BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting


Down the Orinoco in a canoe, by S. Perez Triana

by Santiago Pérez Triana

Excerpt:

Bogota is no thoroughfare. When you get there, there you are, and if you go there, it is because you were bent on it; it is not like other towns that may be on the road to somewhere else, so that travellers may chance to find themselves there.

The plateau of Bogota proper was formerly— no one knows how many centuries or thousands of years ago—a lake of about eighty square miles encased between the surrounding mountains. The waters of the lake broke through the barrier of mountains towards the south, draining it, and leaving the plateau dry, save for some small lakes that dot it here and there, and a few rivers of no great importance. I could not help thinking that this immense lake thus held aloft upon that mighty pedestal at such an altitude formed a sort of gigantic goblet such as is rarely seen under the sun. The river that marks the course through which the waters are supposed to have been drained drags its sluggish waves meandering in many turns and twists from north to south along the plain, and gives a sudden leap of 750 feet through the open gap on the mountain-side, forming those magnificent waterfalls called the Tequejidama. The river plunges headlong, as if to make up for its previous semi stagnant condition; it disappears between two mighty walls of stone, polished as if chiselled by the hand of man; it roars with a deafening sound; its waters appear, as they curl over the abyss, white as the wool of a lamb, and their consistency conveys the impression of wool rather than that of snow. The morning sun plays upon the mass of waters, and crowns it with a halo of rainbows varying in size. On the borders of the river, at the place where the cataract springs, are to be seen evergreens and pine-trees, and other such plants belonging to the temperate or cold zones; down below, where the water falls, and the river reappears like a dying stream following its course in the lower valley, palm-trees and tropical vegetation are to be seen, and birds of variegated plumage, parrots, cockatoos, parroquets and others, fly

like living arrows from the sunlight, and plunge into the mist with piercing shrieks amidst the deafening roar of the cataract.

As we journeyed on in the cool night air, it seemed to me that the whole country—north, south, east and west—lay at my feet, and to the mind's eye it appeared with its vast interminable plains to the east crossed by numberless rivers, the mountain region to the north on the western side of the Magdalena Valley, the broad plains in the Lower Magdalena, and the rugged mountainous district of Antioquia on the western side of the river, and then mountains and more mountains towards the Pacific Ocean.

Surely, if a journey in these days presents such difficulties, the first journey undertaken by the conquerors who discovered the plateau of Bogotd. may be held for a feat worthy of those men who, whatever their faults, were brave among the bravest.

Towards the east of the Magdalena River, on the coast of the Atlantic, the city of Sarita Maria, had been founded somewhere in 1530. News of the vast empire alleged to exist in the interior of the country had reached the founders of the town, and they soon decided to conquer that region about which such marvels were told. In the month of August, 1536, an expedition of 700 soldiers, infantry, and 80 horse left Santa Marta to penetrate into the heart of the continent, confident in their courage, and lusting for gold and adventure. This part of the expedition marched by land, and 200 more men journeyed in boats along the river Magdalena.

A full narrative of their adventures would be long. They met foes large and small, from poisonous reptiles and the numerous insects which made life a burden, to tigers and alligators: add to these fevers and illnesses absolutely unknown to them. It is said that one man, whilst sleeping in camp with all his companions, was snatched from his hammock by a famished tiger. At times the rank and file seemed ripe for mutiny, but the captain was a man of iron. His name was Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada. Though himself sore smitten by some disease peculiar to the locality, he kept the lead, and dragged the rest in his train. Praise is likewise due to the chaplain of the expedition, Domingo de las Casas, who stoutly supported the commander. This friar was a kinsman of


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