صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Chinese coolies on their way to some sugarplantation or some new railway work, passing the day in playing dominoes and smoking opium; put all these amid a medley of packages, bales, and boxes, baskets of oranges and jars of eggs, mattrasses and coverlets, waterpots and pie-dishes, pumpkins and pine-apples, ducks and geese, turkeys and game-cocks, goats and puppies, parroquets and monkeys—and you have such a group as you may gaze on in wonder and confusion while steaming down the west coast—a living scene in which it is hard to say whether there is a greater variety of colours, sounds, or smells—a scene, which it would puzzle an artist to paint, half-a-dozen constables to arrange, and almost anyone adequately to describe.

her wares;

[blocks in formation]

AFTER touching at a succession of small and half-grown ports, whereof almost every one is surrounded by barren mountains or backed by a desert plain, it is refreshing to land at one which, besides being backed by heights whose sloping sides can boast a certain shade of green on their surface, has an air of prosperity and activity, and something of a European style about it.

The town of Valparaiso is built along a narrow piece of land lying between the harbour and the heights, and extends for a length of two-and-a-half miles, from the western point, on which stands a lighthouse, to where the strip of land widens out into a recess among the hills, so making room for its more populous part.

One long irregular street runs through the whole length of this strip, lined towards the western end by first-rate shops, and traversed throughout by a double tramway, here called the City Railway '—'Ferro-Carril Urbano.' The town boasts a population of about 110,000, the numbers having increased to that point from 10,000 within forty-five years. Of these 110,000 perhaps a thirtieth are Europeans, chiefly English and Germans. There is little stone in the city; nearly all the buildings

ither of brick and mortar, or of wood and 'adobé' (baked clay); and though they are clean-looking, scarcely any of them can be called handsome. The best-looking



building in the town is the Foreign Club, recently erected, well finished inside and out; and, as far as our experience goes, it is decidedly the finest club in South America.

Though Valparaiso has been once destroyed by an earthquake, and is frequently visited by slight shocks, the inhabitants do not seem to have taken these facts into consideration in the buildings which they have erected within the last twenty years. The older buildings were nearly all of one storey only; the more modern are often of three or even four storeys.

Yet all the dwellers on this west coast seem to have a most wholesome dread of earthquakes. So recently as last year, Valparaiso, together with other Chilian and Peruvian ports, was thrown into a state of great alarm by reason of a German prophesying that the whole west coast of South America would be destroyed on a certain day by a terrific earthquake. On the appointed day many people who lived near the beach moved up on to the heights; goods were carried away from the warehouses near high-water mark, and for twenty-four hours the inhabitants were in immediate expectation of the first symptoms of the coming disaster. But no shock was felt, no eccentric wave rushed in from the sea; the dreaded period passed, people breathed more freely, reflected that they must have been considerably befooled, and did anything but bless the false prophet in their hearts.

Even during our brief stay in Valparaiso we experience two earthquake-shocks, slight certainly, but the latter one sufficiently strong to make perceptible a swaying motion of the tall hotel in which we are seated at the time. At the occurrence of the first of the shocks we are in the house of an English resident, and in the room with us are several people who have lived in Valparaiso for some

[blocks in formation]

years. To our senses nothing is perceptible but a very slight rattling of the windows, such as might have been occasioned by a cart passing by; but it causes a start to the more experienced and more sensitive nerves of the ladies of the house, and elicits a half-involuntary exclamation. There it is!' as if the “it' was a visitor too wellknown or too much dreaded to be mentioned by name.

It is said that all fresh-comers to this earthquakehaunted coast make light of the first few shocks they feel, and are apt to smile at the evident dread of the mysterious agent betrayed by the residents; but few live for any length of time within the region of its influence without gradually acquiring the same fear of it, and thus affording an exception to the oft-quoted rule about familiarity with danger breeding contempt for it. And yet, in spite of this, the newer part of Valparaiso is composed of blocks of tall houses, separated only by narrow streets, the narrowness of the level strip of ground inducing the inhabitants to economise space in every possible way. May such a shock as that which levelled Arica two years ago never visit Valparaiso ! else the Chilian port will be the witness of even a more fearful tragedy than the Peruvian.

Of the European residents in Valparaiso many have dwelling-houses on the heights above the town, or even among the quebradas' (little glens) in the shrubcovered hills a few miles to the eastward. Round many of these country-houses are extensive gardens, well laid

[ocr errors]

1 Quite recently Valparaiso seems to have had a narrow escape from destruction by an earthquake. On March 25, 1871, a shock was felt in the town, so sharp and strong that the streets were immediately filled with people who had rushed in terror from their houses; the inner wall of the Merced Church was cracked; the tower of the San Augustino was thrown out of the perpendicular; much damage was done to glass, furniture, &c. in many houses, and the water in the harbour was agitated for a short time as if by a sudden storm.

out, aud filled with a great variety of plants and flowers. The genial nature of the climate and soil is abundantly testified by the geraniums and roses which here flourish side by side ; camellias and fuchsias grow in the open air; vines and aloes remind one of the not unsimilar climate of Genoa or Nice; and one of the most common and most vigorous evergreens here is the Norfolk Island Pine.

We have landed in Valparaiso just at its most pleasant season of the year. In the winter months (June, July, and August) there are frequently heavy rains here, dull days, and occasional frosts at night; in the summer months great drought prevails (the whole rainfall for the year amounts on an average to no more than seventeen inches), and strong south winds raise constant clouds of dust in and around the town. But just now (September, October) the temperature is moderate, the ground still green from the effects of its winter showers, the sky often a cloudless vault of brilliant blue, and the air remarkably clear.

Every day we have clear views of the Cordillera de los Andes,' and not unfrequently the great white head of Aconcagua, the giant of the mighty chain, and the highest mountain in the whole New World, is distinctly visible. This lofty dome of snow is ninety-five miles from Valparaiso in a direct line, yet it is often so clear in outline that we can hardly believe that it is more than half that distance from us.

It could certainly be seen for a distance of another fifty miles out to sea westwards; and it is stated that it is often visible at sunset from San Luis, a small town in the middle of the Pampas, upwards of 200 miles to the eastward of it;' so that as we watch the ruddy glow of sunset playing around its white summit, it is very

See Sir W. Parish's Buenos Ayres from the Conquest. Second edition, p. 322.


« السابقةمتابعة »