These birds have received the name tucano from the noise they make, which resembles "tok-kan" very sharply pronounced and with a snap at the end of each syllable.
The tucanos are good climbers, but not good fliers. In fact, their flight is somewhat clumsy and heavy. They seldom fly long distances. They spend all their time on the higher branches of trees. They are generally to be seen alone or in couples, or perhaps occasionally in flocks of three or four.
What spare moments I had in Castanho—after the storm was over—I spent on the banks of the river looking at the magnificent stream.
Looking south, a low hill range could be seen in the distance with a conical summit rising slightly above the range—the Serra do Cayapo. It was there, as I have said, that the great Araguaya had its birth. It was interesting to note that the head waters of the Araguaya—flowing north, of course—had their birth within an infinitesimal distance of those of two such immense rivers as the Inducassu and the Sucuru, flowing into the Parana, and also near the somewhat unknown Taquary River flowing into the Paraguay.
It would be possible—although perhaps expensive—by means of raised artificial lakes and locks actually to join at least one of these southern great rivers to the great Araguaya, and thus—barring some troublesome rapids—form a continuous waterway from south to north across South America, from Buenos Ayres, roughly in Lat. 34 deg. 5' south, to Para in Lat. 1 deg. 27' 6" South. Imagine a distance by river extending for 33 deg. 37' 54" (or 3,737 kil.) in a straight line—as the crow flies—and not less than double that distance if we include the constant turns and deviations in the various connected rivers.
Easier still and less expensive would be to connect by rail the last two navigable points of those two streams. That will certainly be done some day, when those abandoned regions are eventually populated and properly developed.
There were some rocky falls just below Porto Castanho which prevented navigation as far as the place where we crossed the Araguaya—otherwise the river was navigable from those falls as far as Conceicao.
The formation of the clouds over the great Araguaya River was peculiar. Great clusters of globular clouds generally collected in three distinct strata upon a whitish sky as far as high up upon the sky vault.
Facing north, the country appeared absolutely flat, and nothing could be seen above the trees as far as the eye or even a telescope could perceive. In that direction the stream, 200 yards wide, flowed through a perfectly straight channel for about one mile.
The fishing in the river was excellent. One night we caught a lot of fish. One, a huge pirarara weighing 40 lb., then some pirahiba and a pintado, the latter 24 lb. in weight. The pirarara was an extraordinary-looking fish. It had a long head covered entirely with a hard, bony, granular substance, which could only be cracked by a severe blow with an axe. The eyes were prominent and placed quite close to abnormally long antennae or feelers. The back of the pirarara was bluish black, the centre of the body longitudinally was yellowish, whereas the under part was white. The tail was of a bright vermilion, and the black fins had red edges, which made the huge pirarara a really beautiful fish to look at.
The pirahiba had a grey back with stripes so faint that they were hardly visible. Its head was flat and anchor-shaped. The eyes—very small—were curiously situated on the top of the head instead of at the sides—owing to the fact that the head was really so flat that it had no sides: it was merely a gentle convex curve from one side of the mouth to the other over the skull. The pirahiba too, like most fish of those rivers, possessed long tentacles. Its mouth and fins were slightly tinted red. It displayed powerful teeth similarly arranged to those of the pintado fish previously described.
Then we got some tubarao (or Squalus carcharias)—a small fish with a long, pointed head like a bird's beak, of the plagiostomos order, and several mandĩ—a small yellow fish with enormous eyes. The mandĩ had remarkable vitality. Seven hours after it had been caught—I had no idea the poor thing was still alive—it gave several leaps in the air, and when I put it in a bucket of water it shortly began to swim as if nothing had happened.
There were only two or three very small dug-outs on the Araguaya, none of which were capable of carrying more than one or two people. There was no boat there large enough to carry all my men and baggage, had I even at that moment decided to descend that river instead of proceeding west. I took observations for latitude and longitude at Porto Castanho, as well as boiling-point observations with the hypso-metrical apparatus, the latter in order to get the exact elevation, and also to keep a check on my several aneroids which I used on the journey merely for differential observations.
May 9th, 1910. Boiling point, 210 deg. 3 F. Temperature of the air, 83 deg. F. = 1182 ft. above the sea level. By Aneroid, 1190 ft.
My mules having had a good rest, I was making ready to start on May 12th, when one of my men refused to come any farther. He wished to be paid off and go. So he received his pay and went. He would probably end his existence in that filthy little hamlet. He would never have the energy to return to Goyaz alone. I was rather glad he had gone, as, a few nights previously, he had fired at me while I was asleep. The bullet had actually made a hole through the canvas of my camp bed. I had fortunately taken the precaution to alter the position of my bed—under my tent—a precaution I took every night, after my men had gone to sleep in their hammocks, some distance outside. The man had evidently aimed where he thought my head was resting. I having turned the bed around, the bullet, fired from the man standing, went just over my ankles, perforating the canvas quite close to them. I naturally came out of my tent to see what was the matter, and saw the man with the rifle in his hand.
"Why did you shoot?" I inquired, as the man, evidently surprised to see me standing before him, ejaculated disconnected words.
"I saw a huge onca" (a jaguar) ... "it was there ... I saw its two eyes shining like fire...."
"Did you kill the onca?"
"No, it leapt away."
I advised the man, patting him paternally on the back, not to startle everybody again. If he should see another onca he had better come to me. I seldom missed when I fired at all—as I had been able to show them a few days before. I did not wish my men to behave like so many timid young girls, as I wished to be able to tell people in Europe that Brazilians were brave and noble.
"Firing in such a fashion indiscriminately," I explained to him, "you might have even killed one of your companions! Now go to sleep like a good fellow, and do not fire again!"
I spoke to the rascal in the gentlest of ways, never for one moment letting him suspect that I knew he had intended that bullet to go through my head. Nor did I ever take any of the other men into my confidence. When they asked what the commotion was about, I told them that their companion had fired at a jaguar and the jaguar had leapt away. There is only one effective weapon you can use with scoundrels. It is the greatest calm and kindness.
The man, hiding his face in his hands, threw himself upon his hammock and began to sob. He sobbed and sobbed and sobbed until the morning—much to the inconvenience of everybody in camp. At sunrise he had been seized with a severe attack of rheumatism which had contracted a leg badly. It was pitiful to see him walking—but when he was not aware of being looked at he walked as well as anybody else.
From that day that fellow never dared look me straight in the face. He avoided riding near me on the march, and in camp was sulky and unpleasant, retiring to a distance and declining to work. He was relieved of the functions of cook. The last time he had produced a meal nearly brought massacre upon him at the hands of the other men.
He received his full pay up to date, without uttering a word of thanks. He duly signed a receipt with his thumb-mark, as he was unable to write. When the troop of horses and mules and his companions left, he never spoke a word of farewell to his companions or animals, nor to me. He sat silent and motionless, with his eyes riveted to the ground as if in a trance. Some days later we discovered that he had stolen from our store some 40 lbs. of coffee and a large quantity of sugar, as well as a number of other articles which had been useful to us.
The sky when we left was overcast, and huge globular clouds, white and grey, hung in great masses, especially half way up the vault of the sky. The country, after crossing the Araguaya, was remarkably beautiful, from an agricultural point of view—enormous campos or prairies—over rich alluvial deposits, with scanty stunted trees upon them. Plenty of burity palms grew in the lower depressions.
My men suffered intensely from the cold at night—the minimum being 60 deg. Fahr., maximum 92 deg., in the afternoon of the 13th. The temperature had been much lower since we had crossed the great river. The elevation was only 1,250 ft.
Rising slowly over an undulation in the country to 1,300 ft., we began to find igneous rock showing through the surface soil, especially on the higher points.
Lixia (Nephelium Litchi Carab), caraiba and the laranjeira do campo (Citrus vulgaris), were trees to be seen in that region.
We had wonderfully clear sky in the morning. At noon it became slightly clouded, while in the afternoon one-third of the sky was covered. A light breeze blew from the west.
Some 28 kil. from the Araguaya we came to a small miserable farmhouse. After a great deal of bargaining I was able to purchase some extra horses. The people had no idea whatever of the value of money, and named sums at first which would have easily purchased the finest horses on the English turf. They descended in time to more reasonable figures.
