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80" I will have another gallop to the north,” I said, "the leste will be over to-morrow. I have never seen the Boaventura, and I will leave Madeira fresh from magnificent scenery, and perhaps with agreeable impressions.” Luckily I pitched upon a truly peripatetic philosopher, who agreed to ride with me. But I must collect my thoughts.
To be exact, then, it was at the end of March, 1815, that we rode out of Funchal one Saturday afternoon towards Santa Anna, having sent an arriero forward some hours before, carrying three or four days' provisions, great coats, and other commodities desirable to travellers in Madeira.
From Funchal to the north of the island there are four frequented routes : one by Camàcha and the Serra de St. Antonio to Fayal; another by the Mount and Ribeiro Frio to Santa Anna; a third by the bed of the Coural and the Boaventura to Ponte d'Algarda; and a fourth by the Jardin and the Serra d'Agoà to the village of St. Vimcente. The first of these routes I have already touched upon in my ride home from the Portella; the second we will now ride along, returning by the third, the finest country in the island.
It was late when we started, and before we reached the Mount the close of a magnificently bright leste day was fast approaching. As we turned round into the straight avenue which leads past those pleasant quintas of the English, the sun had already dropped behind Cape Giram, whose gigantic outline was traced black and strongly on the tinted sky; but the silent-looking Desertas laying to the eastward were yet streaked with golden lines, while from east to west the sea-except where ruffled by gentle breezes, whose course was marked by many a shade on the calm surfacewas a flood of brilliant dazzling light; and over all, the sky was painted in broad streams of golden and violet hues. A few, a very few, moments, and all was changed: there was a short period of uncertain light--a struggle-and then the moon, looking large and globe-like, as it ever does in these bright climates, rose broadly over the sea, so blue and glittering, and still so cool, touching every object upon land with soft and tempered brilliancy.
We rode rapidly, for we had before us an ordinary ride of five or six hours. To Ribeiro Frio, after gaining the hills,--picknicking, happy, beautiful Ribeiro Frio,—we cantered without drawing rein. How changed the scene from what it appeared when we were last there. Instead of trampling hoofs, and noisy tongues, shouts, screams, wild echoes, and crashing crockery, which reverberated through the close valley, the most profound silence was around.
The moon was just peeping over the thick foliage which crowns the perpendicular mountain on one side, and, touching it with a delicate light, threw also deep and fantastic shadows across the whitened road, but it lighted up the entire valley opening down to the north coast, and verily set the rapid torrent on fire as it dashed along for miles over its rocky bed, below wooded hills, and crags, and precipices. The fragile little bridge looked dark and perilous, as the sparkling stream, swollen with heavy rains, rushed underneath; the road beyond was strewed with detached fragments of rock, and mould, and bushes, which, though exceedingly picturesque, were sure signs of an inconvenient giving way somewhere. For Madeira roads often running along the mountain side, occasionally give way, slip, in fact, over the precipice, forming a kind of sloping shelf to be passed before you can regain the level path. A slip of this kind had taken place at Ribeiro Frio, at a spot where the narrow road rose almost perpendicularly, and moreover turned at the top of the ascent sharply to the left. On the left hand was the steep bank, on the right a precipice of some fifteen hundred feet. It may be conceived that the fact of this ascending portion of the road slipping down the precipice would render it a sort of impossible place to pass in safety. And so I thought when I looked at it. Light as day, there was no concealment of the awkwardness of the thing. What was to be done? We were not ambitious of returning; to walk would have been a case of slipping horse and all down the descent. There was but one method, and that was to carry it boldly by a coup de main. So at it my friend went, full-tilt. I could scarcely avoid laughing, although there was no joke to see him storming up the slope, with no discernable object for his exciting charge. Fortunately the slip was on soft ground; up the beast went, its feet sinking many inches in the earth at each plunge. This alone kept him on his legs ; had the ground been hard, the animal could not have retained its balance upon a declivity at an angle of forty-five degrees, and having to make an upward progress at the same time. My turn came : I confess I craned, -however, I shut my eyes, sat close, applied my whip pretty freely, made a noise as nearly as possible like a burroquero's shout, "cavache cavallo !” shrieked and screeched at him; and in a moment felt the animal making a succession of wild plunges and sideway evolutions on the slip which seemed likely to end in a dead stop midway. The idea of making a pose-plastique, or a centaur, or something equally picturesque, in that situation, was so exceedingly painful that I redoubled my shouts, achieved a fiendish howl far beyond the possible efforts of the most accomplished arriero, and after a few more rollings and struggles, was fairly landed by the side of my companion, very much to my own, and I believe his astonishment too. So much for Madeira roads. *
• The Funchal and Santa Anna road, of which I am speaking, is one of the best in the island, and well enough it is as far as the mount, which is as far as the English keep it in order. From there, although paved, the pavement always appears to be up, disclosing awful perils. But this is a patent safety," compared to the really bad roads of Madeira.
