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Travels and Adventures 


Orchid Hunter. 

An Account of Canoe and Camp Life in Colombia, 
while Collecting Orchids in the Northern eludes. 
















Tins Book aims at representing to the reader, and 
especially the lover of orchids, the circumstances under 
which these plants are found in the north of South 
America, as well as being a guide to the traveller in 
Colombia and the West Indies; besides endeavouring 
to set forth the natural riches of the country and the 
manners of the various classes of people, from the 
wild Indian of the forest to the polished and edu- 
cated senator of the Court. 

It is not a missionary's report, nor a traveller's 
diary, nor a student's compilation, but a narrative of 
things seen and experienced by me while travelling 
with natives through the forest, sharing with them the 
hospitality of the wayside hut or the forest shelter and 
the camp-fire, as well as the more agreeable life of 
hotels and towns. The information contained in this 
volume has been gathered over a period of four 
years, during which I have made five journeys to 
the orchid districts of South America, the time 

viii Preface. 

occupied being generally from the month of October 
to the month of July. 

The greater part of the illustrations are from 
photographs taken by me, more especially those of 
the plant pictures in the forest. Both plant-collectors 
and dealers have doubted the possibility of this, 
because they have not before been able successfully 
to photograph Odontoglossum Alexandra: on its native 
trees, or the native means used to drag the plants 
from their cold, damp Andean home. But, as I still 
hold the original negatives, I shall be pleased to show 
them to any unbeliever. 

In a work of illustrations like this, there is much 
which the amateur photographer must leave to be 
finished by the skilful artist. This has been entrusted 
to the hands of Gustave Gu^eenheim. 




On Board the Phantom— Fellow-Passengers— A Squall 
— The Azores — Barbadoes — Bridgetown — Negro 
Divers— The Vegetation— The Ice-house i 


Bound for Trinidad— The Bocas— The Island Prison— 
A Coolie Depot— Port of Spain— The Savanna— A 
Colonial Cricket Match— Island of Margarita— La 
Guayra — Landing 15 


The La Guayra and Caracas Railway— Tunnels— Bridgi - 
—Appearance of the City — Buildings — Ca ttleya 

Mossi/e — Life Assurance — Fine Scenery — Puerto 
Cabello— Public Gardens— Railway to Valencia- 
Sentinels in the State Prison — Ex Route for 
CuRAgoA— Marine Politeness— Omnibus Boats— The 
Language 25 

x Contents. 



Sailing to Barranquilla— Snow Mountains of Santa 
Marta — Delta of River Magi >ai.ena — Steam-Tug 
Funza— Landing at Sa vanilla— Salgar Station— The 
Custom House — Hotel Francais — Barranquilla — 
Native Currency 3 6 

A River Steamboat— Washerwomen— Passengers— The 
Food— Bedroom— A Native Village— Canoes— Alli- 
gators— Puerto Wilches— The Iguana— Native Guides 48 


Vegetation — Monkeys— Our Camp— Crossing Rivers — A 
Lonely Hut— A Dried-up Lake— A Thunderstorm in 
the Forest— A View Two Hundred Miles— Las 
Mercedes— A Coffee Plantation— Making Raw Sugar 66 


Canoe Life on the Lebrija — Water-fowl — Estacion 
Santander— Alligator Hunting— We Start up the 
River — Fishing - Making Palm Wine — A Peccary 
Hunt — Finding Turtles 3 Eggs — Midnight on the 
River-Bank 80 


Shooting the Rapids— A Fish Race— Port Botijas — 
Bi caramanga- Pie de Cuesta— The Home of Cattleya 
Mendelii — Taking the Condor — River Subi — 
Humming-birds 100 

Contents. xi 



In search ok Odontoglossum Orispum- A Hundred 
Miles' Mule Ride— Mountain Villages— The Chur< h 
of the Pilgrims — Salt Mine— The Savanna oi Bogota 
—Suburb of Bogota — Chap inero — P arks and Buildings 
— Elevation — Population — Monuments — Makki.i 
Waterfall— El Tequendama 119 


Pacho— Coal-mines— Vegetation Twelve Thousand Fki i 
above Sea-level— Birds— Orchid Forest— Emerald 
Mines — In Search of Cattleya Warscewiczii — 
Village of La P alma — Butterflies — Odontoglossum 



Port of Honda— Descending the River Magdalena— 
Puerto Berrio — Chesterton's Grave — The Opon 
District— In Search of Odontoglossum Vexillarium 
—Bad State of the River— Fight with Wild Indians 
Death of Native— Poisoned Weapons . . . .159 


Expedition to Explore San Lucas— Inland Lake— Gold 
Mines — Simiti — Life in the Forest— Scarcity of 
Food— A Forest of Alocasias— Return to Simiti 
The Santo Domingo River— Savannas of San Luis— A 
Jaguar Hunt . ■ • . *7J 

xii Contents. 



The Spoonbills — Bread-fruit — Harpooning Fish — Epiden- 
drums— Adventure with Hunter Snake — Legend of 
the Gold Mines — Tailor-birds— Stalking Jaguars- 
Arrival in Barranouilla 188 


On Board the Essequibo — Carthagena — Colon — Panama 

— Kingston, Jamaica— Haiti— Back to England . . 206 


To face page 


Cattleya Mexdelii, var. Empress of India 
A Barbadian Regiment 
A Barbadian Soldier .... 
Sugar Mill, Barbadoes 

The Bocas 

Port of Spain, Trinidad 

An Avenue of Palms, Trinidad 

Tunnel on the La Guayra and Caracas 


Salgar . . . . . 

Town of Barranquilla 

A Street in Barranquilla . 

Colombian Ladies in a Carnival Dress 

A Magdalen a Steamboat 

Native Laundry of Barranquilla . 

Bedstead with Mosquito-net used on the Magdalena Steamboat. 

Waiting to Sell on the Banks of the Magdalena 

Ready to Enter the Forest To face page 

Bush Turkey 

Colombian Forest Scene To face page 

Coffee-drying . . . . 

The Litile Egret • 

estacion santander 

Native Boatman • 

To face page 
To face page 

To face page 

To face page 



xiv List of Illustrations. 


After the Alligator Hunt 89 

Canoe and Boatmen of the River Lebrija 90 

On the River Lebrija 93 

Finding Turtles' Egos 97 

Fish-scale (Natural Size) 102 

Plaza and Market-place, Bucaramanga . . . To face page 105 

Doctor Aurelio Mutis 109 

Plaza of Pie de Cuesta in 

Cattleya Mendelii in the Forest .... To face page 118 

On the Track Over hie Andes .... To face page 121 

The City of Bogota To face page 127 

A Street in Bogota . . .127 

Bronze Statue to Simon Bolivar 131 

Lady in Mantilla ." 132 

Colom p.ian Soldier 133 

Dr. Nunez 136 

Waterfall El Tequendama To face page 138 

Roadside Vegetation, on the Road from Bogota. To face page 141 
Sword-bill Humming-bird (Docimastes ensiferus) Feeding on 

the Flower of the Datura depressa 146 

toglossum crispum To face page 146 

Native Dinner-time To face page 149 

By the Camp-fire in the Odontoglossum Forest \ Between 

Depot of Three Thousand Odontoglossum crispum ) pages 150 and 151 
Native Workman in the Odontoglossum Districts . . .150 

Emerald Mink, with Natives Working . . . To face page 153 
Water-washing Process in the Emerald Mine . . . .153 

Bamboo Bridge on the Road to La Palma 155 

EIow Colombians Travei 160 

Ferry Used on the Magdalena River, called La Barqueta, at 

Honda 161 

Mjltonia Vexillaria 164 

Camp on River Opon 165 

List of Illustr 

Wild Indian, Opon Territory . 

Poisoned Arrows and Spears Used by tii 

On Lake Simiti 

Old Spanish Church, Simiti 

Digging for Gold 

Gold Miners' Huts .... 
The Cock of the Rock 
Provision -carriers on the March 
A Critical Moment .... 
After the Jaguar Hunt 
Native Mode of Harpooning Fish . 
The Crested Curassow {Cra.y alector) 
A Street in Bodega Central . 

Puerto Colombia 


Marble Pulpit, Carthagena 
Street in Colon Before the Fire . 
Iron Safe Left After Fire in Colon 
A Street in Kingston 
Deck of the Tagus .... 


7o faa 
e Opon Indians 

To fac 
To fac 

• page 

e page 


















V^jAVING fully made up my 
mind for a lone sea- 
voyage, and taken my 
ticket for anywhere and 
everywhere beyond the 
seas, I provided myself 
with a stock of knives, 
cutlasses, revolvers, rifle, 
an overflowing supply of 
tobacco and newspapers, 
and started on the third 

Saturday of the eighth month of Her Majesty Queen 

Victoria's Jubilee year. 


2 Travels and Adventures 

After the usual ceremony of tipping railway porters 
and cab-drivers I went on board the steam-tug Sun- 
shine, taking passengers and mails from the Princess 
Landing Stage, Liverpool, for embarkation on the 
Celestial Company's steamship Phantom, then bound 
for the Spanish Main. A few minutes' sail brought 
us alongside the Phantom, where after a careful in- 
spection of the eating-saloon, cabins, water filters, etc., 
by my unhappy relatives, who consisted ,of several 
maiden aunts, fifth-cousins, and godchildren, they 
eventually said "Good-bye," and, as if to drive home 
the old-fashioned words, each gave me at parting a 
remorseless hup-. 

No sooner had the Sunshine re-embarked her 
living freight of weeping relatives, overgrown ships' 
agents, and postmen, than a shrill screech from the 
funnel of the Sunshine, echoed back by a dull crunch- 
ing sound from the screw of the Phantom, announced 
to all on board that we were in a fair way for a 
separation for an indefinite period from wives and 
sweethearts, as well as the soothing associations of an 
English fireside. 

The Phantom, although only a small ship of 200 
tons burden, soon showed her superiority of sailing 
over her other river companions by passing many 
large ships, which seemed to me to be encumbered by 
a superfluous arrangement of poles and white cotton ; 

of an Orchid Hunter. 2 

and it was not long- before the white-crested rollers 
of the ocean showed us that the mud-banks of the 
Mersey were left far behind. 

On looking round for what society the ship af- 
forded I found Spratt, the captain, an excellent fellow, 
who, besides the valuable information acquired by 
a long experience in and out of almost every port 
on the surface of the globe, possessed a good vein 
of humour — not at all despisable under the circum- 
stances. Besides, he was not mven to borine his 
companions in conversation with a long history of how 
many of those remarkable beings called lords, earls, 
dukes, marquesses, etc., he had safely piloted over the 
Atlantic. I also noticed two of the passengers : the 
one a stout, burly gentleman, of from forty-five to fifty 
years of age, to all appearances a retired sea captain (it 
might have been of a slave-trader) ; the other a delicate 
lady of eighteen — a beauty with the figure of a Venus 
and the features of a nymph, and a pair of large, 
black fathomless eyes that would grace an Andalusian, 
whose melancholy was softened by dimpled cheeks of 
the most delicate peach-bloom, the whole framed with 
a rich profusion of waving raven hair, a glance at 
which was sufficient to give you the impression that 
you had the pleasure of seeing a beautiful woman. A 
casual observer would imagine that the relationship 
between the elderly gentleman and the fair young 

4 Travels and Adventures 

lady was that of father and daughter, or guardian 
and ward. Imagine my surprise when at lunch-time 
I heard bald-headed Mr. Sharpies inquire, " Can I 
help you to a little of this fish, Mrs. Sharpies ? " As 
I looked across the table I thought I detected a slight 
shrug of the fair shoulders, and the melancholy of the 
melancholy eyes intensify. There might be some- 
thing of sorrow hid behind so extraordinary a union ! 
However, all the explanation that ever I had was 
contained in the underside of the lid of a work-basket, 
where, accidentally, I saw stitched, in letters of com- 
fort, " Better be an old man's darling than a young 
man's slave." 

As we steamed slowly away from land each one on 
board seemed to linger on deck to watch the grey line 
of cliffs grow more faint and undistinguishable until 
finally nothing was left to us of Old England but 
cherished recollections — and night throwing her dusky 
mantle over all, those who could began to seek asylum 
in their cabins, glad to escape from the weariness of 
a long day's excitement, the beautiful calm of the sea 
reassuring even the most timid. And now, for the 
benefit of those who are not accustomed to ship's bed- 
room furniture, let me endeavour to describe that 
in use on the Phantom. The bedsteads, commonly 
dubbed with the unceremonious titles of bunks, are 
really large shelves, two in each room, one placed 

of an Orchid Hunter. g 

above the other; the lower one about two feet from 
the floor and the other about four feet, very much re- 
minding one of the shelves used in larders for jam, 
&c, except that each shelf is provided with a high 
edge, being a board about a foot and a half wide ; 
this, with the four-feet distance from the floor, renders 
it absolutely indispensable for the occupant of the top 
shelf to perform night and morning, or as often as 
required, a no very desirable feat of gymnastics in 
order to place himself behind the side of the shelf. 
Apart from this stiffness in the bedsteads, everything 
seemed to be made on an opposite principle, water- 
bottles, candlesticks, towel-rails, etc., being suspended 
with as many joints as would lead one to imagine that 
each had emanated from a school of en^ineerine where 
the application of the ball-and-socket was a speciality. 
However, after the foregoing inventory of my bedroom 
furniture and a marvellous triumph of agility that I 
really never gave myself credit for, I managed to 
scramble safely on to one of the shelves, the lower one, 
as may be supposed, where, after some dim visions of 
shipwreck, pirates, and cannibal islands, I slept soundly 
until six o'clock next morning, and I was only awakened 
by an extraordinary motion alternately elevating my 
head and heels above the level of my body. Hastily 
dressing and going on deck, I found that through the 
night a strong head-wind had arisen, whipping the sea 

6 Travels and Adventures 

into large foam-crested rolling billows and making our 
little Phantom swing and dance in a way that would 
put a switchback railway in the shade. One side of 
the ship would suddenly dive down until the top of 
her deck touched the water, while the other side was 
high in the air at an elevation of thirty feet, and this, 
in turn, would descend with a splash and a roar; at the 
same time several tons of salt water would sweep 
across her upper decks, and as quickly, with the change 
of position, blow over the side, this continual vibration 
being kept up for a period of not less than four days and 
four nights, sufficient to convince nervous people not 
accustomed to seafaring peculiarities that the owners 
of the Phantom had secretly entered into a contract 
with the society for the development of the theory of 
perpetual motion. This unwarrantable infringement 
of the commonest laws of equilibrium materially af- 
fected the comfortable enjoyment of a bill of fare 
which, although really good for the situation, was not 
absolutely free from that inevitable repetition of cer- 
tain dishes to commemorate clays of the week. For 
instance, pea-soup Wednesdays and Fridays, plum- 
dough Sundays and Thursdays, a regularity strangely 
peculiar to gaols, workhouses, and barracks, and a 
system by which sailors mark the days of the week 
without the assistance of Whitaker. 

1 he table was provided with two long laths, which. 

of an Orchid Hunter. 7 

extended the whole length of each side at a sufficient 
distance from each other to admit of a plate being 
firmly wedged between the two, leaving room at 
the corners for all indispensable table utensils. The 
dishes containing the food were arranged in a line 
along the middle of the table, each dish partitioned off 
from his neighbour by a capacious bolster of serviettes ; 
but even this contrivance did not prevent the chicken 
from dexterously changing places with the sardines, 
or the butter becoming irretrievably mixed with the 
curry, in a way which, even considering the extraor- 
dinary motion of the ship, appeared perfectly ludi- 
crous. An attempt to avoid an overbalance by 
clutching your chair with both hands (which chair, 
by the way, is screwed securely to the floor) would 
result in the upsetting of a cup of hot coffee into your 
lap, or the inundation of your plate by the contents 
of an adjoining water-bottle. 

On retiring to my cabin in the evening, I was 
greeted from the surrounding partitions with most 
unearthly sounds of choking. On inquiry, I was in- 
formed that all the ladies on board had been attacked 
with that uncomfortable disorder of the nerves or 
stomach called sea-sickness, which effectually confined 
them to their cabins for the ensuing week. And now 
how to sleep in a bedroom performing such extra- 
ordinary antics was a problem not easily solved. It 

8 Travels and Adventures 

occurred to me to imitate the fellow who, on account of 
the effects of an overdose of Pommery '76, or some 
more disreputable stuff, sat down on the floor to wait 
until the bedstead would stop for him to get into bed. 
However, after this experience, the rude wind finally 
betook himself to other climes to play his unwelcome 
pranks, and the sea settled down from a turbulent, 
boiling mass of white foam to that calm, placid blue, 
that would fain make believe it was always like that. 

All this time we had seen nothing but an occasional 
passing ship of the kind I had remarked coming out 
of the Mersey, so superfluously encumbered with sticks 
and cords. Now their utility became apparent : each 
bundle of cloth had been unwound and dexterously 
hung in a position best calculated to court the society 
of the fickle breeze ; each available corner was crowded, 
and the spotless whiteness of the canvas — intensified 
by the bright sunlight and the soft blue of the ocean — 
when contrasted with our own combination of smoky 
funnels and clanking engines, would trive one to 
imagine that the strange fantastic craft was a visitor 
from the supernatural, or that Mercury, to better per- 
form some peculiar nautical errand, had taken upon 
him the form of a gigantic sea-bird. However, putting- 
all allegory aside, there is no more beautiful sight at 
sea than a full-rigged ship in sail on a fine day. After 
about six days' sailing 1 noticed one morning a long 

of an Ok cum Hunter, 9 

dark-grey line on the horizon, which I imagined in my 
want of marine experience to be some passing whale — 
or, better still, could it not be the long-chronicled and 
much-exaggerated sea-serpent out for his morning 
gambol ? This pleasing delusion was quickly dis- 
pelled when Captain Spratt politely informed me that 
my wonderful sea-serpent was nothing less than the 
island called Terceira, one of the Azores, situated in 
Lat. 38 deg. $7 niin. N., and Long. 2/deg. 13 min. W., 
furnishing a beautiful semi-tropical retreat for visitors, 
and a most useful coaling-station in any emergency 
for vessels crossing the Atlantic. 

The Phantom kept on her course, making for 
the West Indian island of Barbadoes. The pas- 
sengers passed the time lounging on deck, smoking, 
and watching the large flights of flying-fish which 
rose out of the w^ater at intervals and skimmed along 
a distance of thirty yards, making their large wing-like 
fins glisten in the sunshine like burnished silver, and 
then dipped themselves again into the water to be 
refreshed after so extraordinary an exertion. Those 
who have been lone out at sea in fine weather can- 
not fail to remark the gorgeous spectacle presented 
by a sunset in a tropical latitude. As the mighty 
orb sinks slowly behind the distant band of blue, 
large masses of milky clouds gather around to honour 
the departure of the king of day, and in return for 

of an Orchid Hunter. 

i i 

we passed the fine barracks, the shrill bugle-call re- 
minded us of the company of British officers and 
men who were pass- 
ing a lively time 


the ao-ree- 

able Barbadians, and 
who, from what stray 
political opinions I 
could overhear, 
appeared quite able 
to set us an exam- 
ple in loyalty. The 
Phantom took up 
her position amongst 
the many other ships 
which were en orated 
in discharging carcro, 
or awaiting orders 
from En eland. The 
houses of Bridgetown 
fringing the harbour 
are constructed of a 
light pinky stone, 
which, seen in the 
strong light of this 

climate, presents a most attractive appearance. Al- 
most before the anchors had swung out of the bows of 


12 Travels and Adventures 

the Phantom, the ship was surrounded by a crowd of 
curly-pated negroes, with long rows of white teeth 
and rolling eyes contrasting amusingly with their 
ebony features. Some would make dexterous plunges 
and come up again on the other side of the ship, 
performing the clever feat for sixpence, while a 
group of youngsters were fighting and sputtering 
for occasional pence thrown to them by the pas- 
sengers. Others would display a collection of wares 
for sale, all expressing their opinion or courting atten- 
tion in a kind of jargon which reduced the Oueen's 
English to a most miserable snarl. 

After the usual visit of inspection from doctors 
and custom-house officers, we were at liberty to go 
on shore — by the medium of one of the many boats 
either hovering in the vicinity of the ship or crowding 
around the gangway, each of their black owners, mean- 
while, squabbling for patronage. I need hardly say 
that all on board the Phantom who could, availed 
themselves of the positive luxury of a little exercise 
on terra firm a after a fortnight's cramping in bunks 
and deck chairs. A few well-directed strokes brought 
us to shore, and no more extraordinary sight presented 
itself to the newly-arrived European than the motley 
medley of human faces, from the fair rose of the 
delicate European lady to the polished black of the 
negro, with the various between - shades, all busy 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


about their morning marketing. The lover of tropical 
curios will find here quite a museum to choose from : 
pink and white coral of the most delicate shades, 
gossamer masterpieces of the coral insect's ingenuity, 


patterns worthy of imitation by our most skilful lace 
and filigree workers ; midget humminor-birds in scarlet 
and green, which Nature — indulgent goddess ! has 
provided with a special Court-dress to enable them 
more effectually to steal the virtue of innocent flowers ; 
delicate leaves and blossoms cunningly manufactured 
from glittering fish-scales ; work in seeds, moss, and 

14 Travels and Adventures 

tortoise-shell ; in short, everything beautiful and curious, 
well calculated to draw the money out of foreigners' 
pockets. Passing through streets of well-kept 
shops, mostly uncomfortably crowded with groups of 
gossiping negroes, we finally arrived at the principal 
hotel, called the Ice House, where each thirsty soul 
indulged in ice cream or native lemonade, which was 
most refreshing considering" the thermometer at this 
time registered the modest figure of 90? Fahr. in 
the shade. 

After an hour's stroll amongst the pretty villas, 
gardens, and plantations of the suburbs, the hoisting 
of the blue-peter and the sound of a gun informed 
us that the Phantom was ready to continue the 
journey ; so we lost no time in getting on board, 
and as we steamed slowly out of the harbour another 
glimpse at the beautiful surroundings extorted from us 
a sigh of regret at so short a stay, and a hope to 
return at no distant period. 

of an Orchid Hunter, 





The Phantom quickly got under weigh, making for 
the island of Trinidad, and early next morning, as 
we turned up on deck, we were greeted by the peaks 
and undulations of the principal island ; but as we are 
bound for the harbour and town of Port of Spain, we 
must pass through one or other of the four or live 
channels made by small islands lying between Trini- 
dad and the mainland of Venezuela. Making every 
excuse for my deficiency in accurate geological infor- 
mation, it appears to me that the position of the 
islands would sucrq-est to the most unobservant the 
idea that at some antediluvian or more remote period 
these colossal pyramids 'had formed part of the great 
continent of South America, and that, to satisfy one 
of Nature's capricious whims, they had been discon- 
nected and arranged in their present picturesque 


Travels and Adventures 

situation. Be that as it may, as the little Phantom 
steamed gaily through one of the small openings 
between the islands the most unenthusiastic could not 
fail to be moved to admiration at the magnificent si^ht 


presented by the tremendous precipices rising to a 
thousand feet, almost perpendicularly. At not more 
than half a mile from the ship on each side were 
rugged peaks, ornamented at the top with straggling 
vegetation and tenanted by myriads of screaming 
sea-birds, while the lower part was riddled by enor- 
mous subterranean caverns — once, perhaps, affording 

of an Orchid Hunter 


warehousing and apartments for enterprising pirates, 
now only a playground for the sportive waves which one 
after another resolve themselves into clouds of spray, 
with a wild murmuring sound, fit music for so romantic 
a situation. Passing further through the Strait, we 
caught a glimpse of the blackened hulk of what was 
once a fine sailing ship, carried on to the merciless 
rocks by the current which sweeps through between 
the various islands with oreat force. The vessel at 
the time of the disaster was laden with coolies, who 
were all happily rescued by a passing steamer. 

Along the coast, between the Bocas and Port of 
Spain, the shore is interspersed and ornamented by 
many small bathing stations, owned by the more 
wealthy townspeople — pretty secluded retreats almost 
hidden by clumps of tangling vegetation ; and, as if to 
break the wildness of the rugged, uninhabited hills, the 
passer-by is treated to a varying panorama of beautiful 
scenery furnished by a continuation of tiny islands, 
seven or eight in number, one larger than the rest fur- 
nishing; accommodation for a commodious convict 
prison. By the aid of a field-glass, it is easy to dis- 
tinguish long lines of unfortunates pacifying justice by 
arduous labour. Another of the larger islands is used 
as a coolie station, where the newly-imported East 
Indiamen find an asylum until their services are in 
demand for the sugar plantations. Half a dozen of 

Travels and Adventures 

the other islands are 
each about an acre in 
extent, all boasting 
spacious mansions and 
gardens and an envi- 
able appearance of se- 
clusion from prying- 
eyes. Passing these 
smaller islands soon 

brought us in si^ht 
of the harbour, gay 
with ships from many 
nations. Several of 
the brightly painted 
paddle steamers which 
ply on the river Ori- 
noco, at this time in 
the port, were almost 
enough to tempt a 
rambler to compro- 
mise himself for a 
trip. The usual for- 
malities over, we were 
not lonof in orettino- on 

shore, to make our- 
selves as much ac- 
quainted with Trinidad as the time would allow. We 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


found the streets and squares of the town very much 
wider and more commodious than those of Barbad 
After strolling through the principal business thorough- 
fares, we were content to avail ourselves of a convey- 
ance to make the circuit of the Savanna, about which 
we had heard so much ; and I can assure any visitor 
not acquainted with these islands that to miss the 
opportunity would be a mistake. We found the Sa- 
vanna nothing" more than a large recreation-ground of 
no extraordinary beauty, encircled by a carriage-drive 
of some miles in length ; but, excepting a large space 
occupied by the governors house and gardens, almost 
the whole length of the route is enlivened by most 
exquisite little villas, built after good designs, painted in 
cheerful colours, and draped with a profusion of tropical 
plants, varying from the most delicate to the most 
extravagant tints. One is almost hidden by myriads 
of pale pink flowers of the Bougainvillea glabra. On 
another the white stars of the jasmine contrast with 
the rich blue of the ipomea. Another of these fairy 
little retreats is ornamented with splashing fountains 
and groups of palms, the rich green of which contrasts 
well with the bright patches of colour in the way 
of yellow crotons and scarlet poncianas, with other 
wonderful and beautiful collections of tropical plants 
whose long scientific names it would tire to enumerate. 
Whatever the spacious Government House may lack 


Travels and Adventures 

in beauty of architecture is amply made up for in pro- 
fuse horticultural decorations. Besides smaller shrubs 



and climbers, there are magnificent clumps of the tall 
feathery bamboos, curious banyans, and the remarkable 
Streiitzia Regin^ with a perfect head of thirty feet 

of an Orchid Hunter. 21 

in breadth. The day of our visit being a holiday, 
the young athletes of Trinidad were engaged in a 
cricketing contest with a neighbouring island and the 
Savanna was gay with bunting, as well as pretty faces. 
We were very favourably impressed with the social 
character of the people of Trinidad, who seem to me to 
possess at once the stability of John Bull, combined 
with the elegance of the Spaniard and the politeness 
of the French. Visitors favoured with more time than 
we were will, I have no doubt, agreeably prove what I 
say to be true. For my own part, when the usual 
sailing signal warned me that the Phantom was going 
in search of fresh sights, whether I accompanied or 
not, I was reluctant enough to leave so inviting and 
genial a place. 

A few strong pulls brought us on board, and we 
were very quickly under weigh for the harbour of 
La Guayra, on the mainland of South America. The 
morning after leaving Trinidad we passed alongside 
the island of Margarita — a long, straggling, barren- 
looking tract of land, which appeared to have little or 
no cultivation and few or no inhabitants, and at once 
associated with itself Robinson Crusoe-like adventures 
for anyone having ill luck enough to be cast on such 
an inhospitable-looking place. We were informed that 
at one time this was a pearl-fishing station, and at 
present there are some copper mines worked by 

22 Travels and Adventures 

European enterprise. Some two or three dozen 
natives, out in small canoes, engaged in fishing, hove 
near the ship as we were passing, in order to satisfy 
their curiosity on our no doubt novel appearance. 
Their boats were of the most primitive construction, 
seeming almost too frail to put to sea in. The men 
were of pure Indian race, a kind of dull brick colour, 
fine stalwart fellows, who seemed to despise fashion so 
much as almost to do without clothing altogether. 

