Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/3

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Passports — Means of defence — The road — Pacayar — Chaclacayo — Narrow pass — Yanacoto — Bridge — Cocachacra — Tribute money — Dividing line between the coast and the Sierra — Moyoc — Varieties of the potato — Matucana — San Mateo — Mines of Parac — Narrow valley — Summit of the Cordillera — Refections.


Before leaving Lima I had had several interviews with the President, General Castilla, who exhibited much interest in my mission; and the Hon. J. R. Clay, U. S. chargé d’affaires, had presented me to General Torrico, who at that time was sole Minister of Peru, under the newly elected President, General Echenique, who yet had not had time to appoint his Cabinet. General Torrico caused to be issued to me the following passport and letter:



Minister of War and Marine, and charged with the conduct of Foreign Relations.

In that William Lewis Herndon, lieutenant of the navy of the United States, and Lardner Gibbon, passed midshipman of the same, commissioned by their government to make a scientific expedition in the Territory of Peru, direct themselves towards the interior of the republic for the discharge of their commission, accompanied by Henry Richards, Manuel Ijurra, Mauricio N., attached to said commission, and by two servants:

Therefore, I direct that the authorities of the districts they may pass through shall place no obstacle in the way of the above-mentioned gentlemen and servants; but, rather, shall afford them all the assistance and facilities that may be necessary for the fulfilment of their object, preserving to them the considerations which are their due — (guardan- dole las consideraciones que les son debidas.)

Given in Lima, the 13th of May, 1851





SIR: Wm. Lewis Herndon, lieutenant of the navy of the United States, and Lardner Gibbon, passed midshipman of the same, commissioned by the government of that nation to make a scientific expedition in the eastern parts of Peru, accompanied by Henry Richards, Mauricio N., and Manuel Ijurra, as adjuncts to the expedition, direct themselves towards the department under your command in the discharge of their commission. As the expedition deserves, on account of its important object, the particular protection of the government, his Excellency the President commands me to advise you to afford them whatever resources and facilities they may need for the better discharge of their commission, taking care, likewise, that there shall be preserved to them the considerations that are their due.

The which I communicate to you for its punctual fulfilment. God preserve you.



This passport was made out at a time when I expected to procure two servants. Mauricio, the Chamicuros Indian, was the only servant who accompanied us.

We were accompanied for a mile or two on the road by our kind friends and countrymen, Messrs. Prevost, Foster, and McCall, who drew up at the Cemetery to bid us good-bye; Mr. Prevost advising us to halt at the first place we could find pasturage for the mules. The road we were to travel had reputation for robbers, and Mr. McCall desired to know how we were to defend ourselves in case of attack, as we carried our guns in leather cases, strapped to the crupper, and entirely out of reach for a sudden emergency. Gibbon replied by showing his six-barrelled Colt, and observed that Ijurra, Richards, and myself had each a pair of pistols at hand. As for Mauricio, he kept his pistols in his saddle-bags; and I was satisfied, from some attempts that I had made to teach Luis to shoot, (though he was very ambitious and desirous to learn,) that it was dangerous to trust him with a pair, as he might as readily fire into his friends as his enemies. With the comfortable observation from Mr. McCall that he never expected to see us again, we shook hands and parted.


Our course lay about E. N. E. over an apparently level and very stony road. To the right were the green cane and alfalfa* fields, about Miraflores and Chorillos; and on the left and behind, the vegetation afforded by the valley of the Rimac; but ahead all was barren, grim, and forbidding.

Just before sunset we stopped at the hacienda (estate, or farm, or settlement) of Santa Clara, and applied for pasturage. We were told by an old negro woman sitting on the ground at the door of the house, that there was none; which was confirmed by two men who just then rode up, and who expressed their regret at not being able to accommodate us. It was remarkable to see such poverty and squalid wretchedness at nine miles from the great city of Lima; it was like passing in a moment from the most luxurious civilization into savage barbarity — from the garden to the desert. We rode on, about three miles further, to the hacienda of Pacayar, where we arrived at half-past six o’clock, p.m.

Before the mules could be unloaded it became very dark; so that the arriero and Mauricio had considerable trouble in driving them to the pasturage. Indeed, some of them got away; I could hear them galloping furiously up and down the road, and I went to bed, on a table, in the only room in the house, with the comfortable reflection that I had balked at starting, and should have to return or send back to Lima to buy more mules.

Tormented with these reflections, and oppressed with the excitement and fatigue of the day, I could not sleep; but tossed “in restless ecstasy” for many a long hour, until just before daylight, when, as I was dropping to sleep, a couple of game cocks, tied by the leg in the room, commenced “their salutation to the morn,” and screamed out their clarion notes within a yard of my ear. This was too much for me. I rushed out — to meet a heavenly morning and old Luis, with the intelligence that the mules were “all right.” I took off my upper clothes, and plunged head, neck, and shoulders, into the water of a little mountain stream that rushed clear and cold as ice by the roadside in front of the house. Thus refreshed and invigorated, the appearance of affairs took a new aspect, and light-heartedness and hope came back as strong and fresh as in the days of boyhood.

The mayordomo, or steward of the estate, was a Chino, (descendant of Indian and negro,) and seemed an amiable and intelligent fellow.

  • A very green and pretty kind of lucern, universally used in this country for pasturage.


He gave us a supper of a thin soup (caldo) and chupe;*and whilst we were eating it, he was engaged in teaching the children of a neighbor the multiplication table and the catechism.

From the appearance of things, I judge this estate paid little enough, to its owner; for I saw small signs of cultivation about it, though I should think that the valley of the Rimac, which is a full mile in width in front of the house, would produce good and (considering the short distance to Lima) valuable crops of grass and vegetables. The land is ploughed with a rude, heavy, wooden plough of one handle, which is shod with iron. It is generally worked by a yoke of oxen.

