The Naturalist on the River Amazons
Henry Walter Bates

Part 6 out of 9

while Jose and I worked daily in the woods, I set them to make a
montaria under John Aracu's directions. The first day a suitable
tree was found for the shell of the boat, of the kind called
Itauba amarello, the yellow variety of the stonewood. They felled
it, and shaped out of the trunk a log nineteen feet in length;
this they dragged from the forest, with the help of my host's
men, over a road they had previously made with cylindrical pieces
of wood acting as rollers. The distance was about half a mile,
and the ropes used for drawing the heavy load were tough lianas
cut from the surrounding trees. This part of the work occupied
about a week: the log had then to be hollowed out, which was done
with strong chisels through a slit made down the whole length.
The heavy portion of the task being then completed, nothing
remained but to widen the opening, fit two planks for the sides
and the same number of semicircular boards for the ends, make the
benches, and caulk the seams.

The expanding of the log thus hollowed out is a critical
operation, and not always successful, many a good shell being
spoiled from splitting or expanding irregularly. It is first
reared on tressels, with the slit downwards, over a large fire,
which is kept up for seven or eight hours, the process
requiringunremitting attention to avoid cracks and make the plank
bend with the proper dip at the two ends. Wooden straddlers, made
by cleaving pieces of tough elastic wood and fixing them with
wedges, are inserted into the opening, their compass being
altered gradually as the work goes on, but in different degrees
according to the part of the boat operated upon. Our casca turned
out a good one-- it took a long time to cool, and was kept in
shape whilst it did so by means of wooden cross-pieces. When the
boat was finished, it was launched with great merriment by the
men, who hoisted coloured handkerchiefs for flags, and paddled it
up and down the stream to try its capabilities. My people had
suffered as much inconvenience from the want of a montaria as
myself, so this was a day of rejoicing to all of us.

I was very successful at this place with regard to the objects of
my journey. About twenty new species of fishes and a considerable
number of small reptiles were added to my collection; but very
few birds were met with worth preserving. A great number of the
most conspicuous insects of the locality were new to me, and
turned out to be species peculiar to this part of the Amazons
valley. The most interesting acquisition was a large and handsome
monkey, of a species I had not before met with--the, white-
whiskered Coaita, or spider-monkey (Ateles marginatus). I saw a
pair one day in the forest moving slowly along the branches of a
lofty tree, and shot one of them; the next day John Aracu brought
down another, possibly the companion. The species is of about the
same size as the common black kind, of which I have given an
account in a former chapter, and has a similar lean body, with
limbs clothed with coarse black hair; but it differs in having
the whiskers and a triangular patch on the crown of the head of a
white colour. I thought the meat the best flavoured I had ever
tasted. It resembled beef, but had a richer and sweeter taste.
During the time of our stay in this part of the Cupari, we could
get scarcely anything but fish to eat, and as this diet disagreed
with me, three successive days of it reducing me to a state of
great weakness. I was obliged to make the most of our Coaita
meat. We smoke-dried the joints instead of salting them, placing
them for several hours upon a framework of sticks arranged over a
fire, a plan adopted by the natives to preserve fish when they
have no salt, and which they call "muquiar." Meat putrefies in
this climate in less than twenty-four hours, and salting is of no
use, unless the pieces are cut in thin slices anddried
immediately in the sun.

My monkeys lasted me about: a fortnight, the last joint being an
arm with the clenched fist, which I used with great economy,
hanging it in the intervals, between my frugal meals, on a nail
in the cabin. Nothing but the hardest necessity could have driven
me so near to cannibalism as this, but we had the greatest
difficulty in obtaining here a sufficient supply of animal food.
About every three days the work on the montaria had to be
suspended, and all hands turned out for the day to hunt and fish,
in which they were often unsuccessful, for although there was
plenty of game in the forest, it was too widely scattered to be
available. Ricardo, and Alberto occasionally brought in a
tortoise or anteater, which served us for one day's consumption.
We made acquaintance here with many strange dishes, amongst them
Iguana eggs; these are of oblong form, about an inch in length,
and covered with a flexible shell. The lizard lays about two
score of them in the hollows of trees. They have an oily taste;
the men ate them raw, beaten up with farinha, mixing a pinch of
salt in the mess; I could only do with them when mixed with
Tucupi sauce, of which we had a large jar full always ready to
temper unsavoury morsels.

One day as I was entomologising alone and unarmed, in a dry
Ygapo, where the trees were rather wide apart and the ground
coated to the depth of eight or ten inches with dead leaves, I
was near coming into collision with a boa constrictor. I had just
entered a little thicket to capture an insect, and while pinning
it was rather startled by a rushing noise in the vicinity. I
looked up to the sky, thinking a squall was coming on, but not a
breath of wind stirred in the tree-tops. On stepping out of the
bushes I met face to face a huge serpent coming down a slope,
making the dry twigs crack and fly with his weight as he moved
over them. I had very frequently met with a smaller boa, the
Cutim-boia, in a similar way, and knew from the habits of the
family that there was no danger, so I stood my ground. On seeing
me the reptile suddenly turned and glided at an accelerated pace
down the path. Wishing to take a note of his probable size and
the colours and markings of his skin, I set off after him; but he
increased his speed, and I was unable to get near enough for the
purpose. There was very little of the serpentine movement in his
course. The rapidly moving and shining body looked like a stream
of brown liquid flowing over the thick bed of fallen leaves,
rather than a serpent with skin of varied colours. He descended
towards the lower and moister parts of the Ygapo. The huge trunk
of an uprooted tree here lay across the road; this he glided over
in his undeviating course and soon after penetrated a dense
swampy thicket, where of course I did not choose to follow him.

I suffered terribly from heat and mosquitoes as the river sank
with the increasing dryness of the season, although I made an
awning of the sails to work under, and slept at night in the open
air with my hammock slung between the masts. But there was no
rest in any part; the canoe descended deeper and deeper into the
gulley through which the river flows between high clayey banks;
as the water subsided, and with the glowing sun overhead we felt
at midday as if in a furnace. I could bear scarcely any clothes
in the daytime between eleven in the morning and five in the
afternoon, wearing nothing but loose and thin cotton trousers and
a light straw hat, and could not be accommodated in John Aracu's
house, as it was a small one and full of noisy children. One
night we had a terrific storm. The heat in the afternoon had been
greater than ever, and at sunset the sky had a brassy glare, the
black patches of cloud which floated in it being lighted up now
and then by flashes of sheet lightning. The mosquitoes at night
were more than usually troublesome, and I had just sunk exhausted
into a doze towards the early hours of morning when the storm
began-- a complete deluge of rain, with incessant lightning and
rattling explosions of thunder. It lasted for eight hours, the
grey dawn opening amidst the crash of the tempest. The rain
trickled through the seams of the cabin roof on to my
collections, the late hot weather having warped the boards, and
it gave me immense trouble to secure them in the midst of the
confusion. Altogether I had a bad night of it; but what with
storms, heat, mosquitoes, hunger, and, towards the last, ill
health, I seldom had a good night's rest on the Cupari.

A small creek traversed the forest behind John Aracu's house, and
entered the river a few yards from our anchoring place; I used to
cross it twice a day, on going and returning from my hunting
ground. One day early in September, I noticed that the water was
two or three inches higher in the afternoon than it had been in
the morning. This phenomenon was repeated the next day, and in
fact daily, until the creek became dry with the continued
subsidence of the Cupari, the time of rising shifting a little
from day to day. I pointed out the circumstance to John Aracu,
who had not noticed it before (it was only his second year of
residence in the locality), but agreed with me that it must be
the "mare"; yes, the tide!-- the throb of the great oceanic pulse
felt in this remote corner, 530 miles distant from the place
where it first strikes the body of fresh water at the mouth of
the Amazons. I hesitated at first at this conclusion, but in
reflecting that the tide was known to be perceptible at Obydos,
more than 400 miles from the sea, that at high water in the dry
season a large flood from the Amazons enters the mouth of the
Tapajos, and that there is but a very small difference of level
between that point and the Cupari, a fact shown by the absence of
current in the dry season. I could have no doubt that this
conclusion was a correct one.

The fact of the tide being felt 530 miles up the Amazons, passing
from the main stream to one of its affluents 380 miles from its
mouth, and thence to a branch in the third degree, is a proof of
the extreme flatness of the land which forms the lower part of
the Amazonian valley. This uniformity of level is shown also in
the broad lake-like expanses of water formed near their mouths by
the principal affluents which cross the valley to join the main

August 21st.--John Aracu consented to accompany me to the falls
with one of his men to hunt and fish for me. One of my objects
was to obtain specimens of the hyacinthine macaw, whose range
commences on all the branch rivers of the Amazons which flow from
the south through the interior of Brazil, with the first
cataracts. We started on the 19th; our direction on that day
being generally southwest. On the 20th, our course was southerly
and southeasterly. This morning (August 21st) we arrived at the
Indian settlement, the first house of which lies about thirty-one
miles above the sitio of John Aracu. The river at this place is
from sixty to seventy yards wide, and runs in a zigzag course
between steep clayey banks, twenty to fifty feet in height. The
houses of the Mundurucus, to the number of about thirty, are
scattered along the banks for a distance of six or seven miles.
The owners appear to have chosen all the most picturesque sites--
tracts of level ground at the foot of wooded heights, or little
havens with bits of white sandy beach--as if they had an
appreciation of natural beauty. Most of the dwellings are conical
huts, with walls of framework filled in with mud and thatched
with palm leaves, the broad eaves reaching halfway to the ground.
Some are quadrangular, and do not differ in structure from those
of the semi-civilised settlers in other parts; others are open
sheds or ranchos. They seem generally to contain not more than
one or two families each.

At the first house, we learned that all the fighting men had this
morning returned from a two days' pursuit of a wandering horde of
savages of the Pararauate tribe, who had strayed this way from
the interior lands and robbed the plantations. A little further
on we came to the house of the Tushaua, or chief, situated on the
top of a high bank, which we had to ascend by wooden steps. There
were four other houses in the neighbourhood, all filled with
people. A fine old fellow, with face, shoulders, and breast
tattooed all over in a cross-bar pattern, was the first strange
object that caught my eye. Most of the men lay lounging or
sleeping in their hammocks. The women were employed in an
adjoining shed making farinha, many of them being quite naked,
and rushing off to the huts to slip on their petticoats when they
caught sight of us. Our entrance aroused the Tushaua from a nap;
after rubbing his eyes he came forward and bade us welcome with
the most formal politeness, and in very good Portuguese. He was a
tall, broad-shouldered, well-made man, apparently about thirty
years of age, with handsome regular features, not tattooed, and a
quiet good-humoured expression of countenance. He had been
several times to Santarem and once to Para, learning the
Portuguese language during these journeys. He was dressed in
shirt and trousers made of blue-checked cotton cloth, and there
was not the slightest trace of the savage in his appearance or
demeanour. I was told that he had come into the chieftainship by
inheritance, and that the Cupari horde of Mundurucus, over which
his fathers had ruled before him, was formerly much more
numerous, furnishing 300 bows in time of war. They could now
scarcely muster forty; but the horde has no longer a close
political connection with the main body of the tribe, which
inhabits the banks of the Tapajos, six days' journey from the
Cupari settlement.