Our life was rendered miserable all day by the millions of pium or gnats that swarmed around us and stung us with incredible fierceness and viciousness. Those little brutes left on our skins black marks fully as large as themselves wherever they stung us. The itching was most trying. Those marks remained for several weeks, and only disappeared when we perforated them with a needle to let the blood out, or waited long enough for them to become desiccated and the skin re-formed.
Pium is a word of the Tupi and Tupinamba Indians' language. Those tiny insects entered your eyes, leaving behind an odoriferous acid which caused great irritation of the lids. We removed dozens every day from our eyes. Fortunately they were easily extracted. They also dashed into your ears, up your nose, and, whenever you opened it, inside your mouth.
It was well worth going to Matto Grosso to enjoy the lovely moonlight nights, only comparable in their luminous splendour to nights of Central Africa in the middle of the Sahara desert, and to those on the high Tibetan plateau in Asia. The light of the moon was so vivid that one could see almost as well as in the daytime.
Personally, the crisp cool air (min. 59 deg. Fahr.) made me feel in most excellent health and spirits, but my men, who had putrid constitutions, were a mass of aches and pains. Some cried like children the entire night with toothache, moaning and shrieking like lunatics when the pain became acute; others got internal aches, another had cramp in the legs. I must say that Alcides, with all his faults, was the only one who always did his work—not always with common sense, but he did it—and, when ill, never gave exhibitions of pitiful weakness like the others.
Filippe, the negro, who eventually showed himself to be the bravest Brazilian on that expedition, also stood the pain more calmly and with manliness. As I had judged from the first moment I had laid eyes upon them, those were really the only two men who were any good at all. "Il bon di si vede dal mattino" (A fine day is seen in the morning), says an ancient and very true Italian proverb; truer, perhaps, in its philosophy with individuals than with the weather.
Many of my men's complaints vanished with the warmth of the sun—108 deg. Fahr. at 1 p.m., with a maximum temperature during the day of 85 deg. in the shade.
With the beautiful clear sky and a gentle breeze blowing, it was a real delight to march. Only a slight whitish mist—always in horizontal streaks—was to be noticed near the earth. The sky, although limpid, was never of a deep blue, but merely of a pale cobalt. The dew was heavy during the night and soaked everything, making the baggage, the tents particularly, heavy for the animals to carry. We still kept at an elevation of 1,250 ft., noticing, as we marched on, an isolated range of hills extending from north-east to south-west and showing considerable erosion at its south-westerly terminus. Two conical hills—one a broken cone—stood on the summit of a flat plateau, the entire range, as well as the summit of hills, showing eroded slopes with vertical wall-like superior portions.
After leaving the stream at the foot of a range 1,450 ft. above the sea level, on rising over a low pass I could observe to the north-east of that range great blocks of eruptive rock much perforated, in which were embedded pellets of yellow lava and of red and black baked igneous rock. On examining the north-eastern end of the main part of the range it was apparent that what remained standing before us was merely one half of a circular crater, the other half of which had collapsed or had been blown up by volcanic action. The bottom of the crater was subsequently filled with alluvial deposits. There was there a grassy plain with a few burity palms. In the valley before us was ideal pasture land, which will some day be of great value.
We crossed two cols (elev. 1,550 ft.) with a beautiful plain between. Then we descended into a third lovely valley on the north side of the outer wall of the crater. The grazing was perfect for the animals. Clusters of vigorous, healthy burity palms stood in great numbers in the centre and at the sides of the valley. This great valley was bounded by two ridges extending in a northerly direction—two spurs, as it were. The rounded, channelled outer sides of the crater to the north would tend to strengthen the theory that those slopes were formerly a gradual continuation of the present inclined valley. On those slopes of the mountain hardly any vegetation could be noticed, perhaps owing to the fact that hard volcanic rock existed under the thin surface padding of yellowish earth.
The valley was buried in red and grey lapilli and ashes, finely broken up marble cubes, and fragments of other forms of crystallized rock.
As we proceeded from camp Fogasso, the northern slopes of the crater became divided into huge furrows, the vertical upper part of the crater displaying vividly rich red tones. The crater was castellated at the summit, like the walls of a fortress.
The geological formation of that portion of the Matto Grosso plateau interested me greatly. Each individual spur, taken separately, showed slopes sometimes abrupt, sometimes well rounded, separated from the next spur of hills by a V-shaped or angular, or else a concave hollow. At the bottom of those hollows one did not find the slopes continuing the line of the crater, but the valley was there absolutely flat and cut the line of the slope sharply. It would almost appear as if a subsidence of the soil had taken place in that particular locality, or else one might speculate whether those abrupt hills had not been the walls of what was once a subterranean volcanic cauldron—the flat valley, in which we were, having been the bottom of that cauldron. What little rock one found in the river bed in this valley showed signs of having been exposed to intense and prolonged heat, and so did the brilliant red summit of the hill range, which was also of the deep red typical of hard-baked rock.
The scene which I had before me there in Matto Grosso greatly reminded me of a similar basin I had seen when the great Bandaisan mountain in Japan was blown up by a volcanic explosion and left merely the bottom part of its gigantic internal cauldron with vertical red walls around it. With the exception of scanty and anaemic grass and a few stunted trees, there was hardly any vegetation noticeable. The Fogasso stream, on the bank of which we camped, flowed in an easterly direction into the Araguaya.
The temperature on the plateau was ideal—min. 63 deg. Fahr. during the night; max. 75 deg.. We were at an elevation of 1,450 ft.
On May 15th we were travelling along a valley over which must have once risen the continuation of a range which stood to the north of us. There were deep grooves and corrugations in the valley in a direction from south to north between the two sections of the now interrupted range. There we found soil of red, brown and yellow tints, or else great stretches of grey volcanic ashes and earth mixed, as well as sharply angular fragments of igneous rock, which showed that they had not travelled there by rolling on the ground or propelled by water.
After this we passed close to another curious spur of mountains on the east—quite isolated and of a red vertical columnar formation. Its summit was broken up—much more so than that of the plateau-like range to the south of us which we were following in a parallel line. The highest point of that range, to the south, was wooded, and so were the two conical-topped hills which towered over it. The strata where exposed showed a slight dip to the north. We crossed the range by two low cols at elevations of 1,550 ft. and 1,560 ft. respectively. On the summit and even lower upon the sides of those cols we found huge boulders of eruptive rock, highly ferruginous. Globular lumps, big and small, of spattered smooth-surfaced yellow lava were to be found in myriads; also many spherical pellets of ferruginous, highly-baked rock with innumerable holes produced while in a state of ebullition. Some of the ferruginous rocks had pellets of yellow lava firmly imbedded in them, which had evidently penetrated while liquid into the hollows of the ferruginous rock which was already in a semi-solid, or perhaps solidified, condition. At any rate, when it happened the ferruginous rock was already harder than the lava.
While I was studying attentively the geological conditions of that region, the sky suddenly became as black as ink to the south, and a heavy shower, which lasted half an hour, drenched us all to the marrow of our bones. Then it cleared up, and the sun, supplemented by our natural heat, dried our clothes upon us again as we went on.
Geological Speculation—Beautiful Pasture-land
THE stars were of extraordinary brilliancy at night; so much so that one could see quite well enough by their light to get about. The atmosphere being extremely clear, they appeared of immense size, the planets shining with dazzling, changing colours which would have filled even the most profane with reverence for their splendour.
I drew the attention of my men to the wonderful sight.
"They are stars!" they replied contemptuously; "Have you never seen stars before?"
It was indeed difficult to enter into conversation on any subject with them without having an ardent desire to strangle the lot, they were so ignorantly offensive. I was thankful I had the sense always to go about unarmed, or I am certain some of them would have paid somewhat dearly for their impertinence. I was glad, too, that I never felt the weight of loneliness, as days and days would go by without my saying a word to them, barring perhaps a shout in camp to bring my breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
What was even worse than entering into conversation with them was to listen—one could not help it, they shouted so loudly all the time—to the conversation among themselves. We will not refer to the choice language they used, so inexplicably sacrilegious and indecorous that it would have set on edge the teeth of the coarsest specimens of humanity; but the subject—I say subject in the singular, mark you, for alas! there was only one subject—discussed in all its phases perhaps, but only one single subject—assassination. The accounts of different murders, in some of which the men boasted they had taken part, were nightly repeated in their minutest details to the assembled crowd—myself excluded—sitting around the fire, while the feijao—beans, so loved by them—were being stewed for hours and hours in a cauldron.
