Ranching, Sport and Travel
by Thomas Carson
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse

November 27th.—Colon once more! Went on to Panama. The Chagres River was in the highest state of flood known in twenty years.

November 30th.—Sailed on steamship Chile with about thirty passengers, all Spanish Americans, bound for Equador, Peru or Chile.

December 3rd.—Reached the Equator, and I donned warmer clothes. We saw whales, sharks, porpoises, rays and thrashers. Entered the Guayaquil River. Here was where Pizarro first landed and obtained a footing. The steamer anchored in quarantine a mile below the city. Yellow fever was raging as usual, and the Quito railroad was blocked by the revolutionists, so my projected visit again for the second time fell through. Guayaquil has the highest permanent death-rate of all cities. The state produces much cocoa and mangrove wood. The town is the centre of the Panama hat trade, which hats are made of the sheaths of the unexpanded leaves of the jaraca palm, or of the long sheaths protecting the flower-cone of the hat palm (taquilla); and they can only be made in a favourable damp atmosphere. Here on the mangrove roots and submerged branches enormous quantities of oysters may be found. Oysters on trees at last! Belonging to Equador State are the Galapagos Islands, 500 miles westward. Of course we did not visit them, but they are remarkable for their giant tortoises and their wild cattle, donkeys and dogs. It is said that these dogs do not bark, having forgotten how to; but they develop the power after contact with domestic ones. The Guayaquil River swarms with alligators, but luckily the alligator never attacks man.

We sailed south down the coast, calling at many ports. From Guayaquil south to Valparaiso, a distance of 2000 miles, we enjoyed bright, clear weather, a pleasant, sometimes an even too low temperature, and peaceful seas, a condition which the captain assured me was constant, the low temperature being due to the South Polar or Humboldt current. The absolute barren condition of this whole coast is also indirectly due to this current, the temperature of the sea being so much below that of the land that evaporation and condensation do not take place. After passing some guano islands on December 9th we landed at Callao, the port of Lima. Went on to Lima, a city founded by Pizarro, and once a very gay, luxurious and licentious capital. It is celebrated for its handsome churches. Its streets are narrow and the whole population seemingly devoted to peddling lottery tickets. There are many Chinamen amongst its 150,000 inhabitants. The Roman Catholics control the country, which is absolutely priest-ridden, Reformed or other churches not being permitted in Peru. A revolution was attempted only a few days ago, the President having been seized and dragged out of his office to be shot. The military, however, rescued him and the revolution was over in twenty-four hours. Peru's resources, outside of the very rich mining districts, will eventually be found in the Montana country, on the lower eastern slopes of the Andes. Her people are backward, and, at least in Cuzco and Arequipa, I should say the dirtiest in the world. There is as yet little or no tourist traffic on this coast; and there will not be much till better steamers are put on and hotels improved. In Lima, however, the Hotel Maury is quite good, though purely Spanish. It never rains on this coast, yet Lima is foggy and cold.

I took a trip up to Oroya over the wonderful Meiggs railway. M. Meiggs was an American, who had to leave his country on account of certain irregularities. We reached a height of 16,000 feet, the country being absolutely barren and devoid of vegetation, but very grand and imposing.

December 16th.—Sailed from Callao for Mollendo, calling at Pisco. Here, close to the harbour, are wonderful guano islands, on two of which were dense solid masses of birds covering what seemed to be hundreds of acres of ground. How many millions or billions must there have been! And yet, it being the evening, millions more were flighting home to the islands. With glasses they could be seen in continuous files coming from all directions. These birds are principally cormorants and pelicans. There are also very many seals, and we saw some whales. These islands presented one of the most marvellous sights I ever saw. And what enormous, still undeveloped, fisheries there must be here to support this bird-life. To-day we also passed a field of "Red Sea," confervae or infusoria. We were favoured for once with a grand view of the Andean peaks, which are seldom well seen from the coast, being wrapped in haze and clouds.

Arrived at Mollendo, port of Arequipa and Bolivia, I at once took train and rose rapidly to an elevation of 8000 feet, arriving in the evening at Arequipa. The whole country is desolate in the extreme. On the high plains we passed through an immense field of moving sand-hills, all of crescent shape, the sand being white and of a very fine grain. On approaching Arequipa the sunset effect on the bright and vari-hued rock strata and scoriae, backed by the grand Volcan Misti, 19,000 feet high, made a marvellously beautiful picture, the most beautiful of its kind ever seen by me, and showing how wonderfully coloured landscapes may be without the presence of vegetation of any kind. Hotels in Arequipa are very primitive, and after a glance at the market and its filthy people you will confine your table fare to eggs and English biscuits as I did. Arequipa has been thrice destroyed by earthquakes and is indeed considered the quakiest spot on earth. Priests, monks, ragged soldiers and churches almost compose the town; yet it has a very beautiful Plaza de Armas, where in the evenings Arequipa fashion promenades to the music of a quite good band. I seemed to be the only tourist here.

On the 20th I took train to Juliaca, rising to 15,000 feet; thence two days to Cuzco, the celebrated southern capital of the Incas, whose history I will not here touch on. Not only are there abandoned Inca remains, but also in high Peru and Bolivia remains of structures erected, as it is now supposed, 5000 years ago. The pottery recently found would suggest this, it being as gracefully moulded and decorated as that of Egypt of the same period; authority even declaring it to be undistinguishable from the latter, and they also testify to evidence of an extremely high and cultivated civilization, not barbaric in any sense, in these remote periods. Indeed, the civilization of the country at that far-off time must have been quite as advanced as in the Nile Valley. Cyclopean walls and other remains show a marvellous skill in construction; individual blocks of granite-stone, measuring as much as fifteen to twenty feet in diameter, being placed in these walls with such skill that even to-day a pen-knife blade cannot be inserted between them. No mortar was used, but the blocks are keyed together in a peculiar way. How this stone was so skilfully cut and transported we cannot imagine; even with iron and all our modern appliances it is doubtful if we could produce such exactitude.

