drainage upon the dead level of the town, unless the original ditch is turned into a pestilential cesspool. The filth of centuries must have been imbibed by the soil, and during the process of infiltration must in successive rainy seasons have found its way to the wells. In case of invasion, Lefkosia could never have resisted a prolonged siege, as in the absence of the aqueduct a garrison would quickly have succumbed to disease when dependent for a water-supply upon the wells alone. When the Turks captured the city by assault, the population far exceeded that of the present time (16,000), and the greater portion were massacred during several days of sack and pillage. Some thousands of girls and boys were transported to Constantinople. Richard I. of England occupied Lefkosia without resistance, after his victory over Isaac Comnenus.
Although experienced in the illusion of Turkish towns, I was more than disappointed when I visited the interior of Lefkosia. The new Chief Commissioner, Colonel Biddulph, R.A., C.B., had already improved certain streets, and the eye was immediately attracted to points which bore the unmistakable stamp of a British occupation; but nothing can be effected in the arrangement of such a town without an unlimited purse and a despotic power. It is almost as hopeless as London in the incongruity of architecture, and the individual indulgence of independent taste, which absolutely dismays a stranger. The beautiful Gothic cathedral of the Venetians has been converted into a mosque by the conquerors, and two exceedingly lofty and thin minarets have added an absurd embellishment, resembling two gigantic candles capped by extinguishers, as though the altar-tapers had been taken for the models. The neighbouring church of St. Nicholas has been converted into a granary. In all Turkish towns the bazaars are the most interesting portion, as they illustrate the commercial and agricultural industries of the country. Those of Lefkosia formed a labyrinth of the usual narrow streets, and resembled each other so closely that it was difficult to find the way. The preparation of leather from the first process of tanning is exhibited on an extensive scale, which does not add to the natural sweetness of the air. Native manufactures for which the town is celebrated, that are more agreeable, may be purchased at a moderate price in the shape of silk stuffs; and a variety of mule-harness, pack-saddles, and the capacious double bags of hair and wool that, slung across the animal, are almost indispensable to the traveller. There were a few shops devoted to European articles which were hardly adapted to the country, and were expensive in a ridiculous degree. The narrow streets were muddy from the recent rain, and the temperature was at 55 degrees, but the inhabitants were sitting at the various cafes in the open air smoking and drinking their steaming coffee as though in summer. From natural politeness they invariably rose as we passed by, and at one place I was immediately furnished with a string that I might measure a large vine-stem which during summer must afford a dense shade. I found the main stem of this unusual specimen was twenty-two inches in circumference.
The only agreeable walk in Lefkosia is the circuit of the ramparts, as the high elevation admits of fresh air and an extensive view. From this we looked down upon numerous gardens well irrigated by the surplus water of the aqueduct, and the remarkably healthy orange and lemon trees were crowded with their loads of ripe fruit. There are many good and roomy houses in the town, each furnished with a considerable garden, but as they are surrounded with high walls, it is difficult to form an opinion of their actual dimensions. The house occupied by the Chief Commissioner is large and well constructed, the staircase and landing airy and capacious, with an entrance-hall open at the extreme end and well arranged for the burning climate during summer. All houses are paved with slabs of gypsum, which abound in many parts of the island, and are sold at a remarkably low price, as the blocks laminate, and are divided into sheets of the required thickness with a minimum of labour.
The Turkish Pacha (Rifat) still remained at Lefkosia, as he was responsible for the transfer of various movable property to Constantinople. The interesting Venetian cannon of bronze that were utterly valueless as modern weapons had been conveyed away both from Lefkosia and Famagousta. One of these was a double octagon, or sixteen-sided, and would have been a valuable specimen in the collection at the Tower of London. Many of the curious old Venetian cannon had recently been burst into fragments with dynamite, to save the trouble of moving the heavy guns entire.
There can be little doubt that the prime object in selecting a central position for the capital of Cyprus was a regard for safety from any sudden attack; but upon any other grounds I cannot conceive a greater absurdity. The capital should be Limasol, which will become the Liverpool of Cyprus. Lefkosia is completely out of the commercial route; it is valueless as a military position, and it offers no climatic advantage, but, on the contrary, it is frightfully hot in the summer months, and is secluded from the more active portions of the island. It IS, simply because it WAS; but it should remain as a vestige of the past, and no longer represent the capital. *
(The census of Nicosia, taken on 31st January, 1879, represents the population as follows:–
No. of houses:– 2,463
Population by sex:–
Males above 15 . . . . . . . . 3,773 Males under 15 . . . . . . . . 1,900
Females above 14 . . . . . . . 3,718 Females under 14 . . . . . . . 1,806
Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . 11,197
Population by religion:–
English . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Greek Church. . . . . . . . . . 5,251
Catholics . . . . . . . . . . . 121 Mohammedans . . . . . . . . . . 5,628
Armenians . . . . . . . . . . . 166 Jews. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . 11,197 )
There is no position throughout the plain of Messaria adapted for a permanent government establishment as head-quarters. The depressing effect of that horrible landscape, embracing the extensive area from Trichomo and Famagousta to Larnaca, Lefkosia, and Morphu, is most demoralising, and few Europeans would be able to resist the deleterious climate of summer, and the general heart-sinking that results in a nervous despondency when the dreary and treeless plain is ever present to the view. There is no reason why officials should be condemned to the purgatory of such a station when Cyprus possesses superior positions where the great business of the future will be conducted. The new road already completed from Larnaca to Lefkosia must be carried on to Morphu, and thus connect the north and south extremities of the plain; Kyrenia, sixteen miles distant, must be connected with Lefkosia; branches must then be extended to Kythrea and to Famagousta; and subsequently, from the latter town a direct road must be continued parallel with the south coast to Larnaca. Such roads may be constructed for about 350 pounds per mile at the low rate of labour in Cyprus, considering the presence of stone throughout the district, and their completion will open the entire plain of Messaria to wheeled communication with four ports, to north and south.
Having passed a week with our kind hosts, Sir Garnet and Lady Wolseley, at Government House, which formed a most agreeable contrast to the friendless life that we had been leading, the vans once more started en route for Kythrea, Famagousta, and the Carpas district. I had hired a good, sure-footed pony for my wife and a powerful mule for myself, and, having given the vans a start of several hours, we followed in the afternoon.
The treeless expanse of the Messaria produces nothing but cereals and cotton; teams of oxen were at work in all directions ploughing, and otherwise preparing the thistle-covered surface, and the atmosphere was so delusively clear that Kythrea, twelve miles distant, appeared close to us. Upon these boundless flats an object may be seen as distinctly as though upon the water, and we soon descried in the far distance a dark spot, which the binocular glass, if at sea, would have pronounced to be the stern of a vessel that had lost her masts, keeping the same course as ourselves; this was the gipsy-van, which should have already arrived at Kythrea, where I had expected to have found the camp arranged, dinner cooked, and everything ready for our reception. Something had happened, as the other van was not in sight.
It was impossible to dignify the route by the name of a “road,” as it presented an uneven surface and occasionally branched into several independent tracks, which re-united after an eccentric course of a few hundred yards; these were caused by droves of mules which in wet weather had endeavoured to select a better line than the deeply-trodden mud in the central road. Fortunately the surface was now hard, and we cantered on, fully expecting some disaster to at least one of our vehicles. Upon our arrival we found a crowd of people yelling and shouting their utmost, while they were engaged in company with four oxen harnessed in dragging and pushing the blue van up a new road which they had scarped out of the precipitous bank of a river about forty feet deep; this accounted for only one van being in sight, as the other was in the dry bed of the river. These good people had been working for several hours in making a road where none existed; and assured me that the large bridge over the Pedias was unsafe for so great a weight, and therefore it was advisable to cross at the present spot. The banks consisted of the alluvium of ages free from stones, therefore it was easy to cut an incline; but as many tons of earth had been removed, the operation had required much labour, and many hands had collected from the adjacent villages upon seeing the dilemma.
The blue van was in the middle of the crowd; the oxen answered to the inspiriting shouts, and more especially to the ceaseless pricks of the driving sticks, and presently it was dragged safely to the level of the opposite bank. A few alterations in the new road were necessary for the larger gipsy-van, and taking the drag-shoe off the blue van, we were thus enabled to secure both the hind-wheels for the steep descent. By careful management, after one or two narrow escapes from capsising, we succeeded in landing the Noah’s Ark safely by its fellow, amidst the cheers of the good-natured crowd.
The delay had been great, and the evening was drawing near: we were about seven miles from the upper portion of Kythrea, where we had proposed to camp, and the route was partly across country, to avoid layers of natural rock which in successive ridges made it impossible for the vans to keep the track. Several deep watercourses intervened, which required the spade and pickaxe, and it was quite dark when we were obliged to halt about a mile from Kythrea.
On the following morning Mr. Kitchener, Lieutenant of the Royal Engineers, called at our camp, and was kind enough to pilot us to the celebrated springs about three miles above the village. This able and energetic officer was engaged, together with Mr. Hippersly of the same corps, in making the trigonometrical survey of the island, and they were quartered in a comfortable house on the outskirts of the town. With this excellent guide, who could explain every inch of the surrounding country, we started upon a most interesting ride. The entire neighbourhood was green with abundant crops of cereals, some of which at this early season were eighteen inches high. The effect of irrigation could be traced for several miles into the plain and along the base of the mountain range, until by degrees the green became more faint, and gradually but surely merged into the dead brown which denoted barrenness, where the water-power was expended by absorption.
It was impossible to form any idea of the extent of Kythrea from the outside view. A succession of large villages with fields highly cultivated covered the surface at the base of the mountains, but the true Kythrea was partially concealed by the curious ravine through which the water of the springs is conducted by aqueducts until it reaches the lower ground. For a distance of three miles this ravine is occupied by houses and gardens, all of which are supplied by the stream, which turns thirty-two water-mills in its course. The water-wheels in Cyprus are horizontal turbines, and I have only met with one over-shot wheel in the island; this is on the estate of M. Mattei at Kuklia.
The range of mountains exactly above the village exhibits a peculiar example of the effect of water-wash for about two hundred feet from the base. From the heights at Government House, twelve miles distant, I had observed through the telescope a curious succession of conical heaps resembling volcanic mounds of hardened mud; these rose one above the other along the base of the hills like miniature mountain-ranges. Even when near Kythrea I could not understand the formation, until we found ourselves riding through the steep ravine which holds the watercourse and ascending by a narrow path among the countless hills that I have described. Both sides of the gorge, and also the deep bottom, are occupied by houses with fruitful gardens, rich in mulberry, orange, lemon, apricots, olives, forming groves of trees that in summer must be delightful. Sometimes after clambering up steep and stony paths which had originally been paved we entered into villages, the roofs of the houses BELOW us upon our left, and the doors of others upon our right, so close to the narrow path as scarcely to admit the passage of a loaded mule. The water rushed along the bottom in a rapid stream, plunging from the adit below one turbine to a temporary freedom in a natural channel, from which it was quickly captured and led into an aqueduct of masonry to another mill at a lower level. All the inhabitants had turned out to see an English lady, and the usual welcome was exhibited by sprinkling us with rose and orange-flower water as we passed; the omnipresent dogs yelled and barked with their usual threatening demonstrations at the heels of our animals, and some from the low roofs of the houses were unpleasantly close to our heads. We were now among the conical mounds, along the steep sides of which a path of about twelve inches width appeared to invite destruction, as the loose crumbling material rolled down the deep incline beneath the hoofs of the sure-footed horses and mules. These creatures had a disagreeable habit of choosing the extreme edge of the narrow ledge, instead of hugging the safer side; and although no great precipice existed, the fall of thirty feet into the rocky stream below would have been quite as effectual as a greater depth in breaking necks and limbs. We again entered a village, where a large plane-tree formed the centre of a small open space, faced on either side by a cafe; the situation being attractive during summer from the dense shade afforded by the spreading branches. There were many people sitting in the open shed, who as usual rose and made their salutations as we passed. The path became worse as we proceeded, and we at length emerged from the long string of contracted villages and skirted the precipitous sides of the ravine, which formed one of the innumerable gorges between the conical mounds of marls and alluvium that had been washed from a higher level and worn into heaps by the action of rain upon the unstable surface.
