In the morning went out riding to Punta Gorda; on the road tried to find a Jaguar; saw very fresh tracks & the trees against which they are said to sharpen their claws: the bark was cut up & grooved by scratches a yard long: we did not succeed in disturbing one. The low, thick woods on the coast of the Uruguay afford an excellent harbour for such animals. At Punta Gorda, the R. Uruguay presented a noble body of water; its appearance is superior to that of the Parana from the clearness of the water & rapidity of the stream: on the opposite coast there are several branches, which enter from the Parana, when the sun shines, the two colours of the water may be seen quite distinct. The house & lime-kiln were for this country unusually old, being built 108 years since. I was told a curious circumstance respecting the Limekiln. At the instant of the revolution it was full of fresh burnt lime; from the state of [the] country it was left 18 years untouched: on the surface young trees were growing, whilst in the middle the lime was quick. When they dug down to the place where the half-burnt wood is left, in a few minutes it kindled & burst out into flames. This caused uncommon superstitious fears amongst the workmen; but the owner tells me this is always the case in a lime-kiln opened after a few months interval.
At this Estancia many mares, mares are never ridden in this country, are killed weekly for their skins, which are worth 5 paper dollars each or about 1/2 a crown. I heard of some feats in the lassoing line. One individual will stand 12 yards from the gate of the Corral, & will bet that he will catch every horse by the legs as it rushes by him. Another will enter on foot a Corral, catch a mare, fasten its front legs, drive it out, throw it down, kill, skin & stake the hide, (a tedious job) & this whole operation he will perform on 22 mares in one day; or he will skin 50 in the same time. This is prodigious; for it is generally considered good days work, solely to skin & stake 15 or 16 animals.
In the evening started on the road to Mercèdes or Capella Neuva on the R. Negro. We passed through much Acacia wood, like that near Coronda & which invariably grows in the low bottoms near streams & rivers. At night we asked permission to sleep at an Estancia at which we happened to arrive. It was a very large estate, being ten leagues square, & the owner at Buenos Ayres is one of the greatest landowners in the country. His nephew had charge of it & with him there was a Captain of the army, who the other day ran away from Buenos Ayres. Considering their station their conversation was rather amusing. They expressed, as was usual, unbounded astonishment at the globe being round, & could scarcely credit that a hole would if deep enough come out on the other side. They had however heard of a country where there were six months light & six of darkness, & they said the inhabitants were very tall & thin. They were curious about the price & condition of horses & cattle; upon finding out we did not in England catch our animals with the Lazo, they added "Ah then, you use nothing but the bolas": The idea of an enclosed country was quite novel to them. The Captain at last said, he had one question to ask me, & he should be very much obliged if I would answer him with all truth. I trembled to think how deeply scientific it would be, it was "… whether the ladies of Buenos Ayres were not the handsomest in the world". I replied, "Charmingly so". He added, I have one other question "Do ladies in any other part of the world wear such large combs". I solemnly assured him they did not. They were absolutely delighted. The Captain exclaimed, "Look there, a man, who has seen half the world, says it is the case; we always thought so, but now we know it". My excellent judgment in beauty procured me a most hospitable reception; the Captain forced me to take his bed, & he would sleep on his Recado.