Flight of Locusts

The necessary preparations having been completed, we started from Arrayas on the afternoon of the 6th of May, my object being now to reach the Villa de San Romão on the Rio de San Francisco; but instead of proceeding southward along the western base of the Serra Geral as far as the parallel of San Romão, the road usually followed by the people of the country, I preferred the less frequented, and consequently the more difficult route, that leads along the Serra itself. My reasons for adopting this plan were, in the first place, because the low country to the westward had already been travelled over by Pohl and Burchell, and partly by Spix and Martius; and secondly, because I always preferred elevated regions, on account of the greater diversity of vegetation met with in such situations. We were accompanied for about[287] half a league out of the Villa by a few of the more respectable inhabitants. Shortly after the return of my friends, we descended the Serra on which the Villa stands, by a very rocky path, but this descent was not nearly so great as the ascent on the opposite side, and although we now found ourselves in a comparatively flat country, we were still at a considerable elevation. After proceeding half a league, we encamped for the night under some trees by the side of a small stream; here we slung our hammocks, but soon after midnight the cold became so great, from the wind that blew down from the Serra, that we could not sleep; and long before daybreak we were glad to rise, and seat ourselves round a large fire, such as we always made it a rule to burn every night we slept in the open air.

A journey of four long leagues on the following day, brought us to the fazenda Gamelleira, where we passed the night under a large fig-tree, there being only one small house belonging to the vaqueiro. This fazenda belongs to a widow lady, Dona Maria Rosa, at whose house we spent some time during the middle of the day. Soon after leaving Gamelleira, we entered a virgin forest quite unlike any I had seen since leaving the Province of Rio de Janeiro, and which I little expected to find in the district where we were now travelling. It contained many large trees, covered with numerous parasitical Orchideæ. The forest was about a league in length, after which we entered upon an elevated thinly-wooded tract, where we halted to breakfast under a beautiful shady wild-fig (Gamelleira). In the afternoon we accomplished another two leagues, and passed the night at a fazenda called Mangê, the road leading over a thinly-wooded Chapada.

On the morning of the 9th, after a ride of a league and a half, we rested on the banks of a small brook under a group of Buriti palms. The first part of our journey we found to be hilly and stony, with intermediate well-wooded low tracts, but the latter part of it was through a most beautiful country of fine open grassy campos, with occasional large wide-spreading trees. In the afternoon, we travelled a league and a half through a country even still more beautiful than that through which we passed in[288] the morning. We ascended a slight elevation that led to a flat Chapada, rather thinly-wooded, abounding in a rank kind of grass, a species of Andropogon, growing in large isolated tufts, and about three feet high, after passing through which we entered an open campo country. From the termination of the Chapada, there is a fine view of a large Serra, which runs from north to south, but not of great elevation and almost perfectly level as far as the eye could reach; this is the western side of the most elevated portion of the Serra Geral. It was not till some time after sunset, that we could find a convenient place for encamping, but the moon shone brightly, and we proceeded without inconvenience. The place where we halted at last was under some small trees near the side of a wood, but we little anticipated the plague we were about to encounter; in half an hour we discovered that it was swarming with the Carrapato Miudo, and so numerous that our bodies were soon covered with them. As it was now too late to shift our quarters, our only remedy was to set fire to the grass around our encampment. This being done we washed ourselves with a strong infusion of tobacco, which destroyed the Carrapato, and then with tepid water to prevent any bad effects from the tobacco, a remedy usually adopted by the vaqueiros whose occupations lead them daily into places infested by these annoying insects. Having thus secured ourselves from any further attacks from this pest, we slept soundly, and resuming our journey early next morning, we travelled three leagues and a half through a flat sandy bushy country, reaching about mid-day a small fazenda called Bonita, where we remained till the following day. The small house belonging to the proprietor of this fazenda is situated on a slight eminence, which commands a fine view of the surrounding flat country. He formerly lived in a somewhat lower spot at a little distance, but as his family suffered constantly from ague, he removed to this place, since which they have been free from this complaint, although the difference of elevation is not more than a hundred feet.

In the morning the Juiz de Paz of the district, who lives about two leagues to the north of Bonita, passed, and learning that we[289] were strangers, and about to visit the Arraial de San Domingo, a little village two leagues and a half distant, he told me that he was on the way thither himself, and that his own house, which he only occupied during festa times, was much at my service during my stay there. The distance between Bonita and the village is said to be about two leagues and a half, but they proved to be very long ones. The road till within a short distance of the village is pretty level, and generally sandy, but it afterwards became more hilly and stony; it leads southward along the base of the Serra Geral, but generally a mile or more to the west of it; the top of the Serra still continued to be level with a precipitous face, the rock being of a reddish-yellow. Shortly after leaving Bonita, an elevated pyramidal peak of the same elevation as the Serra, is descried to the S.E. presenting a remarkable resemblance to some enormous work of art; it stands about a quarter of a mile distant from the Serra, and is placed upon a broad regular base.

We reached the Arraial de San Domingo a little before sunset, and took up our residence in the house of the Juiz de Paz. Like the rest of the houses it was built of large unburned bricks, with the partitions formed of wicker-work, plastered with clay, smoothed by the hand of the operator, and ornamented all over with the strokes left by his fingers. The village stands among some small hills about a league to the west of the Serra Geral; it is very insignificant, containing only about forty houses, a great many of which, belonging to the fazendeiros, are untenanted, except during the festas; a small limpid stream runs near it, which flows with great rapidity, but it contains no fish, as they are prevented from ascending by a cataract which exists at some distance below the village. We remained here two days, endeavouring to hire another man to assist in the management of my troop, but I had much difficulty in finding one, notwithstanding there were plenty of young men idling about, who had no disposition to work for a livelihood. It is a common saying in these parts, that for every ten who work, there are ninety who do nothing, and maintain a wretched existence by hunting and robbing their more industrious neighbours. Having heard of a man who had already made a[290] journey to Minas Geräes, I sent for him, and found him willing to engage with me; but just as we were concluding the agreement his wife came up and abused me violently for enticing her husband away from her. She was a large mulatto woman, old and ugly, and what very much surprised me, a slave, while he, who was also a mulatto, was a freeman, and considerably younger. They had done little but quarrel during the six years they had been married, and he seemed now determined to get rid of her; he therefore told her, that though she had governed him for a very long time, she should do so no longer. We could not, however, get rid of her, till he promised that he would not remain more than a month with me; when that time expired, he did not feel inclined to return, but went on with me to the Gold District, when he got employment at one of the mines.