There was the story of one murder of which one of the men was particularly proud, in which he reproduced the facial expression as well as the smothered shrieks of the horrified victim. He gave a vivid description of how the blood squirted out like a fountain from the jugular vein of the throat as it was being severed. That story—most graphically narrated, I admit—had taken the fancy of that cruel crowd. Almost every evening, during the entire time those men were with me, many long months, I heard that story repeated amid roars of laughter from the company. Murder—when applied to others—was evidently for them a great joke!
Inconsiderate to a degree, they would get up and sing at the top of their voices in the middle of the night and keep everybody awake while the feijao was stewing. It took hours and hours before those awful black beans had boiled sufficiently to be edible, and the man who acted as cook had to sit up the whole night to stir them up and watch them. Yes, the position of cook for the camp was not an enviable one, for it meant marching all day and sitting up all night to prepare the feijao for the following day. Yet the love they had for their feijao—I never ate the beastly stuff myself—was so great that those lazy devils, who could not be induced on any account to do other work, did not mind at all having sleepless nights to watch over the stewing cauldron. With the feijao were placed in the pot large pieces of toucinho (lard). We carried quantities of feijao, for without feijao you cannot induce a Brazilian to do anything or go anywhere. Of the two he would rather sacrifice his life than lose his daily feijao.
It requires great ability, I believe, to cook feijao properly. I noticed that all my men in a body were ever superintending its preparation. When the cook in the early hours of the morning happened to let the fire go down, or in his drowsiness was not stirring it properly, there were angry shouts from the other men, who, every time they opened one eye in their sleep, invariably gazed towards the beloved cooking-pot.
We came to a second range parallel with the one described before and extending from north-east to south-west. Again a vertical natural wall was noticeable to the east. This range was subdivided into many sections, almost all of the same size and shape. The end section to the north-east—which made an exception—was about three and a half times the length of any of the others. I observed some deep vertical vents such as are frequently to be seen in the sections of volcanoes that have partly been blown up. These vents were particularly numerous in the north-easterly block, where broad corrugations and some narrow ones—ten in all—were also to be seen.
Two alternatives could explain the present configuration of that region. There had been either a great volcanic explosion or else a sudden subsidence. Personally I was inclined to favour the first hypothesis. I shall explain why. First because the great fissures between the various huge blocks and the grooves carved in those rocks would then at once explain themselves—caused naturally by the violent shock. They had apparently been enlarged in the course of time by erosion of water and wind, and possibly by the friction of the debris of the masses of rock settling down when the stratum was severed. The quantity of debris of shattered rock minutely broken into cubes and other angular forms would suggest that some great shock had occurred. Then the usual yellow pellets of polished lava, either globular or pear-shaped, or like an elongated oval ending in a point and well rounded at the other end, would also indicate that these missiles had been flying great distances through the air in a molten state before they had actually dropped. In fact, the flight was so long as absolutely to cool and solidify them before they fell—unless they had fallen in cold water—for they had retained their original form, instead of getting flattened at the heavier end, as could be expected had the lava reached the ground in a half-soft state. Large blocks of lava—which naturally took a longer time to cool and a shorter time to reach the earth after their flight through the atmosphere—had, in fact, become flattened on the lower side where they struck the ground. Others of a composite globular form had invariably been flattened into a slight curve on the side where they had come in contact with the soil.
Ovoid rocks as large as a loaf of bread and composed of compressed cinders were to be seen about, which, when easily split open, showed a band of slightly ferruginous matter, very brittle, in a crystallized condition. In the centre of these rocks were invariably found beautiful crystals of great limpidity, easily separated from one another by a slight pressure of the fingers.
Erosion had evidently since played great part in the present appearance of the country, but to my mind—directly above what is now a valley—there existed at one time a high range of mountains, which was in those days the great dividing line of the waters flowing south and north.
One might, of course, also argue that what are the mountains now have been pushed up from underneath above the ground into their present position, but local conditions do not tend to encourage this theory.
The strata of red baked rock in the existing mountain side were almost absolutely horizontal, with merely a slight dip to the north. In the northern end of the range the rock showing through the vegetation was white, as if it had been subjected to baking. The western aspect of the first range showed also a vertical summit of red rock with a sloping spur extending to the west.
We camped that night on the river Prata, which flowed south. Elevation, 1,300 ft. Maximum temperature 85 deg. F., minimum 631/2 deg. F.
The formation of the clouds was always interesting. The long horizontal streaks across the sky, which were daily noticeable, took a form that day not unlike the vertebrae of an immense snake, whereas the higher clouds of transparent mist in filaments looked exactly like a huge spider's web.
We established our camp under a tall, handsome, slender Xinghi-tree, the triangular fruit of which, with a light brown, hard skin, was deadly poisonous if eaten. Alcides told me that in Minas Geraes it was much used in the manufacture of soap. This tree was extremely neat-looking, with its clean sinuous branches and its pretty, light green, healthy leaves, of an elongated oval shape.
My men had insisted on bringing dogs away with us for safety in case of attack by Indians. They had in fact procured three—I would not care to say how—before our departure from the Goyaz Province. Those dogs were just as faithless and lazy and worthless as the people. They followed us because they got plenty of food, otherwise they had no affection for anybody; and, far from giving an alarm when any person or any animal approached the camp, they were quite unmoved by anything that happened around them during the day or night, except at meal-times. A handsome onca (jaguar) leapt close to camp, and on perceiving us bounded gracefully away—the dogs remaining fast asleep with their noses resting on their respective extended fore-paws. Another day during the march a veado (Cervus elaphus), a deer, sprang in his flight clean over one of the dogs without the dog even noticing him! Game was plentiful in that part of the country, and the animals were so unaccustomed to see people, that one could get quite near them.
My men went after game in the morning and we did not make an early start, in fact not until 10.30 a.m. It was amazing to see the amount of good water that was to be found on the plateau. We crossed a streamlet flowing south (elev. 1,300 ft.), and shortly afterwards, upon gently inclined land, we crossed another stream, also flowing south.
We were travelling due west along the foot of a curious range which stood to our north and of another of similar characteristics to the south. It seemed quite possible, in fact, even probable, that the two ranges were formerly only one, which had then split, and that we were travelling inside the partially-filled-up fissure between the two divided ranges. The sky-line of the two ranges matched exactly on both sides—first a long hump, then two smaller humps, after that a more even and continuous line.
On reaching an elevation of 1,500 ft. we were confronted with a splendid view of a flat plateau to the west. By a steep descent we went down 300 ft. to a river (elev. 1,200 ft. above the sea level) in a hollow, reached by going through dense tall grass and thick vegetation. A humble wooden cross by the stream marked the spot where a Brazilian had been murdered by Indians.
Interesting flows and domes of lava were to be seen near the stream, after which our marching that day was mostly up and down campos with magnificent grazing, the general slope of which was from north to south. At an elevation of 1,400 ft., on turning our heads back, we had a general view of the two ranges which had become separated.
On one side of the range, a sloping back was noticeable, whereas on the opposite side were almost vertical sides, much grooved, with a terrace about two-thirds up the total elevation, except at the western end, where the terrace was instead exactly half way up, with a minor terrace near the summit.
We met and crossed another streamlet, and then rose on our route to 1,550 ft., from where another beautiful view of the plateau to the south-west could be obtained, a low hill range with a higher peak in front of it, and the immense green campos at a slanting angle. Another fine panoramic view of the two divided ranges was also before us, although from that particular point of vantage it was slightly more difficult to reconstruct their former appearance in one's imagination than from the centre of the valley we had crossed, although even from that point the fact was apparent with a little study.
On proceeding down to the river we met some flows of red lava and, upon the top of nearly every undulation, boulders of black eruptive rock showed through, highly ferruginous, as well as much lava in pellets. Debris of baked red and black rock were to be found in quantities down the slopes and at the bottom of those undulations, carried there evidently by water. In one or two places, such as near the river at Ponte Keimada, I smashed some of the larger boulders of yellow lava. Here is what I found inside: Under an outer coating of lava an inch thick there was a layer of solidified cinders. Under that lay a thin layer of lava, then again yet another layer of grey ashes, then lava again. This would indicate that those boulders had gradually reached their present shape partly in revolutions through the air thick with cinders, partly by rolling down or along intermittent stretches of molten lava and cinders during a great eruption, or perhaps during several successive eruptions. Personally, I think that it was during various periods of one eruption before the lava had cooled, so that in its sticky state it would easily collect the ashes round it, which it would certainly not do in its polished, solidified state.
