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The morning proved so boisterous, with frequent hail-showers, that hey determined to remain the day, to rest their mules and recruit themselves. Their breakfast was more acceptable than the last night's supper; it consisted of olla-podrida and milk.
As the weather allowed them to botanize, they set out in two parties, but had not been occupied over two hours, before they were overtaken by a severe snow-storm, which entirely covered up all small plants, and made it difficult for them to scale the rocks.
On the 21st, they had determined to proceed to Baños, which, from the description of their guides, who were ignorant, however, of the route beyond Casa Cancha, they had been led to believe was on the eastern slope of the mountain.
They started at an early hour, with the wild geese flying and feeding around them, determining to visit Alpamarca, which is distant from Casa Cancha about two leagues; but owing to their guides being unacquainted with the paths, they were led about among the mountains, and over extensive plains, covered with coarse herbage. A variety of beautiful flowers were found, and many domesticated llamas were seen feeding. At eleven o'clock they stumbled, as if by accident, on the place, consisting of a number of huts; one of these showed the welcome sign of bread for sale, viz., a basket stuck upon a long pole; and they were fortunate in procuring some small rolls.
Alpamarca proved to be in the vicinity of a silver mine, and here they found a goodly company of Peruvian gentlemen, collected from various quarters, and among them the general to whom they had brought letters to Obrajillo. They were received with great kindness and attention; the company insisted upon their dismounting, and gave them the cheer they had prepared for themselves, which was readily partaken of. It was served in a large gourd-shell, and consisted of a Spanish hotch-potch, or olla, with carrots, pot-garlic, pepper, and small bits of mutton. It was observed, as the eatables were disappearing, that the Spanish Dons now and then would partake of the tidbits by reaching over their shoulders from behind. This repast was well timed, for our party had been fasting sufficiently long to enable them to do ample justice to it.
On further examination, the hut proved to be provided with some few of the necessaries of life, although the supply was not large.
The Peruvians sent for the superintendent of the mine, and in the mean time showed the process of extracting the silver, which was as follows: the ore is broken up until it resembles earth; it is then thrown into a large round vat and mixed with mercury and water; six or eight mules are then turned in and driven round and round, until the
amalgam is formed; it is then put into a vessel, and stirred with water until the earth mixes with it, and the water being poured off, leaves the amalgam, whence the mercury is finally evaporated.
The ore appears to be taken almost entirely from the surface. It is poor, and the mines do not yield much profit. There are many old veins that have been extensively worked, but owing to their depth have been abandoned.
The superintendent arrived after a while ; he proved to be an English miner (Mr. R. Bevan), who had been twenty years in the country. He was delighted to see our party, saying that an American and Englishman were all the same in Peru, and that he had not heard his own language spoken for two years. He informed them that the old Spaniards had worked the mines cheaper than any one has been able to do since. They were large landholders, and contrived to keep themselves in debt to their tenants; this they always paid in manufactured goods, very much in demand with the Indians who worked the mines, thus making a double profit on the wages. At the present time the mines are worked by Indians of a mixed blood, who have a language of their own. They are much addicted to the use of coca (the leaf of the Erythroxylon coco, which is mixed and masticated with “ Quinoa,") and without a supply of this leaf they will not work.
Mr. Bevan took the party to the mine, which is some distance up the mountain. Much difficulty was experienced in breathing the rarefied atmosphere, and great fatigue in walking, so much so, that it was necessary to stop every few steps to rest; and what was surprising, Mr. Bevan and the Indians who accompanied them, appeared to be more affected than any of the party. He assured them it was the same, even with the Indians born on the spot, showing that neither time nor other circumstances can acclimatize a constitution to this elevated region. On reaching the mouth of the mine, they saw several emaciated and ghastly-looking Indians seated near the entrance; they descended a few yards into it, but found that time would not admit of the delay necessary to pass down to the places where they were at work ; and wishing to devote their attention to the interesting region of botany in which they then were, they gave up their purpose of descending.
On no part of their journey did they find so many remarkable plants as on this mountain; for information respecting these, the reader is referred to the Botanical Report.
Towards the middle of the afternoon they returned to the hut, when they determined to proceed to Baños. Previous to leaving Alpamarca, they had some difficulty with the guides, who were dissatisfied with their bargain; it therefore required some management to prevent them