About a mile beyond all villages we skirted the stream along a steep bank, from which point we looked down upon the roofs of houses more than a hundred feet below, and we at length halted and dismounted at a rocky termination of the gorge, from whence issued suddenly the celebrated spring of Kythrea.
The mountains rose abruptly upon either side, and a dry ravine above the rocks upon which we stood exhibited the natural channel by which in heavy rains the surface-water would be conducted to the lower stream-bed. A rough arch of masonry and a tunnel in the rock for about forty feet formed the embouchure, from which the water issued into a carefully constructed stone aqueduct, which led directly to the first mill of the Kythrea series, about a hundred and twenty yards distant. The temperature was considerably warmer than the air, but I had no thermometer to mark the difference.
The aqueduct would have carried at least one-third more than the present volume, which was about twenty-six inches deep, and three feet in width. The water was beautifully clear and the current rapid, but I had no means of measuring the velocity.
The stone-work of the aqueduct, always moist from the percolation, must form a charming exhibition of maidenhair ferns during summer-time, as the crevices were all occupied by plants, whose leaves, even at this season (February), were several inches in length.
We strolled up the dry ravine above the spring, and ascended the hill to an extensive plateau, upon which grew two or three caroub-trees; here was a sudden change; the soil was red, and we entered the compact grey limestone (jurassic) which forms the Carpas range. On the extreme verge of the plateau of red soil we had an admirable example of the formation of the conical mounds of earth, two or three of which already existed, while others were in process of development from the melting-away of the soil during heavy rains. As the surface dissolved under the action of rainfall, it flouted down the steep inclinations, until a base was formed, at the expense of the upper area; by degrees gullies were created in the rear, and these would rapidly become deeper under the action of running water, until they reached the lower level of the base. A circle thus formed, an apex would be the natural result of the denudation and decay of the upper surface which would produce a cone. A sudden shower compelled us to take refuge beneath a caroub-tree whose dense foliage saved us from a thorough soaking. The ground having become slippery, we returned upon our narrow and soapy route with some caution, but the careful animals who were well accustomed to these dangerous paths carried us safely to our camp.
It is extraordinary that the water-power of Cyprus has of late years been so neglected by the authorities, as the island must from ancient times have mainly depended upon its springs in the absence of dependable seasons. Kythrea is an example of the importance that was attached to a stream of running water, as the town was established by the Athenians, and in former ages an aqueduct of masonry extended for twenty-five miles to Salamis; in the neighbourhood of which ruins of the old work are still existing. If the seasons of Cyprus have undergone a change since the forests have been destroyed, I can see no reason for the innumerable vestiges of ancient water-works throughout the country. Wherever an important spring existed, there was a settlement of corresponding extent and value, which suggests that the rainfall was even then as uncertain as at the present day. Every spring became a centre of attraction. The ruins of the ancient Kythrea have been partially excavated by the indefatigable General di Cesnola, but with unimportant results, as the ground is under artificial irrigation, and is in the highest cultivation, therefore it cannot be disturbed.
The chief industry of modern times which adds to the importance of Kythrea, is the production of silk, from the great abundance of mulberry-trees which supply the necessary food for the silkworms; but it has suffered to a considerable degree, in common with most silk-growing districts in Cyprus, by the want of foresight of the producers; these people have within the last few years sold the seed in such extravagant quantities to the traders of Beyrout as to leave the island with a short supply. The result of this sacrifice for the sake of ready money is a serious reduction in the general produce, and in many portions of the island the mulberry-trees are flourishing without a silkworm to feed upon them. The thirty-two flour-mills of Kythrea are worked by a fall of 400 feet between the head-water of the spring to the base of the lowest mill at the foot of the mountains. It appeared to me that much water is wasted by an absence of scientific control. A series of reservoirs would store the excess during the hours when the mills are idle (similar to the mill-ponds in England), but as there is no municipal law upon this important subject, the all-important stream is much neglected. There is a general demand for grinding-power throughout Cyprus; the corn is brought from great distances to the mills of Kythrea at a considerable expense of transport; I have met droves of mules laden with wheat and barley on their way from Larnaca, to which distant spot they would again return when their loads should have been reduced to flour. In the face of this difficulty a general want of energy and of the necessary capital is exhibited by the total neglect of wind-power, in a country where a steady breeze is the rule, with few exceptions. Throughout the great plain of Messaria windmills would be invaluable, both for grinding purposes and for raising water; nothing would be more simple than the combination of the wind-vane with the cattle-pump; but this great and almost omnipresent power is absolutely ignored.
On our return to camp in the evening, I resolved to have a quiet day with my dogs on the following morning, when I could stroll at my leisure over the mountains, and enjoy myself thoroughly according to my own tastes, sometimes obtaining a shot at game, and observing every object in nature.
It was 15th February, and with a native guide and interpreter who spoke Arabic, which was my medium of dialogue, I started to cross the mountain-range upon the east of the well-known five-knuckled-top named “Pentadactylon.” At the expense of repetition I cannot help extracting from my diary the exact words of description rough from the first impulse: “The base of this range is an extraordinary example of the action of rainfall in melting and washing down into conical mounds several hundred feet high, what was originally a high level of continuous but alternating strata of marls and alluvium that had descended from the higher mountains. These vast masses are in a chaotic confusion of separate heaps, which at a distance resemble volcanic cones. We rode up precipitous paths edging upon deep chasms between these conical hills, and emerged upon metamorphous rocks and shale mingled in curious irregularity. The strata of shale were in some instances nearly vertical, proving the disturbance that had been occasioned by a subsequent upheaval. About 200 feet above this formation we entered upon the dark grey jurassic limestone, and the soil became a rich red like that of South Devon. The rock scenery was very imposing as we increased our altitude and arrived upon plateaux of considerable extent. There can be no doubt that these natural terrace-like surfaces and various hollows accumulate the rainfall of a great area, and that some vast subterranean caverns in the limestone form natural reservoirs, which supply the celebrated springs of Kythrea throughout the year.”
I believe these few words contain the real secret of the springs, which have been, and still are, considered to have a mysterious origin. Some people indulge in the theory that the water is forced by hydraulic pressure at the superior altitude of Caramania in Asia Minor, and passing by a subterranean conduit far beneath the bottom of the intervening channel, it ascends at the peculiar rock-mouth of Kythrea. This is simple nonsense, and can only be accepted by those who adore the unreal, instead of the guide, “common-sense.” The actual volume of the outflow at Kythrea has never been calculated, although the problem is most simple; but a cursory examination is sufficient to explain the origin of the supply which a certain superficial mountain area collects and stores during the rainy seasons: to yield gradually through some small aperture or leak in a grand subterranean reservoir.
In all countries where water is scarce, unfailing springs are objects of veneration, and are clothed not only with undying verdure, but with a continuous growth of legends: from the day when Moses smote the rock in the wilderness, and the stream gushed forth to the thirsty Israelites, to the present hour, water, which is man’s first necessity, will in drought-smitten countries be hailed with more than usual reverence. The devout Mussulman sinks a well and erects a fountain for the public good, and his friends bury his body in the neighbourhood of his last act.
“Rest, weary pilgrim, rest and pray For the kind soul of Sybil Grey, Who built this Cross and Well.”
Christian and Mahommedan, and all creeds and races, men and animals, yield unanimously to the great want, which in a thirsty land alone will bring the lion and the lamb to drink in the same stream. I have myself seen in moonlight, animals of various and conflicting natures revelling in the rest of nature’s armistice, drinking in crowds at the solitary pool; the only source of water in the desert.
The Cypriotes in their natural love of the marvellous insist upon the mystery attached to the Kythrea springs, but they attach no importance to the extensive subterranean water-stores of the Messaria plain, simply because they do not see it issue from the ground: still the fact is there, the water in vast quantities always exists, and were it tapped at a higher level, it would flow (as it actually does in certain places), and exhibit the same principle upon a much larger scale than the romantic and picturesque mountain springs of Kythrea.
As we increased our altitude the scenery improved in interest: we were no longer in barren mounds of water-washed debris, but the rich soil among the dark grey rocks gave birth to numerous shrubs, including the evergreen mastic, arbutus, and the dwarf cypress. Although the route was only marked by the continual tracks of the lime-burner’s mules, our sturdy animals mounted the steep rocky ascents with comparative ease, and skirted the deep water-worn ravines without missing a footstep. Heaps of rough crumbling rocks resembling cairns attracted my attention on all sides; these were the rude lime-kilns, and at an elevation of about a thousand feet above Kythrea we came upon the families of lime-burners who for several generations have resided in these heights, either in caves, or rude huts, according to the conditions of the locality. Women and girls were hard at work with strong grubbing-axes, digging out the roots of brushwood from among the rocks and making them into faggots, as fuel for burning the grey limestone. The work was most laborious, and I was struck by the great thickness of the roots of comparatively small shrubs. Upon regarding the surface, no bushes appeared sufficiently substantial for the use of fuel, but in fact a they had for centuries been cut and hacked to a degree that reduced them superficially to mere saplings, while the ancient roots had increased in size. The great piles of limestone were only partially reduced to lime by the rough method and the scant fuel employed, but I admired the industry of these poor people, who were working like the Israelites for Pharaoh, “making bricks without straw.” Some of the girls were pretty, but in figure they were mere rag-dolls in locomotion.
The lime was conveyed by donkeys to the lower country, and we presently arrived at a snow-white heap lying in the centre of the path;–it was explained, that, during the heavy shower of yesterday, a donkey was carrying his usual burthen of quick-lime, when he was overtaken by the rain, which slaked the load, and it was necessary to immediately abandon it, to save the animal from burning.
After an hour and a half’s scramble we turned to the right beneath a perpendicular cliff of exquisite colouring on our left, combining the bright red which denoted the presence of iron, with the dark purple and the silvery grey of the Jura limestone. On our right was a deep and precipitous ravine, sparsely covered with evergreen shrubs. In this spot, metamorphic rocks lay in rough and huge blocks of various shapes and colours, and while examining these I was struck by the presence of the rare and peculiar green marble known as verde antica. In the immediate neighbourhood I discovered great masses of the same stone, but minus the green base, exhibiting at the same time the characteristics of irregular mosaic in the angular fragments of white, black, and various coloured pieces which appeared to be artificially inlaid. These marbles, especially the true verde antica, would be exceedingly valuable if cut into slabs and exported, and there would be little difficulty in constructing a feasible route for camels, which would convey with ease large slabs secured in frames slung upon either side.
A few yards above this spot we arrived at a solitary cypress-tree, which in density of foliage resembled a yew-tree in an English churchyard. Close to this rare object was an aperture in the rocks upon the right hand; a few roughly-hewn steps enabled us to descend into a narrow cave, where water dripped from the roof, and formed a feeble stream, which was led through crevices to a cistern some yards below. This cistern was within a few feet of the cypress-tree, and accounted for its superior growth, as the roots had been duly nourished. About a hundred feet above this spot were the ruins of an ancient Greek church, that had no doubt been associated with the holy dripping fountain, and the solitary tree had been spared from the ruthless axes of the lime-burners through some superstition connected with the spot. On arrival at the crumbling ruins of the church, we dismounted from our animals, and put them in the rude stable of the lime-burners who had located themselves among the walls of the once religious buildings, which they had converted into huts. Animals could go no farther; we therefore continued the ascent on foot, to the delight of my dogs, who seemed to think it looked more like business.
There was a large growth of the usual shrubs arbutus, mastic, and dwarf-cypress, and the surface of the ground was so completely covered with masses of rock that walking was most difficult. Notwithstanding the apparent barrenness of the locality, we arrived at a tolerably even surface of rich brown soil in a hollow near the shoulder of the mountain; this had recently been cleared for cultivation by the lime-burners to the extent of about two acres, and I remarked that both pine-trees and cypresses as thick as a man’s thigh had recently been felled and burnt in spite of the government stringent regulations. In these out-of-the-way localities the natives can laugh at laws and special enactments.
