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[CHAP. VIII
BANDA ORIENTAL.

 

CHAPTER VIII.

 
Excursion to Colonia del Sacramiento—Value of an Estancia—Cattle, how counted—Singular Breed of Oxen—Perforated Pebbles—Shepherd Dogs—Horses Broken-in, Gauchos Riding—Character of Inhabitants—Rio Plata—Flocks of Butterflies—Aëronaut Spiders—Phosphorescence of the Sea—Port Desire—Guanaco—Port St. Julian—Geology of Patagonia— Fossil gigantic Animal—Types of Organization constant—Change in the Zoology of America—Causes of Extinction.

BANDA ORIENTAL AND PATAGONIA.

Having been delayed for nearly a fortnight in the city, I was glad to escape on board a packet bound for Monte Video. A town in a state of blockade must always be a disagreeable place of residence; in this case moreover there were constant apprehensions from robbers within. The sentinels were the worst of all; for, from their office and from having arms in their hands, they robbed with a degree of authority which other men could not imitate.

Our passage was a very long and tedious one. The Plata looks like a noble estuary on the map; but is in truth a poor affair. A wide expanse of muddy water has neither grandeur nor beauty. At one time of the day, the two shores, both of which are extremely low, could just be distinguished from the deck. On arriving at Monte Video I found that the Beagle would not sail for some time, so I prepared for a short excursion in this part of Banda Oriental. Everything which I have said about the country near Maldonado is applicable to M. Video; but the land, with the one exception of the Green Mount, 450 feet high, from which it takes its name, is far more level. Very little of the undulating grassy plain is enclosed; but near the town there are a few hedge-banks, covered with agaves, cacti, and fennel.

November 14th.—We left Monte Video in the afternoon. I intended to proceed to Colonia del Sacramiento, situated on the northern bank of the Plata and opposite to Buenos Ayres, and thence, following up the Uruguay, to the village of Mercedes on