Alexander von Humboldt.

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of nature. On the parched side of a rock grows a tree
with dry and leathery foliage, its large woody roots
scarcely penetrating into the ground. For several
months in the year its leaves are not moistened by a
shower ; its branches look as if they were dead and
withered ; but when the trunk is bored, a bland and
nourishing milk flows from it. It is at sunrise that the
vegetable fountain flows most freely. At that time the
blacks and natives are seen coming from all parts, pro-
vided with large bowls to receive the milk, which
grows yellow and thickens at its surface. Some empty
their vessels on the spot, while others carry them to
their children. One imagines he sees the family of a
shepherd who is distributing the milk of his flock."

The travellers had resolved to visit the eastern extre- chance of
mity of the cordilleras of New Grenada, where they end piaus.
in the Paramos of Timotes and Niquitas ; but learning
at Barbula that this excursion would retard their arrival
at the Orinoco thirty-five days, they judged it prudent
to relinquish it, lest they should fail in the real object
of their journey, — that of ascertaining by astronomical
observations the point at which the Rio Negro and the
River of Amazons communicate with the former stream.
They therefore returned to Guacara, to take leave of the y^^^^^j^ ^^
family of the Marquis del Toro, and pass three days Guacara.
more on the shores of the Lake of Valencia. It happened
to be the time of carnival, and all was gayety. The
games in which the common people indulged were oc-
casionally not of the most pleasant kind. Some led
about an ass laden with water, with which they sprinkled
the apartments wherever they found an open window ;
while others, carrying bags full of the hairs of the



CHAP. XIV. Dolichos prurietis, which excite great irritation of the
— skin, blew tliem into the faces of those who were passing
by. From Guacara they returned to New Valencia,
where they found a few French emigrants, the only
ones they saw during five years in the Spanish colonies. '^'i'-' cacao-plantations have always been considered as
utions. the principal source of the prosperity of these countries.
The tree {Theobroma cacao) which produces this sub-
stance is not now found wild in the woods to the north
of the Orinoco, and begins to be seen only beyond the
cataracts of Atures and Maypures ; but it abounds near
the Ventuaro, and on the Upper Orinoco. In the plan-
tations it vegetates so vigorously, that flowers spring out
even from the woody roots wherever they are left un-
covered. It suffers from the north-east winds ; and the
heavy showers that fall during the winter season, from
December to March, are very injurous to it. Great
humidity is favourable only when it augments gradually
and continues a long time without interruption. In the
dry season, when the leaves and young fruit are wetted
by a heavy shower, the latter falls to the ground. For
these reasons the cacao harvest is very uncertain, and
the causes of failure are increased by the depredations of
worms, insects, birds, and quadrupeds. This branch of
agriculture has the disadvantage, moreover, of obliging
the new jdantcr to wait eight or ten years for the fruit
of his labours, and of yielding an article of very difficult
preservation ; but it requires a much less number of
slaves than most others, one being sufficient for a thou-
sand trees, which at an average yield twelve fanegas
annually. Itaj)peared probable, that from 1800 to 1806
the yearly produce of the cacao-plantations of the capi-
tania-general of Caraccas was at least 193,000 fanegas,
or 287,290 bubhels, of which the province of Caraccas
furnished three-fourths. The crojjs are gathered twice
a-year, at the end of June and of December.

Humboldt states, as the result of numerous local
estimates, that Europe consumes, —


23,000,000 pounds of cacao, at 120 fr. per 100 lbs. = 27,<iOO,OOOrr. CHAP XIV.

32,000,000 pounds of tea, at 4 fr. per lb = 12«,000.000

140,000,000 pounds of coffee, at 1 14 fr. per 100 lbs. = l,')!*,f 100,0(10 Consumption
450,000,000 pound-; of sut,rar, at 54 fr. per 100 lbs. =24^,000,000 °' <^'''""-
Total value, £23,250,000 sterlin;,', or 558,200,000 fr.

