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CHAPTER XI.

Upper Ucayali–M. Castelnau-Length of navigation-Loss of the priest-De

parture from Sarayacu-Omaguas-Iquitos-Mouth of the Napo—Pebas-San Jose de los Yaguas-State of Indians of Peru.

I have the less to regret, however, in that M. Castelnau has given so exact and interesting an account of the descent of this river.

This accomplished traveller and naturalist left Cuzco on the 21st July, 1846. His party consisted of himself, M. D'Osery, M. Deville, M. Saint Cric, (who joined the party in the valley of Sta. Ana,) three officers of the Peruvian navy, seven or eight domestics and muleteers, and fifteen soldiers as an escort. After seven days of travel (passing a range of the Andes at an elevation of fourteen thousand eight hundred feet) he arrived at the village of Echaraté, in the valley of Sta. Ana.

Ile remained at this place until the 14th of August, when the canoes and rafts which he had ordered to be constructed were ready. He then embarked on a river called by the various names of Vilcanota, Yucay, Vilcomayo, and Urubamba, in four canoes and two balsas.

The difficulties of the navigation, dissensions with the Peruvian officers, and desertions of the peons, soon reduced the expedition to a lamentable state of weakness and destitution.

On the 17th M. D’Osery was sent back with a large part of the equipage, and most of the instruments and collections in natural history. This unfortunate gentleman was murdered by his guides on his route from Lima to rejoin M. Castelnau on the Amazon. After passing innumerable cascades and rapids, M. Castelnau reached, on the 27th of August, the lowest rapid on the river, that is an effectual bar to navigation. This is one hundred and eighty miles from his point of embarkation at Echaraté. An idea may be formed of the difficulties of the passage when it is reflected that it cost him thirteen days to descend this one hundred and eighty miles, with a powerful current in his favor.

He found this point, by the barometer, to be about nine hundred and sixteen feet below Echaraté; thus giving the river a fall of a little more than five feet to the mile. Ile afterwards found that the mouth of the Ucayali, which is one thousand and forty miles down stream of the cas

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cade, was, by the barometer, nine hundred and four feet below it; thus giving the river a fall of .87 of a foot per mile.

Ile says that if the navigation of the Ucayali is attempted, it would be well to make a port at this point, and open a road thence to the valley of Sta. Ana, in which Echaraté is situated, and which is exceedingly fertile, producing large quantities of Peruvian bark, with coca, and many other tropical productions.

M. Castelnau thinks that this last cascade is the first impassable barrier to the navigation of the Ucayali upwards; but he found many places below this where the river had but a depth of three feet, and many, though unimportant, rapids. Indeed, two hundred and seventy miles below this, he describes a strait, called the Vuelta del Diablo, as a dangerous passage, blocked up by heavy trunks of trees, against which the current dashes with great violence.

At two hundred and sixteen miles below the cascade he passed the mouth of the river Tambo, the confluence of which with the Urubamba makes the Ucayali.

Two hundred and fifty-two miles below the mouth of the Tambo he passed the mouth of the Pachitea, which he describes as being about the size of the Seine at Paris; and the Ucayali, after the junction of this river, as like the Thames at London.

Sarayacu is two hundred and ninety-seven miles below the mouth of the Pachitea.

From the Vuelta del Diablo to Sarayacu is four hundred and ninetyfive miles. From Sarayacu to the mouth of the Ucayali is two hundred and seventy-five miles; so that we have an undoubtedly open navigation on this river of seven hundred and seventy miles; and, taking M. Castelnau's opinion as correct, there are two hundred and seventy miles more to the foot of the last cascade on the Urubamba; making a total of one thousand and forty miles. Well, then, may he call this stream the main trunk of the Amazon; for, taking my estimate of the distance from the mouth of this river to the ocean, at two thousand three hundred and twenty miles, we have an uninterrupted navigation of three thousand three hundred and sixty miles, which will be found in no other direction. I estimate the distance from the Pongo de Chasuta, the head of clear navigation on the IIuallaga, to the sea, at two thousand eight hundred and fifteen miles.

An idea may be formed of the difficulties and dangers of passing the rapids of these rivers from the following description, given by this accomplished gentleman and clever writer :

“We started about 8 o'clock, and employed an hour and a half in passing the cascade, which was composed of two strong rapids. Immediately after this, two other rapids arrested our course. We passed the first by the left bank; but, as it was impossible to continue our route on that side, after consultation, we embarked to cross to the right bank.

“We found the current of exceeding rapidity; and the second cataract roared and foamed only one hundred metres below us. The Indians at every instant cast anxious glances over the distance that separated them from the danger. At one moment our frail canoe manifestly lost ground; but the Indians redoubled their efforts, and we shot out of the strength of the current.

“At this moment we heard cries behind us, and an Indian pointed with his finger to the canoe of M. Carrasco, within a few yards of us. It was struggling desperately with the violence of the current; at one instant we thought it safe, but at the next we saw that all hope was lost, and that it was hurried towards the gulf with the rapidity of an arrow. The Peruvians and the Indians threw themselves into the water; the old priest alone remained in the canoe, and we could distinctly hear him reciting the prayer for the dying until his voice was lost in the roar of the cataract. We were chilled with horror; and we hastened to the bank, where we met our companions successively struggling to the shore from the lost canoe. M. Bizerra, particularly, encountered great danger, but he evinced a remarkable sang-froid, and, amidst his difficulties, never let go the journal of the expedition, which he carried in his teeth.