At Puna one gets a good view of Lake Titicaca, still a large lake, but once of much greater dimensions. Sailing over and among the high peaks it was here my good fortune to view for the first time that majestic bird, the condor, which, it is declared, has never been seen to flap its wings. Thus in the South Seas I had been privileged to see the albatross, and here the condor. Lucky, indeed, to have viewed these monarchs of the air, free in their proper element, in all their pride, grace and beauty. How often, as a boy, or even as a man, has one anticipated "some day" seeing these noble birds in their native haunts! Also many llamas and alpacas, the former very handsome animals. The vicunas and guanacos are the wild representatives of this family, and are also very abundant. In Arequipa I suffered somewhat from "nevada," due to electric conditions, and distinct from "saroche." Saroche never affected me.

December 27th.—Sailed for Valparaiso, calling at Iquique, Antofagasta and Coquimbo. The coast country is so desolate and arid that at some of these purely nitrate towns school-children's knowledge of trees and other plants is derived solely from painted representations on boardings erected for the purpose. This may seem libellous, but is not so.

We arrived at Valparaiso on New Year's Day. The city showed few signs of its late disaster. The harbour is poor, and the place has few attractions. Society was attending a race meeting at Vino del Mar. Went on to Santiago, the capital, 1500 feet elevation, population claimed 300,000; our route lying through rich, well-cultivated valleys. The climate and general appearance of the country are much like those of California, the temperature being quite hot at mid-day but cool always in the shade, the nights being chilly. This was midsummer. Santiago has some handsome buildings and a very attractive Plaza Mayor; the hotels are poor. The Chilians are an active, intelligent, wide-awake people; are great fighters and free from the religious trammels of Peru. From here I took train to Los Andes; then by narrow gauge line, the grade being 7 per cent. on the cog track, through barren rough gorges to the Cumbre, or summit, 13,000 feet high. The most commanding peak that we saw was Aconcagua, over 23,000 feet high, and the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. At Lago del Inca, at the entrance to the incompleted tunnel, we left the train and took mules or carts to the summit, where is an immense, surprising and commanding figure of the Christ. On the Argentina side we again took train to Mendoza, an important town and centre of the fruit and wine country. Thence a straight run over the immense level pampas, now pastures grazed by innumerable cattle, sheep and horses, to Buenos Ayres. Many rheas (ostriches) were seen from the train. These birds, the hens, lay in each other's nests, and the male incubates—perhaps to save the time of the hens; which reminds one of the cuckoo, who mates often, and whose stay is so limited that she has no time to incubate. Yet she does not lay in nests, but on the ground, and the eggs are deposited by the male in the nests of birds whose eggs they most resemble, and only one in each.

By-the-by, whilst in Santiago a quite severe quake occurred, but there were few casualties, only two people being killed. It was at night, and my bedroom being on the third floor of the only three-storey building in town, I continued to lie in bed, not indeed knowing what to do, and resigning myself to fate. I distinctly do not want to live in quaking countries!

The sensation produced on one by an earthquake is peculiar and different from all others. One is not so much alarmed as overawed; one feels so helpless, so insignificant; you know you can do nothing. What may happen next at any moment is beyond your ken; only when you realize that the disturbance has actually shaken these immense mountain masses and these boundless plains do you appreciate the forces that have caused it. The Krakatoa outbreak raised the water in our Thames four inches. A great Peruvian earthquake sent a tidal wave into the Red Sea.

Buenos Ayres is a city of some 1,200,000 people, half Italians (the working and go-ahead half) and half Spanish Americans. But there is also a very mixed population. There are many fine buildings and palatial residences, but the business streets are ridiculously narrow, save and except the Avenida de Mayo, which is one of the handsomest streets in the world. The new boulevards, the parks and race-tracks all deserve admiration. The hotels are not quite good enough—not even the palatial "Plaza." Prices, and indeed the cost of living, are quite as great as in New York. It was too hot to remain long, so I crossed to Montevideo, went all over the town; but beyond seeing (not meeting, alas!) one of the most beautiful girls I ever saw in my life, there was not much to interest. So, on the White Star Liner Athenic, I hastened to England. It may be remarked here that though Buenos Ayres and Santiago claim, and offer, wonderful displays of horsed carriages in their parks, if one watches them critically he will seldom see a really smart turn-out. The coachman's badly-made boots, or a strap out of place, or a buckle wanting, or blacking needed, all detract from the desirable London standard.

January 24th.—We entered beautiful Rio harbour. In the town the temperature was unbearable. The city is in the same transformation condition as Buenos Ayres; the streets are narrow, except the very handsome new Avenida Central. The esplanade on the bay is quite unequalled anywhere else. Surely a great future awaits Rio! A trip up Corcovada, a needle-like peak, some 2000 feet high, overlooking the bay, should not be missed. We sailed again for Teneriffe to coal, which gave us an opportunity to admire the grand peak and get some idea of the nature of the country. Thence home.

Perhaps a short note on the great historical personages of Central and South America may be of interest. Among these the greatest was Simon Bolivar, who with Miranda, the Apostle of Liberty, freed the Northern States of South America from Spanish dominion. It was Bolivar who in 1826 summoned the first International Peace Congress at Panama. San Martin, an equally great man, born in Argentina, freed the southern half of the Continent. Lopez, president in 1862 of Paraguay, has secured notoriety for having had the worst character in all American history. Petion, almost a pure negro, deserves also a prominent place. He was born in 1770, was a great, good and able man, and freed Haiti; he also assisted and advised Bolivar. May I also remind you here that Peru is the home of the Peruvian bark tree (cinchona) and the equally valuable coca plant, which gives us cocaine. Paraguay is the country of the yerba-mate, universally drunk there, supplanting tea, coffee, cocoa and coca. Like coca it has very stimulating qualities. El Dorado, the much-sought-for and fabulous, was vouched for by Juan Martinez, the chief of liars, who located it somewhere up the Orinoco River.

The Spaniards, and also the Portuguese, were wonderful colonizers and administrators. Just think what enormous territories their civilization influenced, and influenced for good. Certainly the torch of the Inquisition accompanied them; but even under that dreadful blight their colonies prospered and the conquered races became Iberianized, such was their masters' power of impressing their language, religion and manners on even barbarous tribes.



