We continued to ride through the uncleared forest; & only occassionally met an Indian on horseback, or a troop of fine mules bringing Alerce planks or corn from the Southern plains. In the afternoon one of the horses tired; we were then on the brow of a hill which commanded a fine view of the Llanos. The view of these open plains was very refreshing, after being hemmed in & buried amongst the wilderness of trees. The uniformity of a forest soon becomes very wearisome; this West coast makes me remember with pleasure the free, unbounded plains of Patagonia; yet with the true spirit of contradiction, I cannot forget how sublime is the silence of the forest. The Llanos are the most fertile & thickly peopled parts of the country: they possess the immense advantage of being nearly free from trees; before leaving the forest we crossed some flat little lawns, around which single trees were encroaching in the manner of an English park. — It is curious how generally a plain seems hostile to the growth of trees: Humboldt found much difficulty in endeavouring to account for their presence or absence in certain parts of S. America; it appears to me that the levelness of the surface very frequently determines this point; but the cause why it should do so I cannot guess. — In the case of Tierra del Fuego the deficiency is probably owing to the accumulation of too much moisture; but in Banda Oriental, to the North of Maldonado, where we have a fine undulating country, with streams of water (which are themselves fringed with wood) is to me, as I have before stated, the most inexplicable case.
On account of the tired horse I determined to stop close by at the Mission of Cudico; to the Friar of which I had a letter of introduction. — Cudico is an intermediate district between the forest & the Llanos: there are a good many cottages with patches of corn & potatoes nearly all 529 belonging to Indians. The Plank-built Chapel is small & in sad decay; the Government is building a school for the Indian children. — The Padre tells me they are very easily taught any subject, & that the school will be the means of doing a great deal of good. — All the Indians belonging to Valdivia are "reducidos & Christians"; they are divided into tribes, & have their Caciques: their quarrels & crimes are superintended by Spanish authorities, & I do not quite understand what power the Cacique has, excepting that of oppressing his subjects. The Indians to the North, about Imperial & Arauco, are yet very wild & not converted; they all have however much intercourse with the Spaniards. — There are 26 tribes more or less dependant on Valdivia; each of these have Spanish residents, called "Capitanes delos amigos", whose office is to interpret & plead for their respective tribes with the Governor of Valdivia. The Caciques of three or four of the tribes, who have remained very faithful & have been of service during the wars, receive a pension of 30 dollars a year (6 pounds sterling); a sort of bribe with which they are well satisfied to remain quiet. — Some of the tribes are large, one is supposed to have 3–4000 Indians. — The Padre says that the Indians do not much like coming to mass, but otherwise show much respect to religion; the greatest difficulty is in making them observe the ceremonies of marriage. — The wild Indians take as many wives as they can support; & a Cacique will sometimes have more than ten: — on entering his house, the number can be told by that of the separate fires. This last plan must be a good one to prevent quarrelling. The wives live each a week in turns with the Cacique; but all are employed in weaving Ponchos &c for his advantage: to be the wife of a Cacique is an honor much sought after by the Indian women. — The besetting sin with all is that of drunkedness; it seems wonderful that they are able to drink enough of our sour weak cyder to make themselves drunk. — But it is certain that they remain in this state for whole days together & are then very dangerous & fierce. — The Indian temperament, all over the Americas, seeks with singular eagerness the excitation produced by Spirituous liquors.
The common Indian dress to the South of Valdivia is a dark woollen Poncho, beneath which they wear nothing, & short tight trousers & leggings. To the North, they wear a garment folded round their bodies in the manner of the Chilipa of the Gauchos. This alone will immediately point out from which side any Indian comes. — They all wear their long hair bound by a red band, & without covering to their heads. Both of which tastes are constantly seen in the Indians on the other side of the Cordilleras. Some of the women wear curiously shaped & very large plates of silver in their ears; & I saw one man with a similar necklace; which at a distance looked like a white ruff. — It appears to me that these Indians have a slightly different physiognomy from any which I have seen; they are more swarthy, their hair is not so straight & in greater profusion, their cheek bones are very prominent: they are good sized men. — The expression of their faces is generally grave & even austere; & possesses much character; this may either pass for goodnatured bluntness or for fierce determination. — On the road a traveller meets with none of that humble politeness so universal in Chiloe; some however gave their "Mari-Mari" (good morning) with promptness. — The resemblance very likely is imaginary, but the long hair, the grave & much lined features, & dark complexion, called to my mind old portraits of Charles the First. — The independence of manners of these Indians is probably a consequence of the long & victorious wars which they have fought with the Spaniards. — At present all the Southern Indians seem in a fair way of continuing subjects of Chili. — They are said to be very good horsemen; they do not much use the lazo, or the Bolas, & this latter only to the North. — The Chusa is the proper Weapon of the country. — It is odd what difficulty is found in ascertaining even the most simple question from the Spaniards. I was assured by what would appear excellent authority, that the Indian language of Chiloe is quite distinct from that of these Araucanians: yet I now am convinced they are the same. — The greater part of the latter talk some Spanish.
I spent the evening very pleasantly, talking with the Padre. — He was exceedingly kind & hospitable; & coming from St Jago had contrived to surround himself with some few comforts. Being a man of some little education, he bitterly complained of the total want of society; — with no particular zeal for religion, no business or pursuit, how completely must this mans life be wasted.