Issuu on Google+

1


3. Foxes on Stilts

4 9 15

4. The Strangler Forest

22

5. The Swamp of Despair

29 41 47 53 61

1. Your Mission 2. Diego the Mule

6. Mercury, Gold and Impossible Cliffs 7. Into the Gorge 8. Contact 9. Should a Lost World stay Lost?

2


So… You want to find a lost world in the heart of South America? You want to … …brave swamps and sierras.

…ride the pampas with gaucho cowboys.

…find out what fearsome beasts lurk in the impenetrable Cerrado ‘closed’ forest.

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then read on. This is the book for you. In its pages you will learn how to survive the grasslands, jungles and marshes of South America’s vast interior, what equipment to take and what you might find when you get there. You’ll also read the tales of those who chanced their luck here before you; some successfully, and others who tried but were never seen again.

3


Your Mission: In 1929, explorer, Montgomery Farquhar became dangerously lost whilst exploring the unknown Rio da Medo (River of fear) in Southern South America. Confused and bogged down in a maze of swamps and thorn-scrub tangles, Farquhar and his party feared for their lives. If the teeming crocodiles, piranhas and anacondas didn’t get them, then surely starvation would. The end seemed near until the group trudged round one more river bend and saw the table mountain. Edged on all sides by towering cliffs, this huge rock at first seemed unassailable, but after searching around its base for several days Farquhar found a cut in the rock walls- and a route up.

Or, at least, it’s thought he found a route up. On his return Farquhar never would tell what happened after he came to the cliffs. Nor would any of his men break the secret they had sworn to uphold. There was only one chance remark that Farquhar once let slip many yeas later;

‘It was like a Lost World at the top, untouched as if time itself had surely forgotten it’. Now you’ve decided to find out for yourself. You will follow the route of Montgomery Farquhar and find out if there really is a ‘Lost World’ at the end of the ‘River of Fear’.

4


Time to set the scene. In the heart of the South American continent, south of the steamy Amazonian rainforest, lies a vast sweep of dry country stretching across much of Brazil, parts of Bolivia and Paraguay all the way to Argentina. The terrain here varies from open grasslands known as pampas or llanos (yanos) or campo (depending on where you are) to tangled thorn forests called chaco or cerrado (the word for ‘closed’ in Portuguese). There are low lying flats that are parched for half the year and underwater for the rest of the time, and dotted around this timeless landscape are pinnacles of some of the most ancient rocks on the planet; timeless ‘lost worlds’ where life has remained unchanged for millions of years. In places it feels like you could be in parts of Africa or the Northern territories of Australia. But something about the feel of the place is not quite the same. The animals here are peculiarly South American even if the way they live is strikingly similar. Look at this scene and pick out the South American wildlife and the equivalent Australian animals. Note that one of the South American animals has no Australian match. Which one is it? Red-tailed black cockatoo

Black-necked stork

Brocket deer Saltwater croc Jacaré caiman

5

Hyacinth Macaw

Capybara Agile wallaby

Jabiru stork


ANSWER GRID: South American

(answers on page 8) Australian

Lifestyle Hunts and scavenges marshes and rivers. Cracks nuts and seeds with its enormous beak. Snaps up frogs in the shallows Timidly nibbles plants along woodland edges Spends the day in the safety of the water, comes out at night to nibble plants by the water edge. In this way, the animal with the most similar lifestyle is probably the hippo in Africa.

No Australian match

Now let’s see what is like on the ground… Mid morning. Hot already. Tramping through the thigh-high grass, you’re waving your arms around to discourage the tiny pium flies from biting your uncovered hands and face. You know you’ll have to watch out for ticks too. These spider-like crawling bloodsuckers can give you a disease called typhus so you’ve made sure to wrap gaiters- strips of canvas- around the gap between your trousers and your boots to discourage them biting your ankles or getting inside your clothes. The gaiters might also work as extra protection against snakes like the cascavel rattlers that you know also lurk around here. Though most of the ground is covered with tussocks of grass, finding your way around is not as easy as you had thought. There are patches of jungle here and there. The trouble is that from a distance the clumps of trees all merge into one green line above the grass horizon on all sides. Judging how far you’ve travelled in this grass-forest mosaic is all but impossible.

6


A rustling sound in the grass to your side has you spinning round. In that spilt second whilst you turn to face the potential danger, your mind races through the possibilities. It’s bite could cause lingering and painful death.

Could it be a cascavel?

..A giant anteater perhaps?

Its vicious claws could rip out your innards.

… A puma? This 2 metre long big cat is best not tackled alone…

Or…just a cow, one of thousands that roam semi wild on the vast ranches called fazendas that most of this land is divided into. The cow is a white ‘Brahma’, lean and rangy. Originally from India, this breed takes well to the hot grasslands. There are more behind. They spook easily. You swing round and shout ‘boo’ and the whole herd stampedes off. But what surprises you is what you notice once they have fled. In the marshy land where they had been standing there are around ten smallish crocodiles calmly taking in the morning sun. It’s hard to tell, but you think they’re looking at you. You decide its time to move on.

7


Crocodiles and cows together! It’s clear there’s more to this place than you had thought. You need to find someone who knows how things work out here in the cerrado, someone who knows how to survive and who can guide you through the swamps and forests. You decide to head back to town and sort things out.

Quiz Answers: South American or Australian? South American

Australian

Lifestyle

Jacaré caiman Hyacinth Macaw

Saltwater croc Red tailed black cockatoo Black necked stork (In Australia they call them jabirus too) Agile wallaby No Australian match

Hunts and scavenges marshes and rivers. Cracks nuts and seeds with its enormous beak.

Jabiru stork

Brocket deer Capybara. (a type of sheep-sized swamp guinea pig)

Snaps up frogs in the shallows

Timidly nibbles plants along woodland edges Spends the day in the safety of the water, comes out at night to nibble plants by the water edge. In this way, the animal with the most similar lifestyle is probably the hippo in Africa.

8


Chapter 2: Diego the Mule

Midday. A blazing sun beats down on a dusty village square. A tall man stands with his back to the white washed mission church, his sombrero casting a circular shadow that covers his entire body. You can make out the glint in his eyes gleaming from the darkness beneath the hat, the outline of a bushy moustache and the stubble on his chin. In a holster at his hip hangs a six-shooter. The figure is still, menacing. Is this the man you’re looking for? He looks like he could draw that pistol before you could cross the square to ask him. For a moment- it feels like hours- you face each other across the plaza. At the edge of your vision you are aware of Indian women peering out of shaded doorways and a lone buzzard riding high in the thermal up currents in the sky above. You decide to take your chance.

‘Ramón?’ Si. He gives the briefest of answers but you know this is the man you have come here to find .

Ramón Emilio de Pedro Santo ‘El Paraguayo’- (the Paraguayan); cowboy, bush man and tracker extraordinaire (at least this is what it said on his web page).

