Journal From Lima to Caracas
Commencing September 4th, 1826

By William Owens Ferguson


Coming down the cordillera this night a thunder storm and tremendous shower overtook me in the midst of a primeval forest, as dark as pitch and a torrent on my right thundering along making as much noise as the thunder. My horse got so frightened as to actually crouch so that my feet touched the ground. If I had been of a romantic turn, this was a bella occasion to enjoy myself. However, two or three falls of my horse and wet to the skin, hungry, sleepy and tired I only cursed the Commission, the road and country and last of all poor old Columbus who discovered it (15 December 1826).

William Ferguson's journey from Lima to Caracas
(Microsoft MapPoint © 2006 Microsoft Corp.)

The text of this journal has been transcribed from the original manuscript to a typewritten copy by William O. Ferguson's grand nephew. The present text is a scanned (OCR) version of the transcription. Only noticeable errors have been corrected, including a few place names (ex. Bogotá instead of Bagota). Biographical and other information was added, which is included in William O. Ferguson's biography. [document]

The Ferguson Papers are the property of Mrs. C.D. Gamble of Canada. We are thankful to Susan Wilkinson of Toronto for sending her copy of this journal for publication.

4th September 1826. Left Lima, arrived at the Fortress of Callao and embarked at 7 at night. The crowd being so great as to impede the General embarking sooner. Men, women and children in fear and all declaring they would on no consideration allow his departure.

5th to 8th. On the Pacific, on board the sloop of war "Congress". Fair wind.

9th Sept. Came to in sight of Deadman's Chest in the mouth of the Guayaquil River.

10th Anchored at Island of Pemaa.

11th Farther up the river. Magnificent scenery.

12th Arrived at 3 o'clock in the morning at the city of Guayaquil, and landed just at daybreak amidst a thundering salute of cannon, ringing of bells, bands, huzzahs, etc.

13th to 18th In Guayaquil, five balls, three public dinners, horse races, etc.

18th To the town of San Borondon, 7 leagues, and embarked. Beautiful scenery, the banks of the river are covered with plantations and country houses. The effect is heightened by the picturesque appearance of the "balsas" on rafts, each of which has a little thatched house and a number of flower pots on it besides poultry and all the other little appendages to a family. It looks something like what is described of the Chinese. A plentiful dinner but cursedly hot and the room not very airy.

19th To the Fort and Town of Babahoyo, 8 leagues by river. Shot several crocodile they being in swarms on the sand banks, some as long as 16 feet. The banks of the river here are covered with rich pasturage and savannah.

20th Halt for meals.

21st To the cattle estate of Carzah, 3 leagues. Went to shoot wild geese, plenty game.

22nd To the hamlet of Large, 9 leagues. Very bad road through an almost impenetrable forest impervious to the rays of the sun, up to the girths in mire. Crossed the river several times. This road is impassable in the rainy season.

23rd To the town of San Miguel, good road in the dry season, vice versa, 7 leagues, 5˝ and an ascent of about 60 degrees. San Miguel cold climate in a beautiful, valley and commanding a good view of Chimborazo, which is seen rising majestically above the clouds over the valley of Guaranda. The climate now changes from excessive heat to the cold bracing air of the serrania or mountains, I rather say Highlands.

24th To the borough town of Rio Gamba, 12 leagues. Cross the Cordillera of the Andes by the Paramo of Payal and the Chimborazo. Cross the rains of the old Rio Gamba. Breakfasted at the town of Cajabamba. Splendid dinner today. About 3,000 horsemen came out to meet the General, in fact these people show that they have some talent and discernment having shown a due respect for the Aides.

25th To the borough town of Ambato 9 leagues. This town suffered considerably when the last eruption of Cotopaxi ruined La Facunga and Rio Camba. Well received, good dinner and better horses. Mine tried to run away with me and as I was as headstrong as he, all the revenge he could take was to throw himself on his back, whilst I threw myself off it. It broke my new Hussar saddle and galloped all the way and jumped over the road, ditches and all.

26th To the borough town of La Facunga, 7 leagues, through beautifully cultivated I country. This day there were seven volcanoes in sight. Well received. An immense crowd of Indians with saints, triumphal arches and chicha pots, of which liquor they made most liberal libations.

27th To the town of Machachi, 11 leagues. Past the foot of Cotopaxi and over the plain of Mulalo in which there is an artificial mountain made by the Incas, supposed to contain hidden treasures. This plain is covered with enormous masses of stone ejected by Cotopaxi.

28th To the city of Quito 11 leagues, fine road, magnificent and rich scenery, abundant country. This city is seated at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano. We were well received although through the stupidity of the Intendant not so well as otherwise might have been expected. Here we remained carousing and in was sailing till the 4th of October. Beautiful women in Quito although without soul.

5th October To the Estate of Chaquinbamba, 7 leagues. On leaving Quito there is a lovely prospect of the Valley of Pomasqui. An immediate descent to the river and rather cold at night.

