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September 21st.-At five o'clock in the afternoon we emerged from the confined and stifling gully through which the Cupari flows, into the broad Tapajos, and breathed freely again. How I enjoyed the extensive view after being so long pent up: the mountainous coasts, the grey distance, the dark waters tossed by a refreshing breeze!
The deep and narrow valley of the Cupari has a moister climate than the banks of the Tapajos. We have now frequent showers, whereas we left everything parched up by the sun at Aveyros. After leaving the last sitio we advanced about eight miles, and then stopped at the house of Senor Antonio Malagueita, a mameluco settler, whom we had been recommended to visit.
It resembled beef, but had a richer and sweeter taste. During the time of our stay in this part of the Cupari, we could get scarcely anything but fish to eat, and as this diet disagreed with me, three successive days of it reducing me to a state of great weakness. I was obliged to make the most of our Coaita meat.
The rain trickled through the seams of the cabin roof on to my collections, the late hot weather having warped the boards, and it gave me immense trouble to secure them in the midst of the confusion. Altogether I had a bad night of it; but what with storms, heat, mosquitoes, hunger, and, towards the last, ill health, I seldom had a good night's rest on the Cupari.
The river towards the end of September is about thirty feet shallower than in June; and in many places, ledges of rock are laid bare, or covered with only a small depth of water. I had been warned of these circumstances by my Cupari friends, but did not form an adequate idea of what we should have to undergo.
It would be a misnomer to call the Mundurucus of the Cupari and many parts of the Tapajos savages; their regular mode of life, agricultural habits, loyalty to their chiefs, fidelity to treaties, and gentleness of demeanour, give them a right to a better title.
It was his habit in his original state, before Europeans visited his country, but he is always ashamed of it afterwards, and remains sober during the pretty long intervals. The harsh, slave-driving practices of the Portuguese and their descendants have been the greatest curses to the Indians; the Mundurucus of the Cupari, however, have been now for many years protected against ill-treatment.
This is one of the good services rendered by the missionaries, who take care that the Brazilian laws in favour of the aborigines shall be respected by the brutal and unprincipled traders who go amongst them. I think no Indians could be in a happier position than these simple, peaceful, and friendly people on the banks of the Cupari.
The Cupari was described to me as flowing through a rich, moist clayey valley covered with forests and abounding in game; while the banks of the Tapajos beyond Aveyros were barren sandy campos, with ranges of naked or scantily-wooded hills, forming a kind of country which I had always found very unproductive in Natural History objects in the dry season, which had now set in.
I hesitated at first at this conclusion, but in reflecting that the tide was known to be perceptible at Obydos, more than 400 miles from the sea, that at high water in the dry season a large flood from the Amazons enters the mouth of the Tapajos, and that there is but a very small difference of level between that point and the Cupari, a fact shown by the absence of current in the dry season.