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introduction, was not at home; some difficulty in getting mulez occurred in consequence, and it was not until much time and patience had been exhausted, that our gentlemen understood the real difficulty, which was, that the horses they had brought from the low country were not considered capable of standing the cold and fatigue of the mountains, the owners at Lima having refused to allow their mules to cross the mountains. They were assisted in procuring mules and guides by the general's son.
Obrajillo, the largest of the three towns, contains about one hundred cottages. It has a stone church, with two towers, apparently of some age, which fronts on the open square. The dwellings are of one story, without floors, and almost without furniture; yet it is said to be the residence of many wealthy people. How true this may be, it was impossible from appearances to determine, for the high and low, the rich and the poor, all seem to live in the same style.
The difficulties that occurred in procuring mules for their journey, had delayed them so long as to place it out of their power to proceed pefore the next day. The opportunity of visiting the environs was taken, and a large collection of plants was obtained, the annuals being found in the right season for making collections. The cascade which was seen as they approached, was visited, and exhibited a picturesque and beautiful appearance, even when it was four miles distant.
At Obrajillo there are many pretty gardens and fields, under a good state of cultivation. The roadside itself looked like a flower-garden, and flowers of almost every hue were seen on either side, Calceolarias, Lobelias, &c.
Here was the first point where they had met the llama used as a beast of burden ; the load which they carry is from seventy to ninety pounds.
On the 19th, at an early hour, some vagabonds, assuming the name of Chilians, went the rounds of the village, helping themselves to every thing they desired, to the utter dismay of the inhabitants, who made no resistance. The consequence was, that having neglected to supply themselves with bread the evening before, they lost the opportunity of doing it. This was a serious inconvenience, for Obrajillo supplies the upper country with bread, as Lima does the lower, and it is procured with difficulty, except at these two places. Potatoes were therefore taken as a substitute, though a very inconvenient one, from their great weight and bulk.
They were on the route by six o'clock, and an hour's ride brought them to a spot where the river formed a very picturesque rapid, soon
after which they entered into a wild and romantic pass, between steep acclivities and precipices of immense height.
At ten o'clock they reached Culnai, a distance of five leagues; it contains about thirty cottages; its height is believed to be ten thousand feet above the sea, and here cultivation ceases, ending with the potato, Tropæolum, Oxalis, and Basella. The second region of plants also terminates here, and now ensued the “ Paramera," or pasture region of the Andes, avoided by the inhabitants of the lower districts on account of the cold. This third region gives growth to a set of plants which make a gradual transition from those of the second region to low alpine scraggy bushes, none of which exceed two feet in height. The Paramera is remarkable for a dense sward of coarse grass, and low herbaceous plants, principally of the order Compositæ. The flowers of the latter, it was remarked, were particularly large in proportion to the plant. These form a rich pasturage for the flocks and herds, which are seen feeding in the valleys and along the sides of the hills.
No cultivation is attempted beyond Culnai, and but two species of Cacti were met with above this point.
They had hitherto for the most part followed a northerly direction, but now they diverged more to the northeast.. The temperature was falling as they ascended, the air was clear and bracing, and the scenery as they advanced become more interesting, and even sublime. To its wild and precipitous features was now added the high snowy peak of La Vinda in the distance, and some few spots of snow were occasionally seen in places sheltered from the sun's rays. The mulepaths had become narrow, and when they met with mules, whic often the case, it became necessary to turn under the rocks, until the path was clear. On one occasion, one of the party allowed his mule to take the outside ; the consequence was that a muleteer shoved mule and rider several feet over the bank. No injury was received, and the dilemma passed off with a good laugh at the fright.
The sagacity of the mules on these occasions is remarkable. They endeavour always to cling to the wall side, and will succeed in doing it, if not prevented by the rider. Their caution is great when they apprehend danger in passing over steep places; the instant danger was anticipated, the nose and fore feet were used to ascertain its extent, which done, the animals cautiously proceeded, and reached the bottom with great care and ease both to the rider and themselves.
About three o'clock they had gained the fourth or alpine region, where they were met with sharp and cutting winds, accompanied with
hail and snow, that proved very uncomfortable to their sunburnt faces: this was supposed to be at an elevation of about fifteen thousand feet. Our gentlemen now felt the effects of the elevation in headache, difficulty of breathing, and excessive lassitude. The crest of the Cordilleras is at this place a league in width, the surface very uneven, containing small lakes without outlets sunk in deep hollows; beyond this, the streams which form the extreme sources of the Amazon were running to the eastward. After travelling two leagues on a gentle descent, they arrived at Casa Cancha about dusk.
Those of the party who first arrived witnessed a fracas with the cuchillo, so often appealed to here when a misunderstanding occurs ; no injury, however, resulted from it.
Casa Cancha consists of three huts, and is nothing more than a muleteers’ rendezvous ; the place was in charge of two women, who in expression, if not in form, might have been taken for witches. The accommodations, if they may be so called, were an apartment common to all the inmates, with no fastening to the door or windows, without a fire, and nothing but the hard ground to lie upon.
At night, the thermometer frequently falls to the freezing-point, and the climate is like that of winter; there is not, however, a stick of wood nor any resinous Umbelliferæ, as on the Chilian Andes, to be had, and
the cooking is done with turf, when it can be obtained, but dry cowdung is most commonly used for this purpose. This is the only and the best establishment the place affords; even the first females in the country can procure no better accommodations, and will bear it for the night with contentment.
As a special mark of distinction, a smaller apartment was assigned to our gentlemen, in a hut adjoining that in which their supper was cooked, of which they witnessed the preparation. The cooking range was of peculiar construction, and might serve as a pattern for a modern cuisine. It occupied one corner of the apartment, and appeared to be convenient and well adapted to the wants of the inmates. The vignette on the preceding page is a representation of it and the occupant.
After a time the fore-quarter of mutton made its appearance, in the hands of their landlady, scorched to a cinder. Being unprovided with a knife, she began to tear it into small pieces with her fingers. Our gentlemen remonstrated, but nothing would stop her until nearly every morsel of it had passed through her dirty hands. This, added to her state of intoxication, caused some of them to lose their
from sheer disgust, though all agreed that she carved or tore it into pieces in a most dexterous manner.
After supper they were informed by their guides, in much consternation, that a band of Chilian marauders were approaching; the whole establishment was in great uproar. The party, however, proved to be a convoy. The officer in charge was civil, and engaged freely in conversation on the pending contest between Chili and Peru.
During the night the party were very much troubled with headache and difficulty in breathing; they passed an uncomfortable night on the clay floor. The thermometer in the doorway stood in the morning at 339,
Casa Cancha is in a valley surrounded by lofty mountains. height, upon the authority of a gentleman at Lima, is fourteen thousand five hundred feet above the level of the sea. Pasturage in its vicinity is good; sheep and cattle are abundant: bread and potatoes are brought over the mountains from Obrajillo; of these they have oftentimes but a scanty supply, which was the case at this period. The evening previous to their arrival a theft had taken place there,—a gentleman had had his fire-arms stolen; a great loss when one takes into consideration the nature of the country, and the dangers to be encountered in travelling.
On the morning of the 20th, with one exception, they were all affected with vomiting, headache, and fever, and still suffering much from difficulty in breathing; this is usually felt on first visiting these elevated regions, and is said to be particularly so at night.