To the Gold Coast for Gold
By Richard F. Burton
Public Domain Books
A FORTNIGHT AT MADEIRA.
I passed Christmas week at the ’Flower of the Wavy Field;’ and, in the society of old and new friends, found nothing of that sameness and monotony against which so many, myself included, have whilom declaimed. The truth is that most places breed ennui for an idle man. Nor is the climate of Madeira well made for sedentary purposes: it is apter for one who loves to flâner, or, as Victor Hugo has it, errer songeant.
Having once described Funchal at some length, I see no reason to repeat the dose; and yet, as Miss Ellen M. Taylor’s book shows,
[Footnote: Madeira: its Scenery, and how to see it. Stanford, London, 1878. This is an acceptable volume, all the handbooks being out of print. I reviewed it in the Academy July 22, 1882.]
the subject, though old and well-worn, can still bear a successor to the excellent White and Johnson handbook.
[Footnote: Mr. Johnson still survives; not so the well-known Madeiran names Bewick, (Sir Frederick) Pollock, and Lowe (Rev, R. T.) The latter was drowned in 1873, with his wife, in the s.s. Liberia, Captain Lowry. The steamer went down in the Bay of Biscay, it is supposed from a collision. I sailed with Captain Lowry (s.s. Athenian) in January 1863, when St. George’s steeple was rocking over Liverpool: he was nearly washed into the lee scuppers, and a quartermaster was swept overboard during a bad squall. I found him an excellent seaman, and I deeply regretted his death.]
As early as 1827 ’The Rambler in Madeira’ (Mr. Lyall) proclaimed the theme utterly threadbare, in consequence of ’every traveller opening his quarto (?) with a short notice of it;’ and he proceeded at once to indite a fair-sized octavo. Humboldt said something of the same sort in his ’Personal Narrative,’ and forthwith wrote the worst description of the capital and the ’Pike’ of Tenerife that any traveller has ever written of any place. He confesses to having kept a meagre diary, not intending to publish a mere book of travels, and drew his picture probably from recollection and diminutive note-books.
I found Funchal open-hearted and open-handed as ever; and the pleasure of my stay was marred only by two considerations, both purely personal. Elysian fields and green countries do not agree with all temperaments. Many men are perfectly and causelessly miserable in the damp heats of Western India and the Brazil. We must in their case simply reverse the Wordsworthian dictum,
Not melancholy–no, for it is green.
They are perfectly happy in the Arabian desert, and even in Tenerife, where others feel as if living perpetually on the verge of high fever.
To this ’little misery’ were added the displeasures of memory. Our last long visit was in 1863, when the Conde de Farrobo ruled the land, and when the late Lord Brownlow kept open house at the beautiful Vigia. I need hardly say that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves: the impressions of that good old time were deep and durable.
Amongst other things, Governor Farrobo indulged his fair friends with a display of the old jogo de canas, or running at the ring. The Praça Academica had been rigged out to serve as a tilting-yard, with a central alley of palisading and two ’stands,’ grand and little. The purpose was charitable, and the performers were circus-horses, mounted by professionals and amateurs, who thus ’renowned it’ before the public and their damas. The circlet, hanging to a line, equalled the diameter of a small boy’s hat; and when the ’knight’ succeeded in bearing it off upon his pole, he rode up to be decorated by the hands of a very charming person with a ribbon-baudrière of Bath dimensions and rainbow colours. Prizes were banal as medals after a modern war, and perhaps for the same purpose–to prevent unchristian envy, hatred, and malice. Almost any trooper in an Anglo-Indian cavalry regiment would have done better; but then he would have couched his bamboo spear properly and would have put out his horse to speed–an idea which seemed to elude the Madeiran mind. The fête ended with a surprise less expensive than that with which the Parisian restaurant astonishes the travelling Britisher. A paper chandelier was suspended between two posts, of course to be knocked down, when out sprang an angry hunch-backed dwarf, who abused and fiercely struck at all straight backs within reach.
Madeira is celebrated for excursions, which, however, are enjoyable only in finest weather. Their grand drawback is inordinate expense; you may visit the whole seaboard of Morocco, and run to Tenerife and return for the sum spent in a week of Madeiran travel. The following tour to the north of the island was marked out for us by the late Mr. Bewick; his readiness to oblige, his extensive local knowledge, and his high scientific attainments caused his loss to be long felt in the Isle of Wood. ’You make on the first day Santa Anna, on the opposite coast, a six to eight hours’ stage by horse or hammock, passing through the grand scenery of the valleys Metade, Meiometade, and Ribeiro Frio.
[Footnote: Most of these places are given in Views (26) in the Madeiras, &c., by the Rev. James Bulwer. London, Rivington, 1829. He also wrote Rambles in Madeira and in Portugal in 1826.]
