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seemed at that time, to a people not taught by necessity, to be in most cases impracticable. But over the Pampas or great plains between Buenos Aires and Chili, the silent course of traffic with the natives had beaten a path, which, it was thought, might afford the means of mutual protection, while it also became the regular commercial route. In their trade with the Pehuenches inhabiting the Andes east of Conception, and the other Indian tribes of the adjoining Pampas, the Chilians annually despatched several hundred mules laden with trinkets, some articles of clothing, and iron ware. These caravans crossing the mountains by the pass of Antuco, descended to the eastern foot of the Cordillera; where the above-named articles were exchanged with the Indians, for salt, horses, and cattle. On what advantageous terms the Chilians carried on this traffic may be inferred from the fact, that the usual price paid by the Indians for the three smal! iron rings used to connect the lasso with the saddle, was two good horses. In these trading excursions, the Chilians often met among the Indians with adventurers from Buenos Aires; and thus, when the prices of commodities differed in the two colonies, a petty commerce between them took place in the Pampas, which only awaited an urgent demand from one side or the other to rise into importance. Consequently, when the activity of the British cruisers had intercepted all the foreign trade of Chili, and European goods bore there an enormously high price, supplies of them began to flow in from the side of the Pampas., Among the adventurers who engaged in this traffic was a Chilian, named D. Justo Molina, who, in 1804, crossed from Conception to Buenos Aires by a route apparently so easy as to be practicable even for loaded carts.
His report attracted the attention of the Chilian Government, which resolved to make an exact survey of the road. The offer of D. Luis de la Cruz, a native of Conception, to conduct the expedition at his own expense, was accepted. Molina, and two other traders acquainted with the Pampas, with D. Tomas Quesada, a land-surveyor, and fifteen other persons, soldiers or servants, were appointed to form his retinue.
La Cruz had enterprise and public spirit; but he was a wholly uninstructed man, and his journal is singularly deficient in all that can adorn or enliven a narrative. The various aspects of nature in the Andes, and in the great plains which lie beneath them, never call forth from him a single observation. The main business of his expedition was to measure the ground with the chain, and his pages seem to bear traces throughout, ofthis toilsome and monotonous operation; or if we find this labour intermitted, it is only to give place to fatiguing palavers with the Indians, recorded at interminable length. Nevertheless, the history of the expedition, taken altogether, has, in what it discovered and what it achieved, suflicient interest to compensate its want of varied details. We shall, therefore, relate its history succinctly, supplying its chief deficiencies by information gathered from other sources. But before we start from the fort in the Andes, where La Cruz assembled his attendants, it seems expedient that we should give our readers a brief account of the road. and the nature of the country, between that point and the principal seat of commerce on the sea-shore.
From Conception, on the southern side of the bay of Talcabuano, the road to Antuco, in the Andes, first conducts southwards, a short distance over a sandy plain, to the great river Biobio, which is in this part a mile and half wide; but though the greatest river in Chili, it is unfortunately so completely barred by sandbanks as to be inaccessible to even the smallest vessels. The road leads along the right or northern bank of the river, the hills on the left continually increasing in height, and covered with trees, which in many places overhang the noble stream; the narrow road, or rather path for the mules, winding round the feet of cliffs and woody steeps. The first day's journey terminales at Gualqui, which may be described as the farm-house of an estate of truly Spanish dimensions,-extend ing to the sea ten leagues distant, and embracing a surface of perhaps three hundred square miles. The second day the road leaves the valley of the Biobio, with its grand and varied scenery, and turns north-eastward over a succession of hleak hills, scantily covered with stunted bushes, and exhibiting fragments of lava scattered over the sandstone rock, to the village of Rere. The only curiosities of this place are its gigantic palm-tree, growing in the garden of the convent, and its bell. The palm-tree is a solitary individual of its species, which has here attained an unusual size, being three feet in diameter, though beyond the southern limits of the region in which the palm grows wild. The sweet-toned bell of Rere contains a great weight of silver, and several pounds of gold also, collected in the vicinity, and added to the metal, rather from motives of piety than with a view to make it more elastic and sonorous. The journey, of the third day, to Yumbel lies over a country of similar description; the successive wave-shaped hills, however, gradually attaining a greater elevation.
From Yumbel the road, inclining more to the west, leads across a desert plain fifty or sixty miles in width, and destitute of trees or habitations. This elevated plain, called La Travesia, is skirted on all sides by hills luxuriantly wooded. Its elevated margin, and the quantity of lava and other volcanic products which lie in heaps on its sandstone floor, as if drifted there by floods, combine to impress the traveller with the belief that the barren plain was, at no great distance of time, the bed of a lake. The river Laja, descending rapidly from the Andes of Antuco, flows through it; but this mountain stream, confined in a deep and rocky bed, has not a green spot on its bauks. Its wildness corresponds with the desolateness of the adjoining plain. The tedious journey across the Travesia terminates at the village of Tucapel. The fifth day's journey begins with crossing the Laja, at times a dangerous task. The country now improves in appearance—the soil is every where of volcanie origin and exiremely fertile—the hills are covered with thick woods, and the Andes at no great distance rise above them in all their grandeur. Antuco may be reached with a little exertion on the fifth, or with ease on the sixth day.