The late wars ha\e had a very injurious effect on the
cacao-trade of Caraccas ; and the cultivation of this
article seems to be gradually declining. It is asserted
that the new plantations are not so productive as the old,
the trees not acquiring the same vigour, and the harvest
being later and less abundant. This is supposed to be
owing to exhaustion of the land ; but Humboldt attri-
butes it rather to the diminution of moisture caused by '

In concluding his remarks on the province of Vene- ggij ^f
zuela, our author gives a general view of the soil and metallic
metallic productions of the districts of Aroa, Barquesi- ^"^
meto, and Carora. From the Sierra Nevada of Merida,
and the Paramos of Niquitao, Bocono, and Las Rosas,
the eastern cordillera of New Grenada decreases so
rapidly in height, that between the ninth and tenth
degrees of latitude it forms only a chain of hills, which
separate the rivers that join the Apure and the Orinoco
from those that flow into the Caribbean Sea or the Lake
of Maracaybo. On this ridge are built the towns of
Nirgua, San Felipe, Barquesimeto, and Tocuyo. The
ground rises toward the south.

In the cordillera just described, the strata usually dip pjp of strata,
to the N.W. ; so that the waters flow in that direction
over the ledges, forming those numerous torrents and
rivers, the inundations caused by which are so fatal to

* Accordinji^ to IMacculloch, the little use made of this excellent
beverai^e in Enjjland may be ascribed to tlie oppressiveness of the
duties with w liich it has been loaded, and not to its beinj^ unsuitable
to the public taste. " In 1B32 the duties on cacao from a British
plantation were reduced from o6s. to lOs. 8d. a-c\vt. Foreig^n ca«
cao is still subject to the oppressive dutj' of 5()s. a-cwt. Briti-h
cacao is worth, at present (Auj^ust 1833), from 64s. to 743. aj-cwt.
in b lud." — MaccullocWs Dictionary of Commerce, art. Cacao
(2d Edition).



CHAP xiv. the health of the inhabitants from Cape Codera to tlie
Lake of Maracaybo.

Stieami Of tlie streams that descend N.E. towards the coast

of Porto Cabt'llo and La Pucnta de Hicacos, the most
remarkable arc tlie Tocuyo, Aroa, and Yaraciiy ; the
valleys of Avhicli, were it not for morbid miasmata,
would peiiiaps be more populous than those of Aragua,
as the soil is prolific and the waters navigable. In a
lateral valley, opening into that of the Aroa, are copper-
mines ; and in the ravines nearer the sea are similar
ores and gold-washings. The total produce of botii
amounts to a quantity varying from 1087 to 1858 cwts.
of excellent metal. Indications of silver and gold have
been found in various parts.

Savannahs. T''^ Savannahs or Llanos of Monai and Carora,
separated from the great plains of Portuguesa and Cala-
l)Gzo by the mountainous tract of Tocuyo and Migua,
although bare and arid, are oppressed with miasmata ;
and Humboldt seems to think that their insalubrity
may be owing to the disengagement of sulphuretted
hydrogen gas.



Journey across the Llanos from Arayuti to Su7i Fernando.

Mountains between the Valleys of Araf^ua and the Llanos — Their
Geological Constitution — Tlie Llanos of Caraccas — Route over
the Savannah to the Rio Apure— Cattle and Deer — Vetjetation
— Calabozo— Gymnoti or Electric F.els — Indian Girl — Alligators
and Boas — Arrival at San Fernando de Apure.

From the chain of mountains which borders the Lake chap, xv,
of Valencia toward the south, there stretches in the savannahs of
same direction a vast extent of level land, constituting Caraccas.
the Llanos or Savannahs of Caraccas ; and from the
cultivated and populous district of Aragua, embellished
with mountains and rivers, and teeming with vegetation,
one descends into a parched desolate plain, bounded by
the horizon. On this route we now accompany out
travellers, who on the 6th March left the valleys of
Aragua, and keeping along the south-west side of the
lake, passed over a rich champaign country covered with
calabashes, water-melons, and plantains. The rising of Sunrise.
the sun was announced by the howling of monkeys, of
which they saw numerous bands moving as in procession
from one tree to another. These creatures (the Simla
ursina) execute their evolutions with singular uni-
formity. When the boughs of two trees do not touch
each other, the leader of the party swings himself by
the tail upon the nearest twigs, the rest following in
regular succession. The distance to which their bowlings
may be heard was ascertained by Humboldt to be 1705
yards. The Indians assert that one always chants as
leader of the choir ; and the missionaries say that when



CHAP. XV. a f«.male is ou the point of bringing forth, the howlings
— ' are suspended till the moment when the young appear.
\iiiaccof I'li^ travellers passed the night at the village of

Guifuc Guigue near the lake, where they lodged with an old
sergeant, a native of jMurcia, who amused them Avith a
recital of the history of the world in Latin, which he
had learned among the Jesuits. Leaving this place,
they began to ascend the chain of mountains which ex-
tends towards La Palma, and from the top of an elevated
platform took tlieir last view of the valleys of Aragua.
The rock was gneiss with auriferous veins of quartz.
Arriving at the hamlet of Maria Magdalena, they were
stopped by the inhabitants, who wanted to force their
muleteers to hear mass. Seven miles farther on they
came to the Villa de Cura, situated in an arid valley al-
most destitute of vegetation. Here they remained for
the night, and joined an assembly of nearly all the re-
sidents in the town, to admire in a magic-lantern a view
of the great capitals of Europe. This place, which
contains a population of four thousand, is celebrated for
the miracles performed by an image of the Virgui found
by an Indian in a ravine.

