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axes are represented fixed in this identical manner in holes at the thick ends of the handles.
We slept on board one of the steamers of the American Transit Company. It was too dark when we arrived at San Carlos to see anything that night of the great lake, but we heard the waves breaking on the beach as on a sea-shore, and from further away came that moaning sound that has from the earliest ages of history connected the idea of the sea with sorrow and sadness.* The steamer we stayed in was one of four river-boats belonging to the Transit Company, which was at this time in difficulties, and ultimately the boats were sold; part of them being bought by Mr. Hollenbeck, and used by the navigation company which he established. These steamers are built expressly for shallow rivers, and are very different structures from anything we see in England. The bottom is made quite flat, and divided into compartments; the first deck being only about eighteen inches above the water, from which it is divided by no bulwarks or other protection. Upon this deck are placed the cargo and the driving machinery. A vertical boiler is fixed at the bow, and two horizontal engines, driving a large paddle-wheel, at the stern. The second deck is for passengers, and is raised on light wooden pillars braced with iron rods about seven feet above the first. Above this is another deck, on which are the cabins of the officers and the steering apparatus. The appearance of such a structure is more like that of a house than a boat. The one we were in, the Panaloya, drew only three feet of water, when laden with 400 passengers and twenty tons of cargo.
* “There is sorrow on the sea ; it cannot be quiet” (Jer. xlix. 23).
The lake of Nicaragua—Ometepec-Becalmed on the lake-White
egrets-Reach San Ubaldo-Ride across the plains-Vegetation of the plains-Armadillo—Savannahs—Jicara trees-Jicara bowls -Origin of gourd-shaped pottery-Coyotes-Mule-breedingReach Acoyapo-Festa_Cross High Range—Esquipula—The Rio Mico-Supposed statues on its banks-Pital-Cultivation of maize
-Its use from the earliest times in America-Separation of the maize-eating from the mandioca-eating indigenes of America— Tortillas-Sugar-making—Enter the forest of the Atlantic Slope -Vegetation of the forest-Muddy roads-Arrive at Santo Domingo.
As daylight broke next morning, I was up, anxious to see the great lake about which I had heard so much. To the north-west a great sheet of quiet water extended as far as the eye could reach, with islands here and there, and—the central figure in every view of the lake —the great conical peak of Ometepec towered up, 5050 feet above the sea, and 4922 feet above the surface of the lake. To the left, in the dim distance, were the cloudcapped mountains of Costa Rica ; to the right, nearer at hand, low hills and ranges covered with dark forests. The lake is too large to be called beautiful, and its vast extent and the mere glimpses of its limits and cloudcapped peaks appeal to the imagination rather than to the eye. At this end of the lake the water is shallow, probably filled up by the mud brought down by the Rio Frio.
We had still a voyage of sixty miles before us up the lake, and this was to be accomplished not by paddling, but by sailing ; so we now rigged two light masts, and soon after seven o'clock sailed slowly away from San Carlos before a light breeze, which in an hour's time freshened and carried us along at the rate of about six miles an hour. The sun rose higher and higher; the day waxed hotter and hotter. About noon the wind failed us again, and the sun right overhead, in a clear pitiless sky, scorched us with its rays, while our boat lay like a log upon the water, the pitch melting in the seams with the heat. The surface of the lake was motionless, save for a gentle heaving. We were almost broiled with the stifling heat, but at last saw a ripple on the water come up from the north-east; soon the breeze reached us, and our torment was over; our sails, no niore idly flapping, filled out before the wind; the canoe dashed through the rising waves; our drooping spirits revived, and there was an opening out of provisions, and life again in the boat. The breeze continued all the afternoon, and at dark we were off the islands of Nancital, having been all day within a few miles of the north-eastern side of the lake, the banks of which are everywhere clothed with dark gloomy-looking forests. One of the islands was a favourite sleeping-place for the white egrets. From all sides they were flying across the lake towards it; and as night set in, the trees and bushes by the water-side were full of them, gleaming like great white flowers amongst the dark green foliage. Flocks of muscovy and whistling ducks also flew over to their evening feeding-places. Great masses of a floating plant, shaped like a cabbage, were abundant on the lake,
ARRIVAL AT SAN UBALDO.
and on these the white egrets and other wading birds often alighted. The boatmen told me—and the story is likely enough to be true—that the alligators, floating about like logs, with their eyes above the water, watch these birds, and, moving quietly up until within a few yards of them, sink down below the surface, come up underneath them, catch them by the legs and drag them under water. Besides the alligators, large freshwater sharks appear to be common in the lake. Sometimes, when in shallow water, we saw a pointed billow rapidly moving away from the boat, produced by some large fish below, and I was told it was a shark.
After dark the wind failed us again, and we got slowly along, but finally reached our port, San Ubaldo, about ten o'clock, and found an officer of the mining company, living in a small thatched hut, stationed there to send on the machinery and other goods that arrived for the mines. A large tiled store had also just been built by the owner of the estate there, Don Gregorio Quadra, under the verandah of which I hung my hammock for the night. Muies were waiting at San Ubaldo for us, and early next morning we set off, with our luggage on pack mules. We crossed some rocky low hills, with scanty vegetation, and, after passing the cattle hacienda of San José, reached the plains of the same name, about two leagues in width, now dry and dusty, but in the wet season forming a great slough of water and tenacious mud, through which the mules have to wade and plunge.
In the midst of these plains there are some rocky knolls, like islands, on which grow spiny cactuses, low leathery-leaved trees, slender, spiny palms, with plum
like fruit, prickly acacias, and thorny bromelias. This spiny character of vegetation seems to be characteristic of dry rocky places and tracts of country liable to great dronght. Probably it is as a protection from herbivorous animals, to prevent them browsing upon the twigs and small branches where herbaceous vegetation is dried up. Small armadillos abound near these rocky knolls, and are said to feed on ants and other insects. We had a long chase after one, which we observed some distance from the rock, over the cracked and dried-up plain : though it could not run very fast, it doubled quickly, and the rough cracked ground made odds in its favour; but it was ultimately secured. Pigeons, brown coloured, of various sizes, from that of a thrush to that of a common dove, were numerous and very tame. One of the smallest species alights and seeks about in the streets of small towns for seeds, like a sparrow, and more boldly than that bird, for it is not molested by the childrenmore perhaps from indolence than from any lack of the element of cruelty in their dispositions. After crossing the plains we rode over undulating hills, here called savannahs, with patches of forest on the rising ground, and small plains on which grows the ternate-leaved jicara (pronounced hickory), a tree about as large as an appletree, with fruit of the size, shape, and appearance of a large green orange, but growing on the trunk and branches, not amongst the leaves. The outside of the fruit is a hard thin shell, packed full of seeds in a kind of dry pulp, on which are fed fowls, and even horses and cattle in the dry season; the latter are said sometimes to choke themselves with the fruit, whilst trying to eat it. Of the bruised seeds is also made a cooling drink,