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and the numerous valleys of the Amazon about 600 miles, to Santa Cruz in Bolivia, or 2400 miles from Cartagena; while a branch will run up the Apurimac to Cuzco.
This road would run for 2000 miles along the foot hills of the Cordilleras, and in these mountains is probably the richest mining region in the world ; here gold, silver, copper, lead and coal mines are found. The gold and silver mines do not seem to have been thoroughly explored, although untold millions of the precious metals have been extracted from them. These mines are generally in cold and treeless regions, where coal, labor and food are difficult to obtain ; where freights are high and machinery of all kinds most expensive. This road would greatly facilitate the opening and working of these mines, and not only make them profitable but develop a large and lucrative traffic.
Much of Bolivia is above the navigable waters of the Amazon, and many of its provinces are now land-locked and almost isolated from communication with the outer world. The proposed road would cross many branches of the Amazon, and thus connect with tifty thousand miles of navigable waters, at least 9000 of which are above Iquitos ; and it is claimed that the business from 20,000 miles of navigable waters would find by this route a nearer outlet to Europe and America than by Para.
There is every variety of climate on the route. The valley of the Magdalena is sultry ; every afternoon the water grows tepid, and the stones burning hot, in the sun's rays. In crossing the Cordilleras the cool breezes of the mountains are met. The road then descends into the valley of the Amazon, through a rich and not unhealthy region, though it has the damp, hot, climate of a tropical country, and thence passes through the montaña district, which is generally high, healthy and fertile.
This country, under a wise government, is capable of sustaining an immense population and giving abundant support to such a railroad ; but it is now unexplored, excepting the valleys of the navigable rivers, and is uninhabited save by wild and savage Indians, though these are not numerous.
The route up the Magdalena may be expensive by reason of the climate, but not otherwise. The road in the mountain district will necessarily be costly, and also in the sierras, because it must cross the numerous branches of the Amazon, and the precipitous mountains between the valleys, and from the difficulty of obtaining labor and material for construction. Mr. Orton, who crossed from one branch of the Napo to another, says:
“We crossed the stream and the intervening ridges, and their name is legion ; sometimes we were climbing up an almost vertical ascent, then descending into a deep dark rarine to find a furious river, while on the lowlands the path seemed lost in the dense bamboos, until the Indians opened a passage with their machetes and we crept under the low arcade of foliage."
Even if the railroad were built, almost all the produce of the Amazon and montaña country could be carried more cheaply by water to Para than by rail to Cartagena ; while goods from England and America would be carried cheaper by steamer to the Isthmus of Panama, and thence to all ports on the Pacific ocean, than by steamer to Cartagena and up the Magdalena across the Andes to the valley of the Amazon, and then a second time across the Andes to the Pacific ocean, The greater part of the business to and from the mines would be by the railroad.
At present, as there could not be sufficient business to pay the operating expenses of such a road, it must rely on government subsidies to build and operate it.
Those who have given the most consideration to the subject say that the road need not be an expensive one to operate, and in the important element of time it would have a great advantage over the route via Para. As a means of promoting the settlement of the country and developing commerce, which cannot exist without population, the railroad would seem to be a necessity, for navigation has neither opened the country nor brought in emigrants and we may fairly assume that it will not suffice in the future.
In conclusion I will quote from two writers on tropical America. Buckle says :
“ Amidst the pomp and splendor of nature, no place is left for man ; he is reduced to insignificance by the majesty with which he is surrounded. The forces that oppose are so formidable that he has never been able to make head against them.
The energies of nature have hampered his spirit; nowhere else is the contrast so painful between the grandeur of the external world and
the littleness of the internal, and the mind, cowed by this unequal struggle, has been unable to advance.
Here, where physical resources are the most powerful, where vegetation and animals are most abundant, where the soil is watered by the noblest rivers and the coast studded by the finest harbors, the profusion of nature has hindered social progress and opposed that accumulation of wealth without which progress is impossible.
Mr. Bates, the naturalist, after a residence of many years on the Amazon, closes his book as follows:
“ The superiority of the bleak north to tropical regions is only in its social aspects, for I hold to the opinion that although humanity can reach an advanced state of culture only by battling with the inclemency of nature in high latitudes, it is under the equator alone that the perfect race of the future will attain to complete fruition of man's beautiful heritage, the earth.”
Washington, January, 1891.