Upon arrival at the crest of the mountain, which formed a shoulder for a peak of silvery rocks, about 100 feet above me, my aneroid showed 1830 feet above Kythrea. From this point the view was superb, and extended north and south from sea to sea. There was an extraordinary contrast upon these two divisions formed by the wall-like Carpas range upon which we stood: to the south all was brown and desolate excepting the few miles of green belonging to Kythrea beneath our feet. The town of Lefkosia stood out in bold relief, the cathedral and even the fortress walls affording distinct outlines in the clear atmosphere; the salt-lakes of Larnaca showed plainly in the distance, backed by the blue sea, and the mountain of Santa Croce with the monastery upon its summit was a well-known landmark. This side of the mountain range was not inviting, and if it had been exhibited before the occupation there can be little doubt of an unfavourable impression. We turned “right-about-face” to the north. This was indeed a wonderful change of aspect! We looked down from the picturesque and precipitous wall of mountains which stretched far away to the east and west; the sides were covered with evergreens, through which the bold crags protruded in rugged points; the dark indentures upon the steep slopes marked deep ravines in which streams of water now rippled, while all on the south were stony and exhausted. The strip of land between the sea and the northern base of the Carpas range was hardly three miles wide; this was covered with well-rounded caroub-trees, whose dark green foliage gave a rich appearance to the shore, broken by countless rocky bays and coves, filled with the cobalt waters of the Mediterranean. This was a lovely scene; I could not believe that I was in Cyprus–that whitey-brown-paper-coloured, desert, smitten, God-forsaken isle! Upon the left, about eight miles distant, lay the town and important port of Kyrenia, with an apparently very little harbour, the houses surrounded by gardens, and ornamented by date-palms backed by a perfect forest of caroub-trees which extended for some miles. On the extreme summit of the crags upon our left, overlooking Kyrenia and forming an unmistakable landmark for all sailors, was the castle of Buffavento, cutting the blue sky-line 3240 feet above the sea. Exactly opposite, at about sixty miles distance, were the snow-capped mountains of Caramania, which in the transparent atmosphere seemed to be within a day’s long march. Far, far away along the north-eastern shore, and also towards the west, all was lovely: I could only regret that all vessels and strangers must arrive in the unfortunate ports of the Messaria, instead of gaining such favourable first impressions as would be induced by the lovely picture of Cyprus from the north.
While I had been admiring the view, my dogs had been hunting the dense bushes to very little purpose, and although we scrambled for more than two hours over the mountain, we only moved ten or twelve red-legged partridges, which rose upwards of a hundred yards in front of the gun; it was quite impossible to obtain a shot. With an empty bag, but with a new impression of the country since my view of the landscape in the north, I turned homewards, and reached camp late in the afternoon, my spaniels having no doubt a low opinion of Cyprus sport, and of the unfair advantages taken by the ever-running red-legged partridges.
On 16th February a painful conviction was established that Cyprus was unfitted for wheeled carriages and springs. Although the plain appeared flat and without natural obstacles, the ground had been completely traversed by deep trenches for the purpose of checking and conducting surface water to the fields in the event of a heavy shower. Our course should have been directly across the plain to intersect the road from Lefkosia to Famagousta, but a glance at the intervening country showed the impossibility of moving the vans through the miles of green crops which were nourished by innumerable watercourses, each of which must be levelled before we could advance. It was therefore necessary to retrace our steps to within a mile and a half of Lefkosia, to the point where the main route branched to Famagousta. This was a great waste of time, but there was no other way of avoiding the difficulty. Accordingly we started, and after a few miles we cut across country to the high road, while the vans slowly crawled along the uneven way until they reached the turning-point. We halted at a very desolate spot, where sheep were housed in large numbers. Several spacious pens were surrounded with thorns, reminding me of the cattle zareebas of Africa, and a small flat-topped building, built of stone and mud, formed the usual accommodation for man and beast. A well of clear but brackish water supplied this rude establishment, which was surrounded by a boundless extent of undulating ground, more or less cultivated with cereals, which, although only a few inches above the surface, looked weak and perishing.
The vans did not arrive until late; in the meanwhile we had sat outside the building in the cold air, fearing to venture beneath the roof, owing to the swarms of fleas which are sure to be “at home” in all the miserable dwellings of this island. At length the gipsy-van, which had been in sight for a full hour, drew up on the flat surface in front of the shepherd’s hut, and real comfort was at once at hand. Although the space within was limited, the furniture was so carefully arranged that we had plenty of room to move about. The fall-slab table was usually down, and was only required for writing; the chest of drawers was American walnut: a good solid and well-seasoned wood, which did not provoke the temper like English furniture by the drawers sticking when in the act of opening, and leaving you in a hopeless position with a detached handle in either hand. This good American chest was only three feet two inches high, therefore it formed a convenient toilette-table beneath a window, which, curtained with muslin and crimson cloth, had an exceedingly snug appearance; and a cushioned seat upon either side upon the lid of a locker combined comfort with convenience. We had a tiny little movable camp-table that could be adjusted in two minutes, and would dine two persons, provided that no carving was performed, and that the dishes were handed round. The bed was athwart-ship at the far end beneath the stern-window, but at such a height from the floor that several broad shelves beneath contained gun-cases, ammunition, clothes, boots, tins of preserved provisions, and in fact everything that, although necessary, was to be kept out of sight. The only mistake in the arrangements was a very large and gorgeous open-brass-work Egyptian lantern, with glass of various colours and outlandish patterns in Arabesque. In the evening we formed an irregular light-house, as two ordinary carriage-lamps were fixed above and on either side the entrance door, while the gorgeous many-coloured lantern swung from the roof inside, and flashed red, green, and yellow signals in wild confusion. I knew this piece of finery would not last long, as it would insist upon running against everybody’s head, its large size bringing it into constant collision; but it looked well, and ornamented the van. As it burnt several candles the lantern became hot, which somewhat warmed the cabin, and was a welcome increase of temperature, for although the floor was protected by oil-cloth, upon which were double layers of Scinde rugs, the extreme thinness of the walls made it unpleasantly cold with the thermometer outside at 40 degrees. The servants were saved an immense amount of trouble by the presence of the gipsy-van, which at the time they hardly appreciated; they had no tent-pitching upon the halt, neither unpacking of boxes, nor arranging of beds, nor any of the usual work connected with a daily camp. It is impossible for the inexperienced to appreciate the comfort of such a vehicle where the roads are practicable, especially in bad weather, when you are perfectly certain that your home is weather-proof and your bed dry. Those who have experienced the misery of a halt in pouring rain, when everybody and everything has been sodden to the bone, when the ground is slush that will not hold a tent-peg; the night dark; the fuel will not burn; the matches expend themselves in vain phosphoric flashes, but will not ignite; the water that has run down your neck has formed reservoirs within your boots; the servants are reduced to the inactivity of sponges; and–the tents MUST be pitched. The heavy soaked canvas that can hardly flap in the strong wind is at length spread over the cold soft ground; the camp-beds, though wet as tripe, MUST be arranged; and down go the iron legs, sinking to an unknown depth into the sodden soil!
Oh, misery, misery! happily unknown to those who stay at home. All this may be avoided in a country where practicable routes exist by travelling with a gipsy-van. Of course you do not personally travel within your van: it simply forms a movable home that accompanies you upon the march, and is always there when required, while you ride independently upon your animal. We live and learn: and I have from experience modified my ideas of a gipsy-van; for a roadless country such as Cyprus practically is–I should have NO SPRINGS. If you are obliged to travel bodily within your vehicle, there can be no doubt that springs relieve the spine, and various indescribable portions of your anatomy; but if your simple “but upon wheels” is to be dragged along, over, and through all kinds of obstacles, there can be no use whatever in springs, which by their elasticity allow your vehicle to sway from side to side, and to seriously threaten the centre of gravity, when in a dangerous place, by oscillation. The cap-waggon of South Africa will go anywhere. The two-wheeled cart of Cyprus is a wonderfully simple affair that may be dragged up or down the side of a mountain by a couple of oxen; the high wheels and light but strong body surmounting all obstacles; these carts do not carry more than twelve or fourteen hundredweight, but in an expedition I should much prefer them to the heavy waggons of South Africa, which, with three thousand pounds, require ten or twelve oxen. The heavier weight in a difficulty of soft ground, or in crossing a river, would be serious, but if the vehicles are numerous, and the weight distributed accordingly, it stands to sense that an enormous advantage is secured by the presence of ten oxen in five light carts, all of which can be applied to drag a single cart out of a serious dilemma, instead of remaining hopelessly fixed in soft mud, anchored by a weight of a ton and a half, as in the case of an African baggage-waggon. High and broad wheels are the first necessity, with a compound axle of wood and iron, the unequal elasticity of which relieves the shock.
I invariably found that during the day I hated my van, and in the evening I blessed it. It certainly delayed us on the march, and as we rode some miles in advance we noted the obstacles that would cause a stoppage, and generally halted to assist when the “tortoise” should arrive. All this was of course annoying in a country where a horse would have cantered cheerily along and have accomplished forty miles a day; but, on the other hand, the van was never intended for grande vitesse; neither is express travelling the proper method of obtaining an accurate knowledge of a new country. Thus we crawled along, making twelve or thirteen miles per diem through a most uninteresting country, the usual scene of treeless waste, but dotted over with extensive villages of mud-built houses, and the inevitable white arched-roof Greek churches.
The only incidents that occurred in this land of apathy were occasioned by our guide, who generally lost his way, and spent some hours in finding the vans at the halting-place in the evening; this was not improving to the temper, and of course I laid the blame upon Cyprus generally, and abused the island almost to the superlative degree adopted by the “newspaper correspondents.”
The 17th February was a day of considerable bodily exercise, as we arrived at a series of watercourses as deep and broad as military trenches for sapping up to a fortress. We had no sooner levelled an embankment, and with great difficulty dragged the vans across, than we encountered a new and similar obstruction. At length we arrived within half a mile of the large village Arshia, which, being well irrigated, opposed a perfect network of barriers in the shape of artificial water-channels. The oxen became disheartened, and the pair which drew the blue van driven by our favourite Georgi determined to strike work just as he was applying the sharp driving prick to their posteriors in ascending a steep bank, through which we had cut a passage from the deep water-course beneath. Instead of keeping a straight course, these pig-headed bullocks made a sharp turn to the right up the incline. Down went one upon its knees in rage and despair! while round went the other in an opposite direction: crash went the pole in two pieces! and the blue van, having vainly endeavoured to right itself like a lady about to faint when no one is at hand to save her, tottered for a moment, and turned over with a crash that betokened general destruction. My Abyssinian lad, Amarn, was only just in time to escape, as he had been endeavouring to support the van on the impending side when it suddenly capsised, and he would have been flattened like a black-edged mourning envelope had he not actively sprung out of the way.
All hands set about righting the ship–which was upon her beam-ends, and the wheels uppermost. The first thing necessary was to discharge cargo; this we quickly effected, as there were doors in front and behind, and the numerous packages were soon piled upon the wayside. No sooner was the van empty, than my dogs, who had been watching the operation in bewilderment, jumped in, and no inducement would persuade them to quit the comfortable vehicle, which they supposed had been specially cleared for their convenience; the doors were accordingly shut, and they were locked up. We now passed ropes beneath the van, and secured the ends to the bottom of the wheels, which rested upon the ground; the other ends were thrown over the cap-roof and manned, while the rest of the party endeavoured to raise the van bodily. All working together, we righted it immediately, the astonished dogs were liberated, and we soon replaced the contents. I sent a messenger to Arshia to purchase if possible a piece of wood sufficiently long to form a pole, and in the meantime I employed my tools and myself in splicing the broken pole sufficiently to enable us to creep a little nearer to the village, as we were far from water.
It was nearly dark by the time I had completed my work, and the bullocks were once more fastened to the van. In this way we approached within a quarter of a mile of the village and halted for the night. I made a capital pole from the stem of a young fir-tree which I procured from the natives, and lashed it securely to the rough but strong splinter-bar of dwarf-cypress.
On the following morning at daybreak I made a few alterations in the work of the preceding night, and having thoroughly secured the new pole, we started for Kuklia, about thirteen miles distant. After passing a few more watercourses, we arrived at the best ground we had seen in Cyprus, and the vans travelled with ease at upwards of three miles an hour. Throughout this march I observed that the water in the various wells and open pits was hardly five feet from the surface, although the country was suffering from an absence of rain. Notwithstanding this natural advantage, there were only two farms upon which the cattle-wheels were used for purposes of irrigation, which proves the lack of enterprise and capital throughout this miserable district.
