The Naturalist on the River Amazons
Henry Walter Bates

Part 7 out of 9

myself bear exposure to the sun or unusually hot weather quite as
well as the Indians, although not well-fitted by nature for a hot
climate. Their skin is always hot to the touch, and they perspire
little. No Indian resident of Ega can be induced to stay in the
village (where the heat is felt more than in the forest or on the
river), for many days together. They bathe many times a day, but
do not plunge in the water, taking merely a sitz-bath, as dogs
may be seen doing in hot climates, to cool the lower parts of the
body. The women and children, who often remain at home, while the
men are out for many days together fishing, generally find some
excuse for trooping off to the shades of the forest in the hot
hours of the afternoons. They are restless and discontented in
fine dry weather, but cheerful in cool days, when the rain is
pouring down on their naked backs. When suffering under fever,
nothing but strict watching can prevent them from going down to
bathe in the river, or eating immoderate quantities of juicy
fruits, although these indulgences are frequently the cause of
death. They are very subject to disorders of the liver,
dysentery, and other diseases of hot climates, and when any
epidemic is about, they fall ill quicker, and suffer more than
negroes or even whites. How different all this is with the negro,
the true child of tropical climes! The impression gradually
forced itself on my mind that the red Indian lives as a stranger,
or immigrant in these hot regions, and that his constitution was
not originally adapted, and has not since become perfectly
adapted, to the climate.

The Indian element is very prominent in the amusements of the Ega
people. All the Roman Catholic holidays are kept up with great
spirit; rude Indian sports being mingled with the ceremonies
introduced by the Portuguese. Besides these, the aborigines
celebrate their own ruder festivals; the people of different
tribes combining-- for, in most of their features, the merry-
makings were originally alike in all the tribes. The Indian idea
of a holiday is bonfires, processions, masquerading, especially
the mimicry of different kinds of animals, plenty of confused
drumming and fifing, monotonous dancing, kept up hour after hour
without intermission, and, the most important point of all,
getting gradually and completely drunk. But he attaches a kind of
superstitious significance to these acts, and thinks that the
amusements appended to the Roman Catholic holidays as celebrated
by the descendants of the Portuguese, are also an essential part
of the religious ceremonies. But in this respect, the uneducated
whites and half-breeds are not a bit more enlightened than the
poor, dull-souled Indian. All look upon a religious holiday as an
amusement, in which the priest takes the part of director or
chief actor.

Almost every unusual event, independent of saints' days, is made
the occasion of a holiday by the sociable, easy-going people of
the white and Mameluco classes-- funerals, christenings,
weddings, the arrival of strangers, and so forth. The custom of
"waking" the dead is also kept up. A few days after I arrived, I
was awoke in the middle of a dark, moist night by Cardozo, to sit
up with a neighbour whose wife had just died. I found the body
laid out on a table, with crucifix and lighted wax-candles at the
head, and the room full of women and girls squatted on stools or
on their haunches. The men were seated round the open door,
smoking, drinking coffee, and telling stories, the bereaved
husband exerting himself much to keep the people merry during the
remainder of the night. The Ega people seem to like an excuse for
turning night into day; it is so cool and pleasant, and they can
sit about during these hours in the open air, clad as usual in
simple shirt and trousers, without streaming with perspiration.

The patron saint is Santa Theresa, the festival at whose
anniversary lasts, like most of the others, ten days. It begins
very quietly with evening litanies sung in the church, which are
attended by the greater part of the population, all clean and
gaily dressed in calicos and muslins; the girls wearing jasmines
and other natural flowers in their hair, no other headdress being
worn by females of any class. The evenings pass pleasantly; the
church is lighted up with wax candles, and illuminated on the
outside by a great number of little oil lamps, rude clay cups, or
halves of the thick rind of the bitter orange, which are fixed
all over the front. The congregation seem very attentive, and the
responses to the litany of Our Lady, sung by a couple of hundred
fresh female voices, ring agreeably through the still village.
Towards the end of the festival the fun commences. The managers
of the feast keep open houses, and dancing, drumming, tinkling of
wire guitars, and unbridled drinking by both sexes, old and
young, are kept up for a couple of days and a night with little
intermission. The ways of the people at these merry-makings, of
which there are many in the course of the year, always struck me
as being not greatly different from those seen at an old-
fashioned village wake in retired parts of England. The old folks
look on and get very talkative over their cups; the children are
allowed a little extra indulgence in sitting up; the dull,
reserved fellows become loquacious, shake one another by the hand
or slap each other on the back, discovering, all at once, what
capital friends they are. The cantankerous individual gets
quarrelsome, and the amorous unusually loving. The Indian,
ordinarily so taciturn, finds the use of his tongue, and gives
the minutest details of some little dispute which he had with his
master years ago, and which everyone else had forgotten-- just as
I have known lumpish labouring men in England do, when half-
fuddled. One cannot help reflecting, when witnessing these traits
of manners, on the similarity of human nature everywhere, when
classes are compared whose state of culture and conditions of
life are pretty nearly the same.

The Indians play a conspicuous part in the amusements at St.
John's eve, and at one or two other holidays which happen about
that time of the year--the end of June. In some of the sports the
Portuguese element is visible, in others the Indian, but it must
be recollected that masquerading, recitative singing, and so
forth, are common originally to both peoples. A large number of
men and boys disguise themselves to represent different grotesque
figures, animals, or persons. Two or three dress themselves up as
giants, with the help of a tall framework. One enacts the part of
the Caypor, a kind of sylvan deity similar to the Curupira which
I have before mentioned. The belief in this being seems to be
common to all the tribes of the Tupi stock. According to the
figure they dressed up at Ega, he is a bulky, misshapen monster,
with red skin and long shaggy red hair hanging half way down his
back. They believe that he has subterranean campos and hunting
grounds in the forest, well stocked with pacas and deer. He is
not at all an object of worship nor of fear, except to children,
being considered merely as a kind of hobgoblin. Most of the
masquers make themselves up as animals--bulls, deer, magoary
storks, jaguars, and so forth, with the aid of light frameworks,
covered with old cloth dyed or painted and shaped according to
the object represented. Some of the imitations which I saw were
capital. One ingenious fellow arranged an old piece of canvas in
the form of a tapir, placed himself under it, and crawled about
on all fours. He constructed an elastic nose to resemble that of
the tapir, and made, before the doors of the principal residents,
such a good imitation of the beast grazing, that peals of
laughter greeted him wherever he went. Another man walked about
solitarily, masked as a jabiru crane (a large animal standing
about four feet high), and mimicked the gait and habits of the
bird uncommonly well. One year an Indian lad imitated me, to the
infinite amusement of the townsfolk. He came the previous day to
borrow of me an old blouse and straw hat. I felt rather taken in
when I saw him, on the night of the performance, rigged out as an
entomologist, with an insect net, hunting bag, and pincushion. To
make the imitation complete, he had borrowed the frame of an old
pair of spectacles, and went about with it straddled over his
nose. The jaguar now and then made a raid amongst the crowd of
boys who were dressed as deer, goats, and so forth. The masquers
kept generally together, moving from house to house, and the
performances were directed by an old musician, who sang the
orders and explained to the spectators what was going forward in
a kind of recitative, accompanying himself on a wire guitar. The
mixture of Portuguese and Indian customs is partly owing to the
European immigrants in these parts having been uneducated men,
who, instead of introducing European civilisation, have descended
almost to the level of the Indians, and adopted some of their
practices. The performances take place in the evening, and occupy
five or six hours; bonfires are lighted along the grassy streets,
and the families of the better class are seated at their doors,
enjoying the wild but good-humoured fun.

We lived at Ega, during most part of the year, on turtle. The
great freshwater turtle of the Amazons grows on the upper river
to an immense size, a full-grown one measuring nearly three feet
in length by two in breadth, and is a load for the strongest
Indian. Every house has a little pond, called a curral (pen), in
the backyard to hold a stock of the animals through the season of
dearth--the wet months; those who have a number of Indians in
their employ send them out for a month when the waters are low,
to collect a stock, and those who have not, purchasing their
supply-- with some difficulty, however, as they are rarely
offered for sale. The price of turtles, like that of all other
articles of food, has risen greatly with the introduction of
steam-vessels. When I arrived in 1850, a middle-sized one could
be bought pretty readily for ninepence, but when I left in 1859,
they were with difficulty obtained at eight and nine shillings
each. The abundance of turtles, or rather the facility with which
they can be found and caught, varies with the amount of annual
subsidence of the waters. When the river sinks less than the
average, they are scarce; but when more, they can be caught in
plenty, the bays and shallow lagoons in the forest having then
only a small depth of water. The flesh is very tender, palatable,
and wholesome; but it is very cloying-- every one ends, sooner or
later, by becoming thoroughly surfeited. I became so sick of
turtle in the course of two years that I could not bear the smell
of it, although at the same time nothing else was to be had, and
I was suffering actual hunger. The native women cook it in
various ways. The entrails are chopped up and made into a
delicious soup called sarapatel, which is generally boiled in the
concave upper shell of the animal used as a kettle. The tender
flesh of the breast is partially minced with farinha, and the
breast shell then roasted over the fire, making a very pleasant
dish. Steaks cut from the breast and cooked with the fat form
another palatable dish. Large sausages are made of the thick-
coated stomach, which is filled with minced meat and boiled. The
quarters cooked in a kettle of Tucupi sauce form another variety
of food. When surfeited with turtle in all other shapes, pieces
of the lean part roasted on a spit and moistened only with
vinegar make an agreeable change. The smaller kind of turtle, the
tracaja, which makes its appearance in the main river, and lays
its eggs a month earlier than the large species, is of less
utility to the inhabitants although its flesh is superior, on
account of the difficulty of keeping it alive; it survives
captivity but a very few days, although placed in the same ponds
in which the large turtle keeps well for two or three years.

Those who cannot hunt and fish for themselves, and whose stomachs
refuse turtle, are in a poor way at Ega. Fish, including many
kinds of large and delicious salmonidae, is abundant in the fine
season; but each family fishes only for itself, and has no
surplus for sale. An Indian fisherman remains out just long
enough to draw what he thinks sufficient for a couple of days'
consumption. Vacca marina is a great resource in the wet season.
It is caught by harpooning, which requires much skill, or by
strong nets made of very thick hammock twine, and placed across
narrow inlets. Very few Europeans are able to eat the meat of
this animal. Although there is a large quantity of cattle in the
neighbourhood of the town, and pasture is abundant all the year
round, beef can be had only when a beast is killed by accident.

The most frequent cause of death is poisoning by drinking raw
Tucupi, the juice of the mandioca root. Bowls of this are placed
on the ground in the sheds where the women prepare farinha; it is
generally done carelessly, but sometimes intentionally through
spite when stray oxen devastate the plantations of the poorer
people. The juice, is almost certain to be drunk if cattle stray
near the place, and death is the certain result. The owners kill
a beast which shows symptoms of having been poisoned, and retail
the beef in the town. Although every one knows it cannot be
wholesome, such is the scarcity of meat and the uncontrollable
desire to eat beef, that it is eagerly bought, at least by those
residents who come from other provinces where beef is the staple
article of food. Game of all kinds is scarce in the forest near
the town, except in the months of June and July, when immense
numbers of a large and handsome bird, Cuvier's toucan (Ramphastos
Cuvieri) make their appearance. They come in well-fed condition,
and are shot in such quantities that every family has the strange
treat of stewed and roasted toucans daily for many weeks.
Curassow birds are plentiful on the banks of the Solimoens, but
to get a brace or two requires the sacrifice of several days for
the trip. A tapir, of which the meat is most delicious and
nourishing, is sometimes killed by a fortunate hunter. I have
still a lively recollection of the pleasant effects which I once
experienced from a diet of fresh tapir meat for a few days, after
having been brought to a painful state of bodily and mental
depression by a month's scanty rations of fish and farinha.

