Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol.I/15
DEPARTURE FROM BARRA. 289
Departure from Barra — River Madeira — Serpa — Villa Nova — Maués — River Trombetas — Cocoa Plantations — Obidos — Santarem.
Having had my boat thoroughly repaired, calked, and well fitted with palm coverings, called in Brazil toldos, with a sort of Wandering Jew [] feeling that I was destined to leave every body behind and never to stop, I sailed from Barra on the eighteenth of February. The President had caused me to be furnished with six tapuios, but, unwilling to dispossess himself at this time of a single working hand, he could not let them carry me below Santarem. The President is laboring in earnest for the good of the province; and if anything is to be done for its improvement he will do it. He paid me every attention and kindness during my stay at Barra.
But to my host (Antonii, the Italian) I am most indebted for attention and information. From his having been mentioned by Smyth as at the head of trade at Barra sixteen years ago, I had fancied that I should find him an elderly man; but he is a handsome, gay, active fellow, in the prime of life. His black hair is somewhat sprinkled with gray, but he tells me that this arises not from age, but from the worry and vexation he has had in business on account of the credit system. He is as agreeable as good sense, much information about the country, and openhearted hospitality can make a man. I asked him to look out for Gibbon and make him comfortable; and was charmed with the frank and hearty manner in which he bade me to “have no care of that.”
I fear that I behaved a little churlishly about the mails. There are post offices established in the villages on the Amazon, but no public conveyances are provided to carry the mails. The owner or captain of every vessel is required to report to the postmaster before sailing, in order to receive the mails; and he is required to give a receipt for them. I did not like to be treated as an ordinary voyager upon the river, and, therefore, objected to receipt for the mails, though I offered to carry all letters that should be intrusted to my care. My principal reason, however, for declining was, that my movements were uncertain, and I did not wish to be trammelled. The postmaster would not give me the mail without a receipt, but I believe I brought away all the letters.
290 MR. M’CULLOCH.
I am now sorry, as I came direct, that I did not give the required receipt in return for the kindness that had been shown me.
Mr. Potter, the daguerreotypist and watchmaker, sailed in company with me. We found the current of the “Negro” so slight that, with our heavy boat and few men, we could make no way against a smart breeze blowing up the river: we, therefore, a mile or two below Barra, pulled into the shore and made fast till the wind should fall, which it did about 3 p.m., when we got under way and entered the Amazon.
Entering this river from the Negro, it appears but a tributary of the latter, and it is generally so designated in Barra. If a fisherman just in is asked where he is from, he will say, from the mouth of the Solimoens. It has this appearance from the Negro’s flowing in a straight course; while the Solimoens makes a great bend at the junction of the two rivers.
It is very curious to see the black water of the Negro appearing in large circular patches, amid the muddy waters of the Amazon, and entirely distinct. I did not observe that the water of the Amazon was at all clearer after the junction of the Negro; indeed, I thought it appeared more filthy. We found one hundred and ninety-eight feet of depth in the bay or large open space formed by the junction of the two rivers.
About sixty miles below the mouth of the Rio Negro we stopped at the establishment of a Scotchman, named McCulloch, situated on the left bank of the river. There is a very large island opposite, which reduces the river in front to about one hundred yards in width; so that the establishment seems to be situated on a creek.
McCulloch, in partnership with Antonii, at Barra, is establishing here a sugar plantation, and a mill to grind the cane. He dams, at great cost of time and labor, a creek that connects a small lake with the river. He will only be able to grind about six months in the year, when the river is falling and the water runs from the lake into the river; but he proposes to grind with oxen when the river is rising. The difference between high and low-water mark in the Amazon at this point is, by actual measurement of McCulloch, forty-two feet. He works with five or six hands, whom he pays a cruzado, or a quarter of a dollar each, per day. There is a much greater scarcity of tapuios now than formerly. Antonii, who used always to have fifty in his employ, cannot now get more than ten.
