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We saw some miserable huts on the road, and met a few asses carrying reeds and poles from Chanchamayo. It seemed a providence that we did not meet these at certain parts of the road, where it is utterly impossible for two beasts to pass abreast, or for one to turn and retreat; and the only remedy is to tumble one off the precipice, or to drag him back by the tail until he reaches a place where the other can pass. Von Tschudi relates an instance of his shooting a mule which met him at one of these places.
We met with a considerable fright in this way to-day. We were riding in single file along one of these narrow ascents
, where the road is X cut out of the mountain side, and the traveller has a perpendicular wall on one hand, and a sheer precipice of many hundreds of feet upon
the other. Mr. Gibbon was riding' ahead. Just as he was about to turn a sharp bend of the road the head of a bull peered round it, on the descent. When the bull came in full view he stopped, and we could see the heads of other cattle clustering over his quarters, and hear the shouts of the cattle-drivers, far behind, urging on their herd. I happened to be abreast of a slight natural excavation, or hollow, in the mountain side, and dismounting I put my shoulder against my mule's flank and pressed her into this friendly retreat; but I saw no escape for Gibbon, who had passed it. The bull, with lowered crest, and savage, sullen look, came slowly on, and actually got his head between the perpendicular rock and the neck of Gibbon's mule. I felt a thrill of agony, for I thought my companion's fate was sealed. But the sagacious beast on which he was mounted, pressing her haunches hard against the wall, gathered her feet close under her and turned as upon a pivot. This placed the bull on the outside, (there was room to pass, though I did not believe it,) and he rushed by at the gallop, followed in single file by the rest of the herd. I cannot describe the relief I experienced. Gibbon, who is as gallant and fearless as man can be, said, “It is of no use to attempt to disguise the fact— I was badly scared."
At 2 p. m., we arrived at a place called Matichacra, where there was a single hut, inhabited by a woman and her child; the husband having gone to Cerro Pasco to exhibit some specimens of gold ore which he had found here. The woman was afflicted with an eruption on her face, which she thought was caused by the metallic character of the earth around, particularly the antimonial. She took a knife, and, digging earth from the floor of her hut, washed it in a gourd, and showed us particles of metal like gold sticking to the bottom. I showed some of this earth to General Otero, who pronounced that
there was no gold in it; but Lieutenant Maury, who examined some that I brought home with a powerful magnifier, has declared that there
The mountains have an exceedingly metallic appearance, and the woman said that there were still in the neighborhood traces of the mining operations of the Spaniards.
About a mile and a half above Matichacra commenced the steep regular descent of the mountain range, and from just above it we could discern where the valley debouched upon an apparent plain, though bounded and intersected by distant mountains, bearing and ranging in different directions. This place we judged to be the “Montaña." We stopped an hour at Matichacra, (Gourd Farm, from half a dozen gourd vines growing near the house,) and made a chupe with a leg of mutton we had bought the night before at Palca. We saw a few patches of Indian corn on the side of the mountain opposite, and the tops of the mountains are clad with small trees. We passed on five miles further, and camped on a level plat near the banks of the stream, with bushes and small trees growing around us.
June 18.—This was the longest and hardest day's ride. The road was very bad; rocky and rough where it descended the river, and steep and difficult where it ascended the mountain side. We thought that the engineer who planned and constructed the road had frequently "taken the bull by the horns," and selected the worst places to run his road over; and that he would have done much better had he occasionally have thrown a bridge across the stream, and led the road along the flank of the mountains on the other side. In seven and a half miles we arrived at Utcuyacu, (cotton water,) the first hacienda where we saw sugar-cane, yucca, pine-apples, and plantains. It had just been opened, and nothing yet had been sold from it.
The road, by which we had descended the valley of Chanchamayo, turned at this place sharp to the right, and faced the mountains that divide this valley from that of the Rio Seco. We were near the junction of the two valleys, but a rock had fallen from the hills above and blocked up the road on which we were travelling, so that we had to cross the mountain on our right and get into the other valley. The ascent was steep, and trying to man and beast. It called the “ Cuesta de Tangachuca," or "Hill of take care of your hat,” and is about three miles in length. The road, after passing through a thick forest, brought
, us out upon a bald eminence, the termination of the spur of the Andes that divides the two valleys. The rivers Seco and Chanchamayo unite at its base and flow off through a valley, rapidly widening out, covered with forests, and presenting an appearance entirely distinct from the
rocky and stern sterility that characterizes the country above. This is the “Montaña” of which I had thought so much. I was wofully disappointed in its appearance. I had taken the impression that I should behold a boundless plain, alternating with forest and prairie, covered with waving grass, and with a broad and gentle river winding its serpentine course through it between banks rich with the palm and plantain. In place of this, the view from the mountain top showed a country broken still into mountain and valley, (though on a much smaller scale than above,) shaggy with trees and undergrowth of every description, and watered by a small stream still foaming and roaring over its rocky bed.