I spent the remainder of the day here, sending Aracu and the men
to fish, while I amused myself with the Tushaua and his people. A
few words served to explain my errand on the river; he
comprehended at once why white men should admire and travel to
collect the beautiful birds and animals of his country, and
neither he nor his people spoke a single word about trading, or
gave us any trouble by coveting the things we had brought. He
related to me the events of the preceding three days. The
Pararauates were a tribe of intractable savages, with whom the
Mundurucus have been always at war. They had no fixed abode, and
of course made no plantations, but passed their lives like the
wild beasts, roaming through the forest, guided by the sun;
wherever they found themselves at night-time there they slept,
slinging their bast hammocks, which are carried by the women, to
the trees. They cross the streams which lie in their course in
bark canoes, which they make on reaching the water, and cast away
after landing on the opposite side. The tribe is very numerous,
but the different hordes obey only their own chieftains. The
Mundurucus of the upper Tapajos have an expedition on foot
against them at the present time, and the Tushaua supposed that
the horde which had just been chased from his maloca were
fugitives from that direction. There were about a hundred of
them--including men, women, and children. Before they were
discovered, the hungry savages had uprooted all the macasheira,
sweet potatoes, and sugarcane, which the industrious Mundurucus
had planted for the season, on the east side of the river. As
soon as they were seen they made off, but the Tushaua quickly got
together all the young men of the settlement, about thirty in
number, who armed themselves with guns, bows and arrows, and
javelins, and started in pursuit. They tracked them, as before
related, for two days through the forest, but lost their traces
on the further bank of the Cuparitinga, a branch stream flowing
from the northeast. The pursuers thought, at one time, they were
close upon them, having found the inextinguished fire of their
last encampment. The footmarks of the chief could be
distinguished from the rest by their great size and the length of
the stride. A small necklace made of scarlet beans was the only
trophy of the expedition, and this the Tushaua gave to me.

I saw very little of the other male Indians, as they were asleep
in their huts all the afternoon. There were two other tattooed
men lying under an open shed, besides the old man already
mentioned. One of them presented a strange appearance, having a
semicircular black patch in the middle of his face, covering the
bottom of the nose and mouth, crossed lines on his back and
breast, and stripes down his arms and legs. It is singular that
the graceful curved patterns used by the South Sea Islanders are
quite unknown among the Brazilian red men; they being all
tattooed either in simple lines or patches. The nearest approach
to elegance of design which I saw was amongst the Tucunas of the
Upper Amazons, some of whom have a scroll-like mark on each
cheek, proceeding from the corner of the mouth. The taste, as far
as form is concerned, of the American Indian, would seem to be
far less refined than that of the Tahitian and New Zealander.

To amuse the Tushaua, I fetched from the canoe the two volumes of
Knight's Pictorial Museum of Animated Nature. The engravings
quite took his fancy, and he called his wives, of whom, as I
afterwards learned from Aracu, he had three or four, to look at
them; one of them was a handsome girl, decorated with necklace
and bracelets of blue beads. In a short time, others left their
work, and I then had a crowd of women and children around me, who
all displayed unusual curiosity for Indians. It was no light task
to go through the whole of the illustrations, but they would not
allow me to miss a page, making me turn back when I tried to
skip. The pictures of the elephant, camels, orangutangs, and
tigers, seemed most to astonish them; but they were interested in
almost everything, down even to the shells and insects. They
recognised the portraits of the most striking birds and mammals
which are found in their own country-- the jaguar, howling
monkeys, parrots, trogons, and toucans. The elephant was settled
to be a large kind of Tapir; but they made but few remarks, and
those in the Mundurucu language, of which I understood only two
or three words. Their way of expressing surprise was a clicking
sound made with the teeth, similar to the one we ourselves use,
or a subdued exclamation, Hm! hm! Before I finished, from fifty
to sixty had assembled; there was no pushing or rudeness, the
grown-up women letting the young girls and children stand before
them, and all behaved in the most quiet and orderly manner

The Mundurucus are perhaps the most numerous and formidable tribe
of Indians now surviving in the Amazons region. They inhabit the
shores of the Tapajos (chiefly the right bank), from 3 to 7 south
latitude, and the interior of the country between that part of
the river and the Madeira. On the Tapajos alone they can muster,
I was told, 2000 fighting men; the total population of the tribe
may be about 20,000. They were not heard of until about ninety
years ago, when they made war on the Portuguese settlements,
their hosts crossing the interior of the country eastward of the
Tapajos, and attacking the establishments of the whites in the
province of Maranham. The Portuguese made peace with them in the
beginning of the present century, the event being brought about
by the common cause of quarrel entertained by the two peoples
against the hated Muras. They have ever since been firm friends
of the whites. It is remarkable how faithfully this friendly
feeling has been handed down amongst the Mundurucus, and spread
to the remotest of the scattered hordes. Wherever a white man
meets a family, or even an individual of the tribe, he is almost
sure to be reminded of this alliance. They are the most warlike
of the Brazilian tribes, and are considered also the most settled
and industrious; they are not, however, superior in this latter
respect to the Juris and Passes on the Upper Amazons, or the
Uapes Indians near the headwaters of the Rio Negro. They make
very large plantations of mandioca, and sell the surplus produce,
which amounts to, on the Tapajos, from 3000 to 5000 baskets (60
lbs. each) annually, to traders who ascend the river from
Santarem between the months of August and January. They also
gather large quantities of sarsaparilla, India-rubber, and Tonka
beans, in the forests. The traders, on their arrival at the
Campinas (the scantily wooded region inhabited by the main body
of Mundurucus beyond the cataracts) have first to distribute
their wares--cheap cotton cloths, iron hatchets, cutlery, small
wares, and cashaca--amongst the minor chiefs, and then wait three
or four months for repayment in produce.

A rapid change is taking place in the habits of these Indians
through frequent intercourse with the whites, and those who dwell
on the banks of the Tapajos now seldom tattoo their children. The
principal Tushaua of the whole tribe or nation, named Joaquim,
was rewarded with a commission in the Brazilian army, in
acknowledgment of the assistance he gave to the legal authorities
during the rebellion of 1835-6. It would be a misnomer to call
the Mundurucus of the Cupari and many parts of the Tapajos
savages; their regular mode of life, agricultural habits, loyalty
to their chiefs, fidelity to treaties, and gentleness of
demeanour, give them a right to a better title. Yet they show no
aptitude for the civilised life of towns, and, like the rest of
the Brazilian tribes, seem incapable of any further advance in

In their former wars they exterminated two of the neighbouring
peoples, the Jumas and the Jacares, and make now an annual
expedition against the Pararauates, and one or two other similar
wild tribes who inhabit the interior of the land. Additionally
they are sometimes driven by hunger towards the banks of the
great rivers to rob the plantations of the agricultural Indians.
These campaigns begin in July, and last throughout the dry
months; the women generally accompanying the warriors to carry
their arrows and javelins. They had the diabolical custom, in
former days, of cutting off the heads of their slain enemies, and
preserving them as trophies around their houses. I believe this,
together with other savage practices, has been relinquished in
those parts where they have had long intercourse with the
Brazilians, for I could neither see nor hear anything of these
preserved heads. They used to sever the head with knives made of
broad bamboo, and then, after taking out the brain and fleshy
parts, soak it in bitter vegetable oil (andiroba), and expose it
for several days over the smoke of a fire or in the sun. In the
tract of country between the Tapajos and the Madeira, a deadly
war has been for many years carried on between the Mundurucus and
the Araras. I was told by a Frenchman at Santarem, who had
visited that part, that all the settlements there have a military
organisation. A separate shed is built outside each village,
where the fighting men sleep at night, sentinels being stationed
to give the alarm with blasts of the Ture on the approach of the
Araras, who choose the night for their onslaughts.

Each horde of Mundurucus has its paje or medicine man, who is the
priest and doctor; he fixes upon the time most propitious for
attacking the enemy; exorcises evil spirits, and professes to
cure the sick. All illness whose origin is not very apparent is
supposed to be caused by a worm in the part affected. This the
paje pretends to extract; he blows on the seat of pain the smoke
from a large cigar, made with an air of great mystery by rolling
tobacco in folds of Tauari, and then sucks the place, drawing
from his mouth, when he has finished, what he pretends to be the
worm. It is a piece of very clumsy conjuring. One of these pajes
was sent for by a woman in John Aracu's family, to operate on a
child who suffered much from pains in the head. Senor John
contrived to get possession of the supposed worm after the trick
was performed in our presence, and it turned out to be a long
white airroot of some plant. The paje was with difficulty
persuaded to operate while Senor John and I were present. I
cannot help thinking that he, as well as all others of the same
profession, are conscious impostors, handing down the shallow
secret of their divinations and tricks from generation to
generation. The institution seems to be common to all tribes of
Indians, and to be held to more tenaciously than any other.

I bought of the Tushaua two beautiful feather sceptres, with
their bamboo cases. These are of cylindrical shape, about three
feet in length and three inches in diameter, and are made by
gluing with wax the fine white and yellow feathers from the
breast of the toucan on stout rods, the tops being ornamented
with long plumes from the tails of parrots, trogons, and other
birds. The Mundurucus are considered to be the most expert
workers in feathers of all the South American tribes. It is very
difficult, however, to get them to part with the articles, as
they seem to have a sort of superstitious regard for them. They
manufacture headdresses, sashes, and tunics, besides sceptres;
the feathers being assorted with a good eye to the proper
contrast of colours, and the quills worked into strong cotton
webs, woven with knitting sticks in the required shape. The
dresses are worn only during their festivals, which are
celebrated, not at stated times, but whenever the Tushaua thinks
fit. Dancing, singing, sports, and drinking, appear to be the
sole objects of these occasional holidays. When a day is fixed
upon, the women prepare a great quantity of taroba, and the
monotonous jingle is kept up, with little intermission, night and
day, until the stimulating beverage is finished.

We left the Tushaua's house early the next morning. The
impression made upon me by the glimpse of Indian life in its
natural state obtained here, and at another cluster of houses
visited higher up, was a pleasant one, notwithstanding the
disagreeable incident of the Pararauate visit. The Indians are
here seen to the best advantage; having relinquished many of
their most barbarous practices, without being corrupted by too
close contact with the inferior whites and half-breeds of the
civilised settlements. The manners are simpler, the demeanour
more gentle, cheerful, and frank, than amongst the Indians who
live near the towns. I could not help contrasting their well-fed
condition, and the signs of orderly, industrious habits, with the
poverty and laziness of the semi-civilised people of Altar do
Chao. I do not think that the introduction of liquors has been
the cause of much harm to the Brazilian Indian. He has his
drinking bout now and then, like the common working people of
other countries. It was his habit in his original state, before
Europeans visited his country, but he is always ashamed of it
afterwards, and remains sober during the pretty long intervals.
The harsh, slave-driving practices of the Portuguese and their
descendants have been the greatest curses to the Indians; the
Mundurucus of the Cupari, however, have been now for many years
protected against ill-treatment. This is one of the good services
rendered by the missionaries, who take care that the Brazilian
laws in favour of the aborigines shall be respected by the brutal
and unprincipled traders who go amongst them. I think no Indians
could be in a happier position than these simple, peaceful, and
friendly people on the banks of the Cupari. The members of each
family live together, and seem to be much attached to each other;
and the authority of the chief is exercised in the mildest
manner. Perpetual summer reigns around them; the land is of the
highest fertility, and a moderate amount of light work produces
them all the necessessities of their simple life.

It is difficult to get at their notions on subjects that require
a little abstract thought; but, the mind of the Indian is in a
very primitive condition. I believe he thinks of nothing except
the matters that immediately concern his daily material wants.
There is an almost total absence of curiosity in his mental
disposition, consequently, he troubles himself very little
concerning the causes of the natural phenomena around him. He has
no idea of a Supreme Being; but, at the same time, he is free
from revolting superstitions--his religious notions going no
farther than the belief in an evil spirit, regarded merely as a
kind of hobgoblin, who is at the bottom of all his little
failures, troubles in fishing, hunting, and so forth. With so
little mental activity, and with feelings and passions slow of
excitement, the life of these people is naturally monotonous and
dull, and their virtues are, properly speaking, only negative;
but the picture of harmless, homely contentment they exhibit is
very pleasing, compared with the state of savage races in many
other parts of the world.

The men awoke me at four o'clock with the sound of their oars on
leaving the port of the Tushaua. I was surprised to find a dense
fog veiling all surrounding objects, and the air quite cold. The
lofty wall of forest, with the beautiful crowns of Assai palms
standing out from it on their slender, arching stems, looked dim
and strange through the misty curtain. The sudden change a little
after sunrise had quite a magical effect, for the mist rose up
like the gauze veil before the transformation scene at a
pantomime, and showed the glorious foliage in the bright glow of
morning, glittering with dew drops. We arrived at the falls about
ten o'clock. The river here is not more than forty yards broad,
and falls over a low ledge of rock stretching in a nearly
straight line across.

