On the 18th of April, having collected such information bearing on our purposes as it was possible to obtain, we left La Union, and fairly commenced the business of “Hunting a Pass.” To reach the valley of the Goascoran, on the extent and character of which so much depended, it was necessary to go round the head of the Bay of La Union. For several miles our route coincided with that of the camino real to San Miguel, and we rode along it gayly, in high and hopeful spirits. The morning was clear and bright, the air cool and exhilarating, and the very sense of existence was itself a luxury. At the end of four miles we struck off from the high road, at right angles, into a narrow path, which conducted us over low grounds, three miles farther, to the Rio Sirama, a small stream, scarcely twenty feet across, the name of which is often erroneously changed in the maps for that of Goascoran or Rio San Miguel. Beyond this stream the path runs over low hills, which, however, subside into plains near the bay, where the low grounds are covered with water at high tide. The natives avail themselves of this circumstance, as did the Indians before them, for the manufacture of salt. They inclose considerable areas with little dikes of mud, leaving openings for the entrance of the water, which are closed as the tide falls. The water thus retained is rapidly evaporated under a tropical sun, leaving the mud crusted over with salt. This is then scraped up, dissolved in water, and strained to separate the impurities, and the saturated brine reduced in earthen pots, set in long ranges of stone and clay. The pots are constantly replenished, until they are filled with a solid mass of salt; they are then removed bodily, packed in dry plantain-leaves, and sent to market on the backs of mules. Sometimes the pots are broken off, to lighten the load, and great piles of their fragments—miniature Monti testacci—are seen around the Salinas, as these works are called, where they will remain long after this rude system of salt-manufacture shall be supplanted by a better, as a puzzle for fledgling antiquaries.
Six miles beyond the Rio Sirama we came to another stream, called the Siramita or Little Sirama, for the reason, probably, as H. suggested, that it is four times as large as the Sirama. It flows through a bed twenty feet deep and upwards of two hundred feet wide, paved with water-worn stones, ragged with frayed fragments of trees, and affording abundant evidence that during the season of rains it is a rough and powerful torrent. Between this stream and the Goascoran there is a maze of barren hills, relieved by occasional level reaches, covered with acacias and deciduous trees. Through these the road winds in easy gradients, and there are numerous passes perfectly feasible for a railway, in case it should ever be deemed advisable to carry one around the head of the bay to La Union.