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which came the cries of birds. The hills stood up through the cloud of mist like islands. To the southwest, over 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 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 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 Carabidæ 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, and 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 JuigalpaRide in neighbourhood—Abundance of small birds—A poor cripple
- The “Toledo”—Trogons — Waterfall — Sepulchral moundsBroken 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;
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
Domingo, and many of the owners of them have extracted great quantities of the precious metals.
The town is situated near to the edge of the forest, being separated by the Rio Mico, across which it is proposed to build a wooden bridge, as during floods the river is impassable. Whether the bridge will ever be built or not I cannot tell. Several times rates have been levied, and money collected to build it, but the funds have always melted away in the hands of the officials. There is an alcalde and a judge at Libertad. Every one worth two hundred dollars is liable to be elected to the latter office. Only unimportant cases are tried by him, and his decisions depend generally on the private influence that is brought to bear upon him. He is often a tool in the hands of some unprincipled lawyer. The church at Libertad is a great barn-like edifice, with tiled roof. At one side is a detached small bell-tower, in which hang two bells, one sound and whole, the other cracked and patched. The latter was a present from one of the mining companies, and had excited a great scandal. The mining company had a fine large bell, with which they called together their workmen. The priest of Libertad, thinking it might be much better employed in the service of the church, made an application for it. The superintendent of the mine could not part with it, but having an old broken bell, he had it patched up, and sent it out with a letter, explaining that he could not let them have the other, but that if this one was of any use, they were welcome to it. The priest heard that the bell was on the road, and thinking it was the one he had coveted, got up a procession to go and meet it, to take it to its place with befitting
But when he saw the old battered and broken article that had been sent, his satisfaction was changed to rage, instead of blessing he cursed it, threw it to the ground, and even kicked and spat upon it. His rage for a time knew no bounds, as he thought that he had been mocked by the heretical foreigners, and his indignation was at first shared by some of the principal inhabitants of the town, but when the explanatory letter had been interpreted to them, their feelings changed, and the poor bell was put up to do what duty it could. There are some good stores in Libertad, the best being branches of Granada houses that buy the produce of the country-hides, india-rubber, and gold—for export, and import European manufactured goods.
Captain Velasquez joined me at Libertad, and, after getting breakfast, we started. The road passes over grassy hills, on which cattle and mules were feeding. The edge of the forest is not far distant to the right, and all the way along it, there have been clearings made and maize planted. As we rode along, great numbers of a brown, tailed butterfly (Timetes chiron) were flying over to the south-east. They occurred, as it were, in columns. The air would be comparatively clear of them for a few hundred yards, then we would pass through a band perhaps fifty yards in width, where hundreds were always in sight, and all travelling one way. I took the direction several times with a pocket compass, and it was always south-east. Amongst them were a few yellow butterflies, but these were not so numerous as in former years. In some seasons these migratory swarms of butterflies continue passing over to the south-east for three to five weeks, and must consist of millions upon