Alexander von Humboldt.

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finally withdrew to a valley, where he lived in the exer-
cise of the most austere penitence during 2000 years.
The cataract of Tequendama presents an assemblage
TequenUama. ^f ^^j^ ^j^,^^. j^ pjeturesque. The river a little above it is
144 feet in breadth, but at the crevice narrows to a width
of not more tlian 12 yards. The heiglit of the fall,
which forms a double bound, is 574 feet, and the column
of vapour that rises from it is visible from Santa Fe at
the distance of 17 miles. The vegetation at the foot of
the precipice has a totally different appearance from
that at the summit ; and while the spectator leaves be-
hind him a plain in which the cereal ])lants of Europe
arc cultivated, and sees around him oaks, elms, and

Cataract of





bridges of

other trees resembling those of the temperate regions of CHAP.xxiu
the northern hemisphere, he looks down upon a country
covered with palms, bananas, and sugar-canes.

Leaving Santa Fe, in September 1801, the travellers
passed the natural bridges of Icononzo, formed by masses
of rock lying across a ravine of immense profundity.
The valleys of the cordilleras are generally crevices, the
depth of which is often so great, that were Vesuvius
seated in them its summit would not exceed that of the
nearest mountains. One of these, that, namely, of
Icononzo or Pandi, is peculiarly remarkable for the sin-
gular form of its rocks, the naked to23S of which present
the most picturesque contrast with the tufts of trees and
shrubs which cover the edges of the gulf. A torrent, Cascades.
named the Summa Paz, forms two beautiful cascades
where it enters the chasm, and where it again escapes
from it. A natural arch 47 ,j feet in length and 39 in
breadth, stretches across the fissure at a height of 318
feet above the stream. Sixty-four feet below this bridge
is a second, composed of three enormous masses of rock
which have fallen so as to support each other. In the
middle of it is a hole through which the bottom of the
cleft is seen. The torrent, viewed from this place,
seemed to flow through a dark cavern, whence arose a
doleful sound, emitted by the nocturnal birds that haunt
the abyss, thousands of which were seen flying over the
surface of the water, supposed by Humboldt from their
appearance to be goatsuckers.

In the kingdom of New Grenada, from 2° 30' to 5° 15' Cordilleras 0/
of north latitude, the cordillera of the Andes is divided the Andes.
into three parallel chains. The eastern one separates
the valley of the Rio Magdalena from the plains of the
Rio Meta, and on its western declivity are the natural
bridges of Icononzo above mentioned. The central chain,
which parts the waters between the basin of the Rio
Magdalena and that of the Rio Cauca, often attains the
limits of perpetual snow, and shoots far beyond it in the
colossal summits of Guanacas, Baragan, and Quindiu.
The western ridgo cuts off the valley of Cauca from the



Descent of
the eastern


CiiAP.XXm province of Choco and the shores of the South Sea. In
passing from Santa Fe to Popayan and the banks of the
river now mentioned, the traveller has to descend the
eastern chain, either by the Mesa and Tocayma or the
bridges of Icononzo, traverse the valley of the Rio Mag-
dalena, and cross the central chain, as Humboldt did, by
the mountain of Quindiu.

This mountain, which is considered as the most
difficult passage in the coi-dilleras, presents a thick un-
inhabited forest, which, in the finest season, cannot be
passed in less than ten or twelve days. Travellers
usually furnish themselves with a month's provision, as
it often happens that the melting of the snow, and the
sudden floods arising from it, prevent them from
descending. The highest point of the road is 11,499^
feet above the level of the sea, and the path, which is
very narrow, has in several places the appearance of a
gallery dug in the rock and left open above. The oxen,
which are the beasts of burden commonly used in the
country, can scarcely force their way through these pas-
sages, some of which are 6562 feet in length. The rock
is covered with a thick layer of clay, and the numerous
gullies formed by the torrents are filled with mud.