The house was built of adobe, or sun-dried bricks, and roofed with tiles. It had but one room, which was the general receptacle for all comers. A mud projection, of two feet high and three wide, stood out from the walls of the room all round, and served as a standing bed place for numbers. Others laid their blankets and ponchos, and stretched themselves, upon the floor; so that, with whites, Indians, negroes, trunks, packages, horse furniture, game cocks, and Guinea pigs, we had quite a caravansera appearance. The supper and bed that the steward had given us were gratuitous; he would accept no remuneration; and we got our breakfast of chupe and eggs at a tambo or roadside inn nearly opposite.

Though we commenced loading up soon after daylight, we did not get off until half-past nine. Such delays were invariable; and this was owing to the want of a peon and another servant.

The height of Pacayar above the level of the sea is one thousand three hundred and forty-six feet.

May 22. — Roads still good; valley gradually narrowing, and hills becoming higher and more barren and rocky. We passed several squads of asses and llamas carrying potatoes and eggs, some of them as far as from Jauja to Lima. Six miles from Pacayar is the village (pueblo) of Chaclacayo, consisting of four or five houses, constructed of cane and mud. A mile further is the Juzgado [1]of Sta. Ines, quite a large, good-looking house, with a small chapel near it. This was the residence, in the Spanish times, of a justice of the peace, who administered law and judgment to his neighbors; hence called Juzgado. Soon after leaving this the stream approached the hills so close that there was no longer room between them for the road; and this had to be cut out of the side of a hill.

* Chupe is a universal article of diet in the Sierra. It is a broth, or soup, made generally of potatoes, cheese, and lard; sometimes meat is boiled in it. It is the last dish served at dinner at a gentleman’s table before the dessert.


It was very narrow, and seemed, in some places, to overhang the stream fifty feet below it. Just as we were turning an angle of the road we met a man driving two horses before him, which immediately mingled in with our burden mules, and endangered their going over the precipice. Our arriero shouted to the man, and, spurring his horse through the mules, commenced driving back the horses of the other, who flourished his whip, and insisted upon passing. I expected to see a fight, and mischief happen, which would probably have fallen upon us, as the other had nothing to lose, when Ijurra called out to him, and represented that our cargoes were very valuable, and that if one were lost he should be held responsible; whereupon he desisted, drove his horses back, and suffered us to pass. This caused us to be more careful in our march; and I sent Gibbon, with Richards, ahead, to warn persons, or give us warning in time to prevent a collision. The burden-mules were driven by the arriero and the servant in the middle; while Ijurra and I brought up the rear.

At 2 p.m., we stopped at the Tambo of Yanacoto. I determined to stay here a day or two to get things shaken into their places, and obtain a new error and rate for the chronometer, which had stopped the day before, a few hours out of Lima, though we had not discovered it till this morning. I cared, however, very little for this, as I was satisfied that it would either stop again or so vary in its rate as to be worthless. No chronometer will stand the jar of mule-travel over these roads, especially if carried in the pocket, where the momentum of the jar is parallel to the movement of the balance-wheel of the watch. Were I to carry a chronometer on such a journey again, I would have it placed in its box on a cushion on the saddle-bow, and when I travelled in a canoe, where the motion is the other way, I would hang it up.

Yanacoto mountain, Peru. The elevation is 2,337 feet.

We pitched the tent in the valley before the road, and proceeded to make ourselves as comfortable as possible; got an observation for time, and found the latitude of Yanacoto, by Mer. alt. of γ Crucis, to be 11° 57’ 20”.

May 23. — Bathing before breakfast is, on this part of the route, both healthful and pleasant. There seemed to be no cultivation in this valley, which here is about half a mile wide. It is covered with bushes, except close to the water’s edge, where grow reeds and flags. The bushes are dwarf willow, and a kind of locust called Sangre de Christo, [Blood of Christ] which bears a broad bean, containing four or five seed, and a pretty red flower, something like our crape myrtle. There is also a bush, of some ten or twelve feet in height, called Molle. This is the most common shrub of the country, and has a wider climatic range than any other of this slope of the Andes. It has long, delicate leaves like the acacia, and


produces an immense quantity of small red berries in large bunches. The leaves, when crushed, have a strong aromatic smell; and many persons believe that it is certain death to sleep under its shade. Dr. Smith, in his book, called “Peru as it is,” says that “this tree is much prized for fuel. The sugar refiners of the interior use the ashes from it in preference to those from any other wood, on account of their higher alkaline properties, and consequent efficiency in purifying the cane-juice when being boiled down to a proper consistence to be cast into moulds.

“The Inca tribe, as we learn from Garcilasso de la Vega, made a highly valuable and medicinal beer, which some of the Indians of the interior still occasionally prepare from the clusters of small-grained fruit that hang gracefully and abundantly from this pretty tree.”

We saw several cases of tertiana, or chills and fever, at Yanacoto. The people seem to have no remedy except drinking spirits just before the chill comes on, and using as a drink, during the fever, the juice of the bitter orange, with sugar and water. When the case is bad, those who can afford it — such as the mayordomos and tamberos (the keepers of the road-side inns called tambos) — send to Lima and get medical advice and physic. Our tambero killed a mutton for us, and (leaving out the lard, which is always abominable) made a good chupe. The roast was a failure; but we got poultry and eggs, and had a very good time.

The elevation of Yanacoto is two thousand three hundred and thirty-seven feet, a little more than one thousand feet above Pacayar. The distance between them is about ten miles, showing a rise to the mile of about one hundred feet, which is very little greater than that between Callao and Lima.

May 24. — Had observation for time; breakfasted, and started at ten. Valley still narrowing; the hills becoming mountains, mostly of granite; rock piled upon rock for hundreds of feet, and in every variety of shape; no vegetation except where the hardy cactus finds aliment in the crevices of the rock.