After forty-eight hours' sail we arrived in sight 
of the harbour of La Guayra, the principal port of 
Venezuela, which presents from the sea a magnificent 
panorama of scenery. A towering peak a mile and 
a quarter high seems to pierce the clouds. The 
almost perpendicular sides of the mountain bristle 
with, large cacti, while around the foot the little town 
of La Guayra, from the brightness of the walls and 
tiling seen in the strong light of a tropical sun, 
presents a pleasing contrast with the dark grey and 
green of the mountain background. High up the 
hillside a small fort breaks the wildness of the 
situation, and, whatever may be its merits or defects 
from a defensive point of view, it certainly adds 
to the picturesqueness of the scene. A little lower 
down a large circus-like building is easily distin- 
guishable, which we afterwards learn is the bull- 
fiohtino- arena — without which no South American 

of an Orchid Hunter, 


town of any pretensions would be considered com- 
plete. No sooner had the Phantom dropped anchor 
at a safe distance from the stormy coast than we 
were besieged as usual by an army of custom- 
house officers — who are especially officious at this 
place — and in their scrupulous anxiety to prevent 
the importation of anything approaching the character 
of contraband ammunition or infernal machines would 
scarcely pass a superfluous tootlv brush or half-worn 
collar-box — disputing everything in a nasal, half- 
intelligible Spanish, which sounds to an English- 
man's ears unpleasantly like the action of a file on 

Landing at La Guayra for passengers is very 
difficult, and even dangerous, on account of a heavy 
swell rolling- in from the sea and dashing- in broken 
spray over the frail landing-stage, and more than 
likely giving the traveller a sound baptism of salt 
water. Once on shore, the first thing that presents 
itself to the sightseer after wading through the crowds 
of squabbling negroes is a large, coarse equestrian 
statue of the illustrious Gusman Blanco (since thrown 
down), the only pretension to art which La Guayra 
can boast, unless it is the immense patches of 
rouge and powder which bedaub the cheeks of every 
third of the young women one meets, for certainly 
the houses and streets were made when architecture 

24 Travels and Adventures 

was in apprenticeship. The interior of the town is 
miserably disappointing compared with the magnificent 
sight which the harbour presents from the sea. The 
streets are inconveniently steep and narrow, rendering 
them almost impassable for any vehicle, being more 
like large drains made to carry off the enormous 
flow of water which rushes down the mountain-side 
in the rainy season. The appearance of the people 
of La Guayra is scarcely more prepossessing to the 
foreigner than the place itself. Those who are not 
of the dark, woolly-headed negro breed belong to 
the slim, tall, elegant Spanish dandy type, but differing 
from their Spanish relations in possessing a much 
deeper shade of colour and a peculiarly sinister ex- 
pression of features, which, when excited by anger, 
becomes almost fiendish, giving the visitor an im- 
pression that these are scarcely the people to trust 
himself with in a lonely road on a dark night. A 
burning sun every day, striking on a dry, sandy 
soil, runs the thermometer up to over ioo degrees in 
the shade, and renders the heat almost unbearable : 
this considered — with the want of all convenience 
in the house, and the uninviting appearance of the 
people — putting all sarcasm aside, the most charitable 
would scarcely be justified in advising La Guayra as 
a health-resort for invalids. 

of an Orchid Hunter 









We were delighted to learn that the latest novelty 
here is a railway from La Guayra to Caracas, the 
principal town of Venezuela. We gladly took tickets 
to the far end, pleased to escape from the heat and at 
the same time to see the country. If a tunnel could 
be drilled through the mighty mountain, the distance 
from the port to Caracas would be five miles ; but the 
railway is twenty-seven miles in length, winding about 
amongst the mountain-passes in the most fantastic zig- 
zag crotchets, gaining in the twenty-seven miles an 
altitude of over a mile. The train is made up of the 
engine, one first and two second-class carriages, mere 
frames, to catch as much as possible of the sultry 

26 Travels and Adventures 

breeze. The front of the engine is provided with two 
bags of sand, and a boy on each side to put the sand 
on the rails providing the wheels should revolve with- 
out making progress in the steep ascent. After the 
usual ceremony which accompanies all kinds of busi- 
ness in this country, the last portly old dame, with 
an enormous basket of fruit and some chickens, was 
effectually stowed away in a corner and we started on 
the journey ; at first along the shingly beach, passing a 
horde of miserable tumble-down huts, then through a 
fine plantation of cocoa-nut palms for several miles of 
level road. Here began the ascent of the mountain, 
and at the point where we lost sight of the fine sea- 
view, together with the harbour and town of La 
Guayra, we had already gained a quarter of a mile 
in height. Still we continued — here winding around 
enormous boulders, further along crossing deep ravines 
of five hundred feet in depth on flimsy bridges over 
which it seemed scarcely advisable to trust human life, 
at one point creeping along the mountain side with a 
height of half a mile above and as much of almost 
perpendicular precipices below, amongst scenery that 
would vie with the Alps in grandeur, but where the 
breaking of an axle-tree would probably submit us to 
a fate compared with which the Tay Bridge accident 
would be merciful. The passenger cannot fail to 
notice the extraordinary structure of the tunnels : at 

i« . i 

of an Orchid Hi \ 27 

some points where a more than ordinary splinter of 
rock comes in the way, a pigeon-hole had been drilled 
through the hard stone and left without any super- 
fluous padding of brickwork, and so the scenery and 
the structure of the railway continue all the way to 
Caracas — so admirable, in fact, that no visitor who 
comes to La Guayra should miss the sight. On 
arriving at Caracas we were prepared to feast our 
eyes on the usual incongruous collection of tumble- 
down mud huts so peculiar to these parts of South 
America, and the reader can imagine our agreeable 
surprise when we steamed proudly into a smart little 
station of quite European pretensions, with clean 
cemented platforms ornamented with flowers and 
creeping plants, and thronged by an aristocratic class 
of people who appeared by their dress, at least, to be 
fresh arrivals from Paris. On leaving the station a 
pretty church of elegant design, built on a slight 
elevation, attracts the attention of the sightseer bv 
its spotless white towers. Five minutes' ride in a 
tramcar brings us to the laroe commodious houses and 
wide streets of the principal part of the town. The 
largest square, ox plaza, although somewhat small and 
cramped in comparison with the size of the buildings 
surrounding it, is gay with flowers, and two large 
splashing fountains in the gardens of the municipal 
buildings do their best to give the place an air of 

28 Travels and Adventures 

coolness in spite of a sun sometimes more than op- 
pressive. The Presidential residence and Govern- 
ment offices are buildings of excellent design and 
substantial construction. One side of the plaza is 
taken up by a large college for high-class scientific 
education— an institution which is a real ornament to 
the situation. It is a pity that Venezuela does not 
possess more such. 

Fine larofe magasins and stores, several excellent 
hotels, restaurants a la franqaise, and so much con- 
venience for business and pleasure are to be found 
in the pleasant little Venezuelan capital, that if there 
should be a European who still entertains the idea 
that there is no society to be found in South America 
but wild Indians, he will do well to pass a week at 
Caracas to improve his education. For my own part, 
the thought that the Phantom was perhaps already 
under weigh made it impossible for me to get more 
than a glimpse of the town, hastily swallow a cup of 
the celebrated Caracas coffee, and take a return ticket 
for La Guayra. I would have willingly stayed to 
collect the lovely Cattleya Mossier, which is found in 
plenty growing on the branches of trees in nearly 
all the mountains around Caracas, and is now to be 
had with the greatest ease, for the Indians bring large 
quantities of plants into the city for sale at a very 
nominal price, instead of the poor plant-collector having 

of an Orchid Hunter, 

to brave all the dangers of the forest (as in other dis- 
tricts) only to obtain a few dozen of plants. One 

thing- struck me as being more extraordinary than all 
the peculiarities of the people, country, or constitution 
— that is, that on a railway where every mile presents 
a thousand dangers no enterprising life assurance com- 
pany had so far speculated on human vitality as to 
issue assurance tickets. 

In the descent of this single line of goat's-track 
the magnificent scenery appears even more beautiful 
than on the upward journey, and the track itself, if 
possible, more dangerous ; for the passengers cannot 
help wondering where we would stop, providing the 
brakes failed to act, on a railway which descends a 
mile in twenty-seven miles of distance. On arriving 
at La Guayra, we quickly engaged boats for the ship 
and got on board just as the Phantom was firing a 
parting salute, no doubt to do honour to the officious 
custom-house officers. We were quickly on our way 
for the harbour of Puerto Cabello, meanwhile congratu- 
lating ourselves that we had received the value of our 
seventeen shillings with compound interest. 

A few hours' sail, always in sight of the rugged 
coast of Venezuela, brought us to the harbour of 
Puerto Cabello, a large old-fashioned lighthouse in the 
form of a Chinese pagoda, and a still older castellated 
fort whose hundred pigeon-holes bristle with pigmy 

30 Travels and Adventures 

cannon, which seem more fit subjects for a curio 
museum, or to be used in some mimic theatrical repre- 
sentation, than to be of any service in modern warfare. 
These are the first and almost only objects of interest 
the situation affords for the traveller. The harbour 
being commodious enough to admit of ships coming to 
land, we dispense with the services of the black boat- 
man and walk on shore. Mr. Conn, the excellent British 
Consul, is always ready to welcome visitors, but the 
very ordinary and somewhat neglected appearance of 
the town does not offer much temptation to voluntarily 
stay long in Puerto Cabello. The harbour affords 
excellent convenience for the exportation of coffee, 
minerals, and other products of a large tract of country, 
and a large amount of business is done. Everyone 
here seems to be as much on the alert to turn a penny 
as the people of Caracas are to display a new suit or a 
bonnet. Two small public parks, both crowded with 
gorgeous flowering plants, give one an idea of the 
almost spontaneous vegetation of these parts. In one 
of the gardens are twelve magnificent palms, each 
towering to a height of nearly one hundred feet, speci- 
mens of exquisite beauty, enough to make the least 
covetous wish that they could be transported just as 
they are to Hyde Park or Kew Gardens. The only 
pity is that the last time the people of Venezuela 
indulged in a revolution, a quantity of the bullets 

of an Orchid Hunter. 31 

intended for other purposes pierced the stems of the 
palms and disfigured them with many ugly marks. 
For those who care to see the country, a well-made 
line of railway runs from the port to the town of 
Valencia ; or, better still, take a horse and ride to the 
nearest village on the hills, a journey of about three 
hours, where the beautiful scenery and rich vegetation 
of the wild, uncultivated forest amply repay the exer- 
tion. As the Phantom was lying in port for the night, 
within a short distance of the fort, those who passed 
the time on board were treated to a peculiar concert, 
at first novel enough, but eventually disagreeably 
monotonous, in the fort, now used as a prison. There 
are something like three hundred unfortunates who, 
for the time being, are deprived of the privilege to 
roam the wild hills of Venezuela. They are guarded 
by a dozen sentinels, at equal distance from each other 
around the fort. It seems to be the duty of each one 
of these to cry out, at the top of his voice, the two 
Spanish words, " Centinela, alerta ! " every half-hour of 
the night from sunset to daylight, leaving an interval 
of two or three minutes between each one, beginning 
with the first man and continuing until the circuit of 
the fort is made. Perhaps the most amusing part of 
the system is the difference in the tone of the various 
voices. The first one will roar out the password in 
deep, sonorous tones. No sooner has this died away 

32 Travels and Adventures 

on the still night air than the next one begins with 
a shrill piping treble ; this, in turn, giving place to 
another who, in a soft singing voice, prolongs the two 
words to twice their ordinary length ; while a fourth, 
seemingly impatient at being disturbed, jerks out the 
words in a sharp military rattle, and so on until the 
twelfth one pronounces them all " alerta " in a tone at 
least an octave higher than his predecessors. As the 
vessels are moored almost directly under' the walls of 
the prison, this half-hourly repetition of so extraordi- 
nary a comedy renders sleep utterly impossible, and 
we were not sorry when next morning the Phantom 
steamed out to sea and so gave us a chance of a nap 
in the cradle of the deep. 

Our next calling-place was the island of Curacoa, 
and in the short sail from Puerto Cabello nothing 
occurred worth the attention of the reader. To the 
traveller whose business is to investigate the beauties 
of foreign lands, the first impressions of the island 
are anything but satisfactory. As far as the telescope 
can reach nothing is to be seen but an expanse of 
sandy desert or barren rocks, and these, if not entirely 
devoid of vegetation, only produce a weedy scrub. 
However, this monotony is soon relieved by our 
coming: in sight of the whitewashed walls of the 
old-fashioned Dutch town. Two well-garrisoned forts 
form a sufficient protection to the town and harbour. 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


la passing the Dutch ensign which floats from the 
top of the fort, the captain of the Phantom, in pur- 
suance of certain laws of maritime etiquette, politely 
dipped the Union Jack three times in the water, 
a compliment which was as politely returned by the 
Dutchmen answering the salutation in the same form. 
The harbour, although presenting a most gay and 
busy appearance, is somewhat small and cramped, 
and it was with considerable exertion that our 
little Phantom was brought near enough to the 
quay to do business. The principal parts of 
the town are built on each side of the narrow 
harbour ; besides this, a kind of canal branches off 
into the other parts of the town, cutting the streets 
at right angles. The harbour as well as the canal 
is crowded with small boats for the convenience of 
passengers who are obliged to be crossing and re- 
crossing from one street to another. These boats, 
generally a kind of punt, are a most primitive cockle- 
shell contrivance, which, however, at one time may 
have been a Dutch patent. They are perfectly 
flat-bottomed, and not more than a foot and a half 
deep, reminding one very forcibly by their general 
appearance of a large drinking-trough. The mode 
of propelling them is scarcely less comical than the 
craft itself. The oarsman takes up his position 
standing in the stem of the boat, with a piece of 


34 Travels and Adventures 

wood in the form of an overgrown mustard-spoon, 
which he wriggles from side to side in the water 
in imitation of the action of a fish's tail. For 
the price of a few tiny coins, something- less than 
half a farthing each, crowds of people of all classes 
in search of business or pleasure are conveyed from 
street to street, if not with the greatest swiftness, cer- 
tainly with the greatest security, as, up to the present, 
an accident has never been known. The language 
spoken here is perhaps the most curious of the 
novelties which attract the attention of the stranger 
on arriving at Curacoa. The extraordinary arrange- 
ment of sounds called Creole-Dutch strikes upon 
the ear as something between the QTOwlin^ of do^s 
and the cackling of poultry, an arrangement of 
gutterals and nasals equally as difficult to describe 
as it is to understand ; it appears to me to possess 
neither rules nor system, but, should it have both 
to the initiated, it is certainly devoid of beauty of 
euphony. The people seem to be pre-occupied, with 
a quiet industry so peculiar to the character of the 
Dutchman. Scores of women are employed in 
making a kind of straw hat of soft white grass, 
very inferior, however, to those made in many parts 
of Colombia. Another class of industry carried on 
here on a considerable scale is the manufacture of 
gold and silver ornaments in filigree work, and, 

of an Orchid Hunter. 35 

considering' the great want of convenience and 
machinery, many of the specimens are very beautifully 
made. Although there is very little of importance 
to make anyone regret leaving the dream)- little 
town, we were abruptly called away by the shrill 
whistle from the Phantom before we had time to 
get a fair look around. 

36 Travels and Adventures 




After some little difficulty, we were again out to sea 
and making for the port of Savanilla. On our way 
thither we w r ere aroused before sunrise with the news 
that we were passing in sight of the Sierra Nevada of 
Santa Marta, and there was a possibility of seeing the 
sun rise on its perpetual snow. We had not long to 
wait. A considerable time before the first rays of 
sunlight appeared across the water — it was still the 
dull twilight of early morning with us — those who 
were looking towards the mountains could distinguish 
the summit gradually become brighter as the first sun- 
ray fell upon it, until the mighty mass of ice and snow 
shone like a coronet of monster diamonds, and this 
appeared more striking and beautiful because of the 
huge base of the mountain being still almost in darkness. 

of an Oa'ch/p Hunter 


However, as the Phantom was going full speed, we 
were not lone- in being out of sight of the Sierra 

Nevada, each one sorry that so beautiful a scene 
should be so transient. Keeping- along the rugged 
coast, we were soon in sight of what is called the 
harbour of Savanilla. If this had been the entrance 
to the greatest penal settlement in the world it could 
not have been a more barren and desolate-looking 
place. As far as the eye could reach nothing was to 
be seen but bare rocks and sand, and there was not 
a vestige of a town or even a hut in sight to show 
that the place was inhabited. The Phantom dropped 
anchor, I supposed, on speculation, nothing being 
likely to welcome us but a host of screaming pelicans 
fishing from the rocks or the crowds of ugly vultures 
in their strange funereal garb continually wheeling over 
our heads in search of some corpse. The shallowness 
and muddy appearance of the water showed that we 
were really anchored in the delta of the River Magda- 
lena. Here I intended to disembark, in order to profit 
by the means of communication which this river 
affords with the interior of this part of Colombia, but 
on looking around I must say my ardour was some- 
what damped. To all appearance this could be no 
other than the abode of savages. However, consider- 
ing the old adage that "faint heart never won fair 
lady," I went below and quickly packed up my traps. 


38 Travels and Adventures 

Upon reappearing on deck I was informed that a 
small tender was coming off to the ship from a station 
hid behind a bluff, and in three long hours after the 
issue of the proclamation the little machine appeared 
alongside, having occupied all that time in making 
a distance of about four miles. It is absolutely 
beyond my power accurately to give a description of 
this rickety and antiquated piece of marine architecture, 
called the Funza ; I only wish it could be exhibited in 
London for the edification of our modern boat-builders 
and engineers. In the year 18 10, the hero, Bolivar, 
fought for the release of his countrymen from the 
Spanish yoke. I am persuaded that at that time this 
craft may have been one of his gunboats, but, if so, he 
must even then have bought it secondhand. 

It would scarcely be doing justice to the progress 
of the country not to mention here that, in the four 
years which have elapsed since my first landing, the 
Funza has been laid aside and its place taken by a 
smart little boat of more attractive appearance and 
more substantial workmanship. However, after bidding 
good-bye to the most excellent and kindly captain and 
officers of the Phantom, I went on board the Funza 
with a few more passengers, all Spanish-speaking 
people, whom we had taken on board in the West 
Indies. Each one stowed himself away as best 
he could, on the top of his baggage, in what I call 

of an Orchid Hunter. 39 

the stoke-hole of the engine, prepared to wait the 
three mortal hours which would elapse between 
leaving the Phantom and arriving at the station. I 
will endeavour to describe the whole of the journey 
from here to the town of Barranquilla, so that 
whoever may be disposed to follow me in this part of 
the coast of South America may not run away with 
the delusion that he is going to disembark at Cannes 
or Brighton. On arriving at the station we drew 
up to the side of what appeared to be the companion 
ship of the Fitnza ; across this we passed with 
our baofea^e into a shed, consisting of a roof and 
four posts, where all the luggage is weighed. After 
this the boxes are seized by a crowd of coppery- 
coloured Indians and carried off, if you like to 
pay them, to where the train is standing. Here all 
those useful adjuncts which a European finds so 
necessary and convenient in a station, such as 
booking-office, refreshment-rooms, stationmaster's and 
porters' offices, are deemed superfluous, and the 
train is moored on the bare open ground. This 
station is called Salgar. More recently a new port 
has been made, called Puerto Colombia, and, although 
still only a very temporary landing-stage, it can boast 
of many more conveniences than Salgar. 

The whole of the town of Salgar is composed 
of six or seven of the worst mud-huts I have ever 


Travels and Adventures 

seen. These huts cannot be described as being 
either round, square, or oval, but are made of sticks 
plastered with mud and thatched with palm-leaves. 
A few copper-coloured, naked children, a few dirty, 
half-naked women, and a score of horrid lean pigs, 


more resembling hyenas, make up the tout ensemble. 
One more item which I have overlooked — that is the 
house in which is sold the spirituous liquor of the 
country, called anisado. In this house are congre- 
gated porters, engine-drivers, and passengers, all intent 
for the moment upon the one object of quenching the 
terrible thirst caused by a tropical sun striking on the 

of an Orchid Hunter, 41 

dry sand. When the last man had swallowed his 
dram, we were told in sharp, squeaking Spanish to take 
our seats, and soon the ponderous machine was put 
in motion. The whole of the distance from here to 
Barranquilla occupies about an hour, and the entire 
railway is laid through thick jungle, novel enough 
to the foreigner, but, compared with the magnificent 
forests to be found in the interior, only mere scrub. 
Finally, we arrived at Barranquilla ; and now comes 
the question of passing our baggage through the 
Customs. In every port in the world I suppose this is 
a source of much trouble and annoyance to passengers, 
but above all at Barranquilla ; and for anyone to arrive 
in possession of two guns is almost sure to result in 
the confiscation of one of them. I arrived here on a 
Saturday, and found it impossible to pass my baggage 
through the Customs until Monday ; so, leaving my 
few traps under the lock and key of the officers, I 
went off into the town to what is called the Hotel 
Francais, by no means the Grand Hotel of the 
place, but a respectable lodging-house, kept by a 
kindly French matron. The food supplied in the 
hotels of Barranquilla is somewhat extraordinary to 
the taste of a foreigner — of which I shall have more 
to say later — but the bedrooms I can scarcely pass 
over here without a remark. These are as large 
and commodious as it is possible to make them, 

42 Travels and Adventures 

taking up the entire space from the floor to the 
top of the house ; not being encumbered with any 
furniture, so as to leave them as airy as possible, 
and render the heat somewhat tolerable. The bed- 
steads are about the only things which detract 
from the fearfully bare and comfortless appearance 
of the place, and these bedsteads might be mistaken 
by a careless observer for monster meat-safes, being 
such a curious combination of gauze and laths, the 
practical use of which only becomes apparent at 
night as a protection against the myriads of hungry 
mosquitoes which swarm the place. 

Early next morning, being Sunday, I went for a 
stroll to get a look at the town. I found it large, 
apparently of about some thirty thousand inhabitants, 
admirably situated on the bank of a natural canal at 
the outlet of the Magdalena, and so calculated to re- 
ceive the whole of the product of the enormous tract 
of country drained by this magnificent stream. But, 
apart from its excellent position for export and import 
trade of every kind, there is very little to recommend 
Barranquilla as a residence for Europeans. The heat 
is oppressive, and the streets are filled with a kind of 
white sand which, on the least breath of wind, rises into 
the air in blinding clouds. The houses in the suburbs 
of the town are somewhat tumble-down and unsightly, 
mostly thatched, but the profusion of beautiful plants 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


which almost hide many of them makes up for the want 
of architectural beauty. Many of the principal streets, 
as well as the plaza, have been very much improved 
lately by the construction of more elegant houses, 
and the popular South American bull-fighting arena 


has been removed from the plaza to a more out-of- 
the-way position. Notwithstanding the very common- 
place appearance of the houses outside, many of them 
inside are fitted with the greatest richness and good 
taste, possessing an easy luxury so peculiar to people 
of Spanish descent, and admirably adapted to the 
climate. As a rule, apart from bedrooms, boudoirs, 
and kitchen, each house possesses a special saloon 

44 Travels a aw Adventures 

which serves for reception, ball, and drawing-room, 
gay with gilded lamps and mirrors, and rich with 
luxurious carpets and lounges, besides rare paintings 
and bric-a-bi r ac that would grace the drawing-room of 
a Rothschild. Enterprising traders have stocked the 
town with immense shops and stores ; but instead 
of the visitor being entertained with the pleasing 
pastime of looking into shop-windows, he is met 
at every turn by dismal-looking iron gratings which 
serve in their place, the immense variety of merchan- 
dise being only visible on entering the store. _ Bar- 
ranquilla seems to be progressing socially and com- 
mercially as much as any other town in the Republic. 
Amongst the oldest of the foreign pioneers, everyone 
visiting the coast is familiar with the names of Mr. Joy 
and Mr. Stacey, Englishmen who are respected and 
beloved alike by foreigner and Colombian, while Mr. 
Cisnero, a rich Cuban, seems untiring in forming 
schemes for improving the commerce and adding to 
the convenience of the town. A tramway has lately 
been constructed through the principal streets. This 
is not only very useful, but is well patronised ; and 
while I write, machinery for the electric light is in 
course of construction. The telephone is already 
fitted in the offices of all the principal merchants, 
and the great advantages which Barranquilla pos- 
sesses of communication with Europe will, I have 

COLO M 151 


of an Orchid Hunter. 45 

no doubt, soon place it on a level with more 
advanced cities. Rumours are constantly heard of 
the unhealthy state of the town : they are gener- 
ally founded upon the idea that because the climate 
is hot it must be unhealthy. In the various years 
I have known Barranquilla I have never seen a 
case of infectious disease originate here. Most of 


these cases are brought from alone the coast or 
from other parts of the valley of the Magdalena. 
The well-to-do families here arc not only cultured 
and educated, but very often display much personal 
attractions. Some of the ladies are represented in 
the adjoining photograph dressed for their annual 
festival, called the Carnival. The common people 
are of a light copper colour, seemingly half negro 
and half Indian, but with very little to recommend 
them either in form or intelligence. 

One of the greatest difficulties a foreigner finds on 
arriving here is the system of small bank-notes and 
other kinds of money in circulation. Native gold 
coins have almost disappeared, and since the last 
revolution few, if any, have been coined in Colombia, 
most of the large business transactions with foreign 
countries being made by bills of exchange. If an 
Englishman or North American arrives with a few 
sovereigns or twenty-dollar pieces, his best plan, taking 
into consideration the rate of premium above the price 

46 Travels and Adventures 

of native money, is to go to the Bank of Barranquilla, 
or to the office of Mr. August Struntz, the estimable 
agent of the Royal Mail, and there buy the paper 
money of the country according to the rate of ex- 
change. This fluctuates very much with the demand 
for gold coin. I have sold English sovereigns at the 
rate of 125 per cent, premium; or for 100 dollars of 
English gold I have received 225 dollar-notes. The 
notes in circulation above one dollar are five, twenty, 
fifty, and one hundred dollars in value ; while the 
dollar note may be divided into ten parts, each small 
note being called one real, worth about twopence-half- 
penny in English money. The next higher in value is 
called two reals, worth at the rate of exchange current 
about fivepence. The dollar is further divided into 
a five-real or half-dollar note, worth one shilling. 
These, with several nickel coins of small value, make 
the whole system very intricate and very confusing. 

I was detained in Barranquilla several days, much 
against my will ; but at last, learning that a boat was 
preparing to make the journey up the Magdalena, and 
this being the best way of getting to the interior of 
Colombia, at the same time affording- an excellent sight 
of the scenery on the river, I hastily packed up my 
little luggage, which, by the way, was not very cum- 
bersome, consisting only of a saddle and necessary 
horse harness, a change of linen, and a gun. A Hyde 

of an Orchid Hunter. 47 

Park rambler, or a tourist to the English lakes, might 
think so scant a wardrobe scarcely sufficient to make 
him presentable for a six months' journey ; but allow 
me to suggest to anyone tempted, by business or 
curiosity, to make a similar journey, to bear in mind 
that dress-suits and tall hats are as much out of place 
in a South American forest as a pig in a drawing- 
room, and a wait-a-bit thorn is no respecter of persons 
or material. 

48 Travels and Adventures 






The boat was advertised to leave at half-past seven 
a.m., and approaching that time the way to the wharf 
was all astir with clumsy vehicles ploughing- their way, 
almost up to their axles in sand, bearing passengers 
and baggage. I remarked that whatever luggage 
the passenger possessed besides, everyone seemed 
to be provided with a large roll of muslin, a large 
bottle, and a piece of peculiar-coloured matting. 
The muslin was for mosquito-curtains ; the bottle 
contained at least half a gallon of rum to kill the 
microbes and counteract the bad effects arising from 
the water of the Magdalena, besides satisfying a 
secret propensity which many Colombians possess 
for Tragos — a Spanish word which might be 
easily interpreted as " a drop o' the cratur." The 
piece of matting was destined to supply the place 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


of a bed. While dusky porters were noisily stow- 
ing away bales and portmanteaus, and sharp native 
gentry were disputing with them about the price, 
I had time to look over the boat. There are 
on the river altogether some thirty of these craft, 
for the most part large and commodious, built, 


as I would call it, in two storeys, being flat- 
bottomed, and drawing only about two feet of water. 
The floor of the lower storey is level with the water ; 
about half the front part of the boat at this level is 
taken up by an enormous stack of wood, used for 
fuel for the engines. In the middle is the space for 
•cargo, while further on is the driving gear for the 
large stern paddle-wheel. Above this, on the next 
floor, is the accommodation for passengers, a few 


50 Travels and Adventures 

cabins on each side and a large saloon in the middle, 
whilst the prow is reserved as a space for recreation. 
On the roof of this acrain are built the cabins 
of the captain and officers. The three sections 
carry the construction up to a great height, con- 
sidering the little depth below the water. The 
whole being built as light and airy as possible, 
and gaudily painted red and white, has somewhat 
the appearance of a travelling menagerie to' Europeans, 
although very pretty and admirably adapted to the 

About mid-day everybody on board seemed to 
have got all they required, so we started down 
the narrow arm of the Macrdalena which leads from 
Barranquilla into the main river. Here we passed 
the majority of the other river-boats, lying either 
waiting to be despatched or to be repaired. Here, 
too, we came in sight of what appeared to me to 
be the public baths and wash-houses of the town. 
For a distance of about a quarter of a mile along 
the side of the canal larcre trunks of trees are 
placed at intervals of a few yards from one another, 
and at a depth of three or four feet in the water. 
Here at least a hundred or a hundred and fifty 
half-naked women and children, lau^hintr and talking, 
splashing and screaming, were engaged in washing 
the linen for the more wealthy people of the town. 

of an Orchid J I i nter. 