We had now arrived at the end of the navigation for large
vessels--a distance from the mouth of the river, according to our
rough calculation, of a little over seventy miles. I found it the
better course now to send Jose and one of the men forward in the
montaria with John Aracu, and remain myself with the cuberta and
our other man to collect in the neighbouring forest. We stayed
here four days, one of the boats returning each evening from the
upper river with the produce of the day's chase of my huntsmen. I
obtained six good specimens of the hyacinthine macaw, besides a
number of smaller birds, a species new to me of Guariba, or
howling monkey, and two large lizards. The Guariba was an old
male, with the hair much worn from his rump and breast, and his
body disfigured with large tumours made by the grubs of a gad-fly
(Oestrus). The back and tail were of a ruddy-brown colour, the
limbs, and underside of the body, black. The men ascended to the
second falls, which form a cataract several feet in height, about
fifteen miles beyond our anchorage. The macaws were found feeding
in small flocks on the fruit of the Tucuma palm (Astryocaryum
Tucuma), the excessively hard nut of which is crushed into pulp
by the powerful beak of the bird. I found the craws of all the
specimens filled with the sour paste to which the stone-like
fruit had been reduced. Each bird took me three hours to skin,
and I was occupied with these and my other specimens every
evening until midnight, after my own laborious day's hunt--
working on the roof of my cabin by the light of a lamp.

The place where the cuberta was anchored formed a little rocky
haven, with a sandy beach sloping to the forest, within which
were the ruins of an Indian Maloca, and a large weed-grown
plantation. The port swarmed with fishes, whose movements it was
amusing to watch in the deep, clear water. The most abundant were
the Piranhas. One species, which varied in length, according to
age, from two to six inches, but was recognisable by a black spot
at the root of the tail, was always the quickest to seize any
fragment of meat thrown into the water. When nothing was being
given to them, a few only were seen scattered about, their heads
all turned one way in an attitude of expectation; but as soon as
any offal fell from the canoe, the water was blackened with the
shoals that rushed instantaneously to the spot. Those who did not
succeed in securing a fragment, fought with those who had been
more successful, and many contrived to steal the coveted morsels
from their mouths. When a bee or fly passed through the air near
the water, they all simultaneously darted towards it as if roused
by an electric shock. Sometimes a larger fish approached, and
then the host of Piranhas took the alarm and flashed out of

The population of the water varied from day to day. Once a small
shoal of a handsome black-banded fish, called by the natives
Acara bandeira (Mesonauta insignis, of Gunther), came gliding
through at a slow pace, forming a very pretty sight. At another
time, little troops of needle-fish, eel-like animals with
excessively long and slender toothed jaws, sailed through the
field, scattering before them the hosts of smaller fry; and at
the rear of the needle-fishes, a strangely-shaped kind called
Sarapo came wriggling along, one by one, with a slow movement. We
caught with hook and line, baited with pieces of banana, several
Curimata (Anodus Amazonum), a most delicious fish, which, next to
the Tucunare and the Pescada, is most esteemed by the natives.
The Curimata seemed to prefer the middle of the stream, where the
waters were agitated beneath the little cascade.

The weather was now settled and dry, and the river sank rapidly--
six inches in twenty-four hours. In this remote and solitary spot
I can say that I heard for the first and almost the only time the
uproar of life at sunset, which Humboldt describes as having
witnessed towards the sources of the Orinoco, but which is
unknown on the banks of the larger rivers. The noises of animals
began just as the sun sank behind the trees after a sweltering
afternoon, leaving the sky above of the intensest shade of blue.
Two flocks of howling monkeys, one close to our canoe, the other
about a furlong distant, filled the echoing forests with their
dismal roaring. Troops of parrots, including the hyacinthine
macaw we were in search of, began then to pass over; the
different styles of cawing and screaming of the various species
making a terrible discord. Added to these noises were the songs
of strange Cicadas, one large kind perched high on the trees
around our little haven setting up a most piercing chirp. it
began with the usual harsh jarring tone of its tribe, but this
gradually and rapidly became shriller, until it ended in a long
and loud note resembling the steam-whistle of a locomotive
engine. Half-a-dozen of these wonderful performers made a
considerable item in the evening concert. I had heard the same
species before at Para, but it was there very uncommon; we
obtained one of them here for my collection by a lucky blow with
a stone. The uproar of beasts, birds, and insects lasted but a
short time: the sky quickly lost its intense hue, and the night
set in. Then began the tree-frogs--quack-quack, drum-drum, hoo-
hoo; these, accompanied by a melancholy night-jar, kept up their
monotonous cries until very late.

My men encountered on the banks of the stream a Jaguar and a
black Tiger, and were very much afraid of falling in with the
Pararauates, so that I could not, after their return on the
fourth day, induce them to undertake another journey. We began
our descent of the river in the evening of the 26th of August. At
night forest and river were again enveloped in mist, and the air
before sunrise was quite cold. There is a considerable current
from the falls to the house of John Aracu, and we accomplished
the distance, with its aid and by rowing, in seventeen hours.

September 21st.-At five o'clock in the afternoon we emerged from
the confined and stifling gully through which the Cupari flows,
into the broad Tapajos, and breathed freely again. How I enjoyed
the extensive view after being so long pent up: the mountainous
coasts, the grey distance, the dark waters tossed by a refreshing
breeze! Heat, mosquitoes, insufficient and bad food, hard work
and anxiety, had brought me to a very low state of health; and I
was now anxious to make all speed back to Santarem.

We touched at Aveyros, to embark some chests I had left there and
to settle accounts with Captain Antonio, and found nearly all the
people sick with fever and vomit, against which the Padre's
homoeopathic globules were of no avail. The Tapajos had been
pretty free from epidemics for some years past, although it was
formerly a very unhealthy river. A sickly time appeared to be now
returning; in fact, the year following my visit (1853) was the
most fatal one ever experienced in this part of the country. A
kind of putrid fever broke out, which attacked people of all
races alike. The accounts we received at Santarem were most
distressing-- my Cupari friends especially suffered very
severely. John Aracu and his family all fell victims, with the
exception of his wife; my kind friend Antonio Malagueita also
died, and a great number of people in the Mundurucu village.

The descent of the Tapajos in the height of the dry season, which
was now close at hand, is very hazardous on account of the strong
winds, absence of current, and shoaly water far away from the
coasts. The river towards the end of September is about thirty
feet shallower than in June; and in many places, ledges of rock
are laid bare, or covered with only a small depth of water. I had
been warned of these circumstances by my Cupari friends, but did
not form an adequate idea of what we should have to undergo.
Canoes, in descending, only travel at night, when the terral, or
light land-breeze, blows off the eastern shore. In the daytime a
strong wind rages from down river, against which it is impossible
to contend as there is no current, and the swell raised by its
sweeping over scores of miles of shallow water is dangerous to
small vessels. The coast for the greater part of the distance
affords no shelter; there are, however, a number of little
harbours, called esperas, which the canoemen calculate upon,
carefully arranging each night-voyage so as to reach one of them
before the wind begins the next morning.

We left Aveyros in the evening of the 21st, and sailed gently
down with the soft land-breeze, keeping about a mile from the
eastern shore. It was a brilliant moonlit night, and the men
worked cheerfully at the oars when the wind was slack, the terral
wafting from the forest a pleasant perfume like that of
mignonette. At midnight we made a fire and got a cup of coffee,
and at three o'clock in the morning reached the sitio of
Ricardo's father, an Indian named Andre, where we anchored and

September 22nd--Old Andre with his squaw came aboard this
morning. They brought three Tracajas, a turtle, and a basketful
of Tracaja eggs, to exchange with me for cotton cloth and
cashaca. Ricardo, who had been for some time very discontented,
having now satisfied his longing to see his parents, cheerfully
agreed to accompany me to Santarem. The loss of a man at this
juncture would have been very annoying, with Captain Antonio ill
at Aveyros, and not a hand to be had anywhere in the
neighbourhood; but, if we had not called at Andre's sitio, we
should not have been able to have kept Ricardo from running away
at the first landing-place. He was a lively, restless lad, and
although impudent and troublesome at first, had made a very good
servant. His companion, Alberto, was of quite a different
disposition, being extremely taciturn, and going through all his
duties with the quietest regularity.

We left at 11 a.m., and progressed a little before the wind began
to blow from down river, when we were obliged again to cast
anchor. The terral began at six o'clock in the evening, and we
sailed with it past the long line of rock-bound coast near
Itapuama. At ten o'clock a furious blast of wind came from a
cleft between the hills, catching us with the sails close-hauled,
and throwing the canoe nearly on its beam-ends, when we were
about a mile from the shore. Jose had the presence of mind to
slacken the sheet of the mainsail, while I leapt forward and
lowered the sprit of the foresail, the two Indians standing
stupefied in the prow. It was what the canoe-men call a trovoada
secca or white squall. The river in a few minutes became a sheet
of foam; the wind ceased in about half an hour, but the terral
was over for the night, so we pulled towards the shore to find an
anchoring place.

We reached Tapaiuna by midnight on the 23rd, and on the morning
of the 24th arrived at the Retiro, where we met a shrewd Santarem
trader, whom I knew, Senor Chico Honorio, who had a larger and
much better provided canoe than our own. The wind was strong from
below all day, so we remained at this place in his company. He
had his wife with him, and a number of Indians, male and female.
We slung our hammocks under the trees, and breakfasted and dined
together, our cloth being spread on the sandy beach in the shade
after killing a large quantity of fish with timbo, of which we
had obtained a supply at Itapuama. At night we were again under
way with the land breeze. The water was shoaly to a great
distance off the coast, and our canoe having the lighter draught
went ahead, our leadsman crying out the soundings to our
companion-- the depth was only one fathom, half a mile from the
coast. We spent the next day (25th) at the mouth of a creek
called Pini, which is exactly opposite the village of Boim, and
on the following night advanced about twelve miles. Every point
of land had a long spit of sand stretching one or two miles
towards the middle of the river, which it was necessary to double
by a wide circuit. The terral failed us at midnight when we were
near an espera, called Marai, the mouth of a shallow creek.

September 26th.--I did not like the prospect of spending the
whole dreary day at Marai, where it was impossible to ramble
ashore, the forest being utterly impervious, and the land still
partly under water. Besides, we had used up our last stick of
firewood to boil our coffee at sunrise, and could not get a fresh
supply at this place. So there being a dead calm on the river in
the morning, I gave orders at ten o'clock to move out of the
harbour, and try with the oars to reach Paquiatuba, which was
only five miles distant. We had doubled the shoaly point which
stretches from the mouth of the creek, and were making way
merrily across the bay, at the head of which was the port of the
little settlement, when we beheld to our dismay, a few miles down
the river, the signs of the violent day breeze coming down upon
us--a long, rapidly advancing line of foam with the darkened
water behind it. Our men strove in vain to gain the harbour; the
wind overtook us, and we cast anchor in three fathoms, with two
miles of shoaly water between us and the land on our lee. It came
with the force of a squall: the heavy billows washing over the
vessel and drenching us with the spray. I did not expect that our
anchor would hold; I gave out, however, plenty of cable and
watched the result at the prow, Jose placing himself at the helm,
and the men standing by the jib and foresail, so as to be ready
if we dragged to attempt the passage of the Marai spit, which was
now almost dead to leeward. Our little bit of iron, however, held
its place; the bottom being fortunately not so sandy as in most
other parts of the coast; but our weak cable then began to cause
us anxiety.

We remained in this position all day without food, for everything
was tossing about in the hold; provision-chests, baskets,
kettles, and crockery. The breeze increased in strength towards
the evening, when the sun set fiery red behind the misty hills on
the western shore, and the gloom of the scene was heightened by
the strange contrasts of colour; the inky water and the lurid
gleam of the sky. Heavy seas beat now and then against the prow
of our vessel with a force that made her shiver. If we had gone
ashore in this place, all my precious collections would have been
inevitably lost; but we ourselves could have scrambled easily to
land, and re-embarked with Senor Honorio, who had remained behind
in the Pini, and would pass in the course of two or three days.
When night came I lay down exhausted with watching and fatigue,
and fell asleep, as my men had done sometime before. About nine
o'clock, I was awakened by the montaria bumping against the sides
of the vessel, which had veered suddenly round, and the full
moon, previously astern, then shone full in the cabin. The wind
had abruptly ceased, giving place to light puffs from the eastern
shore, and leaving a long swell rolling into the shoaly bay.

