If all has gone as planned, Pat and I are in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico right now. We are on a great adventure to retrace my great-grandfather Eugene Ring's trek across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Eugene was returning from the California Gold Rush in 1850 and was abandoned by his Panama-bound ship while he and nine others were ashore foraging for food and water. Five of his fellow travelers died of cholera. The survivors reached Veracruz a month later and caught a ship to New Orleans.
We hired a driver-guide to follow virtually the same path and visit the same places Eugene so eloquently described in the memoir of his Gold Rush experience. (See details at www.ringbrothershistory.com)
On Day One of our re-discovery tour we will head southeast from Oaxaca City to the Pacific coast, near where Eugene and his company came ashore.
Finding the landing site on Day Two will be a challenge because the development of a major shipping port in 1907 to feed a new cross-isthmus railroad forever altered the coastline.
To prepare for this trip, I've been re-reading Eugene's memoir, flagging key phrases to try to find his landing area, e.g., "As we neared the point of land," "it presented a bold rocky front," "a few miles down the coast," "another high promontory," "set out to climb to the top of a high hill," "a ranch about two miles inland."
I also have been studying an 1852 railroad survey report (describing the harbor before the changes), a 1907 Geographical Society report (describing the harbor after the changes), historical and current maps and recent satellite photography. I think I know where to look.
On Day Three of our trip, it will take us a few hours to drive across the 125-mile-wide isthmus to the Gulf coast on roads built since my great-grandfather's party struggled over mountains and through tropical jungles on horseback, and canoed down a winding river. His party's trip lasted 11 days.
Day Four will take us northwest along the gulf coast to Veracruz, closely following on modern roads the trails and rivers Eugene and his party traversed. It took them another 11 days on horseback, canoe and finally on a small schooner to get to safety.
We will head back to Oaxaca City on Day Five so Pat can attend a weeklong knitting retreat.