By many a winding and broken path we passed on, and wound down the Meyametada. I had seen this ravine in a bright sunshine: I had seen it in a cloudy shroud : I had seen it during a raging violent tempest; but the vast cleft spreading out to the moonlit sea, and overhung with glorious mountain barriers, was beyond the power of description in the light which then disclosed its wonders.
In descending the zig-zag and dangerous paths to the bottom, sometimes the whole ravine was visible from end to end, but every now and then a bed of light cloud would pass rapidly down over the opposite hill, and so thin the mist, so brilliant the moon, and so clear the atmosphere, that every object beyond the cloud-the jagged outline of the mountain ridges - the rough and broken masses of basalt-groups of trees-patches of grey, green, and white--the very huts of the peasants-were all distinctly apparent, seen as through a delicate gauze veil. Then would the soft transparency gradually change to a more strongly-defined picture, as the cloud rolled slowly away, losing and burying itself in the distance, faded into fine particles, and finally “vanished into thin air.”
After crossing the rapid torrent by a singularly uneasy bridge, formed of the trunks of trees, the interstices being filled with stones and rubbish,* we toiled up the opposite side, each turn revealing fresh beauties, as we passed from deep shade into bright moonlight, or from light mists into a brilliant unclouded atmosphere, in which the glorious objects above, and around, and below, were defined with exquisite distinctness. On gaining the summit, there are still one or two smaller valleys to be crossed before you may consider yourself fairly in the north, and find that having descended considerably from Ribeiro Frio, the mountain range now laying far above as well as behind, you have arrived in a tolerably level country, appearing to slope gently down to the coast.
There is still a good deal to be got through; but the roads are really roads, they are no longer pavées, but good soft, brond, turfy kind of roads — the sort of highways, or bye-ways, perhaps, which induce a man to shake himself well in his saddle, draw up his reins, and involuntarily press his horse into a canter, after trotting, stumbling, rattling, and jolting, over the uncertain and perilous moun
* Probably a temporary affair, the bridge having been washed away. The disastrous flood which occurred (I believe) in the autumn of 1842, tore down half the bridges in the island, and there is scarcely a pass of any note on the north or south coast that does not bear melancholy marks of the grievous destruction then effected. The ruined arches still standing across many of the ravines are, however, exceedingly interesting objects, and fording the streams either on horseback or burroqueroback is always an adventure giving rise to some amusing incidents. None of the bridges have been repaired.
tain paths. The country is covered with a thick undergrowth of foliage, of what kind I am not sure, but the whole scene is open, and furzy, and heath-like. Presently you ride through groves of chestnut-trees, among whose branches, and over your head, the vine clings in festoons. This is the mode of cultivating the grape in the north, When I was there, both trees and vine were in their winter garbs, but in summer, when you may ride for miles along narrow paths through a forest of chestnuts, and under canopies of vine, the effect must be as beautiful as any in the plains of Lombardy. Still descending, and nearing Santa Anna, symptoms of cultivation appear: corn-fields, and a peasant's hut occasionally ; bye and bye, a distant hum, which soon increases to a continuous roar, bespeaks the vicinity of the coast, and in a few more minutes, coming suddenly out of some tall brushwood, you see before you the towering cliffs to the right of Santa Anna, a long line of surf, and the broad expanse of glittering waves beyond, The village of Santa Anna is a straggling place, scarcely deserving the name; a few peasants' huts, one or two decent quintas, the church, and the roof of Senhor Accioli, are the only habitations, It was to the house of the above-named individual, who endues it with the name, without any of the circumstances, of an hotel, that we turned our horses' heads, and a nicc-looking quinta it is, on the very edge of the cliff, many, many hundreds of feet above the raging roaring breakers. It was nearly ten o'clock when we consigned our nags to the arriero; and we had ridden across in exactly three hours and a quarter, about half the time usually taken to accomplish the journey, and, considering the time of the evening, the philosophizing by the way, not to speak of enthusiasms and admirations, it was not a bad pace.
