Friday 16th March 2012 (Letter 8th August 1879)

GCC is “Fíjese-ed” by Mr Morgans, and crosses the Choacus mountains

Note: Fíjese is a word frequently used by usually well-meaning people in Guatemala to stall an arrangement they have made with you, not realising that that you too have a schedule, and that every extra day spent waiting and hoping in a hotel adds to your costs…I experienced it myself on several occasions!

Following the disturbing discovery that Guatemalan criminals had copied my Dutch credit card and had started using it to make transactions, but that luckily the bank had realised it and blocked the card, we now return to the letters sent from Guatemala during my great grandfather G C Champion’s stay from 1879 to 1881. This particular letter, dated August 20th, 1879, covers his three-day mule ride from the capital, over the rugged Choacus (Chuacus) mountains, to San Gerónimo, which was to become his base for almost a year. The letter is written in his usual matter-of-fact style, with hardly any allusion to the hardships the journey involved. However, his diary entries reveal more:

Friday 8th August 1879:

Left Guatemala with Mr Hutchinson and a servant at 1.00 P.M., passing Chinoutla (?) and along valley, ascending mountain range to 4,000 feet, with good view of Guatemala. Slept at Carrizal. On way found fresh Chalcolepidius (an Elaterid beetle) and Gymnopleurus (a Scarabid beetle). V. hot and sunny.

Saturday 9th August 1879:

Left Carrizal at 5.30 A.M.; arr. Trapiche Grande at 9 A.M. Breakfasted and left at 11 A.M. Arr. Llano Grande at 5.30 P.M., where remained the night. Arr. very tired, roads frightful. Passed Buenaventura at about 1.30 P.M., about 1,500 feet. Fine all day; heavy rain late in evening.

Sunday 10th August 1879:

Left Llano Grande, 2,600 feet, at 2.00 A.M., for San Gerónimo, 2,900 feet, where arr. at 11 A.M. v. tired and almost worn out, mule also. Started by moonlight at 3.00 A.M. V. dark and heavy rain; nearly 3 hours crossing the mountain range of the Choacus; saw at least 6 fresh Diurni on the way. Much rain in aft.

The Choacus mountains, through which GCC travelled on his mule

Hacienda de San Gerónimo,
Baja Vera Paz

August 20th, 1879

My dear Sir,

After about a fortnight’s detention in Guatemala, I was obliged to leave without Mr Morgans. Took the opportunity, however, of journeying here in the company of a friend of his, a Mr Hutchinson, who is at present living in the hacienda. I should not have remained so long in Guatemala, only as I had accepted Mr Morgan’s invitation to come here, I was obliged in some sense to study his convenience.

I left on the 8th and arrived at San Gerónimo in the morning of the 11th. The roads were very bad from the recent rains, and we were very long on the way. It was a wearisome task crossing the Choacus mountains. We left Llano Grande at 2 AM by moonlight, and did not reach San Gerónimo till nearly noon.

I received your letter of July 16th yesterday; I hope in your next to hear that you have received my first consignment. Have only just received the bill of lading of the second – I enclose it in case it is required. Have not yet received bill of lading for the first. I believe it was sent on to Antigua and that it is now with Mr Wyld; have written to him for it. I hope there will be no difficulty in getting the boxes on this account. Have not yet received the promised pins and additional card.

Am sorry I cannot at present act upon your suggestions of visiting Pacicia (Patzitzia) or Godines. I don’t think the high ground between Antigua and Guatemala (City) would have produced much – there is very little forest. I worked, however, Las Calderas, which is at a similar elevation, 6,000 to 6,500 feet. Had some idea of Quezaltenango (Quetzaltenango) and Las Nubes before I went to Vera Paz, but the rains were so bad, and no signs of a “canicula”. I thought under the circumstances I had better accept Mr Morgans’ kind invitation for San Gerónimo. Perhaps later in the year I may be able to go to Los Altos.

I think of making this place my head quarters in Vera Paz, and working all round. Am told that Purulá, Panimá, Santa Barbara, Panzós and other places near will pay for working. Have at last secured a servant; I think I shall find him very useful. He tells me that you taught him how to skin birds, collect insects, etc. His name is Guillermo Doubon. Mr Morgans has been employing him to shoot and skin birds, and to collect a few butterflies for him. from what I have seen of his work, he has profited greatly from your tuition, and he can really skin birds very well. I think I shall find him a great acquisition.

Mr Morgans’ aneroid (a better one than mine) registers about 200 feet higher than the one I have. I make San Gerónimo about 2,950 feet. Have already collected a great many insects in this neighbourhood. Butterflies on the whole are comparatively rare here; still I have taken about a dozen additional species, including some nice little Lycaenidae strange to me – only single examples, though of course many common Pieridae, Hesperiidae and Heliconidae; there are many fresh Bombyces, Geometridae here; plenty of Hemiptera, especially at Payaque; not many Coleoptera, still perhaps 50 additional species. Not a few Hymenoptera and Neuroptera; Orthoptera very few indeed.

The rain every afternoon prevents me going very far from San Gerónimo. I want to get onto the hills, to Santa Barbara or Matanza, but am kept back by the rain. Was in hopes of getting many additional species on the pine-clad slopes of the Choacus mountains, but have not yet succeeded in getting much. The place, except in the hollows, is very arid.

Did you get Rodriguez’s letter? I enclose one from Mr Wyld.

I trust I am not departing from my instructions in coming so soon to Vera Paz.

With best respects to Mr Godman and yourself,

I remain, Yours truly,

Geo. C. Champion

P.S. I presume I shall be doing right when the £100 placed to my credit at the bank is exhausted in drawing upon F. Huth & Co. for additional sums of £50 when required. At present of course I have plenty to go o

The type of "road" GCC would have had to travel on

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