« EelmineJätka »
natives, I believe that in Central America he never attacks man unless first interfered with, but when wounded is very savage and dangerous. Velasquez told me that his father had mortally wounded one, which, however, sprang after him, and had got hold of Him by the leg, when it fortunately fell down dead. The path up Peña Blanca hill gets steeper and steeper, until about fifty yards from the rock it is too precipitous and rugged to ride with safety, so that the rest of the ascent must be made on foot. Tying my mule to a sapling, I scrambled up the path, and soon emerging from the dark forest, stood under the grey face of the rock towering up above me. The rock has two peaks, of which the highest is accessible, footholds having been cut into the face of it, and the most difficult part being surmounted by a rude ladder made by cutting notches in a pole. Above it the rock is shelving, and the top is easily reached. I found a strong northeast wind blowing, which made it rather uncomfortable on the top, but the view was very fine and varied. To the South-east and east the eye roams over range beyond range all covered with dark forest, that partly hides the inequalities of the ground, the trees in the hollows growing higher than those on the hills. On this side the rock is a sheer precipice, going down perpendicularly for more than three hundred feet; the face of the cliff all weathered white. The tops of the trees are far below, and as one looks down upon them, hearing the various cries and whistles of the birds come up, and marking the vultures wheeling round in aérial circles over the trees far below one's feet, one realises that at last the forest, with its world of foliage,
Ch. VIII.] VIEW FROM THE PENA BLANCA. 147
has been surmounted. Dooking down on the tops of the frees, every shade of green from nearly brown to yellow meets the eye, here light as grass, there dark as holly, whilst the fleecy clouds above cast lines of dark shadows over hill and dale. Directly south-east is a high rock, about three miles distant, and beyond it the Carca and the Artigua rivers must meet, judging from the fall of the country. The course of the Carca is marked by some patches of light green, that look like grass, and are probably clearings made by the Indians. To the south the eye first passes over about six miles of forest, then savannahs and grassy ranges stretching to the lake, which is only dimly seen, with the peaks of Madera and Ometepec more distinct, the latter bearing South-west by west. Alone on the summit of a high peak, with surging green billows of foliage all around, dim misty mountains in the distance below, and above the blue heavens, checkered with fleecy clouds, that have travelled up thousands of miles from the north-east, thoughts arise that can be only felt in their full intensity amid Solitude and nature’s grandest phases. Then man’s intellect strives to grapple with the great mysteries of his existence, and like a fluttering bird that beats itself against the bars of its cage, falls back baffled and bruised. Another shower of rain came on, quickly followed by Sunshine again. Great banks of vapour began to rise from the forest, and fill the valleys, and now looking down over the precipice, instead of foliage there was a glistening white cloud spread out below, up through which came the cries of birds. The hills stood up through the cloud of mist like islands. To the South-west, over
148 THE NATURALIST IN NICARAGUA.. [Ch. VIII.
the savannahs, the air was clear, and the peak of Ometepec was a fine object in the distance. A white cloud enveloping its top looked like a snow-cap, and this, as the night came on, descended lower and lower,
mantling closely around it, and conforming to its outline. That the savannahs should not give off the same vapour as the forest has been ascribed, and, I believe, with reason, to the fact that their evaporating surfaces are much smaller than those of the latter, with their numberless leaves heated by the previous sunshine. As night came on, a wetting mist drove over the top of the peak, and the wind increased in strength, making
Ch. VIII.] DESCENT OF THE PENA BLANCA, 149
it very cold and bleak, for there was no shelter of any kind on the summit. Such a night was not a favourable one for insects, but I got a few beetles that were new to me on the very top of the rock, where only a few rushes are growing. They appeared to be travelling with the north-east trade wind, and were sifted out by the rushes as they passed over. On a finer night I have no doubt many species might be obtained. I suppose that the wind was moving at the rate of not less than thirty miles an hour, so that the beetles, when they got up to it from the forest below, where it was comparatively calm, might easily be carried hundreds of miles without much labour to themselves. I added two fine new Carabidae to my collection ; and about eleven o’clock started back again, having many a fall on the slippery steep before I reached the place where I had left my mule. It was a very dark night, and the oil of my small bull’s eye lanthorn was exhausted, but the mule knew every step of the Way, and, though slipping often, never fell, but carried me safely home.
Journey to Juigalpa-Description of Libertad—The Priest and the Bell — Migratory Butterflies and Moths — Indian Graves — Ancient Names—Dry River-beds–Monkeys and Wasps—Reach Juigalpa-Ride in neighbourhood—Abundance of Small birds —A poor Cripple—The “Toledo ’’—Trogons—Waterfall—Sepulchral Mounds—Broken Statues—The Sign of the Cross–Contrast between the ancient and the present inhabitants—Night Life.
TowARDs the end of June, in 1872, I had to go to Juigalpa, one of the principal towns of the province of Chontales, on business connected with a lawsuit brought against the mining company by a litigious native. I started early in the morning, taking with me my native boy, Rito, who carried on his mule behind him my blankets and a change of clothes. I carried in my hand a light fowling-piece. The roads through the forest were excessively muddy, and it took us four hours to get over the seven miles to Pital; the poor mules struggling all the way through mud nearly three feet deep. Shortly after leaving Pital, we passed the river Mico ; and two miles further on, across some grassy hills, reached the small town of Libertad. It is the principal mining centre of Chontales. There are a great number of gold mines in its vicinity, several of which are worked by intelligent Frenchmen. The gold and silver mines of Libertad are richer than those of Santo