We sometimes had fresh bread at Ega made from American flour
brought from Para, but it was sold at ninepence a pound. I was
once two years without tasting wheaten bread, and attribute
partly to this the gradual deterioration of health which I
suffered on the Upper Amazons. Mandioca meal is a poor, weak
substitute for bread; it is deficient in gluten, and consequently
cannot be formed into a leavened mass or loaf, but is obliged to
be roasted in hard grains in order to keep any length of time.
Cakes are made of the half-roasted meal, but they become sour in
a very few hours. A superior kind of meal is manufactured at Ega
of the sweet mandioca (Manihot Aypi); it is generally made with a
mixture of the starch of the root and is therefore a much more
wholesome article of food than the ordinary sort which, on the
Amazons, is made of the pulp after the starch has been extracted
by soaking in water. When we could get neither bread nor biscuit,
I found tapioca soaked in coffee the best native substitute. We
were seldom without butter, as every canoe brought one or two
casks on each return voyage from Para, where it is imported in
considerable quantity from Liverpool. We obtained tea in the same
way; it being served as a fashionable luxury at wedding and
christening parties; the people were at first strangers to this
article, for they used to stew it in a saucepan, mixing it up
with coarse raw sugar, and stirring it with a spoon. Sometimes we
had milk, but this was only when a cow calved; the yield from
each cow was very small, and lasted only for a few weeks in each
case, although the pasture is good, and the animals are sleek and
fat. Fruit of the ordinary tropical sorts could generally be had.
I was quite surprised at the variety of the wild kinds, and of
the delicious flavour of some of them. Many of these are utterly
unknown in the regions nearer the Atlantic, being the peculiar
productions of this highly favoured, and little known, interior
country. Some have been planted by the natives in their
clearings. The best was the Jabuti-puhe, or tortoise-foot; a
scaled fruit probably of the Anonaceous order. It is about the
size of an ordinary apple; when ripe the rind is moderately thin,
and encloses, with the seeds, a quantity of custardy pulp of a
very rich flavour. Next to this stands the Cuma (Collophora sp.)
of which there are two species, not unlike in appearance, small
round Dears-- but the rind is rather hard, and contains a gummy
milk, and the pulpy part is almost as delicious as that of the
Jabuti-puhe. The Cuma tree is of moderate height, and grows
rather plentifully in the more elevated and drier situations. A
third kind is the Pama, which is a stone fruit, similar in colour
and appearance to the cherry but of oblong shape. The tree is one
of the loftiest in the forest, and has never, I believe, been
selected for cultivation. To get at the fruit the natives are
obliged to climb to the height of about a hundred feet, and cut
off the heavily laden branches. I have already mentioned the
Umari and the Wishi: both these are now cultivated. The fatty,
bitter pulp which surrounds the large stony seeds of these fruits
is eaten mixed with farinha, and is very nourishing. Another
cultivated fruit is the Puruma (Puruma cecropiaefolia, Martius),
a round juicy berry, growing in large bunches and resembling
grapes in taste. Another smaller kind, called Puruma-i, grows
wild in the forest close to Ega, and has not yet been planted.
The most singular of all these fruits is the Uiki, which is of
oblong shape, and grows apparently crosswise on the end of its
stalk. When ripe, the thick green rind opens by a natural cleft
across the middle, and discloses an oval seed the size of a
damascene plum, but of a vivid crimson colour. This bright hue
belongs to a thin coating of pulp which, when the seeds are mixed
in a plate of stewed bananas, gives to the mess a pleasant rosy
tint, and a rich creamy taste and consistence. Mingua (porridge)
of bananas flavoured and coloured with Uiki is a favourite dish
at Ega. The fruit, like most of the others here mentioned, ripens
in January. Many smaller fruits such as Wajuru (probably a
species of Achras), the size of a gooseberry, which grows singly
and contains a sweet gelatinous pulp, enclosing two large,
shining black seeds; Cashipari-arapaa, an oblong scarlet berry;
two kinds of Bacuri, the Bacuri-siuma and the B. curua, sour
fruits of a bright lemon colour when ripe, and a great number of
others, are of less importance as articles of food.

The celebrated "Peach palm," Pupunha of the Tupi nations
(Guilielma speciosa), is a common tree at Ega. The name, I
suppose, is in allusion to the colour of the fruit, and not to
its flavour, for it is dry and mealy, and in taste may be
compared to a mixture of chestnuts and cheese. Vultures devour it
eagerly, and come in quarrelsome flocks to the trees when it is
ripe. Dogs will also eat it: I do not recollect seeing cats do
the same, although they go voluntarily to the woods to eat
Tucuma, another kind of palm fruit. The tree, as it grows in
clusters beside the palm-thatched huts, is a noble ornament,
being, when full grown, from fifty to sixty feet in height and
often as straight as a scaffold-pole. A bunch of fruit when ripe
is a load for a strong man, and each tree bears several of them.
The Pupunha grows wild nowhere on the Amazons. It is one of those
few vegetable productions (including three kinds of mandioca and
the American species of banana) which the Indians have cultivated
from time immemorial, and brought with them in their original
migration to Brazil. It is only, however, the more advanced
tribes who have kept up the cultivation. The superiority of the
fruit on the Solimoens to that grown on the Lower Amazons and in
the neighbourhood of Para is very striking. At Ega it is
generally as large as a full-sized peach, and when boiled, almost
as mealy as a potato; while at Para it is no bigger than a
walnut, and the pulp is fibrous. Bunches of sterile or seedless
fruits sometimes occur in both districts. It is one of the
principal articles of food at Ega when in season, and is boiled
and eaten with treacle or salt. A dozen of the seedless fruits
makes a good nourishing meal for a grown-up person. It is the
general belief that there is more nutriment in Pupunha than in
fish or Vacca marina.

The seasons in the Upper Amazons region offer some points of
difference from those of the lower river and the district of
Para, which two sections of the country we have already seen also
differ considerably. The year at Ega is divided according to the
rises and falls of the river, with which coincide the wet and dry
periods. All the principal transactions of life of the
inhabitants are regulated by these yearly recurring phenomena.
The peculiarity of this upper region consists in there being two
rises and two falls within the year. The great annual rise
commences about the end of February and continues to the middle
of June, during which the rivers and lakes, confined during the
dry periods to their ordinary beds, gradually swell and overflow
all the lower lands. The inundation progresses gently inch by
inch, and is felt everywhere, even in the interior of the forests
of the higher lands, miles away from the river; as these are
traversed by numerous gullies, forming in the fine season dry,
spacious dells, which become gradually transformed by the
pressure of the flood into broad creeks navigable, by small boats
under the shade of trees. All the countless swarms of turtle of
various species then leave the main river for the inland pools;
the sand-banks go under water, and the flocks of wading birds
migrate north to the upper waters of the tributaries which flow
from that direction, or to the Orinoco, which streams during the
wet period of the Amazons are enjoying the cloudless skies of
their dry season. The families of fishermen who have been
employed during the previous four or five months in harpooning
and salting pirarucu and shooting turtle in the great lakes, now
return to the towns and villages-- their temporarily constructed
fishing establishments becoming gradually submerged with the sand
islets or beaches on which they were situated. This is the
season, however, in which the Brazil nut and wild cacao ripen,
and many persons go out to gather these harvests, remaining
absent generally throughout the months of March and April. The
rains during this time are not continuous; they fall very heavily
at times, but rarely last so long at a stretch as twenty-four
hours, and many days intervene of pleasant, sunny weather. The
sky, however, is generally overcast and gloomy, and sometimes a
drizzling rain falls.

About the first week in June the flood is at its highest; the
water being then about forty-five feet above its lowest point;
but it varies in different years to the extent of about fifteen
feet. The "enchente," or flow, as it is called by the natives,
who believe this great annual movement of the waters to be of the
same nature as the tide towards the mouth of the Amazons, is then
completed, and all begin to look forward to the "vasante," or
ebb. The provision made for the dearth of the wet season is by
this time pretty nearly exhausted; fish is difficult to procure
and many of the less provident inhabitants have become reduced to
a diet of fruits and farinha porridge.

The fine season begins with a few days of brilliant weather--
furious, hot sun, with passing clouds. Idle men and women, tired
of the dullness and confinement of the flood season, begin to
report, on returning from their morning bath, the cessation of
the flow-- as agoas estao paradas, "the waters have stopped." The
muddy streets, in a few days, dry up; groups of young fellows are
now seen seated on the shady sides of the cottages making arrows
and knitting fishing-nets with tucum twine; others are busy
patching up and caulking their canoes, large and small; in fact,
preparations are made on all sides for the much longed-for
"verao," or summer, and the "migration," as it is called, of fish
and turtle-- that is, their descent from the inaccessible pools
in the forest to the main river. Towards the middle of July, the
sand-banks begin to reappear above the surface of the waters, and
with this change come flocks of sandpipers and gulls, which
latter make known the advent of the fine season, as the cuckoo
does of the European spring-- uttering almost incessantly their
plaintive cries as they fly about over the shallow waters of
sandy shores. Most of the gaily-plumaged birds have now finished
moulting, and begin to be more active in the forest.

The fall continues to the middle of October, with the
interruption of a partial rise called "repiquet" of a few inches
in the midst of very dry weather in September, caused by the
swollen contribution of some large affluent higher up the river.
The amount of subsidence also varies considerably, but it is
never so great as to interrupt navigation by large vessels. The
greater it is the more abundant is the season. Everyone is
prosperous when the waters are low; the shallow bays and pools
being then crowded with the concentrated population of fish and
turtle. All the people-- men, women, and children-- leave the
villages and spend the few weeks of glorious weather rambling
over the vast undulating expanses of sand in the middle of the
Solimoens, fishing, hunting, collecting eggs of turtle and
plovers and thoroughly enjoying themselves. The inhabitants pray
always for a "vasante grande," or great ebb.

From the middle of October to the beginning of January, the
second wet season prevails. The rise is sometimes not more than
about fifteen feet, but it is, in some years, much more
extensive, laying the large sand islands under water before the
turtle eggs are hatched. In one year, while I resided at Ega,
this second annual inundation reached to within ten feet of the
highest water point as marked by the stains on the trunks of
trees by the river side.

The second dry season comes on in January, and lasts throughout
February. The river sinks sometimes to the extent of a few feet
only, but one year (1856) I saw it ebb to within about five feet
of its lowest point in September. This is called the summer of
the Umari, "Verao do Umari," after the fruit of this name already
described, which ripens at this season. When the fall is great,
this is the best time to catch turtles. In the year above
mentioned, nearly all the residents who had a canoe, and could
work a paddle, went out after them in the month of February, and
about 2000 were caught in the course of a few days. It appears
that they had been arrested in their migration towards the
interior pools of the forest by the sudden drying up of the
water-courses, and so had become easy prey.

Thus the Ega year is divided into four seasons; two of dry
weather and falling waters, and two of the reverse. Besides this
variety, there is, in the month of May, a short season of very
cold weather, a most surprising circumstance in this otherwise
uniformly sweltering climate. This is caused by the continuance
of a cold wind, which blows from the south over the humid forests
that extend without interruption from north of the equator to the
eighteenth parallel of latitude in Bolivia. I had, unfortunately,
no thermometer with me at Ega-- the only one I brought with me
from England having been lost at Para. The temperature is so much
lowered that fishes die in the river Teffe, and are cast in
considerable quantities on its shores. The wind is not strong,
but it brings cloudy weather, and lasts from three to five or six
days in each year. The inhabitants all suffer much from the cold,
many of them wrapping themselves up with the warmest clothing
they can get (blankets are here unknown), and shutting themselves
indoors with a charcoal fire lighted. I found, myself, the change
of temperature most delightful, and did not require extra
clothing. It was a bad time, however, for my pursuit, as birds
and insects all betook themselves to places of concealment, and
remained inactive. The period during which this wind prevails is
called the "tempo da friagem," or the season of coldness. The
phenomenon, I presume, is to be accounted for by the fact that in
May it is winter in the southern temperate zone, and that the
cool currents of air travelling thence northwards towards the
equator become only moderately heated in their course, owing to
the intermediate country being a vast, partially-flooded plain
covered with humid forests.



The River Teffe--Rambles through Groves on the Beach--Excursion
to the House of a Passe Chieftain--Character and Customs of the
Passe Tribe--First Excursion: Sand Islands of the Solimoens--
Habits of Great River Turtle--Second Excursion:Turtle-fishing in
the Inland Pools--Third Excursion: Hunting-rambles with Natives
the Forest--Return to Ega

I WILL now proceed to give some account of the more interesting
of my shorter excursions in the neighbourhood of Ega. The
incidents of the longer voyages, which occupied each several
months, will be narrated in a separate chapter.

