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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.
This enters the Amazons about three miles below Santarem, where the clear stream of the Tapajos begins to be discoloured by the turbid waters of the main river. The Mahica has a broad margin of rich level pasture, limited on each side by the straight, tall hedge of forest. On the Santarem side it is skirted by high wooded ridges.
There was another river, of which Colonel Rondon had come across the head-waters, whose course was equally doubtful, although in its case there was rather more probability of its flowing into the Juruena, by which name the Tapajos is known for its upper half.
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.
We touched at Aveyros, to embark some chests I had left there and to settle accounts with Captain Antonio, and found nearly all the people sick with fever and vomit, against which the Padre's homoeopathic globules were of no avail. The Tapajos had been pretty free from epidemics for some years past, although it was formerly a very unhealthy river.
At Vilhena we were on a watershed which drained into the Gy-Parana, which itself runs into the Madeira nearly midway between its sources and its mouth. A little farther along and northward we again came to streams running ultimately into the Tapajos; and between them, and close to them, were streamlets which drained into the Duvida and Ananas, whose courses and outlets were unknown.
The Siphonia elastica grows only on the lowlands in the Amazons region; hitherto, the rubber has been collected chiefly in the islands and swampy parts of the mainland within a distance of fifty to a hundred miles to the west of Para; but there are plenty of untapped trees still growing in the wilds of the Tapajos, Madeira, Jurua, and Jauari, as far as 1800 miles from the Atlantic coast.
To this it adds the other materials required from the neighbouring bushes, and when laden flies off to its nest. To the south my rambles never extended further than the banks of the Irura, a stream which rises amongst the hills already spoken of, and running through a broad valley, wooded along the margins of the watercourses, falls into the Tapajos, at the head of the bay of Mapiri.
Its provisional name "River of Doubt" was given it precisely because of this ignorance concerning it; an ignorance which it was one of the purposes of our trip to dispel. It might go into the Gy-Parana, in which case its course must be very short; it might flow into the Madeira low down, in which case its course would be very long; or, which was unlikely, it might flow into the Tapajos.