We are behind time about twelve hours, and therefore call at all these ports at night. To-night again we are to call at Cabijah, the only seaport of Bolivia. This is situated in the desert of Atacama, and is also a wretched place. The journey thence to Potosi is made on mules, for hundreds of miles through a desert tract. There are two ways of reaching that seat of fabled wealth, one from Cobija, the other by Arica. The latter is the more expeditious route, but, from having to climb the mountains more abruptly, the traveler is liable to the peculiar disease of the mountains called sirocho or puna. It is said that nearly every one suffers from it on rising to the higher elevations of the Andes. However, it is not merely a matter of height, since persons have often been attacked when nine thousand feet high, and not attacked at higher elevations.|
The feet become cold; pain in the head becomes violent; circulation is almost suspended; dreadful sickness at the stomach comes on, worse than any sea-sickness; and, it is said, even death sometimes has ensued. Applications to restore the warmth of the body are the most appropriate remedies; but the attacks come on very suddenly.
On this account the ascent to Potosi is safer from Cobija, although the distance and inconvenience of travel are, by that route, far greater. The distance is 190 leagues, which would make between five and six hundred miles.
We are now nearing Cobija; shall leave again to-night; pass all day tomorrow at sea, for first time since leaving Callao, and next day call at Caldera. Our letters will be left at Cobija for the steamer to take them, which left Valparaiso on the 16th, three days ago, for Panama. The sailing days from Valparaiso are the 1st and 16th of every month.
X. X. X.
The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1858 was equivalent to $23.66 in 2007 dollars.
The Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1898, p.16:|
DOWN THE ANDES IN A HAND CAR.AN EXCITING TRIP FROM MOUNTAIN TOP TO THE PACIFIC.
From Our Own Correspondent.
LIMA, (Peru.) April 16, 1898.--Down the Andes on a hand car. Coasting over the steepest railroad in the world. Dashing through the clouds to find clouds below you.
Hanging to precipices, flying on bridges over frightful chasms, whirling about curves, now in the midnight darkness of winding tunnels and now where the light of day makes you shudder at the depths below.
This will give you a faint idea of the last part of a trip from which I have just returned. During it I have ascended to the very top of the mountains and have come back again to this point, which is just six miles from the sea.
My trip was over the famous Oroya Railroad, the most wonderful piece of railroad engineering ever constructed or planned. The road is, all told, only 138 miles long, but it climbs up the steepest mountains of the globe. In less than 100 miles it ascends more than three miles, and at its highest point it is 15,665 feet above where it starts at the port of Callao, on the Pacific Ocean. At the top it is still 2000 feet below the summit of Mount Meiggs. It cuts right through this peak by a tunnel which carries it to the other side of the Andes. It then descends to the valley of the Juaja, through the rich silver-mining region of Yaull, and finally ends at Oroya, an Indian market town 12,178 feet above the sea.
It is one of the most expensive railroads ever built. Seven thousand lives were, it is said, lost during its construction, and the first eighty-six miles of it cost $27,000,000.
Between the coast and the summit there is not an inch of down grade, and the speed of our handcar in my journey over it was only regulated by the pressure on the brake in the hands of the Indian who served as conductor. On many parts of the road the grade is over 4 per cent., and at such grades the track winds about and up the Andes, passing through cuts in the solid rock and through sixty-three tunnels, some of which are of the shape of the letter S. It is of the standard-gauge, its track is well-laid and is in excellent condition.
BUILT BY AN AMERICAN.
This road was built by an American, though it was suggested by a Peruvian. The man who constructed it was Henry Meiggs. Meiggs laid out the road, acted as its engineer-in-chief, raised the money to build it, and, in fact, is entitled to all the credit of its construction.
The road was originally intended to reach the Cerro de Pasco silver mines, but the $27,000,000 gave out when about eighty-six miles were built, and the extension is still some forty-odd miles away from these famous mountains of copper and silver. The portion of the road above where Meiggs left off was constructed by the Peruvian corporation under what is known as the Grace contract.
The ultimate intention is to extend it further on into the Perene, a rich coffee-raising district, and to the head of the steam navigation of the Amazon at Chanchacayo. The preliminary surveys for this have already been made. The total distance from the sea to the navigable Amazon is, I am told, not more than 210 miles, but there is at present no sign of the railroad being completed.
It is doubtful whether the railroad now pays much more than its operating expenses, and it will be long before it will give dividends in proportion to its enormous cost. Only two passenger trains are run over it a week, and the chief freight down the mountains is ore.
CLIMBING THE ANDES WITH AN ENGINE.
The usual over this road is taken on the regular passenger train, which carries the traveler up the mountains one day and brings him back the next. Through the kindness of the influential American firm Grace & Co., I was taken up on a little engine and had my ride down on the handcar. I thus had a wonderful opportunity for studying both the railroad construction and the mighty mountains up which it climbs.