In crossing this mountain the philosophers, followed
by twelve oxen carrying their collections and instru-
ments, were deluged with rain. Their shoes were torn
by the prickles which shoot out from the roots of the
bamboos, so that, unwilling to be carried on men's backs,
they Avere obliged to walk barefooted. The usual mode
of travelling, however, is in a chair tied to the back of
a cargucro or porter. When one reflects on the enor-
mous fatigue to which these bearers are exposed, he is
at a loss to conceive how the employment should be so
eagerly embraced by all the robust young men who live
at tlie loot of the Andes. The passage of Quindiu is not
the only part of South America which is traversed in
this manner. The wliole province of Antioquia is sur-
rounded by mountains so difficult to be crossed, that those
who refuse to trust themselves to the skill of a carguero,

Deluge of



and are not strong enough to travel on foot, must relin- CHAP.X5:iii
quish all thoughts of leaving the country. The number jiofl~7
of persons who follow this laborious occupation, at Choco, traveiung.
Hague, and Medellin, is so great that our travellers
sometimes met a file of fifty or sixty. Near the mines
of Mexico there are also individuals who have no other
employment than that of carrying men on their backs.

The cargueros, in crossing the forests of Quindiu, take cargueros.
with them bundles of the large oval leaves of the vijao,
a plant of the banana family, the peculiar varnish of
which enables them to resist rain. A hundredweight of
these leaves is sufficient to cover a hut large enough to
hold six or eight persons. When they come to a con-
venient spot where they intend to pass the night, the
carriers lop a few branches from the trees, with which
tliey construct a frame ; it is then divided into squares
by the stalks of some climbing plant, or threads of agave,
on which are hung the vijao leaves, by means of a cut-
made in their midrib. In one of these tents, which are
cool, commodious, and perfectly dry, our travellers
passed several days in the valley of Boquia, amidst vio-
lent and incessant rains.

From these mountains, where the truncated cone of vailey of
Tolima, covered with perennial snow, rises amidst forests Cauca.
of styrax, arborescent passiflora;, bamboos, and wax-
palms, they descended into the valley of Cauca towards
the west. After resting some time at Carthago and
Buga, they coasted the province of Choco, whei'e platina
is found among rolled fragments of basalt, greenstone
and fossil wood.

They then went up by Caloto and the mines of Qui- Caioto.
lichao to Popayan, which is situated at the base of the
snowy mountains of Purace and Sotara. This city, the
capital of New Grenada, stands in the beautiful valley
of the Rio Cauca, at an elevation of 6906 feet above the
sea, and enjoys a delicious climate. On the ascent from
Popayan towards the summit of the volcano of Purace,
at a height of 8694 feet, is a small plain inhabited by
Indians, and cultivated with the greatest care. It is



Hamlet «f

Valley of

CHAP.Xxm bounded by two ravines, on the brink of which is placed
a village of the same name. The gardens, which ara
enclosed with hedges of euphorbium, are watered by the
springs that issue abundantly from the porphyritic rock ;
and nothing can be more agreeable than the contrast
betAveen the beautiful verdure of this plain and the chain
of dark mountains surrounding the volcano. The ham-
let of Purace, which the travellers visited in November
1801, is celebrated for the fine cataracts of the Rio Vin-
agre, the waters of which are acid. This little river is
warm towards its source, and after forming three falls,
one of which is 894: feet in height and is exceedingly
picturesque, joins the Rio Cauca, which for fourteen
miles below the junction is destitute of fish. The crater
of the volcano is filled with boiling water, which, amid
frightful noises, emits vapours of sulphuretted hydrogen.

The travellers then crossed the precipitous Cordilleras
of Almaquer to Pasto, avoiding the infected and conta-
gious atmosphere of the valley of Patia. From the
latter town, which is situated at the foot of a burning
volcano, they traversed the elevated platform of the
province of Los Pastos, celebrated for its great fertility ;
and after a journey of four months, performed on mules,
arrived at Quito on the 6th January 1802.

The climate of this pi-ovince is remarkably agreeable,
and almost invariable. During the months of December,
January, February, and Marcli, it generally rains every
afternoon from half-past one to five ; but even at this
season the evenings and mornings are most beautiful.
The temperature is so mild that vegetation never ceases.
" From the terrace of the government palace there is
one of the most enchanting prospects that human eye
ever witnessed, or nature ever exhibited. Looking to
the south, and glancing along towards the north, eleven
mountains covered witli perpetual snow present them-
selves, their bases apparently resting on the verdant
Iiills that surround tlie city, and their heads piercing the
blue arch of heaven, while the clouds hover midway
down tlieni, or seem to crouch at their feet. Among



these the most lofty are Cayambeurcu, Imhaburu, CHAP.XXIIL
Ilinisa, Antisana, Chimborazo, and the beautifully —
magnificent Cotopaxi, crowned with its volcano."*

