had brought to the hut eight tame but noisy macaws. Furthermore, our savage helpers determined to make the night hideous with cries, tom-toms, and drums, either to discourage the visits of hostile Indians or jaguars, or for the purpose of exorcising the demons brought by the white men, or else to cheer up their families, who were undoubtedly hiding in the jungle near by.

The next day the savages and our carriers continued to clear away as much as possible of the tangled growth near the best ruins. In this process, to the intense surprise not only of ourselves, but also of the savages, they discovered, just below the "bathhouse" where we had stood the day before, the well-preserved ruins of two buildings of superior construction, well fitted with stone-pegs and numerous niches, very symmetrically arranged. These houses stood by themselves on a little artificial terrace. Fragments of characteristic Inca pottery were found on the floor, including pieces of a large aryballus.

Nothing gives a better idea of the density of the jungle than the fact that the savages themselves had often been within five feet of these fine walls without being aware of their existence.

Encouraged by this important discovery of the most characteristic Inca ruins found in the valley, we continued the search, but all that any one was able to find was a carefully built stone bridge over a brook. Saavedra's son questioned the savages carefully. They said they knew of no other antiquities. Who built the stone buildings of Espiritu Pampa and Eromboni Pampa? Was this the "Vilcabamba Viejo" of Father Calancha, that "University of Idolatry where lived the teachers who were wizards and masters of abomination," the place to which Friar Marcos and Friar Diego went with so much suffering? Was there formerly on this trail a place called Ungacacha where the monks had to wade, and amused Titu Cusi by the way they handled their monastic robes in the water? They called it a "three days' journey over rough country." Another reference in Father Calancha speaks of Puquiura as being "two long days' journey from Vilcabamba." It took us five days to go from Espiritu Pampa to Pucyura, although Indians, unencumbered by burdens, and spurred on by necessity, might do it in three. It is possible to fit some other details of the story into this locality, although there is no place on the road called Ungacacha. Nevertheless it does not seem to me reasonable to suppose that the priests and Virgins of the Sun (the personnel of the "University of Idolatry") who fled from cold Cuzco with Manco and were established by him somewhere in the fastnesses of Uilcapampa would have cared to live in the hot valley of Espiritu Pampa. The difference in climate is as great as that between Scotland and Egypt, or New York and Havana. They would not have found in Espiritu Pampa the food which they liked. Furthermore, they could have found the seclusion and safety which they craved just as well in several other parts of the province, particularly at Machu Picchu, together with a cool, bracing climate and food-stuffs more nearly resembling those to which they were accustomed. Finally Calancha says "Vilcabamba the Old" was "the largest city" in the province, a term far more applicable to Machu Picchu or even to Choqquequirau than to Espiritu Pampa.

On the other hand there seems to be no doubt that Espiritu Pampa in the montana does meet the requirements of the place called Vilcabamba by the companions of Captain Garcia. They speak of it as the town and valley to which Tupac Amaru, the last Inca, escaped after his forces lost the "young fortress" of Uiticos. Ocampo, doubtless wishing to emphasize the difference between it and his own metropolis, the Spanish town of Vilcabamba, calls the refuge of Tupac "Vilcabamba the old." Ocampo's new "Vilcabamba" was not in existence when Friar Marcos and Friar Diego lived in this province. If Calancha wrote his chronicles from their notes, the term "old" would not apply to Espiritu Pampa, but to an older Vilcabamba than either of the places known to Ocampo.