About four and a half miles above Yanacoto, we passed the hacienda of Lachosita, and soon after the little village of San Pedro Mama, where the first bridge is thrown over the Rimac. Heavy, rough stone-work is built on each side of the river, into which are inserted massive pieces of timber, standing out a few feet from the face of the masonry, and hewn flat on top. On their ends are laid trunks of trees, crossing the river, and securely lashed. Athwart these are laid sticks of wood, of some two or three inches diameter, lashed down, and covered over with bundles of reeds, mud, and stones.


After San Pedro, at about three miles of distance, comes the hacienda of Santa Ana, belonging to Señor Ximenes, an old gentleman of Lima, who had made a large fortune by mining. Just before reaching there we met a drove of one hundred and fifty mules belonging to him, in fine condition and well appointed, going to Lima, laden with small sticks of the willow and molle for fuel.

There is very little cultivation till near Cocachacra, where we saw well-tilled fields, green with alfalfa and Indian corn. We arrived at this place at half-past five, and pitched the tent in a meadow near the river and without the town, for the purpose of avoiding company and disagreeable curiosity.

Although we had seen fields of lucern [alfalfa] before entering the village, we could get none for our mules after we got there; and to every inquiry for hay, fodder, or grain, the constant reply was “No ay,” (there is none.) Gibbon, however, persevered until some one told him, in an undertone, as if imparting a great secret, where a little corn was to be purchased, and he got a peck or two shelled. We were continually annoyed and put to inconvenience by the refusal of the people to sell to us. I think it arose from one of two causes, or probably both—either that money was of less value to them than the things we wanted, or they feared to have it known that they had possessions, lest the hand of authority should be laid upon them, and they be compelled to give up their property without payment.

Cocachacra is a village of about one hundred inhabitants, and at present the residence of the sub-prefect or governor of the province, which is that of Huarochiri. This province, according to the “Guia de Forasteros,” (a sort of official almanac published yearly at Lima,) and commenses at eighteen miles from the city. It has ninety miles of length from N. W. to S. E., and seventy-two of breadth. There are fourteen thousand two hundred and fifty-eight native inhabitants; and its fiscal income is fourteen thousand two hundred and fifty-eight dollars and two reals; its municipal, one thousand one hundred and eighty-seven dollars. The inhabitants are generally engaged in mining, cultivating potatoes, and raising cattle, or as muleteers. The houses, like all those of the Sierra, are built either of stone or adobe, and thatched with wheat or barley straw.

We called on the sub-prefect and exhibited our Peruvian passports, asking, at the same time, that he would give us some assistance in obtaining food for our beasts. This he seemed lukewarm about, and I did not press him, for I had made up my mind that as far as it was


possible I would avoid appealing to authority for the purpose of obtaining supplies, and go without what I could not buy or beg. He had in the house the semi-yearly contribution of his province towards the support of the government, which he was to send to Lima next day. A gentleman suggested that he might be robbed that night; but he said that his guns were loaded, (pointing to some muskets standing around the room,) and that he might count upon assistance from our party, which seemed well armed.

Very little help he would have had from us. He had shown no disposition to oblige us, and moreover I had no notion of interfering in other people’s quarrels, or preventing the people from taking back their money if they wanted it. This contribution is a capitation tax of seven dollars a year, collected half-yearly from the Indian population between the ages of sixteen and sixty. It is collected by the governors of the districts into which a province is divided, who receive two per centum on their collections, and pay over to the sub-prefect, who receives four per cent. on the whole amount collected from the districts of his province. The prefects of the departments, which are made up of a number of provinces, receive a regular salary, according to the size and wealth of their departments, varying from three to five thousand dollars. We slept comfortably in the tent. Nights getting cool.

May 25 — Started at 10 a.m Valley getting so narrow as not to allow room for the road, which is in many places cut from the rock on the side of the hill, very narrow, rough and precipitous, rising and falling as it crosses the spurs of the hills. The general character of the rock is a feldspar porphyry, succeeded, as the road ascends, by a very coarse-grained trachyte porphyry, reaching as far as Surco. Vegetation, willow, molle, and many varieties of the cactus. We passed on the road the ruins of an ancient Indian town; the houses had been small, and built of stone on terraces cut from the mountain side.

At two we passed through the village of Surco, the largest we have seen on the road. It appears capable of holding five or six hundred people, but seemed deserted—nearly every house closed, and many falling into decay. We were told that the inhabitants were away over the hills, looking after their plantations and flocks, and that they returned at night. But if this is so, judging from the height of the mountains on each side of the village, I should say that half their time is lost in going and returning from their work.

Here we leave the district called the Coast and enter upon that called the Sierra. There is tertiana below, but none above this. Dr. Smith, speaking of the climate of this district, says, “that it is neither winter nor summer, but one perpetual spring.


It is out of the sphere of frosts, and exempted from the raw fogs and sultry heats of the coast. The atmospherical currents of mountain and coast meet here and neutralize each other; the extremes of both disappear; and the result is a delicious climate for the convalescent, whose tender organs require a gentle, uniform temperature, alike removed from the extremes of heat and cold, dryness and moisture. With this important fact the delicate inhabitants of Lima are perfectly acquainted; and they are accustomed to resort to the ‘Cabezadas,’ or headlands of valleys, where these verge on the joint air of mountain and coast, as, for example, Matucana, the favorite resting-place of phthisical and hæmoptic individuals, who find themselves obliged to retire from the capital in order to recover health by visiting those celebrated sites of convalescence, Tarma and Juaxa.” We certainly had delicious weather, but did not stay long enough, of course, to pronounce authoritatively upon its general climate.

At 5 p.m., we arrived at the Chacra of Moyoc, belonging to Ximenes.

The Chacra (farm) of Moyoc, belonging to Ximenes.