The settlement, as before described, is built on a small tract of
cleared land at the lower or eastern end of the lake, six or
seven miles from the main Amazons, with which the lake
communicates by a narrow channel. On the opposite shore of the
broad expanse stands a small village, called Nogueira, the houses
of which are not visible from Ega, except on very clear days; the
coast on the Nogueira side is high, and stretches away into the
grey distance towards the southwest. The upper part of the river
Teffe is not visited by the Ega people, on account of its extreme
unhealthiness, and its barrenness in sarsaparilla and other
wares. To Europeans it would seem a most surprising thing that
the people of a civilised settlement, a hundred and seventy years
old, should still be ignorant of the course of the river on whose
banks their native place, for which they proudly claim the title
of city, is situated. It would be very difficult for a private
individual to explore it, as the necessary number of Indian
paddlers could not be obtained. I knew only one person who had
ascended the Teffe to any considerable distance, and he was not
able to give me a distinct account of the river. The only tribe
known to live on its banks are the Catauishis, a people who
perforate their lips all round, and wear rows of slender sticks
in the holes: their territory lies between the Purus and the
Jurua, embracing both shores of the Teffe. A large, navigable
stream, the Bararua, enters the lake from the west, about thirty
miles above Ega; the breadth of the lake is much contracted a
little below the mouth of this tributary, but it again expands
further south, and terminates abruptly where the Teffe proper, a
narrow river with a strong current, forms its head water.

The whole of the country for hundreds of miles is covered with
picturesque but pathless forests, and there are only two roads
along which excursions can be made by land from Ega. One is a
narrow hunter's track, about two miles in length, which traverses
the forest in the rear of the settlement. The other is an
extremely pleasant path along the beach to the west of the town.
This is practicable only in the dry season, when a flat strip of
white sandy beach is exposed at the foot of the high wooded banks
of the lake, covered with trees, which, as there is no underwood,
form a spacious shady grove. I rambled daily, during many weeks
of each successive dry season, along this delightful road. The
trees, many of which are myrtles and wild Guavas, with smooth
yellow stems, were in flower at this time; and the rippling
waters of the lake, under the cool shade, everywhere bordered the
path. The place was the resort of kingfishers, green and blue
tree-creepers, purple-headed tanagers, and hummingbirds. Birds
generally, however, were not numerous. Every tree was tenanted by
Cicadas, the reedy notes of which produced that loud, jarring,
insect music which is the general accompaniment of a woodland
ramble in a hot climate. One species was very handsome, having
wings adorned with patches of bright green and scarlet. It was
very common-- sometimes three or four tenanting a single tree,
clinging as usual to the branches. On approaching a tree thus
peopled, a number of little jets of a clear liquid would be seen
squirted from aloft. I have often received the well-directed
discharge full on my face; but the liquid is harmless, having a
sweetish taste, and is ejected by the insect from the anus,
probably in self-defence, or from fear. The number and variety of
gaily-tinted butterflies, sporting about in this grove on sunny
days, were so great that the bright moving flakes of colour gave
quite a character to the physiognomy of the place. It was
impossible to walk far without disturbing flocks of them from the
damp sand at the edge of the water, where they congregated to
imbibe the moisture. They were of almost all colours, sizes, and
shapes: I noticed here altogether eighty species, belonging to
twenty-two different genera. It is a singular fact that, with
very few exceptions, all the individuals of these various species
thus sporting in sunny places were of the male sex; their
partners, which are much more soberly dressed and immensely less
numerous than the males, being confined to the shades of the
woods. Every afternoon, as the sun was getting low, I used to
notice these gaudy sunshine-loving swains trooping off to the
forest, where I suppose they would find their sweethearts and
wives. The most abundant, next to the very common sulphur-yellow
and orange-coloured kinds, were about a dozen species of Eunica,
which are of large size, and are conspicuous from their liveries
of glossy dark-blue and purple. A superbly-adorned creature, the
Callithea Markii, having wings of a thick texture, coloured
sapphire-blue and orange, was only an occasional visitor. On
certain days, when the weather was very calm, two small gilded-
green species (Symmachia Trochilus and Colubris) literally
swarmed on the sands, their glittering wings lying wide open on
the flat surface. The beach terminates, eight miles beyond Ega,
at the mouth of a rivulet; the character of the coast then
changes, the river banks being masked by a line of low islets
amid a labyrinth of channels.

In all other directions my very numerous excursions were by
water; the most interesting of those made in the immediate
neighbourhood were to the houses of Indians on the banks of
retired creeks-- an account of one of these trips will suffice.

On the 23rd of May, 1850, I visited, in company with Antonio
Cardozo, the Delegado, a family of the Passe tribe, who live near
the head waters of the Igarape, which flows from the south into
the Teffe, entering it at Ega. The creek is more than a quarter
of a mile broad near the town, but a few miles inland it
gradually contracts, until it becomes a mere rivulet flowing
through a broad dell in the forest. When the river rises it fills
this dell; the trunks of the lofty trees then stand many feet
deep in the water, and small canoes are able to travel the
distance of a day's journey under the shade, regular paths or
alleys being cut through the branches and lower trees. This is
the general character of the country of the Upper Amazons; a land
of small elevation and abruptly undulated, the hollows forming
narrow valleys in the dry months, and deep navigable creeks in
the wet months. In retired nooks on the margins of these shady
rivulets, a few families or small hordes of aborigines still
linger in nearly their primitive state, the relicts of their once
numerous tribes. The family we intended to visit on this trip was
that of Pedro-uassu (Peter the Great, or Tall Peter), an old
chieftain or Tushaua of the Passes.

We set out at sunrise, in a small igarite, manned by six young
Indian paddlers. After travelling about three miles along the
broad portion of the creek-- which, being surrounded by woods,
had the appearance of a large pool-- we came to a part where our
course seemed to be stopped by an impenetrable hedge of trees and
bushes. We were some time before finding the entrance, but when
fairly within the shades, a remarkable scene presented itself. It
was my first introduction to these singular waterpaths. A narrow
and tolerably straight alley stretched away for a long distance
before us; on each side were the tops of bushes and young trees,
forming a kind of border to the path, and the trunks of the tall
forest trees rose at irregular intervals from the water, their
crowns interlocking far over our heads, and forming a thick
shade. Slender air roots hung down in clusters, and looping sipos
dangled from the lower branches; bunches of grass, tillandsiae,
and ferns sat in the forks of the larger boughs, and the trunks
of trees near the water had adhering to them round dried masses
of freshwater sponges. There was no current perceptible, and the
water was stained of a dark olive-brown hue, but the submerged
stems could be seen through it to a great depth. We travelled at
good speed for three hours along this shady road-- the distance
of Pedro's house from Ega being about twenty miles. When the
paddlers rested for a time, the stillness and gloom of the place
became almost painful: our voices waked dull echoes as we
conversed, and the noise made by fishes occasionally whipping the
surface of the water was quite startling. A cool, moist, clammy
air pervaded the sunless shade.

The breadth of the wooded valley, at the commencement, is
probably more than half a mile, and there is a tolerably clear
view for a considerable distance on each side of the water-path
through the irregular colonnade of trees; other paths also, in
this part, branch off right and left from the principal road,
leading to the scattered houses of Indians on the mainland. The
dell contracts gradually towards the head of the rivulet, and the
forest then becomes denser; the waterpath also diminishes in
width, and becomes more winding, on account of the closer growth
of the trees. The boughs of some are stretched forth at no great
height over one's head, and are seen to be loaded with epiphytes;
one orchid I noticed particularly, on account of its bright
yellow flowers growing at the end of flower-stems several feet
long. Some of the trunks, especially those of palms, close
beneath their crowns, were clothed with a thick mass of glossy
shield-shaped Pothos plants, mingled with ferns. Arrived at this
part we were, in fact, in the heart of the virgin forest. We
heard no noises of animals in the trees, and saw only one bird,
the sky-blue chatterer, sitting alone on a high branch. For some
distance the lower vegetation was so dense that the road runs
under an arcade of foliage, the branches having been cut away
only sufficiently to admit of the passage of a small canoe. These
thickets are formed chiefly of bamboos, whose slender foliage and
curving stems arrange themselves in elegant, feathery bowers; but
other social plants --slender green climbers with tendrils so
eager in aspiring to grasp the higher boughs that they seem to be
endowed almost with animal energy, and certain low trees having
large elegantly-veined leaves-- contribute also to the jungly
masses. Occasionally we came upon an uprooted tree lying across
the path, its voluminous crown still held up by thick cables of
sipo, connecting it with standing trees; a wide circuit had to be
made in these cases, and it was sometimes difficult to find the
right path again.

At length we arrived at our journey's end. We were then in a very
dense and gloomy part of the forest-- we could see, however, the
dry land on both sides of the creek, and to our right a small
sunny opening appeared, the landing place to the native
dwellings. The water was deep close to the bank, and a clean
pathway ascended from the shady port to the buildings, which were
about a furlong distant. My friend Cardozo was godfather to a
grandchild of Pedro-uassu, whose daughter had married an Indian
settled in Ega. He had sent word to the old man that he intended
to visit him: we were therefore expected.

As we landed, Pedro-uassu himself came down to the port to
receive us, our arrival having been announced by the barking of
dogs. He was a tall and thin old man, with a serious, but
benignant expression of countenance, and a manner much freer from
shyness and distrust than is usual with Indians. He was clad in a
shirt of coarse cotton cloth, dyed with murishi, and trousers of
the same material turned up to the knee. His features were
sharply delineated-- more so than in any Indian face I had yet
seen; the lips thin and the nose rather high and compressed. A
large, square, blue-black tattooed patch occupied the middle of
his face, which, as well as the other exposed parts of his body,
was of a light reddish-tan colour, instead of the usual coppery-
brown hue. He walked with an upright, slow gait, and on reaching
us saluted Cardozo with the air of a man who wished it to be
understood that he was dealing with an equal. My friend
introduced me, and I was welcomed in the same grave, ceremonious
manner. He seemed to have many questions to ask, but they were
chiefly about Senora Felippa, Cardozo's Indian housekeeper at
Ega, and were purely complimentary. This studied politeness is
quite natural to Indians of the advanced agricultural tribes. The
language used was Tupi-- I heard no other spoken all the day. It
must be borne in mind that Pedro-uassu had never had much
intercourse with whites; he was, although baptised, a primitive
Indian who had always lived in retirement, the ceremony of
baptism having been gone through, as it generally is by the
aborigines, simply from a wish to stand well with the whites.

Arrived at the house, we were welcomed by Pedro's wife: a thin,
wrinkled, active old squaw, tattooed in precisely the same way as
her husband. She also had sharp features, but her manner was more
cordial and quicker than that of her husband: she talked much,
and with great inflection of voice; while the tones of the old
man were rather drawling and querulous. Her clothing was a long
petticoat of thick cotton cloth, and a very short chemise, not
reaching to her waist. I was rather surprised to find the grounds
around the establishment in neater order than in any sitio, even
of civilised people, I had yet seen on the Upper Amazons; the
stock of utensils and household goods of all sorts was larger,
and the evidences of regular industry and plenty more numerous
than one usually perceives in the farms of civilised Indians and
whites. The buildings were of the same construction as those of
the humbler settlers in all other parts of the country. The
family lived in a large, oblong, open shed built under the shade
of trees. Two smaller buildings, detached from the shed and
having mud-walls with low doorways, contained apparently the
sleeping apartments of different members of the large household.
A small mill for grinding sugar-cane, having two cylinders of
hard notched wood, wooden troughs, and kettles for boiling the
guarapa (cane juice) to make treacle, stood under a separate
shed, and near it was a large enclosed mud-house for poultry.
There was another hut and shed a short distance off, inhabited by
a family dependent on Pedro, and a narrow pathway through the
luxuriant woods led to more dwellings of the same kind. There was
an abundance of fruit trees around the place, including the
never-failing banana, with its long, broad, soft green leaf-
blades, and groups of full-grown Pupunhas, or peach palms. There
was also a large number of cotton and coffee trees. Among the
utensils I noticed baskets of different shapes, made of flattened
maranta stalks, and dyed various colours. The making of these is
an original art of the Passes, but I believe it is also practised
by other tribes, for I saw several in the houses of semi-
civilised Indians on the Tapajos.

