Transandine Railroad from Buenos Ayres to Valparaiso
According to the present schedule, the through connecting train across the Andes leaves Buenos Ayres ( Retiro) in the morning, three times a week, and is a train de luxe in every sense of the word. The first part of the route is made by the Buenos Ayres & Pacific Railroad to Villa Mercedes, thence the Great Western Railroad to Mendoza, a distance of 650 miles in about twenty hours. The country passed through is the famous Pampas, a wonderful wheat-growing country, as the enormous shipments of grain en route testify. The railroad is one of the' straightest lines in the world, running from Vedia to Mackenna, 175 miles, in an absolutely direct line.
At Mendoza, 650 miles from Buenos Ayres, a change is made in the morning to the Transandine Railroad, narrow gauge, which follows the Mendoza Valley into the heart of the Cordillera. At Cacheuta, twenty-three miles from Mendoza (4,085 feet), there are thermal and sulphur springs; and a few miles farther on, comes in view the Cerro de Plata (Silver Range), one of the subsidiary ranges of the Andes, about 16,400 feet in height. Before reaching Rio Blanco the railroad passes enormous heaps of detritus, which constitute the lower slopes of the Andine valleys. The coloring of the rocks at this point forms a most remarkable panorama of vivid color. After passing the Rio Blanco one should look to the right as the train regains the Mendoza Valley, where the variety in color and shades of color in the strata is simply astounding. As the train leaves Punta de las Vacas a distant view can be obtained of the peak of Tupungato, an extinct volcano 21,451 feet in height; and a short distance farther on, Los Penitentes (12,658 feet) is passed.
At Puente del Inca (8,924 feet), reached about noon, there is good hotel accommodation, and the traveler would do well to stop here a day or two, so as to enjoy the unparalleled scenery. Here is the natural bridge crossing the Mendoza, and a short distance on is the valley of Los Horcones, commanding a magnificent view of Aconcagua, the loftiest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and one of the highest peaks in the world, rising 23,393 feet and recently scaled, for the first time, by some members of Mr. Fitzgerald's expedition.
Las Cuevas, the terminus of the narrow-gauge railroad, is reached in about an hour from Puente del Inca. Here stage is taken for crossing the Divide. The summit pass, La Cumbre (12,796 feet), is marked by a colossal bronze figure of Christ, a fitting monument to commemorate the treaty of peace and disarmament of Argentine and Chili. On the Chilian side of the pass a fine view is obtained of the Cerro de los Leones, and a rapid descent is made to the Laguna del Inca (9,022 feet), and 'the valley of the Aconcagua River. At Juncal the narrow gauge is resumed in the late afternoon, passing through a grand gorge and crossing the river at Salto de Soldalo ( the Soldier's Leap). Los Andes is reached in time for dinner. Here the broad gauge is resumed, and Santiago, the capital of Chili and of the province of Santiago, is reached at about 10 P.M. Santiago was founded by one of Pizarro's captains in 1541, and now contains more than a quarter of a million inhabitants. It is one of the most imposing of South American cities, having many noble buildings, handsome open squares, streets well paved, artistic monumental works, fountains and other attractive street decorations. From the city the view towards the Andes is unobstructed, and embraces one of the most majestic displays of mountain scenery in the world. The House of Congress and the Cathedral are amongst the most striking buildings on the continent.
Valparaiso, located on many hills, fronted by a semicircular bay and backed by a crescent-shaped mountain range over which looms mighty Aconcagua, somewhat justifies its name of Vale of Paradise. Valparaiso is the headquarters of the nitrate trade, which is controlled by English capitalists. In fact, the majority of people doing business in Valparaiso are English, and English is the principal language spoken. To make the Briton feel more at home, there are public houses with English signs, such as the King's Arms, Royal Oak, Red Lion, etc. ; besides, the principal street is called Calle Victoria. On August 1 6, 1906, the city was damaged by an earthquake and fire to the extent of five hundred million Chilian dollars. About four hundred miles from Valparaiso is the island of Juan Fernandez, on which, with all his effects, Alexander Selkirk, the supposed original of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, was landed from a privateer, there remaining in solitude for more than four years. There is frequent communication between the island and the city.