Nearly six months were devoted to researches of varied
various kinds. They made excursions to the snowy researches.
mountains of Antisana, Cotopaxi, Tunguragua, and
Chimborazo, the latter of which was considered as the
highest on the globe until it was found to be exceeded
by some of the colossal summits of the Ilimmaleh, and
even by several in Upper Peru. In all these journeys
they were accompanied by a young man, son of the
Marquis of Selva-alegre, who subsequently followed
them to Peru and Mexico.+ They twice ascended to
the volcanic summit of Pichincha, where they made
experiments on the constitution of the air, — its elasticity,
its electrical, magnetic, and hygroscopic qualities, — and
the temperature of boiling water.

Cotopaxi is the loftiest of those volcanoes of the volcano of
Andes which have produced eruptions at recent periods ; Cotopaxi.
its absolute height being 18,878 feet. It is consequently
2625 feet higher than Vesuvius would be were it placed
on the top of the Peak of TeneriflFe. The scoriae and
rocks ejected by it, and scattered over the neighbouring
valleys, would form a vast mountain of themselves. In
1 "38 its flames rose 2963 feet above the crater ; and in
1744 its roarings were heard as far as Honda, on the
jMagdalena, at a distance of 690 miles. On the 4th Eruption.
April 1768, the quantity of aslies thrown out was so
great, that in the towns of Hambato and Tacunga the
inhabitants were obliged to use lanterns in the streets.
The explosion which took place in January 1803 was
preceded by the sudden melting of the snows which

* Stevenson's Residence in South America, vol. ii. p. 324.

t This accomplished individual, Don Carlos Montutar, of vrhon.
our author speaks veith approbation, having connected himselt'with
the popular party in the strufjgles of which the Spanish colonies
have late!}' been the theatre, was seized in Quito, in 1811, by Don
Taribio Monies, sentenced as a traitor, and shot through the back;
after which his heart was taken out and burnt. — See Stevenson's
Residence in Soutli America, vol. iii. p. 44.


CHAP.XXIIL covered the surface ; and our travellers, at the port ot
Guayaquil, 179^ miles distant, heard day and night the
noises proceeding from it, like discharges of a battery.
Fonn and This celebrated mountain is situated to the south-east

positioii. ^^ Quito, at the distance of 41 miles, in the midst of the
Andes. Its form is the most beautiful and regular of
all the colossal summits of that mighty chain ; being a
perfect cone, which is covered with snow, and shines
with dazzling splendour at sunset. No rocks project
through the icy covering, except near the edge of the
crater, which is surrounded by a small circular wall.
In ascending it is extremely difficult to reach the lower
boundary of the snows, the cone being surrounded by
deep ravines ; and, after a near examination of the
summit, Humboldt thinks he may assert that it would
be altogether Impossible to reach the brink of the crater.
Chains of the ^^ ^^'^^ mentioned that, in the kingdom of New
Andes. Grenada, the cordilleras of the Andes form three chains,

in the great longitudinal valleys of which flow two
large rivers. To the south of Popayan, on the table-
land of Los Pastos, these three chains unite into a single
group, which stretches far beyond the equator. This
group, in the kingdom of Quito, presents an extraordi-
Retnarkabie. ^^^y appearance from the riv(ir of Chota, the most
appearance, elevated summits being arranged in two lines, forming
as it were a double ridge to the cordilleras. These
summits served for signals to the French academicians
when employed in the measurement of an equinoctial
degree. Bouguer considered them as two chains, sepa-
rated by a longitudinal valley ; but this valley Humboldt
views as the ridge of the Andes itself. It is an elevated
plain, from 8858 to 9515 feet above the level of the sea ;
and the volcanic summits of Pichincha, Cayambo,
Cotopaxi, and other celebrated peaks, are, he thinks, so
many protuberances of the great mass of the Andes.
In consequence of the elevation of the territory of
<iuito, these mountains do not seem so high as many of
mucli inferior altitude rising from a lower basis.