After this, I resolved not to move a step beyond Paquiatuba
without an additional man, and one who understood the navigation
of the river at this season. We reached the landing-place at ten
o'clock, and anchored within the mouth of the creek. In the
morning I walked through the beautiful shady alleys of the
forest, which were waterpaths in June when we touched here in
ascending the river to the house of Inspector Cypriano. After an
infinite deal of trouble, I succeeded in persuading him to
furnish me with another Indian. There are about thirty families
established in this place, but the able-bodied men had been
nearly all drafted off within the last few weeks by the
Government, to accompany a military expedition against runaway
negroes, settled in villages in the interior. Senor Cypriano was
a pleasant-looking and extremely civil young Mameluco. He
accompanied us, on the night of the 28th, five miles down the
river to Point Jaguarari, where the man lived whom he intended to
send with me. I was glad to find my new hand a steady, middle-
aged and married Indian; his name was of very good promise,
Angelo Custodio (Guardian Angel).

Point Jaguarari forms at this season of the year a high sandbank,
which is prolonged as a narrow spit, stretching about three miles
towards the middle of the river. We rounded this with great
difficulty on the night of the 29th, reaching before daylight a
good shelter behind a similar sandbank at Point Acaratingari, a
headland situated not more than five miles in a straight line
from our last anchoring place. We remained here all day; the men
beating timbo in a quiet pool between the sandbank and the
mainland, and obtaining a great quantity of fish, from which I
selected six species new to my collection. We made rather better
progress the two following nights, but the terral now always blew
strongly from the north-northeast after midnight, and thus
limited the hours during which we could navigate, forcing us to
seek the nearest shelter to avoid being driven back faster than
we came.

On the 2nd of October, we reached Point Cajetuba and had a
pleasant day ashore. The river scenery in this neighbourhood is
of the greatest beauty. A few houses of settlers are seen at the
bottom of the broad bay of Aramhna-i at the foot of a range of
richly-timbered hills, the high beach of snow-white sand
stretching in a bold curve from point to point. The opposite
shores of the river are ten or eleven miles distant, but towards
the north is a clear horizon of water and sky. The country near
Point Cajetuba is similar to the neighbourhood of Santarem--
namely, campos with scattered trees. We gathered a large quantity
of wild fruit: Caju, Umiri, and Aapiranga. The Umiri berry
(Humirium floribundum) is a black drupe similar in appearance to
the Damascene plum, and not greatly unlike it in taste. The
Aapiranga is a bright vermilion-coloured berry, with a hard skin
and a sweet viscid pulp enclosing the seeds.

Between the point and Altar do Chao was a long stretch of sandy
beach with moderately deep water; our men, therefore, took a rope
ashore and towed the cuberta at merry speed until we reached the
village. A long, deeply laden canoe with miners from the interior
provinces passed us here. It was manned by ten Indians, who
propelled the boat by poles; the men, five on each side, trotting
one after the other along a plank arranged for the purpose from
stem to stern. It took us two nights to double Point Cururu,
where, as already mentioned, the river bends from its northerly
course beyond Altar do Chao. A confused pile of rocks, on which
many a vessel heavily laden with farinha has been wrecked,
extends at the season of low water from the foot of a high bluff
far into the stream. We were driven back on the first night
(October 3rd) by a squall. The light terral was carrying us
pleasantly round the spit, when a small black cloud which lay
near the rising moon suddenly spread over the sky to the
northward; the land breeze then ceased, and furious blasts began
to blow across the river. We regained, with great difficulty, the
shelter of the point. It blew almost a hurricane for two hours,
during the whole of which time the sky over our heads was
beautifully clear and starlit. Our shelter at first was not very
secure, for the wind blew away the lashings of our sails, and
caused our anchor to drag. Angelo Custodio, however, seized a
rope which was attached to the foremast, and leapt ashore; had he
not done so, we should probably have been driven many miles
backwards up the storm-tossed river. After the cloud had passed,
the regular east wind began to blow, and our further progress was
effectually stopped for the night. The next day we all went
ashore, after securing well the canoe, and slept from eleven
o'clock till five under the shade of trees.

The distance between Point Cururu and Santarem was accomplished
in three days, against the same difficulties of contrary and
furious winds, shoaly water, and rocky coasts. I was thankful at
length to be safely housed, with the whole of my collections,
made under so many privations and perils, landed without the loss
or damage of a specimen. The men, after unloading the canoe and
delivering it to its owner, came to receive their payment. They
took part in goods and part in money, and after a good supper, on
the night of the 7th October, shouldered their bundles and set
off to walk by land some eighty miles to their homes. I was
rather surprised at the good feeling exhibited by these poor
Indians at parting. Angelo Custodio said that whenever I should
wish to make another voyage up the Tapajos, he would be always
ready to serve me as pilot. Alberto was undemonstrative as usual;
but Ricardo, with whom I had had many sharp quarrels, actually
shed tears when he shook hands and bid me the final "adios."



Departure from Barra--First Day and Night on the Upper Amazons--
Desolate Appearance of River in the Flood Season--Cucama Indians-
-Mental Condition of Indians--Squalls--Manatee--Forest--Floating
Pumice Stones from the Andes--Falling Banks--Ega and its
Inhabitants--Daily Life of a Naturalist at Ega--The Four Seasons
of the Upper Amazons

I must now take the reader from the picturesque, hilly country of
the Tapajos, and its dark, streamless waters, to the boundless
wooded plains, and yellow turbid current of the Upper Amazons or
Solimoens. I will resume the narrative of my first voyage up the
river, which was interrupted at the Barra of the Rio Negro in the
seventh chapter, to make way for the description of Santarem and
its neighbourhood.

I embarked at Barra on the 26th of March, 1850, three years
before steamers were introduced on the upper river, in a cuberta
which was returning to Ega, the first and only town of any
importance in the vast solitudes of the Solimoens, from Santarem,
whither it had been sent, with a cargo of turtle oil in
earthenware jars. The owner, an old white-haired Portuguese
trader of Ega named Daniel Cardozo, was then at Barra attending
the assizes as juryman, a public duty performed without
remuneration, which took him six weeks away from his business. He
was about to leave Barra himself, in a small boat, and
recommended me to send forward my heavy baggage in the cuberta
and make the journey with him. He would reach Ega, 370 miles
distant from Barra, in twelve or fourteen days; while the large
vessel would be thirty or forty days on the road. I preferred,
however, to go in company with my luggage, looking forward to the
many opportunities I should have of landing and making
collections on the banks of the river.

I shipped the collections made between Para and the Rio Negro in
a large cutter which was about descending to the capital, and
after a heavy day's work got all my chests aboard the Ega canoe
by eight o'clock at night. The Indians were then all embarked,
one of them being brought dead drunk by his companions, and laid
to sober himself all night on the wet boards of the tombadilha.
The cabo, a spirited young white, named Estulano Alves Carneiro,
who has since risen to be a distinguished citizen of the new
province of the Upper Amazons, soon after gave orders to get up
the anchor. The men took to the oars, and in a few hours we
crossed the broad mouth of the Rio Negro; the night being clear,
calm, and starlit, and the surface of the inky waters smooth as a

When I awoke the next morning, we were progressing by espia along
the left bank of the Solimoens. The rainy season had now set in
over the region through which the great river flows; the sand-
banks and all the lower lands were already under water, and the
tearing current, two or three miles in breadth, bore along a
continuous line of uprooted trees and islets of floating plants.
The prospect was most melancholy; no sound was heard but the dull
murmur of the waters -- the coast along which we travelled all
day was encumbered every step of the way with fallen trees, some
of which quivered in the currents which set around projecting
points of land. Our old pest, the Motuca, began to torment us as
soon as the sun gained power in the morning. White egrets were
plentiful at the edge of the water, and hummingbirds, in some
places, were whirring about the flowers overhead. The desolate
appearance of the landscape increased after sunset, when the moon
rose in mist.

This upper river, the Alto-Amazonas, or Solimoens, is always
spoken of by the Brazilians as a distinct stream. This is partly
owing, as before remarked, to the direction it seems to take at
the fork of the Rio Negro; the inhabitants of the country, from
their partial knowledge, not being able to comprehend the whole
river system in one view. It has, however, many peculiarities to
distinguish it from the lower course of the river. The trade-
wind, or sea-breeze, which reaches, in the height of the dry
season, as far as the mouth of the Rio Negro, 900 or 1000 miles
from the Atlantic, never blows on the upper river. The atmosphere
is therefore more stagnant and sultry, and the winds that do
prevail are of irregular direction and short duration. A great
part of the land on the borders of the Lower Amazons is hilly;
there are extensive campos, or open plains, and long stretches of
sandy soil clothed with thinner forests. The climate, in
consequence, is comparatively dry many months in succession
during the fine season passing without rain. All this is changed
on the Solimoens. A fortnight of clear sunny weather is a rarity:
the whole region through which the river and its affluents flow,
after leaving the easternmost ridges of the Andes, which Poppig
describes as rising like a wall from the level country, 240 miles
from the Pacific, is a vast plain, about 1000 miles in length,
and 500 or 600 in breadth, covered with one uniform, lofty,
impervious, and humid forest. The soil is nowhere sandy, but
always either a stiff clay, alluvium, or vegetable mold, which
thelatter, in many places, is seen in water-worn sections of the
river banks to be twenty or thirty feet in depth. With such a
soil and climate, the luxuriance of vegetation, and the abundance
and beauty of animal forms which are already so great in the
region nearer the Atlantic, increase on the upper river. The
fruits, both wild and cultivated, common to the two sections of
the country, reach a progressively larger size in advancing
westward, and some trees, which blossom only once a year at Para
and Santarem, yield flower and fruit all the year round at Ega.
The climate is healthy, although one lives here as in a permanent
vapour bath. I must not, however, give here a lengthy description
of the region while we are yet on its threshold. I resided and
travelled on the Solimoens altogether for four years and a half.
The country on its borders is a magnificent wilderness where
civilised man, as yet, has scarcely obtained a footing; the
cultivated ground from the Rio Negro to the Andes amounting only
to a few score acres. Man, indeed, in any condition, from his
small numbers, makes but an insignificant figure in these vast
solitudes. It may be mentioned that the Solimoens is 2130 miles
in length, if we reckon from the source of what is usually
considered the main stream (Lake Lauricocha, near Lima); but 2500
miles by the route of the Ucayali, the most considerable and
practicable fork of the upper part of the river. It is navigable
at all seasons by large steamers for upwards of 1400 miles from
the mouth of the Rio Negro.

On the 28th we passed the mouth of Arlauu, a narrow inlet which
communicates with the Rio Negro, emerging in front of Barra. Our
vessel was nearly drawn into this by the violent current which
set from the Solimoens. The towing-cable was lashed to a strong
tree about thirty yards ahead, and it took the whole strength of
crew and passengers to pull across. We passed the Guariba, a
second channel connecting the two rivers, on the 30th, and on the
31st sailed past a straggling settlement called Manacapuru,
situated on a high, rocky bank. Many citizens of Barra have
sitios, or country-houses, in this place, although it is eighty
miles distant from the town by the nearest road. Beyond
Manacapuru all traces of high land cease; both shores of the
river, henceforward for many hundred miles, are flat, except in
places where the Tabatinga formation appears in clayey elevations
of from twenty to forty feet above the line of highest water. The
country is so completely destitute of rocky or gravelly beds that
not a pebble is seen during many weeks' journey. Our voyage was
now very monotonous. After leaving the last house at Manacapuru,
we travelled nineteen days without seeing a human habitation, the
few settlers being located on the banks of inlets or lakes some
distance from the shores of the main river. We met only one
vessel during the whole of the time, and this did not come within
hail, as it was drifting down in the middle of the current in a
broad part of the river, two miles from the bank along which we
were laboriously warping our course upwards.

