National Geographic : 1963 Mar
KODACHROMESW NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY canyon. A thousand feet below us men drove oxen, children played with hoops, and women washed clothes in the streams. In the middle of a steep mountainside for est, we changed to a yellow car and continued our climb. Below us bucare trees, their orange blossoms blushing through beards of Spanish moss, yielded to the broad-leafed yagrumos and stately laurel groves. Under our blue third-stage car, dense forests thinned to patches of Australian conifers. At the end of the line, 15,629-foot Pico Espejo, we began our climb (page 368). My lungs ached from lack of oxygen, but the well marked trail was easy, with little ropework. Before noon we crouched on a small, slant ing wedge of rock, the highest in Venezuela's crown, 16,427 feet above sea level. Westward loomed vast mountains in Co 370 Serenity of isolation imbues a pig-tailed teen-ager with beauty. Living in mountain-locked Los Nevados, she sees no automobiles or electric lights and few visitors. Centuries-old pattern of Andean life, keyed to seasons and soil, satisfies all her wants. Hand-woven poncho warms a boy who walks his dog on a side walk in Los Nevados. The cliff hanging village has but one street. lombia, 100 miles away; northward, the Mar acaibo basin lay hidden beneath a pool of mist. Behind me stretched Venezuela's end less green plains, the llanos, now pocked with the season's first clouds. Tiny villages dot ted rumpled valleys around us. "Each of those pueblos is a remnant of colonial times," said Dr. Chalbaud. "People still speak the Spanish of Cervantes. To us it sounds as quaint as Shakespearean English does to you." Village Greets First Norteamericano Back at the Pico Espejo cable car station, I met Miguel Castillo, a mustachioed moun tain farmer from Los Nevados, a three-day mule ride from Merida over the cordillera. "These new cable cars bring Merida within a day's travel, but we are still very isolated,"