Page images

and consists of about eleven hundred houses, regularly built, and disposed into straight and parallel streets, intersecting each other at right angles. Three or four squares give the town an open and airy appearance. In one is held the public market, another is resorted to by the peasants, from the country, with their waggons ; and the third serves as a parade for the troops.

The inhabitants are about sixteen thousand, of whom six thousand are whites, and a mixture between Europeans and Africans, and the rest blacks. The vegetable produce of the Cape Peninsula, consists of grapes, with all the European, and many of the tropical fruits, esculents of every description, and barley for the use of horses. In other parts of this district, however, wheat is raised, and besides supplying the market with grapes and raisins, about seven hundred pipes of wine are made every year. Of these, near one hundred pipes consist of a sweet, luscious wine, called Constantia, the produce of two farms lying near the mountains. The grape is the Muscadel, and though the rich quality of the wine is in part owing to the situation, there can be little doubt, but that an article equally good, might with proper care, be made in other quarters. The vineyards, gardens, and fruiteries, are divided into small squares, and inclosed by cut hedges of oaks, quince trees or myrtles, as a security from the south-east winds, but the grain is raised on open ground.

The natural productions of the Cape Peninsula, are perhaps more numerous and beautiful than any spot of the same magnitude in the known world. Few countries, indeed, can boast so great a variety of bulbous-rooted plants; and at the end of the rainy season the plains at the foot of the Table Mountain, and on the west shore of Table Bay, exhibit a rich appearance of flowers of all colours, while the sides of the hills are finely scented with the family of geraniums, in all their different species. The frutescent, or shrubby plants, growing in wild luxuriance, furnish an endless variety for the labours of the botanist, who never fails to discover some species that have escaped the researches of former naturalists.

The peninsula of the Cape, however, is not equally favourable to the enquiries of the zoologist. The kloofs, or clefts of the mountains, still give shelter to wolves or hyænas, particularly the former, some of which venture at night into the town, whither they are

drawn by the offal from the slaughter houses. All the mountains • abound with a dusky coloured animal about the size of a rabbit,

called here the das, but described by Linnæus under the name of ilyrax capensis, and by Pennant, the cape cavy. It is edible but of an indifferent flavour. A species of antelope called the griesbok, or grizzled deer, frequents the thickets and does considerable injury to the young shoots of the vine ; and another species named the ducker or diver, from its manner of plunging and hiding itself among the bushes, may be met with in the isthmus. But the steinbok, formerly the most numerous of the antelope tribe, is now driven from this part of Africa into the interior. The horses of the Cape are mostly of Javan origin, or imported from South America, which last, called the black Spaniards, are deemed most serviceable. Heavy waggons, however, are all drawn by oxen, these animals being remarkable for their strength and docility.

Round Table Mountain hover eagles, vultures, kites, and crows, which birds of prey make up for the depredations they commit, by clearing the roads of nuisances. Wild fowl is plentiful in the winter season, and all the bays and coast abound with excellent fish, as perch of various kinds, soles, mackarel, and others unknown in Europe. Crabs, muscles, and oysters, the last equal to our own, are also numerous. In the winter, whales come often in the bays, and are taken with ease. They are in general from fifty to sixty feet in length, and yield each about six or ten tons of oil.

Insects abound in such variety all over the country, as to furnish an inexhaustible supply for the enquiries of the entomologist. A species of locust about the Cape, proves very injurious to the gardens, and a minute kind of sand fly is extremely troublesome to passengers; but it is remarkable, that the musquitos are much less offensive here, than on the opposite continent of America, and in the West Indies ; scorpions, scolopendras, and large black spiders are noxious, and almost all of the serpent tribe are venomous.

