A TRIP TO THE CAPE
Observer, Volume 9, Issue 531, 23 February 1889, Page 8
A TRIP TO THE CAPE
— «■ — ■- •-- IN on 3 of his amusing letters to his nephew ' Tommy ' ' Sir Affable Hawk,' thus describes in the //««;&, a trip to the Cape : Of course a great number of our broken-down youth have graduated at the Cape and the Diamond Fields, and a number are there now very anxious to get back, and only lacking the means to do so ; but the Caps is none the worse for that. Perhaps it will surprise yen to hear that I have dons" the trip, not as a di'nivr 1 need bardly say, and a very jolly time I had of it. You might spend a much worse, two months or so, and, on the score of expense^ there is, oil course, no comparison, it you take into consideration the probable amount of money you will leave at Monte Carlo in the hands of the administration who succeeded Mons. Blanc at the Casino nous /c.v l^tlmirrx. The return far 3 on one of the magnificent steamers of the Union Line is, I think, sixty-five pounds, or guineas ; the voyage occupies nineteen days or thereabouts each way, so that the cost is a trille over 80s. a day. The journey is a very interesting one, p. ml at the risk of boring you 1 will just run through my experiences, as far as I can racolleet them. I forget the date I started, but the warm weather begins in South Africa in November, and I know I ate my Christmas dinner on board ship returning. I left Southampton on the Union steamship The Moor, on a Friday. She is abous 4,000 tons, has all the latest improvements, electric light all through, and all the rest of it. fifteen courses at dinner, a dozen dishes i'or breakfast, avid wines at half the price you can get them at your club. Our tirst stop was at Lisbon, where we had a few hours on shore, having gone through the much maligned Bay of Biscay, which for once was like a millpond, with heavenly weather. On the Tuesday after leaving Southampton, we arrived at Madeira, and without wishing to drop into guide-book style, I must say the island is lovely. Of course we were surrounded with any number of hawkers, who wanted to sell us lace, monkeys, fruit, and silver ornaments, the oddest thing being their offering us twenty-two silver English shillings for a sovereign. Apparently they have no gold worth speaking of, and want to buy it to make into ornaments. We were only live or six hours at Madeira, and then on to St. Helena, which is a dull hole, and I don't wonder Napoleon did not suffer in it for long ; of course, we paid the regulation visit to his grave and. Longwood. After this it was all sea until we get to Cape ] Town, and a thoroughly pleasant voyage it was. I never felt so well in my life, and each returning winter I have meant to give it another trial but something has always cropped up to pievent me. Our first view of land was Table Bay, which has been described as the Bay of Naples, but, if anything, I think it is more beautiful. Then there is Cape Town itself built against the side of Table Mountain, at one end being the Lion's Head and Lion's Eurap, with charming villas of wealthy ones stretching away for miles. I must say I was agreeably disappointed, every thing looked so spic and span and modern. I had quite expected a wild-looking village, and here was a first-class town. There is a grand breakwater, built partly by convict labour, most of the prisoners undergoing punishment for J.D.8., that is Illicit Diamond Buying, an offence of which more anon. On landing our baggage was seized by porters of all colours and apparently of ail nationalities, Malays, Hottentots, Kaffirs, and all the rest of them, and side by side with these dusky gentlemen were my pet abominations, hansom cabs, just as if one had landed in St. James's Street, but at half the fares in force in London. I was recommended to go to the International Hotel, kept by a Mrs O'Callaghan, and you can't do better than follow my example. It is a fine building, formerly the residence of some old Dutch merchant princes, and under the present management they do for you exceedingly well ; indeed, if I had not been anxious to get on to Kimberley and the Diamond Fields, I should have been content to stay at the International until I went abroad again. Of course, there is a Government House and Houses of Parliament, some wonderful vineyards at Wynberg, and a naval statiou at Simon's Town, where I was uncommonly well dined by the officers of theßcadicea. Time pressed, so I departed l for Kimberley on the Friday after 1 arrived. More surprises, for there was a Pullman train with excellent dining airangements and sleeping ears to take me to my destination, which is 647 miles away, and occupied 32 hours. Bather different this, from the idea I had formed of South Africa, where I supposed everybody travelled on waggons drawn by oxen. Arrived at Kimberley, I made my way to the Central Hotel kept by Mrs Creagh ; &.nd here I may at once say that all the hotels were firstrat — those chaps whether condemmed to live out here, or those who do so from choice, certainly know how to make existence bearable. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Kimberley Club; it is a magnificent building, and cost I believe, some twenty- five thousand pounds (I am not sure, by the way, if it had not betn burnt down and rebuilt just D&iore I was there) ; the cooking was equal to any first-class West-End club, with electric light all over the place. Sunday at Kimberley was very like the Sabbath anywhere else, except that in the evening a band played in Government Gardens, where about three thousand well- dressed people sat, chatted, and si rolled about in the bright glare of the electric light. The climate is beautiful, and I thought of the poor devils shivering at home, ■while I enjoyed my cigar out in the open until quite late. Next morning I started off with Mr Cecil J. Rhodes (the man you know, who sent Parnell £10.000 for his Defence Fund ; though apart from his Home Rule ideas, he is not at all a bad sort) to see the De Beers Mine. Very little to be seen now that all mining is done in shafts and tunnels, and I must confess 1 was a bit disappointed. However, I saw a wash up of some of the residuum of the soil that in thousands ot loads had passed through the machines. Diamonds were there in all sizes, from a pigeon's egg to a pin's head, looking for all the wowd like bits of gum arabic which you see in oilmen's shop windows. By- the -way, it is an error to suppose
that all Cape diamonds are yellow ; some are of the finest white, finer even than any Brazil can produce ; some, on the eontaray, are so impure that they are only fit i'or grinding up into powder to polish other diamonds with. I saw a ' wash up ' estimated, I suppose, at ten thousand pounds— pretty good for one day's work • I also saw a curiosity, a diamond weighing 347 carats, that is, roughly about as big as a hen or duck's egg. This stone had a history ; it was found by a native boy, who concealed 'it, net about his person, as they say in the police reports at home, but in the lower part of his body, a very common practice with the natives, who are searched before beginning and after leaving work. The extraction of this huge diamond cost the boy his life as he bled to death. Tho inducement held out to these poor wretches of Kairirs to steal and conceal the diamonds is the money offered tor them by wh;ir. arc tc-rmed 1.D.8. Il is a regular trade, this of * receiver,' and has been carried on by people whom orso would never suspect. The Li).B.''s when caught arc very severely pur.ishoi, and half the convicts .doing their time are in prison for this very offence.
