Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, Vol. II/12
Jacares savages — Mouth of the Beni river — Obstructions to steamboat navigation — Madeira river falls — Lighten the boat — Pot holes — Granite — Pedreneira falls — Caripuna savages — Pedro milks a savage woman — Bilious fever — Arrive at the foot of San Antonio falls — The impracticability of navigating by steamboats the falls of the Mamoré and Madeira rivers — Proposed road through the territory of Brazil to Bolivia — Physical strength of the white, black, and red men, compared under a tropical climate — Tamandera island — Turtle eggs — Oil-hunters — Borba — Mouth of the Madeira river.
JACARES SAVAGES. 287
A bark canoe lay by the Bolivia shore. Our negroes blew their horns, which brought four savages and a black dog to the bank. Two of them wore bark frocks, and two were naked — real red men. As we floated along by the current, the following conversation took place between the savages and the negroes: Savage — “Oh!” Negro in the bows — “Oh!” Savage — “Venha ca” — come here — very clearly pronounced. We told them to come to us, and they ran away, while we paddled slowly on. These Indians are of the “Jacares” tribe; they were soon paddling after us fast. We waited but a short time. Their swift canoe was constructed of one piece of bark, twenty feet long, and four feet beam. The bark was simply rolled up at each end, and tied with a vine from the woods; between the sides, several stretchers, four feet long, were fastened to the edge of the bark by small creepers, and a grating, made of round sticks fastened together with creepers, served as a flooring, which kept the bottom of the canoe in shape, when the Indian stepped into her. Two young men dressed in bark dresses sat in the stern, or one end, with well made paddles. On the other end sat two naked women, each with a paddle lying across her lap. As they came alongside, amidships sat an old chief with a basket of yucca, a bunch of plantains, a large lump of pitch, and several small pieces of a superior quality, called by the Brazilians “breu.” The Indians use it for securing arrowheads, we find it serviceable in sealing our bottles of fish, or fixing the screw to our ramrod; besides which, the old man brought one small richly green parrot for sale. We bought him out with knives and fishhooks. One of the women was good looking, the figure of the other was somewhat out of the usual shape. On being presented with a shaving glass, they expressed great pleasure, and one after the other looked as far
288 MOUTH OF RIO BENI.
down their throats as they could possibly see by stretching their mouths wide open. Their greatest curiosity seemed to be to explore the channel down which so much of the results of their labor had passed. When they saw their dirty, half-worn teeth, the holes in their ears, noses, and under-lips, one of them poked her finger into her mouth through the lower hole, and brutally laughed. They wore long hair behind, and clipt it off square over the forehead, which gave them a wild appearance. The women were very small; their figures, feet, and hands resembled those of young girls. Their faces proved them to be rather old women. They appear cheerful, laughing and making their remarks to each other about us, while the men wore a surly, wicked expression of face. One of the young men became very much out of temper with Pedro, because he would not give all the fish-hooks he had for some arrows. The old man seemed very much excited when he came alongside, as though he half expected a fight. He was a middle-sized person, and chief of all the Indians in his tribe who inhabit the Bolivian territory. He represents his tribe as few in numbers and scattered over the country. Like the women, the men have great holes in their noses and under-lips, but nothing stuck in them. We supposed they were in undress on the present occasion. The chief inquired the names of the different persons, and wanted to know which was the “captain” of the party. The women begged for beads, and assumed the most winning smiles when they saw anything they wanted. We invited the chief to accompany us to the next falls and assist us over. He shook his head, pointed to his stomach, and made signs with distressed expression of face that he would be sick. He was then told we had more fish-hooks and knives; if he brought yucca and plantains we would trade at the falls. To this he consented, but said his people and the Indians below, were not friendly, and that the enemy generally whipped his people.
Three miles below Lajens we came to the mouth of the Beni river. This stream resembles the Mamoré in color and width; but while the latter has a depth of one hundred and two feet, the former has only fifty-four feet water. Temperature of Mamoré water, 81°; of Beni, 82°. Near the mouth of the Beni there are islands. The whole width of the river is about six hundred yards. The junction of these two streams forms the head of the great Madeira, which is one mile wide.
In the month of October, 1846, Señor José Augustin Palacios, then governor of the province of Mojos, explored the falls in the Mamoré and Madeira by order of the government of Bolivia. We find the map of Señor Palacios a remarkably correct one. He ascended the Beni for a short distance, finding a depth of seventy feet water to the foot of the falls beyond which he did not go, but returned and continued his course down the Madeira to the foot of its falls, when he retraced his steps to Mojos by the way he came. We have accounts of many falls on the Beni river from the province of Yungas down to the town of Reyes, between which falls the river is navigated by the Indians in wooden balsas.
OBSTRUCTIONS TO NAVIGATION. 289
falls beyond which he did not go, but returned and continued his course down the Madeira to the foot of its falls, when he retraced his steps to Mojos by the way he came. We have accounts of many falls on the Beni river from the province of Yungas down to the town of Reyes, between which falls the river is navigated by the Indians in wooden balsas. The Beni has never been explored throughout its length, but with the falls above Reyes and those seen by Señor Palacios near its mouth, which appear to have prevented him from ascending this stream on his return, we have reason for saying the Beni is not navigable for steamboats. The outlet for the productions of the rich province of Yungas is to be sought through the country from the gold washings of Tipuani to the most convenient point on the Mamoré between Trinidad and Exaltacion. The distance from the latter place to Reyes, on the Beni, is not very great. From the general conformation of the bottom of the Madeira Plate, we are of the impression that the road would have to be cut high up towards the base of the Andes, so as to clear the annual floods. The Mamoré, therefore, is the only outlet for the eastern part of the department of La Paz, as well as a great part of the department of Santa Cruz. The ridge of hills and mountains at the base of which the Beni flows, stretching from the falls of the Madeira to the sources of the river Madre-de-Dios, or Purus, separates the Madeira Plate from the Amazon basin, and divides the department of the Beni from the Gran Paititi district in Brazil, which extends north to the Amazon river. Paititi, it may be remembered, was the name given by Padre Revello to our favorite dog, lost on the road from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca.
We are about to pass out of the Madeira Plate, having arrived at the northeast corner of the territory of Bolivia. The lands about the mouths of the Beni and Mamoré are now inhabited by wild Indians; some parts of them are free from inundation. Cacao grows wild in the forests. The head of the Madeira contains a number of islands. Here we find the outlet of streams flowing from the Andes and from the Brazils collected together in one large river. Water from hot springs and cold springs, silvered and golden streams joining with the clear diamond brooks, mingled at the temperature of 82° Fahrenheit.
The Madeira river flows through the empire of Brazil, and keeps the northerly course pointed out for it by the Mamoré, The first falls we met were close to the junction of the Mamoré and Beni, called “Madeira,” three-quarters of a mile long. It is difficult to judge the difference of level between the upper and lower surfaces of the river. As the falls are shelving, and extend a great distance in length, the distance we run, during the day is not easily estimated.
