« ÎnapoiContinuați »
induce endemic or epidemic disease. The difficulty in connection with this subject is to explain certain exceptions to the general rule. In several places in the tropics, usually insular stations, where a steady high temperature is combined with the presence of much vapour, the climate is said to have no injurious effects. But the most marked exception seems to be that of seamen. Excluding that large majority whose calling involves frequent changes of climate, there must be now a considerable body of experience respecting those who for a series of years have navigated tropical seas exposed to nearly uniform temperature. I am not aware that there are any facts to sustain the supposition, which might à priori seem plausible, that such a life tends to enfeeble the European constitution.
Between a broad fringe of mangrove swamp, backed by a narrow border of forest on either bank, with little to break the monotony of the way, we reached Guayaquil before ten a.m. Seen from the river, with many large buildings and stores covering more than a mile of frontage on the western bank, and a straggling suburb stretching to the base of a low hill to the northward, the city presents an expectedly imposing appearance. The present amount of trade is inconsiderable, but if ever these regions can attain to the elementary conditions of good government the development of their natural resources must entail a vast increase of business. The territory of Ecuador includes every variety of climate, and is in great part thoroughly suited to Europeans. All tropical products are obtainable, and, with good
ALLIGATORS OF THE RIVER GUAYAS.
management and kindly treatment, the supply of efficient negro labour at moderate wages is considerable. Among other products of the soil, the tobacco of the country about Guayaquil deserves to be better known. Of the many varieties of the coarser kind which are grown throughout Central and South America, this appears to me the best, as it certainly is the cheapest. The hawkers who came on board sold at less than seven shillings a hundred cigars of very fair quality, making, as I was told, a profit of fifty per cent.
It might be not unworthy of the notice of the great steamboat companies to recommend to their agents some little consideration for passengers who travel to see the world. It commonly happens that on the arrival of a steamer, after the first conference between the agent and the captain, a time is fixed for departure which has no relation to the hour really intended. We were told this morning that the steamer was to start at one p.m. The time was clearly too short for an excursion to the neighbouring country, and the inducement to spend a couple of hours in the streets of such an unhealthy town was very trifling. Two young Englishmen went up the river in a boat with the hope of shooting alligators. These creatures abound along the banks of the Guayas, basking in the mud, and looking from a distance like the logs that are floated down by the stream.
Our sportsmen had the usual measure of success, and no more. For a bullet to pierce the dense covering that shields this animal is a happy accident, but it suffices to disturb the creature from his rest, and to induce him to crawl
or roll into the river, and to accomplish this is at least a new experience. Through the courtesy of a native gentleman, the travellers were induced to land at a hacienda on the river, where horses were provided, and they galloped back to the town before one o'clock. Meanwhile the Jamaica story was repeated. It was announced that the agent had decided to keep the steamer till three p.m.; and finally we learned that we should remain at our moorings till early next morning
On her last voyage the Islay had started too late ; night fell before she cleared the mouth of the river, and, in the dark, she had run down a chatta-one of the cumbrous native barges that ply along the stream. Of fifteen natives in the barge thirteen were saved, three of them by the courage and activity of the chief officer, who jumped into the river to their
Our captain very properly objected to the risk of another similar accident, and decided to wait for daylight. The cause of the delay remained a mystery, for all that was shipped of passengers and cargo was of a kind that did not seem likely to be very remunerative. At first sight it appeared merely as a characteristic of a rude state of society that the country people around Guayaquil are used to embark on the southward-bound steamers with tropical fruit raised by themselves, which they carry to Lima, and even as far as Valparaiso, dispose of at a handsome profit, and then return home. As most of the profit must go into the coffers of the Pacific Steam Company, the motive is not very obvious; but after a little further experience I fully understood it. Even if
GULF OF GUAYAQUIL.
they clear little more than the price of their passage, these people find their advantage in undertaking an annual expedition of this kind. Apart from the very positive benefit to health, they gain what they like most in the world—a season of absolute idleness, with the amusement of seeing new objects and talking to new people. For the remainder of the voyage the main-deck was crowded and somewhat encumbered by picturesque groups of rough men, some accompanied by womankind, alternating with huge heaps of tropical fruit-pineapples and bananas, a single bunch of the latter sometimes weighing more than a hundred pounds.
The thermometer scarcely varied by a small fraction from 80° throughout the night and the following day, until we had cleared the Gulf of Guayaquil; and even at this moderate temperature the feeling of lassitude continued as on the previous day. Of the famous mosquitos of the river Guayas we had little experience. They are said sometimes to attack in swarms so numerous and ferocious that, even by day, it becomes difficult for officers and men to manage a ship on the river.
The sun had set on the following evening, April 12, before we were well abreast of Cabo Blanco, the southern headland of the Gulf of Guayaquil, and we saw nothing of its southern shore. About one-half of this belongs to Peru, and close to the frontier-line is the little port of Tumbez, sometimes visited by passing steamers. I was assured by two of the ship's officers that the climate and vegetation of this place are much the same as at Guayaquil, but there are few
parts of the American coast that better deserve careful examination by a scientific naturalist.
During the night of the 12th we passed Cape Parinas, the westernmost headland of South America, and before sunrise were in the roads of Payta. Being aware that the so-called rainless zone of Peru extends northward to this place, I was especially anxious to see as much of it as possible. During the night the temperature had fallen, especially after rounding Cape Parinas, and at sunrise stood at 74'. In the cooler air, and under the excitement of pleasant anticipation, the lassitude of the two preceding days utterly disappeared ; and as day dawned I stood on deck, with my tin box slung to my back, ready to go ashore long before there was any possibility of doing so. The officers told me, indeed, that there was no use in taking a botanical box, as the country about Payta was absolutely without vegetation. I have many times had the same assurance given me, but the time had not yet come when I was to find it correct, and I felt that Payta was not one of such rare spots on the earth.
The appearance of the place and of its surroundings is unquestionably very strange, and the contrast between it and the shores of the neighbouring Gulf of Guayaquil is simply marvellous. Saving the presence of a mean little modern church, with two shabby wooden towers coated with plaster, the aspect of the little town reminded me of Suez, with the difference that the surrounding desert is here raised about a hundred feet above the sea-level. The place, I presume, is improved since it was visited and described by Squiers, and I found that on the slope between