Everything being at length arranged, we started early on the morning of the 14th, and travelling southward, still keeping on the eastern side of the Serra, we arrived, on the forenoon of the following day, at a fazenda called San João, and as our provisions were nearly exhausted, I determined to obtain a fresh supply here, if possible. On making enquiries of the owner, he informed me that as he had no cattle near the house, it would be two or three days, at least, before a cow or ox could be brought from a pasture, which was seven leagues distant; to this of course I was obliged to consent, as we were now in a country where provisions were not easily obtained. In the afternoon, I went down to bathe in a little stream which passes at some distance from the house, and, seeing a plant in flower among some bushes on the bank, I went in among them to collect it, but when I came out again, I found that I had paid dearly for so doing, as my trowsers and shirt, as well as my hands and legs, which were bare, were thickly covered with small carrapatos. As no time was to be lost I again took off my clothes and rushed into the stream; it caused me much trouble to clear my shirt and trowsers of these annoying insects, and I afterwards took great care not to walk much about in this neighbourhood. It was not till the morning of the second day that a fine fat cow was brought, and although killed immediately, the[291] flesh was not dry enough to be packed for two days more. The owner of the fazenda, Captain Faustino Vieira, we found to be of a very niggardly disposition, and much less hospitable than the fazendeiros I had generally met with in this province. Although his house was a good and commodious one, we had during our stay to put up in an open shed, which served to cover the sugar mill belonging to the farm. He was most exorbitant in his charges for all we had purchased of him, requiring one half more for the cow than its usual price in that part of the country; he charged in like manner for the farinha, and the Indian corn for my horses.

On the day we left San João, we made a journey of three long leagues, and put up for the night at the Fazenda de San Bernardo. During the afternoon, one of the horses in passing between two trees broke his pack-saddle, and it was necessary to remain here half the following day, in order to get it properly repaired; in the interval I went out to botanize near a large marsh, through which a small river runs. This river, as well as several others about the same size, which we passed both before and after we left San João, loses itself beneath a low serra of limestone which runs parallel with the Serra Geral, and nearly two leagues to the west of it. These rivers take their rise in the Serra Geral, and are said to enter beneath the range before mentioned, where they all unite, and at the distance of three leagues still further to the westward, they again appear above ground in one stream, forming the Rio de San Bernardo, which afterwards falls into the Rio Parannan. A person belonging to the fazenda took me down to see the spot where the stream, that passes this place, disappears in the mountains, when contrary to what I expected, I found that it did not enter by an open cave, but by an aperture far below the surface of the water, forming what the Brazilians call a Soumidouro; the current here runs with considerable rapidity, strikes against the nearly perpendicular face of the limestone rock, and forming a few whirlpools is lost in the gulf below. By these streams the remains of many of the animals of the country must be entombed in the deep caverns through which they pass, and it[292] is not impossible that such deposits may, at some distant epoch, form themes for the speculation of future geologists. As it was late in the afternoon before we left San Bernardo, we could not complete more than a league of our journey, through a country very similar to that on the other side of San Domingo. Next morning after accomplishing a very long league and a half, we rested to breakfast at a little habitation called Boa Vista, but inappropriately named, for not only is it situated in a hollow, but is surrounded by trees. The house had a miserable appearance, but the old woman to whom it belonged offered us much civility and attention, and gave us some sweet limes, which we relished exceedingly after our exposure to a burning sun. The country here is of an undulating character, and rather thickly wooded, though the soil is poor, being very sandy. During these journeys my collections were much increased by the addition of many fine shrubs and herbaceous plants, the dry sandy campos abounding with numerous species of Diplusodon, elegant little shrubs with rose-coloured flowers; while the moister portions afforded a rich harvest of curious varieties of Eriocaulon, having little resemblance to our humble British species, being tall and branched, and very remarkable from the large white balls of flowers which each branch bears at its extremity. In the afternoon we made another journey of two leagues, the road being through a hilly elevated country, in which we met with several gradual ascents, that always terminate in flat, sandy, thinly-wooded chapadas. After travelling about a league, we came very close to the Serra Geral, and continued our journey along its base, till we reached a convenient spot where we encamped under some trees by the side of an open swamp, in the centre of which grew a large grove of Buriti palms; we had been gradually ascending, for we were not more than two hundred feet below the summit of the Serra; our elevated situation, and a smart breeze which began to blow after sunset, caused us to pass a colder night than we had done for some time.

Another journey of two long leagues brought us about mid-day to the little village of Capella da Posse, our route leading us[293] through a beautiful upland country. It was for the most part of an undulating character, the road sometimes passing through large open campos, containing small clusters of Buriti and other palms, at others through densely wooded hollows, and not unfrequently along the bushy margins of open sandy marshes, abounding in curious Eriocaulons. Within a few miles of Posse, the mountain range takes a sweep to the S.E., and the road consequently diverges from the Serra, to gain the village, lying to the southward, which is surrounded by a flat, arid, and very sandy country, covered with a few scattered stunted trees and shrubs. The village we found to be of the most miserable description; it contains about a dozen small houses, and a very little church; the place is so poor that it cannot support a priest, for one who came to settle among the inhabitants about a year before our visit left, because they either could not or would not pay him more than half the salary he was promised. It was late on the following day before we left, as I remained to arrange the large collection made between San Domingo and this place. Hitherto we had avoided travelling along the upper part of the Serra, on account of the difficulty of finding water, but beyond Posse, the comparatively flat sandy country merges into the mountain range, and our course was therefore now in a S.E. direction. On the second night after our departure, we arrived at a little hamlet, about five leagues distant, called San Pedro; it consists of about half a dozen small houses, and a little chapel. We passed the night in an open shed, between two of the houses, and on rising in the morning Mr. Walker missed some of his clothes; it was very fortunate that nothing else had disappeared, for we were afterwards informed that the whole place was nothing better than a nest of robbers. The fazendeiro who gave us this information said, that whenever he had occasion to sleep there, and had money with him, he always hid it in the bush at some distance until the morning. During the whole of my travels, I always avoided sleeping in the open air if possible, whenever two or three houses were seen together, otherwise some little thing or other was always sure to disappear; indeed, in the dry season, and where[294] the country suited, it was always preferable to encamp at some distance from any habitation, especially in the thinly inhabited districts. Next day we only travelled a league and a half, and passed the afternoon and night at the fazenda de San Antonio, the owner of which was a coloured man, and very hospitable. Leaving this place early in the morning, a journey of two very long leagues brought us to the next fazenda called Dôres, but we found that for some time it had been deserted by its inhabitants. The country through which we passed on our journey there, was nearly one continued elevated sandy plain, with occasional large open marshy campos, but these only existed where any slight declivity was seen. About half way we came to a long narrow valley, in the centre of which was observed a small and very deep river, with a rapid current, over which we passed by a wretched old bridge, formed of the trunks of two trees, traversed by smaller branches very loosely laid together, so that I was glad when I saw the last of the horses safely across, on account of the great risk of their feet slipping between the cross sticks. In the afternoon, we went a league further to a fazenda called Picada, which, like most of the houses we had lately seen, was very small; it belonged to a mulatto, with a large family, who seemed to be in no very affluent circumstances. Among the numerous plants collected on these journeys, was one, the root of which is celebrated by the inhabitants of these districts, as a cure for the bite of the rattle-snake. It is a suffruticose species of Trixis, about four feet high, with rather large clammy leaves; the root has a musky smell, and it is even said that the smell alone is sufficient to kill a snake; they call it raiz da cobra.

