Page:Darwin Journal of Researches.djvu/387

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1835.]
365
BAY OF CALLAO.

lows for a length of one hundred and fifty miles the margin of a grand basin or plain; this, from its outline, manifestly must once have been a lake, or more probably an inland arm of the sea, as may be inferred from the presence of iodic salts in the saline stratum. The surface of the plain is 3300 feet above the Pacific.

 

19th.—We anchored in the Bay of Callao, the seaport of Lima, the capital of Peru. We stayed here six weeks, but from the troubled state of public affairs, I saw very little of the country. During our whole visit the climate was far from being so delightful, as it is generally represented. A dull heavy bank of clouds constantly hung over the land, so that during the first sixteen days I had only one view of the Cordillera behind Lima. These mountains, seen in stages, one above the other, through openings in the clouds, had a very grand appearance. It is almost become a proverb, that rain never falls in the lower part of Peru. Yet this can hardly be considered correct; for during almost every day of our visit there was a thick drizzling mist, which was sufficient to make the streets muddy and one's clothes damp: this the people are pleased to call Peruvian dew. That much rain does not fall is very certain, for the houses are covered only with flat roofs made of hardened mud; and on the mole ship-loads of wheat were piled up, being thus left for weeks together without any shelter.

I cannot say I liked the very little I saw of Peru: in summer, however, it is said that the climate is much pleasanter. In all seasons, both inhabitants and foreigners suffer from severe attacks of ague. This disease is common on the whole coast of Peru, but is unknown in the interior. The attacks of illness which arise from miasma never fail to appear most mysterious. So difficult is it to judge from the aspect of a country, whether or not it is healthy, that if a person had been told to choose within the tropics a situation appearing favourable for health, very probably he would have named this coast. The plain round the outskirts of Callao is sparingly covered with a coarse grass, and in some parts there are a few stagnant, though very small, pools of water. The miasma, in all probability, arises from these: for the town of Arica v as similarly circumstanced, and its healthiness was much improved by the drainage of some little pools. Miasma