When we had passed beyond the western end of the two parallel ranges a great change was noticeable in the appearance of the country we were crossing. We missed the long, sweeping, uninterrupted lines of the scenery, and had before our eyes a confused surface of bosses, mounds and short undulations, with thick luxuriant vegetation upon them which prevented my studying carefully their geological formation. The soil, of a rich red colour, showed every indication of being extremely fertile in that particular climate.
From the point where we stood, one could well judge the effects of the great volcanic explosion on the back of the range—the one to our left—where a long line of buttresses had formed, as if on that side a subsidence on a large scale had also taken place. It was in any case curious to notice that at the two termini east and west of the two parallel ranges white rock in columnar form was exposed in both ranges in corresponding sites.
The slope noticeable on the north side of the southern range could be explained by the tilting of the strata where the separation took place. The angle of the strata clearly demonstrated this fact.
Millions of mosquitoes and piums, carrapatinhos and carrapatos made life unbearable both during the day and night. We never had a moment's respite. The gnats, too, in thick swarms around us were a constant worry—we were all day busy removing them from our eyes and ears. They stung us all over most mercilessly. I was making a botanical collection, which not only contained specimens of the leaves of all the trees we met with, but also of minor plants and various kinds of grass. This involved getting off my mule many times a day. Whenever I put my feet on the ground or touched a blade of grass I well knew what was in store for me. At once I became literally covered with carrapatinhos, and set to scratch myself so violently that nothing short of digging my nails into my skin seemed to relieve the irritation—and that, mind you, only momentarily. One had to bear it, and wait until one got to camp in the evening before one could disinfect oneself all over. In this world one never gets credit for anything, but I do think that few men under those circumstances would have gone on, as I did, collecting botanical specimens for no reward whatever except my own pleasure, if pleasure it can be called.
Again we noticed that day wonderful effects of clouds in filaments, one group stretching along the sky in an arc from north to east like the dorsal bone and ribs of an immense fish.
We camped on the bank of a stream (elev. 1,050 ft.) flowing north-east, which was, I think, the same stream we had met in the morning, and which had described a big turn.
My men amused me with their fears. Even when in camp they never left their rifles for a moment. When they went only a few yards away, either to fetch water or bring back a mule, they invariably took all their weapons with them—carbines, automatic pistols, and daggers.
In order to collect specimens and examine the country, I sometimes strayed away alone for long distances from camp—sometimes for two or three hours at a time—always absolutely unarmed. My men began to be thoroughly frightened of the immunity I possessed from attacks of wild beasts and Indians. Although I told them that wild beasts never attacked human beings unless attacked first, and that there were no Indians about, my men would not believe me. They maintained that I must have some special secret of my own which brought me back alive, and that I must be even bullet-proof. They could never be induced to go alone—even when armed—for more than a few metres from camp.
We were having cool nights. Minimum 59 deg. Fahr., maximum 80 deg. Fahr.—on May 17th. A mackerel sky of the prettiest design was overhead, like a lovely mosaic of white and blue porcelain, while a band of clear blue encircled us all around above the horizon line.
Across a forest we continued our journey, rising some 300 ft. to 1,350 ft. above the sea level, where we again found campos and forest alternately upon deep masses of fine red sand or else great expanses of grey and black volcanic cinders intermixed in patches. On reaching the highest elevation we actually went over 6 kil. of volcanic sand and ashes, and in one place traversed a patch of shattered debris with cutting edges of eruptive rock, and brilliant red or deep black pebbles. Then again we saw masses of the usual ferruginous, much-perforated rocks—many so absolutely spherical as to resemble cannon-balls.
To the west we could see before us lovely green undulations—campos—with, in the centre, a curious hump that looked as though due to subterranean pressure. In the distance was visible another of those long flat-topped plateaus typical of Brazil, with a headland which, owing, it seemed, chiefly to erosion, had become separated from the main range. It resembled and was parallel with the second range of the split mountains we had just left. Some nine kilometres from our last camp we encountered the river Das Corgo, flowing south (elev. 1,150 ft.) over a bed formed by an impressive great flow of solidified red lava covered in some places by deposits of bright red earth. Beyond the river we found ourselves again upon yellow sand and ashes.
Beneath a cirro-cumulus—or mackerel sky—again that day, wonderfully beautiful because of its perfection of design, we were gradually rising over the domed elevation we had previously observed, upon which we found masses of tiny pebbles—what are known to geologists by the Italian name of "puzzolana" or scoriae reduced to a granular condition. Farther on, travelling over other undulations, we sank into thick deposits of grey and yellow volcanic scoriae, such as fine sand, cinders, and lapilli. At the highest point (elev. 1,270 ft.) we travelled over deep sediments of sand and ashes mixed together. All those undulations, as a matter of fact, were above great buried flows of red lava, which were invariably exposed to sight in the depressions, particularly in the beds of rivers.
Being a great lover of good water—to my mind the elixir of life, the great secret of health and strength—I was always enraptured by the deliciousness of the water in the streams we met. It was so crystalline and limpid that one could not resist the temptation of drinking it, even when not thirsty. I always carried slung to my saddle an enamelled tin cup attached to a string so as to be able to procure myself a drink at all the streams without getting off my mount.
Twelve kilometres from our last camp we came to a watercourse flowing into a big stream at the bottom of the valley. Its bed was in overlapping terraces of polished red lava.
The green country before us, in great sweeping undulations, reminded one much, in its regularity, of the great waves of the ocean—what sailors call "long seas." Where the stream had cut through and left the underlying dome of lava exposed one could easily judge of the thick deposits of sand, ashes and pulverized rock which formed the strata above it.
We travelled over more red volcanic sand for some four kilometres, rising to 1,400 ft., on which elevation was thick matto, or stunted, much entangled forest. Then we emerged once more into glorious open country, marching over a stratum 8 ft. thick of whitish tufa and ashes, this stratum lying immediately above one of red volcanic earth. The strata were easily measurable where rivulets had cut deep grooves in the softer superficial strata and had reached the foundation layer of lava.
The campos seemed to get more and more beautiful as we went west. What magnificent grazing land! One could imagine on it millions and millions of happy, fat cattle; but no, not one was to be seen anywhere. What a pity to see such wonderful country go to waste! There was everything there, barring, perhaps, easy transport, to make the happiness and fortune of thousands upon thousands of farmers—excellent grazing, fertile soil, good healthy climate and delicious and plentiful water—but the country was absolutely deserted.
For miles the beautiful prairies extended, especially to the south-west, where in the distant background loomed a high, flat-topped tableland, interrupted by two deep cuts in its extensive monotonous sky-line. Those cuts were near its southern end. To the south stood a long range of wooded hills—also with an absolutely flat sky-line. We ourselves were not higher than 1,400 ft. above the sea level. My animals stumbled along over a region of much-broken-up debris; then again travelling was easier, although heavy, over tufa, sand and ashes. On descending to a stream, 1,200 ft. above sea level, we slipped terribly on the steep argillaceous slope, and the animals had great difficulty in climbing up on the opposite side, where we made our camp.
The streamlet flowed east into a larger stream, which we also crossed, and which flowed south-west.
It seemed to be getting colder at night as we went westward (May 18th, min. 57 deg. Fahr.), whereas during the day the temperature was hot—max. 97 deg. F. As early as 9 a.m. the thermometer already registered 85 deg. in the shade, and not a breath of wind. The elevation was 1,150 ft. The sky was in streaky horizontal clouds to the east, and thin misty clouds to the south—cirro-stratus.
One of my horses having strayed away a long distance, we only left that camp in the afternoon after the animal had been recovered. We rose quickly over the usual red volcanic sand held down in its place by the vegetation—rather anaemic at that particular spot. Higher up we again sank in the white and yellow ashes, with occasional zones covered by small, angular, black-baked debris.