After the first two or three days we fell into a regular way of
life on board. Our crew was composed of ten Indians of the Cucama
nation, whose native country is a portion of the borders of the
upper river in the neighbourhood of Nauta, in Peru. The Cucamas
speak the Tupi language, using, however, a harsher accent than is
common amongst the semi-civilised Indians from Ega downwards.
They are a shrewd, hard-working people, and are the only Indians
who willingly, and in a body, engage themselves to navigate the
canoes of traders. The pilot, a steady and faithful fellow named
Vicente, told me that he and his companions had now been fifteen
months absent from their wives and families, and that on arriving
at Ega they intended to take the first chance of a passage to
Nauta. There was nothing in the appearance of these men to
distinguish them from canoemen in general. Some were tall and
well built, others had squat figures with broad shoulders and
excessively thick arms and legs. No two of them were at all
similar in the shape of the head: Vicente had an oval visage,
with fine regular features, while a little dumpy fellow, the wag
of the party, was quite a Mongolian in breadth and prominence of
cheek, spread of nostrils, and obliquity of eyes; but these two
formed the extremes as to face and figure. None of them were
tattooed or disfigured in any way and they were all quite
destitute of beard.

The Cucamas are notorious on the river for their provident
habits. The desire of acquiring property is so rare a trait in
Indians, that the habits of these people are remarked on with
surprise by the Brazilians. The first possession which they
strive to acquire on descending the river into Brazil, which all
the Peruvian Indians look upon as a richer country than their
own, is a wooden trunk with lock and key; in this they stow away
carefully all their earnings converted into clothing, hatchets,
knives, harpoon heads, needles and thread, and so forth. Their
wages are only fourpence or sixpence a day, which is often paid
in goods charged one hundred per cent above Para prices, so that
it takes them a long time to fill their chest.

It would be difficult to find a better-behaved set of men in a
voyage than these poor Indians. During our thirty-five days'
journey they lived and worked together in the most perfect good
fellowship. I never heard an angry word pass amongst them. Senor
Estulano let them navigate the vessel in their own way, exerting
his authority only now and then when they were inclined to be
lazy. Vicente regulated the working hours. These depended on the
darkness of the nights. In the first and second quarters of the
moon they kept it up with espia, or oars, until almost midnight;
in the third and fourth quarters they were allowed to go to sleep
soon after sunset, and were aroused at three or four o'clock in
the morning to resume their work. On cool, rainy days we all bore
a hand at the espia, trotting with bare feet on the sloppy deck
in Indian file to the tune of some wild boatman's chorus. We had
a favorable wind for only two days out of the thirty-five, by
which we made about forty miles, the rest of our long journey was
accomplished literally by pulling our way from tree to tree. When
we encountered a remanso near the shore, we got along very
pleasantly for a few miles by rowing-- but this was a rare
occurrence. During leisure hours the Indians employed themselves
in sewing. Vicente was a good hand at cutting out shirts and
trousers, and acted as master tailor to the whole party, each of
whom had a thick steel thimble and a stock of needles and thread
of his own. Vicente made for me a set of blue-check cotton shirts
during the passage.

The goodness of these Indians, like that of most others amongst
whom I lived, consisted perhaps more in the absence of active bad
qualities, than in the possession of good ones; in other words,
it was negative rather than positive. Their phlegmatic, apathetic
temperament, coldness of desire and deadness of feeling, want of
curiosity and slowness of intellect, make the Amazonian Indians
very uninteresting companions anywhere. Their imagination is of a
dull, gloomy, quality and they seemed never to be stirred by the
emotions--love, pity, admiration, fear, wonder, joy,
orenthusiasm. These are characteristics of the whole race. The
good fellowship of our Cucamas seemed to arise not from warm
sympathy, but simply from the absence of eager selfishness in
small matters. On the morning when the favourable wind sprung up,
one of the crew, a lad of about seventeen years of age, was
absent ashore at the time of starting, having gone alone in one
of the montarias to gather wild fruit. The sails were spread and
we travelled for several hours at great speed, leaving the poor
fellow to paddle after us against the strong current. Vicente,
who might have waited a few minutes at starting, and the others,
only laughed when the hardship of their companion was alluded to.
He overtook us at night, having worked his way with frightful
labor the whole day without a morsel of food. He grinned when he
came on board, and not a dozen words were said on either side.

Their want of curiosity is extreme. One day we had an unusually
sharp thunder shower. The crew were lying about the deck, and
after each explosion all set up a loud laugh; the wag of the
party exclaiming: "There's my old uncle hunting again!"-- an
expression showing the utter emptiness of mind of the spokesman.
I asked Vicente what he thought was the cause of lightning and
thunder... He said, "Timaa ichoqua,"--I don't know. He had never
given the subject a moment's thought! It was the same with other
things. I asked him who made the sun, the stars, the trees... He
didn't know, and had never heard the subject mentioned amongst
his tribe. The Tupi language, at least as taught by the old
Jesuits, has a word--Tupana--signifying God. Vicente sometimes
used this word, but he showed by his expressions that he did not
attach the idea of a Creator to it. He seemed to think it meant
some deity or visible image which the whites worshipped in the
churches he had seen in the villages. None of the Indian tribes
on the Upper Amazons have an idea of a Supreme Being, and
consequently have no word to express it in their own language.
Vicente thought the river on which we were travelling encircled
the whole earth, and that the land was an island like those seen
in the stream, but larger. Here a gleam of curiosity and
imagination in the Indian mind is revealed: the necessity of a
theory of the earth and water has been felt, and a theory has
been suggested. In all other matters not concerning the common
wants of life, the mind of Vicente was a blank and such I always
found to be the case with the Indian in his natural state. Would
a community of any race of men be otherwise, were they isolated
for centuries in a wilderness like the Amazonian Indians,
associated in small numbers wholly occupied in procuring a mere
subsistence, and without a written language, or a leisured class
to hand down acquired knowledge from generation to generation?One
day a smart squall gave us a good lift onward; it came with a
cold, fine, driving rain, which enveloped the desolate landscape
as with a mist; the forest swayed and roared with the force of
the gale, and flocks of birds were driven about in alarm over the
tree tops. On another occasion a similar squall came from an
unfavourable quarter; it fell upon us quite unawares, when we had
all our sails out to dry, and blew us broadside foremost on the
shore. The vessel was fairly lifted on to the tall bushes which
lined the banks, but we sustained no injury beyond the
entanglement of our rigging in the branches. The days and nights
usually passed in a dead calm, or with light intermittent winds
from up river, and consequently full against us. We landed twice
a day to give ourselves and the Indians a little rest and change,
and to cook our two meals--breakfast and dinner. There was
another passenger besides myself--a cautious, middle-aged
Portuguese, who was going to settle at Ega, where he had a
brother long since established. He was accommodated in the fore-
cabin, or arched covering over the hold. I shared the cabin-
proper with Senores Estulano and Manoel, the latter a young half-
caste, son-in-law to the owner of the vessel, under whose tuition
I made good progress in learning the Tupi language during the

Our men took it in turns, two at a time, to go out fishing-- for
which purpose we carried a spare montaria. The master had brought
from Barra as provision, nothing but stale, salt pirarucu--half
rotten fish, in large, thin, rusty slabs--farinha, coffee, and
treacle. In these voyages, passengers are expected to provide for
themselves, as no charge is made except for freight of the heavy
luggage or cargo they take with them. The Portuguese and myself
had brought a few luxuries, such as beans, sugar, biscuits, tea,
and so forth; but we found ourselves almost obliged to share them
with our two companions and the pilot, so that before the voyage
was one-third finished, the small stock of most of these articles
was exhausted. In return, we shared in whatever the men brought.
Sometimes they were quite unsuccessful, for fish is extremely
difficult to procure in the season of high water, on account of
the lower lands lying between the inlets and infinite chain of
pools and lakes being flooded from the main river, thus
increasing tenfold the area over which the finny population has
to range. On most days, however, they brought two or three fine
fish, and once they harpooned a manatee, or Vacca marina. On this
last-mentioned occasion we made quite a holiday; the canoe was
stopped for six or seven hours, and all turned out into the
forest to help skin and cook the animal. The meat was cut into
cubical slabs, and each person skewered a dozen or so of these on
a long stick. Fires were made, and the spits stuck in the ground
and slanted over the flames to roast. A drizzling rain fell all
the time, and the ground around the fires swarmed with stinging
ants, attracted by the entrails and slime which were scattered
about. The meat has somewhat the taste of very coarse pork; but
the fat, which lies in thick layers between the lean parts, is of
a greenish colour, and of a disagreeable, fishy flavour. The
animal was a large one, measuring nearly ten feet in length, and
nine in girth at the broadest part. The manatee is one of the few
objects which excite the dull wonder and curiosity of the
Indians, notwithstanding its commonness. The fact of its suckling
its young at the breast, although an aquatic animal resembling a
fish, seems to strike them as something very strange. The animal,
as it lay on its back, with its broad rounded head and muzzle,
tapering body, and smooth, thick, lead-coloured skin reminded me
of those Egyptian tombs which are made of dark, smooth stone, and
shaped to the human figure.

Notwithstanding the hard fare, the confinement of the canoe, the
trying weather--frequent and drenching rains, with gleams of
fiery sunshine--and the woeful desolation of the river scenery, I
enjoyed the voyage on the whole. We were not much troubled by
mosquitoes, and therefore passed the nights very pleasantly,
sleeping on deck wrapped in blankets or old sails. When the rains
drove us below we were less comfortable, as there was only just
room in the small cabin for three of us to lie close together,
and the confined air was stifling. I became inured to the Piums
in the course of the first week; all the exposed parts of my
body, by that time, being so closely covered with black punctures
that the little bloodsuckers could not very easily find an
unoccupied place to operate upon. Poor Miguel, the Portuguese,
suffered horribly from these pests, his ankles and wrists being
so much inflamed that he was confined to his hammock, slung in
the hold, for weeks. At every landing place I had a ramble in the
forest, while the redskins made the fire and cooked the meal. The
result was a large daily addition to my collection of insects,
reptiles, and shells.

Sometimes the neighbourhood of our gipsy-like encampment was a
tract of dry and spacious forest, pleasant to ramble in; but more
frequently it was a rank wilderness, into which it was impossible
to penetrate many yards, on account of uprooted trees, entangled
webs of monstrous woody climbers, thickets of spiny bamboos,
swamps, or obstacles of one kind or other. The drier lands were
sometimes beautified to the highest degree by groves of the
Urucuri palm (Attalea excelsa), which grew by the thousands under
the crowns of the lofty, ordinary forest trees; their smooth
columnar stems being all of nearly equal height (forty or fifty
feet), and their broad, finely-pinnated leaves interlocking above
to form arches and woven canopies of elegant and diversified
shapes. The fruit of this palm ripens on the upper river in
April, and during our voyage I saw immense quantities of it
strewn about under the trees in places where we encamped. It is
similar in size and shape to the date, and has a pleasantly-
flavoured juicy pulp. The Indians would not eat it; I was
surprised at this, as they greedily devoured many other kinds of
palm fruit whose sour and fibrous pulp was much less palatable.
Vicente shook his head when he saw me one day eating a quantity
of the Urucuri plums. I am not sure they were not the cause of a
severe indigestion under which I suffered for many days

In passing slowly along the interminable wooded banks week after
week, I observed that there were three tolerably distinct kinds
of coast and corresponding forest constantly recurring on this
upper river. First, there were the low and most recent alluvial
deposits--a mixture of sand and mud, covered with tall, broad-
leaved grasses, or with the arrow-grass before described, whose
feathery-topped flower-stem rises to a height of fourteen or
fifteen feet. The only large trees which grow in these places are
the Cecropiae. Many of the smaller and newer islands were of this
description. Secondly, there were the moderately high banks,
which are only partially overflowed when the flood season is at
its height; these are wooded with a magnificent, varied forest,
in which a great variety of palms and broad-leaved Marantaceae
form a very large proportion of the vegetation. The general
foliage is of a vivid light-green hue; the water frontage is
sometimes covered with a diversified mass of greenery; but where
the current sets strongly against the friable, earthy banks,
which at low water are twenty-five to thirty feet high, these are
cut away, and expose a section of forest where the trunks of
trees loaded with epiphytes appear in massy colonnades. One might
safely say that three-fourths of the land bordering the Upper
Amazons, for a thousand miles, belong to this second class. The
third description of coast is the higher, undulating, clayey
land, which appears only at long intervals, but extends sometimes
for many miles along the borders of the river. The coast at these
places is sloping, and composed of red or variegated clay. The
forest is of a different character from that of the lower tracts:
it is rounder in outline, more uniform in its general aspect--
palms are much less numerous and of peculiar species--the strange
bulging-stemmed species, Iriartea ventricosa, and the slender,
glossy-leaved Bacaba-i (Oenocarpus minor), being especially
characteristic; and, in short, animal life, which imparts some
cheerfulness to the other parts of the river, is seldom apparent.
This "terra firme," as it is called, and a large portion of the
fertile lower land, seemed well adapted for settlement; some
parts were originally peopled by the aborigines, but these have
long since become extinct or amalgamated with the white
immigrants. I afterwards learned that there were not more than
eighteen or twenty families settled throughout the whole country
from Manacapuru to Quary, a distance of 240 miles; and these, as
before observed, do not live on the banks of the main stream, but
on the shores of inlets and lakes.

