Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming

New York Charles Scribner's Sons 1935 copyright 1933

Peter Fleming responded to an ad in the Times; ‘Room Two More Guns' ‘ for exploring and sporting expedition, if possible ascertain fate late Colonel Fawcett.'

He began by saying "In London I was inclined to be scornful of Dyott's failure to bring back final and conclusive proof of Fawcett's fate, when it was so nearly in his grasp; I am not scornful now that I have seen something of the difficulties with which he contended.'

This account describes an expedition to locate Fawcett in 1931. It is very adventuresome indeed, and containes examples of attitudes toward the land itself and toward the indigenous people. It was useful to me on several levels. First, I later learned, that Fleming had actually visited Tampiitawa as did Bessie. I utilized the descriptions of the area knowing that Fleming was in the exact locations that Bessie visited just one year after her visit. I knew that she would have met the same people on the Araguaya that he had met.

The story of an expedition to Brazil to seek the fate of Colonel Fawcett(his son Jack and another fellow Raleigh Rimell) who disappeared in in the central Brazilian Plateau - 1925— having told his family it could be several years before they would hear anything–By 28 Commander George Dyott decided to look for him—Dyott got to the point of Fawcett's departure–a Kalapalo (probably Kayapo indian related in sign language that that Fawcett had reached Kuluene and that he went on (even though the two younger men were in bad shape)–the indians reported seeing camp fire smoke for the next five days. Then nothing.


Dr. Carolos p107 A man they met at a missionaries home "He spoke at length in a level deprecating voice, of journeys he had made into the unknown forest area called Sao Patricio. He told us of fungi which at night gave forth a blue light, strong enough to read by, and of the Indians' skill in witchcraft, by which eh seemed to mean a kind of voodooism, backed by great subtlety in poisons. In those forests there are blacks living(as elsewhere they do not) wild with the Indians; a strange doomed, and beastly people. They are a degenerate type. He showed us a photograph of a little stunted man with a tail eighteen inches long, stnading in a humble fawnng attitude between huge tree truncks. He showed us giant beetles amd tje sloms pf smales/ Je tp;d is ;egmeds pf tje forst explorers, the bandeirantes, and mede it easy to believe them.


P. 74



Description of the Carajas

"They all, except the child, wore clothes of a sort. On the whole the Carajas, who are river Indians inhabiting something like 400 miles of the banks of the Araguaya, have held out pretty well against the forces of enlightenment. But in almost every village there is a minority–drawn, it seemed to me, from those with most intelligence and fewest scruples–who have allowed themselves to be transformed into those regrettable hybrids which spring up, fully trousered, wherever the dragon's teeth of civilization are sown on aboriginal soil. These five were of that sort. They had dark brown healthy skins and black tangled hair. The women's hair reached below their shoulders, the men wore a shaggy bob. On the men's cheekbones two little circles were cut; they were the size of a the rim of a twelve-bore cartridge and showed up balck against the skin, as though they had been branded. This used to be a universal mark throughout the tribe, but today it is disappearing. I remembered a theroy of Dr. Carols' Caraja meant ‘Four Eyes'; the etymological derivation was plausible, and now those scars, sketching the eyes in duplicate, made the name seem a likely one.






The faces of the Carajas never conformed strictly to a racial type, and the two indians before us had features very differently cast. Lorian (who was rumoured to have been formerly a chief of great importance) had a wizened, dependable face; he looked capable of wisdom and authority, and had about him a certain innate dignity which I never knew him to parade. He was a mildly impressive man. The other one was called Burity, which means Palm Tree. The name did not suit him. He was much younger than Lorian, to whom he stood in some sort of blood relationship which he himself always had difficulty in defining. He had a round smooth, bucolic face, with a suggestion of the Mongol in it. I have seen vaguely similar, though less cheerful faces on both sides of the frontier between Russia and Manchuria. Perhaps the thing that struck you most about him was his capacity for silliness. It was not an irritating, or a dangerous or an obstructive silliness. He was a littl moonstruck; that was all.



We were three weeks on the Araguaya between Leopoldina and the mouth of the Tapirape.

