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LAKE OF ATITAN.
Lake of Atitan.-Conjectures as to its Origin, &c.-A Sail on the Lake.-A dan.
gerous Situation.- A lofty Mountain Range.--Ascent of the Mountains.-Commanding View.- Beautiful Plain.--An elevated Village.--Ride along the Lake. -Solola.- Visit to Santa Cruz del Quiché.-Scenery on the Road. --Barrancas. -San Thomas.- Whipping-posts.--Plain of Quiché.—The Village.-Ruins of Quiché.-Its History.- Desolate Scene.—A facetious Cura.- Description of the Ruins.—Plan.—The Royal Palace.—The Place of Sacrifice.-- An Image. -Two Heads, &c.-Destruction of the Palace recent.-An Arch.
Early in the morning we again went down to the lake. Not a vapour was on the water, and the top of every volcano was clear of clouds. We looked over to Santiago Atitan, but there was no indication of a canoe coming for us. We whiled away the time in shooting wild ducks, but could get only two ashore, which we afterward found of excellent flavour. According to the account given by Huarros, the water of this lake is so cold that in a few minutes it benumbs and swells the limbs of all who bathe in it. But it looked so inviting that we determined to risk it, and were not benumbed, nor were our limbs swollen. The inhabitants, we were told, bathed in it constantly; and Mr. C. remained a long time in the water, supported by his life preserver, and without taking any exercise, and was not conscious of extreme coldness. In the utter ignorance that exists in regard to the geography and geology of that country, it may be that the account of its fathomless depth, and the absence of any visible outlet, is as unfounded as that of the coldness of its waters.
The Modern Traveller, in referring to the want of specific information with regard to its elevation, and other circumstances from which to frame a conjecture as to its origin, and the probable communication of its
waters with some other reservoir, states that the " fish which it contains are the same as are found in the Lake of Amatitan," and asks, “ May there not be some connexion between these lakes, at least the fathomless one, and the Volcan de Agua ?”' We were told that the mohara, the fish for which the Lake of Amatitan is celebrated in that country, was not found in the Lake of Atitan at all; so that on this ground at least there is no reason to suppose a connexion between the two lakes. In regard to any connexion with the Volcart de Agua, if the account of Torquemada be true, the deluge of water from that volcano was not caused by an eruption, but by an accumulation of water in a cavity on the top, and consequently the volcano has no subterraneous water power. The elevation of this lake has never been taken, and the whole of this region of country invites the attention of the scientific traveller.
While we were dressing, Juan, one of our mozos, found a canoe along the shore. It was an oblong “ dugout,” awkward and rickety, and intended for only one person; but the lake was so smooth that a plank seemed sufficient. We got in, and Juan pushed off and paddled out. As we moved away the mountainous borders of the lake rose grandly before us; and I had just called Mr. C.'s attention to a cascade opening upon us from the great height of perhaps three or four thou. sand feet, when we were struck by a flaw, which turned the canoe, and drove us out into the lake. The canoe was overloaded, and Juan was an unskilful paddler. For several minutes he pulled, with every sinew stretched, but could barely keep her head straight. Mr. C. was in the stern, I on my knees in the bot. tom of the canoe. The loss of a stroke, or a totter. ing movement in changing places, might swamp her ;
LOFTY MOUNTAIN RANGE.
and if we let her go she would be driven out into the lake, and cast ashore, if at all, twenty or thirty miles distant, whence we should have to scramble back over mountains; and there was a worse danger than this, for in the afternoon the wind always came from the other side, and might drive us back again into the middle of the lake. We saw the people on the shore looking at us, and growing smaller every moment, but they could not help us. In all our difficulties we had none that came upon us so suddenly and unexpectedly, or that seemed more threatening. It was hardly ten minutes since we were standing quietly on the beach, and if the wind had continued five minutes longer I do not know what would have become of us; but, most fortunately, it lulled. Juan's strength revived ; with a great effort he brought us under cover of the high headland beyond which the wind first struck us, and in a few minutes we reached the shore.
We had had enough of the lake ; time was precious, and we determined to set out after dinner and ride four leagues to Solola. We took another mozo, whom the padre recommended as a bobon, or great fool. The first two were at swords' points, and with such a trio there was not much danger of combination. In loading the mules they fell to quarrelling, Bobon taking his share. Ever since we left, Don Saturnino had superintended this operation, and without him everything went wrong. One mule slipped part of its load in the courtyard, and we made but a sorry party for the long journey we had before us. From the village our road lay toward the lake, to the point of the opposite mountain, which shut in the plain of Panachahel. Here we began to ascend. For a while the path commanded a view of the village and plain; but by degrees we diverged from it, and after an hour's ascent came out upon the lake, rode a short distance upon the brink, with another immense mountain range before us, and breaking over the top the cataract which I had seen from the canoe. Very soon we commenced ascending; the path ran zig. zag, commanding alternately a view of the plain and of the lake. The ascent was terrible for loaded mules, being in some places steps cut in the stone like a regular staircase. Every time we came upon the lake there was a different view. At four o'clock, looking back over the high ranges of mountains we had crossed, we saw the great volcanoes of Agua and Fuego. Six volcanoes were in sight at once, four of them above ten thousand, and two nearly fifteen thousand feet high. Looking down upon the lake we saw a canoe, so small as to present a mere speck on the water, and, as we supposed, it was sent for us by our friend Don Saturnino. Four days afterward, after diverging and returning to the main road, I found a letter from him, directed to “El Ministro de Nueva York,” stating that he found the road so terrible that night overtook him, and he was obliged to stop three leagues short of Atitan. On arriving at that place he learned that the canoe was on his side of the lake, but the boatmen would not cross till the afternoon wind sprang up. The letter was written after the return of the canoe, and sent by courier two days' journey, begging us to return, and offering as a bribe a noble mule, which, in our bantering on the road, he affirmed was better than my macho. Twice the mule-track led us almost within the fall of cataracts, and the last time we came upon the lake we looked down upon a plain even more beautiful than that of Panachahel. Directly under us, at an immense distance below, but itself elevated
fifteen hundred or two thousand feet, was a village, with its church conspicuous, and it seemed as if we could throw a stone down upon its roof. From the moment this lake first opened upon us until we left it, our ride along it presented a greater combination of beauties than any locality I ever saw. The last ascent occupied an hour and three quarters. As old travellers, we would have avoided it if there had been any other road; but, once over, we would not have missed it for the world. Very soon we saw Solola. In the suburbs drunken Indians stood in a line, and took off their old petates (straw hats) with both hands. It was Sunday, and the bells of the church were ringing for vespers, rockets were firing, and a procession, headed by violins, was parading round the plaza the figure of a saint on horseback, dressed like a harlequin. Opposite the cabildo the alcalde, with a crowd of Mestitzoes, was fighting cocks.
The town stands on the lofty borders of the Lake of Amatitan, and a hundred yards from it the whole water was visible. I tied my horse to the whipping-post, and, thanks to Carrera's passport, the alcalde sent off for sacate, had a room swept out in the cabildo, and offered to send us supper from his own house. He was about ten days in office, having been appointed since Carrera's last invasion. Formerly this place was the residence of the youngest branch of the house of the Kachiquel Indians.
It was our purpose at this place to send our luggage on by the main road to Totonicapan, one day's journey beyond, while we struck off at an angle and visited the ruins of Santa Cruz del Quiché. The Indians of that place, even in the most quiet times, bore a very bad name, and we were afraid of hearing such an account