THE NEW OVERLAND ROUTE, OR HOW TO GET TO NEW ZEALAND [Part 2]
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are an enchanting spot, as the ship glides into harbour with shoals of red, white, and blue flying-fish playing across the bows, skimming through the air, and dropping with a light splash into the clear depths below, where the white coral is easily seen, as you bend over the side. The town has a snug, bright appearance, nestled among cocoanuts and other rich tropical foliage. Cloud-capped mountains rise immediately behind it, clothed to the very tops with trees. The Kanakas or natives have such pleasing, good-natured faces, the men are strong, independent fellows, and the women have so free and graceful a gait, moving with their heads erect, and just sufficient swing in their walk to show the outline of their figures through their black or parti-coloured gowns, which have no waist or stays to spoil the general contour.
To adapt the words of Tom Moore--
Lesbia wears a robe of gold,
But all so close the nymph has laced it;
Not a charm of beauty's mould
Presumes to stay where nature placed it.
Oh! my native gown for me,
That floats as wild as mountain breezes,
Leaving every beauty free
To sink or swell as heaven pleases.
They add very much to their tout ensemble by wearing garlands of flowers, ferns, and everlastings round their necks and on their heads. On my last visit I was comfortably lodged by an old New England body from Vermont, at whose house I had a fine large room, with a shower-bath out in the garden; whilst I used to get my meals at the hospitable little British Club. This time, however, I found an enormous hotel built, in which the food is that of America, with the addition of an abundance of delicious fruits, whilst the verandah, and easy chairs, and natives
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standing below, rather reminds one of Shepheard's in Cairo. The steamers stop here a very short time; but Honolulu is already becoming a fashionable wintering-place, and we found the place full of our Transatlantic cousins, and some few passengers for the Antipodes. It is well worth stopping over here for a month to run down to Kilauea, the great volcano in Hawaii; the voyage itself is a short one, but as the mail-boat for San Francisco only passes once a month, few have so much leisure time to spare when running home on a hurried visit from the colonies. Besides, communication had been stopped between Oahu and the other islands at this time, owing to the small-pox, introduced into Honolulu by the Nebraska. We found she had not suffered as we expected during her last voyage hither, despite the infection on board when she left Auckland; but I believe she was heavily fined this time whilst in Honolulu, for having brought it to the island originally from San Francisco. We had time to ride up to the "Pali," a gap in the mountain-pass above the town, through which the trade-wind rushes, as through a funnel, with extraordinary force, and where one gets a fine view of half the island, including a precipice whence they used to throw their victims in former days, and Diamond Cove, where the beach is strewed with the white and bleaching bones of the warriors who fell in a great battle fought there by the victorious king Kamehameha I.
Half-way down, between the Pali and the town, where most of the European residents live, and thus escape the heat of the plain, we turned up a road which led to the American minister's house, and tethered our horses, whilst we had a swim in the pool below. I saw a Kanaka jump thirty feet down from an overhanging rock into this stream, feet foremost, and he seemed to think nothing of the feat. The only other ride for a passing visitor is down
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to the King's Palace in the Cocoanut Grove; and whilst there, I got a native to climb a tree and bring us down some green nuts. He tore the outer husk off with his teeth, getting a purchase on the nut with his feet and hands, like a monkey. The cool fresh milk, and the creamy coating inside, while still soft enough to be scooped out with a spoon, are proverbially delicious. The evening before we left, Madame Simonsen's Italian Opera Company gave a farewell performance at the little theatre; but the rival claims of the Royal Band, who are now rapidly improving, under the skilful tuition of a German master, drew away most of the islanders; they naturally prefer to encourage native talent, and then there is all the extra charm of sauntering about in the open air.
It is advisable, when stopping here, to lay in a stock of limes, pine-apples, bananas, and oranges for the voyage, as the supply on these American boats is very limited. The Chinese also make very cheap and comfortable cane armchairs, which are a great comfort on board.
The scene as the boat leaves Honolulu is rather interesting. Being the event of the month, all the rank and fashion of the place came to see us off. Queen Emma was there, in her neat little landau and pair, with the coachman and two footmen in dark green livery, and cockades on their hats. She is an universal favourite with both Kanakas and whites. I also noticed Prince William Lunalilo, a stout, goodhumoured-looking man, in pot-hat, white ducks, and cut-away black velvet coat. He has been elected king since I was there, on the death of Kamehameha V., and if he can only restrain his "mixed moral character," and curtail his liking for ardent spirits, there is no reason why he should discredit the throne from want of ability.
