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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

rescue.

GULF OF GUAYAQUIL.

43

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,

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

before we

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

was to find it correct, and 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

FLORA OF PAYTA.

45

the base of the plateau and the beach there is ample space for some mean streets.

With several companions who were kind enough to interest themselves in plant-hunting, I at once turned towards the sea-beach at the south-western side of the town, keeping along the base of the low cliffs that here descend to the water's edge. The seaward face of the cliffs is furrowed by numerous gullies, and in one of the broadest of these I was delighted to observe numerous stunted bushes well laden with crimson flowers. This turned out to be Galvesia limensis, a plant found only at a few spots in Peru, whose nearest but yet distant European ally is the common snapdragon. In the upper part of the same gully were the withered remains of several other species, most of which have been since identified. Emerging on the plateau, we found ourselves on a wide plain, apparently unbroken, leading up to a range of hills some fifteen or twenty miles distant. Though we were here only five degrees from the equator, and before we returned to the ship the sun had risen as high as on a summer's noon in England, the southerly breeze felt delightfully cool and fresh, and at midday, under the vertical sun, the temperature on board ship was not quite 75°.

Vegetation, as I anticipated, was not entirely absent from the plateau, but it was more scarce than I had anywhere seen it, except in the tracts west of the Nile above Cairo, where the drifting sands covers up and bury everything on the surface. In the northern Sahara, about Biskra, where rain is much less infrequent than here, vegetation, though scanty, is nearly continuous, and it is not easy to find spaces of several square yards absolutely without a single plant. About Suez, and on parts of the isthmus where a slight infiltration from the sweet water canal has not developed a more varied vegetation, the number of species in a given tract is often very limited; but

1 tufts of vigorous growth, especially of the salt-loving species, are seen at frequent intervals. On the plateau of Payta, where, as we rambled about, several pairs of eyes were on the alert, but a single tuft of verdure visible at a distance could be made out.

This was formed by several bushes of Prosopis limensis growing together. Elsewhere the few plants seen were confined to the occasional shallow depressions where rain rests longest. All, of course, had perennial roots, and scarcely one of them rose as much as three inches from the ground.*

I found it difficult to account for the origin of the sands which are sparingly scattered over the plateau, but accumulated to a considerable depth on the slopes behind the town. The underlying rock seen in ascending to the plateau is a tolerably compact shale; but the hard crust forming the superficial stratum appears to consist of different materials, and not to be made up from the disintegrated materials of the shale. At several places, both below the cliffs and on the plateau, I found large scattered fragments of what appeared to be a very recent calcareous formation, largely composed of shells of living species ; but this was nowhere seen in situ, and I was unable to conjecture the origin of these fragments.

* For a list of the species collected, see the Journal of Linnaan Society, vol. xxii.

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