The price of land—which was excellent in the valley of the river—in the vicinity of Uberaba was from 30 to 150 milreis per alqueire—each alqueire being reckoned at 10,000 square bracas, and a braca being about 61/2 ft., or a little over two metres.
After leaving Uberaba the scenery was magnificent, especially when a storm approached as we were steaming over the Serra de Caracol. Dense black clouds collected and capped the dark green forest of the Serra, while down, down below on our right the endless gently undulating plain of fresh green grass was brilliantly illuminated by a warm dazzling sun. Most beautiful grazing land—practically going to waste now—we crossed on reaching the highest point of the Serra; grass, grass, as far as the eye could see—quite flat land—but not a head of cattle in sight; in fact, no sign of animal life, and a stillness of death except for the puffing of the railway engine on which I sat. Water, however, did not seem to abound—only a small stream, near which curious-looking patches, or bosquets of trees lay in dark spots on that light green expanse. We were then at an elevation of 3,400 ft., amid delightfully cool and crisp air.
At Burity passed the great route of the cattle dealers from Goyaz and Matto Grosso for Sta. Rita, Passos, and Tres Coracoes do Rio Verde. At Palestina (845 kil. from the sea) we were on what seemed an interminable flat plateau with ideally green grass, and here and there patches of stunted vegetation. Land could be purchased there as low as 10 milreis an alqueire, although the best land cost from 50 to 300 milreis.
All was absolutely flat until we reached Sicupira (elev. 3,100 ft. above the sea level), where we began to descend to the Rio Uberabinha, its delightfully clear crystalline water winding its way through scrub.
At Uberabinha we again came across the wonderful red earth of the Riberao Preto district. Situated at an elevation of 3,050 ft. stood the little town of some 4,000 inhabitants, about 500 yards from the comfortable and pretty station. Although the land was beautiful, cultivation could not be said to be prevalent. Merely some rice, beans, and Indian corn were grown in small quantities.
From Uberabinha the railway line descended all the time through thinly wooded country of shrubs and stunted trees; the verdant prairies, so refreshing to the eyes, were left behind, and the country became more broken, but the land was still excellent for agricultural purposes. After crossing a well-constructed iron bridge resting on two masonry pillars and spanning the picturesque rapids of the Rio das Velhas—the river, with its turbid, muddy, nasty-looking water, being there some 80 yards wide, at an elevation of 2,050 ft. above the sea level—we again began a steep ascent by a gradient of over 3 per cent, following most of the time the river course. The thickly wooded banks obstructed a good deal of the view except here and there, where a charming glimpse of the water could be obtained.
Seven hundred and eighty-nine kilometres from Campinas—or 982 kil. from the Atlantic Ocean at Santos—we arrived at the terminal station of the Mogyana Railway at a place called Araguary, 3,150 ft. above the sea level—one of the dirtiest and most unpleasant spots on the face of the earth. The termini of railway lines in newly developed countries seem to act like filters. Whatever is good passes through; only the impurities or dregs remain.
The Terminus of the Railway—An Unpleasant Incident—The Purchase of Animals—On the March with the Caravan
A GREAT crowd had assembled at the station. The train had hardly stopped when my car was invaded by boisterous people, who embraced me and patted me on the back in the most approved Brazilian style. Before I could inquire who they were, one fellow, more boisterous than the others, informed me that he had purchased a great many mules for me, that he had engaged men for me, and also procured riding and pack-saddles, harness, implements, clothing and bedding for the men he had engaged, and I do not know what else. Everything was paid for. I could return the sum paid out the next day. Another man said he had already prepared a sumptuous apartment for me in the best hotel in the town.
When asked who had instructed them to make such arrangements, they were vague, and on being pressed for an answer gave names of people of whose existence I was perfectly ignorant. Before I could realize what all this meant I discovered—much to my annoyance—that all my baggage had been taken out of the train and had been conveyed to the hotel. I was therefore compelled to proceed there myself, in the company of my new "friends," who shouted everything they had to say at the top of their voices, so that I should not fail to understand. It was already night, and the streets of the town were in such a terrible condition that the overladen carriage—there were people on all the seats, on the box and standing on the steps—nearly turned over on going round corners. The wheels sank up to their axles in mud.
We pulled up at the hotel door, where another crowd of loafers had assembled. I was literally dragged into the hotel—for I had become somewhat reluctant, first on seeing the appearance of the place, then on being met by waves of a nauseating odour which suggested the non-existence of sanitary arrangements and worse.
"Come in, come in!... wait here!" shouted they in a most excited manner, when I expressed a wish to inspect the palatial quarters which they had been good enough to reserve for me.
"Wait a moment!" shouted the landlord, a slumbering, disjointed, murderous-looking creature, whose violent gestures and waving of hands in front of my face were somewhat irritating. He dashed into a room on the ground floor—and we outside could hear an altercation between the loud-voiced proprietor and the plaintive moans of a half-dying man.
A moment later the half-dying man, skeleton-like, with livid eyes, a complexion the colour of a lemon gone bad, and quivering bare legs, was literally dragged out of the bed and roughly thrown out of the door.
"Here is your room!" cried the landlord triumphantly to me, as he flung out of that apartment some cheap canvas bags, clothes—which from birth had been innocent of washing and pressing—and the socks, shoes, and day shirt of the guest who had been ejected.
The odour alone, as I peeped into the room, was enough to stifle any one with the sense of scent even less delicate than my own. As for the vacant bed—any pariah dog of any other country would have been offended to be offered such filthy accommodation.
In Brazil—as elsewhere—it does not do to lose one's calm. I also wished to avoid an unpleasant quarrel, as I have a belief that quarrels are bad for one's health. I spoke gently and kindly to the hotel-keeper, and said that, although I had ordered nothing, still, as he had kindly reserved that charming apartment for me, I should be very pleased to pay for it, which I would do at once. If he would excuse me, I preferred to go back to sleep in my private car. Upon hearing these words a nasty tragi-comic scene occurred, which, had I not remained cool and collected, might have ended badly.
"Do you know, sir," shouted the landlord, with livid features and eyes shooting out of their orbits, so enraged was he—"do you know that I am the Chief of Police here, and that everybody is afraid of me? I have only to give orders and every one will kill any one I like." Here he discontinued shaking his somewhat grimy hands under my nose and, drawing himself up, stood upon the doorstep of the hotel in order to harangue the great crowd which had collected.
"We are all millionaires in Brazil," shouted the landlord, with an effort which seriously impaired the safety of his fully-congested jugular vein. "We are all atheists and anarchists in Brazil. Down with the infamous oppression and slavery of Europe! Down with kings and emperors! Down with Europe, the land of oppression and cruelty!" And again: "We in Brazil are the richest people on earth. We are all millionaires in Brazil. We do not need foreign charity!"
"Down with foreigners!" answered the chorus of assembled natives.
The railway inspector who had been sent by the Company to accompany me became scared at the turn matters were taking, and told me, against the instructions he had received, that I could not now return to the car. Upon hearing this, my new friends, believing they had me in their power, renewed their vocal attack.
I remained some time endeavouring to collect my baggage, pretending to pay no attention whatever to the absurd oratory. To this day I cannot yet grasp what the oppression of Europe had to do with my wanting to pay for something I had never had. I then repeated my offer, which was again refused. With the protection of his strong rear-guard, the Chief of Police advanced bravely towards me, holding in a suggestive manner with his right hand the pommel of his revolver in the back pocket of his trousers. In a tragic manner he exclaimed:
"We will settle this matter, to-morrow."
"We will settle it at once," I placidly replied.
"No, to-morrow," he repeated, with a vicious look.
"Very good: at what time and where?"
"At ten o'clock," he eventually grunted, after I had repeated the above question four times.
I also politely invited all the others present to come forward if they had any claims to square. I was quite ready to settle anybody at any time and anywhere. Perhaps they might get more than they wished.
I departed with my baggage laden on two carriages and a cart, and eventually found accommodation at an equally filthy hotel near the station—only the latter place was kept by a humble and honest, decrepit old woman. I do not know that I have ever spent a more miserable evening anywhere. I do not mind roughing it in the roughest way possible, but I have always detested pretentious efforts at civilization of an inferior kind. Thus I sat having a meal—eggs, beans, rice—all soaked in toucinho (pork fat) which I detest and loathe. I watched black railway workmen and porters stuffing themselves with food in a most unappetizing way, and making disgusting noises of all kinds.
Fortunately I remembered that a friend of mine—a railway contractor, Mr. Louis Schnoor—must be at that time in Araguary, looking after the construction of the new railway line which will eventually join Araguary to the capital of Goyaz. I went in search of him, stumbling along the terrible roads with deep holes and pools of water and mud. As luck would have it, I was able to purchase from him, that very same evening, a number of excellent mules, which he very generously had offered to place at my disposal without payment. Also he promised to supply me with two reliable men—a job not at all easy in that particular part of Brazil.
Mr. Louis Schnoor—a Brazilian of German extraction—was a godsend to me. Thanks to him, I returned that night quite happy to the miserable hotel. Happy, because in less than half an hour I had arranged to leave that pestilential hole the following day. Mr. Schnoor had kindly undertaken that he would send me, at eleven o'clock the next morning, in a special train to the end of the line in construction, some 45 kil. farther north. In a town of gentle folks like Araguary the luxury of sleeping with one's window open could not be indulged in—especially as nearly all the houses were one storey high. So the night was rendered particularly oppressive and long, tormented as you were in your bed by its innumerable inhabitants, which stung you all over. I had taken the precaution to spread a waterproof sheet under my own blankets on the bed, but that, too, proved ineffective. Mosquitoes were numerous.
