Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon/Volume 2/Chapter 11

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Exaltacion — Cayavabo Indians — Descending the Mamoré river — Indians shooting fish — Houbarayos savages and birds at midnight — Ascend the Itenez river — Forte do Principe da Beira, in Brazil — Negro soldiers — Kind attention of the commandante — Favorable notice of the expedition by the President of Matto Grosso — The wilderness — Friendship of Don Antonio, his boat, and a crew of negro soldiers — Departure for the Madeira river — Birds and fishes congregated at the mouth of the Itenez — On the Mamoré river again — A negro soldier’s account of the Emperor’s service — Roar of Guajará-merim Falls.


AUGUST 24, 1852. — Arrived at the port of Exaltacion. The Indians manufacturing sugar at the mill on the bank. The largest Indian we met on the route was superintending the workmen; he measured five feet eleven inches. This is the Cayavabos tribe. These Indians are said to be the most courageous in the Beni. They are certainly a superior looking set of men.

Map of the Amazon Basin with the Mamoré River highlighted. Other rivers are also shown.

The town of Exaltacion is situated in the elbow of the river, one mile inland, near a beautiful lake. The place was nearly deserted for the sugar patches and chacras which line the banks up and down the river, to which the Indians repair in the morning early, men, women, and children, and after the day’s work is over, return to town for the night. All the towns in Mojos are laid out and built after the same fashion, and the costume of the Indians is the same, except here the women have a fancy for black, and dye their cotton camecitas of that color, which is anything but an improvement in a country where plenty of water may be had. Exaltacion stands on a dry, parched, uninteresting flat. The cathedral and government houses are superior to those of Trinidad, though this town is small and more like Loreto. The tamarind trees and orange groves planted here by the Jesuits flourish better.

As there were some cases of small pox in town, we declined the kind invitation of the correjidor to take up our quarters with him. This gentleman was exceedingly polite, and promised to give us a canoe and fourteen men to carry us to Brazil as soon as possible; Don Antonio being obliged to leave his large boats in the Mamoré river, and load his small canoe with that part of his cargo intended for Matto Grosso. Boats drawing three feet water could not ascend the Itenez river to that town at the dry season of the year. (Note: Rio Guaporé is the name of a river in western Brazil along the Bolivian border, its Bolivian name is Río Iténez.)

Iténez river.


The correjidor gave orders to a commissario to detain a crew in the morning, before the Indians started for the chacras, so they might prepare their farinha for the voyage. Yucca turns green, and rots in a few days in its natural state; we will be detained some days, while the women manufacture it into farinha; it is washed, pealed, and grated into a wooden trough; after which it is ground, or mashed by hand between two stones. Maize is often mixed with it, by which it is much improved. After it is dried hard, the flour lasts long enough for a voyage of a month. Cattle are scarce on these prairies; a beef costs four dollars; the crew require one for a start, but as the meat keeps so short a time, they are dependent upon farinha, and what they may pick up on the way.

Don Antonio lost two of his animals on the passage, and from the dry appearance of the pasture, he will lose the others. The correjidor was unwilling to permit him to let them loose on the plain among other cattle and horses; suffering with the worst stages of the disease, he was fearful that they would affect those which had escaped.

In the evening we met the Indians returning from the chacras, all armed with bows and arrows. The tribes to the north are savages, and very unfriendly towards the Cayavabos, who often whip their neighbors when they misbehave themselves. They were loaded with yuccas, plantains, oranges, sugar-cane, alligator’s eggs, and with the only farming tool they use, a small iron shovel, attached to a long straight handle.

The sugar mill is going all night long; several pairs of oxen are kept ready, and as soon as one becomes tired, a fresh pair is hitched in; the boy that thrusts the cane between three perpendicular cogged cylinders, and the driver of the team, often fall asleep at work, but are kept at it by those put over them to keep the mill going. The mill and oxen all belong to the State, as well as the chacra, from which this cane came. After the Indians have manufactured the government’s sugar and rum, then the mill is loaned to them, and their own oxen are hitched to. The fixed stipend of the Church and State officers of the Beni are paid by the income from these government sugar patches, worked gratis by the Indians under orders from the authorities.

The market price of sugar, in the town of Exaltacion, is one real per pound. A quantity of fresh juice is drank like new cider; it is called guarapo; the Indians are very fond of it. They make wry faces at aguadiente, but naturally take to chicha. An Indian always “acknowledges the corn.” There are three kinds of sugar-cane here. The largest sized white cane is considered the least valuable; the sweetest and best quality is the small white stalk. The third kind has a dark bluish color, which is said to produce the best aguadiente. It is seldom manufactured into sugar, being inferior to either of the two whites. I collected cuttings of each kind.


The Cayavabo Indians are good horsemen. When they require cattle, a party mount horses and ride into the pampa, where they encounter the wild cattle. They ride round them in the most skilful manner, run them into an enclosure; from the outside of the fence they lasso a beef, and haul him to a bull-ring fixed in a post. Tame oxen are kept and fed near the place where the beef is butchered. The horns of a wild bull are sometimes secured to those of a tame ox, when they are let loose on the plain. The ox knows the road, and naturally runs to the place where he is fed at the market, and holds his wild brother, while the Indian puts him to death.

The boat’s crew were mustered by the comisario, and in the presence of the correjidor, I paid them our passage money from Exaltacion to Forte do Principe da Beira, in Brazil, with the express understanding, that in case there were no men there for Don Antonio’s boat to take me to the Amazon, they would continue with me to the town of Matto Grosso. It appeared very evident that the Indians disliked leaving the chacras, preferring much more to remain and gather their harvest than go on this voyage, which is seldom made by the Bolivians. They were fine, stout built men, and reported to be the very best crew belonging to the tribe. The correjidor gave them instructions to do whatever I desired of them, and to take good care of us, as we came down the mountains from where the President lived. He was also kind enough to give me the choice of all the canoes in port; the largest and best one measured thirty-nine feet long, by four feet three inches beam, and would carry, besides the crew, one thousand pounds weight; the paddles were five feet long.

The correjidor presented a raw-hide box filled with jerked beef — charque, as it is called — some corn bread, and farinha. The superintendent of the mill sent a jug of molasses and some of his best white sugar. We had appointed the 30th of August as our day of sailing, when the crew came down, headed by their captain, to beg we would allow them to celebrate the Fiesta de Santa Rosa, when mafiana — next day — they would be ready to start. As there was dancing and an unusual encouragement of the chicha manufacturers in town, I saw there was no chance of getting off, and very unwillingly gave consent.