The fishermen twice brought me small rounded pieces of very
porous pumice-stone, which they had picked up floating on the
surface of the main current of the river. They were to me objects
of great curiosity as being messengers from the distant volcanoes
of the Andes-- Cotopaxi, Llanganete, or Sangay-- which rear their
peaks amongst the rivulets that feed some of the early
tributaries of the Amazons, such as the Macas, the Pastaza, and
the Napo. The stones must have already travelled a distance of
1200 miles. I afterwards found them rather common; the Brazilians
use them for cleaning rust from their guns, and firmly believe
them to be solidified river foam. A friend once brought me, when
I lived at Santarem, a large piece which had been found in the
middle of the stream below Monte Alegre, about 900 miles further
down the river; having reached this distance, pumice-stones would
be pretty sure of being carried out to sea, and floated thence
with the northwesterly Atlantic current to shores many thousand
miles distant from the volcanoes which ejected them. They are
sometimes stranded on the banks in different parts of the river.
Reflecting on this circumstance since I arrived in England, the
probability of these porous fragments serving as vehicles for the
transportation of seeds of plants, eggs of insects, spawn of
fresh-water fish, and so forth, has suggested itself to me. Their
rounded, water-worn appearance showed that they must have been
rolled about for a long time in the shallow streams near the
sources of the rivers at the feet of the volcanoes, before they
leapt the waterfalls and embarked on the currents which lead
direct for the Amazons. They may have been originally cast on the
land and afterwards carried to the rivers by freshets; in which
case the eggs and seeds of land insects and plants might be
accidentally introduced and safely enclosed with particles of
earth in their cavities. As the speed of the current in the rainy
season has been observed to be from three to five miles an hour,
they might travel an immense distance before the eggs or seeds
were destroyed. I am ashamed to say that I neglected the
opportunity, while on the spot, of ascertaining whether this was
actually the case. The attention of Naturalists has only lately
been turned to the important subject of occasional means of wide
dissemination of species of animals and plants. Unless such be
shown to exist, it is impossible to solve some of the most
difficult problems connected with the distribution of plants and
animals. Some species, with most limited powers of locomotion,
are found in opposite parts of the earth, without existing in the
intermediate regions; unless it can be shown that these may have
migrated or been accidentally transported from one point to the
other, we shall have to come to the strange conclusion that the
same species had been created in two separate districts.

Canoemen on the Upper Amazons live in constant dread of the
"terras cahidas," or landslips, which occasionally take place
along the steep earthy banks, especially when the waters are
rising. Large vessels are sometimes overwhelmed by these
avalanches of earth and trees. I should have thought the accounts
of them exaggerated if I had not had an opportunity during this
voyage of seeing one on a large scale. One morning I was awakened
before sunrise by an unusual sound resembling the roar of
artillery. I was lying alone on the top of the cabin; it was very
dark, and all my companions were asleep, so I lay listening. The
sounds came from a considerable distance, and the crash which had
aroused me was succeeded by others much less formidable. The
first explanation which occurred to me was that it was an
earthquake; for, although the night was breathlessly calm, the
broad river was much agitated and the vessel rolled heavily. Soon
after, another loud explosion took place, apparently much nearer
than the former one; then followed others. The thundering peal
rolled backwards and forwards, now seeming close at hand, now far
off--the sudden crashes being often succeeded by a pause or a
long,continued dull rumbling. At the second explosion, Vicente,
who lay snoring by the helm, awoke and told me it was a "terra
cahida"; but I could scarcely believe him. The day dawned after
the uproar had lasted about an hour, and we then saw the work of
destruction going forward on the other side of the river, about
three miles off. Large masses of forest, including trees of
colossal size, probably 200 feet in height, were rocking to and
fro, and falling headlong one after the other into the water.
After each avalanche the wave which it caused returned on the
crumbly bank with tremendous force, and caused the fall of other
masses by undermining them. The line of coast over which the
landslip extended, was a mile or two in length; the end of it,
however, was hidden from our view by an intervening island. It
was a grand sight; each downfall created a cloud of spray; the
concussion in one place causing other masses to give way a long
distance from it, and thus the crashes continued, swaying to and
fro, with little prospect of a termination. When we glided out of
sight, two hours after sunrise, the destruction was still going

On the 22nd we threaded the Parana-mirim of Arauana-i, one of the
numerous narrow bywaters which lie conveniently for canoes away
from the main river, and often save a considerable circuit around
a promontory or island. We rowed for half a mile through a
magnificent bed of Victoria waterlilies, the flower-buds of which
were just beginning to expand. Beyond the mouth of the Catua, a
channel leading to one of the great lakes so numerous in the
plains of the Amazons, which we passed on the 25th, the river
appeared greatly increased in breadth. We travelled for three
days along a broad reach which both up and down river presented a
blank horizon of water and sky-- this clear view was owing to the
absence of islands, but it renewed one's impressions of the
magnitude of the stream, which here, 1200 miles from its mouth,
showed so little diminution of width. Further westward, a series
of large islands commences, which divides the river into two and
sometimes three channels, each about a mile in breadth. We kept
to the southernmost of these, travelling all day on the 30th of
April along a high and rather sloping bank.

In the evening we arrived at a narrow opening, which would be
taken by a stranger navigating the main channel for the cutlet of
some insignificant stream-- it was the mouth of the Teffe, on
whose banks Ega is situated, the termination of our voyage. After
having struggled for thirty-five days with the muddy currents and
insect pests of the Solimoens, it was unspeakably refreshing to
find oneself again in a dark-water river, smooth as a lake, and
free from Pium and Motuca. The rounded outline, small foliage,
and sombre-green of the woods, which seemed to rest on the glassy
waters, made a pleasant contrast to the tumultuous piles of rank,
glaring, light-green vegetation, and torn, timber-strewn banks to
which we had been so long accustomed on the main river. The men
rowed lazily until nightfall, when, having done a laborious day's
work, they discontinued and went to sleep, intending to make for
Ega in the morning. It was not thought worthwhile to secure the
vessel to the trees or cast anchor, as there was no current. I
sat up for two or three hours after my companions had gone to
rest, enjoying the solemn calm of the night. Not a breath of air
stirred; the sky was of a deep blue, and the stars seemed to
stand forth in sharp relief; there was no sound of life in the
woods, except the occasional melancholy note of some nocturnal
bird. I reflected on my own wandering life; I had now reached the
end of the third stage of my journey, and was now more than half
way across the continent. It was necessary for me, on many
accounts, to find a rich locality for Natural History
explorations, and settle myself in it for some months or years.
Would the neighbourhood of Ega turn out to be suitable, and
should I, a solitary stranger on a strange errand, find a welcome
amongst its people?

Our Indians resumed their oars at sunrise the next morning (May
1st), and after an hour's rowing along the narrow channel, which
varies in breadth from 100 to 500 yards, we doubled a low wooded
point, and emerged suddenly on the so-called Lake of Ega-- a
magnificent sheet of water, five miles broad, the expanded
portion of the Teffe. It is quite clear of islands, and curves
away to the west and south, so that its full extent is not
visible from this side. To the left, on a gentle grassy slope at
the point of junction of a broad tributary with the Teffe, lay
the little settlement-- a cluster of a hundred or so of palm-
thatched cottages and white-washed red-tiled houses, each with
its neatly-enclosed orchard of orange, lemon, banana, and guava
trees. Groups of palms, with their tall slender shafts and
feathery crowns, overtopped the buildings and lower trees. A
broad grass-carpeted street led from the narrow strip of white
sandy beach to the rudely-built barn-like church, with its wooden
crucifix on the green before it, in the centre of the town.
Cattle were grazing before the houses, and a number of dark-
skinned natives were taking their morning bath amongst the canoes
of various sizes, which were anchored or moored to stakes in the
port. We let off rockets and fired salutes, according to custom,
in token of our safe arrival, and shortly afterwards went ashore.

A few days' experience of the people and the forests of the
vicinity showed me that I might lay myself out for a long,
pleasant, and busy residence at this place. An idea of the kind
of people I had fallen amongst may be conveyed by an account of
my earliest acquaintances in the place. On landing, the owner of
the canoe killed an ox in honour of our arrival, and the next day
took me round the town to introduce me to the principal
residents. We first went to the Delegado of police, Senor Antonio
Cardozo, of whom I shall have to make frequent mention by-and-by.
He was a stout, broad-featured man, ranking as a white, but
having a tinge of negro blood, his complexion, however, was
ruddy, and scarcely betrayed the mixture. He received us in a
very cordial, winning manner; I had afterwards occasion to be
astonished at the boundless good nature of this excellent fellow,
whose greatest pleasure seemed to be to make sacrifices for his
friends. He was a Paraense, and came to Ega originally as a
trader; but, not succeeding in this, he turned planter on a small
scale and collector of the natural commodities of the country,
employing half-a-dozen Indians in the business.

We then visited the military commandant, an officer in the
Brazilian army, named Praia. He was breakfasting with the Vicar,
and we found the two in dishabille (morning-gown, loose round the
neck, and slippers), seated at a rude wooden table in an open
mud-floored verandah, at the back of the house. Commander Praia
was a little curly-headed man (also somewhat of a mulatto),
always merry and fond of practical jokes. His wife, Donna Anna, a
dressy dame from Santarem, was the leader of fashion in the
settlement. The Vicar, Father Luiz Gonsalvo Gomez, was a nearly
pureblood Indian, a native of one of the neighbouring villages,
but educated at Maranham, a city on the Atlantic seaboard. I
afterwards saw a good deal of him, as he was an agreeable,
sociable fellow, fond of reading and hearing about foreign
countries, and quite free from the prejudices which might be
expected in a man of his profession. I found him, moreover, a
thoroughly upright, sincere, and virtuous man. He supported his
aged mother and unmarried sisters in a very creditable way out of
his small salary and emoluments. It is a pleasure to be able to
speak in these terms of a Brazilian priest, for the opportunity
occurs rarely enough.

Leaving these agreeable new acquaintances to finish their
breakfast, we next called on the Director of the Indians of the
Japura, Senor Jose Chrysostomo Monteiro, a thin wiry Mameluco,
the most enterprising person in the settlement. Each of the
neighbouring rivers with its numerous wild tribes is under the
control of a Director, who is nominated by the Imperial
Government. There are now no missions in the regions of the Upper
Amazons; the "gentios" (heathens, or unbaptised Indians) being
considered under the management and protection of these despots,
who, like the captains of Trabalhadores, before mentioned, use
the natives for their own private ends. Senor Chrysostomo had, at
this time, 200 of the Japura Indians in his employ. He was half
Indian himself, but was a far worse master to the redskins than
the whites usually are.