Ants seemed to flourish happily in that region, for the ant-heaps were innumerable and of great size, several with towers about 6 ft. in height, resembling miniature mediaeval castles.
Having risen—all the time over grey and white ashes—to 1,420 ft., we found ourselves again upon open campos with a splendid view of the flat-topped range we had already seen to the north and of another to the south. At the angle where the northern range changed its direction slightly there stood a high prominence of peculiar appearance. The range extended west, where it ended, into a broken cone—as I have already stated quite separated by erosion from the main range. All along the range in the section between the prominence at the angle and the terminal cone could be noticed three distinct level terraces and several intermediate ones—not yet well defined nor continuous along the whole face of the range. About half-way along its length, a semi-cylindrical vertical cut was a striking feature, and appeared from a distance to be the remains of an extinct crater. It may be noted that where that crater was, the range was higher than elsewhere. Its summit, with an undulating sky-line, lay to the west of it, no doubt formed by erupted matter. Other great vertical furrows were noticeable not far from the crater and to the west of it.
The scenery was getting stranger and stranger every day. We began to notice solitary domes and cones in the landscape. That day, in fact, beyond the great campos we had before us a curious little well-rounded dome, standing up by itself upon an absolutely flat surface, at a considerable distance from the flat tableland which stood on one side, and of which formerly it evidently made part. Higher mountains, somewhat nearer to us, were on the south-west.
We had reached the River Corgo Fundo (elev. 1,250 ft.), along the banks of which the laminae of red-baked rock could be observed with thin white layers between. Above was a lovely green pasture with a tuft of deep green trees, which looked exactly like a bit of a well-kept English park. We mounted up again to 1,430 ft., then went down another descent into a large plain with campos, upon which grew merely a few stunted trees. We were still travelling over deep deposits of sand.
The range to the north of us extended, to be accurate, from north-east to south-west, and at its south-westerly end possessed a dome not dissimilar to the one already described on our previous day's march. This one was perhaps more rounded and not quite so tall. It rose above the plateau in two well-defined terraces, especially on the north-east side, but was slightly worn and smoothed to the south-west. On the terminal mound—clearly separated from the range by erosion—seven distinct terraces could be counted, with some less defined intermediate ones.
In the bed of another stream flowing south—it was impossible to ascertain the names of these streamlets, for there was no one to tell, and none were marked on existing maps—another great flow of red lava was visible. This stream flowed into the Rio das Garcas or Barreiros, only 500 metres away—an important watercourse, throwing itself eastward into the Rio das Mortes, one of the great tributaries of the upper Araguaya River.
The River Barreiros—A Country of Tablelands
THE Rio Barreiros was about 100 metres wide. It was reached through a thick belt, 100 metres in width, of trees and bamboos of large diameter, which lined both its banks. The river flowed swiftly where we crossed it, over a bed of lava and baked rock, red and black, with huge treacherous pits and holes which rendered the job of crossing the stream dangerous for our animals. There were rapids lower down in the terraced mass of rock forming the river bottom. The rock, worn smooth by the water, was extremely slippery. It was only after we had all undressed and taken the baggage safely across on our heads—the river being too deep for the loads to remain on the saddles—that we successfully drove the animals over to the opposite bank.
On the banks I collected some specimens of the laminated red rock, which had no great crushing resistance when dry. It could be easily powdered under comparatively light pressure, and scratched with no difficulty with one's nails. It was of various densities of red tones, according to the amount of baking it had undergone. The superposed red strata had a dip northward in some localities. The rock was much fissured, and had either gone through excessive contraction in cooling or else perhaps had been shattered by some earthly commotion—such as must have occurred often in that region in ages gone by, for, if not, how could one account for finding scattered blocks of this red rock resting upon the surface of great stretches—sometimes for 20 or 30 kil.—of uninterrupted sand or ashes which covered such great expanses of that country?
In the valleys, near water, burity palms were numerous.
Overhead the sky was always interesting. The days nearly invariably began with a clear, speckless sky, but, mind you, never of quite so deep a blue as the sky of Italy or Egypt. The sky of Central Brazil was always of a whitish cobalt blue. That morning—an exception to prove the rule—we had awakened to a thick mist around us, which enveloped and damped everything. No sooner did the sun rise than the mist was quickly dispelled. In the late morning, about 10 o'clock, clouds began to form high in the sky—not along the horizon, as is generally the case in most countries—and grew in intensity and size during the afternoon. Nearly every day at about sunset a peculiar flimsy, almost transparent, streak of mist stretched right across the sky from east to west, either in the shape of a curved line, or, as we had observed as recently as the day before, resembling with its side filaments a gigantic feather or the skeleton of a fish.
In the State of Goyaz, it may be remembered, we had a more beautiful and complete effect at sunset of many radiating lines, starting from the east and joining again to the west, but here we merely had one single streak dividing the sky in two. When the sun had long disappeared under the horizon, that streak high up in the sky was still lighted by its rays—becoming first golden, then red. The effect was quite weird.
My men went during the night on another fishing expedition, but with no luck—partly due to the infamy of our dogs. They used as bait for their large hooks toucinho, or pork fat, of which they had started out provided with a huge piece. They walked off a good distance from camp to find a suitable spot. Unfortunately, while they were there the dogs ate up all the toucinho and the result was that the men had to return disappointed. There was plenty of game, especially wild pig and veado (deer).
Alcides had a smattering of botany, which was a great danger to the company. He knew, he thought, the uses, medicinal or otherwise, of all plants, herbs and fruit, wild or not wild. This, in addition to the greediness of the men—who, although actually gorged with food, were always willing to devour anything else they found—led once or twice, as we shall see, to the poisoning of himself and his companions so dangerously as not only to cause terrible internal pains, but to bring them all actually to death's door.
I never got poisoned myself, as I generally took good care to watch the effects of those experiments upon my men first. Then also in my many years of exploration I had learnt only too well to beware of even the most seductive tropical plants and fruit. Notwithstanding all this, Alcides was really wonderful at turning out pleasant-tasting beverages from the stewed bark or leaves of various trees, and of these decoctions—in which additional quantities of sugar played an important part—my men and myself drank gallons upon gallons. Many of those drinks had powerful astringent qualities and had severe effects upon the bladder, but some were indeed quite good and innocuous.
During the night I observed a most perfect lunar halo, the circle, close to the moon, displaying a curious yellowish red outer fringe.
Since leaving the Araguaya we had been bothered a good deal nightly by the heavy dew, which absolutely soaked everything, made all our rifles and axes and iron implements rusty, and the tents and saddles and baggage considerably heavier for the animals to carry, owing to the moisture they had absorbed. In the early morning we began to get thick cold mist, and it was about that time that the minimum temperature was usually registered—58 deg. Fahr. that particular night, May 19th. We were at quite a low elevation, merely 1,100 ft. When we started in the morning we found more sand and volcanic debris over ridges some 100 ft. or so above the level of the river. A torrent, 15 metres wide, flowing swiftly W.S.W. on a red lava bed, was crossed, the mules slipping terribly on the polished rock. More ashes and sand were found as we ascended to an elevation of 1,200 ft., from which height we discerned a much-terraced headland to the east and two streams meeting and flowing south where we eventually crossed them. One of those watercourses descended in cascades over laminated successive flows of lava, between which thin layers of white crystallization could be seen.
Slightly higher, at 1,250 ft., we sank again in yellow and grey ashes.
Across campos we reached another foaming torrent, flowing as usual over a lava bed, but this time in a north-westerly instead of in a southerly direction. That day we met with many watercourses. Having risen to 1,450 ft., we soon after found another streamlet (elev. 1,230 ft.). Again a red lava-flow was exposed in its bed and showed heavy upper deposits of grey ashes, with above them a thick layer of yellow-ochre sand (1,300 ft.).
The distances on the journey were measured by a watch, the speed of the animals at the time being naturally taken into consideration. It was not possible to use the usual bicycle wheel with a meter attached, which is used with so much success in the Arctic regions or in countries where travelling more or less in a straight line and on a level surface is possible.
Another limpid stream flowing south-west (elev. 1,200 ft.) was reached, then more deep sand and ashes. After that we came to a thick growth of bamboos and brush on reaching the banks of a streamlet winding its way north.
Travelling up and down, all day and day after day, over those undulations became tedious work—red sand, whitish sand, grey ashes, all the time.