There were many important villages upon the higher ground, which overlooked the lower plain through which the river Pedias was supposed to flow. These heights were about a hundred and fifty feet above the lower level, and continued to increase their elevation for many miles, until they formed the horizon on the south-west and west. The soil was extremely fertile, but as usual covered with stones, the debris of decayed limestone of the post-tertiary period, such as is found throughout the Messaria. The flat valley below was about thirteen miles across due north, and was bounded by the Carpas range, which extended to the east beyond telescopic view. In our front was a cheering scene, towards which we hastened with all speed; as sailors rush on deck at the first cry of “Land ahead!” we hurried forward at the unusual sight, “Green trees!” Groves of tall cypress, poplars, and other varieties, springing from a base of exquisite verdure, formed a rare and unmistakable landmark. This was Kuklia, our halting-place, the property of Monsieur Richard Mattei.
Upon arrival at the village we selected a pretty spot upon elevated ground which overlooked the entire country, and from which we could faintly distinguish Famagousta, twelve miles distant. Upon our right, within a hundred and twenty yards, was an aqueduct of masonry supported upon arches, which conveyed a powerful stream to turn a large overshot water-wheel in the valley immediately below. The surplus water, after having worked the mill, was used for the irrigation of extensive cotton-grounds, beyond which it flowed into the marshes and formed a swamp. On the opposite side of this narrow valley were heights and undulating ground, corresponding to those upon which we stood–all treeless and cold; while upon our right, close to the aqueduct, was the bright green of high cultivation, and groves of tall trees which towered above gardens of oranges and lemons now bending beneath the burden of yellow fruit. The village was disappointing, as the houses were of a low order and much neglected; the lanes were occupied by the usual filth and noisy dogs; but the agreeable view of bright green fields and real thriving trees was a delightful change, and exhibited a picture of what Cyprus might become when developed by capital and enterprise. While the camp was being arranged I took my gun and strolled with the dogs into the narrow valley below the mill. The waterwheel was at work, and the people were engaged in cleaning cotton, as the machinery was adapted for both purposes of grinding corn or of ginning cotton when required. There were plenty of snipe in the marshes below the cotton-fields, for which rushes, low bushes of tamarisk and other shrubs, afforded excellent cover. I quickly bagged two couple and my first Francolin partridge, and was just in time, before dark, to assist the dinner.
At sunrise on the following morning the view was interesting, as the sea glittered brightly to the south, while the bold rocks and wall-like sides of the Carpas mountains stood out in sharply-defined edges and varying colours on the north. To the east we looked over the broadest portion of a dead flat created by the deposit from inundations of the eccentric river Pedias, which, although dry at the present time, periodically floods the country and converts the valley into an extensive lake. It was about twenty miles across this broad flat to the important town of Trichomo, and the ruins of Salamis were discernible with the telescope about midway, close to the seashore.
There was an extent of several miles of marsh around the heights of Kuklia, in some portions of which cotton was cultivated in considerable quantities, but I was surprised at the inferiority of the quality, and at the apparent weakness of the plants where the water-supply was plentiful. On closer examination I observed great carelessness in the absence of drainage; the plants were allowed to perish in stagnant water, which soured the land. Upon a longer acquaintance with M. Mattei’s farm, I found the same fault generally. Many portions of valuable land were chilled and rendered fruitless by too much water, which remained in the ground for want of the most simple drains. I shot plenty of snipe in the fields of barley, although they were not supposed to be under irrigation. M. Mattei is well known as the largest landed proprietor in Cyprus, and the representative of agricultural progress; but his bailiff at Kuklia could hardly have expected a prize at an exhibition, although every facility exists for creating a perfect model-farm. The springs which supply the water-power were discovered in three different positions about three miles distant. The usual chains of wells (already described) were sunk, and at a convenient spot they converged into a single line, until a lower level introduced the channel to the surface. The water was then received into a stone aqueduct, and led with great judgment in a half circle beneath the higher ground which was occupied by the village, at a level which not only enabled it to command the extensive flats beneath, but eventually passed beyond the village, and turned an overshot wheel of more than twenty feet diameter. This great work was at the sole expense of the proprietor. After a considerable outlay and perfect success in the engineering, it is to be regretted that greater care is not bestowed upon the land; although the gardens contain a mass of fruit-trees, large groves of figs, and relieve the eye by their cheerful aspect, only enough has been attained to exhibit the great power that exists for producing a still greater abundance under proper administration.
Having examined the neighbourhood thoroughly, I changed the position of our camp and halted a mile and a half up the aqueduct on the higher side of the village, at a point where the water first issued from its subterranean channel into the conduit of masonry and cement. We thus secured a supply in its original purity, before it should be contaminated by any washing of clothes in passing through the village in an open channel, which from its convenience offered an irresistible invitation. Such a tempting stream, running through a canal upon a broad wall of masonry open to all comers would, in any European country, have been the natural resort of boys, who would have revelled in the freedom of nakedness and the delight of bathing in forbidden waters; but in Cyprus I have never once seen a person washing himself in public. This is not from any sense of indecent exposure, but from their absolute dislike to the operation. I had subsequently in my service a remarkably fine man who was always carefully dressed, and in fact was quite a dandy in exterior, but during the hot weather when he on one occasion saw my Abyssinian Amarn swimming in the sea, he declared that, “rather than bathe, he would prefer to cut his throat.”
I had arranged the camp close to a hawthorn-tree, which was already green in its first spring leaves, and had formed blossom-buds that would open in a few days. There were a considerable number of the same species scattered in the vicinity, but they had been defaced by the mutilations usual throughout Cyprus. If a man requires a stick or a piece of wood for any purpose, he hacks unsparingly at the first tree; whether it belongs to him or to another proprietor. The ground sloped gradually to the lowest level of the hollow about four hundred yards distant, all of which was in cultivation; the broad-beans were in blossom, and a species of trefoil was already eight or nine inches high (22nd February); this was in anticipation of a lack of natural pasturage.
It was pitiable to see the wretched condition of the cattle throughout this district; the absence of rain had prevented the growth of the usual herbaceous plants, and the animals were forced to seek unnatural food produced in the stagnant swamps; these were full of skeletons and carcasses of oxen, that afforded bones of contention for the numerous village dogs who acted as scavengers. When the droves of oxen returned from pasture every evening, many were in a state of weakness that scarcely allowed them step by step to ascend the rising ground; all were reduced to mere skin and bones, and it would have been a mercy to have put them out of their misery. I was assured that, “the few whose constitution could hold out for another six weeks would recover when the trefoil should be fit to cut.”
I daily walked over the adjoining country, and there was little difficulty in discovering the origin of M. Mattei’s water sources. Upon the heights behind our camp, a plateau of many miles in extent, with an almost imperceptible inclination towards the south-east, received the rainfall, in addition to the subterranean drainage of the hills in the far distance. A great portion of this area was uncultivated, as the sedimentary limestone was generally close to the surface; this was covered with the usual prickly shrubs that some writers have misnamed “heath,” together with the highly aromatic herbs that seem to delight in a thirsty soil; among these is a thorny species of wild thyme, that is a favourite food for hares. In some places the soil was red, forming a strong contrast to the white surface around, and in such spots the earth had been already ploughed in preparation for the forthcoming season. The large area at a higher altitude formed an example of a principle that may be accepted as the rule throughout the island. In walking over this extensive surface, there was occasionally a hollow, drum-like sound beneath the feet, denoting subterranean cavities in the porous and soluble strata beneath the harder upper stratum. It was a natural consequence that a substratum impervious to water should form a bed at a certain level to retain the drainage: by tapping this bed at any point, the water would be discovered; but by piercing the surface below this level, the hydraulic pressure would force the water into a running stream.
This M. Mattei has accomplished, not as a new invention, but as the application of a rule well known to the Cypriotes from ancient times; and I repeat my argument, that, “the hereditary ability of these people in discovering and utilising springs is a proof that a scarcity of water has been a chronic difficulty in this island from remote periods, and that no important change has been occasioned by the sensational destruction of forests influencing the rainfall,” &c., &c., &c. In my opinion, the whole of the now desolate Messaria district may be rendered fruitful and permanently abundant by the scientific employment of a water-power which already exists, although unseen and undeveloped.
It was quite impossible to proceed to Famagousta with the vans, and there was no object in courting their destruction by a desperate advance at all hazards, as we should have in any case been obliged eventually to renew the difficulty when retracing our route. I therefore cantered in upon my mule, with the guide who always lost his way, Hadji Christo. This man was a great ruffian, and had laws existed for the prevention of cruelty to animals, I would have prosecuted him; nominally he had the charge of the mule and two ponies, but he illtreated these poor animals, and the donkeys also, in a disgraceful manner. However, I had no other guide, and although I knew him to be in partnership with some Will-o’-the-wisp, I was obliged to follow him. It was an easy course for saddle-animals, as the cathedral of Famagousta formed the prominent point; therefore a steeple-chase might have been the direct cross-country way. There was no change in the usual features of the barren landscape. We kept upon the high ground on the right, looking down upon the dreary flat for twenty miles to our left. Occasionally we passed villages, all of which were mere copies of each other in filth and squalor. The dogs barked and snapped ineffectually at our heels as we cantered through; the civil and ever-courteous people turned out and salaamed; and we quickly accomplished the twelve miles and approached the walls of Famagousta. Nothing that I saw in Cyprus has impressed me so much as the site of this powerful fortress and once important city. I lunched with Captain Inglis, who as chief commissioner of the district, most kindly received me, and I rode home afterwards; my guide, Hadji Christo, in spite of my assurances that he had mistaken the route, persisted that there were many, and not one; and after plunging into muddy marshes instead of keeping to the high ground, we were completely lost near sundown, when I happily extricated myself from the difficulty by insisting upon his riding behind and leaving me alone to find the track. We arrived at nightfall, after making eighteen miles out of twelve–a profitable enterprise hardly appreciated by our tired animals. Famagousta is too important for a cursory description; I shall therefore reserve it for a future chapter, when on our return from the Carpas district we pass some days in its immediate neighbourhood.
START FOR THE CARPAS.
I determined to leave my two vans in charge of the head-man of Kuklia, as the drivers declared it would be impossible to proceed into the roadless Carpas with any wheeled conveyance heavier than the native two-wheeled cart. They had accordingly entered into a contract to supply me with vehicles which the man of ability Theodori assured me could travel to the extreme eastern limit of the island, Cape St. Andrea, “as he had been there himself, and knew the way.” Georgi, who knew nothing of this portion of the country, believed all that Theodori said, and did his bidding. Having lightened the loads by leaving all that was not absolutely necessary safely locked within the vans, we started on 1st March with camels, in addition to two native carts, taking the route direct east, across the extensive flat which at this time was dry and hard. There was nothing of interest in the day’s march; the travelling was easy along the hardened level surface; we had a clear view of the cathedral and higher forts of Famagousta, and we passed near the ruins of Salamis, easily distinguishing the solitary pillars that had supported the ancient aqueduct which led the water from distant Kythrea.
Although everything was thoroughly dried up, it was easy to imagine the effect of an inundation of the Pedias river, which had formed this delta of alluvium, precisely as the Nile on a more extensive scale has produced the Delta of Egypt. There were a few wretched villages upon the flat, which were necessarily on the poorest scale, as they existed at the mercy of a sudden inundation. The unhealthiness of this locality must be extreme during wet weather, as it is only suitable to the constitutions of frogs and ducks. Upon arrival at higher ground on the opposite side of the plain I looked back upon the agueish area over which we had passed, and I had little doubt of the great engineering necessity that must be the first step to a sanitary reform in this pestilential neighbourhood.
As the river Pedias is a mere wayward torrent that NEVER flows as a permanent stream, but only comes down in impulsive rushes from the mountains during heavy rains, it has no power to cleanse its original bed, such as would result from a constant and clear current; but, on the contrary, the heavy floods from the upper country, being the result of a sudden rainfall, are surcharged with earth washed down from the higher ground and thickly held in solution. This vast mass of soil, which adds a corresponding weight to each gallon of water, is carried forward according to the velocity of the stream, and is ready to deposit upon the instant that the propelling power shall be withdrawn. So long as the river is confined between narrow banks, the high rate of the current is sufficient to force forward the thickened and heavy fluid; but the instant that the banks are over-topped and the river expands over an increased area, the rapidity is reduced, and the water, no longer able to contain the earth in solution, deposits alluvium, and produces a delta, which must necessarily increase upon every future inundation. The result must end either in forming a bar at the mouth of the river, or (as in the Pedias) in THE TOTAL SILTING OF THE EMBOUCHURE, which extinguishes all traces of a broad channel, but leaves a series of deep marshes scored by innumerable ditches, to be in their turn filled with mud when the next flood shall extend over the wide surface and increase the deposit.