Continuing to descend the southern declivity of the

^ illape of .

Sau Juan, range, they passed part of the night of the 11th at the
village of San Juan, remarkable for its hot springs and
tlie singular form of two mountains in the neighbour-
hood, called the Morros, which rise like slender peaks
from a wall of rocks. At two in the morning they con-
tinued their jouniey by Ortiz and Parapara to the Mesa
de Paja. The ground over wliich they travelled forms
the ancient bhore of the Llanos ; and, as the chain has
now been traversed, it may be interesting to present a
brief view of its geological constitution.
Owiineical ^^ *^'*^ Sierra de Mariara, near Caraccas, the rock is

fcaiujci coarse-grained gi-anite. The valleys of Aragua, the
shores of the Lake of "Valencia, its islands, and the
southern branch of the coast-chain, are of gneiss and
mica-slate, which are auriferous. At San Juan some of
tbe rocks were gneiss passing into mica-slate. Ou the


south of this place the gneiss is concealed beneath a chap. xv.
deposite of serpentine, which, farther south, passes
into or alternates with greenstone. This rock is now the Grecustone.
principal one, and in the midst of it rise the Morros of
San Juan, composed of crystalline limestone of a
greenish-gray colour, and containing masses of dark-
blue indurated clay. Behind the Morros is another
compact limestone containing shells. The valley that
descends from San Juan to the Llanos is filled with trap-
rocks lying upon green-slate. Lower down the rocks
take a basaltic aspect. Farther south the slates disap-
pear, being concealed under a trap deposite of varied
appearance, but assuming an amygdaloidal character,
and on the margin of the plam is seen a formation of
clinkstone or porphyry-slate.

The travellers now entered the basin of the Llanos. Basin of the
The sun was almost in the zenith, the ground was at Llanos.
the temperature of 118° or 122°, and the suffocating
heat was augmented by the whirls of dust which inces-
santly arose from the surface of the steril soil. All
around, the plains seemed to ascend into the sky. The
horizon in some parts was clear and distinct, while in
others it seemed undulating or blended with the atmo-
sphere. The trunks of palm-trees, stripped of their
foliage, and seen from afar through the haze, resembled
the masts of ships discovered on the verge of the ocean.

In order to give some mterest to the narrative of a American
journey across a tract of so monotonous an aspect, I'l'^s.
Humboldt presents a general view of the plains of
America, contrasted with the deserts of Africa and the
fertile steppes of Asia, of which, however, the most
striking points alone can be here taken. There is some-
thing awful and melancholy, he says, in the uniform
aspect of these savannahs, where every thing seems
motionless, and where the shadow of a cloud hardly
ever falls for months. He even doubts whether the
first sight of the Andes or of the Llanos excites most
.istonishment ; for, as mountainous countries have a
similarity of appearance, whatever may be the elevation



Plains of

CHAP. XV. of their summits, tlie view of a very elevatofl range is
perhaps not so striking as that of a boundless phiin,
spread out like an ocean^ and on all sides mixing with
the sky.

It has been said tliat Europe has its heaths, Asia its
steppes, Africa its deserts, and America its savannahs ;
and tliese great divisions of tlie globe have been charac-
terized by these circumstances. But as the term heath
always supposes the existence of plants of that name,
and as all the plains of Europe are not heathy, the de-
scription is incorrect. Nor are the steppes of Asia
always covered witli saline plants, some of tliem being
real deserts ; neitlicr are the American Llanos always
grassy. Instead of designating the vast levels of tliese
different regions by tlie nature of the plants which they
produce, it seems proper to distinguish them into deserts,
and steppes or savannahs, by which terms would be
meant plains destitute of vegtation, or covered with
grasses or small dicotyledonous plants. The savannahs
of North America have been designated by the name of
prairies or meadows ; but the phrase is not very appli-
calile to pastures which are often dry. The Llanos and
Pampas of South America are real steppes, displaying a
beautiful verdure in the rainy season, but during great
droughts assuming the aspect of a desert. The grass is
then reduced to powder, the ground cracks, and the
alligators and serpents bury themselves in the mud,
where they remain in a state of lethargy till they are
roused by the showers of spring. On the borders of
rivulets, however, and around the little pools of stag-
nant water, thickets of the Mauritia palm preserve a
brilliant verdure, even during the driest part of the year.