Our new steamer was the Idaho, the slowest old tub
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that ever disgraced a mail-service. We took fifteen days to get to San Francisco, a voyage which I had made in eight-and-a-half days in the Wonga-Wonga. And the torments we endured from dirt, incivility, heat, and crowding! The anxiety of travelling by the broken-down Nevada was bad enough (and they sent her back to New Zealand again, in the face of a protest from her captain, instead of laying her up for repairs), but in the Idaho it was a case of "out of the frying-pan into the fire."
Once the line is fairly established, as it promises to be, the big steamers will be increased in number, and run right through between Auckland and San Francisco, thus avoiding the transhipment at Honolulu, and saving time; but on this occasion we had taken on board a much smaller steamer, not only our original complement, but fifty additional passengers from the Islands. I never slept below after the horrors of the first night, but coiled myself up in a 'possum rug on deck, where I awoke early enough every morning to get the "refresher" of a douche from the hose, when the sailors were washing the decks. And yet, every cloud has a silver lining. The officers were particularly pleasant. Captain Howell was a brother-in-law of Jeff. Davis, late President of the Confederate States; the purser, Mr.Howard, was a Harvard man, and therefore was especially civil to me when he found I was a brother to the man who led Oxford to victory against his fellow-collegians.
We managed to shake down somehow, though we were never exactly comfortable, and with the aid of some pretty half-castes from Honolulu, who have a particular talent for part-music, our concerts not only resumed their former prestige, but became less formal and more social.
I was rather disgusted at the extent to which gambling was carried in the smoking-room. There were several
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"old hands" from Ballarat gold-fields who were utterly reckless at unlimited loo and lansquenet. Frequently two or three hundred pounds changed hands in an evening, and it was with peculiar delight I learnt that Simonsen, the husband of the prima-donna before mentioned, dishonoured his I0U on reaching dry land, which punished the chief winner to some extent, as he held it.
Exactly five weeks after leaving New Zealand (ten days longer than we ought to have been), we steamed through the Golden Horn, which as usual was enveloped in a cloud of mist, into San Francisco Bay.
Now were I to commence a description of all that is to be seen in California, I might fill a book easily; but so much has already been written on the subject that I confine myself to merely mentioning what ought to be seen, and hinting at the agreeables or otherwise of the journey.
Of all the cities in the United States of America, San Francisco is best provided with hotels. There is not a pin to choose between the Occidental, Cosmopolitan, Grand, and Lick House.
During the two days in which the traveller ought to recruit his wasted energies for the overland route, by a generous diet and a comfortable bed to sleep in, he will be pestered by "railway touts," and the sooner he makes up his mind by which route he is to cross the Continent the quieter will be his life. This rigorous competition between the railways has a good effect in one way. They bid against each other in promoting one's comfort during what I think a most fatiguing journey. One offers to run a "through car" to Ogden, and thence to New York, with a single change at Omaha, if you can make up a small party. Another has a "compartment car," which secures you all the privacy of your own sitting-room, and enables
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ladies to dress and wash in comparative comfort, without sitting on their berth or standing in the public passage. By this line you get "hotel cars;" and by feeding while the train is running, you have time to stretch your legs when it stops, instead of bolting a hurried meal in the wayside restaurant; by that line you see Niagara Falls and the Hudson. Or you can branch off at Cheyenne, and go through Denver to Kansas city, if you are fond of buffalo hunting; on the Saline River, which may be reached from Fort Hays, you will get the best of sport about July or August, and the officers at these remote stations are only too glad to have an opportunity of showing their hospitality to a casual visitor. But the best plan is to take the journey as easily as possible, unless you care to make yourself a martyr. Don't rush across the Continent in seven days, as you can do; but before leaving the Pacific coast drive to the Seal Rock, where the sea-lions disport themselves; spend an evening at the Chinese Theatre, and another at Woodward's Gardens. Then devote three days to the Geysers. Go there via Healdsburg, across the Hog's Back, and return via Calistoga. If possible, get Foss or Albertson to drive you, and you will experience a genuine sensation. The scenery is lovely, but the roads are narrow and the hills steep. The horses have the good sense to keep in the middle of the road, but often there are very few inches between you and the precipice. The drivers are clever fellows and seldom have an accident, but they take a fiendish delight in shaving it close at times.