We descended the hill by a very circuitous and precipitous path, most of us on foot, though it may be ridden over, for Mr. Gibbon did ride over the worst parts of it, and only dismounted where a fallen tree made an obstruction that he could not pass. The descent brought us to the rocky bed of the Rio Seco, crossing which we were clear of the eastern chain of the Andes and in the Montaña of Chanchamayo.
As far as the traveller is concerned there are not, on the route we have travelled, two ranges of the Andes—that is, he has not to ascend and descend onė range, and then ascend and descend another. From the time he crosses the Cordillera at Antarangra, his progress is downward till he reaches the plain. Really there are two. The streams from the first, or western range, have broken their way through the second, making deep gorges, at the bottom of which the road generally runs, and leaves the peaks of the second range thousands of feet above the head of the traveller.
A league from the crossing of the Rio Seco, we passed a bad and broken bridge, that spans a small stream called " Punta Yacu," coming down a valley from the southward, and halted at the hacienda of Don Jose Manuel Cardenas, the first of the Montaña, where we camped for the night.
June 19.—Six miles of travel brought us to the fort of San Ramon. The road is a black
mud bridle-path through the woods, much obstructed with the roots and branches of trees, but level. Comparatively few rocks are seen after leaving Cardenas. We were kindly received by the Commandant, Don Juan Noel, a fine-looking young man, Captain of Frigate and Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, and his officers, Major Umeres and Lieutenant
Fort San Ramon is, by Mer. alt. of " Crucis," in latitude 110.07 S. Its height above the level of the sea, as given by barometer, is two thousand six hundred and ten feet.
From the first of March to the last of August, the climate is delightful; but the heavy and almost continuous rains of the other six months of the year make it disagreeable, bui not unhealthy.
As we are now near the foot of the mountains, on the eastern slope, I give a table of the distances and elevations of various points on the route. The B. P. opposite some of the elevations show that these were indicated by the temperature of boiling water:
The barometer gave the height of a point, four miles above Tarma, at eleven thousand two hundred and seventy feet. So that there is a descent in these four miles of distance of one thousand five hundred and thirty-five feet. The ascent, however, between Acchahuarcu and the top of the hill on which we observed, at the Pass of Antarangra, is steeper than this, being three thousand three hundred and fifty-eight feet in six miles.
From Yanacoto, on the western slope of the Andes, to the top of the Pass, is fifty-nine miles; from the top of the Pass to Fort San Ramon, on the eastern slope, which is two hundred and seventy feet higher than Yanacoto, is eighty-eight miles. This gives the ascent of the Andes, on its western slope, at 232 feet to the mile, and on its eastern slope at 152.
Yanacoto is only twenty-eight miles from the ocean that washes the base of the slope on which it is situated. Fort San Ramon, (at nearly the same elevation as Yanacoto,) by the winding of the river, cannot be much less than four thousand miles from its ocean, and in the direct X course of the river is at least two thousand five hundred miles. But I am of opinion, from some observations made afterwards with a boilingpoint apparatus, that the indications of the barometer, at the eastern foot of the Andes, are not to be depended upon; and that San Ramon has a greater elevation than is shown by the barometer.
The fort is a stockade, embracing about six acres, armed with four brass four-pounders, and garrisoned with forty-eight men. It is situated at the junction of the rivers Chanchamayo and Tulumayo-the former about thirty and the latter forty yards wide—both shallow and obstructed with rocks. The current seemed about five or six miles the hour. A canoe, well managed, might shoot down the Tulumayo as far as we saw it.
The fort was constructed in 1847, under the direction of President Castilla, for the purpose of affording protection to the cultivators of the farms in its rear. It doubtless does this against the unwarlike Indians of this country; but I imagine that North American Indians, actuated by the feelings of hostility which these people constantly evince, would cross the rivers above the fort and sweep the plantations before the soldiers could reach them. The Indians have abandoned all idea of reconquering the territory they have lost, but are determined to dispute the passage of the rivers and any attempt at further conquest. They never show themselves now in person, but make their presence evident by occasionally setting fire to the woods and grass on the hill sides, and discharging their arrows at any incautious person who may wander too near the banks of the rivers.
Noel told us that many attempts had been made to establish friendly relations with them. In former times the Indians used to advance out of the forest, to the further bank of the river, and hold conversations and exchange presents with the officers of the post. They gave bows and arrows, rare birds and animals, and received in return knives, beads, and looking-glasses. But these parleys always ended with expressions of defiance and insult towards the whites on the part of the Indians, and frequently with a flight of arrows.
He related to us, that a year or two ago a General Castillo, with some officers, came to visit the fort, and wished to try their skill at negotiation. Accordingly, whilst they were at dinner, the sentinel reported that an Indian had made his appearance; whereupon the party rose from