10th June 1835

Instead of going from this place direct to the town of Copiapò, I determined to take a guide & fall into the valley higher up. We rode all day over an uninteresting country. I am tired of repeating the epithets barren & sterile. These words, however, as commonly used, are comparative. I have always applied them to the plains of Patagonia, yet the vegetation possesses spiny bushes & some dry prickly grasses, which is luxuriant to anything to be seen here. There are not many spots where in 200 yds square, some little bush, plant, Cactus or Lichen can not be discovered, & in the ground seeds lie buried ready to spring up during the first rainy winter. In Peru absolute deserts are to be met with over a large extent of country.

In the evening we came to a little valley in which the bed of a little streamlet was damp — following this up for a mile we came to water & that not very bad. During the night the stream flows a league lower down than in day, before it is evaporated & absorbed. There was plenty sticks for firewood, so that for us it was a good place of bivouac; but the poor animals had not a mouthful to eat. Even here there were two cottages of Indians with a troop of donkeys, employed in carrying firewood &c &c to the mines; these donkeys are without any inaccuracy supported on the stumps of the dry twigs of the Bushes. There is not a plant of any sort for them to eat. I believe every now & then they are taken to feed for a short time in the valleys of the Cordilleras, but generally, what I have stated is their sole support. The fact of the gnawed stumps proved the truth & quite astonished me.

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