« 上一頁繼續 »
accustomed to it, and it then becomes the most delightful life which one can possibly enjoy.
It is necessary to travel armed, as there are many robbers or salteadores constantly on the look out for a prize. Some apprehensions are likewise to be entertained of the Indians, who lead a wandering and truly savage life. A meeting with them is fatal—they usually travel in considerable bodies, and the death and torture of stray travellers are some of the amusements by which they divert the ennui of a journey. But the greatest danger after all is from the holes of the biscachos, into which the horses frequently step, and consequently tumble. As they are always going at a gallop, such falls cannot be agreeable to the rider. Captain Head calculates that on an average his horse fell with him once every three hundred miles.
The biscacho is found all over the plains of the Pampas. Like rabbits, they live in holes which are in groups in every direction, and which make galloping over these plains very dangerous. The manner, however, in which the horses recover themselves, when the ground over these subterranean galleries gives way, is quite extraordinary. In galloping after the ostriches, my horse has constantly broken in, sometimes with a hind leg, and sometimes with a fore one ; he has even come down on his nose, and yet recovered : however, the Gauchos occasionally meet with very serious accidents. I have often wondered how the wild horses could gallop about as they do in the dark, but I really believe they avoid the holes by smelling them; for in riding across the country, when it has been sodark that I positively could not see my horse's ears, I have constantly felt him, in his gallop, start a foot or two to the right or left, as if he had trod upon a serpent, which, I conceive, was to avoid one of these holes. Yet the horses do very often fall, and certainly, in the few months I was in the Pampas, I got more falls than I ever before had, though in the habit of riding all my life. The Gauchos are occasionally killed by these biscacheros, and often break a limb.
These animals are never to be seen in the day, but as soon as the lower limb of the sun reaches the horizon, they are seen issuing from their holes in all directions, which are scattered in groups like little villages all over the Pampas. The biscachos, when full grown, are nearly as large as badgers; but their head resembles a rabbit, excepting that they have very large bushy whiskers.
In the evening they sit outside their holes, and they all appear to be moralising. They are the most serious-looking animals I ever saw, and even the young ones are grey-headed, have mustachios, and look thoughtful and grave.
In the day-time their holes are always guarded by two little owls, who are never an instant away from their post. As one gallops by these owls, they always stand looking at the stranger, and then at each other, moving their old-fashioned heads in a manner which is quite ridiculous, until one rushes by them, when fear gets the better of their dignified looks, and they both run into the biscacho's hole.
Captain Head's sketches are peculiarly lively and picturesque—the Pampas and the Gauchos positively exist before us in his spirited pages. Is not this picture of the pursuit of the ostrich a proof!
As soon as my horse was saddled, I purchased the bridle of the Gaucho who bad stolen mine, and then galloped on. The country, which from Mendoza is covered with wood, now changes to the long brown and yellow grass, which, excepting a few straggling trees, is the sole produce of the remainder of the province of San Luis, and of the two adjoining provinces of Cordova and Santa Fé. In the whole of this immense region there is not a weed to be seen. The coarse grass is its sole produce ; and in the summer, when it is high, it is beautiful to see the effect which the wind has in passing over this wild expanse of waving grass : the shades between the brown and yellow are beautiful—the scene is placid beyond description-no habitation nor human being is to be seen, unless occasionally the wild and picturesque outline of the Gaucho on the horizon—his scarlet poncho streaming horizontally behind him, his balls flying round his head, and as he bends forward towards his prey, his horse straining every nerve : before him is the ostrich he is pursuing, the distance between them gradually diminishing—his neck stretched out, and striding over the ground in the most magnificent style—but the latter is soon lost in the distance, and the Gaucho's horse is often below the horizon, while his head shews that the chase is not yet decided. This pursuit is really attended with considerable danger, for the ground is always under. mined by the biscachos, and the Gaucho often falls at full speed; if he breaks a limb his horse probably gallops away, and there he is left in the long grass, until one of his comrades or children come to his assistance ; but if they are unsuccessful in their search, he has nothing left but to look up to heaven, and while he lives drive from his bed the wild eagles, who are always ready to attack any fallen animal. The country has no striking features, but it possesses, like all the works of nature, ten thousand beauties. It has also the grandeur and magnificence of space; and I found that the oftener I crossed it, the more charms I discovered in it.