You woke early in the morning before dawn. The air was cold the dew was heavy on your blanket. When you sat up, the litter of camp on the pale sandbank showed like charcoal scrawls on a white paper. The rack of guns and rifles, close beside you, had a very theatrical air. Two men were squatting beside the fire. A third stood over them, stretching himself and rubbing his knuckles in his eyes. Beyond them were the moored boats, riding lighter than they rode by day and partly because of the that, and partly because of the little mist that writhed along the smooth dark water–looking larger than you had expected. You got up, and put on a sweater, and went down to the river to wash. You drank half a pint of coffeee-better than you ever had in England. After that –with a half an hour to spare before breakfast you took a gun into the jungle. For a quarter of a mile you plodded through the deep white sand, your feet making a silly squeaking noise as distinctive nad invariable as the sound of skis through snow. It was always nightmare going on the praias. The most eager stride lost its elasticity in a hunger yards and became a dour, clumsy shuffle. Figures walking in that sand had the air of men spent with exhaustion. Their heads were bowed, their arms hung down before them, and their feet slugged into the soft stuff glumly. After hunting you returned to camp for breakfast of rice and black bens....which we learnt to call feijao–it was the staple food. But there was usually one other pot on the fire, with fish in it or some sort of game. After breakfast everything was bundled into the canoes, by 9:00 all boats were under way


The first hour was the best. The sun on your right hand was not yet high enough to strip the vast and empty river of the glamour, the almost overpowering glamour, which night had lent it. To the shadows under the eastern bank a thin mist still clung. The wind, the little wind which blew in your faces from the norht all through the middle of the day, had not yet risen and hte tall trees stood gravely inverted in the silken surface of the water. Over all the river was an attentive silence.



By noon it was pretty hot. But as we were 1000 feet above sea-level it was a dry heat. "The Brazilian sun has a further quality of mercy in that its rays are powerless to give you sunstroke. Why this is, I do not know. We used to tell each other–in the imprecise but confident tones which one asserts, at Maskelyne's that it is All Done by Mirrors–that it was due to something in the air. Whatever the cause, I know that I never wore a hat, even on the equator itself, and felt no ill effects; though I should not recommend this course to anyone who is easily subject to sunstroke."

By midday there was usually a breeze blowing upstream sometimes hard enough to delay the progress of the boats. When this dropped the flies attacked.

By day the worst peest was the pium fly, a little black creature the size of a midge, which covered your hands and anything else it could get at the small hard red pimples. These itched furously when the sun got at them, or at night when you were hot. But after a time we seemed to become more or less immune to their bites, which for some reason probably because I am dark–troubled me much less than the others. There were also motuca flies, which looked like a lethal and slightly futuristic form fo blue-bottle, and whose bites drew blood and oaths but had no worse effects.


In the jungle, and espeically in long grass, we used to collect large numbre of ticks called carapatos.


At lunch we stopped–lunch was called jacuba–it consisted of a mixture of farinha, rapadura, and water. Rapadura is made from sugar cane and is manufactured in rectangular blocks six inches long. It looked like a slab of toffee-though it is not sticky and it is much harder. You can eat it in hunks but for purposes of jacuba you whittle it off with a knife from the main block, making a kind of course powder which you mix into a sogdden mass with water and the socalled flour. The ressult is a quickly prepared and sustaining substitute for a meal. To the palate, however, we found that it could not be calculated to appeal indefinitely.


As soon as lunch was finished we re-embarded on the river. At 4:00 we looked for a place to camp. The last two hours of daylight were spent hunting food and exercising. You got back to camp hot and covered with ticks— Your stripped and bathed and had dinnerwhich was the usual mountainous unregarded meal. (Beans and rice)washed down with coffee. You eventually lie down in the sand to await sleep.


The carajas are a fine race. They are taller than most of hte tribes in Brazil, the men often standing as much as five foot eight in their bare feet. Their features–though the types varies widely suggest a Mongoloid vaiatino on the conventional Red Indian of a Mongoloid variation on the conventional Red Indian of Fenimore Cooper. Their hair is black and snaky; the women mostly wear it hanging below their shoulders, but some of the more civilized of the men have it cut hort or in a bob. They have no hair anywhere no their bodies, and they pluck out their eyelashes and brows.

