« AnteriorContinuar »
XASSAYA-THE CARNIVAL-FEMALE LABORS-GOURDS-MAIDENS CONSIGNED TO A VOL CANO-A DONKEY NON EST-OX versus DONKEY-SAME MEDICINE PRESCRIBED
97 LAKE NICARAGUA-GRENADA-A" PRIEST" IN A CONVENTOUR" HORSE-A GROUP OF ISLANDS-CROSS THE LAKE-MR. DERBYSHIRE'S PLANTATION-BREAKFAST-BULLOOKS STEPPING ON BOARD-SAIL FOR SAN CARLOS-MAGNIFICENT SCENE-À HYMN OP THANKS-A MOUNTAIN CITY-GOLD MINES-ARRIVAL AT SAN CARLOS-CUSTOYHOUSE REGULATIONS REPUDIATED.
AFTER breakfast we strolled about to see the town; the loca tion is commanding, being on the bank of a lake of the same name. The town is large, well laid out, with an open plaza in the centre, which serves as a market-place. At this time everything wore a business-like appearance. Extensive preparations were being made for the carnival, which was to come off in a few days. Here are many fine buildings, including churches, monasteries, and convents, all elaborately ornamented, and decorated with paintings.
This is considered one of the most pleasant towns, if not the most pleasant, in the country. Yet, strange as it may seem, it is wholly dependent, for water, upon the lake, the bank of which is a perpendicular ledge of rocks, one hundred feet in height. Up this precipice females are toiling, day after day, for life, in the service of inhuman masters. The water is conveyed in gourds of immense size, which are held to the back by a strap and netting of grass, the former passing over the forehead. These gourds grow on trees, and are natives of the tropics; they grow sufficiently large to contain one and a half or two gallons, perhaps more.
The surrounding country is a mass of lava, the mountains frequently towering up, terminating in volcanic peaks, the most prominent being that of Massaya. This was once the terror of the country, but has now ceased to burn. It is said that the natives formerly, in order to appease its rage, were in the habit of consigning their most beautiful maidens to its terrific bosom. After stopping two hours we were again under way, en route to Grenada, distant twelve miles.
The country is rolling, and timbered with cedars, our route laying along a stream emptying into Lake Nicaragua. After traveling six miles we encamped for the night. In the morning our companion's donkey was non est ; there were three drivers now in the party ; tour reals was the first charge for finding said donkey; the proposition being readily accepted by the owner, they thought it was worth five; this being accepted, six were demanded, or two reals each for the drivers. Now, we still had fresh in our minds a certain transaction, the subject of which was an ox instead of a donkey. After a word of consultation we came to the conclusion, that notwithstanding the disparity in the length of ears, the same remedy might prove effectual in both cases. We immediately acted upon this hypothesis, and prepared a liberal dose of saplings, and in order that the medicine might reach the system unadulterated, we ordered them to take off their shirts. The medicine proved too strong for their nerves, even before tasting it, and forgetting the reals, they assured us that they would have “mula aqui una momento," and in five minutes his donkeyship was under the saddle. It was the donkey belonging to our long friend, and it was shrewdly suspected that he (the above-named donkey) was in collusion with the drivers. Whether the accusation was true or false, I am not prepared to say; I noticed, however, that in the course of the morning his master administered to him a dose of the same kind of medicine.
At 9 A. M., we were on the banks of Lake Nicaragua, at Grenada. This is a beautifully located town, with paved streets, and magnificent churches. A description of one town in Central America describes them all. They are all built upon the same plan, with spacious plazas in the centre ;-extensive churches and convents, all after a similar order of architecture, some of them ornamented with a degree of splendor seldom surpassed, if equalled, on this continent. The streets, when paved, are paved with cobble-stone, with the gutter in the center. This mode has its advantages when carriages are seldom used.
A GROUP OF ISLANDS.
We here found an American, Mr. Priest, of Philadelphia, who had just entered a convent; not, however, with a view to taking the veil, but to take down the superfluous crosses and ornaments, preparatory to converting the building into a hotel. The building had attained the advanced age of two hundred and forty years; it seemed almost sacrilege to divest it of its ornaments. The natives were accustomed to seeing priests enter convents, but they looked upon the demonstrations of our Philadelphia Priest with a suspicious eye.
In Spanish America, a horse that is led through the street is always considered “up” for sale. We hired a muchacho to lead ours through Grenada, and soon had several applicants. One, wishing to try him, mounted, and the horse being thirsty, walked very deliberately down to the lake, and waded in until the water came up to his sides. After remaining for a certain length of time, the rider pulled on the reins, and invited the horse to step ashore; but, no—he was perfectly satisfied with his situation, and did not wish to change it. He applied the spurs—the horse' appeared to have fallen into a quiet slumber; he swore in Spanish, but it was of no use. There was no alternative but to dismount, and wade or swim ashore. He reached the shore in safety, but did not buy the horse. We offered him to Mr. Priest for six dollars, including saddle, bridle, and spurs. He offered two, at which price we "closed him out.”
Our first efforts were directed to hiring conveyance to San Carlos and San Juan; we applied to Mr. Derbyshire, an English merchant from Jamaica, and succeeded in hiring a bungo of sufficient capacity to carry our party of fifteen, including baggage. There were two other bungoes, hired by Americans that were to be our company down; and after a protracted and vexatious detention of two days, the time of starting arrived. We now, however, had a new and unexpected difficulty to encounter, the boatmen refused to go on board ; but after a long parley, a complaint was lodged with the Alcalde, who ordered out a file of soldiers, they forming in line along the river bank to protect the agents, while they were whipping the boatmen on board. At length the oars were plied, and we shot out into the lake, and laid our course for a group of islands three miles distant, in order to lay in a stock of plantains for the voyage. This group number one hundred islands, each having one house and one proprietor. Nothing can excel the beauty and fertility of this group; tropical fruits grow spontaneously and in the greatest abundance, and the islands seem to nestle, with feeling security, in the bosom of this lake, which sleeps in perpetual calm. The foliage is most luxuriant, interlaced with vines bear. ing flowers of every conceivable hue; these flowers generally hang from the vines on tendrils, and spend their hours fondling with the air, loading its breath with perfume.. The trees grow to the very margin of the lake, and seem to look admiringly into the mirror at their feet.
Remaining during the night we took an early start, laying our course in the direction of Mr. Derbyshire's plantation, which is on the opposite side of the lake, thirty miles distant. Our mission here, or that of our boatmen, was to take in cattle for the San Juan market. We arrived early in the morning of the second day from the islands. Our ambitious boatmen would work only in the evening and morning; in the middle of the day they would lay and broil in the sun.
We arrived at an early hour, and commenced preparing breakfast. We had chickens, and rice, and chocolate on board; we sent to the plantation for eggs, milk, and bananas, and soon sat down to a breakfast that would have pleased the most fastidous palate. The manner in which it was served I am not prepared to say was quite so satisfactory. (See Plate.) One was sitting on a rock, drinking his coffee from a tin basin; another standing up, doing likewise; a third holding a chicken by a leg and wing, trying to dissect it without the use of edged tools. One of our party has finished his breakfast, and is sitting on a rock, in a very aldermanic attitude, smoking a pipe, probably the only one ever introduced into Central America.
While we were taking breakfast, the natives were taking in a cargo of bullocks; the manner was truly Spanish. The bungoes were anchored a short distance from shore, the cattle were driven as near as convenient, when one of them would be lassoed, the other end of the lasso being fastened to the horse's neck; the horse is mounted and spurred into the lake, drawing the victim after him, which, in case of resistance, is unmercifully beaten. The horse tows him around on the seaward side of the