We finished our rounds by paying our respects to a venerable
native merchant, Senor Romao de Oliveira, a tall, corpulent,
fine-looking old man, who received us with a naive courtesy quite
original in its way. He had been an industrious, enterprising man
in his younger days, and had built a substantial range of houses
and warehouses. The shrewd and able old gentleman knew nothing of
the world beyond the wilderness of the Solimoens and its few
thousands of isolated inhabitants, yet he could converse well and
sensibly, making observations on men and things as sagaciously as
though he had drawn them from long experience of life in a
European capital. The semi-civilised Indians respected old Romao,
and he had, consequently, a great number in his employ in
different parts of the river-- his vessels were always filled
quicker with produce than those of his neighbours. On our
leaving, he placed his house and store at my disposal. This was
not a piece of empty politeness, for some time afterwards, when I
wished to settle for the goods I had had of him, he refused to
take any payment.

I made Ega my headquarters during the whole of the time I
remained on the Upper Amazons (four years and a half). My
excursions into the neighbouring region extended sometimes as far
as 300 and 400 miles from the place. An account of these
excursions will be given in subsequent chapters; in the intervals
between them I led a quiet, uneventful life in the settlement,
following my pursuit in the same peaceful, regular way as a
Naturalist might do in a European village. For many weeks in
succession my journal records little more than the notes made on
my daily captures. I had a dry and specious cottage, the
principal room of which was made a workshop and study; here a
large table was placed, and my little library of reference
arranged on shelves in rough wooden boxes. Cages for drying
specimens were suspended from the rafters by cords well anointed,
to prevent ants from descending, with a bitter vegetable oil;
rats and mice were kept from them by inverted cuyas, placed half
way down the cords. I always kept on hand a large portion of my
private collection, which contained a pair of each species and
variety, for the sake of comparing the old with the new
acquisitions. My cottage was whitewashed inside and out about
once a year by the proprietor, a native trader; the floor was of
earth; the ventilation was perfect, for the outside air, and
sometimes the rain as well, entered freely through gaps at the
top of the walls under the eaves and through wide crevices in the
doorways. Rude as the dwelling was, I look back with pleasure on
the many happy months I spent in it. I rose generally with the
sun, when the grassy streets were wet with dew, and walked down
to the river to bathe; five or six hours of every morning were
spent in collecting in the forest, whose borders lay only five
minutes' walk from my house; the hot hours of the afternoon,
between three and six o'clock, and the rainy days, were occupied
in preparing and ticketing the specimens, making notes,
dissecting, and drawing. I frequently had short rambles by water
in a small montaria, with an Indian lad to paddle. The
neighbourhood yielded me, up to the last day of my residence, an
uninterrupted succession of new and curious forms in the
different classes of the animal kingdom, and especially insects.

I lived, as may already have been seen, on the best of terms with
the inhabitants of Ega. Refined society, of course, there was
none; but the score or so of decent quiet families which
constituted the upper class of the place were very sociable;
their manners offered a curious mixture of naive rusticity and
formal politeness; the great desire to be thought civilised leads
the most ignorant of these people (and they are all very
ignorant, although of quick intelligence) to be civil and kind to
strangers from Europe. I was never troubled with that impertinent
curiosity on the part of the people in these interior places
which some travellers complain of in other countries. The Indians
and lower half-castes--at least such of them who gave any thought
to the subject--seemed to think it natural that strangers should
collect and send abroad the beautiful birds and insects of their
country. The butterflies they universally concluded to be wanted
as patterns for bright-coloured calico-prints. As to the better
sort of people, I had no difficulty in making them understand
that each European capital had a public museum, in which were
sought to be stored specimens of all natural productions in the
mineral, animal, and vegetable kingdoms. They could not
comprehend how a man could study science for its own sake; but I
told them I was collecting for the "Museo de Londres," and was
paid for it; that was very intelligible. One day, soon after my
arrival, when I was explaining these things to a listening circle
seated on benches in the grassy street, one of the audience, a
considerable tradesman, a Mameluco native of Ega, got suddenly
quite enthusiastic, and exclaimed, "How rich are these great
nations of Europe! We half-civilised creatures know nothing. Let
us treat this stranger well, that he may stay amongst us and
teach our children." We very frequently had social parties, with
dancing and so forth; of these relaxations I shall have more to
say presently. The manners of the Indian population also gave me
some amusement for a long time. During the latter part of my
residence, three wandering Frenchmen, and two Italians, some of
them men of good education, on their road one after the other
from the Andes down the Amazons, became enamoured of this
delightfully situated and tranquil spot, and made up their minds
to settle here for the remainder of their lives. Three of them
ended by marrying native women. I found the society of these
friends a very agreeable change.

There were, of course, many drawbacks to the amenities of the
place as a residence for a European; but these were not of a
nature that my readers would perhaps imagine. There was scarcely
any danger from wild animals-- it seems almost ridiculous to
refute the idea of danger from the natives in a country where
even incivility to an unoffending stranger is a rarity. A jaguar,
however, paid us a visit one night. It was considered an
extraordinary event, and so much uproar was made by the men who
turned out with guns and bows and arrows, that the animal
scampered off and was heard of no more. Alligators were rather
troublesome in the dry season. During these months there was
almost always one or two lying in wait near the bathing place for
anything that might turn up at the edge of the water-- dog,
sheep, pig, child, or drunken Indian. When this visitor was about
every one took extra care whilst bathing. I used to imitate the
natives in not advancing far from the bank, and in keeping my eye
fixed on that of the monster, which stares with a disgusting leer
along the surface of the water; the body being submerged to the
level of the eyes, and the top of the head, with part of the
dorsal crest the only portions visible. When a little motion was
perceived in the water behind the reptile's tail, bathers were
obliged to beat a quick retreat. I was never threatened myself,
but I often saw the crowds of women and children scared while
bathing by the beast making a movement towards them -- a general
scamper to the shore and peals of laughter were always the result
in these cases. The men can always destroy these alligators when
they like to take the trouble to set out with montarias and
harpoons for the purpose; but they never do it unless one of the
monsters, bolder than usual, puts some one's life in danger. This
arouses them, and they then track the enemy with the greatest
pertinacity; when half-killed, they drag it ashore and dispatch
it amid loud execrations. Another, however, is sure to appear
some days or weeks afterwards and take the vacant place on the
station. Besides alligators, the only animals to be feared are
the poisonous serpents. These are certainly common enough in the
forest, but no fatal accident happened during the whole time of
my residence.

I suffered most inconvenience from the difficulty of getting news
from the civilised world down river, from the irregularity of
receipt of letters, parcels of books and periodicals, and towards
the latter part of my residence from ill health arising from bad
and insufficient food. The want of intellectual society, and of
the varied excitement of European life, was also felt most
acutely, and this, instead of becoming deadened by time,
increased until it became almost insupportable. I was obliged, at
last, to come to the conclusion that the contemplation of Nature
alone is not sufficient to fill the human heart and mind. I got
on pretty well when I received a parcel from England by the
steamer, once in two or four months. I used to be very economical
with my stock of reading lest it should be finished before the
next arrival, and leave me utterly destitute. I went over the
periodicals, the Athenaeum, for instance, with great
deliberation, going through every number three times; the first
time devouring the more interesting articles; the second, the
whole of the remainder; and the third, reading all the
advertisements from beginning to end. If four months (two
steamers) passed without a fresh parcel, I felt discouraged in
the extreme. I was worst off in the first year, 1850, when twelve
months elapsed without letters or remittances. Towards the end of
this time my clothes had worn to rags; I was barefoot, a great
inconvenience in tropical forests, notwithstanding statements to
the contrary that have been published by travellers; my servant
ran away, and I was robbed of nearly all my copper money. I was
obliged then to descend to Para, but returned, after finishing
the examination of the middle part of the Lower Amazons and the
Tapajos, in 1855, with my Santarem assistant and better provided
for making collections on the upper river. This second visit was
in pursuit of the plan before mentioned, of exploring in detail
the whole valley of the Amazons, which I formed in Para in the
year 1851.

During so long a residence I witnessed, of course, many changes
in the place. Some of the good friends who made me welcome on my
first arrival, died, and I followed their remains to their last
resting-place in the little rustic cemetery on the borders of the
surrounding forest. I lived there long enough, from first to
last, to see the young people grow up, attended their weddings,
and the christenings of their children, and, before I left, saw
them old married folks with numerous families. In 1850 Ega was
only a village, dependent on Para 1400 miles distant, as the
capital of the then undivided province. In 1852, with the
creation of the new province of the Amazons, it became a city;
returned its members to the provincial parliament at Barra; had
it assizes, its resident judges, and rose to be the chief town of
the comarca or county. A year after this, namely, in 1853,
steamers were introduced on the Solimoens; and from 1855, one ran
regularly every two months between the Rio Negro and Nauta in
Peru, touching at all the villages, and accomplishing the
distance in ascending, about 1200 miles, in eighteen days. The
trade and population, however, did not increase with these
changes. The people became more "civilised," that is, they began
to dress according to the latest Parisian fashions, instead of
going about in stockingless feet, wooden clogs, and shirt
sleeves, acquired a taste for money-getting and office-holding;
became divided into parties, and lost part of their former
simplicity of manners. But the place remained, when I left it in
1859, pretty nearly what it was when I first arrived in 1850--a
semi-Indian village, with much in the ways and notions of its
people more like those of a small country town in Northern Europe
than a South American settlement. The place is healthy, and
almost free from insect pests-- perpetual verdure surrounds it;
the soil is of marvellous fertility, even for Brazil; the endless
rivers and labyrinths of channels teem with fish and turtle, a
fleet of steamers might anchor at any season of the year in the
lake, which has uninterrupted water communication straight to the
Atlantic. What a future is in store for the sleepy little
tropical village!

After speaking of Ega as a city, it will have a ludicrous effect
to mention that the total number of its inhabitants is only about
1200. It contains just 107 houses, about half of which are
miserably built mud-walled cottages, thatched with palm leaves. A
fourth of the population are almost always absent, trading or
collecting produce on the rivers. The neighbourhood within a
radius of thirty miles, and including two other small villages,
contains probably 2000 more people. The settlement is one of the
oldest in the country, having beenfounded in 1688 by Father
Samuel Fritz, a Bohemian Jesuit, who induced several of the
docile tribes of Indians, then scattered over the neighbouring
region, to settle on the site. From 100 to 200 acres of sloping
ground around the place were afterwards cleared of timber; but
such is the encroaching vigour of vegetation in this country that
the site would quickly relapse into jungle if the inhabitants
neglected to pull up the young shoots as they arose. There is a
stringent municipal law which compels each resident to weed a
given space around his dwelling. Every month, whilst I resided
here, an inspector came round with his wand of authority, and
fined every one who had not complied with the regulation. The
Indians of the surrounding country have never been hostile to the
European settlers. The rebels of Para and the Lower Amazons, in
1835-6, did not succeed in rousing the natives of the Solimoens
against the whites. A party of forty of them ascended the river
for that purpose, but on arriving at Ega, instead of meeting with
sympathisers as in other places, they were surrounded by a small
body of armed residents, and shot down without mercy. The
military commandant at the time, who was the prime mover in this
orderly resistance to anarchy, was a courageous and loyal negro,
named Jose Patricio, an officer known throughout the Upper
Amazons for his unflinching honesty and love of order, whose
acquaintance I had the pleasure of making at St. Paulo in 1858.
Ega was the headquarters of the great scientific commission,
which met in the years from 1781 to 1791 to settle the boundaries
between the Spanish and Portuguese territories in South America.
The chief commissioner for Spain, Don Francisco Requena, lived
some time in the village with his family. I found only one person
at Ega, my old friend Romao de Oliveira, who recollected, or had
any knowledge of this important time, when a numerous staff of
astronomers, surveyors, and draughtsmen, explored much of the
surrounding country with large bodies of soldiers and natives.