The most striking object at the Cape, is Table Mountain, the north front of which, facing the town, presents to the eye a horizontal line, of about two miles in length. This stupendous mass of rock, appears as if it was supported by several buttresses rising from the plain, and inclining towards the face of the mountain, about half the way up from its base, thus giving it the semblance of a ruined fortress ; these walls are 3582 feet above the level of the bay, but the east side, which runs off at right angles to the front, is considerably higher. The west side, along the seashore, is rent into hollows and worn away into pyramidal masses. To the southward, the mountain descends in terraces, of which the lowest communicates with the chain that extends the whole length of the peninsula. The two wings of the front, namely, the Devil's Hill, and the Lion's Head, make with the Table but one mountain ; for though the summits have been separated, they unite at a considerable elevation of the plain. The Devil's mountain, the height of which is 3315 feet, is broken into irregular points ; but the upper part of the Lion's Head, 2160 feet in elevation, resembles a dome like that of St. Paul's, placed on a bigh conical hill. There are no appearances of volcanic origin in any part of the mountain, nor have any fossilized remains been found imbedded on its sides. Nothing can be more sublime than the prospect from the summit of

the Table, all the objects on the plain, and in the bay below, being dwindled into mere specks and lines.

The murmuring surge
That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,

Cannot be heard so high. Here grows, among a variety of handsome shrubs, the anæa mucronata, an elegant frutescent plant peculiar to the mountain, and a species of heath, called the physodes, the flowers of which are white and glutinous. The air on the summit in the winter, and the shade, is generally about fifteen degrees, of Fahrenheit scale, lower than in the town: but in summer the difference is still greater, particularly when the fleecy cloud, called the ' table cloth,' appears on the mountain, and gives a sure indication of an approaching storm.

At the Cape they divide the year into two periods, called the good and bad monsoon; but as these are neither regular, nor of any determinate duration, it is more advisable to adopt the quadripartite division. The spring, from the beginning of September to the end of November, is the pleasantest season; the summer, from December to March, is the hottest ; the autumn, from thence to June, is variable weather, though generally very agreeable; and the winter, from June to September, is stormy, rainy, and cold. The two most violent winds are the north-west and the south-east; the first being evalent from the end of May till the end of August, and sometimes through the whole of September ; the other predominates for the rest of the year ; when the cloud shows itself on the mountain it blows in squalls with great fury. During one of these storms at night the heavenly bodies have a strange appearance, the stars being magnified, and the moon seeming to have a vibratory motion. The approach of winter is observed by the south-east winds becoming less frequent and violent, and the weather being, more clear ; dews also begin to fall more heavily, and fogs hang in the morning about the hills. When the tempests cease, the distant mountains and the Table itself appear covered with snow. At these times the thermometer, about sunrise, is 40°, rising in the course of the day to 70°, but the general standard may be reckoned from 50 to 60° during the season. In the middle of the summer it varies from 70 to 90°; but the average is 83°, though it has been known to exceed 100° at Cape Town. The heat of summer, however, is seldom oppressive; the mornings are sometimes sultry, but the evenings are always cool.

The south-east breeze usually begins about noon, and dies away towards night. From November to April there is seldom any rain ; and it has been remarked, that notwithstanding the violence of the tempests which occasionally arise, there is less thunder and lightning in the Cape than in any other part, except St. Helena.

Such, indeed, is the happiness of this climate, that scarcely any

fatal disease occurs here except what proceeds from the irregular habits of the people, who by their indolence and intemperance, bring on consumptions, dropsies, gout, and liver complaints. Timber of all kinds, for building and fuel, is very scarce and expensive at the Cape, owing to the negligence of the Dutch residents, as the country beyond this district is well-wooded ; and even here, the oak, the white poplar, and the stone pine, are found sufficiently to encourage cultivation, Veins of coal, however, have been discovered in the isthmus, and no doubt can be entertained but that iron also may be found, to answer the expense of digging for both these valuable articles.

The district of Stellenbosch and Drakenstein includes the country from Cape L. Aguillas, the southernmost point of Africa, to the river Koussie, the northernmost boundary of the colony, being a line of 380 miles in length, and the breadth 150 miles, comprehending an area of 55,000 square miles; in all which space 1,200 families only were under the old government. Part of this territory, indeed, consists of naked mountains and arid plains; but the remainder is a fruitful soil, and stretching along the great chain of mountains, from False Bay to the mouth of the Oliphant's River.