This is done by alternately dipping the clothes in 
the water and then pounding them lustily on the 
trees in a way that would make an English housewife 
tremble for the safety of her coarsest towels, not 


to speak of the possible welfare of muslins and 
cambrics. Leaving the washerwomen, we followed 
the canal down towards the sea in order to reach 
the main river, and, once in the main waters of the 
Magdalena, the scenery was very beautiful. Looking 
seaward, a wide expanse of white water rolls swiftly 

52 Travels and Adventures 

along to mix itself with the blue of the ocean, while 
ahead of us the flat roofs and tall, red, pagoda-like 
towers of the town of Barranquilla, standing out in 
relief against a background of a thousand leagues 
of trackless forest, furnish a sight at once fantastic 
and picturesque. On looking around amongst my 
fellow-passengers, I found as cosmopolitan a company 
as could be imagined— several Germans, a Russian, 
a Frenchman, and a family of Peruvians. The 
usual band of Italian pedlars it is customary to meet 
with in every part of the world was here in full 
force, but the majority, in point of numbers, were 
what may be styled well-to-do Colombians. These 
vary in appearance from the coarse, thick- set type 
of the Indian to the slim, elegant gentleman of 
Spanish descent, with pointed mustachios and high- 
heeled boots. Each one was busily occupied in 
arranorinof his or her effects to the best advantage 
considering the small space allotted for each person. 
Soon, however, the soft, musical treble of the French 
and Italian languages, mingling with the deeper bass 
and tenor of the German and Spanish, gave one to 
understand that each was bent upon making the best 
of the situation, irrespective of difference in creed 
or lancruacre, name or station. Although we were 
placed on a platform immediately above the boiler and 
in close proximity to numerous antiquated, misplaced 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


steam-pipes, the absence of any uncomfortable motion 
of the boat, compared with the disagreeable churning 

of a sea-voyage, and the tempering of the heat by a 
soft breeze smelling of a thousand flowers from the 
forest, make the first impression the traveller receives 
of navigation on the Maofdalena anything: but dis- 

Whilst I was thus engaged in making something 
like an inventory of the people, the situation, and the 
surroundings, the bell sounded for dinner. Perhaps it 
may not be out of place here, for the sake of any who 
may care to make the same journey, to mention how 
the inner man is cared for on these river-boats. The 
viands, although somewhat extraordinary to the taste 
of a European, are as good as the country affords, and 
well suited to the situation. In the first place, to 
prove that the soup is no spurious imitation, each plate 
is furnished with two or more turtles' eggs, which float 
on the top as a kind of trade mark. These, on first 
tasting them, are scarcely as good as they look ; but 
once the palate becomes accustomed, they prove excel- 
lent eating. The fish is probably a small kind of 
perch which abounds in the Magdalena, but is served 
so mashed up that it is impossible to say whether it is 
salmon or lobster. Flesh-meat of every kind is here 
very inferior, as the heat renders it impossible to keep 
it for two days without a large quantity of salt, besides 



Travels and Adventures 

hanging it in the sun. All this, together with a very 
ordinary mode of cooking, renders most of it anything 
but palatable. The vegetables consist of sweet and 
ordinary potatoes, together with the cassava root; a 
variety of tropical fruits and coffee conclude the repast. 


The sleeping arrangements on board these boats are 
of the most novel. On the approach of evening the 
deck is cleared, and about a dozen trestle bedsteads, 
covered with a kind of sacking are brouo-ht out. One 
of these is allotted to each passenger, who immediately 
commences with his arrangements of cords and muslin, 
so as to hang his mosquito-net in a position to 

of an Orchid Hunter. ^^ 

cover the whole of the primitive bedstead and keep 
the hungry hordes at a safe distance. If in the 
journey up the Magdalena the luxuriant vegetation 
should become monotonous by continuation, this is 
relieved by occasional villages of true Indian construc- 
tion. The huts are low, beehive-like structures, with 
walls of mud and thatched with palm-leaves. Others, 
probably on the improved system, are made by driving 
stout bamboo stakes into the ground, about four inches 
from each other, to form the walls, or, more correctly 
speaking, the inclosure. This, like the former, is 
thickly thatched with palm-leaves. Inside all osten- 
tatious extravagance in matters of furniture is re- 
ligiously avoided. Bed ■ room, dining - room, and 
drawing-room suites here are all supplied, in a primi- 
tive manner, by about half-a-dozen blocks of wood, 
serving the purposes of lounge, chairs, and fauteuil, 
while a hammock or a few cow-hides take the place of 
bedsteads and eider-down. A collection of gourds 
and calabashes, with a few cracked bits of native 
pottery, furnish an inexpensive, and at the same time 
effective, table service. 

However, whatever art has neglected in interior 
convenience and decoration Nature has supplied with 
lavish prodigality in the surroundings. For, although 
each Indian may not exactly, according to the proverb, 
sit under his own vine and fig-tree, he can yet, even 

56 Travels and Adventures 

better, build his hut and stretch himself at will under 
the shade of some magnificent banyan, luxuriant 
mango, or graceful cocoanut palm. Although there 
may be an amusing want of uniformity in the way of 
one extremity of the house being round and the other 
square, and an unexplainable want of perpendicular in 
the walls, the roads between the houses are straight 
and broad, and in many cases the whole plan of the 
village is well arranged. The fine growth of trees on 
each side form avenues as spacious and beautiful in 
their way as any boulevard in the gay French capital. 
On the other hand, some are absurdly humble-jumble, 
and the red-skinned architect seems to have been 
determined, when choosing a site, to put his neighbour 
to the utmost inconvenience or satisfy his most eccen- 
tric caprices. Most of the people in the smaller villages 
are of a dusky-red colour, with shiny black hair. 
They are well made and symmetrical, many having 
regular features, and none with very disagreeable 
countenances. Some are even pretty. They seem to 
me to be a simple, inoffensive people, caring little 
about industry and less for fashion. Most of the men 
are satisfied with a flimsy shirt and trousers, and 
some are content with less scanty garments ; while 
children of all ages dispense with clothing for the time 

As we stopped at most of these stations to take 

of an Orchid Hunter, 


on wood, we were inevitably besieged by a crowd 
of natives, offering us a few fruits, native pottery, 
monkeys, parrots, turtles, and tortoises for sale. All 
were laughing- and joking, apparently in the highest 
spirits and the best humour, and, to those who could 


understand their jargon Spanish, probably criticising 
severely European novelties in the way of passengers 
on the boat. Their greatest fault appears to me to be 
their indolence, and, although possessing considerable 
civilisation, from constant intercourse with Europeans, 
I have no doubt their habits are much the same as 
they were when Christopher Columbus first shook 

58 Travels and Adventures 

hands with them. Some of the fishing villages present 
quite a lively scene, and possess quite a fleet of canoes, 
which are very peculiar in appearance, each one being 
hollowed out of a single tree, of from twenty to twenty- 
five feet in length, two and a-half feet in depth, and 
from three to five feet in breadth. It is no unusual 
thing to see whole families floating dreamily down the 
river in one of these unpretentious craft, taking with 
them a load of fish, poultry, and fruit for sale at the 
mouth of the river ; and as they probably occupy from 
a fortnight to three weeks, according to the state of 
the river, they must of course take on board both toilet 
and culinary requisites. Though each boat is provided 
with short, spoon-like oars, they are only used in 
crossing the river. The ascent is made by means of 
long, stout sticks about twenty feet in length. The 
boatman places his stick firmly on the root of a tree or 
in the sand of a bank, and then walks sharply back to 
the stern of the boat half-a-dozen paces, and is followed 
in turn by his neighbour. Sometimes as many as six 
men are required, on account of the strong currents, 
and they continue this arduous labour for a week 
together, creeping slowly up the side of the river, day 
after day, under a burning sun. 

The traveller on the Ma^dalena River will not 
fail to notice many curiosities of the animal as well 
as the vegetable world. Hordes of enormous alii- 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


gators swarm its banks on either side; half-a-dozen 
or more bask on every sandbank, varying in size 
from five to twenty feet long, and in colour from 
light grey to a sooty black. I have counted as 
man\' as thirty on one sandbank, yawning sleepily 
in the sun, as tame as a herd of cattle, and afford- 
ing excellent sport to the passengers. But a ball, 
sometimes two or three, must be well planted to 
stop one of these lazy gentlemen from shuffling 
away to die in the bottom of the river out of sight 
of prying eyes. Large and small lizards dart in 
and out of the creepers which festoon the river- 
banks, but scarcely give one time enough for a 
shot. Sometimes several hundred of large black 
ducks, with a kind of saw-bill, stand like a line of 
soldiers, absolutely fringing - the sandbanks. Thev 
are an easy prey to the sportsman, but when 
cooked prove tough and unsavoury. Long lines of 
herons patiently carry on fishing operations, whilst 
flights of small wdiite cranes wheel about in the air, 
disturbed by the passing boat, or else poise them- 
selves on one foot on a fallen tree, looking like some 
strait-laced belle in their pure white plumage and 
delicate elegance. Kingfishers and humming-birds 
flit from branch to branch, giving us a sight of the 
primary colours to make up for the absence of 

60 Travels and Adventures 

The Magdalena is navigable in the whole length 
— about nine hundred miles — and at a considerable 
distance from the sea is still a magnificent stream, 
with a depth which has already swallowed up some of 
the large steamboats until not even a vestige of the 
funnels are left in sight. However, in the months of 
January, February, and March the continued dry 
season reduces the quantity of water considerably and 
lays bare miles of sandbanks, sometimes rendering 
navigation very difficult and dangerous, except to those 
pilots who, by their great practice, can tell where the 
deepest channel is with no other aid than their careful 
observations, which requires no small skill, seeing that 
in a single flood a running body of water, thirty feet 
deep, will shift from one side of the river-bed to the 
other, leaving not more than two feet of water where 
there was formerly thirty. 

When the Magdalena is full of water the steam- 
boats from Barranquilla invariably run the first three 
nights when making the ascent. After that navigation 

«z> <^> o 

becomes extremely dangerous, on account of the many 
large trunks of trees half-hidden in the water. 

Late in the evening we arrived at a large village 
called Remolino, which contains about 2,000 inhabit- 
ants, mostly of a dusky copper colour and evidently of 
negro origin. The houses are of a miserable class, all 
made of mud or wild cane ; I did not see a single stone 

of an Orchid Hunter. 6i 

construction. The climate here is bad, being charged 

with miasma, especially after the rain)- season. The 
heat is also very oppressive. 

On account of the river being full of water, and 
favoured with a beautiful moonlight, the boat kept 
on up the stream. The mosquitoes arriving in hordes, 
we were obliged to take refuge under our mosquito- 
nets until morning, when we woke up to find ourselves 
fifty miles further up the river, but, unpleasantly, to 
find as well that we were wet to the skin with the 
heavy dew which had fallen during the night. The 
ordinary route from the river Magdalena to the 
interior town of Bucaramanga is by means of canoe 
on the river Lebrija, but, in my desire to get a sight 
of the South American forests, I left for the time being 
these more frequented ways and determined to take 
the path directly through the forest ; and with that 
intention, after three days' journey, I left the steam- 
boat at a small village called Puerto Wilches, 
situated in one of the most luxuriant and beautiful 
parts of the valley of the Magdalena. The entire 
settlement consisted of about two dozen miserable 
huts. The people by their swarthy colour appeared 
to be half Spaniard and half Indian. They live 
in a situation where the land is so rich that with 
the least exertion it would produce two or three 
crops yearly. In their mud-huts the very barest 

62 Travels and Adventures 

necessaries of life are very scarce for many weeks 
together. Bread is not to be had, and flesh-meat 
is equally scarce, excepting game shot in the forest. 
The principal articles of consumption are maize, 
turtles' eggs, fish, and bananas. Here I was treated 
to a dish which, up to the present, had been entirely 
unknown to me. This is the flesh of a lar^e 
lizard, about three feet and a half in length, shot 
by one of the natives in an adjoining tree. After 
some trouble in skinning and preparing it, I was 
induced by the cravings of a well- whetted appetite 
to put aside all scruples of delicacy or custom and 
discuss the merits of the flesh of the celebrated 
iguana, which to many of the natives is a dish of 
the greatest delicacy. I found the flesh very tender 
and palatable, and, had it not been for the trouble 
recently experienced in skinning the scaly gentleman, 
I might have believed it to be the fattest of some 
well-reared brood of chickens. I spent three clays 
here preparing for the journey and getting acquainted 
with the situation. Perhaps what surprises the 
traveller here is to find in this forest-wilderness 
several railway waggons and about a thousand steel 
rails, all in a pitiful state of wreck and dilapidation, 
caused by the heavy rains. These, I am told, are 
the remains of a scheme originated by the excellent 
Colombian general, Solan Wilches, to carry the 

of an Orchid Hunter. 63 

railway from this part of the river Magdalena to the 
town of Biicaramanga, a distance of some one hundred 
and fifty miles. A pity that through political dis- 
turbance so admirable a scheme was frustrated. 
The heat in this part is almost unbearable, and in 
the rainy season the ground becomes literally a 
swamp, on account of the constant downpour of 
rain, which is very violent, often causing yellow 
fever and other epidemics. The vegetation here 
is of the richest, and every evening the stately 
cocoanut and clustering ivory-nut palms are besieged 
with crowds of brilliant-coloured macaws ; swarms 
of large and small parrots fill the air with their 
screams ; large flights of pink and white cranes wheel 
about above the river in search of stray fish ; while 
the toucans, with their enormous beaks, quarrel with 
each other for some favourite fruit, giving the whole 
situation an appearance at once novel and interesting 
to a foreigner. On making inquiry about the path 
through the forest, I was informed that no saddle- 
horses had passed that way for several years, and 
that the road was entirely filled up with fallen trees 
and creepers ; besides, there were some eighteen 
branch rivers to cross — at this time very much swollen 
with the recent rains. These rivers — of course 
without bridges — must be crossed by swimming or 
on the branches of trees. My first preparation for 

64 Travels and Adventures 

the journey was to engage the services of two natives 
— real forest rangers as they afterwards proved. 
These were called by the outlandish names of Don 
Isidoro Hermenaldo and Don Anastasio Montpulano, 
but, to somewhat simplify these extravagant and 
troublesome titles, I christened them, for the time 
being, the one Bob and the other Tom. Bob, the 
elder of the two, appeared to be about twenty-three 
years of age, tall and lithe. His and hair 
of the deepest raven showed that since his Indian fore- 
fathers held undisputed sway as Lords of the Forest 
he had not lost caste. His black eyes possessed a 
fathomless cunning, no doubt intensified by his 
profession of the chase, a characteristic which gave 
a foreigner some misgivings as to his safety in 
such wily society. His companion, Tom, was still 
a lad, seeming to be not more than fifteen years 
of age, of much lighter colour, and, if possible, of 
a constitution more slim and elegant. In his rolling 
frolicsome eyes it was easy to read that mirthfulness of 
character which is peculiar to the free sons of the 
forest, unfettered by the bonds of education. Each 
of my companions was eager to inform me that he 
was well acquainted with every turn of the path, 
having been many times that way before, and also 
was apt in the mysteries of tracking deer and wild 
pigs, turkey and grouse, as well as the jaguar and 



of an Orchid Hunter. 65 

tiger-cat, with which the woods abound. Knowing 
that we were not likely to meet with many inhabitants 
for more than two clays' march, we accordingly laid 
in a stock of what provisions we could buy, con- 
sisting of a few roots of the cassava plant (Jatropha 
Manihot), some flesh-meat and bananas, coffee and 
raw sugar, together with candles, matches, and a 
stock of ammunition. Our cooking utensils w r ere 
an old lard-tin and some calabashes, these being 
very much preferable to the native pottery, which, 
although very durable, is very heavy. At daybreak 
on the fourth day from landing we prepared to say 
good-bye to the people of Puerto Wilches, who, what- 
ever they may lack in culture and resources, certainly 
are not wanting in hospitality — above all, the 
excellent magistrate, Senor Don Eugeno Castillo, 
in whom every stranger will find a willing friend. 

66 Travels and Adventures 






At first the path lay along the three miles of railway 
which had been constructed and abandoned several 
years before. This had now become entirely filled up 
with creepers and tall grass. Leaving the last rail 
behind, we quickly plunged into the thick forest, where 
the road became a mere trail, which made it extremely 
difficult to proceed. First we were sci-ambling over 
some fallen trunks, then cutting our way through a 
thicket of prickly acacias ; sometimes wading up to 
the knees in ditches caused by the heavy rains ; at 
other times swinging ourselves, monkey-like, from one 
branch of a tree to another, in order to cross the turbu- 
lent, swift-running rivers without wetting our ammuni- 
tion and provisions. But, even with these difficulties, 
the path all the while lay through the midst of a 

of an Orchid Hunter. <>- 

vegetation of indescribable luxuriance and beauty 

Nature's original productions as yet unmarred by the 
woodman's axe or the ploughshare. Gigantic timber- 
trees, from seventy to one hundred feet in height, 
festooned to the very summit with creeping Alla- 
mandas, all aglow with their golden trumpet-like flowers, 
mixed and varied with the scarlet stars of the Tacsonia 
Van Vo/xemu, or the rich blue of the Ipomaea and 
the undergrowth of palms of the elegant Phoenix and 
Cocos families. These were supplemented by a carpet 
of the most beautiful mosses and low, flowering shrubs, 
while on the banks of the streams the deep crimson 
flowers of the creeping Cyrtodeira fidgida contrasted 
beautifully with its richly pencilled leaves of velvet 
and gold— everything that could illustrate the glories 
of the vegetable kingdom, with the exception of 
Orchids ; and for these I scanned the trees eagerly, 
but always fruitlessly, on account of the altitude at 
which the best Orchids are found being very much 
above the level of the Magdalena Valley. But Nature 
had been scarcely less prodigal in her provision of 
animal life. Large and small lizards, of the most 
exquisite markings — some which seemed to possess a 
coat of mail made of silver and turquoise — disturbed in 
their afternoon nap, hurried quickly out of sight in the 
long grass ; while birds of every fantastic shape and 
colour flitted in and out of the feathery palms. Occa- 


Travels and Adventures 

sionally we came in contact with a colony of large 
brown monkeys, those missing- links of Darwinian 
celebrity. At the sight of us they set up such a chatter 
as would almost lead one to suppose that they were 



discussing on the spot what possible motive could have 
induced us to venture so far from civilisation. The 
woods were full of a kind of wild turkey, but we were 
not successful in shooting any. However, we bagged 
some birds about the size of a hen, which appeared 
to be a kind of grouse. The sun, already low in the 
heavens, warned us that it was time to prepare our 

of an Orchid Hunter. 69 

camp, and in this my two guides proved how well they 
were accustomed to this kind of life. The forest to 
these primitive architects supplies everything. While 
the elder one was cutting some stout poles, the younger 
one disappeared and as quickly reappeared with an 
armful of fine creepers, with which the poles were 
lashed together, first placing my macintosh on the 
top, and then a thick covering of large palm-leaves, so 
that in less than an hour they had finished the con- 
struction of a commodious shed. Not having been 
occupied in building operations, I had meanwhile 
made a fire and prepared the grouse for cooking. 
These, well boiled with some of the cassava roots, 
made us an excellent supper, being doubly acceptable, 
for the long march since the mid-day meal had given 
us almost wolfish appetites. After supper we prepared 
each one a small calabash of steaming coffee, boiled in 
the lard-tin and sweetened with raw sugar. After 
this each one was content to light his roll of tobacco, 
and so pass the night by the camp fire. 

Before daybreak next morning we were astir, and, 
raking together the smouldering embers of last night's 
fire, prepared our black coffee and roasted some 
bananas. This temperate repast quickly and uncere- 
moniously despatched, each one shouldered his load 
.and again we plunged into the dense forest. 

We had not gone far before a stream of consider- 

jo Travels and Adventures 

able dimensions stopped our way, for the time offering- 
great obstructions, not so much for ourselves, who could 
easily cross by swimming, but how to pass our packs 
with any sort of security offered no small difficulty. 
Finally, finding a large tree fallen half-way across the 
stream, by dint of one helping another we were able to 
pass, and so continued our journey. At noon, as on 
the previous day, we stopped to cook our mid-day meal 
and to rest a short time, for although, on -account of 
the thick forest, the sun did not strike upon us much, 
still the heat in the middle of the day was extremely 
oppressive. Besides, the fatigue occasioned by cutting 
our way through the thick clumps of prickly acacias 
made us glad to seek a little repose. Continuing 
our way, after some refreshment, the track, as on 
the previous day, lay through the same extrava- 
gance of vegetable and animal life. A thousand 
delicate creepers hung in graceful festoons, and woven 
into a tapestry compared with which a Gobelin 
picture would make a poor contrast. After a tire- 
some march, at the end of the second day we arrived 
at the only hut which is to be found in all the journey 
through this part of the forest — and, considering that 
the nearest neighbours are on every side at least 
thirty miles distant, the inhabitants of this forest 
prison, as might be supposed, had partaken consider- 
ably of the nature of their surroundings — a hut of 


of an Orchid I / r.\ ter. j i 

the most primitive construction, stocked with a few 
calabashes, sloth and tiger-cat skins, and blocks of 
wood. The proprietor of the hut, an old hunter, 
showed himself extremely friendly, and immediately 
offered us part of the provision nearest to hand, being- 
some cassava roots, bananas, and bread made of Indian 
corn ground between two stones. Here we passed the 
night, the whole of next day, and the following night 
as guests of the kindly native, being obliged to make 
this delay on account of a terrific thunderstorm and 
heavy rain, which continued to fall all day. As the 
forest dried up somewhat in the night, early next 
morning we prepared ourselves again for the journey ; 
but as the provisions which we had brought with 
us were all exhausted and we could buy nothing 
more here, we left somewhat depending on the 
chance of meeting some stray wild pig or any- 
thing else which mi^ht come within rancre of our 
ofuns. From the hut which we left in the morning 
to the next hut in the forest was a distance of 
twenty-four miles, and there it was not certain that 
we should meet with any inhabitants. We continued 
along the track with much the same surroundings 
as formerly up to mid- day, and as we had seen 
nothing to shoot but some monkeys, we were re- 
duced to the necessity of making our lunch off 
some pine-apples and other fruits, which are plentiful 

72 Travels and Adventures 

enough. About one o'clock in the afternoon, while 
still following the track, we left the thick forest and 
suddenly broke into what appeared to be a large 
dried-up lake, the ground being perfectly flat, and 
a kind of fine, powdery sand covering the entire 
surface. The only vegetation consisted of patches 
of miserable scrub here and there. Having no 
exact information of the breadth of the plain, it 
appeared to me that we had- walked about five 
miles when we again struck into the forest. These 
five miles we had passed with the greatest difficulty : 
an almost vertical sun heated the sand to a great 
degree and rendered the atmosphere stifling ; besides, 
at each step the foot sank into the powdery mass 
up to the ankle. Nothing living was to be seen, 
but at short intervals we passed the tracks of wild 
cattle, as well as many footprints of the jaguar 
and tiger-cat, which are plentiful enough in all this 
part. The footprints of cattle surprised me, as large 
wild animals such as the buffalo or bison are entirely 
unknown in these forests. However, my companions 
informed me the race had originally escaped from 
some settlement on the edore of the forest. After 
some rest we again struck on the path, being anxious 
to reach the hut before night. Darkness came on 
suddenly about half-past six o'clock, as is usual in this 
latitude, and, unfortunately for us, with night the 

of an Orchid Hunter. j$ 

thunder began to roll through the sky, while the black 
clouds, illuminated with bright streaks of liefhtnine, 
warned us that a storm was approaching. We still 
kept on our way, in hopes of reaching the hut, but in 
vain ; quickly drops began to fall, and then the fearful 
torrent which followed would make one believe that 
a cataract had broken loose over our heads. The 
scanty shreds of clothing which each one wore were 
soon soaked, my top-boots as quickly filled and the 
water ran over the tops, while the track became a 
stream. Everything which we carried became run- 
ning with water. The light pith with which the 
natives so easily produce fire, together with the 
matches I had, were equally rendered useless. We 
were exhausted with the fatigue of the day's march, 
and were without fire or provisions, and the violence 
of the storm rendered it almost impossible to construct 
even a temporary shelter. Besides, without this, to 
stop short of the hut was to hazard our lives. The 
two natives behaved admirably, going first, scrambling 
through the tangled brushwood, the track being only 
discernible at intervals when the brilliant lightning 
lit up the gloomy surroundings. About two hours 
after the storm broke upon us, impelled by sheer 
desperation, we arrived at the hut — a tumble-down 
shed, as may be supposed, with the rain coming 
through in every part of the roof; but, to our joy, 

74 Travels and Adventures 

there was a lire in the place, and, on examining 
further, we discovered three natives huddled up in the 
driest part of the shed. These were travellers like 
ourselves, on their way from Bucaramanga to the 
River Magdalena. They had arrived before the 
storm, having had time to collect wood and cook 
their supper : of the little provisions which they pos- 
sessed they sold us some cassava roots and a little 
raw sugar. Quickly disencumbering ourselves of our 
dripping remnants of clothing, we boiled some of the 
raw su^ar in water — this makes an excellent and 
refreshing drink when it is drunk warm. Being some- 
what refreshed with this, we next prepared the cassava 
roots and supped well on these, and my companions 
heaping a large pile of wood on the fire, we waited for 
daylight, making ourselves as comfortable as possible 
under the circumstances, not unmindful to Providence 
that we were better there than in the open forest 
without shelter. 

Morning revealed to us the woods in all their 
grandeur again, with scarce a trace of the hurricane 
which had swept over us on the previous evening. 
Our first consideration was to dry everything we 
possessed by spreading it in the sun ; meanwhile our 
companions, who were going in the opposite direc- 
tion, had breakfasted and taken to the track. The 
preparation of our baggage delayed us until nearly 

OP an Orchid Hunter, 75 

noon, but the guides said that we should find another 
hut at about twelve miles' distance. Towards evening 
we came in sight of the Andes, having nearly crossed 
one-half of the magnificent vallev of the Magdalena: 
Before sunset we had reached the hut, which was 
situated about half a mile up the side of the mountain 
on a slight level, a situation which commands one 
of the grandest sights it is possible to see. On 
the right the magnificent forest-plain stretches out 
towards the sea for two hundred miles, and on the 
other hand as much. The river Magdalena is 
navigable for large steamboats about nine hundred 
miles, and from this point of the Andes on a clear 
day there is at least five hundred miles of the valley 
visible, while directly in front may be seen the mighty 
range of mountains of Antioquia and Bolivar at a 
distance of a hundred miles more. The river may 
be seen from this point like a gilded serpent 
gliding away down towards the sea, its silvery 
coils contrasted beautifully with the sombre green of 
the forest. 

This evening we were more fortunate than the 
night before. Here we met with a party of Colom- 
bians engaged in taking out gutta-percha, and they 
offered us every hospitality which their scanty 
resources afforded. We started away next morning 
more refreshed and in better spirits than on the 

7 6 

Travels and Adventures 

previous day. This hut is called Las Mercedes, and is 
situated about half-way up the mountain, from which 
the town of Bucararnanga lies some twenty-five miles 
on the other side. Before mid-day we reached the top 
of the mountain. From this elevation the view is even 

more beautiful than before, and the clear, bracing air 
gives us an idea that the range of hills is at least four 
thousand feet high. From here as well we began 
to discern the cultivated land and small villages on the 
outside of the forest. After about four hours more 
of a most toilsome march down the side of the 

of an Orchid Hunter, yj 

mountain, where the track is scarcely discernible on 
account of the thicket of creepers, we emerged into 
cleared ground and a fairly beaten track. Passing 
several straggling huts, we finally reached a large 
house covered with red tiles, an excellent specimen of 
the better class of country-house in the interior of 
this part of Colombia, the owner being a coffee-planter 
of considerable importance. We arrived here in the 
evening, and near to the house we were met by a 
crowd of young men and women, each one bearing a 
large basket filled with coffee-berries, each workman 
being paid according to the weight of fruit picked 
during the day. The berries are afterwards spread 
out on cemented floors in the sun, where the outside 
rind of the fruit is taken off and the coffee-beans 
cleaned by first beating them in a mortar and then 
subjecting them to a kind of winnowing process. 