Here we pitched for the night, having travelled about fifteen miles, which is our usual day’s journey, between ten and five. This is a most beautiful little dell, entirely and closely surrounded by mountains. The valley has widened out so as to give room for some narrow patches of corn and alfalfa. The Rimac, here a “babbling brook,” rushes musically between its willow-fringed banks; and the lingering of the sunlight upon the snowy summits of the now not distant Cordillera, long after night had settled upon the valley, gave an effect to the scenery that was at once magical and enchanting.

The nights in the Cordillera at this season are very beautiful. The traveller feels that he is lifted above the impurities of the lower strata of the atmosphere, and is breathing air entirely free from taint. I was never tired of gazing into the glorious sky, which, less blue, I think, than ours, yet seemed palpable—a dome of steel [USN Observatory] lit up by the stars. The stars themselves sparkled with intense brilliancy. A small pocket spy-glass showed the satellites of Jupiter with distinctness; and Gibbon even declared on one occasion that he could see them with the naked eye. I could not, but my sight is bad at night. The temperature is now getting cool, and I slept cold last night, though with all my clothes on, and covered with two parts of a heavy blanket and a woollen poncho. The rays of the sun are very powerful in the day until tempered by the S. W. wind, which usually sets in about eleven o’clock in the morning.

The steward of Ximenes, a nice old fellow, with a pretty young wife, gave us, at a reasonable price, pasturage for the beasts and a capital chupe.


The productions of the country are maize, alfalfa, and potatoes — the maize very indifferent; but the potatoes though generally small, are very fine, particularly the yellow ones. We saw here, for the first time, a vegetable of the potato kind called Oca. It resembles in appearance the Jerusalem artichoke, though longer and slimmer; and boiled or roasted it is very agreeable to the taste. Richards compared its flavor to that of green corn; I suggested pumpkin, and he allowed that it was between the two. We also saw another vegetable of the same species, called Ulluca. This was more glutinous, and not so pleasant to the taste. Gibbon shot a pair of beautiful small wild ducks that were gambolling in the stream and shooting the rapids with the speed of an arrow.

May 26. — Started at eleven, and passed the village of Matucana, a mile from Moyoc. This appears about the size of Surco, and is the capital of the province, (still Huarochiri.) The Guia de Forasteros states the number of its inhabitants at one thousand three hundred and thirty-seven; but this is manifestly too great, and I believe that the statements of this book concerning populations are made with regard to the district in which a village is situated, or the doctrina or ecclesiastical division of which the Cura has charge. Service was going on in the church, and Gibbon and Richards, who were far ahead, had time to go in and say their prayers.

The river is now reduced to a mountain torrent, raging in foam over the debris of the porphyritic cliffs, which overhang its bed for hundreds of feet in height. The valley still occasionally widens out and gives room for a little cultivation. Where this is the case it is generally bounded on one side or the other by cliffs of sandstone, in which innumerable parrots have perforated holes for nests; and the road at these places lies broad and level at their base. We crossed the river frequently on such bridges as I have described at San Pedro Mama, and arrived at San Mateo at half-past 5 p.m., having travelled only twelve miles. The barometer shows a much greater ascent than we have yet made in one day’s travel. We pitched in an old and abandoned alfalfa field above the town, and got supper from the postmaster.

San Mateo, Peru.

May 27.— San Mateo, a village about the size of Surco and Matucana, is situated on both sides of the Rimac, and at an elevation of ten thousand two hundred feet above the level of the sea. The men work the chacras of maize, potatoes, and beans; and the women do all the household work, besides carrying their meals to the workmen on the farms, over hills that would make a lazy man shudder even to look at.


They live in poverty and filth, but seem happy enough. We saw the women winnowing the beans (which were gathered dry from the plant) by collecting them in pans made of large gourds, and flinging them into the air; and also sifting flour, which comes from the other side of the Cordillera, about Jauxa. The costume of the Serrana women is different from that of the women of the coast. It consists of a very narrow skirt, and a body of coarse woollen cloth, generally blue, which comes from Lima, and is belted around the waist with a broad-figured woollen belt, woven by themselves. A woollen apron, with a figured border, is worn on the left side, hanging from the right shoulder by a strap; and in the cold of the morning and evening the shoulders are covered with a thick, colored blanket, reaching to the hips. A high, broad-brimmed straw-hat, with shoes of raw-hide, drawn with a string around the ankle, and no stockings, complete the costume. These people seem contented with what they have, and don’t want money. It was with great dificulty we could persuade them to sell us anything, always denying that they had it. On our return from the mines at Párac, (where Mr. Gibbon had been sick with chills and fever,) he could not eat the chupe, which had, at first, been made with charqui, or jerked beef, but which had now dwindled down to cheese and potatoes. I made a speech to some curious loafers about the tent, in which I appealed to their pride and patriotism, telling them that I thought it strange that so large a town as San Mateo, belonging to so famous a country as Peru, could not furnish a sick stranger, who could eat nothing else, with a few eggs. Whereupon, a fellow went off and brought us a dozen, though he had just sworn by the Pope that there were no such things in the village.

May 28. — Mr. Gibbon and I, guided by a boy, rode over to the hacienda of San Jose de Párac, leaving Richards and Ijurra in charge of the camp. The ride occupied about three hours, over the worst roads, bordered by the highest cliffs and deepest ravines we had yet seen. The earth here shows her giant skeleton bare: mountains, rather than rocks, of granite, rear their gray heads to the skies; and our proximity made these things more striking and sublime. We found, on the sides of the hills, short grass and small clover, with some fine cattle feeding; and, wherever the mountain afforded a level shelf, abundance of fine potatoes, which the people were then gathering.

I brought letters from Mr. Prevost to Don Torribio Malarin, the superintendent of the mines, who received us kindly, and entertained us with much hospitality. His house was comfortably heated with a stove, and the chamber furnished with a large four-post bedstead, and


the biggest and heaviest bureau I had ever seen. I was somewhat surprised at the sight of these —

Not that the things were very rich or rare,
I wondered how the devil they got there.

