South America: Peeps at Many Lands - Edith A. Browne

Round and About the Inca Country (Continued)

Progressive ideals are popular amongst the well-educated, enterprising citizens of La Paz, with the result that the Bolivian capital can boast many features of modern civilization, such as fine public buildings, electric light, and a very good tramway service. Amongst the public buildings, the Museum, with its wonderful collection of Inca antiquities, has the greatest attraction for strangers. But, fortunately, progress has not despoiled La Paz in making a museum collection of quaint and interesting relics; the city itself not only has the charm of a uniquely picturesque site, but the fascination that springs from the survival of old-world customs in the life of the populace and from buildings that charge the atmosphere with the romance of a past civilization. The streets are very steep, and, in addition to the exertion of hill-climbing, the rarefied air of this high situation gets everyone into the habit of walking leisurely. As visitors, we find in the street-scenes of everyday life many other and much greater temptations to dawdle.

On market-days the blaze of colour in La Paz out-rivals the kaleidoscopic splendour of an Oriental bazaar. The Indians squat by the roadside, Eastern fashion, beside their wares. The national garment, the poncho—a length of material with a hole in the middle, through which it is slipped over the head—is everywhere in evidence. As a rule the natives wear their whole wardrobe of ponchos, the newest one on top and the older ones below, in order of age; hence their strata of draperies, in magenta, orange, green, blue, purple, scarlet, or some other selection from amidst every possible colour, produce the most brilliant rainbow effects. Side by side with tempting everyday supplies, such as fruits of various kinds, rolls of coarsish homespun cloth, toy llamas for the children, multicoloured woollen caps of fisherman pattern, with flaps to cover the ears, woollen mittens, in which nursery pictures are interwoven, and woollen masks for protecting the face against the bitter cold winds that blow over the mountains, there are many luxurious articles, such as vicuna-skin rugs and finespun alpaca goods, that tug at our heart-strings and purse-strings.

From La Paz an excursion can be made in a day to the pre-Inca ruins of Tiahuanaco. A week at least must be allowed for the trip to Cuzco, but lovers and students of antiquities will want to devote a considerably longer time to that ancient city.

The one thing that the Bolivian capital requires to complete its equipment as an ideal tourist resort is a modern hotel. The well-planned, well-furnished, well-managed houses of the upper-class citizens, who so generously and courteously extend hospitality to us, make home-life stand out in striking contrast to the roughing-it conditions of the best accommodation that money can procure for the traveller.

From La Paz we journey to the coast by a third Trans-Andine route. By train we are switch-backed over mountain-tops to Guaqui, on the southern shores of Lake Titicaca. Across a 4,000 mile area of fresh water, situated at a height of 12,450 feet above the sea, we are transported by a comfortable steamer to Puno, on the northern shores of the lake. Both for purposes of warfare and peaceful trading, the Incas sailed these waters in boats made of reeds. We see numbers of the present-day natives of yonder historic shores in boats that are an exact copy of the primitive craft used by their ancestors.

From Puno we go by train to Mollendo, whence we make the voyage to Callao, the port of Lima, on a palatial steamer, one of the fine fleet of vessels by which the Pacific Steam Navigation Company maintains a fortnightly service, outwards and homewards, between England and the West Coast of South America.

Cathedral in Lima


There is much talk on board about revolutionary disturbances that are going on in and around the Peruvian capital. Some of our fellow-passengers have already decided not to set foot on shore at Callao. We are not in a hurry to change our plans, for have we not had some amusing experiences of South American revolutions? When we voyaged up the coast of Brazil with some Federal troops who were being sent to the scene of a revolution, did we not hear that those troops, and therefore our ship, were likely to be fired at upon reaching a certain port? And you remember how, instead of bullets, a brass band came out to the ship to greet those troops?

We land at Callao—prospect, and find that, for the moment, at any rate, the port is peacefully busy—make inquiries, and learn that, according to the latest morning's report, the rebels at Lima are taking a holiday; so we jump into a tram, and within half an hour we are in the old capital of Spanish South America.

Prominent among the many attractions of Lima are the Cathedral, where the remains of Pizarro are preserved; the old Hall of the Inquisition; and many fine old Spanish houses, convents, and churches. Among the modern sights are numerous fine public buildings—some of them show signs of having suffered rather badly in the fray that took place a couple of days ago—and the Paseo Colon, the fashionable promenade.