9


This is the man guide will lead you across the campo grasslands and through the Pantanal swamps on your journey to the ‘River of Fear’ and hopefully to an unexplored ‘Lost World’ plateau beyond. Behind him you can see you transport for the trip, 2 horses and a dopeylooking brown mule that will carry your food and camping gear.

Here’s the expedition line up.

Diego the mule Espirito: Ramón’s horse Pack saddle Orange-dyed fleece Sack of oats for the animals for under saddle when there’s no grazing Saddle Blanco: Your steed Camping gear- groundsheet, plastic stirrups Saddle blanket tarpaulin, mosquito nets, ropes, Saddlebag hammocks, blankets, bush knife. Lasso Reins Plastic bags of farofa- This dried food is a bit like white bridle starchy grit with strips of dried meat in it. Its make from a manioc roots which is pulped with water then boiled up and dried into starchy lumps called ‘farinha’ which means flour. If kept dry, it keeps for ages and is light to carry; excellent trail food but you’ll soon get bored of it unless you vary your diet …. Which is why you’re also carrying a sack of rice and fishing gear; there’ll be plenty of nutritious piranhas in the swamps ahead of you.

10


But why have you chosen horses for this expedition? Let’s look at the options. You could • Trek on foot hiring porters to carry your gear and food • Drive in an all terrain truck • Ride on horseback with pack mule(s)

Here’s a route map with the sections of your journey marked on

6. Serra Lost World mountainwhere you are going

5.Cerrado ‘closed’ dry forest

4.Pantanal Swamp

3.Mata scrub/ woods

2.Rio river

1.Campo open grassland

Start

11


Fill in the grid YES or NO for each of the three transport options. [NOTE. Some answers could be YES or NO. Either answer could be correct]

Can you….

Foot

Horses

Truck

……find food/ fuel along the way?

1.

… cross the campo?

2…cross the rio? 3…go through the mata?

4…cross the pantanal? 5… go through the cerrado? 6…climb onto the serra Some Problems in swamps. Your first big problems with the terrain will probably be when you arrive at the swamps. Though you will probably be able to lead Blanco (the horse) and Diego (the mule) across the marshy ground, have you considered what might happen if it its really boggy.

12


Swamped! In 1920, German explorer Leo Parcus’s horse, Amigo, got bogged down up to its chest again and again as he tried to lead it through the forests the Rio Yata in Bolivia. Urging the poor beast forward was made all the more difficult because of the swarms of mosquitoes and piums that drove it half crazy. And things got worse when they came to an area of flooded forest where first Leo then his horse became tangled up in floating vegetation. Eventually Amigo was so worn out and looked so sick that Leo considered putting him out of his misery, but then he saw open sky ahead; the river – and beyond it the open pampas. He spurred the horse on and they made it through. [this wasn’t nearly the end of his adventures as we shall see in Chapter 6].

Its not just pack animals that get affected like this. Motor Vehicles do too. Recently in a jeep rally to cross the jungles of Panama in Central America, one of the jeeps sunk up to its roof in mud. Luckily, a driver of one of the other jeeps in the race managed to tie a rope to the door of the sinking vehicle and with some difficulty (and bending of the roof and doors) managed to pull the vehicle out.

13


Two days later Ramón, you, your two horses and Diego the mule set off from the ranch house ‘Fazenda Filomena’. Ahead of you lie four days or so of riding across open campo to a little used cowboy ‘retiro’ rest house on the banks of a shallow river. Beyond that, you’ll be entering the unknown. Ramón’s plan is to get you through the palm forest and Pantanal swamplands beyond to the River of Fear and then to the table mountain at its headwaters. And his plan for scaling that? None as yet, Ramón admits. He’s sure he’ll come up with one if you make it that far. Your guide’s plan doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence.

ANSWERS Transport food/ fuel

Foot Y

Horses Y

Truck N

campo rio

Y Y

Y Y

Y Y/N*

mata

Y

Y/N**

N

pantanal

Y

Y

N

cerrado serra

Y Y

N Y?/N

N N

People on foot might be able to hunt/ find some food along the way A 4Wd truck might be able to cross a shallow river, depending on how boggy the ground is underneath and whether there are sloping river banks Though Palm forest is often open enough to ride through, it would be easier to walk and lead the horses. With horses and people, this depends on how boggy the ground is. There might be ledges you can take your animals up onto the plateau but don’t count on it.

How many did you get right- more than two thirds? If you didn’t get that many, you should reconsider your involvement in this expedition now. There are going to be many tough decisions on the route ahead and the River of Fear is the not the place to go about making the wrong ones.

14


Chapter 3 Foxes on Stilts The thing about the campo grassland, you decide after nearly two days of riding across it, is how empty of life it appears to be. Apart from the savannah hawks and yellow headed vultures you see riding the up draughts there is little else to look at all day in this rippling sea of sun-yellowed grass that goes on for hill after hill, valley after valley. But you know there must be large mammals around. You find their tracks from time to time, indistinct paw or hoof marks in the greyish dust between the grass tussocks.

Animals of the Campo-Tracks.

(answers on page 17) Here are some of the tracks you found. Match them to the type of animal that made them? 1. paw mark, 4 toes no claws A. Deer-like

Pampas deer 2. paw mark, 4 toes with claw marks

B. Something with big front claws ‘normal’ feet. Giant anteater

3. twin hoofed

C. Dog-like Maned wolf

4. Hooked scrape marks usually found with other 4 clawed prints.

D. like dinosaur tracks Rhea (South American Ostrich)

5. 3 huge clawed toes, widely spaced track

E. Cat like. Jaguar

15


Animals of the Campo-Lifestyles.

(answers on page 17)

Here are some more elusive animals that live out here. Can you match the name, the life style and what they eat? Name 1. Maned Wolf.

Lifestyle P. Powerful claws for digging as well as a suit of body armour.

What it eats W. Fruits and seeds

2. Rhea.

Q. Legs like stilts for standing above the grass and spotting its prey. Note the radar dish ears!

X. snakes and lizards

3. Sereima.

R. Hook-tipped nononsense beak and long legs.

Y. Ants, termites and other assorted insects.

4. Yellow armadillo.

S. Long legs make this the fastest sprinter on the plains.

Z. mice and fruit.

16


Animals of the Campo-ANSWERS

1. Tracks. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

E Jaguar or puma. C savannah fox or maned wolf. A Pampas Deer B Giant anteater D Rhea- South American ostrich

2. Lifestyles 1.

QZ This huge, shaggy carnivore is actually a wimp that will rarely go for anything more formidable than a mouse. It locates rustling rodents with its supersensitive ears, then it pounces. In the wet season it prefers to feast on fruit which are even easier to get than mice. 2. RW. Rheas are the South American equivalent to ostriches. They are smaller than ostriches and their feet have 3 toes compared to only 2 on ostrich feet. 3. SX. Sereimas are a bit like the ‘roadrunners’ of the Mexican deserts. 4. PY. Yellow armadillos look a bit like radio controlled cars as the trundle across the plains. Yellow armadillos dig holes very quickly to get out of trouble. There are other types of armadillo here that can roll themselves into a ball. …and here (for your information) are the Brazilian Portuguese names of some these and other animals you could find in the campo. Tamandua bandeira TatuCervo Veado Onca Pintada Onca Arara Ema