McCulloch has already planted more than thirty acres of sugar-cane on a hill eighty or one hundred feet above the present level of the river. It seems of tolerable quality, but much overrun with weeds, on account of want of hands. I gave him a leaf from my experience, and advised
SAW MILL. 291
him to set fire to his field after every cutting. The soil is black and rich-looking, though light; and McCulloch supposes that in such soil his cane will not require replanting for twenty years, The cane is planted in December, and is ready to cut in ten months.
This is the man who, in partnership with the Brazilian, built the sawmill at Barra, which was afterwards burned down. He sawed one hundred and thirty thousand feet the first year, but not more than half that quantity the second; in the third, by making a contract with Antonii, who was to furnish the wood and receive half the profits, he sawed eighty thousand. This plank is sold in Pará at forty dollars the thousand; but the expenses of getting it there, and other charges, reduce it to about twenty-eight dollars. The only wood sawed is the cedro; not that it is so valuable as other kinds, but because it is the only wood of any value that floats; and thus can be brought to the mills. There are no roads or means of hauling timber through the forests. McCulloch told me that a young American in Pará offered to join him in the erection of a saw-mill, and to advance ten thousand dollars toward the enterprise. He said that he now thought he was unwise to refuse it, for with that sum he could have purchased a small steamer (besides building and fitting the mill) with which to cruise on the river, picking up the cedros and taking them to the mill.
These are not our cedars, but a tall, branching tree, with leaves more like our oak. There are two kinds — red and white; the former of which is most appreciated. Some of them grow to be of great size; between Serpa and Villa Nova we made our boat fast to one that was floating on the river, which measured in length from the swell of the root to that of the first branches (that is a clear, nearly cylindrical trunk) ninety-three feet, and was nineteen feet in circumference just above the swell of the roots, which would probably have been eight feet from the ground when the tree was standing.
McCulloch gave me some castanhas in the shell, and some roots of a cane-like plant that grows in bunches, with very long, narrow leaves, and bears a delicate and fragrant white flower, that is called, from its resemblance in shape to a butterfly, borboleta. The distance hence to the mouth of the Madeira is about thirty miles. After passing the end of the long island, called Tamitari, that lies opposite McCulloch’s, we had to cross the river, which there is about two, miles wide. The shores are low on either hand, and well wooded with apparently small trees. I always felt some anxiety in crossing so large an expanse of water in such a boat as ours, where violent storms of wind are of frequent occurrence. Our men, with their light paddles, could
292 MOUTH OF THE MADEIRA
not keep such a haystack as our clumsy, heavy boat either head to wind or before it, and she would, therefore, lie broadside to in the trough of the sea, rolling fearfully, and threatening to swamp. I should have had sails fitted to her in Barra.
After crossing the river, we passed the mouth of two considerable streams. The lower one, called Uauta, is two hundred yards wide at its mouth, and has a considerable current. It is said to have a large lake near its head-waters, with outlets from this lake, communicating with the Amazon above, and also with the Madeira; that is, it is a paranamiri of the Amazon, widening into a lake at some part of its course. At half-past 8 p.m. we made fast for the night to some bushes on the low, western bank of the Madeira.
A large island occupies the middle of the Amazon, opposite the mouth of the Madeira. This mouth is also divided by a small island. The western mouth, up which I pulled nearly to the head of the island, (a distance of about a mile,) is three-quarters of a mile wide, with sixty-six feet of depth, and a bottom of fine white and black sand. The current runs at the rate of three and a quarter miles the hour. This current, like that of all the rivers, varies very much, according to the season. I was told afterwards, in Obidos, that, when the river was low in the months of August, September, and October — there was very little current, and that a vessel might reach Borba from the mouth in three days; but that, when it is full and falling — in the months of March, April, and May — there is no tributary of the Amazon with so strong a current; and then it requires twenty days to reach Borba.
The eastern mouth is a mile and a quarter wide. The island which divides the mouths is low and grassy at its outer extremity, but high and wooded at its upper. I looked long and earnestly for the broad L that Gibbon was to cut on a tree at the mouth of whatever tributary he should come down, in hopes that he had already come down the Madeira, and, not being able to go up stream to Barra, had gone on down; but it was nowhere to be seen.