The excellent Colombian proprietor of the estate 
(which is called El Naranjo, or the Orange Tree) 
treated us with every kindness, which was doubly 
welcome after the rough life we had just experienced. 
I passed the night here, and early next morning 
engaged mules to proceed on my journey to the town 
of Bucaramanga. The road from this point to the 
town is supposed to be good, which, in fact, it is, com- 
pared with some of the roads. But, for anyone who 
has not an idea of what is called a road in the Republic 

j 8 Travels and Adventures 

of Colombia, I may describe it as a mere track, worn 
into existence by the continual passing of mules, with 
packs and riders, often taking a roundabout way where 
a near one is at hand, or climbing over a stony preci- 
pice when, with the least forethought, it might have 
been avoided ; besides, in the rainy season, the clayey 
soil becomes impregnated with water, and works into a 
kind of substance in which the mules sink up to the 
saddle-girth, which makes it impossible for any other 
beasts but such as are accustomed to these roads to 
extricate themselves. 

On leaving El Naranjo the road lay through 
numerous plantations of coffee, cocoa, and sugar-cane, 
broken at intervals by large patches of scrub. The 
farm-houses are supplied with numerous buildings for 
drying tobacco, crushing sugar-cane, and preparing 
what is called panela. This is the juice of the cane 
boiled, poured into moulds, and left to cool. These 
moulds are square, and the pieces of sugar are invari- 
ably small cakes about the size of a box of sardines. 
As the juice has undergone no process of refinement, 
the sugar produced in this way is generally very dirty, 
and of a colour as dark as roasted coffee-beans. This 
is produced in very large quantities, and is entirely 
consumed in the country, either for cooking or in 
making the native beer, or gaarapo. After about nine 
miles' riding, we came to a small village called Canta 

of an Orchid 1 1 cater. 79 

Abra. This soon showed us how much the difference 
of elevation had to do with the social condition of the 
people, compared with the natives of the valley of the 
Ma^dalena. Instead of the strong Indian or negro 
type, so marked in the natives of the low land, the 
Colombians here are fair-skinned, good-looking, and 
well dressed. Although the village is one of the 
smallest in the vicinity of Bucaramanga, it boasts of a 
ofood, large Roman Catholic church and several well- 
built houses, but of course all of mud, or what is called 
adobe. Here we breakfasted in true Colombian 
style — a piece of salt beef and cakes made of 
Indian corn ; besides, we had the inevitable cassava 
root and coffee. The coffee, made here on a coffee 
estate, as may be supposed, is an exquisite beverage, 
possessing all the rich aroma which the berry loses by 
a long sea voyage. After breakfast we started away 
at a rattling pace, which did not slacken until we had 
gained the summit of a hill from which were easily 
discernible the strange half - Moorish, half- Spanish 
towers of Bucaramanga. 

8o Travels and Adventures 






The river Lebrija is the finest river draining the state 
of Santander, a tributary of the Magdalena, rising in 
what is called La Mesa de Juan Rodrigues, in the 
Eastern Andes, at a height of about nine thousand feet 
above the level of the sea, passing the town of 
Pie de Cuesta on the north-east side, and running 
through the old Spanish town of J iron, following 
the department of Soto in the state of Santander, 
and emptying itself into the Magdalena at a place 
called • Bodega Central, a small boat-station of com- 
paratively recent construction. Perhaps there is no 
better means of getting a good experience of what 
canoe life really is than by taking a journey on this 
river. Going up, there are the long, weary days 
with a burning sun and cramped privation, dragging 

of an Orchid 1 1 cater. 8i 

the canoe over the rocky shallows; and in descending, 
there are the fearful rapids and whirlpools, where 
many of the canoes, with their freight and passengers, 
are lost every year. Thousands of bags of coffee 
are annually brought down from the interior on this 
river, and a corresponding number of bales of 
manufactured goods are carried up. The town of 
Bucaramanga contains about fifty thousand inhabitants, 
and every one of these who would make a journey 
to the coast, however distinguished or delicate — from 
the polished Spanish lady to the hardiest Indian — 
must submit to a six days' imprisonment in one of 
these miserable craft on the river Lebrija, or another 
branch river called the Sogamoso, where the circum- 
stances are pretty much the same, the only way 
to this large interior town being by way of these 
rivers, with the alternative of the overland route, 
which is a hundred miles' tramp through the forest, 
with men bearing provisions. When I made the 
ascent of the Lebrija I left the Magdalena steamboat 
at Bodega Central, which is largely owned by two 
estimable merchants, Messrs. Lopez and Navarro, 
and is remarkable for the immense thatched ware- 
houses, crowded with piles of bags of coffee, hides, 
gutta-percha, cocoa, plants, and various other products 
of the magnificent State of Santander, one of the 
richest, most important, and most progressive States 


82 Travels and Adventures 

in the Republic of Colombia. Messrs. Lopez and 
Navarro, besides owning most of the canoes on the 
river, also have several small steam-launches, which 
ply on the Lebrija to a place called Estacion Santander. 
I took passage as far as the steamboat went, and 
we left Bodega Central at four a.m. in the little 
launch called La Primera. We steamed across the 
Magdalena and entered the mouth of the Lebrija, 
daylight coming about half-past five, and with it a 
sight of more natural beauty than I had seen before. 
I greatly enjoyed the wild magnificence of the forest 
and the enormous timber-trees festooned with such 
a profusion of gorgeous, flowering creepers, supple- 
mented by thickets of graceful palms and bamboos. 
The banks of the river are intersected at intervals 
by small streams, which drain the adjoining forest 
and sluggishly empty themselves into the main river. 
At each of these outlets a sight presents itself which 
would enchant the most stoical naturalist. Several 
huge alligators lounge lazily in the soft mud. As 
far as the eye can reach up the creek, crowds of 
ducks are actually huddled together, each one brushing 
his neighbour to get fishing-room. The principal 
species is called by the Colombians El Pato Rea/ y 
or Royal Duck — a wild muscovy, weighing some- 
times from eight to ten pounds ; colour, a greenish 
black, with white patches on the wings. Another,, 

of an Orchid Hunter 


which is called in Spanish Palo dc Aguja, is one 
of the divers, having the body black and the long 

* V 


neck covered with a peculiar ashy-coloured down ; 
the long, snake-like neck tapering to the fineness of a 
penknife at the end of the beak. I shot some of 
both species, and they proved excellent food. 

84 Travels and Adventures 

The low bushes trailing in the water of the stream 
are literally white with small cranes, wistfully waiting 
for some careless fish, while the tall trees are bristling 
with large cranes of various classes. The osprey, or 
fishing eagle, and kingfishers complete the collection. 
I would gladly have secured a photograph of so inter- 
esting a sight, but as the little steamboat arrived oppo- 
site to them they invariably rose like a cloud, and, 
after wheeling around in the air several times, alighted 
a few yards off to wait until the disturbance was 
passed. The streams above-mentioned run into the 
Lebrija at intervals, and, as we passed each one, all 
on board seemed carried away with a desire to possess 
some specimen of these myriads of beautiful water- 
fowl. Many large trunks of trees torn from the banks 
and brought down the river by floods made the navi- 
gation very difficult, as we experienced when, about 
mid-day, our little boat ran foul of an enormous log, 
and it was only after two hours' work with axes and 
bars that we were at liberty to proceed. Besides this, 
there is the delay occasioned by taking on wood for 
the engines. 

However, eventually we arrived at Estacion San- 
tander — something like sixty miles in about ten hours. 
The appearance of the village is not very prepossess- 
ing, the houses beine of the most miserable construe- 
tion, made of stems of the wild cane bound together 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


with creepers, like huge bird-cages, thatched with 
palm-leaves. These huts are almost entirely occupied 
by native boatmen, or, as they are called in Spanish. 
bogas. Occasionally, these sheds are made extra 



long, and divided into compartments by a lattice-work 
of wild cane, each division containing at least one 
family. The situation is even worse than the village, 
beine the edee of an extensive swamp covered with 
rank grass, in many parts intersected with pools of 
stagnant water, and in the rainy season being entirely 


Travels and Adventures 

flooded. Here the night dews are very heavy, 

and the air is continually 
charged with miasma, 
making it almost impos- 
sible for any European to 
live long in such a cli- 
mate, the heat being also 
unbearable and the mos- 
quitoes legion. This is 
the principal station for 
canoes on the river, and 
they are tied up to the 
bank in great numbers, 
from the most primitive 
hollow tree that will 
hold two men with dif- 
ficulty, to the clumsy 
construction which car- 
ries fifty bags of coffee 
and six men. Some- 
thing like two hundred 
native boatmen live in 
the huts of this sta- 
tion. They are of 
the coarsest negro 
type, and about as low a form of civilisation as 
it is possible to find, excepting a tribe of wild 


of an Orchid Hunter. 87 

Indians. They are absolutely averse to any kind of 
work except that of the canoe, so that whatever 
social advancement might be offered to them they 
would not accept it. However, in the management 
of the canoe they are invaluable, for out of the 
hundreds of times they make the journey of the 
river, shooting the terrific rapids at lightning speed, 
besides hauling the canoe and cargo over fallen trees, 
with which the river is almost impassable, or in the 
dry season working in the water cutting channels, not 
two per cent, of the canoes and freight are actually 

For two days after I arrived at Estacion San- 
tander I was not able to get a canoe going up the 
river, so, to pass the time in so miserable a situation, 
I went alligator-hunting. Two or three species of 
alligator abound in all the swamps and rivers, but 
the most common is the large cayman, which grows to 
a length of from eighteen to twenty feet, and attains 
an enormous bulk. We had not far to go before we 
met with several, and this being the breeding season, 
they were especially hasty-tempered when compared 
with their usually sluggish disposition. The female 
scratches a hole in the sand, a few yards away from 
the water's edge ; here she deposits a large number 
of eggs — from twenty-five to seventy. I have never 
found them more than one foot and a-half deep, but 

8S Travels and Adventures 

always on a sand-bank considerably elevated above 
the river, to prevent them being washed away with 
the floods. The months of February and March is 
the time when the alligators deposit their eggs, and 
it is extremely dangerous to go near the female 
when so doincr • the hu^e animal, disturbed on the 
nest, first gives warning of hostile intentions by 
uttering a loud, hissing sound, like a snake, and by 
puffing out the neck and opening her monstrous jaws. 
The intruder who, after these warnings, disregards 
them, must be a ^ood shot and armed with a 
good weapon, or otherwise very careless of his 
life. Although the natives are careful not to expose 
themselves too much in the water of the river, many 
people are annually killed by alligators. If a fisher- 
man advances too far into the water, or some unfor- 
tunate Indian upsets his canoe, he very often falls 
an easy prey to the lurking monsters which lie at 
the bottom of the river in perfect shoals, watching 
ior large fish or whatever living being may stray 
within reach, and once between those terrible teeth 
all hope must be abandoned, for I have never heard 
of a single escape. The armour on the back of the 
alligator is made of a quantity of stout bone plates 
under the skin; these are very difficult to penetrate; 
but the vulnerable parts are the eye and behind the 
shoulder — a ball well planted in either situation is 

of an Orchid Hunter, 

8 9 

certain to kill. Our clay's sport ended with two males 
and one female, all of which the natives managed 
to drag- to the station and skin, only utilising the 
skin of the under-side of the animal. One of them 
measured seventeen feet and the other fifteen feet — 
fairly good specimens, but not very large. Next day 


I set about o^ettino; together the natives for the canoe, 
and providing a stock of dried fish, salt beef, cassava 
root, bananas, and some coffee, together with cooking 
utensils, fishing-nets, guns, and ammunition. It is 
also necessary to construct an awning over the canoe, 
to somewhat break the glare of an overpowering sun. 

The following clay, after much delay, I mustered 
my company of six men, and we started up the swift- 
running, muddy stream, not forgetting to take with us 


Travels and Adventures 

a large bottle of native spirit, called aguardiente — a 
liquor made from the sugar-cane, of a disgusting taste 
and unbounded strength, which one would say, in 
ordinary phraseology, is warranted to kill at a thousand 
yards. Indeed, the native boatmen are so accustomed 


to the use of this drug that the alcohol eventually 
loses its effect upon them. An amusing instance 
happened on the journey up the river. I had taken a 
bottle of alcohol with me to use in a spirit-lamp, with 
the object of boiling water to make tea on the journey, 
but by some mistake a pint bottle of alcohol was given 
to the native boatmen instead of the aguardiente. 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


Unfortunately for me, they drank ever)' drop of the 
fiery substance, with no worse effect than to slightly 
intoxicate them. I only discovered the mistake when 
I went to seek the alcohol to make my tea and found 
instead only a bottle of native spirit which would 
not burn. The boatmen seemed to leave their huts 
with the utmost reluctance, and proceeded very slowly. 
In their homes they wear some clothing, and many of 
them even a decent suit ; but once away from the 
village, they discard every vestige of clothing, in order 
to be more ready to jump into the water when pleasure 
or necessity prompts them. We had not gone far up 
the river when the natives, struck with a fit of laziness, 
took to the woods, and left me with one man in the 
canoe to do the best I could. Of course, it was impos- 
sible for me to proceed without them, so I took my 
gun and went off into the forest to see if there was 
anything to shoot. There are plenty of wild pigs and 
the tapir, called by the natives La Danta, but it is 
difficult to get a shot at it without having some dogs. 
I was not long in coming up with some of the natives 
engaged in fishing in a small lake, about two and 
a half miles from the river ; the water muddy and 
stagnant, but so full of fish that there was no need of 
the wily patience generally employed in angling. The 
only difficulty was to get the fish off the hooks quickly 
enough, so eager were they to bite. In about two 

92 Travels and Adventures 

hours we had taken as many as four men could carry. 
The fish were of three kinds, one about twelve inches 
long, covered with silvery scales, having a very small 
mouth. This is called by the natives Boca chica, or 
little mouth ; it is the fish that most abounds in all 
parts of Colombia, and is excellent eating, probably a 
kind of perch. The next is La Dorado,, or the gilded 
fish, from eighteen to twenty inches in length and ^y\q. 
inches in girth ; the flesh of this is inferior to that 
of the Boca chica, but the appearance is most wonder- 
ful ; the scales, especially around the head, are of a 
glistening yellow, making one believe it is wearing a 
suit of gold-gilt armour. The other, a short, ugly fish, 
with formidable rows of teeth like a miniature shark, 
is called by the natives Moncholo ; this fish proved the 
best food. By the time we had gathered our booty 
together, the sun, low in the heavens, warned us 
that it would soon be dark, and we hurried back to 
the canoe as quickly as possible. The natives gather- 
ing wood and making a fire, we all partook of boiled 
fish, bananas, and a little coffee. After this, everyone 
stretched himself on the sand-bank and prepared to 
wait until morning, amid crowds of hungry mosquitoes. 
Although the natives dispense with everything, having 
only the sky for a roof, yet to a European the heavy 
dews are very injurious, and it is always a good 
precaution to erect a kind of awning of palm-leaves 

of an Orchid Hunter, 


to prevent the clothes being soaked during the 

By daybreak everyone was astir, and the bananas 
and black coffee were enjoyed with as much eusto 


as an Englishman would enjoy the proverbial ham 
and eggs. We were soon moving slowly up the 
river, the natives working, as usual, without a particle 
of clothing in a vertical sun, only now and then 
stopping to jump into the river to refresh themselves 
with a bath. On account of the swiftness of the river, 

94 Travels and Adventures 

it is impossible to use oars except for crossing ; but 
the labour of pushing the boat along by the sand-bank 
is more tiring, so much so that no European would be 
able to endure it for more than a few days. In the 
forenoon I had excellent shooting from amongst a 
flock of parrots and water-fowl. The banks of the 
river were alive with the beautiful egret-cranes, and 
the trees full of macaws, some scarlet and blue, some 
blue and yellow. About mid-day we partook of our 
usual rations of fish and bananas, with palm-wine. 
The process of making the palm-wine is somewhat 
curious. The largest of the trees are selected and cut 
down ; then, when the tree is laid flat, the whole of 
the leaves which fall uppermost are cut away until the 
white young growth in the middle of the tree is laid 
bare. Out of this part a large, square piece is cut, 
sufficient to leave a hollow which will hold at least a 
quart of water ; then the hollow is carefully covered 
over and the palm-wine maker waits until next morn- 
ing. As a rule, when he returns he finds the cavity 
filled with a whitish liquor, having the appearance 
and taste of lemonade, only a little sour, but very 
refreshing and beneficial. 

About three o'clock we arrived at a small station 
of two or three huts. Here the natives learned that 
there was a herd of wild swine in the vicinity, so all 
progress up the river was stopped, as the boatmen 

of an Orchid Hunter 


would go no farther that clay. Everybody was on the 
alert for a hunt ; so all the dogs of the place were got 
together, and two rusty old guns, which were all the 
station could muster, most of the natives being armed 
with lances, and what is called here the machete, or 
cutlass. Away we started into the forest, trampling 
down and cutting through the beautiful strelitzias, 
delicate palms, and gorgeous creepers. With the 
help of the dogs, we were not long in finding the 
track of the herd, and then we went on about an 
hour before we came up with them. The natives 
wore next to no clothing, but mine was reduced to 
shreds in the desperate struggle with the thorns and 
creepers. The first sign of the herd was given to us 
by a pattering sound and a very rank smell, besides 
the barking of dogs. Presently we appeared to have 
dropped into the middle of them, as every part of the 
forest seemed alive with wild pigs. There must have 
been at least three hundred, rushing backwards and 
forwards in the wildest confusion, some of the natives 
darting through amongst the trees with the dogs, 
trying to keep the herd together, others firing as 
quickly as they could reload their guns, and some 
using their cutlasses to kill as many as possible. After 
about a quarter of an hour of the most exciting fight 
that it is possible to imagine, the whole of the herd 
that remained unwounded had disappeared, leaving us 

g6 Travels and Adventures 

to despatch the wounded and gather up the dead. 
When we were able to collect them together we found 
seven as the proceeds of the raid. These were 
shouldered and carried in triumph to the camp. The 
cooking process was not a long one. The flesh of the 
young peccary is excellent, but that of the older ones 
is somewhat inferior ; the largest weigh from thirty to 
forty pounds, and are very much like small domesti- 
cated pigs, of a dull black colour and having coarse 
bristles ; the head and nose are very long in propor- 
tion to the body, and the feet very small. Herds 
of peccaries abound in these forests, in such large 
quantities that the natives can always have fresh 
meat when they are not too lazy to hunt. 

It being already dark when we returned to the 
camp, I contented myself here for the night, and we 
started by daylight next morning, without any break- 
fast, as the natives would not wait ; so, as a passenger 
has absolutely no authority over them, I thought it 
best to let them go when they were in the humour. 
We took with us a good supply of the flesh of the 
peccaries, and later, when the boatmen felt inclined, we 
stopped at a sand-bank, and while one party lighted 
a fire and prepared breakfast, the others w r ent in 
search of turtles' eees. The nests of the turtles are 
discovered in a very curious manner. To an ordinary 
observer nothing is to be seen but an expanse of flat 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


sand, but the men returned with over two hundred 
eggs, the means of discovering them being to pierce 
the sand at intervals with a stout stick to find the 
cavity containing the eggs. The turtle comes out of 
the river during the night and scratches a deep hole 



in the sand ; in these holes the eggs are deposited 
all in one night, and not, as is generally supposed, 
in several nights. I have read accounts of more than 
a hundred eggs being laid by one turtle ; but I 
am not inclined to believe the story, as the oldest 
native told me he had never found more than three 


98 Travels and Adventures 

dozen in a nest of one turtle. It often happens, 
however, that two or three deposit their eggs so 
close together that they are easily mistaken for one 
nest. . 

About mid-day we arrived at a small village called 
Papayal, a canoe station of little importance. Here 
I bought some provisions, and stayed about an hour. 
When I was ready to start again I found it almost 
impossible to persuade the natives to proceed with 
the canoe. After very much trouble I got them 
on board, and we continued lazily up the river. . That 
night we camped on a sand-bank ; the opposite side 
of the river beinor the edcre of a thick forest. The 
boatmen lighted a fire and partook of supper, and 
then, probably fatigued with the toil of the day 
and the unbearable heat, they were soon stretched on 
the sand sleeping heavily. I was unable to sleep on 
account of the mosquitoes, so I sat down to contem- 
plate the grandeur of the situation. The full moon 
lighted up the dense forest with a kind of weird, 
unnatural beauty, and a stillness reigned around that 
would make one believe we had camped on the terri- 
tory of the dead. Towards midnight what appeared 
before so deserted became suddenly animated ; large 
flights of white cranes arrived, and poised themselves 
on the branches nearest the river, while as many more 
of the tall grey ones took up quarters on the 

of an Orchid Hunter. 99 

edge of the sand-bank, wading as far as their long 
legs would allow. The alligators, which, up to the 
present, had kept carefully under the water, began to 
make an appearance, first poking their heads cautiously 
out, and then dragging their long bodies out on the 
sand, while a crowd of about a dozen turtles raced out 
of the water. The opposite bank was not less ani- 
mated than the one on which our canoe was moored. 
I could hear the peccaries grunting and rushing about 
in search of food, Several deer and one tapir came 
down to the water to drink, being distinctly visible in 
the clear moonlight. The occasional sharp bark of the 
ocelot and the deep growl of the jaguar, together 
with the mimic roar of the howler monkey, and 
the low, prolonged wailing of the sloth, seemed fit 
accompaniment for so wild a place. I lay down 
to rest, leaving them in the height of activity, 
and when daylight came nothing was to be 
seen of my midnight visitors but footprints. All 
this day we kept on steadily up the swift-running 
stream, little of importance taking place, and in the 
evening we camped again on a sand-bank. From 
here we could see the long, blue line of the tops of the 
Andes away on the horizon, but still at a considerable 
distance, on account of the winding of the river. 

ioo Travels and Adventures 






Next day we came to some rapids, which extended a 
considerable distance, where the water rushed down a 
declivity with terrific velocity. Here the natives were 
obliged to bring the canoe to the bank on the shallowest 
side, and, all jumping into the water, literally lifted the 
boat up through the foaming torrent, wading up to the 
neck in the water and making a great noise, shouting 
to each other in their bad Spanish by way of encourage- 
ment. When we had got clear of the rapids we 
stopped to rest, and while we were there three canoes, 
laden with coffee, came down the river and joined us. 
I was curious to see how they would shoot the rapids 
— a mile of rushing, foaming torrent, intersected at 
intervals by enormous trunks of trees, which, at some 
time or other, had been brought down the stream, and 
were now firmly embedded in the banks. These 

of AN Orchid II cater. ioi 

obstacles caused the angry weight of water to eddy 
and boil like a monster caldron. The principal danger 
to the canoes shooting these rapids is the probability 
of being dashed to pieces against some of these hidden 
destroyers. The boatmen seemed to understand fully 
their desperate danger, and as the first canoe moved 
away from the bank I could hear them encouraging 
each other. The first canoe was loaded with forty 
bags of coffee, and no sooner was the frail bark 
pushed off from the side than it was caught in the 
current. The descent from where we were to the 
still waters below occupied about five minutes, and so 
great was the velocity that had the canoe only jarred 
with any of the projections of the banks it must 
inevitably have been dashed to pieces. But the skill 
of the natives is so great that they guided the whole 
of the canoes safely into the calmer waters below, and, 
once clear of their danger, gave an exulting shout 
which we could hear above the roar of the rapids. 
After little more progress, night came upon us again. 
I had been fortunate through the day in shooting some 
ducks, so we had no lack of food. 

Next day we started by daybreak, and as we 
neared the higher part of the river we found it in 
many places very shallow, and on this account we had 
a piece of sport which was quite new to me. This 
was a race with a large fish, called by the natives 


Travels and Adventures 

sava/o, somewhat like a salmon. They seem to be 
fond of feeding- in the shallows on the edge of the 
sand - banks, and at a considerable distance away we 
could see their movements in the water ; so directly 
we brought the canoe opposite to them, the boatmen 


jumped into the river and gave chase, driving them as 
much as possible into the shallowest part. The chase 
was most exciting, six natives to four fish, dodging 
each other with such surprising agility that they only 
lost one, the others being killed by a stroke of the 
machete, which the natives use with such dexterity. It 
was impossible for me to learn the scientific name of 

of an Oa'c////) Hunter 


this beautiful fish. It is very symmetrical in form, 
about two feet and a half in length, and is covered 
with scales of a peculiar shape and enormous size, 
each one larger than a crown, and glittering like 
burnished silver. I have seen the same fish grow 
to a size of seven feet long- and two feet six 
inches in girth. When cooked it proved somewhat 
unsavoury, and considerably less palatable than beau- 

About mid-day on the sixth day from starting we 
arrived at the foot of the Andes, and about four 
o'clock in the afternoon, after great cheering and salu- 
tation from one lot of boatmen to another, we landed 
at the port called Botijas — no very inviting place, but 
at least a relief to get liberty from the cramping con- 
finement of the canoe. A large sheet-iron warehouse 
and a few miserable thatched huts are all that the 
inhabitants can boast of to make up their village. 
This place is proved the most unhealthy. One or 
two Colombians are placed here by the merchants of 
the interior to look after the despatch of cargo by the 
canoes. These poor fellows are only able to stay 
about a month, and then seek the higher ground to 
recruit themselves from the terrible malarial fever 
which inevitably fastens itself upon them. All the 
produce going down the river in canoes arrives here 
on mules, and some hundreds may be seen at a time 

104 Travels and Adventures 

loading and unloading bags of coffee, bales of gutta- 
percha, or cases of plants. Very few stay more than 
one day, on account of the climate. As the village is 
situated at the foot of the mountain, the ascent can be 
made in about two hours to a large country-house 
called El Volador, built on a ridge of the mountain 
several thousand feet above the River Lebrija. On 
the top of the mountain the air is fresh and cool, and 
the climate eood. From here to the town- of Bucara- 
manga the journey can be made in two days, over a 
tolerably good mule-track, which passes through the 
midst of many beautiful plantations of coffee, tobacco, 
and siiQfar-cane. 