California—Honolulu—Japan—China—Singapore—Burmah —India—Ceylon—The End.

I hope these hasty notes, so hurriedly and scantily given, may have interested my readers enough to secure their company for one more globe-trot, which shall be rushed through in order to bring these reminiscences to a close.

A momentous event of 1910 was the death of King Edward VII., which threw everybody into deep mourning; and it seemed to me Englishwomen never looked so well as when dressed in black.

In the autumn I started for New York and Amarillo. Never before was I so impressed with the growth and improvement and possibilities of New York city, soon to be the most populous, wealthiest and greatest city the world has ever seen. The incomparable beauty of the American woods and forests in the fall again attracted me and afforded much pleasure.

From Amarillo I went on to San Francisco, stopping off to have yet one more sight of the Grand Canon of the Colorado River. San Francisco was now almost completely restored, and much on the old plan. Her Knob-hill palaces are gone, but her hotels are better and more palatial than ever.

November 22nd.—Sailed on a Japanese steamer for Yokohama, via Honolulu. These Japanese steamers are first-class, and noted for cleanliness and the politeness of the entire ship's company. We coaled at Honolulu and then proceeded. On approaching Yokohama we got a fine view of Fuji-San, the great national volcano, as it may be called, its perfect cone rising sheer from the low plain to a height of 12,700 feet. Fuji is at present quiescent; but Japan has some active volcanoes, and earthquakes are very frequent. My visit was at the least favourable time of the year, viz., in winter. The country should be seen in spring, during the cherry-blossom season, or in the autumn, when the tree foliage is almost more beautiful.

From Yokohama I went on to Tokio, formerly Jeddo, and now the capital. It is a large and busy city with some fine Government modern buildings. The palace, parks and temples form the sights. In the city proper as in all Japanese towns, the streets are very narrow and crowded with rickshaws, the only means of passenger conveyance. At the Anglo-Japanese dinner, given at my hotel, I had an opportunity of seeing Japanese men and women in full-dress attire, and to notice the extreme formalities of their greetings. A Japanese gentleman bows once, then again, and, as if he had forgotten something, after a short interval a third time. From Tokio I went to Kioto, formerly the residence of the Mikado, now purely a native city, with no modern buildings and still narrower streets; but it is the centre of the cloisonne, damascening and embroidery industries. Hotels in Japan are everywhere quite good. Here I visited the fencing and jiu-jitsu schools, which are attended by a large number of pupils, women as well as men. Also the geisha school, and saw girls taught dancing, music and tea ceremony. What perfectly delightful and charming little ladies Japanese girls of apparently all classes are. The smile of the geisha girl may be professional, but is very seductive and penetrating; so that the mere European man is soon a willing worshipper. The plump little waitresses in hotels and tea-houses, charmingly costumed, smiling as only they can smile, are incomparable. The Japanese, too, are the cleanest of all nations; the Chinese and Koreans among the dirtiest. They are extremely courteous as well as polite. A drunken man is hardly ever seen in Japan, a woman never. An angry word is hardly ever heard; indeed, the language has no "swear" words. All the people are artistic, even aesthetic. Arthur Diosy in his book declares that the Japanese are the most cheerful, peaceable, law-abiding and kindliest of all peoples. Up till the "Great Change," 1871, trade was considered unsuitable for, and degrading to, a gentleman. Women here, by-the-by, shave or have shaven the whole face, including the nose and ears, though not the eyebrows. How these Japs worship the beauties of Nature! Few of us might see much beauty in a purple cabbage; yet in my hotel purple cabbages were put in prominent places to decorate the dining-hall, and were really quite effective.

From Kioto I went to Nara, once the capital of the Empire, a pretty place with large park and interesting museum. A great religious festival was on, including a procession of men in ancient armour and costumes. There was also some horse-racing, which was quite comical. Apparently no European but myself was present. On travelling to Nara I passed through the tea district of Oji. The gardens are very beautiful and carefully tended. It was a great treat to me this first opportunity to see something of Japanese peasant life, and to admire the intensive and thorough cultivation. Not a foot of productive soil is wasted. The landscape of rice-fields, succeeded by tea-gardens, bamboo groves, up to the forest or brush-clad hills, and the very picturesque villages and farmhouses and rustic temples, form many a delightful picture. In the growing season the whole country must be very beautiful. Excellent trout and salmon fishing may then be had. The adopted national game for youths seems to be base-ball, and not cricket as in China.

Next I went to Kobe, via Osaka, the great manufacturing centre of the Empire. At Kobe took another Japanese steamer for Shanghai, calling at Moji, Shimonoseki and Nagasaki, and traversing the wonderfully beautiful inland Sea of Japan, a magnified, and quite as beautiful, Loch Lomond. This sea was dotted with innumerable fishing-boats. Indeed, Japan's sea-fisheries must be one of her most valuable assets. Moji harbour is a beautiful one, has an inlet and an outlet, but appears land-locked. On the mainland side is Shimonoseki, where Li Hung Chang signed the Peace Treaty with Japan, and where he was later wounded by an assassin. Nagasaki has also a fine harbour. From here I took a rickshaw ride over the hills to a lovely little summer coast-resort, passing through a most picturesque country.

Japan has, among many others, one particular curiosity in the shape of a domestic cock, possessing a tail as much as fifteen feet in length, and which tail receives its owner's, or rather its owner's owner's, most careful consideration. The unfortunate bird is kept in a very small wicker cage, so small that he can't turn round, the long tail feathers escaping through an aperture and drooping to the ground. Once a day the bird is taken out and allowed to exercise for a short time on a spotlessly clean floor-mat.

While in Japan I was told that her modern cultured men are satisfied with a simple work-a-day system of Ethics, priestly guidance being unnecessary, and they regard religion as being for the ignorant, superstitious or thoughtless. Thus they "emancipate their consciences from the conventional bonds of traditional religions."

It has been remarked that the Japanese will probably never again be such heroes, or at least will never be such reckless, fanatical fighters as they were in the late war, as civilization and property rights will make life more worth living and therefore preserving. The same might apply to the Fuzzy Wuzzies, to Cromwell's Ironsides, and to some extent our own Highlanders and others of a like fanatical tendency.