The Madeira is by far the largest tributary of the Amazon. Once past its cascades, which are about four hundred and fifty miles from its mouth, and occupy a space of three hundred and fifty miles in length, it is navigable for large vessels by its great tributaries — the Beni and Mamoré — into the heart of Bolivia; and by the Guaporé or Itenes, quite through the rich Brazilian province of Matto Grosso. The Portuguese astronomers charged with the investigation of the frontiers estimate that it drains a surface equal to forty-four thousand square leagues. We shall, however, know more of this river on the arrival of Mr. Gibbon,
whom last accounts left at Trinidad de Moxos, on the Mamoré, one of the tributaries of this great stream.
The rapids of the Madeira are not impassable; Palacios, the Brazilian officer before quoted, descended and ascended them in a canoe, though he had occasionally to drag the canoe over portages. And Mr. Clay, our charge at Lima, was told that a Brazilian schooner-of-war had ascended the Madeira above the rapids, and fired a salute at Exaltacion, which is in Bolivia, above the junction of the Beni. Palacios probably descended at low water, and the schooner went up when the river was full.
The village of Serpa, where we arrived in the afternoon, is situated on the left bank of the Amazon, thirty miles below the mouth of the Madeira. It is a collection of mud-hovels of about two hundred souls built upon a considerable eminence, broken and green with grass, that juts out into the river. There is a point of land just above Serpa, on the opposite side, which, throwing the current off, directs it upon the Serpa point, and makes a strong eddy current for half a mile above the town close in shore.
Serpa has a considerable lake back of it called Saraca, on the lower end of which is the village of Silves, a little larger than Serpa. That entrance to the lake which communicates with the Amazon near Serpa is not large enough for my boat to enter; that near Silves will admit large schooners. A mark on a tree shows that the river rises about twelve feet above its present level.
We left Serpa at 6 p.m., and drifted all night. We are compelled to travel at night, for there is so much wind and sea during the day that we make no headway. We are frequently compelled to lay by, and are sometimes in danger of being swamped, even in the little nooks and bays where we stop. The most comfortable way of travelling is to make the boat fast to a floating-tree, for this keeps the boat head on to the wind and sea, and drags her along against these with the velocity of the current.
About fifteen miles above Villa Nova, which is one hundred and fifty miles below Serpa, a boat manned by soldiers pulled out from a hut on the shore, and told us we must stop there until examined and despatched by the officer in charge, called inspector. I could not well pull back against the stream, for we had already passed the hut; so I sent word to the inspector that I had letters from the President, and pulled in shore, abreast of where I was. The inspector had the civility to come down to me and inspect my papers. This is a resisto, or coast-guard, stationed above the port of entry of Villa Nova, to stop vessels from
294 VILLA NOVA.
passing, and to notify them that they must go into that port. There is another below Villa Nova, to stop vessels coming up, and to examine the clearances from the custom-house, of those coming down.
Within a quarter of a mile from the shore I found one hundred and twenty feet of depth, and three miles the hour of current. The current of the Amazon has increased considerably since the junction of the Madeira.
The inspector told me I was within four hours of Villa Nova; but I kept in shore, for fear of squalls; and thus, in the darkness of night, pulled around the shore of a deep bay, where there was little current, and did not arrive for eight hours, passing the mouth of the small river Limao about a mile and a half above Villa Nova, where we arrived at 2 a.m.
Villa Nova da Rainha is a long straggling village of single-story mud-huts, situated in a little bend on the right bank of the Amazon. The temperature of boiling water gives its elevation above the level of the sea at nine hundred and fifty-nine feet. It contains about two hundred inhabitants, and the district to which it belongs — embracing several small villages in the interior, with cocoa plantations on the banks of the river — numbers four or five thousand. The productions of the district are cocoa, coffee, and a few cattle, but principally salt fish. The whole country back of the village is very much cut up by lakes, (with water communications between them,) where the greater part of the fish is taken. The sub-delegado gave me a sketch of it from his own personal knowledge and observation. This being the frontier town of the province of Amazonas, there is a custom-house established here. I heard that it had collected one thousand dollars since the steamer passed up in December. This gives an indication of the trade of the country; foreign articles, which are the cargoes of vessels bound up, paying one and a half per cent. on their value; and articles of domestic produce, which the vessels bound down carry, paying a half per cent. The collection of one thousand dollars was made in two months.