No sanitary arrangements to speak of existed in Araguary, so that everything was flung out of the windows into the streets, which made walking about the town most objectionable. The odour everywhere was revolting, as can well be imagined. The city was nevertheless considered by the natives as all that is most perfect in the way of civilization, for not only did it possess a few anaemic electric lights—so far apart as to be a nuisance instead of a help in seeing one's way about—but also, behold! it actually boasted of a spasmodic cinematograph. There were some 500 houses, all counted, at Araguary, all more or less miserable-looking, and a population of some 2,500 souls—"lost souls," I should think.
Slowly, very slowly came the next morning, March 31st. At ten o'clock sharp I called on the Chief of Police at his hotel, and found that he had departed early in the morning and was not to be expected back for some hours! A charming way of keeping an appointment which he was so anxious to bring about.
In the company of Mr. Louis Schnoor I also called on the persons who said they had made arrangements for my expedition, as I did not wish to have any misunderstanding in the matter. Far from having purchased mules, horses, saddles and harness, they could produce nothing on demand, and finally asked me to remain in Araguary for one month—fancy one month in Araguary!—so that they could produce their purchases.
As I was driving in Mr. Schnoor's carriage we met, a long way from his home and hotel, the Chief of Police and hotel proprietor. I immediately dismounted and informed that gentleman of my visit at the appointed time. I also demanded that whatever he wished me to settle must be settled at once.
"Nothing at all," said he, shaking me warmly by the hand. "You owe me nothing. It was all a mistake. It was all a mistake. Please do not think of it any more. You owe me nothing, nothing, nothing. If I can be of use to you, pray order me! I am your humble servant." And his delightful politeness was such that I could hardly realize it was the same vicious man of the previous evening. In my surprise I had to turn to Mr. Schnoor to inquire whether I had got hold of the wrong man.
Yes, indeed. Some of those fellows of Central Brazil were a remarkable mixture of villainy and charm—in chemical language one might describe them as sublimates of rascality and delightful manners.
However, good manners or not, I had taken such a dislike to the place that I was glad when eleven o'clock came and Mr. Schnoor conveyed me to the special train—an engine and one car. I inspected the new station of the Goyaz railway, which was already finished—a useful, well-constructed building, quite sufficient for its needs. In the company of Mr. Schnoor, his chief engineer, Mr. Schirmer and Mr. Bertoux, we left Araguary—oh, what a relief!—for the end of the line, 45 kil. away. I had decided to go and wait there in the open country the few hours which would be necessary to collect the men who were to accompany me, and the mules.
The work on that portion of the Goyaz line which was already laid was well and quickly done. Mr. Schnoor assured me that in four or five months more they expected to run trains to Catalao. An iron bridge will eventually be built across the Paranahyba River, within a short distance of which the line had already been laid when I was there. Some delay had been experienced in making a deep cut on the south side of Paranahyba Hills, where the strata had been found much harder than expected.
I camped for a day and a half at Morro da Meza, a lovely spot at an elevation of 2,850 ft., from whence an immense panorama could be enjoyed. What a relief this heavenly place was after Araguary, and how everlastingly grateful I shall be to my friend Mr. Schnoor for having deposited me there!
I took the opportunity of the solitude to rearrange my baggage. On April 1st my good friend Schnoor reappeared to see that all arrangements were satisfactory for my departure.
Morro da Meza will ever remain present in my mind, for it was my jumping-off place into the wilds. It was from there that the actual marching on horseback and on foot began, and it was there I last saw a railway train for the best part of a year.
On April 1st, at 4 p.m., I left Morro da Meza, went through the new railway cut in preparation, crossed the Paranahyba River (at an elevation of 1,970 ft. above the sea level), and made my camp on the opposite side of the stream at Anhanguera (elev. 2,100 ft. above sea level) in the railway engineers' camp, 800 yards away from the water. The engineers, an Italian, Mr. Schnoor's father-in-law, and a Russian—a Mr. Martens—showed me every possible civility. A curious incident occurred while we were having dinner. The day was a holiday, and the workmen on the line were resting. We were sipping our coffee, when a man entered our hut and said a companion of his had been shot. We rushed to see him, and we found that the poor wretch had had his skin perforated in eight different places by the same bullet. What was more remarkable was that each perforation was close to dangerous places in the man's anatomy, and yet not a single wound was mortal. This is how it happened. The man was lying down in his suspended hammock, resting his left hand on his left knee. A friend came along to show him a new automatic pistol he had purchased. In the usual silly fashion he had pointed it at his friend. The pistol went off, and the bullet passed just under the skin at the knee, at the side of the knee-cap, and having come out again, went right through the soft part of the hand between the thumb and index finger. It then perforated the arm at the biceps, and further entering the chest, shaved the heart and came out at the shoulder-blade, continuing its flight beyond to somewhere where no one could find it again. That spoke highly for the penetrating power of bullets from automatic pistols, and also for the little harm those little bullets may inflict. The man, after we had carefully dressed his wounds, looked, perhaps, a little miserable, but he was able to depart on horseback carrying with his good arm a bottle of medicine.
The Goyaz railway was making rapid progress. The rails were soon to be laid on the north side of the river as far as Catalao. The bed of the railway was fast being made ready.
It was not until April 3rd that I was able actually to make a start with my caravan. My good friend, Mr. Louis Schnoor, had promised me two men—Alcides Ferreiro dos Santos and Filippe da Costa de Britto; the first a German Brazilian of a violent revolutionary temper but of extraordinary bravery; the other a pure negro of a boisterous, simple nature, also of indisputable bravery in moments of great danger. These two men—both natives of Araguary—proved themselves to be on that fateful expedition the two best men I possessed. Thus, if nothing else can be said in praise of Araguary, it must be said in justice that it can produce some men of great courage and faithfulness—a boast which cannot well be applied to many places in Brazil.
On April 3rd, at 9 a.m., after a touching farewell, I left the engineers' camp mounted on a magnificent mule that Mr. Schnoor had insisted on lending me as far as Goyaz, with the pack animals which I had purchased. I did not follow the principal road, which went by a somewhat circuitous route from Araguary to the capital of Goyaz via the towns of Catalao and Bomfin, but preferred to travel across country by a short cut which took you there in an almost direct line in a north-westerly direction. On getting over the Serrinha (elev. 2,250 ft.), a hill range, one obtained a gorgeous view of the valley of the Paranahyba River—a river which, already of good width there, became eventually the great Parana. It is on the right bank of the river, near its mouth, some thousands of miles from where we were, that Buenos Aires is situated.
Going through a beautiful forest in undulating country, we reached the summit of a flat-topped tableland, 2,500 ft. above the sea level, with a gentle slope towards the north, where the edge of its summit was some 50 ft. lower than on the south. The vegetation was somewhat stunted, but interesting, for many were the trees I noticed which could be put to some use or other. The Barbatimao (Stryphnodendron bar. M.) was plentiful, and could be used advantageously in tanning leather; the Pao ferro (Caesalpinia ferria M.) and the Paneira, were present in quantities.
Through the forest we descended in three hours to the Rio Virissimo, which, swollen by the sub-tributaries Barrocas, Indaica, Pirahitinga and Perobas on the east and Vae Vem on the west, throws itself into the Paranatinga between Morro Alto and Porto do Barreiro. That stream had been bridged over. We had descended to 2,000 ft. During the entire distance—we had travelled some 23 kil. from the Paranahyba River—we had passed only two miserable sheds and we had not met a single soul, barring a glimpse at a shaggy female who happened to be opening the door of her hut as we were passing, and with a yell of terror banged it again, and bolted it as she perceived us riding by.
A peculiar kind of wild fig-tree was to be seen, ball-like in appearance, with branches inclined down instead of skyward like most trees. On our right as we proceeded down to the farms of S. Jeronymo and Sta. Barbara (elev. 2,400 ft.) stood a mountain with beautiful grazing land upon its slopes. Healthy fat cattle, in most wonderful condition—testifying to the excellence of the grazing in that region—were bred by the farmers. To the north, north-east and north-west behind this place were to be seen delightful green round-topped hills, also with excellent grazing. A few cows and imported zebus were to be seen, it is true, but the country could support a million times that number and more.
It was that evening that I noticed for the first time in Brazil a peculiar and most wonderful effect of light at sunset—not unlike an aurora borealis. White, well-defined radiations shot skyward from the west, where the sun had set, and stood out luminously against the dark blue sky, like the spokes of a gigantic wheel. This effect, as we shall see, was repeated frequently at sunset, and sometimes was even more beautiful than on the occasion of that first acquaintance with it.
We marched 391/2 kil. that day—with my nine pack-mules, Formosa (which in Portuguese means "beautiful"), the splendid white mule I rode, and three other mules ridden by my men. It was a real pleasure to see the appetite of the animals when we made camp. How joyfully they ground with their powerful jaws the Indian corn which each had received in a nose-bag soon after we had halted, removed the loads and saddles from their backs, and properly groomed them!
