Journal From Lima to Caracas

By William Owens Ferguson



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Popayán, Cauca
(Photo Luke Mastin 1999)

30th October 1826 To the town of Totoró, breakfasted at the Hacienda of Calivido, 7 leagues, bad road in winter.

31st To the shed or Fambo of Gabriel Perez, 6 leagues of ascent excessively cold and half way up the Andes.

Nov. 1st To the town of Yussa, 12 leagues. Crossed the Andes here, tremendous rain, piercing cold wind and villainous roads made of logs of wood which in many places are worn away and so dangerous in others that it is necessary to dismount and the baggage unloaded. Arrived at 7 o'clock at night.

2nd To the city of La Plata, 13 leagues, across a fine cattle country, still excessively hot climate.

3rd To the estate of Juneal, 7 leagues, cross a fine cattle country, still oppressively hot.

4th To Ancon, 7 leagues, This day crossed the River Magdelena. Fine country and excellent accommodation at the hacienda, still hot.

5th To the city of Neiva, 14 leagues, A level hot country of pasturage. Cross the Magdelena again, good reception at Heiva which is a pretty place enough.

6th To the Villa Viega, a borough town, 6 leagues, ever hot plains of pasturage.

7th To Patea, a town 4 leagues over plains of pasturage. Cross the river Saldana

8th To the city of Natagaima, 6 leagues, very hot. The plains intersected with ravines.

9th To the borough town of Purificacion, 6 leagues, over the same description of plain. Well received.

10th To the town of Espinal, 8 leagues. Same kind of road. Crossed a lovely plain covered with palm and date trees and intersected with cottages and cattle estates.

11th To the borough town of Tocaima, 12 leagues. Very hot, pass the Magdalena twice today. Here General Santander and the Ministers of state met us, great deal of political manoeuvring and finesse. Santander making himself out the disinterested man etc.

12th To the town of Mesa de Juan Dias, 8 leagues. Mountainous road ascending.

13th To the town of Punza, 9 leagues, 5 of a steep ascent the remainder through the fertile plain of Bogotá. Here we met several acquaintances who came to meet us.

14th To the city and capital of Colombia. Bogotá, 4 leagues. Good road. The reception on the whole very indifferent. Here we had several public dinners and diplomatic balls and suppers. Rained almost incessantly during our stay which was to the 24th.

25th To Santander's estate of Hato Grande, 6 leagues. Breakfasted at the town of Usaquem. For the first 12 miles the road skirts along the foot of the chain of mountains of Montserrat, being lined with neat country seats and tolerable well cultivated farms which extend about 2 miles from the foot of the hills, the plain beneath being used for grazing. As, owing to its being overflowed at certain seasons of the year, it cannot be properly cultivated and the prospect is charming having in view several towns whose white steeples give an idea of comfort which is too often found to be erroneous on a closer inspection. On reaching the Brid called Del Comun the road continues to the right, leaving the other great one to the left which continues by Sipaquira, famous for its salt mines, through Chiquinquira celebrated for its miraculous image and magnificent sanctuary, to Guadalupe, Ahiva, Socarro, Zil, Pie de Cuesta, Pucaramanga and Olaina. Following our route along the left bank of the river for about six miles we reached Hato Grande where we got a superb dinner etc. etc.

26th To the estate of Poita, 4 leagues, through a cold highly cultivated country. Passed several villages. Nessr Montayas gave a splendid set out.

27th To the town of Choconta, 7 leagues, over a fine country with crowded population, passed five or six villages.

28th To the town of Venta Quemada, 6 leagues, mountainous country and very cold.

29th To the city of Funja, 6 leagues, passed Boyaca, cold mountainous country. Vex enthusiastic people, here we stayed the next day and had two balls.

December 1st To the town of Paipa, 7 leagues, rough road and although well cultivated, a cold country.

2nd To the borough town of Santa Rosa, 5 leagues. Magnificent scenery, rich pasturage and a valley covered with houses and cattle of all descriptions.

3rd To the town of Sativa, 11 leagues. Hilly road and various climate most part of the way, the country apparently without cultivation, but immediately about the town cultivation even to the top of the immense mountains that surround it.