On Chimljorazo the line marking the inferior limit of


perpetual snow is at a height somewhat exceeding that chap, xxiii
of Mont Blanc. On a narrow ledffe, which rises amidst t ■ ~T

1 1- • ■,-, J-''"® of per-

the snows on the southern declivity, our travellers petuaisnow.

attempted on the 23d June to reach the summit. The

pomt where they stopped to observe the inclination of

the magnetic meridian was more elevated than any yet

attained by man, being 3609 feet higher than the

summit of Mont Blanc, and more than 8714 feet higher

than La Condamine and Bouguer reached in 1745 on

the Corazon. The ridge to which they climbed, and

beyond which they were prevented from proceeding by

a deep chasm in the snow, was 19,798 feet above the

level of the sea ; but the summit of the mountain was

still 1439 feet higher. The blood issued from their

eyes, lips, and gums. The form of Chimborazo is

conical, but the top is not truncated like that of Coto-

paxi, being rounded or semicircular in outline.

While at Quito, Humboldt received a letter from the conrse
National Institute of France, by which he was apprized pursued by
that Captain Baudin had set out for New Holland by
the Cape of Good Hope. He was obliged therefore to
renounce all thoughts of joining the expedition, although
the hope of being able to meet it had induced him to
relinquish his plan of proceeding from Cuba to Mexico
and the Philippine Islands, and had led him upwards of
3452 miles southward. The travellers, however, con-
soled themselves with the thought of having examined
regions over which the eye of science had never before
glanced ; and, resolving henceforth to trust solely to
their own resources, after spending some months in
exploring the Andes, they set out in the direction of

They first pointed their course to the great River course of
Amazon, visiting the ruins of Lactacunga, Hambato, journey.
and Riobamba, in a country the face of which was
entirely changed by the frightful earthquakes of 1797,
that destroyed nearly 40,000 of the inhabitants. They
then with great difficulty passed to Loxa, where in the
forests of Gonzanama and JMalacates they examined the


CliAP.xxill. trees which yield the Peruvian bark. The vast extent
of ground which they traversed in the course of their
expedition afforded them better opportunities than any
botanist had ever enjoyed of comparing the different
species of Cinchona.

Peru. Leaving Loxa they entered Peru by Ayavaca and

Guancabamba, traversing the ridge of the Andes to
descend to the River Amazon. In two days tliey had
to cross twenty-seven times the Rio de Chayma. They
saw the magnificent remains of the causeway of the
Incas, whicli traversed the porphyritic summits from
Cusco to Assouay, at a heiglit varying from 7670 to
11,510 feet. At the village of Chaymaya, on a river of
the same name, they took ship and descended to the

Geographical La Condamine, on his return from Quito to Para,

observations, embarked on this river only below Quebrada de Chu-
chunga ; and Humboldt, with the view of completing
the map made by the French astronomer, proceeded as
far as the cataracts of Rentama. At Tomependa, the
principal place of the province of Jaen de Bracamorros,
he constructed a map of the Upper Amazon, from his
own observations as well as from accounts received from
the natives. Bonpland employed himself, as usual, in
examining the subjects of the vegetable kingdom,
among which he discovered several new species of

Position of Returning to Peru, our travellers crossed the cordil-

tJio Dia(,Tietic lera of the Andes the fifth time. In seven degrees of
equator. ^

south latitude they determined the position of the

magnetic equator, or tlie line in which the needle has no

inclination. They also examined the mines of Gual-

gayoc, where large masses of native silver are found at

an elevation of 1],013 feet above the sea, and which,

together with those of Pasco and Huantajayo, are the

richest in Peru. From Caxamarca, celebrated for its

hot-springs and the ruins of the palace of Ataliualpa,

they went down to Truxillo. In this neighbourliood

arc the remains of the ancient Peruvian citv Mansichc


adorned by pyramids, in one of which an immense chap.xxiii
quantity of gold was discovered in the eighteenth century. AncienT
Descending the western slope of the Andes they beheld Mansiche.
for the lirst time the Pacific Ocean, and the long narrow
valley bounded by its shores, in which rain and thunder
are unknown. From Truxillo they followed the arid
coast of the South Sea, and arrived at Lima, where they
remained several months. At the port of Callao,
Humboldt had the satisfaction of observing the transit
of Mercury, although the thick fog which prevails
there sometimes obscures the sun for many days in