While we observed the northern stars for latitude, several Indians came to look on. Being shown the image of a star in the basin of mercury, they appeared astonished, and inquired of Don Antonio what we were doing. He told them we lived in the north, and were inquiring of the stars how far from home we were in their country. The fellows ran off immediately and called others to come and see the North Americans’ home under the stars. One of them looked intently for some time at the little twinkling image in the quicksilver, and gravely told the others “it was far off.”

Time-lapse video of Polaris and neighboring stars.

AUGUST 31, 1852. — The crew came down to the canoe, bringing with them their farinha and women; this was a favorable sign for our getting off; the captain, however, came to me and said he was very drunk, and thought it best to put off our start until to-morrow; but the men were generally sober after their Saint’s day; stowed our baggage neatly in the canoe, kissed their children, and shook hands with their wives; one having been married lately to a good looking Indian, cried; but the older ones took the departure more easy. The captain had a pretty little daughter of twelve years of age, with whom he seemed very loth to part, though he promised her to me as a wife when we returned. The “cacique” of the town came down with the men, and superintended the loading of the canoe. When we were all ready he made a speech, telling the men what their duties were, and wished them a safe return to their families. Each man stuck his bow and arrows, feathered-ends up, near by him, between the baggage and the side of the canoe, as they took their seats. We presented quite a “man of-war” exterior. We pushed on down stream at rapid rate, leaving Don Antonio to follow to-morrow. Our canoe had a washboard all round her of six inches breadth. We found our load, with crew, brought her down so deep we took in water. The captain ran alongside of a perpendicular clay bank, with which we caulked ship. We passed several canoes loaded with sugar-cane, from the chacras on the way to the mill.

The river holds about the same width — four hundred yards, fifty-four feet deep, one mile and a half current per hour. We remained all night at the port of San Martin — the lower port of Exaltacion. The bank is thirty feet high, and steep. The distance from the town is not quite a mile, but the conveniences for landing at Trapiche are the best. The men asked permission to go to town and spend the night, promising to return by daylight in the morning. The captain’s wife appeared with a jar of chicha; and after the fire was made, supper over, and beds made upon the bank, they went to town, and we slept upon the shore near the boat. There was a house on the bank, but it was filled with chickens and dogs, who were scratching themselves all night. The fire on the shore disturbed an ant’s nest, and they gave the party some trouble; they stung Mamoré most unmercifully.


We received another present of fruit from the correjidor, sent to meet us here, with his farewell compliments.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1852. — The men came down strictly to their promise, and we at last got off, but it is dreadful slow work wading through this country; a man only worries himself who pretends to hurry — poco-a-poco (little by little) is the word in Spanish. A few miles below San Martin we came to a stony point, the first rock we have seen since leaving Yinchuta. We take specimens of rocks, metals, minerals, and earths, as we go along. By the river we find chocolate, coffee, sugar-cane, papaya, plantains, pine-apples, yucca, large straggling forest trees, thick undergrowth, but no inhabitants. The Indians all sleep in the towns, and work by day in the chacras. The largest cacao leaf I could find measured one foot six and a half inches in length, with, five inches and three-quarters in breadth. The cacao tree grows wild in the woods; when planted in an orchard by themselves, even close together, the yield is much greater than where they grow in the shade of the larger forest trees. The soil here is of the richest kind.

At 9 a.m., thermometer, 88°; water, 19°. The turns in the river are becoming much longer; we find sixty-three feet water. With a gun, we landed on the west bank, and paid a visit to the pampa of Santiago, where the State has a large drove of cattle, attended by Indians. There are numbers of deer, and flocks of birds. The territory to the north, through which the Mamoré river flows, is inhabited by a warlike tribe of Indians, called Chacobos, who are constantly fighting with the Cayavabos, our crew. The men caught a number of fish from a pond on the pampa. My bottle, unfortunately, was too small at the mouth to admit more than one species. The banks of the river sometimes break down on both sides perpendicular, like those of the Mississippi, Where this is the case, the river is narrower — 350 yards wide — though the soundings are over one hundred feet. We lost one lead and part of the line, but fortunately we had duplicates.

SEPTEMBER 2. — At 9 a.m., thermometer, 78°; water, 78°; light southeast winds; thunder and lightning during the night, with rain. The crew caught a number of young birds, and gathered eggs from the sand-beach, while the old birds — a species of gull — flew over them, cried, and darted down at the Indians’ head as they made way with the young. Mamoré was let out among them. As he put his paw playfully on a young bird, the old ones were in swarms close over him, showing desperate fight in defence of their young. The sand is gray and black, like the rocks we saw yesterday.


There are a few snags and sawyers in the channel. We observe they stick fast in the sandy bottom more securely than in the mud.

While we breakfasted on young birds and eggs, wild cattle were seen on the opposite bank of the river. These cattle have roamed down to the territory of the savages. A number of palm-trees stand on the banks, and the country appears to be getting more thickly wooded. An alligator had driven a school of fish close to the bank, and, in the most comfortable way possible, was making his breakfast. The fish were crowded together; they could not clear themselves from one another so as to swim away. The alligator took full advantage of the difficulty. Our crew saw what was going on some time before we rapidly neared the school. The captain steered the canoe in about three feet of the bank, cutting between the alligator and his prey. In an instant a broadside of arrows were fired by the crew; nearly every man struck his fish. The fish were so frightened that numbers jumped out on dry land, and several leaped into the bottom of the canoe. The Indians laughed; became excited; kept on shooting. Some jumped on shore and secured the game; others ran up the bank, firing their arrows through the crowded school. One man stripped himself, jumped into the stream, and gathered in the quivering arrows as they floated down, the feathered ends up, and struggling fish on the points. The crew were most active and perfectly delighted at the number of fine fish they had — to help down their farinha. While the men broiled fish on sticks and over hot coals of fire, or made a chowder with yucca, the alligator indignantly rested on the opposite shore, now and then slowly wagging his tail as he cleared the fish-bones from his teeth, but constantly eyeing the long, low, black canoe and the happy crew as they seated themselves laughingly about the boiling iron pot. The fish were the size of a small shad, shaped like them, except in mouth, and quite as good eating. Our fears of starving in the wilderness are overcome. We can travel a long way on fish, fowls, and eggs.