The people valued their fowls at fifty cents apiece. We thought them extortionate, and would not buy; but we happened to arrive on fresh-beef day, and got a soup-piece. These fresh-meat days are a week apart, though this is a cattle-producing country. It is an indication of the listless indifference of the people.
Just before reaching Villa Nova, my sounding-lead had hung in the rocks at the bottom, and. a new piassaba line, which I had made in Barra, of about the size of a common log or cod-line, parted as if it
had been pack-thread. I bought another lead at the village; this also hung at the first cast, and the line again parted close to my hand, so that I lost nearly all. My line must have been made of old fibres of the piassaba which had been in store some time. The bottom of the river near Villa Nova is very uneven and rocky.
About a league below Villa Nova we passed the mouth of the river Ramos on the right. It is two hundred yards wide, and is a paranimiri, which leaves the Amazon nearly opposite Silves. It has many small streams emptying into it in the interior, and sends off canals, joining it with other rivers, one of which is the Madeira. It is the general route to Maués — a considerable village in the interior, four days from the mouth of the Ramos.
The country about Maués is described as a great grazing plain, intersected and cut up with streams and canals, all navigable for the largest class of vessels that now navigate the Amazon. The soil is very rich:, and adapted to the cultivation of cotton, coffee, and cocoa. The rivers give abundance of fish; any number of cattle may be pastured upon the plains; and the neighboring woods yield cloves, cocoa, castanbas, India-rubber, guaraná, sarsaparilla, and copaiba. If this country be not sickly (and the sub-delegado at Villa Nova, who gave me a little sketch of it, told me that it was not) it is probably the most desirable place of residence on the Amazon.
Baéna, in his chorographic essay on the province of Pará, says of Maués, that it is situated upon a slight eminence on a bay of the river Mauéuassu, which empties into the Furo, or canal of Ururaia, by means of which, and the river Tupinambaranas, one may enter the river Madeira thirteen leagues above its mouth. He gives the number of inhabitants in 1832 at one thousand six hundred and twenty-seven. The official report for 1850 states it at three thousand seven hundred and nine whites, and eighty-two slaves. This official report makes an ugly statement as regards its health; it gives the number of births in a year at seventy-four, and deaths at one hundred and thirty-one. I have no confidence in this statement, and it looks like a misprint. This report stated the number of inhabited houses at Barra as one hundred and seventy. This I knew was an error, and I took the liberty of making it four hundred and seventy.
Just below the mouth of the Ramos, quite a neatly-rigged boat, carrying the Brazilian flag, put off from a house on shore, and seemed desirous to communicate with us; but she was so badly managed that, although there was a fine breeze, (directly ahead, however,) she could not catch us, though we were but drifting with the current. Had I known
her character I would have paddled up against the stream to allow her to join company; but my companion, Mr. Potter, said that she was a boat belonging to the church, and begging for Jerusalem.
Finding that she could not come up with us, she put back, and a light canoe, with a soldier in it soon overtook us. The soldier told me that this was another custom-house station, and that I must pull back and show my clearance from the collector at Villa Nova. I was a good deal annoyed at this, for I thought the said collector, to whom I carried letters from the President, might have had the forethought to tell me about this station, so that I might have stopped there and saved the time and labor of pulling back. The soldier, seeing my vexation, told me that if I would merely pull in shore and wait, the inspector, who was then a few miles down the river, would soon be by on his way up, and I could communicate with him there.
To do this even, carried me some distance out of my way; but I had previously resolved to conform scrupulously to the laws and usages of the country; so I smothered my annoyance, pulled in, and had the good luck to meet the inspector before reaching the land. This was a mere boy, who looked at my papers coldly, and without comment, except (prompted by an old fellow who was steering his boat) he asked me if I had no paper from the collector at Villa Nova. I told him no, that I was no commerciante, had nothing to sell, and that he had read my passports from his government. After a little hesitation he suffered me to pass.