-giant anteater -armadillo -big deer, pampas deer -little deer, brocket deer - Jaguar - Puma -macaw -rhea

17

Blue and yellow macaws


So where are all these creatures? Now, in the heat of the day, many are most probably resting in the shade of a termite mound or burrow or maybe sheltering under the trees in one of the valley streambeds. They may be lying low in the long grass. They may be over the horizon. Still, there aren’t many large animals around compared to similar savannah grassland in Africa. That’s because the place of main grass eater here is taken by insects. Its ants and termites that munch through the plant matter around here. You can see the mounds where they live dotted here and there, sometimes in great numbers around the plains. They are concrete hard, cemented together with the spit of millions of termites. There’s only one animal that can break into them and you find one late that second afternoon. And strange looking it is too; the size of a very large dog, with a great brush tail that adds more than half its size again. As you dismount to approach, the giant anteater swings its long nose in your direction, wafting it from side to side as if to pick your scent from the air. It’s clear it can’t see you well. Nor can it hear well. But it would be unwise to approach any closer. Just look at the size of those claws. An angry anteater will rise up on its hind legs, resting on its tail, hiss and swing wildly with them. They’re designed to rip into termite hills and would make short work of you if they made contact.

18


Here are the design features that make the giant anteater so good at its job. •

Long toothless snout for probing deep into termite nests.

Tongue- this can be up to a metre in length and is covered with tiny backward-facing hairs and sticky saliva. It can flick in and out 150 times a minute, ‘hoovering’ out a phenomenal quantity of termites. Even so, anteaters don’t clear out termite mounds. They feed quickly then move on, leaving the termites to restock their numbers for another visit sometime in the future.

Densely packed fur means that ants and termites can’t find much bare skin to bite. Even so, having your nose stuck in a mass of biting insects quickly gets so unpleasant- another reason why anteaters don’t feed in any one termite mound or ant hill for very long.

Claws for ripping into concrete-hard mounds. When anteaters walk they curve the claws inwards walking on their knuckles to protect these formidable tools/weapons.

Huge brush tail- makes a brilliant sun shade or umbrella when you roll up for a rest.

Realising you weren’t a threat, the anteater finishes off the base of the termite mound that it had opened and ambles off on its way. You’re delighted to have finally seen a large animal out in the campo, though it does strike you, there’s little real danger from the animals here unless you’re being stupid and annoying them. An anteater may have vicious claws but it can’t see well enough to go for you even if it wanted to. And the Maned wolves, whose

19


tracks you’ve found, only go for mice. Alright so there might be jaguars around- and cascavel rattle snakes- but nothing that would scare you off camping under the stars tonight, drinking some maté tea out of a hollowed out gourd (a type of fruit like a small pumpkin) with Ramón and listening to his tales of the deadly Guaicurus, the horse borne menace of the plains.

Guaicurus: The Apaches of Brazil Two hundred years ago, the Guaicurus Indians were to the Brazilian campo what the Apaches were to the Wild West of the United States. Skilled horsemen, the Guaicurus raided the frontier settlements, and even saw off battalions of cavalry sent to hunt them down. Horses aren’t native to South America. The Guaicurus (sometimes also known as the Caduveo) rounded up escaped ones from the invading Portuguese and stole others.

The men shaved their heads and rode bareback into battle. They were never beaten. It was said that no one could match their skill- on horseback may be, but not in the more humdrum business of staying well fed. To grow the crops and keep up the more domestic side of things, the Guaicurus had another tribe, the Terena, working for them. What the Terena got in return was protection. Also, the Guaicurus women stopped having babies as they preferred to stay out and about like the men. As new Guaicurus weren’t being born, their warriors would raid other tribes for children. Eventually though, there were virtually no Guaicurus left. The only place you can find that name these days is at a lonely train stop in the grasslands close to the Bolivian border.

20


Sadly most of the Indians who once lived in the South American grasslands have gone since the arrival of European settlers with their diseases and their agriculture. But some of their skills have lived on, such as the art of hunting with bolas. Bolas are weighted balls (often stones in side skin bags) tied together with cord that wrap round the legs of animals they are thrown at. Though originally used by tribes like the Querandi of the Argentinean pampas, the skill at throwing them was quickly picked up by Gaucho cowboys who used them for capturing the cattle that roamed wild across grasslands.

When he’s not guiding tourists like you, Ramón still works as a gaucho- or as the cowboys are called in Paraguay where he grew up, a Vaquero. And, like the gauchos in times past much of his time is spent rounding up cattle that have gone wild. The campo is vast and although some of it is fenced into Fazenda ranches, much of the territory is pretty wild, swampy or jungle covered. There are plenty of cattle that run around belonging to no-one and there’s good money to made capturing ones that don’t bear the brand mark of any particular ranch, then selling them. Ramón uses a lasso, not bolas. It’s made of plaited cow hide. He keeps it coiled up, hung from his saddle at all times, just in case he should get lucky and come across an unbranded steer. The next day, Ramón continues riding even as night falls. Ramon says he has a retiro- a hut he sleeps in when he working in the campo. It’s down by a small river that lies ahead of you and don’t worry, he can find the way, even though he doesn’t use a compass. You notice he keeps looking back at the sky from time to time. When he does, you check the direction with your compass. He’s travelling due north.

21


How does he keep his bearing on the featureless grassland at night? Hoping your guide knows what he doing, weary and saddle sore you, your steed Blanco and Diego the mule follow Ramón into the darkening night‌

22


Chapter 4: The Strangler Forest. Lost in the campo. Rounded, grassy hills in all directions. A star filled sky above…But no sign of a hut! You’re tired and want to bed-down for the night. You’re just starting to pluck up the courage to suggest your guide may not know where he’s going when… Ramón glances back and announces confidently

“Just over this one hill. My retiro is right down there”. And there it is. Set just above the level of a silvery snake of water, just in front of a dark mass of forest, stands a small wooden hut. It’s exactly where Ramón said it would be.

Have you worked out how Ramón kept his direction? He kept an eye on the stars. One constellation Milky way to precise; the Cruzeiro do Sul, the Southern Cross. Here in the Southern hemisphere that Coal kite shape of stars is always in the sky. Look for sack the bright band of the Milky Way then move your gaze along until you find a dark patch called the ‘coal sack’. The Southern Cross will be South beneath it. Like all constellations this will slowly move across the sky as the night progresses because of the Earth spinning on its axis. But if you follow a line from the longest span of the diamond and follow that 4½ times along the slope towards the ground, the point you get to will always be due south. To keep his

23


Northerly direction, Ramón’s been finding south every few minutes, then travelling the opposite way. Of course it will have helped that he’s been this way many times before and knows the terrain very well too.