They must have come up in pieces, for nothing so large could have been fastened on a mule’s back, or passed entire in the narrow parts of the road.

The hacienda is situated near the head of a small valley, which debouches upon the road just below San Mateo; the stream which drains it emptying into the Rimac there. It is a square, enclosed with one-story buildings, consisting of the, mill for grinding the ore, the ovens for toasting it when ground, the workshops, store-houses, and dwelling-houses. It is managed by a superintendent and three mayordomos, and employs about forty working hands. These are Indians of the Sierra, strong, hardy-looking fellows, though generally low in stature, and stupid in expression. They are silent and patient, and, having coca enough to chew, will do an extraordinary quantity of work. They have their breakfast of caldo and cancha, toasted maize,) and get to work by eight o’clock. At eleven they have a recess of half an hour, when they sit down near their place of work, chat lazily with each other, and chew coca, mixed with a little lime, which each one carries in a small gourd, putting it on the mass of coca leaves in his mouth with a wire pin attached to the stopper of the gourd that carries the lime. Some dexterity is necessary to do this properly without cauterizing the lips or tongue. They then go to work again until five, when they finish for the day, and dine off chupe. It has made me, with my tropical habit of life, shiver to see these fellows puddling with their naked legs a mass of mud and quicksilver [quicksilver aka "mercury" is 500 times more toxic than lead] in water at the temperature of thirty-eight Fahrenheit.

These Indians generally live in huts near the hacienda, and are supplied from its store-houses. They are kept in debt by the supplies; and by custom, though not by law, no one will employ an Indian who is in debt to his patron; so that he is compelled to work on with no hope of getting free of the debt, except by running away to a distant part of the country where he is not known, which some do.

The diseases incident to this occupation are indigestion, called empacho, pleurisy, and sometimes the lungs seem affected with the fumes and dust of the ore; but on the whole, it does not seem a unhealthy occupation. The principal articles furnished from the store-house are maize, coca, mutton, charqui, rum, sugar, coffee, tea, chocolate, chancaca, (cakes of


brown sugar,) soap, baize, cotton, and coarse linen cloths, woollen cloths, silk handkerchiefs, foreign ponchos, ribbons, silk, sashes, &c., &c., which are supplied to the Indians at about one hundred per cent. Advance on their cost at Lima, and charged against his wages, which amount to half a dollar a day, with half a dollar more if he works at night.

The manner of getting the silver from the ore, or beneficiating it, as it is called in Peru, is this: The ore, after it is dug from the mine and brought to the surface, is broken into pieces about the size of a Madeira nut or English walnut, and sent to the hacienda, in hide-bags, on the backs of llamas or mules. (The hacienda is always situated on the nearest stream to the mine, for the advantages of the water-power in turning the mill.) There it is reduced, by several grindings and siftings, to an impalpable powder. The mill consists of a horizontal waterwheel, carrying a vertical axis, which comes up through the floor of the mill, the wheel being below. To the top of this axis is bolted a large cross-beam, and to the ends of the beam are slung, by chains, heavy, rough stones, each about a ton weight. These stones, by the turning of the axis, are carried around nearly in contact with a concave bed of smoother and harder rock, built upon the floor of the mill, and through which the axis comes up. The ore is poured by the basket-full upon the bed, and the large hanging rocks grind it to powder, which pours out of holes made in the periphery of the bed. This is sifted through fine wire sieves, and the coarser parts are put in the mill again for re-grinding. The ground ore, or harina, is then mixed with salt (at the rate of fifty pounds of salt to every six hundred pounds of harina) and taken to the ovens (which are of earth) and toasted. I could not learn the quantity of heat necessary to be applied; it is judged of by experiment.

The fuel used in these ovens is the dung of cattle, called taquia; it costs three cents for twenty-five pounds. The ovens here burn one million five hundred thousand pounds yearly. After the harina is toasted, it is carried in hide-bags to the square enclosed in the buildings of the hacienda, and laid in piles of about six hundred pounds each upon the floor. This floor is of flat stones, but should be of flags cemented together; because the stones have often to be taken up to collect the quicksilver, many pounds of which run down between the interstices. Ten of these piles are laid in a row, making a caxon of six thousand two hundred and fifty pounds. The piles are then moistened with water, and quicksilver is sprinkled on them through a woollen cloth. (The quantity of mercury, which depends upon the


quantity of silver in the ore, is judged of beforehand by experiments on a small scale.) The mass is well mixed by treading with the feet and working with hoes. A little calcined iron pyrites, called magistral, is also added — about four pounds to the caxon. The pile is often examined to see that the amalgamation is going on well. In some conditions the mass is called hot; in others, cold. The state of heat is cured by adding a little lime and rotten dung; that of cold, by a little magistral or oxide of iron. Practice and experience alone will enable one to judge of these states. It is then left to stand for eight or nine days, (occasionally re-trodden and re-worked,) until the amalgamation is complete, which is also judged of by experiment. It is then carried to an elevated platform of stone, and thrown, in small quantities at a time, into a well sunk in the middle of the platform; a stream of water is turned on, and four or five men trample and wash it with their feet. The amalgam sinks to the bottom, and the mud and water are let off, by an aperture in the lower part of the well, into a smaller well below, lined with a raw-hide, where one man carries on the washing with his feet. More amalgam sinks to the bottom of this well, and the mud and water again flow off through a long wooden trough, lined with green baize, into a pit prepared for it, where the water percolates through the soil, leaving the mud to be again re-washed. When the washing is finished for the day, the green baize lining of the trough, with many particles of the amalgam clinging to it, is washed in the larger well. The water, which by this time is clear, is let off, and all the amalgam, called “pella,” is collected, put in hide-bags, and weighed. Two caxons are washed in a day. The pella is then put into conical bags of coarse linen, which are hung up, and the weight of the mass presses out a quantity of the quicksilver, which oozes through the interstices of the linen, and is caught in vessels below. The mass, now dry, and somewhat harder than putty, is carried to the ovens, where the remainder of the quicksilver is driven off by heat, and the residue is the plata piña, or pure silver. This is melted, run into bars, stamped according to the ley or quality of the silver, and sent to Lima, either for the mint or for exportation.