In their natural state the men go naked, and the women wear only a kind of fibre apron. But contact with the forces of enlightenment, and increased opportunities for acquiring what they regard as finery, have in a few cases resulted in the appearance of skirts and trousers. The condition of these garments is usually an offence against hygiene, and their wearing an entirely unnecessary prop to the natural modesty of the Indians. The use of the tribal mark (circle cut with stone at the cheek bone) or a six-inch slip of dried palm frond, which hangs down below their chin, an unnatural but a curiously graceful appendage. They often pierce the lobes of their ears with similar ornaments, the most prized being a capivara tooth.


Their bodies are pigmented, though not as far as I was able to gather, for any particular reason or in accordance with any particular design. There diet consists of farinha and mandioca and fish. They catch these primarily with arrows. – four or five feet long, gaily feathered and tipped with bone; the bows are short but very strong. The shooter stands in the bows of the canoe, and the helmsman guides it softly through the shallows where the fish can be seen clearly against the sandy bottom in three or four feet of water. The Indians are good shots, knowing by instint how much to allow for the refraction.

They also use vines to stun the fish at low water—

In rainy season the Carajas live in villages on the high bluffs along the river. The huts in these are permanant erections; big solidly built, and well thatched. AS a rule there are six or eight huts to each dry season village, and the villages are mostly a day's journey apart or rather more.


The women are said to speak a different language than the men...

They would sometimes offer us eggs,(turtle) bananas, yams, mandioca, and sometimes even a turtle for sale. We could buy for handfuls of salt, cuts of twist tobacco.

The caraja love their children and pets. –a village–Santa Ilabel where the Brazilian govfernment had established a post from which their officials were to disseminate culture and enlightenment among the aborigines. Good work, I believe, was done while the funds lasted; but when we arrived there were only the labels left to show how zeal had been expended. The school of sewing was tenanted by two parrakeets, who sat, solemnly regarding each other on top of the blackboard; from time to time they defaced with an air of abstraction.



SAD 160p

The naked Indians who had endured the cannon of the eighteenth century and the kindergarten of the twentieth were still there. They were not so naked now, and not nearly so numerous; they had picked up a few of the white man's bad habits and some of his diseases, and the clothes which he insisted on their wearing had made them more susceptible to the cold at night and so to fever. They were dying out, but they were still there. They came to meet us, with feather head-dresses and ceremonial spears for sale, asking exorbitant prices. They had learnt one of the first lessons that contact with civilization teaches a primitive people: that sacred things are the easiest to sell.


P177 BANANAL - the largest effluvial island in the world


At the mouth of the Tapirape–is the island Bananal. Then on up the Tapirape to Sao Domingo the port of the Tapirape Indians–it took five good days.


Tapirape was much tougher going. Twisting chanel–stronger current against us–There were places where the river was all but choked by fallen trees. Sometimes the trunks were submerged and we pushed and hauled the canoes over them to the accompaniement of ominous raspings. Sometimes tehy cleared the water by no more than a couple of feet, and these we negotiated by a technique analogous to that used by circus people who jumpf rom the backs of their horses through paper hoops. Occasionally we had to cut a passage with the big knives called facaos; but this was always an easier matter than it sounds.


The lower waters of the Tapirape, before it joins the Araguaya, are a network of lagoons. The current there is negligible, and the channel, to which so many promising alternatives constantly offer themselves, is difficult enough to follow in daylight.


Mr. Petrullo, archaeologist and ethnolgist from the Pennsylvania University Expedition which visited the Kuluene in 1931. Mr. Petrullo elicited from the Kalapalos substantially the same story about Fawcett.


Indication of their attitude toward life in the Amazon–is shown when they discover aSucury(an anaconda) in a hollow tree nearby. "We could not see it, but a sound between a moan and a hiss issued rhythmically from the trunk, and we knew that it was there. There were any number of things we could have done; if it had proved impossible to cut open the tree we could have lit a fire underneath it and killed the snake when it came out. But a curious kind of indeifference had come upon us, probably the result of weakness and lack of sleep; and we contented ourselves with emptying a revolver lackadaisically into the tree, which quickened the tempo of the moaning hiss but produced no other results." P286


Arara - A Macaw

Banzeira the local name for the north wind

Bataloa A four-oared clinker-built boat, 20-30 feet long

Boiadeiro Cowboy

Capivara A kind of water guinea pig about the size of a sheep

Cerva A big deer. I believe their weight runs up to 20 stone, but the heads are poor.