Our special engine was called La Favorita. It was composed of the engine proper, and a cab walled with glass and fitted up with comfortable seats. This observation compartment was a part of the engine itself, taking the place that the ordinary engine uses for coal. Our little engine burned coal oil, and it was Peruvian petroleum that pulled us up the Andes.
The party consisted of the American Minister, Mr. Dudley; the Secretary of our Legation, Mr. Neal; Mr. Sherman, the manager of the house of Grace at Lima; a Frenchman named Piper, and Mr. Pierson, an electric street-railroad man from Ohio, who is out here to see whether the Lima tramways are worth buying.
The engineer and his helper were Peruvians. We left at 7 in the morning and spent the whole day on the road, stopping to take photographs at the most interesting points and going on as fast or as slow as we wished.
Lima, you know, is situated in the valley of the Rimac River. It is right at the foot of the Andes, and our trip was up the mountains along the course of the river to its very source on the summit. At Lima the Rimac is what in America would be called a good-sized creek. It is nowhere navigable, and is, in fact, a stream of foaming white water from the top of the Andes to the sea. The descent is so steep that quiet pools are nowhere to be found, and the river is a succession of waterfalls, foaming churns and rushing rapids.
During the ride we could often see the river above and below us at the same time, and we went up, up, climbing the sides of the mountains, cheered on our way by the rushing of the waters.
AMONG THE SUGAR CANE AND COTTON.
We first passed through the sugar and cotton plantations which fill the valley above Lima. The fields look like gardens gotten up for show. They are surrounded by mud walls, and the crops are as green as those of the United States in June.
Now we pass a sugar hacienda, in which on one side of the track two steam engines are pulling a cable plow through the field, while on the other side men are plowing with oxen and wooden plows, urging the beasts onward with goads fifteen feet long.
In the cotton fields gangs of Indian workmen are working under overseers on horseback. The cotton plants are in blossom, and the fields look like vast gardens of pink and yellow roses. The men weed the plants and they are as clean as any rose garden at home.
There is a cotton mill, and farther on we pass a sugar factory which grinds out thousands of pounds of sugar a day. There is no better sugar land anywhere than this, and we learn in passing that it produces from two to six tons of sugar per acre, and after once started will keep on producing for as long as six years.
We notice that all the land is used. The water is taken from the Rimac, and nothing grows without irrigation.
IN THE ANDES.
Now we are in the foothills of the Andes. How bleak and bare and gray they look in the early morning! There is not a green spot anywhere to be seen on these vast walls, which here face the sea. We shall find it different as we rise to the mountains behind... As we rise higher the mountains grow greener, until at the level of Mount Washington, we find them covered with a thin coat of vegetation. As we near the altitude of Leadville there is plenty of grass, and at one point we count forty different kinds of flowers at a stopping of our engine...
Mr. Sherman tells me that the fact that there is any green at all to be seen is due to the rainy season, and that at other times of the year this whole western side of the Andes is bleak, dry and almost absolutely sterile...
Further up you come into a region of rocks, where only bits of soil are to be seen here and there. In such places every inch of ground is cultivated. The mountains are terraced clear to their tops, and some of them are covered with steps of green built up with rocks, and so graduated that a man can stand on one of the lower steps or ledges and plant the seed or weed the crops of the next ledge without stooping over...
...The mountains rise alomst abruptly upward. You ride for miles between walls of rock... We pierce a wall of rock, where a river has been turned aside that it may not interfere with the road, and by a winding tunnel dash out into what is called "The Infernillo" or hell. It is a slender iron bridge two miles above the sea, high up between walls of rock. Far down below you see waters rushing, and far out of the wall we have left a great torrent of foaming water plunges. Before us, at the other end of the bridge, there is another wall of rock, in which there is a black hole pierced by the track, and as we look upward between these walls we see as through a narrow slit the blue sky of heaven above this Andean hell.
There are a number of these hanging bridges on the route. We stopped at the Veruguas bridge, which spans a chasm 580 feet above the Veruguas River. This bridge was swept away some time ago, and for months both passengers and freight were carried across on a cable, a little car hanging to the rope stretched from wall to wall across this frightful chasm.
At times we saw tunnels above and below us. The track goes up its steepest places in a zigzag route, so that at one time we counted five tracks running almost parallel below us. Almost the whole line was blasted out of the mountain rocks. On many places along the line the hills are so steep that men had to be lowered in roped over the edges of the precipices to drill holes for the powder which blasted away the ledges for the track. Falling rocks killed some, landslides swallowed up others, and many died of fever.
ON THE HAND CAR.
You can imagine something of the sensation of going down such a road on a hand car. The reality is wilder and more exciting than anything you can conceive.