>s Alii (I iiiUs. 'J^'ii^ principal characteristic of the savannahs of South
America is the entire want of hills. In a space extend-
ing to 300 square miles, there is not a single eminence
a foot high. These ])lains, however, present two kinds
of inequalities: the buncos, consi-sting of broken strata
of sandstone or limestone, which stand four or five feet
above the surface ; and the mesas, composed of small



flats or convex mounds, rising gradually to the height CHAP. XV.
of a few yards. The uniform aspect of these flats, the x'nifi^
extreme rarity of inhabitants, the fatigue of travelling aspect of
under a burning sky amid clouds of dust, the continual ' "^ "''^
recession of the horizon, and the successive appearance
of solitary palms, make the steppes appear far more ex-
tensive than they really are. It has even been imagined
tliat the whole eastern side of South America, from the
Orinoco and the Apure to the Plata and the Straits of
Magellan, is one great level ; but this is not the case.
In order to understand their limitations it will be
necessary to take a general view of the mountain-

The Cordillera of the coast, where the highest summit Cordillera,
is the Silla of Caraccas, and which is connected by the
Paramo de las Rosas to the Nevado de Merida, and the
Andes of New Grenada, has already been described.
A less elevated but much larger group of mountains
extends from the mouths of the Guaviare and the
Meta, the source of the Orinoco, the Marony, and the
Esscquibo, toward French and Dutch Guiana. This,
which is named the cordillera of Parime, may be
followed for a length of 863 miles, and is sepai'ated from
the Andes of New Grenada by a space 276 miles in
breadth. A third chain of mountains, which connects
the Andes of Peru with the mountains of Brazil, is the
cordillera of Chiquitos, dividing the rivers flowing into
the Amazon from the tributaries of the Plata.

These three transverse chains or groups, extending Transvcrso
from west to east within the limits of the torrid zone, chains of
are separated by level tracts forming the plains of Car- <
accas or of the Lower Orinoco, the flats of the Amazon
and Rio Negro, and those of Buenos Ayres or La Plata.
The middle basin, known by the colonists under the
name of the basques or selvas of the Amazon, is covered
with trees ; the southern, the pampas of Buenos Ayres,
with grass ; and the northern, the llanos of Varinas and
Caraccas, with plants of various kinds.

The western coasts of South America are bordered by



tie Andca

CHAP. XV. a wall of mountains, pierced at intervals hy volcanic
C^ninicra of ^^^^' ^"^ constituting the celebrated cordiliera of the
Andes, the mean height of which is 1 ] ,830 feet. It ex-
tends in the direction of a meridian, sending out two
lateral brandies, one in lat. 10° north, being tliat of the
coast of Caraccas, the other in lat. 16° and 18° south,
forming the cordiliera of Chiquitos, and widening cast-
ward in Brazil into vast table-lands. Between these
lines* is a group of granitic mountains, running from 3°
to 7° north latitude, in a direction parallel to the
equator, but not united to the Andes. These three
chains have no active volcanoes, and none of their sum-
mits enter the line of perpetual snow. They are
separated hy plains, which are closed toward the west
and open toward the east ; and they are so low, that
were tlie Atlantic to rise 320 feet at the mouth of the
Orinoco and 1280 feet at the mouth of the Amazon,
more than the half of South America would be covered,
and the eastern declivity of the Andes would become a
shore of the ocean.