290 MADEIRA FALLS.
At one time we go at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, and then not more than one mile in half a day. This fall is not less than fifteen feet. Large square blocks of stone stand one upon another in unusual confusion. The boat was paddled through for a quarter of a mile, and by passing half the baggage out over the rocks, she was sledded and floated through narrow channels close along the eastern bank. The whole bed of the river, as we stand at the foot of the fall and look up, is a mixture of rough rocks laying in all positions on the solid foundation of granite, surrounded by foaming streams of muddy water. While we loaded our boat again at the foot of the falls, Titto discovered some Indians approaching us from the woods. They came upon us suddenly, from behind a mass of rocks, with bows and arrows in their hands. Don Antonio had warned me before I left him to be on my guard when the savages came up in this way. He said when they send women and children to the boat in advance, then there is little chance, of a difficulty with the men; but when the women and children are kept in the rear, and the men come with bows and arrows in hand, the signs are warlike. We were, therefore, prepared. We, however, recognised our friends, the Jacares. An old chief brought a woman along loaded with roast pig and yucca. She carried a deep, square willow basket on her back, suspended by a strap of bark cloth round her breast. The chief and his two men were dressed in bark cloth frocks and straw-hats, while the only thing on the woman’s back was her basket. One hand bore an earthen pot, which she also offered for sale. Titto traded with the party, and they gradually became much more easy in their manners towards us. For the want of an interpreter, I could not make out what customs were observed among them. These Indians bear the name among Brazilians of great thieves. They, however, appeared to be perfectly satisfied when we left them with the reasonable exchange. The passion expressed by one at Pedro for not giving him all his fish-hooks for a few arrows rather leads us to believe that, if they had outnumbered us, they would have been troublesome. We gave them no opportunity to treat us unkindly, for we were exceedingly polite, and so well armed with all, that they very justly acted their part in a spirit of reciprocity. There is great difficulty in knowing how to meet the savage. Treat him as a civilized man, and his better feelings are touched. It won’t do to approach him indirectly, letting him see that, while willing to trade, there is a prudent readiness for a fight. They took a polite leave of us by shaking hands all round. We introduced the custom, which they seemed to like, though the stiffness of their elbow joints proved they did not understand the matter.
RIBEIRAO FALLS. 291
They sauntered up the rocky bank on the sand to where they had left their bark canoe at the head of the falls, and we went dashing on through the rocks in the rushing current.
September 23. — The river was seven hundred yards wide, and one hundred and five feet deep. We passed “Miserecordia” rapids, or swift current, but not a ripple was to be seen. The channel was clear of rocks, and we soon came to the “Ribeirao” falls, which are two miles long. The baggage was carried five hundred yards over a path on the east bank. Don Antonio transported his vessels on wooden rollers here. I think he said he was nearly one month getting up these two miles. The men were anxious to see whether they could not pass this fall with the boat in the water. They launched her down one shoot of twenty feet nearly perpendicular by the rope painters in the bow and stern.
Our boat was beginning to give way to the rough service, and as she leaked, it became necessary to lighten her load; then, too, the men began to tire. After they succeeded in getting the boat safely over a dangerous place, the boxes had to be carried one by one. The heaviest box was that in which were planted three specimens of Mojos sugarcane. I had just cut my first crop, and found the plants were doing well, when it became necessary to relieve our little boat, and we were unwillingly obliged to leave behind what might have proved of importance to a Mississippi sugar-planter. Our baggage was taken out and restowed a number of times. Once the boat was on top of a rock, and another half under foam. The sun was scorching hot, and we had the full benefit of it. When the water is thrown on the bare rocks, it hisses as if poured upon hot iron.
The sides of the pot-holes are ridged like the inside of a female screw; some of them are nine feet deep. The water in them is quite hot; one of the negroes seemed to be fond of lowering himself into the pots of hot water; his face had rather a distressed expression, and while standing with his head above the edge of the pot, he looks as though undergoing a hot-water cure. The river appears to have worn away the rocks less than above. It flows over a solid mass, in which there are many gutters cut, from four to six feet deep, of the same, width. Our canoe safely passed through one of these by the ropes, as the crew walked along the level rock. There were numbers of these gutters cut parallel to each other. The rock was worn as smooth as glass. After descending some distance in the middle, we found the channels so large and dangerous, that we must gain the east side of the river; the only escape for us, besides retracing our steps, was to cross a wide channel with a farious cataract above, and another close below.
292 PERIQUITOS—ARARAS RAPIDS.
We hugged the foot of the upper as close as possible, and the men pulled with such force that one of the paddles broke when we reached half the way. With the remaining three, we made a hairbreadth escape; the boat could not have lived an instant had we been carried over the lower fall. The rollers formed by the swiftness of the current are five feet high; large logs are carried down so fast they plough straight through the waves and are out of sight in an instant. The men came near upsetting the boat in a dangerous pass. They seem to be giving out through pure exhaustion. They have very little to eat; farinha adds not much to their strength, and jerked beef spoils. No fish are to be found, nor birds; a monkey would be a treat. Night overtook us half way down the falls, and we came to, on a barren rock, where there were two small sticks of wood, of which we made a fire, boiled water, and gave the men coffee.
I observed a southern star, and turning for another in the north, was glad to find it had passed the meridian, as sleep was much more necessary than latitude.
On the west side of the falls stood three small hills; on the east side a large white-trunked forest tree. This was the largest tree we had yet seen, though not quite equal to a North American huge oak.
September 24, 1852. — At daylight we crawled on; it would be a mistake to grace it with the name of travelling. The country is thickly wooded with Brazil nuts and cacao trees interspersed. Four miles further down we came to “Periquitos” rapids, which takes its name from numbers of parrots inhabiting the woods. These parrots are green, scarlet, and yellow, with long tails; they fly slowly overhead in pairs, crying an alarm as we are seen approaching. We paddled through these few rocks without the least difficulty. Banks of the river thirty feet high; soundings fifty-four feet. At midday a thunder gust with rain came from the north. As we are passing out of the Madeira Plate, we find the climate changing; northerly winds bring rain here, while southerly winds bring them farther south. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 86°; water, 83°.
“Araras” rapids were passed with much toil, easing the boat down by ropes made of bark, which are best for such work as this; the water has little effect upon them. The fall is small, and the channel clear.
While the men gathered Brazil nuts from the woods, we bottled a young turtle, taken from among eggs found in the sand. Amphibia are poorly represented; we see no alligators, snakes, or frogs. The water has become much more clear; it has a milky appearance. The banks slope down regularly; being covered with a light-green coat of grass, they have the appearance of cultivation.
September 25. — At 9 a.m., thermometer, 84°; water, 82°; light north wind. At 2 p.m., thunder to the northeast.
PEDRENEIRA FALLS. 293
On the east bank were cliffs of red clay fifty feet high, breaking down perpendicularly. We passed the mouth of Abuna river, which is fifty yards wide, and flows in from the southwest. At 3.30 p.m., thermometer, 86°; water, 82°. In the evening lightning to the southwest. We came to a number of rocky islands in the river, and took up our quarters on one of them for the night. We slept under blankets; there is a heavy dew, and the nights are quite cool. Richards was aroused by a severe pain in his ear; he was suffering all night long. The men told me it was common among the soldiers at the fort, caused by exposing the ear to night-air and dew. The only remedy reported was “woman’s milk,” which was not at hand.
September 26. — For the eighteen miles between the “Arares” rapids and “Pedreneira” falls, we found a current of only one and a half mile per hour, with a depth of sixty feet water. We have observed between all the falls passed, that the current becomes slow, and as there is very little damming up of the water by the falls, that the general inclination could not be great. We also found the land gradually getting higher, as though the river was flowing through a country which sloped against the current. We find at the “Pedreneira” falls the strata perpendicular; the river does not flow over a flat mass of rock as before, but cuts its way through a vertically grained rock; so fair and square has the river worn its passage, that the gap resembles a breach in a stone dam. The river turns from its northern course at a right angle, and flows east, inclining a little south, as though it wanted to turn back and flow into the Madeira Plate again. We suppose this fall to be situated on the top of that ridge of hills and mountains extending across South America from the Andes to Brazil. We are now on the chain which fastens Brazil to the base of the great mountains, and the river is sawing across and cutting it gradually asunder. Part of our baggage was carried over, and our boat towed along the east bank with less difficulty than we expected; we found a rapid current below.
