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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

In South America

page 78

In South America.

Returning to San Francisco I proceeded southwards along the coasts of California and Mexico, touching at Acapulco, in former years the port of departure of the Spanish galleons bearing the treasures of their possessions in America to Spain, I passed a little time at the ancient city of Lima, famous for the exploits of Pizarro, and his cruel dealings with the native inhabitants of Peru. The highest ascent which I have ever made was by a railway from Lima up the Andes Mountains to a height of 12,300 feet. This wonderful line was planned and completed by an American—Mr Meggs, I believe—in order to bring down the produce of the fertile country on the eastern side of the Andes, which formerly had to be conveyed on mules or alpacas. The rarity of the atmosphere at that elevation caused me great pain and uneasiness, so that I was very glad to get down again to about the height of 7000 feet, when the unpleasant symptoms passed away. Whilst waiting for the arrival of an English steamer at Panama I was kindly invited by the captain of the American steamer to stay on board, rather than to live on shore in that tropical climate; and so I had the advantage and enjoyment of the fresh sea breeze in the roadstead. This is only one of the many kind offices I have received from the Americans, both ashore and afloat. From Callao, the port of Lima, I sailed along the western coast of South page 79 America, getting grand views of the Andes Mountains, which are only a short distance back from the seashore. We stopped for a few days at Valparaiso, a very stirring seaport, from which it is easy to reach Santiago, the capital of Chili, a finely laid out city, not far from the base of the Andes. From Valparaiso, proceeding southward, we called at several places on the coast to take in copper ore, and, after encountering some very severe weather, at length ran into a narrow passage, between steep rocks, leading into the Straits of Magellan, through which we steamed, amidst high mountains and glaciers, to the wider part of the Straits between the coast of Patagonia on the one side and Terra del Fuego on the other. Thanks to the arduous labours of Christian missionaries, shipwrecked mariners on that fearful coast are no longer liable to be killed or ill-treated by the natives, but are now cared for by them and brought to the mission stations. Having cleared the Straits of Magellan, we sailed up the eastern coast of South America, stopping at Monte Video, and afterwards stayed for a few days at Rio Janeiro, the capital of Brazil. The harbour on which this city is built is one of the finest in the world, protected by high mountains, and well sheltered from all winds. From Rio Janeiro I made an excursion amongst the beautifully wooded hills inland, and I met with much kind hospitality from one of the leading merchants, Mr Steel, who had left Dundee in page 80 his early days and become a much respected citizen of Rio, where he had resided for more than half a century. The Botanic Gardens well merit the fame they hold for their remarkable natural beauty of situation, and the fine specimens of trees and plants of the country which they possess.