We started from Picada early, but did not proceed more than a league, being detained on the road by an accident that befell the Indian guide I had hired at Arrayas: he was walking behind another of the men, who was mounted on a spirited young horse, when on a sudden, probably from the sting of some insect, it started, casting up its heels in the air, and after striking the poor Indian a violent blow in the stomach, set off at full gallop, throwing its rider, but without doing him any harm. I sent forward[295] the troop in charge of Mr. Walker, while I remained behind to attend to the Indian who seemed to be in much pain; he was greatly relieved by a little water for which we had to wait a long time before it could be procured, he was then placed on a quiet horse, and led slowly to the nearest house two miles distant, but by the time we reached it, he became so weak that his pulse was scarcely sensible. After giving him a cup of strong warm tea, the only stimulus that was to be procured, his pulse rose considerably, when I bled him in the arm, which relieved him greatly; and he gradually recovered, so that we were enabled to resume our journey in the afternoon of the following day.

We stopped at a place called Riachão, which consisted of three houses, about a quarter of a mile distant from each other. Here, for the third time only since I left Arrayas, I was able to purchase some Indian corn for my horses; they stood in much need of it, as the pastures were now very poor, consisting of coarse, dry, innutritious grasses. The inhabitants of this district are so desperately lazy that they scarcely plant sufficient of anything for their own use, notwithstanding the unlimited extent of ground that each family possesses. For several nights before we reached this place, the horses were greatly annoyed by bats, which are very numerous on this Serra, where they inhabit the caves in the limestone rocks; during the night we remained at Riachão, the whole of my troop suffered more from their attacks, than they had done before on any previous occasion. All exhibited one or more streams of clotted blood on their shoulders and backs, which had run from the wounds made by these animals, and from which they had sucked their fill of blood; when a small sore exists on the back of a horse, they always prefer making their incision in that place. The owner of the house where we stopped informed me, that he was not able to rear cattle here, on account of the destruction made by the bats among the calves, so that he was obliged to keep them at a considerable distance in a lower part of the country; even the pigs did not escape their attacks.

The singular creatures which are productive of so much annoyance, constitute the genus Phyllostoma, so named from the leaf-like[296] appendage attached to their upper lip; they are peculiar to the continent of America, being distributed over the immense extent of territory between Paraguay and the Isthmus of Darien. Their tongue, which is capable of considerable extension, is furnished at its extremity with a number of papillæ, which appear to be so arranged as to form an organ of suction, and their lips have also tubercles symmetrically arranged; these are the organs by which they draw the life-blood both from man and beast. These animals are the famous vampires, of which various travellers have given such redoubtable accounts, and which are known to have nearly destroyed the first establishment of Europeans in the new world. The molar teeth of the true vampire or spectre bat, are of the most carnivorous character, the first being short and almost plain, the others sharp and cutting, and terminating in three and four points. Their rough tongue has been supposed to be the instrument employed for abrading the skin, so as to enable them more readily to abstract the blood, but zoologists are now agreed that such supposition is wholly groundless. Having carefully examined, in many cases, the wounds thus made on horses, mules, pigs, and other animals, observations that have been confirmed by information received from the inhabitants of the northern parts of Brazil, I am led to believe that the puncture which the vampire makes in the skin of animals, is effected by the sharp hooked nail of its thumb, and that from the wound thus made, it abstracts the blood by the suctorial powers of its lips and tongue. That these bats attack man as well as animals is certain, for I have frequently been shown the scars of their punctures in the toes of many who had suffered from their attacks, but I never met with a recent case. They grow to a large size, and I have killed some that measure two feet between the tips of the wings.

It was late in the afternoon when we left Riachão, and we halted about a league beyond it, under some trees, by the side of a small marsh, having been informed that the next watering place was more than a league further on. We were now travelling along the Chapada, or flat top of the Serra, and I observed that the little streams we had been crossing for some time all flowed[297] to the eastward, to empty themselves into the Rio de San Francisco. We suffered from the cold during the night, and were besides much annoyed by a large species of mosquito, the bite of which was very painful, and on the following morning our hands and faces were greatly swollen in consequence. We did not get away from this place till about mid-day, owing to one of the horses having strayed to some distance, but this loss of time was compensated by successful botanizing made in the neighbourhood. We now passed through a rather dense wood in a hollow, the road being dreadfully bad in consequence of the great number of large rocks of limestone abounding there. The remainder of this morning’s journey, of a league and a half, was through a flat, open, and rather sandy country, when we halted for a short time by the side of another marsh, which afforded both water and good pasturage for the horses. In the afternoon we accomplished a further distance of two very long leagues, and spent the night at a small fazenda called San Vidal. Two leagues beyond this place, we reached the banks of a small river, too deep to allow of the horses passing with their loads. We were told at San Vidal that we should find a bridge, but we met with only the remains of one; after much trouble in searching along the swampy banks, we found at length a spot that answered as a ford, where all the loads were carried over on the men’s heads, a task which occupied about an hour and a half. We halted on the other side of the river, under the shade of a large Vochysia, which was then covered with its long spikes of yellow flowers. During the time we lost in crossing, and for more than an hour afterwards an immense flight of a large greyish-coloured locust, passed from south to north. They did not keep continuously on the wing, but alighted and rose again at short intervals, and thousands of them which fell into the stream were carried down by the current. They did not fly above twelve feet from the ground, and their constant rise and descent gave the air very much the appearance of falling flakes of snow. The country through which we passed after leaving San Vidal, is nearly one continued flat, sandy, bushy plain, thinly wooded in some places with small trees,[298] among which occasionally appeared a fine palm, with a stem about twelve feet high; large tracts had lately been burned according to the general custom at this season. In many places these sandy plains were beautifully adorned with a dwarf species of Diplusodon, covered with rose-coloured flowers, and small leaves, greatly reminding me of the heather of my native country. A Vellozia, with a stem about four feet high, was also very common, as well as several elegant stemless palms. In the evening we went on about a league and a half, and passed the night under some trees by the side of a small river, very similar to that we crossed in the morning. During the whole of this day’s journey, we were greatly annoyed by the numerous stragglers of the flight of locusts that were following their companions, and which sometimes nearly blinded us by striking against our faces. My little monkey amused herself by catching them as they passed, and they appeared a favourite food with her; to prevent their escaping, for she had frequently three at a time in her possession, she secured them by biting off their heads as soon as they were caught.

