2nd Feb 1832

St Jago
We started by day-break on a riding excursion to St Domingo. For the first 5 miles the road passed over one of the numerous plains of table-land. The country here has not quite so sterile an appearance owing to the stunted Acacia trees which are sparing scattered over its faces. These trees are curiously bent by the prevailing wind and I should think formed an excellent average wind vane for the Island. Their direction is exactly NE and SW (magnetic), and by its force their tops are often bent into an exact right angle. At the foot of a pyramidal hill of scoriae I tied up my pony to examine the rocks. The road makes so little impression on the barren soil, that we here missed our track and took that to Fuentes. This we did not find out till we arrived there, and we were afterwards very glad of our mistake. Fuentes is a pretty village with a small stream and everything appears to prosper well. Excepting indeed that which ought to do so most — its inhabitants — the black children, perfectly naked and looking very wretched, were carrying bundles of fire wood half as big as their own bodies. The men and women badly clothed looked much overworked. We gladly left Fuentes and passed along a wild narrow road to St. Domingo, which lay about a league to the East.

Before we arrived at Fuentes, we saw a large flock of the wild Guinea fowl: they were extremely wary and would not allow us to approach them near. Their manner of avoiding us was like that of Partridges on a rainy day in September, no sooner do they alight than with their heads cocked up they run away and then if approached fly again. On approaching St Domingo a turn in the road first showed us the background of wild peaked rocks. their forms are most fantastic; one part looks like a castle wall, others like towers and pyramids. Every thing betrays marks of extreme violence: and which is better shown by the rocks being in horizontal beds. As the road approaches the sides of the hill or precipice, the town and valley of St Domingo are seen. I can imagine no contrast more striking than that of its bright vegetation against the black precipices that surround it. A clear brook gives a luxuriance to the spot that no other part of the Island would lead you to expect. Nothing has surprised me so much as the very dark green of the oranges. Some tropical forms can easily be imagined either from hot-house specimens or from drawings, but neither such as Bananas, but I do not think any adequate idea of the beauty of Oranges or Cocoa Nut trees can be formed without actually seeing them on their own proper soil.

We had an introduction to a most hospitable Portugeese, who treated us most kindly and feasted us with a most substantial dinner of meat cooked with various sorts of herbs and spices, and Orange Tart. This man is a principal owner of the plantation and apparently lives in great comfort: his house is simple, but he has perhaps the Utopian felicity of growing every thing he wants on his own ground. We were told there was a lake about 2 miles from St. Domingo. After dinner we started to see, and followed a path by the side of a brook. On each side were flourishing Bananas, Sugar Cane, Coffee, Guavas, Cocoa Nuts, and numberless wild flowers. None can guess conceive such delight but those who fond of Natural history have seen such scenes. We at last arrived at the lake: one certainly on the smallest scale, for it was not 20 feet across, by such great names in this dry country do they designate a small puddle of fresh water.

After again and again admiring this beautiful and retired valley, we returned to our ponys, and wishing our most hospitable entertainer ‘buenas dias’, we took the direct road for Praya. The day was a grand feast day and the village very full of people. A little distance out of it we overtook about 20 young black girls, dressed in most excellent taste, their black skins and snow white linen were adorned with a gay coloured turbans and large shawls. When we approached them they suddenly all turned round and covered the path with their shawls, they sung with great energy a wild song: beating time with their hands upon the legs. We threw them some Vintem, which were received with screams of laughter, and we left them redoubling the noise of their song. We arrived after it was dark at Praya and with our tired ponys had some difficulty in picking out our way.-

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