On the south bank of the river we saw two bark canoes; the negroes gave us music on their cow’s horns, and two red women appeared on the bank at a path in the thicket; they belonged to the “Caripuna” tribe. We pointed down the river, and called for “Capitan Tupé;” they ran away, and we continued to the Paredao falls. A whale boat might pass through the main channel with ease, but our boat was too small to attempt it. The baggage was landed on a sand-beach near the rocks, which were elevated forty feet above the water level. In the rainy season the floods cover them all except ten feet. I climbed up to the top for a view of the country, and to seek a passage for the boat. The men had a short distance to paddle, and then tow her through a narrow channel by the ropes.
294 PAREDAO FALLS
The landing-place was in the rapid current; they missed it, and the boat ran away with them through the rocks — they were carried at a frightful rate; Titto shouting to the negroes at the top of his voice to pull for their lives, so that he might steer them safely, which he fortunately did. They were all so much frightened that it brought them to their working powers. The sight was an interesting one for me, as the smallest rock in their way would have dashed the boat to pieces. As I turned to go down I found myself surrounded by a party of savage women and children, who had come up behind me. There were eight women, ten children, and two unarmed men, all, from external appearances, savages of the purest water. On taking out my handkerchief, the women and children all laughed! One of the men stepped before me, and putting his hand into my pocket, took all the fish-hooks out, and appropriated them to his own use, by handing them to a homely woman who bore a sucking baby, and then coolly inquired whether I had a knife to give him. He was a short, thick-framed man, quite fat and hearty; the women were all ugly; the boys were the most cheerful, manly-looking Indians we ever met with. At my suggestion, they walked to the boat with me. Their chief “Capitan Tupé,” as they call him, was absent on a hunting excursion. Their huts were some distance from the falls, so that we missed seeing their houses. They were quite friendly with us. Some of the men who came afterwards, left their bows and arrows behind the rocks, and walked up unarmed. The women carried their babies under the arm, seated in bark cloth straps, slung over the opposite shoulder. The infants appeared terribly frightened at the sight of a white man; one of them screamed out when Pedro milked the mother into a tin pot, for the benefit of Richards’ ear, which still troubled him. The woman evidently understood what was wanted with it, and stood still for Pedro to milk her as much as he chose. The boys are remarkable for large bellies, as the sketch of “Matuá” and his brother “Manú” will show. The older ones express a willingness to go away from their mothers; Manu was asked, by signs, if he would go with me; he shook his head, no; when he was made to understand that he could get a pair of trousers and something to eat, he then nodded his head, yes. Pedro tells me they swell themselves up by eating earth, which Indian children all do. One of the Caripunas got into the boat and examined the baggage; he soon found a knife, which he took, and came out with it in his hand, before everybody. It belonged to one of the negroes, who took it from the Indian. The savage appeared disappointed; he was then told if he would bring yucca or other provisions for the men, he should have a knife.
CARIPUNA SAVAGES. 295
They all declared they had nothing to eat in their houses. We made them a little present, and bought a bow with arrows from one of the boys. They were particularly desirous of getting fish-hooks and knives.
Matuá is in the full dress of the men, who wear beads of hard wood round their necks, with bands bound tight round the arms above the elbow and round the ankles. The foreskin is tied up to a band of cotton twine, which is wound tight round the hips and under part of the belly. All wear their hair long, and cut square off in front. In large holes in their ears, they carry pieces of bone, or a stick of wood. Through the whole in the nose a quill is pushed, the cavity being filled up with different colored feathers, gives them a moustach appearance. These people are nearly all of the same height and figure, but differ very much in the features of the face. Some have thick lips, flat noses, and round faces; others are just the reverse. The former very ugly, and a few of the latter tolerably good looking. The women are larger than those we saw near the mouth of the Beni. There are not many of them; they live about in small bands, and said they found few fish in the river. They promised to plant yucca and corn, so that the crew might have something to eat on their return to the fort. As we embarked, they said “shuma” which Pedro informed us meant “good man;” but probably referred to more presents.
The lands on the south side of the river are inhabited by the Caripunas. It is flat, and a beautiful spot for cultivation. Small mountains and hills are in sight on the north side, as we descend by a rapid current. The river seems to be creeping along on a ridge, seeking an outlet to the north. At 3.30 p.m., thermometer, 90°; water, 83°; light northerly airs; thunder to the north, and a rainbow to the northeast.
September 21. — At “Trez Irmaós” rapids we found no difficulty. A large island in the middle of the river chokes it, and the water rapidly flows through two channels. As we dashed by, the men blew their horns for “Capitan Macini,” another Caripuna chief, who lives on the south side of the river, with a small band of his tribe. Pedro speaks of “Capitan” in complimentary terms. He is represented as being exceedingly obliging; we wanted his services as pilot, but missed him. After passing “Trez Irmaós” rapids, the river turns north. A rapid current carries us through a chain of hills on each side, tending east and west. The foliage is unusually green and thick; forest trees have been broken by the action of violent winds. We scarcely are fairly launched out of the Madeira Plate into the Amazon basin, before we meet, at midday, a storm of wind and rain from the northeast, accompanied with thunder. We find the sea-way in mid-channel much too high for our little boat, and bring to.
296 GIRAU FALLS.
While the storm passes, the wind carries a cloud of dry sand before it. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 85°; water, 84°. We are now being avalanched down an inclined plane. Arriving at the head of “Girau” falls, we find the true falls of the Madeira. They are short, but the rush of waters through a confined space, between immense masses of rock, baffles large sized vessels, and prevents their passing either up or down the river. Don Antonio transported his boats over the land here.
Richards was suffering very much from his ear; his under eye-lid hung down, the corner of his mouth became drawn up on one side, while he seemed to lose control of the muscles of his face; the pain was beyond endurance. All the men began to feel the effects of the change of climate; the nights cold, and midday sun very hot. They complained of headaches and pains in their backs; the strongest of them were jaded. Before they went to sleep, I dosed the party with raw brandy all round, which cheered them up. They have been much more respectful lately, and work with a will.
September 28. — The men are all in better health this morning. They carried the baggage through the woods on the east side of the river, and with the greatest difficulty got the canoe through the rocks. The river has been turned to the eastward by hills on the north side. The fall cannot be estimated with any degree of certainty; the descent is more precipitous, and the roaring of the foaming waters much greater than any we before met. We were from daylight until 3 p.m., making the passage from the upper to the lower side, before we got breakfast, which we took under the shade of trees, where the thermometer stood at 99°; wind northeast.
Pedro shot a few fish with his arrows, and a negro caught one with a line. As the vegetable kingdom appears fresh and vigorous, under the strong breezes filled with moisture from the North Atlantic, so again do we find animal life in abundance. The trade-winds from the ocean cross the land from Cayenne, in French Guiana, and strike this side of the Amazon basin. The clouds roll up, and the waters are wrung out in drops of rain.
The Paititi district of country which we have on our west, and the Tapajos district on the east, are watered by the northeast trade-winds. They get their moisture from the north Atlantic, and here we find on the side of these hills the boisterous region again, and the trees are torn up by the roots. These acts of the northeast trade-winds are written upon this slope of the Amazon basin exactly as we met the southeast trade-winds as they struck the Andes on their way from Rio Janeiro.
CALDEIRAO RAPIDS. 297
The Caripuna Indians we have just left told us they came down the Madeira for fish. They find little game and no fish, even in these mighty waters, above the boisterous region. The two Yuracares Indians we met on the side of the Andes said they would catch us fish when we got further down the rapid Paracti. Fish are just as particular in their choice of waters and climate as those animals which inhabit the dry land.