What appears most extraordinary to the traveller 
when he mounts up to the top of the range of 
mountains which overlooks the town of Bucaramano-a 
is to find a large town of about fifty thousand 
inhabitants at so great a distance from any port 
and so thoroughly isolated in the tops of the Andes. 
The natural situation is very beautiful, the town being 
built upon an extensive plain, about 3,000 feet above 
the level of the sea, and this plain entirely surrounded 
by high mountains, and these mountains for a con- 
siderable distance up the side adorned with pretty 
country-houses, each one with a patch of sugar-cane, 
a plantation of coffee or tobacco ; while as far as the 
eye can reach is an extent of pastures enriched with 

i i 


of an Orchid Hunter. 105 

splendid herds of cattle and troops of half-wild horses, 
while the tops of the mountains tower into the clouds, 
which shroud them day and night with a veil of im- 
penetrable mist. The plain on which the town is built, 
as well as most of the adjoining land, has long been 
celebrated for the gold found there, and especially in 
the old-fashioned village of J iron, where the Spanish 
conquerors found sufficient to load their ships with 
hoards of treasure. The gold is very good ; but many 
of the mines discovered by the Spaniards have been 
lost or abandoned, and those which remain, although 
they still yield largely, are not so profitable as in 
former years. Once inside the town of Bucaramanga 
the whole arrangement is most novel. The streets are 
very narrow and paved, being highest at the sides, 
and having a stream of water runninor down the middle 
of each of the principal thoroughfares, serving at once 
for the supply of the town and for sanitary purposes. 
The water is generally taken from some stream 
in the nearest mountain-side, and brought by conduits 
to the town, where, in various branches, it is made 
to pass through all the principal streets, and again, 
in hundreds of branches, is carried to form the many 
beautiful baths and fountains which are found in the 
houses of the, rich Colombians. As a rule, the houses 
which form the suburbs of the town are miserable 
tumble-down constructions, and the streets are so 1111- 

106 Travels and Adventures 

even that they will scarcely admit of wheeled vehicles 
passing along them, so that every kind of conveyance, 
such as cabs, omnibuses, waggons, etc., is entirely 
unknown in this mountain retreat. The houses are 
principally one storey high, and the long streets, in 
which the whole of the houses seem to have been 
made from the same model, give the place an 
appearance of dull sameness perfectly unbearable to 
a European. But once inside the door of one of the 
best of these houses everything is changed. The 
apartments are built to open into a square or garden, 
generally cooled by a splashing fountain, and planted 
with innumerable sweet-smelling flowering shrubs and 
gorgeous orchids. The largest hall or reception-room 
takes up the whole of the square adjoining the street, 
so that on the one side the windows overlook the 
traffic and passers-by, while on the other side large 
folding-doors open to a wealth of floral beauty. 
These saloons are often most gorgeously furnished ■ 
the richest gilding, the choicest pictures, carpets from 
Persia and draperies from India, with an extravagance 
in silver and bric-a-brac almost impossible to believe 
could ever be found on the tops of the Andes. Two 
sides of the square are taken up by the bedrooms, 
which also open into this floral promenade, the 
remaining side of the square being reserved for the 
dining-room ; and on account of the perpetual mildness 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


of the climate this hall is left entirely open on one 
side, so that the well-to-do Colombian, instead of 
requiring floral decorations to adorn his dinner-table, 
literally dines under the shade of orange-trees laden 
with blossom and fruit. Huge gardenias, whose 
crowds of waxen flowers fill the air with their exquisite 
perfume, with large clumps of the lovely orchid 
Cattleya Mendelii, give to the whole group a masterly 
finish of colour. The business houses of Bucaramanjja 
are quite equal to any in other parts of Colombia, and 
a large trade is done in cotton goods and hardware, 
as well as immense exportation of products of the 
country. There are many excellent hotels ; a club, 
telegraph and telephone offices, post-office and banks 
are to be found ; while the latest novelty for the tops 
of the Andes is to be the electric light, the machinery 
being, at the time I write this, on the way from 
Europe to be carried up the mountains on the 
backs of mules. Apart from all this, what strikes the 
visitor as the most curious of all the curiosities of 
Bucaramanga is the market, which is held some 
three times a week in the principal plaza, an 
extensive square in front of the church. Here 
every Saturday may be found such a collection of 
products of a diversity of character as is rarely met 
with. Flesh-meat is sold under small tents to protect 
it from the blaze of the sun, while bales of gutta- 

108 Travels and Adventures 

percha, sacks of coffee, and rolls of tobacco are heaped 
up in the midst of stores of merchandise from Europe, 
potatoes and Indian corn, raw sugar and bananas, 
oranges, peaches, and figs, all jumbled together topsy- 
turvy. The people are no less remarkable for their 
diversity of colour, character, and nationality. Here a 
sharp German trader may be seen bartering with a 
Red Indian over a cent in the price of a pound of 
coffee, or some elegant Colombian lady jostles with 
the rough Indians of the hills in the excitement to 
secure some delicious fruit or extra fine capon. 
Sisters of Mercy, Roman Catholic priests, a large 
percentage of Germans, a few Frenchmen and Italians, 
together with the educated Colombians, negroes, and 
half-breeds, are all intent upon making the best 
bargain. The principal trade of the town in the 
importation of manufactured goods is in the hands 
of German traders, of which there are many important 
houses, as well as a few rich Colombians. The 
educated society of Colombia has always been noted 
for its capacity and intelligence, and Bucaramanga, 
besides possessing several good schools and a college, 
has given to the country from time to time many 
celebrated men, both in literary, political, and scientific 
pursuits, while the State of Santander undoubtedly has 
a population of the most industrious class of people to 
be found in Colombia. 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


Doctor Aurelio Mutis, one of the most popular 
inhabitants of Bucaramanga, as well as of this State, 
was educated in medical colleges in London, Edin- 
burgh, and Paris. He is a man of most affable 
character, coupled with the sprightly vivacity of the 


men of his race, polished and accomplished in the 
highest degree. He speaks fluently Spanish, English, 
French, and Italian. As a medical man he is equally 
in request in the palace of the millionaire and the 
Indian hut; and it is said that in his long experience 
in this laro-e town of so diversified a class of inhabit- 
ants none ever asked for his help and was turned 

no Travels and Adventures 

away. As a political man he has lately become 
famous, having been for a short time Governor of the 
State and then Secretary for Education. He is at 
present in England acting as Consul for Colombia in 
the port of Southampton. 

My journey was made in search of the fairy- 
tribe of Orchids, and as up to the present I had not 
even seen a single plant of value, I was delighted to 
learn that the early botanists had found the gorgeous 
C alt ley a Mendelii growing around here in profusion. 
Now, however, through the immense exportation of 
these plants, not a single one is to be found within 
many days' journey from here on mules. I accord- 
ingly set about hiring mules for myself and baggage, 
and again started off in search of the capricious flower. 
This time the way ran along the valley of La Florida, 
passing on the way large works in progress for taking 
water to wash the gold-bearing sand of the vicinity. 
Nearly the whole of the land along the valley is care- 
fully cultivated ; the beautiful crops of waving sugar- 
cane, maize, and tobacco, and the rich pastures stocked 
with peaceful herds of cattle, give one a feeling of 
European surroundings. On each side of the valley 
the mighty peaks of the Andes tower up to the 
clouds, all bristling with forest. Twelve miles of the 
most agreeable riding brought us to an old Spanish 
town called Pie de Cuesta, or in English, " Foot of 

of an Orchid Hunter 

i i i 

the Hill." This place contains about 12,000 inhabit- 
ants — peaceable, industrious people, mostly employed 
in making cigars and straw hats, as well as in agri- 
cultural pursuits. In the whole of my variations in 

» * LI 1 1 

>> 1 ! 



life and circumstances I have found no town or village 
I have liked so much as the quiet, beautiful, dreamy 
old town of Pie de Cuesta — about 3,500 feet above 
the level of the sea, with something like twelve hours 
of day and twelve hours of night all the year round, a 
mild, balmy air which is never oppressively hot or 
disagreeably cold, an abundance of pure water, and a 

112 7 A'.-/ 1 r ELS / / A 7) A D I r EA r TL T RES 

rich variety of tropical fruits. The majority of the 
houses are commodious, and even spacious, while the 
people, at the same time possessing all the sprightly wit 
of the modern Colombian, are free from that knavish, 
over-reaching disposition which develops into a system 
of roguery in most of the outlying mountain villages. 
The natural situation of the town is as admirable as 
the climate and the people are agreeable. I was glad 
to find the beautiful Epidendrum atropurpureum cover- 
ing the walls around the houses and flowering in pro- 
fusion ; and here also I found one of the most 
beautiful of the South American birds — the scarlet 
and black tanager. This is called here by the natives 
the " Cardinal Bird," and, compared with a flock of 
these, no Roman prelate ever made a more brilliant 
effect. It is a small bird, about the size of a starling, 
the wings and tail of a velvety black colour, while the 
rest of the body is a most intense scarlet ; the other- 
wise black beak is adorned with something like plates 
of ivory on each side of the lower mandible. I was 
delighted to obtain several good specimens of this 
gaudy little woodland gem. 

The mule-track, on leaving Pie de Cuesta, keeps 
along the fertile banks of a stream, in a southern 
direction, for some miles, and then commences an 
ascent of about one thousand feet, until we reach 
what is called La Mesa de los Santos, an extensive 

of an Orchid Hunter 


plain where the wild Indian must have ranged and 

camped at will in the time when the Spanish yoke 
was unknown. ' The vegetation consists of a tall, 
rank herbage, with occasional scrub, intermixed with 
thousands of the beautiful Sobralia leucoxantha, with 
rose and white flowers of the colour and substance 
of a Cattlcya Mendelii, but so difficult to transport 
that very few of the plants are known in England. 
The inhabitants of this magnificent plain are mostly 
cattle-keepers, who are possessed of the best class 
of horses to be found in this part of the country ; 
they are also celebrated for their splendid horseman- 
ship. Every morning they may be seen careering 
over the expanse of prairie with a lasso of about 
thirty yards long, of raw cow-hide, tied to the pommel 
of the saddle, and wearing a pair of very wide leg- 
gings, which are strapped around them at the waist 
and float in the wind on either side something like 
a lady's dress. These half-breeches, half-leggings, are 
called in the Spanish zamarros. The saddle is as 
peculiar a production as the rest of the arrangement, 
being raised up very high at the front and back, so 
that the horseman appears to sit in a chair. A square 
piece of cloth, with a hole cut in the middle for the 
neck, is thrown over the shoulders ; this, and a wide- 
brimmed straw hat, complete the curious costume of 
a Colombian cattle-ranger. One side of La xMesa 

ii4 Travels and Adventures 

de los Santos is bounded by immense precipices, 
some of them over two hundred feet in height. 
These are the haunts of several birds of prey, most 
notably the condor, or, as it is called in the Spanish, 
El Biutre. This gigantic bird has a spread of wing 
of six feet, and has strength to rise from the ground 
with a fair-sized calf. I have seen them wheeling 
around at a considerable height, and they seem to 
alight on the ground very rarely. The natives' 
mode of killing them is to slaughter an old horse 
or other large animal on the edge of a precipice, 
and the quick-sighted bird is down upon the carcase 
before life is quite gone ; the natives wait in ambush 
until the monster bird is gorged with the flesh, so 
as to be unable to rise quickly into the air. The 
lurking Indian watches his opportunity, and with the 
agility of a deer falls upon the condor with spears, 
and generally comes off victorious. On the ledges 
of these precipices, where the eagle and the condor 
make their home, the lovely Cattleya Mendelii has 
grown in profusion since the memory of man. Even 
when the first plant -hunter arrived, these dizzy 
heights offered no obstacle to his determination to 
plunder. Natives were let down by means of ropes, 
and by the same ropes the plants were hauled up 
in thousands, and when I visited the place all that 
I could see of its former beauty and wealth of plants 

of an Orchid Hunter. \ ic 

was an occasional straggling bulb hung as if in mid- 
air on some point only accessible to the eagles. 

I left the place impressed with the magnificence 
of the scenery, but disappointed in my search for 
plants. Continuing over the plain, we arrived at a 
small village of ancient Spanish construction, called 
Los Santos, situated on the very edge of a declivity 
of about one thousand feet. In the valley below 
runs the turbulent little river Subi, formerly called 
by the Indians the Chicamocha. On the opposite 
side of the valley mighty precipices rise to the same 
height as the one on which we stood. It seems as 
if the river had once flowed over the level plain, 
but floods, during centuries, had cut out the terrible 
chasm which opens so suddenly to the traveller. 
The distance from the one line of precipices to the 
other, at the top, is about a mile and a half, and 
the mule-track was down the mountain-side, across 
the river, and up the other side, on to the plain 
beyond. The descent occupied about an hour and 
a half of the most perilous winding about amongst 
rocks, and creeping along shelving ledges, where 
the mules, with one false step, would have been 
dashed to pieces. At intervals we came to small 
huts, the occupation of the owners being to keep 
goats, of which there were many large herds nimbly 
jumping from rock to rock, cropping the scant herbage 

1 1 6 Travels and Adventures 

which scarcely finds room to grow amongst the 
crowds of American aloes and other prickly cacti. 

On arriving at the little village called Subi, I was 
surprised at the great change of temperature. Instead 
of the fresh, bracing air of the plain, the heat here is 
intense, the thermometer seldom falling below ioo° in 
the shade. The village has lately become a health- 
resort for invalids suffering" from diseases of the skin. 
Many of the patients may be seen all day'bathing in 
the swift-running stream, the waters of which, although 
coming from the high, cold hills, become warmed in 
their transit through this burning valley. Here also I 
found a lovely little bird which I had not seen before 
— a small creeper about the size of a robin, with 
dusky-brown wings, but having the breast of a brilliant 
scarlet, and wearing on the head a crest of long 
feathers of the same gaudy colour, which it raises or 
lowers at pleasure. I was glad to rest our mules and 
pass the night here ; but long before daylight next 
morning we began to make the ascent of the precipices 
on the other side, and by the time the sun was up we 
had already made half the ascent of the mountain. 
The view from here is very beautiful ; the stupendous 
rocks may be seen on one side of the chasm, with the 
immense prairies of La Mesa de Los Santos stretching 
away as far as the eye can reach, losing themselves in 
the horizon. To the south,, one of the tributaries of 

of an Orchid Hunter. wj 

the river Subi, after creeping along the plain for some 
distance, suddenly falls over the rocks with a hound of 
a hundred feet, resolving itself into spray and rain- 
bows in the chasm below. I had been informed that 
Cattleya Mendclii was still to be found in quantities 
on the eastern range of the Andes ; so, after leaving 
the precipices of Subi, I turned off in the direction of 
a small village called Curiti, at the foot of the ranofe of 
mountains so celebrated for orchids. Here I left my 
mules and proceeded on foot. The vegetation is 
somewhat semi-tropical, lovely ferns and selaginellas 
being very luxuriant, as well as the feathery bamboos, 
but with an absence of the fine, rich timber-trees and 
tow r ering palms of the lower grounds. Here, amongst 
the scores of humminor-bircls which flit from flower to 
flower, I made the acquaintance of one which I had 
not seen before, and which, I believe, was the prettiest 
I had ever seen. This is known in England as the 
Blue Sylph, having two long feathers in the tail like 
those of the swallow, but of the most resplendent 
metallic blue. Here also the rare and beautiful 
Swallow-tailed Kite may be seen wheeling gracefully 
overhead all day, but far out of gun-shot. I had not 
far to go before I was rewarded with the object of my 
search in the myriads of Bromeliacece and orchids 
which literally cover the short, stunted trees and the 
bare points of rocks, where scarcely an inch of soil is 

1 1 8 Travels and Adventures 

to be found. The most magnificent sight for even the 
most stoical observer are the immense clumps of Caltleya 
Mendelii, each new bulb bearing four or five of its 
gorgeous rose-coloured flowers, many of them growing 
in the full sun or with very little shade, and possessing 
a glowing colour which is very difficult to get in the 
stuffy hot - houses where the plants are cultivated. 
Some of these plants, considering their size and the 
slowness of growth, must have taken many years to 
develop, for I have taken plants from the trees with five 
hundred bulbs, and as many as one hundred spikes of 
flowers, which to a lover of orchids is a sight worth 
travelling from Europe to see. Apart from the few 
extraordinary specimens, the orchids, as a rule, are 
very much crowded and mixed up with other vegeta- 
tion. The accompanying picture, from a photograph 
taken on the spot, represents a tree growing in its 
natural state in the forest. The higher branches are 
covered with a long, white lichen ; a little lower is an 
immense clump of Tillandsias ; while the branch on 
the right hand is inhabited by some Oncidiums. The 
next plant, lower down, is a nice piece of Caltleya 
Mendelii. The whole of the mountains at the time of 
my visit were crowded with the famous parasite. Like 
most of my predecessors, I was tempted to bear away a 
large quantity of the coveted plants, besides exploring 
the mountains and enjoying much of their beauty. 

of an Orchid Hunter. 119 








My next journey was in search of the popular 
orchid Odontoglossum crispum, which, I had been 
informed, was to be found so far in the interior of 
Colombia as the department of Cundinamarca, on the 
slopes of the Andes in the vicinity of the capital city. 
To reach this place would necessitate a journey of 
about two hundred miles on horses or mules. This 
mode of travelling: is more monotonous, more tire- 
some, and more expensive than the adventurous life 
of the forest. The general direction of the track is 
south, but it has many deviations, going through the 
State of Santander, a short distance in the State of 
Boyaca, and terminating in the State of Cundina- 

120 Travels and Adventures 

marca, passing on the way some twelve small towns 
and villages, one or two Indian, the others of the old 
Spanish style, many of them being extremely pretty in 
situation and construction. Several of the villages are 
celebrated for the desperate conflicts which took place 
between the Spaniards and the natives of Colombia in 
the terrible War of Independence. 

I will only particularise one or two of the principal 
towns ; to enumerate more would only be to weary 
the reader with repetitions. After a long, toilsome 
day's journey over the rocky heights of the Andes, I 
arrived at the town called Sanjil — a town of some 
14,000 inhabitants, beautifully situated on the banks 
of the River Fonce. It was originally peopled by the 
Guave Indians, and dates from the year 1620. It is 
notable for its well-built edifices, mostly of stone of 
excellent Spanish workmanship. A cave is shown 
full of human skeletons, probably all that now re- 
mains of its early Indian owners. Another day's 
journey over the same mountain heights brought us 
to the town called El Socorro. This is nearly four 
thousand feet above the level of the sea, with a lovely 
climate, built on the banks of a river ; it has four 
churches and a convent, besides many very excellent 
buildings, and perhaps the best suspension bridge in 
Colombia, which is very ancient in appearance. This 
town is notable as being one of the principal places in 


of an O Renin Hunter. 121 

which the revolution of the Independence commenced. 
On the 16th of March, 1781, when the taxes and ill- 
treatment of the Spanish Government had become 
almost intolerable, a peasant woman of the name of 
Maria Vargas tore down the list of taxes and the 
Spanish coat-of-arms, which was hung in the plaza, 
and broke them in pieces. This excited the people 
so much that, although independence was not pro- 
claimed for twenty-nine years after, this was really the 
beginning of the war. 

Two days of rough riding in the burning sun 
brought me to a small Indian village called San 
Benito. The climate of this place is exceedingly 
good all the year round, being built on a high ridge 
on the tops of the Andes. I found the people most 
inhospitable, and the houses mostly thatched with 
straw and very bad. Keeping along the track, we 
passed on the way a small town called Puente 
Nacional, most picturesquely built on the banks of 
a river, about one half of the houses being on each 
side. The buildings, as usual, are very good, and a 
pretty church is an ornament to the place. For live 
days' journey the track had run through the most 
miserable class of vegetation. Apart from the curious 
undulating tops of the mountains, which sometimes 
extend away into most glorious scenery, nothing is to 
be seen but a miserable scrub, and the eye becomes 

122 Travels and Adventures 

weary with the endless expanse of moss and short, 
stunted shrubs. When we came to some wayside 
farm or plantation, the clumps of orange-trees, laden 
with their wealth of golden fruit, somewhat broke 
the monotony. A few flocks of sheep and stray 
cattle wandered about over the immense waste lands, 
but an almost entire absence of birds and other animal 
Jife gave the tops of the Andes an appearance of 
desert loneliness. As a rule, in the early morning and 
in the evening the tops of the mountains are enve- 
loped in thick mist, and the track was scarcely visible. 
The rising sun gradually dispelled this from the peaks, 
only leaving straggling patches in the valleys. 

At the town called Puente Nacional I was de- 
lighted to find a somewhat better class of vegetation 
commence, and this seems to be the limit of the 
growth of the C at t ley a Mendelii, and the commence- 
ment of the gorgeous-flowered Cattleya Warscez^iczii. 
In the mountains near to this town, in the flowering 
season of the plants, the display in the woods is 
most superb. High trees, in some places, are so 
hung with these glorious epiphytes that very little 
is to be seen but a blaze of purple and rose. A 
small Epidendrum with scarlet flowers makes up the 
finishing" touch of colour. 

On leaving Puente Nacional, we had not crone 
far before the track led us to still higher mountains, 

gf an Orchid Hunter. 123 

and here was the division between the States of 
Santander and Boyaca, near a small village called 
Saboya. From the top of this we obtained a magni- 
ficent view of the plain on which the city of Bogota 
is built. This plain is more than one hundred miles 
in length, and in many places three miles broad ; 
for the most part beautifully level pasture-land, or 
cultivated and bearing waving crops of wheat and 
barley. Large quantities of potatoes are also grown. 
We very quickly descended to the plain and arrived 
at another town called Chiquinquira. This is the 
yearly resort of thousands of pilgrims, who come to 
the church to pay their devotions, in the belief that 
a picture of the Virgin Mary which is here was 
painted by a miracle. The story runs that a poor 
woman had coarse cloth nailed in the window of 
her house to keep out the wind, when one morning 
she is said to have found the picture miraculously 
painted on the cloth ! The church of the pilgrims, 
which is called the Church of Our Lady of Chiquin- 
quira, is adorned with great riches in marble, paint- 
ings, gold, and precious stones, and it is calculated 
that the money brought by pilgrims into this place 
every year amounts to 30,000 dollars, or ^6,000 
sterling. The climate of this place, which is about 
eight thousand feet above the sea-level, as well as 
the whole of the savanna of Bogota, is cool and 

124 Travels and Adventures 

agreeable. At this town we are still a distance of 
seventy-five miles from Bogota, which is three days' 
journey on horses. After riding all day over a 
most fertile plain, we stayed for the night at a small 
village called Ubate, and from here the road is wide 
and level, and is continually traversed by bullock- 
waggons on their way to and from the capital. 

The next day's ride brought us to a large and 
important town called Cipaquira. The houses and 
plazas here are of the best and most elegant con- 
struction, but of a style which the Spanish emigrant 
must have learnt from the Moors. The effect of 
the peculiar tiling and towers when seen from a 
distant height is most pleasing and fantastic. This 
town is built on the edge of the immense salt-mines 
which supply the whole of this part of Colombia 
with salt, being literally a huge mountain of that 
substance, which was known to the earliest Indians. 
The excavations begin in the side of the hill and 
run level with the ground, the cavity extending over 
half a mile, the roof in many places being fifty feet in 
height — a wall of salt occasionally intermixed with 
veins of pyrites of iron. The sight presented to the 
visitor who enters these immense vaults is truly 
magnificent. Occasional drops of water have covered 
the roof with myriads of stalactites of every imaginable 
form of beauty, while the sides dazzle with rock and 

of an Orchid Hunter 

I 2 

salt crystals which make one believe one has entered 
some gem palace or diamond caves. These mines 
are the property of, and worked by, the Government 
of Colombia ; and although the system of working is 
somewhat primitive, the salt taken from these hills 
produces something like one million dollars paper- 
money yearly. 

The town of Cipaquira is a distance of thirty 
miles from Bogota. In the dry season the road 
is very good, and stage-coaches run every two days. 
The scenery along the road is most picturesque. For 
ten miles a line of willows have been planted, and 
these form a perfect avenue, besides making an 
agreeable shade, and on each side of the immense 
plain the continued chain of the Andes rises high and 
breaks into frowning precipices, giving an increased 
charm to the surroundings of Bogota. After a 
delightful ride, I arrived at about two o'clock in the 
afternoon at one of the suburban villages, called 
Chapinero. A tramway has lately been constructed 
from here to Bogota, and the strange mixture of traffic 
along this road is most curious. The dusky Indian 
with his old-fashioned pack-mule, donkey-riders and 
elegant horsemen, tram-cars and carriages, all jostle 
each other along the dusty road. The entrance to the 
village is especially pretty ; and even along the road 
the rich Colombians have built beautiful villas, with 

126 Travels and Adventures 

pleasant gardens and surroundings. Some Moorish, 
some Persian, and even Indian and Japanese archi- 
tecture is represented, with an extravagance of Italian 
marble and paintings scarcely credible, all this making 
an agreeable entrance to this isolated Andean city. 

Entering the city of Bogota from the north side, 
the visitor is disappointed in finding the streets narrow 
and dirty, and the houses miserably tumble-down ; 
but in a very short time we arrive at the Park 
San Diego, a small recreation ground, tastefully 
laid out, and beautifully ornamented with fountains 
and statues, the principal one being a full-sized 
bronze figure of the statesman and soldier Simon 
Bolivar. The dome and pedestal are of Italian work- 
manship, very tastefully made, and the whole is 
surmounted by a gilded condor. The town of Bogota, 
the capital of what is now called the Republic of 
Colombia, was founded, according to history, on the 
6th of August, 1528, and in the year 1540 Carlos V. 
of Spain raised it to the rank of City, with many 
other privileges. It numbers about one hundred and 
fifty thousand inhabitants, and covers an area of 
some two millions of square yards, situated at an 
altitude of ei^ht thousand feet above the level of 
the sea, and only four degrees thirty-six minutes 
north of the Equator. Except for the slight incon- 
venience of the rarefied air produced by the altitude, 


^frtlH 11 lWH\iv\v«U»\« 


of an Orchid Hunter, 127 

Bogota possesses one of the most healthy climates 
to be found, having- a medium temperature of fifteen 


degrees Centigrade all the year round. The city 
abounds in edifices of interest, including a magnificent 

128 Travels and Adventures 

cathedral. The municipal buildings take up one 
side of the principal square, the residence of the 
President of the Republic. In the immense building 
called the Mint was coined, at the time when gold 
was as plentiful here as in Australia, one hundred 
millions of dollars in eold and seven millions in silver 
coin. There is also an excellent library, containing 
about fifty thousand volumes, a museum crowded with 
thousands of natural history specimens and curiosities, 
besides an astronomical observatory, founded as lately 
as the year 1803, which claims to be one of the 
highest in the world. The manners of living and 
the dress of the people are with few exceptions 
entirely European, and poodle dogs and perambulators 
are as much a nuisance on the side- walks and gardens 
of Bogota as they are in London. As a rule, in the 
Colombian towns there is a peculiar spirit of easy 
indolence and want of stir which paralyses business, 
and the Colombian's, as well as the Indian's motto is 
always "Mariana," or, To-morrow. In Bogota, how- 
ever, there is an exception. There seem to be fewer 
loafers ; everyone appears to be occupied and to go 
about his business, and, especially in the principal 
streets, there is quite a bustle. 

Continuing along towards the centre of the city, 
we come to another small park, called Park Santander. 
This is planted with a profuse wealth of tropical trees 

of an Orchid Hunter. 129 

and foliage plants, and is the principal resort of the 
Colombian idler, the luxuriant sand-box trees forming 
an ample shade. The centre of the park or plaza is 
ornamented with a bronze statue of General Santander, 
and the whole arrangement shows the greatest care 
and good taste. On leaving this park we pass over 
the first of fifteen bridges, which are all built inside the 
city over two mountain streams, both of which rush 
noisily through the principal streets. The business 
houses are about half Colombian and half foreign ; 
they are, as a rule, overflowing with merchandise, 
drapery goods, and hardware. I believe almost any- 
thing may be bought here that is to be found anywhere 
else, although Bogota is seven hundred miles from the 
sea-port, and nearly one hundred of this journey is 
made over the Andes on mule-back ; yet the iron- 
workers from Birmingham, the cotton - workers of 
Manchester, Benson's watches, Taute's wearing ap- 
parel, with Morton's hams and Peek Frean's bis- 
cuits, all find a sure representative in Bogota, in spite 
of the difficulties of mud and mosquitoes which are 
thrown in the way of the traveller. The French, 
German, and American houses are nowhere behind in 
the market. The produce of the country is sold here 
every day in a large enclosure set apart for this pur- 
pose, called the Market, and this forms one of the 
most complete collections of fruit and vegetables which 


130 Travels and Adventures 

the world can give. Apples, strawberries, plums, and 
cherries mix with their tropical relations — pines, 
bananas, figs, and mangoes ; while, on the other hand, 
potatoes and cabbages are as plentiful here as yams, 
cassava roots, and pumpkins — in fact, anyone who 
will take a European cook to Bogota may live in 
Epicurean luxury. The religion of the capital, as 
well as of the whole civilised part of the country, 
is Roman Catholic ; but all creeds are tolerated, and in 
Bogota a very nice Protestant church has been con- 
structed, besides a large number of schools, and 
colleges. There is what is called the National 
University, founded in 1867 ; in this institution every 
branch of higher education is taught, and the school 
for medicine in Bogota has long been celebrated. 
These schools admit something like five thousand 
students every year, and ten thousand more would 
be necessary to somewhat advance the educational 
condition of this immense country. Although there 
is not much liberty of the press, some twenty-five 
newspapers are printed in Bogota, several of them 
daily. The principal and central square of the city is 
called La Plaza de Bolivar ; it is very much more 
spacious than that of its rival at Caracas. The situa- 
tion is most agreeable, one side being taken up by the 
large cathedral, and the other three sides by gay 
shops, hotels, and imposing municipal buildings ; while 

of an Orchid Hunter, 

i \\ 

the centre of the Plaza 
is occupied by a beau- 
tiful piece of bronze, in 
the form of a statue of 
Bolivar — perhaps the 
best work of art to be 
found in all the city. 
This was made by the 
celebrated Italian sculp- 
tor Tenerani, at the ex- 
pense of a rich Colom- 
bian, Senor Paris, and 
placed in Bogota in the 
year 1846, as a mark 
of the friendship which 
had existed between the 
great soldier and the 
giver of the statue, as 
well as to commemorate 
the many glorious vic- 
tories won by Bolivar 
in the service of Co- 
lombia. It is a marvel 
how this beautiful piece 
of bronze could have 

been safely transported over the Andes, as everything 
must be carried on the backs of mules or bullocks. 


