Category Archives: October 2012

Tuesday 23rd October 2012 (Letter 4th December 1882)

GCC has to vaccinate himself against smallpox, and his time in Chiriquí draws closer to an end

Dec 4th 1882

My dear Mother,

I have only just received your letter of Sept. 30th; it had been much delayed on the way. I got the papers at the same time, just after I was vaccinated, and had to keep out of the sun. The foreigners got some lymph recently from Germany, and with this they have been vaccinating one another, smallpox is often bad in David, and worse in Panama. Shall again very soon have to leave all the friends I have made in Chiriquí and visit other places on the way to Panama etc. Directly after Christmas, shall, all being well, start for Tolé, Calobre and perhaps Veraguas, arriving perhaps in Panama in March. Mr. Salvin wishes me to travel widely this dry season, I may go all the way to Panama by land (it is very far, 300 miles) or return again to David, and thence by sailing vessel, the latter most likely.

It is now very hot and dry, I think the rains are all over at last; with the change of seasons, there is often a little sickness in these places. Leopoldo was down with fever the other day, and when he got well, I got a slight touch, but am all right again now.

I also got a letter from Mr. Salvin with yours; his letter was so long on the road that it came too late to follow out his instructions exactly. I have all my work cut out for the next three or four months, the return home will be in the spring, a little more than four years in all, about the time of Walker’s present commission in the Pacific. Shall try and spend Christmas with friends at Bugaba, though I ought to be travelling before, but as it is near, and it is not easy to start off on these trips in a moment, shall probably remain, and make a start directly afterwards. I wish I could send you a little of our warm weather, we could spare a little of it. I was almost baked today coming on horseback from Bugaba. I scarcely dare to venture to think how I shall like England again; even the towns in these countries I do not like as well as the country. I think the rains are at last at an end; we have not had any since the end of November and it may not rain again for three or four months; in Bugaba the second crop of maize will soon be ripe, everywhere they are making some small tobacco plantations (tobacco is worth about 6d a pound in Chiriquí, or at most 9d). In the woods, the rivers are all getting lower and lower, the River Piedra is quite low and easy to ford now, so different to what it was a fortnight ago.

We still see the Comet, about three months it has lasted, but not so bright as before when it was brilliant; I wonder whether you see it in England? The longer you remain in these places, the less you like leaving; I know I was quite sorry to leave Guatemala and it will be the same or worse when I leave Chiriquí. The coffee business seems likely to be a failure in Chiriquí, coffee having gone down so much in price, my old friend Ezequiel Gutierrez in Nance Bonito has gone off, unable to make it pay. Next Saturday one of the settlers in Bugabita is going to have a sort of party, I intend going if possible, the other day they had one but I could not go, it rained in torrents. I now have learned a good deal of Spanish and get on pretty well with the people, though I do not speak it fluently, still well enough to get on. It is getting late and I must close as I am off again to Bugaba tomorrow.

With best love to all,
I remain etc.


Thursday 11th October 2012 (Letter 16th November 1882)

GCC suffers from foot troubles, rain and worries about his father’s health

November 16th, 1882

My dear Mother,

It is not very long since I wrote you, still I thought I would write a short letter to tell you I am well and going on as usual. It is now the height of the rainy season and we are almost prisoners in Bugaba, the roads are so bad, and rivers (there are some 6 or 8 to be forded between here and David) so deep that no one travels unless he is compelled. I intend sending Leopoldo in a few days to David and send this letter by him to post; he will go with some natives and may perhaps get through. I won’t venture myself until next month when perhaps I may be able to find means of going to Panama. I am very anxious to hear how Father is getting on and for this reason I will send Leopoldo specially to David and hunt for letters. Am very tired of the constant rain, this month is the worst of all, we only see the sun for a short time early in the morning, by 11 a.m. it begins to rain and keeps on very often till night, one thing it is a little cooler in the afternoons. Your last letter, August 16 and the papers is the latest news I have, we are out of the world here, do not know even what is going on in Panama, and now the steamer does not come, it will be worse than ever. The foreigners settled here sometimes receive papers, but they are all German, sometimes they receive also odd numbers of “the Graphic”, “Illustrated London News” and “Harpers Monthly” but they are always very old before we get them. If it were not for the few Germans etc settled here I should probably have got sick of the place long ago; as it is, when I have nothing to do, I take my horse and go and visit one or the other of them, even if we have to talk in Spanish. In David I find it even duller than in Bugaba.

We have heard lately rumours of a bad earthquake in Panama but don’t know if it’s true, sometimes we feel a shock in the night but never very strong, and in these native ranchos, there is not the slightest danger. The Comet is still to be seen. Have been greatly bothered lately by what is called ‘masamora’- this is ten times worse than ‘jiggers’ – little blisters full of water form in the tender skin between and beneath the toes and accompanied by an intolerable itching till they break; it is produced by walking through the mud and decaying vegetation.

I spend I think more money on footwear than clothes yet I never have a pair fit to put on, the last pair I bought lasted three days, am sick and tired of buying such rubbish but there is nothing else to be got. Shall have to buy a new rig out of almost everything when I return, the things I wear here I could not put on in Panama, living in the country one can wear almost anything, for that reason so far have bought but little clothing in Chiriquí, wearing out all my old things instead of buying new.

The other day we were rather astonished to see some travellers emerge from the forest (it is so rare that people pass); they came from Terrava, the first town in Costa Rica, and brought a great deal of india rubber to sell in David; this rubber fetches sometimes as much as 2/- a lb and we heard that they sold it for more than £100. The natives still obtain a good deal in the forests about here and plenty of “sarsaparilla” also. I often forget the days of the week, one day is just like another and there is nothing to remember by.

I send this letter now instead of waiting to see if there is one from you to answer, if there should, will reply as soon as possible but you must remember always there are no “Pillar boxes” in this part of Colombia, even in David they don’t care much to receive letters to other places than Panama.
The few letters I have posted direct and not enclosed in another envelope for the Consul in Panama, I believe are those that are missing. I only hope that when a letter does come, it will bring good news of father’s health, if it does, my return will probably be in the early spring unless Mr. Godman suggests further travelling.

Must wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and that you will enjoy yourselves without worrying about the “wanderer” who is big enough now to look after himself, even in the Antipodes.

With best love to all,

Believe me etc.

P.S. Address to British Consul, Panama, ‘to be forwarded’.