TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF
ALEXANDER VON HUMBOLDT
AND EDITED BY
IN THREE VOLUMES
GEORGE BELL & SONS.
LONDON: PORTUGAL ST., LINCOLN'S INN.
CAMBRIDGE: DEIGHTON, BELL AND CO.
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO.
BOMBAY: A.H. WHEELER AND CO.
A tablon, equal to 1849 square toises, contains nearly an acre and
one-fifth: a legal acre has 1344 square toises, and 1.95 legal acre is
equal to one hectare.
A torta weighs three quarters of a pound, and three tortas cost
generally in the province of Caracas one silver rial, or one-eighth of
It is sufficient to mention, that the cubic foot contains 2,985,984
Foot (old measure of France) about five feet three inches English
LAKE OF TACARIGUA. - HOT SPRINGS OF MARIARA. - TOWN OF NUEVA VALENCIA
DEL REY. - DESCENT TOWARDS THE COASTS OF PORTO CABELLO.
MOUNTAINS WHICH SEPARATE THE VALLEYS OF ARAGUA FROM THE LLANOS OF
CARACAS. - VILLA DE CURA. - PARAPARA. - LLANOS OR STEPPES. - CALABOZO.
SAN FERNANDO DE APURE. - INTERTWININGS AND BIFURCATIONS OF THE RIVERS
APURE AND ARAUCA. - NAVIGATION ON THE RIO APURE.
JUNCTION OF THE APURE AND THE ORINOCO. - MOUNTAINS OF
ENCARAMADA. - URUANA. - BARAGUAN. - CARICHANA. - MOUTH OF THE
META. - ISLAND OF PANUMANA.
THE MOUTH OF THE RIO ANAVENI. - PEAK OF UNIANA. - MISSION OF
ATURES. - CATARACT, OR RAUDAL OF MAPARA. - ISLETS OF SURUPAMANA AND
RAUDAL OF GARCITA. - MAYPURES. - CATARACTS OF QUITUNA. - MOUTH OF THE
VICHADA AND THE ZAMA. - ROCK OF ARICAGUA. - SIQUITA.
SAN FERNANDO DE ATABAPO. - SAN BALTHASAR. - THE RIVERS TEMI AND
TUAMINI. - JAVITA. - PORTAGE FROM THE TUAMINI TO THE RIO NEGRO.
THE RIO NEGRO. - BOUNDARIES OF BRAZIL. - THE CASSIQUIARE. - BIFURCATION
OF THE ORINOCO.
THE UPPER ORINOCO, FROM THE ESMERALDA TO THE CONFLUENCE OF THE
GUAVIARE. - SECOND PASSAGE ACROSS THE CATARACTS OF ATURES AND
MAYPURES. - THE LOWER ORINOCO, BETWEEN THE MOUTH OF THE RIO APURE, AND
ANGOSTURA THE CAPITAL OF SPANISH GUIANA.
PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF A JOURNEY TO THE EQUINOCTIAL REGIONS OF THE NEW
LAKE OF TACARIGUA.
HOT SPRINGS OF MARIARA.
TOWN OF NUEVA VALENCIA DEL REY.
DESCENT TOWARDS THE COASTS OF PORTO CABELLO.
The valleys of Aragua form a narrow basin between granitic and
calcareous mountains of unequal height. On the north, they are
separated by the Sierra Mariara from the sea-coast; and towards the
south, the chain of Guacimo and Yusma serves them as a rampart against
the heated air of the steppes. Groups of hills, high enough to
determine the course of the waters, close this basin on the east and
west like transverse dykes. We find these hills between the Tuy and La
Victoria, as well as on the road from Valencia to Nirgua, and at the
mountains of Torito.* (* The lofty mountains of Los Teques, where the
Tuy takes its source, may be looked upon as the eastern boundary of
the valleys of Aragua. The level of the ground continues, in fact, to
rise from La Victoria to the Hacienda de Tuy; but the river Tuy,
turning southward in the direction of the sierras of Guairaima and
Tiara has found an issue on the east; and it is more natural to
consider as the limits of the basin of Aragua a line drawn through the
sources of the streams flowing into the lake of Valencia. The charts
and sections I have traced of the road from Caracas to Nueva Valencia,
and from Porto Cabello to Villa de Cura, exhibit the whole of these
geological relations.) From this extraordinary configuration of the
land, the little rivers of the valleys of Aragua form a peculiar
system, and direct their course towards a basin closed on all sides.
These rivers do not bear their waters to the ocean; they are collected
in a lake; and subject to the peculiar influence of evaporation, they
lose themselves, if we may use the expression, in the atmosphere. On
the existence of rivers and lakes, the fertility of the soil and the
produce of cultivation in these valleys depend. The aspect of the
spot, and the experience of half a century, have proved that the level
of the waters is not invariable; the waste by evaporation, and the
increase from the waters running into the lake, do not uninterruptedly
balance each other. The lake being elevated one thousand feet above
the neighbouring steppes of Calabozo, and one thousand three hundred
and thirty-two feet above the level of the ocean, it has been
suspected that there are subterranean communications and filtrations.
The appearance of new islands, and the gradual retreat of the waters,
have led to the belief that the lake may perhaps, in time, become
entirely dry. An assemblage of physical circumstances so remarkable
was well fitted to fix my attention on those valleys where the wild
beauty of nature is embellished by agricultural industry, and the arts
of rising civilization.
The lake of Valencia, called Tacarigua by the Indians, exceeds in
magnitude the lake of Neufchatel in Switzerland; but its general form
has more resemblance to the lake of Geneva, which is nearly at the
same height above the level of the sea. As the slope of the ground in
the valleys of Aragua tends towards the south and the west, that part
of the basin still covered with water is the nearest to the southern
chain of the mountains of Guigue, of Yusma, and of Guacimo, which
stretch towards the high savannahs of Ocumare. The opposite banks of
the lake of Valencia display a singular contrast; those on the south
are desert, and almost uninhabited, and a screen of high mountains
gives them a gloomy and monotonous aspect. The northern shore on the
contrary, is cheerful, pastoral, and decked with the rich cultivation
of the sugar-cane, coffee-tree, and cotton.