During our month's residence, the weather was extremely unsettled; and twice during a few rainy days, when the temperature was remarkably chill, we saw the snow-line descend several thousand feet upon the great volcanoes.
For the remainder of the short period alluded to, the weather was warm, and occasionally hot; with partial thunder showers, during the passage of which the streets of the city were deluged by water to that degree that the crossings would have been impracticable for fine gentlemen and ladies with shoes and stockings, were it not for the cargadores and Indians, upon whose backs we were taught to mount without scruple, in order to save ourselves a wetting.
As to the rest, we could not be insensible to the peculiar rarity and dryness in the atmosphere, for which the table land is remarkable. The sensation of the heat on the skin is far greater than the degree of warmth indicated by the thermometer would appear to warrant, owing to the astonishing degree of reflection of the sun's rays, which is produced by the vast and naked spread of the plains, the masses of mountains by which they are surmounted, and the diminished pressure which the rarified air exerts upon the moisture given forth by the body. The most violent exercise never produces the slightest sign of perspiration; at the same time that you can ascend no elevation, not even the steps of houses, without being sensible of an unusual shortness of breath.
But while I have dipped my pen in my inkstand to allude to natural phenomena, I must not forget to mention the earthquakes, from which the city is rarely exempt at this season of the year.
I omitted to mention at the close of the preceding letter, that when we arrived at our last halting place before entering the city, we heard that the first earthquake of the season had been felt at ten the preceding night; and that more than usual alarm had been excited, on account of the duration, force, and the character of the shock. This I am convinced I felt at San Mateo, where we slept on the night in question: though it was shrouded in the