These Indians talk very little. They silently pull along as though they were sleeping, but their eyes are wandering all the time in every direction. Nothing moves above the water’s surface or among the forest trees but they see it at once. They understand the habits and customs of the animals perfectly. Knowing that the alligator keeps accounts with the fish, when they see him, they are at once on the look-out for sport. They know at what time in the evening the wild turkey will appear on the bank of the river to drink before he goes to roost, and when to look for him in the morning, as he feeds by early light.


The wild ducks sleep on the beach in the noon-day sun; then it is the Indian calls our attention to them. They understand the manners of the savages too. Sometimes we all sleep on the beach; at other times in the canoe. When we keep afloat, they secure the bow of the canoe to a stake run into the sandy bottom. When night overtakes us, we pull silently along, until it becomes so dark that no one can see us come to for a rest. Our paddles are in motion again before the break of day, to avoid being caught asleep by others. In this way the chances of being fired into by the arrows of the wild men are pretty certainly reduced to broad daylight, when we take mid-channel.

Our crew know tolerably well what parts of the country are populated, and when there is a probability of meeting their enemy. We find the party depending entirely upon the judgment of this aboriginal race, who are a generous set of fellows, constantly offering to share their game with us. We return the compliment when we can, but there are more fish than turkeys. The men tell me that the Chacobo savages inhabit the west bank of the river, and a tribe called Houbarayos, the most unmerciful, live on the east bank; therefore, we are between two fires. The soundings taken the second day from Exaltacion were one hundred and two feet deep — the very bottom of the Madeira Plate. We have reached a rocky formation passing through it, and beyond it the soundings decrease. Rocks stand up in mid-channel where we find forty-five feet water; while it requires more careful navigation, the river is 400 yards wide, with plenty of room for a steamer to pass.

September 3, at 8 a.m. thermometer, 72°; water, 78°; wind, southeast. The night was foggy. As the day promises to be clear, we break out our cargo, wash out the canoe, and restow. The internal arrangements are the same we had on board the Canichanas. We passed the mouth of a small stream emptying into the Mamoré from the eastward. During the rainy season this stream is navigable for canoes.

September 4. — We find small creeks running in on both sides of the river. After passing about five miles of rocky banks, the country becomes more and more thickly wooded. We breakfast on young gulls and old green parrots, the latter very poor living, even when made into soup. The men dip their fingers into the pot; the captain carries along with him a spoon made of horn, which he carefully wipes on the tail of his camecita before taking his seat at breakfast. He reclines on the bank while the others prepare the meals, after he has waited upon the “patron,” one of the men appears before him with a cup of water, or light for his cigar. The crew never sing or whistle on a voyage like this; it is generally understood such noises disturb the savages.


They quietly laugh at monkeys at midday, and joke the old geese as they trot along the beach with a brood of little ones. When the wind blows from the southeast, the men shiver and shake for the want of proper clothing, and work much the best when it blows from the northwest, under a clear hot sun

At 9 a.m., thermometer, 78°; water, 77°; wind southeast, At 3 p.m., thermometer, 80°; water, 78°; wind northwest; lightning to the north. The Indians decorate their hats with the green and scarlet feathers of the parrots shot. Current of the river one mile and a half per hour. We came to a shoal in the middle of the river where the channel was only fifteen feet deep; parties of small seals barked at us, and the men saw a “Gran Bestia” looking out from among the foliage. The woods are cut up in paths made by these heavy animals, who come down the banks to drink in the river. The alligators make use of the ends of the paths to bask in the sun. Tigers are not particular about keeping in the old beaten track, but roam through the grass and bushes after the scent. The Indians shot a number of fish to-day. The Mamoré is well supplied with animal life — though the alligators are small, there are great numbers of them.

After dark, a pole was stuck in the sand on the east side of the river, near a flat beach, which extended some distance back from the water, perfectly clear of vegetable growth. The bow of the canoe was fastened to the pole, and she swung to the current of the stream. We were trying to sleep, but the musquitoes disputed the question with us all. At midnight, some birds roosting on the flat began to fly up and cry out; in an instant every Indian silently raised his head, and while looking intently towards the beach, they all laid their hands on their paddles. The screaming of the disturbed birds became more general, and those nearest us began to take up the cry of alarm. Mamoré, who was lying on the baggage, uttered a sleepy growl, when the old captain whispered to me, that the savage Houbarayos were approaching us, The stake was pulled quietly in, each man inserted his paddle deep into the water, and with a powerful pull together, the canoe silently glided into mid-channel. As the current carried us rapidly down through the darkness, the men were ready with bows and arrows, and we with fire arms. No noise was heard above that of the screaming of the birds; we could not see any enemy, but the captain and crew said they saw several men. These fellows are not easily entrapped; we were struck with the admirable order with which they handled their canoe, and were ready to return a shower of arrows. They watch closely the movements of all animals; could tell by the alarm cry of the birds that some one approached, as they knew the difference between the


notes of a bird disturbed by man, and those sounds produced from other sources — wild animals, or one of their own feather. They tell me that some of their tribe were robbed and murdered by these savages during the night while encamped on the bank in this neighborhood, and that it is best to remain in the boat all night. We drifted down the Mamore, and before the break of day, under a bright moon, turned up into the Itenez river, which divides the territory of Bolivia from the empire of Brazil. The crew hug the Brazil shore where there are no inhabitants, and paddle with a will against an half mile current. Here wre are forced to turn away from the direct road towards home, for the purpose of procuring the means of getting there. The boat we are in is unfit for the navigation of the Madeira, between us and the Amazon. This valuable crew of civil men are inexperienced beyond their own country. We must now grope our way among the Brazils.

I had thought, while detained in Trinidad, we should have had a few good North American carpenters and seamen along, to build a boat and launch her on our way to the Atlantic, but last night’s experience taught me to believe I was mistaken; unless sailors understand the cries of birds better than I do, we might have all been cut off in the darkness of night, before the rising of the moon. These Cayavabos Indians are good fellows; they say very little, and keep thinking as well by night as by day. I asked the captain if he was certain we were in the Itenez river. “I don’t know, patron, but,” said he, “that is the land of Brazil,” pointing to the east bank, “and this is the way to Matto Grosso.”

The Itenez river varies in width from four to six hundred yards, with white sandy bottom and shoals. The color of the water is clear dark green; half a mile current, with a winding channel, through sand flats, decreasing from thirty-three feet depth to six feet. Seals and river porpoises are in great numbers, while the shores are lined with water fowl.

