Page images

From The Nineteenth Century.

a certain locality and were frequently AMONG THE LIARS.

shot by shepherds; there was a mule Although the names of Canea and track right across the island, and there the surrounding villages have become would be no difficulty in keeping ourhousehold words, and are now impor- selves supplied with provisions. tant factors in contemporary history, Thanks to Sir Alfred's courtesy and it is only during the last few months assistance, we were able to leave for that they have sprung into such promi- the interior on the day following that nence. At the time I visited the coun- of our arrival. Some little difficulty try, about two years ago, very few was experienced in clearing our bagpeople knew anything about Crete at gage at the custom house, ostensibly ali, except that St. Paul suffered ship- because it was Friday and Turks could wreck there or thereabouts, and that not work on that day; but the time the population were liars and other. honored remedy of baksheesh salved wise undesirable acquaintances. Ac- the consciences of the douane, and we counts of revolutions in the island were got our boxes and men on the road by occasionally given in the newspapers, eleven, we ourselves following three but they excited little interest.

hours later, mounted on a sorry-looking Canea is not an easy spot for the or

trio of mules. dinary traveller to reach. The writer As we passed through the high street was away from England a little over a of Canea we were struck by the nummonth, and during that time travelled ber of shops which sold nothing but on no less than seven different steam- long yellow Wellington boots, and ers and passed through thirteen cus- could not understand why this particutom houses. Boats run twice a week la: industry should hold such a promifrom Athens viâ Candia and Retimo, nent position. After two or three days on uncertain days and at a very mod- in the mountains this feeling of surerate speed, and this is the only way of prise was entirely supplanted, as we reaching the island.

inspected our own footgear, by one of My companion was one well known wonder that there were anything but in the world of sport and a frequent boot shops in the country. A pair of contributor to these pages; yet with thick new tennis shoes (the only shoes all his experience to assist us we were suitable to these hills) were in pieces doomed to return empty-handed-in- within the week, and our servants deed, without firing a shot. The at- thick native boots were torn to ribbons. traction for us in the island lay in the Next to the boot trade, the most reputed existence of the Cretan ibex flourishing industry appeared to be (Capra ægagrus) or "agrimia” in the that of the green grocer-endless varieprecipitous mountains on the south ties of salad being exposed for sale coast. We were unable to get any in- throughout the town. A great number formation with reference to the animal of skins of light-colored gennet or pineexcept from the pages of Pliny and narten were hanging in one doorway, vague references by other travellers but we never ran across the animal of less antiquity. We were unable to himself. A Frenchman, living in the find that any European had ever shot town, told us that he had shot hares, them, and it was not until we landed quail, woodcock, snipe, and partridges; at Candia and found the horns and but, with the exception of a few parhide of a young buck hanging on the tridges and rock-doves, we saw neither back of an old “fakir” that we felt fur nor feather during our visit. really sure of the existence of our Riding out of the gates of the town, quarry. On our arrival two days later we passed through the inevitable at Canea, however, Mr. (now Sir Al- "leper farm,” the poor creatures being fred) Biliotti, H. B. B. Consul, gave us under the care of Dr. Joannitis, a Crea most encouraging account: the agri- tan gentleman educated in England mia were said to be fairly plentiful in and holding a British medical diploma, who has devoted his life to the study going out of a door is the open chimof leprosy. He was much pleased to ney of the house below, and it was a meet Englishmen and to have the op- marvel to us why these good people portunity of talking English, a luxury did not sometimes find an unexpected he only enjoys when the fleet is at addition to their meals, in the shape of Suda Bay.