The river on the north side of which we slept, was very deep, and I was greatly annoyed to find that a small bridge, that had been thrown across it, had been nearly carried away by the floods, so that we were again put to the trouble of having all the luggage carried over; this occupied about an hour, when we lost no time in resuming our journey, in the hope of reaching some habitation where I could ascertain whether we were on the right path towards a little hamlet through which I wished to pass, called Nossa Senhora d’Abadia. After leaving the river, we ascended a low hill, on the top of which is a somewhat thickly wooded Chapada, and we spent nearly half an hour in crossing it. Having accomplished this, we saw at some distance in a hollow, a few small houses with a church, which proved to be the little hamlet we were in quest of. It consisted of half a dozen miserable small huts formed of wicker-work and clay, and thatched with palm leaves, the church being also constructed of the same materials; the houses were all in a state of decay, and uninhabited, with the[299] exception of one, in which we found a mulatto woman and a few children. I had hoped to procure here some corn for my horses, but none was to be had. I asked the woman if she could direct us to the Arraial of Formozo, but all the information she could give was that it was three leagues distant; not only had she never been there, but had never gone half a league beyond the spot where she lived: she told us, however, that if we went to the house of the Juiz de Paz of the district, who lived about half a league from Abadia, he would give us all the information we wanted. We proceeded there accordingly, and found his house to be scarcely better than those we had just left, and the Juiz himself, a little meagre old man, with a grey beard that appeared never to have felt a razor. When I asked, according to the custom of the country, if he would allow us to pass the middle of the day with him, he said he was sorry he could not give us accommodation, as two travelling merchants from the Rio de San Francisco, occupied the only spare room in his house. As the day was fine, we took up our quarters beneath the shade of a large tree, called Pao Parahiba (Simaba versicolor, St. Hil.), which grew before his house. Still wishing to give the horses a feed of Indian corn, I solicited the old man as a favour to sell me a small quantity, but he assured me he had not a single grain in his possession; this however I scarcely believed, as I saw heaps of husks lying about, and not long after, one of my men was informed by a slave belonging to the place, that his master had plenty. In the course of the day, having learned my profession, he came to consult me respecting a complaint of the chest, under which he had been labouring for about eight days; but I very coolly told him, that being aware he had plenty of corn, I would not attend to his complaint until he had sold me as much as would provide a good feed for all my horses. He now confessed he had a little, and would try to spare as much as I wanted; in half an hour he sent out about a bushel, for which I immediately paid him the usual price, about two shillings. I found him labouring under a slight attack of inflammation of the lungs, for which I bled him, and left him some medicine to take. I could not however ascertain[300] his reason for refusing me the corn in the first instance, but my medical knowledge ultimately acted like a charm in procuring it.

When we left the house of the Juiz de Paz in the afternoon, he directed us to Formozo, but as will be seen, not sufficiently clearly. We started early with the intention of making a long stage, and after travelling two very long leagues, we arrived at a small house in a hollow, where two men, a negro and a mulatto, were making Farinha de Mandiocca. From them we learned we were on the wrong road for Formozo; and when I asked leave to pass the night here, they assured me we should find much better accommodation a little way further on. As the hut was small, I accordingly pushed on towards the place indicated, hoping to obtain good shelter, as it had been thundering all the afternoon, and seemed likely soon to rain; but when we had travelled half an hour without meeting with any signs of a house, we reached a small muddy stream, just as it was getting dusk, in crossing which one of the horses fell with its load of specimens of dried plants in large skin boxes, by which the plants became soaked; this was all the more vexatious, as some of these parcels were the same that had formerly suffered on the journey from Duro to Natividade. After passing this stream, we went on pretty quickly for about another half hour, when we arrived at a small uninhabited house in a very ruined condition, but as the roof was in great measure entire, we determined to remain here for the night. We were much incensed against the men who gave us such wilfully false information, for just as the luggage was taken off the horses, it began to rain heavily, accompanied by a strong wind; and notwithstanding that we covered the open patches in the roof and walls as well as we could with skins, it was two hours before we could manage to keep a candle lighted. Towards midnight the storm ceased, when we kindled a large fire in front of the house, which helped to warm and dry us.

On the following day we examined the collections that had been wetted, and as the sun shone brightly, we dried them by spreading them out on the sheets of paper in which they were[301] packed; this task having occupied nearly the whole day, we passed the following night under the same shelter. In the afternoon I took a walk a little way along the banks of a small stream which flows into a large marsh, lined on each side with Buriti palms, and other trees and shrubs, where I collected a number of fine plants. Next morning before starting, Mr. Walker, in searching for a ring to fasten into the end of one of our trunks, had a very narrow escape from being bitten by a rattle-snake: the ring had been laid down in a corner of the room, and putting his hand to search for it in the dark, he felt something soft which he was just about to lift, when to his horror he discovered it to be a rattle-snake. No time was lost in killing this frightful reptile, which was found to measure nearly five feet in length; I had slept all night within two feet of it. We left this place on the morning of the first of June, and after travelling about a league, came in sight of some houses which were supposed to be Formozo, but were informed the place was called Campinhas, and that we had left the former place behind us a little to the westward. Half a league further on, we halted during the middle of the day, in the house of an Indian, at a place called Pasquada; when we arrived, the man was absent working in his plantation, but his wife received us with great hospitality, immediately sending one of her boys with a large basket of oranges and another of sweet potatoes, and a few eggs, treating us in a very different manner from that to which we had been for some time accustomed. From this place we went on about two leagues, and encamped for the night under a large tree, called by the inhabitants Folha larga (Salvertia convallariodora, St. Hil.). The nature of the country still continued to be very much the same as that we had traversed since we had reached the table-land of the Serra. On the dry grassy flats, I met with a few specimens of the beautiful Amaranthaceous plant which Martius has described under the name of Gomphrena officinalis, and which is well known to the people of the country by its vernacular name of Para-todo. It has a large tuberous root, which is very much used as a purgative, and as its name implies, is considered good for every complaint. The stem[302] is about a foot high, hairy and leafy, and bears at its extremity a large compact head of crimson flowers. We passed a miserably cold night being obliged several times to get out of our hammocks, in order to warm ourselves at the fire. Had we proceeded half a mile further, we should have reached a good sized fazenda, but I was not aware we were so near it, until we heard a cock crow in the morning. We halted during the middle of the following day, at a fazenda called San Francisco, about two leagues distant from where we slept. From the time we left Arrayas, the horses had gradually fallen off in strength, owing to the want of proper provender, as they had depended almost entirely on the coarse rank innutritious grasses of the mountain pastures. They had also been accustomed to a warmer climate than that we now experienced on the table-land of the Serra, where we were exposed to a chilly S.E. wind, which at night was particularly piercing. The heat during the day, especially when unclouded, was very great, and this rendered us much more susceptible to the cold at night. At Riachão I was obliged to exchange two of my horses that could proceed no farther, and finding here that my own horse, which I had constantly ridden since I left Icó, in the province of Ceará, was with difficulty kept from lagging behind the others, it became necessary, much against my inclination, to part with him and procure another. On leaving him behind me I felt as if parting from an old friend, as we had become so much accustomed to each other; my chestnut horse was now replaced by another of a pure white, with a flowing mane and tail; but it did not remain long in my possession, for it was stolen from me soon after we crossed the Rio de San Francisco. We left San Francisco in the afternoon, and passed on our way to the first house from the fazenda, which is said to be three leagues distant; but as the leagues in this district were even much longer than those of the more populated parts of Goyaz, the distance in reality was far greater. Towards dusk we encamped under some small Tingi trees (Magonia glabrata, St. Hil.), from the stems of which we suspended our hammocks. Some of the large undulating grassy campos through which we passed, between the fazenda[303] and the place of our encampment, had been burned a few weeks before. These were now covered with numerous herbaceous plants in full flower; and I observed that in those parts that remained untouched by the fire, the same plants were in a more backward state, none being yet in blossom; but over the burned tracts, the new grass was springing up vigorously, promising soon to yield an excellent pasture for the cattle.

