Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/73

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RIO OQUILCALCO.

were highly curious. This region, barren as it was, had its vegetable as well as its geological wonders, and they were such as to strike us with astonishment. The whole of the stony surface of the mountains on both sides of the valley of the Rio Oquilcaico, into which we descended, is covered with a profusion of maguey, mimosa, cactus, and gigantic nopal or prickly pear, many of the segments of whose curious lobe-formed growth were from three to four feet in circumference, and the oldest near the ground, which served for stem, as many feet in girth, rising one above another, till they formed a curious but ungraceful tree of fifteen or eighteen feet in height.

Among the cacti, of which I counted eight distinct species, from the little prickly ball no larger than a wall-nut, to the great white multangular column which rose gracefully in a single shaft, to the height of fifteen feet, two of the larger species might also arrogate the name of trees, and were extremely curious in appearance.

A rough and tortuous track led us into the arid and stony bed of the Rio Oquilcaico, where, sending the mules forward, we made a diversion to the left, to visit another so-called Indian temple, of much the same character as those I have already mentioned. A ragged passage of a mountain four leagues across, exhibiting the same phenomena, brought us to our midday halting place, at the pretty Hacienda Guadaloupe, situated in the middle of shady trees, and smiling fields of maize, sugarcane, beans, and so forth, on a clear mountain stream called Rio Grande, which in the rainy season forms a considerable river. The system of irrigation carried on in this vale is productive of great fertility, and many of the fruits and productions of the tierras calientes are brought to perfection. After an hour's halt, we began the long and rocky ascent of the broad mountain of San Ammonica, by which you finally attain the level of the expanse of table land which forms the pedestal of the Sierra Madre. Near the summit, the traveller passes the crater of an extinguished volcano, having long perceived, throughout the whole district, the