The ruins are of late Inca pattern, not of a kind which would have required a long period to build. The unfinished building may have been under construction during the latter part of the reign of Titu Cusi. It was Titu Cusi's desire that Rodriguez de Figueroa should meet him at Pampaconas. The Inca evidently came from a Vilcabamba down in the montana, and, as has been said, brought Rodriguez a present of a macaw and two hampers of peanuts, articles of trade still common at Conservidayoc. There appears to me every reason to believe that the ruins of Espiritu Pampa are those of one of the favorite residences of this Inca - the very Vilcabamba, in fact, where he spent his boyhood and from which he journeyed to meet Rodriguez in 1565. [13]

In 1572, when Captain Garcia took up the pursuit of Tupac Amaru after the victory of Vilcabamba, the Inca fled "inland toward the valley of Sima-ponte ... to the country of the Manaries Indians, a warlike tribe and his friends, where balsas and canoes were posted to save him and enable him to escape." There is now no valley in this vicinity called Simaponte, so far as we have been able to discover. The Manaries Indians are said to have lived on the banks of the lower Urubamba. In order to reach their country Tupac Amaru probably went down the Pampaconas from Espiritu Pampa. From the "Pampa of Ghosts" to canoe navigation would have been but a short journey. Evidently his friends who helped him to escape were canoe-men. Captain Garcia gives an account of the pursuit of Tupac Amaru in which he says that, not deterred by the dangers of the jungle or the river, he constructed five rafts on which he put some of his soldiers and, accompanying them himself, went down the rapids, escaping death many times by swimming, until he arrived at a place called Momori, only to find that the Inca, learning of his approach, had gone farther into the woods. Nothing daunted, Garcia followed him, although he and his men now had to go on foot and barefooted, with hardly anything to eat, most of their provisions having been lost in the river, until they finally caught Tupac and his friends; a tragic ending to a terrible chase, hard on the white man and fatal for the Incas.

It was with great regret that I was now unable to follow the Pampaconas River to its junction with the Urubamba. It seemed possible that the Pampaconas might be known as the Sirialo, or the Cori-beni, both of which were believed by Dr. Bowman's canoe-men to rise in the mountains of Vilcabamba. It was not, however, until the summer of 1915 that we were able definitely to learn that the Pampaconas was really a branch of the Cosireni. It seems likely that the Cosireni was once called the "Sima-ponte." Whether the Comberciato is the "Momori" is hard to say.

To be the next to follow in the footsteps of Tupac Amaru and Captain Garcia was the privilege of Messrs. Heller, Ford, and Maynard. They found that the unpleasant features had not been exaggerated. They were tormented by insects and great quantities of ants - a small red ant found on tree trunks, and a large black one, about an inch in length, frequently seen among the leaves on the ground. The bite of the red ant caused a stinging and burning for about fifteen minutes. One of their carriers who was bitten in the foot by a black ant suffered intense pain for a number of hours. Not only his foot, but also his leg and hip were affected. The savages were both fishermen and hunters; the fish being taken with nets, the game killed with bows and arrows. Peccaries were shot from a blind made of palm leaves a few feet from a runway. Fishing brought rather meager results. Three Indians fished all night and caught only one fish, a perch weighing about four pounds.

The temperature was so high that candles could easily be tied in knots. Excessive humidity caused all leather articles to become blue with mould. Clouds of flies and mosquitoes increased the likelihood of spreading communicable jungle fevers.

The river Comberciato was reached by Mr. Heller at a point not more than a league from its junction with the Urubamba. The lower course of the Comberciato is not considered dangerous to canoe navigation, but the valley is much narrower than the Cosireni. The width of the river is about 150 feet and its volume is twice that of the Cosireni. The climate is very trying. The nights are hot. Insect pests are numerous. Mr. Heller found that "the forest was filled with annoying, though sting-less, bees which persisted in attempting to roost on the countenance of any human being available." On the banks of the Comberciato he found several families of savages. All the men were keen hunters and fishermen. Their weapons consisted of powerful bows made from the wood of a small palm and long arrows made of reeds and finished with feathers arranged in a spiral.

Monkeys were abundant. Specimens of six distinct genera were found, including the large red howler, inert and easily located by its deep, roaring bellow which can be heard for a distance of several miles; the giant black spider monkey, very alert, and, when frightened, fairly flying through the branches at astonishing speed; and a woolly monkey, black in color, and very intelligent in expression, frequently tamed by the savages, who "enjoy having them as pets but are not averse to eating them when food is scarce." "The flesh of monkeys is greatly appreciated by these Indians, who preserved what they did not require for immediate needs by drying it over the smoke of a wood fire."

