26 June 1835

Copiapo to Agua-amarga
I hired a Vaqueano & 8 mules to take me into the Cordilleras by a more direct line than last time. As the country in this direction was utterly desert I took with me a cargo & half of Barley & Straw. About two leagues above the town, a broad valley called the "Despoblado" or uninhabited, branches off from the one by which I descended. This at first runs very Northerly, but then proceeds well Easterly & ends in a good pass to the other side. This valley is a very large one, both of great breadth & depth; it is however quite dry, perhaps with the exception of a few days during some very rainy winter. The sides of the crumbling mountains are but little furrowed with ravines & the bottom of the main valley level. No considerable river ever could have poured its waters over the bed of shingle, without leaving a channel similar to what is found in other valleys. I feel no doubt as we now see it, so it was left by the gradually retiring sea; The dry valleys, mentioned by Travellers in Peru probably in the greater number of instances owe their present form to the same origin.

We rode till an hour after sunset till we reached a side ravine with a small well called "Agua-amarga". The water deserves its name, for besides being saline, it is most offensively putrid & bitter; I suppose the distance is about 25–30 (English) miles from the river of Copiapo; in this distance there is not a drop of water & the country almost deserves the name of an absolute desert. Yet it is about half where the Indian houses at Punta Gorda are situated. I also noticed in front of some of the small side valleys which enter into the main one, two piles of stones a little way apart & in a direction to point up the valley. My companions knew nothing about them & only answered my queries by their "Quien sabe".

Captain Fitzroy’s Journal:
Religion had so much influence over the minds of the earlier Spaniards, and was so warped and misinterpreted by the priests of their day, that actions, in themselves most unjustifiable, found defenders and active supporters among churchmen, and energetic performers among those who trusted their consciences to other men's keeping. An enthusiastically religious feeling, strengthened them to persevere under all trials and disappointments, and helps to account for the wonderful energy and constancy, shown in discovering, exploring and subduing the New World. This high sentiment of religion, urging them to conquer in order to convert to Christianity, and to honour God by serving their king, was an impelling motive in the minds of the early adventurers, at least as strong as the desire of riches. I here allude to those leaders who first opened the roads, which crowds of inferior men afterwards followed. One proof of this feeling is the fact, that the last of Valdivia's faithful companions who fell, was his chaplain, without whom, it appears, he did not even go to battle.

But I must return to the banks of the LeĆ¼bu, which we were approaching as fast as our tired horses could drag their hoofs through deep, loose sand, when a solitary light moving on the dark side of the opposite high land, showed the place where our countrymen were anxiously waiting for assistance: we had heard that their encampment was under Tucapel Heights, and close to the river's mouth.

As soon as we arrived at the water side, I hailed as loudly as I could call, but no answer was returned. Again I hailed "Challenger's a-hoy," and a faint 'hallo' repaid us for every difficulty. "Send a boat!" I called. "Aye, aye!" echoed from the hills. Lights appeared directly coming down the hill: a little boat came across the river, and very soon we were embarked in the Challenger's dinghy, the only boat saved. The master and one man were in her, from whom we heard that all the party were well, and that they had not yet been molested by natives.

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