A Mexican Ox-Cart.
Scenery On The Vera Cruz Railway.
At length we reached our destination for the night, the little town of Orizaba. It was the edge of evening when we strolled through its streets. The temperature was as high as that of New York in July.
The air was heavy with the odors of luxuriant vegetation. Occasionally a tufted palm outlined its graceful form against the sky; yet,even then, we were not really in the Hot Lands. Compared with Vera Cruz and its adjoining territory Orizaba is cold; and the inhabitants of the coast actually come to this elevation for relief from heat, and to escape yellow fever which is here unknown. Perpetual summer reigns along this Mexican terrace; not hot enough to make existence unendurable, yet with an air sufficiently relaxing to cause ambition to appear a farce, exertion an absurdity, and any special interest in life beyond a cup of coffee, the aroma of a fine cigar, the music of a mandolin, and the smile of a fair senora, not worth the trouble that it costs. Yes, if there be a district in the world especially adapted to a life of dolce far niente, it is the natural terrace on which lie the little towns of Cordova and Orizaba, filled with the fragrance of magnificently timbered forests, and situated equidistant from a plain of almost equatorial heat and the cool shadows of Chapul-tepec.
Fruit-Sellers At The Station.
The Alameda At Orizaba.
Corn-Field And Sleeping Watcher.
Farmer Boys, Orizaba.
On the Vera Cruz railway we traveled no further toward the coast than Orizaba, because the health officials had informed us that if our car descended to the Hot Lands, we should be quarantined on our return. Moreover, although this route is best adapted for a view of Mexico's temperate zone, in order to really see the tropics, another grand descent is preferable, along the recently completed railroad down the mountains to Tam-pico. Accordingly, we made our way to a different point on the edge of the Mexican plateau, prepared this time to take a plunge into the real Tierras Calientes.
It was seven o'clock in the morning when we left our car, and, on the brink of the great table-land, seated ourselves on vehicles, which, though much larger than our ordinary handcars, nevertheless resembled them. Two benches crossed each, one in the front the other in the rear, and in the space between was a heavy brake, upon the strength of which the safety of our lives depended; for we were now, by the force of gravity alone, to slide down from the temperate to the torrid zone, upon a curving track, in places steeper than the road to Vera Cruz. Of course, we might have taken a regular train upon this route, but from no ordinary conveyance could we have viewed and photographed the scenery to such advantage as from these open cars. The difference was as great as that between riding in a covered barouche and in an open wagon. There was no danger of a collision, for we had seen the telegraphic order sent to hold the up-train at the base of the mountain till we should arrive. "Had the instructions been received and understood?" "Click, click, click," came the reassuring answer. It was all right; the track was clear, and it belonged to us. Vamanos! The ride that followed was incomparably the most exciting of my life. Now we went dashing through a tunnel which had a temperature as cooling as a shower-bath, or whirling round a precipice upon a shelf of rock, beneath which was a gorge two thousand feet in depth; a moment later, we would slide in a straight line along the glittering grooves with a momentum that would have been frightful, but for the steady hand maintained upon the brake. Even when thus controlled, it seemed at times as if the car were actually alive and leaping forward on the rails like a thoroughbred on the race-track; for we were making a descent of seven thousand feet in fifteen miles, including the windings of the track. I must confess that there were moments when I felt a little nervous, and once, when we had attained a speed that made a gentleman from Chicago turn pale and raise his eyes toward heaven, as if considering what his chances were of going there, I called a halt and took some photographs. The railroad winds about the mountains in tremendous loops, like a gigantic serpent. Compared with many feats of engineering here, the famous Pennsylvania Horseshoe Bend sinks into insignificance. The scenery was glorious. The mountains, glistening to their summits with luxuriant vegetation, appeared to be covered with soft, velvet mantles. At times we heard that rare and most delightful sound in Mexico, - the music of a waterfall.