A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

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circuitous manner. As one draws near to Santa
Anna the road trends away from the sea, and crosses



MADEIBA. 320

the gentle, and here unbroken, slope of the mountain;
which, being all under cultivation, appears tame after
the rugged grandeur of the scenes passed through
in the earlier part of the journey from S. Vincente.
Taken as a whole, however, the coast scenery on
this side of the island is much more grand than that
on the southern side ; the ravine of Sao Jorge, and
the village of Ponta Delgada, being particularly
magnificent.

Between Santa Anna and Funchal are many
" bits," which, were they in any other island, would
be considered almost unrivalled. The journey be-
tween the two towns occupies about nine hours ;
and, during the descent of the mountains on the
southern side, one has a good view of the rocky
islands, lying off in the ocean, and which are com-
monly called the Desertas ; namely, the ship -like
Sail Eock, the table-topped Chao Island, Bugio Island,
and the rugged Deserta Grande.



CHAPTER XIV.

MADEIRA.

Masked Ealls — A Crushing Misadventure — Discovery of the
Island — The Fossil Forest of Canijal — Excursions — The
"Waterfall — Corral das Freiras — The Poul de Serra — Camera
de Lobos — Brazen Head — Santa Cruz — Hunting the States-
man — A Wicked Jest.

FuNCHAL is occasionally enlivened by masked balls,
principally during the Carnival, and, though the
company is not always very select, one can extract a
good deal of harmless amusement from them. Euglish
ladies are, as a rule, much too strait-laced to patronise
them ; but they send their male belongings, and
expect them to bring back voluminous reports of all
the little wickednesses they may have detected.

Usually the Briton does not go in costume, but,
should he do so, you can at once detect him ; because
he is quite conscious that he is making a fool of
himself, and exhibits that self-consciousness ; while
the Portuguese think much too highly of themselves
to entertain any such an idea for a moment.



MADEIRA. 331

An acquaintance of mine once met with a most un-
pleasant adventure at one of these gatherings. He
was walking about in the crowd, looking at the dancers,
and admiring the costumes, when he received a tap
on his arm from a fan ; and, looking round, discovered
a charming little mask, in a black gauzy kind of dress,
standing close beside him. He could speak Portuguese
fairly w^ell ; and as he perceived that the mask had a
pair of very wicked black eyes, and a little red mouth
that was evidently made to be kissed, he immediately
opened a conversation. She responded so amiably
that my friend, knowing the romantic tendencies of
these hot-blooded Southern nations, at once guessed
that it was a case of love at first sight ; and having
heard that Portuguese women had a penchant for fair
men, he blessed the fortunate accident which had
endowed him at his birth with dust-coloured hair,
and eyes of a pale gooseberry green. He danced two
or three dances with her, supplying her with ices and
champagne in the intervals ; and all the time such
a bewitching prattle of naughtiness fell from the
pouting red lips, that, in his delight, he scarcely
knew whether he was standing on his head or his heels.

At last, after the sixth dance, and the third
bottle of champagne, he ventured to suggest that, as
the crowded rooms w^ere rather warm, they should go
out into the cooler air of the garden. The fascinating



332 WEST AFRICAN ISLANDS.

mask at once acquiesced, and in a few minutes tliey
were seated on a bench in a frao-raut bower of flowers.

O

riien, somehow or other, my friend suddenly found
his arm round the taper waist of this enchanting
angel ; next, her head somehow reclined upon his
shoulder, and, in a voice husky with emotion, he
i'mplored her to remove the odious vizard, and allow
him to gaze upon her much-to-be-loved features.
She said he must untie it for her, and, as he was so
doing, their hands accidentally met ; and, by the time
that the mask was removed and the sweetest little
face in the world upturned to his, he felt himself in
Paradise, and wondered what he had ever done to
deserve being thus richly rewarded by fortune. They
were sitting upon the bench, fallen into a delightful
reverie, and my friend's heart bursting with love,
when a harsh, strident voice interrupted the heavenly
dream ; and, starting up, he saw a man before him,
convulsed with some strong emotion. He at once
smelt jealousy in the wind, and, knowing the
Portuguese character, began to look about for some
weapon with which to parry the blow of the avenging
knife, when the furious rival, recovering himself with
a mighty effort, again spoke. He said :

*' If the English gentleman has quite finished with
my little brother I will take him home, as it is time
fur him to o;o to bed."