6th To the borough town of Otovalo, 8 leagues. Beautifully rich and picturesque country in a high state of cultivation and thickly populated. There was a splendid reception, excellent dejeuné, dinner supper and ball. Pretty girls and kind. Mountain Imbaburá.

7th To the city of Ibarra, beautiful scenery and reception with a great deal of taste, ball at night and next day dinner, ball and supper. Left the Cayanti to the left.

8th All snug and in clover.

9th To the town of Pemtal. Past the beautiful Lake of Yaguar-Cocha or moody Lake, and descent to the River Chota which has a bridge. A tremendous ascent in which during a storm we lost our way and got well drenched in spite of our oil cloth clothes. Beastly dinner, bad quarters and a miserable town with a talkative and fastidious old friar as curate who recommended his coffee as super excellent, as he assured us it was "de America". So much for the Friar' s knowledge of the production of his native country.

10th To the town of Fulcan. Breakfasted at the town of Tura whose curate was just as bad a s the other and gave us black puddings for breakfast. Stopped to take something at the town of Guiaca situated in a forest infested with banditti. This day we had an escort of cavalry and got well drenched. Got into Fulcan about 5 in the evening after 12 leagues of a heavy road. My wally de sham deserted today and carried with him a horse saddle and bridle. All my cloaks and dressing apparatus for the road ... probably the guerrilla took him in the wood.

11th To Cumbal, 4 leagues over rich pasturage. This town is very cold and situated at the foot of a volcano from which it takes its name. There was a battle fought here.

12th To the town of Fuguerres, 10 leagues over rich pasturage. A little corn and potatoes. Past three towns, road very good in dry weather.

13th To the city of Pasto, 12 leagues in Yacuanguer, past the River Guitara. A good deal of ascent and forest with positions at every half league. The city has a beautiful appearance from above, situated in a plain which it covers with a fine river running through it. The country rises almost imperceptibly in amphitheatre covered with country houses, farms and estates mostly of wheat and barley with Indian corn and potatoes.

14th Remained at Pasto which is almost without inhabitants owing to the bloody and inveterate war which has been carried on. It is calculated that not less than 60,000 men have lost their lives in this province and from the year 1823, 95 Field Officers and Officers have been killed in Pasto of the Colombian Army. Things are beginning to mend however, as the last guerrilla was taken with his party a few months since and shot. The obstinacy of these people has never had an example in any nation. They have frequently routed our best troops with wooden clubs and spears and never has a Pastuso asked for quarter on the field. The original settlers of this Province were Biscayans and Catalonians who are remarkable for their hardiness and constancy in Spain.

15th To Ortega, a ruined hacienda, by some mistake the cooks missed their way and we were without dinner or supper too. Fine country but entirely depopulated. We could see several groups of cattle that had gone wild and whose owners had long since been exterminated. My baggage did not make its appearance today and to an empty stomach I had the agreeable sensation to add that I had not a second shirt to my back. This day's journey 8 leagues, partly forest with a villainous heavy road and partly open country.

16th To the hut of Encanada, 5 leagues, descended to and crossed the River Juanambú, desert country full of positions and remains of field fortifications. There have been at least thirty engagements fought at different times within these 5 leagues. No appearance of the baggage, many a curse did I bestow, dire heart and fell did I bestow on the Pastusos as I recrossed the river in search of it. However, at last I met with the baggage mules tired out. There was nothing else for it but to make the servants dismount and place the baggage on their horses and my own. Whilst "Guy Surrey" who had had very little idea of climbing over precipices had the benefit of a little extra exercise.

17th To Venta Quemada, a shed, 7 leagues, over a mountain and forest road. Met wit skulls and bones still lying on the road of a detachment which had been surprised and cut to pieces about 6 months before. Not an inhabitant to be seen. Devilish short commons today.

19th To the hacienda or halo (cattle estate) of Puro, 8 leagues, very hot, crossed the River Patia, bad fare, tremendous thunder storm this night.

18th To the town of Mercaderes, 9 leagues, crossed the River Mayo. A little better fare although evidently is still in enemy's country.

20th To the chapel and curacy of Bordo, 7 leagues, situated a little above the town of Patia. Dreadfully hot but better fare than for some days past.

21st To the town of Morqueta, 12 leagues, troublesome road without anything interesting farther than passing by the gold mines of Santa Lucia.

22nd To the town of Macienda of Pimbio, 7 leagues, here we met with every luxury than money and taste could procure. Also a deputation from the city of Popayán waited His Excellency to facilitate him on his return.

23rd October 1826 To the city of Popayán, 3 leagues. Fine country. Beautiful view of the Volcano and Cordillera. About a thousand well dressed people came out to meet us and everything attending the reception was as splendid as possible. There we remained to the 29th and had four balls and several public dinners.


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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2006

Online published: 1 March 2006
Edited: 07 May 2009

Ferguson, William Owens, '
Journal from Lima to Caracas, Commencing September 4th, 1826' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 2006. Available online (, accessed .


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