National Geographic : 1906 Aug
ROUTE TO PLAIN be carried over the mountains to a small Indian town on the eastern slope. From this town a good trail for miles will be built, down to some navigable river on which small steamers can be used. With the railway most of the comforts of civilization are left behind. In four or five days of mule-back travel we mount the eastern Andes, winding our way through the Aricoma Pass at an altitude of about 16,500 feet. Here the scenery, if the weather is fine, re pays the hardships of the trip. Snowy mountains and enormous glaciers are mirrored in the waters of lakes, which change their colors with every whim of cloud and sky. More often, however, the traveler is wrapt in blinding snow storms, which shut out every glimpse beyond the narrow limits of a few feet. Hour after hour he clings half frozen to his mule, his discomfort heightened by the mountain sickness, which is one of the terrors of these lofty regions. To lose his way under these conditions may mean death. On reaching the eastern crest of these mountains, if the view is clear, one seems to be standing on the edge of the world. The eye, indeed, can reach but little of the vast panorama, but just at one's feet the earth drops away into apparently endless and al most bottomless valleys. We may call them valleys, but this does not express the idea; they are gorges, deep ravines in whose gloomy depths rage the tor rents which fall from the snowy sum mits of the Andes down toward the plain. We might hunt the world over for a better example of the power of running water. The whole country is on edge. Here all the moisture from the wet air, borne by the trade winds across Brazil from the distant Atlantic, is wrung by the mountain barrier and falls in almost continual rain. Near the summit of the pass only the lowest and scantiest forms of vege table life are seen. In a single day, however, even by the slow march of weary mules, in many places literally OF THE AMAZON 439 stepping "downstairs" from stone to stone, we drop 7,000 feet. Here the forest begins, first in stunted growths, and then, a little lower down, in all the wild luxuriance of the tropics, where moisture never fails. The lower east ern foot-hills of the Andes are more heavily watered and more densely overgrown than the great plain farther down. Here is a land drenched in rain and reeking with mists, where the bright sun is a surprise and a joy in spite of his heat. In these dense forests, with their twisting vines and hanging lianas, a man without a path can force his way with difficulty a mile a day. In these foot-hills, at an elevation of 4,000 or 5,000 feet, is the Santo Do mingo mine. Here is an American colony provided with comfortable, al most luxurious, dwellings, which are flanked by the unsightly huts of native miners and Indians. From this abode of comparative lux ury we again started mule-back along a new but splendid trail down into the "rubber country." Four days of this travel, through forests peopled with nothing more frightful than jaguars and monkeys, brought us to the end of the trail. Day after day ten hours a day in the saddle is sufficiently tire some, but it was with regret that we left our animals to try the forest afoot. Our first experience involved only a walk of a couple of hours, but over a trail so narrow, steep, and blocked with trees and roots that we were soon ex hausted. We were glad enough to arrive at a clearing on the bank of a recently discovered stream called the New River. After a delay of a day or two at this post, we made our way down stream a few miles to the junc tion of the New River with the Tavora, on whose waters we intended to em bark. Six hours of walking over a path known in the picturesque language of my companions as "A hell of a trail" brought us to the junction, where we found another camp with a group of workmen of various nationalities.