When we started the next morning we went through most beautiful grazing land for some 20 kil., and through marvellous grassy slopes on the mountains beyond. Streamlets of clear abundant water were passed. From 2,050 ft., the elevation of the stream, we rose to 2,650 ft., then descended gradually to the village of Corumbahyba, with its brand-new red-tiled roofs and whitewashed houses—very tiny, and, with one exception, all one-storied. The windows and doors were gaily decorated with bright blue paint. There was a church, of course, on one side of the large square smothered in high grass, and by the church two wooden pillars supported a beam from which hung a bronze bell. Then in the centre of the square stood, most prominent of all in the village, a huge wooden cross in a dilapidated condition. What little life seemed to exist in the place was to be found in the local store, where an inquisitive crowd had collected when I arrived.
My mules were let loose to graze in the square, joining a number of cows that were there already. As I sat in the shop, closely examined by the inhabitants, I returned the compliment by analysing them. What a strange, dried-up, worn-out appearance young and old presented! What narrow, chicken-like chests, what long, unstable legs and short arms. And, dear me! what shaggy, rebellious hair, which stood out bristle-like in all directions upon their scalps! Yet those people came from ancestors who must have been, centuries ago, magnificent types of humanity to be able to accomplish what they did in the way of colonization. With the habit we possess of looking for finer, healthier specimens of humanity in the country than in the cities, this condition of affairs came somewhat as a surprise to me, since that rule generally applied to most nations I have visited except Brazil. Those people, partly by constant intermarriage among themselves, partly by the mixture of black blood with the white, and greatly owing to the effects of the most terrible complaint of the blood in existence—universal in Brazil—partly, too, by the dull, uninteresting, wasted lives they led and the poverty of their nourishment, were reduced to a state of semi-idiocy. The men hardly seemed to have the strength and energy to walk or even stand up—although I must confess, to my regret, that they had not yet lost the power of talking.
Their features were unattractive. Eyes wide apart and widely expanded, so that the entire circle of the iris was exposed, although the eyeball itself was not a fleur de tete, but rather sunk into excessively spacious orbital cavities in the skull. The part of the eyeball which is usually white was yellow with them, softened somewhat by luxuriant eyelashes of abnormal length. In fact, the only thing that seemed plentiful and vigorous with them was the hair, which grew abundantly and luxuriantly everywhere, just as bad grass and weeds do on uncultivated or abandoned lands. There was a lot of hair everywhere—on the scalp, on the eyebrows, on the men's unshaven cheeks, on the chest, the arms, hands, and the legs. It is, I believe, a well-known fact that hair is generally more luxuriant, the weaker and more anaemic the subject is—up to a certain point.
Deep grooves and hollow cheeks—the latter due to absence of teeth—marked the faces of even young men. Then one of the most noticeable peculiarities was the extraordinary development, prominence and angularity of the apple of the throat. The ears—which to my mind show the real character and condition of health of a person more than any other visible part of his or her anatomy—were large and prominent, occasionally well-formed, but lacking colour and the delightful, well-chiselled, vigorous curves of healthy, normal, intelligent people. The hands and feet were generally small and well-shaped, in wonderful condition—though not necessarily clean—owing to the inborn reluctance which all the people of Brazil have towards manual labour.
It has always been my experience that, generally speaking, malformed people possess distorted brains—which does not mean at all that the brain of a malformed person may not perhaps develop in a marvellous manner in one particular direction. What I maintain is that, with few possible exceptions, the brains of malformed people are seldom perfectly balanced. In those particular subjects it did not take a deep student of human nature to set down the entire crowd of them as visionaries, most fantastically inclined—in which direction, having no restraint whatever, they ran absolutely amuck.
Yet there was something very charming about the people of the interior of Brazil, after they had overcome their first suspicion of strangers and their own shyness. They seemed imbued with the idea that everybody went there specially to do them harm. They lived in a constant state of fear and trembling, even of their own relations and friends. They all went about armed to the teeth, and would not dream of going a yard outside their homes without a revolver, a rifle and a dagger. Even to walk about the village the men were all armed.
When not in a rage or sulky—which seemed to be their almost constant condition—they were the most good-hearted people I have ever met; gentle, affectionate—in fact, so sentimental that it became a positive nuisance. If one learnt how to deal with them—which was not always easy—they were really delightful people in their enviable simplicity.
A reflection of the people's mentality was to be discovered at a glance in examining the articles that were for sale in the only shop in the village. There, remember, you were in a country which, from an agricultural point of view, could be made of immense value. Now, did you notice any implements in the shop which suggested agricultural pursuits of any kind whatever? No; what you found were patent leather dress shoes, elaborately embroidered top-boots, fancy neckties, gaudy gilt and silver spurs of immense size, bottles of powerful perfumes, fancy soaps, mirrors, combs, and highly-coloured calicoes, beer, fire-water, and other such articles of luxury.
The Corumbahyba village stood at an elevation of 2,250 ft. in a hollow surrounded by low hills. The water was delicious at that place.
As I was getting through my lunch—which I enjoyed thoroughly after my morning march of 23 kil.—I saw crossing the square two murderers laden with iron chains, led along with a rope by two mounted men. The natives present laughed as they saw the poor devils struggle along. Not a sign of pity or care was shown by anybody present.
After leaving Corumbahyba we witnessed a panorama of magnificent mountain scenery from a height of 2,550 ft., to which we had ascended. Then came a steep and rugged descent through a forest down to a streamlet (2,250 ft.); then up another ascent to 2,350 ft. and down again to 2,050 ft. at the great Corumba River, there 300 yards wide. We crossed this beautiful stream—animals and all—on three canoes joined together, upon which a platform had been built.
Travelling across Country—A Musical Genius—Valuable Woods—Thermal Springs
AT the river were several picturesque two-wheeled carts waiting to be ferried across. Drawn by ten, twenty, and even as many as thirty oxen, these heavy hooded vehicles travelled across country in a most wonderful manner. Naturally they had to be of solid construction to stand the wear and tear demanded of them. Their wheels were heavy solid discs of hard wood encircled by powerful tyres of iron. A primitive system of brake—a mere bar of wood held in position by ropes—retarded the speed of the vehicle down extra-steep declivities. When going up or down hill the friction of the wheels upon their axles produced a continuous shrill whistle, which, when heard from a distance, sounded not unlike the whistle of a locomotive. In the deathly stillness of the Goyaz landscape those whistles could be heard a long way off. The expectant farmers—expectant, because those trading carts conveyed to them a good deal of the food-stuff, salt, and other necessaries of life, as well as the luxuries they could afford—were clever at recognizing the whistles of the various carts, and they identified one special cart or another by what they poetically called the "voice of the wheel" or the "song of Goyaz."
There were some picturesque rapids just above the spot where we crossed the Corumba River, which flowed in a tortuous channel with a general direction of W.S.W.
To the east of our track, as we proceeded northward, stood a glorious range of hills with magnificent grazing land extending for many miles. In front of us to the north and N.N.E. towered a high plateau, the Serra de Callos, also called, I believe, Serra do Cusuzeiro.
Still travelling up and down and across several streamlets, we reached at sunset the Rio Boccagna (2,230 ft. above the sea level), which, soon after passing the place where we crossed it, entered the large river Bagri, winding its way through a gorgeous forest. We had passed during the day really wonderful grazing land on either side of the track, but principally to the east, between the north bank of the Corumba River and Camp Mazagan. There were plenty of small streams in the hilly and sometimes slightly wooded valleys.
At seven o'clock, having ridden that day 76 kil., we halted after dark at the moradoria, or farm, of Mazagan (elev. 2,375 ft. above the sea level). We were politely asked to enter the house, and immediately preparations were made to clear out the best room for me. The illumination was not grand: an ancient metal arrangement—not unlike a Pompeian lamp—with a wick soaked in oil profusely smoking. In the dim light I could just distinguish in the background, reclining against the wall, a youth with a guitar, from which two chords—always the same two chords—were strummed. The boy seemed in a trance over this musical composition, and even our appearance had not disturbed his efforts. He had taken no notice whatever of us. Dinner was prepared—it took a long time—the musician all the time delighting his admiring family with the two monotonous chords.
"It is a pity," said his delighted mother to me, "that we cannot send him to school. He is a genius; he would astonish the world."
"Yes," I hastily agreed, "it is a pity you cannot send him ... somewhere!"
"Can you not take him with you?"
I explained to the poor woman that it required very civilized people to appreciate her son's music. Among the wild Indians I expected to find, later on in my journey, I was sure that with music like that, we should all be killed; they were such savages!
After two solid hours—and the two chords still continuing, with no signs whatever of relenting—I asked the musical genius if he could treat me to a different tune. Alas! he knew no other, but as he saw that I was so fond of music he would again, with the greatest pleasure, go on playing the same air—he called it an air.
"Muito obrigado! (Thank you very much!)" I moaned, with a sickly smile on my lips and a violent internal wish to smash guitar and guitarist.
"No hai de que! (Do not mention it!)" and here recommenced the repetition of the two chords.
"I should like to go to sleep now; thank you very much again for the lovely music," I next plaintively added, in my most approved Brazilian politeness.
"Oh, not at all: I shall go on playing while you are sleeping. It will give you pleasant dreams!"
It was too pathetic. Nothing short of murder could have stopped his enthusiasm. Being a traveller of years' experience, I was not to be outwitted. As he would not stop the music, I stopped hearing it by stuffing my ears tight with cotton-wool. So I slept soundly enough, notwithstanding the orchestral entertainment. At sunrise, when I opened my eyes again, the boy was still at it. I removed the cotton from my ears ... yes, indeed, the identical two chords!