The foam that is produced by the water dashing over the rocks floats aloft in the shape of mist; and in the calm, clear, starlight nights, the gentle northeast breezes cast a thin gauze-like veil around us and affects the glasses of our instruments. All observations of the stars seem to be forbidden. Early in the morning, as the sun’s rays strike upon the river, they gradually absorb the mist, and first that portion which has been scattered by the night winds, and looking just then, up or down the river from an eminence, the traveller may see the position of each cataract, like the smoke of a line of steamers. The powerful sun soon evaporates this mist, which speedily disappears as it rises. One of the crew caught a small electrical eel, which opened its galvanic battery and shocked the whole party. A rapid current, and no bottom at twenty-five fathoms water.
September 29. — We get our baggage stowed and all on board ready for a long pull, but soon fetch up among the rocks again. “Caldeirao do Inferno” rapids are caused by three rocky and somewhat wooded islands in the river. We pulled part of the way through on the west side without discharging baggage; the boat was gently eased down by the ropes. At the foot of these falls, which could not be passed by a steamboat, we discovered a bark canoe, manned with savages, paddling with all their might away from us; they seemed to be very much alarmed, and were soon out of sight. As we came to a place rather too rapid for safety among rocks, the men got out and towed us along the north bank; while doing so, three savage men, three women, three children, and five most miserably thin skeleton dogs, came to see us. The men laid their bows and arrows behind the rocks, and approached. us without fear, but the slim dogs were disposed to show fight. They were weak and slab-sided animals; quite unsuccessful in their endeavors to raise a bark at us, but coughed out a sickly sort of noise, as they hung around their masters’ legs. One had his ears boxed by a tiger, which gave him a perpetual stiff neck. They all looked as though they had been vainly struggling with the beasts of the forest. An unsightly old woman brought us a fried fish fresh from the river. One of the men had bilious fever, but was attended by a pretty girl, who took her paddle in one of the canoes which kept company with us.
298 CARIPUNA INDIANS.
The parrots swarm along the banks of the river, mit there are few other birds. The current runs at the rate of six miles per hour. River three quarters of a mile wide, with sand-banks and islands in the stream. We landed on the north bank with the Caripuna savages; men, women, and children, all seated themselves in a friendly way round our cow-hide, which was spread on the ground for breakfast.
Richards was left in charge of the boat, while I, with one of the negroes armed with a musket, followed a path through the woods single file for a quarter of a mile from the river. As we came in sight of huts the men and boys gathered under an open house at the end of the path; the women all seized their babies and ran into two enclosed buildings in the rear. The savages did not take up their bows and arrows, which however lay at hand, but several of them held knives, and others picked theirs up. Thomas, the tall negro soldier, came to a stand just outside of the shed, while I walked under and took a seat in one of the grass hammocks slung between the posts on which the roof was supported. The boys all laughed, and gathered round me. One man came up and leaned against a post close by me with his arm elevated. He held a knife in his hand; my hand was concealed under my jacket, where Colt’s revolver rested in a belt. The Indian wanted to test me, as is their custom. A fine large rooster passed by. Savage was asked to sell it by signs of hunger. He at once took down his hand, and called out to the houses, when the women came out with their babies. One of them, a good-looking squaw, came to him, and they had a consultation about the chicken. She nodded her head, and the boys gave chase to catch it for me.
There were thirty savages living in this wild, out-of-the-way place. One of the men was chipping off the outside of a hollow piece of log with his knife for a drum, two of which already hung up under the shed. They expressed no pleasure at seeing us. They looked as though they preferred we would go awray. The roof of the wooden house under which the men were collected was beautifully thatched with a species of wild palm-leaf. The frame-work was made of poles stripped of their bark, fastened together by vines or creepers. The whole rested upon forked posts set in the ground, between which there were slung a number of grass hammocks. Bows and arrows were their only home-made arms. The knives were imported. After making friends with them, they all came up, shook hands, and took a good look at me. The floor of the guard or men’s house was swept clean. It seemed to be kept in military order, clear of all household or kitchen furniture.
HOUSES OF THE CARIPUNAS. 299
One of the men and several women went with me to examine the dwelling-houses of the women. The roof extended within two feet of the ground. The sides and gable ends were also thatched in, with a doorway at each corner, and one in the centre next the guard-house; five entrances in all. The inside presented a confused appearance. Piles of ashes were scattered about the ground floor as though each woman had her separate fireplace. The inside measured about forty feet by fifteen. Earthen pots and plates were lying about in confusion; dirty, greasy hammocks hung up; tamed parrots were helping themselves to plantains. An ugly monkey looked dissatisfied at being fastened by the hinder part of the body to a post. The unpleasant variety of odors drove us out. In the third house there were but two doors. Here the miserable dogs kept up a terrible noise. The women took me to the hammock of an old sick Indian, who they made signs was dying by laying their heads on the palms of their hands and shutting their eyes. He was covered with a bark cloth blanket, which was cast off by him so that I might see his thin legs and body. He was very much reduced. By the whiteness of his hair, I judged he was dying of old age, or suffocated inside this damp, filthy house, where he seemed to have been turned to the dogs. There was one house in which the women slept. The open house was the sleeping apartment of the men and boys. There was great order among the men; the grounds round about were swept. Where the women were seemed all confusion and want of cleanliness. Their faces were covered with dirt. As to their clothing, we could better describe what they did not wear.
We saw no signs of a place of worship, nor of what was worshipped, though the Brazilians say they have seen among them “wooden images,” figures of head and shoulders in shape like a man. A Catholic priest once visited these people, but found no encouragement. They looked on indifferently, taking more interest in the music of a violin and the singing than in anything else. The lofty forest trees shade the little huts; a path leads farther inland, where they cultivate patches of yucca and corn, though they have little to eat from the land at present, and take to the river for food. The children of these Indians strife us as being remarkably intelligent, compared with those on the tops of the Andes. All Indian children seem to be in much brighter spirits than the older ones. They have yet to be taught the art of using chicha, which the women are said to give their husbands here in the woods. We gave the multitude an invitation to join us at breakfast. A little boy walked by me with the rooster under his arm, and they all followed single file, with the music of crying brabies, to the bank of the river, where they seated themselves round.
300 TEOTONI FALLS.
Some presents were made to them in exchange for the offer of several chickens and a large partridge. To the little girls we gave earrings, to supply the place of fish or beast-bones; to the boys fish-hooks; and to the men knives. The elderly women particularly fancied looking-glasses for themselves, and glass beads for their babies. One very unattractive woman requested me to make her an additional present of a looking-glass. A knife had been offered, which she particularly requested. She received the refusal with such a savage side-glance, that the damage was repaired at once, and the men ordered into the boat. Her sister used paint. Her forehead was besmeared with a red color, and her lips blackened. We presented her with a large looking-glass, which she used for examining as far down her throat as possible. Pedro had a slight difficulty with one of the savages, who he said had stolen his knife from the boat. I replaced it, and we went on without being disturbed, though, as we afterwards learnt, these fellows not long since robbed two Brazilians on the river, who escaped down stream in one of the bark canoes of the savages, leaving their own boat behind. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 91°; water, 85°; river one mile wide, interspersed with islands and rocks, twenty-five fathoms depth. On the east side a small stream of clear water flows in. The water of these small side-streams are often 6° Fahrenheit cooler than the main river water. We bottle it, as the river water is unpleasantly warm for drinking. A man fully comprehends the blessing of ice by gliding down this river. The current is fast one hour and slow the next few minutes. The men pull when they feel like it, and rest when they wish. We are moving along, more or less, all the time during the day. The river is not very winding.
