12th September 1833

Sierra de la Ventana
When at Bahia Bianca, General Rosas sent me a message to say that an officer with a party of men would in a day or two arrive there, & that they had orders to accompany me. As the Lieutenant of this Posta was a very hospitable person I determined to wait a couple of days for the soldiers. In the morning I rode to examine the neighbouring hills; we were disappointed in not being able from the haziness to see the Ventana. In coming to this Posta the day before, my guide showed what appeared to me a strong instance of the accuracy with which they know the bearings of different points. When under a hill, & many leagues distant, I asked him where the Posta was. After considering for some time, for he had nothing in front to guide him, he pointed out the direction; I marked it with a Katers Compass. Some time afterwards we were on an eminence, from whence he knew the country certainly, again showing me the direction it was the same within 3 degrees that is the 1/120th part of the horizon.

After dinner the soldiers divided themselves into two parties for a trial of skill with the balls; two spears were stuck in the ground 35 yards apart, they were struck & entangled about once in four or five throws. The balls can be thrown between 50 & 60 yards, but over 25 there is not much certainty. Our party had been increased by two men who brought a parcel from the next Posta to be forwarded to the General: there were now besides myself & guide the Lieutenant & his four soldiers. These latter were strange beings — the first a fine young Negro; the second half Indian & Negro; & the two others quite non descripts, one an old Chilian miner of the colour of mahogany, & the other partly a mulatto; but two such mongrels, with such detestable expressions I never saw before. At night, when they were sitting round the fire & playing at cards, I retired to view such a Salvator Rosa scene. They were seated under a low cliff, so that I could look down upon them; around the party were lying dogs, arms, remnants of Deer & Ostriches, & their long spears were struck in the ground; further, in the dark background, were horses tied up, ready for any sudden danger. If the stillness of the desolate plain was broken by one of the dogs barking, a soldier, leaving the fire, would place his head close to the ground & thus slowly scan the horizon. Even if the noisy Teni-tero uttered its scream, there would be a pause in the conversation, & every head, for a moment, a little inclined.

What a life of misery these men appear to us to lead! They are at least ten leagues from the Sauce Posta, & since the murder committed by the Indians, twenty from another. The Indians are supposed to have made their attack in the middle of the night; for very early in the morning, after the murder, they were luckily seen approaching this Posta. The whole party however escaped with the troop of horses, each one taking a line for himself, & driving with him as many horses as he was able. The little hovel, built of thistle stalks, in which they slept neither keeps out the wind or rain, indeed in the latter case, the only effect the roof had was to condense it into larger drops. They have nothing to eat excepting what they can catch, such as Ostriches, Deer, Armadilloes &c & their only fuel is the dry stalks of a small plant somewhat resembling an Aloe. The sole luxury, which these men enjoyed was smoking the little paper cigars & sucking Mattee. I used to think that the Carrion Vulture, the constant attendant on these dreary plains, whilst seated on some little eminence, seemed by his very patience to say, "Ah when the Indians come, we shall have a feast".

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