[Illustration: TARASCAN WOMEN; JANICHO]
Soon after passing Escondidas, we began a descent, which seemed absolutely endless. Time after time we thought we had reached the bottom, only to find that we were on a terrace from which another drop led us still further down. On and on into this bottomless pit we descended to Ziracuaretaro, a striking town. Banana plantings surrounded the houses; orange-trees covered with their golden spheres reared themselves to the unusual height of thirty feet or more; mameys, with their strange nut-brown fruits, and coffee-trees, loaded to breaking, were abundant. Amid this luxuriant mass of tropical vegetation, houses were almost invisible until we were directly in front of them. Notwithstanding the enormous descent we had made, it appeared to us, when we crossed the stream and began the ascent, that we had not really been to the bottom of the great valley. For a long distance we mounted through a district of sugar-canes; then passed a little settlement of rude huts spread out over a reddish space; then, by a gentle but circuitous ascent, to a rugged trail which brought us to the summit and the edge of the great slope to Uruapan. At the further side of the valley and to our left, in a mass of green, we saw smoke rising from the factories of Uruapan. Crossing one of the characteristic bridges of the district, with a pretty shingled roof—four-sloped like those of the houses—over it, and with benches at the sides, where passers can sit and rest, while looking at the dashing, gurgling, foaming, water below,—we followed a level road between blackberries, wild roses, and other shrubs, to Uruapan.
No town in Mexico is more beautiful. Perpetual spring reigns. Although several thousand feet above sea level, it is so situated, with reference to mountain slopes and funnel valleys, that it has a genial climate, where plants nourish which are usually found only at lower altitudes. Its fruits and “the finest coffee in the world” have rendered the town long famous. The houses, bowered in dense groves of green, are of the picturesque Tarascan type. The four-sloped roofs, now covered with long, narrow shingles, now with the dull red tiles, suggest the prettiest pictures in Japanese towns. The streets are clean. Through the centre of the town dashes a mountain stream of clearest water, with the hue of sapphire. This pretty stream