The next day takes you to Pico Ruivo, Rothhorn, Puy Rouge, or Red Peak, the loftiest in the island, whose summit commands a view of a hundred hills, and you again night at Santa Anna. The third stage is to the rocky gorge of São Vicente, which abounds in opportunities for neck-breaking. The next is a long day with a necessary guide to the Paül da Serra, the “Marsh of the Wold,” and the night is passed at Seixal, on the north-west coast, famous for its corniche-road. The fifth day conducts you along-shore to Ponta Delgada, and the last leads from this “Thin Point” through the Grand Curral back to Funchal.’
I mention this excursion that the traveller may carefully avoid it in winter, especially when we attempted the first part, February being the very worst month. After many days of glorious weather the temper of the atmosphere gave way; the mercury fell to 28.5, and we were indulged with a succession of squalls and storms, mists and rain. The elemental rage, it is true, was that of your southern coquette, sharp, but short, and broken by intervals of a loving relapse into caress. In the uplands and on the northern coast, however, it shows the concentrated spleen and gloom of a climate in high European latitudes.
We contented ourselves with the Caminho do Meio, the highway supposed to bisect the island, and gradually rising to the Rocket Road (Caminho do Foguete) with a pleasant slope of 23°, or 1 in 2 1/3. These roads are heavy on the three h’s–head, heart, and hand. We greatly enjoyed the view from the famous Levada, the watercourse or leat-road of Santa Luzia, with its scatter of noble quintas,
[Footnote: The country-house is called a quinta, or fifth, because that is the proportion of produce paid by the tenant to the proprietor.]
St. Lucy’s, St. Anne’s, Quinta Davies, Palmeira, and Til. Nossa Senhora do Monte, by Englishmen misnamed ’the Convent,’ and its break-arm slide-down, in basket-sleighs, is probably as well known, if not better known, to the reader than St. Paul’s, City. Here we found sundry votaries prostrating themselves before a dark dwarf ’Lady’ with jewelled head and spangled jupe: not a few were crawling on their knees up the cruel cobble-stones of the mount. On the right yawned the ’Little Curral,’ as our countrymen call the Curral das Romeiras (of the Pilgrimesses); it is the head of the deluging torrent-bed, João Gomes. Well worth seeing is this broken punch-bowl, with its wild steep gap; and, if the traveller want a vertiginous walk, let him wend his way along the mid-height of the huge tongue which protrudes itself from the gorge to the valley-mouth.
Near the refuge-house called the Poizo, some 4,500 feet above sea-level, a road to the right led us to Comacha, where stood Mr. Edward Hollway’s summer quinta. It occupies a ridge-crest of a transverse rib projected southerly, or seawards, from the central range which, trending east-west, forms the island dorsum. Hence its temperature is 60° (F.) when the conservatory upon the bay shows 72°. Below it, 1,800 feet high, and three miles north-east of the city, lies the Palheiro do Ferreiro (’blacksmith’s straw-hut’), the property of the once wealthy Carvalhal house. The name of these ’Lords of the Oak-ground’ is locally famous. Chronicles mention a certain Count Antonio who flourished, or rather ’larked,’ circa A.D. 1500. In those days the land bore giants and heroes, and Madeiran blood had not been polluted by extensive miscegenation with the negro. Anthony, who was feller than More of More Hall, rode with ungirthed saddle over the most dangerous achadas (ledges); a single buffet of this furious knight smashed a wild boar, and he could lift his horse one palm off the ground by holding to a tree branch. The estate has been wilfully wasted by certain of his descendants. Comacha, famous for picnics, is a hamlet rich in seclusion and fine air; it might be utilised by those who, like the novel-heroes of Thackeray and Bulwer, deliberately sit down to vent themselves in a book.
Pico Ruivo was a distressing failure. We saw nothing save a Scotch mist, which wetted us to the bones; and we shivered standing in a slush of snow which would have been quite at home in Upper Norwood. On this topmost peak were found roots of the Madeiran cedar (Juniperus Oxycedrus), showing that at one time the whole island was well wooded.
We need not believe in the seven years’ fire; but the contrast of the southern coast with the northern, where the forests primaeval of Lauraceae and Myrtaceae still linger, shows the same destructive process which injured Ireland and ruined Iceland. The peculiarity of these uplands, within certain limits, is that the young spring-verdure clothes them before it appears in the lower and warmer levels. Here they catch a sunshine untarnished by watery vapour.
During our short trip and others subsequent many a little village showed us the Madeiran peasant pure and simple. Both sexes are distressingly plain; I saw only one pretty girl amongst them. Froggy faces, dark skins, and wiry hair are the rule; the reason being that in the good old days a gentleman would own some eighty slaves. [Footnote: As early as 1552 the total of African imports amounted to 2,700.] But they are an industrious and reproductive race.