a junior member of the neighbor's famA rough road running between aloe ily who had made an involuntary dehedges and olive groves led up to the scent into the pot! valley of the Platanos River towards The house where we dined was that Lakhos, about twelve miles distant. of the chief inhabitant. The room was The hillsides were studded with small a good big one, about eight feet high, villages of from fifteen to forty white clean, with "dope" walls. A large bed houses, a small minaret or tiny church with clean coverlet and a hand-loom tower proclaiming the prevailing re- stood in one corner, the rest being bare. ligion. They looked very bright and An interested crowd watched and dissmiling as they nestled in the sun cussed us with respectful attention till among their olive and orange groves, we finished an excellent repast; the and it was only on looking higher that only good one, by the way, that the one saw the ridges studded at intervals cook ever prepared for us, and on the with "pyrgi,” or blockhouses, and could strength of which he got royally drunk realize that this peaceful agricultural and gave away all of our cigarettes country was not always so placid, and and tobacco. Then the crowd closed that civil war had devastated and in, and we endeavored, with the aswould again devastate this most pro- sistance of a slender Cretan vocabuductive district. The tracts of land lary and a cast-iron English pronunciaon the north coast which have been tion, to interview our hosts. We met thrown out of cultivation also tell their with but slight success, the only portale of Turkish tax-farming; the more tion of the conversation worthy of note inaccessible interior being the only por being an endeavor, on the part of the tion of the island where agricultural mayor, to demonstrate the habitat and produce can be grown at a profit, ow- habits of the agrimia by means of an ing to the disinclination of the tax- orange, the cups, and the table cutlery. collectors to visit these out-of-the-way From this we gathered that they fed in localities!

the open and then retired to the bush, Twelve miles from the coast the path which was plentiful. This, alas! was left the river-bed and wound in a steep amply demonstrated by our subsequent ascent

the hillside. As we experience. After an hour or so of this mounted this acclivity a more extended very fatiguing conversation we were view was afforded, and we were able conducted to the spot where our tents to observe the ingenuity of the natives were pitched; a most alarming walk it in utilizing every corner of ground, the was, in the dark, up a very narrow most inaccessible-looking patches be- path along the side of the hill. Soon icg planted with vines or olives. We after we got to bed we discovered that reached Lakhos, two thousand feet the mayor, in mistaken kindness, had above the sea, long after dark, and honored us with a double sentry over with difficulty found the house where tents. These two good people the cook had prepared dinner. To chatted, smoked, stumbled about, and reach it was a feat of no small danger laughed in such a way as to banish all as the village is pitched at an inclina- chance of rest, until at abo midnight tion of about forty-five degrees; the they and we dropped of simultaneously houses standing out, one above the to sleep. other, like steps. Conversation with Next morning we were up at cockthe next-door neighbor is carried on up crow, hoping to make an early start. or down the cbimney, as the case may In this we were disappointed. The be. The first object encountered on muleteers mostly had relations in the




village and showed a disinclination to creasing darkness and steepness made load up and go; while the cook was further progress almost impossible and lying among the débris of his kitchen I returned. utensils in semi-comatose state, As soon as the baggage came up and gradually recovering from his excesses we had had some food we started to of the previous evening. His name, by spy out the land and get some idea of the way, was Polyzoës Pikodopoulos, the lie of the country, with a view to and it is too much to expect of any one making plans for the following day. to own such a name without having The direction I went in was evidently ary compensating disadvantages! The not that in which the ibes lay, as we villagers were anxious to be of assist- saw no signs of them either on or beance and were most civil. These high-low the snow. My companion on his landers are tall, handsome, jolly fel- side saw two lots with the glass, in lows, looking more like Englishmen what looked practicable country, so than any other race I ever saw. They next morning we went off together in were neither arrogant nor cringing, but the direction where he had seen them. treated us as honored guests of their A three-mile walk brought us to a own standing.