On the following morning, after having proceeded about half a league, we reached the Rio Carynhenha, which forms the boundary line between the province of Pernambuco, through the south-west corner of which we had for a few days been passing, and that of Minas Geräes, so that on crossing it we at length entered the latter province. After travelling a further distance of two leagues, we halted to breakfast under a wide-spreading Piki tree, on the margin of a Buriti swamp. The first part of our day’s journey was through an open campo country, the greater part of which had been lately burned; but the latter half was through a hilly and thinly-wooded tract. The day being cloudy, and the wind blowing freshly from the S.E., made us all complain much of the cold. In the afternoon it was my intention to reach the next house, said to be three leagues from that we had passed in the morning, but after travelling till dark without seeing it, we encamped for the night near some bushes on the banks of a small river; and as there were no trees here from which to suspend our hammocks, we contented ourselves with sleeping on hides spread on the ground.

In passing through a wooded campo (Taboleira coberta) we came upon a large ant-eater (Myrmecophaga jubata), which Mr. Walker followed with the intention of shooting, but his gun missed fire: we all pursued it on foot with sticks, as none of our guns happened to be loaded. I was the first to come up with it, and being well aware of the harmless nature of its mouth, I seized it by its long snout, by which I tried to hold it, when it immediately rose upon its hind legs, and clasping me round the middle with its powerful fore paws, completely brought me to a stand; one of the men now coming up, struck it a blow on the[304] head with a thick stick, which brought it for an instant to the ground. Notwithstanding it was frequently stunned by the blows it received, it always raised itself again and ran off. At last, I recollected the small pistols which I always carried in my jacket pocket, loaded with ball, when by the first shot through the breast it fell dead. It was a very large animal, measuring about six feet without including the tail, which together with the long hair by which it is covered, measured full four feet more. It ran very slowly, owing to the peculiar organization of its fore feet, two of the claws of which are very large and doubled up when it walks or runs, causing one side of the foot to rest on the ground. The proper, or rather principal use of these powerful claws, is to assist in obtaining the white-ant, the food on which he lives. The large clay nests of these insects are very common in those upland campos; and when the ant-bear wants a meal, he attacks one of these hillocks with his fore claws, tears out a portion of the side, and pushes in his long slender tongue, which is covered with a viscid saliva, to which myriads of the ants adhere, and opening his little mouth he draws it in; now shutting his lips, pushes it out a second time, retaining the ants in his mouth till the tongue has been completely exserted, when he swallows them. We afterwards met with numbers of these strange-looking animals.

The small river near which we slept, was full of rounded blocks of limestone, which being very slippery, rendered our passage across it difficult, but fortunately all the luggage was got over in safety. We now travelled for a league through a bare, arid, hilly country, in which almost the only tree that exists, is a small gregarious species of Vochysia, and arrived at the house we expected to reach the night before, where I remained all day in order to preserve the skin of the ant-eater, and to arrange some of my other collections. This place is called Capão da Casca, and consists of but one small miserable hut, entirely formed of leaves of the Buriti palm. It was inhabited by a mulatto, his wife, and three children; there were but two very small apartments, so that we were obliged to sleep on our hide beds spread out on the ground before the house, where our men had kindled[305] a large fire. The house is situated in the mouth of a small wooded valley, and the only cultivated ground I saw was a plantation of mandiocca. The miserable poverty of the family seemed to be entirely owing to the laziness of the man, who was a perfect picture of indolence.

We left early on the following morning, with the intention of making a long journey, as the next house was said to be six long leagues distant, which I set down as equivalent to ten legal ones. Shortly after leaving the house we had to cross a small stream, the bed of which was very boggy, so that one of the horses stuck fast, and in trying to extricate himself fell, together with his load, into the stream. It was some time before the boxes could be taken off, by which time they became quite full of water,—fortunately it was not a load of botanical specimens; but one of the boxes contained the last remains of my stock of paper for packing dried plants, as well as a little box full of the skins of bats and other small quadrupeds, together with some insects, all of which were more or less destroyed. As this was the first horse that attempted to pass, I would not allow any of the others to venture across with their loads, all were unpacked and passed over by the men in safety. By the time everything was again put into travelling order, and we had gone on about half a league, it was mid-day, when we halted under a large tree in the hollow near a wooded marsh. Our first care was to dry all the articles that had been wetted in the morning, which operation was much favoured by the sun that shone brilliantly.

Some of the campos we passed through were covered with a large species of tree-lily, bearing a profusion of beautiful purple flowers. Early in the afternoon we continued our journey, and halted for the night in a wooded campo, a little above a large Buriti swamp, sleeping on a hard bed, there being no place wherein to sling our hammocks, and suffering much from the cold. Although accustomed daily both to privations and fatigue, there was an indescribable pleasure in the wild life we had long been leading; it is true we were deprived of nearly all the comforts of civilized life, but we were at the same time free from all its[306] restraints. When we rose in the morning we knew not where our next sleeping place might be, but the choice was almost always at our command, which however was not made at random, but constantly regulated by some indispensable requisites, such as water and grass for the horses, trees from which to suspend our hammocks, and wood wherewith to make our nightly fire. We had hitherto met with but little difficulty in finding, all these together; but the part of the Serra Geral on which we were now travelling called the Serra das Araras, was in most places so destitute of arboreous vegetation, that trees were seldom met with in combination with other requisites for an encampment.

On arriving at a place where we wished to remain, each person had his own department to attend to. The first thing was to unload the horses, at which all assisted. Mr. Walker and I always saddled and unsaddled our own animals: two of the men then took them to the spot that offered the best pasture, where they were left after fastening their fore legs together with leathern straps to prevent them from straying during the night; these men on their return brought with them as much dry wood as they could carry. Another man was despatched with a large leather bag to fetch water; while Mr. Walker and I arranged the packages together in such a manner that they could readily be covered over with skins in the event of rain; two large trunks put together served as our table, while two smaller ones supplied us with seats. Generally before the men returned, Mr. Walker had kindled a fire, and while supper was preparing, which was also our dinner, for we took only two meals a day, I occupied myself in preparing and changing the specimens collected on the previous days. By the time the water was boiled for our tea, the piece of dried beef which had been put on a wooden spit, and suspended over the hot embers, was ready for our supper, as it required to be little more than heated. The tea, dried beef, and farinha de mandiocca constituted our usual fare; and I am certain that if any of our European friends, who had never seen this kind of provision, could have been suddenly transported to one of our meals, he would have concluded, from the appearance of our food,[307] that we were eating saw-dust and roasted leather. Our greatest comfort was a large stock of excellent tea, which I laid in before leaving Pernambuco, and which fortunately lasted till we reached a more civilized place, where more was procured; this was my only beverage during the whole of this long and protracted journey, and nothing could be more refreshing at the end of a day’s ride under a burning sun.