There were only three persons in the house besides the old
couple, the rest of the people being absent; several came in,
however, in the course of the day. One was a daughter of Pedro's,
who had an oval tattooed spot over her mouth; the second was a
young grandson; and the third the son-in-law from Ega, Cardozo's
compadre. The old woman was occupied, when we entered, in
distilling spirits from cara, an edible root similar to the
potato, by means of a clay still, which had been manufactured by
herself. The liquor had a reddish tint, but not a very agreeable
flavour. A cup of it, warm from the still, however, was welcome
after our long journey. Cardozo liked it, emptied his cup, and
replenished it in a very short time. The old lady was very
talkative, and almost fussy in her desire to please her visitors.
We sat in tucum hammocks, suspended between the upright posts of
the shed. The young woman with the blue mouth-- who, although
married, was as shy as any young maiden of her race--soon became
employed in scalding and plucking fowls for the dinner near the
fire on the ground at the other end of the dwelling. The son-in-
law, Pedro-uassu, and Cardozo now began a long conversation on
the subject of their deceased wife, daughter, and comadre. [Co-
mother; the term expressing the relationship of a mother to the
godfather of her child.] It appeared she had died of consumption-
-"tisica," as they called it, a word adopted by the Indians from
the Portuguese. The widower repeated over and over again, in
nearly the same words, his account of her illness, Pedro chiming
in like a chorus, and Cardozo moralising and condoling. I thought
the cauim (grog) had a good deal to do with the flow of talk and
warmth of feeling of all three; the widower drank and wailed
until he became maundering, and finally fell asleep.I left them
talking, and took a long ramble into the forest, Pedro sending
his grandson, a smiling well-behaved lad of about fourteen years
of age, to show me the paths, my companion taking with him his
Zarabatana, or blow-gun. This instrument is used by all the
Indian tribes on the Upper Amazons. It is generally nine or ten
feet long, and is made of two separate lengths of wood, each
scooped out so as to form one-half of the tube. To do this with
the necessary accuracy requires an enormous amount of patient
labour, and considerable mechanical ability, the tools used being
simply the incisor teeth of the Paca and Cutia. The two half
tubes, when finished, are secured together by a very close and
tight spirally-wound strapping, consisting of long flat strips of
Jacitara, or the wood of the climbing palm-tree; and the whole is
smeared afterwards with black wax, the production of a Melipona
bee. The pipe tapers towards the muzzle, and a cup-shaped
mouthpiece, made of wood, is fitted in the broad end. A full-
sized Zarabatana is heavy, and can only be used by an adult
Indian who has had great practice. The young lads learn to shoot
with smaller and lighter tubes. When Mr. Wallace and I had
lessons at Barra in the use of the blow-gun, of Julio, a Juri
Indian, then in the employ of Mr. Hauxwell, an English bird-
collector, we found it very difficult to hold steadily the long
tubes. The arrows are made from the hard rind of the leaf-stalks
of certain palms, thin strips being cut, and rendered as sharp as
needles by scraping the ends with a knife or the tooth of an
animal. They are winged with a little oval mass of samauma silk
(from the seed-vessels of the silk-cotton tree, Eriodendron
samauma), cotton being too heavy. The ball of samauma should fit
to a nicety the bore of the blowgun; when it does so, the arrow
can be propelled with such force by the breath that it makes a
noise almost as loud as a pop-gun on flying from the muzzle. My
little companion was armed with a quiver full of these little
missiles, a small number of which, sufficient for the day's
sport, were tipped with the fatal Urari poison. The quiver was an
ornamental affair, the broad rim being made of highly-polished
wood of a rich cherry-red colour (the Moira-piranga, or redwood
of the Japura). The body was formed of neatly-plaited strips of
Maranta stalks, and the belt by which it was suspended from the
shoulder was decorated with cotton fringes and tassels.

We walked about two miles along a well-trodden pathway, through
high caapoeira (second-growth forest). A large proportion of the
trees were Melastomas, which bore a hairy yellow fruit, nearly as
large and as well flavoured as our gooseberry. The season,
however, was nearly over for them. The road was bordered every
inch of the way by a thick bed of elegant Lycopodiums. An
artificial arrangement of trees and bushes could scarcely have
been made to wear so finished an appearance as this naturally
decorated avenue. The path at length terminated at a plantation
of mandioca, the largest I had yet seen since I left the
neighbourhood of Para. There were probably ten acres of cleared
land, and part of the ground was planted with Indian corn, water-
melons, and sugar cane. Beyond this field there was only a faint
hunter's track, leading towards the untrodden interior. My
companion told me he had never heard of there being any
inhabitants in that direction (the south). We crossed the forest
from this place to another smaller clearing, and then walked, on
our road home, through about two miles of caapoeira of various
ages, the sites of old plantations. The only fruits of our ramble
were a few rare insects and a Japu (Cassicus cristatus), a
handsome bird with chestnut and saffron-coloured plumage, which
wanders through the tree-tops in large flocks. My little
companion brought this down from a height which I calculated at
thirty yards. The blow-gun, however, in the hands of an expert
adult Indian, can be made to propel arrows so as to kill at a
distance of fifty and sixty yards. The aim is most certain when
the tube is held vertically, or nearly so. It is a far more
useful weapon in the forest than a gun, for the report of a
firearm alarms the whole flock of birds or monkeys feeding on a
tree, while the silent poisoned dart brings the animals down one
by one until the sportsman has a heap of slain by his side. None
but the stealthy Indian can use it effectively. The poison, which
must be fresh to kill speedily, is obtained only of the Indians
who live beyond the cataracts of the rivers flowing from the
north, especially the Rio Negro and the Japura. Its principal
ingredient is the wood of the Strychnos toxifera, a tree which
does not grow in the humid forests of the river plains. A most
graphic account of the Urari, and of an expedition undertaken in
search of the tree in Guiana, has been given by Sir Robert
Schomburgk. [Annals and Magazine of Natural History, vol. vii. P.

When we returned to the house after mid-day, Cardozo was still
sipping cauim, and now looked exceedingly merry. It was fearfully
hot; the good fellow sat in his hammock with a cuya full of grog
in his hands; his broad honest face all of a glow, and the
perspiration streaming down his uncovered breast, the unbuttoned
shirt having slipped half-way over his broad shoulders. Pedro-
uassu had not drunk much; he was noted, as I afterwards learned,
for his temperance. But he was standing up as I had left him two
hours previous, talking to Cardozo in the same monotonous tones,
the conversation apparently not having flagged all the time. I
had never heard so much talking amongst Indians. The widower was
asleep; the stirring, managing old lady with her daughter were
preparing dinner. This, which was ready soon after I entered,
consisted of boiled fowls and rice, seasoned with large green
peppers and lemon juice, and piles of new, fragrant farinha and
raw bananas. It was served on plates of English manufacture on a
tupe, or large plaited rush mat, such as is made by the natives
pretty generally on the Amazons. Three or four other Indians, men
and women of middle age, now made their appearance, and joined in
the meal. We all sat round on the floor: the women, according to
custom, not eating until after the men had done. Before sitting
down, our host apologised in his usual quiet, courteous manner
for not having knives and forks; Cardozo and I ate by the aid of
wooden spoons, the Indians using their fingers. The old man
waited until we were all served before he himself commenced. At
the end of the meal, one of the women brought us water in a
painted clay basin of Indian manufacture, and a clean coarse
cotton napkin, that we might wash our hands.

The horde of Passes of which Pedro-uassu was Tushaua or
chieftain, was at this time reduced to a very small number of
individuals. The disease mentioned in the last chapter had for
several generations made great havoc among them; many had also
entered the service of whites at Ega, and, of late years,
intermarriages with whites, half-castes, and civilised Indians
had been frequent. The old man bewailed the fate of his race to
Cardozo with tears in his eyes. "The people of my nation," he
said," have always been good friends to the Cariwas (whites), but
before my grandchildren are old like me the name of Passe will be
forgotten." In so far as the Passes have amalgamated with
European immigrants or their descendants, and become civilised
Brazilian citizens, there can scarcely be ground for lamenting
their extinction as a nation; but it fills one with regret to
learn how many die prematurely of a disease which seems to arise
on their simply breathing the same air as the whites. The
original territory of the tribe must have been of large extent,
for Passes are said to have been found by the early Portuguese
colonists on the Rio Negro; an ancient settlement on that river,
Barcellos, having been peopled by them when it was first
established; and they formed also part of the original population
of Fonte-boa on the Solimoens. Their hordes were therefore,
spread over a region 400 miles in length from cast to west. It is
probable, however, that they have been confounded by the
colonists with other neighbouring tribes who tattoo their faces
in a similar manner. The extinct tribe of Yurimauas, or Sorimoas,
from which the river Solimoens derives its name, according to
traditions extant at Ega, resembled the Passes in their slender
figures and friendly disposition. These tribes (with others lying
between them) peopled the banks of the main river and its by-
streams from the mouth of the Rio Negro to Peru. True Passes
existed in their primitive state on the banks of the Issa, 240
miles to the west of Ega, within the memory of living persons.
The only large body of them now extant are located on the Japura,
at a place distant about 150 miles from Ega: the population of
this horde, however, does not exceed, from what I could learn,
300 or 400 persons. I think it probable that the lower part of
the Japura and its extensive delta lands formed the original home
of this gentle tribe of Indians.

The Passes are always spoken of in this country as the most
advanced of all the Indian nations in the Amazons region. Under
what influences this tribe has become so strongly modified in
mental, social, and bodily features it is hard to divine. The
industrious habits, fidelity, and mildness of disposition of the
Passes, their docility and, it may be added, their personal
beauty, especially of the children and women, made them from the
first very attractive to the Portuguese colonists. They were,
consequently, enticed in great number from their villages and
brought to Barra and other settlements of the whites. The wives
of governors and military officers from Europe were always eager
to obtain children for domestic servants; the girls being taught
to sew, cook, weave hammocks, manufacture pillow-lace, and so
forth. They have been generally treated with kindness, especially
by the educated families in the settlements. It is pleasant to
have to record that I never heard of a deed of violence
perpetrated, on the one side or the other, in the dealings
between European settlers and this noble tribe of savages.

Very little is known of the original customs of the Passes. The
mode of life of our host Pedro-uassu did not differ much from
that of the civilised Mamelucos; but he and his people showed a
greater industry, and were more open, cheerful, and generous in
their dealings than many half-castes. The authority of Pedro,
like that of the Tushauas, generally was exercised in a mild
manner. These chieftains appear able to command the services of
their subjects, since they furnish men to the Brazilian
authorities when requested; but none of them, even those of the
most advanced tribes, appear to make use of this authority for
the accumulation of property-- the service being exacted chiefly
in time of war. Had the ambition of the chiefs of some of these
industrious tribes been turned to the acquisition of wealth,
probably we should have seen indigenous civilised nations in the
heart of South America similar to those found on the Andes of
Peru and Mexico. It is very probable that the Passes adopted from
the first to some extent the manners of the whites. Ribeiro, a
Portuguese official who travelled in these regions in 1774-5, and
wrote an account of his journey, relates that they buried their
dead in large earthenware vessels (a custom still observed among
other tribes on the Upper Amazons), and that, as to their
marriages, the young men earned their brides by valiant deeds in
war. He also states that they possessed a cosmogony in which the
belief that the sun was a fixed body, with the earth revolving
around it, was a prominent feature. He says, moreover, that they
believed in a Creator of all things; a future state of rewards
and punishments, and so forth. These notions are so far in
advance of the ideas of all other tribes of Indians, and so
little likely to have been conceived and perfected by a people
having no written language or leisured class, that we must
suppose them to have been derived by the docile Passes from some
early missionary or traveller. I never found that the Passes had
more curiosity or activity of intellect than other Indians. No
trace of a belief in a future state exists amongst Indians who
have not had much intercourse with the civilised settlers, and
even amongst those who have it is only a few of the more gifted
individuals who show any curiosity on the subject. Their sluggish
minds seem unable to conceive or feel the want of a theory of the
soul, and of the relations of man to the rest of Nature or to the
Creator. But is it not so with totally uneducated and isolated
people even in the most highly civilised parts of the world? The
good qualities of the Passes belong to the moral part of the
character: they lead a contented, unambitious, and friendly life,
a quiet, domestic, orderly existence, varied by occasional
drinking bouts and summer excursions. They are not so shrewd,
energetic, and masterful as the Mundurucus, but they are more
easily taught, because their disposition is more yielding than
that of the Mundurucus or any other tribe.