4th To the town of Suata, 8 leagues, through hot ravines. Tolerable cultivation.

5th To the town of a Capitanejo, 10 leagues, across a good bridge. Unhealthy climate and suffocatingly hot.

6th To the town of Cerrito, 11 leagues. Ascent all the way, passed through two fertile valleys, very cold.

7th To the town of Chitaga, 8 leagues. This day we passed the paramo of Almorzadero, very cold.

8th To the city of Pamplona, 7 leagues,3˝ ascent and 3˝ descent, over a cold mountain. The appearance of the city is beautiful from above as you can distinguish every house. They say here that it rains 13 months in the year. Very insipid, stupid, good sort of people here. Stopped the ninth.

10th To the town of Chinacota, 7 leagues. Situated in a fertile and hot valley. Descending all day, left the clouds and rain behind us up in the sky.

11th I was this day sent suddenly on commission to the west of Venezuela, where, during the revolution which began in April, the disaffected had always declared they would wait for and abide by General Bolivar's decision but now knowing that he was really coming they have thrown off the mask and disclaim all obedience to him. Principal authors of the revolution are Pena Paez, Marino and Carabano. The object in my going is to unite the troops stationed at Menda and Frufillo and to march on occupying the country as far as I can without compromising myself too much. Travelling past I can tell little of the country. Crossed the Zulia by swimming as the ford was lost owing to the rains. After going over some hills got into the beautiful valley of Cucuta, full of cocoa estates and famous for its breed of mules. Crossed the mountains of Cucuta and reached the town of Fariba near San Christobal at seven o'clock at night, 25 leagues.

12th Crossed the immense mountain and paramo of Tramadero, 6 leagues ascent. Reached the valley and town of Cobre. Then the borough town of La Grita, famous for its tobacco establishments. Crossed the high mountain and paramo de Puerco and reached at eleven at night the fertile valley and borough town of Bailadores, 29 leagues.

13th Passed the beautiful, rich and important tobacco plantations of Tobacal, reached a large cocoa estate and got into the Laderos de Chama. Here the road is about two feet wide and in some places a kind of miserable staging of pieces of wood is all that supports you, whilst a precipice of about two hundred feet and a rapid river is below on one side whilst on the other the mountain is so perpendicular as to be compared to a rock. My situation this day was not the most enviable as my mule was very tired and stumbled several times Crossed the river by a sling or Taravita. This is effected by stretching a rope across which has a kind of runner or loop into which the "patient" is slipped and you have the pleasure of seeing a roaring torrent a couple of hundred feet beneath you whilst a lazy peon is tugging away and one is suspended in the middle where if the rope should have been slack you remain swinging to and fro. Arrived this night at the city of Merida, 30 leagues. Here I found only 120 men of the Battalion Paya, almost all recruits, badly paid and without shoes. Impossible to get them any and no more than 100 muskets in the park.

14th Remained all day at Merida. Marched off Paya.

15th Passed the valley of Merida, through four towns. Passed the borough town and paramo of Mucachies, passed the town and valley of Timotes, passed the paramo of Timotes and arrived at Boca del Monte. 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. This day did 33 leagues and slept at Bocadil Monte.

16th December 1826 Passed the towns of Cucharito, Bulera, Motatan and Pampanito. Fine country with partial plantations and Conucos, or small farms, tolerably well inhabited and hot. Arrived at Trujillo at 12 o'clock after travelling 15 leagues. Trujillo is one of the oldest cities in Venezuela and is situated in the gorge of a small valley and greatly ruined by the earthquakes. Here I found there was not even a single soldier, or even arms, and that as there was no money in the treasury, it would be out of the question to expect to get the Militia under arms, even supposing ourselves to be in a profound peace, but as we learned that preparation was making in the city of Focuyo, to invade this and the Province of Merida, as having belonged formerly to the old Captain Generalship of Venezuela, which was now proclaimed an independent state, and Paez had actually invaded the Province of Varinas, with a force of 1100 men. Remained here waiting for Paya, which arrived on the 19th, sent it on with fifty militia to Carache, the frontier where all the militia of the Province was to pass a review on the 24th. Marched on the 22nd.


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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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