In January 1803 the travellers embarked for Guaya- GaayaquiL
quil, in the vicinity of which they found a splendid
forest of palms, plumerise, tabernse-montanae, and scita-
minese. Here also they heard the incessant noises of the
volcano of Cotopaxi, which had experienced a tremen-
dous agitation on the 6th January. From Guayaquil
they proceeded by sea to Acapulco in New Spain. At
first, Humboldt's intention was to remain only a few
months in Mexico, and return as speedily as possible to
Europe, more especially as his instruments, and in
particular the chronometers, were getting out of order
while he found it impossible to procure others. But Hospitable
the attractions of so beautiful and diversified a country, treatmenL
the great hospitality of its inhabitants, and the dread of
the yellow fever of Vera Cruz, which usually attacks
tliose who descend from the mountains between June
and October, induced him to remain until the middle pi

After making numerous observations and experiments observaHons

on the atmospherical phenomena, the horary variations ^"'^ experi


of the barometer, magnetism, and the natural produc-
tions of the country, our travellers set out iu the direc-
tion of Mexico ; gradually ascending by the burning
valleys of Mescala and Papagayo, where the thermometei
rose to 89'6° in the shade, and where the river is crossed
on fruits of Crescentia pinnata, attached to each other by
ropes of agave. Reaching the elevated plains of Chil-






CiL\P. XXIII. pansingo, Tehuilotepcc, and Tasco, which are situated at
a height varying from 3500 to 5900 feet above the st;.!,
they entered a region blessed with a temperate climate,
and producing oaks, cypresses, pines, tree-ferns, and the
cultivated cereal plants of Europe. After visiting the
silver-mines of Tasco, the oldest and formerly the richest
of Mexico, they went up by Cuernavaca and Guachilaco
to tlie capital. Here they spent some time in the
agreeable occupation of examining numerous curiosities,
antiquities, and institutions, in making astronomical
observations, in studying the natural productions of the
surrounding country, and in enjoying the society of en-
lightened individuals. The longitude of Mexico, which
had been misplaced two degrees on the latest maps, was
accurately determined by a long series of observations.

Our travellers next visited the celebrated mines of
Moran and Real del Monte, and examined the obsidians
of Oyamel, which form layers in pearlstone and porphyry,
and were employed by the ancient Mexicans for the
manufacture of knives. The cascade of Regla, a repre-
sentation of which forms the vignette to the present
volume, is situated in the neighbourhood. The regularity
of the basaltic columns is as remarkable as that of the
deposites of Staff^i. Most of tliem are perpendicular,
though some are horizontal, and others have various
degrees of inclination. They rest upon a bed of clay,
beneath which basalt again occurs. Returning from
this excursion in July 1803, they made another to the
northern part of the kingdom, in the course of which
they inspected the aperture made in the mountain of
Suicog for the purpose of draining the valley of Mexico.
They next passed by Queretaro, Salamanca, and the
fertile plains of Yrapuato, on tlie way to Guanaxuato,
a large city placed in a narrow defile, and celebrated for
its mines.
Abode at There they remained two months, making researches

Guana-xuatc into the geology and botany of the neighbouring country.
From thence they proceeded by the valley of San Jago
to Valludolid, the capital of the ancient kingdom of






Mechoacan ; and, notwithstanding a continuance of criAP.xxill

heavy autumnal rains, descended by Patzquaro, which

is situated on the edge of an extensive lake towards the

shores of the Pacific Ocean, to the plains of Jorullo.

Here they entered the great crater, making their way

over crevices exhaling ignited sulphuretted hydrogen,

and experiencing much danger from the brittleness of

the lava.

The formation of this volcano is one of the most ex-
traordinary phenomena which have been observed on
our globe. The plain of Malpais, covered with small
cones from six to ten feet in height, is part of an elevated
table-land bounded by hills of basalt, trachyte, and
volcanic tufa. From the period of the discovery of
America to the middle of the last century, this district
had undergone no change of surface, and the seat of the
crater was then covered with a plantation of indigo and
sugar-cane ; when, in June 1759, hollow sounds were
heard, and a succession of earthquakes continued for
two months, to the great consternation of the inhabitants.
From the beginning of September every thing seemed to
announce the re-establishment of tranquillity ; but in
the night of the 28th the frightful subterranean noises
again commenced. The Indians fled to the neighbouring
mountains. A tract not less than from three to four volcanic
square miles in extent rose up in the shape of a dome ; action,
and those who witnessed the phenomenon asserted, that
flames were seen issuing from a space of more than six
square miles, while fragments of burning rocks were
projected to an immense height, and tlae surface of the
ground undulated like an agitated sea. Two brooks
which watered the plantations precipitated themselves
into the burning chasms. Thousands of the small cones

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