132 Travels and Adventures 

The ladies of Bogota are very rarely seen outside 
during the middle of the day, and only occasionally 
in the evening. But on Sunday morning, about the 


time of the morning mass, a foreigner taking a stroll in 
front of the cathedral may get some idea of what sort 
of people really inhabit this mountain hermitage. 
Hundreds of women of all ages and every position 
crowd towards the church. There is the short, clumsy 
native servant, wearing a dress of all the colours of 

of an Orchid Hunter 

j j 

the rainbow ; there is the graceful half 
perfect form and 
olive skin. Contrary 
to the general rule, 
some lovely blonde 
will be dressed all in 
white ; but the per- 
fection of the Co- 
lombian ladies might 
be mistaken for a 
piece of animated 
marble. The loose, 
black, church - sfoino- 
robe lends additional 
charm to the Venus- 
like form, and the 
Spanish mantilla, 
loosely thrown over 
a wealth of raven 
hair, makes a suitable 
frame for one of the 
most perfect types of 
beauty — La Colombi- 
ana. However much 

lood, with a 


% >^ 


history and experience 

remind us that one third part of the country is peopled 

with the wildest of Indians, the foreigner who takes 


134 Travels and Adventures 

a turn in the Plaza de Bolivar on a Sunday morning 
would think they had never been to Bogota. 
Although Colombian soldiers do not make much of 
a show, they are celebrated for their straight shooting 
and valour. In Bogota there is a considerable 
garrison, together with all the paraphernalia and 
accoutrements of a standing army. These are not 
needed to combat with exterior Powers ; but about 
every three years they indulge in a revolution or an 
insurrection against the powers that be, and Colombian 
kills Colombian, until often very few are left, causing 
an immense loss of life and property with very little 
advantage to either party. In times of revolution, 
however, foreigners who do not mix in the party 
feeling are not molested in the least, except by the 
want of communications, and I may say here that 
for the travelling foreigner there is perhaps no country 
in the world where he is received with such hospitality 
and so much friendliness. Both the telephone and 
electric light have been introduced into Bogota, and a 
line of railway to connect this city with the Magdalena 
River has been some time in course of construction ; 
but, if ever it is possible, it will be years before the 
end is achieved, on account of the immense chain of the 
Andes between Bogota and the Magdalena, which will 
require an outlay of some millions of dollars, coupled 
with the greatest engineering skill, to break through. 

of an Orchid Hunter, 


The number of inhabitants in Bogota fluctuates con- 
siderably with the season. Many of the people 
possess country-houses, or campos, and on the ap- 
proach of the dry season they leave the crowded 
town and take to the fields, where each one occupies 
himself raising crops, tending cattle, or in the coffee 
and banana plantations. One cause of the difference 
in population according to the season is that a large 
number of Indians come in from the hills brin^inor 
the produce of their hunting or cultivation for sale 
in Bogota, and in return buy what little they can 
afford in the shops, and then leave for their mountain 
homes till the next season. Another cause is the 
constant string of foreigners arriving continually from 
almost every country in the world ; these stay a 
week, a fortnight, or a month, as business demands, 
and they in turn seek other parts, where the com- 
mercial traveller can tell yarns about his experiences in 
Bogota and the road to it. 

The country is governed by the Senate and a 
Chamber of Deputies, and these are directed by the 
President. The President, Doctor Rafael Nunez, has 
held this important position three times, his last term 
of office extending over a period of six years, which 
will terminate in July next year. Doctor Nunez does 
not live in Bogota, but he is represented there by 
a Vice-President, who is invested with acting power in 


Travels and Adventures 

all State affairs, while the President enjoys life in 
his pretty country home near the city of Carthagena. 


President Nunez is now about sixty-six years of age ; 
he was in early life President of the State of Bolivar, 
also Consul for Colombia in Liverpool and Havre, 

of an Orchid Hunter* i 3; 

besides filling the important positions of Minister of 
Finance and Prime Minister of his own country. 
He is a man of great force of character and refined 
literary tastes, and speaks fluently several languages. 

All the environs of Bogota are pretty and pictur- 
esque, especially the two peaks called Monserrate and 
Guadalupe — in the immediate vicinity and overlooking 
the city of Bogota. This extraordinary formation 
seems to have been one mountain, but earthquakes 
and torrents have cut a wide breach and left the two 
peaks separated by a yawning chasm. The one called 
Guadalupe reaches a height of something like two 
thousand feet above the level of the city, and ten 
thousand feet above the sea. A small hermitage was 
built on the top of the mountain as far back as the year 
1656, but this was destroyed by an earthquake in 1827. 
Forty years after, another church was commenced, as 
well as a monument. The whitewashed columns of 
these edifices may be seen from almost every part of the 
plain below — appearing like grim forts built to defend 
the city, which will, probably, never be in danger. 
The other height, called Monserrate, is separated 
from its neighbour only by a deep ravine. On the 
summit of this peak another church has been built, 
also whitewashed ; this is somewhat lower than the 
other, and is approached by a winding track, in some 
parts almost perpendicular. A perpetual spring run- 

138 Travels and Adventures 

ning out of the mountain has given rise to many 
legends, imputing miraculous power to its limpid 
waters. All that I saw about the water was that it 
appeared to me the purest and most sparkling I have 
ever seen. Another, and perhaps the most important 
of all the natural beauties of the surroundings of 
Bogota, is the celebrated waterfall, called El Tequen- 
dama, which is situated at a distance of about twelve 
miles from the city, in a south-westerly direction. 
The journey to the falls on horseback is very pleasant. 
The bridle-path runs through the fertile plantations 
and richly stocked pastures of the Colombian farmers. 
At a considerable distance the low, rumbling roar of 
the cataract may be heard, resembling distant thunder, 
and the nearer one approaches the falls the more 
beautiful the scenery. The river Funza, first coming 
from the higher Andes, at this altitude winds peace- 
fully over a comparatively level plain, until it comes 
to a fearful abyss, over which the waters dash, to fall 
a distance of four hundred and fifty feet. Tne mighty 
precipices which wall in this wild rush of water rise to 
a height of about five hundred feet ; they are beauti- 
ful with flowering shrubs, mosses, selaginellas, and 
orchids, which, in many instances, are suspended over 
the boiling waters, while large crowds of tropical birds 
move about amongst the suspended vegetation, lend- 
ing a tint of colour and life to the grim boulders. 


of an Orchid Hunter, 


No visitor ever conies away disappointed ; everyone 
leaves El Tequendama with an indelible impression 
of the grandeur of the spectacle, and some have even 
dared to call it a rival to the famous Niagara. 

140 Travels and Adventures 







This most popular orchid, Odontoglossum crispum, 
is found over a very wide range of country, extending 
on the north from the borders of the State of Cun- 
dinamarca to the frontier of Ecuador on the south. 
But although the district of the plant is so large, a 
little town called Pacho has always been the rendez- 
vous of the collectors of Odontoglossum crispum, 
and it has already secured for itself fame in having 
produced the best varieties. This in many respects 
is right, as the flowers found in the ran^e of mountains 
directly adjoining this village are, as a rule, round and 
full, of a fine form, and beautifully fringed, while on 
the more southern range the flowers are of the type 
known as "starry," or having the petals very much 
divided one from another. But many perfectly white 




of an Orchid Hunter, 141 

flowers are found amongst the Pacho plants, and less 
of the highly blotched or spotted varieties so much 
sought after by connoisseurs ; while, on the other 
hand, the starry varieties are, as a rule, mixed with 
thickly spotted flowers. Even while in Bogota I was 
on my way to these happy hunting-grounds, and after 
a few days of looking around I started for Pacho. 
The distance is about fifty miles from Bogota, and the 
road by way of Cipaquira is very good. The traveller 
will pass on the way the house of a rich Colombian, 
Don Dematrio Parades. This is really a palace, 
where there is collected together one of the most 
beautiful displays of costly furniture and bric-a-brac 
to be found in Colombia. 

From the town of Cipaquira the track runs directly 
over the salt-mine, and continues up to a height of 
about 8,^00 feet to what is called the Paramo, 
then descends gradually to the town of Pacho. This 
occupies about two days, as most people find the 
journey sufficient to ride from Bogota to Cipaquira 
in one clay. The appearance of the village of Pacho 
from the heights above is very picturesque : it is 
built in a valley, and just on the edge of some 
magnificent cattle estates ; besides this, the houses 
are of fairly good construction. An Englishman of 
the name of Mr. Bunch was at one time owner of 
the extensive coal and iron mines here, and he has 

142 Travels and Adventures 

done much to improve the social condition of Pacho. 
The plant collector who arrives here very naturally 
thinks he will find the coveted Odonto^lossum in the 
streets of the town ; but, as a rule, the ardour of most 
of them is somewhat damped when they learn that a 
journey of three clays must be made to the mountains 
before they can find a plant, if they would see it in 
its natural state. It took me very much longer. 
Within a circuit of fifty miles some plants are to 
be found, but especially in the direction of what is 
called San Cayetano, and to arrive here it is necessary 
to hire mules and provide provisions for three days' 

I left Pacho in the month of March, in the very 
height of the drv season. I was delighted to oet 
away, as the facilities for living in Pacho are very bad, 
although always better than in the mountains. On the 
way from the town we passed the ironworks ; these 
are very important for Colombia, there being only 
two mines worked in the whole country. Pi ere the 
labour is done by natives, superintended by a few 
Englishmen ; they informed me that the neighbour- 
ing hills contain immense deposits of iron and coal, 
which are brought down on the backs of mules or 
in bullock-wagons. Before we reached the foot of 
the chain of mountains we had to cross the ma^nifi- 
cent cattle estate, some miles in extent, which takes in 

of an Orchid Hunter. 143 

the whole of the valley of Pacho. The land is very 
fertile, besides having an excellent climate and an 
abundance of water. We were not lon^ in taking to 
the mountain-track ; the huge peak almost awed us as 
we looked up to it, towering above us to a height of 
2,000 feet ; and as we ascended the scenery took the 
most fantastic form. Immense boulders of incalcul- 
able height seemed to have been torn from their 
position and stood on edge. The stunted vegetation 
is crowded with large quantities of parasites of the 
family Loranthus, living on the sap of the tree which 
supports them. Many of these plants have lovely 
flowers, and one in particular, which was new to me, 
was covered with brilliant scarlet, waxy tubes about 
three inches long — these, of course, being utterly im- 
possible to export in plant form, seeing that they derive 
their life from the sap of the tree on which they hang. 
All the birds I saw were birds of prey, probably on 
account of the shelter provided for them in the wild, 
impenetrable precipices which form the mountain-side 
— hawks, kites, and eagles wheeling around, poising 
themselves in mid-air, or swooping clown with a fierce 
dart only to rise again bearing some careless squirrel 
or stray rabbit. Occasionally a pair of condors might 
be seen, looking, even at that height, like giants 
amongst their neighbours. It was only after immense 
toil that I made half the ascent of the mountain; then 

144 Travels and Adventures 

I discovered that the boy who carried the provisions 
was nowhere to be seen. I had expected him to follow 
in the track; it was now after mid-day, and I had only 
passed one miserable hut, where, with difficulty, I had 
been able to procure a little refreshment. Anxiously 
looking for the boy at every turn, I kept on up the 
mountain until towards evening, beinor then about 
8,000 feet above the level of the sea, when a thick 
mist came over the top of the mountain and rendered 
it almost impossible to keep the track. I had heard 
that on the wide plain which forms the top. of the 
mountain there was only one solitary hut, so to reach 
this with a tired mule was my determined aim. The 
conflicting tracks which intersect each other across 
the vast plain made progress doubly difficult. The 
first and most important thing in crossing this Paramo 
is to have an experienced guide ; no European could 
possibly find his way alone, and even the best guides 
are often at a loss. Finally we arrived at the hut, 
which had been dismantled by a recent hurricane, the 
fierce storm having taken away more than half the 
roof. The cold was intense — nearly freezing. The 
inhabitants of the hut were a family of the poorest 
Indians, and, although the only resources I could 
see were a few potatoes, their hospitality and good- 
nature were scarcely credible. Having only brought 
the clothing with me which I used in the lowlands, I 

of an Orchid Hunter, 


suffered very much from the cold. Almost the only 
vegetation found here is a large Edelweiss, which 
covers acres of the top of the Paramo; it is a plant 
growing about a yard high, the leaves, stems, and 
flowers being entirely enveloped in a woolly substance, 
probably to protect it from the cold. The other 
vegetation at this altitude is scarcely worth a name. 
Sometimes hail falls in large quantities, and nothing 
seems to give much result under cultivation except 
potatoes ; of these the natives grow enough for their 
subsistence from one season to another. 

My first night, passed at a height of twelve 
thousand feet above the level of the sea, was miser- 
able enough, on account of the cold and the swarms 
of vermin. I was glad to get away early in the 
morning, although I had every reason to be grateful 
to the hospitable Indians, who, knowing that our pro- 
visions were lost on the wav, £ave us largely of their 
own little resources. In various parts of the Paramo 
I met with three birds which I was surprised to find : 
the first a tiny humming-bird, Steganura Underwoodii, 
with the feet enveloped in tufts of white down, like 
miniature stockings, and two fine feathers in the tail 
longer than the rest, which finish by widening out at 
the end into a piece about the size of a silver three- 
pence. The second was a humming-bird usually met 
with in the lower lands feeding on the flowers of the 



Travels and Adventures 

BIRD {docimastes EN- 


Datura depi'essa. Its 
bill seems to have 
grown with its ne- 
cessity to reach the 
honey in the ex- 
tremity of the long- 
tubed flowers ; the 
bill of this extraor- 
dinary little mite is 
about two inches long 
and of the thickness 
of a darning-needle, 
being quite half- an - 
inch longer than the 
body. This variety 
of humming-bird is 
known to naturalists 
as the Docimastes en- 
siferus. The third 
was a bird about the 
size of a starling, 
gaudily coloured, the 
upper part of the 
body black, the breast 
a brilliant scarlet, 
while a streak of rich 
blue ornaments each 


of an Orchid Hunter. 147 

wing, and, as the bird flits across the plain with a 
springing motion, the alternate blue and scarlet make 
a pretty effect. This I judged to be the Poecilothraupis 

The mist had scarcely risen from the top of the 
mountains when we came in sight of the valley and 
range of mountains on the other side, where I 
expected to find Odontoglossum odoratnm, knowing 
that this variety is found growing at a lower altitude 
than the Odontoglossum crispum, although they are 
both often found at a high altitude growing on the 
same tree. By evening we had made the descent of 
the tortuous path to the village of San Cayetano, most 
of the journey being made in a blinding rain. This 
village is situated on the very edge of the Odonto- 
glossum forests. I expected to find someone here 
who would help me to get plants in the woods; but the 
people were too indolent for me to persuade them to 
work for wages, so I rested here for the night, and 
then kept on the journey further into the woods to a 
place called El Ortiz. I was told that here I could 
find people who would be willing to work in the 
mountains. We had scarcely entered the forest on 
this side of the mountain when I remarked a difference 
from anything I had seen before. The trees here were 
so grown together that they made a thick wood, while 
every branch and trunk was laden with a heavy coat 

148 Travels and Adventures 

of trailing lichen, perfectly dripping with water, so 
much so that, riding under them, our clothes were 
quickly wet through. In these natural reservoirs the 
Odontoglossums find their home at an altitude of from 
seven to eight thousand feet above the sea, with a 
temperature which often falls as low in the night as 
50 Fahr., and I have never seen the thermometer rise 
above 59 Fahr. at mid-day. 

Odontogiossum odoratum is most conspicuous as 
well for its heavy-branched spike of flowers as for its 
powerful smell, which fills the air until it becomes 
oppressive. The plants are almost hidden from sight 
in the trailing mass of lichen, and when they are not 
in flower they are difficult to find. I arrived at night at 
the hut called El Ortiz, after a toilsome ride, but the 
whole journey had been made through a wealth of 
orchids. Being informed by the natives that the 
Odontogiossum crispum had all been taken away 
from here, leaving only the Odontogiossum odoratum, 
I was obliged to continue my journey over the top of 
the mountain-ranee, alonof a track which is too bad to 
describe, but, at the same time, the scenery is very 

After three days' journey, passing on the way a 
lovely valley rich with patches of sugar-cane and 
maize, and also a small village called Buenavista, 
I struck into the forest, in the direction of the 

of an Orchid Hunter. i 49 

emerald mine. Mere, at an altitude of about 8,500 
feet above the sea-level, I found an abundance of 
plants, their magnificent spikes of flower looking 
doubly beautiful hanging from the branches of the 
trees, some high up out of reach of the native 
climbers, and others so low as to be easily pulled off 
by hand. My next consideration was to muster a 
company of natives sufficient to enable me to secure 
a quantity of the mountain treasures I had come 
so far to seek. These natives I encr c or e d, to the 
number of about thirty, in the nearest village, called 
Maripi. Here, also, we found sufficient provisions for 
about a week ; these were taken on the backs of mules 
to the edge of the forest, and then each man was 
supplied with his pack to carry through the forest 
to where we intended to make our camp, away on 
the edge of a mountain stream. The journey with 
the provisions took us two days, and on arriving at 
the site of our proposed camp we lost no time in 
constructing a rude hut, which served to shelter 
us for the first night, and which we eventually im- 
proved sufficiently to afford us protection for about a 
month. In those immense forests, where a few acres 
of clearing is considered a great benefit, and where 
clearinos made, if not attended to, become forests 
again in three years, cutting down a few thousands 
of trees is no serious injury; so I provided my 


Travels and Adventures 



natives with axes 
and started them 
out on the work 
of cutting- down all 
trees containing 
valuable orchids, 
and although f or 

the first day or two 
they were very 
much given to mis- 
take a clump of 
Bromeliacese or 
Maxillaria for 
do 11 tog lossum 
crispum, they soon 
became adepts at 
plant - collecting, 
and would bring to 
our camp several 
hundreds of 
plants each night, 
with occasionally 
a few Odontogios- 
sum odoratum 
and Odontoglos- 




mixed amongst 

of an Orchid Hunter, 15] 

them. After about two months' work we had secured 
about ten thousand plants, c itting down to obtain these 
some four thousand trees, moving our camp as the 
plants became exhausted in the vicinity. Our next con- 
sideration was how to transport these plants to where 
sawn wood could be obtained. First, they had to be 
taken to the edge of the forest on men's backs ; and 
even then we were five clays' journey from the town 
of Pacho, where it is usual to make the boxes to pack 
the orchids in for shipment to England. We got 
over our difficulty by making about forty capacious 
baskets of thin sticks, cut in the forest. In these we 
packed all the plants, and carried them on the backs 
of bullocks to Pacho, where they were quickly placed 
in strong wooden cases, being still ten days' journey 
from the coast. From here mules are employed to 
travel with them to the banks of the Magdalena 
river, and from there the steamboats quickly trans- 
port them to the coastal town. 

From the little village called Maripi, the cele- 
brated emerald mines of Muzo may be reached by 
about two clays' riding on mules. Probably very few 
people accustomed to see those lovely gems in their 
cut and mounted state have any idea of the difficulties 
to be undergone by those who would traverse this 
part of the Ancles where the emerald mines are 
situated. The scenery is of the most extraordinary 

152 Travels and Adventures 

and beautiful to be found in Colombia, but in the two 
days' riding the traveller is obliged to pass through 
some of the most dangerous mountain passes, and 
over precipices where a false step would dash him 
and the mule to destruction. On arriving in the 
vicinity of the mines, the general appearance of the 
place would give one the idea that it was an extinct 
volcano, but the emeralds are found in the bottom 
of the crater. The piece of ground now being 
worked is surrounded by high mountains in a circle, 
divine it the form of a basin. All accounts of the 
exact date of the discovery of these mines seem to be 
somewhat faulty, although it is certain that they were 
known to the early Indians, for some emeralds have 
been found in the graves of Indians who must have 
been buried long before the conquest of the country 
by the Spaniards. The present system of working 
the mines has been employed about one hundred 
years. The mines are now the property of the 
Government of Colombia, who rent them to a com- 
pany who employ five or six overseers and about 
four hundred native workmen. The means used for 
working the mines are very primitive, but they yield 
every year a very large amount of precious stones, 
which are immediately shipped to Europe. The 
bank of rock in which the precious crystals are 
found is more than one thousand feet high, formed 

of an Orchid Hunter 


of black shale veined with pyrites of iron. Very Few 
emeralds are found in die black stone, but by cutting 


down the face of the immense precipice veins of white 
stone, calcitc, a crystallised form of carbonate of lime, 
are uncovered in these veins. The emeralds are 
sometimes embedded and sometimes found in hollow 

154 Travels and Adventures 

cavities. The work of cutting down the side of 
the rock is done by the natives, their most powerful 
implement being a crowbar. A piece of rock about 
a yard wide is taken, the whole length of the mine, 
on the top ; this is cut down a few yards, and then 
another level of the same is commenced a^ain at 
the top, until the whole breast of the rock appears 
like a monster stair-case, the broken rubbish being 
thrown over to the bottom of the precipice. On an 
opposite bank from where the emeralds are taken 
out, a stream of water is kept by means of sluices in 
a reservoir, and, as the sluices are opened every 
quarter of an hour, the water is allowed to rush 
down the rocks with great force, clearing away with 
the torrent all the broken stone thrown down by the 
miners since the last discharge. 

The Colombian gentlemen who live here in charge 
of the workmen are among the most hospitable I 
have ever met, and whatever traveller chances to stray 
that way may be sure of a welcome from the emerald 
miners, who live in this mountain fastness sometimes 
for a whole year without making a journey to the 
adjoining towns. They informed me that they had 
explored the whole of the surrounding mountains for 
emeralds, and had found many places which yielded 
green stones, but none to produce the beautiful pure 
and dark green gems which are so prized, except 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


the piece of rock 
now being worked, 
or, at least, not to 
produce enough to 
pay for the cost of 

The next place 
of interest in the 
neighbourhood is the 
village called La 
Palma. This is two 
and a half days' jour- 
ney on mules from 
the emerald mines 
in a north-westerly 
direction, being situ- 
ated much lower 
than the Odontoglos- 
sum crispum district. 
The adjoining hills 
produce most splen- 
did forms of Cat- 
tle) 'a 1 1 # rscew icz ii. 
The ride is most 
enjoyable, the track 
lying through most 
beautiful scenery, 

156 Travels and Adventures 

especially along the banks of one small stream, where 
the trees are literally covered with Cattleya labiata. 
When I passed that way a large number of them 
were in flower, presenting a sight of indescribable 
orchid beauty. Further along I met with a pretty 
delicate variety of Comparettia hung on the very tips 
of the branches of a kind of willow overhanging the 
water, so near that in the rainy season they must 
be submerged, while the majority of .them must 
always be wet with spray. The village of La Palma 
is one of the best of the old Spanish style, most 
curiously situated in a hollow of the tops of the moun- 
tains, which look like extinct volcanoes. The people 
are remarkably hospitable, and receive all travellers 
with the greatest kindness. Unhappily, the magni- 
ficent varieties of Warscewiczii have been cleared 
away from the neighbourhood long ago, and now, as 
in other parts, the orchid collector must take a journey 
of at least two days into the heart of the forest to get 
his plants, or send someone and wait three weeks in 
idleness and suspense in a monotonous village. The 
track into the forest is miserably bad, and to reach 
the plants is even dangerous ; but those who have 
seen them in their forest home in all the glory of 
Cattleya Warscewiczii will admit with me that the 
sight is worth all the trouble of forest life. When 
I say that the sight of the plant in flower is very 

of an Orchid Hunter, 157 

beautiful, orchid fanciers at home will imagine that 
large quantities are to be seen in bloom at once. This 
is not generally the case with an)- class of orchids I 
have seen in their native woods ; it is rare to see a tree 
with more than four or five plants, and these perhaps 
not all in flower at once ; but in the eood districts, 
before the plants were taken away so much, almost 
every tree and ledge of rock would have some one 
or more specimens in bloom, so that a large quantity 
might be seen in the course of one day. Near La 
Palma, but on higher, cooler ground, I found a few 
small plants of Miltonia Phalcenopsis, and in another 
locality quite a clump of Oneidium Kramcrianum, 
as well as Chysis, Bolleas, and various Oncidiums. 
The vicinity of Muzo, near the emerald mine, is where 
I have found the largest quantity of the glorious Blue 
Butterfly ( MorpJw Cypris), some of them measuring- 
seven inches across the wings, of a radiant blue that 
few artists' pencils can depict. Although Cattleya 
Warscewiczii is exported largely from La Palma, it is 
also found growing, mixed with Cattleya Dowiana 
aurea, in the State of Antioquia. I have collected 
Odontoglossum Pescaiorei in the hills near to Ocaria, in 
the Department of Santander ; but it would be weari- 
some to my readers to enumerate all that occurs in 
the tiresome ten days of riding over the Andes from 
the town of Bucaramanea to the Pescaiorei grounds. 

158 Travels axd Adventures 

On the top of one of the high mountains on the 
way, near a village called Cachiri, at a height of 
10,000 feet above the sea-level, I passed on the side 
of the track thousands of Masdevallias, chiefly of the 
Harryana variety. On another hill, two days' journey 
further along, but much lower, the trees are hung to 
crowding with the dainty little Oncidium cucullatum. 
Any future novice orchid hunter in search of Odonto- 
glossum P c scat ore i, will find it by leaving the town of 
Ocana, passing across the magnificent plains called La 
Savanna de la Cruz, and entering the chain of the 
Andes on the western side. Here, amongst the 
matted, moss-grown vegetation, Pescatorei is growing 
side by side with Odontoglossum triumphans, while 
the creeping rhizomes of Odontoglossum coronarium 
cover the roots of the same trees. I have seen the 
curious Anguloa Clowesii and the pretty Ada auran- 
tiaca here as well, while in the cooler parts that choice 
little Odontoglossum blandum grows in profusion in 
a peculiar mist which reminds one of a continual 
Turkish. bath. It is all very well to see this fastidious 
little orchid in its natural beauty, but it is quite 
another thing to succeed in bringing it home to 
England alive. Many of the plants die before they 
leave the coast, many more before they pass the 
West Indies ; a few reach the Azores, and fewer 
still arrive in England safely. 

of an Orchid Hunter 









The Cattleya Triance has been found for years near 
the town of Ibaaue in the State of Tolima — a little 
more than one hundred miles from Bogota, in a south- 
westerly direction. This Cattleya is found under much 
the same circumstances as the others of its family, at 
an altitude of about four thousand feet above sea-level. 
To reach it, it is necessary to ascend the river Magda- 
lena for a considerable distance, and then land on the 
west bank. There is little of interest in the mule-ride 
except the sight of the majestic snow-capped moun- 
tains, called the Paramo de Ruiz. These tower up to 
the height of sixteen thousand feet, with a glistening 
top of eternal snow, which makes them conspicuous at 
a great distance from many parts of the road. Cattleya 


Travels and Adventures 

TriancE is found over a wide area, but all the plants 
taken from these parts, as well as from Pacho, La 
Palma, etc., must be brought to a small town called 
Honda ; this is the principal port of the Magdalena 
river, about six hundred miles from the sea. Swift- 


running rapids prevent the larger steamboats going 
further up the river than Honda, but another line of 
boats has been built above the rapids. These vessels 
navigate the river for three hundred miles more to a 
place called Neiva. Hundreds of mules, carrying 
every imaginable class of produce, throng the road 
from Bogota to Honda. On arrivinsf on the banks of 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


the Magdalena everything in the way of cargo, animals, 
and human beings that would reach the town must 
embark in a curious kind of raft, attached to a strong 
chain stretching across the river ; immediately the raft 


is loosened from the side, the force of the water carries 
it across the river, the pulley running along the sup- 
porting chain ; this raft is worked from six o'clock in 
the morning until six in the evening, the small fee of 
twopence-halfpenny being charged for passing a horse 
and his rider, three-halfpence for a mule-load, and a 
penny for a foot-passenger. A line of railway connects 


1 62 Travels and Adventures 

this place with the town of Honda, and runs to the 
part of the river where the steamboats land, called 
Yeguas, about four miles from Honda. At this point 
the mountains which wall in the valley of the Magda- 
lena are very near to each other, and there seems to 
be no breeze which ever reaches the town ; it is pro- 
verbially known all over the country as being very 
hot, and I have seldom seen the thermometer fall below 
95 Fahr. in the shade. It is a curiously built little 
town, with neither system nor design in the architec- 
ture. It was at one time lar^e and important, but 
earthquakes have proved its ruin, and now the fine 
churches, convents, hospitals, and even a beautiful 
stone bridge, have all been destroyed. Travellers to 
the interior must inevitably pass this way, and every- 
one will find lodging-houses an( j facilities for hiring 
mules, etc., to help him on his way to the capital. 
When I got on board the steamboat here to descend 
the Magdalena river, I practically said good-bye for 
the time being to four States of this magnificent 
country — Boyaca, Cundinamarca, El Cauca, and El 
Tolima. No pen or picture has or ever will be able 
to give more than a faint idea of the glories of this 
part of Colombia — of its riches in mines of emeralds 
and gold and silver ; of its agricultural products of 
coffee, cocoa, and grain ; of its trackless forests, with 
their exhaustless supply of timber and choice woods, its 

of an Orchid Hunter, 16 

wealth of ornamental and medicinal plants, its bevies 
of gaudy-coloured birds and curious animals, its snow- 
capped mountains and boundless prairies where the 
Indians have always roamed with perfect freedom ; 
or of its commercial cities, with their rich and culti- 
vated inhabitants. Even the most stoical Englishman 
who has travelled here and seen its beauties cannot 
help but regret that so many thousand miles divide 
this paradise from our own little island. 

