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Across Unknown South America by Landor

From Petronilla to Cancha Huayo


I

heard at that place an extraordinary account of how a dirigible balloon, with nobody on board, had some few years before passed over the house. The balloon--which my informant, in his ignorant language, called a "huge square globe"--flew, according to him, a flag, the stars and stripes, and had an anchor dangling down. The balloon was travelling in a westerly direction. It flew a little higher than the trees, and caused a great scare among the natives. My informant told me that there was no one in the car at all, but they waved their hands at him (_sic_) when they passed over his house! He then told me that the air-ship had passed in the daytime and had quickly disappeared, but that it was beautifully lighted with coloured lights at night. So that it would be difficult from that truthful account to place much reliance on what the man said or on what he had seen at all. It is quite possible--after discarding all the indisputable embroidery from the story--that a balloon actually went over that place, and it may probably have been Wellman's abandoned balloon with which he had tried to go across the Atlantic.

On January 3rd and 4th we had no great excitement. We stopped at numberless places. Nearly all the houses in that district were made in three sections, the two end rooms enclosed in _bona_-palm walls, while the central and larger room had two open sides. All the houses were perched up on piles, owing to the frequent inundations. Sewing-machines

and gramophones were to be found in nearly every house. All the women wore, rather becomingly over such ugly countenances, the valuable hats which generally go under the name of "Panamas." The river was getting beautiful as we went farther up, immense grassy stretches being visible where the country was not inundated, and low shrubs emerging from the water in the many channels that were formed everywhere.

[Illustration: A. B. Leguia, the President of the Peruvian Republic.]

On January 5th we arrived at Terra Blanca, where a lakelet had been formed by an outlet of the river on the left bank. A place called Pernambuco was situated at the entrance of this lake. The water of the lake was beautifully clear and of a wonderful greenish colour. Beautiful white and yellow sand deposits were to be found around it. Five hundred people lived at Pernambuco. The _Rimac_ did a brisk trade, over a hundred pounds sterling worth of goods being sold in an hour at that place.

On January 6th I saw the first hills of importance we had seen since leaving the lower Amazon. Those were the hills of Petronilla, where a mass of volcanic rocks and some interesting hot springs were to be found. A ridge ran from south-east to north-west in symmetrical undulations up to 1,000 ft. from Petronilla to Cancha Huayo. It rose quite abruptly from the flat alluvial land. Where a land-slide had occurred it showed an upper stratum of grey alluvial deposit 10 ft. thick, with soft yellow volcanic rock underneath, in a stratum of 30 ft. thick. It seemed as if that hill had been lifted up by volcanic pressure from underneath, as a lot of white and yellow sand had been brought to the surface, which evidently formed a substratum in the Ucayalli region.


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