Crossing the last terrible bridge, on a curve, as at Metlac, and diving through the last dark tunnel, we finally reach Boca del Monte, the "Mountain's Mouth," at an altitude of seven thousand nine hundred feet above the sea. In the last thirteen miles we have climbed over three thousand perpendicular feet; a stream, that we saw in the valley below as a foaming river, is now so narrow that a boy could leap across it, for we are at its source.
We are now fairly out upon the great upland plateau; we have passed successively through tierras caliente and templada, and are now in tierra fria, the cold country. After dry and bushy hills, we pass over a plain swelling into knolls covered with open oak woods, alternating with green, flower-carpeted pastures. In the centre of an emerald plain is a blue pond, with sheep and cattle feeding on the slopes around it. A few miles farther, at a point indicating one hundred and eleven miles from Vera Cruz, and nearly eight thousand feet above the sea, is the station of Esperanza. A long stop is made here for the passengers to get breakfast, which is abundant and well cooked. Here, also, the great double-ended Fairlie engine, the steam giant that has drawn us over the tremendous grades below, is taken off and replaced by a lighter American one, as the plain now extends the whole distance of one hundred and fifty miles to the capital.
Esperanza is the Spanish equivalent for Hope. The station bearing this name is situated at the beginning of a vast sandy plain, producing thin crops of grain; and as there are no other buildings than those of the station, and nothing of interest nearer than the volcanic foot-hills of Orizaba, the unfortunate traveller who is compelled to stay here for a day or two, realizes why it was called Hope,—because he hopes to find a better place beyond, and is certain he can enter none drearier. The best view of the great volcano of Orizaba is here,—that snow mountain which has been dancing attendance upon us since long before we reached the shore, and playing hide and seek with us behind the hills, all along the line. Now he is unmasked, for he shoots up from the very plains we are on,