We started on our return to Ega at half-past four o'clock in the
afternoon. Our generous entertainers loaded us with presents.
There was scarcely room for us to sit in the canoe, as they had
sent down ten large bundles of sugar-cane, four baskets of
farinha, three cedar planks, a small hamper of coffee, and two
heavy bunches of bananas. After we were embarked, the old lady
came with a parting gift for me--a huge bowl of smoking hot
banana porridge. I was to eat it on the road "to keep my stomach
warm." Both stood on the bank as we pushed off, and gave us their
adios: "Ikudna Tupana eirum" (Go with God)-- a form of salutation
taught by the old Jesuit missionaries. We had a most
uncomfortable passage, for Cardozo was quite tipsy, and had not
attended to the loading of the boat. The cargo had been placed
too far forward, and to make matters worse, my heavy friend
obstinately insisted on sitting astride on the top of the pile,
instead of taking his place near the stern, singing from his
perch a most indecent love-song, and disregarding the
inconvenience of having to bend down almost every minute to pass
under the boughs of hanging sipos as we sped rapidly along. The
canoe leaked but not, at first, alarmingly. Long before sunset,
darkness began to close in under those gloomy shades, and our
steersman could not avoid now and then running the boat into the
thicket. The first time this happened a piece was broken off the
square prow (rodella); the second time we got squeezed between
two trees. A short time after this latter accident, being seated
near the stern with my feet on the bottom of the boat, I felt
rather suddenly the cold water above my ankles. A few minutes
more and we should have sunk, for a seam had been opened forward
under the pile of sugar-cane. Two of us began to bale, and by the
most strenuous efforts managed to keep afloat without throwing
overboard our cargo. The Indians were obliged to paddle with
extreme slowness to avoid shipping water, as the edge of our prow
was nearly level with the surface; but Cardozo was now persuaded
to change his seat. The sun set, the quick twilight passed, and
the moon soon after began to glimmer through the thick canopy of
foliage. The prospect of being swamped in this hideous solitude
was by no means pleasant, although I calculated on the chance of
swimming to a tree and finding a nice snug place in the fork of
some large bough wherein to pass the night.

At length, after four hours' tedious progress, we suddenly
emerged on the open stream where the moonlight glittered in broad
sheets on the gently rippling waters. A little extra care was now
required in paddling. The Indians plied their strokes with the
greatest nicety; the lights of Ega (the oil lamps in the houses)
soon appeared beyond the black wall of forest, and in a short
time we leapt safely ashore.

A few months after the excursion just narrated, I accompanied
Cardozo in many wanderings on the Solimoens, during which he
visited the praias (sand-islands), the turtle pools in the
forests, and the by-streams and lakes of the great desert river.
His object was mainly to superintend the business of digging up
turtle eggs on the sandbanks, having been elected commandante for
the year by the municipal council of Ega, of the "praia real"
(royal sand-island) of Shimuni, the one lying nearest to Ega.
There are four of these royal praias within the Ega district (a
distance of 150 miles from the town), all of which are visited
annually by the Ega people for the purpose of collecting eggs and
extracting oil from their yolks Each has its commander, whose
business is to make arrangements for securing to every inhabitant
an equal chance in the egg harvest by placing sentinels to
protect the turtles whilst laying, and so forth. The pregnant
turtles descend from the interior pools to the main river in July
and August, before the outlets dry up, and then seek in countless
swarms their favourite sand islands; for it is only a few praias
that are selected by them out of the great number existing. The
young animals remain in the pools throughout the dry season.
These breeding places of turtles then lie twenty to thirty or
more feet above the level of the river, and are accessible only
by cutting roads through the dense forest.

We left Ega on our first trip to visit the sentinels while the
turtles were yet laying, on the 26th of September. Our canoe was
a stoutly built igarite, arranged for ten paddlers, and having a
large arched toldo at the stern under which three persons could
sleep pretty comfortably. Emerging from the Teffe we descended
rapidly on the swift current of the Solimoens to the south-
eastern or lower end of the large wooded island of Baria, which
here divides the river into two great channels. We then paddled
across to Shimuni, which lies in the middle of the northeasterly
channel, reaching the commencement of the praia an hour before
sunset. The island proper is about three miles long and half a
mile broad: the forest with which it is covered rises to an
immense and uniform height, and presents all round a compact,
impervious front. Here and there a singular tree, called Pao
mulatto (mulatto wood), with polished dark-green trunk, rose
conspicuously among the mass of vegetation. The sandbank, which
lies at the upper end of the island, extends several miles and
presents an irregular, and in some parts, strongly-waved surface,
with deep hollows and ridges. When upon it, one feels as though
treading an almost boundless field of sand, for towards the
southeast, where no forest line terminates the view, the white,
rolling plain stretches away to the horizon. The north-easterly
channel of the river lying between the sands and the further
shore of the river is at least two miles in breadth; the middle
one, between the two islands, Shimuni and Baria, is not much less
than a mile.

We found the two sentinels lodged in a corner of the praia, where
it commences at the foot of the towering forest wall of the
island, having built for themselves a little rancho with poles
and palm-leaves. Great precautions are obliged to be taken to
avoid disturbing the sensitive turtles, who, previous to crawling
ashore to lay, assemble in great shoals off the sandbank. The
men, during this time, take care not to show themselves and warn
off any fishermen who wishes to pass near the place. Their fires
are made in a deep hollow near the borders of the forest, so that
the smoke may not be visible. The passage of a boat through the
shallow waters where the animals are congregated, or the sight of
a man or a fire on the sandbank, would prevent the turtles from
leaving the water that night to lay their eggs, and if the causes
of alarm were repeated once or twice, they would forsake the
praia for some other quieter place. Soon after we arrived, our
men were sent with the net to catch a supply of fish for supper.
In half an hour, four or five large basketsful of Acari were
brought in. The sun set soon after our meal was cooked; we were
then obliged to extinguish the fire and remove our supper
materials to the sleeping ground, a spit of sand about a mile
off-- this course being necessary on account of the mosquitoes
which swarm at night on the borders of the forest.

One of the sentinels was a taciturn, morose-looking, but sober
and honest Indian, named Daniel; the other was a noted character
of Ega, a little wiry Mameluco, named Carepira (Fish-hawk)--
known for his waggery, propensity for strong drink, and
indebtedness to Ega traders. Both were intrepid canoemen and
huntsmen, and both perfectly at home anywhere in these fearful
wastes of forest and water. Carepira had his son with him-- a
quiet little lad of about nine years of age. These men in a few
minutes constructed a small shed with four upright poles and
leaves of the arrow-grass, under which Cardozo and I slung our
hammocks. We did not go to sleep, however, until after midnight--
for when supper was over, we lay about on the sand with a flask
of rum in our midst and whiled away the still hours in listening
to Carepira's stories.

I rose from my hammock by daylight, shivering with cold; a praia,
on account of the great radiation of heat in the night from the
sand, being towards the dawn the coldest place that can be found
in this climate. Cardozo and the men were already up watching the
turtles. The sentinels had erected for this purpose a stage about
fifty feet high, on a tall tree near their station, the ascent to
which was by a roughly-made ladder of woody lianas. They are
enabled, by observing the turtles from this watchtower, to
ascertain the date of successive deposits of eggs, and thus guide
the commandante in fixing the time for the general invitation to
the Ega people. The turtles lay their eggs by night, leaving the
water when nothing disturbs them, in vast crowds, and crawling to
the central and highest part of the praia. These places are, of
course, the last to go under water when, in unusually wet
seasons, the river rises before the eggs are hatched by the heat
of the sand. One could almost believe from this that the animals
used forethought in choosing a place; but it is simply one of
those many instances in animals where unconscious habit has the
same result as conscious prevision. The hours between midnight
and dawn are the busiest. The turtles excavate with their broad,
webbed paws, deep holes in the fine sand-- the first corner, in
each case, making a pit about three feet deep, laying its eggs
(about 120 in number) and covering them with sand; the next
making its deposit at the top of that of its predecessor, and so
on until every pit is full. The whole body of turtles frequenting
a praia does not finish laying in less than fourteen or fifteen
days, even when there is no interruption. When all have done, the
area (called by the Brazilians taboleiro) over which they have
excavated is distinguishable from the rest of the praia only by
signs of the sand having been a little disturbed.

On rising, I went to join my friends. Few recollections of my
Amazonian rambles are more vivid and agreeable than that of my
walk over the white sea of sand on this cool morning. The sky was
cloudless; the just-risen sun was hidden behind the dark mass of
woods on Shimuni, but the long line of forest to the west, on
Baria, with its plumy decorations of palms, was lighted up with
his yellow, horizontal rays. A faint chorus of singing birds
reached the ears from across the water, and flocks of gulls and
plovers were drying plaintively over the swelling banks of the
praia, where their eggs lay in nests made in little hollows of
the sand. Tracks of stray turtles were visible on the smooth
white surface of the praia. The animals which thus wander from
the main body are lawful prizes of the sentinels; they had caught
in this way two before sunrise, one of which we had for dinner.
In my walk I disturbed several pairs of the chocolate and drab-
coloured wild-goose (Anser jubatus) which set off to run along
the edge of the water. The enjoyment one feels in rambling over
these free, open spaces, is no doubt enhanced by the novelty of
the scene, the change being very great from the monotonous
landscape of forest which everywhere else presents itself.

On arriving at the edge of the forest I mounted the sentinel's
stage, just in time to see the turtles retreating to the water on
the opposite side of the sand-bank, after having laid their eggs.
The sight was well worth the trouble of ascending the shaky
ladder. They were about a mile off, but the surface of the sands
was blackened with the multitudes which were waddling towards the
river; the margin of the praia was rather steep, and they all
seemed to tumble head first down the declivity into the water.

I spent the morning of the 27th collecting insects in the woods
of Shimuni; and assisted my friend in the afternoon to beat a
large pool for Tracajas-- Cardozo wishing to obtain a supply for
his table at home. The pool was nearly a mile long, and lay on
one side of the island between the forest and the sand-bank. The
sands are heaped up very curiously around the margins of these
isolated sheets of water; in the present case they formed a
steeply-inclined bank, from five to eight feet in height. What
may be the cause of this formation I cannot imagine. The pools
always contain a quantity of imprisoned fish, turtles, Tracajas,
and Aiyussas. [Specimens of this species of turtle are named in
the British Museum collection, Podocnemis expansa.] The turtles
and Aiyussas crawl out voluntarily in the course of a few days,
and escape to the main river, but the Tracajas remain and become
an easy prey to the natives. The ordinary mode of obtaining them
is to whip the water in every part with rods for several hours
during the day; this treatment having the effect of driving the
animals out. They wait, however, until the night following the
beating before making their exit. Our Indians were occupied for
many hours in this work, and when night came they and the
sentinels were placed at intervals along the edge of the water to
be ready to capture the runaways. Cardozo and I, after supper,
went and took our station at one end of the pool.

We did not succeed, after all our trouble, in getting many
Tracajas. This was partly owing to the intense darkness of the
night, and partly, doubtless, to the sentinels having already
nearly exhausted the pool, notwithstanding their declarations to
the contrary. In waiting for the animals, it was necessary to
keep silence-- not a pleasant way of passing the night...
speaking only in whispers, and being without fire in a place
liable to be visited by a prowling jaguar. Cardozo and I sat on a
sandy slope with our loaded guns by our side, but it was so dark
we could scarcely see each other. Towards midnight a storm began
to gather around us. The faint wind which had breathed from over
the water since the sun went down, ceased. thick clouds piled
themselves up, until every star was obscured, and gleams of
watery lightning began to play in the midst of the black masses.
I hinted to Cardozo that I thought we had now had enough of
watching, and suggested a cigarette. Just then a quick pattering
movement was heard on the sands, and grasping our guns, we both
started to our feet. Whatever it might have been it seemed to
pass by, and a few moments afterwards a dark body appeared to be
moving in another direction on the opposite slope of the sandy
ravine where we lay. We prepared to fire, but luckily took the
precaution of first shouting "Quem vai la?" (Who goes there?) It
turned out to be the taciturn sentinel, Daniel, who asked us
mildly whether we had heard a "raposa" pass our way. The raposa
is a kind of wild dog, with very long tapering muzzle, and black
and white speckled hair. Daniel could distinguish all kinds of
animals in the dark by their footsteps. It now began to thunder,
and our position was getting very uncomfortable. Daniel had not
seen anything of the other Indians, and thought it was useless
waiting any longer for Tracajas; we therefore sent him to call in
the whole party, and made off ourselves, as quickly as we could,
for the canoe. The rest of the night was passed most miserably;
as indeed were very many of my nights on the Solimoens. A furious
squall burst upon us; the wind blew away the cloths and mats we
had fixed up at the ends of the arched awning of the canoe to
shelter ourselves, and the rain beat right through our sleeping-
place. There we lay, Cardozo and I, huddled together, and wet
through, waiting for the morning.