September 30. — About twenty-five miles on a northeasterly course brought us to “Doz Morrinhos” rapids. The difference of level here is slight, though the passes are difficult. A part of the baggage was banded over the rocks, which proved a prudent plan, as the boat was nearly swamped. The country is quite uneven and thickly wooded, At midday we had a light shower of rain, accompanied by thunder, without wind. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 87°; water, 85°; with a strong southwest wind. At the foot of these falls we sounded with five hundred and ten feet, and no bottom.
At a late hour in the afternoon we arrived at the head of “Teotoni” falls, the most terrific of them all. Here I was attacked with a severe bilious fever, which brought me at once on my back. The pain in my left breast was somewhat like that described by those who have suffered with the “Chagres fever.” We were all worn out, thin, and haggard. I had been kept going by excitement, as the men were careless, brutal negroes, and Richards suffering still with the pain in his ear.
SAN ANTONIO FALLS. 301
OCTOBER 1, 1852. — This fall is over fifteen feet, ten of which is at an angle of 45 degrees. The roaring made at intervals by the rushing of the waters over and through the rocks, sounds like distant thunder. Our little canoe is driven for safety out of the water to the land. The baggage was carried by a path on the south side to the foot of the falls. Richards went along with the first load, and remained below looking out, while I rested to see every thing sent over. The men idled their time between us, until we were caught in a heavy rain and thunder storm from northeast. The boat was put upon rollers and transported four hundred yards over a hill, and launched into the river below. We were from daylight until dark at the work. I should not complain, however, because men never had a more harassing time than these have had. If alone, they would not have come half the distance in the same length of time. They have pushed on for me, when I least expected they would keep on.
We noticed that at nearly all the falls in the Madeira the river turns as it cuts its way through the rocks, forming nearly a semi-circle towards the eastward; after gaining the base of the declivity, the stream returns again to its original course. Here the path over the land describes a diameter. The storm continued all night in squalls. The negroes took off their clothes and laid down upon the bare rocks under a heavy rain, with cold wind, where they actually slept, while those of the crew, with Indian blood, built a fire and slept on the sand close by it in their clothes. The baggage was left on the sand bank until morning covered with raw hides. We were well drenched, certainly a poor remedy for bilious fever, particularly when followed by the heat of a tropical sun.
October 2. — Five miles below are “San Antonio” falls, which we passed by tow-lines without disembarking our baggage. The difference of level is very small; the bed of the river much choked writh rocks. The stream is divided into a great number of rapid and narrow channels. We took breakfast on the west side, at the foot of these falls, with feelings of gratitude we had safely passed the perils of seventeen cataracts. Those parts of the rivers Madeira and Mamoré, between the foot of “San Antonio” and the head of “Guajará-merim” falls, are not navigable for any class of vessels whatever; nor can a road be travelled at all seasons of the year, on either bank, to follow the course of the river, for the land bordering on the stream is semi-annually flooded. By referring to the map it will be seen, we travelled from Guajará-merim, on the Mamoré, in a due north course, to the Pedreneira falls, on the Madeira.
302 PHYSICAL COMPARISON OF RACES.
By the windings of the river, we estimate the distance not less than one hundred miles. From the Pedreneira falls to the foot of San Antonio, our direction was about east-northeast, a distance by the river of one hundred and forty miles, which makes the space not navigable two hundred and forty miles. A road cut straight through the territory of Brazil, from San Antonio falls, in a southwest direction, to the navigable point on the Mamoré, would not exceed one hundred and eighty miles. This road would pass among the hills, seen, from time to time, to the eastward, where the lands, in all probability, are not overflowed. On a common mule road, such as we find in Bolivia, a cargo could be transported in about seven days from one point to the other. Don Antonio Cordoza was five months struggling against these numerous rapids and rocks to make the same distance, with his cargo in small boats. We have been twelve days descending the falls, which is considered by Brazilian navigators fast travelling. The wild woods that cover the lands are unknown to the white man. Topographically considered, the lands on the east side of the Madeira are the most valuable.
Our experience with a black crew gives reason to believe the climate is more congenial to them than the white or red races. Among the half-civilized and savage aborigines, we notice very few men live to an old age; they generally pass away early; tribes are composed usually of men under forty years. The moment we landed at Principe, there appeared before us a number of active, gray-headed old negro women and men, grinning and bowing, with as much life in their expression of face and activity of manner as the youngest. Long after the savage has become hammock-ridden wdth age, the negro, born before him, is found actively employed. The physical strength of the negro is not equalled by the red man here. The Indian enjoys the shade of the forest trees, while our negroes rejoice in the heat of the sun.
India rubber is found in these woods, with quantities of Brazil nuts and cacao trees. The whole forest is as constantly green as the snows on the peaks of the Andes are everlastingly white, although the leaves fall and the snow melts away. In the month of April, or thereabouts, the sap which flows through the veins of these forest trees, begins to fall, not suddenly, as the sap of the sugar-maple in our northern States, but gradually and slowly, as the live-oak, magnolia, or other evergreens of Florida. The sap descends from the topmost branches first; the leaves begin to sicken for want of nourishment; they wilt, and the first that falls to the ground is from the end of the branch which first lost its sustenance. The tide of sap ebbs a shorter time than is usual in a climate where half the year is wintry. The flood tide of sap goes up, in time to send out new leaves at the top of the tree before the last on the lower limbs have fallen.
TAMANDUA ISLAND. 303
During this rise and fall of the sap in the trees tropical forests shed their leaves. The work is performed in such a secret way, that it would not be observed, did we not find the ground covered with dead leaves, while the trees are perfectly green. On the Andes the llama, grazing near the snow line, had its back thickly clothed with wool, while the ground was strewed with its last year’s crop. When the sun stands vertically over the llama, it sheds its wool; when the sun passes far off on its northern tour, the leaves fall from the forests at the base of those great mountains. During the season of the year when the sap is in upward motion, the “rubber” man taps the trees and gathers the milk, converting it into shoes by smearing it over a last, and poking it into the smoke of a small fire near by him. The guava and banana fall to the ground to fatten the wild pecary; the oriole nestles in the tree-tops, and feeds its young in the stocking-like nest which hangs from the tip ends of the limbs. Toucans appear astonished at the songs of our negroes as we paddle down, leaving the cataracts behind us.
At 3 p.m., thermometer, 86°; water, 84°; we bottled drinking water from a small stream on the west side, having a temperature of 76°; width of the river six hundred yards; sounded with two hundred and ten feet of line without finding bottom; current two miles per hour. The channel is perfectly clear of all obstructions; few logs are enabled to pass safely through all the falls in the dry season, but when the river rises they come down at a terrible rate, and in great numbers, though the channel of the Madeira is seldom as much obstructed by drift-wood as the Mississippi.
In the evening we arrived at Tamandua island; one hundred Brazilians were engaged gathering turtle-eggs, of which they manufactured oil. These men came up from the Amazon; the sight of them gladdened our spirits; we had passed the savage race, and reached civilized man, on the Atlantic side of the wilderness; we were out of the woods, though the trees are larger here than on the southern side of the ridge of hills through which the Madeira flows. The forests here resemble those on the side and base of the Andes. The negroes supped on turtle-eggs, while they drew comparisons between the people of the Amazon and those of “their country,” as they called Cuyaba, on the other great South American river. One of the oil merchants kindly invited us to take up our quarters in his hut, but the fever kept me in bed in the canoe, with pains that forbade sleep at night. He sent us two turtles, measuring nearly three feet long, with one foot and a half of thickness. One of them was a load for a man.