MADEIRA. S33

" Your wliat ? "

" My little brother, senhor." And the rival
exploded in a violent fit of laughter, in which,
to my friend's horror, the charming mask joined
uproariously.

Then she got up, and, making a little curtsey,
said :

" Thank you very much, sir, for the nice ices and
the delicious champagne. My brother says it is time
to go home. Good-night."

And they both went off screaming with laughter,
while numbers of dim figures might have been
observed amongst the shrubs, all with handkerchiefs
pressed convulsively to their mouths, and with their
shoulders shaking as if they had the ague.

As for the victim of this fraud, he stood there
bursting with indignation. He was of a rather
parsimonious nature, and when he reflected upon the
money which he had wasted in refreshments for that
boy, he broke out, I am sorry to say, into violent
execrations. Then he thought of what people would
say when they heard the story at the club ; and,
feeling himself unable to face the ridicule to which he
would certainly be exposed, he rushed to the hotel,
packed up his belongings, and went on board a
steamer which was to sail at daybreak.

Madeira is said to have been discovered in 1334,



334 WEST AFUIGAN ISLANDS.

by an Euglishman named Eobert Macham. Accord-
ing to the legend that esquire was enamoured of
Anne, daughter of the Earl of Dorset ; but, while
the lady regarded her suitor with favour, the father
did not consider him a sufficiently eligible pai^ti, and
so married his daughter to a baron, of name unknown,
who resided in the neighbourhood of Clifton, near
Bristol. Not long after the marriage Anne eloped
with her lover, and, with some trusted friends and
followers, embarked in a vessel lying in the river
Avon, iutendinof to seek a refugee in France. The
ship was unfortunately driven out of its proper
course by a violent tempest ; and, after thirteen
days' buffeting upon the stormy billows, the sailors
discovered an unknown island, covered with forest
down to the edge of the water. They steered
towards it, and anchored in a wooded bay. The
lovers and their friends, delighted to set foot once
more on shore, immediately landed, built sylvan
bowers, and for three days roamed about the wood-
land solitudes. The calm of the third night was
broken by a furious storm, and at daybreak they
found to their dismay that the vessel, on board of
which the crew had remained, had disappeared.
Anne, imagining that this disaster was in punish-
ment of her offence, died of remorse in a few days,
being soon followed to the grave by her disconsolate



MADEIRA. 335

lover ; and their friends and companions, setting sail in
the boat in which they had come ashore, put to
sea, hoping to reach some known and inhabited
part of the globe. After much exposure and suffer-
ing they were wrecked on the coast of Morocco,
where they were made prisoners and slaves by the
cruel Moors. Notwithstanding, however, the hard-
ships of their captivity, they struggled on to a
green old age ; since the legend says that, in 1418,
that is, eighty-four years after their discovery of
Madeira, they imparted that discovery to Juan de
Morales, an experienced pilot of Seville, who saw
them in Morocco. Morales at once carried the
information to Prince Henry of Portugal ; and, in
the same year, the island was taken possession of
by that prince.

Another account, less legendary, says that Prince
Henry, ambitious of discovering a route to the
East round Africa, fitted out a single ship and
despatched it, in 1418, under Tristan Vaz and
Gonsalez Zarco, two gentlemen of his household,
with orders to double Cape Bojador, and steer
onwards towards the south. They endeavoured to
carry out their instructions, and commenced sailing
along the coast of Morocco ; but a sudden storm
drove them out to sea, far out of sight of land.
The gale continued raging, and they were momcn-



336 WEST AFRICAN ISLANDS.

tarily expecting to be engulfed in the waves, when
they were carried to an unknown island, under
which they ran for shelter, and which, in com-
memoration of their providential escape, they named
Porto Santo. Directly the weather became favour-
able they returned to Portugal, to report their dis-
covt^ry ; and, in the year following. Prince Henry
sent out three ships, under the two above-named
commanders and Bartolomeo Perestrello, to take
possession of and colonise the newly-discovered
island. After the colonists had been some weeks
in Porto Santo, they noticed a stationary object,
like a small black cloud, on the horizon to the
south ; and, imagining that it might be land,
despatched a ship towards it. This ship discovered
it to be an uninhabited island, which, on account of
its being covered with forest, was called Madeira.
This account is probably true in the main facts ; but
as Madeira is distinctly visible from Porto Santo,
from which it is only twenty-six miles distant, its
discovery must have been immediately consequent
upon the discovery of the latter island.*

In 1420, Prince Henry sent a colony of Portuguese
to Madeira, and supplied them with sheej), cattle,
poultry, plants and seeds. The wines of Cyprus being

* According to Cadamosto, Collcr^ao de Noticias, ]\Iadeira was
jiot discovered until three years after the settlement of Porto Santo.



