An Instinctive Passion, page 2
started early in the morning, but owing to some horses being stolen, we were
obliged to travel slowly. Shortly
after passing the first spring, we came in sight of the famous tree which the
Indians reverence as the altar of their God, Walleechu. It is situated on a high part of the plain, and hence is a
landmark visible at a great distance. Being
winter, the tree had no leaves, but in their place were countless threads by
which various offerings had been suspended.
Cigars, bread, meat, pieces of cloth etc.
To complete the scene, the tree was surrounded by the bleached bones of
horses slaughtered as sacrifices. All
Indians of every age and sex make their offerings;
they then think that their horses will not tire and that they shall be
two leagues from this very curious tree we halted for the night.
At this instant, an unfortunate cow was spied by the lynx-eyed Gauchos.
Off we set in chase, and in a few minutes she was dragged in by the lazo
and slaughtered. Here we had
the four necessaries for life “en el campo,” pasture for the horses, water
(only a muddy puddle), meat and firewood. The
Gauchos were in high spirits at finding all these luxuries, and we soon set to
work at the poor cow. There s high
enjoyment in the independence of the Gauchos’ life:
to be able at any moment to pull up your horse and say, “Here we will
pass the night.”
death-like stillness of the plain, the dogs keeping watch, the gypsy group of
Gauchos making their beds around the fire, has left in my mind a strongly-marked
picture of this night which will not soon be forgotten.
felt during the day very unwell and from this time to the end of October did not
recover. Rode but a short distance and was then obliged to rest. Our course now
lay directly to Valparaiso, Chile. We found a rich Haciendero, who received us
in his house close to the sea. At night I was exceedingly exhausted but had the
uncommon luck of obtaining some clean straw for my bed. I was amused afterwards
by reflecting how truly comparative all comfort is. If I had been in England and
very unwell, clean straw and stinking horse blankets would have been thought a
very miserable bed.
for 12 hours without stopping, till we reached the Hacienda of Potrero Seco. I
was heartily glad. The whole journey is a source of anxiety to see how fast you
can cross the Traversia desert. To all appearances however the horses were quite
fresh and no one could have told they had not eaten for the last 55 hours.
hired a man and two horses to take me to Bathurst, a village about hundred and
twenty miles in the interior. By this means I hoped to get a general appearance
of the country. The first stage took us through Paramatta, a small country town.
The roads were excellent and were much frequented by carriages. I also met two
stage coaches. In all these respects there was a most close resemblance to
England, perhaps the number of Ale-houses was here in excess. The parties of
convicts, who have committed some trifling offence in this country, appeared the
least like England. They were dressed in yellow and grey clothes and were
working in irons under the charge of sentrys with loaded guns.
sunset by good fortune a party of a score of the Aborginal Blacks passed by,
each carrying, in their accustomed manner, a bundle of spears and other weapons.
Their countenances were good humoured and pleasant.
day we had an instance of the sirocco-like wind of Australia which comes from
the parched deserts of the interior. While riding I was not fully aware how
exceedingly high the temperature was. Later I heard the thermometer out of doors
stood at 119 degrees and in a room in a closed house at 96 degrees. It was
during that late afternoon that we came into view of the town of Bathurst.
The officers all seemed very weary of this place and I am not surprised at all, as it must be to them a place of exile.
do not doubt every traveller must remember the glowing sense of happiness,
from the simple consciousness of breathing in a foreign clime, where the
civilized man has seldom or never trod." Charles Darwin
Click on picture to enlarge
hired a couple of horses and a young Hottentot groom to accompany me as a guide.
He spoke English very well and was most tidily dressed. He wore a long
coat, beaver hat and white gloves.
first day’s ride was to the village of Paarl, situated forty miles from the
Cape Town. Even at this short distance from the coast there were several very
pretty little birds. If a person could not find amusement in observing the
animals and plants, there was very little else during the day to interest him.
crossed the Tropic of Cancer and in the morning we were off the island of
Terceira. The island is moderately lofty and has a rounded outline with hills
evidently of volcanic origin. The land is well cultivated and small hamlets are
scattered in all parts.
next day the Consul kindly lent me his horse and furnished me with guides to a
spot in the centre of the island, which was described as an active volcano.
we reached the crater the bottom was traversed by several large fissures out of
which small jets of steam issued as from the cracks in a the boiler of a steam
engine. It is said that flames once issued from the cracks.
a tolerably short passage, but with some heavy weather, we came to an anchor at
Falmouth. To my surprise and shame I confess the first sight of the shores of
England inspired me with no warmer feelings than if it had been a miserable
Portuguese settlement. The same night, and a dreadful stormy one it was, I took
the stage for Shrewsbury.
conclusion, I am sure the pleasure of living in the open air, with the sky for a
roof, and the ground for a table, is part of an instinctive passion. It is the
savage returning to his wild and native habits. I do not doubt every traveller
must remember the glowing sense of happiness, from the simple consciousness of
breathing in a foreign clime, where the civilized man has seldom or never trod.
appears to me that nothing can be more improving to a young naturalist than a
journey in distant countries. The excitement from the novelty of objects, and
the chance of success, stimulates him on to activity.
ought to teach him that he will discover how many truly good natured people
there are with whom he never before had, nor ever again will have any further
communication, yet who are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance.
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