The valley of Antuco, extending about seven leagues in length, from west to east, and rarely above two miles wide, though generally much narrower, lies at the height of about 5000 feet above the sea, and enjoys a most delicious climate. Its soil, composed of disintegrated lavas, is exuberantly fertile. Numerous streams from the Cordilleras enclosing the valley descend into the. Laja, which flows through the middle of it; and which, from the vast depth of its rocky bed, the violence of its current, ils numberless cascades, and foaming eddies, presents a new and impressive scene at every turning. This river takes its name from the schistose rocks or slates (lajas) which form its bed. The hills immediately closing in the valley are thickly clothed with indigenous forests; on the skirts of which the apple, pear, and apricot, introduced from Europe, grow in wild pro!usion. Some of the lateral valleys, leading up to the height of the Cordilleras on the southera side, conduct to a great wood of the Araucarian pine, the northern limit of that tree. On the south side of the valley, and about two leagues from the village, rises the volcano of Antuco to the height of perhaps 10,000 feet. This ever active volcano was ascended in 1831 by the German naturalist Poeppig, who found the crater surrounded by a rim or wall so narrow that with the violent wind, whirling clouds of saline and sulphurgus particles in his face, he was afraid to stand on it; he therefore lay across it, and leaping his head over, pryed into the mysteries of the interior. On his descent his foot slipped on the glassy surface of the lava, and rolling down the rapid slope, he was most fortunately carried by the impetuosity of his fall across a crack or chasm in the lava about four feet wide; in which, if he had been once engulsed, his cries even would have never reached the
upper world. The volcano of Antuco, as the same traveller informs us, often presents in midsummer, that is in November or December, a singular and enchanting spectacle. When at the time of full moon and towards sunset, a passing storm covers with snow the upper part of the cone, the mountain may be seen played on by the blended illumination of four different lights. The sun's last rays gild the summit of the cone; lower down, on the western side, glow streams of red hot lava; on the eastern side the fresh snow glitters in the moonbeams, while above, the mysterious glimmering of the crater is reflected from the clouds. At the head of the valley of Antuco, and southwards beyond the volcano, tower the glaciers and everlasting snows of the Silla Velluda.
The name of this mountain, which signifies the velvet saddle, exemplifies the humour of the Chilian people, being given to a jagged 'ridge, resembling at a distance the edge of a saw rather than a soft seat. The aspect of the Silla Velluda, which has probably an elevation of 17,000 feet, is on all sides peculiarly rugged. Below the region of snow and glaciers, its broken sides display black precipices three or four thousand feet in height; on which may be distinguished ten or twelve horizontal and successive rows of basaltic columns.
The Cordilleras on the northern side of the Laja present the same appearances; so as to impress the beholder with the belief that the country round Antuco has at some remote time slipped down from the snowy Cordilleras, as if by the falling in of an immense crater; the basaltic precipices around marking the extent of the ruin, while the volcano which now gives vent to the internal fires shows its cause.
But to return to the expedition. La Cruz assembled his party at Fort Ballenar, in the valley of Antuco, where he held also divers conferences with the chiefs of the Pehuenche Indians, and listened to many of their tedious harangues, which he reports in his journal with scrupulous fidelity. His object was to persuade them to accompany him, as well for the sake of their service as guides, as that they might assist him in conciliating the Indians of the plains, and bear testimony to the peaceful object of the expedition. His suit was successful, and he was soon joined by a party of these wild cavaliers. Matters being thus arranged, he started on his journey from Fort Ballenar on the 6th of April, 1806. In ascending the valley of Antuco he crossed a number of lively streams running northwards into the Laja, of which the Rucoheca and the Quillay, respectively so named from two species of deer, and the Rio de los Pinos, which owes its title to the woods of the Araucaria near its source, give us hints respecting the natural history of the country,--a subject to which La Cruz unfortunately but seldom makes allusion. When he had advanced about four leagues, he reached the deep narrow lake from which the Laja issues, and was obliged to turn southward, making a circuit along its shore, with the craggy heights of the Silla Velluda on his right, and the Cordillera del Toro on the farther side of the lake. His first day's march terminated at La Cueva, a natural grotto in the rocks at the foot of the Silla Velluda. Numberless streams from the mountains rushed from every side into the lake. All the rocky steeps of the Cordilleras seen from this point were of a yellowish colour inclining to red, except the volcano, which was of black sand or ashes. La Cruz says nothing of the difficulties of the road, nor of the rate of ascent from Fort Ballenar to La Cueva, a distance of nearly seven leagues. He crossed several heaps of scoriæ and a bank of sand, all which we find alluded to in his estimate of the expense of formivg a road for carts.
The measuring of this intricate mountain road appears to have caused a delay of two days. On the 9th the march was resumed; and our travellers, crossing the entre-cordon of the Cordillera del Toro and the Silla Velluda, entered what La Cruz calls the • famous western valley of Pailalechimellan.' This valley owes its reputation to its great fertility, that is to say, to its abundant pasture, and perhaps to its woods of Araucarian pine; for another Rio de Los Pinos flows northwards through it, and winds its way round the Cordillera del Toro into the lake of the Laja. The elevated plain on the eastern bank of the Rio de Los Pinos forms the division of the waters in this part of the Andes; all the streams meet with further on, flowing eastward into the Atlantic. From this place the road, which is good for carriages or easily made so, as La Cruz declares, ascends the Cordillera of Pichachen, of coarse sandstone, and then follows north-eastwards the river Reingui-leubu, which receives numberless streams from the Cordilleras to the south.
In three very short journeys from La Cueva, after crossing the Reingui-leubu several times, the expedition arrived at Rime-mallin; between which place and the head of the valley of Antuco, a distance of twelve leagues, the road is closed with snow four months in the year.
A little below this station were the ruins of a chapel, built by the missionaries, whose useful labours had been put an end to by the revolutionary war.
From Rime-mallin, La Cruz descended about two leagues to Butacura, a fertile and well watered plain where little snow falls in winter, and in consequence much frequented by the Indians.