The boy and the guitar will perhaps never know what a narrow escape they both had! In despair I gave orders to get the mules ready at once in order to depart immediately.
Those halts in farmhouses were dreary beyond words. The Brazilians of the interior—quite unlike those of the big towns in or near the coast—were sullen people, with no conversation—or else too much—no interest in anything, no art, no imagination. They were timid and vain to an incredible degree, suspicious, avaricious, and easily offended, so that the greatest tact had to be used with them. They were ignorant of everything even in their own immediate neighbourhood. Yet, mind you, with all that, extraordinarily kind and ultra-polite of speech. They all seemed turned out of the same mould. When you had seen one you had seen them all. There were, of course, a few exceptions—Brazilians of recent German, French, Italian or Spanish origin—but these exceptions were indeed very rare in the interior.
Ill-fed, his blood corrupted and impoverished to the utmost degree—his health, therefore, never in a normal condition—his finances at the lowest ebb, the Brazilian of the interior had little indeed to make him happy. His home at best was as miserable and dirty as possible. The room generally given to an honoured guest—the best in the house—was the granary. More than once was my camp-bed perched on a mound of Indian corn. And the furniture? A wooden bench of the roughest description—really an instrument of torture rather than an article of comfort; a few wooden pegs in the wall for hanging rifles or other things; an occasional wooden bedstead; seldom, very seldom, a stool or a chair—in any case, never a comfortable one such as you invariably find with peasants and old-established colonists of most other countries. They cared not for comfort. Their beds, a mass of rags, were shared by masters and hens and dogs. Everything was in an abandoned state, everything had fallen to rack and ruin. All looked as if they were tired of life, too indolent to move. They seldom saluted when you met them on the trail, nor when you entered their houses; if they did, they rapidly touched their dilapidated hats as if afraid to spoil them. Never did you perceive a smile upon their long-drawn countenances. When they greeted one another they laid their bodies close together as if about to dance the tango, and patted each other repeatedly on the shoulder-blades, turning their heads away as if to avoid their reciprocal evil odour. It is not the fashion in any part of Brazil to shake hands. Some say it is because of the unpleasant feeling of touching sweating hands; others suggest that it is to prevent the contagion of the many skin complaints from which people suffer. When they do shake hands—with a stranger, for instance—one might as well be grasping the very dead hand of a very dead man; it is done in so heartless a manner.
For a consideration they reluctantly gave a stranger what little they possessed, but they had not the remotest idea of the value of things. In one farmhouse you were charged the equivalent of a few pence for an egg or a chicken; in the next farm a small fortune was demanded for similar articles of convenience. Men, women, children, dogs, pigs and fowls, all lived—not happily, but most unhappily—together.
No sooner were we able to saddle the animals and pack the baggage and pay our hostess, than we tried to make our escape from that musical farm. But luck was hard on me that day. One mule was lost, a second received a terrible gash in his hind quarters from a powerful kick from another mule.
We went on among low, fairly grassy hills to the west, W.N.W. and to the east of us. We still had before us the Serra de Callos—a flat-topped tableland some 12 kil. in diameter on the summit, where it was almost circular. Its deeply grooved sides showed clearly the great work of erosion which had occurred and was still taking place in those regions. With the exception of two spurs, which projected on the west and east sides of the plateau, its sky-line was quite clean and flat.
After rising to an elevation of 2,600 ft., then descending to 2,450 ft., we crossed two streamlets which afterwards joined a fairly important torrent. One was called the Rio Boa Vista. We gradually then rose to 2,750 ft. on another flat tableland to the east of the Serra de Callos, with its sides eroded in two distinct terraces, the higher one being almost a straight wall from two-thirds up the side of the range. In the lower portion a number of rounded mounds were to be observed, which, with a stretch of the imagination and for the sake of comparison, resembled, perhaps, elephants' heads.
North-east of the Serra stood a thickly-wooded, detached mound, while to the north as we went along there was displayed before us a magnificent view of the flat valley into which we were about to descend.
Where the country was wooded many trees and plants were to be found, useful for their tanning, medicinal, oliferous or lactiferous qualities: such as the Dedal, a yellowish-leafed shrub from which a yellow dye can be obtained; the tall thin Arariba Amarelho, or Amarelhino (Centrolobium robustum), a great number of Lobelia trees, with their elongated light green leaves and clean barked stems, which eject, from incisions, a caustic and poisonous juice. The tallest of all the trees in that region was perhaps the Jacaranda, with its tiny leaves.... There were four kinds of Jacaranda—the Jacaranda cabiuna, rosa, tan and violeta, technically known as Dalbergia nigra, Machaerium incorruptibile, Machaerium cencopterum, Machaerium Alemanni, Benth. The three latter have a specific gravity higher than that of most woods in Brazil, except the Pao de ferro (Caesalpina ferrea), the very plentiful Barbatimao (Stryphnodendron barbatimao), a mimosa-like tree, and the Vinhatico amarello (Echyrosperum Balthazarii), the last of which has the highest specific gravity of all.
Then we found plenty of Sambaiba, an excellent wood, and Imuliana, a wood of great resistance, much used in certain parts of Brazil for constructing fences.
A peculiar tree with concave leaves shaped like a cup was locally called Ariticun or Articun. It produced a large fruit, quite good to eat.
Much botanical variety was indeed everywhere around us.... There was the terra da folha miuta, which, as its name tells, possessed minute shiny leaves; then the tall Faveiro (Pterodon pubescens), producing a bean, and having dark leaves not unlike those of mimosas. Then, many were the kinds of acacias we noticed as we went along.
Still descending, we arrived at the little town of Caldas de Goyaz—so called because there were three hot springs of water of different temperatures. I visited the three springs. The water tasted slightly of iron, was beautifully clear and quite good to drink. Two springs were found in a depression some 150 ft. lower than the village—viz., at an elevation of 2,450 ft., whereas the village itself was at 2,600 ft. These two springs were only 20 ft. away from a stream of cold water. A short distance from the cold stream was another stream of hot water emerging from the rocks.
Small rectangular tanks had been made at the two higher springs, which were said to possess wonderful curing qualities for eczema and other cutaneous troubles; also for rheumatism and blood complaints of all kinds. Whether those waters were really beneficial or not, it was not possible to ascertain on a passing visit. I drank some of the water and it did me no harm, so if it does no good neither is it injurious.
The village of Caldas showed signs of having seen better days. It was clean-looking, but like all other villages of Goyaz it was dreary in the extreme. There were only a few houses in the place, and each had a shop; all the shops sold similar articles—nickel-plated revolvers, spurs and daggers, calicoes, gaudy wearing-apparel, perfumery, and so on.
For any one interested in the study of the effects of erosion on a gigantic scale, no more suitable country could be found than Central Brazil. Here again to the E.N.E. of Caldas stood the Serra do Sappe. In this case it was not a tableland, like the Serra de Caldas, but purely a hill range. The plateau of Serra de Caldas, I was told, measured on its summit 12 kil. by 18 kil.
Again, after leaving Caldas, we went through most wonderful grazing ground to the north-east and east of our route at the foot of the Serra do Sappe. We had descended to the Rio Lagiadi, 2,480 ft. above the sea level, which flowed into the Pirapitinga River (a tributary of the Corumba). Once more did we admire that evening the remarkable effect of solar radiation, this time a double radiation with one centre—the sun—to the west, and a second centre, at a point diametrically opposite, to the east. Those radiations, with a gradually expanded width, rose to the highest point of the celestial vault, where they met. The effect was gorgeous indeed, and gave the observer the impression of being enclosed in the immeasurable interior of an amazingly beautiful sea-shell turned inside out.
We arrived in the evening at the farm of Laza (elev. 2,450 ft.), where we had to abandon the wounded mule, and also another which, on coming down a steep incline, had badly injured its fore leg.
The pack-saddles used in the interior of Brazil (Minas Geraes, Goyaz and Matto Grosso) were the most impracticable, torturing arrangements I have ever had to use on my travels. The natives swore by them—it was sufficient for anything to be absurdly unpractical for them to do so. It only led, as it did with me at first, to continuous unpleasantness, wearying discussions and eventual failure if one tried to diverge from the local habits, or attempted to eradicate deeply-rooted ideas.
Let me describe a typical Brazilian pack-saddle. It weighed, with its inseparable protecting hide, well over 90 lbs. It was bulky and cumbersome, most difficult to lift and set right on the animal's back. It consisted of two great parallel, clumsily-carved, heavy U-shaped pieces of wood supported upright on two enormous pads, at least double the size and thickness necessary. The breast and tail pieces were of extra thick leather of great width, which had the double disadvantage of being heavy and of producing bad sores by their constant friction and hard, saw-like, cutting edges. Then the saddle allowed the loads to hang much too low on the sides of the animal's body. This naturally saved trouble and effort to the men who packed the animals. Two of them simply lifted the loads simultaneously on the two sides and hooked them to the saddle by means of adjusted loops of leather or rope. Then came the difficulty of keeping the loads in position, so that they would not shift back and forth. This was done by passing a leather thong over all and under the animal's belly, which was then squeezed beyond all measure. Result of this: continuous trouble to pack rebellious animals, who knew what was coming; painful marching for the animals, who thus had difficulty in breathing, and therefore extra long marches, almost an impossibility without much injury to them. We will not speak of sore backs, sore sides, sore chests, and sore tail root—which was a matter of course after a pack animal had borne for a few hours one of those torturing arrangements on its back.