You can find your direction in the Northern hemisphere by finding the Pole star. It’s always in the North. First find the big dipper (also called the plough). It looks like a pan. Follow the edge up about 4 times the height of the pan to find it.

Pole Star (North)

You unload the horses and leave them in a small enclosed paddock close to the hut. As you pull the hut’s door open, your torch catches for an instant on a large spider- a tarantula perhaps- skittering across the floor into the cover of some sacks leant up against the far wall. You decide not to investigate further. Ramón soon finds an oil lamp to provide some illumination.

The place is surprisingly clean though there’s an unlived in mustiness in the air. There are shelves nailed to the timber frame holding jars of salt, pasta, cooking oil and other food stuffs that won’t spoil easily. There’s a metal grate in a corner propped up on some large stones. That’s obviously the cooker. On the walls hang old magazine pictures of super models and football stars, bits of riding tack and a spare lasso. There are also some large metal hooks to hang hammocks on. Ramon finds two (slightly damp smell but otherwise okay) in one of the sacks where you thought the tarantula went. He sets about fixing supper but you never eat it. You lay down in one of the hammocks and sleep takes you instantly.

24


Dawn: Sound FX Birds shrieking and a distant roaring that sounds

like lions though you know there are no lions in South America (actually it’s howler monkeys). You half fall out of the hammock and blunder into the cool, damp air. Above the river, mist is rising and above that squadron after squadron of parrots are flying overhead lit up red, gold, green, blue, purple- all colours- by the low morning sunlight. And they call out as they fly. There are the high pitched shrieks of the tiny lime green parakeets, the almost dog-like yelping of the larger green Amazon parrots that fly with rapidly beating stiff wings and there are the deep squawks of the macaws. There are red-andgreen macaws, blue-and-gold macaws and, most impressive of all, the hyacinth macaws (they are a deep violet-blue colour). All have huge hooked bills for crushing the palm nuts which they feed on and with their bright colours and dawn-splitting shrieking they are impossible to miss. You’re lucky to experience this. Many types of macaw are becoming rare. Not only are their habitats being destroyed at an alarming rate but thousands are caught every year for people to keep as pets. Despite the fact that parrots breed readily in captivity, people continue to take them from the wild and this has sent the numbers of some types crashing. In the 1990s, the Spix macaw was down to the last lonely male. It looked like the species was doomed to extinction until it was found that one or two people were secretly keeping other Spix Macaws as pets. Luckily they’ve been persuaded to put their birds into a program to breed more. The Spix Macaw has survived. For the moment. Spix Macaw

25


After a breakfast of boiled rice and some bony fish that Ramón caught in the river earlier, you saddle up the horses and lead them through the shallows to the forest on the other side. You’re met by a wall of vegetation. A mass of heart-leafed creepers drapes over the entire forest edge; you and Ramón have to hack through this with a machete before leading your animals into the shady gloom beyond. Riding is not an option. Though there’s little undergrowth to get in your way, the fronds of short, stumpy palm trees jut out at head height. Many of their trunks are wrapped in roots with white trunks growing up through the palm leaves. The palms are being strangled!

1. A toucan poos on a palm tree. It’s been eating figs and some of the fruit’s seeds have passed through its gut undamaged.

2.The

seed germinates, sprouting leaves and a long fine tap root that grows down and down until it reaches the ground

3.Now that its getting water and nutrients from the soil, the fig sapling grows quickly. The plant puts out more leaves to absorb more sunlight.

26


4.

The root grows thicker. More roots are sent down. Soon the palm tree is covered with a twisting mass of roots and its leaves are shaded out by the sprouting fig bush growing on top of it.

5.

The strangler fig has got its way. Instead of growing up from the ground in the shade and being nibbled by herbivores, it started life at the top and got its sunlight and nutrients the easy way.

6. Eventually with the fig roots stealing most of the water beneath it in the soil and fig leaves stealing the sunlight above, the palm tree dies. Its trunk rots away quickly helped by wood-eating termites and fungi leaving a hollow framework of roots holding up a tall, healthy fig tree. 27


It’s slow going through the palm forest. The trunks are tightly packed and at times you and Ramon have to cut your way through the drooping fronds with your machete. The fronds are tough and have sharp spines sticking out. Getting through is hot work and with the spikes, your hands soon feel like pincushions! Worse, the ground is getting swampy. You’re leading the horses (pulling Diego!) through muddy channels where you keep slipping into the goo and getting caught up on vines that loop down from the branches above. When you see daylight ahead, you make straight for it, encouraging, coaxing, shouting at and then pulling at your animals with all your strength. Finally with a long drawn out snort, Diego gives in, and you and the mule hurtle out of the forest.

This is what you see.

You are in a swamp full of crocodiles!

28


Chapter 5: The Swamp of Despair Caimans. There must be at least twenty of them, lined along the shallows of a swampy lake that stretches across your path. Most are around two metres long with the sticking-up eye ridges that shows them to be spectacled caimans- jacarés to Ramón (where has he got to?). It’s the other crocs that worry you though, the ones you can hardly see. They surface from time to time in the weedy soup. You only ever see a Toothy

snout or the bumpy outline of an armoured back. You think these might be black caimans and if your hunch is right you know that means danger.

In 1920 Leo Parcus (the same explorer whose horse sank in a swamp in Chapter 2) met black caimans- like this- by the edge of a lake in the pampas grassland of Northern Bolivia. Canoeing across the lake, Leo and his guide Alfonso had nearly been sunk by huge waves that had suddenly sprung up. Their energy spent, they were desperate to get to shore, but the only open place where they could find to land was already occupied- by lots of very large caimans! Their canoe grounded about fifteen metres from the shore but neither man felt up to wading through the shallows to dry land even though the crocs were still and took no interest in them. The pair steered the boat until it was close to a tree with an overhanging branch. Then clutching his rifle, Leo ran along the wooden hull leaped as far as he could into the water, waded forward then swung up onto the branch. So far so

29


good. He was safe, but the caimans were stirring now. Now it was Alfonso’s turn. He jumped as Leo had done… Thwack! a huge leathery tail smacked into him as the nearest caiman reacted with lightning speed. A split second later it had Alfonso’s thigh in its jaws. Amazingly, he managed to free himself and make it to the branch. Leo swung out his belt for Alfonso to grab. But it was too late. With blood in the water, the other caimans were stirred into action. .. and Alfonso was gone. For Leo however, there was no time for the horror of the situation to sink in. Now he was stuck in a tree above a horde of ravenous caimans. His boat was close, but not close enough to lower himself into without him entering the water. It was obvious he had to get back into it but how?

Here are a few things you should know.  The equipment Leo had were his clothes, shoes, belt, knife, rifle plus ammunition.  The lake was knee deep only.  Any splashing would attract the caimans. Choose from these possibilities. Join up 4 of these bits of sentence so that they make one long sentence. [Note. They are already in order]

Leo Parcus:A. B. C. D. E. F. G. H.

