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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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The river, where we now stood, was on the average more than a marine mile wide. Its dirty, whitish waters were interrupted by several islands of sand, which sometimes extended over large stretches. We passed first by Cabanaoca Beach, after that Camaliana in front of the fishing village, and finally by Pratari, where we spend the night.

Guiana Island in Rio Negro

Islands in Rio Negro

These islands rise only a few feet above the mirror of the water, they do not have any solid rock, they rarely create mist, and almost always consist of nothing more than sand, which does not lend itself to vigorous vegetation;

As for trees, we saw almost exclusively Oeirana (Hermesia or Alchornea castaneaefolia) and a willow species (Salix Humboldtiana).

Hermesia

Alchornea castaneaefolia

Salix Humboldtiana

These trees appear to have a large zone of diffusion in the tropics; the first, we had already noticed in Rio Sao Francisco, and Mr. von Humboldt in the Orinoco; the other, observed by the same traveler in Peru.

 

The current of the winds in the islands of sand scatters the mosquitoes, for which reason, from then on, we always used to spend the night there. The Indians soon became accustomed to cutting some of the logs of the Oeiranas and planting them on a higher point in the sand, to hang our hammocks there. They remained faithful to their custom, and spent the night, barely covered, with little clothing, on the sand by the shore, although we would not cease to remind them of the danger of assault by the crocodiles.

Crocodillus niger

The experience of that night proved our words to be true. That is, after all the crew was put to sleep, we were awakened by a terrible cry, which made us run half-dressed, with weapons in hand, to the shore. There we found all the Indians startled, for a great crocodile was in the midst of the men gnawing a straw basket full of chickens; it returned so quickly to the river, taking some of the birds, so that we could only see some bloody remains of the chickens, before the croc dove. From then on, we got our Indians to set up their camp further inland, near us. The noise had frightened us too much to sleep, and as the moon rose from the clouds, it shone splendidly,

so we returned to the canoes and continued the voyage, while the Indians enlivened themselves in the service of the oar, singing a simple tune. Unique and unforgettable are the impressions the traveler experiences on evenings like this. In the peace and silence of these places, one does not hear the whispering of the waves or the distant shouting of wandering bands of monkeys.

The closed forest stands out now all lit up by the moon and stars on the coast, then disappears in the dark coves; like ghosts oscillating in the water, the shadows of trees are parted by stretches of illumined shore, and everything in this marvelous setting seems in a trance of immobility, in the night sky, dazzling or obscured by black clouds, which follow each other slowly,

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