The pull in to the right bank had brought me to the head of an island. The inspector told me that the passage was as short on that side, but that it was narrow, and full of carapaná, as musquitoes are called on the Amazon. Although I have a musquito curtain which protects me completely, yet the tapuios had none, and, whenever I stopped at night, they had a wretched time, and could not sleep a moment. This was one of the reasons why I travelled at night. All persons are so accustomed to travel from Barra downwards at night, and to keep out far from the shore, that they do not carry musquito curtains, which the travellers on the upper Amazon and its tributaries would perish without.
We pulled back into the main stream and drifted all night, passing the small village of Parentins, situated on some high lands that form the boundary between the provinces of Pará and Amazonas.
We now enter the country where the cocoa is regularly cultivated, and the banks of the river present a much less desolate and savage appearance than they do above. The cocoa-trees have a yellow-colored leaf, and this, together with their regularity of size, distinguishes them
THE TROMBETAS. 297
from the surrounding forest. At 8 p.m., February 25, we arrived at Obidos, one hundred and five miles below Villa Nova. Several gentlemen offered to furnish me a vacant house; but I was surly, and slept in my boat.
Whilst at Obidos, I took a canoe to visit the cacoaes, or cocoa plantations, in the neighborhood; the fruit is called cacao. We started at 6 a.m., accompanied by a gentleman named Miguel Figuero, and stopped at the mouth of the Trombetas, which empties into the Amazon four or five miles above Obidos. It enters the Amazon by two mouths within sight of each other, (the island dividing the mouth being small;) the lower and smaller mouth is called Sta. Teresa, and is about one hundred and fifty yards wide; the upper (Boca de Trombetas) is half a mile wide, and enters the Amazon at a very sharp angle; its waters are clear, and the dividing-line between them and those of the Amazon is preserved distinct for more than a mile.
The Trombetas is said to be a very large river; in some places as wide as the Amazon is here — about two miles. It is very productive in fish, castanhas, and sarsaparilla, and runs through a country well adapted to raising cattle. I have heard several people call it a world; they may call it so on account of its productions, or it may be a “world of waters,” for the whole country, according to the description of it, is entirely cut up with lakes and water-communications. The river is only navigable for large vessels five or six days up, and is then obstructed by rocks and rapids, which make it impassable. Little is known of the river above the falls; it is very sickly below them with tertianas, which take a malignant type.
Near the mouth of this river we stopped at an establishment for making pots and earthenware generally, belonging to a gentleman named Bentez, who received us with cordiality. This country house was neat, clean, and comfortable. I caught glimpses of some ladies neatly dressed, and with very pretty faces; and was charmed with the sight of a handsome pair of polished French leather boots sitting against the wall. This was the strongest sign of civilization that I had met with, and showed me that I was beginning to get into communication with the great world without.
Senhor Bentez gave me some eggs of the “enambu,” a bird of the pheasant or partridge species, some of which are as large as a turkey. There are seven varieties of them, and an intelligent young gentleman, named D’Andrade, gave me the names, which were Enambu-assu (assu is lingoa geral, and means large,) Enambu-toro, Peira, Sororina, Macueana, Urú, and Jarsana.
298 COCOA PLANTATIONS.
In crossing the Amazon we were swept by the current below the plantation we intended to visit, and thus had a walk of a mile through the cocoa plantations, with which the whole right bank of the river between Obidos and Alemquer is lined. I do not know a prettier place than one of these plantations. The trees interlock their branches, and, with their large leaves, make a shade impenetrable to any ray of the sun. The earth is perfectly level, and covered with a carpeting of dead leaves; and the large golden-colored fruit, hanging from branch and trunk, shine through the green with a most beautiful effect. The only drawback is the pleasure of a walk through them arises from the quantity of musquitoes, which in some places, and at certain times, are unendurable to one not seasoned to their attacks. I could scarcely keep still long enough to shoot some of the beautiful birds that were flitting among the trees.