In the refining process the fumes of the mercury are condensed, and it is used again. Two pounds, however, are lost to every pound of silver. The proportion of pure silver in the pella seca, or amalgam, after the draining off of the mercury through the bag, is about twenty two per cent. A careful experiment made by Mr. Gait, a jeweler of this city, on a bit of the pella which I brought home from Cerro Pasco, gave but eighteen and thirty three per cent of pure silver.


Salt is worth at this place three reals (37 ½ cents) the arroba, and mercury costs one dollar the pound in Lima. The superintendent is paid twelve hundred dollars yearly; three mayordomos, thirty dollars each, monthly; the corporals, or heads of the working gangs in the mines, twenty dollars; the miners, sixty-two and a half cents per day, (as much more if they work at night;) and the laborers at the hacienda, fifty cents. This, however, is nominal, being more than swallowed up by the supplies. The estimated yearly expenses of these mines are thirty thousand dollars, and the annual yield, seventy thousand dollars. A caxon, of six thousand two hundred and fifty pounds of the ground ore, yields, by the assay on the small scale, fifty marks, though only twenty-five or thirty are obtained by this process, showing a loss of nearly one-half. The quantity of silver obtained from the relabes, or re-washings, is about twenty per cent. of the whole: that is, if a caxon yields twenty-five marks at the first washing, the re-washing will give five.

An idea may be formed of the value of these mines when I state that at Cerro Pasco, which is seventy-five miles further from Lima, and on the other side of the Cordillera, ore which yields only six marks to the caxon will give a profit to the miner, though it is saddled with some duties — such as those for drainage and for public works, from which the ore of Párac is exempt. Malarin, the superintendent, said that the caxon must yield fifteen marks here to pay. But granting this, I do not wonder at his expression, that these mines would in a few years render my countryman, Mr. Prevost, the richest man in the country, (El hombre mas poderoso, que hay en el Peru,) he owning a third of them.

May 29. — Visited the mines. These are situated down the valley with regard to the hacienda, and are two leagues W. S. W. of it. They are much nearer San Mateo than is the hacienda, but there is no road to them from that village. The road, or rather path, lay along the side of the mountain, and zigzagged up and down to turn precipices, now running near the banks of the little stream, and now many hundreds of feet above it. The ride was bad enough at this time — it must be frightful in the rainy season; though Malarin says he sometimes travels it on horseback. This I am sure I should not do; and when these paths are slippery I would much prefer trusting to my own legs than to those of any other animal. Many persons suffer much in riding amongst these precipices and ravines. Dr. Smith knew a gentleman, who, “familiar with downs and lawns, was affected at the steeps of the Paxaron with a giddiness that for some time after disordered his imagination;” and one of a party of English officers, who crossed the Cordillera at Valparaiso whilst I was there, had to return without crossing, because he could not bear the sight of the sheer descents.


The valley of Párac lies about east and west; and the veins of silver on the sides of the mountains E. N. E. and W. S. W., thus crossing the valley diagonally. There are four mines belonging to the establishment, which employ about sixty workmen, though more could be employed to advantage. These men are directed by a mayordomo and four corporals. They are divided into two gangs for each mine: one party will go on duty at 7 p.m. and work till 5 a.m., when they come out, rest two hours, and go on again till 7 p.m. They are then relieved by the other party. This is very hard work, for the mines are very wet and cold. The getter-out of the ore wields, with one hand, a hammer of thirty pounds, and the carriers of the ores bear a burden of one hundred and fifty pounds from the bottom of the shaft to the surface — a distance in this case of about a quarter of a mile, of a very steep and rough ascent. When I first met one of these men toiling up in the dark, I thought, from the dreadful groans I heard before I saw him, that some one was dying near me; but he does this on purpose, for when we met he had breath enough to give me a courteous salutation, and beg a paper cigar. Boys commence this work at eight years of age, and spend probably the greater part of their lives in the mine.

The mine called Sta.[Santa] Rosa, which we visited, has a perpendicular depth of five hundred and twenty feet — that is, the bottom of the shaft, which penetrates the mountain at an angle from the horizon of about 25°, is five hundred and twenty feet below the mouth of it. By the mining laws the shaft (cañon) of the mine must be three feet eight inches high, three feet five inches wide, and arched for security. The superincumbent earth frequently requires to be supported by beams of wood laid against each other in form of Gothic arch. I could not learn how much ore a man could get out in a day, for it is a very uncertain quantity, depending upon the hardness of the rock that encloses the vein. Malarin told us that he had instructed the workmen not to blast whilst we were in the mine, because the dreadful reverberation of sound often had an unhappy effect upon people not accustomed to it, which, as we were men who sometimes dealt in heavy artillery, we did not thank him for. Returning from the mine we met a drove of llamas on their way from the hacienda. This is quite an imposing sight, especially when the drove is encountered suddenly at a turn of the road. The leader, which is always selected on account of his superior height, has his head


decorated with tufts of colored woollen fringe, hung with little bells; and his extreme height, (often six feet,) gallant and graceful carriage, pointed ear, restless eye, and quivering lip, as he faces you for a moment, make him as striking an object as one can well conceive. Upon pressing on him he bounds aside, either up or down the cliff, and is followed by the herd scrambling over places that would be impassable for the mule or the ass.