304 TURTLE-EGGS — OIL-HUNTERS.
The turtle deposits its eggs in the sand on these river islands at the beginning of the dry season, commencing in July and August. The beat of the sun hatches the young; they dig holes four feet deep, by throwing the sand on each side with the hind-flippers. The motion is quick and sudden, casting the sand a distance of six and eight feet from them. After reaching the depth required, the female drops eggs in the bole and covers up the top with sand drawn in by her fore-flippers. There is an equal distribution of labor; the hind legs dig the hole, and the fore ones fill it up. The hole is gradually filled with from one hundred and fifty to two hundred eggs. There is some difference of time between the first deposit and the last; yet, so nearly does the turtle calculate the depth of sand, and power of the sun, that all the eggs are said to hatch exactly at the same time. The young turtle rises four feet from the bottom of its birth place, to meet his little brother at the surface. They trot to the river’s edge side by side, where they practice swimming, to be ready for the floods that come down from the, distant Andes soon after they are born.
The oil man ascends the river, with a fleet of canoes in company, manned with workmen, loaded with provisions, copper boilers, spades, &c. They know the time the turtle has laid its last egg, and while the eggs are fresh, they dig them from the sand, beginning on one side of the island, and turning up the soil to the proper depth. They throw out the eggs like potatoes, while others gather them up in baskets. A canoe is washed out, and the eggs thrown in and thoroughly broken by means of forked sticks. The soft shell or skin, is pitched out; a quantity of water poured in and left to stand in the sun. The oil rises on the surface; this is skimmed off and heated in copper boilers. Being put up in large earthen jars or pots, containing four or five gallons, it is sold in the markets of the Amazon. In Para, the price per pound varies from five to ten mil reis. One silver dollar of Bolivia money is now worth eighteen hundred reis. While the “manteca” — butter or oil — is fresh, it is used for culinary purposes. The cook, of course, knows nothing of the number of young turtles which may have been boiled in it during the late period of digging. Its general use, however, is for lamp oil. The annual supply from all the rivers in the Amazon basin is consumed within the mouths of these rivers.
Turtle are now said to be scarce. We see millions of eggs destroyed by the oil-hunters, who search all the islands, and drive the turtles from one to the other. The men tell me there are no eggs to be found on the island they worked at last year. The mother turtle was disappointed; the little ones never made their appearance from out of the
sand where eggs were deposited, although they are not wise enough to understand the boiling process their egg’s had undergone, yet, something was known to be wrong, and placing no faith in that sand bank, every one deserted it, and made use of an island they would not have chosen had they been let alone. There the oil man continues to follow them. These turtle are called by the Brazilians “Tortaruga Grande.” There are said to be four other kinds in the Madeira river, viz., “Cabecucla,” “Trocaja,” “Pitehu,” and “Mata-mata.” The Tortaruga Grande is the best for eating and for oil; they are also in greater abundance than the others.
Huts are built in the sand for the protection of the hunters against the great heats of the sun in the day, and the rains. The men, who are of Amazon Indian blood, have their wives with them. There are few negroes at this business. Brazilians, of Portuguese descent, gather a band of adventurers, or fishermen, who are willing to leave their homes for this wild country, and seek their fortunes among the sands, where no diamonds have yet been found. The life is a hard one; the exposure on the voyage, and after they arrive on the ground, is great. Many of them have fevers, their provisions get short, the water is warm, and unless the work is carried on at a rapid rate, the young turtles begin to form in the egg, which impairs the quality of the oil — to say nothing of the butter. Great quantities of rum are consumed on these expeditions, The Portuguese set up shop where rum is sold, and a debtor and credit account is opened with the Indian workmen; in the same way the Creole miner does with those of the Andes, making profit, while he pays the workmen’s monthly wages — from three to five dollars — with provisions.
The workmen soon get tired and want to return. The employer takes out a passport for them all at the last military post as he ascends.; they are forbidden to travel about the country without one. The workman is held to his promise to remain during the season, good treatment or bad, by retaining his passport. Our crew became intoxicated among their countrymen, and danced part of the night with Amazonian girls, to the tune of violins, in the huts, while heavy rain poured down in large drops, accompanied with thunder and sharp lightning. Wind blowing fresh from northeast.
October 3. — The crew wished to remain among these greasy people, but as we preferred floating on by the current, to laying by the side of the oil canoes and hot sand bank, we pushed off with a mail on board. As we descend, the river stretches out in long bends towards the northeast. Twenty-five fathoms sounding and no bottom, The width varies from six hundred to a thousand yards. The country is level; the growth of trees decreasing in size the lower we go.
306 MURAS INDIANS.
October 4. — At 9 a.m., thermometer, 88°; water, 87°. The small streams which flow in from the eastern side are of a deep green color at 37° temperature. The banks are twelve feet high, and break down perpendicularly.
October 5. — This morning we met four “Muras” Indians fishing with bows and arrows mid-channel, in small canoes, hewn from one logo. One canoe contained a woman and two children, under the thatched roof of a little cabin. These people were all dressed in decent fashion. The women wore a calico frock. The men were larger than the Caripunas, and more reserved; it was with difficulty we could get them to stop and sell us a paddle; we wanted to replace a broken one. A knife was paid for it, when they desired to push off from us. Probably they were ashamed of being fishermen without any fish; or had, at some time, met with ill treatment. Sounded with twenty-three fathoms, no bottom. A short distance further down, got bottom at thirty-six feet, and lost both lead and line. There are a few snags in the channel, among which our line was entangled.
My bilious has now turned to ague and fever. The stench from the muddy banks, and stagnant pools of water, has become exceedingly offensive, and at night we have musquitoes, which we were not troubled with among the falls. The current varies in its speed from an half to two miles per hour, showing an uneven surface. The ground over which it flows is sloping in steps, or shelving, which gives the outward motion of the water a jerking impetus. Islands, long and narrow, divide the stream into two channels; yet the depth of water, and width of the passages, are sufficient for all commercial purposes. Pedro tells me the “Toras” tribe of Indians inhabit the east side of the river; we, however, saw nothing of them.
October 6. — We landed on the west bank, at “Roscenia de Crato,” which is a frontier post of the Brazilians, on the Madeira. The entire country between this settlement and the town of Exaltacion, in Bolivia, is inhabited by savages. The Portuguese have ascended the Amazon and Madeira thus far on their south westward emigration. The Spaniards, who crossed the Isthmus of Panama and the mountains of Bolivia, are now on their northeast descent, to meet the Brazilians. The movement, on both sides, is slow, but the white man is crowding close upon each flank of the savage, who now occupies but a narrow strip of land between the emigrants from Spain and Portugal — gradually working through the wilderness towards each other.
ROSCENIA DE CRATO. 307
Crato belongs, partly, to my friend Don Antonio Cordoza. A few years ago, his father established a trading station here, where the Indians come in from the wild woods with sarsaparilla, Brazil nuts, chocolate, pitch, and guaraná, prepared from the seed of a fruit found in the woods, represented to be somewhat like the wild cherry. The Indians mash the seed between stones, and make a paste by adding water; after being dried in the sun, it is rolled in one pound weights, and is sold at the station at fifty cents per pound. Don Antonio sold guaraná in Trinidad at four dollars. The Spaniards are exceedingly fond of it; the price has been as high as eight dollars a pound, in the mountains of Bolivia. Guaraná resembles prepared chocolate; a small quantity grated in a tumbler of water with sugar, makes not only a very refreshing, but a strengthening drink. The Indians use it when hunting or marching, thinking it enables them to undergo a great amount of fatigue. The trader pays the Indian in rum, hatchets, knives, fish-hooks, beads, etc. We find four or five houses, inhabited by squatters, surrounded by a beautiful pampa country; here and there clusters of forest trees. On the plains the pasture proves excellent for the few cattle and horses that have been brought up the river. Quantities of chickens flourish about the house, with dogs and fat hogs.