On the west side, on descending the last prominence we at last came to a slight variation in the geological composition of the country. After more white sand and ashes had been passed, we came upon great stretches of greenish grey granite exposed in huge domes and much striated, with parallel grooves on its surface so deep that they almost looked as if they had been incised by a sharp tool. These grooves were, nevertheless, naturally caused by the sharp friction of sand and water, I think, and also by sand blown over those rocks with terrific force by winds of inconceivable vigour. All the way down our descent we travelled over that striated rock. It had become exposed to the air, but must have once been buried under sand and ashes like all the rest of that region. Curious vertical cracks were to be noticed in several places, with ramifications from a common centre—evidently caused by the concussion of some huge weight which had fallen from above, perhaps a huge boulder shot out by volcanic action, which had then rolled farther down the incline.
The terminal side of the curious range we had on our right appeared not unlike a fortress with its vertical walls standing upon a slanting bastion.
At the bottom (elev. 1,200 ft.) of the great dome of granite we had travelled upon we crossed a stream flowing south-west, the water of which was quite warm. The high temperature was due, I think, to the heat absorbed by the rock exposed to the sun and communicated to the water flowing over it, rather than to a thermal origin.
Continuing our journey, we had to the south a great hollow basin in the south-western end of the range, with two hillocks between the range itself and the flat boundary plateau to the south.
The highest point of the hill on which we travelled was 1,450 ft. above the sea level. Every metre we travelled westward became more strangely interesting. We were now upon a conglomerate of bespattered lava-drops encased in a coating of solidified ashes. When we reached the stream we had to go through a dark tunnel of dense vegetation, great ferns, giant palms, creepers with their abundant foliage, and tall trees festooned with liane. Having crossed this dark vegetable passage, we emerged once more into lovely open campos.
Great lumpy globular woolly clouds faced us in the sky to the west. Horizontal intermittent white layers were close to the horizon to the east, then three parallel lines of feathery mist to the north-west. In quantity of clouds the sky that day would meteorologically be described as C 4—which means that four-tenths of the sky vault was covered.
One could not help being struck in Central Brazil by the almost absolute immobility of the clouds. One seldom experienced a strong wind; contrary to what must have taken place there in ages gone by, when that country must have been the very home of terrific air-currents and disturbances on a scale beyond all conception. It was only occasionally that a light breeze—merely in gusts of a few seconds—would refresh one's ears and eyes as one marched on. What was more remarkable still was the sudden change of direction of those spasmodic gusts of wind when they did come.
From a river (elev. 1,250 ft.) we proceeded over undulations to 1,550 ft. There we were treated to an extensive and beautiful view to the west, south-west and north-west. The elevated sky-line formed by the plateau and mountains was quite straight, barring three much eroded mountains standing quite isolated and at a great distance from one another.
One of these solitary elevations was to the south-west, another—the castle-like mountain of great height we had already observed—stood due west. Then came the long flat line of the plateau but for a gentle convexity at each end. The plateau, dressed in thick forest, stood in the middle distance to the west-south-west. Campos of great beauty were prominent on its slopes and in the two hollows in the immediate vicinity.
As we wound our way forward we found masses of ferruginous black rock, black debris, and beautiful crystals.
The silence of that wonderful landscape was impressive. The tinkling of my mules' neck-bells was the only cheering sound breaking that monotonous solitude—except perhaps the occasional harsh voices of my men urging on the animals with some unrepeatable oath or other.
Filippe, the negro—to be distinguished from the other Filippi in my employ, a mulatto—was mounted on one of my best mules. He carried a regular armoury on his back and round his waist, for not only did he carry his own rifle but also mine, besides a pistol and two large knives. He rode along, slashing with a long whip now at one mule then at another. Occasionally he treated us to some of his improvised melodies—not at all bad and quite harmonious, although one got rather tired of the incessant repetitions. Filippe was a pure negro, born in Brazil from ex-slaves. He had never been in Africa. His songs interested me, for although much influenced naturally by modern Brazilian and foreign airs he had heard at Araguary, still, when he forgot himself and his surroundings, he would relapse unconsciously into the ululations and plaintive notes and rhythm typical of his ancestral land in Central Africa—that of the Banda tribe, which I happened to have visited some years before. I identified him easily by his features, as well as by his music and other characteristics.
Filippe did not remember his father and mother, nor had he known any other relatives. He had no idea to what tribe he had belonged, he did not know any African language, and he had never to his remembrance knowingly heard African music. It was remarkable under those circumstances that the Central African characteristics should recur unconsciously in Filippe's music. It showed me that one is born with or without certain racial musical proclivities, dictated by the heart and brain. They cannot be eradicated for many generations, no matter what the place of birth may be or the different surroundings in which the individual may find himself, or the influences which may affect him even early in life.
Brazil was certainly a great country for tablelands. As we came out again into the open, another great plateau, ending with a spur not unlike the ram of a battleship, loomed in the foreground to the south. Yet another plateau of a beautiful pure cobalt, also with another gigantic ram, appeared behind the first, in continuation of the two separated plateaux we have already examined. It was separated from these by a deep cut—a regular canon—several miles wide, and with sides so sharply defined that it looked like the artificial work of an immense canal.
Great campos lay before us in the near foreground, from our high point of vantage (elev. 1,550 ft.). We were still travelling on a surface of volcanic debris, yellow ashes and sand—forming a mere cap over all those hills, the foundation of which was simply a succession of giant domes of lava.
North-west we still had the almost flat sky-line of a plateau rising slightly in two well-defined steps or terraces to a greater height in its northern part. What most attracted me that day was the delightful view of the Barreiros valley spreading before us—a view of truly extraordinary grandeur.
We rapidly descended, leaving to our left the Indian colony of Aracy. Great granitic and lava slabs, much striated, were seen on our way down to the river (elev. 1,200 ft.). The stream was 50 metres wide, and flowed south where we crossed it. There was a handsome white sand beach on the left bank of the river. On the western, or right bank, stood great volcanic cliffs of boiled and broiled rock, interesting for the violent contortions they had undergone during the processes of ebullition, which showed plainly in their present solidified form.
The river bed itself was one of the usual lava-flows with huge globular lumps and knots—but all in a solid, uninterrupted mass.
We waded chest-deep across the stream, conveyed our baggage and mules to the opposite side, and then we all enjoyed a lovely bath with plenty of lathering soap in the deliciously refreshing waters of the Rio Barreiros.
The river Barreiros, which had its birth in the Serra Furnas Corros, to the south-west, entered the Rio das Garcas—there 100 metres wide—a short distance from where we crossed it. The latter river, by far the larger of the two and of a very circuitous course, flowed in a south-easterly direction into the Araguaya. The Rio das Garcas, which also had its origin in the Furnas Corros Mountains, had almost a parallel course with the upper Barreiros from south-west to north-east, but on meeting the Barreiros suddenly swung round at a sharp angle towards the south-east, which direction it more or less followed until it entered the Araguaya.
We made our camp on the right bank of the Barreiros River. My men were in a great state of mind when I told them that perhaps on this river we might find some Indians. The cautious way in which they remained as quiet as lambs in camp amused me. I noticed the care with which they cleaned their rifles and replenished their magazines with cartridges. I assured them that there was no danger—in fact, that quite close to this place we should find one of the Salesian colonies.
The Bororo Indians
WHILE I was reassuring my men an Indian appeared, bow and arrows in hand. He stood motionless, looking at us. My men, who had not noticed his coming, were terrified when they turned round and saw him.
The Indian was a strikingly picturesque figure, with straight, sinewy arms and legs of wonderfully perfect anatomical modelling, well-shaped feet—but not small—and hands. He was not burdened with clothing; in fact, he wore nothing at all, barring a small belt round his waist and a fibre amulet on each arm.
The Indian deposited his bow and arrows against a tree when some other Indians arrived. He stood there as straight and as still as a bronze statue, his head slightly inclined forward in order to screen his searching eagle eyes from the light by the shade of his protruding brow. He folded his arms in a peculiar manner. His left hand was inserted flat under the right arm, the right hand fully spread flat upon his abdomen.