The descent of the river Ma^dalena was made 
quickly and agreeably, and we very soon arrived at 
the port called Puerto Berrio. This is the port 
by which travellers reach the prosperous city of 
Medellin, one of the most important centres of the 
country, and the home of Cattleya Dowiana aurea 
and Cattleya IWirsccwiczii. Puerto Berrio has a 
special interest to all English orchid collectors. A 
rough cross of wood on the edge of the forest, on the 
higher bank of the river, marks the last resting-place 
of Chesterton, the well-known orchid collector, who did 
such good service for the firm of James Veitch and 
Sons, long before the wholesale plunder and extermin- 
ation of the plants brought about by modern collectors. 

A small mountain town, called Frontino, has given, 
up to the present, all the Miltonia vcxillaria, but the 
woods in the vicinity have become already pretty well 
cleared. I had heard much about the plants to be 

164 Travels and Adventures 

found between the river Opon and the river Carare : 
these are two rivers which together drain the southern 
part of the State of Santander, and the land lying 
between them is a narrow strip less than one 
hundred miles wide. I descended the river to a 


place called Barranca bermeja, with the object of 
getting a canoe to navigate the river Opon. This, 
I was told, would require at least six men, well 
armed. The river is not navigable for more than fifty 
miles, and the distance is intercepted by fallen trees, 
while the forest between the two rivers is infested 
by hordes of hostile Indians. The first tw T o days 
nothing extraordinary happened ; the banks of the 
river were thick forest, and we saw no tracks of the 

of an Orchid Hunter 


Indians. Each night we campctl on a sand-hank. 
I saw no orchids, the land being too flat; but on 
the third day we passed many tracks of the Indians, 
and some abandoned huts. About mid-day, as we 
suddenly made a curve in the river, a shower of 


arrows whistled past us and fell far ahead ; they had 
been aimed too high and shot with too much force. 
In the direction the arrows came from we saw nothing', 
— not even a rustling of the foliage. We fired several 
times into the bush, and proceeded more cautiously. 
My companions would have turned back, some of 
them becoming afraid, but an unconquerable curiosity 
possessed me to see what there was in the way of 

1 66 Travels and Adventures 

plants on the higher ground. It was evident that 
the Indians knew by this time, all along the river, of 
our ascent, and more than once I saw dusky forms 
creeping stealthily away from the banks as the canoe 
glided into sight. I had been informed that the 
Indians were very much scattered over the country, 
and although they maintain a deadly hatred against 
all civilised human beings, the fact of our ascending 
the river would not be sufficient to make them con- 
gregate in numbers, and the stragglers along the 
banks, although hostile in the highest degree, are 
cowardly and afraid of fire-arms. On the fourth 
day, proceeding with the greatest difficulty on account 
of the fallen trees, we came to some three or four 
small sheds, with plantations of maize in front of 
them; a few animal - skins were lying about, but 
every one of the inhabitants had taken to the woods. 
The very emptiness of the huts showed that their 
manner of life must be of the most primitive kind. 
However warlike they are towards outsiders, there 
are accounts that they live together in the greatest 
friendship and good faith. We left the huts very 
much as we found them, and piov.^ 1o d up the river. 
I had seen several very pretty Oncidiums on the 
banks, and I had begun to hope we were clear of 
the Indians. On the night of the fourth day, we 
camped as usual on a sand-bank, not being able to 

of an Orchid Hunter. 167 

proceed further on account of the bud state of the 
river. Knowing that we were in the very middle of 
the Indian territory, where, if they chose, they could 
overpower us with numbers any moment, we passed 
the night somewhat nervously, with a very small fire, 
but with our rifles loaded, and while three slept the 
other three kept watch. Nothing happened to us 
that night, and early in the morning, after breakfast- 
ing, I started into the forest with four of the men, 
leaving the other two in ambush to watch the canoe, 
for fear the Indians should take away our only means 
of getting back to the Magdalena. I was delighted 
to find the trees on the rising ground from the banks 
of the river hung with fine clumps of Miltonia 
vexillaria, intermixed with Oncidhim CartJiaginensc 
and several smaller orchids, and I was priding myself 
upon reaping a glorious harvest. But that night all 
my plans were destined to be crushed. Everybody 
was in good spirits at our evening meal, but we had 
scarcelv finished and lighted our roll of tobacco when 
the twang of an arrow, as it whistled past my head, 
startled evervone to his feet. In another moment 
one of our nu p ' ^ was pierced with three of the 
deadly poisoned arrows, and mortally wounded. The 
moon was on the wane, and shed a miserable light 
for us to shoot by, while the savages could see us 
perfectly well by the light of our fire. Not a moment 

1 68 Travels and Adventures 

was lost in hiding ourselves behind the nearest trees, 
and we were scarcely placed when another shower 
of arrows showed us the position of the Indians. 
Seeing us retreat, they had advanced more into the 
open ; at the same moment a blaze of fire poured out 
of five trusty rifles, and a terrible howl rose from the 
throats of the surprised and wounded Indians, who 
up to the present had not uttered a sound. 

In a moment every mark for us to aim at had 
disappeared, but we fired another volley in the direc- 
tion they had gone. For some time after, the rushing 
sound in the forest informed us that they were re- 
treating and taking away their dead or wounded. I 
thought they would return, but my companions be- 
lieved that the report of fire-arms was so little known 
to them that one encounter would be enough — and 
they proved right. As soon as day dawned we care- 
fully reconnoitred in all directions. However, on that 
side we found nothing but the trail of the Indians and 
the pools of blood left by the victims of our bullets. I 
had been anxious to capture one of the Indians, so as 
to see what sort of people they really were, as up to 
the present I had caught nothing of them but the 
faintest glimpse ; in this I was quite unexpectedly 
gratified. Two of the men were reconnoitring along 
the bank of the river near the canoe, when they 
came upon one of the Indians alone — probably a 


of an Orchid 1 1 l'nter 


scout ; he offered no resistance, but cowered on the 
ground as if to beg for mercy. I was surprised the 
two men had not shot him at first 
sight ; but perhaps they were moved 
with pity, or were actuated by the 
same curiosity as myself — at any 
rate, I was as much surprised as 
the Indian when the two men 
brought him to me. He was a 
young man, apparently about 
twenty-two years of age, tall, and 
of a fine physical form ; his skin 
was a rich bronze. I had heard 
that these Indians adorn themselves 
with feather head-dresses, but this 
one wore no ornaments, his only 
clothing being a small piece of 
grass-cloth tied around the loins. 
He was armed with the usual 
native bow, some arrows, and a 
lance. In the short time he was 
with us we were not successful in 
getting any communication what- 
ever from him, even by signs, and 
he refused all food. I succeeded in getting a photo- 
graph of him ; which operation I supposed he thought 
was to be the end of him, he appeared so frightened. 


170 Travels and Adventures 

Apart from the vacant air of the untaught man of 
the woods, he had no savage look, and when left to 
himself in his own native haunts I should think he was 
good-natured. We took away his weapons, and then 
left him to return to his companions. In a moment 
he was off with a bound like a deer, and that was the 
last I saw of the Opon Indians. We quickly made a 
suitable resting-place for our dead companion, and 
however loath we were to leave him there, we had no 
remedy. Loosing our canoe from its moorings, in less 
than two days the rapid stream landed us in the 
waters of the Magdalena ; and for the future, how- 
ever much I may covet the orchid gems of the head- 
waters of the Opon, they must remain there for my 
part until the last red man has disappeared from his 

of an Orchid Hunter. iji 







The northern part of the chain of mountains between 
the River Cauca and the Magdalena had generally 
been considered rich in orchids, but up to the present 
few or none with a knowledge of plants had entered 
into the hills from the Magdalena side. The Cauca 
side of this chain of mountains is the home of the 
famous Odontoglossum Harrvannm. All the informa- 



tion I could rather about the eastern side of the rantre 

o o 

was that the Colombian merchants, Messrs. Lopez and 
Navarro, had sent an expedition two years before to 
explore these mountains in search of gold, at great 
risk and expense, employing many men. They had 
penetrated to the highest point in the northern part of 
the range — a high peak called La Tete de San Lucas, 
which is a barren rock on the top of a mountain some- 

172 Travels and Adventures 

thing like eight thousand feet above sea-level. I 
was determined to follow in their track, knowing that 
if I reached this altitude I should have passed through 
every zone of vegetation in the northern part of this 
range. I accordingly started in a canoe from a port 
on the banks of the Magdalena called Badillo. It 
was necessary to cross over to the western bank 
and follow an arm of the river, our object being 
to reach a small village called Simiti, situated at the 
foot of the mountains, but on the edge of a large 
lake called Lake Simiti. We followed the course 
of the river Magdalena for half a day, and then took 
a more westerly course, entering the mouth of a canal 
which drains the lake. This canal is very narrow, and 
in some parts only admits of two canoes passing each 
other; the vegetation on each side is like that of the rest 
of the valley of the Magdalena, being most luxuriant, 
and this part of the forest is full of game, especially 
the tapir and the capibara, while the branches of 
the trees are hung? with egrets, lar^e blue-and-white 
cranes, and kingfishers. Another half-day brought 
us to Lake Simiti. It is a novel sight to emerge out 
of a narrow channel walled in on each side by thick 
forest into a magnificent sheet of water twelve miles 
long and seven miles broad, ornamented with several 
islands, each one covered with a wealth of tropical 
palms, while on one side of the lake the slopes of 

of an Orchid Hunter. 173 

the Andes shelve down to the water's edge, and the 
towering peaks of the central range form the line 
of the horizon. Sunset here is a glorious sight ; 
the coloured rays of light seem to rush down the 

ta n a ,x 


mountain-side and gild the waters of the lake, some- 
times creatine a sort of mirage in which the forests 
of the Andes are represented with crowns of active 
volcanoes. About four hours' paddling in the canoe 
brought us to the village. This is at present but 
a miserable collection of mud huts. In the time of 
the Spaniards it was a rich and thickly populated 


Travels and Adventures 

town, but now all that remains of its former greatness 
are some two or three stone houses and two churches, 
which neither climate nor revolution has been able to 
affect. One of them, which I photographed, is a good 
specimen of the early Spanish church in this country. 
History says the origin of the riches of this town were 


the gold-mines of the vicinity, which yielded immense 
wealth to their Spanish owners ; but when Spain lost 
her power in Colombia many of these mines were 
either lost or purposely filled up, and it is only lately 
that efforts are being made to discover these rich 
veins again. A large quantity of fine gold is annually 
washed out of various creeks and rivers by the natives, 
who use a flat wooden dish. The situation of this 
town is excellent, placed as it is on the edg& of so 

of an Orchid Hunter. 175 

fine a lake, which swarms with fish and myriads of 
water-fowl. The natives have no need for manual 
labour, as the lake and the forest provide them with 
all the necessaries of life. Here I was obliged to 
obtain men to carry provisions to the woods, as from 
here to the highest point reached by the expedition 
of Captain Lopez is nine days' journey on foot, and, 
except a few provisions to be obtained at the mines 
now being worked in the mountains, I was told that 
very little was to be had to eat. The first clay's track 
ran through a kind of scrub and pasture-land, which 
form the slopes of the hills, and alon^ the side of the 
track there are sugar and coffee plantations. The 
second day was much the same, but the third day we 
had left all trace of habitation and struck into the 
thick forest, the principal living things I saw here 
being some wild turkeys and crowds of toucans. I 
suppose the track was made through the forest ac- 
cording to the caprice of the director of the expedition, 
for, to keep in the track, in about three miles of dis- 
tance we were obliged to cross a serpentine kind of 
river nine times, always wading above our knees. On 
the banks of this river I found many lovely specimens 
of Oncidium Kramerianum, but I did not stop to 
collect it, from a desire to know what there was on the 
higher grounds. At the end of the third day we had 
ascended something like three thousand feet, and on 

I 76 

Travels and Adventures 

the morning of the fourth we arrived at the gold- 
mines called La Concepcion, the property of Messrs. 
Lopez and Navarro, where the director, Mr. Thomas 
Smallfield, treated us with the greatest kindness. 
Although a miner's life in the wilds of the Andes 


must necessarily be full of privations, everyone seemed 
happy and contented. We rested here one day, and, 
after being furnished with a few necessaries by our 
friends the miners, we again started on the track. 
Two years had elapsed since the expedition passed 
that way, and then the road made was a mere trail. 
With the rank growth of veeetation in these climates 
this track had become entirely overgrown. Messrs. 

of an Orchid Hunter 


Lopez and Navarro believed that since the time of the 
Spaniards no one had set foot in these mountains 
but themselves, and, judging from the wildness of the 
rank, virgin forest, what they say must be correct. 

•*J.te^v * « *; «.-Jy> & . w *g*A -*****> :£*#* 



gold-miners' huts. 

Although I had one of the most expert guides who 
had taken part in the first expedition, we were con- 
tinually losing ourselves, often having to branch out, 
turn back, or even climb trees, to find the direction of 
the track. The mountains on this side of the Magda- 
lena differ from the orchid grounds in the eastern 
range in being thickly covered with immense timber- 


i 7 8 

Travels and Adventures 

trees of great height and thickness, while those on 
the eastern side are often only covered with a miserable 
scrub. It would be impossible to describe the peculiar 
undulations and deviations of the top of this range of 


mountains, not a quarter of a mile being level. First 
we would descend some thousand feet, letting ourselves 
down by creepers and shrubs as best we could, at the 
peril of our lives from a fall or from the deadly coral- 
snakes which lurked on the shelves of the rocks ; 
sometimes scrambling along; the bed of some mountain- 

of an Orchid Hunter 

! /9 

stream ; then again we would climb with our packs of 
provisions another quarter of a mile almost perpen- 
dicularly, often on our hands and knees, always with the 
one object of reaching the highest point of the range, 
in order by so doing to pass through every variety of 


vegetation. It was important for us to camp each 
night where we found water — for instance, if we came 
to a stream about four o'clock in the afternoon we 
must not leave it, for fear darkness set in before we 
could find another. Two nights we were greatly 
inconvenienced by the side of the mountain being so 
steep that we were obliged to cut down a tree and 
lodge it lengthways against two others, then place 

180 Travels and Adventures 

our feet firmly against the horizontal tree, and so pass 
the night in a reclining position, the tree keeping us 
from sliding down the mountain-side. 

The journey from the mine to the top of San 
Lucas occupied six days of the hardest toil I have 
ever experienced, and when we reached the height our 
provisions were well-nigh exhausted ; we had seen but 
few wild turkeys, the only living thing to be found in 
plenty being colonies of large black monkeys, which 
sat in the high trees grinning at us as we went past. 
The palms on some of the highest hills were torn up 
by the roots and split into shreds by the powerful 
black bears, which, however, did not trouble us. Of 
orchids there was a considerable variety, ranging from 
the Epidendrums of the arid plains to the Sobralias and 
Masdevallias of the cold regions ; but the principal 
wealth of vegetation is in the variety of Anthuriums, 
tropical ferns, and other fine foliage-plants. In one of 
the streams we almost lost ourselves in a perfect 
forest of Alocasias, some of these having a stem a foot 
in circumference and reaching a height of twenty feet. 
There were here also some very lovely plants I had 
not seen before of the family of the Gesneras, besides 
climbers, flowering shrubs, and Selaginellas. 

The return journey to Simiti cost us seven days. 
Everyone arrived in good health, no one having suffered 
much apparently from our seventeen days' camping 

of an Orchid Hunter, i 8 1 

in the forest. I may say, for the encouragement of 
anyone who may choose to explore these mountains, 
whether in search of gold, or plants, or whatever it 
may be, that the natives here are the most trustworthy 
and the most enduring of fatigue of any I have met 
with. Those who went with me carried a heavy pack 
all day, climbing over the most inaccessible tracks, 
and at night preparing our camp, often under the 
greatest difficulty, the forest,, as a rule, being dripping 
wet and the w r ood saturated. Our bread was procured 
by taking a bag of maize-meal with us, and every 
night one of the men made excellent cakes, enough to 
serve for next day's consumption. We had only one 
pot of any size, and it was a terrible blow to the 
community when the man who carried it fell down 
a precipice, his pack landing at the bottom first, and 
smashed our only means of making broth. 

Everyone in the vicinity was loud in his praise 
of a part of the Magdalena adjoining w r hat is known 
as the Santo Domingo river, so I determined to pay a 
visit to this district, and I can assure anyone coming 
after me that I was not disappointed. In Simiti the 
canoe is as indispensable to everyone as a horse is to 
the Gaucho, and the journey to the Santo Domingo, 
about fifty miles, is made by winding about amongst 
the various channels and small streams which cut up 
the immense savannas on the west bank of the 


1 82 Travels and Adventures 

Magdalena. The river Santo Domingo, after rushing 
down from the mountain-side in the form of a noisy 
rivulet, suddenly gathers great force as it reaches the 
level land, and then, with the help of two small tribu- 
taries it receives, forms the only supply of four large 
lakes. It was near the borders of one of these lakes 
I took up my abode with a family of natives for a 
short time, with a view to exploring the forest on each 
side of the higher waters of the river, arid also with 
the object of securing some specimens of the curious 
water-fowl, etc., to be found around the edofes of the 

The plains forming this side of the Magdalena are 
something like one hundred miles wide from the river 
to the foot of the chain of mountains. These plains 
are called by the natives La Savannas de San Luis. 
The land is very flat, mostly thick forest, sometimes 
intersected with swamp, in other parts with immense 
prairies, where the rank grass gives shelter to large 
herds of peccaries as well as to the tapir, jaguar, and 
puma. These plains are very scantily inhabited, the 
scattered natives living at a oreat distance from each 
other. Sometimes a family will have a ten-mile range 
of savanna for the few cattle they possess. The 
settlement where I lived was made up of three 
families, and in a southerly direction our nearest 
neighbours were at least seventy miles distant. The 

of an Orchid Hunter. 183 

houses in which the natives live, although much 
superior to many Indian huts:, are still very tem- 
porary ; in fact, they have no need of substantial 
dwellings, as they leave the low plains on the 
approach of the rainy season and migrate to higher 
grounds. Animals of every kind become particularly 
daring here ; they seem well aware they have little 
to fear from the indolent natives. The fat, unwieldy 
alligators, which elsewhere will generally shuffle into 
the water to hide themselves on the approach of 
anyone, here fight for the refuse food thrown into 
the river from the huts of the station ; the jaguars 
and pumas, which have the reputation of being 
cowardly, are, on the contrary, a continual source 
of annoyance to the settlers, often making great havoc 
among the cattle, so much so that everything likely to 
serve as food for them must be driven into an 
enclosure made of stout poles for the night ; the 
jaguar, or, as the natives call it, the tiger, often 
succeeds, however, in breaking through and taking 
away some dainty morsel in the form of a calf or a 
eoat. The month of March is the time when the 
jaguars are most troublesome, and this happened to 
be the period at which I was on the savannas. In this 
month the turtles come out of the water during the 
night to deposit their eggs in the sand-banks, and the 
jaguars, actuated by some peculiar instinct, leave the 

184 Travels and Adventures 

more distant forests and live on the banks of the lakes, 
or in the vicinity. Although the turtles are both 
cunning and swift, hundreds of them annually fall a 
prey to the stealthy jaguar, which loses no time in 
scooping out every particle of flesh contained in its 
horny shell, but still without breaking it open ; this 
they succeed in doing by inserting their powerful 
claws into the natural opening at each end of the 
shell. Every night while I lodged in the huts on 
the Santo Domingo we were disturbed by the roaring 
of the jaguars. Sometimes one would howl all 
night close to us ; occasionally two and even three 
would call to each other from different parts of the 
lake-side or the forest. The male and female are 
easily distinguishable by their roar, in their natural 
state in the woods the call of the female beincr more 
prolonged and shrill than that of the male. 

I determined to try to rid ourselves of one or 
more of these unwelcome visitors. There were only 
two natives, however, in the settlement who were able 
to help me in a jaguar hunt, but we had plenty of 
dogs. The night before the proposed hunt we 
noticed well the situation of the beasts, as the natives 
know that the place where they howl at midnight 
is where they may be sought for at daybreak. We 
started away while it was dark, taking with us the 
best dogs of the settlement, and arrived on the 

of an Orchid Hunter. 185 

edge of the lake where we expected to find our game 
just as the first streaks of dawn were appearing. It 
was evident by the signs of the dogs that the jaguars 
had been prowling around, but we were obliged to 
wait for more light. Very soon the deep footprints 
in the sand showed us in what direction to go, and 
half a mile of careful tracking around the ed^e of 
the lake brought us in sight of the jaguar. Then 
we dodged in amongst the bushes, keeping ourselves 
and the dogs as much under cover as possible, until by 
making a short cut we came down upon the beautiful 
animal at a distance of not more than twenty yards. 
It eyed us curiously for a moment, and then went off 
with a peculiar motion, like the action of a horse 
trotting, but we had the dogs in full cry at once. The 
jaguar went straight for the thick forest, but did 
not go far before the dogs came up with it, when 
it turned on its haunches and prepared to fight. It 
was wise for us to keep at a safe distance, to avoid the 
now infuriated animal springing upon us, and it was 
difficult to shoot for fear of hitting the dogs. After ten 
minutes of desperate fighting the jaguar made a bound 
for the nearest tree, where it was out of the way of the 
dogs. I aimed a ball at the heart, but only broke the 
shoulder. However, this brought it again to the 
ground, and, mad with pain, it made a desperate 
spring at one of the natives, and came very near 

1 86 Travels and Adventures 

strangling" him, bearing him to the ground with the 
force of the spring. It was a critical moment for 
my companion, and had the jaguar been still un- 
wounded, instead of having a broken leg, it would 
probably have been the death of the native. While 
the mad beast was doing its best to clutch the 
neck of the prostrate Indian, I aimed a ball which 
struck the brain, and the sleek, beautiful animal 
rolled over motionless. It was a male, a fine 
specimen, measuring seven feet six inches from the 
nose to the tip of the tail. As we killed" it in 
the thick jungle, where it was difficult to photograph, 
there was no alternative but to carry it on our 
shoulders to the edge of the lake, where we could 
get a good light. One of the Indians was so 
injured as to be unable to help in this operation, 
so I shouldered one end of the pole, being determined 
not to lose the chance of a picture. As soon as 
this had been satisfactorily accomplished, we were 
not long in taking off the skin, and this finished 
our adventure with the jaguar for this time, though 
by no means the only one. 

Anyone looking at the adjoining picture may 
be puzzled to know how the photograph was taken 
under the circumstances. Nearly all these pictures 
have been made with Messrs. Rouch's patent camera. 
I set the instrument in a position which I knew would 

of an Orchid Hunter 

i8 7 

produce the desired picture, and then instructed one 
of the natives to touch the spring which exposes 
the plate, this plate being carried away and 
developed at a more convenient time. An instance 

■ ' X ■ ■ . » 


will illustrate how the turkey-buzzards and the 
vultures do their work in taking the place of 
scavengers. At the time we killed the jaguar not 
a bird was to be seen in the sky, but before we 
had taken off the skin at least a hundred vultures 
were wheeling overhead, and by evening a few 
scattered bones were all that remained of our orame. 

1 88 Travels and Adventures 






The waterfowl which congregate around the shores of 
these lakes in the months of March and April are to 
be found in such numbers that the description becomes 
almost incredible. I have seen, at a rough calculation, 
over four thousand in one flock, which extend them- 
selves over a mile of the shallow water or sand-bank. 
The most conspicuous amongst them are the immense 
storks, the Mycteria Americana, which stand five feet 
high, and look like soldiers with scarlet necks. It is 
very rarely the natives succeed in shooting one, but 
when they do quite a feast is made, as they consider 
the flesh very good food. Besides these, a smaller 
stork is to be seen in much larger numbers. Then 
come the blue herons, the large white cranes, the 
egrets, two or three varieties of bitterns, a crowd of 
large Muscovy-ducks, a line of the awkward birds 

of an Orchid Hunter. 189 

called "the Shag'," the snake-necked diver, and two 
kinds of small ducks, which to say are represented by 
hundreds would give but a poor idea of the cloud 
they make as they rise in the air. Although most 
of them are migratory, and few of them breed in this 
part, yet they are remarkably tame, having nothing to 
disturb them but an occasional passing canoe, and 
they remain stationary long enough for anyone to 
get a good sight of them, and even a photograph. 
Amongst the many varieties, the bird which seemed 
to me the most curious as well as the most strik- 
ingly beautiful is what is known as the Roseate 
Spoonbill ( Platalea ajaja). It is about the size 
of a small goose, and it finds its food in the soft 
mud and sand, by digging up grubs and worms 
with its odd-shaped bill. The feathers are of a 
lovely rose-pink colour, deepening into scarlet in 
the tail, and a band of the same colour runs across 
the wings. The peculiar satin -like texture greatly 
adds to their beauty. I succeeded in obtaining some 
five hundred specimens of birds of many species in 
this locality. 

On account of the flatness of the land, orchids are 
somewhat scarce around the shores of the lakes ; the 
most conspicuous of any note is the Epidendrum 
atropnrp7irc7im a /bum, and as it flowers here, clinging 
to the bare trunks of the trees, it is a glorious sight. 

190 Travels and Adventures 

The spikes are long, crowded with flowers, and of 
the most distinct colours —not pale and washy, as is 
often the case in cultivation ; sometimes it grows in 
clumps, which perfume the air for a distance around. 

Although the Santo Domingo river is only na- 
vigable for about three days' journey in a canoe, it 
was necessary to fit up something like an expedi- 
tion, so as to be able to explore more effectually 
the mountains beyond. My former privations in 
the San Lucas district had made me cautious enough 
not to start into an unknown country without pro- 
visions. But here we found later that we wanted 
very little more than the woods provided. In this 
locality there is such an abundance of fish and game 
that a tribe of Indians could support themselves for 
three months. Abandoned banana plantations are 
to be found at intervals along the banks of the 
rivers, still growing and bearing fruit with as much 
luxuriance as when the native owners cultivated 
them years before. 

Further up the river we found orange-trees laden 
with hundreds of luscious fruit, while the bread-fruit 
( Artocarpus incisa) is a common timber-tree, growing 
in profusion all over the lower lands. This would 
provide waggon-loads of its immense fruit, if there 
were a demand for it. Besides, in the season, 
when the mangoes are ripe, tons of the fruit are 

of an Orchid Hunter 


wasted. These, with the bread-fruit, provide the 
means of living for herds of wild pigs and tapirs, 
which swarm the forest. 