I had tried to adopt lighter saddles of a more practical design, such as I had used on other expeditions; but as this involved a different method altogether of packing the animals, it led to much derision, unpleasantness, and refusal to do the work except in their own stupid way, so that in order to save time, expense and trouble I had to conform, much against my will, to the Brazilian method. It was an impossibility to induce a Brazilian of the interior to agree that any other way of doing anything was better or even as good as his own.
A painful phase of human existence, as the country became more and more sparsely inhabited, was the number, relative to the population, of cases of sexual insanity, due naturally to the great difficulty of intercourse. We will not refer to sexual vices—extremely common—which reduced the few inhabitants to a state of absolute idiocy. Thus at Laza farm there were only three women and no men. They were all of a certain age, and for many many years had been there alone, and had not seen a man. They had become absolutely insane, and it required no little tact to prevent a catastrophe. One—a repulsive, toothless black woman, formerly a slave—was in such an excited state of mind that I was really glad when I saw my troop of animals started on the march early the next morning.
On April 6th we were still on the north side of the Serra de Caldas, at the northernmost point of which flowed a riberao, or great river (elev. 2,450 ft.). Most beautiful grazing land spread to the north of us, enormous stretches of undulating country verdant with delicious grass. The Sappe Mountains were still visible in the distance.
Marching through enchanting country—almost level, or merely rising or descending a few feet—with a magnificent view of distant mountains to our right and of low flat plains and far-away tablelands to our left, we arrived, after a morning's march of 36 kil., at the fazenda of Pouso Alto (elev. 2,600 ft.).
Outwardly Pouso Alto was by far the neatest-looking fazenda we had yet seen since leaving Araguary, but on entering the house the floor was a mass of dirt. Fowls were running to and fro all over the rooms. A rough table of Portuguese origin, a couple of benches so dirty that one did not dare to sit on them, some roughly made bedsteads, miserable and filthy—but no washstands or basins, no articles of necessity were anywhere to be observed or found. The mattresses—if one can elevate them to the dignity of such a name: they were mere bags filled with anything that had been found handy, such as the leaves and stalks of Indian-corn, wool and dried grass—were rolled up in the daytime. Only one bed was still made up. On it a cackling hen was busy laying an egg. That egg—a very good egg—was triumphantly served to me for breakfast.
The walls of nearly all the farmhouses in the southern part of the Province of Goyaz were made of wooden lattice work, the square cavities formed by the cross sticks being filled in and the whole plastered over with mud, which eventually became hard when dry. Near the foundations the walls were strengthened with mud bricks half baked.
Evidently, as was the case with this particular old house, in former days, when Goyaz was more prosperous than it is now, in the time of the Emperor, most of the houses were whitewashed—a luxury which in these days of misery the farmers can no longer indulge in. The doors and windows were rambling, though the frames of them were generally solidly made, but one never saw a pane of glass in any window anywhere in the country. At night the people barricaded themselves tight into their rooms and let no air in. It was partly due to fear of attack. Whenever a building was whitewashed one invariably saw on it the impression of its owner's spread hand in outline, or else his signature in blue paint. The favourite colours in house decoration—where any were noticeable—were blue and a dirty cinnabar red.
Dogs were numerous everywhere, and, like their masters, were indolent and sleepy.
In the afternoon of that same day we travelled some 13 kil. more, on practically level ground intersected by a couple of streamlets. Marching through thinly wooded country, grassy here and there, one began to notice a variation in the scenery, which was gradually becoming more tropical in appearance. Palm trees, especially burity (Mauritia vinifera M.), in single specimens, or in groups, could be seen in the great stretches of good grazing country which appeared on both sides of our course.
We spent the night at the fazenda of Ritiro Alegre (elev. 2,450 ft.), which words translated mean "the merry rest"—a most undeserved name, I can assure you, for neither merriment nor rest was to be obtained there. An evening in a Brazilian farm was, nevertheless, occasionally not devoid of interest or of comic scenes.
These folks evidently valued little the life of their children. As I was sitting on the doorstep waiting for my dinner to be cooked, down came, galloping at a breakneck speed and riding bareback, a little child of eight, carrying slung under his arm a smaller child of one, the latter squealing terribly. They both landed safely at the door. Then there appeared one of the picturesque carts drawn by twelve oxen, anxiously awaited by the family. Twenty snarling, snorting, ill-natured pigs provided enough noise seriously to impair the drums of one's ears; and when you added to this the monotonous bellowing of cows and oxen, the frantic neighing of horses and mules waiting to be fed, the crowing of cocks and the cackling of hens, the unmusical shrieks of a beautiful arara (or macaw, of gorgeous green, blue, and yellow plumage), and of two green parrots—to which total add, please, the piercing yells of the children—it was really enough to drive one insane.
They were superior farmers, those of the "Merry Rest"—no one could doubt it when the lady of the house and her pretty daughter arrived from an errand and found strangers in the house. Dear me, what style, what enchanting affectation, the pretty maid and her mamma put on when they perceived us!... With an air of solemnity that was really delightful, they each offered us the tip of one finger for us to shake, and spoke with such affectation that their words stumbled one against the other. Their vocabulary was evidently restricted, and in order to make the conversation elegant they interpolated high-sounding words which did not exactly belong, but sounded grand in their ears. It was a trial to have to remain serious.
Dinner was served—always the same fare wherever you went. Boiled rice (very badly boiled), beans, stewed chicken chopped up, pimienta (peppers), fried eggs and Indian corn flour, which one mixed up together on one's plate and rendered into a paste. The coffee was always plentiful and good, but so strong that it was quite bitter.
By the light of a wick burning and smoking terribly from the neck of an ex-medicine bottle filled with oil, we enjoyed our meal, watched intently by the entire family, silent and flattened in semi-obscurity against the walls. The primitive lamp gave so little light—although it gave abundant smell—that the many figures were almost indistinguishable against the dirty background, and all one perceived on raising one's eyes from the dinner-plate was a row of expanded eyes, following the movements of our hands, and just under that row a row of white teeth.
When seen in a stronger light it was curious to notice criminal characteristics on nearly every face one saw; in the servants at those farmhouses one frequently observed murderous-looking creatures whom one would not care to meet alone in the dark. They were a special breed of stranded outcasts who had drifted there—the outcome of a complex mixture of Portuguese, former black slaves, and Indians. When you realized that the people who had drifted into the interior were the worst Portuguese, the worst blacks, and the Indians who intermarried with these gentry the worst Indians, you can well imagine what fine results could be expected from such a breed.
One trait predominant among these people was the unreasonable jealousy of the men over their women. Had they been so many Venuses of Milo the men could not have guarded them with more ferocity. I am sure it would take a brave man indeed, and, above all, a totally blind man, to fall in love with the farmers' wives, daughters, or servants of the Province of Goyaz.
I must say this in favour of my Brazilian men, that, whatever other faults they may have had, they always, behaved in a most chivalrous, dignified way with the women-folk we met. Never once did I have to reprimand them.
In the morning, as the cows were driven into the yard to be milked, and the calves were being suckled by their mothers, and the children, rubbing their sleepy eyes with the backs of their hands, scrambled out of the house upon their drowsy legs, the girls of the family brought the last cups of coffee to us departing strangers. We packed our animals, paid the bill, and were off again.
On April 7th we crossed the Piracanjuga River, another tributary of the Corumba, 50 yards wide, flowing from north-east to south-west, at an elevation of 2,300 ft. One league (6 kil. 600 m.) farther on we crossed another stream flowing east, in its turn a tributary of the Piracanjuga.
One of the most beautiful trees in that region was the caneleira, of the family of the Laurineas. Beautiful, too, were the oleo pardo and vermelho (Myrocarpus frondosus and Myrospermum erythrozylon).
We were next treated to a view of an extensive, deliciously green valley, most excellent for grazing purposes, extending from north to south to the west of our route. In the central depression of this valley were burity palms in abundance. They say that wherever you find a burity you are sure to find water. It is perfectly true, as the burity only flourishes where there is a good deal of moisture in the soil.
Having crossed a low pass, we found ourselves in another valley—this one sparsely wooded (2,500 ft. above the sea level), very beautiful, with undulations some 200 ft. high, and with streamlets at the bottom of most of the undulations. The summit of the highest elevation on that undulating land was 2,750 ft., the level of the principal streamlet 2,600 ft. above the sea.
Inquisitiveness—Snakes—A Wonderful Cure—Butterflies—A Striking Scene
TWENTY-NINE kilometres from the "Merry Rest" we arrived at the little town of Pouso Alto—duly translated "high camp"—situated 2,750 ft. above the sea level on an elevation between the two rivers Piracanjuba, and the Furmiga (which afterwards became the Rio Meio Ponte), throwing itself into the Paranahyba River.
Pouso Alto was like all the other villas or settlements of Goyaz, only perhaps a little larger. The same whitewashed houses with doors and windows decorated with blue, the same abandoned, deserted look of the principal square and streets; in fact, another "city of the dead." Only two men—drinking in the local store—were visible in the whole village.
The usual impertinent questions had to be answered.
"Who are you? Why do you come here? Is your country as beautiful as ours? Have you any cities as large as ours in your country? How much money have you? Are you married? You are English; then you come here to steal our gold and diamonds."
"Have you any gold and diamonds here?"
"No, you cannot travel for pleasure. The English only travel to take away all the riches from other countries! Those instruments you carry" (a compass and two aneroids) "are those that tell you where to dig for gold!"