At 9 a.m., thermometer, 80°; water, 82°. The difference between the temperature of the Mamoré and Itenez is 4° Fahrenheit. The Brazil water is clear and green, with white sand bottom, while that of Bolivia is muddy, and of a milky color, with grey sand and clay bottom. The muddy water is the best; we are all complaining of pains after drinking Itenez water; it bears a bad character among the canoe-men.

The country is low and well wooded; the banks overflow in the rainy season; the foliage on the Brazil side of the river is the richest green; the dew at night is quite heavy, and during the calm days the sun is oppressively warm. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 86°; water, 81°. After night we secured the canoe to a stake on a flat in mid-channel. Soon after we fell asleep, a tiger came to the bank, and while smelling the party, growled fiercely for some time; we were then kept awake by the musquitoes which swarmed about us.


SEPTEMBER 6, 1852. — Our paddles were dipped in the river at 4 in the morning watch. The men get out of the channel, and often run the canoe on the shoals. The thermometer dipped into the water near these sand flats gives 88°, showing the difference of 7° between the slack water of the river, and that in the middle of the current, which varies in its speed from half to one and eight-tenths of a mile per hour. The bed of this river is very uneven, few snags, but in some places we find rocks along the bank, and standing up in mid channel. At 8.30 a.m., thermometer, 85°; water, 81°; clear and calm. The foliage and grasses extend down the sloping Brazil bank into the water, and the palm trees loom up above the tops of other trees, while on the Bolivia shore the bank breaks down perpendicularly, with a large growth of forest trees. Before sundown, we came in sight of high land to the southeast. We are now approaching the eastern side of the Madeira Plate; the hills appear beyond the flat country like islands at sea.

September 7. — We are disturbed all night by musquitoes. The heavy dew falls upon the crew as they are sleeping in mid-channel. Fifteen of us pass the night in a space thirty-nine feet by four, which is rather close stowage, with a dog in the middle. At 9 a.m. breakfasted on the rocks, by the Brazil banks, upon turtle and alligator eggs, with chicken gull stew. Two small creeks empty into the Itenez from the Brazils. We came to rapids where the bed of the river was very rocky. There are fewer fish in this stream than in the Mamoré; some of those caught are very curious in appearance.

As the men forced the canoe through the narrow rapid channel, they shouted the news that Forte do Principe da Beira was in sight. We could see the flag-pole and the upper bastions. Its situation was commanding. A steamer of less than six feet draught could ascend to these rocks, which are four miles from the fort, but no farther at this season of the year. The rocks are so low that many of them are overflowed during the rainy season. The crew had some difficulty in forcing the canoe up among the rocks; the current rushed through narrow channels with great force.

As we neared the fort our small American ensign was supported by a Cayavabo arrow in the stern. We see soldiers rushing about as though they had been suddenly awakened from sleep or surprised. A canoe came down to meet us with two armed negro soldiers; one of them politely gave his commander’s compliments to me, with the request that we would keep off.


As this appeared warlike, I sent my compliments to the commander that we would remain by the rocky island in the middle of the river until he read a letter from the Brazilian minister plenipotentiary in Bolivia, which I sent him by the negro sergeant. Two old bald-headed negroes came, by order of the commander, to inquire if we had any cases of smallpox on board, saying, if not, the commander invited us to land at the fort. One of these negroes, fully supplied with smiles and white teeth, was the surgeon of the post; the other, with broken spectacles, was the armorer, who, together, seemed to be the health officers of the post. We had never seen people quite so black.

As we landed, a young negro lieutenant in the emperor’s army came to meet me, and offered, in the most polite manner, to escort me to a house in town. There was a shed in sight on the bank, which was the guard-house. As we passed, there was so much pulling at white trousers and blue jackets, it was evident the negro soldiers had been hurriedly dressed; the officers had their hair curled extra. While they respectfully saluted Uncle Sam’s uniform, we noticed, for the first time, how very awkwardly the negro handles the musket. As we rose upon the forty-feet bank there stood the fort, pierced for fifty-six heavy guns, pointing in all directions towards a perfect wilderness. The view down the river as well as up is very impressive. The soldiers wear leather slippers, and a hat manufactured wedge-shape, probably that the rays of the vertical sun may be split as they fall upon the negro head.

Some paces north of the fort were a few wretched little negro huts, in which the wives of the soldiers lived, and where a part of the force was permitted to sleep, by turns, during the night. One of these huts was offered to us; it contained one table and two chairs; was built of cane, plastered with adobe, tile roof, with rat-holes in the corners of the floor. The chairs were set out at the door, and Señor Commandante Don Pedro Luis Pais de Carvalho came to pay us a visit. He was a thin, middle-sized, dark-complexioned Brazilian, above fifty years of age, exceedingly mild and gentlemanly in manners; at once apologized for the general order throughout the empire, prohibiting the commanders of all fortifications from inviting a foreigner inside the walls; he said that the president of the province of Matto Grasso, under whose jurisdiction the Forte do Principe da Beira was, had instructed him to be careful the smallpox was not introduced among the soldiers from the department of the Beni, which was the cause of our being requested not to land. I told him we were anxious to go from the fort down the Madeira river, and asked his opinion of the practicability of making the journey.


He said the president of the province at Cuyaba, the capital, who was a French naval officer, with the rank of captain of frigate, had ordered him to do everything in his power to assist me; the only boat fit for the service in the port was a small one belonging to a citizen, whom he daily expected from Bolivia — my friend, Don Antonio — and it was possible we could get that, and he might supply a crew from his small force of forty negro soldiers.

The commandante assured me there were no boats at the town of Matto Grosso, such as are used for descending the Madeira river, and the chance of getting men there was very uncertain. The voyage up the Itenez, from the fort to that town, would occupy over a month, I found our only hope was now vested in the kindness of this Brazilian officer, and of Don Antonio, who had not yet overtaken us; but as he had already promised me the boat, the commandante politely offered to have her at once put in order for me. As we could swing our hammocks under the guard-shed, near the river, and better attend to our preparations there, the Cuyavabos moved our baggage up, and we took our quarters with the negro-guard, instead of among the twenty huts inhabited by black families of the station.

