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Remember the Rainforest 1

 

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now overshadowing the river, now, in a play of light, making it spark a thousand reflections of silver. We had passed Pratari Beach (Paratary), at the mouth of the river of the same name, which is born on Lake Uatas (on the western bank of the Madeira) and, through the Pratari and Viruri Lakes, it communicates with the Purus River, from which the eastern mouth was once thought to be. This diffusion of water causes the stretch of land between the lower part of the Madeira and the Purus to be as horizontally flattened as what we have often seen in the Amazon. These plains, covered with dense forests, were, by the time of Acuna, inhabited by the Zurinas and Caripunas (caraibas?)

in the islands of the mouth of the Purus, by the mighty Cuchiuaras. All these hordes are now gone, leaving no vestiges; closed and inhospitable, the forest hangs on the river and hides the whereabouts of the extinct races. The only peculiarity, by which the observer can deduce that a native population had been established here, are the thick fences of Bamboo, which it was customary to plant for foreign exchange.

On the other hand, I did not find here, or anywhere along the Amazon or Solimoes, remnants of useful plants, cultivated by the Indians, whether cassava, maize or banana; only urucu appears at times.

Bixa orellano, the urucu

In the ravines of the shore, we see here and there, clumps of canafrecha (Gynerium saccharoides), from which forest dwellers are accustomed to make their weapons.

Gynerium saccharoides

Although the river was emptying quite quickly, yet several rapids on the coast helped our paddlers, and we rejoiced at the dawning of the day, as we were favored by the east wind, which carried us all day long beyond the sand island called Praia do Periquito, and Praia do Guajaratuva, in the afternoon.

Here, for the first time, we encountered the spectacle of the turtles laying eggs and the preparation of turtle butter. At one end of the sand island, the lanyards had built palm-leafed pallets; large patches of eggs were unearthed, canoes filled with already broken eggs, and, contents separated in pans full of the fat to boil. About 150 men, Indians, mulattoes, blacks and some whites, occupied in this work: all this was a joyful spectacle of novelty, after the usual loneliness of the trip. In the months of October and November, when the waters of the river arrive at low level, the great river turtles ascend (1) certain sand islands and lay their eggs.

Turtle egg harvest

 

(I) And the jarara-acu of the general language (Emys amazonica, Spix), is called

Emys amazonica

turtle-grand, by the inhabitants. The spawn, the most important act, so to speak, in the life of these slow animals takes place in the months of October and November, lasts about twenty days for the numerous flocks that are coming out of the neighboring lakes, where there is sufficient grass, for the river, and then to the next sand banks or ends of the sandy shore. A few of them had already chosen their place on the sand; After peeking and walking around the beach, they dig the sand in several places, checking if there is a deep sand, and then settle there.

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