MADEIRA. 337

then in great repute, he obtained cuttings of the vine
from that island, as well as sugar-cane from Sicily ;
and, both these doing well in Madeira, it rapidly
became prosperous. In order to clear the ground the
more easily, Zarco, the first governor, ordered the
colonists to set fire to the forests, which then
covered the island, and the fire is said to have
raged with such fury that all the inhabitants,
men, women, and children, were compelled to
seek refuge in the sea, where they remained for
two days up to the neck in water, and without
food. The forests burned for upwards of six
years, and, either from this cause or from injudicious
felling, the wood of the island was exhausted about
one hundred years ago, and the rainfall began to
diminish. About 1800, however, the inhabitants
planted those pine-woods which now cover the more
accessible parts of the mountains, and they now
understand the economy of nature sufficiently well
not to cut down in one place without planting in
another. Pine-tree growing is besides a most profit-
able undertaking, for firewood is always in demand,
and the trees are fit for the market in twelve or
thirteen years.

Near the eastern extremity of Madeira, between
the village of Canical and Cape St. Lourenco, is a
curious forest of fossil trees. Canical is about fifteen

z



338 WEST AFRICAN ISLANDS.

miles from Funchal, and, on the way, one passes the
hamlet of Machico, said to be named after Macham,
the traditionary English discoverer of Madeira. It
possesses a church which is rumoured to have been
built in memory of him ; and in which the remains of
a- cedar-wood cross are shown to the visitor, who is
gravely assured that it is the one that was placed by
Macham over the grave of the unfortunate Lady
Anne. It is a picturesque village, surrounded by
lofty peaks, and nestling down in the little bay which
here breaks into the cliff-guarded shores. It is noted
for its chalybeate spring.

Canical is a poor place, and would be unknown to
Europeans but for the fossils in its neighbourhood.
The stone forest is found about a mile and a half
beyond the village, in a sandy, saucer-shaped plain.
Buried in the sand upon this plain are trees, the
trunks still standing in their natural position, and
having the branches attached, which spread out
over the OTOund like a network of roots. It is evident
that the small forest which grew here was over-
whelmed by the sea, which would form a kind of
lagoon in the depression of the plain ; for marine
shells are found mingled with the sand, and the trees
are erect, not scattered prostrate here and there, as
would be the case if they had been drifted to this spot
at haphazard. In some instances the wood has disap-



MADEIRA. 339

peared, and nothing but the empty casts of the vanished
trees remains in the agglutinated sand ; but, in most
cases, it still exists, transformed into a flinty lignite.
Some of the trunks stand about a foot out of the
sand, and there are several nearly a foot in diameter.
Most of the trees are very perfect, and even the twigs
on the branches have been preserved. This fossil
forest occupies nearly a scjuare mile ; the depth of
the sand in which it is buried is not known.

Among other places which may profitably be
visited in Madeira may be mentioned the Waterfall, the
bottom of the Corral, the Poul de Serra, and Camera de
Lobos. The first of these is to the west of Funchal in
the ravine of the San Luisa, which, higher up, is called
Eibeira do Torreao, and, to reach it, one can either
ascend the mountain slope until the parish of San
Eoque is reached — that is, for about two miles — and
then descend into the bed of the torrent ; or enter
the latter from the commencement, and clamber over
the shingle, sand, and blocks of basalt till the fall
is reached. The ravine is in some places enclosed
by cliffs 500 feet in height, and the brink of
the stream, which is filled with water-cress, is
covered with laurels and ferns, among which may be
seen the purple blossoms of the foxglove, the white
and gold of the arum, and the occasional pink of the
dark-stemmed belladonna lily. As one ascends the

z 2



340 WEST AFBICAN ISLANDS.

ravine becomes narrower, and the frowning walls
of cliff are unbroken. Turning suddenly a sharp
bend in the gorge, one catches a first glimpse of the
fall throuoh the foliasje of the trees which friu2;e
the bases of two low and projecting rocks ; and,
looking back after a few paces, one appears to be
hemmed in on every side by unscalable heights in
a pit from which there is no exit. The fall is about
300 feet high, but is broken at about two- thirds of
its height by a shelf of rock, and the body of water,
which plunges in sheets of spray into the deep pool
beneath, is not large.