This is the position of the Pedias, and until improved I cannot foresee a good sanitary prospect for Famagousta, which is situated on the borders of the swamp. There can be only one engineering method of preventing the silt, by confining the river between artificial banks, within a channel sufficiently narrow to ensure a current whose velocity would carry the heavy fluid directly into the sea. Even should this be accomplished, and the river be securely banked, the deposit of mud will then take place within the sea, and will assuredly form a bar; which will probably affect by silt the neighbouring harbour of Famagousta in the same manner that the ancient port of Salamis has been completely obliterated. In any case the engineering difficulty will be costly and uncertain; but if Famagousta is to be restored to its former importance as a first-rate harbour, arsenal, and military station, the management of the Pedias river must be seriously considered.
We arrived at Trichomo at about 3 P.M. The town is built upon the sides and summit of high ground within a mile of the sea. The sight of a narrow iron chimney emitting puffs of steam showed that some progress was exhibited by the presence of an engine–this was employed in working cotton-gins.
The houses were the usual sun-baked bricks of clay and chopped straw, and although the town was large, there was no building of sufficient importance to attract attention. We rode through the streets determined as usual to avoid the smells of a close proximity and to seek a camping-place some distance upon the opposite side. After passing through the town and descending a hill, we then ascended a steep slope which opened upon a wild country of rocky ground covered with the usual prickly plants and scrub cypress, which had evidently been cut for fuel until it had become mere brushwood. There was a square mud hut on the left hand standing in an extensive orchard of fruit-trees watered by a cattle-wheel, and as this was the last habitation within view, we halted, and awaited the arrival of the carts and camels. From the summit of the hill, about two hundred yards beyond this spot, the view was exceedingly good; the sea lay about half a mile distant, with several houses and gardens near the shore. The town was in our rear, and to the east was a fine extent of wild country covered with bush and dwarf-cypress, which formed a marked contrast to the naked surface we had left behind. The rugged wall of the Carpas range was now only ten miles distant on our left, and continued parallel to our route. . . . . It was late when the carts arrived, and we now missed the usual luxury of the gipsy-van. I determined to save the servants the trouble of erecting our tent, therefore for the first time in Cyprus we occupied the native dwelling. This was a square hut built of stone and mud, with the usual hard mud roof. From its large size it was evident that animals shared the room with the proprietors. An old man and a corresponding old woman gave us a welcome, and immediately commenced sweeping out the floor for our accommodation; this might have been thirty feet by eighteen in width. After a cloud of dust had risen, and by degrees subsided, we took possession; the carts and camels arrived; beds had to be unpacked and set up, and the servants began to reflect upon the advantages of the van which saved them the present trouble. It was already dusk, but the beds were made, and Christo the cook (who was a capital fellow for speed in preparing a dinner) was enveloped in savoury steam, when the usual inmates of the hut quietly invaded us. Cocks and hens marched in, and went to roost upon some sticks within a corner; two or three dogs arrived, evidently with the intention of staying through the night; a donkey at length walked composedly through the entrance door and steered for his accustomed corner. We had caused serious inconvenience to an unknown quantity of animals, all of whom had to be turned out, except the poultry. What a good thing is dinner! The neat tiny table was spread and the candles lighted; the dishes were simple but excellent; we were thoroughly comfortable in this rude dwelling; but–it might have been fancy–I thought something tickled my legs. There was no mistake, something did actually not only tickle, but bite. Something? It was everything and everybody in the shape of fleas! The hut was hopping with countless swarms of these detestable vermin, from which in our impregnable van we had hitherto been free, owing to its great height from the ground. Whether the unusual sweeping of the floor had created a temporary aberration of intellect or stupefaction among these crowds, I cannot determine, but whatever the nervous shock might have been that had caused a short suspension of activity, they had now completely recovered, and I shall never forget the night passed in Trichomo. It was the first and the last venture upon native hospitality throughout our sojourn in Cyprus, and we in future adhered either to the tent or the gipsy-van.
On the following morning we started at 8.30. The sky was overcast, and in any country but this we should have expected rain. We had now fairly emerged upon a district entirely different from the hateful Messaria, which has given Cyprus an unfortunate reputation. We were quickly among thickets of scrub and low brushwood which should have teemed with game. My spaniels delighted in the change, and worked the bush thoroughly as we proceeded along the route, occasionally flushing two or three red-legged partridges. Passing over the higher ground with the sea in view upon our right, we descended after a march of about three miles to the shore, where the path skirted the sea along broken rocks, against which in bad weather the waves would dash with sufficient violence to bar the road. The white cliffs and hill-tops to our left were covered with dwarf-cypress, and formed a lovely foreground above the sea, perfectly calm beneath. The ride was apparently short, although we had been in the saddle three hours, as the eye had been gratified by a constant change of scenery;–from rocks washed by the blue water to hills covered with a dense foliage of evergreens, and deep sequestered valleys, with occasional gaps in the range of heights through which glimpses of the sea in rocky coves burst suddenly into view. Some of these inlets were exceedingly picturesque, as reefs extended from the shore, overhanging cliffs having from time to time fallen in huge crags and formed natural breakwaters to the beach. These narrow gaps between the hills were generally occupied by a streamlet in the centre, which had cut its way far below the level of the ground, the steep banks of which were fringed with oleanders, myrtles, mastic, and other evergreens, down to within a few yards of the breaking waves. Nothing could be prettier, and upon arrival within sight of Volokalida, about a mile and a half distant in the extreme end of a narrow valley, I directed my wife to a camping-place near the village, beneath some large and prominent caroub-trees, while I dismounted, and with my delighted dogs commenced a ramble over the low woods which covered the sides and hill-tops to our right and left. The walk was enjoyable; we had made fourteen miles from Trichomo, and upon reaching the perfectly flat tableland which formed the summit of the hills I had a splendid sea-view extending for many miles along the coast. The first object that attracted my attention was a large steamer stranded in a cove about a mile distant. She looked perfectly snug, but as only her lower masts were standing, and funnel gone, there could be no doubt of her misadventure. My binocular glass quickly showed that a portion of her bulwarks was carried away, and as no chain was visible to an anchor, she was in fact a wreck. As I made my way through the thick bushes Merry presently opened upon a scent, and Wise running in among the rocks, flushed a fine francolin partridge, which I shot. I then got a quail and a hare, and had no other chances, although the appearance of the country would have suggested an abundance of game. Upon nearing the seashore I saw that extensive sand-dunes had invaded the heights for many hundred yards, completely choking the vegetation and forming clumps or mounds of sand, topped by tufts of the shrubs that lay buried deep beneath. I walked along the fatiguing ground until I reached the shore exactly opposite the abandoned wreck, which lay within a cove, into which she had evidently been run for security.
My dogs found several hares among the clumps upon the sand-dunes, which gave them some exercise and amusement, but I did not obtain a shot.
Upon my arrival at the camping-place I found my wife surrounded by a large crowd of women and children beneath a shady tree, all of whom had brought presents of eggs and bouquets of wild flowers. It was difficult to persuade these good simple people that we did not require presents as an etiquette of introduction; they would insist upon placing their little offerings upon the ground, and leaving them if we declined to accept them. The principal wild flowers were cyclamen, narcissus, and anemone. The cyclamen completely covered the ground throughout all the low woods and thickets. I could only find two varieties, the snow-white, with claret-coloured centre, and the rose-colour; but the blossoms were quite equal in size to those usually grown in our glass-houses in England. We had passed through several hundred acres of open ground that were as white from the abundance of narcissus as an English meadow might be yellow from the presence of buttercups.
Our camp was pitched upon a small level plateau of rock, in the centre of which was a well, cut completely through the stone from top to bottom. It appeared to be about twenty-five feet deep, but was devoid of water and contained a considerable amount of rubbish. The people assured me that a dead Greek lay beneath, as a few years ago some Turks had killed one of their people and thrown him into the well; they had concealed the body by stones and rubbish, and no further steps had been taken in the matter. As a large crowd of children of both sexes were sitting round us doing nothing but stare, I set them to work to clear the surface ground from loose stones and to sweep the plateau clean with boughs from the wild cypress. When this was finished I gave them a scramble for several handfuls of copper coins upon the cleared area, to impress them pleasantly upon their work of cleanliness; this new game became very popular, and might be introduced by the British government with a certainty of gaining the admiration of the Cypriotes, especially during the collection of taxes; the latter being an Anglo-Turkish game which is not yet sufficiently appreciated.
The women were of the same type that we had seen in other districts, but they appeared sickly, and many of the children were extremely delicate. There was the usual protuberance of the abdomen to which I have before alluded; and I found upon examination of the children that an enlargement of the spleen was a chronic complaint. This is due to repeated attacks of ague. I drew the attention of the people to the so general mistake in this island of selecting a site for their villages in the most unhealthy localities. We were now camped upon a height about eighty feet above the valley, which resembled a basin beneath our feet; the village was on the lower level of this basin, and as near the level of the sea as possible. In heavy rains the valley became a temporary swamp, and it seemed unaccountable that human beings endowed with common sense should have selected the low ground instead of the immediate heights. The explanation was “that as the village was built of mud-bricks, the houses had been erected as near as possible to the source of the material, MUD!” to avoid the difficulty of carriage in the absence of carts.
The people were as usual dressed in cotton stuffs of home manufacture, and were ignorant of such a material as flannel; the children were only half-clad, and shivering; their food was generally raw, comprising olives, oil, onions, and wild vegetables, such as artichokes, wild mustard, and a variety of trash that in England would only be regarded as “weeds.” There were some pretty intelligent little girls and boys; some of these were chewing mastic gum, a white leathery substance which they gathered from incisions in the bark of this common shrub. My wife found fault with the neglect of cleanliness, as their teeth, although even, were totally uncared for. On the following morning they all assembled and exhibited a show of nice white teeth, as they had followed her advice and cleaned them with wood-ashes and their forefingers, in lieu of a toothbrush. We saw these children again a month afterwards upon our return, and they ran across the fields to meet us, at once opening their mouths to show that they had not forgotten the lesson, and that their teeth were properly attended to. I pitied all these poor people: they are downtrodden and miserable in mind and body. Instead of squeezing them for taxes they should be supported and encouraged by government assistance in every manner possible. Centuries of oppression and neglect in addition to a deceptive climate have rendered them the mere slaves of circumstances, but they exhibit a patience and stolid endurance which is beyond all praise; and when Cyprus shall belong absolutely to Great Britain, so that the Cypriotes shall feel that they are British subjects, they will become the most amenable and contented people in the Empire.
The usual difficulty exists in passing through this island which is felt by most English travellers in wild countries. The sick invariably assemble, believing that your medical knowledge will produce miraculous cures; and the lame, halt, and blind besiege you even cripples from their birth are brought by their hopeful mothers to receive something from your medicine-chest that will restore them to strength. It was in vain that I explained to these afflicted people that spleen-disease required a long course of medicine, and could not be cured in a day. It was equally in vain that I assured them that raw vegetables were unwholesome for children, and that sea-bathing was invigorating to the system: they hated bathing; so did the children; and they liked raw vegetables. I was obliged to give them some trifle which could neither do harm nor good; and they went away contented.
I now discovered from the head-men of the village the cause of the wreck which was lying in the bay. An Austrian steamer was conveying 1200 Circassians from Constantinople to some port on the coast of Asia Minor, when the wild horde of emigrants mutinied and threatened to murder the chief officers. The captain accordingly ran the vessel ashore upon this coast, having ordered the engineer to blow up the boilers.
A great number of the mutineers perished in the attempt to land, but the captain and officers were hospitably received by the people of Volokalida and forwarded to Famagousta. The vessel was pierced amidships by a rock that had completely impaled her, otherwise she might have been saved and repaired.