We cannot refrain from picking out more traits of the life and manners of the Gaucho. This is another specimen of that character:
I found the horses at the post in the corral, and the post-master, whose house I had several times slept at, gave me a horse with a galope largo, (a long gallop,) and a very handsome Gaucho as a guide. I had a long conversation with this man as I galloped along, and I found him a very noble-minded fellow. He was very desirous to hear about the troops which the government of Mendoza had sent to reinstate the governor of San Juan, who had just been deposed by a revolution. The Gaucho was very indignant at this interference; and as we rode along, he explained to me, with a great deal of fine action, what was evident enough,--that the province of San Juan was as free to elect its governor as the province of Mendoza, and that Mendoza had no right to force upon San Juan a governor that the people did not approve of. He then talked of the state of San Luis; but to some questions that I put to him, the man replied, that he had never been at San Luis! “ Good heavens !” said 1, with an astonishment which I could not conceal," have you never been to see San Luis ?” “Never," he replied. I asked him where he was born ; he told me in the hut close to the post; that he had never gone beyond the plains through which we were riding, and that he had never seen a town or a village. 'I asked him how old he was: “Quien sabe,” said he. It was no use asking him any more questions ; so, occasionally looking at his particularly handsome figure and countenance, and calling to mind the manly opinions he had expressed to me on many subjects, I was thinking what people in England would say of a man who could neither read nor write, nor had ever seen three huts together, &c. &c., when the Gaucho pointed to the sky, and said " See! there is a lion !”. I started from my reverie, and strained my eyes, but to no purpose, until he shewed me at last, very high in the air, a number of large vultures, which were hovering without moving; and he told me they were there because there was a lion devouring some carcass, and that he had driven them away from it. We shortly afterwards came to a place where there was a little blood on the road, and for a moment we stopped our horses to look at it; I observed, that perhaps some person had been murdered there ; the Gaucho said, “ No," and pointing to some foot-marks which were near the blood, he told me that some man had fallen, that he had broken his bridle, and that, while he was standing to mend it, the blood had evidently come from the horse's mouth. I observed, that it was perhaps the man who was hurt, upon which the Gaucho said "No," and pointing to some marks a few yards before him on the path, he said, “ for see, the horse set off at a gallop.”
The skill of Zadig in interpreting the marks of animals left in their track, is contemptible, when compared with that of the Gauchos.
I often amused myself by learning from the Gauchos to decypher the foot-marks of the horses, and the study was very interesting. It is quite possible to determine from these marks, whether the horses were loose, mounted, or laden with baggage ; whether they were ridden by old men or by young ones, by children or by foreigners unacquainted with the bisacheros, &c. &c.
The horse and the bullock are the two animals of the Pampas which are met with in every direction, dead and alive; sometimes a skeleton entire ; sometimes a head, as a stool or a chair, or in the middle of the road, with a huge pair of branching horns; sometimes a corpse, with twenty or thirty mighty condors mounted here and there, pulling and hawling, and gorging the dead flesh; sometimes in droves of hundreds, and always galloping to and fro, in hunting on the road, or for their own amusement. The horse is the Gaucho's means of moving, and the bullock his means of living. On foot the Gaucho is a savage; on horseback a gentleman. Captain Head gives a good account of their very summary mode of breaking horses.
As the carriage was many hours behind me, I resolved to see this, and getting a fresh horse, I rode immediately to the corral, and soon made friends with the Gauchos, who are always polite, and on horseback possess many estimable qualities, which at the door of their hut they appear to be devoid of. The corral was quite full of horses, most of which were young ones, about three and four years old. The capataz, mounted on a strong steady horse, rode into the corral, and threw his lasso over the neck of a young horse, and dragged him to the gate. For some time be was very unwilling to leave his comrades, but the moment he was forced out of the corral, bis first idea was to gallop away; however, the jerk of the lasso checked him in a most effectual manner. The peons now ran after him on foot, and threw the lasso over his four legs, just above the fetlocks, and, twitching it, they pulled bis legs from under bim so suddenly, that I really thought the fall he got bad killed him. In an instant a Gaucho was seated upon his head, and with his long knife in a few seconds he cut off the whole of the horse's mane, while another cut the hair from the end of his tail. This, they told me, is a mark that the horse has been once mounted. They then put a piece of hide into his mouth, to serve as a bit, and a strong hide-balter on his head. The Gaucho who was to mount, arranged his spurs, which were unusually long and sharp, and while two men held the animal by his ears, be put on the saddle, which he girthed extremely tight; he then caught hold of the horse's ear, and, in an instant, vaulted into the saddle; upon which the man who was holding the horse by the halter, threw the end of it to the rider, and from that moment no one seemed to take any further notice of him. The horse instantly began to jump, in a manner which made it very difficult for the rider to keep his seat, and quite different from the kick or plunge of an English horse : however, the Gaucho's spurs soon set him going, and off he galloped, doing every thing in his power to throw his rider. Another horse was immediately brought from the corral, and so quick was the operation, that twelve Gauchos were mounted in a space which, I think, hardly exceeded an hour.
