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The Voyage of the Beagle

Northern Chile And Peru
Coast-road to Coquimbo -- Great Loads carried by the Miners -- Coquimbo -- Earthquake
-- Step-formed Terrace -- Absence of recent Deposits -- Contemporaneousness of the
Tertiary Formations -- Excursion up the Valley -- Road to Guasco -- Deserts -- Valley of
Copiapo -- Rain and Earthquakes -- Hydrophobia -- The Despoblado -- Indian Ruins --
Probable Change of Climate -- River-bed arched by an Earthquake -- Cold Gales of Wind
-- Noises from a Hill -- Iquique -- Salt Alluvium -- Nitrate of Soda -- Lima -- Unhealthy
Country -- Ruins of Callao, overthrown by an Earthquake -- Recent Subsidence --
Elevated Shells on San Lorenzo, their decomposition -- Plain with embedded Shells and
fragments of Pottery -- Antiquity of the Indian Race.
APRIL 27th. -- I set out on a journey to Coquimbo, and thence through Guasco to
Copiapo, where Captain Fitz Roy kindly offered to pick me up in the Beagle. The
distance in a straight line along the shore northward is only 420 miles; but my mode of
travelling made it a very long journey. I bought four horses and two mules, the latter
carrying the luggage on alternate days. The six animals together only cost the value of
twenty-five pounds sterling, and at Copiapo I sold them again for twenty-three. We
travelled in the same independent manner as before, cooking our own meals, and sleeping
in the open air. As we rode towards the Vino del Mar, I took a farewell view of
Valparaiso, and admired its picturesque appearance. For geological purposes I made a
detour from the high road to the foot of the Bell of Quillota. We passed through an
alluvial district rich in gold, to the neighbourhood of Limache, where we slept. Washing
for gold supports the inhabitants of numerous hovels, scattered along the sides of each
little rivulet; but, like all those whose gains are uncertain, they are unthrifty in all their
habits, and consequently poor.
28th. -- In the afternoon we arrived at a cottage at the foot of the Bell mountain. The
inhabitants were freeholders, which is not very usual in Chile. They supported themselves
on the produce of a garden and a little field, but were very poor. Capital is here so
deficient, that the people are obliged to sell their green corn while standing in the field, in
order to buy necessaries for the ensuing year. Wheat in consequence was dearer in the
very district of its production than at Valparaiso, where the contractors live. The next day
we joined the main road to Coquimbo. At night there was a very light shower of rain: this
was the first drop that had fallen since the heavy rain of September 11th and 12th, which
detained me a prisoner at the Baths of Cauquenes. The interval was seven and a half
months; but the rain this year in Chile was rather later than usual. The distant Andes were
now covered by a thick mass of snow, and were a glorious sight.
May 2nd. -- The road continued to follow the coast, at no great distance from the sea. The
few trees and bushes which are common in central Chile decreased rapidly in numbers,
and were replaced by a tall plant, something like a yucca in appearance. The surface of
the country, on a small scale, was singularly broken and irregular; abrupt little peaks of
rock rising out of small plains or basins. The indented coast and the bottom of the
neighbouring sea, studded with breakers, would, if converted into dry land, present