Answers on page 32 - shot a crocodile and- cut his belt into thin strips to make a rope and- tied a forked stick to the end of his belt and- made a dash for it wading through the water and– hooked the canoe and- carefully lowered himself in–to the water, then swam and……..–to the canoe. –clambered in-

30


Back to your situation... You have pulled Blanco out of the palm forest slap bang onto a lakeside swarming with caimans. Ramón with his horse Espirito and Diego the mule are nowhere in sight. What do you do?

Don’t panic! Assess the situation calmly

How far away are the crocs? Are they jacarés or black caimans? Jacarés (they are the ones on the shore) pose no danger unless provoked and the ones you think are black caimans are in the water; in the unlikely event of one going for you, you would have a huge head start.

What about Ramón?- should you go and look for him or call for help? Going back would certainly get you away from the caimans but as travel with a horse is so difficult in the jungle, it’s probably too much bother and besides you risk getting yourself lost. You’re better off waiting for Ramón to turn up. Clattering through the palms with two horses in tow, you’ll most likely hear him before you can see him. You could always shout or whistle to attract his attention. He probably isn’t far away. While you’re waiting, survey the route ahead. Don’t get distracted by the caimans. Look at the whole picture!

Ahead lies a lake, behind and to the sides of that is a band of lush low vegetation that’s teeming with water birds (so that area is probably swampy). Beyond, there’s a dull green line (forest?) and dominating the skyline, slightly hazy in the distance, you can make out a line of black and orange cliffs. That must surely be the table mountain that Montgomery Farquahar called the Lost World- Your destination.

31


A creaking crack of branches breaking and heavy footfalls behind you has you swinging round to see a very muddy Ramón and Espirito and a much cleaner looking Diego bursting out of a nearby palm thicket. Ramón looks flustered. His hat is half pulled off and his shirt is ripped. “I should have followed the mule”, he curses. “He always finds the easiest way”.

ANSWERS for Leo Parcus’s escape (page 30).

Leo Parcus B- cut his belt into thin strips to make a rope andC - tied a forked stick to the end of his belt andE – hooked the canoe and…-to the canoe. F - carefully lowered himself in(Note: Leo had shot a caiman earlier when Alfonso was attacked)

32


Now you’re out of the palm forest with a good view of view of the table mountain and the terrain ahead of you, your route ahead looks fairly straightforward. All you have to do is cross the marshes and get to that line of forest you can see on the other side. The question is whether to carry on across now or to make camp and set off tomorrow morning. Ramon says it’s your ‘call’. You decide. Here are some facts you should know before you make the decision. On the sketch map you’ve got (see Chapter 2) there are no distances marked but you know it’s around 10km (6¼ miles) from the edge of the palm forest to the nearest part of the forest on the other side of the marshes.

Time.

The terrain ahead.

It’s now 2.30 in the afternoon. The sun sets at 6.30pm.

The wet season has ended. The terrain ahead is marshy grassland with lots of small lakes to get around. Travelling around the lakes will be quite easy but you may need to cross boggier areas at times (Note: in the wet season, this would all be one huge lake).

How fast you travel. In the last few days on the open campo you, Ramón and the horses were making roughly 6 kilometres distance for each hour you travelled.

Other factors.

Animal Hazards caimans anacondas piranhas jaguars.

Camping is easiest on the dry ground in or by the forest patches. To stay means using up another day’s rations (good food is already starting to run short). The horses are saddled up ready to go.

33

Weather: The sky is dull and cloud covered in the direction you’ve come from. There is a large cloud mass over the mountain. There is a light breeze from the Southwest.


Here are some of the things you could do in the 4 hours before nightfall. Decide what you will do with your time and in what order. Remember you don’t need to do every one. 1 hour A. Make a basic camp

B. Improve your camp to keep out the wind/ rain C. Fish for piranhas and cook them

1 hour

D. Rest

You decide how many whole hours you will take.

E. Carry on forward across the marshes F. Scout ahead on foot

You decide how many whole hours you will take. You decide how many whole hours you will take. (Remember for each hour forward you must allow the same time for getting back).

1 hour

34


Your decision Basically- Will you stay and maybe scout around OR will you cross the marshes now while the light lasts? Whatever you choose, the weather is going to change. The clouds ahead are storm clouds. During the days the sun evaporates lots of moisture fro the forested mountains then rains it back down- often in a thunderstorm- in the afternoon. But as the wind is blowing away from you, this rain will not affect you. The low blanket of clouds coming your way my give you drizzly rain. This may be fairly unpleasant but shouldn’t affect your travelling. There won’t be enough rain to make the marshes marshier. Write down what you will do each hour here:1st hour 2nd hour 3rd hour 4th hour

Write what Write what Write what Write what

you do here you do here you do here you do here

You are around here?

35


1. If you decided not to cross the marshes today… Making camp

Stormproofing camp Piranha fishing

10 points if done 1st or 2nd 5 points if done 3rd or 4th

-cutting it too close to sunset when you’re tired

-20 points if you made camp straight after scouting ahead (that would mean you camp in the swamp). -20 points if you did not set up a camp (and left it until after dark). 0 points

5 points

Resting

0 points

Scouting ahead

5 points for each hour forwardprovided you have allowed the same amount of time for getting back before nightfall.

By this reckoning the best thing to do was:1st hour 2nd hour 3rd hour 4th hour

Make camp Scout ahead Return Fish

10 points 5 points 5 points: TOTAL 20

-You cannot camp in a swamp.

Not needed as the storm will affect the area by the mountain, not here. - the change of diet is nutritious and good for your morale You can do that once it gets dark.

If doesn’t really matter when you do the fishing, though its good to allow some time at the end of the afternoon just in case you get lost on the way back from scouting ahead.

[If you got a positive score in this quiz, you’re doing fine; no dangerous decisions …yet. If you scored negative, then you’re either not thinking or you’re too reckless for your own good].

36


2. If you decided to go ahead and cross the marshes… …then it’s all a question of luck. Throw 2 coins. Here are some of the things that might happen. Heads Heads: The best case. The ground wasn’t as marshy as you feared. Apart from one section of swamp which you had to ‘help’ the horses through everything was really rather easy. By the time the drizzly rain arrives in the late afternoon, you are camped out on the dry ground on the other side of the marshes, nibbling on some piranhas which you hooked earlier and are now frying up over a blazing fire. Your gamble paid off.

