Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/45

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The ordinary road from Tampico to the capital is a very circuitous one, passing by the towns of San Luis Potisi, Zacatecas, and Guanaxuato; and we had decided to leave it far to the right or northwest: pursuing as an alternative the more direct, more difficult, but far more picturesque mule track of the Cañada.

I may here, without offending you, bring to your recollection thus much of the physical geography of the remarkable country which was now the scene of our rambles; namely, that its peculiar geological structure admits of its surface being divided into three distinct parts—the tierras calientes, tierras templadas, and tierras frias. The first, the hot districts, lying on the Pacific and Atlantic border, and in greater or less contiguity to the sea, are fertile in sugar, indigo, bananas, and cotton; and exhibit all the phenomena of the tropics. The second, the temperate lands, forming a zone of mountains and broad plains of four or five thousand feet elevation, are blessed with a climate of rare beauty, and favourable to many of the productions of our milder latitudes, while the third, the cold regions, occupying the central table land of the high Cordillera, are exposed to greater vicissitudes of heat and cold, and overlooked by the highest summits of the Mexican chain, rising into the region of eternal snow. Our progress from Tampico to the capital, which lies at an elevation of upward of seven thousand feet above the gulf, would accordingly give us a glance at each in turn.

As our line of route has not been often described, I will give you as much detail as I am able. The incorrectness of the best maps, and the difficulty of getting two people of the country to agree in assigning the same relative position to any given town or remarkable object beyond the bare line of the route, must necessarily throw a degree of indistinctness over my narration.

Imagine us, then, mounted and setting forward from our homely quarters at Tampico Alta, like gentle knights, attended by our string of sumpter mules and serving men. I flatter myself that to a peaceful looker-on we afforded a gallant spectacle, and that our motley contrasted well