It had been my intention and hope to visit Korea, Port Arthur, Mukden and Peking; but was advised very strongly, on account of the extreme cold and almost Arctic conditions said to be prevailing in North China, not to go there. But at Shanghai I had better information, contradicting these reports and describing the weather as delightful at the capital. Shanghai has an immense river and ocean trade, and in the waterway are swung river gun-boats of all nations, as well as queer-looking Chinese armed junks, used in putting down piracy. I visited the city club, the country club, and the racecourse, and took a stroll at night through Soochow Road, among the native tea-houses, theatres, etc. Someone advised me to visit a town up the river on a certain day to witness the execution of some dozen river pirates and other criminals, a common occurrence; but such an attraction did not appeal to me.

In China, as in Japan and other countries, the German, often gross, selfish and vulgar, is ever present. But he is resourceful and determined, and threatens to push the placid Englishman to the wall.

Though the practice is not now permitted, Chinese women's bound and deformed feet are still to the stranger a constant source of wonder. It is said the custom arose in the desire of Court ladies to emulate the very tiny feet of a certain royal princess; but it is also suggested that the custom was instituted to stop the female gadding-about propensity!

Here in Shanghai I first observed edible swallow-nests in the market for sale. They did not look nice, but why should they not be so, knowing as we do that the young of swallows, unlike those of other birds, vent their ordure over the sides, so that the nests are not in any way defiled. Here I also learned that Pidgin, as in the expression "Pidgin" English, is John's attempt to pronounce "business."

From Shanghai to Soochow city, a typical Chinese walled town, still quite unmodernized, and no doubt the same as it was 2000 years ago. Tourists seldom enter it, and no European dwells within its walls, inside of which are crowded and jammed 500,000 souls. The main street was not more than six to eight feet wide, and so filled with such a jostling, busy crowd of people as surely could not be seen anywhere else on earth. Even rickshaws are not allowed to enter, there being no room for them. Progress can only be made on a donkey, and then with much shouting and discomfort. What a busy people the Chinese are! Some day they may people the earth. They seem to be even more intelligent than the Japanese, more honest and more industrious; and have an almost lovable disposition. And what giants they are compared to their neighbours!—the men from the north being especially so. I also went by narrow and vile-smelling streets to visit a celebrated leaning pagoda near Soochow, and on returning took the opportunity offered of inspecting with much interest a mandarin's rock-garden, purely Chinese and entirely different from Japanese similar retreats. In Shanghai I visited the original tea-house depicted on the well-known willow-pattern china ware.

January 1st.—Arrived at Hong-Kong and admired its splendid harbour and surroundings. This is one of the greatest seaports in the world, with an enormous trade. The whole island belongs to Great Britain; unlike Shanghai, where different nationalities merely have concessions. In the famous Happy Valley I had several days' golfing with a naval friend, and we played very badly. A trip up the river to Canton, the southern capital of China, an immense city with 2,000,000 population, was full of interest. Half the population seemingly live in boats.

What indefatigable workers the Chinese are. They seem to work all night and they seem to work all day. They are busy as ants. If one cannot find employment otherwise he will make it! Barring the beggars, there are no unemployed and no unemployables. What a mighty force they must become in the world's economy. We estimate China's population by millions, but forget to properly scale their energy and industry. What is the future of such a people to be! Yet they seem to be incapable of any general national movement: each is absorbed in his immediate work and contented to be so; so unlike the Japanese, with equal energy and industry, plus boundless ambition and patriotism.[4]

[Footnote 4: Appendix, Note I.]

The Chinaman's pigtail calls for explanation. The Manchus, on conquering China in 1644, decreed that all Chinese should shave the rest of the head but wear the pigtail. The Chinese would not submit to this; so the politic Manchu emperor further decreed that only loyal subjects might adopt the custom, criminals to be debarred. This ruse was so successful that now the Chinaman is even proud of his adornment, and little advantage is being taken of a recent relaxation of the decree.

Sailing for Singapore I was blessed with a cabin all to myself, and what a blessing it is! In all my travels I have been singularly fortunate in securing privacy in this way.

There is not much to interest in Singapore. It is one of the hottest places on earth, the same in winter and summer, purely tropical. It has, however, fine parks, streets and open places. The principal hotel is the "Raffles," which I should imagine is also the worst. The most notable feature of Singapore is the variety of "natives" domiciled there—Ceylonese, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, Hindoos and Malays. After leaving Singapore we looked in at Penang, where we had time to inspect a famous Chinese temple. An American Army General, D——, and his wife were among the passengers, and I found much pleasure in their company; indeed, we travelled thereafter much together in Burmah and India.

Rangoon, where we arrived next, is a large, well-laid-out city, as cosmopolitan as Singapore. The bazaars are well worth visiting, and the working of elephants in the great teak yards is one of the tourist's principal sights. But the great Shwe Dagon pagoda is of course the centre of interest, and indeed it is one of the most astonishing places of worship it has been my fortune to visit. The pagoda itself is of the typical bell shape, solidly built of brick, gilded from base to summit, and crowned with a golden Ti. The shrines, too, which surround and jostle it, hold the attention and wonder of the visitor. There are very many of these, mostly of graceful design, with delicate and intricate wood carvings and other decorations. The pagoda is the most venerated of all Buddhist places of worship, containing as it does not only the eight sacred hairs of Gautama, but also relics of the three Buddhas who preceded him. It is also from its great height, 370 feet (higher than St Paul's Cathedral), and graceful shape, extremely imposing and sublime.