It was wonderful to see the different manner in which the different horses behaved. Some would actually scream while the Gauchos were girthing the saddle upon their backs; some would instantly lie down and roll upon it; while some would stand without being held, their legs stiff, and in unnatural directions, their necks half bent towards their tails, and looking vicious and obstinate ; and I could not help thinking that I would not have mounted one of these for any reward that could be offered me, for they were invariably the most difficult to subdue.
It was now curious to look round and see the Gauchos on the horizon in different directions, trying to bring their horses back to the corral, which is the most difficult part of their work, for the poor creatures had been so scared there that they are unwilling to return to the place. It was amusing to see the antics of the horses : they were jumping and dancing in different ways, while the right arms of the Gauchos were seen flogging them. At last they brought the horses back, apparently completely subdued and broken in. The saddles and bridles were taken off, and the young horses immediately trotted towards the corral to join their companions, neighing one to the other. Another set were now brought out, and as the horses were kept out a very short time, I saw about forty of them mounted. As they returned to the corral it was interesting to see the great contrast which the loss of the mane, and the end of the tail, made between the horses which had commenced their career of servitude, and those which were still free.
The horses of the Pampas are like the common description of Spanish horse, but rather stronger. They are of all colours, and a great number are pie-bald. When caught, they will always kick at any person who goes behind them; and it is often wità great difficulty that they can be bridled and saddled : however, they are not vicious, and when properly broken in, will allow the children to mount by climbing up their tails. In mounting, it is necessary to be very quick, and previous to dismounting, it is proper to throw the bridle over one side of the head, as the horses almost always run backwards if one attempts to hold them by the bridle when it is over the head, as in England.
Although I rode many thousand miles in South America, I was quite unable to learn how to select either a good horse or an easy-going one, for by their appearance I found it impossible to form a judgment; indeed, I generally selected for myself the worstlooking horses, as I sometimes fancied that they went the best,
When first mounted, they often begin to kick and plunge, but by giving them a loose rein, and by spurring them, they will generally start, and when once at their pace, they go quiet. However, the kicking at starting is a most painful operation to undergo, for from hard riding the back and shoulders get so dreadfully stiff, that such sudden and violent motion seems to dislocate the limbs.
The captain's carriage breaks down; he, however, is considerably in advance on horse-back; and when he hears the news of his misfortune, he abandons it in the desert, and gaily gallops on. No thing can subdue his irrepressible gaiety and light-heartedness.
The carriage did not arrive, so I laid my saddle in front of the post, and slept there. It was late in the morning before one of the peons came to tell me that the twowheeled carriage bad broken down in spite of all its repairs; that it was in the middle of the plain, and that the party had been obliged to ride, and put the baggage on posthorses, and that they would be with me immediately. As soon as they arrived, they told me their story, and asked what was to be done with the carriage.* It was not worth more than one hundred dollars; and it would have cost more than that sum to have guarded it, and to have sent a wheel to it six hundred miles from Buenos Aires ; 60 I condemned it to remain where it was, to be plundered of its lining by the Gauchos, and to be gazed at by the eagle and the gama-in short, I left it to its fate.
I had been much' detained by the carriages, and I was so anxious to get to Buenos Aires without a moment's delay, that I resolved instantly to ride on by myself. Three of my party expressed a wish to accompany me, instead of riding with the carriage; so after taking from the canvass bag sufficient money for the distance, (about six hundred miles,) I left the rest for the coach, and once more careless of wheels and axles, I galloped off with a feeling of independence which was quite delightful.
The captain soon knocks up his companions; and then, after riding one hundred and twenty miles in the day, spends the evening in a characteristic manner.
We travelled sixty miles that day, not losing one moment, but riding at once to the corral, and unsaddling and saddling our own horses. The next morning one of the party was unable to proceed, so he remain at the post, and we were off before daylight. After galloping forty-five miles, another said he was so jolted that he could not go on, and he also remained at the post to be picked up by the carriage : we then continued for sixteen miles, when the other knocked up, and he really was scarcely able to crawl into the post-hut, where he remained. As I was very anxious to get to Buenos Aires, and was determined to get there as quick as my strength would allow, I rode sixty miles more that day, during which my liorse fell twice with me, and I arrived at the post an hour after sunset, quite exhausted, I found nothing to eat, because the people who live at this post were bathing, so I went to another part of the river, and had a most refreshing bathe. I then spread out my saddle on the ground, for the postroom was full of feas and binchucas. The people had now returned from the river, and supper was preparing, when a young Scotch gentleman I had overtaken on the road, and who had ridden some stages with me, asked me to come and sing with tho young ladies of the post, who he told me were very beautiful. I knew them very well, as I had passed several times, but I was much too tired to sing or dance : however, being fond of music, I moved my saddle and poncho very near the party, and as soon as I had eaten my meat I again lay down, and as the delightful fresh air blew over my face, I dropped off to sleep just as the niñas were singing very prettily one of the tristes of Peru, accompanied by a guitar.