The hand car on which I rode [while descending the following day] was of the rudest order. It was merely a platform five feet long and a little wider than the track, upon four ordinary car wheels. On the front part of the platform a strip of wood two inches thick and about that wide was nailed, and at the back was a seat much like that on a farm wagon. The seat had a railing two inches high, and it was just wide enough for three.
The conductor, a brown-faced Indian, sat in the middle, with his hand on a brake extending down through the center of the platform. Mr. Sherman and I sat on the right and left, our feet braced against the strip on the bed of the car and our hands on the sides and back of the seat, holding on for dear life as we rushed down the mountains.
Our only means of stopping the car was the brake, and the danger as we rushed through the tunnels was not only that of the car jumping the track in going around the curves, but also the possibility of meeting a donkey or and Indian coming through. The rocks in many places are loose, and the danger of a landslide is such at this time of year that a hand car is always sent five minutes ahead of the regular passenger train to see that the road is free.
At one time we chased a cow for about a mile, and at another two llamas blocked the track for a few moments. At times the road seemed to us to go down at an angle of 45 deg., and many of the severest grades were along the edges of precipices or where we seemed to be clinging to the walls of rock...
ON THE TOP OF THE ANDES.
The sensation of standing on the top of the Andes was worth having. As we climbed up and up above Casapaica the air grew colder and rarer. We rode out of a heavy rain into a dense snowstorm... As the mist we caught a glimpse of the country through which we had been passing and shuddered at the precipices over which we had gone. Mount Meiggs was almost straight below us, and we stopped the engine a moment in front of the black mouth of the Galera tunnel on the very roof of the South American continent.
Behind us all the waters were flowing into the Pacific Ocean. On the opposite side of the tunnel all of the waters find their way through the Amazon into the Atlantic. The dividing of the waters is, in fact, within the tunnel itself, and you could really stand at a certain point in the Galera tunnel and spit in both oceans without taking a step to one side or the other...
We went through the tunnel and stopped La Favorita at the other side... Over us towered Mount Meiggs, 17,575 feet high, its top half a mile above where we stood. Our altitude was more than three miles above the sea. We were on the highest railroad point in the world. Think of it! We were far above the height of Mount Fugiyama, the snow-capped mountain of Japan, far nearer the heavens than the top of Mount Blanc or any point in Europe, a thousand feet higher than Pike's Peak or any mountain in Colorado, above Mt. Whitney, and, in fact, far higher than any mountain in the United States, outside of Alaska...
THE TERRORS OF SOROCHE.
...My voice was so weak from the rarity of the air that I could not have whistled a dog. At about ten thousand feet above the sea conversation began to lag in our party. It was almost impossible to talk to one another on the outside platform of La Favorita, and I found myself again weighing my thoughts to decide whether they were worth the breath it would take to utter them. All sorts of exertions took triple strength to perform them. I found my boots suddenly heavy, and changed my step to that of an old man...
As the day went on the uncomfortable feeling from the extraordinary height and our quick jump from the sea to the tops of the mountains increased. We descended about one thousand feet and stopped for the night at Casapalca, where there is a big silver and copper smelter owned by Backus, Johnson & Co...
Before we got to the house the Frenchman and Mr. Pierson were attacked with soroche, or the mountain sickness, a disease common to strangers in high altitudes, and later on the whole of the party were more or less affected. My attack did not come until midnight. I awoke feeling as though the top of my head was rising into the air. I had a terrible pain in the temples, cramps in my legs and at the same time a strong inclination to vomit. I lay on my back all night to give my lungs as full play as possible and hardly slept a wink.
I managed to get up at daybreak, and although there was a coat on my tongue as thick as the fur of an Alaska seal, I drank some coffee, and by keeping out of doors was sufficiently recovered to take my hand car ride down the mountains. Mr. Sherman fared even better than I, but Secretary Neal said that between the smell of the sulphur from the smelting furnaces and the soroche, he thought he was in hell, and dreamed all night that a hundred devils were dancing on his chest, while Mr. Pierson looked as though he had lost all his friends and said he longed for home.
Capt. Guyer told us that almost everyone who comes up the mountains is similarly affected, and that some fare much worse... The soroche is common throughout the Andes, and I fear I shall have more of it before my trip is over. It usually begins at the altitude of 12,000 feet. With some it does not last more than a day or so, and then passes off. With others it is very serious.
The first symptoms are pains in the head and nausea. Then come vertigo, dimness of sight and hearing; fainting fits follow and blood flows from the eyes, nose and lips. Those whose hearts are weak sometimes drop dead. It is especially hard on full-blooded and stout people and those addicted to liquor and high living. Healthy, thin people of temperate habits soon get over it, and as I am of that class, weighing, all told, not more than one hundred pounds, I expect to survive.
FRANK G. CARPENTER.