Having seen this much, you will now be ready for a fair start, as follows: Cheque your luggage through to Ogden (mail passengers are allowed 250 lbs. weight, or 150 lbs. in excess of ordinary travellers), and keep only a small valise with a change of linen and necessaries at hand. If you are adventurous enough to see everything
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thoroughly, leave the mail at Lathrop, and visit the Yosemite Valley, which is unrivalled in its wonders. After ascending four thousand feet of the Sierra Nevada, you travel into the valley by a precipitous path, and find yourself as it were in an enormous oblong box, with cliffs rising sheer up on all sides to a height of two thousand to three thousand feet. The features of the place are strangely varied and beautiful; waterfalls, lakes, magnificent pine trees, snow-clad mountains, and in the midst of all this wild nature at least two excellent inns. On the return journey, the best way is to strike the main line again at Galt, taking en route the Calaveras grove of "big trees" (Sequoia Gigantea, or as we erroneously call them, Wellingtonia).
But Australia, in this respect of "big trees," can hold her own against, and even surpass California; for in the Dandenong Ranges, near Victoria, white gum trees (Eucalyptus Amygdalina) have been recently discovered by Mr.Joseph Harris, of South Yarra Nurseries, Melbourne, which attain a height of 520 feet, or 40 feet greater than that of the tallest Sequoia. And I think the giants of the Antipodes are the more beautiful trees of the two; they are not so massive at the base, nor so like an enormous extinguisher in shape as the Sequoia with its insignificant branches, but they run up in a clean white spar for 300 feet, and then spread out into large leafy branches, more like those of the European forest trees. There is more symmetry about them than in the Sequoia, though possibly the latter from its girth contains the greater quantity of timber.
Half-way down the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, it is worth breaking the journey for a day to visit Lakes Donner and Tahoe, about which Mark Twain has written so enthusiastically. The valley through which the drive
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to the latter lies is remarkable for the forests of enormous red pines, and the variegated rocks brilliant with iron, silver, and cinnabar ore. Lake Tahoe itself is surrounded by snow mountains; and the blue waters are so clear that you can see the trout a hundred feet below open their mouths and swallow your bait. They say all that sinks (man, beast or timber) never reaches the surface again, from the peculiar tenuity or lightness of the water.
At Emerald Bay I found an old British tar in charge of Mr.Holladay's cottage, about whom I annex a paragraph from one of the Californian papers:
"RUBICON POINT--EMERALD BAY.
"A few miles further down is Rubicon Point, celebrated from the fact that the shore there goes down almost perpendicularly, a depth of one thousand feet being almost immediately attained. The gem and crowning glory of Lake Tahoe is Emerald Bay, which is formed by a height in the lake and a break in the mountains. The water at the entrance of this nook is emerald green, hence the name of the bay. At the upper end of the bay, which is two miles from the lake, there is a neat cottage, the property of Ben. Holladay, jr. It is sheltered by a rocky bluff, which protection has several times saved the house from being swept into the lake by winter avalanches. The mountains above the house are very steep, and are forbidding in their sombre colours; in fact, the spot is at once the most Alpine and attractive that I have ever seen. There is a small island in the bay, which greatly adds to its beauty. The whole place looks like a painting of Alpine scenery, with an Alpine cottage and garden, "Old Dick," a venerable old sailor, takes care of the place for Holladay. His face is seamed and lined with the effects of the sun and weather. He comes around on elephantine
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and frozen feet, done up in grain sacks. His beard is frizzled and his breast exposed, and he has altogether the style, awkwardness, and innocence of a sailor of the days of Nelson. Holladay, it is seriously said, bought Dick with the bay. The old man has his self-made grave all ready, when the sound of the final eight bells warns him that his watch for time has ended, and that it is time for him to "turn in" to eternity. The greatest wonder about Dick lies in the fact that he has wintered at Emerald Bay for seven years. The winters here are six to seven months long, and blinding snow storms, wintry wails, the frost feathered forests, with the freezing and hush of the voice of running water, and the departure of the song birds, make the lake at that season an almost sepulchral place of residence, even where there is company. Dick keeps no human company in his lonely bay, save that of a large cat, the language of which he professes to understand, and she, he says in turn, can in her own wise way translate every word he utters. He has his chair, and the cat has hers; and they sit and crack yarns together on long winter nights when the wind is howling and when the snow is up to the roof of the house. Dick says he has seen sixteen feet of snow on the level at Emerald Bay. On one occasion a let up in the weather allowed Dick in his boat to revisit the world of half a dozen persons who winter here at Tahoe City. He went home with a cargo of whisky, not in his boat but in his stomach; and early night fell on the vast deserted lake while he was yet miles away from his home. It blew, and Dick in his alcoholic helplessness could not guide the boat, which capsized late in the night, throwing him into the freezing water. He clung to the bottom of the boat until soberness and morning returned, when he managed to right her and get home, but his feet--his "flukes" as he calls them--were both frozen,
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and all his care and skill in doctoring such an affliction have failed to completely restore the use of one of them, with which he goes stumping around. Dick would in outward appearance at least make an admirable Captain Cuttle. But his manner is too quiet and sedate for that tender and jovial old character. In fact, Dick appears to dream even in company, and while physically present seems to be mentally absent in his winter solitude on Emerald Bay. Dick has had several escapes from avalanches, one of which once roared down the mountain, and passed within ten feet of his door, sweeping rocks and pine trees like chips before it into the lake, and sending a tidal wave from the shore which would have swept a ship before it. It is worth a week's time and the cost of a trip here to see Dick and Emerald Bay alone."