The walls of the fort are built of stone, in the shape of a hollow square, with diamond corners, thirty-five feet high. There are two entrances on the northwest front; one a large door-way, at which is a constant sentinel, and a subterraneous passage from the inside, leading to the bank, just above the annual rise of the river in the rainy season, or thirty feet above its present level. The third entrance is through the southwest wall, fastened by large iron-bound and double wooden doors. The trenches round the walls are twenty feet deep. In walking round the ramparts, I only saw two heavy iron guns mounted, which pointed down the river towards the territory of Bolivia. The date over the main entrance of the fort was nearly erased by the weather. We could with difficulty make out Joséph I, June 20, 1776. The commandante was unable to give us much of its past history. The Portuguese engineers who built it came up the Madeira river from the Amazon, bringing with them a small colony, who settled here by order of the King of Portugal, and, after building the fort, moved away, leaving none but the garrison within its immense walls, which enclose over an acre of land. [Note: Joséph I of Portugal died 24 February 1777. It is possible that the fort soon being deserted “after building the fort, moved away” is because of the King’s death. - William Maury Morris II, Va. 9/19/2009.] The stone of which it is built was quarried near by. The magazine on the southeast side, half a mile distant, also built of stone, has gone to ruin and is not used. A subterraneous passage leads from the fort to it.


The country around is low and overflowed in the wet season, with the exception of three small hills in sight, to the northeast. These are situated to the southwest of that ridge of mountains marked on the common atlas — “Geral mountains.” The situation of this fort is usually called “Lamego,” and the river “Guapore.” There are a few wild Indians roaming about the country on both sides of the river, of which very little is known. They never make their appearance at the fort, and the commandante never troubles himself about them. He sits in his castle for months without seeing a stranger, grumbling at the cold southeast winds. His rheumatic pains are better when the warm northwest winds clear away the clouds. The negro soldiers plant sugar cane, pine apples, and produce a few oranges. The government rations are farinha, sent from Matto Grosso, and beef when they can get from the “Baure” Indians, in Bolivia, whence this portion of the inhabitants of Brazil receive their coffee, chocolate, and sugar, by the rivers Machupos and Magdelina.

This side of the Madeira Plate presents a very different appearance from the Andes side. The commandante tells me he has navigated the low lands between this fort and the town of Matto Grosso, formerly called Villa Bella. The negro cook of the commandante prepared us a supper of chicken and rice. We slept comfortably and soundly in the guard-house after our harassing voyage. The Cuyavabos crew wanted to return to Exaltacion at once. I told them they must wait until we decided whether it was necessary to go on to Matto Grosso. The captain shook his head and said, no, Señor. Every man of the crew declared that the correjidor of Exaltacion had directed them to return home as soon as they landed us here. Whether this was so or not we are ignorant, but as the correjidor particularly told them before me to take us to Matto Grosso, I was curious to see what our chances would have been in case we were entirely dependent upon this boat’s crew. They refused positively to go up the Itenez any further, saying they had never been to Matto Grosso, and knew nothing of the river, but must hurry back and gather their crop of sugar. They traded three raw hides for a few fish-hooks. The commandante gave them a written passport to return to Exaltacion. Their canoe was light, and they paddled swiftly down through the rocks, with the current, as though they were glad to escape a longer journey. I doubt if they could have been persuaded, under any circumstances, to make the voyage to Matto Grosso. They landed us here the seventh day out, and will be full nine days returning against the current of the Mamoré.

Every day two of the soldiers are detailed to catch fish for the garrison. Although the trip from San Joaquin to the fort can be made in three days with beef, the men say they seldom get it. The monthly mail was despatched from the fort while we were there.


A small boat was loaded with the bags and baggage of five men and the same number of women. They all came to bid the commandante good-bye, as he sat with us under the guard-shed. He told them he never expected to see them again: he knew they all intended to desert him. But both men and-women declared their intention to return. The passage is made to Matto Grosso in forty days by these mail-carriers; from thence the despatches are carried through the country by mules to Cuyaba in twenty-two days, from which place there is a regular monthly mail to Rio Janeiro. The canoe is polled and paddled up the Itenez, said to be very shallow at this season of the year, with rocky and sandy bed. It is possible, as the river rises thirty feet in the wet season, that a steamboat may be able to reach Matto Grosso from the mouth of the Itenez; but during the dry season it is not navigable for anything larger than a first-class canoe.

Don Antonio arrived and reported our crew returning. He at once had his boat fitted out and gave us “Pedro” — one of his men, who had passed up the Madeira with him — as our pilot. The commandante detailed five soldiers to take us to Borba. The boat was a small Igarite, twenty-three feet long and four feet seven inches beam. Her bottom was of one piece, cut out of a very large tree, with wash-boards nailed rudely on the sides, calked with oakum, and well pitched outside and in. The bow and stern, or two ends, were fastened up by a solid piece of wood, also made water-proof. She was more the shape of a barrel cut in half lengthwise, than a boat. She was strong, short, and good beam — the main objects. She could stand being dragged over rocks, sledded over the land, and worked quickly in a rapid current among rocks and sawyers. She rode on short waves securely. The soldiers were accustomed to managing boats in the rapids and among rocks by the fort, and were somewhat experienced, but they never had descended the Madeira river. They had not passed from their own native province, Matto Grosso, and were, like most negroes, anxious to travel, and particularly desirous of going away. We had a number of volunteers among the soldiers, but the commandante said some of them wanted to desert, and he gave me those he supposed would be most apt to return.

There are no roads leading from the fortress except the rivers, so that every man understands something about the management of a boat. Three of the crew were negroes; one an Indian, whose mother was savage and father civilized Indian — what an Englishman would call “half and half.” The fifth was of such a mixed composition that we were unable to trace his lineage. He was nearer a white man than a negro, not in very good health, and extremely ill-natured in his expression of face.


Pedro, the pilot, was an Amazonian Indian, quite lazy and not worth much, though his services were needed, as he was the only one in the party who had navigated the Madeira. The soldiers were supplied with a decent suit of uniform, ammunition, muskets, and farinha. We were obliged to reduce our baggage; even the jerked beef had to be diminished in quantity, as well as the men’s provisions. The boat was too small when we were all on board to float lively. Four of the soldiers, took their seats in the bow as paddlers. Mamoré mounted the baggage, with Pedro as pilot; while “Titto,” the sergeant, a stout, well-built negro, stood up behind us and steered the boat. The commandante gave me a passport for the crew, with an account of the public property in their charge. Don Antonio entrusted me with a remittance to his father, which was the only sign we had from the people that we would ever gain the mouth of the Madeira. To him we are indebted for many prominent kindnesses. If he had not been here we certainly would either have gone to Rio Janeiro by the mail-route, or tried that from Cuayaba, down the Paraguay, to Buenos Ayres.