This is the time of the harvest, and we found the people of every plantation engaged, in the open space before the house, in breaking open the shells of the fruit, and spreading the seed to dry in the sun on boards placed for the purpose. They make a pleasant drink for a hot day by pressing out the juice of the gelatinous pulp that envelops the seeds; it is called cacao wine; is a white, rather viscid liquor; has an agreeable. acid taste, and is very refreshing; fermented and distilled, it will make a powerful spirit.
The ashes of the burnt hull of the cacao contains a strong alkali, and it is used in all the “cacoaes” for making soap.
We were kindly received by the gentleman whom we went to visit, Senhor José da Silva, whom we found busily engaged in gathering the crop. When he discovered that we had eaten nothing since daylight, he called out in true hospitable country fashion, “Wife, cook something for these men; they are hungry;” and we accordingly got some dinner of turtle and fowl.
In addition to the gathering of his cocoa, Senhor da Silva was engaged in expressing a clean, pretty-looking oil from the castanha. The nut was first toasted in the oven; then pulverized in a wooden mortar; and the oil was pressed out in the same sort of wicker-bag that is used for straining the mandioc. He said that the oil burned well, and was soft and pleasant to put on the skin or make unguents of, though it had not a pleasant smell. This oil has not yet found its way into foreign commerce.
From the statements of this gentleman, I gathered the following facts regarding the cocoa:
The seed is planted in garden beds in August, When the plants
CULTIVATION OF COCOA. 299
come up, it is sometimes necessary to water them, also to protect them from the sun by arbors of palm, and to watch carefully for their protection from insects. In January, the plants are removed to their permanent place, where they are set out in squares of twelve palms. Plantains, Indian corn, or anything of quick growth, are planted between the rows, for their further protection from the sun whilst young. These are to be grubbed up so soon as they begin to press upon the cocoa trees.
In good land the trees will give fruit in three years, and will continue to give for many years; though tradition says they begin to fail after seventy or eighty.
The trees bud and show fruit in October or November for the first crop, and in February and March for the second. The summer harvest commences in January and February; and the winter crop, which is the largest, is gathered in June and July. One crop is not off the trees before the blossoms of the second appear. We saw no blossoms; and I heard at Obidos that the winter crop had probably failed entirely.
Every two thousand fruit-bearing trees require, for their care and croppage, the labor of one person.
When they are young they need more attention, and two people are necessary. The trees are kept clean about the roots, and insects are carefully destroyed; but the ground is never cleared of its thick covering of dead leaves, which are suffered to rot and manure it.
The earth of the cacoaes that I saw opposite Obidos is a rich, thick black mould, and is the best land I have seen. It is low, particularly at the back of the plantations; and the river, by means of creeks, finds its way there, and frequently floods the grounds, destroying many trees. The banks of the river are five or six feet high; but the river is constantly encroaching upon them. Senhor Silva told me that, when he first took possession of the place, he had seven rows of trees between the house and the river; now, only three rows remain. The houses have frequently to be moved further back, so that these cocoa plantations must, in the course of time, be destroyed.
In good ground, and without accident, every thousand trees will give fifty arrobas of the fruit; but the average is probably not over twenty-five. A tree in good condition, and bearing well, is worth sixteen cents; the land in which it grows is not counted in the sale. One person will take care of two thousand trees. The value of the arroba in Pará is one dollar. With these data, calculation will make the cultivation of the cocoa, in the neighborhood of Obidos, but a poor business; and, indeed, I heard that most of the cultivators
were in debt
to the merchants below. Should the thousand trees give fifty arrobas, and the price of the arroba run up to one dollar and twenty-five cents, and one dollar and fifty cents, as it does sometimes in Pará, it would then be a very profitable business.
Obidos is situated upon a high, bold point, and has all the river (about a mile and a half in width) in front of it. The shores are bold, and the current very rapid. I had heard it stated that bottom could not be obtained in the river off Obidos, and I bought six hundred feet of line and a seven-pound lead to test it. In what was pointed out as the deepest part, I sounded in one hundred and fifty, one hundred and eighty, and two hundred and ten feet, with, generally, a pebbly bottom. In another place I judged I had bottom in two hundred and forty feet; but the lead came up clean. I may not have had bottom, or this may have been of soft mud, and washed off from the arming of soap that I used. It is a very difficult thing to get correct soundings in so rapid a current, and in such deep water.