sinall dismantled “Martello" tower It was nine o'clock before we had commanding an abrupt descent into a sobered “Poly” and collected the men, deep gorge. Looking over the edge it and we then rode on in front of the seemed impossible that a path should caravan to the elevated plain of Oma- be able to find its way down such a los. About five hours' steady ascent, precipice to the torrent roaring along partly over unrideable masses of rough the bottom some two thousand feet boulders, brought us to our destination: below us. Not three years ago this a little cluster of shepherds' huts lying path, which is known as the “Silosat one end of the plateau. To our dis- kala” or “Wooden Stair-case," was abappointment these

inhabited. solutely impracticable for mules, and They are used by the shepherds in the it is only since the Turkish governsummer while their sheep are feeding ment spent a lot of money in restoring on the Omalos pastures, and in the it, that the connection in this portion , winter snows are deserted, the flocks of the island has been re-established being taken to lower grðund. The between the north and south coasts. snow was only just gone, and reached The gorge into which the Xiloskala down the surrounding mountain sides descends is about ten miles in length, to within a few hundred feet of the with a right-angled bend in it, at which plain. As we were now at an altitude point the path is situated. It is in no of about four thousand, five hundred place more than a mile in width at the feet we were glad of the thick clothes top, and seldom less than two thousand we had taken the precaution of bring- feet deep. The mountains on each side ing, and even under piles of bedding tower to an altitude of from six thouand waterproof sheets suffered very sand to eight thousand feet. The much from the cold at night.

views in all parts are magnificent and In the neighborhood of Omalos there can be compared to nothing but the are several similar elevated plateaus Yosemite Valley, though of course on a having a number of streams running smaller scale vertically. The sides of into them and no outlet for the water the gorge are of limestone, the bare but a subterranean one. The outlet or rock alternating with tracts of rough "katavothron" of Omalos was close to scrub and coniferous trees. Along the our camp, and I made a short expedi- bottom grow some splendid cypresses, tion into it. It was a huge cavern, the the trunks being about six feet in opening at the mouth being about forty diameter. feet in diameter, completely lined with Half-way down the path we stopped ferns. I penetrated about a hundred and spied for an hour or more, during yards into the interior, but the in- which time we saw no ibex but noticed



three men lying under a rock on the the trees in the valley some two miles opposite face. When they saw us, they away, and through the glass recognized filled the valley with their shouts and our beaters sitting round a fire warmcame clattering after us. To our an- ing themselves! With feelings too deep noyance they were only the precursors for words we retraced our steps to of several more parties of sportsmen camp. (for such they were) who turned up For several successive days from every direction.

tramped the hills without seeing a Whether these people were out for single agrimia. The climbing looked their own amusement or whether they easy, but it was not until we had been had come out to kill the agrimia for us, taken in a few times by the crumbling it is impossible to say. I myself lean away of an apparently secure hold that to the latter opinion, and believe that one realized the necessity for extreme they imagined they were doing us a caution. The frost had got behind the civility and that the demise of ibex projecting lumps of friable limestone, was the surest way to our hearts. In and they needed but a touch to send any case the ground was now thor- them clattering to the depths below, oughly disturbed, and there was no as a warning of what would be one's help for it but to organize a drive, the fate in the event of a false move. last refuge of the destitute sportsman. We now considered that a change of We accordingly sent the natives round quarters might bring with it a change to drive a face of the hill and climbed of luck, especially as it would throw up to a point where we made sure the more country open to us. So the deciibex would pass.