Heads tails or Tails Heads: The middle case (something along these lines is far more likely to happen) For the first couple hours it seemed you would make it across by nightfall. But you kept on hitting swampy areas, which slowed you down just enough to mean that you were still somewhere out there when the sun went down and the mosquitoes came out. There are hordes of them. You can hear the whine of a million wings in the air that. You can feel the pinprick of their bites on any bare skin and through your shirt and trousers. There are that many that you kill 3 or 4 every time you clap your hands together. Now you’ve got a possible survival situation on your hands. It’s too dark to navigate your way back across creeks and marshes back to your starting point and going forward is just plain dangerous. You could always stand here all night being eaten alive by the insect life…

37


Tails Tails: The worst case The crossing started out fine. For most of the afternoon you led the horses around narrow marshy lakes and coaxed them through the swamps. The line of trees on the other side which you knew must mean firm ground ahead looked so close but each time you tried to go forwards you were confronted with seriously swampy ground and pools of water too deep to cross. Ramón was all for heading back but you convinced him you could scout a way through. Jumping from island to island you make around 50 metres, but on the 4th you misjudged the distance. Sschloop! You are chest deep in water with thigh deep mud pulling at you legs. As you struggle to get forward, you sink deeper. A feeling of utter panic seizes you. Quicksand!

Just in case you need to know…

How to get out of Sinking mud or quicksand • • • •

Stop moving. Your struggling just makes you sink deeper Spread out you’re arms and (if possible) your legs. Fall forward and spread your weight over as large an area as possible. That way your pressure on the ground is less With luck your legs will start to float up and you may be able to wriggle across the surface of the mud and out of danger.

…and while you’re busy sinking in that mud, perhaps you would like to consider some of the nasties that might take a fancy to you whilst you’re stuck, helpless.

38


Caimans- 2 varieties; spectacled and black Piranhas- Plenty of these little nibblers around- mostly of the small yellow variety with a few vicious black brutes thrown in for good measure. Most dangerous at the end of the dry season when they are concentrated into the shrinking lakes. It only becomes dangerous when you’re bleeding and the piranhas scent the blood. Anacondas- Though these aren’t the longest snakes in the world (A Reticulated Pythons caught in Java, Indonesia in 2003 was said to be 14.5 metres compared to 8.5 metres for the largest officially recorded anacondastories abound of much larger specimens), Anacondas are the bulkiest and the heaviest. A 6 metre anaconda may be as thick as a grown man and weigh 220 kilograms. Rather than coiling around its prey and squeezing it to death, anacondas usually just grab their prey (like a capybara, deer‌ or a human- one in Brazil ate a dentist in 2001) and drag it under water, using their weight to hold their prey down until it drowns. And those oversized guinea pigs giving you that funny look over there? Are they dangerous?

39


No danger there. They’re capybaras, grass chomping rodents that wallow in mud and use the water as a safe refuge much as hippos do in Africa. Right now, with the lakes full and plenty of fresh grass to feed on, it’s a time of plenty for the capybaras, a good time to raise their families. Not that many of these youngsters will survive. Only around one in twenty will make it through the first year. Predators like anacondas and jaguars will get some, whilst others will succumb to starvation when the dry season kicks in and this marshy grassland turns into a dust bowl with just sticky mud in the places which were once the deepest lakes. After standing around eyeing you up for a while, these capybaras decide you might be dangerous after all. They grunt twice and splash away into the swamp.

Sunset the following night. Soaked, Muddied, mosquito bitten, you made it across. You have made camp at the edge of the Terra firme (hard ground) forest and have decided to rest up and dry out all your stuff for a day. Maybe you’ll go fishing later. Then you’ll set off towards the line of sandstone cliffs that loom above the trees beyond the swamp.

40


Chapter 6. Mercury, Gold and Impossible cliffs. As you head in from the well-watered ground next to the marshes, the trees begin to thin out and get smaller and more gnarled and twisted-looking. Many of their trunks are blackened from fires, which have obviously ravaged the area. You’re getting close to the tableland now. The land is rising and the scrubby grass under foot is giving way in places to patches or bare rock. You and Ramón have to lead your horses carefully across these rock fields and push your way through scratchy thickets on which hacking with your machetes has little effect. This is the ‘Cerrado’- the name means ‘closed’. It’s certainly no place to take 2 horses and a mule. You continue as best you can but progress is painfully slow… and then stopped completely. Gigantic boulders block your way, and beyond them, vertical cliffs maybe a hundred metres high. In places parts of the cliff have sheared away and now stand as great rock pinnacles that trail looping vines. No way up. You and Ramón head left and follow the base of the rock face past boulders and landslips searching for a route that might lead to the top. But your luck is out and you end up spending an uncomfortable night getting eaten by mosquitoes at the

41


base of a rockslide. It’s a dry night too. There is no water up here; for you or your animals. It’s clear that you will have to head down hill and find a stream and come up with another plan for how to get onto the plateau. Around midday you make it down to the strip of vivid green jungle vegetation and splash down into cool fresh water. Your animals instantly have their heads down gulping it down while you for a few moments try to make out what those two sinuous brown animals were that sped away down the river when you arrived. You can just make out two heads in the shade under some overhanging bushes. They look goggleeyed with whiskery moustaches and blotchy white throats; otters for sure, but almost 2 metres long; elusive giant otters. There are signs that people have been at this river recently. There are footprints in the mud along the edges and, discarded amongst some boulders, you find empty plastic bottled labelled mercúrio- mercury.

“Garimpeiros”, whispers Ramón- Miners Your heart sinks. You had imagined the cerrado and pantanal as some sort of untouched wilderness and finding signs of other people here feels like a letdown. What would people be mining for out here in the middle of nowhere. And what would they need mercury for? Gold. There are small amounts- and occasionally really large finds- in many of the rivers around here. All it takes is someone willing to trek all the way out here, shovel up stacks of river gravel and sift through it in the hope that a gold nugget turns up.

42


How to ‘pan’ for gold • • •

Take a large shallow bowl (metal is toughest) Half fill with some gravel from the river bed and some water. Gently swill round gradually washing the lighter mud and grains of sand out of the bowl (the idea is that as gold is really heavy, any bits of it will stay in the middle of the bowl). After lots of swilling, carefully pick through the stones left in the middle of your dish looking for any nuggets of gold. Easy? Well the way to do it is, but unless you strike it lucky it’s not a way to get rich quick. You may have to shift a lot of gravel before you get any gold at all. You may never find any. Also when you do find gold the pieces are often such small specks that they are nearly impossible to pick out by hand. That’s where the mercury comes in. Mercury is a metal that is liquid at normal temperatures. If you pour it into the mix of gravel and gold specks, it sticks to the gold. Then all you do is pour off the mercury-gold mix into a small metal pot and heat that until the mercury boils away leaving you with lovely pure gold. Dead simple…Except…

Mercury is really poisonous. Just a small amount makes you feel rotten and suffer moods swings. Larger amounts and your moods swing so much that you start going mad. You know the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’. That came from Victorian times when hat makers used to brush down the top hats they made

43


with mercury to give them a smooth velvety sheen; all that liquid metal breathed in and absorbed through their skin sent them bonkers. The other thing mercury does is to cause babies to be born deformed. Mercury is nasty stuff; not the sort of thing to be boiling up (and breathing in) in a jungle clearing in deepest South America. And not the sort of thing to be tipping into river where all sorts of things can eat it. The poison works its way up the food chain. It works like this.

A tiny fish eats a tiny amount of mercury (1 part per million). This is not enough to kill it.