I could not help remarking to this gentleman that so far the country I had traversed seemed merely to be rich in misery, that was all.
Nothing could be imagined more funereal than those little towns. My men intended remaining there for the night, but I insisted on pushing on for a few more kilometres—especially as in these places my men were led to drink and became unmanageable. On we went for 9 kil. to the farm of Bellianti (elev. 2,500 ft. above the sea level).
On April 8th we made an early start and travelled through a luxuriant forest, which was daily getting more and more tropical as we went farther north. We were, of course, do not forget, south of the equator.
Thirteen kilometres from camp we crossed the Rio Furmiga (or Meio Ponte) about 100 yards wide, flowing there in a direction from east to west at an elevation of 2,000 ft. Most gorgeous, richly verdant vegetation overhung and festooned the banks of the stream.
As we went farther toward the interior the vegetation grew more beautiful, the people more repulsive. The majority of the people suffered from goitre in more or less advanced stages. Many were the persons affected by leprosy.
We were in a region where oranges (imported, of course) of most excellent juicy quality were obtainable—for instance at the farm of Felicidade (elev. 2,350 ft.). All those farms—very old—showed signs of having seen better days—no doubt when slavery existed in a legal form in Brazil and it was possible to work those estates profitably. With the prohibitive price of labour—and in fact the impossibility of obtaining labour at any price in the interior—farming cannot indeed flourish to-day. The comparatively few immigrants who landed at the various ports in Brazil were at once absorbed near the coast, and seldom left the port of landing, where labour was anxiously required.
For the first time, that day did I see two snakes, which were concealed in the deep grooves left by a cart wheel. One wound itself around the front leg of my mule, and for a moment I was anxious lest the animal had been bitten; but fortunately the snake, which had been trodden upon, did no damage. Only rarely did we see a bird anywhere, except in villages, where an occasional crow, with its dried-up neck and jerky motions, could be seen. How like the inhabitants those birds were!
Twenty-seven kilometres farther we reached Santo Antonio, a village situated in quite a heavenly spot, 2,800 ft. above the sea level, but in itself one of the most miserable villages I have ever seen. There were altogether some forty houses scattered about, eight of which were along the sides of the principal square—an abandoned field. The church had the appearance of a disused barn. A large wooden cross stood in front of it, upon which birds had built their nests. Four thin, anaemic-looking palms stood at different angles by the side of the cross. We had the misfortune to stay there for the night. By seven o'clock everybody had barricaded their houses and had retired to sleep. There was, of course, no such thing as a post-office or a telegraph in the place. The nearest place where a letter could be posted was some 72 kil. away on the high road between Goyaz and Catalao. Goats tied in pairs, with a log of wood between in order to keep them apart, seemed to have the run of the place, and were the only things there which appeared to have any life in them.
But if the place was miserable, if the natives were repulsive and dull, there was plenty to be thankful for in admiration of the really glorious country around, and the superb sunsets to which we were treated every evening. Again that evening, when everybody in the place was slumbering, the sunset was more wonderful than words can describe. The usual radiations, which again reached the highest point of the sky's vault, were that night white on the west, with corresponding ones of brilliant cobalt blue to the east.
A drizzling rain rendered the night cold and damp, although the Fahrenheit thermometer registered a minimum temperature of 70 deg..
On leaving S. Antonio the trail ascended to a height of 3,100 ft. (41/2 kil. from the village), and we were then in a rich forest region, where the acaju—of the Terebinthaceae family—was plentiful, with its huge leaves and contorted branches. The acaju produced a refreshing fruit, either of a bright red or else of a yellow colour, not unlike a large pepper, outside of which was strongly attached a seed possessing highly caustic qualities. Many gordinha trees were also to be seen. It was interesting to see how those zones of forest were suddenly succeeded by beautiful and vast areas of grazing land, such as we found that day. We crossed three streams at the respective elevations of 2,550 ft., 2,650 ft., and 2,750 ft., after which we reached an elevation of 3,000 ft., the highest we had so far attained on our route from the coast, where we found ourselves on a grassy tableland of considerable beauty. Looking back to the S.S.E., we perceived the two hill ranges, one behind the other, which we had crossed. Between them and us were marvellous slopes covered with green grass, but not in the lower portion, where bordering the stream was luxuriant forest. This was noticeable also on a hill to the west, forming a minor tableland with rounded sides.
To the N.N.E. was a perfectly flat plateau. The distance rendered it of a deep blue, and its level sky-line gave the appearance of the horizon upon the ocean, except that there rose two small peaks which stood up slightly above the elevation of the plateau. On all that beautiful land only two small miserable farms were to be seen. Yet it seemed to be a paradise on earth—delightful climate, excellent soil, useful woods in the forest, plenty of delicious water.
Three more streamlets flowing from west to east were encountered at elevations of 2,700 ft., 2,750 ft. and 2,800 ft., with undulating grassy land between of wonderful beauty.
Having deviated somewhat from our route, we at last descended into a grassy valley—absolutely flat—the best of all we had seen. It had been fenced all round. Upon inquiry, I learned that it had been acquired by the Redemptionist Friars. There is one thing friars certainly know. It is how to select the best land anywhere to settle upon.
We had travelled 46 kil. 200 m. that day when we arrived at Campinas (elev. 2,550 ft. above the sea level)—the usual kind of filthy village with tiny, one-storied houses, more like toys than real liveable habitations. This time the doors and windows were bordered with grey instead of blue. On nearing those villages in Central Brazil one frequently found an abundance of rough wooden crosses scattered upon the landscape. They marked the spots where individuals had been killed.
In the room where I put up in the village, in the hospedagem, or rest-house, the floor was besmeared with blood, the result of a recent murder. The shops grew more and more uninteresting as we got farther into the interior. The difficulties of transport were naturally greater, the prices rose by leaps and bounds, as we got farther; the population got poorer and poorer for lack of enterprise. The articles of luxury and vanity, so frequently seen in shops before, were now altogether absent, and only bottles of inferior liquor and beer were sold, matches and candles—that was all. No trade, no industry, no money, existed in those places. If one happened to pay with a five- or a ten-milreis note (6s. 8d. or 13s. 4d.), one could never obtain change. Frequently, unless you wished to leave the change behind, you were obliged to carry away the balance in cheap stearine or beer. I took the stearine. A short distance from the town was a seminary, with four German friars, very fat, very jolly, very industrious.
Alcides, one of my men, was by way of being a veterinary surgeon. Here is how he cured a wounded mule, which, having received a powerful kick from another animal, displayed a gash 3 in. long in her back, and so deep that the entire hand could be inserted and actually disappear into the wound. Francisco, another of my men, having duly and firmly tied the animal's legs—a sensible precaution—proceeded with his naked arm to search for bishus: anything living is a bishu in Brazil, from an elephant to a flea; but in this particular case it was applied to insects, such as carrapatos, maggots, or parasites, which might have entered the wound. Having done this at considerable length and care, he proceeded to tear off with his nails the sore edges of the laceration, after which he inserted into the gash a pad of cotton-wool soaked in creoline. That was the treatment for the first day. The second day, the wound proceeding satisfactorily, he inserted into it, together with his hand, a whole lemon in which he had made a cut, and squeezed its juice within the raw flesh. The amazing part of it all was that the animal, with an additional bath or two of salt and water, absolutely recovered from the wound and got perfectly well.
The Redemptionist monks had a fine vineyard adjoining their monastery—the only one of any size and importance we had seen since leaving the railway—and also some lovely orange groves in a walled enclosure. They had built a mill on the bank of the stream. Most of that beautiful valley for miles and miles belonged to them. The town of Campinas—not to be confounded with Campinas of Sao Paulo Province—had a population of 600 souls.
When we left that place the next morning, again we went across beautiful flat stretches of grassy land—several miles long and broad—regular tablelands, at an elevation of 2,700 ft.—most wonderful pasture lands now going absolutely to waste. Plentiful streamlets intersected those lovely meadows at a slightly lower elevation—merely a few feet—where the water had eroded itself a channel. Those streams were generally bordered by a thick growth of trees and entangled vegetation. We stopped for lunch at the farm of Boa Vista (Belvedere or Fine View), so called—according to the usual Brazilian way of reasoning—because it was situated in a deep hollow from which you could see nothing at all! Another more rational name which this place also possessed was Bocca do Matto (Mouth of the Forest), because it truly was at the entrance of a thick forest extending to the north.
We went, in fact, from that point through densely wooded country, although the trees were of no great height or size. The ground was swampy and sloppy, most unpleasant for marching, for some nineteen kilometres, until we arrived at Goyabeira (elev. 2,700 ft.), having covered 56 kil. 100 m. that day—not at all bad marching considering that we could not change animals and we conveyed all our baggage along with us.
I saw that day another snake, called by the natives duas cabecas (and Tu Nou), or double-headed snake, because its marking gives that impression at first sight.
After leaving Goyabeira the thick growth continued over several ridges, the highest of which was 2,950 ft., with streams between at elevations respectively of 2,630 and 2,700 ft. I noticed in the forest some beautiful paneira trees, with their trunks enlarged near the base—a regular swelling all round. One of the peculiarities of this tree was that it produced a kind of vegetable wool contained within fairly hard capsules.