The families are of Portuguese descent. A hammock was slung for me in a house with a parlor on one side and a small sugar-mill on the other. While the olive colored women sat sewing, the man was employed putting sugar-cane between the vertical wooden cylinders, as our men turned the beam by hand to get some sugar juice to refresh themselves. The people were extremely kind and attentive. Mrs. Santa Ana, the wife of the man to whom we brought letters, doctored us with chicken tea, declaring “people died with the fever in this country who would not eat.”
The soil is well adapted to the growth of the sugar-cane. We are told the country far west is a prairie for a long distance, covered with fine pasture. The Indians are called “Muras;” they are fond of trading, and less warlike than some others, of whom little is known. They seem to be pleased with the difference between rum and sarsaparilla.
We remained here all night to give the men a rest, and try to get one night’s sleep ourselves, but there was no rest with a high fever. The river water cooled in an earthen monkey was refreshing.
Our boat was well washed out, and the baggage restowed; a large hog killed for the men, and our chicken basket filled with fowls. We were requested to take charge of the mail, a handful of letters, and embarked with many thanks to our friends on the frontier.
308 INDIAN TOWN — PIRARUCU (Arapaima) FISH.
Soundings vary from seven to twenty-one and a half fathoms. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 92°; water, 86°; calm.
October 8. — During the night we had heavy rain, sharp lightning, and thunder from northeast. At 9 a.m., thermometer, 83°; water, 85°. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 88°; water, 86°. The rest at Crato has refreshed us all; the men pull stoutly; they are now civil and attentive, showing a desire to behave themselves well, though we find a free negro the most difficult character to control. The Indian attends to his duty without being told to do so. The negroes begin to fear a difficulty with us, and are coming round, not only to their daily work, with more spirit, but are particular to show us respect. We would decline an offer of a boat’s crew of free negroes on another such expedition. We have felt that had these men not been aware we were well on our guard since they shot our dog, they would have murdered us without the least hesitation. They disputed our authority and wanted to let us know it.
In the afternoon, as a black cloud comes from the northeast, the wind turns up the sand on the beach and islands above the deep green foliage. As the thunder roars and lightning flashes, we leave the troubled waters of mid-channel and seek a safe little inlet in the bank, and secure the boat till the raging storm passes. On the west bank was a small town of the Muras Indians, built of palmetto wood, and thatched with the wild palm leaf; it appeared to be deserted. The banks were forty feet high, of red clay, and perpendicular. On the east side of the river there were patches of maize. The forest trees are of less height as we descend; long islands stretch from three to five miles, dividing the river in twain. At the mouth of a small, clear, green water stream, we met a party of Indians fishing in a log canoe. The men were naked, and the women dressed, in frocks. On one of the sand islands was their temporary hut.
October 12, 1852. — At 9 a.m., thermometer, 83°; water, 86°. For the last three days we have passed through an uninhabited region, without meeting with obstructions to steamboat navigation. The current one mile per hour, and river in some places one mile wide. We met with a fishing “cuberta,” at anchor. This vessel is an Amazon craft, used for trading up and down these rivers under sail, or polled, or towed along the bank when the river is low. We went alongside and purchased a dried “pirarucu” fish, which we all fancied the taste of at once; it was new both to us and to the Cuyaba negroes.
Pirarucus are taken by the arrow, as they swim near the surface of the water; it has a small head and thick body, covered with scales; they are found here from six to eight feet long. After it is salted and dried in the sun, the meat keeps well twelve months; boatmen toast or boil it without smothering it in potatoes; it has no offensive smell, like boiled dried cod-fish. We were told the fish are called “peixe boi,” (bull-fish,) of the Madeira, is the same as the “vaca-marina,” (sea-cow,) of the Ucayali, though comparatively there are few taken.
PORTO DE MATAURA. 309
The captain of the “cuberta” was lounging about the vessel with his coat off, while one or two men were up the river in a small canoe fishing. The cable, by which the vessel swung to her anchor, was made of a black grass-like stuff, taken from a species of palm-trees found on the Rio Negro, called “piassabá,” said to last longer in the water than out of it. Different-sized ropes are made of the piassaba, but the cordage of the vessel was generally of Kentucky hemp. Her measurement was not over sixteen tons, rigged schooner fashion. On deck, between the cabin and the forward house, was a large box filled with earth, on which the crew built a fire and cooked fish and turtle. We handed the captain a Bolivian silver dollar in payment for fish, which he seemed pleased to take, and gave us large copper coins in change. Titto, our negro sergeant, had to explain the value of Bolivian silver in Brazil money.
At Porto de Mataurá a guard-house is situated on the east bank. Richards climbed up the steep bank, and presented passports to the commander, who was kind enough to send an officer to offer us a house if we would remain. The officer returned again with a present of a couple of watermelons, said to be an uncertain remedy for fever and ague. They were small, only half ripe, but soon devoured, as they were the only refreshing thing we had seen, except a little sugar-cane, since leaving the fort. The suffering from fever was increased to agony when the same dose had been imprudently repeated. Drinking water was 87°, and the temperature of the air, in the shade, 89°. Under such circumstances fruits and melons are luxurious. The temptation is great, but the sick should be particularly guarded against using such injurious articles, however pleasant to the taste.
As we move on the lands become more elevated, and are better adapted for cultivation than others below Crato. The forest trees are small where the lands are free from inundation, corresponding to observations made as we floated into the middle of Madeira Plate, near Exaltacion. Small streams of water flow in from the east, while, on the west, “madres,” or large pools, have an outlet through the bank. The rule is, high banks on the east side of the Madeira, and low to the west, with few exceptions. Springs are scarce. The water trickling down the blue, red, or yellow banks is the coolest, even after being bottled and stowed under our seats.
The air is 96° Fahrenheit; the heat is very oppressive. Under us there are twenty-four feet water; in some places no bottom at one hundred and fifty-six feet. As the river rolls along straighter, we find more irregularity in the channel, and width, in some places, full one mile. On both banks we see small houses, with a few plantain and orange trees about them. These are the settlements of the descendants of the Portuguese. A canoe or two lay by the bank opposite each house. As we swiftly passed along, by the force of paddles — for the current was only one mile per hour—the bright moon rose up over the sea of foliage and lit our way to the town of Borba, on the 14th of OCTOBER, 1852.
With a bundle of letters, I crawled up the steep bank to the house of Capitan Diogo, father of my friend Don Antonio. He ran his fingers through grey locks of hair, and laughed at the idea of a man’s getting sick on such a voyage; gave me a horrible cup of tea made from the leaves of a bush found in the woods, which put me to sleep, as he was boasting of his extraordinary long travels up and down the rivers, and how he used to doctor himself. He was very cheerful until he counted the money brought from his son and partner, when he wanted to know “if that was all Antonio had made on his trip to Bolivia.”
In the morning our baggage was brought up, and the soldiers turned over to the commander of police. Borba is a small town of three hundred inhabitants. Two rows of miserable wooden huts stand parallel with a most distressingly dilapidated church; bells, old and cracked, are hung under a small shed near the door. On the soil, whence the forest trees had been cleared, was a thick sod of small bladed grass, on which a few poor, slim looking cows were pasturing. Large and fat hogs came grunting at the door. The hot sun had deadened the wool on the backs of a few sheep, and in its place, a fleece of straight, grey hair came out as a substitute. When man forces the animal intended by God for a cold climate into a hot one, a new nature comes to the poor, panting creature’s relief, and puts upon it a coat of cool hair, instead of the hot woollen one.