A larger fish eats 10 small fish (10 parts per million). Most likely, it feels no ill effects.

A giant otter (or some human fishing down stream) catches and eats the fish. (10 parts per million). No harm yet. Probably.

But.. What if the otter/ fisherman then catches more large fish. Mercury has this nasty habit of staying in the livers of whatever eats it – for Life. Over a period of time all the mercury in the fisherman/ otter mounts up and you already know what that leads to‌

Madness- death- deformed babies. 44


You come across the garimpeiro camp around the next river bend. It’s little more than a blue plastic tarpaulin tent hung above a couple of hammocks with mosquito nets. Close by are some bamboo racks where strips of meat (peccary judging from the grisly head lying on the ground nearby) are hanging out to dry. The meat is covered with flies. There’s an aluminium boat pulled up on the riverside shingle and nearby a petrol engine connected to a wide plastic hose pipe. peccary Ramón explains that’s for jetting water at the riverbank; another way to wash out gold from the sediments.

The two miners that live here are nearby and come over to shake your hands enthusiastically. Gustavo and Cristovão haven’t spoken to anyone else since the wet season several months earlier when they came here in their boat. Its good to catch up with the news- and just talk with other people. They say they’ve worked a few of the steams coming off the Serra but this has been the most productive one. They’ve found enough gold to take back to their families in the North East of the country, but not enough to make it worthwhile staying out here another season. Naturally enough, Gustavo and Cristovão are keen to know what you’re up to. You notice Ramón is cagey with

45


his answers. You pick up enough from Ramón’s rapid Portuguese to understand that he’s said that you’re a relative who’s come to experience the life of a cowboy. You notice that he makes no mention that you intend to climb the table mountain and you listen with interest to the miners’ warning of hostile Chamacoba Indians who they say live around or on it. According to Gustavo and Cristovão, the Indians are bad news. They say the Chamacoba are a backward people will shoot anyone who comes into their territory with their 2 metre-long blue-feathered arrows, though they admit they’ve not actually met the Chamacoba themselves; the nearest they’ve come is when they found footprints around their camp one morning.

Finally you trade some of your farinha manioc flour for some of the peccary meat at the miners’ camp and set off on your way to a branch of the stream that leads to the sheer rock face of the tableland. You make camp on a section of stony dried up river bed at the foot of an orange sandstone cliff where the stream runs out of a gorge not more than 5 metres wide. The steam fills the gorge and it’s clear that to travel further this way you will have to swim. Over super that night of stewed peccary meat with farinha manioc flour, Ramón gives you the news you’ve been dreading to hear. The horses can continue no further. Ramón will stay with them and wait. If you want to carry on, then you must do it alone….

46


Chapter 7: Into the Gorge Your situation. Ahead of you: The table mountain that you intend to get to the top of with cliffs 200 metres high (though in some places landslides mean that there’s only 100 metres of sheer rock face to scale with a slanted rubble slope at the base). Here the rock wall is split and a clear stream issues from a shady canyon.

47


Your dried food rations (farofa- dried manioc flour with bits of meat- and rice) are running out. 6 days food left- enough for a 2 day stay, then 4 for your return journey. You can spill out the food slightly longer by fishing in the river or marshlands that you’ve come from. Food for your animals; virtually none. There might be some grasses they can nibble at close to the river but the nearest good pasture is half a day back in the marshes. Water: Excellent supply at present.

Your options. Here they are. Match each possible option with its drawback.

Option

Drawback

1. Climb the cliffs.

A. You already know there’s no route up the way you’ve come already. If you carry on around, you may get lucky. But, you may use up a lot of time (and food supplies). You also can’t bank on finding water along the way. B. Impossible without proper ropes and harnesses (you have none) and the skill to use it.

2. Scout around the base of the mountain and hope you find a way up. 3. Swim into the canyon in the hope of finding a way up.

C. You won’t be able to carry much gear at all with you.

ANSWERS on Page 49 With option 1 (climbing the cliffs) obviously not going to work, and Option 2 (going around) likely to take too much time without the promise of success, you decide to swim into the canyon (Option 3). Ramón will wait for you at the mouth of the gorge with the horses for 2 nights. He urges you to be back before then. If you’re not, he will go back to the marshes so the animals can eat properly.

48


Swimming into the canyon, you will have to travel light and you will have to pack anything that needs to be kept dry in plastic bags; use at least 2 bags to make sure. You can take 1500 grams maximum. Decide what you will take. You must take at least one item from each of the 3 categories. 1. FOOD 1 days farofa (dried farinha manioc flour with dried meat bits) Some of Cristovao and Joao’s tapir meat 2. KIT lighter

Mass in grams 300 300 0 100

Penknife 500 Machete Ramon’s pistol (loaded)

900 700

Sleeping bag Water bottle

200

Plastic sheet

500

String

200 200

Torch Small medical kit Mosquito net

300 300

49


3. RECORDING YOUR DISCOVERIES Camera

400

Notepad and pencil

400

Answers on page 51. ANSWERS from Page 48: 1B

2A

3C

Oh That’s cold! You slip into the water and breaststroke forward. Your gear is double-wrapped in plastic bags that hang over your head- hopefully just out of the water. Vertical rock walls rise so high and block out so much daylight that it almost feels you are swimming into a tunnel. The walls echo every splash you make and every drip and slop of the water. Fully clothed, pulling against the weak current you soon tire. You are out of your depth and you know that you must either go forward- you don’t know how far- or return to Ramón before you touch ground again. All the time, through the clear water you can see fish swimming beneath you and around your legs. Most are tiny though once you glimpse – or think you glimpse- one that’s much longermaybe a metre- stretched out, snake-like. Electric eel? It’s a distinct possibility. They like sluggish rivers, usually murkier ones where they can use they can detect minute changes in the electric field that special muscle cells in their bodies give off, to find their way around. They can turn the voltage up if they want to (around 450 – 650 volts for an eel of a metre or more) giving a sudden surge of electric current to stun their prey. It’s said to be enough to knock a horse standing in shallow water off its feet. It would be easily enough to knock you unconscious.

50


You put such thoughts out of your mind and swim on. 10 minutes in, your feet hit something solid and you stop briefly to rest on a submerged rock. The end of your swim is close now. The canyon is widening and you can hear buzzing insect jungle sounds and bird calls above the sloshing echoes. You wade the rest of the way, into sunlight, into a lost valley. The scale is enormous. You, one antsized human, on a boulder-strewn river, are walled in by cliffs, maybe 300 metres high. A waterfall cascades over those cliffs a kilometre ahead. You can’t see where it hits the ground. A great plug of rock, possibly the result of some chunk of cliff once shearing off, blocks your view. You start bounding over the river boulders towards it. Somehow you know that there is your best chance of getting up to the top

Canyon Kit activity: Answers from page 49. Work out your score. The highlighted items are the best ones to take.

1. FOOD 1 days farofa (dried manioc flour with dried meat bits) Some of Cristovao and Joao’s tapir meat

POINTS 10

Comments Dried food will expand when you add water and be more filling

5

Could go bad.