On the Cosireni Mr. Maynard noticed that one of his Indian guides carried a package, wrapped in leaves, which on being opened proved to contain forty or fifty large hairless grubs or caterpillars. The man finally bit their heads off and threw the bodies into a small bag, saying that the grubs were considered a great delicacy by the savages.

The Indians we met at Espiritu Pampa closely resembled those seen in the lower valley. All our savages were bareheaded and barefooted. They live so much in the shelter of the jungle that hats are not necessary. Sandals or shoes would only make it harder to use the slippery little trails. They had seen no strangers penetrate this valley for about ten years, and at first kept their wives and children well secluded. Later, when Messrs. Hendriksen and Tucker were sent here to determine the astronomical position of Espiritu Pampa, the savages permitted Mr. Tucker to take photographs of their families. Perhaps it is doubtful whether they knew just what he was doing. At all events they did not run away and hide.

All the men and older boys wore white fillets of bamboo. The married men had smeared paint on their faces, and one of them was wearing the characteristic lip ornament of the Campas. Some of the children wore no clothing at all. Two of the wives wore long tunics like the men. One of them had a truly savage face, daubed with paint. She wore no fillet, had the best tunic, and wore a handsome necklace made of seeds and the skins of small birds of brilliant plumage, a work of art which must have cost infinite pains and the loss of not a few arrows. All the women carried babies in little hammocks slung over the shoulder. One little girl, not more than six years old, was carrying on her back a child of two, in a hammock supported from her head by a tump-line. It will be remembered that forest Indians nearly always use tump-lines so as to allow their hands free play. One of the wives was fairer than the others and looked as though she might have had a Spanish ancestor. The most savage-looking of the women was very scantily clad, wore a necklace of seeds, a white lip ornament, and a few rags tied around her waist. All her children were naked. The children of the woman with the handsome necklace were clothed in pieces of old tunics, and one of them, evidently her mother's favorite, was decorated with bird skins and a necklace made from the teeth of monkeys.

Such were the people among whom Tupac Amaru took refuge when he fled from Vilcabamba. Whether he partook of such a delicacy as monkey meat, which all Amazonian Indians relish, but which is not eaten by the highlanders, may be doubted. Garcilasso speaks of Tupac Amaru's preferring to entrust himself to the hands of the Spaniards "rather than to perish of famine." His Indian allies lived perfectly well in a region where monkeys abound. It is doubtful whether they would ever have permitted Captain Garcia to capture the Inca had they been able to furnish Tupac with such food as he was accustomed to.

At all events our investigations seem to point to the probability of this valley having been an important part of the domain of the last Incas. It would have been pleasant to prolong our studies, but the carriers were anxious to return to Pampaconas. Although they did not have to eat monkey meat, they were afraid of the savages and nervous as to what use the latter might some day make of the powerful bows and long arrows.

At Conservidayoc Saavedra kindly took the trouble to make some sugar for us. He poured the syrup in oblong moulds cut in a row along the side of a big log of hard wood. In some of the moulds his son placed handfuls of nicely roasted peanuts. The result was a confection or "emergency ration" which we greatly enjoyed on our return journey.

At San Fernando we met the pack mules. The next day, in the midst of continuing torrential tropical downpours, we climbed out of the hot valley to the cold heights of Pampaconas. We were soaked with perspiration and drenched with rain. Snow had been falling above the village; our teeth chattered like castanets. Professor Foote immediately commandeered Mrs. Guzman's fire and filled our tea kettle. It may be doubted whether a more wretched, cold, wet, and bedraggled party ever arrived at Guzman's hut; certainly nothing ever tasted better than that steaming hot sweet tea.