[Footnote: The following note of the census of 1878 was given to me by my kind colleague, Mr. Consul Hayward:–
Miss Taylor (Madeira, p. 58) reduces to 33,000–evidently a misprint–this population about four times as dense as that of Portugal.]
Many Madeirans highly distinguished themselves in the Dutch-Brazilian wars, especially the ’Castriota Lusitano.’ His name is unknown; he changed it when he left his islet home, the townlet Santa Cruz. These islanders were the model ’navvies’ of the age before steam: Albuquerque applied for Madeirans when he formed the barbarous project of diverting the Nile to the Red Sea. Their descendants are beggars from the cradle; but they beg with a good grace, and not with a curse or an insult like the European ’asker’ when refused: moreover, the mendicant pest is not now over-prevalent. In the towns they cheat and pilfer; they gamble in the streets; they drink hard on Saturdays and Sundays, and at times they murder one another. Liquor is cheap; a bottle of aguardente or caxaça (new raw rum) costs only fivepence, and the second distillation ninepence. I heard of one assault upon an English girl, but strangers are mostly safe amongst them. Their extreme civility, docility, and good temper, except when spoilt by foreigners, makes it a pleasure to deal with them. They touch their hats with a frank smile, not the Spanish scowl near Gibraltar, or of Santa Cruz, Tenerife. The men are comparatively noiseless; a bawling voice startles you like a pistol-shot. I rarely heard a crying child or a scolding woman offering ’eau bénite à la Xantippe;’ even the cocks and hens tied to old shoes cackle with reserve. The climate tames everything from Dom to donkey. Except in January and February it is still, intensely still–the very leaves seem to hang motionless. This softness shows itself especially in the language, which has none of the abruptness of European Portuguese. The sound is a drawling singsong; the articulation is peculiar, and the vocabulary is in some points confined to the Island.
The country people, an active, agile, unmuscular race, mostly preserve the old national dress. Some men still wear, and both sexes once wore, the ridiculous carapuça, or funnel-cap with a rat-tail for a tassel. The rest of the toilet consists of homespun cottons, shirts and knickerbockers, with buff shoes or boots broad-soled and heelless. The traveller who prefers walking should always use this chaussure, and the ’little girl in topboots’ is still a standing joke. The women affect parti-coloured petticoats of home-made baize or woollen stuff, dyed blue, scarlet, brown, or orange; a scalloped cape of the same material bound with some contrasting hue; and a white or coloured head-kerchief, sometimes topped by the carapuça, but rarely by the vulgar ’billycock’ of the Canaries. In the villages crimson shawls and capes are general, and they cover the head like mantillas.
The peasant’s cot is of the simplest, and those in the plantations suggest African huts. Even the best houses, except when copied from the English, are scantily furnished; and little beyond a roof is absolutely wanted. The home of the cazeiro, or peasant tenant practically irremovable, is whitewashed and thatched, the straw forming a crest along the ridge. It covers only one room, converted by a curtain into ’but’ and ’ben.’ A parental bed, a rickety table, and two or three stools or settles compose the necessaries; the ornaments are the saints hanging to the walls, and for windows there are shutters with a sliding panel. The feeding apparatus consists of a kind of quern for grinding corn, especially maize,
[Foonote: The word is of doubtful origin, generally derived from the Haytian mahiz. But in northern Europe mayse (Irish maise) bread, and the Old High German maz (Hind. mans) means meat]
which, however, is now too dear for general use; sundry vegetable baskets, and an iron pot for boiling fish and porridge, arums (Inhame), and koko (Colocasia esculenta). They have some peculiar dishes, such as the bolo de mel, a ginger cake eaten at Christmas, and the famous carne de vinho e alhos (meat of wine and garlic). The latter is made by marinating pork in vinegar with garlic and the herb called oragão (origanum, or wild marjoram); it is eaten broiled, and even Englishmen learn to appreciate a dish which is said to conversar. The stewed fowl with rice is also national. As everywhere in Portugal, bacalháo,
[Footnote: Brevoort derives the word from baculus, the stick which keeps the fish open; others from the German boloh, fish. In 1498 Seb. Cabot speaks of ’great fishes which the natives call Baccalaos.’ He thus makes the word ’Indian;’ whereas Dr. Kohl, when noticing the cod-fisheries of Europe, declares that in Germany it is Backljau. Mr. O. Crawford (Portugal, Old and New. London: C. Kegan Paul, 1880) rightly notes that ’bacalháo’ applies equally to the fresh fish and the dried fish.]
or dried cod-fish, cooked with garlic or onions, is deservedly a favourite: it contains more nourishment than beef. There is superior originality amongst the doces (sweetmeats) for which Madeira was once world-famous; and in the queques (cakes), such as lagrimas-cakes, cocoanut-cakes, and rabanadas, the Moorish ’rabanat,’ slabs of wheat bread soaked in milk, fried in olive oil, and spread with honey. The drink is water, or, at best, agua-pé, the last straining of the grape. Many peasants, who use no stimulant during the day, will drink on first rising a dram para espantar o Diabo (to frighten the Devil), as do the Congoese paramatar o bicho (to kill the worm).
