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Climbing to the Coffee Plantation 275

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CLIMBING TO THE COFFEE PLANTATION 275. A trip to Colombia.—Let us go and see how our cup of coffee comes to us. After seven days at sea from New York, we land at the little city of Cartagena on the north coast of Colombia. The few white people we see are dark-skinned Spaniards, but most of the people are black. Mules with bells on their necks pull a little street car along the rough, cobble stone street. This is not a very busy city.

From here we take a train and ride for three hours through pastures and the dark green forest. Finally we come to the end of the railroad, which is on the bank of a river, the Magdalena. . The river does not look very large on the map, but it carries more water than the Ohio River does. Steamboats cannot go into it from the sea as they go into the Mississippi, for its mouth is choked with sand, which spreads out into a wide delta and makes many shallow mouths. Neither are there any jetties here, as at the mouth of the Mis sissippi, so the freight coming down the river has to be unloaded from the river boats and taken by train over to the northern seacoast at Cartagena, the chief port of Colombia.

276. Up the great go up the river on a steamboat built in the United States. It is driven by a big wheel, placed at the back of the boat where it will not strike floating logs. The river banks are lined with pastures, swamps, and forest, in which are some rubber trees. We see but one or two little straw-house villages each day. Hour after hour we pass the green forest of the hot and unhealthful tropic lowland. When the boat stops, the mosquitoes bite us.

277. The pack the fourth day we stop at a town on the west bank of the river. Hundreds of pack mules stand in the streets near the wharf. Much freight is unloaded, but we notice that there are no big boxes. That is because everything must be carried on mule back, there being no railroad or wagons here. There is only a path or trail, and that is so bad that sometimes the mules sink in the mud nearly up to their bodies. Traveling or getting supplies in Colombia is hard work.

On the fifth day the water of the river becomes swift. The boat goes very slowly and finally stops. It can go no farther; there are falls just ahead.

We are surprised to see a railroad here, for we are six hundred miles from the ocean. The railroad was made to carry freight around the rapids and falls. All the freight in our steamboat is unloaded and put into little wooden cars. We get in along with the other passengers from the boat. Several times, as we ride along the bank of the river, we see the white foam and hear the roar of the water falls. After we have ridden several hours and have traveled seventy miles, we reach still, deep water once more, and the rail road ends. Another steamboat, smaller than the last one, is tied to the bank. How did it get here? It was put together right here, from pieces made in the United States and sent out in boxes.

On the boat once more we ride all day up the river, until it becomes narrow and the boat can go no farther. It is a week since we left the ocean and we are still on the Magdalena River, at a little town where the railroad starts to Bogota, the capital of Colombia.

278. The coffee plantations.—Our little train begins to climb. Up and up we go. The air grows cooler. After several hours of this riding, we are four thousand feet above the level of the sea. Soon we begin to pass villages of stone houses. In a big paved yard in the midst of one of the villages we see people with hoes stirring piles of something. They are dry ing coffee in the sun. The people of this village are coffee growers. The green forest we see on the mountainside above the village is not a wild forest, but a grove of carefully planted coffee trees. The coffee tree is very different from the rubber tree; it loves the cool, well-drained moun tainside rather than the hot, damp lowland in which we found the trees growing. The coffee trees are well cared for. Bushes and weeds are cut away, and the trees are kept trimmed so that they are not much higher than a man's head. Thus it is easy to pick the berries.

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