From Rangoon I trained to Mandalay, on the Irawadi River, not a large town, but rich in historical associations, and famous for its Buddhist pagodas, such as The Incomparable and the Arakan; also the Queen's Golden Monastery. King Theebaw's palace remains much as it was, and well worth examination. The population here is almost purely Burmese; in fact you see the Burmese at their best, and the impression is always favourable. What brilliant but beautiful colours they affect in their head-clothes, jackets and silken gowns. They are a cheerful, light-hearted and good-natured people, lazy perhaps, but all apparently well enough to do. The boys and the young men play the national game of football, the ball, made simply of lightly-plaited bamboo strips, being kicked and tossed into the air with wonderful skill and activity, never being allowed to touch the ground. The way they can "take" the ball from behind, and with the heel or side of the foot toss it upwards and forwards, would be a revelation even to the Newcastle United. The women and girls have utmost freedom and are to be seen everywhere, often smoking enormous cigarettes: merry and careless, but always well, and often charmingly, dressed.

A fine view, and good idea, of the great Irawadi River may be obtained from Mandalay; but time was pressing, so I railed back to Rangoon instead of making the river trip, which my friends, the D——s, did.

The steamer to Calcutta was unusually crowded, but I was again fortunate enough to secure the use of the pilot's cabin all to myself. The Hugli River was familiar even after thirty-four years' absence, and in Calcutta I noticed little change. The hotels, including the Grand and Continental, are quite unworthy of the city, only the very old and well-known Great Eastern approaching the first-class character. Calcutta was getting hot, so I at once went on to Darjeeling, hoping to get a view of what my eyes had ever longed to see—the glorious high peaks of the Himalayas, and the roof of the world. After a few hours' run through the celebrated Terai jungle, the haunt, and probably final sanctuary, of the big game of India, the track ascends rapidly and picturesquely through the tea district of Kangra, and arrives at Darjeeling, elevation 7500 feet, the summer home of the Bengal Government and the merchant princes of Calcutta and elsewhere. I had been forewarned that the chances of seeing the high peaks at this time of the year were extremely slim; but my experience and disappointment in connection with Korea and Peking taught me to disregard such warnings; and, as it turned out, I was rewarded with a perfect day and magnificent views of Mounts Kinchinjunga and Everest, and all the other majestic heights; seen, too, in all their phases of cloud and mist, of perfectly clear blue sky, and of sunrise and sunset effects. It was indeed a most satisfying and absorbing twenty-four hours' visit, as I had also time, under the guidance of an official friend, to visit the picturesque weekly market or bazaar, where natives from Sikkim, Nepal, Butan and Tibet may be seen in all their dirt and strangeness. Also the quite beautiful Botanic Gardens, the Club House, the prayer-wheels, etc. More than that, I was privileged to pay my respects to the Dalai Lama, who had but recently left his kingdom and taken refuge here. The acknowledged spiritual head of the Buddhists of Mongolia and China is a young man with a dreamy, absorbed expression of countenance, perhaps not of much intellectuality, but who is approachable even to the merely curious. My friend and kind cicerone was Commissioner of the Bengal police, and was extremely busy laying guards along the railroad and taking all other necessary precautions for the safety of the German Imperial Crown Prince during his projected visit to Darjeeling, a visit ultimately abandoned. I can imagine his chagrin at the waste of all his labours, expense to the Indian Government, etc. etc., due to the caprice of this apparently frivolous and not quite courteous young hopeful. Indeed, the Crown Prince, though a popular young fellow enough, was the source of trouble and tribulation to his hosts, breaking conventions and scandalizing Society by his disregard of its usages.

Returning to Calcutta I thence took train to Agra via Allahabad, purposely, on account of the great discomfort and poor hotel accommodation due to the large tourist traffic, avoiding Lucknow, Benares and Cawnpore. At Allahabad the Aga Khan, temporal head of the Mohammedans of India, and a man of great authority and influence, joined our train, and part of the way I was lucky enough to be in his company and had an opportunity of speaking with him. In appearance he is a Turk, quite European in dress, and seems capable, energetic, sociable and agreeable. At every stopping-place he received an ovation, crowds of his Mussulman supporters and friends, among them apparently being chiefs and rajahs and other men of high degree, greeting him with much enthusiasm, which enthusiasm I learned was aroused by His Highness' endeavour towards the raising of the status of the Mohammedan College of Aligarh to that of a university.

I should say here that, on Indian railways, the first-class carriages are divided into compartments, containing each four beds, but in which it is customary to put only two passengers, at least during sleeping hours, and unless an unusual crowd requires otherwise.

It was also on this train I made the acquaintance of a gentleman on his way to visit the Maharaja of Gwalior, and who was kind enough to ask me to accompany him. I told him that if he would secure me an invitation from the Maharaja I would be only too pleased to do so. Gwalior was a place on my itinerary anyway; to go there as a guest would secure me many advantages not attainable by the ordinary tourist. My friend said he would see the Maharaja at once and have my visit arranged for. A few days afterwards I received advice that it had been done, so on arrival at Gwalior I was met by one of the State carriages and conveyed to the Guest House, formerly the zenana, close to the palace, a very beautiful and handsome building, where an excellent staff of servants, capital meals, choice liquors and cigars, were at our free disposal. His Highness does not eat with his guests, but they are all put up in this building; and during big shoots, durbars, or festive occasions, the house is always full. At the time of my visit the few guests included two Scotch manufacturers, who had just effected large sales of machinery to the Maharaja, the one securing from him an order worth L60,000 for steam-breaking ploughs, the other an order of some L20,000 for pumping appliances. The Maharaja is a thoroughly progressive man, has an enormous revenue, and devotes a large part of it to the bringing into cultivation tracts of hitherto unbroken and unoccupied land, which no doubt will eventually increase his revenue and provide homesteads for his people. Sindia, as his name is, is a keen soldier, a keen sportsman, and most loyal to the British Raj. He moves about freely, wearing a rough tweed suit, is busy and occupied all day long, and though he has ministers and officials of all degrees, and keeps great state on occasion, his army numbering some 5000 men, he finds time to superintend the various departments of his Government, and to administer his State with a thoroughness uncommon among Indian potentates. The new palace is very beautiful and furnished in European manner, apparently quite regardless of expense. The crystal chandeliers in the reception-rooms are magnificent, and must alone represent fabulous sums. Near by the palace are a number of lions, now kept in proper cages, but I must say from the smell and filth not under very sanitary conditions. These lions he had imported from abroad and turned loose to furnish sport to his shooting friends; but they killed so many of the peasantry that they had to be recaptured and confined. The town of Lashkar, the State capital city, being reported full of plague, I was naturally careful in passing through. Nothing in it calls for comment, however. Gwalior Fort, on a high rocky plateau, has much historic interest. In it are the ancient palaces, still in fair condition but long ago abandoned, certain Jain temples covered with bas-relief carvings, tanks and many old ruins. The entrance is handsome and impressive. My friend and myself were supplied with an elephant, so we rode all over the immense fort, now almost silent, having only a small guard and a few other occupants. Altogether I enjoyed the visit very much, and after three or four days' stay returned to Agra. Everyone knows Agra, with its heavenly Taj-Mahal, its great fortress, its pearl mosque, its beautiful halls of audience and its palaces. It is truly sad to know that one of our former Governor-Generals actually proposed to tear down the Taj-Mahal so that he could use the marble for other purposes! Among these delights of architecture one could wander for days, ever with an unquenched greed for the charm of their beauties. One sees marbled trellis-work of exquisite design and execution, and inlaid flower wreaths and scrolls of red cornelian and precious stone, as beautiful in colour as graceful in form. Agra's cantonment avenues and parks are kept in excellent order. The temperature at the time of my visit was delightfully cool, and the hotel the best I had yet found in India. Fatepur Sikri, a royal city built by Akbar, only to be abandoned by him again, is near Agra, and possesses enough deserted palaces, mosques and other beautiful buildings to make it well worth a visit.