Here cleanliness is not next to godliness. People bathe only in hot weather–the rule of man and the lower mammalia. A quick and intelligent race they are, like the Spaniards and Bedawi Arabs, a contradiction in religious matters: the Madeiran believes in little or nothing, yet he hates a Calvinista like the very fiend. They have lost, as the census shows, something of their extreme ignorance, and have abated their worst superstitions since the expulsion of the Jesuits by Pombal (1759), and the reforms of 1820, 1828, and 1835. In the latter year Dom Pedro suppressed monkeries and nunneries by disallowing masses, and by pensioning the holy tenantry with 9 dols. per mensem, afterwards, reduced to 5 dols. In 1863 the bishop, Dom Patricio Xavier de Moura, did his best to abolish the pretty refocaria (the hearth-lighter), who, as Griraldus hath it, extinguished more virtue than she lit fires; and now the rectory is seldom gladdened by the presence of noisy little nephews and nieces. The popular morals, using the word in its limited sense, were peculiar. The number of espostos que não se sabe quem, são seus pais (fatherless foundlings) outnumbered those born de legitimo matrimonio; and few of the gudewives prided themselves upon absolute fidelity. This flaw, which in England would poison all domestic affection, was not looked upon in a serious light by the islandry. The priesthood used to lament the degeneracy of the age and sigh for the fine times of foros e fogos, the rights and fires of an auto-da-fé. The shepherds have now learned to move with the times and to secure the respect of their sheep. Imagine being directed to Paradise by a reverend man who gravely asks you where and what Hanover is.
Another important change is being brought about by the emigrant. During the last few years the old rule has been relaxed, and whole families have wandered abroad in search of fortune. Few Madeirans in these days ship for the Brazil, once the land of their predilection. They prefer Cape Town, Honolulu, the Antilles, and especially Demerara; and now the ’Demerarista’ holds the position of the ’Brasileiro’ in Portugal and the ’Indio’ or ’Indiano’ of the Canaries: in time he will buy up half the island.
In 1862 we hired rowing and sailing boats to visit the southern coast east and west of Funchal. For the last twelvemonth Mr. Blandy’s steam-tug Falcão has carried travellers to and fro: it is a great convenience to the lazy sightseer, who cares only to view the outside of things, and here the outsides are the only things worth viewing.
We will begin with the western trip to Paül do Mar, affording a grand prospect of basaltic pillars and geological dykes, and of the three features–rocky, sylvan, and floral. Steaming by the mouth of the wady or ravine Sao João, whose decayed toy forts, S. Lazaro and the palace-battery, are still cumbered with rusty cannon, we pass under the cliff upon whose brow stand some of the best buildings. These are the Princess Dona Maria Amelia’s Hospicio, or Consumptive Hospital, built on Mr. Lamb’s plans and now under management of the French soeurs, whose gull wings are conspicuous at Funchal; the Asylo, or Poor-house, opened in 1847 for the tempering of mendicancy; and facing it, in unpleasant proximity, the Portuguese cemetery, decorated as to its entrance with sundry skulls and cross-bones, and showing its tall cypresses to the bay. Here comes the Quinta (Comtesse) Lambert, once occupied by Queen Adelaide. The owner doubled the rent; consequently Las Angustías (the Agonies), as it was called from an old chapel, has been unrented for the last two years. A small pleasaunce overhanging a perpendicular cliff, and commanding a glorious view, shows the Quinta da Vigia, lately bought by Mr. Hollway for 8,000l., and let at 500l. to 1,000l, a year. Nothing more charming than its grounds, which attracted H.I.M. of Austria, and now the charming Countess Tyszkiewicz. Landward it faces the Rua da Imperatriz, which leads to the ’Loo Fields.’
The study of basaltic pillars at once begins: Loo Fort is partly built upon them. Beyond Vigia cliff we pass in succession three jagged island-rocks, called ’gurgulhos,’ or black-beetles (curculio), which, like the opposite foreshore, admirably show the formation. As a rule the columns are quadrangular; I saw but few pentagons and hexagons. We cast a look at a spouter of circular shape, the Forja, and the Forno, a funnel-formed blowing-rock. The cliff is pierced with a multitude of caves, large and small, and their regular arches look as if the ejected matter, as happens with lava, had cooled and solidified above, while still flowing out in a fiery torrent below. Mostly, however, they are the work of wind and water.