And now, before we get to Utah, let me describe some of the experiences of a Pullman's Palace Car, which is erroneously supposed to obviate all the inconveniences of railway travel. It is a vast improvement on the ordinary carriage; but far, very far from perfection. Unless you have one or two agreeable friends, the journey and scenery are intensely dreary after leaving California, for at least a couple of days. When crossing the Alkali Plains in summer, the white impalpable dust which creeps through double windows and closed doors, inflames the eyes and cracks the lips; and you feel just as if you had a feverish cold. In winter you run a chance of getting snowed up in the drifts, while crossing the Rocky Mountains; and visions of salt junk and cracker for possibly some weeks do not enliven the prospect. If the cars are full, or if you have not the exceptional luck of securing a "compartment car," the company is rather mixed at bed-time; and if it proves embarrassing to a shy man, what must it be to the feelings of the fairer sex? I always felt
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puzzled how to act when put into a section, with some unprotected female in the lower berth; but at last I concluded that the best way was for me to scramble up to bed first and fasten the top part of the curtains, leaving the inmate beneath to retire when she liked. Of course the lady has to be up first and out of the way, or else she runs the risk of being trodden upon when the "top berth" steps down in the morning. There is more room for sleeping than on board ship (nearly double as much), but not so much for dressing and little or no privacy. It seemed to me that the basin, &c., at one end of the car ought to be devoted to ladies, and that at the other end to gentlemen; but even then it is more unpleasant than ludicrous at times to see some poor girl rush from one end to the other, and possibly find herself in the wrong box after all, among a lot of dirty begrimed beings of the male sex in extreme dishabille. One gets the smuts and grits, that fall through the ventilators, regularly ingrained into one's skin by morning, from rubbing against the pillow as the train vibrates. I was patiently waiting my turn at the washing-basin one morning, when suddenly I felt a sharp thump in the ribs from behind. I started and looked round, thinking some facetious person had done it for a joke, and would probably peep out again from his curtains; when a testy old gentleman next to me muttered "No need for you to watch my wife dressing, Sir." I apologised, and told him my reason for turning round to inspect the premises. The truth was, she had been sitting up in bed to dress, and from the limited space at her disposal had caught her elbow against me in the operation.
But there are more absurd contretemps than this. I had before noticed that American couples are rather demonstrative with their endearments in public, both on the "cars" and steam-boats; but this beat all.
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In the "sections" of a railroad car, as in a wooden house, even whispered remarks are very audible, especially at night when everything is still. Par exemple, one evening, when we had retired, a low voice was suddenly heard from the centre of the car, "Fanny, Fanny, give me a kiss, and say you forgive me." Then, a little louder, "Fanny, Fanny, I can't sleep unless you say you forgive me; give me a kiss, and say you forgive me." At last, the voice of the conscience-stricken and penitent husband, regardless of the smothered tittering from the surrounding partitions, spoke again: "Fanny, Fanny, just one kiss, and say you forgive me!" until, at last, a peppery old Indian officer down at the end of the car popped his head out and shouted, "Oh, Fanny, for goodness' sake, do give him a kiss, and let us get some sleep!" Even then, amidst the outburst of laughter from the other passengers, you could hear the unhappy Caudle catching it in a curtain lecture: "There! I told you so! Now you see what you've done! I knew everyone could hear you!" But at last peace reigned, and possibly Fanny gave him the narcotic kiss of reconciliation for which he had been asking.
