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recrossing in a zigzag course along the side of the height, perhaps making the descent a mile and a half long. Very soon we reached the bank of a beautiful river, running lengthwise through the valley, bordered on each side by immense trees, throwing their branches clear across, and their roots washed by the stream; and while the plain beyond was dry and parched, they were green and luxuriant. Riding along it, we reached a suspension bridge of most primitive appearance and construction, called by the natives La Hammaca, which had existed there from time immemorial. It was made of oziers twisted into cords, about three feet apart, and stretched across the river with a hanging network of vines, the ends fastened to the trunks of two opposite trees. It hung about twenty-five feet above the river, which was here some eighty feet wide, and was supported in different places by vines tied to the branches. The access was by a rude ladder to a platform in the crotch of the tree. In the bottom of the hammaca were two or three poles to walk on. It waved with the wind, and was an unsteady and rather insecure means of transportation. From the centre the vista of the river both ways under the arches of the trees was beautiful, and in every direction the hammaca was a most picturesque-looking object. We continued on to the village, and after a short halt and a smoke with the alcalde, rode on to the extreme end of the valley, and by a steep and stony ascent, at twenty minutes past twelve reached the level ground above. Here we dismounted, slipped the bridles of our mules, and seated ourselves to wait for our Indians, looking down into the deep imbosomed valley, and back at the great range of Cordilleras, crowned by the Sierra Madre, seeming a barrier fit to separate worlds.
Free from all apprehensions, we were now in the full enjoyment of the wild country and wild mode of travelling. But our poor Indians, perhaps, did not enjoy it so much. The usual load was from three to four arrobas, seventy-five to one hundred pounds; ours were not more than fifty; but the sweat rolled in streams down their naked bodies, and every limb trembled. After a short rest they started again. The day was hot and sultry, the ground dry, parched, and stony. We had two sharp descents, and reached the River Dolores. On both sides were large trees, furnishing a beautiful shade, which, after our scorching ride, we found delightful. The river was about three hundred feet broad. In the rainy season it is impassable, but in the dry season not more than three or four feet deep, very clear, and the colour a grayish green, probably
from the reflection of the trees. We had had no water .
since we left the suspension bridge, and both our mules and we were intemperate. We remained here half an hour; and now apprehensions, which had been operating more or less all the time, made us feel very uncomfortable. We were approaching, and very near, the frontier of Mexico. This road was so little travelled, that, as we were advised, there was no regular guard; but piquets of soldiers were scouring the whole line of frontier to prevent smuggling, who might consider us contraband. Our passports were good for going out of Central America; but to go into Mexico, the passport of the Mexican authorities at Ciudad Real, four days’ journey, was necessary. Turning back was not in our vocabulary; perhaps we should be obliged to wait in the wilderness till we could send for one. In half an hour we reached the Rio Lagertero, the
boundary-line between Guatimala and Mexico, a scene
tross was a semicircular clearing, from which the only opening was the path leading into the Mexican provinces. We closed this up, and turned the mules loose, "ung our traps on the trees, and bivouacked in the centre. The men built a fire, and while they were preparing supper we went down to the river to bathe. The rapids were breaking above us. The wildness of the scene, its seclusion and remoteness, the clearness of the water, the sense of having accomplished an important part of our journey, all revived our physical and moral being. Clean apparel consummated the glory of the bath. For several days our digestive organs had been out of order, but when we sat down to supper they could have undertaken the bridles of the mules; and my brave macho-it was a pleasure to hear him craunch his corn. We were out of Central America, safe from the dangers of revolution, and stood on the wild borders of Mexico, in good health, with good appetites, and something to eat. We had still a tremendous journey before us, but it seemed nothing. We strode the little clearing as proudly as the conquerors of Mexico, and in our extravagance resolved to have a fish for breakfast. We had no hooks, and there was not even a pin in our travelling equipage ; but we had needles and thread. Pawling, with the experience of seven years' “roughing,” had expedients, and put a needle in the fire, which softened its temper, so that he bent it into a hook. A pole was on every tree, and we could see the fish in the water; all that we wanted was for them to open their mouths and hook themselves to the needle; but this they would not do, and for this reason alone we did not catch any. We returned. Our men cut some poles, and resting them in the crotch of a tree, covered them with branches. We spread our mats under,
and our roof and beds were ready. The men piled logs of wood on the fire, and our sleep was sound and glorious. At daylight the next morning we were again in the water. Our bath was even better than that of the night before, and when I mounted I felt able to ride through Mexico and Texas to my own door at home. Returned once more to steamboats and railroads, how flat, tame, and insipid all their comforts seem. We started at half past seven. At a very short distance three wild boars crossed our path, all within gunshot; but our men carried the guns, and in an instant it was too late. Very soon we emerged from the woods that bordered the river, and came out into an open plain. At half past eight we crossed a low stony hill and came to the dry bed of a river. The bottom was flat and baked hard, and the sides smooth and regular as those of a canal. At the distance of half a league water appeared, and at half past nine it became a considerable stream. We again entered a forest, and riding by a narrow path, saw directly before us, closing the passage, the side of a large church. We came out, and saw the whole gigantic building, without a single habitation, or the vestige of one, in sight. The path led across the broken wall of the courtyard. We dismounted in the deep shade of the front. The façade was rich and perfect. It was sixty feet front and two hundred and fifty feet deep, but roofless, with trees growing out of the area above the walls. Nothing could exceed the quiet and desolation of the scene; but there was something strangely interesting in these roofless churches, standing in places entirely unknown. Santiago told us that this was called Conata, and the tradition is, that it was once so rich that the inhabitants car