He is off again before the dawn, and we have more about horses.
After the party had left one of the posts about an hour, and when they were twelve or thirteen miles from it, they saw a man galloping after the carriage, endeavouring to overtake it. They stopped, and when he came up, they found it was the master of the post-but where they had slept. He said very civilly that they had forgotten to pay him for the eggs, and that they therefore owed him a medio, (two-pence halfpenny.) They paid him the money, neither more nor less, and then galloped on, leaving the man apparently perfectly satisfied, Oct. 1826.
ingly started before the sun was up, and galloping the whole day till half an hour after sunset, we rode a hundred and twenty-three miles. The summer's sun has a power which, to those who have not been exposed to it, is inconceivable, and whenever we stopped at the corral to get our horses, the heat was so great that it was almost insupportable. However, all the time we galloped, the rapid motion through the air formed a refreshing
breeze. The horses were faint from the heat, and if it had not been for the sharp Gaucho spurs that I wore I should not have got on. The horses in the Pampas are always in good wind, but when the sun is hot, and the grass burnt up, they are weak, and being accustomed to follow their own inclinations, they then want to slacken their pace, or rather to stop altogether; for when mounted they have no pace between a hand-gallop and a walk, and it is therefore often absolutely necessary to spur them on for nearly half the post, or else to stand still, an indulgence which, under a burning sun, the rider feels very little inclined to grant. As they are thus galloping along, urged by the spur, it is interesting to see the groupes of wild horses which one passes. The mares, which are never ridden in South America, seem not to understand what makes the poor horse carry his bead so low, and look so weary. The little innocent colts come running up to meet him, and then start away frightened ; while the old horses, whose white marks on the flanks and backs betray their acquaintance with the spur and saddle, walk slowly away for soine distance, and then breaking into a trot, as they seek their safety, snort and look behind them, first with one eye, then with the other, turning their nose from right to left, and carrying their long tails high in the air. As soon as the poor horse reaches the post he is often quite exhausted ; he is as wet as if he had come out of a river, and his sides are often bleeding violently; but the life he leads is so healthy, his constitution is so perfectly sound, and bis food is so simple, that he never has those inflammatory attacks which kill so many of our pampered horses in England. It certainly sounds cruel to spur a horse as violently as it is sometimes necessary to do in the Pampas, and so in fact it is, yet there is something to be said in excuse for it; if he is worn out and exhausted, his rider also is—he is not goaded on for an idle purpose, but he is carrying a man on business, and for the service of man he was created. Supposing him to be ever so tired, still he has bis liberty when he reaches the goal, and if he is cunning, a very long time may elapse before he is caught again ; and in the mean while the whole country affords bim food, liberty, health, and enjoyment: and the work he has occasionally performed, and the sufferings he has endured, may perhaps teach him to appreciate the wild plains in which he was born. He may have suffered occasionally from the spur, but how different is his life from that of the post-horse in England, whose work increases with his food, who is daily led in blinkers to the collar, and who knows nothing of creation, but the dusty road on which he travels, and the rack and manger of a close-heated stable.
Our extracts have been solely confined to the Pampas; but there is much besides in the Rough Notes relating to subjects of more importance, if not quite so amusing. The captain crosses the Andes, and is as pleasant a fellow on the other side of them as on this. We have therefore a good account of the transit over the Cordillera, and many good descriptions of Chile, with much sensible observation on mines and mining. But we must take our leave of the captain, with a hearty shake of the hand; hé to gallop in one direction, and we to creep in another. We will say this for him, that a pleasanter compagnon du voyage is not to be found ; he may ride a little too hard at times, but when you come up with him he is always in a good humour, and has got something agreeable to tell. No fare is too rude for him ; no fatigue too great: he is at home every where ; and the freemasonry of a brave and generous spirit makes him every where acceptable. Though he travels a little too fast, his eyes are as open as his hand or his heart, and nothing escapes him. Fearing nothing, and suffering nothing, he is always in a cheerful humour, and looks upon every thing on the sunny side. Across a table, or across a horse, we should not choose to fall in by accident with a better man.