We left this village on March 4th, a heavy but welcome shower on the preceding day having laid the dust and freshened the vegetation. The route lay through a hilly and rocky country covered with the usual evergreens. We quickly lost our way and arrived at a complete cul-de-sac in the corner of a narrow swampy valley. Retracing our steps we met two men mounted on donkeys, who with extreme civility turned from their own direction and became our guides. We passed over a hill of solid crystallised gypsum, which sparkled in the sun like glass, and after a march of about ten miles through a lovely country we ascended to the plateau of Lithrankomi and halted at the monastery. The priest was an agreeable, well-mannered man, and as rain had begun to fall he insisted upon our accepting his invitation to await the arrival of our luggage under his roof. We visited his curious old church, which is sadly out of repair, and the mosaic, of a coarse description, which covered an arched ceiling, has mostly disappeared.
This was the most agreeable position that I had seen in Cyprus. A very extensive plateau about 400 feet above the sea formed a natural terrace for seven or eight miles, backed by the equally flat hill-tops which rose only half a mile behind the monastery. These were covered with the Pinus Maritima, none of which exceeded twenty feet in height, and resembled a thriving young plantation in England. From the flat pine-covered tableland I had a very beautiful view of the sea on either side this narrow portion of the island, and of the richly-wooded slopes both north and south, cut by deep and dark water-riven gorges, with white cliffs which descended to the shore. Villages and snow-white churches lay beneath in all directions, and the crops had a far more favourable appearance than those of the Messaria, as this portion of the country had experienced a superior rainfall.
It is much to be regretted that the total absence of roads excludes this district from general communication. We were struck by the fantastic scenery of deep ravines, rocks covered with evergreens of varying colours, and handsome caroub-trees which would have ornamented an English park; mulberry-trees were very numerous, but at this season they were barren of leaves; the only want lay in the absence of oranges and lemons, which the priest assured me would not thrive in this locality. For the last two months I had cordially detested Cyprus, but I was now converted to a belief that some portions of the country were thoroughly enjoyable, provided that a traveller could be contented with rough fare and be accustomed to the happy independence of a camp-life with a good tent and hardy servants. The temperature was a little too low for out-door existence, as it averaged 48 degrees at 7 A.M. and 54 degrees at 3 P.M., which is the hottest hour of the day; but we were all well, and free from colds; the servants had plenty of warm blankets, and the false floor that I had arranged added greatly to their comfort when camping upon the sodden ground.
I had become convinced that “the man of ability” Theodori had deceived me, and that it would be impossible for the two-wheeled carts, or any other conveyance, to travel through this country. Our last two marches had proved that not only would the delay be serious, but the luggage would be destroyed by the extreme jolting over rocks and ruts, which had already injured several of our boxes and broken some useful articles. Every package seemed to assume an individual vitality and to attack its neighbour; the sharp-cornered metal boxes endeavoured to tunnel through the cases of wine and liquors, which in retaliation bumped against and bruised their antagonists, and a few marches had already caused more mischief than a twelvemonth’s journey by camels. The priest assured me that it would be madness to attempt a march beyond Gallibornu, about eleven miles in advance, and that he doubted the possibility of the carts reaching that point, which certainly had never been visited by any wheeled conveyances. The honest, strong, but unintelligent driver Georgi was innocent, and he was at the time as ignorant as myself that the true object of the “man of ability” Theodori was to deal in cattle, which was his reason for persisting in accompanying me into the Carpas country and declaring that the route was practicable for carts. We left Lithrankomi on 5th March after a shower which made the earth slippery and the dangerous portions of the route rather exciting for the carts. The first two or three miles lay along the level terrace commanding a splendid view of the sea about four miles distant. We passed through several villages, and the crops looked well. At length we emerged upon a wild portion of the plateau which resembled a park, the surface being green and diversified by ornamental clumps of evergreens; upon our left was the cliff-like higher terrace which formed the table-top from which the usual huge blocks had been detached and fallen like inverted cottages to the lower level. The view on our right was exceedingly interesting, as we had now arrived upon the extreme verge of the terrace, which broke down suddenly into a horseshoe-shaped amphitheatre, the steep sides covered with bushes and trees, to the bottom of a valley some 300 feet below, which drained through a narrow and richly-wooded gorge into the neighbouring sea.
This scooping-out of the country was due to the action of water, and the same process was gradually wearing away the upper plateaux, which by absorbing rain became undermined as it percolated through and dissolved the marly substratum. The foundation of the rock surface being softened by the water, oozed in the form of mud, and was washed down the steep declivities, followed by the breaking-down of the unsupported upper stratum. This district was an admirable illustration of the decay and denudation of surface which has produced the plain of Messaria, to which I have already alluded, but as no sufficient area exists at a lower level the deposit of soil is carried to the sea. We now arrived at a dangerous pass that defied all attempts to descend by carts. A succession of zigzags at an inclination of about one foot in two and a half led down the soil of a cliff into a succession of exceedingly narrow valleys about three hundred feet below. In many places this narrow path had been washed away by the same natural process that was gradually reducing the upper level, and in the sharp angles of the zigzags there were awkward gaps with only a few inches of slippery soil rendered soapy by the morning’s rain, a slip of the original path having crumbled down the precipice below. The animals were wonderfully careful, and although a nervous person might have shuddered at some awkward points, both mule and ponies were thoroughly self-confident and safely carried us to the bottom. But the carts? These were making a circuit of some miles across country in the endeavour to discover a practicable route.
Although the way was difficult, it was the more agreeable as the scenery was extremely picturesque. The narrow valleys were without exception cultivated, which formed a striking contrast to the exceedingly wild heights by which they were surrounded, and I remarked that not a yard of available land was neglected, but that small and precipitous hollows were banked by rough stone walls, to retain the soil that would otherwise be washed away, and to form terraces of insignificant extent for the sake of cultivation. Our animals could amble at five or six miles an hour along these narrow bottoms, which made up for the delay in descending the bad places. My dogs were in the best spirits, as they had moved a considerable number of partridges during this morning’s march, and they heard the peculiar loud “chuck-a-chuck, chuck-a-chuck,” of the red-legs in all directions. As we advanced the hills increased in height, and we passed through a valley, bordered on the right by abrupt cliffs, forming a wall-like summit to the exceedingly steep slope beneath, which had been created by the debris from the wasting face of rock. This flat-topped height may have been about 500 feet above the valley, and the white cliff, which was quite perpendicular from the summit for about one hundred feet to the commencement of the steep green slope beneath, was in one place artificially scarped, and had been cut perfectly smooth like the wall of a stone building. In the centre of this smooth face we could plainly distinguish a square-cut entrance, to which an exceedingly narrow ledge cut in the rock formed a most dangerous approach, more adapted for wild cats than for human occupants. I halted to examine this with a good glass, and I could perceive that the greatest care had been taken in the formation of a smooth perpendicular front, and that the narrow ledge which formed the approach was a natural feature that had been artificially improved. There were several similar lines observable at unequal distances nearly parallel with each other: these were the natural limits of overlying strata in the sedimentary rock, which, as the general surface had fallen through decay, still preserved their character, and formed ledges. My guide assured us that the entire cliff was honey-combed by internal galleries, which had been constructed by the ancients as a place of refuge that would contain several thousand persons, and that a well existed in the interior, which from a great depth supplied the water. I have never seen a notice of this work in any book upon Cyprus, and I regret that I had no opportunity of making a close examination of the artificial cave, which, from the accounts I received, remains in a perfect state to the present moment.
It was a wild route to Gallibornu, through a succession of small valleys separated by wooded heights, and bounded by hills, either bare in white cliffs, or with steep slopes thickly covered with evergreens. We passed a few miserable villages, one of which was solely inhabited by gipsies, who came out to meet us clad in rags and extremely filthy, but the faces of the women were good-looking. We crossed numerous watercourses in the narrow bottoms between the hills; their steep banks were fringed with bushes which formed likely spots for woodcocks, but my dogs found nothing upon the route except a few partridges and francolin, although, as usual, they hunted throughout the march. After crossing a series of steep hills, and observing a marked contrast in the habits of the people, who constructed their dwellings upon the heights instead of in the unhealthy glens, we arrived in the closely pent-in valley that forms the approach to Gallibornu. This village is of considerable extent, and is inhabited exclusively by Turks. We entered the valley through a narrow gap between the hills, which on our left formed perpendicular cliffs, with the usual steep slopes of debris near the base. The upper cliffs, about 400 feet above the lower level, were marked with numerous parallel ledges and were full of blue-rock pigeons, which built their nests in the clefts and crevices; the summits of these heights were the table-tops which characterise this formation.
It was difficult to select a camping-place, as the valley would become mud in the event of heavy rains. We had experienced daily showers since we left Volokalida, and the lower grounds were damp; I disliked the immediate neighbourhood of a village, and the only available spot was rather dangerous, as it was situated upon a flattish knoll, so near the base of the cliff that enormous blocks of stone many tons in weight lay in all directions, which had fallen from the impending heights. I examined these, and found some that were comparatively recent; I had also observed upon our entrance to the valley that a great portion of the cliff face had lately fallen, forming an avalanche of rocks that would have destroyed a village: this my guide informed me was the result of last year’s excessive rain. I examined the heights above us with my glass, and observed some crags that Polyphemus would have delighted to hurl upon Acis when courting his Galatea; but as no Cyclops existed in this classical island I determined to risk the chances of a rock-displacement and to pitch the tent upon a flat surface among the fallen blocks. As a rule such localities should be avoided. It is impossible to calculate the probable downfall of a crag, which, having formed a portion of the cliff, has been undermined by the breaking away of lower rocks, and, overhanging the perpendicular, may be secure during dry weather, but may become dislodged in heavy rain, when the cement-like surroundings are dissolved: the serious vibration caused by thunder might in such conditions produce an avalanche. We dug a deep trench round the tents, as the weather looked overcast and stormy.
The village of Gallibornu was about half a mile beyond our camp at the extreme end of the valley, but situated on the heights. The people were extremely civil, and it would be difficult to determine the maximum degree of courtesy between the Turks and Greeks of Cyprus. I strolled with my dogs up the steep hill-sides, and the Turks, seeing that I was fond of shooting, promised to accompany me on the following morning to some happy hunting-ground, which, from my Cyprian experience, I believed was mythical.
On waking the next day I found the Turks, true to their promise, already assembled by the servants’ tent, and eight men were awaiting me with their guns. They had a sporting dog to assist them, which they described as “very useful for following a wounded hare; only it was necessary to be quick in securing it, otherwise the dog would eat it before your arrival.”
I advised them to leave this “useful dog” behind, as hostilities might be declared by my three English spaniels in the event of his swallowing a wounded hare. This being agreed to, we all started, and, crossing the valley, entered a gorge upon the other side. We now ascended naked hills of pure crystallised gypsum; the strata were vertical, and the perfectly transparent laminae were packed together like small sheets of glass only a few inches in width. It was easy to walk up the steep slopes of this material without slipping, as the exterior edges, having been exposed to the weather, had become rough, and were exactly like coarse glass placed edgeways. We spread out into a line of skirmishers extending up the hills upon both sides of the gorge, and quickly arrived in very likely ground covered with dwarf-cypress. Here the dogs immediately flushed partridges, and a Turk having wounded one, a considerable delay took place in searching for it at the bottom of a deep wooded hollow, but to no purpose. We now arrived at lovely ground within a mile of the sea, forming a long succession of undulations, covered, more or less, with the usual evergreen brushwood as far as the eye could reach. This uneven surface, broken by many watercourses, was about eighty feet above the water-level, and descended in steep rocky ledges to within a few hundred yards of the sea, where the lower ground was flat and alternated in open glades and thick masses of mastic scrub; the beach being edged by drift sand-dunes covered by the dense jungle of various matted bushes.
There was a fair amount of game in this locality, and had the Turks shot well we should have made a tolerable bag; but they did not keep a good line, and many birds went back without being shot at, while others were missed, and altogether the shooting was extremely wild. The sun was hot by the time we had concluded our beat; I had shot five brace and one hare, including some francolins; and the rest of the party had collectively bagged three brace. It was late in the season for shooting, but the birds were not all paired, and I have no doubt that in the month of September this portion of the island would afford fair sport, although no great bags could be expected. I was surprised at the absence of woodcocks; throughout my rambles in Cyprus I had only seen one, although they were cheap in the market of Larnaca. The fact is that every bird shot by the natives is sent straight for sale; therefore an immense area is hunted for the small supply required by the Europeans in the principal towns. Upon our return homewards we passed through a considerable space occupied by ancient ruins. Among the masses of stones and broken pottery were two stone sarcophagi, which appeared to have been converted into drinking-troughs for cattle. As with all the ruins of Cyprus, nothing of interest exists upon the surface, and the tombs having been for many centuries excavated and despoiled, it is probable that the sarcophagi had been brought to light by treasure-seekers many years ago.
