The Return To Panama
( Originally Published 1913 )
WE left La Paz in the early afternoon, and before sundown were aboard the Inca upon the shores of Titicaca. The night was perfect. I opened the window and its curtains, so that if I awoke I could again behold the wonderful stars of these high altitudes.
At the first hint of dawn, I was on deck awaiting the sunrise. The sky to the east was burnished silver, then turned to gold, as the sun showed its gleaming face above the mountains. Once in a while Sorata's mighty peak appeared between the islands.
The shore was quite close to the westward and, as the sun rose, it gilded the bare hills that form a great saucer about Puno until they glowed like copper. Reed balsas lay in the shadow among the rushes, while their fishermen prepared for the morning's catch.
As we came up to the dock at about six o'clock, I spied our now familiar private car, the same that had been our home during all our journey to Cuzco, still awaiting us, though we had been absent almost two weeks. Faithful Prudenzio was standing upon the step, and through the windows of the observation end I could see Juan putting the last touches to the breakfast-table, adorned with fresh roses and car-nations. It was like coming home again to find our luggage and our various purchases in the state-rooms, and to be welcomed by these two good servants.
Shortly after we were speeding along toward the coast.
The mountains that, upon our ascent, had veiled their summits in the clouds, now shone resplendent in the clear morning air. Oh, that glorious journey down, with the Andean giants about us dominated by the snow-fields of Coropuna! The icy peaks of Chachani and Misti's exquisite silhouette greeted us later, and then the green valley of the Chili opened below.
We stopped again for a few days in Arequipa, took the fast boat at Mollendo, and twenty-four hours later were landing at Callao en route for Lima. Here we lingered for a week, refreshing the memories of our first visit, and seeing the friends that had been so kind to us.
Then followed six days of quiet aboard the good ship Guatemala—six days of lazy dreams, watching the changing colours of land and sea; the lanchas loading and unloading at the different ports; the queer birds and the amphibia about the islands—dreaming, too, of the treasure-ships of the olden days whose tracks we were now following, and of Sir Francis Drake, whose long cruise from Magellan Straits took him far northward to the California coast, our present destination.
What a sea for the yachtsmen, this calm blue Pacific, that, in these equatorial latitudes, so well deserves its name !
Then one morning the Pearl Islands rose in the northeast, and an hour or two later we were off the quarantine station at Panama.