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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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The Indians, usually naked, offer their fleshy backs to their terrible enemies, with a serenity of which no other race is capable. In service in the canoe, they paddle with the paddle mechanically, but it is very rare that they try to shoo away tormentors from one another. Such friendly care is unfamiliar to them. It is also very rare that they complain of mosquito attacks from the "plague of bugs", even when swarms brutalize, in an intolerable way, the fully dressed European. They use a patchwork of cotton or large pieces of oil, or turiri, as they call the inner fibrous layers of bark, sometimes a layer of black mud, or powder of sand and pitch, with which they anoint the unprotected parts of the body. These are the resources with which, in a way, they seek to avoid persecution. Only in the upper regions of Japura did I find small huts made in the manner of ovens (the hornitos of the Spanish Indians), in which the Indians of the Orinoco protect themselves against their swarming executioners. The strong agitation of the atmosphere in the Amazon River, in the midst of which these insects always remain near the shore, makes me think that nothing can be so effective, for the diminution of the terrible terrestrial plague, as the chopping of stretches of the forest, to give the wind the a passage.

Before the western mouth of the Nhamunda, the waters revolve strongly in a whirlpool, and must be dangerous, to the point that all the vessels expressly avoid them, making again the crossing to the southern margin of the Amazon.

Rio Nhamunda from space

Therefore, also, when we reached the eastern mouth of Nhamunda, we looked for the south bank of the great river. For nearly a quarter of an hour we had to cut through the impetuous stream from the main hole, whose waves, as high as those at the entrance to the port of Bahia, shook our canoe uneasily.

Rio Nhamunda

It is difficult to measure the depth of this main channel, because even a solid probe is rendered useless by the violence of the waves; it seemed to us, however, that in the various attempts, the depth between 70 and 80 arms (bracas) is indicated.

Arriving on the southern side, we find scattered plantations with cacao trees of

Theobrome cacau, the cocoa tree

Maracauacu-Tapera. These plantations hardly compensate with their fertile soil for the sadness of the jungle. It was here, for the first time, that a great Jaguar frightened us. Dr. Spix and I encountered it during a walk through the woods while the crew was cooking our meal.

Felis onca, the jaguar

The animal was of enormous size and, apparently, had just been drinking water, because it stopped to clean his wet mouth with its front paw. We were separated from her by only 30 meters, and his unexpected appearance filled us with fear and amazement. As Dr. Spix was armed with a simple rifle

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