The best time for visiting this fall is, of course,
after rain, when the volume of water is greater than
usual ; but not after too heavy a rainfall, or one
might run the risk of being carried away by a freshet.
The rainy season of Madeira may be said to extend
from October to January, both inclusive ; but the rain
falls generally in showers, there are as many fine
days as wet ones, and the incessant downpour of the
tropics is unknown. The annual rainfall of Madeira
is estimated at about thirty-five inches, and during
the rainy season the three torrents which traverse the
town of Funchal sometimes overflow their banks.
In 1809 there was a very disastrous flood. No rain
had fallen for months, until one day in October a
heavy downpour commenced at noon. About eight



MADEIRA. 341

o'clock in the evening the freshets came down, carried
away all the bridges, and swept away several houses
in the eastern quarter of the town. One of them is
said to have been carried out into the bay entire, and
to have been seen there for some minutes with the
lights still burning in the upper windows. Upwards
of 400 lives were lost, and the streets were choked
with dead cattle, sheep, ruins, and rubbish. This
flood was supposed to have been caused by a water-
spout, which, it was imagined, broke above the
town.

To reach the bottom of the Grand Corral, or, to
give it its local designation, the Corral das Freiras,
one has first to ascend by the S. Vincente road, till
it runs along the western side of Pico Grande, which
towers up between the Corral and the ravine of the
Serra d'Agoa, There the road forks, and the branch
that winds down to the eastward leads to the bottom
of the Corral. For about three miles the road ziaf-
zags down on the summits of the precipitous, wall-
like spurs, which, rising to a height of some 2,000
feet from the depth of the valley, separate the more
ruorored southern half of the Corral from the softer
northern half. At the commencement of the descent
the Pico Ruivo is directly opposite, and its towering
heights seem to threaten momentarily to crash down
upon the passer-by, who is moving cautiously along



342 WEST AFRICAN ISLANDS.

on the verge of a precipice. One continues descend-
ing, past enormous masses of rock, like Titanic towers
and fortresses, which have fallen from above and
stand boldly up from the laurels and broom at their
feet, some apparently so delicately balanced that a
touch would suffice to dislodge them ; past sparkling
cascades and babbling streams, and past rocky
heights clothed from head to foot with flowering-
heaths. Sometimes the road is carried across a rude
stone causeway which connects two ridges, at others
it is hewn out of the face of a cliff, or winds sharply
round a precipitous spur, until a torrent spanned by
a bridge is reached, and we have arrived at the
bottom. On inquiry, this stream turns out to be the
Socorridos river, which discharges its waters into
the sea to the west of Funchal, and it is the onlv
outlet of the Corral. In the smiling valley are vine-
yards and plantations of all kinds ; but the cottages
of the peasants are poor, and might even be called
squalid, while the interior of the church of Libramente
exhibits even worse taste than one is accustomed to
see in Portuguese places of worship.

The valley is 2,000 feet above the sea, and it is
the highest point at which tlic vine is cultivated in
the island. Tlie road from above to the hamlet of
Libramente was the work of a Portuguese engineer
named Jose d'Alfonseca. It is said to have occupied



MADEIRA. 343

three years in making, for it is cut out of tlie solid
rock, and in many cases the ivork could only be
carried on by men suspended on stages swung from
above, or raised on scaffoldings built up from below.
Every man in the island was compelled to work at
this road for two days, or contribute, in lieu, a dollar
towards the expenses. It was completed in 1817.

The Poul de Serra is a sandy plateau, covered
with broom and heath, on the summit of the moun-
tains a little to the v\^est of the centre of the island,
and is about nine miles in lenojth, three in breadth
and 5,000 feet above the sea. It is good pasture
land, but is avoided, as a rule, by the peasants,
except those who dwell in its immediate vicinity, for
it is popularly believed to be haunted by spectres
and malignant demons ; and strange tales are told of
the unearthly shapes which are seen, and the weird
sounds that are heard on the solitary moor, when,
as is frequently the case, it is enshrouded in mist.
Carefid observers have noticed spectral illusions in
this mountain solitude similar to those of the
Brocken, and consisting, when the Poul de Serra is
clear, and mists are rising perpendicularly from the
valleys and lower mountain slopes opposite the sun,
of a gigantic reflection of their own persons and
horses. To this phenomenon most of the stories of
apparitions may be traced, the remainder being either



344 WEST AFRICAN ISLANDS.

invented, or evoked by the excited imaginations of
terrified and superstitious peasants who have been
belated.