Then comes the old Gurgulho Fort–a dwarf square, partly thatched and converted into a private dwelling. It lies below Signal Hill, with its dwarf ruined tower, a lumpy parasitic crater whose western slopes have been ruined by disforesting. Between the two runs the New Road, which owes its being to the grape-famine of 1852. It is the ’Rotten Row’ of Funchal, where horses tread the earth instead of skating and sliding over the greased pebbles; and where fair amazons charge upon you like Indian irregular cavalry. Five miles long, it is the only level line of any extent in Madeira, and it wants but one thing–prolongation. The lion in the path, however, is Cape Girâo, which would cost a treasure to ’tunnel’ or to cut into a corniche.
The next feature is the Ponta da Cruz, a fantastic slice of detached basalt. Here, at the southernmost point of the island, the Descobridores planted a cross, and every boatman doffs his cap to its little iron descendant. Beyond it comes the Praia Formosa, a long line of shingle washed down by a deep ravine. All these brooks have the same origin, and their extent increases the importance of the wady. In 1566 the French pirates under De Montluc, miscalled heretics (hereges Ugnotas) landed here, as, indeed, every enemy should. The colour of ’Fair Reach’ is ashen grey, scolloped with cinder-black where the creamy foam breaks: for beauty it wants only golden sands, and for use a few bathing machines.
The next notable feature is the Ribeira dos Soccorridos (’River of the Rescued’), where two of the Zargo’s lads were with difficulty saved from the violent stream then flowing. It is now provided with a long bridge-causeway of three arches, approached by a chapel, Nossa Senhora das Victorias, whose tiled and pillared porch reminds one of Istria. This bed is the drain of the Grand Curral, called by the people ’Das Freiras,’ because the holy women here took refuge from the plundering French ’Lutherans.’ The favourite picnic-ground is reached in three hours from Funchal by two roads, both winding amongst the pap-shaped hillocks which denote parasitic cones, and both abutting upon the ravine-side, east and west. The latter, skirting the Pico dos Bodes (of he-goats), a tall cone seen from near Funchal, and sentinelling the great gap, is the joy-for-ever of midshipmites. To the horror of the burriqueiro, or syce, they gallop hired screws, high-heeled as their grandams, over paths at which an English stag would look twice; and for a dollar they secure as much chance of a broken limb, if not of ’going to pot with a young lady’ (Captain Basil Hall’s phrase), as reasonable beings can expect.
The Grand Curral is the central vent of a volcano originally submarine, and, like the Peak of Tenerife, of the age miocene. Fossils of that epoch have been found upon the crater-walls of both. Subsequent movements capped it with subaerial lavas and conglomerates; and wind and weather, causing constant degradation, deepened the bowl and almost obliterated signs of igneous action. This is general throughout Madeira; the only craters still noticed by guide-books are the Lagos (Lake) de Santo Antonio da Serra, east of Funchal and west of Machico, 500 feet across by 150 deep; and, secondly, the Fanal to the north-west, about 5,000 feet above sea-level. The Curral floor, smooth and bald, is cut by a silvery line of unsunned rivulet which at times must swell to a torrent; and little white cots like egg-shells are scattered around the normal parish-church, Nossa Senhora do Livramento. The basin-walls, some 2,000 feet high and pinnacled by the loftiest peaks in the island, are profusely dyked and thickly and darkly forested; and in the bright blue air, flecked with woolpack, Manta, the buzzard, and frequent kestrels pass to and fro like flies.
Beyond the Soccorridos lies the charming valley of Camara dos Lobos, popularly Cama di Lobos,
[Footnote: It is placed west instead of east of Cape Girao in the Conoise Handbook of Madeira, by the Rev. J. M. Rendell. London: Kegan Paul and Co., 1881.]
the lair of the sea-wolves, or seals. With its vivid lines of sugar-cane, its terraces, its fine remains of forest vegetation, and its distances of golden lights, of glazed blue half-lights, and of purple shades, it looks like a stage-rake, a décor de théatre. Tunny-fishing, wine-making, and sugar-boiling have made it, from a ’miserable place,’ a wealthy townlet whose tall white houses would not disgrace a city; two manufactories show their craft by heaps of bagasse, or trash; and the deep shingly bay, defended by a gurgulho of basaltic pillars, is covered with piscator’s gear and with gaily painted green boats. ’Seal’s Lair’ was the model district of wine-production, like its neighbour on the north-western upland, Campanario, famous for its huge Spanish chestnut: both were, however, wasted by the oidium of 1852. In 1863 it partially recovered, under the free use of sulphur; but now it has been ravaged by the more dangerous phylloxera, which is spreading far faster than Mr. Henry Vizetelly supposes.
[Footnote: Facts about Port and Madeira, by Henry Vizetelly, who visited the island in 1877. The papers first appeared in the (old original) Pall Mall Gazette (August 26-September 4,1877), and then were published in a volume by Ward and Lock, 1880]
The only cure of this pest known to Madeira is the troublesome and expensive process practised by a veteran oenologist, Mr. Leacock.