There is, for instance, the great mosque, rival to the Taj-Mahal, the inside of which is entirely overlaid with mother-of-pearl.

From Agra I went to Delhi, India's imperial city. In and around it are innumerable palaces, mosques, tombs and forts, each and all worthy of careful inspection; but I will only mention the Jama Musjid; inside the fort the Diwan-i-Am, wherein formerly stood the famous peacock throne; and the Diwan-i-Kas, at either end of which, over the outer arches, is the famous Persian inscription, "If Heaven can be on the face of the earth it is this! Oh, it is this! Oh, it is this!" In the city itself is the famous street called Chandni Chauk. North of the city is a district where the principal incidents of the siege took place, and there also is the plain devoted to imperial durbars and assemblages. South of the city are many celebrated tombs, such as those of Emperor Humayun, and of Tughlak; and the majestic Kutab Minar. Mutiny recollections of course enormously add to one's interest in Delhi, and many days may be agreeably passed in company with her other historic, tragic and romantic associations. At the time of my visit preparations were already beginning for the great Coronation Durbar to be held next winter. Most hotels and private houses have already been leased. What the general public will do for accommodation I do not know. One will almost necessarily, like the King, have to go under canvas. The Circuit House will only be used by His Majesty should bad weather prevail. The native rulers of every grade are going to make such a display of Oriental magnificence as was never seen before. To many it will be their ruin, or at least a serious crippling of their resources; but it is a chance for display that does not often occur and they seem determined to make the most of it.

Here at Delhi the General and myself again joined forces, he and his wife having visited Lucknow and Cawnpore. We took train direct to Peshawar, via Rawal Pindi and Lahore. I never knew anyone who enjoyed foreign travel so much as my American friend. He was in a constant state of delight, finding interest and pleasure in small matters that never even attracted my attention, though as a rule my faculty for observation is by no means obtuse. In Burmah the bright-hued cupras of the natives filled him with intense joy, and the presence of some closely-screened native ladies on a ferryboat so held his gaze that his wife (and I suspect they were not long married) must have felt pangs of jealousy. But he was a keen soldier, and had frequently represented his country at the German and other manoeuvres, and had been Adjutant-General at the inauguration of President Roosevelt, a very honourable position indeed. So he was intensely interested in old forts and battlefields, and his enthusiasm while in Peshawar and the Khaiber Pass was boundless. More than that he was a strong Anglo-Phile, and amused me by his disparaging criticism on how his own Government did things in the Philippines and elsewhere, compared with what he saw in India and other British possessions. Peshawar is a very delightful place, or so at least it appeared to me. We lodged in a capital though small hotel. The climate was then very agreeable; the cantonment gardens and avenues are a paradise of beauty, at least compared with the surrounding dry and semi-barren country. In the native city one mixed with new races of people, Afghans and Asians, and picturesque and fierce-looking tribesmen from the hills. Also an immense number of camels, the only means of traffic communication with western and northern native states.

But before arriving at Peshawar one must not forget to mention the magnificent view obtained from the car windows of the glorious range of Cashmere Snowy Mountains, showing peaks of 20,000 to 25,000 feet elevation; nor the crossing by a fortified railway bridge of the historic Indus River, near Attock, at the very spot where the Greek Alexander entered India on his campaign of conquest A mile above this point the Kabul River joins the Indus. Here too is a romantic-looking town and fortress built by the Emperor Akbar, still unimpaired and in occupation by British troops. The approaches to the bridge and fort are strongly guarded, emplacements for guns being noticeable at every vantage point on the surrounding hills, while ancient round towers and other fortifications tell of the troublous times and martial deeds this important position has been witness to.