We now accompany the travellers on their route from
the northern side of the Llanos to the banks of the
Aj)urc, in the province of Varinas. After passing two
nights on horseback, they arrived at a little farm called
El Cayman, where was a house surrounded by some
small huts covered with reeds and skins. They found
an old negro who had the management of the farm
during his master's absence. Although he told them of
herds composed of several thousand cows, tliey asked in
vain for milk, and were obliged to content themselves
witli some muddy and fetid water drawn from a neigh-
bouring pool, of which they contrived to drink by using
a linen cloth as a filter. When the mules were unloaded,
tiiey were set at liberty to go and search for water, and
the strangers following them came upon a copious reser-
voir surrounded with palm-trees. Covered with dust,
and scorched Ijy the sandy wind of the desert, they
plunged into the pool, but had scarcely begun to enjoy
its coolness when the noise of an alligator floundering in

Wnnt fif


tlie mutl induced them to make a precipitate retreat. CHAP. XV
Might coming on, they wandLred about in search of tlic xi„i,^
fai-m, but did not succeed in finding it, and at length re- adventure,
solved to seat themselves under a palm-tree, in a dry
spot surrounded by short grass, v^'hen an Indian, who
had been on his round collecting the cattle, coming up
on horseback, was persuaded, though not without diffi-
culty, to guide them to the house. At two in the
morning they set off, with the view of reaching Calabozo
before noon. The aspect of the country continued the
same. There was no moonlight, but the great masses
of nebuliE illumined part of the terrestrial horizon as
they set out. As the sun ascended, the phenomena of
mirage presented themselves in all their modifications. Mirage.
The little currents of air that passed along the ground
had so variable a temperature, that in a herd of wild
cows some appeared with their legs raised from the
surface, while others rested upon it. The objects were
generally suspended, but no inversion was observed. At
sunrise the plains assumed a more animated appearance ;
the horses, mules, and oxen, which graze on them in a
state of freedom, after having reposed during the night
beneath the palms, now assembled in crowds. As the
travellers approached Calabozo, they saw troops of small
deer feeding in the midst of the cattle. These animals,
which are called matacani, are a little larger than the Matacani.
roe of Europe, and have a sleek fawn-coloured pile,
spotted with white. Some of them were entirely of the
latter hue. Their flesh is good ; and their number is so
great that a trade in their skins might be carried on with
advantage, but the inhabitants are too indolent to engage
in any active occupation.

These steppes were principally covered with grasses of Grasses,
the genera kiUingia, cenchrus, and paspalum, which at
that season scarcely attain a height of nine or ten inches
near Calabozo and St Jerome del Pirital, although on
the banks of the Apure and Portuguesa they rise to the
length of four feet. Along with these ^vere mingled
some turnerae, malvacese, and mimosae. The pastures



CHAP. XV. are richest on the banks of the rivers, and under the
rit^caT" ^^^^'^^ of corypha pahns. These trees were singularly
uniform in size ; their height being from twenty- one to
twenty-five feet, and their diameter from eight to ten
inches. The wood is very hard, and the fan-like leaves
are used for roofing the huts scattered over the plains.
A few clumps of a species of rhopala occur here and
Excessive The philosophers suffered greatly from the heat in

liuat. crossing the Mesa de Calabozo. Whenever the wind

blew, the temperature rose to 104° or 106°, and the air
was loaded with dust. The guides advised them to fill
their hats with the rhopala leaves, to prevent the action
of the solar rays on the head, and from this expedient
they derived considerable benefit.
Caiaboza At Calabozo they experienced the most cordial hospi-

tality from the administrator of the Real Hacienda, Don
Miguel Cousin. The town, which is situatad between
the Guarico and the Urituco, has a population of 5000.
The principal wealth of the inhabitants consists of cattle,
of which it was computed that there were 98,000 in the
neighbouring pastures. M. Depons estimates the number
in the plains, extending from the mouths of the Orinoco
Nv.mi.eiof to the Lake of Maracaybo, at 1,200,000 oxen, 180,000
cjttic horses, and 90,000 mules ; and in the Pampas of Buenos

Ayres, it is believed that there are 12,000,000 of cows
and 3,000,000 of horses, not including cattle which have
no acknowledged owner. In the Llanos of Caraccas, the
richer projirietors of the great hatos, or cattle-farms,
])rand 14,000 head every year, and sell 5000 or 6000.
The exportation from tlie whole capitania-general
amounts annually to 174,000 skins of oxen and 11,500
of goats, for the West India Islands alone. This stock
was first introduced a])Out 1548 1)y Christoval Rodriguez.
They are of tlic Spanish breed, and tlieir disposition is
80 gentle tliat a traveller runs no risk of being attacked
or j)ursucd by them. The horses are also descended from
ancestors of the same country, and are generally of a
brown colour. There were no sheep in tlie plains.


Humboldt remarks, that wlicn we hear of the prodi- cilAP. XV.
gious numbers of oxen, horses, and mules, spread over ,. —
the plains of America, we forget that in civilized Europe cattlti
the aggregate amount is not less surprising. According

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