I was told when I arrived in Brazil, that I should find it necessary to mix either wine or brandy with the water I drank, but a very short experience taught me, not only that they were unnecessary, but decidedly hurtful to those whose occupations lead them much into the sun. Whoever drinks stimulating liquors, and travels day after day in the sun, will certainly suffer from headache, and in countries where miasmata prevail, will be far more liable to be attacked by the diseases which are there endemic. The dried beef of an ox generally lasted us from three weeks to a month, by the end of which time it was scarcely fit to be eaten, becoming as hard as a chip of wood. In moist rainy weather it was very difficult to preserve it, for with the utmost care we could not prevent the breeding of maggots, from which it required to be freed both before and after it was roasted. We were seldom, however, more than a fortnight without provisions of some kind or other, either in the shape of deer, monkeys, armadillos, large lizards, or birds of various kinds.

We started early from the Buriti swamp where we slept, with the expectation of reaching the fazenda do Rio Claro about mid-day, but a little before that time we found, by the direction in which we were going, that we had taken a wrong road. A little after mid-day we came to the S.E. termination of that part of the Serra das Araras on which we had been travelling, whence we had an uninterrupted view of the vast plain that stretches to the south and east, studded here and there with a few small lakes. After descending the Serra by an easy path, we rested during the middle of the day beneath some trees, by the side of a little stream of cool water that came rushing down from the Serra, not knowing where we were, nor when we might meet with any one to give us[308] information. We soon found the track again, and travelling through a flat thinly-wooded country, on an indifferent path, for about half an hour, we arrived at a small house, which we found empty; and a little further on we came upon another in the same state. Following the same path for about an hour, we met a black man and a boy, from whom we learned that we should arrive at a fazenda about half a league further on; we likewise ascertained at the same time that the road we had chosen was a round of about three leagues and a half to the fazenda do Rio Claro, but that it was much better than the one usually travelled; this at least was some consolation for the error we had committed. It was nearly sunset when we reached a small fazenda, called San José, where we put up for the night; the house was not only small, but in a wretchedly ruinous condition, and belonged to a mulatto, who did not seem to be very industrious. The Rio Urucuya, which runs directly east from the Serra Geral, and empties itself into the Rio de San Francisco a little below San Romão, passes close to the house, and is even there of considerable width and depth. On this day’s journey I collected no new plants, being the only instance of failing to do so in my travels since I left the coast.

Next morning, after receiving proper directions for the fazenda do Rio Claro, we left San José, and not long after we started came to a large rivulet which was so deep and muddy that it became necessary for all the luggage to be carried over by the men, and owing to the difficulties of the fording this occupied about two hours. As the stream is narrow, and the banks high on each side, it would not be difficult, in the course of a day, to form a good wooden bridge over it at a trifling expense, for plenty of wood exists close by; but this is scarcely to be expected from those who will not give themselves the trouble of erecting a decent house to live in, notwithstanding they are surrounded by an abundance of materials. When all had been passed over, I found it was then too late to go on until we had breakfasted, we therefore remained here till the afternoon. While at breakfast, an elderly white woman and her son arrived on the[309] opposite side of the stream, and after having crossed it, they remained during the middle of the day in our encampment. We found this woman, notwithstanding her age, to be lively and active, qualities not common among Brazilian women. I learned from her that she was going to a place at a distance of five days’ journey, to fulfil a vow she had made to San Antonio, some short time before, when she was suffering from illness. During our stay at this place, we were greatly tormented with carrapatos. We started early, and shortly before sunset arrived at last at the fazenda do Rio Claro, having passed through a flat, thinly-wooded country, covered with several large coarse kinds of grass.

This fazenda takes its name from a little stream that flows past it, and falls into the Urucuya, about a league further south. Although the house was large and commodious, compared with the generality of others in those parts, the owner, Senhor Manoel Lucas, would not give us accommodation for the night, but sent us to a small open shed in front of the hut of one of his slaves, where we slung our hammocks, after having tied up some hides to keep out a cold wind that blew down from the Serra. The men slept in the open air, on the ground, by the side of a large fire. As I had a great many plants to pack up, and as it was necessary to get two more large hide trunks made to put them in, we remained four days at Rio Claro for this purpose. During our stay we found the proprietor to be no less exorbitant than Captain Faustino, of San João, in the extravagant prices he demanded for the dried hides and Indian corn that I bought of him, and equally inhospitable in his demeanour.

The whole time we remained here, was spent in the shed before mentioned, where we were roasted by day, and starved with cold by night. We found it so extremely cold in our hammocks, for want of a proper supply of blankets, that we rose several times during the night in order to warm ourselves by the fire around which the men slept.

It was on the afternoon of the 12th of June that we left the inhospitable banks of the Rio Claro, and after a journey of two leagues, arrived at the next fazenda, called Boquerão, from the[310] owner of which we met with a very different reception from that at the Rio Claro; we were not only accommodated in his own house, but shortly after our arrival, he prepared for us an excellent supper of fresh beef, a luxury we had not enjoyed since we left the fazenda of San João, near San Domingo. I now regretted very much that I had not delayed my preparations until our arrival at this place, as we should have found everything more comfortably provided. The trees since we descended the Serra, I observed to be very different from those we had there met with, resembling much more those existing in the Sertão country of Piauhy; they consisted of the Cambaiba (Caratella çambaiba, St. Hil.), the Folha larga (Salvertia convallariodora, St. Hil.), two species of arboreous Bignonia, with yellow flowers, and the Sicupíra (Commilobium polygalæflorum, Benth.); there were besides a fine Gerascanthus, bearing large panicles of white flowers, a silk-cotton-tree (Bombax), and a simple leaved Rhopala.

Our host, whose name I regret I have neglected to record, would not allow us to depart on the following morning till we had breakfasted. As our stock of provisions was again becoming short, he sold me as much dried beef as I thought would carry us to San Romão, which was not now many days’ journey distant. We rested during the heat of the day at the next fazenda, after travelling two leagues and a half; in the afternoon we went another two leagues, and remained for the night at the fazenda of Santa Maria. The country still continued flat and dry, partly open and partly wooded; some of the open places abounded, as far as the eye could reach, with the large yellow clay nests of the white ant, among which we saw several ant-eaters, and a large flock of the ostrich of the country, which, as soon as they saw us, fled with extraordinary rapidity. From Santa Maria, we went on to a little hamlet called Espigão, half a league distant; it consisted of a few small houses, at one of which we stopped to make enquiries about the road; it belonged to a tailor, who was at work outside the door; as soon as we arrived, about half a dozen young women, of all colours, and dirty in the extreme, came out to reconnoitre us. Following the directions, we went on about a league further,[311] and halted to breakfast at an uninhabited house, by the side of a beautiful stream of clear water, flowing from a Buriti palm swamp. Resuming our journey in the afternoon, we crossed the stream, but were puzzled which road to take of the two that presented themselves, one led to the south, and another to the east; and as our general direction was easterly, we followed that course. After travelling about two leagues and a half through a very arid and barren country, consisting of long flat sandy tracts, wooded with a few stunted trees and bushes, and large open Buriti swamps, we arrived at another uninhabited house. During the latter part of this journey, the road inclined so much towards the north, that I felt certain we had not taken the right one, and determined to retrace our steps on the following morning, and take that which led to the south. As the house was in a very ruinous state, we slept under some trees; and as the nights had now become too cold for the use of hammocks, we generally abandoned them, and adopted instead an ox-hide laid on the ground, by the side of a large fire, with a trunk placed at our heads, and two or three others alongside; a heap of wood was always collected and laid within reach, and as the hardness of our beds never allowed us to sleep too soundly, the fire was always well kept up; the men had another fire to themselves.