They travel immense distances, but by short stages — not more than nine or ten miles per day. It is necessary, in long journeys, to have double the number required to carry the cargo, so as to give them relays. The burden of the llama is about one hundred and thirty pounds; he will not carry more, and will be beat to death rather than move when he is overloaded or tired. The males only are worked; the females are kept for the breed. They appear gentle and docile, but when irritated, they have a very savage look, and spit at the object of their anger with great venom. The spittle is said to be very acrid, and will raise blisters where it touches the skin. We saw none in the wild state. They are bred on the haciendas in great numbers.

We had little opportunity of seeing the Guanaco,


or Alpaca, [2] (other varieties of the Peruvian sheep,) though we now and then, in crossing the mountains, caught a glimpse of the wild and shy vicuña. These go in herds of ten or fifteen females, accompanied by one male, who is ever on the alert. On the approach of danger he gives warning by a shrill whistle, and his charge makes off with the speed of the wind. The wool of the vicuña [3] is much finer and more valuable than that of the other species — it is maroon-colored.

A good and learned Presbyter, Dr. Cabrera, whose portrait hangs in the library at Lima, by patience and gentleness, succeeded in obtaining a cross between the alpaca and vicuña, which he called paco vicuña, the wool of which is said to combine the fineness of that of the vicuña and the length of staple of that of the alpaca. The value of vicuña wool, at the port of shipment, was, in 1838, one hundred dollars the hundred weight; that of the alpaca, twenty-five dollars; and that of the sheep, from twelve to fifteen. Peru shipped, from the ports of Arica, Callao, and Islay, during the four years between 1837 and 1840, inclusive, wool of the sheep, alpaca, and vicuña, to the value of two million two hundred and forty-nine thousand and thirty-nine dollars. (Castelnau, vol. 4, page 120.) Were any care taken in the rearing of these wild sheep of Peru, the country might draw a great revenue from the sale of their wool.


May 30. — Dull, rainy day. Gibbon laid up with chills and fever, which he either brought firom Lima or took yesterday in the damp, cold mine. He would drink as much cold water as he wanted, though our friends held up their hands in astonishment, and said he would kill himself. Fire in a stove is very comfortable; the thermometer, during the day, standing at 50° Fahrenheit.

May 31. — Beautiful day. Ther., at 5 a.m., 36°. The general character of the rock is red porphyry. There is grass for pasturage; and the hill-sides are covered with a bush of some eight or ten feet high, bearing bunches of blue flowers, resembling our lilac. There are several kinds of stinging nettle, one of which, that bears a small yellow flower, Malarin says, will cause gangrene and death. I had no disposition to try it; but I doubt the statement. So dangerous a thing would scarcely be so plentiful where the bare-legged herdsman and miner are exposed to it. Returned with Gibbon to San Mateo.

June 1. — Found Richards sick and the muleteer growling at the delay; loaded up, and got off at eleven. At twelve the valley narrowed to a dell of about fifty feet in width; the stream occupying its whole breadth, with the exception of a narrow, but smooth and level mule path on its right bank. This is a very remarkable place. On each side the rock of red porphyry rises perpendicularly for full five hundred feet. In places it overhangs the stream and road. The traveller feels as if he were passing through some tunnel of the Titans. The upper exit from the dell is so steep that steps have been cut in the rock for the mule’s feet; and the stream rushes down the rock-obstructed declivity in foaming fury, flinging clouds of white spray over the traveller, and rendering the path slippery and dangerous.

Passed Chiglla and Bella Vista, mining haciendas. The country is quite thickly settled, there being houses in sight all the way between these two places. The barley here does not give grain, but is cut for fodder. The alfalfa has given way to short thin grass; and we begin to find difficulty in getting food for the beasts. We saw cabbages growing in the gardens of Chiglla, which is a straggling village of some three or four hundred inhabitants. Just after passing Chiglla the mountains looked low, giving the appearance of a rolling country, and were clothed with verdure to the top. Upon turning a corner of the road the snow-covered summits of the Cordillera were close before us, also looking low; and when the snow or verdure suffered the earth to be seen, this was of a deep pink color. The general character of the rock is conglomerate. We stopped, at four, at the tambo of Acchahuarcu, where we pitched and bought barley straw (alcaser) at the rate of twelve and a half cents the armful, called “tercio,” which is just enough for one mule.


The mercury in the barometer being below the scale, we had to cut away the brass casing in front, and mark the height of the column on the inside of the case with a pen-knife.

June 2. — Got off at half-past ten. Road tolerably good, and not very precipitous. At twelve we arrived on a level with the lowest line of snow. We were marking the barometer, when a traveller rode up, who proved to be an old schoolmate of mine, whom I had not seen, or even heard of, since we were boys. The meeting at this place was an extraordinary and very agreeable occurrence. It was also fortunate for me, for my friend was head machinist at the mines of Morococha, and gave us a note to the administrator, which secured us a hospitable reception and an interesting day or two. Without this we should have been compelled to pass on, for pasturage here is very scant, and the people of the mines have to pay a high price for their barley straw, and are not willing to give it to every stray traveller. At 2 p.m. we arrived at the highest point of the road, called the pass of Antarangyra, or copper rock. (The pass of the Piedra Parada, or standing rock, which passes by the mines of Yauli, crosses a few miles to our right.) Some scattering mosses lay on a hill-side above us; but Gibbon and I spurred our panting and trembling mules to the summit of the hill, and had nothing around us but snow, granite, and dark gray porphyry.

I was disappointed in the view from this place. The peaks of the Cordillera that were above us looked low, and presented the appearance of a hilly country, at home, on a winter-day; while the contrast between the snowy hills and the bright green of lower ranges, together with the view of the placid little lakes which lie so snug and still in their midst, gave an air of quiet beauty to the scene very distinct from the savage and desolate grandeur I had expected. Gibbon, with the camera lucida, sketched the Cordillera. I expended a box of matches in boiling the snow for the atmospheric pressure; and poor Richards lay shivering on the ground, enveloped in our pillons, a martyr to the veta.