He bares every vine-root, paints it with turpentine and resin, and carefully manures the plant to restore its stamina. Mr. Taylor, of Funchal, has successfully defended the vines about his town-house by the simple tonic of compost. But the Lobos people have, methinks, done wisely to uproot the infected plant wholesale: indeed, from this point to the furthest west we hardly saw a vine-stock. They have supplied its place with garden-stuff, an article which always finds a ready sale. The island is annually visited by at least 500 English ships, and there is a steady demand for ’green meat.’ I am not aware that beet-root, one of the best antiscorbutics, has been extensively tried.
Off Cama di Lobos is the best tunny-fishing. It is practised quite differently from the Mediterranean style; here the labyrinth of nets is supplanted by the line of 300 fathoms. At night the bright fires on board the fishing-canoes make travellers suspect that spears, grains, or harpoons are used. This, however, is not the case; line-fishing is universal, and the lights serve mostly for signals.
From Cama di Lobos the huge hill-shoulder to the west, whose face, Cabo Girão, must be ascended by a rough, steep incline. Far easier to view the scene from a boat. Cape ’Turn Again’ is the furthest occidental point reached by the far-famed exploration of O Zargo. The profile suggests it to be the northern half of a dome once regular and complete, but cut in two, as a cake might be, by time and the elements. It has the name of being the ’highest sea-wall in the world’ (1,934 feet); if so, little Madeira can boast her ’unicum.’ Beaching the summit, you either stand up regardant or you peer couchant, as your nerves incline, down a height whose merit is to be peculiarly high. Facetious picnickers roll over the edge-rocks which may kill the unfortunates gathering grass–dreadful trade!–upon the dizzy ledges. There are also quarrymen who extract cantaria-slabs for sills and copings from the four square apertures which look afar like mortice-holes; and a fine marbled stone, white, blue, and ruddy, has been taken from this part of the cliff-face. Finally, there is a little knot of tiny huts which sticks like a wasp-nest to the very foot of the huge wall.
Seen from the deep indigo-blue water, that turns leek-green in the shallows, Cape Girão (’they turn’) is a grand study of volcanic dykes. They are of all sizes, from a rope to a cable multiplied a thousandfold; and they stand out in boldest dado-relief where the soft background of tufa, or laterite, has been crumbled away by rain and storm-blast. Some writers have described them as ramifying like a tree and its branches, and crossing and interlacing like the ties of a building; as if sundry volcanic vents had a common centre below. I saw nothing of this kind. The dykes of light grey material, sometimes hollowed out and converted into gutters by falling water, appeared to have been shot up in distinct lines, and the only crossing was where a slip or a fault occurred.
A front view of Cape Girão shows that it is supported on either side, east and west, by buttresses of a darker rock: the eastern dip at an angle of 45°, the western range between 20° above and 40° below. The great central upheaval seems to have pushed its way through these older strata, once straight, now inclined. The layers of the more modern formation–lavas and scoriae–are horizontal; sheets of sub-columnar, compact basalt have been spread upon and have crushed down to paper-thickness their beds of bright red tufa, here and there white with a saline effervescence. Of such distinct superimpositions we counted in one place five; there may have been many more. All are altered soils, as is shown by remains of trees and decayed vegetation.
Beyond Cabo Girão the scenery is grand enough, but monotonous in the extreme. The island is girt by a sea-wall, more or less perpendicular; from this coping there is a gentle upslope, the marvellous terracing for cultivation being carried up to the mountain-tops. The lower levels are everywhere dotted with white farmhouses and brown villages. The colours of the wall are the grey of basalt, the purple of volcanic conglomerates, and the bright reds and yellows of tufas. Here and there, however, a thread of water pouring from the summit, or bursting from the flank, fills a cavity which it has worn and turned for itself; and from this reservoir the industrious peasant has diverted sufficient to irrigate his dwarf terraced plots of cane, bananas, yams, or other vegetables; not a drop of the precious fluid is wasted, and beds are laid out wherever the vivifying influence can extend. The water-race down the wall is shown by mosses and lichens, pellitories, and rock-plants; curtains and hangers; slides, shrubs, and weepers of the most vivid green, which give life and beauty to the sternest stone.
The only breaks in this regular coast-wall are the spines and spurs protruding seawards; the caverns in which the surges break and roar, and the ribeiras or ravines whose heads are far inland, and whose lines show grey second distances and blue third distances. At their mouths lie the sea-beaches and the settlements: the latter, with their towered churches and their large whitewashed houses, look more like detached bits of city than our notion of villages. Other places are built upon heaps of débris washed down from the heights, which hold out no promise of not falling again. The huts scattered amidst the cultivation remind one of nothing but Africa. In some places, too, a soft layer of tufa has been hollowed for man’s abode, suggesting, like the caves, a fine old smuggling-trade. As many as eight doors may be counted side by side. In other places a rock-ledge, or even a detached boulder, has been converted into a house by masonry-walls. We shall seldom see these savageries on the eastern coast of the island.