On the following morning we returned to the place where the two roads separated, and breakfasted under the shade of a large Sicupíra tree. Fortunately, just as we were about to start, the same old lady and her son whom we met at the fazenda do Rio Claro, now passed us, on her return from the fulfilment of her vow; from her we learned that we were altogether out of our proper course, and that to regain it, it was necessary to return to Espigão, at which place there were also two roads, and that we had been directed to the wrong one; we had, therefore, no alternative but again to retrace our steps, having lost a day and a half by this erroneous information. On reaching Espigão, we took the other road without making any further enquiries, and after travelling about a league and a half, reached the banks of a small river, half an hour after sunset. We passed the night under some trees on[312] the banks of the stream, which is called the Riberão de Area; it is only about twenty yards broad, and shallow enough to allow the horses to pass over with their loads, but as the bottom was very bad, from the great quantity of smooth rounded stones, I thought it safer to have all the luggage conveyed over next morning in a fine large canoe, which we found made fast on the opposite side, by which means we escaped all risk of damage from the slipping of the horses’ feet. The country around this place was very pretty, being flat on each side of the river to a considerable distance, well covered with grass, and thinly wooded; immediately above the ford, there is a long rapid, the rushing of the water over which is heard at a great distance. The canoe being large, we were not long in passing the luggage, and afterwards we made a journey of about two leagues and a half, through a slightly undulating, arid, and barren country, consisting chiefly of bare grassy hills, covered in many places with abundance of ferruginous stones, and flat, sandy, thinly-wooded Taboleiras. We rested by the side of a small stream which flowed from a Buriti swamp, and as there were no large trees, we sheltered ourselves from the burning sun among some bushes which grew on the margin of the rivulet. In the afternoon, another journey of two leagues and a half through a similar country, brought us to a little fazenda called Taboca, which belonged to a mulatto. On starting next, morning, the owner accompanied us for nearly half a mile, in order to put us upon the right road, there being several other paths leading to different places.

A journey of about ten leagues from this place, which occupied two days and a half, brought us to the banks of the Rio Urucuya, at a place called San Miguel, little more than a league to the westward of its junction with the Rio de Francisco, and here we had to cross it; the stream was about a gunshot in breadth, and very deep. As there was no regular ferry established here, we hired a small canoe, by means of which all the packages were safely taken across in two hours. The horses were passed about a quarter of a mile further up, at a place where they had only about half the breadth of the river to swim. It was in the morning that we[313] arrived at this place, and although no corn could be obtained for the horses, I determined to remain till the following day, in order to give them a rest, all being in a very exhausted state, in consequence of their long journey, and the want of nourishing provender. We were now only five leagues from the Villa de San Romão, and were the more anxious to reach it as soon as possible, as our stock of provisions had been exhausted the evening before we reached the ferry. The journey from Boquerão occupied a longer time than we anticipated, and we were disappointed on finding, that after leaving that place, we could obtain nothing by purchase at a few small fazendas we passed. I have everywhere observed during my travels in Brazil, and the same remark has been made by M. Auguste de St. Hilaire, that the nearer a traveller comes to a town or village, the less chance he finds of being able to renew his stock of provisions. The men had still a few french-beans and a small piece of fat bacon left, but not more than would suffice them for a single meal; Mr. Walker and I had now been two days and a half without tasting any solid food, sustaining ourselves during that time entirely on strong tea, for we had not been able to meet with a single wild animal of any description; we had often before suffered severely from thirst, but had never been so long without food; it was fortunate we had the tea, as it prevented us from suffering nearly as much from hunger, as I expected we should have done. We stopped at a house on the south side of the river, which was both miserable and small, belonging to an old black woman, the only resident there; she had nothing, not even a fowl to sell. We slept in a part of the house that wanted a roof, and had only a small portion of the walls entire; a large fire was kindled in the middle of the floor, by the side of which we spread out hides for our beds.

As there was some difficulty in finding one of the horses, it was late next morning before we left the banks of the Urucuya. After travelling nearly a league, we halted for some time at a place where there are two small lakes, called As Dus Irmãas. We did not proceed further, having been informed, before we started, that we should not meet with a drop of water for the next three[314] leagues, and this in the afternoon we found to be really the case, the road leading through one continued flat dry sandy plain, thinly covered with bushes and small trees. We reached the first watering place a little before sunset; it is called Riacho, and is about a league from San Romão; there is no house there, nor could I observe any appearance of habitation on the whole road from the Urucuya to the Villa. We hoped to have reached the Villa that evening, but the horses were too much fatigued to go further; we therefore encamped for the night under some trees by the side of a limpid rivulet; none of us had had a morsel to eat, but we had all a large basin of strong warm tea, which made up in some measure for the want of a more substantial supper. To this Mr. Walker and the men added a pipe of tobacco, as they were all inveterate smokers.

At length, on Sunday morning the 21st of June, we entered the Villa de San Romão, and having proceeded to the house of the Juiz de Paz, in order to show him my passport, he very kindly sent a person to look after a house for our reception. He was not long in finding one, and as soon as the horses were unloaded, I dispatched a man in search of provisions, but, strange to say, he could find nothing but farinha. A market had been held early in the morning, of both fresh and dried beef, but all had been sold off before our arrival; a most fortunate occurrence, however, afforded us a better breakfast than we anticipated. Just as we were preparing some tea, which we intended to take with some farinha, a little boy came to enquire if I would buy a fish which he had just caught, and which was lying on the banks of the river. I went there immediately, and for the value of a few pence, bought the fish, a fine species of salmon upwards of two feet long, which I need not say was soon cooked, and formed a most welcome meal for all of us.

