These tracts of quiet water are frequent on the irregular sides of the stream, and are the effect of counter movements caused by the rapid current of its central parts. At 9 a.m. we passed the mouth of a Parana-mirim, called Mahica, and then found a sudden change in the colour of the water and aspect of the banks.
Situation of Santarem Manners and Customs of the Inhabitants Climate Grassy Campos and Woods Excursions to Mapiri, Mahica, and Irura, with Sketches of their Natural History Palms, Wild Fruit Trees, Mining Wasps, Mason Wasps, Bees, and Sloths I have already given a short account of the size, situation, and general appearance of Santarem.
On opening closed nests of this species, which are common in the neighbourhood of Mahica, I always found them to be stocked with small spiders of the genus Gastracantha, in the usual half-dead state to which the mother wasps reduce the insects which are to serve as food for their progeny.
The shallow pits, excavated in the marly soil at Mahica, were very attractive to many kinds of mason bees and wasps, who made use of the clay to build their nests with so we have here another example of the curious analogy that exists between the arts of insects and those of man.
In the lower part of the Mahica woods, towards the river, there is a bed of stiff white clay, which supplies the people of Santarem with material for the manufacture of coarse pottery and cooking utensils: all the kettles, saucepans, mandioca ovens, coffee-pots, washing-vessels, and so forth, of the poorer classes, throughout the country, are made of this same plastic clay, which occurs at short intervals over the whole surface of the, Amazons valley, from the neighbourhood of Para to within the Peruvian borders, and forms part of the great Tabatinga marl deposit.
The pastures are destitute of flowers, and also of animal life, with the exception of a few small plain-coloured birds and solitary Caracara eagles whining from the topmost branches of dead trees on the forest borders. A few settlers have built their palm- thatched and mud-walled huts on the banks of the Mahica, and occupy themselves chiefly in tending small herds of cattle.
A person may travel, however, on foot, as Indians frequently do, in the dry season for fifty or sixty miles along the broad clean sandy beaches of the Tapajos. The only obstacles are the rivulets, most of which are fordable when the waters are low. To the east my rambles extended to the banks of the Mahica inlet.
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.