You will, of course, see from this that orchid-hunting is no pleasure, as you of course know, but what I want to point out to you is that Cattleya Lawrenceana is very rare in the interior now.
The river expenses fearfully high, in fact, unreasonably high, on account of the gold-digging. Labourers getting 64 c. to $1.00 per day, and all found. No Indians to be got, and those that you can get at ridiculous prices, and getting them, too, by working on places where they build and thatch houses and clear the ground from underbush, and as huntsmen for gold-diggers. Even if Mr. Kromer had succeeded to get 3000 or 4000 fine Cattleya Lawrenceana, it would have been of no value to us, as we could not have got anybody to carry them to the river where a boat could reach. Besides this, I also must tell you that there is a license to be paid out here if you want to collect orchids, amounting to $100, which Mr. Kromer had to pay, and also an export tax duty of 2 cents per piece. So that orchid collecting is made a very expensive affair. Besides its success being very doubtful, even if a man is very well acquainted with Indian life and has visited the Savannah reaches year after year. We spent something over $2500 to $2900, including Mr. Kromer’s and Steigfer’s passage out, on our last expedition.
If you want to get any Lawrenceana, you will have to send yourself, and as I said before, the results will be very doubtful. As far as I myself am concerned, I am interested besides my baking business, in the gold-diggings, and shall go up to the Savannah in a few months. I can give you first-class references if you should be willing to send an expedition, and we could come to some arrangement; at least, you would save the expenses of the passage of one of your collectors. I may say that I am quite conversant with the way of packing orchids and handling them as well for travel as shipment.
Kindly excuse, therefore, my lengthy letter and its bad writing. And if you should be inclined to go in for an expedition, just send me a list of what you require, and I will tell you whether the plants are found along the route of travel and in the Savannah visited; as, for instance, Catt. superba does not grow at all in the district where Catt. Lawrenceana is to be found, but far further south.
Before closing, I beg you to let me know the prices of about twenty-five of the best of and prettiest South American orchids, which I want for my own collection, as Catt. Medellii, Catt. Trianae, Odontoglossum crispum, Miltonia vexillaria, Catt. labiata, &c.
I shall await your answer as soon as possible, and send you a list by last mail of what is to be got in this colony.
We also found on our last visit something new—a very large bulbed Oncidium, or may be Catasetum, on the top of Roraima, where we spent a night, but got only two specimens, one of which got lost, and the other one I left in the hands of Mr. Rodway, but so we tried our best. It decayed, having been too seriously damaged to revive and flower, and so enable us to see what it was, it not being in flower when found.