“Poor little Panchito, the servant of the priest, wept bitterly, and begged us to let him seek the body of his benefactor; but an hour was already lost, and our absolute want of provisions forbid us from acceding to his sad demand.

“We deeply regretted the loss of our companion, whose death was as saint-like as his life."

The party suffered grievously from the hardships of the voyage and the want of food. They were at the point of starvation when they arrived at Sarayacu, forty-four days after their embarkation at Echaraté. M. Castelnau's description of their condition when they arrived is quite touching

“At 3 p. m., after a journey of thirty miles, the Indians all at once turned the canoe to a deserted beach, and told us that we were arrived at Sarayacu. Before us was the bed of a little river nearly dry, to which they gave this name. The absence of any indication of habitations, and the dark forest which surrounded the beach, made us believe for the instant that we were the victims of some terrible mistake. We thought that the mission so ardently desired had been abandoned. Among our people only one knew the place, and his canoe had not yet arrived. We set ourselves to search out a path through the forest, but without success; we were completely discouraged, and our eyes filled with tears. We were in this state of anxiety more than an hour; at last our guide arrived; he told us that the town was some distance from the river, and, after considerable search, he found in a ravine the entrance to the narrow path which led to it. M. Deville and I were so enfeebled, and our legs so swollen, that we could not travel it. M. Carrasco, anxious to arrive, started in company with his friends; and Florentino (the servant of the count) accompanied them. We were thus sadly detained upon the beach, when, towards nine o'clock, we thought we heard singing in the woods; the voices soon became distinct, and we could recognise the airs. An instant after, the good Florentino rushed to us in the height of joy. He was followed by a dozen Indians of the Mission carrying torches, aud a man dressed in European costume. This last gave us an affectionate shake of the hand, and told us, in English, that his name was Hackett; that the prefect of the Missions, the celebrated Padre Plaza, had sent him to welcome us and to beg us to excuse him, in that his great age had not permitted him to come himself. The Indians brought us fowls, eggs, and a bottle of wine; supper was instantly prepared; and Mr. IIackett, who seemed sensibly touched with our misery, staid with us till midnight. He told us that the Mission was nearly six miles in the interior, but that he would send us Indians early in the morning to conduct us to it. We learned that the Peruvian government, faithful to its engagements, had announced our voyage in the Missions, and that the Bishop of Mainas had sent an express messenger to that effect; but Padre Plaza, regarding our voyage from Cuzco to the Missions as an absolute impossibility, had supposed that we were dead, and had celebrated masses for the weal of our souls."

I could get any number of men for the voyage down, and on October 28th, at 10 a. m., we left Sarayacu and dropped down to the mouth of the caño, where we stopped to re-stow and shake things together. We found the Ucayali a very different-looking stream from what it was when we left it; it was much higher, with a stronger current, and covered with floating trees. At 3 p. m. we took leave of good Father Calvo with much regret, and started in company with Father Bregati, (who was returning to his cure of Catalina,) and with a large canoe that we were carrying down for the return of our peons from Pebas.

I was much pleased with our new men, particularly with our pilot, old Andres Urquia, a long, hard-weather, Tom-Coflin-looking fellow, whom travel and exposure for many years seemed to have hardened into a being insensible to fatigue, and impervious to disease. He has navigated the rivers of the country a great deal; was with Father Cimini when driven back by the Campas; and says that he has passed, in company with a Portuguese, named Da Costa, from the Yavari to the Ucayali in two weeks, by a small inosculating stream called Yana Yacu, and returned in four by the ravine of Maquia. He says that there is another natural canal called Yawarangi, which connects the two rivers. These canals are all very narrow, and are passed by pushing the canoe with poles; though Andres says there is plenty of water, but not room enough for such a boat as mine.

We passed the distance from Sarayacu to Nauta in eight days, which had cost us twenty-three in the ascent. The distance from Sarayacu to the mouth by the channel is two hundred and seventy miles—in a straight line one hundred and fifty. We travelled all one night when near the mouth; but this is dangerous on the Ucayali and Huallaga. The channels on these rivers are frequently obstructed by grounded trees, striking one of which the boat would almost inevitably perish. It is safer on the broader Amazon.

The Ucayali, as far as Sarayacu, averages half a mile of width, twenty feet of depth at its lowest stage, and three miles the hour of current. I fear that there is a place at the great bend of the river, just below Sarayacu, where there are islands with extensive sand-flats, that may form, at the lowest stage of the river, an obstruction to navigation for a vessel of greater draught than ten feet. At this place, going up, we were paddling close in to the left bank, with apparently deep water, when, seeing a beach on what I thought was the opposite side of the river, probably two hundred and fifty yards distant, I directed the pilot to go over and camp for the night. To my surprise, almost immediately from the moment of his turning the boat's head outward to cross over, the men dropped their paddles, and, taking to their poles, shoved the boat over in not more than four or five feet water. I observed, when we had crossed, that we were on the beach of an island, and asked the pilot if there was more water in the other channel, on the right bank. He said yes; that, when the river was very low, this side was dry, but the other never.

It is difficult, on account of the roving habits of the people who live upon the Ucayali, to make any estimate concerning the increase and decrease of the population. I scarely find a village that Smyth names when he passed in 1835, and find several which he does not mention. Tipishka Nueva, which he says was the largest settlement on the river

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