Apart, however, from the evil reputation due to
its imaginary perils, the Poul de Serra is, in the
winter months, wdien covered with snow and rendered
gloomy with fog, a dangerous tract to traverse ; and
almost yearly some few peasants, who have lost their
way in the semi-darkness of the clouds, are frozen to
death on its bleak and exposed summit. Even in
the summer there is something uncanny about the
stillness of this central plateau, and the peasants from
the northern side of the island (who are distin-
guishable by their scarlet capes, those living on the
southern side wearing blue ones) who find themselves
obliged occasionally to cross the Poul de Serra, do
so at the top of their speed, and with many uneasy
glances around and behind, to see that no spectre
be creeping towards them unawares. These coloured
capes, both kinds of which are trimmed with a light
blue, form, with the blue funnel-shaped cap, lined
with red, and named the carapuce, the only distinc-
tive costume of the peasantry of Madeira. The cap
is worn by both sexes, but the capes by the women
alone, and then usually only on saints' days, or when
they are visiting the capital. As a rule, the men
appear dressed in dirty white or yellowish shirts and



MADEIEA. 345

trowsers, and the women in tlie ordinary skirts of
civilisation, perhaps worn a little shorter than in the
British Isles. Both sexes are unmistakably plain
in youth, and hideous in age ; but it is doubtful if
they are of pure Portuguese blood, several hundred
negroes and captured Moors having been sent to
Madeira as slaves some four centuries ago, who
have since become blended with the original Portu-
guese population. The seizure of the inoffensive
inhabitants of Morocco by licensed Portuguese cor-
sairs was carried on to such an extent that, in 1509,
it was made a subject of formal complaint to King
Manuel; a Portuguese named Diego de Azambrya
having recently kidnapped a number of wealthy
Moorish and Jewish merchants, and sold them as
slaves to the brother of the Governor of Madeira.

Camera de Lobos lies to the westward of Funchal.
The road to the diminutive village follows the wind-
ings of the coast, affording in turn picturesque views
of hill-side covered with vineyards, of broken and
rock-bound shores, and wide stretches of blue ocean.
Crossing the turbulent stream in the valley, near
which are some magnificent cacti, from fifteen to
twenty feet high, a sudden bend brings us to the
village. To the west a clifi", 1,600 feet in height,
and marked from foot to summit with dykes of
basalt, rises rapidly till it forms the headland of



346 WEST AFRICAN' ISLANDS.

Cape Girain ; and towards its western extremity a
stream falls down the wliolo heiglit of the cliff, in
three steps, close to the vineyards of Fazenda dos
Padres which lie at its base. This piece of culti-
vated land between the precipice and the sea is a
land-slip, and to arrive at these vineyards, and the
volcanic aperture which is the attraction of this
neighbourhood, one has to proceed by boat from the
village of Lobos, unless prepared to descend the
cliff by means of the precariously fixed posts used
by the fishermen and peasants in ascending and
descendinof. Landinsj near the small and half-
ruinous fort, and clambering over the rocks between
it and the small bay, one suddenly arrives at the
brink of a hollow, almost circular in shape, about
thirty-five feet deep, and some sixty yards in
diameter. At the bottom of this bowl is a shaft,
about twenty-four feet deep and five feet broad,
and, descending the steeply-sloping side of the
upper cavity, one can perceive the sea rushing in
to the depths of this vertical tube, some fifty feet
down, while the hoarse roar of the waves, gather-
ing volume as it bellows up the well, strikes loudly
on the ear. Besides this crater there is only one
other in a good state of preservation in Madeira. It
is situated on a conical mound on the slope of the
mountain about 2,500 feet above the sea, and



MABEIBA. 347

some eleven miles to tlie east of Funchal. It is
nearly seventy yards in diameter, and in the centre
reaches a depth of about fifty feet ; being always
half-filled with rain-water, it is known by the name
of the Lagoa.

The bold promontory, called by the English
"Brazen Head," and by the Portuguese " Garajao,"
which is such a striking object as its vertical height
is rounded by the steamer before entering Funchal
bay, is within easy reach of Funchal, and there is


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Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisWest African islands → online text (page 19 of 22)