The first thing I did was to take a snapshot of him before he moved. Then I proceeded to the interesting study of his features. They were indeed a great revelation to me. One single glance at him and his comrades persuaded me that a theory I had long cherished about the aboriginal population of the South American continent was correct, although in contradiction to theories held by other people on the subject. I had always believed—for reasons which I shall fully explain later—that South America must be peopled by tribes of an Australoid or Papuan type—people who had got there directly from the west or south-west, not by people who had gradually drifted there from the north.
Some scientists—with no experience of travel—have been greatly misled by the fact that the North American Indians are decidedly a Mongolian race. Therefore they assumed—basing their assumption on incorrect data—that the unknown Indians of South America must also be Mongolian. This was a mistake, although undoubtedly migrations on a comparatively small scale of Indians from North to South America must have taken place, chiefly along the western American coast. Those tribes, however, unaccustomed to high mountains, never crossed the Andes. Whatever types of Indians with Mongolian characteristics were found settled in South America were to be found to the west of the Andes and not to the east. This does not of course mean that in recent years, when roads and railways and steamships have been established, and communication made comparatively easy, individuals or families may not have been conveyed from one coast to the other of the South American continent. But I wish my reader to keep in mind for a moment a clear distinction between the Indians of the western coast and the Indians of the interior.
To return to our man: I was greatly impressed by the strongly Australoid or Papuan nose he possessed—in other words, broad, with the lower part forming a flattened, depressed, somewhat enlarged hook with heavy nostrils. In profile his face was markedly convex, not concave as in Mongolian faces. Then the glabella or central boss in the supra-orbital region, the nose, the chin, were prominent, the latter broad and well-rounded. The cheek-bones with him and other types of his tribe were prominent forwards, but not unduly broad laterally, so that the face in front view was, roughly speaking, of a long oval, but inclined to be more angular—almost shield-shaped. The lips were medium-sized and firmly closed, such as in more civilized people would denote great determination. His ears were covered up by long jet-black hair, perfectly straight and somewhat coarse in texture, healthy-looking and uniformly scattered upon the scalp. The hair was cut straight horizontally high upon the forehead, which thus showed a considerable slant backward from the brow to the base of the hair. A small pigtail hung behind the head. The hair at the sides was left to grow down so as fully to cover the lobes of the ears, where again it was cut horizontally at the sides and back of the head. The top of the head was of great height, quite unlike a Mongolian cranium.
The eyes—close to the nose, and of a shiny dark brown—had their long axis nearly in one horizontal plane. They were set rather far back, were well cut, with thick upper eyelids, and placed somewhat high up against the brow ridges so as to leave little room for exposure of the upper lid when open.
None of the other Indians, who had gradually assembled, wore a particle of clothing, barring a tight conical collar of orange-coloured fibre encircling their genital organs—so tight that it almost cut into the skin. Without this solitary article of clothing no Indian man will allow himself to be seen by another, less still by a stranger. But with so modest an attire he feels as well-dressed as anybody. I think that this elegant article of fashion must have originated as a sanitary precaution, in order to prevent insects of all kinds, and particularly carrapatos, penetrating within—or else I was really at a loss to understand of what other use it could be. They themselves would not say, and only replied that all Bororo Indian men wore it. The Indians who had assembled all belonged to the Bororo tribe.
On that, as well as on later occasions, I noticed two distinct types among the Bororos: one purely Papuan or Polynesian; the other strongly Malay. The characteristics of those two different types showed themselves markedly in every instance. The majority were perhaps of the Malay type. I was intensely interested at the astounding resemblance of these people to the piratical tribes of the Sulu Archipelago in the Celebes Sea, where, too, one met a considerable amount of mixture of those two types as well as specimens of pure types of the two races.
Among the Bororos many were the individuals—of the Malay type—who had the typical Malay eye a fleur de tete, prominent, almond-shaped, and slightly slanting at the outer angle. The nose—unlike that of Papuan types—was flattened in its upper region between the eyes, and somewhat button-like and turned up at the lower part—just the reverse of the Papuan types, who had prominent aquiline noses with a high bridge and globular point turned down instead of up.
The lips were in no case unduly prominent, nor thick. They were almost invariably kept tightly closed.
The form of the palate was highly curious from an anthropological point of view. It was almost rectangular, the angles of the front part being slightly wider than a right angle.
The front teeth were of great beauty, and were not set, as in most jaws, on a more or less marked curve, but were almost on a straight line—the incisors being almost absolutely vertical and meeting the side teeth at an angle of about 60 deg.. The upper teeth overlapped the lower ones.
The chin was well developed—square and flattened in the Papuan types, but receding, flat and small in the Malay types.
Both types were absolutely hairless on the face and body, which was partly natural and partly due to the tribal custom of pulling out carefully, one by one, each hair they possessed on the upper lip and upon the body—a most painful process. The women—as we shall see—in sign of deep mourning, also plucked out each hair of the scalp.
A striking characteristic of the head—in Papuan types—was the great breadth of the maximum transverse of the head, and the undue prominence of the supra-orbital ridges. Also, the great height of the forehead and its great width in its upper part were typical of the race. The maximum antero-posterior diameter of the skull was equal, in many cases, to the vertical length of the head, taken from the angle of the jaw to the apex of the skull.
The ears nearly invariably showed mean, under-developed lobes, but, strangely enough, were otherwise well shaped, with gracefully defined and chiselled curves. They were not unduly large, with a wonderfully well-formed concha, which fact explained why the acoustic properties of their oral organs were perfect. They made full use of this in long-distance signalling by means of acute whistles, of which the Bororos had a regular code.
The favourite form of earring adopted by the Bororos was a brass ring with a metal or shell crescent, not unlike the Turkish moon, but I do not think that this ornament was of Bororo origin. Very likely it was suggested by the cheap jewellery imported into Brazil by Turkish and Syrian traders.
They displayed powerful chests, with ribs well covered with flesh and muscle. With their dark yellow skins they were not unlike beautiful bronze torsi. The abdominal region was never unduly enlarged, perhaps owing to the fact that their digestion was good, and also because they took a considerable amount of daily exercise. In standing they kept their shoulders well back, the abdominal region being slightly in front of the chest. The head was usually slightly inclined downwards.
The feet of the Bororos of the Malay type were generally stumpy, but this was not so with the higher Papuan types, who, on the contrary, had abnormally long toes and elongated feet, rather flattened. The Bororos used their toes almost as much as their fingers, and showed great dexterity in picking up things, or in spinning twine, when their toes did quite as much work as their fingers.
The colour of the iris of the Bororo eye was brown, with considerable discoloration around its outer periphery, and especially in the upper part, where it was covered by the lid. The eyes were generally kept half closed.
The anatomical detail of the body was perfectly balanced. The arms were powerful, but with fine, well-formed wrists—exquisitely chiselled, as were all the attachments of their limbs. They had quite graceful hands, long-fingered—in more ways than one—and wonderfully well-shaped, elongated, convex-faced nails, which would arouse the envy of many a lady of Western countries. The webbing between the fingers was infinitesimal, as with most Malay races. Great refinement of race was also to be noticed in the shape of their legs—marvellously modelled, without an ounce of extra flesh, and with small ankles.
The Bororos divided themselves into two separate families—the Bororo Cerados and the Bororo Tugaregghi. The first descended from Baccoron; the second claimed descent from Ittibori. Baccoron lived where the sun set, in the west; Ittibari dwelt in the east.
I heard a strange legend in connection with their origin, in which they seemed proud of their descent from the jaguar—which to them represented the type of virility. A male jaguar, they said, had married a Bororo woman.
A sensible custom existed among the Bororos, as among the Tuaregs of the Sahara desert in Africa. The children took the name of the mother and not of the father. The Bororos, like the Tuaregs, rightly claimed that there could be no mistake as to who the mother of a child was, but that certainty did not always apply to the father. This was decidedly a sensible law among the Bororos, who were most inconstant in their affections. They were seldom faithful to their wives—at least, for any length of time.
The Bororos were not prolific. They frequently indulged in criminal practices in order to dispose of their young—either by strangulation at birth or soon after, or by drugging their women before the birth of the child. The young, when allowed to live, took milk from their mothers until the ages of five or six years. The parents were extremely kind to their children; indeed, they were extraordinarily good-natured and considerate. Eight days after birth they perforated the lower lip of male children and inserted a pendant, taking that opportunity to give a name to the child. The lobes of the ears were only perforated at the age of ten or twelve.