The Spaniards have forced the hog so high up on the Andes that he suffers every time he raises his bristles, and dies out of place; while the Portuguese find it impossible to produce good mutton or wool on the hot plains of the Amazon. Indians, in a warm climate, grease or oil their naked skins as a protection from the sun, or that the rains may slide off the more easy; while those we saw on the frozen mountain tops, clothed themselves in wool, and greased their insides with mutton.
MANNERS OF THE INHABITANTS. 311
They appear to understand perfectly why the earth was provided with meat and clothing.
The inhabitants of Borba are principally negroes, who are very noisy, both in-doors and out; one-half of them are slaves. Those of Portuguese descent are extremely indolent. We observed few children of any color. The women wear their hair put up behind with large tortoise-shell combs, fancifully carved. Their dresses are very short waisted, which gives them a more awkward appearance than they really deserve. The men wear trousers, and a shirt with the tail outside, which looks cool. Neither sex walk out except to church, when they dress in deep black cloth and silks, with gold ornaments and diamonds in profusion brought from the head-waters of the Tapajos — or to the river to bathe, when they leave almost all wearing apparel at home.
The houses are of one-story and long; there are no doors hinged between the rooms, only those opening to the street. Curtains are hung from the upper part of the doorways to within a few inches of the brick floor. One day a fresh breeze blew into the windows, and the draft through the doors raised up all the curtains, when we discovered the family seated on a rug, spread on the floor, sewing. The girls were pretty, with large deep black eyes and hair; they quickly pulled their little bare feet under their dresses, and laughed heartily at the sudden surprise. Their hair was all down; hooks and eyes not fastened. The lady of the house was very kind on her side of the curtain, handed Quinine and Port wine on our side to the Capitan, who declared he could cure the fever in a short time. He insisted upon my joining him every night at ten in a hot supper; at the same hour in the morning at breakfast, and disapproved of sleeping — which was all we wanted, except to get out of the country as soon as possible. Our bread was made of Richmond flour, which is said to keep better in this climate than more northern flour from the United States. Whether this is owing to the mode of grinding the grain, or a difference in the character of the wheat itself, is to be tested. Turtle and chicken were the principal meats, with coffee and Portuguese red wine. The tobacco, which is produced on the banks of the Madeira, is said to be superior in quality to any in Brazil. It is made up in rolls, seven feet long and three inches in diameter, carefully wrapped up in a strip of rattan closely wound round it. Each staff contains two pounds; bundles of them are exported, with cacao, Brazil nuts, coffee, and sarsaparilla, to the Atlantic coast.
The trade of Borba is insignificant. According to Capitan Diogo’s account, there are not more than two thousand people, Indians and all,
312 DESCEND THE MADEIRA.
inhabiting the banks of the Madeira, principally found near the stream; the country in the interior being a wilderness, tangled, matted, and in places swampy, where alligators bask in the sun on the beaten-down grass, and tigers roam freely after tapir tracks. At the small farms, near Borba, sugar-canes are raised and mm is manufactured — a greater quantity of the latter article being consumed in Brazil, the trade in it seems to be the most extensive of all others. A few watermelons, oranges, and limes are raised, but less than are required for home consumption.
There were no men belonging to Borba to take us on. The authorities ordered the soldiers who came with us to go on. I regretted this for two reasons. One, that we were in hopes of getting rid of these impudent, half-savage free negroes, who refused positively to obey the authorities of the town. Another, that the commander of Beira wished me to send them back as soon as possible after we arrived here, as it would, take them five months to regain their posts. But I found they were obliged to go as far as Barra to Rio Negro, to purchase a little iron, which, with some guaraná, they had been ordered to carry to the fort, and to our surprise, the men wanted to go with us in preference to remaining in Borba, or returning to their usual duties. A larger boat was fitted out. Pedro, our pilot, was paid off, as his services were needed as boat-builder by the Capitan, who filled our basket with chickens, and gave us a water-cooler. Two large cakes, with a jar of preserved oranges, were sent to the boat by the wife of our friend Don Antonio, whose little child came to thank us for bringing letters from the father and husband. The kind old Capitan gave me particular instructions about the fever, which he had partly cured, while he nearly killed the patient. We pushed off with three Portuguese passengers.
The river was thirty feet above its present level, in the rainy season, and has now thirty feet depth off Borba. A vessel may lay moored to the bank of the river. There is stone at hand for building wharves if needed. The northeast trade-winds blow fresh, and we find a difficulty in making head-way; the current of the river has slackened to half a mile per hour. The winds blow directly in opposition to it, which baffles us considerably. In the evening, the wind falls away, and we push off from the bank where the boat is fastened, to hold what we have gained.
At some small huts we find Muras Indians sleeping, who seem very indifferent about selling a few thick-skinned, insipid oranges
Among the heavy night dews are intermingled an equal portion of hungry musquitoes. The nights and mornings are beautifully clear.
MOUTH OF THE MADEIRA. 313
On the afternoon of the 21st of OCTOBER, we crossed the river from the east to the west bank, being forced to do so, as the wind created a sea, and we lay uncomfortably moored to a snag; when half way over, our little craft struggled and dipped in the water. Richards bailed out manfully, while the men became frightened; we kept her bow angling the sea till she reached in safety the opposite shore, where the negroes, hearts returned to their places, but their eyes stretched wide open, as they looked back at the troubled stream, saying they never saw water behave so furious before.
During the 29th of OCTOBER we lay all day by a sand island, unable to proceed until evening. When the wind died away, we paddled on by the light of the moon. As the negroes lifted their paddles out of the water, we dipped the thermometer in the Madeira for the last time, 88° Fahrenheit. Suddenly, the bow of our little canoe touched the deep waters of the mighty Amazon. A beautiful, apple-shaped island, with deep green foliage, and sandy beach encircling it, lies in the mouth of the great serpentine Madeira. The mouth opens by two channels. We find seventy-eight feet depth, near the western side, which is six hundred yards wide, with high banks, well wooded, but no marks or traces of civilization, A long sand-spit hung out over the lower mouth, like a great tongue, on which lay turtles and bird’s eggs. The east side of the mouth was about three-quarters of a mile wide. A few houses stood on the back ground, where the country was more elevated towards the southeast.
Now that we are at the mouth of this magnificent stream, we find no deeply loaded vessels enter it. The value of the present foreign trade of South Peru and Bolivia may be worth ten millions of dollars per annum.
The distance from the foot of San Antonio falls to the mouth of the Madeira, is five hundred miles by the river. A vessel drawing six feet water may navigate this distance at any season of the year. A cargo from the United States could reach the foot of the falls, on the Madeira, within thirty days. By a common mule road, through the territory of Brazil, the goods might be passed from the lower to the upper falls on the Mamoré, in less than seven days, a distance of about one hundred and eighty miles; thence by steamboat, on that river and the Chaparé, a distance of five hundred miles to Vinchuta, in four days. Ten days more from the base of the Andes, over the road we travelled, would make fifty-one days passage from Baltimore to Cochabamba, or fifty-nine days to La Paz, the commercial emporium of Bolivia, where cargoes
314 ROUTE BY THE MADEIRA.
arrive generally from Baltimore in one hundred and eighteen days, by Cape Horn — often delayed on their way through the territory of Peru from the seaport of Arica. Goods by the Madeira route, sent over the Cordillera range to the Pacific coast, might get there one month before a ship could arrive from Europe on the eastern coast of the United States, by two oceans or the old route.