Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/209

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FROM COAST TO CAPITAL.

vegetation, and the tropic night manifests itself, not only in the brilliancy of its stars, but in the myriads of its fire-flies. These insects of the night may remind us of the story related by the Spanish chroniclers, of the army of Narvaez, which was put to flight by an apparition of these fire-flies, they mistaking them for the lights of an approaching enemy.

The ascent commences almost at the very gates of Vera Cruz, and at the station of Tejeria, a place noted in the history of Mexico, nine and one half miles distant, we are one hundred feet above the sea. There are no villages on the plains, and few houses except the ranchos of the cattle-owners, and the hamlet of Purga, which reminds us emphatically of the drastic cathartic properties of the indigenous jalap. Passing through Soledad, a hamlet of a few hundred people, the first station of any importance is Paso del Macho, containing fifteen hundred inhabitants, and situated 1,560 feet above Vera Cruz. Three miles beyond this station we cross the bridge of San Alejo, 318 feet in length; at Chiquihuite, another, 220 feet long; and at Atoyac roll over the famous bridge of that name, having a length of 330 feet, spanning the Atoyac River, which empties at the port of Vera Cruz, fifty-three miles distant. Like the plains, which are intersected by deep barrancas, at the bottom of which, in the rainy season, flow turbid rivers, these lower hills are cut up by numerous ravines, rich in all the charming vegetation of the tropics, but offering almost insuperable obstacles to railway construction. Beyond Atoyac the ascent grows steeper, the grades continually increasing, and the course of the railway necessarily becoming circuitous, in order to overcome it. Rank grow the wonderful plants on either side, tumultuous rush the rivers from mountains clothed in verdure, each mile adding, if possible, to the wealth of the vegetable kingdom concentrated here, until it reaches perfection in the valleys lying about Cordova, twenty-seven hundred feet above the sea and sixty-five miles from the Gulf. It is here that the traveller first allows himself to take a long, free breath, without fear of drawing in the germs of yellow fever or malarial disease. The scenery delights him, and he would gladly stop awhile in this region.