Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Inspiration for Peru Adventures

I recently read a book written in 1852 about American Navy Captain William Lewis Herdon. He was hired by the U.S. government to scout a route over the Andes Mountains from Lima, Peru and then down a system of mountain rivers to the Amazon and then on to Brazil. His mission was similar to Lewis and Clark when they were trying to find a water route across North America in 1802.

During the 1850s the United States was being settled by tens of thousands of pioneers crossing north America on the Oregon Trail. South America was about the same size as North America, but only a few handfuls of settlers had ever crossed the entire South American region.

The Spanish had been building magnificent cities in Peru, Chile and Ecuador almost 100 years before the United States gained it’s independence. The coastal cities were some of the finest in the world. The vast middle region of South America was a mystery land of jungles, snakes and head hunter Indians. Captain Herdon was send to scout this uncharted territory to measure the depths and currents of the rivers. He was also documented usable plants, minerals and anything else of commercial value for trade purposes.

The book is interesting to me because the route goes over the Andes through the towns of San Mateo, Tarma and follows the route I have bicycled solo and with groups several times. He describes climbing Ticlio Pass to 16,000 feet on a mule train along a one-lane path with rock canyon walls. The road is much the same today except the mule path has been widened to about 30 feet width and now is used by Volvo trucks.

After crossing the mountains, Captain Herdon eventually gets on a riverboat in Yurimaguas and goes down the Amazon just like our group tour has done in past years. The way he describes the people and scenery is much the same today. One exceptions was in 1852 the town of Iquitos on the Amazon River had only 250 people and was hardly noticed by Captain Herdon. By 1880 rubber was discovered in the jungle and Iquitos became the Paris of South America. The city grew to 50,000 inhabitants. Incredible wealth oozed from the pockets of European businessmen who exploited the Indians to collect rubber sap. This is the same route I will be writing about in my Blog in the next dozen entries while cycling over the mountains and crossing the jungle in the old jeep, before going to Iquitos on the river.

The book was written as a report for the Navy and Captain Herdon told of his adventures in diary story format. The book was very popular in 1853 and 10,000 copies were printed. A guy from Iowa read the book and was inspired to travel down the Mississippi to New Orleans and get on a boat headed for Brazil. The guy wanted to experience life on the Amazon and rivers. When he couldn't find a boat going to Brazil he returned north on the Mississippi. He had some good adventures on the Mississippi and decided to write some stories about the river. This guy was Samuel Clemens better known as Mark Twain. Just think if he hadn't read this book. I was equally inspired while reading it.

If you want to get a copy, it cost about $15 on Amazon.com

Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon
By William Lewis Herdon

Edited by Gary Kindler

This edition was printed in the Year 2000

Published by Grover Press
841 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

It is easy to read, but probably more meaningful if you can find a good map of Peru to follow along since the book doesn't have many maps included.

I hope you enjoy my following Blog stories. Disregard the Blog time code dates because most of the these events happened last year and I only got around to writing them down recently. I will continue to add more stories in the months ahead as I have time to write more adventures in Peru.

To contact Lon by e-mail use: haldeman@pactour.com



Post a Comment

<< Home