A cup of strong and hot coffee put us to rights at sunrise, but
the rain was still coming down, having changed to a steady
drizzle. Our men were all returned from the pool, having taken
only four Tracajas. The business which had brought Cardozo hither
being now finished, we set out to return to Ega, leaving the
sentinels once more to their solitude on the sands. Our return
route was by the rarely frequented north-easterly channel of the
Solimoens, through which flows part of the waters of its great
tributary stream, the Japura. We travelled for five hours along
the desolate, broken, timber-strewn shore of Baria. The channel
is of immense breadth, the opposite coast being visible only as a
long, low line of forest. At three o'clock in the afternoon we
doubled the upper end of the island, and then crossed towards the
mouth of the Teffe by a broad transverse channel running between
Baria and another island called Quanaru. There is a small sand-
bank at the north-westerly point of Baria, called Jacare; we
stayed here to dine and afterwards fished with the net. A fine
rain was still falling, and we had capital sport-- in three hauls
taking more fish than our canoe would conveniently hold. They
were of two kinds only, the Surubim and the Piraepieua (species
of Pimelodus), very handsome fishes, four feet in length, with
flat spoon-shaped heads, and prettily-spotted and striped skins.

On our way from Jacare to the mouth of the Teffe we had a little
adventure with a black tiger or jaguar. We were paddling rapidly
past a long beach of dried mud, when the Indians became suddenly
excited, shouting "Ecui Jauarete; Jauaripixuna!" (Behold the
jaguar, the black jaguar!) Looking ahead we saw the animal
quietly drinking at the water's edge. Cardozo ordered the
steersman at once to put us ashore. By the time we were landed
the tiger had seen us, and was retracing his steps towards the
forest. On the spur of the moment, and without thinking of what
we were doing, we took our guns (mine was a double-barrel, with
one charge of B B and one of dust-shot) and gave chase. The
animal increased his speed, and reaching the forest border, dived
into the dense mass of broad-leaved grass which formed its
frontage. We peeped through the gap he had made, but, our courage
being by this time cooled, we did not think it wise to go into
the thicket after him. The black tiger appears to be more
abundant than the spotted form of jaguar in the neighbourhood of
Ega. The most certain method of finding it is to hunt assisted by
a string of Indians shouting and driving the game before them in
the narrow restingas or strips of dry land in the forest, which
are isolated by the flooding of their neighbourhood in the wet
season. We reached Ega by eight o'clock that night.

On the 6th of October we left Ega on a second excursion; the
principal object of Cardozo being, this time, to search certain
pools in the forest for young turtles. The exact situation of
these hidden sheets of water is known only to a few practised
huntsmen; we took one of these men with us from Ega, a Mameluco
named Pedro, and on our way called at Shimuni for Daniel to serve
as an additional guide. We started from the praia at sunrise on
the 7th in two canoes containing twenty-three persons, nineteen
of whom were Indians. The morning was cloudy and cool, and a
fresh wind blew from down river, against which we had to struggle
with all the force of our paddles, aided by the current; the
boats were tossed about most disagreeably, and shipped a great
deal of water. On passing the lower end of Shimuni, a long reach
of the river was before us, undivided by islands-- a magnificent
expanse of water stretching away to the southeast. The country on
the left bank is not, however, terra firma, but a portion of the
alluvial land which forms the extensive and complex delta region
of the Japura. It is flooded every year at the time of high
water, and is traversed by many narrow and deep channels which
serve as outlets to the Japura, or at least, are connected with
that river by means of the interior water-system of the Cupiyo.
This inhospitable tract of country extends for several hundred
miles, and contains in its midst an endless number of pools and
lakes tenanted by multitudes of turtles, fishes, alligators, and
water serpents. Our destination was a point on this coast
situated about twenty miles below Shimuni, and a short distance
from the mouth of the Anana, one of the channels just alluded to
as connected with the Japura. After travelling for three hours in
midstream we steered for the land, and brought to under a
steeply-inclined bank of crumbly earth, shaped into a succession
of steps or terraces, marking the various halts which the waters
of the river make in the course of subsidence. The coast line was
nearly straight for many miles, and the bank averaged about
thirty feet in height above the present level of the river: at
the top rose the unbroken hedge of forest. No one could have
divined that pools of water existed on that elevated land. A
narrow level space extended at the foot of the bank. On landing
the first business was to get breakfast. While a couple of Indian
lads were employed in making the fire, roasting the fish, and
boiling the coffee, the rest of the party mounted the bank, and
with their long hunting knives commenced cutting a path through
the forest; the pool, called the Aningal, being about half a mile
distant. After breakfast, a great number of short poles were cut
and were laid crosswise on the path, and then three light
montarias which we had brought with us were dragged up the bank
by lianas, and rolled away to be embarked on the pool. A large
net, seventy yards in length, was then disembarked and carried to
the place. The work was done very speedily, and when Cardozo and
I went to the spot at eleven o'clock, we found some of the older
Indians, including Pedro and Daniel, had begun their sport. They
were mounted on little stages called moutas, made of poles and
cross-pieces of wood secured with lianas, and were shooting the
turtles as they came near the surface, with bows and arrows. The
Indians seemed to think that netting the animals, as Cardozo
proposed doing, was not lawful sport, and wished first to have an
hour or two's old-fashioned practice with their weapons.

The pool covered an area of about four or five acres, and was
closely hemmed in by the forest, which in picturesque variety and
grouping of trees and foliage exceeded almost everything I had
yet witnessed. The margins for some distance were swampy, and
covered with large tufts of a fine grass called Matupa. These
tufts in many places were overrun with ferns, and exterior to
them a crowded row of arborescent arums, growing to a height of
fifteen or twenty feet, formed a green palisade. Around the whole
stood the taller forest trees; palmate-leaved Cecropiae slender
Assai palms, thirty feet high, with their thin feathery heads
crowning the gently-curving, smooth stems; small fan-leaved
palms; and as a background to all these airy shapes, lay the
voluminous masses of ordinary forest trees, with garlands,
festoons, and streamers of leafy climbers hanging from their
branches. The pool was nowhere more than five feet deep, one foot
of which was not water, but extremely fine and soft mud.

Cardozo and I spent an hour paddling about. I was astonished at
the skill which the Indians display in shooting turtles. They did
not wait for their coming to the surface to breathe, but watched
for the slight movements in the water, which revealed their
presence underneath. These little tracks on the water are called
the Siriri; the instant one was perceived an arrow flew from the
bow of the nearest man, and never failed to pierce the shell of
the submerged animal. When the turtle was very distant, of course
the aim had to be taken at a considerable elevation, but the
marksmen preferred a longish range, because the arrow then fell
more perpendicularly on the shell and entered it more deeply.

The arrow used in turtle shooting has a strong lancet-shaped
steel point, fitted into a peg which enters the tip of the shaft.
The peg is secured to the shaft by twine made of the fibres of
pineapple leaves, the twine being some thirty or forty yards in
length, and neatly wound round the body of the arrow. When the
missile enters the shell, the peg drops out, and the pierced
animal descends with it towards the bottom, leaving the shaft
floating on the surface. This being done, the sportsman paddles
in his montaria to the place, and gently draws the animal by the
twine, humouring it by giving it the rein when it plunges, until
it is brought again near the surface, when he strikes it with a
second arrow. With the increased hold given by the two cords he
has then no difficulty in landing his game.

By mid-day the men had shot about a score of nearly full-grown
turtles. Cardozo then gave orders to spread the net. The spongy,
swampy nature of the banks made it impossible to work the net so
as to draw the booty ashore; another method was therefore
adopted. The net was taken by two Indians and extended in a curve
at one extremity of the oval-shaped pool, holding it when they
had done so by the perpendicular rods fixed at each end; its
breadth was about equal to the depth of the water, its shotted
side therefore rested on the bottom, while the floats buoyed it
up on the surface, so that the whole, when the ends were brought
together, would form a complete trap. The rest of the party then
spread themselves around the swamp at the opposite end of the
pool and began to beat, with stout poles, the thick tufts of
Matupa, in order to drive the turtles towards the middle. This
was continued for an hour or more, the beaters gradually drawing
nearer to each other, and driving the host of animals before
them; the number of little snouts constantly popping above the
surface of the water showing that all was going on well. When
they neared the net the men moved more quickly, shouting and
beating with great vigour. The ends of the net were then seized
by several strong hands and dragged suddenly forwards, bringing
them at the same time together, so as to enclose all the booty in
a circle. Every man now leapt into the enclosure, the boats were
brought up, and the turtles easily captured by the hand and
tossed into them. I jumped in along with the rest, although I had
just before made the discovery that the pool abounded in ugly,
red, four-angled leeches, having seen several of these delectable
animals, which sometimes fasten on the legs of fishermen,
although they, did not, on this day, trouble us, working their
way through cracks in the bottom of our montaria. Cardozo, who
remained with the boats, could not turn the animals on their
backs fast enough, so that a great many clambered out and got
free again. However, three boat-loads, or about eighty, were
secured in about twenty minutes. They were then taken ashore, and
each one secured by the men tying the legs with thongs of bast.

When the canoes had been twice filled, we desisted, after a very
hard day's work. Nearly all the animals were young ones, chiefly,
according to the statement of Pedro, from three to ten years of
age; they varied from six to eighteen inches in length, and were
very fat. Cardozo and I lived almost exclusively on them for
several months afterwards. Roasted in the shell they form a most
appetising dish. These younger turtles never migrate with their
elders on the sinking of the waters, but remain in the tepid
pools, fattening on fallen fruits, and, according to the natives,
on the fine nutritious mud. We captured a few full-grown
motherturtles, which were known at once by the horny skin of
their breast-plates being worn, telling of their having crawled
on the sands to lay eggs the previous year. They had evidently
made a mistake in not leaving the pool at the proper time, for
they were full of eggs, which, we were told, they would, before
the season was over, scatter in despair over the swamp. We also
found several male turtles, or Capitaris, as they are called by
the natives. These are immensely less numerous than the females,
and are distinguishable by their much smaller size, more circular
shape, and the greater length and thickness of their tails. Their
flesh is considered unwholesome, especially to sick people having
external signs of inflammation. All diseases in these parts, as
well as their remedies and all articles of food, are classed by
the inhabitants as "hot" and "cold," and the meat of the Capitari
is settled by unanimous consent as belonging to the "hot" list.

We dined on the banks of the river a little before sunset. The
mosquitoes then began to be troublesome, and finding it would be
impossible to sleep here, we all embarked and crossed the river
to a sand-bank, about three miles distant, where we passed the
night. Cardozo and I slept in our hammocks slung between upright
poles, the rest stretching themselves on the sand round a large
fire. We lay awake conversing until past midnight. It was a real
pleasure to listen to the stories told by one of the older men,
they were given with so much spirit. The tales always related to
struggles with some intractable animal-jaguar, manatee, or
alligator. Many interjections and expressive gestures were used,
and at the end came a sudden "Pa! terra!" when the animal was
vanquished by a shot or a blow. Many mysterious tales were
recounted about the Bouto, as the large Dolphin of the Amazons is
called. One of them was to the effect that a Bouto once had the
habit of assuming the shape of a beautiful woman, with hair
hanging loose to her heels, and walking ashore at night in the
streets of Ega, to entice the young men down to the water. If any
one was so much smitten as to follow her to the waterside, she
grasped her victim round the waist and plunged beneath the waves
with a triumphant cry. No animal in the Amazons region is the
subject of so many fables as the Bouto; but it is probable these
did not originate with the Indians, but with the Portuguese
colonists. It was several years before I could induce a fisherman
to harpoon Dolphins for me as specimens, for no one ever kills
these animals voluntarily, although their fat is known to yield
an excellent oil for lamps. The superstitious people believe that
blindness would result from the use of this oil in lamps. I
succeeded at length with Carepira, by offering him a high reward
when his finances were at a very low point, but he repented of
his deed ever afterwards, declaring that his luck had forsaken
him from that day.