At midday, on the 14th of SEPTEMBER, 1852, we parted with Don Antonio, who expected to be two years longer trading off the cargoes of his two small boats, which he left at Exaltacion during a voyage to Matto Grosso. He appears disappointed with his undertaking, and declares he never will make such a voyage again. He supports a party of twelve people. They remain by him in idleness during the time he is occupied disposing of his cargo, each man drawing regular pay, from four to six dollars a month. As our little boat passed swiftly down the current among the rocks, the men paddled as though they feared being recalled. They all sang as we bid farewell to the grim old fort. The commandante treated us with marked attention, and appeared sorry to let us go so soon, He said he had spent several years in his younger career as an officer at the fort. Officers generally shrunk from orders here, for the place had the name of being unhealthy. After the death of its last commander, he had been selected for the station because he was acclimated.

There is a horrible disease among the soldiers, called the “Fort fever,” which, for the want of medicine, slowly destroys the garrison. We found the climate quite pleasant, but its general character is any thing but favorable from reports.

Thirty miles below the fort I sealed a bottle, and threw it into the Itenez river, with a note inside, requesting the finder to enclose it to Washington city. Titto was somewhat surprised at what he saw us doing, and inquired who the note in the bottle was directed to, and why it was thrown into the current.


On being told that the bottle would go to North America in the water, if undisturbed, he told the other negroes, the gentleman had sent a letter home in that bottle. A tall, ugly looking negro in the bows, answered in Portuguese, “It don’t go there.”

The negroes all engaged in an argument upon the subject. Titto said it would certainly go somewhere; that it could not go to Matto Grosso, because the current of the river flowed from there to the fort. A little sleek black, by the side of the other, shook himself, laughed out loud, and paddling with all his might, said, “Come, boys, let us get along down; that nigger in the stern of the boat is right.”

On the evening of the 16th of SEPTEMBER we landed silently on the, sand flat, near the mouth of the Itenez, for the purpose of making an observation upon the stars for latitude. The men stood at ease with their arms, while Richards drove the musquitoes away with a bunch of green bushes, for the observer is constantly under the necessity of being fanned. We were on the Brazilian shore, while a great prairie-fire lit up the night for the savage “Houbarayos” on the Bolivia side of the river. We succeeded in getting a good observation, and after continuing down stream some distance, swung to a snag in mid-channel during the night.

Early in the morning of the 17th of SEPTEMBER we came to the junction where the Itenez empties into the Mamoré. The beach was lined with water-fowl; alligators lay on the sand like canoes, half out of water; porpoises were playing about, while fish were jumping. Even the prairie and forest birds seem to come down to join the congregation. It was evident, by the conduct of the birds and the fishes, that they had all collected together in one place for some particular public purpose.

The water of the Itenez is 4° warmer than the water of the Mamoré. During the cool nights, the fishes and the birds sleep in or by the warmer water, which protects them. We saw a wild hog feeding near the bank; he, too, had been sleeping near the warm bed of the Itenez. There are exceptions to this practice, both among the fishes and birds; some of the fish ascend the muddy stream, while others seek the clear. Many fish we recognise in the Mamoré, like those found in the northern rivers of the United States; while those in the Itenez seem to take after families we had known living in streams flowing through the sandy soil of Florida. The porpoises of the sea are of a deep blue color; those of the turbid waters of the Mamoré are lighter. In the limpid waters of the Itenez, the porpoise has a light white and pink color, though all puff and jump above the surface of the water, and are of the same size, shape, and manners.


The drift wood, and more active current of the Mamoré, produce an enlivening effect. After repairing one of our paddles, which was broken by hard pulling, we launched our boat, and were carried gallantly on the Mamoré once more.

The distance by the river from the mouth of the Itenez to Fort Beira, is about fifty-five miles in an east-southeast direction; opposite the junction of these rivers, there are three small hills on the Brazil side. The Mamoré turns its course from a north direction a little to the westward. The stream here comes in contact with the solid formation of coarse granite in the Brazils. The commandante of the fort told me his father made a fortune by collecting diamonds on the head waters of the Paraguay in Brazil, and that he had found traces of the same stones in the bed of the Itenez. The sharp angular edges of the diamond, put in motion by rippling water, cuts itself a little hole in the hardest rocks. As the waters rush over it in the wet season, the diamond works deeper and deeper, so that common stones may enter the hole. The water whirls round in this hole, the common stones wear away the sides, and increase the size of the cavity, while the diamonds are busily at work at the bottom. In such holes the diamond hunter seeks his wealth. We find no traces of silver or gold on this side of the Madeira Plate. We passed through a rapid, between rocks on the banks, getting a cast of the lead and no bottom.

September 17. — At 9 a.m., thermometer, 78°; water, 79°; wind southeast. The banks are thirty feet high, and well wooded. The river is five hundred yards wide, with a depth of from thirty to sixty feet. The country on both sides of us appears well adapted for cultivation, many parts of it being above the rising of the floods. Pedro tells me we have the “Sinabos” savages on the Brazil side of us, and the equally uncivilized tribe of “Jibo” on the Bolivia side. Our men work well; with a one-mile current, we keep on day and night. Large green and black flies annoy us very much, in addition to which we have sand-flies and musquitoes at night. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 87°; water, 80°; wind southeast. As the moon went down, heavy clouds rose up in the east, and lightning flashed there. The men slept while we drifted along among snags. Here and there a sawyer bobbed up his head. The only way to keep clear of them is by listening to the music of the waters playing against the logs as we pass in the darkness of the night. One man keeps watch with his paddle in the bow. He watches and talks to us at the same time. He tells me the Emperor of Brazil pays him sixteen mil reis a month, and finds him in board and lodging. Mil reis vary in value; at present worth fifty-five cents.