The Villa Resonha de San Romão is situated on the south bank of the Rio de San Francisco, in the district of Paracatú; it is small, not containing above one thousand inhabitants, and forms a square of several long narrow irregular streets; the houses are all of one story, and without exception, built of wicker-work and[315] clay, there being no stone in the neighbourhood; the principal streets run parallel with the river, and the three which are nearest to it, are almost every year inundated by the overflowing of its waters during the season of the rains. The other part of the town being somewhat higher, is exempt from this annoyance; the house we inhabited was one of those exposed to the floods, and although the floor was at least four feet above the level of the street, it required to be abandoned annually for some time; during the great flood of 1838, to which I was witness on my voyage up the Rio de San Francisco, the water rose five feet above the level of the floor, and the walls still retained evident marks of the fact. The population consists chiefly of people of colour, and I do not believe that a dozen white families exist in the whole Villa. Most of the respectable inhabitants are shopkeepers, who supply the fazendeiros, and those who reside in the surrounding country, with European and other goods. The place cannot be said to have any trade of its own, the principal source of traffic being fish, caught in the river, which after being salted and dried, is sold to the inhabitants of the Sertoes, who are remarkably fond of this food. The better class of the inhabitants are greatly addicted to gambling, resorting every day for that purpose to the house of an old captain, who is the owner of a spirit shop; having occasion to call several times on some of them, with letters of recommendation that I brought from Goyaz, I seldom found them at home, being always directed to the above house, where they were sure to be found, in company with one of the two priests belonging to the place, and this on Sundays, no less than on other days. This priest, Padre Francisco Fernandes Vianna, although a man of most benevolent disposition, was far from being a model of morality to his flock; to him, however, I was indebted for several acts of kindness, as also to Lieut. Col. Thomas de Conceição, a person of considerable intelligence, who forms an exception to the general character I have given of the inhabitants. From this gentleman I received letters of recommendation to the excellent and learned Padre Antonio Nogueira Duarte, of Contendas, a small village between the Rio de San[316] Francisco and the Diamond District, a person who is spoken of in the highest terms, both by St. Hilaire and by Spix and Martius. I expected to pass through this village, and to have the pleasure of meeting with one, who though now a very old man, still takes a delight in the pursuits of natural history, but when I found that in order to visit him, I should be obliged to make a round of several leagues, I renounced all idea of doing so, both on account of the fatigued condition of my horses, and of the great desire I now had to reach a place where my funds, which were in a very reduced state, could be renovated. The first evening, as I walked through the town, I was surprised to hear one or more fiddles playing in almost every house; this is the instrument almost exclusively used by the barbers in Rio de Janeiro, and the other large cities and towns along the coast, but in the interior it is very seldom met with, the guitar being a greater favourite, and generally used both by ladies and gentlemen. In San Romão, however, this usual fashion is departed from, no young lady’s education being considered complete unless she has learned to handle the bow.

It being now the dry season, the river was many feet below its banks, and although of great breadth, appeared narrow when compared with what it was when I first beheld it, in 1838. It abounds in fish, which at this season are brought in canoes in great plenty, and sold in the Villa at a very cheap rate. During my residence there, I prepared specimens of most of the ordinary kinds, which are now in the British Museum. The following are the names of a few of those which are most esteemed.

1. Surubím.[13]—This fish, which is a species of sturgeon, often reaches the length of six feet. It is taken most commonly in nets, but sometimes also, especially by the Indians, by being shot at with an arrow, to which a strong cord is attached. The flesh of this species dried[317] is that principally sold in the Sertão; I have frequently tasted it, and found it excellent.

2. Curumatám.—This, as well as the three following, belongs to the Salmonidæ; it is about two feet in length, and both in colour and taste its flesh has a very near approach to our common salmon. It inhabits the bottom of the river, and is generally taken with a drag-net, but never with the hook. During my stay in San Romão, several canoes came in every morning, nearly full of them, and sold at about a halfpenny each fish. The stomach is very thick and muscular, but in all those I examined, I never found anything but a large quantity of fine earth, in hard lumps.

3. Dourádo.—A beautiful fish, from two to four feet in length; it is generally taken with the hook, but is not considered delicate food. We, nevertheless, relished the first we ate very much, it being this species I bought of the boy on the day we arrived at San Romão.

4. Matrixám.—Somewhat similar to the Dourádo, but smaller, and considered a much superior fish.

5. Piau branco.—From one to two feet long, and with much larger scales than any of the others; it is taken with the hook, and its flesh is much esteemed.

6. Curvínha.—About two feet in length, with a scaly head; it takes the bait readily, but the flesh, which is soft, is not considered good.

7. Traíra.—Also about two feet long and rather slender; it takes the bait, and is much esteemed.

8. Pirá.—About two and a half feet long, with a protruded beak; is only taken with the drag-net, and is considered a delicate fish.

9. Mandí.—One of the Siluridæ, and perhaps a species of Mystus; from a foot and a half to two feet long, with no apparent scales, and long barbecels proceeding backwards from its mouth. It keeps near the bottom of the river, is taken by the hook, and considered one of the best fish it produces.

[318]

10. Pocomó.—This and the following also belong to the Siluridæ, and are, perhaps, species of the genus Hypostomus. The Pocomó is an ugly black fish, about two feet long, covered with large hard plates. It keeps near the bottom, and is taken in great plenty in the nets which are thrown for other fish. During my visit, the sandy shores of the river were covered with those which had been thrown out of the nets. It is seldom eaten, but makes good bait for other fish.

11. Cascuda.—This species is smaller than the last, and very much resembles it, except that it is of a yellow colour.

The Piráuh and Piába, of both of which I have already spoken, are as abundant here as they are below the Falls of Paulo Affonso; besides these, there must be many others which I had not an opportunity of seeing. During the whole time we remained in San Romão, we lived principally on fish; indeed, it is so abundant and so cheap, that fresh beef is rarely offered in the market. The navigation of the river being uninterrupted from this place to the Falls of Paulo Affonso, many canoes are continually passing up and down; their principal cargo up is salt, from the manufactories which exist on the vast saline flats on both sides of the river below Porto do Salgado; this is partly sold for money, and partly exchanged for hides, tobacco, &c.

As it was essentially requisite to arrange and pack the large collections made during our journey from Arrayas, and as our long journey now began to manifest its effects on the men, as well as on the animals, I determined to give them a sufficient rest, by remaining a fortnight at San Romão; accordingly the horses were sent to pasture on a large island in the river, immediately opposite the town; this island is about half a league long, and a quarter of a mile broad; the pasture there was not very good, but the horses remained much safer than in any other place. Horse stealing is so very common in this quarter, that scarcely a troop arrives, from any distance, that does not lose one or more animals; before our arrival, we became aware of this fact, and were advised to put[319] our troop on the island for safety. As the country was greatly dried up around the town, by the effects of the long drought, I did not here add much to my collections; and, indeed, a slight accident that occurred to me, prevented my walking about so much as I should otherwise have done. A few days after we arrived, I went to pay a visit to a gentleman, when in going up a few steps at the door, my foot slipped, and my leg came with considerable violence against the sharp edge of one of the brick steps; the wound, although small, troubled me greatly, for owing to the fatigue I had previously undergone, and the innutritious nature of our food, my body had evidently fallen into a somewhat scorbutic state. I did not finally recover from the effects of this accident till nearly two months afterwards, when I rested several weeks in the house of a kind friend in the Gold District.

eCommerce Basis


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