The next morning we again beat the pool. Although we had proof of
there being a great number of turtles yet remaining, we had very
poor success. The old Indians told us it would be so, for the
turtles were "ladino" (cunning), and would take no notice of the
beating a second day. When the net was formed into a circle, and
the men had jumped in, an alligator was found to be inclosed. No
one was alarmed, the only fear expressed being that the
imprisoned beast would tear the net. First one shouted, "I have
touched his head;" then another, "he has scratched my leg;" one
of the men, a lanky Miranha, was thrown off his balance, and then
there was no end to the laughter and shouting. At last a youth of
about fourteen years of age, on my calling to him from the bank
to do so, seized the reptile by the tail, and held him tightly
until, a little resistance being overcome, he was able to bring
it ashore. The net was opened, and the boy slowly dragged the
dangerous but cowardly beast to land through the muddy water, a
distance of about a hundred yards. Meantime, I had cut a strong
pole from a tree, and as soon as the alligator was drawn to solid
ground, gave him a smart rap with it on the crown of his head,
which killed him instantly. It was a good-sized individual, the
jaws being considerably more than a foot long, and fully capable
of snapping a man's leg in twain. The species was the large
cayman, the Jacareuassu of the Amazonian Indians (Jacare nigra).

On the third day, we sent our men in the boats to net turtles in
a larger pool about five miles further down the river, and on the
fourth, returned to Ega.

It will be well to mention here a few circumstances relative to
the large Cayman, which, with the incident just narrated, afford
illustrations of the cunning, cowardice, and ferocity of this

I have hitherto had but few occasions of mentioning alligators,
although they exist by myriads in the waters of the Upper
Amazons. Many different species are spoken of by the natives. I
saw only three, and of these two only are common: one, the
Jacare-tinga, a small kind (five feet long when full grown),
having a long slender muzzle and a black-banded tail; the other,
the Jacare-uassu, to which these remarks more especially relate
and the third the Jacare-curua, mentioned in a former chapter.
The Jacare-uassu, or large Cayman, grows to a length of eighteen
or twenty feet, and attains an enormous bulk. Like the turtles,
the alligator has its annual migrations, for it retreats to the
interior pools and flooded forests in the wet season, and
descends to the main river in the dry season. During the months
of high water, therefore, scarcely a single individual is to be
seen in the main river. In the middle part of the Lower Amazons,
about Obydos and Villa Nova, where many of the lakes with their
channels of communication with the trunk stream dry up in the
fine months, the alligator buries itself in the mud and becomes
dormant, sleeping till the rainy season returns. On the Upper
Amazons, where the dry season is never excessive, it has not this
habit, but is lively all the year round. It is scarcely
exaggerating to say that the waters of the Solimoens are as well
stocked with large alligators in the dry season, as a ditch in
England is in summer with tadpoles. During a journey of five days
which I once made in the Upper Amazons steamer, in November,
alligators were seen along the coast almost every step of the
way, and the passengers amused themselves, from morning till
night, by firing at them with rifle and ball. They were very
numerous in the still bays, where the huddled crowds jostled
together, to the great rattling of their coats of mail, as the
steamer passed.

The natives at once despise and fear the great cayman. I once
spent a month at Caicara, a small village of semi-civilised
Indians, about twenty miles to the west of Ega. My entertainer,
the only white in the place, and one of my best and most constant
friends, Senor Innocencio Alves Faria, one day proposed a half-
day's fishing with net in the lake--the expanded bed of the small
river on which the village is situated. We set out in an open
boat with six Indians and two of Innocencio's children. The water
had sunk so low that the net had to be taken out into the middle
by the Indians, whence at the first draught, two medium-sized
alligators were brought to land. They were disengaged from the
net and allowed, with the coolest unconcern, to return to the
water, although the two children were playing in it not many
yards off. We continued fishing, Innocencio and I lending a
helping hand, and each time drew a number of the reptiles of
different ages and sizes, some of them Jacare-tingas; the lake,
in fact, swarmed with alligators. After taking a very large
quantity of fish, we prepared to return, and the Indians, at my
suggestion, secured one of the alligators with the view of
letting it loose amongst the swarms of dogs in the village. An
individual was selected about eight feet long-- one man holding
his head and another his tail, whilst a third took a few lengths
of a flexible liana, and deliberately bound the jaws and the
legs. Thus secured, the beast was laid across the benches of the
boat on which we sat during the hour and a half's journey to the
settlement. We were rather crowded, but our amiable passenger
gave us no trouble during the transit. On reaching the village,
we took the animal into the middle of the green, in front of the
church, where the dogs were congregated, and there gave him his
liberty, two of us arming ourselves with long poles to intercept
him if he should make for the water, and the others exciting the
dogs. The alligator showed great terror, although the dogs could
not be made to advance, and made off at the top of its speed for
the water, waddling like a duck. We tried to keep him back with
the poles, but he became enraged, and seizing the end of the one
I held in his jaws, nearly wrenched it from my grasp. We were
obliged, at length, to kill him to prevent his escape.

These little incidents show the timidity or cowardice of the
alligator. He never attacks man when his intended victim is on
his guard; but he is cunning enough to know when this may be done
with impunity-- of this we had proof at Caicara, a few days
afterwards. The river had sunk to a very low point, so that the
port and bathing-place of the village now lay at the foot of a
long sloping bank, and a large cayman made his appearance in the
shallow and muddy water. We were all obliged to be very careful
in taking our bath; most of the people simply using a calabash,
pouring the water over themselves while standing on the brink. A
large trading canoe, belonging to a Barra merchant named Soares,
arrived at this time, and the Indian crew, as usual, spent the
first day or two after their coming into port in drunkenness and
debauchery ashore. One of the men, during the greatest heat of
the day, when almost everyone was enjoying his afternoon's nap,
took it into his head while in a tipsy state to go down alone to
bathe. He was seen only by the Juiz de Paz, a feeble old man who
was lying in his hammock in the open verandah at the rear of his
house on the top of the bank, and who shouted to the besotted
Indian to beware of the alligator. Before he could repeat his
warning, the man stumbled, and a pair of gaping jaws, appearing
suddenly above the surface, seized him round the waist and drew
him under the water. A cry of agony "Ai Jesus!" was the last sign
made by the wretched victim. The village was aroused: the young
men with praiseworthy readiness seized their harpoons and hurried
down to the bank; but, of course it was too late, a winding track
of blood on the surface of the water was all that could be seen.
They embarked, however, in montarias, determined upon vengeance;
the monster was traced, and when, after a short lapse of time, he
came up to breathe--one leg of the man sticking out from his
jaws--was despatched with bitter curses.

The last of these minor excursions which I shall narrate, was
made (again in company of Senor Cardozo, with the addition of his
housekeeper Senora Felippa) in the season when all the population
of the villages turns out to dig up turtle eggs, and revel on the
praias. Placards were posted on the church doors at Ega,
announcing that the excavation on Shimuni would commence on the
17th of October, and on Catua, sixty miles below Shimuni, on the
25th. We set out on the 16th, and passed on the road, in our
well-manned igarite, a large number of people-- men, women, and
children in canoes of all sizes-- wending their way as if to a
great holiday gathering. By the morning of the 17th, some 400
persons were assembled on the borders of the sand-bank; each
family having erected a rude temporary shed of poles and palm
leaves to protect themselves from the sun and rain. Large copper
kettles to prepare the oil, and hundreds of red earthenware jars,
were scattered about on the sand.

The excavation of the taboleiro, collecting the eggs and
purifying the oil, occupied four days. All was done on a system
established by the old Portuguese governors, probably more than a
century ago. The commandante first took down the names of all the
masters of households, with the number of persons each intended
to employ in digging; he then exacted a payment of 140 reis
(about fourpence) a head, towards defraying the expense of
sentinels. The whole were then allowed to go to the taboleiro.
They arranged themselves around the circle, each person armed
with a paddle to be used as a spade, and then all began
simultaneously to dig on a signal being given--the roll of drums-
-by order of the commandante. It was an animating sight to behold
the wide circle of rival diggers throwing up clouds of sand in
their energetic labours, and working gradually towards the centre
of the ring. A little rest was taken during the great heat of
midday, and in the evening the eggs were carried to the huts in
baskets. By the end of the second day, the taboleiro was
exhausted; large mounds of eggs, some of them four to five feet
in height, were then seen by the side of each hut, the produce of
the labours of the family.

In the hurry of digging, some of the deeper nests are passed
over; to find these out, the people go about provided with a long
steel or wooden probe, the presence of the eggs being
discoverable by the ease with which the spit enters the sand.
When no more eggs are to be found, the mashing process begins.
The egg, it may be mentioned, has a flexible or leathery shell;
it is quite round, and somewhat larger than a hen's egg. The
whole heap is thrown into an empty canoe and mashed with wooden
prongs; but sometimes naked Indians and children jump into the
mass and tread it down, besmearing themselves with yolk and
making about as filthy a scene as can well be imagined. This
being finished, water is poured into the canoe, and the fatty
mess then left for a few hours to be heated by the sun, on which
the oil separates and rises to the surface. The floating oil is
afterwards skimmed off with long spoons, made by tying large
mussel-shells to the end of rods, and purified over the fire in
copper kettles.

The destruction of turtle eggs every year by these proceedings is
enormous. At least 6000 jars, holding each three gallons of the
oil, are exported annually from the Upper Amazons and the Madeira
to Para, where it is used for lighting, frying fish, and other
purposes. It may be fairly estimated that 2000 more jars-full are
consumed by the inhabitants of the villages on the river. Now, it
takes at least twelve basketsful of eggs, or about 6000 by the
wasteful process followed, to make one jar of oil. The total
number of eggs annually destroyed amounts, therefore, to
48,000,000. As each turtle lays about 120, it follows that the
yearly offspring Of 400,000 turtles is thus annihilated. A vast
number, nevertheless, remain undetected; and these would probably
be sufficient to keep the turtle population of these rivers up to
the mark, if the people did not follow the wasteful practice of
lying in wait for the newly-hatched young, and collecting them by
thousands for eating-- their tender flesh and the remains of yolk
in their entrails being considered a great delicacy. The chief
natural enemies of the turtle are vultures and alligators, which
devour the newly-hatched young as they descend in shoals to the
water. These must have destroyed an immensely greater number
before the European settlers began to appropriate the eggs than
they do now. It is almost doubtful if this natural persecution
did not act as effectively in checking the increase of the turtle
as the artificial destruction now does. If we are to believe the
tradition of the Indians, however, it had not this result; for
they say that formerly the waters teemed as thickly with turtles
as the air now does with mosquitoes. The universal opinion of the
settlers on the Upper Amazons is, that the turtle has very
greatly decreased in numbers, and is still annually decreasing.

We left Shimuni on the 20th with quite a flotilla of canoes, and
descended the river to Catua, an eleven hours' journey by paddle
and current. Catua is about six miles long, and almost entirely
encircled by its praia. The turtles had selected for their egg-
laying a part of the sand-bank which was elevated at least twenty
feet above the present level of the river; the animals, to reach
the place, must have crawled up a slope. As we approached the
island, numbers of the animals were seen coming to the surface to
breathe, in a small shoaly bay. Those who had light montarias
sped forward with bows and arrows to shoot them. Carepira was
foremost, having borrowed a small and very unsteady boat, of
Cardozo, and embarked in it with his little son. After bagging a
couple of turtles, and while hauling in a third, he overbalanced
himself; the canoe went over, and he with his child had to swim
for their lives in the midst of numerous alligators, about a mile
from the land. The old man had to sustain a heavy fire of jokes
from his companions for several days after this mishap. Such
accidents are only laughed at by this almost amphibious people.

