Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

my great surprise he called me by name. He was an American named Higgins, whom I had seen last at my own office in New-York. He was coming from Realejo, and was on his way to San Juan, with the intention of embarking for the United States. We sent our luggage on and dismounted; and besides the pleasure of the meeting, I am under great obligation to him, for I was riding at the time on an alvardo, or common saddle of the country, very painful for one not used to it. My own saddle hurt my macho; and as his journey was nearly at an end, he gave me his in exchange, which I rode on afterward till I left it on the shores of Yucatan. He gave me, too, a line in pencil to a lady in Leon, and I charged him with messages to my friends at home. When he rode off I almost envied him; he was leaving behind him tumults and convulsions, and was going to a quiet home, but I had still a long and difficult journey before me.

In about three hours, after a desperately hot ride, we reached Managua, beautifully situated on the banks of the lake. Entering through a collection of thatched huts, we passed a large aristocratic house, with a courtyard occupying a whole square, the mansion of an expatriated family, decaying and going to ruin.

Late in the afternoon I walked down to the lake. It was not so grand as the Lake of Nicaragua, but it was a noble sheet of water, and in full sight was the Volcano of Momotombo. The shore presented thf same animated spectacle of women filling their water jars, men bathing, horses and mules drinking, and iii one place was a range of fishermen's huts; on the edge of the water stakes were set up in a triangular form, and women with small hand-nets were catching fish, which they threw into hollow places dug, or rather

LAKE OF MANAGUA. 17

scraped, in the sand. The fish were called sardinitos, and at the door of the huts the men were building fires to cook them. The beauty of this scene was enhanced by the reflection that it underwent no change. Here was perpetual summer; no winter ever came to drive the inhabitants shivering to their fires; but still it may be questioned whether, with the same scenery and climate, wants few and easily supplied, luxuriating in the open air, and by the side of this lovely lake, even the descendants of the Anglo-Saxon race would not lose their energy and industry.

This lake empties into the Lake of Nicaragua by means of the River Tipitapa, and another communication between the two seas has been spoken of by means of a canal from it to the Pacific at the port of Realejo. The ground is perfectly level, and the port is perhaps the best in Spanish America; but the distance is sixty miles, and there are other difficulties which it seems to me are insuperable. The River Tipitapa has been represented as navigable the whole length for the largest ships; but no survey was ever made until Mr. Bailey's, according to which it is thirty miles in length. Beginlng at the Lake of Nicaragua, for twenty-four miles the water is from one to three fathoms in depth. Above this there are rapids, and at the distance of four and a half miles a fall of thirteen feet. The whole rise within the six miles is twenty-eight feet eight inches. The Lake of Managua, from observation and information without survey, is about fifteen leagues long and thirtyfive in circumference, and averages ten fathoms of water. There is not a single stream on the contemplated line of canal from this lake to the Pacific, and it would be necessary for this lake to furnish the whole supply of water for communication with both oceans. Vol. II.—C

[graphic]

At three o'clock the next morning we started. In all the tierras calientes it is the custom to travel at night, or, rather, very early in the morning. At eight o'clock we entered the village of Mateares, where we procured some eggs and breakfasted. From this village our road lay directly along the lake, but a few paces from the shore, and shaded by noble trees. Unfortunately, we were obliged to turn off to avoid a large rock which had rolled down several months before, and probably blocks up the road still; this brought us round by the Cuesta del Relox, so called from a venerable sundial which stands on one side of the road, of a dark gray stone, with an inscription in Castilian, but the characters so worn and indistinct that I could not make them out. It has no history except that it was erected by the conquerors, and it stands as an indication of the works with which the Spaniards began the settlement of the country.

At half past eleven we left the lake for the last time, and entered an open plain. We rode an hour longer, and reached Nagarotis, a miserable village, its houses built partly of mud, with yards in front, trodden bare by mules, and baked white by the sun. I entered one of the houses for shelter, and found in it a young negro priest on his way to Carthagena, with orders from the Church at Leon. The house was occupied by an old man alone. It had a bedstead with a mat over it, upon which I lay down, glad to rest a while, and to escape the scorching heat. Opposite the bed was a rude frame about six feet high, on the top of which was a sort of babyhouse, with the figure of the Virgin sitting on a chair, and dressed in cheap finery.

At three we started again. The sun had lost some of its force, the road was wooded, and I observed more

A SPORTING CHARACTER. 19

than the usual number of crosses. The people of Nicaragua are said to be the worst in the republic. The inhabitants of the other states always caution a stranger against them, and they are proportionally devout. Everywhere, in the cities and country, on the tops of mountains, and by the side of rivers, these memorials stared me in the face. I noticed one in a cleared place by the roadside, painted black, with a black board suspended to it, containing an inscription in faded white letters; it had been erected to the memory of a padre who had been murdered and buried at its foot. I stopped to copy the inscription, and while so engaged saw a travelling party approaching, and knowing the jealousy of the people, shut my notebook and rode on. The party consisted of two men, with their servants, and a woman. The younger man accosted me, and said that he had seen me at Grenada, and regretted that he had not known of my proposed journey. From the style of his dress and equipments I supposed him to be a gentleman, and was sure of it from the circumstance of his carrying a gamecock under his arm. As we rode on the conversation turned upon these interesting birds, and I learned that my new acquaintance was going to Leon to fight a match, of which he offered to give me notice. The bird which he carried had won three matches in Grenada; its fame had reached Leon, and drawn forth a challenge from that place. It was rolled up as carefully as a fractured leg, with nothing but the head and tail visible; and suspended by a string, was as easily carried as a basket. The young man sighed over the miseries of the country, the distress and ruin caused by the wars, and represented the pit at Grenada as being in a deplorable condition; but in Leon he said it was very flourishing, on account of its being the headquarters of the military. The building, too, did honour to the city; it was only open on Sundays; but he knew the proprietor, and could at any time make an arrangement for a match. He made many inquiries about the state of the science in my country; told me that he had imported two cocks from England, which were game enough, but not sufficiently heavy for theirs; and gave me, besides, much valuable information on this subject, of which I neglected to make any memorandum.

Before dark we reached Pueblo Nuevo, and all went to the same posada. His companion was not so much of a sportsman, though he knew the qualities of a good bird, and showed a familiarity in handling them. It was the first time I had fallen in with travellers for the night. I have avoided details in all places where I was partaking of private hospitality, but this was like a hotel at home, in the main point that all were expected to pay. We had for supper poached eggs and beans, without plate, knife, fork, or spoon. My companions used their tortillas to take up an egg, and also, by turning up the edges, to scoop out frigoles from the dish; withal, they were courteous and gentlemanly. We had a species of chocolate, made of pounded cocoa and sweetened, and served in hickories, which, having bottoms like the butts of large eggs, could not stand on the table. My companions twisted their pocket-handkerchiefs, and winding them on the table in circular folds, set the hickories inside the hollow, and one of them did the same with my handkerchief for me. After supper the younger of the two dressed the birds in their robes de nuit, a cotton cloth wound tight around the body, compressing the wings, and then, with a string fastened to the back of the cloth, so that the body was balanced,

[ocr errors]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »