The Long Riders' Guild

An Instinctive Passion, page 2

Rio Colorado, Patagonia

August 11th, 1833

We 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 prosperous.

About 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.”

The 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.

Navedad, Chile

September 19th, 1834

I 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.

Potrero Seco, Chile

June 11th, 1835

Rode 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.

Sydney, Australia

January 19th, 1836

I 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.

At 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.

January 20th, 1836

This 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.

Darwin.JPG (27109 bytes)

"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."  Charles Darwin

Click on picture to enlarge

Cape Colony,  Africa

June 4th, 1836

I 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.

Our 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.

Angra, Island of Terceira

September 9th, 1836

We 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.

The 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.

When 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.

Falmouth, England

October 2nd, 1836

After 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.

In 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.

It 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.

Travelling 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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