For our visit to the Khaiber Pass General Nixon, Commandant at Peshawar, put a carriage at our disposal, in which we drove as far as Jamrud, the isolated fort so often pictured in our illustrated papers, where we exchanged into tongas, in which to complete the journey through the pass as far as Ali Musjid. The pass is now patrolled by the Afridi Rifles, a corps composed of Afridi tribesmen commanded by British officers. At frequent intervals along the route these Afridi sentinels can be seen standing on silent guard on all commanding points of the hills. One sees numerous Afridi hamlets, though what the occupants find to support themselves with it is difficult to understand. A good carriage road continues all the way, in places steep enough and tortuous, as the rough broken nature of the country necessitates. By another road or trail, paralleling our own, a continuous string of camel caravans proceeds in single file at a leisurely gait, the animals loaded with merchandise for the Kabul market and others in Central Asia. It is a rough, desolate and uninteresting country, yet grand and beautiful in its way, and one is at once struck with the difficulties to be encountered by troops endeavouring to force their way through, commanded as the pass is at every turn by positions so admirably suited for guerrilla warfare and delightful possibilities for an enemy with sniping propensities. At Ali Musjid the camel and carriage tracks come together. Here at this little mosque was the point beyond which we were not allowed to proceed; so after a most interesting visit we returned to Peshawar. We were most fortunate in the weather, as the strong wind which always blows down the pass is in winter time generally excessively cold. At Peshawar I bade good-bye to my most agreeable American friends, the General being keen on visiting Quetta; whither, had it not been so much out of my own proposed line of travel, I would gladly have accompanied him. So my next move was back to Delhi, and thence by train via Jeypore to Udaipur, one of the most delightfully picturesque and interesting of all Indian native capitals. There is a tiny little hotel at Udaipur, outside the walls, showing that visiting tourists are few and far between. The Maharana holds by his old and established customs, and has none of the modern spirit shown by such princes as Sindia, the Nizam, and certain other native chiefs. He has, however, gone so far as to furnish his new palace in a most gorgeous manner, the chairs, tables, mirror frames, bedsteads seen in the State apartments being composed of crystal glass. The show attraction of the palace, in the eyes of the attendants, who were ever at one's beck and call, was a Teddy dog with wagging head, which miracle of miracles one seemed to be expected to properly marvel at. The old palace, adjoining the new, is a much finer building, being mostly of marble, and is purely Oriental in its stairways, doorways, closets, balconies and delightful roof-gardens, as one's preconceived notions expect an Eastern potentate's palace to be. The new palace showed no sign of occupancy, and I imagined the Maharana, then absent, really favours the older building, and small blame to him! Around in various places the State elephants are stabled, or rather chained, in the open air, and looked after by their numerous attendants. In the grand court in front were several of these animals, and a myriad of pigeons, protected by their sanctity, flew about in clouds, or perched on the projections of the palace walls. From a boat on the large and lovely lake, on whose very edge the commanding palace stands, a beautiful view is obtained. On islands in the lake two delightful little summer palaces are built, of white marble and luxuriously furnished within. Elephants were bathing themselves at the water's edge, and the roar of caged lions was heard from the neighbouring royal garden. Pea-fowl perched on the marble colonnade, and pigeons were circling and sailing in the glorious sunshine. What a sight! especially when evening drew in, and the setting sun lighted up the graceful cupolas and domes, and threw shadows round the towers and battlements, the whole reflected in the glassy surface of the water. At one place near by the wild pigs approached to be fed and some grand old fellows may be seen amongst them.

It is still the custom of nearly all men here above the rank of coolie to carry swords or other weapons. For are these Rajputs not of a proud and warlike race, as may be seen by their bearing; and is not their Maharana of the longest lineage in India, and the highest in rank of all the Rajput princes? A few miles from the capital is Chitorgarh. Here I saw the wonderful old fortress, with its noble entrance gate, and the ancient town of Chitor, once the capital of Mewar. Also the two imposing towers of Fame and Victory. Throughout the state one is struck by the great number of wild pea-fowl picking their way through the stubble just as pheasants do. The flesh of pea-fowl, which I have tasted, is excellent eating, surpassing that of the pheasant. One also sees numbers of a large grey, long-tailed monkey, which seem to preferably attach themselves to old and ruined temples or tombs. From here, Chitorgarh, I next took train to Bombay, passing through Rutlam, a great poppy-producing centre. At Baroda I received into my compartment the brother of the late Gaikwar (uncle of the present?). It had often occurred to me before to wonder how the high-class natives travel on the railways. Never had I yet seen a native enter a first-class compartment where there happened to be any Europeans. In this instance, at Baroda, I had noticed a man, apparently of consequence, judging by his attendants, evidently wanting to travel by this train. Soon one of the party approached, and almost humbly, it seemed more than politely, asked if I would have no objection to the company of the brother of the Gaikwar. Of course I said I could have no objection, and so we travelled together to Bombay. But what is the feeling between the two races that keeps them thus apart?

Bombay surprised me more by the delightfully cold breeze then blowing than by anything else. I took a drive over Malabar Hill and saw the Parsee Towers of Silence, as they are popularly called. The immense Taj Hotel, where I stayed one night, by no means justifies its pretensions. Indeed, it is one of the poorest or worst in all India. Next day I started out for Hyderabad, and had a long, hot, slow twenty-four hours' journey; the principal crop noticed being to me the familiar Kafir corn. Yes, it was very hot and dusty. As usual, the train was packed with natives, but myself seemed to be the only European on board. Arrived at Hyderabad, I at once drove over to Secunderabad, a very large British cantonment and station. From here, missing the friends I had come to see, and there being nothing to specially interest otherwise, I again took train to Madras. A letter of introduction in my pocket to the Nizam's Prime Minister might have been useful in seeing the city had I presented it, but pressure of time induced me to push on; nor did I stop in Madras longer than to allow of a drive round the city, the heat being very great. Indeed, I was getting very tired of such hurried travel and sight-seeing, and was longing for a week's rest and quietude in the cool and pleasant highlands of Ceylon. My health also was now giving me some concern; so on again to Madura, en route to Tuticorin, from whence a steamer would take me across to the land of spicy breezes. Madura has a wonderful old temple of immense size, surrounded by gopuras of pyramidal form, in whose construction huge stones of enormous dimensions were utilized; the temple also has much fine carving, etc. The old palace is of great beauty and interest.

Colombo was, as usual, uncomfortably warm; only on the seashore at Galle Face could one get relief, and Galle Face with its excellent hotel is certainly a very delightful place. I did not stay in Colombo, but at once took train to visit Anauradapura and the dead cities of Ceylon. Here was the heart of a district ten miles in diameter, practically covered by the site and remains of the ancient city, which in its prime, about the beginning of the Christian era, ranked with Babylon and Nineveh in its dimensions, population and magnificence. Its walls included an area of 260 square miles. Among its ruins the most notable are the dagobas (pagodas), some of such enormous size that the number of bricks used in their construction baffles conception. One of the dagobas has a diameter of 327 feet and a height of 270. It is solidly built of bricks, and contains material enough to build a complete modern town of 50,000 people. These Buddhist dagobas of Ceylon have the bell-shape form, and serve the same purpose as the Shwe Dagon in Rangoon, viz., to shelter relics of the Buddhas. Close by, within the walls of a Buddhist temple, or monastery, still grows the famous Bo or Pipal tree, the oldest living historical tree in the world, brought here 250 B.C. from Buddh Gaya in India. Only a fragment of the original main trunk now exists, the various offshoots growing vigorously in the surrounding compound, all still guarded and attended by the priests as lovingly as when done 2200 years ago. At Anauradapura is a quite charming little Rest House, shaded and surrounded by beautiful tropical trees of great variety.

