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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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in the melancholy loneliness that surrounded us and the frequency of the crosses on the road, reminiscent of those killed by runaway blacks. There are only a few rocks but large expanses of abandoned fires, which were covered with ferns (Pteris caudata).

In the middle of this bush, we came to a farm with goldsmiths, in whose vicinity gold is still mined. The formation here is of a thin, often rusty, brown-to-yellow clay shale, which contains deposits and gums of rich gold quartz.

Gold quartz

On it sometimes, in considerable thickness, lies a greasy, red clay in which many clusters of rich gold quartz are mixed. These lands are more rich than the mines are, however, because of their fertility, and it is to be expected that the income from the mines will be supplanted here by the fields. Wheat in the first year yields four hundred for one; the harvest of two hundred by one is considered mediocre, as is the harvest of one hundred and one.

Little by little, the perspective was closing more and more; we passed by deep, dreadful cliffs, overgrown with vegetation, and as we had come from fields, the darkness of the bush was more sensitive to us again. Thick vines, with curtains of flowers of all shades, connect gigantic trees to each other, among which rise ferns, forming majestic cool alleys, which festively delight the traveler, disturbed only now and there by the shrill screams of the parrots, the woodpecker's hammering or the howling of the arapongas.

Psittacus accipitrinus

Apart from the gullies along the road that lead to water in the fields, in this loneliness nothing resembles the working-life neighborhood of men. We appreciated the well-being afforded by the freshness of the shadow of the bush, which was doubly pleasing, because it now offered us plenty of natural treasures after our long delay in the fields. After a two league walk, we finally descended to a fertile valley, crossed by the Mainarde River, tributary of the Rio Doce. It was this river with such swollen waters that threatened to tear off the wobbly wooden bridge, and we found ourselves happy as we reached the other bank, where we found good warmth in the lonely inn, a shop belonging to Father Manuel. On the western slope, the valley is closed by abrupt cliffs; on the eastern side are hills of rock, garnished with ferns and variegated flowers; and the path led us to a gold mine. The clay had already been piled up, and many blacks were busy washing it.

The habit of washing gold is so general in Minas Gerais that the most carefree farmers always find it convenient to employ some slaves in this task. The gold’s weekly profit is estimated at six hundred crusados.

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