Veta is the sickness caused by the rarity of the atmosphere at these great elevations. The Indians called it veta, or vein, because they believe it is caused by veins of metal diffusing around a poisonous infection. It is a remarkable thing, that, although this affection must be caused by absence of atmospheric pressure, yet in no case except this, (and Richards was ill before,) that I have known or read of, was it felt at the greatest elevation, but always at a point below this — sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other. The affection displays itself in a violent headache, with the veins of the head swollen and turgid, a difficulty of


respiration, and cold extremities. The smell of garlic is said to alleviate the symptoms; and the arrieros generally anoint their cattle over the eyes, and on the forehead, with an unguent made of tallow, garlic, and wild marjoram, as a preventive, before attempting the ascent. I did not observe that our animals were affected, though they trembled and breathed hard, which, I think, was attributable to the steepness of the hill up which we rode. The barometer stood at 16.730, indicating an elevation of sixteen thousand and forty-four feet. Water boiled at 182°.5; temperature of the air, 43°.

The road hence is cut along the flank of the mountain, at whose base lies a pretty little lake. The hacienda of morococha is situated on the banks of a second, which communicates with it; and this again pours its waters, by a small and gentle stream, into a third, below. These are, respectively, Huacracocha, or Horn lake; Morococha, or Painted lake, from the variety of colors which its placid surface reflects from the red, green, and yellow of the surrounding mountains; and Huascacocha, or Rope lake.

Though not yet sixty miles from the sea, we had crossed the great “divide” which separates the waters of the Atlantic from those of the Pacific. The last steps of our mules had made a striking change in our geographical relations; so suddenly and so quickly had we been cut off from all connection with the Pacific, and placed upon waters that rippled and sparkled joyously as they danced by our feet to join the glad waves of the ocean that wash the shores of our own dear land. They whispered to me of home, and my heart went along with them.

I thought of Maury, [4] with his researches concerning the currents of the sea; and, recollecting the close physical connection pointed out by him as existing between these — the waters of the Amazon and those of our own majestic Mississippi — I musingly dropped a bit of green moss, plucked from the hill-side, upon the bosom of the placid lake of Morococha, and as it floated along I followed it, in imagination, down through the luxurious climes, the beautiful skies, and enchanting scenery of the tropics, to the mouth of the great river; thence across the Caribbean sea, through the Yucatan pass, into the Gulf of Mexico; thence along the Gulf-stream; and so out upon the ocean, off the shores of the “Land of Flowers.” Here I fancied it might meet with the silent little messengers cast by the hands of sympathizing friends and countrymen high upon the head-waters of the Mississippi, or away in the “Far West,” upon the distant fountains of the Missouri.

It was, indeed, but a bit of moss floating on the water; but as I mused, fancy, awakened and stimulated by surrounding circumstances,


had already converted it into a skiff manned by fairies, and bound upon a mission of high import, bearing messages of peace and good-will, telling of commerce and navigation, of settlement and civilization, of religious and political liberty, from the “King of Rivers” to the “Father of Waters;” and, possibly, meeting in the Florida pass, and “speaking” through a trumpet louder than the tempest spirits sent down by the Naiads of Lake Itaska, with greetings to Morococha.

I was now, for the first time, fairly in the field of my operations. I had been sent to explore the Valley of the Amazon, to sound its streams, and to report as to their navigability. I was commanded to examine its fields, its forests, and its rivers, that I might gauge their capabilities, active and dormant, for trade and commerce with the states of Christendom, and make known to the spirit and enterprise of the age the resources which lie in concealment there, waiting for the touch of civilization and the breath of the steam engine to give them animation, life, and palpable existence.

Before us lay this immense field, dressed in the robes of everlasting summer, and embracing an area of thousands upon thousands of square miles on which the footfall of civilized man had never been heard. Behind us towered, in forbidding grandeur, the crests and peaked summits of the Andes, clad in the garb of eternal winter. The contrast was striking, and the field inviting.

But who were the laborers? Gibbon and I. We were all. The rest were not even gleaners.

But it was well. The expedition had been planned and arranged at home with admirable judgment and consummate sagacity; for, had it been on a grand scale, commensurate with its importance, or even larger than it was, it would have broken down with its own weight.

Though the waters where I stood were bound on their way to meet the streams of our Northern Hemisphere, and to bring, for all the practical purposes of commerce and navigation, the mouth of the Amazon and the mouth of the Mississippi into one, and place it before our own doors, yet, from the head of navigation on one stream to the head of navigation on the other, the distance to be sailed could not be less than ten thousand miles. Vast, many, and great, doubtless, are the varieties of climates, soils, and productions within such a range. The importance to the world of settlement, cultivation, and commerce in the Valley of the Amazon, cannot be over-estimated. With the climates of India, and of all the habitable portions of the earth, piled one above the other in quick succession, tillage and good husbandry here would transfer the productions of the East to this magnificent


river basin, and place them within a few days’ easy sail of Europe and the United States. Only a few miles back we had first entered the famous mining district of Peru. A large portion of the silver which constitutes the circulation of the world was dug from the range of mountains upon which we are standing; and most of it came from that slope of them which is drained off into the Amazon. Is it possible for commerce and navigation up and down this majestic water-course and its beautiful tributaries to turn the flow of this silver stream from its western course to the Pacific, and conduct it with steamers down the Amazon to the United States, there to balance the stream of gold with which we are likely to be flooded from California and Australia? Questions which I could not answer, and reflections which I could not keep back, crowded upon me. Oppressed with their weight, and the magnitude of the task before me, I turned slowly and sadly away, secretly lamenting my own want of ability, and sincerely regretting that the duty before me had not been assigned to abler and better hands.