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November 29, 1864: Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

November 30, 2014

The boats remained here until morning, and the passengers distributed themselves over the two boats and thus diminished the crowd. There were no berths. Luckily I had bought a hammock of a virgin at Virgin City, and more luckily Captain Merry had had a nice lunch put up for us. We opened it at midnight after a fast of twenty-one hours.

At daylight the rest of the passengers were transferred and we went down the river two miles to some rapids. Here we got off and walked around the rapids, some two or three hundred yards—a railroad with rude horse cars carries the baggage. This is at Castillo and Castillo Viejo, two little towns, with a curious mud fort on the hill just above. This was Tuesday, November 29. The rainy season had not finished, and it rained part of the day—hot, steamy showers. The shallow river, the rich and varied shades of green in the forests, the strange forms and species, the gorgeous colors of flowers, the great masses of rich foliage and festoons of vines, screaming parrots and paroquets and other birds of brilliant plumage, monkeys jumping about on the trees and chattering at the steamer as it passed, lazy alligators lying alongshore and tumbling into the water at shots from pistols, scaly iguanas almost as brilliantly colored as the flowers themselves—all these sights and sounds, not to mention the smells, told us we were in another clime from that of our homes. It brought back all the old stories I had ever read of tropical countries, of Spanish adventure, and the romance of Central America.

We got into the harbor at Greytown, or San Juan del Norte, after dark. Some of the passengers went ashore, but I stayed on board. I bought some bananas and bread for supper and got a good night’s rest in my hammock.

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