The seafaring settlements are connected with the interior by breakneck paths and by rude steps, slippery with green moss. The people seem to delight in standing, like wild goats, upon the dizziest of ’jumpy’ peaks; we see boys perched like birds upon impossible places, and men walking along precipice-faces apparently pathless. The villages are joined to one another by roads which attempt to follow the sea-line; the chasms are spanned by the flimsiest wooden bridges, and the cliff is tunnelled or cut into a corniche.
After disembarking passengers at Ponta d’Agua and Ribeira Nova we passed the great landslip of 1805, Lugar do Baixo. The heap of ruins has long been greened over. The cause was evidently a waterfall which now descends freely; it must have undermined the cliff, which in time would give way. So in the Brazil they use water instead of blasting powder: a trench is dug behind the slice of highland to be removed; this is filled by the rains and the pressure of the column throws the rock bodily down. We shall find this cheap contrivance useful when ’hydraulicking’ the auriferous clays of the Gold Coast.
Then we came to Ponta do Sol, the only remarkable site on the trip, famous for bodice-making and infamous for elephantiasis. Here a huge column of curiously contorted basalt has been connected by a solid high-arched causeway with the cliff, which is equally remarkable, showing a central boss of stone with lines radiating quaquaversally. There are outer steps and an inner flight leading under a blind archway, the latter supplied with a crane. The landing in the levadia, or surf, is abominable and a life-boat waits accidents outside. It works with the heavy Madeiran oars, square near the grip and provided with a board into whose hole the pin fits. The townlet, capital of the ’comarca,’ fronted by its little Alameda and a strip of beach upon which I should prefer to debark, shows a tall factory-chimney, noting the sugar-works of Wilhabram Bros. There is a still larger establishment at the Serra d’Agoa in the Arco [Footnote: Arco (bow, arch) is locally applied to a ridge or to the district bounded by it.] da Calheta (Arch of the Creeklet), a property of the Visconde de Calçada. The guide-books mention iron pyrites and specular iron in small quantities behind Ponta do Sol.
Passing the deep ravine, Ribeiro Fundo, and the Ponta da Galéra, with its rooky spur, we sighted Jardim do Mar, a village on a mound of débris with black walls of dry stone defending the terraces from surf and spray. The furthest point, where we halted half an hour, is ’Paül do Mar’ (Swamp of the Sea), apparently a misnomer. It is the port of the Fajãa da Ovelha (Ewe’s landslip), whose white tenements we see perched on the estreito, or tall horizon-slope. The large harbour-town is backed by a waterfall which may prove disastrous to it; its lands were formerly famous for the high-priced malvasia Candida–Candia malmsey.
The day had been delightful, ’June weather’ in fickle April. The sea was smooth as glass, and the skies, sunny in the morning and starry at night, were canopied during the day by clouds banking up from the south-east. The western wind blew crisp and cold. This phase of climate often lasts till the end of June, and renders early summer endurable at Madeira. The steam-tug was more punctual going than coming. She left Funchal at 9 A.M., reached Paül do Mar at half-past twelve, covering some twenty-one direct knots; and returned to her moorings, crowded with passengers, at half-past five, instead of half-past four. My companion, M. Dahse, and I agreed that the coast was well worth seeing.
It would hardly be fair to leave Madeira without a visit to Machico, the scene of Machim’s apocryphal death. The realists derive the name from Algarvan Monchique. I have made it on foot, on horseback, and by boat, but never so comfortably as when on board the steam-tug Falcão. Garajáo, whose ruddy rocks of volcanic tufa, embedding bits of lava, probably entitled it ’Brazenhead,’ is worth inspecting from the sea. Possibly the classic term ’Purple Islands’ may have arisen from the fiery red hue of the volcanic cliffs seen at the sunset hour. Like Girão, the middle block of Tern Point is horizontally stratified, while the western abutment slopes to the water. Eastward, however, there has been immense degradation; half the dome has been shaken down and washed away; while a succession of upheavals and earthquakes has contorted the strata in the strangest manner. Seen from Funchal, the profile of Garajáo is that of an elephant’s head, the mahaut sitting behind it in the shape of a red-brown boss, the expanded head of a double dyke seaming the tufas of the eastern face. We distinguish on the brow two ’dragons,’ puny descendants of the aboriginal monsters. Beyond Garajáo the shore falls flat, and the upland soil is red as that of Devonshire. It is broken by the Ponta da Oliveira, where there is ne’er an olive-tree, and by the grim ravine of Porto de Caniço o Bispo, the ’bishop’ being a basaltic pillar with mitre and pontifical robes sitting in a cave of the same material. I find a better episkopos at Ponta da Atalaia, ’Sentinel Point.’ Head, profile, and shoulders are well defined; the hands rest upon the knees, and the plaited folds of the dress are well expressed by the basaltic columns of the central upheaval. Beyond Porto Novo do Cal, with its old fort and its limekiln, is the chapel of São Pedro, famous for its romeiro, ’pattern’ or pilgrimage for St. Peter’s Day. June 29 is kept even at Funchal by water-excursions; it is homage enough to pay a penny and to go round the ships.