The land on which Obidos is situated may be called mountainous, in comparison to the general low land of the Amazon; and far back in the direction of the course of the Trombetas were seen some very respectable mountains.
The coast, from the mouth of the Trombetas to Obidos, is about one hundred and fifty feet in height; is of red earth; and is supported upon red rock, of the same nature as that at Barra. This rock is very hard at bottom, but softer above, and many king-fishers build their nests in it. The general height is broken in one or two places, where there are small lakes. One of these, called Tiger lake, would afford a good mill-seat, which might grind for six or seven months in the year.
The town of Obidos proper contains only about five hundred inhabitants; but the district is populous, and is said to number about fourteen thousand. There is quite a large church in the town, built of stone and mud, with some pretensions to architecture; but, though only built in 1826, it seems already falling into ruins, and requires extensive repairs.
There are several shops, apparently well stocked with English and American cloths, and French fripperies. I heard a complaint that the trade was monopolized by a few who charged their own prices; but I judged, from the number of shops, that there was quite competition enough to keep the prices down to small profits. The value of the imports of the district of Obidos is nearly double that of the exports, the staple articles of which are cacao and cattle.
I have my information from Senhor Antonio Monteiro Tapajos, who
was very kind to me during my stay in Obidos. He gave me some specimens of Indian pottery; and his wife, a thin, delicate-looking lady, apparently much oppressed with sore eyes and children, (there being nine of the latter, the oldest only thirteen years of age,) gave me a very pretty hammock.
Senhor Joao Valentin de Couto, whose acquaintance I made by accident, gave me a live young Peixe-boi, which unfortunately died after it had been in my possession but a day. He also made me a present of some statistical tables of the affairs of the province; and not being able to find, at the time, the report of the President that accompanied these tables, he had the courtesy to send it to me in a canoe, after I had left the place and was engaged in sounding the river.
It will be seen that here, as elsewhere, during my travels, I met with personal attention, kindness, and liberality. Every one whom I conversed with on the subject of the Amazon advocates with earnestness the free navigation of the river, and says that they will never thrive until the river is thrown open to all, and foreigners are invited to settle on its banks. I think that they are sincere, for they have quite intelligence enough to see that they will be benefited by calling out the resources of the country.
Obidos has a college, lately established, which has some assistance from the government. It has yet but twenty-four scholars, and one professor a young ecclesiastic, modest and intelligent; and enthusiastic and hopeful about the affairs of his college.
Antonio, a Portuguese, with whom I generally got my breakfast, told me that there were many poisonous serpents in the neighborhood of Obidos, and showed me a black swelling on the arm of his little son, the result of the bite of a scorpion. In five minutes after the boy was bitten, he became cold and senseless, and foamed at the mouth, so that for some hours his life was despaired of. The remedies used were homeopathic, and, what is a new thing to me, were put in the corners of the eye, as the boy could not swallow. I found homoeopathy a favorite mode of practice from Barra downwards. It was introduced by a Frenchman, a few years ago, and there are now several amateur practitioners of it. We left Obidos, in the rain, at 1 p.m., on the 29th February. Our long stay at Barra had brought the rains upon us, and we now had rain every day. We travelled all night, and at half-past 9 a.m., on the 1st of March, we entered a furo of the Tapajos, which, in one hour and three-quarters, conducted us into that river opposite the town of Santarem. This
302 ARRIVAL AT SANTAREM.
canal has a general width of one hundred yards, and a depth, at this season, of thirty feet. There are several country houses and cocoa plantations on its banks. It is called Igarapé Assu.
The Tapajos at Santarem, which is within one mile of the mouth, is about a mile and a half wide. Its waters are nearly as dark as those of the Negro; but, where stirred with the paddle, it has not the faint red color of that river, but seems clear white water. Large portions of the surface were covered with very minute green leaves and vegetable matter.
We presented our passports and letters to the Delegado, Senhor Miguel Pinto de Guimaraéns, and obtained lodgings in the hired house of a French Jew of Pará, who was engaged in peddling watches and jewelry in Santarem.