I was shown over the complicated works, introduced to Mr Gardner Williams, the mining manager, and Mr Felthitm, the secretary, and the latter explained to mo all about the capital of two millions which was worth three times the issue value, and told me they employed three thousand natives and five hundred white men. They then took me down to the underground works, the deepest j. art being S'o'O feet down. This was as hot as a muchtalked-of local) !y, so you can imagine the temperature. 1 must tell you that all the diamonds are found in what they call blue soil ; when quarried it is a:; hard as granite, but when spread out and water applied it, slakes like lime, and falls away to powch'r. When old Dr. Jtnssell was out there — Billy .Russell, the Thurx correspondent in the Crimea — this vvas explained to him, and hearing that there was the possibility oi a lurking diamond in every lump of clay, ho begged a lump and Look ii home. On hh arrival in England his servant was much amazed to find one of his portmanteaus full of greyish blue powder. The doctor rcroambereci that this was some of the diamond-bearing soil, and set his daughters to work :o examine it, and, strangely enough, they found two diamonds, which, uncut, realised ninety pounds at Hatton Garden. I did not follow the cheery old doctor's example, but if you have any room in your kit, there is no reason why you should not, and 1 wish you luck with it.
A£ter such a tiring clay I was glad to get backto the club at Kimbeiley to dinner, which was excellent. 1 never before realised what it was to be an honorary member ; herein England you are usually scowled upon by the regular members of the establishment, who lo^k uuon you as a trespasser on their privileges. At Kimberley they treat you as a guest, and each strives to be the most extravagent of hosts ; indeed 1 experienced the greatest difficulty to gel a postage stamp without someone insisting on paying for it. Tne majority of them may belong to what we call the ' broke ' division in England, but they are thorough good chaps, all of them. 1 have not space to enumerate all to whom I was indebted during my short stay, but you may be sure of a hearty welcome rom Tim 'Tyson, the secretary of the club, and li. m. Wallace, who is a nephew of our Tom Wallace of St. James' Street, and a great authority on racing at the Cape, having imparted the liltle horse, Earl Godwin, who has done well out there— these are good fellows whose hospitality was unbounded. 1 will not trouble you with further accounts of my visits to diamond and gold mines. I visited them all. The Kimberley Mine, which is said to be the biggest hole in the world, and out of which they have already taken fifty million pounds worth oi diamonds ; the Buliontein, which is the most carciully-managed mine in the Cape diamond fields, thanks to Arthur W. Davis, and is quite the show place of Kimberley ; and lastly the Dutoits Pan Mine, which was one of the first discovered in the dry diggings. Neither will I enlarge on my journey to Barberlon in a coach like a big omnibus, drawn by twelve horses, splendid cattle, which were changed ■every two hours. This dreadful journey lasted five days and five nights, with a terrible walk near the end, to save six hours, the food en runic being awful. I almost dreaded the return journey. I suppose you will be persuaded to go there, despite all the drawbacks, and if so, go to the Koyal Hotel, and you will find the Club (kept by Calhoun) also vevy good. To view the gold mines in the neighbourhood, you will have to hire a horse. I hope you will not meet with my experience in that direction. I paid twenty-five shillings for a brute, and had to walk by his side all the way— twelve miles in eight hours, it makes me shudder now when I think of it. You will, of course, want to know what there is in the way of sport, there is plenty, and you will always find a number of men ready to put you in the right way of getting it. At Barberton there arc lions to be shot, I never saw any myself, but the district bears the reputation of possessing them, so I suppose it does. Then there are hartbeestes, springbok, and blesbok, all varieties of the antelope, shooting which you will find vastly different sport to stalking deer in Scotland. As to birds, there are punnuws— what they are I don't know -namaque, and red wings, with species of sand grouse, partridges, and snipe, both painted and jack. All these are plentiful, and will fully occupy any days you may give to shooting them. As to hunting, the foot regiment which was there when I visited the Cape used to chase jackals and foxhounds, and very good fun it was— rough but amusing.
There is, of course, a theatre, and a very good one too, at Kimberley, pienty of dances at the Government House, Cape Town, and lots of pretty girls to dance with ; and when I was at Kimberley the Mayor gave a most excellent fancy dress ball. To do everything well I reckon you ought to s-oencl about thirty-one or more days in the colony. This and the time taken en the voyage out and home will be just over two months, and if you try it I can promise you a real good time.
— Mr A. Payne, watchmaker and jeweller, 10, Victoria Arcade, has a business announcement in our advertising columns. Mr Payne is not only a clever tradesman, but is personally extremely popular.