We anchored and screamed abominably off Santa Cruz, the capital of its ’comarca.’ The townlet lies on the left of a large ravine, whose upper bed contains the Madre d’Agoa, or water-reservoir. The settlement, fronted by its line of trees, the Alameda, and by its broad beach strewed with boats, consists of white, red, and yellow houses, one-, two-, and three-storied; of a white-steepled church and of a new market-place. East of it, and facing south, lies the large house of ’the Squire’ (Mr. H. B. Blandy), a villa whose feet are washed by the waves; the garden shows the lovely union, here common, of pine and palm. The latter, however, promises much and performs little, refusing, like the olive, to bear ripe fruit. Beyond the Squire’s is the hotel, approached by a shady avenue: it is the most comfortable in the island after the four of Funchal.
[Footnote: There are only two other country inns, both on the northern coast. The first is at Santa Anna, some 20 miles north-north-east of the capital; the second at São Vicente, to the north-west. All three are kept by natives of Madeira. Unless you write to warn the owners that you are coming, the first will be a ’banyan-day,’ the second comfortable enough. This must be expected; it is the Istrian ’Città Nuova, chi porta trova.’]
Santa Cruz has a regular spring-season; and the few residents of the capital frequent it to enjoy the sea-breeze, which to-day (April 23) blows a trifle too fresh.
We then pass the Ponta da Queimada, whose layers of basalt are deeply caverned, and we open the Bay of Machico. The site, a broad, green and riant valley, with a high background, is softer and gayer than that of Funchal. It has been well sketched in ’Views in the Madeiras,’ and by the Norwegian artist Johan F. Eckersberg in folio, with letterpress by Mr. Johnson of the guide-book. The ’Falcon’ anchors close to the landing-stairs, under a grim, grey old fort, O Desembarcadouro, originally a tower, and now apparently a dwelling-place. The débarcadère has the usual lamp and the three iron chains intended to prevent accidents.
The prosperous little fishing-village, formerly the capital of the Tristam, lies as usual upon a wady, the S. Gonsales, and consists of a beach, an Alameda, a church with a square tower, and some good houses. Twenty years ago the people had almost forgotten a story which named the settlement; and the impromptu cicerone carried strangers who sought the scene of Machim’s death to the Quinta de Santa Anna,
[Footnote: Here Mr. White made some of his meteorological observations. VOL. I.]
well situated upon a land-tongue up the valley; to the parish church, which was in a state of chronic repair, and in fact to every place but the right. The latter is now supposed to be the little Ermida (chapel) de N. S. da Visitação. with its long steps and wall-belfry on the beach and the left jaw of the wady: it is a mere humbug, for the original building was washed away by the flood of 1803. In those days, too, visitors vainly asked for the ’remains of Machim’s cross, collected and deposited here by Robert Page, 1825.’ Now a piece of it is shown in frame. About 1863 I was told that a member of the family, whose name, it is said, still survives about Bristol, wished to mark the site by a monument–decidedly encouraging to Gretna-Greenism.
From Machico Bay we see the Fora and other eastern outliers which form the Madeiran hatchet-handle. Some enthusiasts prolong the trip to what is called the ’Fossil-bed,’ whose mere agglomerations of calcareous matter are not fossils at all. The sail, however, gives fine views of the ’Deserters’ (Desertas), beginning with the ’Ship Rock,’ a stack or needle mistaken in fogs for a craft under sail. Next to it lies the Ilheu Chão, the Northern or Table Deserta, not unlike Alderney or a Périgord pie. Deserta Grande has midway precipices 2,000 feet high, bisected by a lateral valley, where the chief landing is. Finally, Cu de Bugio (as Cordeyro terms it) is in plan a long thin strip, and in elevation a miniature of its big brother, with the additions of sundry jags and peaks.
The group is too windy for cereals, but it grows spontaneously orchil and barilla (Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum), burnt for soda. Few strangers visit it, and many old residents have never attempted the excursion. It is not, however, unknown to sportsmen, who land–with leave–upon the main island and shoot the handsome ’Deserta petrels,’ the cagarras (Puffinus major, or sheerwater), the rabbits, the goats that have now run wild, and possibly a seal. A poisonous spider is here noticed by the guide-books, and the sea supplies the edible pulvo (octopus) and the dreaded urgamanta. This huge ray (?) enwraps the swimmer in its mighty double flaps and drags him to the bottom, paralysing him by the wet shroud and the dreadful stare of its hideous eyes.