Facao A big knife, like a cutlass, and usually carried in a sheath; similar to though in my opinion less serviceable than the machete of Central America which is heavier and better balanced.

Farinha A course flour made from the mandioca root

Fazenda A farm

Feijoa Rice and black beans (the neational dish)

Iguana a big lizard

Inhuma the mysterious bird, bigger than a cock capercailzie and said to have talons on its wings. An object of some sort of superstition among the Carajas.

Jaburu A white stork with a black head and a red neck, standing nearly five feet tall.

Jacare An alligator

Jacu A foolish peering dark-brown bird, which we called a pheasant.

Jacuba A mixture of farinha, rice and water.

Mandioca The cassava root. Tastes like a disheartened potato.

Mareca A wild duck something like the canvas-back

Mataburro A primitive form of bridge

Montaria A kind of clinker-built canoe

Mutum The curassow bird: a wild turkey

Nada Nothing

Pato The biggest wild duck in the world. Very handsome in black and white, and excellent eating.

Pensao An inn

Pinga A spirit made of fermented sugar-cane

Piraracu Possibly the biggest freshwater fish.

Praias Sandbanks that have everything to offer. (Soft dry sand for sleeping or hammocks in trees, driftwood for fire, turtle eggs if it is the right season (before the rains)




Comments about the Indians

We had already a great liking for hte Tapirapes, and they, who were warm-hearted and unciritical, seemed to have no difficulty in tolerating us. They wateched all our actions with interest, appearing to find them unaccountable and rather foolish. But they were genuinely impressed and delighted when Neville killed a big jacare out in midstream with the mannlicher. It was a very good shot. The beast came drifting down the river, with only his eyes and snout showing. Neville got him at eighty yards, fist shot. Ticanto screamed the indians, hopping up and down with pleasure whten they saw the shite belly turn slowly uppermost in the bloody water, one broad claw making impotent, aimless gestures in the air. After that we were a better joke than ever.

Certainly they were a very merry people, and their humour was vetter than the Carajas'. Both tribes had a certain quality of remoteness in their natures; both had a stake in some world which we could never know. But there was something forlorn and unhappy about the Carajas. Their roots had been partly torn up; they were flustered and dazzled by the proximity of the white man's boundaries and thus neglected the virtures of their own world. They forgot that they were alien, and felt merely outcast. Their remoteness was the hesitant, rather miserable remoteness of the oaf. The Tapirapes were more like elves, capricously aloof, their native bliss unqualified by envy. They were curious, but not covetous. They came among us as spies operating from a base of self-sufficiency; not as gauche and wistful renegades.


"Whatever it may have meant (and its meaning I never discovered) this word(Ticanto) was a kind of talisman. It created an aura of goodwill. You had only to say Ticanto two or three times, and to smile with vaugue but overpowering affability, to envelop everything in a haze of bonhomie. It was much more than a civility; it was a vote of confidence in the univers. If every country put such a password to its affections at the disposal of visitors, international relations would be on a much better basis, travel would be more agreeable, and Berlitz would go bankrupt.




As they traveled up the Tapirape they had to leave the river to camp becaues there were no paira and the jungle came down to the rivers edge. The would go to the campo through the jungle then treck in a general northly path assuming that the channel would be going that way and since they were parrellel with the jungle not too far from them.


The range of mountains that appeared on the map the Serra do Roncador (snoring mountains–does not exist. This was confirmed by the Petrullo expedition.


"It was on the Tapirape that we first met the Arrayas–a kind of resh water sting ray. There appeared ot be two sorts. One was dun coloured with a long tail and this was te more dangreous of the two, being difficult to see and thus easily trodden on as it lay in the sand. The other wasw a blackish colour, with large pale spots and ahd a shrt rather stubby tail. You could see theme verywhere, gliding along close to the river bed, and they aroused in men souething of the animus which jays arouse in a keeper.-