Monday 20th August 2012 (Letter 23rd March 1882)

GCC nearly burns up in the heat and the fires, and ascends to high on the slopes of the volcano


March 23rd, 1882

My dear Mother,

I am still in Bugabita, though I have been away a short time at Los Potrerillos and other places on the slope of the Volcano, returning here yesterday. During this trip made an expedition with some Swiss plant collectors to a place high up on the slopes of the Volcano; we worked up through the forest to 6500 feet elevation, slept one night up there and returned the next day. I intended to remain longer but we were obliged to return owing to want of water, all the little streams are quite dry; shall have to go up again next month when the rains begin.

This place, Bugabita, is about 30 miles from Potrerillos, but we make the journey down in about 8 hours on horseback.

The whole country now is like an oven, people burning the brush and forest everywhere, so dry that the very earth itself seems to burn, misty everywhere from smoke, one night last week at the Potrerillos we all slept outside on the ground for fear of the fire spreading from the burning brush to the house itself in the night, the north wind too in March blows so strongly as to do a great deal of mischief. I think March is the most disagreeable month in this country, what with the heat, dust and smoke and terrific wind on the mountain, but we shall soon have a change – the rains begin in April. Am again very unfortunate with my horses, have one in such a bad state that it will probably die, another I bought to take its place has turned out to be worse than useless, then again in the dry season it is very difficult to find food for them; horses are turned loose to find food in this country, no-one keeps a stable.

Am long without letters from Mr. Godman, so at present do not know much about what he wishes me to do, except that he wants me to work higher and higher up the Volcano. The steamer in this month cannot make the journey from Panamá, the north wind is too much for it. People are now planting maize, rice etc, and gathering in the tobacco crops; sugar cane they cut all the year round, bananas the same, the dry season or summer lasts from December to April till at last the rains come with a great deal of thunder and lightning. I cannot say things are dear in Bugabita, the hire of a decent rancho (a house made of sticks and thatches with leaves of palm or sugar cane) costs about 4 reales (1/8d) a month, meat is 4/ the 25 lbs, large bananas about 10 or 12 for a penny, lard, of which a great deal is used with everything, 10d a bottle, rice about 1d a pound, coffee 8d a pound, sugar of course cheap, such as it is, a chicken 6d, eggs about 4 a penny, but beyond these things, there is nothing else to be got. We drink a great deal of the crude sugar, mixed with water (sometimes flavoured with pineapple or orange). This drink is called ‘Guarapo’ and is not at all bad. Am almost forgetting my own name in these countries, people call me Don Jorge as a rule, though they have various names they use to call a foreigner by, as – patron, patroncito, nopo, extranjero, paysano, el inglés, el naturalista etc etc; anyone coming here to enquire for me would find me much quicker by asking for me by any of these names than by my own. Footwear is the greatest trouble, have spent a great deal more on boots than on clothes so far in Chiriquí.

I have sent 3 collections so far from Chiriquí to Mr. Godman; next month, I hope to send another.

I have your letter of December 31st, which I received in David about a month ago. I think I answered it the following day before I returned to Bugabita. Also got a letter from Walker, he is very well and back again at Callao, he was 7 weeks at Panamá; they expect to go shortly to Acapulco, Mexico, and then to Vancouver. While I remain at Bugabita or Potrerillos, do not find it so very dull, always someone to go and talk with in English or Spanish. In David, have fewer acquaintances – one or two Italians, French or Germans, and a few natives, that is all.

The other day up on the slopes of the Volcano, we saw the tracks of tapirs, but they are very shy, and seldom seen, we only meet with wild pig and monkey. No one I believe, has yet been to the top of this mountain (11,000 feet); should like very much to ascend it, but water is too scarce for me, can stand hunger but not thirst. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are both seen from the high parts of the Cordillera. In either India or Australia, I believe I would get letters much easier and quicker than I do in Chiriquí, but it is no use grumbling.

With best love to all, and hoping to hear from you very soon,
Believe me, dear Mother,
Yours affectionately,

A forested mountain close to the Volcan Baru

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *