In the afternoon, after we had enjoyed an excellent lunch of fish, tinned provisions, and rice—my men also enjoying their feijao (boiled beans)—we continued our journey. The river for 9,000 m. displayed first clean campos and chapada on the left bank and dense forest on the right, then campos on the right bank and a belt of forest along the river on the left.
The campos were particularly neat in that region—merely a few burity and tucum palms flourishing on the edge of the water. In other localities a thick growth of beautiful bamboos interspersed with gigantic palms lined the banks.
Where the river turned due east we came to fairly strong rapids. The water was shallow with mounds of gravel, and we bumped about a great deal. Eventually we all had to get into the water and push the canoe along for greater comfort.
The river next formed a huge basin, 900 m. long and 200 m. wide. A small tributary flowed into the Arinos in the crescent-shaped bank on the right. That bank had a height of 80 ft. On its summit quantities of Siphonia elastica were to be admired. Farther down it was on the left side that the river had high banks, some 60 ft. high.
We went over a charming little corrideira. Strong eddies were encountered on emerging from the rapids. Where the right bank became lower—only 40 ft.—chapada replaced the forest. The left bank was but 1 ft. above the level of the river, and the low country beyond (south) was naturally liable to inundation. For 4,000 m. the left bank was never higher than 4 ft. The right bank also suddenly became very low in that region.
Where the river turned from 290 deg. b.m. to 320 deg. b.m., there was a basin 700 m. broad with low banks. An island—Lydia Island—200 m. in circumference, rose within this basin on the north side and was luxuriantly wooded.
We found that day beautiful beaches of gravel, mostly on the right side. Then strong rapids and corrideiras; below these more clean-looking gravel beaches—this time on the left—were visible, and an extensive island of gravel close to the right bank.
For 8,000 m. the gorgeous stream flowed almost in a direct line northward, with dense forest and a wealthy growth of rubber trees on both sides. Wonderful figueira trees with their spotless white branches embellished the landscape.
On the left a tributary of some size entered the Arinos from the south-east in two arms with an island between; the largest arm was 40 m. wide, the smaller 10 m. Then another stream entered the Arinos on the right side.
We were again confronted by a large basin enclosed on the north by a crescent-shaped wall 100 ft. high, at the foot of which at the level of the river was a quantity of debris of yellow rock. The river at that spot turned sharply from 20 deg. b.m. (N.N.E.) to 290 deg. b.m.—that is to say, almost north-west. The width of the Arinos at this point was from 80 to 100 m.
Towards sunset we came to a beautiful island 200 m. long. We cleared a sufficiently large space in the dense and gorgeous vegetation to make our camp for the night.
Great Islands—The Trinchao Fish—A Fisherman's Paradise—Alastor Island—Plentiful Rubber—The Civilized Man's Idea of the Tropical Forest—The War-Cries of the Indians—Swarms of Bees and Butterflies
WE had another cool night on July 12th—minimum temperature 47 deg. F. It was very damp, and in the morning we had, as on the previous day, a thick mist which prevented our starting until it cleared up, at 7.40 a.m. The mist rose in columns and square blocks over the warmish water of the river. The right bank of the Arinos was 40 ft. high.
We had gone some 1,500 m. from our camp when we came to a magnificent island, 400 m. long and 200 m. wide—Griselda Island—which divided the stream into two channels.
All the islands we had seen of late showed on the up-stream side a more or less extensive spit of beautifully coloured gravel and glittering crystals. The latter shone in the sun with such iridescent luminosity that it gave those islands a fairy-like appearance.
We encountered troublesome eddies which swung the canoe about, and in one case actually spun her completely round in a most alarming manner, tearing out of Alcides' hands the steering gear, which we had some trouble in recovering.
There were many handsome large-leafed pacova, somewhat resembling banana palms; also quantities of Siphonia elastica, although these were not quite so plentiful as farther south nor the trees so high. A tiny brook of delicious water descended into the Arinos from the left bank.
Ten thousand five hundred metres farther down from Griselda Island we came to another island, 300 m. long and 50 m. broad—Negrino Island—with the usual spit of gravel and beautiful crystals on the south side. This island was 10 ft. high above the water, with some trees on it, but not such luxuriant vegetation as on most of the other islands we had seen.
A stream 5 m. wide at the mouth, coming from the N.N.W., entered the Arinos on the right side. The main river had a direction of 305 deg. b.m.—that is to say, virtually north-west. Great volcanic slabs of rock and sand-banks were now reached.
The sun was not extraordinarily hot—90 deg. F. at noon. The country on either side was open—chiefly chapada. Beautiful gravel beaches were now seen, extending half-way across the river, particularly from the left side.
Another tributary 5 m. wide coming from the N.N.E. was passed on our right, and beyond this a thick forest with rubber trees was visible, while chapada continued on the left.
Round a big basin 200 m. in diameter, containing shallow water from 1 to 6 ft. deep, stood a mass of gigantic trees with verdant healthy foliage, and innumerable abnormally tall burity palms, over 100 ft. high, and tucum (Astrocaryum tucuma)—also of immense size.
Many huge trinchao fish followed our canoe for some time, gazing curiously at us. They came so impudently near that my men actually hit them on the head with their paddles.
One more streamlet entered the Arinos on the right side just before we reached a big basin, 250 m. in diameter, with wonderful gravel beaches in regular little mounds stretching half-way across the basin. Another little tributary (on the right side) came next, 7,000 m. farther down stream. The vegetation was there so dense and so entangled that we could find nowhere a suitable spot on which to land for our midday halt. About noon, however, chapada and open country again appeared on the right bank for a distance of some 2,000 m.
There we indulged in a plentiful lunch, the country round being as still as death. Not a sign could be seen anywhere of a human being; not a column of smoke indicating the presence of man rose anywhere in the clear sky. Nowhere did we meet disturbed vegetation; nowhere did we notice a trail or a passage through the vegetation coming to the water; nowhere did we meet abandoned camps or any signs whatever that human beings had ever lived there. There was no animal life of fair size on the surface; no parrots, no monkeys, no mammals of any kind—only millions of insects, which made one's life a burden.
It was not so with the river, which was swarming with innocent fish, only too ready to be killed and supply us with excellent meals. The reason, of course, that the river was so full of fish, and that the fish displayed such delightful simplicity, was because there were there no human beings.
Soon after leaving camp—all the happier for an excellent lunch—we came once more to thick, beautiful, clean forest on both sides. Again rubber was plentiful, and absolutely untouched by the collector's hand. The river was getting amazingly beautiful, 200 m. wide all along, the water like a faultless silver mirror irreproachably reflecting each leaf, each branch of the motionless trees on both banks. There was not a breath of wind to disturb the tranquillity of that deliciously restful scene.
Yet one more gorgeous island—Alastor Island—300 m. long and 80 to 100 m. wide, was seen. It was preceded on the south-east side by innumerable gravel mounds just emerging above the water surface, then by a magnificent gravel beach with numberless beautiful crystals. On the left bank a tributary 15 m. wide entered the Arinos from the south-west.
The river was getting more and more entrancing at every turn. Profuse blossoms of the most gorgeous yellow shone resplendent in all their beauty against the background of dark green foliage. The entire edge of the forest was festooned with daintily-leafed creepers and with myriads of convolvuli of the purest amethyst colour.
There was poetry in the scene—frequently disturbed, perhaps, by the inconceivable oaths of the man to whom was entrusted the heavy task of baling out the water from the canoe, which leaked badly. She was fissured from end to end, and we had no effective means of preventing the water coming in; in fact, if the baling were not done quickly and continuously with a bucket, the water soon gained and reached the platform on which we had placed the baggage. Our feet, of course, were in water all day long. We did not mind that so much. In fact, our feet got so soaked with moisture that we could peel off the skin in big patches with the greatest ease.
After travelling across a basin 250 m. broad, we came to a corrideira with shallow water. We dashed with great speed sideways over a bank of gravel, and nearly turned turtle. The gravel was banked up against the lee side of the canoe, and with a strong current pushing her we had the greatest trouble to pull her off again.
There was a great deal of rubber, particularly on the left bank, while on the right, chapada was again observed. The river was so wonderfully tidy that, had it not been for its great breadth, one would have felt as if going through a watercourse in England.
From the east came a little tributary, 2 m. wide, on the right bank. Another beautiful island, 500 m. long and 80 m. wide—Helena Island—a most enchanting place, preceded by the usual gravel mounds and beach, was passed in the afternoon. Small streamlets entered the main stream, one on each side—one 6 kils. beyond Helena Island, the other one a little farther.
The river maintained its average width of 200 m. nearly all the time. Late in the afternoon we passed on the left bank a hill 120 ft. high, belonging to a range that extended from E.S.E. to W.N.W. at an angle to the river, which there flowed in a direction almost north. There was plenty of rubber of excellent quality near the water.
Shortly after leaving this range we came to a lagoon, then to open campos behind a thin row of stunted trees on the left bank. The lagoon was situated at a point where the river described a curve from north to 70 deg. b.m. Two small streamlets entered the Arinos on the right. We made camp near a small lagoon in the forest shortly after sunset.
The distance we had travelled during the last two days was 86 kil. 900 m. on July 11th, and 76 kil. 600 m. on July 12th, or altogether 163 kil. 500 m.
To anybody accustomed to travelling in equatorial countries it seems amazing, on returning to civilization, to find what curious notions people have of the tropical forest. Even in the case of writers of distinction I could quote many passages which are painfully ridiculous. One of the greatest modern Italian writers, for instance—who, by the way, in one of his latest novels, copied almost word for word many pages from my books—added the poetic touch that in the tropical forest flowers were found so large that they could not be picked, and fruit so enormous that no human tooth could bite it! Again, the majority of people believe that it is impossible to go through the forest without cutting your way all the time—the "cutting a way through" meaning to most people the constant chopping down of trees of all sizes, undergrowth, bamboos, liane, and other creepers. As a matter of fact, any experienced traveller has much less trouble in going through the forest than people imagine. This is not the case with people unacquainted with the forest, or with people whose sense of observation is not much developed. One can go sometimes for miles through the dense forest without once using knives at all; although necessarily a knife must be carried, as there are places where a cut from its blade will make passing through more comfortable. This is particularly true of the Brazilian forest. The forests of that country, especially in the central region where I was then travelling, were wonderfully clean, when once you entered them, although, when seen from the river, they appeared impenetrable. Near the water, owing to the moisture, there was frequently a thick but narrow belt—only a few metres wide—of dense growth. Beyond it, when you were in the forest itself, nothing grew under the trees, and the ground was just as clean as the best kept English park. One could walk in comfort without the slightest trouble, an occasional well-applied blow with the heavy-bladed knife disentangling in a second an interfering liana which might stand in one's way.
It must not be forgotten that you can get under or over liane, or shift them on one side, without ever having the trouble of severing them. It is only occasionally, when they are entangled, that it saves time to cut them. Barring an occasional thick belt along the Amazon River, it is almost safe to assert that an experienced man can travel, alone, anywhere in the forests of Brazil without carrying a penknife. This is not the case, of course, when you are travelling with a caravan and with baggage, when a sufficiently large passage has to be opened.
In Africa the equatorial forests are incomparably more difficult to traverse than the Brazilian forests, and those who assert the Brazilian forests to be impenetrable only say so because they do not know what they are talking about. Even when it comes to actually chopping down trees in the Brazilian forests, one blow with the axe or with the knife will easily cut down a fair-sized tree. As I have already stated elsewhere, most of the Brazilian forest trees have no resistance whatever. They are full of water, and, with a judicious blow, can be cut almost as easily as celery. Many are the trees also, the inside of which near the ground has been eaten up entirely by ants, and it was not uncommon when you leant heavily against a tree that you and the tree tumbled down. Ants do not seem to attack lactiferous trees, such as those producing rubber, which therefore flourished in that particular region.
Most of the trees in that particular part of the forest were small in diameter, and only had branches or leaves at a very great height. That was why the forests in Brazil looked so extraordinarily clean beneath, in contrast to the equatorial forest in such countries as Central Africa or the Philippine Islands. The wonderful cleanliness of the river, to which I have so often alluded, was a great contrast to the masses of floating decomposing vegetation which is always to be seen in the African rivers.
The minimum temperature during the night of July 13th was 51 deg. Fahr. During that night we were suddenly roused by our dogs barking furiously. We heard strange noises, as if people were trying to run away quickly through the forest. Indians had, much to our surprise, come quite close to our camp, and had it not been for the alarm given by the dogs we should most likely have been attacked by them. In the morning we heard in the distance their war-cries and piercing ululations, which rent the air. Judging merely by the noise they made, there must have been from thirty to fifty of them. My men were greatly excited over this experience. These Indians belonged, I think, to the Tapanhonas tribe.
We left our camp at 7.45 in the morning. As the river was there in an almost straight line for 8 kil., we continued hearing—more and more faintly, of course, as we went on—for some distance the excited yells of the Indians.
The left bank, through which a streamlet cut its way into the Arinos, was fairly open with chapada. An island, 150 m. wide and 200 m. long—Julia Island—was next seen. It had an extensive beach of gravel at its southern end, and the island itself was covered with dense and very beautiful vegetation. Another streamlet 1 m. wide entered the Arinos opposite the island from the left side. Farther on another streamlet, 3 m. wide at the mouth, and coming from the north, flowed into the main stream on the right side. Three and a half kilometres farther another tributary streamlet, also 3 m. wide, was met on the right. We there saw chapada on both banks as we went along, with merely a thin edge of trees along the river.
Where the river described a graceful elbow, a charming tongue of land, with deliciously green grass upon it, was most refreshing to the eyes. A river 8 m. wide at the mouth was met a little way beyond on the left side. We noticed opposite that place a beautiful spot for making a camp, but it was not a convenient hour for us, and so we went along.
About 1,500 m. farther down a long narrow island (200 m. long, 80 m. wide)—Gemma Island—heavily wooded, was passed and admired. It had the usual gravel spit on its southern or up-stream point, the river in that particular spot flowing due north in a perfectly straight line for 4,000 m. The island stood in the centre of a basin 200 m. broad. There were campos and chapada on the left bank.
We landed on the island, and found most beautifully clean forest, nice and cool in the greenish dim light which penetrated through the dense masses of foliage. Particularly noticeable for their beauty were the handsome large mimosas.
On the right bank of the river was forest with plenty of rubber trees, but occasionally even on that side patches of what the Brazilians call serradao (close forest) were met with.
A hill range 120 ft. high formed a crescent from west to north-west on the left side of the stream. A kilometre and a half farther forest was to be seen on the left side of the river; whereas on the right was chapada and campos, quite open. A picturesque rocky island, 15 m. in diameter, in laminated horizontal and rich brown volcanic rock, rose 3 ft. above the water in the centre of the stream. From that spot for 2 kil. I noticed chapada on the right bank; then after that was beautiful dense forest on both sides, with innumerable vigorous rubber trees.
The river there was 200 m. wide and had shallow water with strong corrideiras over enormous parallel transverse dunes of sand and gravel which formed the bottom. Islets of gravel were exposed, especially near the left bank and in the centre, leaving only a more or less navigable channel near the right bank.
We ran aground many a time along the 500 m. of shallow water, varying from 6 in. to 3 ft. deep. We emerged into a large basin 300 m. wide where eddies of no great strength were formed. On the edge of the beautiful basin we halted for our lunch, and to take the usual astronomical observations at local noon. We were in lat. 12 deg. 26'.5 S.; long. 56 deg. 47' W.
I do not know if I have ever seen such swarms of bees and butterflies as I saw at that place. They seemed to swoop down upon us in myriads from all sides. Taking the solar observations with the sextant and artificial horizon, I endured positive torture with the hundreds of bees which settled on my forehead, nose and hands; while thousands of mosquitoes and ants stung my legs, arms and face in those spots where it was not possible to wrap myself up with towels.
It will be noticed in most of the photographs which were taken along the river, and some of which illustrate this book, that all my men have their heads wrapped up. This was done as a protection against the tantalizing insects. The temperature was warm; that day, for instance, was 105 deg. F. in the sun and 86 deg. in the shade.
We left again at 1.15, my men being—for a change—in a good mood, owing to the amusing time we always had fishing. We had been making excellent progress during the last two or three days. The strange man X enlivened our journey with diabolical songs and with crude wit, which sent his companions into fits of laughter. When they were in a merry mood or excited, I noticed that they paddled along much quicker and better, so I did not try to put a check to the abominable language which would have jarred the feelings of any one not born and bred in the interior of Brazil.
It was quite interesting to me to find in that region so much chapada and open country, as I had fully expected to find thick forest all along. What struck me particularly on the Arinos, and which I could not very well explain, was that nearly invariably, when you had thick forest on one side of the stream, you had open country on the other, and only seldom noticed either forest or campos on both sides of the stream at the same time.
After passing chapada on the left bank we came to a great many rocks just above water. A river 3 m. wide entered the Arinos on the right side, and there was to be seen an immense quantity of beautiful rubber trees—as yet untouched by human being. The river kept its width of 200 m. After going along chapada on the left bank for some 3 kil., we came to magnificent forest—this time on both sides—with a luxuriant growth of rubber trees.
The scene, in its wonderful quietude, was most impressive. It made one's heart bleed to think that such rich land should lie unknown and unexploited in these enlightened and enterprising days of the twentieth century.
The sky above us was always interesting, with its typical filaments of mist, their lengthy radiations faintly marked upon the vivid blue of the sky vault and making a centre in the north. These radiations were in appearance not unlike giant ostrich feathers. They were formed, I think, over the great streams which flowed northwards into the Amazon.
We were troubled that day with numerous eddies and shallow water, owing to the great width of the river. Innumerable mounds of gravel rose in the centre of the stream up to a few inches below the water level.
Another hill range, 100 ft. high, met that day was crescent-shaped, the arc of a circle thus described being from south-east by east to north-east.
The hill range on the north-east side of us was eroded, exposing a red vertical wall 60 ft. high. A small river 2 m. wide coming from the east entered the Arinos on the right bank.
For 3,500 m. from that point the stream had an average width of 250 m., and was really magnificent with the wonderful cleanliness of the water—not the slightest impurity, not a speck of wood or a leaf floating upon its surface.
Fourteen kilometres of heavenly navigation—barring X's language and the comments of his companions—and we came to an ideal triangular island, 1,200 m. long, 200 m. wide at its broadest point, with the usual extensive gravel spit at its southern end—Victor Emmanuel Island. The vegetation upon it was too gorgeous for words, but there was no animal life except insects.
Four kilometres farther a basin 300 m. in diameter and from 1 to 6 ft. deep was crossed, in which a strong corrideira was met. The navigable channel was in the centre of the basin. A stream 10 m. wide, of most beautiful crystalline water, which had its origin from the south-west, threw itself into the Arinos on the left side, some 2,000 m. below the basin.
From this point for 8 kil. the river flowed with a slight deviation of 10 deg. in a northerly direction. The left bank of the river was now quite open, with patches of chapada and somewhat taller but still stunted vegetation beyond; a thin row of tall trees lined the river side. On the right bank was luxuriant forest, and again plenty of beautiful rubber trees. Two islets of gravel were next seen.
We were experiencing great difficulty in getting suitable camping places at the right time when we needed them. By 4.30, having come across a spot which seemed suitable, we halted, having gone that day 85 kil. 700 m.
The Tapirus Americanus—Striking Scenery—The Mate Tree—Photography in Camp—Brazilian Way of Reasoning—A New Christopher Columbus—The Selection of our Camps—Beautiful Fruit—A Large Tributary
WE were still at an elevation of 1,100 ft. The water was almost stagnant, and was evidently being held up by some obstacle. I feared that we should soon encounter nasty rapids. Watching the sky, I was generally able to foretell what was ahead of us in the river. In fact, a pretty mackerel sky, particularly to the north-west, showed me that the water of our river must be breaking up considerably, either in rapids or waterfalls, in order to produce sufficient moisture in the air to cause the accumulation of those cloudlets. I always noticed that wherever there were heavy rapids farther down clouds of more or less magnitude formed directly above them at a comparatively low elevation, and remained there owing to the perfect stillness of the air.
On the night of July 14th the cold was felt intensely by my men, the thermometer actually showing a minimum of 38 deg. F.
During the night my men had a great excitement. A large pachyderm, an anta (Tapirus Americanus) inquisitively came in the midst of our camp. It was evidently as much astonished at seeing us as we were in discovering its presence. My men had been firing their cartridges away during the day at rocks, at fish in the river, and so on, so that when their rifles were really needed the magazines were all empty, and gave the anta plenty of time to hop away gracefully into the darkness of the forest.
I had given orders to them to keep watch all night, as a precaution against an attack from the Indians, but my orders were, as usual, disobeyed. Personally, I took the first watch every night, sitting up till 2 a.m., which time I occupied in writing up my notes, working out computations of astronomical observations, classifying the botanical and geological specimens collected during the day, and replenishing my cameras with new plates.
My men had eaten up all the supply of beans (feijao) I had purchased at Diamantino, and therefore even the cook could not be kept awake during the night. The first rubber collector I had picked up when coming down the Arinos was now our cook, and diabolical indeed was his cuisine. Several times already his life had been in danger from the angry attacks of his companions, the quantities of pepper he sprinkled on everything he cooked causing us all to cough sometimes for half-hours at a time. He was very fond of pepper himself, and could not understand why none of us liked it.
During the night we still had a mackerel sky, covering one-third of the sky vault, and a clear triangle of mist, the apex of which was to the west, extending towards the east, close upon the horizon line. When we left in the morning at 7.30, we had chapada and campos on the right bank and forest on the other side. We had gone some 81/2 kil. from our camp when we came to a hill range, 75 ft. high, on the right bank, encircling the river with its thickly wooded slopes. There was a tributary 25 m. wide, a most beautiful stream, on the right bank. It came from 70 deg. b.m. Its water was deliciously clear. Where it entered the Arinos it had deposited a bank of crystals and marble pebbles—yellow, red, and white—which in the dazzling sun shone with great brilliancy at the bottom of the river. Numberless rubber trees were to be seen at that spot on the banks of the Arinos, and also on those of this new important tributary.
Two kilometres farther, where the Arinos was 280 m. wide, it looked just like a big lake of stagnant water. The country was quite open on the left side, first chapada, then campos.
By 9.30 a.m. we had a most wonderful display of clouds and radiations of what looked like so many mares' tales from the W.S.W. The river at that point flowed for 1 kil. in a direction due south. We came to a basin 300 m. across with a spit of white sand on the north-west side. In this basin was an island—Nattali Island—200 m. long, 20 m. wide, 10 ft. above water, with a fine beach of sand and gravel on the south side. Gravel mounds were innumerable in the centre of this stream.
After we had gone some 8 kil. farther down my men shot an ariranha. They had a belief that these ariranhas would easily kill a man in the water. As we have already seen, they certainly had a great craving for blood and were always brave in attacking. My men called them "water leopards." In fact, the head of the ariranha was not unlike the head of a cat or a leopard. Although shot through the body two or three times, the ariranha actually came thrice to the attack of the canoe—so that my men were able to seize it by the tail and pull it inside the canoe while it was in a dying condition.
Sixteen kilometres farther down we came to another beautiful tributary with delightfully clear water, 6 m. wide where it met the Arinos. One hundred metres lower down another little tributary, only 4 m. wide, also on the right bank, joined our stream. The first tributary seemed to come from the north-east. At the mouth of this tributary was a spot which would have made a lovely halting place, but as it was too early in the day we reluctantly went on in a north-westerly direction, first for 4 kil., then north-east for 5 kil., passing through a large basin 300 m. wide, containing two islets, then passing charming sand-beaches, and farther on another tributary, 8 m. wide, on the left of us, also with deliciously clear water. When we proceeded on our journey after lunch we found big rocks more frequent in the stream, and went over a field of great boulders just under the surface of the water that stretched half-way across the shallow river.
Eight kilometres from our halting-place we came to an extensive stony place with a strong rapid. One kilometre beyond, a small tributary flowed into the Arinos from the left side. On the left side we had a red and brilliant yellow bank 70 ft. high, part of a small range of hills which turned the river from N.N.W. to N.N.E. Another small tributary 2 m. wide was seen on the left side. Then, 4 kil. farther on, another tributary, also 2 m. wide, and also on the left side, came from the south-west. Three thousand six hundred metres beyond this, we entered a basin 320 m. wide with an island 150 m. long, including its gravel spit. Three more islands were seen a little way beyond—Meraud, Tanis, and Loel Islands, Meraud being the largest. Another island was on the left of the river, leaving a passage 50 m. wide on its west side. The group of islands was of alluvial formation with deposits of gravel below.
The river in that region was too beautiful for words. The foliage of the thick heavy forest on both sides was densely green, the banks most tidy, and running in an almost straight line for 10,000 m. During all that distance the stream was 300 m. wide, and its speckless water reflected with marvellous definition each leaf and branch against the background of deep green. Neat gravel banks occurred frequently in the shallow water.
Some 300 m. down this long straight stretch of river a tributary 8 m. wide, coming from 210 deg. b.m., threw itself into the Arinos. Strong eddies were formed, as many rocks were strewn in the centre of the stream.
One kilometre farther a conglomerate mass of granite and yellow and red lava, with impurities embedded in it, emerged just above the water in the centre of the stream.
Another streamlet, 2 m. wide, and of wonderfully limpid water, joined the Arinos on the right side. It came from the north-east. Then another little streamlet was seen on the left side.
At the end of 10 kil., where the river made a wide angle from 330 deg. b.m. to 350 deg. b.m., and another straight line of 4,000 m. stretched in front of us, we beheld a huge submerged bank of sharp volcanic conglomerate rock. In fact, we unexpectedly almost ran into it. Had we done so at the rate at which we were travelling, our canoe would certainly have been smashed to pieces against the sharp-edged fractured rock—just as sharp at the angles as the blades of knives.
Where the river turned once more from 350 deg. b.m. to 320 deg. b.m. another small tributary appeared on the right bank, and there a lot of handsome mate trees (Ilex paraguayensis) seemed to flourish, and were certainly pretty to look at.
Farther down we again came to chapada on the left bank and heavy foliaged forest with a certain number of rubber trees on the right bank. The left bank, where it described a great sweeping circle, was low and sandy, some 12 ft. above the level of the river. Only a thin fringe of low trees grew there on the edge of the water.
Six kilometres from the last tributary on the right bank another streamlet, 3 m. wide, coming from the S.S.W., cut its way through the left bank. Two thousand five hundred metres farther on another tributary 20 m. wide—a deliciously beautiful stream—flowed gracefully into the Arinos on the right side from the north-east.
We made our camp at the junction of the two streams. The camp was extremely bad. It was already late in the evening and we could find no other suitable spot. We had gone that day 83 kils. I was quite satisfied with the progress we had made during the last few days. During the evening I made an excursion on foot along the tributary river to the north-east for several kilometres, but I found nothing of particular interest.
During the night we received another visit from an anta, but the pachyderm again escaped before my men had time to kill it. We heard cries of Indians in the distance. My men were in a great state of mind for fear we should be attacked. I sat up the entire night in order to be ready in case of emergency.
I took that opportunity of computing and checking many of the astronomical observations I had taken, and developing a great number of photographic glass plates.
In my experience I have found that the fears people have of spoiling negatives unless one is shut up in an absolutely dark room are quite exaggerated. On that particular occasion, for instance, and on many previous and subsequent occasions, I developed the glass plates—and I think with satisfactory results—out in the open, with merely the fly-leaf of the tent sheltering me overhead so as not to have the direct rays of the stars shining upon the photographic plates. Indeed, there was light enough coming in around the tent for me to see quite plainly what was going on outside. I simply covered up the developing trays as an extra precaution, and seldom—in fact, never—spoiled a negative in process of development.
I also found developing tanks quite serviceable when a great number of negatives had to be developed quickly. The red lamp necessary for photographic work was invariably a great nuisance. I do not believe that a compact, practical dark-room lamp has yet been invented which is really serviceable to an explorer. If it is a candle lamp the candle melts quickly in those hot countries, producing an extra large flame which generally cracks the red glass, and makes so much smoke that the upper aperture becomes blocked and puts the light out when you happen to be at the most crucial point of your work.
The oil lanterns would be better, were it not for the difficulty and messy nuisance of carrying and re-filling the lamp each time with oil. Electric lights, which are the only practical ones, of course are out of the question when you have to be away for a year or a year and a half, the storage batteries getting damaged easily by damp and the innumerable accidents which you have when exploring.
The greatest care had to be used in repacking the developed glass plates. I owe to the care I took of them that I was able to bring back 800 excellent negatives out of 800 glass plates exposed.
The night was a little warmer than usual on July 15th—minimum 53 deg. F. There was a heavy mist over the river when we rose in the morning, and we had to delay our departure until 7.30 a.m. When the mist began to rise it hung about in beautiful curves converging to a common radiating centre to the west.
During the night I had noticed a weird lunar effect—a perfect cross of immense proportions intersecting the crescent moon, which had a radiating halo surrounding it.
Four thousand metres from our camp we came to a tributary 3 m. wide on the left side of the river. It came from the W.S.W. Near this a streamlet 1 m. wide entered the Arinos on the right side, and another streamlet of equal size farther down on the left bank. There was fairly thin forest on both sides as we went on, kilometre after kilometre, the water of the river being almost stagnant in that part and heavy to paddle along.
Five hundred metres down the straight stretch of river, 4,000 m. long, we came to another charming affluent, 10 m. wide, coming from the E.S.E. Farther on, another tributary 2 m. wide entered the Arinos on the left side, and formed a shallow bank of gravel extending half-way across the stream.
As I have stated elsewhere, the mentality of Brazilians was somewhat difficult to understand by people of any other nation. They did everything the wrong way, according to our notions. I had been worried a great deal, the reader may remember, at the most unpractical way in which my men loaded the animals when I had my caravan of mules and horses. I had been more than amazed at Brazilian ideas of architecture, sculpture, painting and music. I had on many occasions been dumbfounded at their ideas of honour and truthfulness. Now once more I was sickly amused—I had by then ceased to be amazed or dumbfounded or angry—at the way my men daily packed the baggage in the canoe. The baggage was naturally taken out of the canoe every night when we made our camp, for the canoe leaked so badly that when we arrived anywhere and halted we had to beach her, or else, where this was not possible, we found her in the morning almost entirely submerged. Naturally we invariably selected shallow places where we could bale the water out and float her again.
Returning to the baggage: the men every morning insisted on loading the canoe in front, where the four men were situated paddling, and the three dogs of the expedition were also accommodated. I sat in the centre of the canoe, and Alcides at the helm naturally stood in the stern. The man whose incessant daily occupation it was to bale out the water of course had to be with the group of four men in the bow, since, the canoe being so heavily weighted at that end, the water found its way down there.
Now, loading the canoe in such a fashion, at the bow, had the double drawback of causing a greater resistance against the water, and therefore nearly doubling the work of the men in paddling. Then again, when we ran aground or struck a rock, the impact was more severe on the canoe—not to speak of the difficulty of getting her off again. The steering, too, was also much more difficult with the stern of the canoe so far out of the water.
I pointed out the mistake to my men, but it was no use arguing, and they refused to follow my advice. Like all ignorant people, they thought they knew everything better than anybody else, and as, in a way, they were the chief sufferers for their own conceit, I thought I would avoid unpleasantness and let them do things their own way as long as we kept going forward on our journey.
Alcides, too, who by now had become imbued with the idea that he was as good a navigator as Christopher Columbus or Vasco da Gama, had the strangest notions of navigation. He never avoided grounding the canoe on every bank he saw; he never avoided dashing the canoe into every rock which stood or did not stand in our way. I never could understand exactly why he did that, except for the mischievous pleasure he derived from giving the men who were sitting at the other end of the canoe a violent bump, which often rolled them over altogether.
When we left Goyaz my men insisted on purchasing life-belts in case we should be travelling by water. As only one of the Goyaz men could swim, I had gladly given them the money to purchase those articles. On our first day of navigation the men amused me very much, as they all appeared garbed in their life-belts, as if we had been going to the rescue of a stranded ship in a tempest. I laughed heartily at the sight. The intense heat of the sun made the heavy cork belts so uncomfortable for them, that they discarded them when they saw that the canoe would actually float on the water, and packed them away inside a wooden box, which they then screwed down tight. The belts remained in that box most of the time, except one day when a man put one on, as I had given him instructions to go some way off in the centre of the stream where the current was rather swift. By misadventure he lost his footing, and had we not been quick in going to his rescue he certainly would have been drowned.
We tested the life-belts, and I found that not only would they not float after they had been a minute or two in the water, but they became so heavy when soaked with moisture that they would have dragged to the bottom even a fair swimmer. They were evidently old discarded ship belts. The cork, enclosed in a canvas cover, had got decomposed and pulverized, and therefore rendered useless.
As we are referring to the strange ways of looking at things by different nations, I might as well include the endless arguments I had with my men in selecting our camps. I naturally always selected the cleanest spots with a flat ground, so that the tents could be pitched satisfactorily without extra trouble, where there was little vegetation, and where the water was good. My men always quarrelled over this, and insisted on stopping in the filthiest places, either where some trees, rotted away, had fallen down, where the vegetation on the edge of the river needed cutting, and where the ground had to be levelled before I could pitch my camp bed. They always preferred sleeping under the stifling vegetation to where there was an open space and we had the clear sky over us.
They all slept in hammocks—the favourite resting arrangement of the Brazilian—to my mind the most uncomfortable and absurd fashion of resting, especially in tropical regions. First of all, it is almost an impossibility to assume a perfectly horizontal position for your entire body, except—if you are an expert—diagonally; then there is always a certain amount of swing and you are likely to tumble over at any moment; you can never keep the blankets in position, and you expose your entire body to the stings of the mosquitoes, flies and other insects, and of the ants which crawl into your hammock by hundreds from the trees in which they swarm. It was not uncommon when we camped to hear during the night a crash, followed immediately after by oaths. The tree to which one of the hammocks had been fastened had suddenly broken and let the man down with a bump. Then again, the mischievous ants took the greatest delight during the night in cutting the strings of the hammocks, and on several occasions my followers had nasty falls. Yet the Brazilians swear by hammocks.
Another stream 2 m. wide, coming from the north, entered the Arinos on the right bank. A number of ariranhas, attracted by the vivid red of the British flag which was flying at the stern of the canoe, followed us for some time and came courageously to the attack, showing their teeth fiercely at us and snarling frantically. Entire families of those delightful little creatures were seen, and they invariably gave us a similar hearty greeting. They followed us sometimes for hundreds and hundreds of metres, and became most excited when I took the flag and waved it at them, and sometimes placed it near the water in order to drive them frantic.
We now had most beautiful forest on both sides. A stream 5 m. wide joined the Arinos on the left side from the west, forming a charming little waterfall as it entered the main stream. A little farther on the right was another streamlet, coming from the south-east. Generally, as in this case, when we reached tributary streams of any importance, gravel banks extended and blocked a great part of, sometimes even half, the main stream.
A picturesque stream, 8 m. wide, coming from the north-east, was then reached on the right side. It flowed through a rocky gate. Five or six kilometres farther on a tiny streamlet dribbled into the Arinos, and also another, 1 m. wide, on the left bank.
At noon that day the sky was extraordinarily interesting. From the north-west extended a wonderful succession of loop coils of transparent mist, giving the sky the appearance of a peacock's extended tail.
Just before we halted for lunch we came to a charming streamlet of delicious water, 2 m. wide, on the right bank.
The days were getting warmer as we advanced farther north. It was hot work sitting in the sun—105 deg. F. that day—to take observations for latitude and longitude. In the shade the thermometer registered 89 deg. F. Lat. 12 deg. 21'.3 S.; long. 57 deg. 16' W.
After lunch, 21/2 kil. from our camp, we passed on the left bank a delightful tributary coming from the W.S.W. Its mouth was 8 m. wide, and poured forth waters of the most beautiful emerald green.
Five hundred metres farther down another large tributary, 30 m. wide, coming from the north-east, was observed on the right bank. Farther still, the river formed a large basin 300 m. wide. Lovely forest flourished round the sweeping curve of the basin. There was simply a solid mass of marvellously fresh foliage, with hardly a break through which, it seemed, a human being could pass. In that particular part the leaves came right down to the water, but there was no reason to suppose that they grew equally low inland.
The stream, which was 250 m. broad, showed farther on an immense bank of gravel 700 m. long, which rose above the surface in the shape of two long islands—one 300 m., the other 400 m. in length.
We felt the heat considerably going down the river, as we were always in the sun in the centre of the stream, with a temperature seldom less than 105 deg. F. Especially where thick forest was on both sides of us, there seemed to be no air close to the water. When we came to patches of chapada and open country we could breathe a little better. Several were the tributary streamlets to which we came that afternoon. First we saw one rivulet, 1 m. wide, on the right bank, then 13 kil. 500 m. farther on another affluent, 3 m. wide, coming from the north-east, also on the right bank; then 1,500 m. farther a rivulet 1/2 m. wide, coming from the south-west (left bank); then 4,500 m. farther a charming stream, 6 m. wide, coming from the north, and meeting with the Arinos near an extensive stony place with shallow and troublesome water. Strong eddies formed at that spot. One more streamlet, 1 m. wide, was reached that day on the right. It came from the north-east.
The river had that day flowed almost continuously in directions varying from north-west to north, barring two sections where its course had been 10 deg. east of north.
After passing the last tributary the river described a sweeping curve, gradually turning so far back as to flow in a south-westerly (240 deg. b.m.) direction.
There was there shallow water with gravel banks in the centre of the stream. Curiously enough, we did not notice so much rubber close to the river in that region, but in an excursion a short distance from the water we came upon Siphonia elastica trees, not only along the Arinos but also along the tributaries.
We halted that day at sunset, having gone 73 kil. 400 m.; which, although much less than the previous days, was still fair going for us.
Ideal Islands—Immense Figueira Trees—The "Spider Monkey"—Great Variety of Fish in the Arinos—The Rocky Gateway into Diabolical Waters—Shooting Dangerous Rapids—Cutting a Way through the Forest—A Nasty Rapid—Plentiful Fish
THE night of July 16th was heavy, the thermometer registering a minimum temperature of 62 deg.F. We had great fun fishing during the early hours of the night. In the morning we had hundreds of pounds of fish spread upon the bank of the river, with many excellent specimens of the motimchun fish—so called, I believe, because of its noisy and rebellious habits.
The sky was overladen with clouds, and the west showed radiations of light. We had gone 2,500 m. from our camp when we came to a tributary stream on the left side coming from the south. Four thousand four hundred metres farther on, a hill-range 120 ft. high, with heavy forest upon it, encircled a sweeping curve on the left of us to the west and north-west. The cliff of this range, eroded by the river, showed rock of a vivid red right up to its highest point, laminated in perfectly horizontal layers, each 10 ft. thick. Farther on a great basin 350 m. wide and of great beauty had formed.
Some 10 kil. beyond a beautiful beach of white sand was noticeable on the left bank. We were always glad to see these beaches, as we frequently found on them quantities of tortoise eggs—most delicious to eat.
An island—Gabriella Island—200 m. long divided the river into two channels, the larger one of which—200 m. wide—we followed; the other being but 30 m. broad and much strewn with rocks. The river, from the point where we met the sand beach, flowed in a S.S.W. direction for 6,500 m., when it gradually resumed its course northward. The island, thickly wooded, was extremely beautiful, with trees of great size upon it. Quantities of ariranhas were to be found near this island, and they came straight for us with their mouths open, shrieking wildly and snarling and spitting like cats. I was always amazed at their bravery, as they came right on while being shot at by my men, the reports of the rifles enraging them to absolute frenzy.
Shortly after we came to another most beautiful, oval-shaped island, 350 m. long—Maude Island—in a basin extending from east to west for a breadth of not less than 500 m.
Another island—Vera Island—150 m. long and of an elongated shape, was seen in the same basin. It also had luxuriant vegetation upon it, whereas, curiously enough, the banks on either side of the great basin showed chapada with stunted trees. Farther on, where a small tributary entered the Arinos on the left side, the country seemed quite open beyond the narrow fringe of trees along the water.
Another streamlet 3 m. wide flowed into the Arinos from the north-east on the right bank. The main river there was of a width of 400 m.
Another great island—Luiz Schnoor Island—also most beautiful, like the others, was next seen. We halted on it for our midday meal, and to take the usual astronomical observations. The sky had, by that time, become beautifully clear, of a dense cobalt blue, and I was able to take twenty-three sights of the sun. I generally took a great many sights with the sextant and artificial horizon, in order to define the latitude and longitude with greater accuracy. We were then in lat. 11 deg. 38'.4 S.; long. 57 deg. 35' W.
Gorgeous gamelleira or figueira trees (ficus) were to be seen on that island, standing high up upon arches formed by vigorous roots. In a way the lower part of those figueiras resembled a huge octopus, the branches being extremely contorted as they clung to the ground in order to support the weight of the giant tree of which they made part. One could easily walk under the tree among the roots and still have six or eight feet of space left above one's head.
As I went round to explore the island while my men were cooking the dinner, I discovered a small lake in the centre of the island—a most poetic spot, with its neat, delightful vegetation all round it reflected as in a mirror in the golden waters which reproduced in a deeper tone the rich sunset tints of the sky above. I sat myself down to look at the beautiful scene. The poetry vanished at once. There were millions of ants which swarmed all over me the moment I sat down upon the ground, and bit me with such fury that I had to remove my clothes in the greatest haste and jump into the water. That raised a cloud of mosquitoes, which made it most uncomfortable for me when I came out again and was busy searching for ants in my clothes.
My men killed a beautiful long-armed spider monkey. I was sorry, as I had watched the wonderful jumps of this animal from one tree to another. Using the impetus of the swing which they could obtain from the immense length of their arms, as well as the swing of the branch on which they were hanging, they could fly enormous distances through the air. The span from hand to hand in proportion to the size of the body was really amazing.
Luiz Schnoor Island was 450 m. long. Plenty of rubber trees were to be seen on the right bank of the river after passing this great island, especially where the river described a large sweeping curve towards the north-east.
Farther on, close to the right bank, an island 100 m. long and 5 ft. high, of yellow sand and gravel, showed brilliantly with its vivid colouring upon the blue waters of the river. For identification' sake I named it Gravel Island on the map I was making of the river. I seemed to be in fairyland—but for the company of my men—as I floated down the stream, there 400 m. wide.
We had gone hardly 4 kil. when we came to another ideal island—Margherita Island—400 m. long and 200 m. wide, with magnificent trees upon it. A small stream joined the Arinos on the left side. Lower down stream we had thin forest on both sides, with some remarkable oleo trees, with their minute grey leaves and the branches, laden with red berries, drooping—weeping-willow-like—right down in the water.
Next we came to sand and gravel banks with islets 1 ft. high emerging from the water in the centre of the river, all those little islets displaying verdant grass on their southern side and pure white sand on the northern side.
The river was at that point flowing in a N.N.E. direction. Then came a long straight line of 6,000 m. of river flowing to 305 deg. b.m. About half-way through this long stretch the stream divided into two large arms, one in direct continuation of the above bearings, the other in a curve, encircling an island 1,000 m. broad. The basin—as still as a lake—in which this island was situated was not less than 1,500 m. across. The island—Charles Landor Island—was 2,000 m. in length. It had plenty of rubber trees upon it, and plenty were to be seen also on the banks. We went some 8 or 10 kil. farther that night, and at five o'clock we halted, having made poor progress that day—only 60 kil.
Immense quantities of fish could be seen in the river. No sooner had we made camp than we got out lines and hooks of all sizes, which we baited with pieces of toucinho. One end of the bigger lines we made fast to trees, as the fish we often caught were so powerful that on several occasions they had dragged us into the water and we lost not only the fish but the line as well. We had great sport that night and caught quantities of trahira (Macradon trahira)—not unlike a giant salmon and quite as good to eat; and also some surubim (Platystoma Lima), a large fish belonging to the herring family. The surubim was flat-headed, and not unlike the pintado fish which I have described in a previous chapter. It had thin scales over the body, and an abnormally powerful lower jaw, with vicious-looking, sharply-pointed teeth on the edge of the upper and lower lip. These curiously situated teeth were far apart, and so firmly inserted in the hard lips that it took a violent blow to remove them.
Although after a few minutes we had killed fish enough to last us—had we been able to preserve it—for some weeks, my men sat up the greater part of the night hauling quantities to the bank. The excitement each time a fish 80 or 100 lb. in weight was hauled out of the water was considerable. The wild yells and exquisite language whenever one of my men was dragged into the water kept me awake the entire night.
We left that camp at 7.30 on July 17th, the minimum temperature having been 66 deg. F. during the night. Heavy globular clouds covered the entire sky. We were then in a region extraordinarily rich in rubber; quantities of Siphonia elastica trees were to be seen. It made one's heart bleed to think that nobody was there to collect the riches of that wonderful land.
The river flowed in short sections from north-west to north-north-east, barring a long stretch of 4,000 m., when we came to a great basin 600 m. wide, with two large islands in it; the eastern island—Orlando Island—being 100 m. wide, the western—Elizabeth Chimay Island—220 m. broad and not less than 500 m. long. South of both these islands were islets of gravel 50 m. each in diameter.
Nine thousand five hundred metres below these islands an important tributary, 8 m. wide, flowed into the Arinos from the right bank. It came from the south-east. Close to the left bank, from which it had been separated by the current, leaving a channel only 5 m. wide, another island—Isabel Island—300 m. long was found.
Shortly afterwards we came to a big equilateral-triangular island—Armida Island—fully 1 kil. a side. Albert Island, next to it, was of a narrow elongated shape.
From the beginning of Armida Island the river flowed for 4,000 m. in a direct line to 310 deg. b.m. Four large rocks in a cluster stood in the centre of the stream at the north-north-westerly end of the island. Then we had another stretch of 4,300 m., during which the river was squeezed through a narrow neck, 100 m. wide, between low rocks. Immediately afterwards we emerged into a bay 800 m. broad, with three islets on one side of it. They were rather dry and somewhat mean-looking. I called them Faith, Hope, and Charity Islands.
After that the river was 800 m. wide. A deposit of gravel some 300 m. long was exposed on the right side beyond the last island of the group.
Three kilometres farther we halted for an hour or so, just time enough for me to take the latitude and longitude and for our lunch to be cooked. The usual torture had to be endured from the innumerable insects. The heat was also terrible—107 deg. F. in the sun, 93 deg. in the shade. Lat. 11 deg. 23'.9 S.; long. 57 deg. 39' W.
When we left, we saw 3,500 m. beyond our halting place, beside a great heap of rocks on the left side of the river, a rivulet, 3 m. wide, entering the Arinos on the left.
From that spot the river was contracted from a width of 800 m. to one of only 120 m. Naturally the water was of great depth and the current swift.
Two great volcanic rocks stuck out in the centre of the stream, and two extensive heaps of volcanic rock stood on the right side of us, the rocks being at all angles in a confused mass. Where these rocks were—a spot which my men called the "porteira" or gateway—the river turned sharply from 70 deg. b.m. to 290 deg. b.m. The water seemed almost stagnant there, and we had to make a great effort to get on. It seemed as if there had been an undercurrent pushing us back. The water was surely held up by some obstacle, and I feared we had at last reached the extensive rapids which I had expected for some days. Rocks were to be seen in abundance all along, and three more sets of giant boulders were reached, one after the other, in the centre of the river, there only 150 m. broad. Strange heaps of broken-up boulders of immense size were to be seen on the right bank; then farther on more great heaps in confusion on the left bank.
A tiny rivulet found its way among the rocks on the right side. The channel was much strewn with dangerous submerged rocks. I thought I would take the navigation into my own hands for a little while, and found a comparatively easy channel on the left side of the river close to the bank.
As I had expected, the rumbling noise of troubled waters was getting louder and louder, and the whitish mist which rose above the horizon line was an unmistakable sign that we had come to a dangerous spot. Soon after, in fact, we arrived at a large circular basin, some 600 m. in diameter, with rocks in the centre of it. Two clusters of magnificent rocks, 30 ft. high, towered on the left side of the river. Then came a long row of rocks, also gigantic, and a sandy beach which had accumulated against them. A little farther another great mass of rocks in disorder stood up against the now once more fierce current.
We made our way tentatively along what seemed to us the safest channel, to 320 deg. b.m., and with trepidation shot the rapids, which were quite fearsome. I must say for my men that by now they had acquired a certain amount of courage—courage, like all things, being a matter of training after all. We went down at a terrific speed amidst the splashing waters, shaving dangerous rocks and escaping collision by miracle. When we got to the bottom of the rapid we were shot into the whirlpool, which we might have avoided with ease had Alcides obeyed the orders I shouted to him.
When I had shot the rapids before in other countries, I had always avoided getting into the centre of the whirlpool; but Alcides, who had never navigated a river before, held the contrary idea, and always insisted on steering the canoe right into the centre of those dangerous rotating waters.
It was sufficient to remonstrate as I did, for Alcides to do a thing over and over again with the persistency of a mule, in order to maintain what he thought was his amour-propre. As it was, on that occasion, the canoe swerved round with such force that she nearly turned over, and got so filled with water that we had to struggle out of the difficulty as best we could and beach her, or she would have sunk.
At that point an island 400 m. long and 50 m. wide divided the river into two channels. The western channel had a small island of white sand and many rocks on its southern side. Pretty yellow flowers grew wherever a little earth had accumulated upon the rocks.
After going 1,800 m. we found a great basin 600 m. wide with a rocky island and barrier right across it.
Farther on innumerable rocks of all sizes could be seen on the left bank; and 1,500 m. beyond these, where a solid rock rose in the centre of the stream, eddies of wonderful power were produced in the stream.
We glanced at a magnificent island of rock on the left side as we sped along swiftly with the current; but we were so busy with the difficult navigation, and expecting accidents at any moment—what else could I expect with the disobedient, unpractical, obstinate crew I had with me?—that I had not much time to admire the picturesqueness of the scenery.
I had quite foreseen that it was impossible to avoid disaster sooner or later, so that all I could do was to think of which would be the best way to minimize its effects, when it did come.
In the great circular basin which was formed in the river there was a passage to the west, which I did not like at all, so I ordered my men to follow the passage to the north-east. We met there violent eddies which knocked the canoe about in a most alarming manner soon after we had descended a short rapid of some steepness.
Our baggage was simply soaked owing to the amount of water we had shipped on various occasions during the day. We saw ahead of us, only a short distance off, a rapid of some magnitude. We decided to halt at four o'clock in order that we might go and explore on foot along the bank and see whether the canoe could be navigated down, or if we had better unload her and let her down with ropes. We cut a space in the forest, which was there thick, in order to make our camp. We spread all our things to dry during the night. The air was stifling—we had a minimum temperature of 73 deg. F. (July 18th).
I took the accurate elevation of the camp with the hypsometrical apparatus, water boiling at that spot at 210 deg..4, with the temperature of the air 73 deg. F.; altitude 1,113 ft. above sea level. I also took observations for latitude and longitude: Lat. 11 deg. 17'.5 S.; long. 57 deg. 37' W. We had to remain the entire morning in order to cut a way through the forest and take part of the most valuable baggage on men's backs until a point below the rapids was reached.
We named that place Camp Jahu, as we caught there several enormous fish of that name.
In a reconnaissance we made we found that from Camp Jahu we had to take the canoe along among innumerable rocks scattered in the only navigable channel on the north side of a basin 700 m. wide, with a large island 350 m. wide—Sarah Island—on the southern side of the bay, and another smaller island almost in the centre of the basin. There was a drop 2 ft. high—a regular step—in a barrier of sharply-pointed rocks. We had some two hours' hard work in order to get the canoe safely down. The rocks were so close together that we could not find a passage large enough for the canoe, and we actually had to pull her out of the water over some rocks and then let her down gently on the other side.
After leaving that great pedraria there was a clear basin 250 m. wide, ending where two enormous heaps of rock formed a giant gateway. An island, 80 m. wide—Rebecca Island—was found near the left cluster of rocks. Another small island had formed close to the right of the river. We descended by the north-easterly passage, only 4 m. wide, where the current was extremely swift but the rapid comparatively easy to negotiate.
We then followed the channel flowing to 350 deg. b.m., and after passing innumerable rocks made our camp again before coming to a large rapid which we heard rumbling in that direction.
We had worked hard all that day, and all the progress we had made by sunset was a distance of 2,000 m.—or a little more than one mile.
Alcides, Antonio and I immediately proceeded to cut a trail through the forest from that point down to the end of the rapid, 1,200 m. farther down. Then we proceeded to take all the baggage upon our shoulders—a task which occupied several hours. I was greatly surprised to find that the men did this willingly enough, although they were unaccustomed to carrying and the loads were heavy. They laughed heartily at one another as they struggled under the heavy weights, or trod upon thorns, or were jerked about with knocking against trees—the passage we had cut being necessarily not spacious.
I had not seen my men so jolly for a long time—in fact, I do not remember ever having seen them so jolly. I was in hopes that this state of affairs might last, as it was certainly not pleasant to be travelling in such usually morose company.
During the night we caught an immense jahu, weighing over 50 lb., as well as some 200 lb. of smaller fish. As the bank of the stream was rather high and steep, we had a great deal of trouble to land the larger fish safely. Some of my men had exciting experiences, one man falling into the water on receiving a powerful blow from the tail of the struggling jahu. The scene was a comic one, the terror of the man being amusing to watch.
We carried a great quantity of salt; with it my men set out to preserve the best portions of the fish we had caught—a precaution of which I fully approved.
I noticed that whenever we came across rocky places the number of insects increased to an enormous extent, especially mosquitoes and gnats. I think it was due principally to the fact that in those rocks many cavities were found which got filled with stagnant water which eventually became putrefied.
The place where we halted we called Abelha Camp, because of the millions of bees which worried us to death there, not to speak of the swarms of flies, mosquitoes and ants, and myriads of butterflies which came to settle in swarms upon us. It was indeed curious to note the wonderful tameness of the latter, as they had never seen a human being before.
There was a nasty-looking rapid close to the camp. We had to let the empty canoe down carefully by means of ropes, my men on that particular occasion donning their lifebelts again, although they walked on dry land when they were taking the canoe along. When I asked them why they put them on, they said that perhaps the canoe might drag them into the water and they had no wish to get drowned.
We left that camp late in the afternoon—at three o'clock—having wasted the entire morning conveying the canoe to a spot of safety and then carrying all the baggage along overland.
After having gone some 2 kil. farther we came to another rapid and a pedraria with nasty rocks right across the channel, the only passage I could see possible for our canoe being in the centre of the stream. That channel was only a few metres wide, and had in the centre of it a large rock just under the surface, which flung the water up in the air. We just managed to shoot that rapid safely, although with trembling hearts.
Farther down, rocks innumerable, rising only two or three feet above water, spread half-way across the channel from the right side. Then rapids and strong eddies were encountered. For 700 m. the river showed foliated rock strewn all along on both banks, and great volcanic boulders of a more rounded shape. The foliation showed a dip westward of 45 deg..
We were delighted when we discovered in that region many solveira or sorveira trees, or milk trees, exuding when incised milk most delicious to drink. Then there were plenty of figueiras or gameilleiras and wild bananas. We wasted much time extracting milk from the solveiras and eating wild fruit.
Monkeys were to be seen in that part. They seemed most astonished on perceiving us, and came quite close, gazing at us in the most inquisitive manner.
We felt that we had come to a real heaven on earth, except for the river, which could have given points to the River Styx of infernal fame.
When we returned to the canoe we found obstructions of all kinds in the stream. Small rapid succeeded small rapid. Rocky islets and scattered rocks rendered navigation complicated.
Where the river turned sharply to the N.N.E. another dangerous rapid was reached, with rocks scattered all over the channel, some just submerged. We tried to shoot that rapid on the east side, but we got badly stuck on a submerged rock, and once more the canoe filled with water. It took us the best part of an hour to extricate ourselves from our uncomfortable position.
A beautiful island 400 m. long and 200 m. wide—Maria Island—was then reached. It had a long spur of white sand at its south-easterly end, and pretty vegetation upon it. Strange domes of rock were near by, one particular dome of great size showing a spit of white sand 70 m. long, on its north-westerly side. Many other islets of rock rose above the water along the bank of the larger island, while rapids of some magnitude existed at the end of the island.
We hardly ever came to a stretch of placid water. No sooner had we left the last rapid than, the river turning sharply at that point, we went over a strong corrideira, so strewn with obstacles that in the terrific current we had a narrow escape of having our unmanageable, long canoe smashed against one of the innumerable rocks.
As we went on at a great speed I had just time to notice rocks of all sizes and shapes along both banks, and strange rocks in the middle of the river, one or two of them with stunted trees growing in fissures which had become filled with earth.
Another island, 300 m. long—Martia Island—with a picturesque spur of rock at its south-easterly end, was next reached as we were going swiftly down a corrideira in the channel to the right which we were following.
After the corrideira, as I was busy writing a description of the landscape, I was thrown off my seat. My men also had a similar experience, the canoe nearly turning turtle and becoming filled with water. Alcides had steered us right into the centre of a whirlpool.
These unexpected baths were not much to my taste—not so much for the discomfort they caused my person, as for the trouble they gave me in protecting my notebooks and instruments. Also, in these accidents we lost a considerable amount of our supply of salt, which melted away in the water, and the supply of flour and rice suffered from these unnecessary immersions.
A channel 30 m. wide separated Martia Island from a second island—Camilla Island—100 m. long, which must once certainly have formed part of it, but which had been separated by the eroding waters of the stream. Both islands were wooded, and were extremely pretty. Great heaps of rock, 20 m. in diameter and even more, occupied the centre of the stream after we had passed the last island.
We had only gone 12 kil. 300 m. that day, so difficult had been the navigation.
During the night in less than one hour we caught two large jahu, one huge pacu (Prochilodus argentius), the latter shaped like a sole, but of a much greater size, and with brilliant red patches on its body—a most delicately-tasting fish to eat—and a number of large trahira (Machrodon trahira), also called by the Brazilians rubaffo because of the noise they make in the water. Altogether over 200 lb. of fish were got out of the water in less than sixty minutes.
We found many jenipapeiros (or genipapeiro) trees, from the stewed bark of which we made excellent tea. Its fruit was good to eat, and we used it for making sweets.
During the night of July 19th the minimum temperature was 67 deg. F.
We started off gaily enough in the morning, passing first a great boulder, 10 m. in diameter, sticking right out of the water; then an island 200 m. long contained in a basin 500 m. wide. We left the island—Ruby Island—which was 80 m. long, on our left, and went down a channel with strong eddies and whirlpools. Looking back at the eastern channel, we were glad we had not followed it, as it was extremely rocky.
The river was contracting in narrow necks and expanding into large basins, another of these being 450 m. broad. A strong rapid existed here, owing to the barrier formed across the stream by a central island of rock and other boulders. After that came a basin 700 m. wide, with three islands—Teffe I., Nair I., Rock I.—in its western part. The central and eastern passages were difficult owing to the quantity of rocks which stood in the way, so we took the canoe down the channel from S.S.W. to N.N.E., which was also extremely bad, and where we had to let her down with the greatest care by means of ropes, the baggage having been previously unloaded. Even then the canoe got filled with water. That involved a great loss of time and waste of energy, so that we had to halt longer than usual in the middle of the day.
Our halting place was most picturesque, situated on volcanic rocks of great beauty, and overlooking a canal cut into the rocks, with strong and foaming rapids from east to west. Strong eddies formed at the end of the rapids.
After leaving the camp and negotiating the rapids, we came to an island 150 m. long—Magda Island—separated by a rocky narrow channel from another island, 50 m. long, west of it.
After the last rapid we were in a basin 800 m. wide and 1,000 m. long. Strong corrideiras or rapids occurred all the time, and rocks alone or in groups standing wherever they were not wanted. Farther on we came to another big basin, 1,000 m. wide, with a square island on its western side. The island—Eva Island—was 400 m. broad and of course of an equal length.
Another island, triangular in shape, 700 m. long—Rose Island—was then observed, after we had gone over some strong rapids in the passage on the east side of it.
The river was flowing in a northerly direction, and shortly afterwards formed two channels—one north-west, the other south-west—which soon joined again.
A beautiful bank of white sand 120 m. long and 4 ft. high stretched along the edge of the water on the left side of us. Soon afterwards we entered an immense basin, 1,300 m. broad with a large island—May Island—on its western side.
One kilometre farther the island ended at a place where a lot of rocks stood out of the water. A little lower down other rocks spread right across the river in two parallel lines, forming very strong rapids, which were shot, our canoe coming within an ace of turning over.
The basin which followed was extremely rocky, with strong whirlpools, most troublesome to negotiate. Another island of irregular shape, 200 m. long and 200 m. wide—Rita Island—was found in a large basin, 1,000 m. broad, where we came to strong rapids and violent eddies and whirlpools, the latter most dangerous-looking. The water revolved with such force that it formed in the centre of each vortex holes from one to two feet in diameter.
The channel flowing north on the left side of the river seemed the better of the two, but it was strewn with rocks against which we had many collisions, owing to the strong current, the unmanageable canoe and the disobedient crew.
Another island 350 m. long—Eloisa Island—was to the north-east of Rita Island. Fifteen hundred metres farther on another corrideira occurred. A small tributary entered the Arinos on the right side.
We were then travelling in a N.N.E. direction, the river being in a straight line for some 3,000 m., in the course of which we came to a small island on the left side; then to a great island, 3,000 m. long—Albert Rex Island—with beautiful forest upon it. There were two other islets in this channel, one a mere cluster of rocks, the other, north-east of the first and 150 m. in diameter—Belgium Island—having pretty vegetation upon it.
A fourth and fifth—Laeken Island, 300 m. in length, and Elizabeth R. Island, 5,000 m. in length—were separated by a narrow channel. The latter had most gorgeous vegetation upon it; so tidy was everything in the thick forest, and the ground under it so clean that you might have imagined yourself in an English park.
Those islands were really too beautiful for words. Not being a poet, I cannot find appropriate language to describe their wonderful charm.
The river had a tendency to flow toward the west, and even for 1 kil. in a south-westerly direction. It had a width of 700 m. A small island 50 m. in diameter, chiefly formed of accumulated rounded rocks which had rolled down and deposits of gravel, had formed in the centre of the stream. Beyond it a charming little island, 180 m. long—Germaine Island—was found, on which we made our camp. It had an extensive gravel beach, on which I found beautiful crystals and pebbles of wonderfully coloured marble.
Magnificent Basins—Innumerable Rapids—Narrow Escapes—The Destructive Sauba Ants—Disobedient Followers—A Range of Mountains—Inquisitive Monkeys—Luck in Fishing—Rocky Barriers—Venus
WE left at 8 a.m. on July 20th, the minimum temperature during the night having been 57 deg. F. We had hardly gone 11/2 kil. when we came to another island, 500 m. long—Mabel Island—quite as beautiful as the one on which we had camped. Small rapids were encountered where we just managed to avoid dangerous submerged rocks close to the right bank, near the entrance of a basin 900 m. wide.
All those basins were really magnificent to look at. This one, for instance, displayed a lovely island—Noailles Island—500 m. long, and 200 m. wide on its left side. Picturesque rocks of a vivid red colour peeped out of the water and broke the current, the spray that rose in the air forming pretty rainbows. There was a channel there, 300 m. wide, after passing the last island. Then came one more great basin 700 m. wide, and yet another pretty island, with a rocky spur.
We followed a course of 10 deg. b.m. on the left side of the island—Margie Island—which was 500 m. long, and had a number of subsidiary islands formed by picturesque groups of rock.
We then came to one more great basin, with an immense quantity of rock in its western part. Many of the boulders showed a foliation in their strata with a dip of 45 deg. east. The accumulation of boulders formed a formidable barrier before we reached an island most beautiful to gaze upon, so luxuriant was the vegetation on it.
This particular island was 200 m. long; next to it was another 150 m. long; then, joined to this by a link of high rocks to the south-east, was a third, also of considerable beauty. So charming were these islands that I called the group the Three Graces Islands.
The river turned due west from that point in a channel of continuous rapids and violent eddies for some 3,000 m. We went down, the canoe being knocked about in a most alarming way on one or two occasions, and shipping so much water as to reach almost up to our knees inside it.
It was fortunate that all my photographic plates, note-books and instruments were in water-tight boxes, or they certainly would have been damaged beyond saving. This was not the case with my clothes, shoes, and bedding, which had now been wet for many days with no possibility of drying them, as we were travelling all day long and every day, and during the night the heavy dew prevented them from getting dry. Why we did not get rheumatism I do not know, as not only did we wear wet things all day long, but we slept in blankets soaked with moisture.
The moment I dreaded most was that in which we emerged from the rapid into the whirlpool which always followed, and in which the canoe swerved with such terrific force that it was all we could do to hold on and not be flung clean out of her—owing, of course, to the centrifugal force as she revolved quickly.
Making a survey of the river was getting to be a complicated and serious job, what with the numberless islands we encountered, the continuous rapids, and the constant changes of direction. I was busy writing, as fast as I could—only interrupted momentarily by involuntary shower-baths—prismatic compass and watch in hand all the time, the latter in order to measure the distances as accurately as possible.
We had now come to another group of islands in a line in the centre of the river. They had been at one time evidently all one, which had subsequently been eroded into five separate islands and an extensive bank of gravel and sand. Taken in succession from south to north, there was first an oblong island, thickly wooded, 120 m. long—Nina Island—having on its western side an elongated bank of sand and gravel; then, where a barrier of rocks stretched transversely across the stream and where extremely bad rapids occurred—three of them in succession, each worse than the last—was another island—Providence Island—1,400 m. in length.
When we reached any rapid we had to be quick in judging which was the best channel to follow, as the current was so strong that we had not sufficient strength to pull back against it. I generally selected the channel, my men by this time having gained sufficient confidence in my judgment, since so far we had had no serious mishap. But I foresaw that we should soon have an accident, as they were getting foolhardy, and in their ignorance attributed the wonderful luck we had had entirely to their own skill in navigation.
On that particular occasion we had hardly time to recover from shooting the first rapid with the velocity of an arrow, and were wet all over with the splash of the water, when we came to the second and third rapids, where the channel was so narrow and rocks were scattered so near the surface, that it was really a marvel to me how we got through without capsizing. The men in their excitement were shrieking wildly as we dashed through the foaming waters, and there were also yells of positive terror from the man ahead, who with a long pole in hand tried to save the canoe from dashing now upon one rock then upon another.
Below the rapids the three other islands were Dora Island, 200 m. long; Edna Island, 500 m. long; and Lucia Island, 700 m. long.
The river was flowing in a westerly and south-westerly direction, the banks showing a quantity of rubber trees all along. A tiny islet 50 m. long had been eroded from the right bank, just above a strong corrideira, easily identifiable by later travellers who may visit it, since a huge rock stands there in the centre of the river.
On the left side of the river foliated rock 10 ft. high was exposed for the length of 1 kil. Dense forest was to be seen on both sides of the river all along the rapids.
Two more islands, each 100 m. in diameter—Romeo and Juliet Islands—close to each other, were then seen on one side of the main channel, which was 200 m. wide.
From this point the river actually flowed in a S.S.W. direction (230 deg. b.m.), and for 2,500 m. we had to negotiate strong and troublesome rapids with variations of shallow water, usually with a bottom of sharp rocks. The water in many of those places, coming with great force, hit the bottom and was thrown up again in high waves which swamped our canoe each time we went through them. In one place we got stuck on a rock in the middle of the foaming waters, and had a hard job to get the canoe off again and prevent her sinking when we had done so.
Where the river turned for another 2 kil. 500 m. more to the west, another elongated island rose on the left side of the stream. The island—Laurita Island—was only 80 m. broad, but had a total length of 1,800 m.
More rapids and shallow water above a bottom of red volcanic debris were found. A small tributary 2 m. wide at the mouth entered the Arinos on the left bank, not far from the spot where a rocky rugged island rose in the centre of the stream.
I halted at 11.30 in order to take the usual observations for latitude and longitude and soundings of the river. The stream, which was 320 m. broad, below some rapids, showed a depth of 6 ft. the entire way across. Farther down, where it contracted to 200 m. in breadth, it showed a depth of 8 ft. in the centre with a maximum depth of 10 ft. to the right and left of it, gradually decreasing to 5 ft., 3 ft., 2 ft., and 1 ft. as it neared the banks. Lat. 11 deg. 7'.3 S.; long. 57 deg. 46' W.
When we resumed our journey after lunch, we came to another thickly wooded island, 1,000 m. long, 350 m. wide—J. Carlos Rodriguez Island—with a cluster of huge rocks on its southern end.
We had a few minutes of comparatively easy navigation, the river being extraordinarily beautiful in straight stretches of 3,000 m., 2,000 m., and 3,000 m., to 340 deg., 350 deg., and 360 deg. (N.) bearings magnetic. In the first 3,000 m. we came upon another strong rapid over a barrier of rocks which extended right across the stream. Beyond the rapids the usual troublesome whirlpools occurred. A polished dome of rock 10 ft. high emerged in mid-stream. Then another charming island—Nona Island—with a spit of white sand at its southern end rose gracefully out of the river. It had a breadth of 100 m. and a length of 600 m.
More corrideiras and eddies had to be gone over that day. We seemed to be spending our entire time trying to avoid—not always successfully—collisions with dangerous rocks. We came to another beautiful island, 200 m. long and 100 m. wide—Emma Island—screened at its southern end by high-domed volcanic rocks, and soon after to a rocky island on our right, separated by a narrow channel from a larger and thickly wooded island, 300 m. long and 100 m. wide—Georgia Island.
The rapids seemed to be getting worse and worse as we went down the stream. After passing these three islands we came to a most dangerous spot, the rapids there being strewn all over with nasty-looking rocks which did not seem to leave a clear passage anywhere in a straight line. After 500 m. of anxious travelling we encountered more rapids and troublesome eddies. We had by that time got accustomed to the danger, and even felt travelling dull and stupid when we came to a few metres of placid water.
As we were going down a stretch of 3,000 m. to 350 deg. b.m. we found the centre of the river blocked by great masses of rock; then, a little farther, rocks occupied the left of the river. We went through a narrow passage between those high rocks, finding ourselves carried away helplessly into a rapid of alarming swiftness, which subsequently shot us into a terrific whirlpool.