That was indeed a day of surprises for us. As we were proceeding over another hill range between two streams (elev. 2,850 ft.), we saw at last some butterflies of a gorgeous lemon yellow, some of a rich orange, others of red and black, great numbers of pure white, and some huge ones of an indescribably beautiful metallic blue colour. There were swarms of them near the water. So unaccustomed were they to see human beings that many settled on my white coat and on my straw hat and came along undisturbed for long distances upon my person. They were so beautiful that I had not the desire to kill them, even for the sake of bringing back a valuable collection. It would have been easy to capture them, as you could touch them several times with your fingers before they would fly away. One butterfly particularly took a great fancy to my left hand, in which I held the reins of my mule, and on which it sat during our marches for several days—much to my inconvenience, for I was afraid of injuring it. It would occasionally fly away and then return. At night while we were camping I transferred it to my straw hat, on which it quietly remained until the next morning. The moment I had mounted my mule, the butterfly would at once fly again to my hand. This great affection was due chiefly, I believe, not to any magnetic attraction, but merely to the delicately scented soap which I used in my morning bath, and which greatly attracted the butterfly.
On many occasions on that expedition I had similar experiences with butterflies.
For the first time, too, I perceived that day a few colibris—tiny humming-birds of wonderful plumage.
Twenty-three kilometres from Goyabeira—after many ups and downs along a deep-channelled, slushy trail, and having crossed over several swampy, troublesome streamlets—we suddenly emerged into a marvellous undulating open plain with lovely grass and numerous fat cattle grazing upon it. In the distance upon the hill-side four or five farm-sheds could be perceived. We had stopped at one farm on the way in hopes of getting food, but they could only sell us some feijao—beans soaked in lard—so that it was with some haste that we directed our mules to the more imposing building in expectation of finding there at least some rice and eggs. We hurriedly crossed the plain and then the stream, and halted at the Cachoeira Grande (Grand Rapid) farm, 2,950 ft. above the sea level. A pure negro was in charge of the place, whose wife was also as black as the ace of spades. Curiously enough, they possessed a child much discoloured and with golden hair and blue eyes. Such things will happen in the best regulated countries. The black man swore it was his own child, and we took—or, rather, did not take—his word for it.
We went on thirteen more kilometres that afternoon, when we were overtaken by a hurricane and torrential rain which drenched us to the marrow of our bones. We halted for the night at the farm of Lagoa formosa (Beautiful Lagoon), 3,000 ft. above the sea level.
It was on April 12th that we proceeded to climb the dividing range between the waters flowing south into the Paranahyba (afterward called the Parana) River, and those flowing north eventually into the Amazon. This range of mountains was by some called Serra de Sta. Rita, by others Serra Dourada. It was not possible to ascertain the real name from the local people, who could tell me the names of no place, or mountain, or stream, and hardly knew the names of their own homes.
On a flat expanse some 13 kil. from Lagoa Formosa we came upon a small lake. We travelled mostly across campos (or prairies), with waters from that point flowing northward. Seventeen kilometres farther we entered the neat-looking village of Curralhino (elev. 2,600 ft.), with two squares and streets actually with names to them. We were from this point on the main route between Sao Paulo and the capital of Goyaz, and also met there the telegraph line between Goyaz and Sao Paulo.
We were getting near the capital of the province. A little more life was noticeable in this settlement than in those we had met before. Caravans of mules and horses occasionally passed through, and bullock-carts, with eighteen and twenty oxen, slowly and squeakily crept along. We were going through a region that was more than hilly—almost mountainous—the first of the kind we had encountered since leaving the railway.
At Camp Maria Alves we were at an elevation of 3,000 ft. Beautiful crystals were to be found at and near this place. Many were enclosed in hard envelopes of yellow lava, which contained besides semi-crystallized matter easily crushed—to be strictly accurate, the imprisoned infinitesimal crystals were easily separated, under gentle pressure. Some spherical balls and pellets of lava I picked up, when split contained red baked earth which had evidently been subjected to intense heat. In the centre of these pellets one or more crystals of great clearness were invariably to be found. These pellets must have been expelled with terrific force from a volcanic vent, and must have travelled great distances, for the depression where I found them had a surface of alluvial formation.
On April 13th we again rose over a range where we encountered a good deal of igneous rock and quantities of beautiful crystals. We had a range to the west of us and one higher and more important to the north-east, the latter more broken up than any we had so far seen in the three last provinces crossed. We somehow missed now the lovely pasture lands of the day before, so refreshing to the eye, and the landscape had suddenly become more rugged and barren, except near water. Some 9 kil. from the farm Maria Alves the Uru or Uruba River (elev. 2,550 ft.) flowed north—there merely a picturesque torrent among rocks and overhanging vegetation on both banks.
The wonderful effect of erosion was noticeable on the mountain sides to the north of us, where it had left a top terrace with deep corrugations in the lower sides of the mountain. A miserable-looking farmhouse could be seen here and there—quite as miserable as the country in itself was rich. Some shaggy policemen, in rags and barefooted, passed us, guarding an ox-cart dragging treasure to the capital. Only the oxen and some cows which were about looked at us with interest, and sniffed us—it is wonderful how quick animals are at detecting the presence of strangers—but the people took no notice of us. Here and there a tumbled-down tree blocked the way. There were tracts of pasture land. My men were considerably excited on seeing a poisonous snake crawl swiftly towards our mules. It was perhaps an absent-minded or a short-sighted snake, for no sooner did it realize our presence than it quickly veered round to escape. My men killed it.
At an elevation of 2,550 ft. we met a limpid stream of most delicious water. At that particular spot it flowed south.
We were now confronted with a range of actual mountains. The trail took us over wonderful rugged scenery, masses of pillar-like grey rock of granitic formation. On the summit of the pass we were over strata of half-solidified tufa in sheets—or foliated—easily crumbled and finely powdered between one's fingers. The strata were at an angle of 45 deg., showing that they had undergone some disturbance. They had been subjected to great heat, for in some places they had been hard baked, which rendered them of a yellowish brown colour. On the left of us—to the west—a great vertical pillar of rock plainly showed the stratification, the continuation of which could be followed on the opposite side of the pass, both in the horizontal strata and those which had been forced up at an angle. Looking back from the pass, we obtained a heavenly panorama of wooded hills to the south-east, far, far beyond in the background, and of glorious campos between them and us. With the winter coming on—of course you know that south of the equator they have their winter when we have our summer—beautiful yellowish, reddish and brown tints of the foliage added picturesqueness to the landscape.
The pass itself was 2,850 ft. above the sea level. There was not much in the way of vegetation, barring a few stunted sucupira trees. The air was exquisitely pure and the water of two streamlets at 2,550 ft. delicious and cool. We were marching over quantities of marble fragments and beautiful crystals, which shone like diamonds in the sun. Having gone over the pass, we came upon a most extraordinary geological surprise. There seemed to have been in ages long gone by a great subsidence of the region north of us. We were then on the steep edge of what remained of the plateau, and down, down in the depth below was an immense valley in which Goyaz city lay.
To the west of us—as I stood impressed by that awe-striking scene—we had the irregularly-cut continuation of the edge of the plateau on which we stood, supported as it were on a pillar-like granitic wall of immense height and quite vertical, resting on a gently sloping base down to the bottom of the vast basin below.
This great natural wall of gneiss, which contained myriads of crystals and mica schists, shone like silver in the spots where the sun struck it, and with the lovely pure cobalt blue of the distant hills, the deep green of the valley below, and the rich brown and yellow and red tints of the near foreground, made one of the most exquisitely beautiful sights I have ever witnessed. The nearest approach to it in my experience was, perhaps, the eastern escarpment of the Abyssinian plateau in Africa, where a similar panorama on a much smaller scale could be seen, but not the same geological formation.
No sooner had I recovered from the strangeness and marvellous beauty of Nature's work around me, than I felt a great shock at seeing what men had done in that region. We were at this point on the high road between Sao Paulo, Uberaba and Goyaz capital. As my animals stumbled down the steep escarpment traces could be seen of what must have been formerly a beautiful paved road, well-drained on both sides with channels, and held up in terraces by stone works where the gradient was steepest. Here and there bits still remained, demonstrating how well the road had been made. But, uncared for and abandoned, most of it had been washed away by the heavy rains, which had turned that road into a foaming torrent in wet weather. Near habitations, the well-cut slabs with which the road was paved had come convenient to the natives for building purposes. During the time of the Emperor Pedro II., I was told, that was a magnificent road, kept in excellent repair.
Goyaz city lay before us down, down below, in the hollow of the huge depression. Its single row of low whitewashed houses of humble architectural pretensions became less and less impressive and less picturesque as one got nearer. I had by that time grown quite accustomed to this optical disillusion, for it was frequently the case with the work of man in Brazil. It always needed distance—the greater distance the better—to lend enchantment to it.
With a feeling of intense oppression—perhaps due to the stifling air and the lower elevation (1,950 ft.) at which Goyaz city lay—we entered the capital of Goyaz. At the sound of our mules upon the pavement, timid men, timid women and children cautiously peeped from each window through the half-closed Venetian blinds. We only had to turn round to peep at them, and with terrified squeals the hidden creatures banged and bolted the windows. The sight of a stranger in Goyaz was apparently an event. Whether we were expected or not, I do not know, but the whole population seemed to be hiding behind the tiny windows to look at us. The few who were caught in the street seemed as if they wanted to bow but had not the courage to do it. Indeed, their timidity was intensely amusing. Some, more courageous, gave a ghastly grin, displaying rows of irregular teeth in a terrible condition of decay.