He is not a slave, but was born a free negro, which is the case with most of those who enter the army. Every man born free has either to serve the Emperor or pay tax money. As he had no money, he was obliged to enlist. He did not know how long he was enlisted for, or when he would be permitted to go home to Cuyaba, where his mother lived. He had asked a number of times to be paid off and discharged; but he was answered the Emperor required his services, so he is uncertain when he will be able to get off; though, when he returns from this trip faithfully, and reports himself to the commandante, he may be permitted to go to Matto Grosso with the mail, and then he thinks of detaching himself by not returning. Slaves are not employed as soldiers, he tells me; only the free blacks. From his tone, he considers the man who cultivates the sugar-cane and cotton-plant is degraded, compared with his own occupation. According to his account, there are a great number of free-born black people in the province of Matto Grosso. He considers the town of Matto Grosso a miserable place compared with Cuyaba. The people in the former place are all very poor — mostly colored folks — and the country round about is very little cultivated; but in the latter town there are rich white people, he says, who own slaves and cultivate corn and beans. He always has plenty of tobacco to smoke in Cuyaba, but at Fort Beira the men have very little; they are often without it, as well as pine-apples and plantains. The negroes at Cuyaba have balls and parties, music and dancing, every night. They don’t drink chicha, nor do they understand how to make it; but they drink great quantities of aguadiente, which the Emperor don’t give them as a part of their rations. They never get any at the fort except by the mail-boat. When letters come from the Emperor, then the soldiers get a jug or two of aguadiente by the mail-carriers, and it is used up at once.

SEPTEMBER 18. — The negroes gathered a quantity of cream or Brazil nuts from under a large tree on the Bolivia side. The nuts are encased in a hard shell, which the men broke with our hatchet. The tree was one of the largest in the forest, and the only one of the kind we saw. Pedro pointed it out to them, otherwise we probably should have passed it without knowing such good things were near us. The nuts with a turkey and goose, shot on the beach, served us for breakfast. The negroes are poor fishermen compared with the Indians. There appear fewer fishes below the juncture of the Itenez with the Mamoré; the water is still muddy. At 9 a.m., thermometer, 80°; and water of the same temperature, which is rather warm drinking; clear and calm. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 88°; water, 83°. The river is half a mile wide in some places, and the channel clear of drift-wood, with from twenty- four to forty-eight feet depth.


September 19. — A turn in the river brought us in sight of high land to the north. The negroes blew two cow’s horns, and shouted at the sight of it. Laying down their horns, they paddled with a will to their own musical songs, by which they kept time. We met a north wind, which created a short wave as it met the current of the stream, increasing in speed. The land has become low on both sides, and is swampy, with signs of being all flooded in the rainy season.

At 9 a.m., thermometer, 82°; water, 81°. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 87°; water, 80°. We passed an island, rocky and wooded. Flowers bloom and decorate the richly green foliage on the banks. The current is quite rapid, and we dash along at a rate we have not been able to do before on the Mamoré, passing the mouth of a small river — Pacanoba — which flows from the Brazils and through several islands. We came alongside of one of them for the night. Within the death-like, mournful sound of the “Guajará-merim” falls our raw-hides were spread, hair side up, as table and chairs. While the men made a fire, I was listening to the roaring waters, and thinking what sensible fellows those Cuyavabos Indians were to run from it. The night was starlight; but the, mist arising from the foaming waters below us was driven over the island by the north wind, which prevented my getting the latitude. Small hills stood a very short way back from the islands, in Brazil. The land appears to be above the floods on both sides. As we are free from musquitoes at night, and the savages do not inhabit our little island, we sleep soundly.

September 20. — By daylight we were up and off, pulling across to the Bolivian shore to the head of the falls. We were in doubts how our boat would behave in the rapids. After taking out part of the baggage, which was passed over a rocky shore below, the boat was pulled through without any difficulty. The channel was about fifty yards wide, with very little fall; the whole bed of the river was divided by wooded islands and black rocks, with large and small channels of water rushing through at a terrible rate. A steamboat could, however, pass up and down over this fall without much trouble. We embarked, and found our little boat, which had been named “Nannie,” gliding beautifully over the short waves formed by the. rapid motion of the water. The rocks are worn away in long strips, and cut up into confused bits by the action of the river constantly washing over them. On the islands, quantities of drift-wood and prairie-grasses are heaped on the upper side.


One of these islands occupied the middle of the bed for three-quarters of a mile in length. We followed the channel down on the Bolivia side to its lower end at a rapid rate; when we came to the foot of the first fall we looked back up-hill, to see the number of streams rushing down, each one contributing its mite to the roaring noise that was constantly kept up. We saw no fish, but last night met large flocks of cormorants, flying in a line stretching across the river, close to the surface of the water; this morning they came down again. These birds spend the night over the warm bed of the Itenez, and return here in the day to feed.

No sooner had we cleared these falls than we found ourselves at the head of another rapid, more steep, called “Guajará-assu.” Pedro took us to the upper end of a path in the woods, on the Brazil shore, where Don Antonio had transported his cargo overland, three hundred and fifty paces, to the foot of the falls. His large boats were hauled through the water by means of strong ropes rove through large blocks.

Our cargo was landed, and while Richards, with one man, was engaged carrying the baggage down, I took the boat over on the Bolivian side, and we hauled her three hundred yards over the rocks and through the small channels, down an inclined shelf of about twelve feet fall. The main channel is in the middle of the river, with waves rolled up five feet high by the swiftness of the current, through which a steamboat could pass neither up nor down.

The river cuts its way through an immense mass of rock, stretching across the country east and west like a great bar of iron. The navigation of the river Mamoré is completely obstructed here; the river’s gate is closed, and we see no way to transport the productions of Bolivia towards the Amazon, except by a road through the Brazilian territory. On the east side of the river, hills are in sight, and among them a road may be found where a cargo might pass free from inundations.

The navigable distance by the rivers Chaparé and Mamoré, from near the base of the Andes, at Vinchuta, to Guajará-merim falls, is about five hundred miles. We anxiously pulled across towards the baggage, as the division of a party in this wild region is attended with great risk.

This day’s work gave us some little experience in the new mode of navigation. The sun is powerfully hot, but the negroes strip themselves, and ease the little boat gently down in the torrent between rough rocks. Don Antonio’s advice was of the greatest importance to us in the choice of a boat and men. The long canoes of Bolivia would have been broken to pieces in this first day’s travel among the rapids. There are no paths through the wilderness by which wre could travel in case of an accident, and rafts we had seen enough of at the head of the Madre-de-Dios.


Embarking our baggage, we continued under a heavy thunder storm, which came up from the northeast, and whirled over our heads, sending down heavy drops of rain. The banks of the river are twenty feet high. The country on the Bolivian side is level, and there the lands are overflowed half the year; but the Brazilian side is hilly; the ridges appear to run at right angles with the river, which passes over the toes of the foot of them. The whole country is thickly wooded with moderate-sized forest trees. The river below these falls is occasionally three-quarters of a mile wide, with a depth of from twelve to thirty-six feet. The current is rapid as we leave the foot of the falls, gradually decreasing in speed until the boat enters the backed water, which is dammed up by the next ridge of rocks which thwart the free passage of the river.

