We were now ready and found that the three boys, Luca, Pedrito, and Castolo, were waiting to accompany us as far as our roads were the same. They were to go on foot, five leagues, into the mountains to bring back some mules from a camp; they expected to reach their destination that day, to sleep on the mountain, and to bring in the animals the next day. The little fellows, from thirteen to nine or ten years old, seemed to find nothing extraordinary in their undertaking; each carried his little carrying-net, with food, drinking-gourd, and an extra garment for the chilly night, upon his back; Pedrito buckled to his belt the great machete, which men here regularly carry for clearing the path, cutting firewood, or protection against animals. They were very happy at accompanying us for a distance. We soon rose from the low, malarial, coffee fincas onto a fine mountain, which was the last of its kind that we saw for many days; it was like the mountains of the Mixes, with its abundant vegetation of ferns, begonias, and trees loaded with bromelias and orchids. Our bodyguard kept up with us bravely until we had made one-half of the ascent, where they fell behind and we saw them no more. Reaching the summit, we saw before us a distant line of blue, interrupted here and there by some hill or mountain,—the great Pacific. From here on, the beauty of the road disappeared. We descended and then mounted along dry slopes to Santiago Guevea, then hot and dusty. Our friends of San Miguel really live in Guevea and are at San Miguel only when the coffee needs attention. From Guevea the road was hard and dry and dusty to Santa Maria. The mountain mass over which we passed was a peak, the summit of which was covered with masses of chalcedony of brilliant colors, which broke into innumerable splinters, which were lovely to see but hard upon the feet of horses; the surface of this part also gave out a glare or reflection that was almost intolerable. We descended over granite which presented typical spheroidal weathering. We went onward, up and down many little hills, reaching Santa Maria at noonday. The village sweltered; the air scorched and blistered; there was no sign of life, save a few naked children playing in the shade or rolling upon the hot sand. It was so hot and dusty that we hated to resume our journey and tarried so long that we had to ride after nightfall before we reached the rancho of Los Cocos, where we lay in the corridor and all night long heard the grinding of sugar-cane at the mill close by.
We had just such another hard, hot, and dusty ride the next day, on through Auyuga and Tlacotepec, where we stopped for noon, until Tehuantepec, where we arrived at evening.