As we journeyed up the river through the floating 
Limnocharis and Pontederias, we came to another 
lake about six miles lono\ The thick forest cominsf 
right to the water's edge made it very beautiful. A 
company of natives had taken up fishing-quarters here 
for a week or two to lay in a stock of fish for the 
winter, and a description of their means of catching 
them may be interesting. The kind of fish most 
sought after, and which abounds the most, is the 
Pimelodous tigrinus, or cat-fish, which often attains a 
very large size. The natives go out in canoes, pro- 
vided with about half-a-dozen harpoons, which are 
made in two sections. A sharp, barbed piece of iron 
is fixed to a piece of wood about two inches long, and 
this piece with the barb fits into a socket made in the 
end of a stout rod. The barbed piece is further 
attached to the long shaft by a stout cord. The 
native, as he moves about the lake or river in his 
canoe, makes a thumping noise to disturb the fish ; 
this brings them to the top of the water, and their 
size, and the velocity with which they swim, make 
stream enough for the native who stands in the prow 
of the canoe to discern them ; the moment he gets a 
good sight of the position of the fish he throws the 


Travels and Adventures 




of an Orchid Hunter 


harpoon with an aim that very rarely fails. The 
moment the fish is struck it darts off across the lake 
at a terrific speed. The barbed part of the harpoon 
detaches itself from the socket in the long shaft by the 
force of the water, but still remains connected with the 
canoe by the cord. The native then pursues the fish 
until it becomes exhausted, and sometimes the chase 
is most exciting. When the fish is so tired as to allow 
him to come up with it, it is knocked on the head 
with a cutlass and taken into the boat. Laree 
quantities are annually caught by this means in the 
dry season, and cut into long strips to be salted for 
provisions for the time of floods. In the rainy season 
the only way that the natives can catch fish in the 
deep water is to shoot them with arrows when they 
rise to the surface to bask in the sun. This party of 
natives had already gathered together several hundred- 
weight of fish, and as one company leaves the lakes 
it is succeeded by another, all through the dry 

As we kept on up the river I saw several clumps 
of trees laden with the beautiful Oncirfium splcndidum, 
hung and trailing in the branches, looking quite a 
forest of orchids, their long spikes. of bright-yellow 
flowers appearing like a golden cloud in the tops of 
the tall timber-trees. A peculiar Schomburgkia I did 
not know was growing here, curious-looking- enough 


194 Travels and Adventures 

with its pale-green flowers and long, mossy roots ; the 
natives use the sap of the bulbs as gum for their 
cigars. The long rolls of tobacco which everyone 
sniokes are first made from the leaves, and then the 
end is finished by sticking it with a little of the sap of 
this Schomburgkia. Most of the Indian huts have 
two or three old squaws who are adepts at this, and 
thus every hut has its own private tobacco-manufac- 
tory. Apart from its utility in this respect, the plant 
has not merit enough to warrant it being brought to 
England, except as a botanical curiosity. Some of 
the trees which hung over the stream were laden 
with a pink-flowered Epidendrum, one of the pani cu- 
latum section, the branches being so heavy with the 
weight of the plants as to bend into the water. 

I found a variety of bird here (Trogan viridis) I 
had not seen before in the low lands ; the breast of 
this species, instead of being scarlet or rose-coloured 
like the most of its fellows, is a steel-blue, the back a 
shiny green, and the under part of the body yellow. 
I have found the same bird at an altitude of five 
thousand feet. Myself and my native helpers have had 
many adventures with snakes, from the delicate whip- 
snake to the mighty boa, which every living thing in 
the forest flees from and leaves master. An incident 
that happened here is curious enough to be worth 
mentioning. One evening I went for a stroll in the 

of an Orchid Hunter, 195 

forest while the natives were preparing supper ; some 
small birds known as the Red-winged Starling (Leistes 
Guianensis) were flitting about. I shot one, which fell 
from the tree still alive and fluttering ; before I had 
time to catch it a large black-and-white snake, known 
to the natives as the " Hunter," sprang from an 
adjoining hollow tree, and, seizing the luckless bird, 
was making off into the thicket at a quick pace. 
Fortunately one barrel of my shot-gun still remained 
loaded, and a snap-shot from this stopped its progress 
just as it was disappearing. This occurrence shows 
how much care is necessary in moving about in the 
forest, seeing how difficult it is to be aware of the 
presence of these venomous enemies. 

In going up the river an event occurred, simple 
enough in itself, but which serves to illustrate how 
little the native is at a loss for resources under 
any circumstances. The canoe in which we travelled 
was a primitive structure made out of a hollowed 
tree, about thirty feet long, but very narrow. In 
this we travelled very swiftly where the water was 
smooth, but to beein to move about in it when it 
was in motion put us in danger of being thrown 
into the river. The man who had charge of the 
spoon-like paddle in the stern of the boat wanted to 
smoke, but had no tobacco ; his companion in the 
prow had plenty. How to pass a cigar along the 

196 Travels and Adventures 

length of the craft while in motion appeared to me 
a difficult question. Not so to the native. His 
drinking-cup, a calabash shell, was lying beside him ; 
without a moment of reflection he placed one of 
the large rolls of native tobacco in the calabash 
and dropped it into the water ; in another moment 
it had floated down stream and was alongside the 
native who sat in the stern ; he coolly lifted the 
calabash out of the water, lighted his roll of tobacco, 
and went on his way rejoicing. 

As we neared the higher waters of the river, 
navigation became more and more difficult, and 
before long we were obliged to tie up our canoe, 
make a kind of camp, and prepare to enter the 
forest on foot. The Santo Domingo river, in the 
part where it runs down the mountain-side, has 
always been famous for the quantity and purity of the 
gold found there. The natives have many legends 
about it as well as about the mountains of San Lucas. 
The story most in vogue before the expedition 
was sent by Captain Lopez was that the towering 
stone pinnacle seen from so great a distance was 
literally a deposit of gold, and that the higher part 
of the mountain was inhabited by some pigmy race of 
gold-diggers. Many of the men who accompanied the 
expedition were not a little surprised when they 
reached the pinnacle to find it nothing but a huge 

of an Orchid Hunter. 197 

grey rock, and some were still more surprised when 
they were required to sign their names or put their 
mark to a document to certify to what they saw. 
The legend of the Santo Domingo is that in one of 
the higher parts of the river a vein of gold was known 
to the Spaniards, called by the name of " El Rosario," 
or the Rosary, and the natives believe to this day 
that their Spanish captors used to cut pure gold out of 
the rock with chisels. They also believe that at the 
time of the first revolution the vein was covered 
up purposely, and so lost. It is very rarely anyone 
penetrates into this forest, but when he does all the 
natives are on the alert, and the principal conversa- 
tion is as to who shall find " El Rosario." 

At this altitude food had become considerably 
more scarce than in the valley, and we were very 
pleased to be able to shoot an occasional wild turkey, 
the noble-looking bird known by the name of the 
Crested Curassovv ( Crax alector). The picture repre- 
sents the female, the male bird being altogether of a 
glossy black. I have found this species in nearly 
every part of Colombia, except on the high hills, feed- 
ing on fruit in the tops of the trees ; it very rarely 
comes to the ' Ground. I have shot male birds 
which weighed as much as twelve pounds. The 
flesh, when cooked, is tender, being nearly as good 
as that of the domesticated turkey. The beautiful 

198 Travels and Adventures 

little Rodriguezia secunda grows here in abundance, 
festooning the trees with wreaths of its pretty rose- 


coloured flowers, mixed with Comparettia Macro- 
plectron and a small variety of Tnchopilia. The 
vegetation changes, as we ascend the mountain-side, 
from the thick growth of the vegetable-ivory palm 

of an Orchid Hunter. 199 

(Phytelephas macrocarpa) to the bamboo, and then 
ao-ain to the region of the tree-ferns. 

To avoid the work of cutting a way through the 
forest we often kept along the mountain- streams. 
One day, as I was wading up one of the streams at 
an altitude of about six thousand feet, I came upon 
that lovely little plant, the Nertera depressa, growing 
on the tops of stones about half-submerged in the 
cold water, but looking green and healthy, all covered 
with its bright red berries. I was the more surprised 
as I had never found it in any other locality, and 
was almost ignorant of its native country. 

In the forests of Colombia I have met with four 
species of toucans at various altitudes. Here we were 
besieged by crowds of the large black variety, with a 
golden-yellow patch on the breast and the usual 
awkward bill. I had no difficulty in securing a few 
as specimens. 

We very soon reached the height of the Cattleya 
grounds ; but for anyone to get a good collection here 
it is necessary to camp in the forest and work three 
weeks with a good company of men. The plants are 
most difficult to carry through the woods to the 
canoes, and they must be taken by way of Simiti, 
where it is easy to get wood to make boxes ; but 
when they are made another difficulty presents itself. 
The canoes used here are small, and not capable of 

200 Travels and Adventures 

containing more than half-a-dozen plant-boxes each, 
and then there is a great danger of having them 
thrown into the river by the least carelessness on 
the part of the boatmen. 

In making the descent of the Santo Domingo river 
we came upon a colony of Weaver Birds (Cassicus 
periscus). These attractive little birds live in com- 
panies sometimes amounting to several hundreds, and 
they generally choose a high tree quite isolated, and 
there hang their peculiarly made nests to the ex- 
tremities of the branches which project most from 
the trunk in a horizontal position. I have met with 
several species, all apparently of the same habits. 
The nests of the one I saw on the Santo Domingo 
were perfect works of art, about two feet long, made of 
the fine, dry stems of climbing plants, and woven 
together in a way that would make it difficult to 
believe they were the work of so small an architect. 
They are narrow at the top and wide at the bottom, 
looking like huge stockings floating in the wind ; the 
wide, bulging part at the bottom is occupied by a nice 
bed made of the soft seed-covering of the Asclepias, 
and in this the female lays two tiny spotted eggs ; an 
aperture is left in the top of the nest just large 
enough for the occupants to pass in and out, and at 
the same time to look like a trap to snakes and other 
enemies. The cleverness with which they use their 

of an Orchid Hunter, 201 

needle-like beaks in working the twigs, and the agility 
they display in running in and out of their sack-like 
home, are perfectly wonderful. The male bird is of a 
shiny black, with a spot of rich orange on the back, 
the female beino- scarcely so attractive. They seem 
by their gentle habits to be birds which could be 
easily tamed, and if it were possible to keep them in 
confinement they would be universal favourites. 

I left this part of the country by way of the village 
of Simiti. As the canoes glided dreamily across the 
beautiful lake, the sun, just rising over the tops of the 
distant mountains, threw a soft rosy tint on the waters, 
and this, with the picturesque islands covered with 
dark-green waving palms, made up a scene which 
is as indelible in the memory of the traveller as it 
is indescribable to the reader. 

After leaving Lake Simiti the canoes followed 
a channel into the river Magdalena, where they 
occupied nearly a whole day in going round the 
point of an immense island in order to arrive at the 
station, Bodega Central, where passengers must wait 
to meet the steamboats going down the river to 
the coast. I had four whole days to spend here 
before one would come down. A pair of jaguars 
had been committing nightly depredations on the 
cattle of the settlement, taking away half-grown 
cows, calves, pigs, and even coming into the streets 


Travels and Adventures 

of the village and making a meal of one of the dogs. 
So, to pass the time while waiting for the boat, I 
determined to try a system employed by the Indians 
to take them — that is, to tie a calf or a young pig 
to a stake in some open place in the forest and wait 


in ambush. The nights were beautifully light, the 
moon being full, and with clear air in this climate 
it is possible to see well by moonlight ; so, accord- 
ingly, I fixed upon a situation about half a mile from 
the village, and tied a pig to a stake. I then climbed 
into a luxuriant mango-tree, preparing my gun with 
a good charge of ball to be ready for any visitor. 
Just at this season the luscious mangoes are ripe, and 

of an Orchid Hunter 


as they ripen they become detached and fall to the 
ground. Every night a large quantity fall, providing 
food for the peccaries, tapirs, and the domesticated 
pigs of the settlement, which come through the night 
to feed upon them. The first night nothing came 
near me but a few of these animals. About midnight 
the jaguar took a pig away from one of the huts. I 
could hear it squeal as it was being borne into the 
forest. The second ni^ht I changed mv situation ; 
this time a fox and several tiger-cats came close to 
me, but the jaguar did not appear. The nights were 
lovely ; I wish it were possible to describe a moon- 
light night in a tropical forest, but this must be 
experienced to be understood. The third night 
several smaller animals visited me, and a splendid 
jaguar crossed the open space where I was hidden. 
I could see the beautiful spots on the skin ; but I did 
not fire, in hopes that the animal would come nearer 
to spring upon the bait. In this I was disappointed — 
no doubt, the quick sense of smell which the jaguar 
possesses warned him there was danger — and I was 
obliged to take the boat down the river the next day 
without being able to add another jaguar's skin to the 
nine I had already. 

On the river-steamboats it is very difficult to carry 
orchids safely, on account of the space for cargo being 
in such close proximity to the boilers, and the heat 


Travels and Adventures 

so intense. On arriving at Barranquilla many fine 
specimens in my collection were lost. In this I 
am not alone, as every traveller has found that 
however well his plants are packed, and however 
carefully looked after, many much-prized specimens, 

that have cost so much labour and hardship to 
obtain, have to be thrown overboard and left to finish 
rotting in the muddy waters of the Magdalena. I 
was fortunate in securing a passage at once by the 
Royal Mail Company's steamship Essequibo. On the 
journey from Barranquilla to the port there was 
the usual delay and annoyance, the only difference 

■ of an Orchid Hunter. 205 

being that I was not able to land at a place called 
Savanilla, or Salgar. The shifting sands of the 
Magdalena have filled this up so that vessels cannot 
come near, and another port has been made, with a 
few sheds and a temporary stage, further along the 
coast, and this bears the name of Puerto Colombia. 
It is said that a contract has been entered into with 
an English company to supply the material and build 
a substantial pier, etc. Let us hope that it will be 
completed before any of my readers have to land 

2o6 Travels and Adventures 





The Essequibo was not long in weighing anchor, 
keeping along the coast, bound for the Port of 
Carthaoena. As we left in the evening, and the 
journey is only of a few hours, we found ourselves in 
the morning opposite this curious, old, historic port 
and city. Its substantial towers and immense walls, 
with their picturesque surroundings of mountains and 
forts, give it a more imposing appearance from the 
sea than any other place I have seen in the north 
of South America. History is so full of accounts 
of the sieges and battles, the persecution and blood- 
shed, enacted here in the time of the Spaniards and 
the pirate buccaneers that it is almost superfluous 
for me to recount them. Before these wars the 
entrance to the city for ships was made through 
either of two beautiful bays, both of which were 
excellent harbours. One of these is called Boca 

of an Orchid Hunter. 


Chica, and the other Boca Grande ; but as the 
inhabitants were being continually robbed and mur- 
dered by the buccaneers, who came in galleys and 
entered by way of the smaller port, Boca Chica, the 
colonists determined to stop their inroads by filling 
up the entrance to the harbour. This they actually 
succeeded in doing by means of large stones, with 
an amount of labour which makes the story almost 
incredible, but at the same time destroying their 
best port. This not being sufficient, Philip II. of 
Spain caused a wall to be built around the city at 
a cost of fifty-nine millions of gold dollars. It is 
so wide that forty horses can walk abreast on the 
top of it. However that may be, neither time nor 
weapons have been able to damage it much ; it 
still stands, a fine old monument and a triumph of 
masonry. History says that none of these means 
were of any use in protecting the people. The 
bands of robbers continued to pillage the town and 
take away tons of gold and silver, which annually 
came from the rich mines in the interior to be 
shipped to Spain — each invasion witnessing the same 
scenes of cruelty and carnage. 

The vessels lay at some distance from the quay, 
but a landing was easily effected by means of any 
of the small boats in waiting, the water of the bay 
being generally as smooth as glass. As the time 


Travels and Adventures 

of an Orchid Hunter. 209 

spent here by the Royal Mail ships is very short, we 
were soon on shore to see as much of the place as 
the time would allow. The houses are most curious, 
looking like a city of forts. Many of them are 
spacious, and even palatial ; the massive stone walls 
are at least four feet thick, and the spaces for the 
windows fitted with strong iron bars. They are 
built round a square, open court, after the Moorish 
style, the heavy doors, which form the only entrance, 
reminding one of the old English portcullis ; and 
though many of them are half-ruined and deserted, 
they give an idea of what Carthagena must have been 
in its glory. I visited what is called the Inquisition 
Building, the only one of the kind left in Colombia. 
For nearly sixty years after the then despotic power 
of the Romish Church had been overthrown it stood 
empty ; it is now the residence of a rich citizen, 
and although it was once fitted with instruments of 
torture, and prison-cells where hundreds died a 
miserable death, very little remains in the immense 
building to prove what deeds of horror were enacted 
within its walls. There are two cathedrals, one of 
the time of the early settlers, and one modern — both 
beautiful specimens of architecture, adorned with the 
usual extravagant decorations of hicdi-class Roman 
Catholic places of worship. In the oldest of these 
is located the famous marble pulpit. The story told 

2 IO 

Travels and Adventures 


about it by the people 
reads more like ro- 
mance than sober fact. 
The tale has it that 
one of the Popes, who 
wanted to present the 
faithful at Carthagena 
with something to per- 
petuate his memory, 
and at the same time 
to adorn the magnifi- 
cent cathedral, ordered 
the pulpit to be de- 
signed and sculptured 
by the very best artists 
of the day in Rome. 
When the work was 
finished, it was placed 
on board a Spanish 
galley and despatched 
to Carthagena. In the 
course of the voyage 
the vessel was cap- 
tured by pirates, and 
the boxes containing 
the pulpit, upon being 
broken open and 

of an Orchid Hunter. 211 

found to be of no value as plunder, were 
thrown overboard, but, by the interposition of the 
Virgin, none of the pieces sank. The English 
pirates, becoming alarmed at the miracle of the 
heavy marble floating on the water, fled from the 
ship, leaving their booty. The Spanish sailors got 
the precious cargo aboard their vessel again with 
great difficulty, and continued on their way; but before 
they reached Carthagena they encountered a second 
lot of pirates, who plundered them of all their valu- 
ables and burned the ship. However, the saints still 
preserved the pulpit ; for as the vessel and the 
remainder of the cargo were destroyed, the carved 
marble floated away upon the surface of the water, 
and, being guided by an invisible hand, went ashore 
on the beach outside the city to which it was destined. 
There it lay for many years unknown and unnoticed. 
Finally, it was discovered by a party of explorers, 
who, recoenisine the value of the carvings, took 
it aboard their ship en route for Spain, intending to 
sell it when they reached home. But the saints still 
kept their eyes upon the Pope's offering, and sent 
the vessel such bad weather that the captain was 
compelled to put into the port of Carthagena for 
repairs. There he told the story of the marble found 
upon the beach, and it reached the ears of the arch- 
bishop. His Grace sent for the captain and informed 

212 Travels and Adventures 

him that the pulpit was intended for the decoration 
of the cathedral, and related the story of its construc- 
tion and disappearance ; the captain did not seem 
inclined to believe the story, but offered to sell the 
marble, and would not leave it otherwise. Having 
repaired the damage done by the storm, the captain 
started for Europe ; but he was scarcely out of the 
harbour when a most frightful gale struck him and 
wrecked his vessel, which went to the bottom with 
all on board; but the pulpit, the subject of so many 
divine interpositions, rose from the wreck, and one 
morning came floating into the harbour of Carthagena, 
where it was taken in charge by the archbishop and 
placed in the cathedral for which it was intended, 
and where it now stands. The story may be taken 
for what it is worth ; but one thing is undeniable — 
the quality and variety of the marble used, and the 
richness and beauty of the sculpture, must give it 
a place amongst the first objects of art in the world. 

Besides the many rare and costly altar-pieces and 
carvings to be seen here, there is one object so curious 
as to be worthy of a special remark. This is the 
preserved body of a saint. I do not remember whether 
any name is affixed to the coffin ; but the story says he 
was a great favourite with the people of Carthagena, 
and when he died they asked as a favour that the 
Pope would allow his body to be embalmed and sent 

of an Orchid Hi t nter. 2 1 3 

to their church, and there it is to this day. The saint 
is placed in a glass coffin, which stands upon a marble 
pedestal. The body is somewhat shrivelled, but not, 
as one noted writer has irreverently put it, like jerked 
beef. Some have described the body as a hideous 
spectacle, but I saw nothing repulsive about it. The 
saint appears to have been a man of middle height, 
and as the body lies there it is clad in a coat of 
ancient mail, with a sword and other accoutrements. 

After leaving the cathedral, I wandered about the 
old city, admiring the many beautiful statues and the 
curious masonry, until the Essequibo was read) 7 to sail. 
Formerly the city was connected with the river 
Magdalena by a ship-canal ; this still exists, but it is 
very much filled up by the forest encroachment, and in 
the dry season it is almost impassable. In leaving the 
harbour a^ain we r^ot another sight of the wonderful 
fortifications. The massive walls of the city are to all 
appearances impregnable, and the ancient passages or 
covered ways leading outward to the foot of the 
adjacent mountains are still visible ; while the sides of 
the magnificent harbour are studded with grim forts, 
which, though now unused for more than half a 
century, seem almost as good as new. 

Our next port of call was Colon, so famous for 
beine the entrance to the Panama Canal from the 
Atlantic side. This is only a few hours' sail from 

2I 4 

Travels and Adventures 

Carthagena, along the rugged Colombian coast, passing 
on the way the Indian territory and the Gulf of Darien. 
The scenery is wild and beautiful, and the harbour of 
Colon is considerably more attractive from the sea 
than on shore. Although there is the advantage, if it 


may be called one, of the ship lying alongside the 
wharf, yet the change from the romantic surroundings 
of Carthagena to the more modern filth and disorder 
of Colon is anything but agreeable. With the colossal 
project of uniting the two great oceans came what 
appears to be the scum of all nations, if one may form 
an opinion by looking into the American bars, Chinese 

of an Orchid Hunte 

2 I 

drinking-shops, and gambling-hells, which seem to 
leave no room for any settled comfort or the formation 

of a regular community 

The houses had nearly all been built of wood, in 
the most match-box style it is possible to imagine, 
before the last fire. The ground-floor was a kind of 


open shed which supported several flats, and each of 
these flats was divided into honeycomb-like sections, 
each section occupied by a family or part of one. The 
number of people and the numerous nationalities at 
one time crowded into these small rooms is almost in- 
credible. Such a strange and cosmopolitan company as 
is to be seen in the streets of Colon is rarely to be met 
with. A large percentage of the labourers are negroes ; 

216 Travels and Adventures 

there are also hordes of Chinese, a few Arabs and 
coolies, a company of Frenchmen, a few English and 
Americans, Spaniards, Cubans, and Colombians ; and 
occasionally a band of half-civilised Indians from the 
interior may be seen moving about amongst the stores, 
making purchases, always in company. Here every- 
thing has an air of neglected dissipation, and the motto 
of Jew and Gentile seems to be either to kill them- 
selves with rum or make a fortune. 

The place has suffered very much from fire, having 
been twice almost entirely swept away. The part 
of the town adjoining the entrance to the canal is 
called the Quartier Francais. An avenue of cocoanut- 
palms, which were planted some years ago, now form 
a pretty and an agreeable shade. In this neighbour- 
hood are situated the houses of the Frenchmen 
employed in directing the work of the canal ; they 
are neat little cottages, built of wood, and pro- 
vided with a verandah where the new imports 
from Paris can swine in their hammocks and 
contemplate the ocean or sunny France on the 
distant other side. Just at the point of the entrance 
to the canal two spacious wooden houses have been 
built for the use of the famous engineer, M. Ferdinand 
de Lesseps, while in front of these, on the very edge 
of the water, is placed a beautiful bronze statue of 
Christopher Columbus protecting an Indian. This was 

of an Orchid Hunter 

2 i 7 

presented to Colon by the Empress Eugenie in the 
time of her power. Although at the time we passed 
Colon the actual work of the canal was suspended for 
want of capital, the seven miles already open for traffic 
were busy with boats and small steamers, while the 
sides were stocked with machinery and workshops. 
As the Royal Mail ships lie here three or four days, 
travellers have time to take the train across the 
isthmus to the town of Panama, the Pacific entrance 
to the canal. In the journey a good idea may be 
formed of the work of excavating which is bein^ 
done ; and the scenery is good, while the town is very 
much more commodious than Colon. 

At Colon we were obliged to tranship to the 
homeward-bound mail, the ss. Tagus, everyone being 
sorry to leave the excellent and kindly captain of 
the Essequibo, Captain Buckley. The Tagus was 
soon on its way to Jamaica. The mosquitoes and 
the bad climate, together with the filth and disorder 
of Colon, made everyone glad that the stay here 
was not loneer. So much has been written from 
time to time about the beautiful island of Jamaica 
that there is no need here for me to do more than 
merely mention the port. Sailing along the coast, we 
soon come in sight of the shallows and the jutting 
projection with the fortifications called Port Royal 
As the waves dash up on the sandy beach the strong 

218 Travels and Adventures 

light of this climate gives the water a most lovely 
transparent blue colour which is seldom seen in more 
northern latitudes. Kingston Harbour is one of the 
most important in the West Indian Islands, and is 
always well filled with ships of every kind and nation, 
from the magnificent modern man-of-war and merchant- 
ship to the tiny sail-boat that trades along the coast with 
fruit. The appearance of this island from the sea is 
very much improved by a range of hills which extends 
the whole length of the interior. These are very 
rightly called the Blue Mountains, as they are mostly 
covered with a thin mist which looks from the sea like 
a pale-blue gauze thrown over them, changing with 
the rays of the sun to the most fantastic colours. As 
the ships lie alongside the quay, passengers are 
at liberty to stroll on shore to visit the places of 
interest in the town of Kingston. Some take apart- 
ments in hotels to avoid the uncomfortable heat of 
the ship, others make excursions to various parts 
of the island. The town itself, although full of 
business activity, is hot and dusty. The most 
favourite resorts in the country are the lovely model 
Botanical Gardens, which occupy one of the best 
situations half a day's journey up the Blue Moun- 
tains, and the military station, which lies far up the 
side of the mountain, where the air is cool and pure. 
Last year the Exhibition of manufactured o-oods 

of an Orchid Hunter. 219 

and products of the islands was a great attraction to 

Tram-cars run to one of the suburbs called Con- 
stant Spring, about an hour's ride from Kingston, 
passing on the way many pretty villas, in which the 
wealthy inhabitants of the town take refuge from 
business. A commodious hotel has been built at this 
place, offering every convenience for visitors. The 
beautiful park, called the Victoria Park, is rich with a 
wealth of tropical plants which every foreigner covets ; 
the keeping and arrangement of the plants are carried 
out with the greatest crood taste. Although a lar^e 
part of the island is mountainous and uncultivated, 
there are many fine sugar estates, and the growing of 
sugar-cane and making of sugar and rum occupy most 
of the labour of the island. Every variety of tropical 
fruit is in lavish abundance, especially pine-apples, 
many of which find their way to the London market. 
Some of the Oncidiums grow in profusion in the 
climate of Jamaica. Many of the cottages have quite 
a quantity of plants, which flower very freely and look 
extremely pretty. Although the negroes are generally 
averse to hard work, it would probably be difficult to 
find a more peaceable, law-abiding community than 
the coloured population of the island of Jamaica. In 
the country their tiny hovels are little removed from 
sheds, often miserably neglected, but in the towns 

220 Travels and Adventures 

many of the houses are furnished with the greatest 
care and comfort The inhabitants of the outlying 
hamlets are occupied largely in producing fruit for the 
market of Kingston, and in the season of the ripening 
of the mangoes they seem, like the South American 
Indians, to subsist almost entirely on this fruit; while 
the Papaw (Carica papaya) and the Avocado pear 
(Laurus Per sea) form the dessert. 

Although many of the streets of Kingston are 
narrow and badly kept, the houses are built so as to 
ensure the greatest comfort to the inhabitants of. a hot 
climate. The large, airy saloons, which are often on 
the second floor, are formed of partitions of lattice- 
work, which exclude largely the dust and insects, and 
at the same time admit of a free circulation of air, 
and so keep the dwellings as cool and agreeable as 

As we had been four days delayed at Colon, and 
two more at Jamaica, anyone having a valuable cargo 
of plants from the cool regions of the Andes would 
naturally be uneasy about their safety in. the roasting 
heat of these ports, so I was only too pleased when 
we steamed past Port Royal on our way to the island 
of Haiti. The Tagus coasted along the island, and 
then put into the harbour of Jacmel, only to deliver 
mails and passengers, which occupies a very short 
time. The sight from the sea is very picturesque, but 

\*" "jy, ~*"~ r ~*' 

of an Orchid Hunter, 

2 2 1 

no one lands here excepting those who have business, 
and, however beautiful this island may be, very little 
seems to be known about it to the outside world. For 
my part, after the journey thus described, I was in no 


mood to undertake the task. The Tag us put into 
the harbour of Bridgetown, Barbadoes, just by way of 
a call to see our friends, and then betook herself to the 
eleven days' journey across the Atlantic. As a rule, 
the large company of Colonials who come on board at 
the various islands are not the best of sailors, and 

222 Travels and Adventures 

there is the usual period of sea-sickness to get over ; 
but long before we reached the Azores everyone was 
on deck enjoying the beautiful passage, which con- 
tinued until we reached the Lizard. Finally we 
reached the lovely harbour of Plymouth, where 
many an exile who had lived a stranger in a strange 
land was glad enough to again set foot on Old 


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