Obrázky stránek

if nothing is given, one is pained with hearing cries of execration. The occupants are in keeping with the premises, and did not fail to excite both our commiseration and disgust. Among the lions of Madeira is a villa once belonging to Señor Jose de Carvalhal, a wealthy nobleman who died about a year before our visit. The gardens are well taken care of, and contain many trees and plants from various quarters of the globe. The grounds embrace extensive deer parks, but I was not much struck with the manner in which they were laid out. The present proprietor is the nephew of the late Count. The convent is also a place to which strangers resort, and the fair nuns of twenty years' standing, I will not dwell on, lest truth might compel me to destroy some of the reputation of those charms which former visiters have done honour to. Feather-flowers continue to be sold here, and the nuns to jest with, and receive the homage of their guests. Since the overthrow of Don Miguel in 1824, monasteries have been abolished and liberty given to the nuns to return to the world, of which privilege some of them availed themselves. They do not now exceed eighty in number, and as none have since been allowed to take the veil, they will soon decrease. The rides in Madeira are beautiful. The roads are well made, easily and safely travelled on a Madeira pony, with a pony-boy or burroquerro. One is at a loss to which to impute the most strength of mind and endurance, the pony or the boy. These boys keep constantly near the rider, at times holding on to the tail of the pony, then bestowing repeated blows with their long sticks, and ever and anon urging him on with their singular tones of voice, so that the rider is compelled to allow himself to be carried along, contented with passing safely over so novel and (to him) apparently so impassable a roadway. On proceeding out of Funchal, fruits, flowers, and vegetables seem crowding upon the sight; in the lower portions, groves of orange and lemon trees are mingled with the vineyards, the trees are loaded with fruit; then, as one mounts higher, bananas, figs, pomegranates, &c., are seen, and again, still higher, the fruits of the tropics are interspersed with those of the temperate zone, viz., apples, currants, pears, and peaches, while the ground is covered with melons, tomatoes, egg-plant, &c. Farther beyond, the highest point of cultivation is reached, where the potato alone flourishes. Then the whole lower portion is spread before the eye. Vineyards, occupying every spot that is susceptible of improvement, and one rides through Paths hedged in with geraniums, roses, myrtles, and hydrangeas These plants, which we had been accustomed to consider as the inhabitants of our parlours and green-houses, are here met with in gigantic forms, and as different from our small, sickly specimens as can well be imagined. For those unacquainted with the luxuriance of the tropical vegetation, it would be difficult to conceive an idea of this favoured spot. Many of the terraces on which the vines are grown are cut on the sides of the hills, and the visiter cannot but admire the labour expended on the stone walls that support them. The road at times leads through small villages, the houses of which are built of blocks of lava, without plaster, about six feet high, with a thatched roof of broom brought up to a pole in the centre for its support, and of a moderate pitch. Every one who visits Madeira should see the Curral. It is a very remarkable spot, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to give an idea of its beauty and grandeur. This place is approached by the usual ascent from Funchal, through the narrow roads, or paths hedged with roses, &c., the view gradually extending beneath, over the terraced vineyards. Just before reaching it you mount a small ascent; you are then on the summit or edge of the Curral. and the whole scene suddenly bursts upon you. The eye descends to the depth of two thousand feet, into the immense chasm below, and wanders over the ragged and broken outline of the many peaks that rise from its very bottom; then upwards, following the gray precipitous rocks, till their summits are lost in the clouds, which are passing fitfully across it, occasionally permitting the sunbeams to glance to its very bottom. One feels surprised, in gazing on this scene, that its character of wildness should become softened, and its beauty increased, which is effected in part by the plants and shrubs which cling or have fastened themselves into the fissures of the rocks. These the eye gradually makes out, and is led by the small and narrow strips of green on the ledges downwards, until it finally rests on the secluded church of Nostra Señora de Livre Monte, and the peasants' cabins embedded in the dark and luxuriant foliage beneath, whose peace and quietness are in such strong contrast with the wildness of nature above. The whole looks more like enchantment than reality. The shape of the Curral and its perpendicular sides give the idea rather of a gorge than of a crater. In the descent the road winds along the sides of the precipice, turning around sharp and jutting projections, with a frightful gulf yawning below. A misstep of the horse would plunge the rider to destruction. At every turn new and striking views are brought out, almost surpassing in grandeur the first. The descent is so gradual, that one scarcely seems to advance downwards, and the length of time necessary to accomplish it (upwards of an hour) will give some idea of the vastness and grandeur of the scene. Continuing on, the gorge opens to the south, where the streamlet of the Curral, joined by several lateral branches, forms the river Socorridos, which empties itself into the sea at the ancient town of Camera de Lobos. A party, consisting of Messrs. Drayton, Pickering, Couthouy, and Brackenridge, visited San Vincente, on the north side of the island. They describe the road to it as passing over projecting ledges, of which those unacquainted with a volcanic country can form but little idea. The first night the party stopped at Santa Anna, where they were hospitably entertained by Señor A. Accraiolis, who afforded them every comfort in his power. They were exceedingly well accommodated. The next morning they set out on their way to Pico Ruivo. On their road they encountered the forest of arborescent Heaths, some of which were found thirty feet in height and four feet B


in girth at a height of two feet from the ground. These have by former travellers been reported as pines. Mr. Drayton's illustrative drawing of these remarkable trees is very characteristic. After a fatiguing day's ramble, in which they collected many specimens, they returned to Santa Anna, quite wet, it having rained most of the day on the mountain. The next day they set out for San Vincente, their kind host furnishing them with a letter to Padre Jacinto Neri. Passing along the north side, over some of the most mountainous and broken parts of the island, though at the same time extremely beautiful, and in places well cultivated, they reached the pass at Estroza. This is particularly striking, winding around the precipitous cliff, almost overhanging the sea, several hundred feet below, and with its pinnacles reaching the clouds. The path around this bluff, which is only wide enough for one at a time, is a good specimen of the roads around the island. It has been worked with great labour, and made quite easy to travel by its zigzag direction. The feeling of insecurity to those who are unaccustomed to these mural precipices, with the extended ocean lying far beneath, serves to give additional interest to the scene. To the plate of this pass, facing page 1, the reader is referred for a correct representation of the same. They passed through several villages, all prettily situated, among which was Porto Delgada, and about sunset arrived at San Vincente. At Porto Delgada, their guides would not allow them to stop, as it was necessary to descend and pass along the rocky shore before the tide came in. They succeeded in passing safely, but were kept on the qui vive by the numerous stories detailed by their guides of the accidents that had occurred there. The road to this part of the island is little frequented by strangers, of whom only three are said to have visited San Vincente during four months. On their arrival they found Padre Jacinto engaged at prayers. After his duties were finished he received them kindly, and accommodated them for the night. San Vincente is but a small village of fifteen houses, a chapel, and a distillery, in which, during the season, they make between four and five hundred gallons of brandy a day. As Padre Jacinto could not speak a word of English, they had but little conversation with him. However, a little Spanish on both sides, with gesticulatio is, enabled them to pass the usual compliments, and to obtain the requisite directions for proceeding back to Funchal on the next day. They were kindly and hospitably entertained by the Padre, and left him with many thanks for his kindness. Taking the road or rather path across to the Curral, they passed over a most

« PředchozíPokračovat »