DISTANCES BETWEEN ARAGUARY AND GOYAZ
Araguary to Paranahyba 59 kil. 400 m. = 9 leagues. Paranahyba to Corumbahyba 59 " 400 " 9 " Corumbahyba to Caldas 59 " 400 " 9 " Caldas to Pouso Alto 79 " 200 " 12 " Pouso Alto to S. Antonio 59 " 400 " 9 " S. Antonio to Campinas 46 " 200 " 7 " Campinas to Goyabeira 56 " 100 " 81/2 " Goyabeira to Curralhino 66 " " 10 " Curralhino to Goyaz 46 " 200 " 7 " ————————————————- Total 531 " 300 " 801/2 " =================================
In the City of Goyaz
THERE was no such thing as an hotel in Goyaz capital. The nearest approach to it was a filthy rest-house for muleteers, which was, furthermore, already full. Against my usual custom—as I never, unless absolutely necessary, make use of the credentials I carry for my private needs—I had, therefore, to apply to the Presidente or Governor of the Province to find some sort of accommodation in the town for my animals, men, and myself.
"Take off your spurs before you enter!" roughly shouted a sentry at the Governor's palace—a huge barn-like structure—just as I was stooping to do that before being asked.
"Do not stand on the pavement," said the sentry again, anxious to display his authority.
Being a law-abiding person I shifted to one side.
"Do not stop under the Presidente's window!" cried the policeman angrily once more, digging me in the ribs with his bayonet.
I was beginning to be sorry I had not brought an aeroplane with me in order to complete my toilet in the air before entering so sacred a precinct, but patience being one of my chief virtues I transferred myself to the remotest point across the square, where, stork-like, upon one foot at a time I was able—this time undisturbed—to remove both spurs.
"Take off your hat before entering," again shouted the policeman, as I was still some fifteen yards from the door.
I really began to feel rather nervous, with all those orders grunted at me. I wondered at the strange people who must visit the palace to have to be instructed to such an extent before entering. I also stopped for a moment to ponder whether I had taken off all that was necessary to enter a palace where so much etiquette was required.
The moment I entered things were different. I was ushered into an ante-room, where I had to go through a short cross-examination by some police officers. Then, when they had made sure of my identity, they immediately led me before the Presidente.
The Presidente greeted me with effusion. He was a most polished and charming gentleman from Rio de Janeiro, had travelled extensively in Europe, and could speak French and English. He roared heartily when I told him of my experience outside his palace.
"They are all savages here," he told me; "you must not mind. The sentry has orders to keep everybody away from the palace, as people come in the afternoon and squat under my windows to jabber, and I cannot sleep. Those orders, I assure you, were not meant for you. You will be my guest all the time you are in the city, and I can accept no excuse."
The Presidente placed a small house near the palace at my disposal, and insisted on my having all meals with his family—most refined, handsome, exquisitely polite wife and daughters.
I presented the credentials I possessed from the Minister of Agriculture in Rio and the Brazilian Ambassador in London, requesting the Presidente to do all in his power to further the success of the expedition—I, of course, paying all expenses. The Presidente, like most other Brazilians of a certain age, was blase beyond words. Nothing interested him except his family, and life was not worth living. He believed in nothing. He was an atheist because he had not been as successful as he wished in the world, and attributed the fault to God. He cared little about the future of his country. If his country and all his countrymen went to a warmer place than Heaven, he would be glad to see them go that way! As for going exploring, mapping unknown regions, studying the country and the people, building roads, railways and telegraphs, it little mattered to him, but it seemed all nonsense.
"Instead of coming to these wild, deadly regions, why do you not go and spend your money enjoying yourself in Paris or Vienna?" was his advice to me.
"Perhaps I need a change occasionally, and I enjoy things all the more by contrast when I return to Europe."
The Presidente was evidently not in good health and spirits. He was a Senator of the Republic, and a man formerly of great ambitions, which were more or less shattered when he was elected Governor of Goyaz Province, with its population of corpses, and at a salary of L40 a month—very little more than I paid my head muleteer—so that little could be expected from the Governor of such a Province.
It was thus that the State of Goyaz, one of the naturally richest in Brazil—it contained pasture lands unique for their beauty, forests with valuable woods, plenty of water and great navigable rivers draining it both north and south, of which it was sufficient to mention the magnificent Araguaya River, the Rio Tocantins and the Paranahyba (or Parana)—was instead one of the poorest. In the very heart of Brazil, Goyaz was geographically and politically the centre of the Republic. With an area of 747,311 sq. kil. (288,532 sq. miles), the Province had an estimated population of some 280,000 souls, or less than one to every square mile.
The region forming the present State of Goyaz was first explored in 1647 by Manoel Correa, a native of Sao Paulo, and in 1682 by another Paulista, Bartholomeu Bueno de Silva, who both were prospecting for gold. The latter was successful in locating gold mines and in making friends with the local Indians of the Goyaz tribe, from whom the Province then took its name. Some forty-three years later de Silva returned to Sao Paulo with 918 ounces of gold. The news of these goldfields quickly attracted a great number of adventurers to Goyaz. The country then saw its most prosperous days, especially in and near Villa Boa, the present city of Goyaz, where gold was said to have been plentiful in those days.
The enterprising Bartholomeu Bueno de Silva returned to Goyaz in 1731 as a Capitao Mor, or Grand Captain, with the right to dispose of land. In 1822 Goyaz was recognized as a Province of the Empire, and subsequently in 1869 it became one of the States of the Union, with autonomy as regards local affairs under its own Constitution approved by the Federal Constituent Assembly in 1891.
Cattle, horse and mule breeding on a small scale was the chief source of income of that magnificent State—an income which in less indolent hands might be increased ten-thousand-fold or more. Its horses and mules found a ready market in the adjacent State of Matto Grosso and from there went into Bolivia, while the States of Minas Geraes and Sao Paulo were the chief buyers of pigs, toucinho (dried pork fat), dried beef, hides raw and cured, cheese, lard, etc.
Goyaz prided itself greatly on its horses, which enjoyed a certain fame all over Brazil. Perhaps they were in a way as good as any produced in the Republic. With a little study and care in the breeding they might be greatly improved and rendered as sturdy and good-looking as some horses of Asia and Northern Africa. So far they were far inferior in appearance and endurance to the horses of Arabia, Turkestan, Europe and Abyssinia.
The most interesting type of the Goyaz horse was what is called the curraleiro or "stable horse," bred in the north of the State, especially in the valley of Paranan, bordering upon Minas and Bahia. The curraleiro was also known as cavallo sertanejo or "horse of the jungle"—two most inappropriate names, for it was, accurately speaking, neither one nor the other.
The Goyaz horse was a typical Brazilian horse. It shared many of the characteristics of the people of the Province. Timidity, laziness, lack of affection and judgment, sulkiness and great stubbornness under training of any kind were its qualities. This was due chiefly, I think, to its inferior intelligence when compared with thoroughbred horses of other nations. The Goyaz horse was small, fairly agile, and when well cared for had a handsome shiny coat with luxuriant mane and tail. It was capable of short, noteworthy efforts, but did not possess abnormal endurance.
The present curraleiro is a mere degeneration of what must have formerly been an excellent horse. Considering the absolute lack of care taken in its breeding, it was certainly remarkable that it proved to be as good a horse as it actually was. Judiciously crossed with Hungarian, Turkestan, Arab or Abyssinian horses, I think that quite excellent results might be obtained. It must be taken into consideration that great hardships and work of the roughest character were demanded of animals in Central Brazil.
A praiseworthy movement was started some years ago by Marechal Hermes da Fonseca, now President of the Republic, to mount the entire Brazilian Cavalry on national horses. That will perhaps lead some day to a great improvement in the breeding of animals all over the country, and especially in Goyaz, which provided the most suitable land for that purpose. The same remarks could, perhaps, in a slightly lesser degree, be applied to the breeding of donkeys and mules. No care whatever was exercised by the breeders in order to improve the breeds. Everything was left to luck and chance. The result was that a degenerate type of animal was produced—wonderful indeed, considering the way it was bred, but which might be improved to an immense extent and made into a remarkable animal, in such a propitious climate and with such marvellous pasture lands.
With cattle also, it is safe to assert that, since the colonial time, very little fresh foreign blood of any importance has been introduced in breeding—except, perhaps, some inferior types of the Indian humped zebu. Most of the stock I saw in Southern Goyaz was intermixed with zebu. The formerly existing bovine races, such as the Mocha, Coracu and Crioula have now almost altogether disappeared.
Unlike most other States of Brazil, Goyaz had no Provincial Customs duties. With its immense frontier, bordering upon seven different other States, it would be impossible to enforce the collection of payments. No reliable statistics were obtainable as to the amount of exports or imports of the State. Even approximately it would be impossible to make a guess as to the actual amount of the resources of the State.
Sugar-cane and tobacco could be profitably grown in the State. The small quantity of tobacco grown there was of excellent quality.
The Government of Goyaz Province consisted of three Powers: the Executive, represented by the President, elected for three years by universal suffrage; the Legislature—a Chamber of Deputies equally elected for three years by suffrage; and a Judicial power constituted by the High Court of Justice, Juges de droit—law judges—and District Judges. To be elected President of Goyaz State all that was necessary was to be a Brazilian citizen, over thirty years of age, and able to read and write. The same applied to the election of Deputies—for whom a residence of only two years in the State was sufficient.