The drosdy of Stellenbosch, the residence of the landrost or superintendent of this district, is a very handsome village, consisting of about 70 houses, with offices and gardens, laid out into several streets or open spaces, planted with oaks, many of which are of considerable size. In the village is a small and neat church, to which is annexed a parsonage-house, garden, and vineyard. The clergyman has a salary from government of one hundred and twenty pounds a year, so that his situation is extremely desirable in a place free from taxes, and in a country abundant with every necessary of life. The establishment of the landrost is still more sumptuous, his salary and emoluments being equal to fifteen hundred a-year. There are eight estates round this village, which produce wine, brandy, fruit, butter, poultry, and a variety of articles for the Cape Market, and the supply of shipping in Simon's Bay. They yield also a quantity of corn; but this is an article little cultivated near the Cape, for the African peasants or boors are wretched agriculturists, and so obstinate, that though an experienced English farmer, who settled among them, proved by the exuberance of his crops what could be done by labour, his neighbours only laughed at his experiments and advice.

In this district, at a place called Baran's Kloof, is a small settlement of Moravians, or Unitas Fratrum, the good effects of whose pious labours afford as striking a contrast to the Dutch system of colonization, as the mildness of Christianity itself does to the ferocity of Paganism. Since the transfer of the Cape to the English, the progress of these enlightened missionaries has been such, that a new settlement has been formed by them under the auspices of our government. Not far from Bavian's Kloof is a chalybeate spring, chiefly recommended in rheumatic complaints and debilitated constitutions. The adjacent district of Drakenstein is very fertile, well watered, and contains many substantial farms. The Fransche Hoeeh, or French Corner, situated in the valley, takes its name from the refugees who sought an asylum in this distant part of the earth, after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. To these people the Cape is indebted for the introduction of the vine, which has already proved highly advantageous, and promises to be still more when properly managed. On an acre of ground may be planted five thousand stocks, every thousand of which will yield a leaguer, or pipe of one hundred and fifty-four gallons. Of the rich sweet wines the colony produces a great variety; and it is remarkable that the muscadel grape gives a different flavoured liquor in every estate where it is planted. Some good brandy is also made here; and the raisins are so excellent and reasonable as to leave no doubt of their becoming a considerable article of commerce, together with the olive and the almond, both of which are of a prime quulity. The

sugarcane grows here vigorously, but it has hitherto been entirely neglected.

The district of Zwellendam runs along the coast, between the Breede river on the west, and Camtoos river on the east, running northerly to the Black Mountains. Its length is about three hundred and eighty, and the breadth sixty miles, giving an area of nineteen thousand two hundred square miles, occupied by no more than four hundred and eighty families. The principal village consists of about thirty houses, irregularly dispersed over a fertile valley, through which flows a fine stream of water.

In this district, Mossel Bay opens to the south-east, the western point, called Cape St. Blaize, being in latitude 34° 10' S., longitude 22° 18' E., and the distance from the Cape about two hundred and forty miles. When the winds blow from S.S.W., W. and round E.N.E., this bay affords safe anchorage for ships ; here is a magazine for the reception of grain, the price of which article, at this place, is about twenty-two rix-dollars, the load of thirty-one Winchester bushels. The Bay abounds with fish of various kinds, oysters of an excellent quality, and muscles of a large size, but strong flavour.

Great quantities of the common aloe grow upon the plains that surround the bay, the inspissated juice of which, was once an article of considerable trade, but it is neglected. The next division to Mossel Bay is the Autiniequas Land, extending as far as the Kayman or Crocodile's River ; the mountains here, are covered with forests, and the land affords sustenance to immense herds of cattle, besides yielding a great quantity of corn. Plettenberg's Bay begins at the Kaymans River, and continues to the inaccessible forests of Sitsiskamma. This tract is exceedingly beautiful ; and within seven miles of the Bay are large timber trees, well calculated for building, and exceedingly cheap. In the forests a creeping

« PreviousContinue »