As we approached Gallibornu by a mountain path the Turks assured me that we should find good drinking-water; we were all thirsty, including the dogs, who had drunk nothing for some hours. At length, at a considerable elevation between two hills, we reached a spring, and I was shown a well where the water was only a few feet from the surface. The Turks now pointed to the perpendicular face of a cliff and desired me to follow them; at the same time I could not understand their attempted explanations either by word or pantomime. We kept on an extremely narrow path which skirted the steep side of the slope, and presently arrived at a ledge about sixteen inches wide upon the perpendicular face of the cliff, which descended sheer for a considerable depth beneath. I was requested to leave my gun against a rock and to follow. It was all very well for these people, who knew exactly where they were going, but I had not the slightest idea of my destination, unless it should be the bottom of the cliff, which appeared to me most probable, if I, who was many inches broader in the shoulders than my guides, should be expected to join in the game of “follow the leader” upon a narrow ledge against the face of the rock which afforded no hold whatever. I was not so fond of climbing as I had been thirty years ago, and to my infinite disgust the ledge, which was already horribly small, became narrower as we proceeded. There was a nasty projecting corner to turn, and at this point I saw my guides look down below, and I fancied they were speculating upon the depth. Instead of this, the leader began to descend the perpendicular face by small ladder-like steps hewn in the rock, and in this manner gained another ledge not quite six feet below. We all reached this precarious shelf, and the guide, having turned, continued for some twenty or thirty yards in an exactly contrary direction to the ledge above us, by which we had just arrived; we were thus retracing our steps upon a similar ledge at a lower level. Suddenly the leader stopped, and stooping low, crept into a square aperture that had been carefully cut out of the rock face to form an entrance. This passage inclined slightly inwards, and after a few paces forward, with the body curved in the uncomfortable form of a capital C, we arrived in a spacious gallery cut into a succession of arches, the centre of which was six feet high. A small window, about three feet by two, was cut through the rock to admit light and air, from which I could with a rifle have completely commanded the glen below and the approach to the left. There was no ledge beneath the window, but simply the sheer precipice of the smooth cliff, and there was no other approach to this extraordinary place of refuge except that by which we had arrived. The gallery was neatly cut, and extended for an unknown distance: several other galleries, arched in the same manner and of the same size, branched off at right angles with that we had entered. I was led to a well, which was represented as being deep, and I was informed that the hill was perforated with similar galleries, all of which communicated with each other. I much regretted that we were unprovided with candles; one of the Turks lighted a match, but it only served to increase the uncertainty of the surrounding darkness.
This must be a similar cave-refuge to that we had passed about four miles distant when on our way from Lithrankomi to Gallibornu, and it deserves a minute investigation. As I could see nothing beyond about thirty feet from the window, owing to the darkness, I cannot give any account of the actual dimensions, which may be much inferior to the unlimited descriptions of my informants. Upon my return to camp I had the benefit of my interpreter, and the story was repeated that no one knew the extent of the excavations, either of these galleries or those we had passed during our journey. I have never seen a very large natural cave in Cyprus, although the caverns beneath the superficial stratum of sedimentary rock are so general. The presence of these hollows, and the soft nature of the calcareous stone, has suggested artificial caves to the ancients, both for tombs and for places of refuge. Before the invention of gunpowder it would have been impossible to reduce a fort such as I have described, except by starvation. A mine sunk vertically from above would in the present day destroy the subterranean stronghold at the first explosion.
It rained more or less every day during our stay at Gallibornu, and thunder rolled heavily in the neighbourhood; but in the narrow valley between lofty hills the sky view was so limited that it was impossible to judge of the impending weather. The earth was too slippery for camels, which I had engaged with an excellent Turk, who for some years had been a zaphtieh, therefore it was necessary to wait patiently until the surface should become dry. I amused myself with wandering over the hills with my dogs, examining the rocks, and shooting sufficient game for our own use. I could generally bag enough for my lad to carry home conveniently over this rugged country, and a hare or two in addition to partridges were more appreciated when stewed than when carried up the precipitous hills. I never tasted any game so delicious as the Cyprian hares; they are not quite so red or curly as the European species, but the flesh is exceedingly rich, and possesses a peculiarly gamey flavour, owing to the aromatic food upon which they live. It is difficult to obtain a shot in the thick coverts of mastic bush, and without dogs I do not think I should have shot one, as they were generally in dense thickets upon the mountain sides, through which beaters could have hardly moved.
The high cliffs above us formed an excellent example of an old sea-bottom, showing–the various strata of sedimentary deposits at different periods. I made a collection of fossil shells, which were in great numbers but in limited variety, and chiefly bivalves.
Although the village of Gallibornu was more important in size than many we had passed, there was a total lack of supplies. It was impossible to purchase bread, and we were obliged to send messengers to considerable distances to procure flour, which we subsequently employed a woman to bake. The people generally were very poor throughout the country, and the cultivated area appeared insufficient for the support of the population. Every yard of land was ploughed, but the entire valley of Gallibornu was fallowed, and did not possess one blade of corn, as the soil required rest after the yield of the previous season. None of these people have an idea respecting a succession of crops in scientific rotation, therefore a loss is sustained by the impoverishment of the ground, which must occasionally lie inactive to recover its fertility. There is absolutely no provision whatever for the cattle in the shape of root-crops or hay, but they trust entirely to the bruised barley-straw and such seeds as the cotton and lentil. At this season the Carpas district possessed an important advantage in the variety of wild vegetables which afforded nourishment for man and beast; the valleys teemed with wild artichokes and with a variety of thistles, whose succulent stems were a favourite food for both oxen and camels.
The leaf-stems of the artichokes were peeled and eaten raw by the inhabitants, but as these people are accustomed to consume all kinds of uncooked vegetables and unripe fruits few civilised persons would indulge in the Cypriote tastes. We found the artichoke stems uneatable in a raw state, but remarkably good when peeled and stewed, with a sauce of yolk of egg beaten up with oil, salt, pepper, and lemon-juice; they were then quite equal to sea-kale. There is a general neglect in the cultivation of vegetables which I cannot understand, as agriculture is the Cypriote’s vocation; it can hardly be called laziness, as they are most industrious in their fields, and expend an immense amount of labour in erecting stone walls to retain a small amount of soil wherever the water-wash from a higher elevation brings with it a deposit. The insignificant terraces thus formed by earth caught in its descent while in solution appear disproportioned to the labour of their construction, and the laborious system would suggest an extreme scarcity of land suitable for agricultural operations. I believe this to be the case, and that a serious mistake has been made in assuming that the Crown possesses large areas of land that may eventually become of great value. There are government lands, doubtless, of considerable extent, but I question their agricultural importance, and whenever the ordnance-map of the island shall be completed a wild confusion will be discovered in the discrepancy of title-deeds with the amount of land in possession of the owners. I have, whilst shooting in the wild tracts of scrub-covered hills and mountains, frequently emerged upon clearings of considerable extent, where the natives have captured a fertile plot and cleared it for cultivation, far away from the eyes of all authorities.
I believe that squatting has been carried on for many years, as during the Turkish administration a trifling annual present would have closed the eyes of the never-too-zealous official who by such an oversight could annually improve his pay. Land suitable for cultivation cannot possibly be in excess of the demand, when plots of only a few yards square are carefully formed by the erection of stone walls to retain the torrent-collected soil.
We were pestered with beggars throughout this district, and even the blind saw their opportunity; their number was distressing, and they could not account in any way for the prevalence of ophthalmia. Some endeavoured to explain the cause by referring it to the bright reflection from the sea, to which they were so frequently exposed; I assured them that sailors were seldom blind, and they proved the rule. Dirty habits, dwellings unwashed, heaps of filth lying around their houses and rotting in their streets, all of which during the hot dry summer is converted into poisonous dust, and, driven by the wind, fills the eyes, which are seldom cleansed–these are the natural causes which result in ophthalmia.
The new camels were ready, and with six of these animals we left Gallibornu and felt relieved to have parted with the carts, as for several marches they had caused great delay and inconvenience. Although Theodori had deceived me by agreeing to conduct us direct to Cape St. Andrea I did not like to discharge the thick-headed but innocent Georgi, therefore I offered to pay them a certain sum which they themselves named, per day, for the keep of their oxen, provided they should return with their empty carts to Lithrankomi (one march) and await my return there; after which, we would resume the original contract, and their oxen would once more draw the vans from their station at Kuklia.
This was an extra expense, as the camels were now engaged in lieu of carts, notwithstanding that I should have to pay for the oxen; on the other hand, these animals were beautiful specimens of their kind, and were thoroughly accustomed to the gipsy-van, therefore it was advisable to retain them. The two owners were delighted with the arrangement, and we started for Cape St. Andrea, while they were to return to Lithrankomi.
The country was now thoroughly enjoyable; the recent daily showers had freshened all vegetation, and the earth was a carpet of wild flowers, including scarlet ranunculus, poppies, a very pretty dwarf yellow cistus resembling bunches of primroses, cyclamen, narcissus, anemones–purple, white, and a peculiarly bright yellow variety.
The route from Gallibornu was extremely wild and picturesque, combining hills, glens, and occasional short glimpses of the sea between the gorges which cleft the precipitous range upon our right. The rounded and sparkling tops of gypsum hills were common for the first few miles; emerging from these, we threaded a ravine, and arrived upon the sea beach, and continued for a considerable distance upon the margin of the shore; the animals scrambling over fallen rocks and alternately struggling through the deep sand and banks of sea-weed piled by a recent gale. We now entered upon the first pure sandstone that I had seen; this was a coffee-brown, and formed the substratum of the usual sedimentary limestone which capped the surface of the hill-tops. The appearance was peculiar, as the cliffs of brown sandstone were crusted for a depth of about eight or ten feet by the white rock abounding with fossil shells, while the substratum of hard sand was perfectly devoid of all traces of organic matter. The upheaval of a sea-bottom was clearly demonstrated. As the sandstone had decayed, vast fragments of the surface rock had broken down when undermined and had fallen to the base of the steep inclines, from the interstices of which a dense growth of evergreens produced an agreeable harmony of colouring, combining various shades of green with brown cliffs and white masses of disjointed limestone. The deep blue of the sea was a beautiful addition to this wild scenery, and after threading our way sometimes between narrow gorges, at other places along sequestered glens which exhibited young crops of cereals and cultivated olive-trees, we at length arrived at a halting-place upon the seashore, where a well of excellent water about ten feet from the surface had been sunk upon the sea-beach within fifty yards of the waves.
This was the best camping-ground we had had in Cyprus; for the first time we stood upon real turf, green with recent showers, and firmly rooted upon a rich sandy loam. A cultivated valley lay a few hundred yards beyond us, completely walled in by high hills covered with wild olives, arbutus, and dwarf-cypress, and fronted by the sea. Some fine specimens of the broad-headed and shady caroub-trees gave a park-like appearance to the valley, through which a running stream entered from a ravine among the hills, and, winding through deep banks covered with myrtles and oleanders, expended itself upon the shingly beach in the centre of the bay. This sheltered cove, about 300 yards across the chord of the arc, formed rather more than a semicircle by the natural formation of the coast, and was further improved by a long reef of hard sandstone, which extended from either point like an artificial breakwater.