From here I went to Kandy, the former capital of the native kings of that name. In the fourteenth century a temple was erected here to contain a tooth of Buddha and other relics. Later, the temple was sacked and the sacred tooth destroyed, but another to which was given similar attributes was put in its place. Kandy is a pretty spot, with a good hotel and agreeable climate, its elevation being 1800 feet above sea-level. Near by is Paradenia and the beautiful Botanical Gardens, in which it is a perfect delight to wander.

We had already passed through a most lovely and picturesque country; but the grandest and most impressive scenery of Ceylon lies between Kandy and Newara Elia. Tea-gardens extend everywhere, and the cosy, neat-looking bungalows of the planters have a most attractive appearance. Newara Elia stands very high, some 7000 feet. Its vegetation is that of a temperate climate, and in the winter months the climate itself is ideal. The bracing atmosphere suggests golf and all other kinds of sport, and golfing there is of the very best kind. There is an excellent hotel, though I myself put up at the Hill Club. All Ceylon is beautiful, the roads are good, and many delightful excursions can be made. I do not think I ever saw a more beautiful country. But the sailing date draws near, so I must hurry down again to Colombo, and thus practically complete my second tour round the world. A P. & O. steamer brought us to Aden, the canal, Messina and Marseilles. We enjoyed lovely cool and calm weather all the way till near the end, when off the "balmy" coast of the Riviera we encountered bitter cold winds and stormy seas. And so through France to England, to the best country of them all, even though it be the land of coined currency bearing no testimony to its value; where registered letters may be receipted for by others than the addressee; and where butcher meat is freely exposed in the shops, and even outside, to all the filth that flies—my last fling at the dear old country.

Someone has asked me which was the most beautiful place I had ever seen? It was impossible to answer. The whole world is beautiful! The barren desert, the boundless ocean, the mountain region and the flat country, even these monotonous Staked Plains of New Mexico, under storm or sunshine, all equally compel us to admiration and wonderment.

In closing this somewhat higgledy-piggledy narrative, let me once more express my hope that readers will have found in it some entertainment, perhaps instruction, and possibly amusement.


Note I.—An outcry against Mormonism has been raised lately in this country. It is its polygamous character that has been attacked. But does polygamy deserve all that is said about it? It is not immoral and should not be criminal. Compare it with the very vicious modern custom of restricted families, which is immoral and should be criminal. Where is our population going to come from? The Chinese, Japanese, Indians and negroes are swarming all over the earth; while our race is almost stagnant, yet owning and claiming continents and islands practically unpeopled. Some day, possibly, polygamy will have to be permitted, even by the most civilized of nations.

Note II.—In this present year there is much writing and much talking about arbitration treaties and preferential tariffs. A general arbitration on all matters between the United States and Great Britain is probably quite impracticable. Preferential tariff within the Empire would be highly advantageous to the Mother Country. If so, let us go for it while the opportunity offers. But it does seem to me there is a much-mistaken idea prevalent at home as to the loyalty of the Colonies and Dominions. One travels for information and should be allowed to give his conclusions. What holds these offshoots to the mother stem? Loyalty? I think not. Simply the realization that they are not (not yet) strong enough to stand alone: and it is the opinion of many that, as soon as they are, loyalty will be thrown to the winds; and naturally! (Since the above was written has it not been abundantly verified?) There is also even a belief (the wish being father to the thought) that the United States of America have a sentimental feeling for the Old Country; and one frequently hears the platform or banquet stock phrase, "Blood is thicker than water." It would be well if our people were enlightened with the truth. After twenty-five years' residence in the United States I will dare to say that the two nations are entirely foreign and antagonistic one to another. And it is a fortunate thing that between them few "Questions" remain to be arbitrated either by pen or sword. The two peoples do not understand one another, and do not try to. The ordinary English traveller does not meet or mix with the real American people, who are rapidly developing a civilization entirely their own, in social customs, in civil government, and even in fashions of dress.

Note III.—Might a just comparison not be drawn between these "dogies" and the type of men we now recruit for our standing Army? Are they not dogies? Is it not a fact that many of them never had a square meal in their lives! At least they look like it. But when taken up, if not while yet babies at least when they are still at a critical age of development, say eighteen years, and fed substantially and satisfyingly, as is now done in the Army, what an almost miraculous physical change takes place! And not only physical, but mental and moral, due to the influence of discipline and athletic exercises. If such be the effect on our few annual recruits, why not submit the whole young manhood of the nation to such beneficial conditions by the introduction of compulsory national military service? And not only that! Is not the private soldier of this country, alone of all others, refused admission to certain places of entertainment open to the public? Why? Because he is a hireling. Because no man of character or independence will adopt such a calling. He would degrade himself by doing so. But make the service compulsory to all men, and at once the calling becomes an honourable one. Can it be imagined for a moment that any of our raw recruits enter the service from a love for King and country? No; they sell their birthright for a red coat and a pittance, renounce their independence and stultify the natural ambition that should stimulate every man worthy of the name.

Though our men do not have the initiative and self-resource of the Americans, still they are the smartest and best-set-up troops in the world. Many of them are of splendid physique and look like they could go anywhere and do anything. The whole world was open to them; yet here they still are in the ranks, dummies and automatons, devoid of ambition and self-assertiveness.

Only national service will rid us of the army of unemployables. It will develop them physically and mentally, and make men of them such as our Colonies will be glad and proud to admit to citizenship.



Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse