Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

pressions on the olfactory nerve.

If there be persons in whom such impressions are sufficiently distinct to be accurately recalled by an effort of the memory, I can imagine that in some countries the nose might afford a valuable help to the botanical collector. To judge, however, from personal experience, I should say that of all the senses that of smell is the one which supplies the least accurate impressions, and those least capable of certain recognition.

We reached a place where a small stream from the upper part of the mountain springs in a little waterfall from a cleft in the rocks, and which is known as the Salto de San Ramon. This is probably about four thousand feet above the sea-level, and between us and the lower limit of the snow which covered the higher slopes there stretched a rather steep acclivity, covered, like the ground around us, with bushes and small shrubby plants. A few small trees (chiefly Kageneckia) grew near the Salto, but higher up scarce any were to be seen. Professor Philippi, who is well acquainted with the ground, thought that little, if anything, would be added to our collections by continuing the ascent, so we devoted the spare time to examining the ground in our immediate neighbourhood, thus adding a few species not before seen. In summer, however, an active botanist, starting early from Apoquinto, who did not object to an ascent of six or seven thousand feet, would reach the zone of Alpine vegetation, and be sure to collect many of the curious plants of this region of the Andes.

May 22 and the following day were fully occupied in Santiago. Among other agreeable acquaintances,

THE CUMULATIVE VOTE IN CHILI.

LATIL

191

I called upon Don F. Balmacedo, then minister for foreign affairs, and now President of the Republic, who favoured me with a letter of introduction to the governor of the Chilian settlement in the Straits of Magellan. I also enjoyed an interesting conversation with Dr. Taforò, then designated by the Chilian Government for the vacant archbishopric of Santiago. Some canonical objections appear to have created difficulties at Rome, and the see, as I believe, remains vacant.

I found in Dr. Taforò an agreeable and wellinformed gentleman, who appeared to hold enlightened views, and to be free from many of the prejudices which the Spanish clergy have inherited from the dark period of ecclesiastical tyranny and absolute royalty. With regard to the Chilian clergy in general, I derived a favourable impression from the testimony of my various acquaintances. At all events, they appear to be respected by the mass of the population, whereas in Peru they are regarded with dislike and contempt by all classes alike.

Among the various claims of the Chilian republic to be regarded with interest by the student of political progress, I must note the fact that it has for some time successfully adopted a system of suffrage which is supposed to be too complex for the people of our country. In political elections for representatives the mode of voting is, I believe, very nearly the same as that known amongst us as the Hare system ; while in municipal elections the cumulative vote is adopted, each voter having as many votes as there are candidates to be elected, and being allowed to give as many

votes as he pleases to the one or more candidates of his choice. I unfortunately was not aware of these facts while in the country, and therefore failed to make inquiry on the subject; but the fact that, while there is a keen interest in political life, no one has proposed to alter the present mode of voting, seems to prove that the existing system gives general satisfaction.

Early in the morning of May 24 I left Santiago, bound for Santa Rosa de los Andes, the highest town in the valley of the Rio Aconcagua. That river is mainly fed from the snows of the great peak from which it takes its name, the highest summit of the New World.* In its lower course it waters the Quillota valley, through which the railway is carried from Valparaiso to Santiago. In travelling from the latter city it is therefore necessary to return to the junction at Llaillai, whence a branch line leads eastward along the river to San Felipe and Santa Rosa. The sky was cloudless, the air delightfully clear, and the views of the great range were indescribably grand and beautiful, especially in the neighbourhood of San Felipe. The summit of Aconcagua, as seen from this side, shows three sharp peaks of bare rock, too steep to retain the snow which now lay deep on the lower declivities. It has been inferred that the summit must be formed of crystalline or metamorphic rock, as there is no indication of the existence of a crater. This is by no means improbable, as we know that

* The measurements of the height of the peak of Aconcagua vary considerably in amount, but I believe that the most reliable is that adopted by Petermann-6334 metres, or 22,422 English feet.

SANTA ROSA DE LOS ANDES.

193

granite, old slates, and conglomerates, as well as newer Secondary rocks, are found at many points along the axis of the main range ; but, on the other hand, we know that most of the higher peaks in Central Chili are volcanic, and the removal of all but some fragments of the cone of an ancient crater may leave sharp teeth of rocks such as are seen at the summit of Aconcagua. In the view which I obtained from the Morro of Cauquenes I observed several lofty peaks of somewhat the same character, which struck me as probably the shattered remains of ancient craters.

Reaching Santa Rosa early in the afternoon, I proceeded to the Hotel Colon in the plaza, which, as usual, forms the centre of the town. The French landlord and his wife were civil, obliging people, and, although the establishment seemed to be much out at elbows, I was soon installed in a tolerably good room, and supplied with information for which I had hitherto been vainly seeking. The main line of communication between the adjoining republics of Chili and Argentaria * is over the Uspallata Pass at the head of the valley of Aconcagua; and Santa Rosa, or as it is more commonly called, Los Andes, is the starting-point for travellers from the west. Don B. V. Mackenna had kindly furnished me with a letter to the officer in charge of the custom-house station at the foot of the pass, known as the Resguardo del Rio

* The inconvenience of using a periphrasis for the name of so important a country may warrant my adoption of the obvious name Argentaria in place of Argentine territory, or Argentine Confederation, and I shall adhere to the shorter designation in the following pages.

Colorado, and led me to believe that a carriage road extended as far as that point. The latter statement was, however, disputed by several of my acquaintances in Santiago, and the most various assertions were made as to the distance and the time requisite for the excursion. As it turned out, Mr. Mackenna, as he generally is, was correctly informed. The road, as I now learned, was in bad order, but quite passable for a carriage; and the distance could be accomplished in little over three hours.

Having ordered a vehicle for the next morning, I inquired for a man or a boy acquainted with the neighbourhood of the town, who might serve as guide and carry some of the traps with which a botanist is usually encumbered. An ill-looking fellow, who seemed to have been drinking heavily overnight, soon made his appearance, and we started through a long, dusty street, with only very few houses at wide intervals, which led to the road by which I was to travel on the following morning. Seeing the ground near the town to be much inclosed, while on the opposite side of the river a broad belt of flat stony ground, partly covered with bushes and small trees, gave better prospect to the botanist, I desired to be conducted to the nearest bridge by which I might cross the stream. When we reached the place it appeared to be even a more rickety structure than usual, requiring some care to avoid the numerous holes in the basket-work which formed the floor. Having ascertained that I meant to return the same way, my guide proceeded to stretch himself on the bank, where I found him fast asleep on my return.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »