« EelmineJätka »
Division of Nicaragua into three Zones—Journey from Juigalpa to Lake of Nicaragua–Voyage on Lake—Fresh-water Shells and Insects—Similarity of Fresh-water productions all over the world—Distribution of European Land and Fresh-water Shells —Discussion of the reasons why Fresh-water productions have varied less than those of the Land and of the Sea.
I SHALL ask my readers to accompany me on one more journey. I have described the great Atlantic forest that clothes the whole of the eastern side of Nicaragua. I have gone through the central provinces, Chontales, Matagalpa, and Segovia; from the San Juan river, the South-eastern boundary of Nicaragua, away to the confines of Honduras on the north-west. I now propose to leave the central provinces, amongst which we have so long lingered, and to describe one of my journeys to those lying between the great lakes and the Pacific. 4
Whilst the country to the north-east of the lakes is mostly composed of rocks, of great age, geologically, such as Schists, quartzites, and old dolerytic rocks, with newer but still ancient trachytes, that to the south-west of them is composed principally of recent volcanic tufas and lavas, the irruption of which has not yet ceased. Most of the land, resulting from the decomposition of the tufas, is of extreme fertility; and, therefore, we find on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, indigo, coffee, Sugar, cacao, and tobacco growing with the greatest luxuriance.
Nicaragua is thus divided into three longitudinal zones. The most easterly is covered by a great unbroken forest; the principal products being india-rubber and mahogany. The central zone is composed of grassed savannahs, on which are bred cattle, mules, and horses. It is essentially a pasturage country, though much maize and a little Sugar and indigo are grown in some parts. The western zone skirts the Pacific, and is a country of fertile soil, where all the cultivated plants and fruits of the tropics thrive abundantly; the rich, fat land might, indeed, with a little labour, be turned into a Garden of Eden. -
In the autumn of 1871, it became necessary for me to proceed to Granada to empower a lawyer there to act for us in a lawsuit in which we were engaged. Taking Velasquez and a servant with me, I rode over to Juigalpa on the first of November. We had intended to go by land to Granada; but we learnt that, through continued wet weather, much of the low land of the delta of the Malacatoya was impassable, so we determined to make for the lake, and try to get a boat to take us to Los Cocos, from which place there was a good road to Granada. We found at Juigalpa a Libertad storekeeper, named Señor Trinidad Ocon. He had already engaged a boat, and courteously offered, if we could not find one when we got to the lake, to give us a passage in his.
We started from Juigalpa the next morning; and for the first few miles our road lay down by the river, a deep branch of which we crossed. The alluvial plains bordering the river were covered with fine, though short, grass, amongst which were some beautiful flowers. The orange and black “sisitoté” (Icterus pectoralis, Wagl.) flew in
Ch. XVIII.] EMBARK TO CROSS THE LAKE. 329
small flocks amongst the bushes; and the “sanaté" (Quiscalus) was busy amongst the cattle. Their usual plan of operations is for a pair of them to accompany one of the cattle, one on each side, watching for grasshoppers and other insects that are frightened up by the browsing animal. They keep near the head, and fly after the insects that break cover, but do not encroach on each other's side. We stopped at a little hacienda perched on the top of a small hill. It was called “El Candelera,” and was a small cattle station, surrounded by plains. We now crossed the valley, and made for a range of hills between us and the lake. The ascent was steep and rocky; and it took us two hours to get to the top. We then saw the great lake, like a sea lying spread out before us, but still at a considerable distance. The descent was very steep, and we had to make long detours to avoid precipitous ravines. At last we reached level ground; but it was even worse than the mountain roads to travel, being in many parts wet and swampy. After missing our way, and having to retrace our steps for more than a mile, we reached Santo Claro, a cattle hacienda, at dusk. Here we found Señor Ocon’s boat, but there was no other. The boatmen said we must embark at once. We made an arrangement with a man who had accompanied Ocon to take our mules to San Ubaldo, as we proposed to return that way. The boat was small, and there were seven of us; so that with our saddles and luggage we were much cramped for room. They poled the boat for two miles down a small river that emptied into the lake; but just before we reached it, - the boatmen stopped and said it was too rough to proceed
that night, and notwithstanding our remonstrances they tied the boat to some bushes. Our cramped position was very irksome; the river was bordered by swamps, so that we could not land, and thousands of mosquitoes came about and rendered sleep impossible. About midnight, the moon rose, and two hours later we prevailed on the boatmen to set sail; but, notwithstanding their ..excuse about it being too rough, there was so little wind that we made slow progress. At eight we went on shore, where there was a hut built close by the lake below Masaya. The lake was flooded, and the water had been over the floor of the hut during the night. All around were swamps, and the mosquitoes were intolerable. We could buy no food at the miserable shanty, and soon set sail again; a little more wind afterwards springing up, we reached Los Cocos at eleven o’clock. There is a small village at this place, where we got breakfast cooked, and did justice to it. We hired horses to take us to Granada; but as the road for a league further on was overflown by the lake, we went on in the boat, and a boy took the horses round to meet us, swimming them across the worst places. Glad we were to get on horseback again, and to canter along a hard Sandy road, instead of sitting cramped up in a little boat, with the Sun's rays pouring down on us. The path led amongst the bushes, and was sometimes overflowed; but the soil was sandy, and there was no mud. All the beach was submerged, or we should have ridden along it. The last time I had passed by this part of the lake was in July, 1868. Then the waters of the lake were low, and we rode along the sandy beach, black in some parts with titanic iron sand. The beach re
Ch. XVIII.] FRESH-WATER ANIMALS. 331
sembled that of a sea-coast, with the waves rolling in upon it, and to the South-east the water extended to the horizon. Along the shore were strewn shells thrown up by the surf; and on examining them, I found them all to belong to well-known old-world genera—Unio, Planorbis, Ancylus, and Ampullaria. On this journey, all the beach was, as I have said, covered with water, and I saw no shells; but in the pools on the road were water-beetles swimming about, and these showed a surprising resemblance to the waterbeetles of Europe. Gyrinidae swam round and round in mazy circles; Dytiseidae came up to the surface for a moment, and dived down again to the depths below with a globule of air glistening like a diamond. Amongst the vegetation at the bottom and sides of the pools Hydrophilidae crawled about, just as in ponds in England. Not only were those old-world familiars there, but they were represented by species belonging to the typical genera—Gyrinus, Colymbetes, and Hydrophilus. Over these pools flew dragon-flies, whose larval stages are passed in the water, closely resembling others all over the world. All the land fauna was strikingly different from that of other regions; but the water fauna was as strikingly similar. The sameness of fresh-water productions all over the world is not confined to animal life, but extends to plants also. Alph. de Candolle has remarked that in large groups of plants which have many terrestrial and only a few aquatic species the latter have a far wider distribution than the former; and it is well known to botanists that many fresh-water and marsh plants have an immense range over continents, extending even to the most