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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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Just this year, an escort, carrying two bags of reis, only a few days away (we had encountered it one day in Contendas), had been tempted, and returned to the Sao Francisco River, obtaining a vessel by threat and, in possession of the theft, had fled across the river to the northern provinces. Such crimes are rarely left under the arm of justice and unpunished, even in these vast uninhabited regions, but given the current state of affairs and the genre of administration, they can hardly be pursued.

Malhada, among the settlements of the Sao Francisco River, is the one with the worst reputation for its unhealthy position; We decided, therefore, to remain there only as long as necessary to rebuild our troops, and to supply ourselves with the necessities for the trip to Bahia. The yellowish inhabitants, the tired soldiers of Minas who considered themselves there in risky exile, and the countless patients who consulted us about their engorged livers and bones, indicated that in a long sojourn in such a region we would also pay our tribute, where little by little we were feeling the consequences of extended exhaustion.

Moreover, we could not count on any copy for our collections, because, in the continued heat, all the vegetation had withered, the reeds consisted only of dried stalks, repressed in size; even by the river, many trees had lost their life; only in the vicinity of the lagoons, inhabited by alligators and boa constrictors, which saw greenery, and in the leafless trees, there roamed flocks of beautiful plumaged birds (Tanagra brasiliensis, Lath.).

Tanagra Brasiliensis

The orogeny, here as on the western side of the river and along it, down to Vila

Porto Salgado to Urubu on Rio Sao Francisco

do Urubu, is limestone. To the north of the latter is a large cave on the limestone mountain whose fame is spread far and wide by the pilgrims of the nearby Chapel of Bom Jesus da Lapa.

Chapel of Bom Jesus da Lapa

Our collections, resulting from the trip from Vila Rica to here, had given us lots of work to do, particularly at this point. As the wood of the country is too dense and heavy, we packed everything in pine boxes, the same ones that had transported delicate ceramics from Porto to Brazil, and, for safety, we covered them with ox leathers.

The entire bulk of the luggage was the load of twenty mules, which, on a trip of more than one hundred leagues, was a difficult task to maintain at this time of year, due to the almost complete lack of water in the stretch to be traveled. The dangers of this trip were described to us by some people on the way from Urubu and other villages, a few days' march to Malhada, on the occasion of the feast in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary, patron saint of blacks and mulattos, with

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