It is best, if with ladies, to provide little hand-basins for the journey, as they can then wash behind the curtains of their berth; and it would be prudent also to take a hamper of provisions to fall back on at odd times, as with a few bright exceptions, in the case of oases like Humboldt, the food is execrable--a repetition of coffee, tea, poisonous Bourbon whisky, ham and eggs, woodeny beefsteaks, and indigestible hot cakes. One thing alone are you always sure of getting good, and that is iced-milk. It may almost be called the national beverage of America.
After leaving the Alkali Plains, those who wish to spend a day in Salt Lake City had better take the steamer
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at Corinne, as they then see something of the inland sea itself, including a most interesting twenty miles down Bear River Creek, where the dead willows, killed by the steady encroachment of the salt water, afford a home to myriads of birds--pelicans, eagles, owls, black snipe, cranes, reed-birds, blackbirds, and balloon-birds, which prey on the river fish as they come to the surface, belly upwards, from the same cause which destroys the vegetation. At Lake Point, you can have a bathe in the lake, a sensation not unlike sitting in an easy chair, for you cannot sink, and can lie back and float without any effort to support the body.
A drive of twenty miles brings you to the home of Brigham Young. This city, in many ways, is very like Christ Church, New Zealand: the same background of hills, the houses hidden among orchards of English trees, the running water in the streets, and the orderly appearance of the people.
From this to Ogden by rail is about forty miles; and as the remaining sights henceforward do not strictly come under the head of The Overland Route, I merely enumerate my experiences going and returning. I chose the Pennsylvania Central for my westward journey, and thought the sight of the Alleghanies grander than anything I saw subsequently. While in Kentucky I visited the Mammoth Cave; the celebrated horse-breeding establishments in the Blue Grass country; and I also spent a day with the Shakers near Lexington, where I was so charmed with the quiet peaceful life they seem to lead at Pleasant Hill, that I nearly felt tempted to accept their invitation, and enter upon a novitiate of six months, to see whether I could make up my mind to stop. When returning home, I chose a more northern route, and passed through Chicago, which was then being "phoenixed," or rebuilt from the ruins
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of the great fire; probably the most gigantic building operation the world has ever known. After submitting for forty-eight hours to the impositions and annoyance of the "hack-men" at Niagara Falls, I gladly found myself in New York, and embarked on the famous Cunard s.s. "Cuba" for Liverpool. A delightful voyage of ten days, to the pleasure of which contributed the most genial of captains, the most seaworthy of boats, and the most liberal of diets (who would not remember the suppers of Welsh rarebits, devilled bones, grilled sardines, and roast oysters?), brought me safely home again.
P.S.--Since writing the above, the San Francisco mail-service to New Zealand has been discontinued. Had its promoters from the first established a regular and trustworthy service, the line could not fail to have paid; but they effectually cut their own throats, as I have described above, and the unfavourable reports sent all the passengers round the other way, via Brindisi. It will not, however, be long before New Zealand and New South Wales will secure a really efficient line on the Pacific; and steamers are now building for the purpose on the Clyde. Thus we shall see England monopolize this route as effectually as she has done that of the ocean steamers in the Atlantic and elsewhere.
ADAM HOLDEN, LIVERPOOL.
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Page 2. Ninth line, for animam read animos; and in next line, for submissa read subjecta.
" 10. Twentieth line, for autoi [Greek] read autoi[Greek].
" 25. Ninth line from bottom, for objectional read objectionable.
" 27. Seventh line from bottom, for angula read ungula.
" 32. Ninth line, for recurrit.....fastidia, read expellas furca tamen usque recurret. Et mala perrumpet......fastidia.
" 45. Eighth line, for expectans inhiat read exspectat dum defluat.
" 53. Sixth line from bottom, for procsimus ardet Eucalygon read proximus ardet Ucalegon.
" 58. Second line, for Tennant, read Tennent.
" 62. Sixth line from bottom, for Romoe Tibur amem ventoso read Romae Tibur amem ventosus.
" 82. Eleventh line, for animum read animos; and in next line, for submissa read subjecta.