The number of persons congregated on Catua was much greater than
on Shimuni, as the population of the banks of several
neighbouring lakes were here added. The line of huts and sheds
extended half a mile, and several large sailing vessels were
anchored at the place. The commandante was Senor Macedo, the
Indian blacksmith of Ega before mentioned, who maintained
excellent order during the fourteen days the process of
excavation and oil manufacture lasted. There were also many
primitive Indians here from the neighbouring rivers, among them a
family of Shumanas, good-tempered, harmless people from the Lower
Japura. All of them were tattooed around the mouth, the bluish
tint forming a border to the lips, and extending in a line on the
cheeks towards the ear on each side. They were not quite so
slender in figure as the Passes of Perdo-uassu's family; but
their features deviated quite as much as those of the Passes from
the ordinary Indian type. This was seen chiefly in the
comparatively small mouth, pointed chin, thin lips, and narrow,
high nose. One of the daughters, a young girl of about seventeen
years of age, was a real beauty. The colour of her skin
approached the light tanned shade of the Mameluco women; her
figure was almost faultless, and the blue mouth, instead of being
a disfigurement, gave quite a captivating finish to her
appearance. Her neck, wrists, and ankles were adorned with
strings of blue beads. She was, however, extremely bashful, never
venturing to look strangers in the face, and never quitting, for
many minutes together, the side of her father and mother. The
family had been shamefully swindled by some rascally trader on
another praia; and, on our arrival, came to lay their case before
Senor Cardozo, as the delegado of police of the district. The
mild way in which the old man, without a trace of anger, stated
his complaint in imperfect Tupi quite enlisted our sympathies in
his favour. But Cardozo could give him no redress; he invited the
family, however, to make their rancho near to ours, and in the
end gave them the highest price for the surplus oil which they

It was not all work at Catua; indeed there was rather more play
than work going on. The people make a kind of holiday of these
occasions. Every fine night parties of the younger people
assembled on the sands, and dancing and games were carried on for
hours together. But the requisite liveliness for these sports was
never got up without a good deal of preliminary rum-drinking. The
girls were so coy that the young men could not get sufficient
partners for the dances without first subscribing for a few
flagons of the needful cashaca. The coldness of the shy Indian
and Mameluco maidens never failed to give way after a little of
this strong drink, but it was astonishing what an immense deal
they could take of it in the course of an evening. Coyness is not
always a sign of innocence in these people, for most of the half-
caste women on the Upper Amazons lead a little career of
looseness before they marry and settle down for life; and it is
rather remarkable that the men do not seem to object much to
their brides having had a child or two by various fathers before
marriage. The women do not lose reputation unless they become
utterly depraved, but in that case they are condemned pretty
strongly by public opinion. Depravity is, however, rare, for all
require more or less to be wooed before they are won. I did not
see (although I mixed pretty freely with the young people) any
breach of propriety on the praias. The merry-makings were carried
on near the ranchos, where the more staid citizens of Ega,
husbands with their wives and young daughters, all smoking
gravely out of long pipes, sat in their hammocks and enjoyed the
fun. Towards midnight we often heard, in the intervals between
jokes and laughter, the hoarse roar of jaguars prowling about the
jungle in the middle of the praia. There were several guitar-
players among the young men, and one most persevering fiddler--
so there was no lack of music.

The favourite sport was the Pira-purasseya, or fish-dance, one of
the original games of the Indians, though now probably a little
modified. The young men and women, mingling together, formed a
ring, leaving one of their number in the middle, who represented
the fish. They then all marched round, Indian file, the musicians
mixed up with the rest, singing a monotonous but rather pretty
chorus, the words of which were invented (under a certain form)
by one of the party who acted as leader. This finished, all
joined hands, and questions were put to the one in the middle,
asking what kind of fish he or she might be. To these the
individual has to reply. The end of it all is that he makes a
rush at the ring, and if he succeeds in escaping, the person who
allowed him to do so has to take his place; the march and chorus
then recommences, and so the game goes on hour after hour. Tupi
was the language mostly used, but sometimes Portuguese was sung
and spoken. The details of the dance were often varied. Instead
of the names of fishes being called over by the person in the
middle, the name of some animal, flower, or other object was
given to every fresh occupier of the place. There was then good
scope for wit in the invention of nicknames, and peals of
laughter would often salute some particularly good hit. Thus a
very lanky young man was called the Magoary, or the grey stork; a
moist grey-eyed man with a profile comically suggestive of a fish
was christened Jaraki (a kind of fish), which was considered
quite a witty sally; a little Mameluco girl, with light-coloured
eyes and brown hair, got the gallant name of Rosa Blanca, or the
white rose; a young fellow who had recently singed his eye brows
by the explosion of fireworks, was dubbed Pedro queimado (burnt
Peter); in short every one got a nickname, and each time the
cognomen was introduced into the chorus as the circle marched

Our rancho was a large one, and was erected in a line with the
others near the edge of the sand-bank which sloped rather
abruptly to the water. During the first week the people were all,
more or less, troubled by alligators. Some half-dozen full-grown
ones were in attendance off the praia, floating about on the
lazily-flowing, muddy water. The dryness of the weather had
increased since we had left Shimuni, the currents had slackened,
and the heat in the middle part of the day was almost
insupportable. But no one could descend to bathe without being
advanced upon by one or other of these hungry monsters. There was
much offal cast into the river, and this, of course, attracted
them to the place. One day I amused myself by taking a basketful
of fragments of meat beyond the line of ranchos, and drawing the
alligators towards me by feeding them. They behaved pretty much
as dogs do when fed-- catching the bones I threw them in their
huge jaws, and coming nearer and showing increased eagerness
after every morsel. The enormous gape of their mouths, with their
blood-red lining and long fringes of teeth, and the uncouth
shapes of their bodies, made a picture of unsurpassable ugliness.
I once or twice fired a heavy charge of shot at them, aiming at
the vulnerable part of their bodies, which is a small space
situated behind the eyes, but this had no other effect than to
make them give a hoarse grunt and shake themselves; they
immediately afterwards turned to receive another bone which I
threw to them.

Everyday these visitors became bolder; at length they reached a
pitch of impudence that was quite intolerable. Cardozo had a
poodle dog named Carlito, which some grateful traveller whom he
had befriended had sent him from Rio Janeiro. He took great pride
in this dog, keeping it well sheared, and preserving his coat as
white as soap and water could make it. We slept in our rancho in
hammocks slung between the outer posts; a large wood fire (fed
with a kind of wood abundant on the banks of the river, which
keeps alight all night) being made in the middle, by the side of
which slept Carlito on a little mat. Well, one night I was awoke
by a great uproar. It was caused by Cardozo hurling burning
firewood with loud curses at a huge cayman which had crawled up
the bank and passed beneath my hammock (being nearest the water)
towards the place where Carlito lay. The dog had raised the alarm
in time; the reptile backed out and tumbled down the bank to the
water, the sparks from the brands hurled at him flying from his
bony hide. To our great surprise the animal (we supposed it to be
the same individual) repeated his visit the very next night, this
time passing round to the other side of our shed. Cardozo was
awake, and threw a harpoon at him, but without doing him any
harm. After this it was thought necessary to make an effort to
check the alligators; a number of men were therefore persuaded to
sally forth in their montarias and devote a day to killing them.

The young men made several hunting excursions during the fourteen
days of our stay on Catua, and I, being associated with them in
all their pleasures, made generally one of the party. These were,
besides, the sole occasions on which I could add to my
collections, while on these barren sands. Only two of these trips
afforded incidents worth relating.

The first, which was made to the interior of the wooded island of
Catua, was not a very successful one. We were twelve in number,
all armed with guns and long hunting-knives. Long before sunrise,
my friends woke me up from my hammock, where I lay, as usual, in
the clothes worn during the day; and after taking each a cup-full
of cashaca and ginger (a very general practice in early morning
on the sand-banks), we commenced our walk. The waning moon still
lingered in the clear sky, and a profound stillness pervaded
sleeping camp, forest, and stream. Along the line of ranchos
glimmered the fires made by each party to dry turtle-eggs for
food, the eggs being spread on little wooden stages over the
smoke. The distance to the forest from our place of starting was
about two miles, being nearly the whole length of the sand-bank,
which was also a very broad one-- the highest part, where it was
covered with a thicket of dwarf willows, mimosas, and arrow
grass, lying near the ranchos. We loitered much on the way, and
the day dawned whilst we were yet on the road, the sand at this
early hour feeling quite cold to the naked feet. As soon as we
were able to distinguish things, the surface of the praia was
seen to be dotted with small black objects. These were newly-
hatched Aiyussa turtles, which were making their way in an
undeviating line to the water, at least a mile distant. The young
animal of this species is distinguishable from that of the large
turtle and the Tracaja, by the edges of the breast-plate being
raised on each side, so that in crawling it scores two parallel
lines on the sand. The mouths of these little creatures were full
of sand, a circumstance arising from their having to bite their
way through many inches of superincumbent sand to reach the
surface on emerging from the buried eggs. It was amusing to
observe how constantly they turned again in the direction of the
distant river, after being handled and set down on the sand with
their heads facing the opposite quarter. We saw also several
skeletons of the large cayman (some with the horny and bony hide
of the animal nearly perfect) embedded in the sand; they reminded
me of the remains of Ichthyosauri fossilised in beds of lias,
with the difference of being buried in fine sand instead of in
blue mud. I marked the place of one which had a well-preserved
skull, and the next day returned to secure it. The specimen is
now in the British Museum collection. There were also many
footmarks of jaguars on the sand.

We entered the forest, as the sun peeped over the tree-tops far
away down river. The party soon after divided, I keeping with a
section which was led by Bento, the Ega carpenter, a capital
woodsman. After a short walk we struck the banks of a beautiful
little lake, having grassy margins and clear dark water, on the
surface of which floated thick beds of water-lilies. We then
crossed a muddy creek or watercourse that entered the lake, and
then found ourselves on a restinga, or tongue of land between two
waters. By keeping in sight of one or the other of these, there
was no danger of our losing our way-- all other precautions were
therefore unnecessary. The forest was tolerably clear of
underwood, and consequently, easy to walk through. We had not
gone far before a soft, long-drawn whistle was heard aloft in the
trees, betraying the presence of Mutums (Curassow birds). The
crowns of the trees, a hundred feet or more over our heads, were
so closely interwoven that it was difficult to distinguish the
birds-- the practised eye of Bento, however, made them out, and a
fine male was shot from the flock, the rest flying away and
alighting at no great distance. The species was the one of which
the male has a round red ball on its beak (Crax globicera). The
pursuit of the others led us a great distance, straight towards
the interior of the island, in which direction we marched for
three hours, having the lake always on our right.

Arriving at length at the head of the lake, Bento struck off to
the left across the restinga, and we then soon came upon a
treeless space choked up with tall grass, which appeared to be
the dried-up bed of another lake. Our leader was obliged to climb
a tree to ascertain our position, and found that the clear space
was part of the creek, whose mouth we had crossed lower down. The
banks were clothed with low trees, nearly all of one species, a
kind of araca (Psidium), and the ground was carpeted with a
slender delicate grass, now in flower. A great number of crimson
and vermilion-coloured butterflies (Catagramma Peristera, male
and female) were settled on the smooth, white trunks of these
trees. I had also here the great pleasure of seeing for the first
time, the rare and curious Umbrella Bird (Cephalopterus ornatus),
a species which resembles in size, colour, and appearance our
common crow, but is decorated with a crest of long, curved, hairy
feathers having long bare quills, which, when raised, spread
themselves out in the form of a fringed sunshade over the head. A
strange ornament, like a pelerine, is also suspended from the
neck, formed by a thick pad of glossy steel-blue feathers, which
grow on a long fleshy lobe or excrescence. This lobe is connected
(as I found on skinning specimens) with an unusual development of
the trachea and vocal organs, to which the bird doubtless owes
its singularly deep, loud, and long-sustained fluty note. The
Indian name of this strange creature is Uira-mimbeu, or fife-
bird, [Mimbeu is the Indian name for a rude kind of pan-pipes
used by the Caishanas and other tribes.] in allusion to the tone
of its voice. We had the good luck, after remaining quiet a short
time, to hear its performance. It drew itself up on its perch,
spread widely the umbrella-formed crest, dilated and waved its
glossy breast-lappet, and then, in giving vent to its loud piping
note, bowed its head slowly forwards. We obtained a pair, male
and female; the female has only the rudiments of the crest and
lappet, and is duller-coloured altogether than the male. The
range of this bird appears to be quite confined to the plains of
the Upper Amazons (especially the Ygapo forests), not having been
found to the east of the Rio Negro.

Bento and our other friends being disappointed in finding no more
Curassows, or indeed any other species of game, now resolved to


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