At first sight the little bay was a tempting refuge, but upon closer examination I observed ominous dark patches in the clear water, which betokened dangerous reefs, and other light green portions that denoted sandy shallows. The cove is useful for the native small craft, but would be unsuitable to vessels of more than seven feet draught of water. I had observed that francolins were more numerous since we had arrived upon the sandstone formation, and the cock birds were calling in all directions; the locality was so inviting that we felt inclined to remain for a few days in such a delightful spot; but the season was too far advanced for shooting, and I therefore confined myself to killing only what was absolutely necessary for our food, and I invariably selected the cock-birds of francolins. I do not think these birds pair like the partridge, but I believe the cock is polygamous, like the pheasant, as I generally found that several hens were in his neighbourhood. It is a beautiful game bird, the male possessing a striking plumage of deep black and rich brown, with a dark ring round the neck. It is quite a different variety to the mottle-breasted species that I have met with in Mauritius, Ceylon, and the double-spur francolin that I have shot in Africa. It is considerably larger than the common partridge, but not quite so heavy as the red-legged birds of Cyprus, although when flying it appears superior. The flesh is white and exceedingly delicate, and it is to be regretted that so valuable a game bird is not introduced into England. I generally found the francolin in the low scrub, although I have often shot it either in the cultivated fields or in the wild prickly low plants upon the open ground which have been misnamed heather. The habits of this bird have nothing in common with those of the red-legged partridge, as it is never found upon the bare rocky hill-sides, which are the general resort of the latter annoying species, and although the scrub bush may contain both, there is a marked difference in their character. The red-leg is a determined runner, and therefore a bad game bird for the shooter, as it will run ahead when first disturbed and rise far beyond shot range, instead of squatting like the grey partridge and permitting a sporting shot. The francolin is never found upon the bare hill-sides, neither is it a runner in the open, although it will occasionally trouble the dogs in the bush by refusing to rise until they have followed it for some distance, precisely as pheasants will run in covert until halted by the “stops” or by a net. I am not sure of the power of resistance to cold possessed by the francolins, as they are seldom met with upon the higher mountains in Cyprus, but are generally found upon the inferior altitudes and low grounds: still the hazel-huhn of Austria is a species of francolin which resists the intense cold of a central-European winter.
Only one march remained to the extreme eastern limit of Cyprus, Cape St. Andrea, distant fourteen miles. The country was exactly similar to that which we had recently passed through, and although alike, it could hardly be called monotonous, as the eye was never fatigued. The few inhabitants were poor to the last degree; the dwellings were mere hovels. We passed deep holes in the ground, the sides of which were baked by fire, so as to resemble earthen jars about ten feet deep and seven in diameter, with a small aperture; these were subterranean granaries, the sure sign of insecurity before the British occupation. The flat-topped hovels had the usual roofs of clay and chopped straw, and projected two or three feet as eaves beyond the walls, which were of stone and mud, exhibiting the crudest examples of masonry. The projecting eaves were curiously arranged by hooks of cypress, like single-fluked anchors laid horizontally, which retained beams, upon which the mud and straw were laid; the heavy weight of the earthen roof upon the long shanks of these anchors prevented the eaves from overbalancing. Enormous heaps of manure and filth were deposited opposite the entrance of each dwelling, and in the Christian villages the most absurd pigs ran in and out of the hovels, or slept by the front door, as though they were the actual proprietors. These creatures were all heads and legs, and closely resembled the black and white representative of the race well known to every child in the Noah’s Ark.
It was rather disheartening to approach the extremity of the island, and upon entering a long narrow valley our guide assured us that although no apparent exit existed, we should ascend a precipitous path and immediately see the point of Cape St. Andrea. The valley narrowed to a point without any visible path. A few low hills covered with bush were backed by cliff-like heights of about 300 feet also clothed by evergreens. Upon our right, just below the steep ascent, were sand-dunes and the sea. We now observed the narrow streak of white upon the hillside, amidst the green which marked the path. We had left the brown sandstone, and once again were upon the white calcareous rock. Our animals could barely ascend the steep incline, and several times we halted them to rest; at length we reached the summit, the flat rocky table above the valley. The view was indeed lovely; we looked down upon the white monastery of Cape St. Andrea, two miles distant, and upon the thin eastern point of Cyprus about the same distance beyond, stretching like a finger from a hand into the blue sea: the elevation from the high point upon which we stood gradually inclining downwards to the end of all things. A short distance from the cape were two or three small rocky islands and reefs protruding from the sea, as though the force of the original upheaval had originated from the west, and had expended itself at the extreme east, where the heights above the sea-level had gradually diminished until the continuation became disjointed, and the island terminated in a sharp point, broken into dislocated vertebrae which formed islets and reefs, the last hardly appearing above the waves. This ended Cyprus on the east. The lofty coast of Asia Minor was distinctly visible.
CAPE ST. ANDREA.
The promontory of Cape St. Andrea at the broadest portion is about five miles, and from this base to the extreme end is nearly the same distance. The whole surface is rocky, but the interstices contain a rich soil, and at one time it was covered with valuable timber. There is no portion of the island that presents a more deplorable picture of wholesale destruction of forests, as every tree has been ruthlessly cut down, and the present surface is a dense mass of shrubs and young cypress, which if spared for fifteen years will again restore this extremity of Cyprus to prosperity. I examined the entire promontory, and ascended the rocky heights, about 500 feet above the sea upon the north side. It was with extreme difficulty that I could break my way through the dense underwood, which was about seven or eight feet high, as it was in many places more than knee-deep in refuse boughs, which had been lopped and abandoned when the larger trees had been felled. The largest stumps of these departed stems were not more than from nine to twelve inches in diameter: these were the dwarf-cypress, which would seldom attain a greater height than twenty feet at maturity.
Fine caroubs had shared the fate of all others, and many of the old stumps proved the large size of this valuable tree, which, as both fruit-producing and shade-giving, should be sacred in the usually parched island of Cyprus. At an elevation of about 350 feet above the sea a spring of water issues from the ground and nourishes a small valley of red soil, which slopes downwards towards the monastery, two miles distant. The shrubs were vividly green, and formed so dense a crest that several partridges which I shot remained sticking in the bushes as they fell. I never saw such myrtles as those which occupied the ravines, through which it was quite impossible to force a way. The principal young trees were Pinus maritima, dwarf-cypress, mastic, caroub, arbutus, myrtle, and wild olive. The name Cupressus horizontalis has been given to the dwarf-cypress, but in my opinion it is not descriptive of the tree: a cypress of this species, if uninjured, will grow perfectly straight in the central stem for a height of twenty feet without spreading horizontally. It is probable that the misnomer has been bestowed in ignorance of the fact that an uninjured tree is seldom met with, and that nearly every cypress has been mutilated for the sake of the strong tough leader, which, with one branch attached, will form the one-fluked anchor required for the roofs of native dwellings already described. In the absence of its leader the tree extends laterally, and becomes a Cupressus horizontalis. The wood of this species is extremely dense and hard, and when cut it emits a resinous and aromatic scent; it is of an oily nature, and extremely inflammable. The grain is so close that, when dry, it somewhat resembles lignum vitae (though of lighter colour), and would form a valuable material for the turner. There are two varieties of cypress in this island; the second has been erroneously called a “cedar” by some travellers, and by others “juniper.” This tree is generally met with, at altitudes varying from three to six thousand feet, upon the Troodos range; it seldom exceeds a height of thirty feet, but attains a girth of six or even seven. The wood is by no means hard, and possesses a powerful fragrance, closely resembling that of cedar (or of cedar and sandal-wood combined), which may have given rise to the error named. It splits with facility, and the peculiar grain and brownish-red colour, combined with the aroma, would render it valuable for the cabinet-maker in constructing the insides of drawers, as insects are believed to dislike the smell. The foliage of this species exactly resembles that of the Cupressus horizontalis. The cedar may possibly have existed at a former period and have been destroyed, but I should be inclined to doubt the theory, as it would surely have been succeeded by a younger growth from the cones, that must have rooted in the ground like all those conifers which still would flourish were they spared by the Cypriote’s axe. The native name for the cypress is Kypreses, which closely resembles the name of the island according to their pronunciation Kypris. The chittim-wood of Scripture, which was so much esteemed, may have been the highly aromatic cypress to which I have alluded.
After a ramble of many hours down to the monastery upon the rocky shore, along the point, and then returning through the woods over the highest portions of the promontory, I reached our camp, which commanded a view of the entire southern coast with its innumerable rocky coves far beyond telescopic distance. From this elevation I could distinguish with my glass the wreck of the stranded steamer in the bay at Volokalida. We were camped on the verge of the height that we had ascended by the precipitous path from the lower valley. As the country was a mass of dry fire-wood we collected a large quantity, and piled two heaps, one for the camel-owners and the servants, and another before the door of our own tent to make a cheerful blaze at night, which is a luxury of the bivouac seldom to be enjoyed in other portions of this island. While we were thus engaged an arrival took place, and several people suddenly appeared upon the summit of the pass within a few yards of our tent. An old woman formed one of the party, and a handsome but rather dirty-looking priest led the way on a remarkably powerful mule. Upon seeing us he very courteously dismounted, and I at once invited him to the tent. It appeared that this was the actual head of the monastery and the lord of all the promontory who was thus unexpectedly introduced. Cigarettes, coffee, and a little good cognac quickly cheered the good and dusty priest (who had travelled that day from some place beyond Rizo-Carpas), and we established a mutual confidence that induced him to give me all the information of his neighbourhood.
I had observed hundreds of cattle, goats, sheep, and many horses, donkeys, &c., wandering about the shrub-covered surface during my walk, and I was now informed that all these animals were the property of the monastery. These tame creatures are the objects described in some books upon Cyprus as “the wild oxen and horses of the Carpas district, the descendants of original domestic animals”! The monastery of Cape St. Andrea forms an exception to all others in being perfectly independent, and beyond all control of bishops. This wild country, far from all roads, and forming the storm-washed extreme limit of the island, was considerately out of the way of news, and the monk was absolutely ignorant of everything that was taking place in the great outer world. He had heard that such mischievous things as newspapers existed, but he had never seen one, neither had that ubiquitous animal the newspaper-correspondent ever been met with in the evergreen jungles of Cape St. Andrea. His monastery was his world, and the poor inhabitants who occupied the few miserable huts within sight of his church were his vassals. Although the bell of the monastery tolled and tinkled at the required hours, he informed me that “nobody ever attended the service, as the people were always engaged in looking after their animals.” During the conversation a sudden idea appeared to have flashed upon him, and starting from his seat, he went quickly to his mule, and making a dive into the large and well-filled saddle-bags, he extracted an enormous wine-bottle that contained about a gallon; this he triumphantly brought to us and insisted upon our acceptance. It was in vain that we declined the offering; the priest was obdurate, and he placed the bottle against the entrance of the tent, which, if any one should have unexpectedly arrived, would have presented a most convivial appearance.
Upon questioning the good monk respecting the destruction of forests upon his domain, he informed me that “during the Turkish administration he had been annually pillaged by hundreds of vessels which arrived from the neighbouring coasts of Asia Minor and of Egypt for the express purpose of cutting timber to be sold by weight as fire-wood at their various ports. He had protested in vain, there were no police, nor any means of resistance at Cape St. Andrea, therefore the numerous crews had defied him; and small presents from the owners of the vessels to the Pacha at headquarters were sufficient to ensure immunity.” I asked him “why they wasted so much excellent fire-wood, and left the boughs to hamper the surface?” He replied, “that as the wood was sold by weight, the dealers preferred to cut the thick stems, as they packed closely on board the vessels, and, being green, they weighed heavy; therefore they rejected the smaller wood and left it to rot upon the ground.” He declared “that on several occasions the crews had quarrelled, and that from pure spite they had set fire to the thick mass of dried boughs and lighter wood which had spread over the surface, and destroyed immense numbers of young trees.” I had observed that large tracts had been burnt during the preceding year. He was delighted at the English occupation, as his property would now be protected, and in a few years the trees would attain a considerable size.
Having passed an interesting afternoon with the new ecclesiastical acquaintance, and tasted, immediately after his departure, the contents of his enormous bottle (which was as instantly presented, as a “great treat,” to the servants), we lighted our big bonfires, and enjoyed the blaze like children, although the showers of red sparks threatened the destruction of the tent in the absence of Captain Shaw and the London Fire Brigade. After this temporary excitement in this utter-lack-of-incident-and-everyday-monotonous-island, the fires gradually subsided, and we all went to sleep. There is no necessity in Cyprus for sentries or night-watchers, the people are painfully good, and you are a great deal too secure when travelling. As to “revolvers!” I felt inclined to bury my pistols upon my first arrival, and to inscribe “Rest in peace” upon the tombstone. It would be just as absurd to attend church in London with revolvers in your belt as to appear with such a weapon in any part of Cyprus. Mine were carefully concealed in some mysterious corner of the gipsy-van; where they now lie hidden.
We had been two days at Cape St. Andrea, and it was necessary to right-about-face, as we could go no farther. The monk proposed to guide us to Rizo-Carpas, the capital of the Carpas district; therefore on 14th