It was a chilly night. Our host, whose comfortable kitchen we had taken possession of, in preference to the large, cold, rooms up stairs, cooked us a fowl (plucked for the occasion); and in that quaint apartment, with its beams and rafters, bacon, dried fish, saddles, nets, guns, poles, utensils and implements of an unaccountable character, hanging confusedly about,-in the corner of as large and cozy a fire-place as ever graced the hall of an ancient Briton, with a blazing fire of enormous logs, a very white table, and some very dark tinta smoking away in a desirable state of mull upon it, drawn close to the hearth, to say nothing of those few last and precious weeds of thine, oh, great and incomparable Alvarez ! who shall blame me for softening towards the Portuguese that night, declaring they were the greatest nation on the face of the earth, and Senhor Accioli the most unquestionable hero of them all ?
I rose betimes the next morning, having promised myself, as the leste seemed broken up, and the weather still clear and settled, to ascend Pico Ruivo.
To my surprise, my companion had vanished, and on inquiry I learned that he had left about four o'clock in the morning to ride back to Funchal, a proceeding which to this day, intimate as I was with him, I have never been able satisfactorily to account for.
Whether it was that he forgot to lock up the spoons in Funchal; whether the Senhor's excellent tinta would not allow his restless spirit to repose at Santa Anna; whether he was ambitious of hearing a tractarian discourse at the English chapel; or was dreaming of excommunication for not attending Divine service: I cannot pretend to say. Certain it is, he did arrive in town before nine o'clock that morning, and I started for the Peak alone.
I mounted early, accompanied by a remarkably strong burroquero, and a good luncheon. The latter I always consider an indispensable adjunct to the finest scenery and under the most exciting circumstances. We struck away immediately from the village, making straight for the hills. Pico Ruivo, to whose summit I was bound, is the highest peak in Madeira : the authorities say, 6120 feet above the sea, which, by the by, is quite high enough for all the practical purposes of a fine view. It is nearly in the centre of the island, but cannot be gained from the southern side, the Coural laying between, from whose wild head the Pico Ruivo rises precipitously: but towards the north coast the range of hills, which lies below the Peak, slopes gently down to the sea without any intersecting valleys. In fact, so gradually, that to reach Pico Ruivo is a matter of easy riding. It is perhaps ten miles from Santa Anna, a gentle rise more than half that distance, and only the last mile being at all abrupt, The roads are exceedingly awkward. They appear to be of a soft clayey nature, and the result is that torrents of rain, streaming down from the hills, wear them into a slippery trench, a regular groove, in fact, sloping from each side two or three feet deep into the middle. It is utterly impossible for a horse to keep his footing in these cursed ditches, and mine fell with me no end of times. The country is uninteresting after leaving the coast.
On nearing the summit, however, as the ascent becomes more abrupt, you pass over hills of black-looking volcanic substance, and through curious thickets of arborescent heaths, their huge ungainly trunks barkless, burnt, and blasted by lightning into weird shapes. It was a brilliant day, when, after scrambling through the thick brushwood and large shrubs which cover the summit, and give that distant tufted appearance to it, I stood on the very top of Pico Ruivo.
The mountain continent, with its perpendicular drop into the Coural, stands alone among those vast piles of rocks and ridges. Tuwering above everything, nearly the whole island is visible from its crest. Eastward to Point St. Lorenzo; westward to the Paol de Serra, with glimpses of the sea towards the south ; the magni