More than half the inhabitants of Ega are Mamelucos; there are
not more than forty or fifty pure whites; the number of negroes
and mulattos is probably a little less, and the rest of the
population consists of pure blood Indians. Every householder,
including Indians and free negroes, is entitled to a vote in the
elections, municipal, provincial, and imperial, and is liable to
be called on juries, and to serve in the national guard. These
privileges and duties of citizenship do not seem at present to be
appreciated by the more ignorant coloured people. There is,
however, a gradual improvement taking place in this respect.
Before I left there was a rather sharp contest for the Presidency
of the Municipal Chamber, and most of the voters took a lively
interest in it. There was also an election of members to
represent the province in the Imperial Parliament at Rio Janeiro,
in which each party strove hard to return its candidate. On this
occasion, an unscrupulous lawyer was sent by the government party
from the capital to overawe the opposition to its nominee; many
of the half-castes, headed by my old friend John da Cunha, who
was then settled at Ega, fought hard, but with perfect legality
and good humour, against this powerful interest. They did not
succeed -- and although the government agent committed many
tyrannical and illegal acts, the losing party submitted quietly
to their defeat. In a larger town, I believe, the government
would not have dared to attempt thus to control the elections. I
think I saw enough to warrant the conclusion that the machinery
of constitutional government would, with a little longer trial,
work well amongst the mixed Indian, white, and negro population,
even in this remote part of the Brazilian empire. I attended
also, before I left, several assize meetings at Ega, and
witnessed the novel sight of negro, white, half-caste, and
Indian, sitting gravely side by side on the jury bench.

The way in which the coloured races act under the conditions of
free citizenship is a very interesting subject. Brazilian
statesmen seem to have abandoned the idea, if they ever
entertained it, of making this tropical empire a nation of whites
with a slave labouring class. The greatest difficulty on the
Amazons is with the Indians. The general inflexibility of
character of the race, and their abhorrence of the restraints of
civilised life, make them very intractable subjects. Some of
them, however, who have learned to read and write, and whose
dislike to live in towns has been overcome by some cause acting
early in life, make very good citizens. I have already mentioned
the priest, who is a good example of what early training can do.
There can be no doubt that if the docile Amazonian Indians were
kindly treated by their white fellow-citizens, and educated, they
would not be so quick as they have hitherto shown themselves to
be to leave the towns and return into their half wild condition
on the advancing civilisation of the places. The inflexibility of
character, although probably organic, is seen to be sometimes

The principal blacksmith of Ega, Senor Macedo, was also an
Indian, and a very sensible fellow. He sometimes filled minor
offices in the government of the place. He used to come very
frequently to my house to chat, and was always striving to
acquire solid information about things. When Donati's comet
appeared, he took a great interest in it. We saw it at its best
from the 3rd to the 10th of October (1858), between which dates
it was visible near the western horizon just after sunset, the
tail extending in a broad curve towards the north, and forming a
sublime object. Macedo consulted all the old almanacs in the
place to ascertain whether it was the same comet as that of 1811,
which he said he well remembered.

Before the Indians can be reclaimed in large numbers, it is most
likely they will become extinct as a race; but there is less
difficulty with regard to the Mamelucos, who, even when the
proportion of white blood is small, sometimes become enterprising
and versatile people.Many of the Ega Indians, including all the
domestic servants, are savages who have been brought from the
neighbouring rivers-- the Japura, the Issa, and the Solimoens. I
saw here individuals of at least sixteen different tribes, most
of whom had been bought, when children, of the native chiefs.
This species of slave-dealing, although forbidden by the laws of
Brazil, is winked at by the authorities, because without it,
there would be no means of obtaining servants. They all become
their own masters when they grow up, and never show the slightest
inclination to return to utter savage life. But the boys
generally run away and embark on the canoes of traders; and the
girls are often badly treated by their mistresses-- the jealous,
passionate, and ill-educated Brazilian women. Nearly all the
enmities which arise amongst residents at Ega and other place,
are caused by disputes about Indian servants. No one who has
lived only in old settled countries, where service can be readily
bought, can imagine the difficulties and annoyances of a land
where the servant class are ignorant of the value of money, and
hands cannot be obtained except by coaxing them from the employ
of other masters.

Great mortality takes place amongst the poor captive children on
their arrival at Ega. It is a singular circumstance that the
Indians residing on the Japura and other tributaries always fall
ill on descending to the Solimoens, while the reverse takes place
with the inhabitants of the banks of the main river, who never
fail of taking intermittent fever when they first ascend these
branch rivers, and of getting well when they return. The finest
tribes of savages who inhabit the country near Ega are the Juris
and Passes-- these are now, however, nearly extinct, a few
families only remaining on the banks of the retired creeks
connected with the Teffe, and on other branch rivers between the
Teffe and the Jutahi. They are a peaceable, gentle, and
industrious people, devoted to agriculture and fishing, and have
always been friendly to the whites. I shall have occasion to
speak again of the Passes, who are a slenderly-built and superior
race of Indians, distinguished by a large, square tattooed patch
in the middle of their faces. The principal cause of their decay
in numbers seems to be a disease which always appears amongst
them when a village is visited by people from the civilised
settlements--a slow fever, accompanied by the symptoms of a
common cold, "defluxo," as the Brazilians term it, ending
probably in consumption. The disorder has been known to break out
when the visitors were entirely free from it-- the simple contact
of civilised men, in some mysterious way, being sufficient to
create it. It is generally fatal to the Juris and Passes; the
first question the poor, patient Indians now put to an advancing
canoe is, "Do you bring defluxo?"

My assistant, Jose, in the last year of our residence at Ega,
"resgatou" (ransomed, the euphemism in use for purchased) two
Indian children, a boy and a girl, through a Japura trader. The
boy was about twelve years of age, and of an unusually dark
colour of skin-- he had, in fact, the tint of a Cafuzo, the
offspring of Indian and negro. It was thought he had belonged to
some perfectly wild and houseless tribe, similar to the
Pararauates of the Tapajos, of which there are several in
different parts of the interior of South America. His face was of
regular, oval shape, but his glistening black eyes had a wary,
distrustful expression, like that of a wild animal; his hands and
feet were small and delicately formed. Soon after his arrival,
finding that none of the Indian boys and girls in the houses of
our neighbours understood his language, he became sulky and
reserved; not a word could be got from him until many weeks
afterwards, when he suddenly broke out with complete phrases of
Portuguese. He was ill of swollen liver and spleen, the result of
intermittent fever, for a long time after coming into our hands.
We found it difficult to cure him, owing to his almost invincible
habit of eating earth, baked clay, pitch, wax, and other similar
substances. Very many children on the upper parts of the Amazons
have this strange habit; not only Indians, but negroes and
whites. It is not, therefore, peculiar to the famous Otomacs of
the Orinoco, described by Humboldt,or to Indians at all, and
seems to originate in a morbid craving, the result of a meagre
diet of fish, wild-fruits, and mandioca-meal. We gave our little
savage the name of Sebastian.

The use of these Indian children is to fill water-jars from the
river, gather firewood in the forest, cook, assist in paddling
the montaria in excursions, and so forth. Sebastian was often my
companion in the woods, where he was very useful in finding the
small birds I shot, which sometimes fell in the thickets amongst
confused masses of fallen branches and dead leaves. He was
wonderfully expert at catching lizards with his hands, and at
climbing. The smoothest stems of palm trees offered little
difficulty to him; he would gather a few lengths of tough,
flexible lianas, tie them in a short, endless band to support his
feet with, in embracing the slippery shaft, and then mount
upwards by a succession of slight jerks. It was very amusing,
during the first few weeks, to witness the glee and pride with
which he would bring to me the bunches of fruit he had gathered
from almost inaccessible trees. He avoided the company of boys of
his own race, and was evidently proud of being the servant of a
real white man. We brought him down with us to Para, but he
showed no emotion at any of the strange sights of the capital--
the steam-vessels, large ships and houses, horses and carriages,
the pomp of church ceremonies, and so forth. In this he exhibited
the usual dullness of feeling and poverty of thought of the
Indian; he had, nevertheless, very keen perceptions, and was
quick at learning any mechanical art. Jose, who had resumed, some
time before I left the country, his old trade of goldsmith, made
him his apprentice, and he made very rapid progress; for after
about three months' teaching he came to me one day with radiant
countenance and showed me a gold ring of his own making.

The fate of the little girl, who came with a second batch of
children all ill of intermittent fever, a month or two after
Sebastian, was very different. She was brought to our house,
after landing, one night in the wet season, when the rain was
pouring in torrents, thin and haggard, drenched with wet and
shivering with ague. An old Indian who brought her to the door
said briefly, "ecui encommenda" (here's your little parcel, or
order), and went away. There was very little of the savage in her
appearance, and she was of a much lighter colour than the boy. We
found she was of the Miranha tribe, all of whom are distinguished
by a slit, cut in the middle of each wing of the nose, in which
they wear on holiday occasions a large button made of pearly
river-shell. We took the greatest care of our little patient; had
the best nurses in the town, fomented her daily, gave her quinine
and the most nourishing food; but it was all of no avail, she
sank rapidly; her liver was enormously swollen, and almost as
hard to the touch as stone. There was something uncommonly
pleasing in her ways, and quite unlike anything I had yet seen in
Indians. Instead of being dull and taciturn, she was always
smiling and full of talk. We had an old woman of the same tribe
to attend her, who explained what she said to us. She often
begged to be taken to the river to bathe; asked for fruit, or
coveted articles she saw in the room for playthings. Her native
name was Oria. The last week or two she could not rise from the
bed we had made for her in a dry corner of the room; when she
wanted lifting, which, was very often, she would allow no one to
help her but me, calling me by the name of "Cariwa " (white man),
the only word of Tupi she seemed to know. It was inexpressibly
touching to hear her, as she lay, repeating by the hour the
verses which she had been taught to recite with her companions in
her native village: a few sentences repeated over and over again
with a rhythmic accent, and relating to objects and incidents
connected with the wild life of her tribe. We had her baptised
before she died, and when this latter event happened, in
opposition to the wishes of the big people of Ega, I insisted on
burying her with the same honours as a child of the whites; that
is, as an "anjinho" (little angel), according to the pretty Roman
Catholic custom of the country. We had the corpse clothed in a
robe of fine calico, crossed her hands on her breast over a
"palma" of flowers, and made also a crown of flowers for her
head. Scores of helpless children like our poor Oria die at Ega,
or on the road; but generally not the slightest care is taken of
them during their illness. They are the captives made during the
merciless raids of one section of the Miranha tribe on the
territories of another, and sold to the Ega traders. The villages
of the attacked hordes are surprised, and the men and women
killed or driven into the thickets without having time to save
their children. There appears to be no doubt that the Miranhas
are cannibals, and, therefore, the purchase of these captives
probably saves them from a worse fate. The demand for them at Ega
operates, however, as a direct cause of the supply, stimulating
the unscrupulous chiefs, who receive all the profits, to
undertake these murderous expeditions.

It is remarkable how quickly the savages of the various nations,
which each have their own, to all appearance, widely different
language, learn Tupi on their arrival at Ega, where it is the
common idiom. This perhaps may be attributed chiefly to the
grammatical forms of all the Indian tongues being the same,
although the words are different. As far as I could learn, the
feature is common to all, of placing the preposition after the
noun, making it, in fact, a post-position, thus: "He is come the
village from;" "Go him with, the plantation to," and so forth.
The ideas to be expressed in their limited sphere of life and
thought are few; consequently the stock of words is extremely
small; besides, all Indians have the same way of thinking, and
the same objects to talk about; these circumstances also
contribute to the case with which they learn each other's
language. Hordes of the same tribe living on the same branch
rivers, speak mutually unintelligible languages; this happens
with the Miranhas on the Japura, and with the Collinas on the
Jurua; whilst Tupi is spoken with little corruption along the
banks of the main Amazons for a distance Of 2500 miles. The
purity of Tupi is kept up by frequent communication amongst the
natives, from one end to the other of the main river; how
complete and long-continued must be the isolation in which the
small groups of savages have lived in other parts, to have caused
so complete a segregation of dialects! It is probable that the
strange inflexibility of the Indian organisation, both bodily and
mental, is owing to the isolation in which each small tribe has
lived, and to the narrow round of life and thought, and close
intermarriages for countless generations which are the necessary
results. Their fecundity is of a low degree, for it is very rare
to find an Indian family having so many as four children, and we
have seen how great is their liability to sickness and death on
removal from place to place.

I have already remarked on the different way in which the climate
of this equatorial region affects Indians and negroes. No one
could live long amongst the Indians of the Upper Amazons without
being struck with their constitutional dislike to the heat.
Europeans certainly withstand the high temperature better than
the original inhabitants of the country; I always found I could


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