sion was come to that camp should be Thinking we had plenty of time we moved to a little church in the bottom were quietly lunching when there was of the valley, called San Nikolaus. My a sudden clatter of stones and I saw companion having accordingly started three ibex trotting towards I off while I was packing, sent back a threw myself on to my rifle, loaded note, when he had gone a mile, asking and drew a bead on the leader, which me to discharge the cook. As he was was by this time not eighty yards an unscrupulous ruffian and dangerous away, standing looking at us. I then in his cups, this was far from a roticed that this was a female fol- pleasant job. He took it well, though, lowed by two young, so refrained from and was, I fancy, glad to get back to firing in the hopes that a buck Inight the coast, being rather frightened of got be far off. No further beast ap- the local brigands. The matter havpeared, however, and after a few mo- ing ended satisfactorily, no quarrel rements' examination of us the three sulted from the cowardly desertion to ibex turned up the hill with a bark which I had been subjected! from the mother and disappeared. We were glad to get away from Whether I was right in sparing her Omalos, and it was pleasanter to eat may be open to discussion. Had I under the shelter of one of the glorious fired, we should have had something to cypresses than in a mud hut tenanted show for our trip, as this was the only by a dozen natives and a couple of time either of us got within shot of a horses which were liable at any mogoat during the whole time. As ment to take a fancy to one's food or against that, the gain of self-respect to step in a cup. We took no tents in upholding, under trying circum- down the Xiloskala, being short of stances, the principle of never shoot- horses, Poly having previously taken ing females more than compensates, to on himself to send most of them back my mind, for the disappointment at to Lakhos. The camp was in a beautireturning trophyless. We waited an ful spot twenty yards from the stream, other hour in the sleet and cold withi- which provided excellent water and a out any further event. Then we saw a bathing pool, besides lulling us to sleep thin pillar of smoke curling up through when we rolled up in our blankets under the trees. The little church close lost to sight. On one occasion we by was visited. A most humble place thought that we had really circumof worship, the only adornment being vented a buck that had been skipping three small willow-pattern plates let along an apparently impassable face into the plaster over the doorway. It of rock to a bush in the middle of it, is only used on certain occasions, and where he lay down. We posted ourwe never discovered any parson at selves so that escape for him seemed tached to it, but it was scrupulously impossible, and sent the men round. clean, and might hold twenty people They drove the ground carefully, with crowding.


eventually reaching a spot immediately Our present camp lay well within above his lair and hurling down rocks the limits of the Sphakia district. The from the top. He, however, showed Sphakiotes are a splendid race, and no signs of life, and the only result of have often fought for and always pre- the manœuvre was to nearly frighten served their liberty. They are tall, one of the party out of his seven fair-haired, cheerful ruffians, in face senses. He had taken up a position very like the typical Eastern counties straight below the ibex, and the stones man–by nature, brigands and fighting hurled down by the beaters gathered men. Every man carries a rifle of other stones in their course, and by the sorts and is always prepared to render time they reached my friend had a good account of himself with it. formed small avalanches which hurtled Crossing the bottom of the valley at in- over his head, and it was only by flattervals are sangars, bearing witness to tening himself against the rock that the fighting that took place here he avoided instant annihilation. against the Turks in 1820.

After this last disappointment we deAbout this time I attached to my per- cided to abandon the pursuit and to sonal staff an individual called Vassili, leave for home after an expedition said to be a mighty hunter. He may down the valley. The lower portion of have been only unlucky during these the valley is even more majestic than days, but his method of circumventing the upper; the walls of rock close in the ibex in no way commended itself till they form a canyon not more than a to me. It was as follows: He would hundred yards wide. This runs right start off to walk at top speed up and down to the sea where lies the little down hill, talking volubly but incom- village of Rumeli. The mouth of the prehensibly at the top of his voice. valley is just opposite to the island of Having walked me off my legs, he Gavdo, well known to all who hare would leave me to rest on a mamelon travelled by the P. and 0. The south and start off alone to some distant coast has no harbors, only open roadpeak, occasionally pausing to fire a steads with bad anchorage, and the random shot down a gorge or into a fishing industry is nil. patch of bushes. At the top of the hill Turning our backs on the valley, we he would light a fire, presumably to again faced the Xiloskala and reached show that he had been there, and then Omalos in the evening, to find that stalk off to another hilltop and repeat some one, presumably the discharged the operation. If this is the universal cook, had broken open different artimethod, it would fully account for the cles of baggage and helped himself to agrimia still existing in such a limited various useful trifles and food. The

men left behind denied any knowledge Although we were often able to hear of the theft, but it was difficult to the goats clattering along the rocks, reconcile their statements with the evidently in full view, we were never fact that on our unexpected entry into able to pick them up with the glass. the hut they were discovered in the Their color is identically that of the act of eating "Sardines de luxe." rocks, and the ground is so broken that Next morning we had great difficulty the moment they lie down they are in getting started, what with refrac


« EelmineJätka »