It was only at the age of about twenty that men were allowed to marry.
I found among the Bororos an interesting custom which I had seen but once before—in Central Asia, on the slopes of the Himalaya Mountains, among the Shoka tribesmen. I am referring to the "clubs"—called by the Bororos Wai manna ghetgiao. There the young men and girls went not only with the object of selecting a wife or husband, but also to get thoroughly acquainted and see if the mate selected were suitable or not. The men sat on one side of the club-house—a mere hut—the women on the other. In a way, these clubs prevented hasty marriages, for the men were given plenty of time to study their prospective brides and the girls their future husbands. Curiously enough, in the Bororo country it was generally the woman who proposed to the man. When the official engagement was made the man proceeded to the hut of his sweetheart and brought a gift of food for her and her mother. If the gifts were accepted there was no other formality to be gone through, and the matrimonial ceremony was indeed of the simplest kind. The man took away the girl to his hut and they were man and wife.
The cuisine of the Bororos was not attractive to European palate, ears or eyes. One of the favourite dishes of the Bororos, served on grand occasions, was the mingao, or Indian corn chewed up into a paste inside their mouths by women and then displayed before the guests in earthen pots filled with fresh water, in which it was then cooked.
The Bororos maintained that the sun, Cervado, and the moon, Ittary, were two brothers, both being males.
They believed in a superior Being—the essence of goodness and kindness—a Being who will never give pain or hurt anybody; therefore the Bororo, who was really at heart a great philosopher, never offered prayers to that superior Being. Why pray and worry one who will never injure us? they argued.
Then they believed in a wicked and revengeful devil, the Boppe, to whom constant attention was paid because by him was caused all the trouble that humans can have. Malady, accidents, disaster in love, in hunting or fishing expeditions—for all these the devil Boppe was responsible.
Then they had also another evil spirit—the Aroe Taurari—who, they said, often assumed the appearance of their ancestors in order to come and watch the games of the Bororos, such as wrestling and archery. Wrestling—in the catch-as-catch-can style—was one of their favourite games. They were very agile at it. Their favourite trick was to seize each other across the shoulders, each endeavouring to trip his opponent by a twisted leg round his knee. Children in the aldejas were playing at this game all the time. In the Bororo wrestling-matches it was sufficient to be thrown down to be the loser, and it was not essential to touch the ground with both shoulder-blades.
The only other game I saw among the Bororos was the test of strength. It was carried out with a most striking article—a great wheel made of sections, each one foot long, of the trunk of the burity palm tied together by double strings of fibre. The ribbon thus formed by them was rolled so as to make a solid wheel of heavy wood 6 ft. in diameter. The whole was retained in a circular form by a strong belt of vegetable fibre. This great wheel was used by the Bororos in their sports, at festivals, for testing the strength of the most powerful men. It was so heavy that few men could lift it at all, the great test being actually to place it on one's head and keep it there for a length of time.
The Indians of South America, like the Indians of North America, revelled in decorating themselves with the feathers of brightly-coloured birds. The red, yellow and blue giant macaws, fairly common in that region, paid dearly for this fashion of the Indians. Many of those poor birds were kept in captivity and plucked yearly of all their feathers in order to make hair ornaments of beautiful blue and green plumage for the leading musician, who rattled the bacco (a gourd full of pebbles which can make a terrible noise), or else armlets, earrings or necklaces. Some of the designs woven with the tiniest feathers of those birds were quite clever, and required delicate handling in their manufacture. Ducks, too, supplied many of the feathers for the ornaments of the Bororos.
Their cooking utensils were simple enough—merely a few large earthen bowls, badly baked and unglazed, the largest of which was seldom more than 2 ft. in diameter. They broke easily, being made extremely thin.
The Bororos made basket-work by plaiting dried palm-leaves, but their most interesting work of all consisted in the really beautifully made fishing nets. Nearly all the Indians of South America showed remarkable talent and patience at this work. The strings were twisted of a vegetable fibre, extremely resisting, and eminently suitable by its softness and regularity of diameter.
Whether owing to excitement, indigestion or other causes, the Bororos had visions, which they attributed to the Aroe Taurari. In a certain way they were believers in the transmigration of the soul—not generally, but in specific cases.
There were certain Bororos who, by magic songs, professed to fascinate animals in the forest and were able to catch them. The barih or medicine-man generally, assisted in those incantations.
The Bororos were remarkable walkers. They were extremely light on their feet and had a springy gait, most graceful to watch. A striking characteristic of these people was that, when standing—unlike nearly every other tribe of savages I have seen—they spread their toes outward instead of keeping both feet parallel. To a lesser extent the feet were held in that position also when walking. The suppleness of their bodies gave them a great advantage in penetrating with ease anywhere in the forest without having to cut their way through.
Both men and women were passionately fond of dancing, although their dancing had not reached any degree of perfection. With a strip of burity palm upon their shoulders they hopped around, monotonously chanting, with a rhythmic occasional jump, the women following the men.
The women possessed considerable endurance. They could carry heavy weights for long distances by means of a fibre headband resting on the forehead. Under those circumstances the body was kept slightly inclined forward. Children were also carried in a similar fashion in a sling, only—less practically than among many Asiatic and African tribes—the Bororo children were left to dangle their legs, thereby increasing the difficulty of carrying them, instead of sitting with legs astride across the mother's haunches. I was amazed to see until what age Bororo mothers and sisters would carry the young upon their shoulders—certainly children of five or six years of age were being carried about in this fashion, while such hard duties as pounding Indian corn, thrashing beans, and hut-building, were attended to.
Neither in women nor in men was the power of resistance in any way to be compared with that of the tribes of Central Africa or Asia. The Indian tribes of Brazil impressed one as being strong, because one compared them with their neighbours and masters, the Brazilians, who were physically one of the weakest, least-resisting races I have ever seen. When you compared them with some of the healthy savage races elsewhere, the Indians did not approach them in endurance and quickness of intellect. Do not forget that endurance is greatly due to brain power and self-control. The Indian races I saw in Brazil seemed to me almost exhausted physically, owing perhaps to constant intermarriage among themselves. The eyesight of the Bororos, for instance, was extremely bad. There were many in every aldeja who were almost or absolutely blind. The others were nearly all short-sighted.
The Bororos removed—pulled out, in fact—their eyelashes one by one, as they believed it improved their sight, especially for seeing at long distances. They all suffered more or less from complaints of the eyes. Indeed, I have seldom found races whose members had eyes in such poor condition. Conjunctivitis was the most prevalent form of eye disease. Ophthalmia was frequently met with. They seemed to have no efficacious method of curing those complaints, and the result was that one found an appalling number of blind or half-blind persons among them—quite out of proportion to the small population. The Bororos did not, of course, know of spectacles or any other way of protecting the eyes. Even when their eyes were in a normal condition, they nearly all had some defect of vision. Squinting was frequently to be noticed among them, and nearly invariably unevenness of the eyes. Cataract was common at a comparatively early age, and they knew no remedy for it. An abnormally marked discoloration of the upper part of the iris was constantly to be noticed even in young people. Among the healthiest I never saw one man or woman with extraordinary powers of vision such as are most common among savage tribes of Asia and Africa. The diseased condition of their blood was also perhaps to a certain extent responsible for this.
Their hearing was good, but not much more acute than with the average European—and infinitely inferior to that of the natives of Asia and Africa. They suffered considerably from the most terrible of blood complaints, general among them, also from leprosy and various skin troubles.
The Bororos made considerable use of the urucu plant (Bixa orellana L.) which they called nonoku, from the fruit of which they obtained a brilliant red colouring matter for tinting their bows and arrows. The shell of the fruit contained a number of shiny seeds, which, when squashed, exuded a vivid red juice. It adhered easily to the skin of the forehead and cheeks, for which purpose the Indians also extensively used it.
The black paint which the Indians used for smearing themselves across the forehead, cheeks, and upon the shoulders, from side to side, was made to stick to the skin and shine by mixing it with a resin.
The Bororos of the Rio Barreiros district carried five arrows each with them, but each family of Bororos used a special colour and also a different number of arrows, so that no particular rule could be laid down for the entire tribe. The red-tinted arm-band which most men wore was called the aguasso.