September 21. — At 3 p.m., thermometer, 83°; water, 81°. The south wind blew all last night, accompanied with rain. Early this morning we arrived at the head of “Bananeira” falls, distance eight miles from the upper shelf. I find Pedro useful in pointing out the ends of the paths over the land cut by Don Antonio. His services as pilot, however, are not to be depended upon. Titto seems to be perfectly at home in the management of a boat among rocks, and assists me the most of the two. The cargo was landed on an island near the Bolivian shore. The path led through bushes and trees, down hill, near four hundred yards. The work of transporting the boxes, amidst the annoyance of swarms of sand-flies, was harassing, and with difficulty Richards could make the ill-natured member of the crew carry as many boxes as he did himself. The river flowed windingly; the baggage could be sent straight across; but the boat had to be dragged, towed, lifted, and pushed through the rough rocks and rushing waters for over a mile. This was trying work. The heat of the sun was very great; the negroes slipped, and it was with great difficulty at times they could hold the boat from being carried from them by the strength of the waters as they heavily passed through the choaked passages. The men stand easing down the boat up to their necks in water. The rocks are only a few feet above the water level; they are smoothed by the wearing of the water and drift wood. It is not easy for the men to keep their feet under water. These negroes are good men for such service; they crawl among the rocks like black snakes. Bananeira falls take their name from quantities of wild banana trees formerly discovered here, but we saw no traces of them. The fall is about twenty feet. The islands are generally very low, a few feet above the present surface of the river. All the rocks, and a great part of the islands, are overflowed in the rainy season.


Large heaps of drift wood lodge against the trees. On the highest rocks we found pot-holes, worn down to the depth of eight and ten feet by the action of small pebbles, put in motion by the current as it passes over and whirls down, boring into the solid mass of coarse granite. These pot-holes are generally half full of stones, the large stones on top; gradually descending towards the bottom, they were smaller, until at the very last they were composed of bright little, transparent, angular-shaped stones, less in size than a pin’s head; among these the diamond hunter looks sharp. Some of these pot-holes “are three feet wide at the mouth, decreasing in edge uniformly towards the bottom. When we gained the foot of these falls, over which it is utterly impossible for a steamboat to pass at any season of the year, we had to ascend a channel on the Bolivia shore for the baggage. Mamoré lay by a part of it as watch, while the rest of the party were at the other side of the island. We were nearly exhausted; the men had nothing to eat half a day, and the dog looked thin and sick. There were no fish, birds, monkeys, or Indians to be seen, nor were the men successful in finding castanhas, Brazil nuts, which they very much needed, as they had nothing to eat but their allowance of farinha. The negroes were very tired, but I observed the life improved them; they looked stronger, and were getting fat. This was a great relief, for we were the worse for wear. I was kept in constant excitement, lest some accident should happen to our boat, or that an attack would be made upon our baggage party by the savages. At 3 p.m., thermometer, 85°; water, 81°, and less muddy; dashing over the rocks appears to filter it.

The boat was carried along at a rapid rate by the current, which boiled up and formed great globular-shaped swells, over which the little boat gayly danced on her homeward way. The satisfaction we felt, after having safely passed these terrible cataracts, cheers us on. We were nearly the whole day getting two miles. We were prevented from the danger in our path to proceed at night. The boat was fastened to the Brazil bank, and after supping on a wild goose Titto was fortunate enough to shoot, we slept soundly until midnight, when we were suddenly aroused by the report of a gun. The men were lying by a fire on the bank, near a thick tall growth of grass which skirted the large forest trees. Richards was close by me. I heard Titto’s voice immediately following the report, saying “the devil” — we were all up in arms; Titto said he had shot at a tiger, which was approaching the men as they slept; Mamoré had been faithfully prowling in the woods, keeping close watch over us while we all slept; because he gave the men some trouble in the boat, they laid this plan to put our trusty friend to death.


Richards found the dog shot in the heart, close by the heads of the men, four of whom were in the secret, while Pedro and the Indian were sleeping. We placed great confidence in the watchfulness of Mamoré; from him we expected a quick report of savages or wild animals. With him on watch we slept without fear, as the Indians are more afraid of the bark of a large dog than of the Brazilian soldiers.

From what we had seen of the men, we were convinced they were a rough, savage set, who would put us to death quite as unceremoniously as the dog. They expressed an impudent dissatisfaction when I ordered Titto to put a man on watch, and keep sentinel all night. We lay till daylight, with our pistols prepared for an attack from any quarter. The negro murderers on the highways of Peru are more desperate and unmerciful than either the Spaniard or Mestizo; so it is with a half-civilized African negro. At daylight I was particular to let every man of them see my revolver. We kept a close watch upon them, both by night and by day. They had for some reason or other unknown to us taken a dislike to Richards, who never gave them an order except when he was left on shore to attend the portage of the baggage. They were under an impression we were ignorant of what they said when speaking their own language, as Titto and Pedro spoke to me in Spanish. On one occasion, after the loss of Mamoré, I overheard the ill-natured one, after Richards spoke to him about tossing water into the boat with his paddle, say to the rest of the crew, “I don’t know whether I won’t put a ball through that fellow yet, by accident.” After which I had no confidence in any of them, and told Richards our only safety remained in constant watchfulness, and the good condition of our fire-arms.

September 22. — The river below Bananeira falls is seventy-eight feet deep and half a mile wide, passing through rocks and islands, where we found the wild Muscovy duck. With a rapid current, we soon reached the mouth of the "Yata" river, a small stream flowing from the territory of Bolivia, not navigable for a vessel larger than a ship’s boat. At "Pan Grande" rapids, the country is hilly on both sides, and wooded with large trees, from which fact the rapids derive their name. These rapids are about five miles from those above, with a fall of fifteen feet in one hundred yards. The boat was carefully passed through narrow channels among rocks fourteen feet high. Don Antonio came up over these falls, when the river was flooded, by keeping close along shore. He fastened the upper block of his tackle to large trees, or heavy rocks, and by hard pulling, inch by inch, dragged his boats along. No steamer could pass up or down “Pau Grande.”


At 9 a.m., light northerly breezes; thermometer, 81°; water, 81°. Two miles below brought us to Lajens rapids. The boat was kept in mid-channel, and paddled with all the might of the men; we passed through the rocks at such a swift rate, hats had to be held on. This was a glorious passage; the little boat seemed to fly through a channel that might be passed by a steamboat.