51


2. KIT lighter penknife Machete

10 10 5

Ramon’s pistol (loaded) Sleeping bag Water bottle Plastic sheet

0 0 10 5

string

5

Torch Small medical kit Mosquito net Hammock

10 10 5 0

3. RECORDING YOUR DISCOVERIES camera

10

Notepad and pencil

5

Conveniently small and incredibly useful As above One of your most useful survival items but you can do without it on this trip to scout ahead. Too heavy Too heavy Water is vital Useful but you could improvise with something you could find. Useful but you could improvise with something you could find. Vital Might be useful if you spend the night out Too heavy

To record your experience, it’s up to you which item you take.

How did you do? 60-70 Fantastic. You’ve got the idea. Travel fast and light but with every vital piece of kit. 50-69 Pretty good, but you might need to add a couple of things to your load. 0-49 Hopeless. You’re about to set off into uncharted territory-alone- and you’d better take the right stuff.

52


Chapter 8: Contact Your hunch was right. From the foot of the huge rock that almost blocks the valley you can see a zigzag of ledges that appears to lead up the rock face. There are vines (or could they be ropes?) hanging down at some of the steeper sections. If they are ropes as you suspect, does that mean people use this route regularly to climb up and down from the Serra? A few moments later, you are convinced of this. A trail leads up through the jungle vegetation. It’s obviously not just been trampled by animals like tapirs that would leave broken-back twigs and hoof prints; this path has been carefully cleared and in places it looks like steps have been cut or worn down in the hardened mud. You are scared. You should be. You have carried on totally alone leaving your guide and supplies behind. There is no room for error. If things go wrong- if you have an accident- there will be no one coming to rescue you and no hospital where you can recover. The people who made this track are probably the Chamacoba Indians that Joao and Cristovao warned you about. If you believe what they said, the Indians are hostile and you are now in forbidden territory. But you are so close to your goal. Just a short climb and you may find out what Montgomery Farquhar experienced and discover why he never told his tale. And- look at it like this. You are alone and unarmed. You are no threat to anyone. Who would want to attack you?

53


At least you won’t face the problems of some of the early European expeditions into the heart of the continent. Juan de Ayolas and Domingo de Irala were convinced they had thought of a good way to get to the riches of the Inca Empire in Peru. They would take a small fleet of ships up the River Paraguay then cross the Chaco thorn scrub and Pantanal wetlands to get to the Andes mountains. They might also have heard rumours of the Moxos people who lived on raised islands in the plains on the other side of the wetlands. They would also be good for a bit of gold.

PERU

Andes

Pantanal wetlands

Fort

BRAZIL

River Paraguay

Chaco thorn scrub

Atlantic Ocean

Everyone thinks of these conquistador expeditions as having armoured Spanish soldiers terrifying the ‘primitive’ Indians with their gunpowder, horses and mighty muskets but the realty wasn’t like that. Technological advantages didn’t amount to much in jungles and swamps where horses aren’t much use and gunpowder stays wet and won’t explode. Muskets would often only be fired at the start of battles when an expedition wanted to give the ‘home team’ a noisy show of how powerful they were.

54


Sometimes the Indians through whose lands the conquistadors were travelling were impressed or suitably scared, sometimes not. Fairly often villages would give expeditions food without much fuss; it was better than having to fight a pointless battle. On other occasions local Indians would just go off into the forest and live off the land for a while. Then the Spanish would go hungry. Most of Ayolas’ expedition were Payaguas Indians who were skilled at foraging food but none too reliable as soldiers. They were liable to melt away into the jungle themselves or even side with the enemy if a battle wasn’t going the right way. The conquistadors set up a base on the upper River Paraguay and, leaving a reserve force with Domingo de Irala to guard the camp, Ayolas, 135 Europeans and 300 Payaguas set off across the Chaco. The Europeans were never seen again. It seems they made it through the thorn forests to the foothills of the Andes. There they built a small fort in which they stored the gold and silver they had looted along the way and guarded it against the attacks of the local Indians (who presumably wanted their treasure back). Then with no sign of a relief expedition from Domingo de Irala in sight, Ayolas decided to break out and head back for the river.

55


Unfortunately de Irala had problems of his own. The Payaguas, originally the conquistadors’ allies, had turned against them forcing de Irala and his reserve force to flee down river. When they left, they pinned a note to a tree for Ayolas to find saying something along the lines of; Payaguas turned nasty

Gone home

…Sorry.

Then a few months later, possibly feeling guilty after having deserted his friend, de Irala set off again upriver to try and find him. With 140 soldiers he set off in search of his friend. But, the middle of the rainy season was the worst possible time of year to go. After wandering around in waist deep swamps for a couple of months, unable to find enough food and slowly being picked off by diseases and the local Indians, de Irala and his men gave up the search and set off for home.

Like many expeditions through the scrub and swamps of the Cerrado and Chaco, Ayolas and De Irala’s expeditions were pointless failures. But you’re determined your expedition won’t be. You come too far to fail. It’s a tough scramble up but finally you make it to the top of the cliffs. So this is the Lost World. Lightly wooded hills spread out in front of you and you’re struck immediately by the profusion of bird calls and whirring of insects compared with the quiet on the way up. They’re the metallic squealing of toucans, the twittering of finches and the shrill screeching of a flock of green parakeets that comes zooming past your head. And there’s a deeper

56


squawking in that tree right above you. You catch sight of a lilac head and rich blue tail feathers as the birds take flight towards a line of high trees where you think the top of the waterfall must be . Those birds- Wow are they…? No… they couldn’t be?.. Have you rediscovered the lost …….?

What birds are these?- and why is it so exciting to find them? (if you are unsure Check Chapter 4). Answer on page 58

You skirt along the edge of the cliffs following in the direction the two blue parrots went until you come to the top of the waterfall. A shallow river snakes is way over slabs of orange rock and tumbles over a sheer drop of at least 200 metres. You peer over the drop as far as you dare but you can’t make out where the water hits the ground in the misty shade below. Something shiny- a glinting pebble- in the shallows catches your eye. You reach under the water and pick it up. A golden nugget. There are more of

57


them close by. Lots! Two minutes of frantic scrabbling later and you’re building up a quite a pile- enough to make you immensely wealthy- if you were to take them back home…

ANSWER to p58; Spix Macaws. Critically endangered. Recently they were down to the last one living in the wild.

A rustle in the bushes close by has you swinging around. A branch is swaying and underneath that’s definitely a human footprint. Fresh. Someone was watching you, but for how long? Were you followed up here? What should you do now?

Here are some things you could do? 1. Go into the riverside jungle a. To search for whoever is watching you. b. To hide. 2. Leave the gold and... a. Run back to the cliff path and escape. b. Back off carefully and escape down the cliff. 3. Pick up the gold and…. a. Run back to the cliff path and escape. b. Back off carefully and escape down the cliff. 4. Stand in the open a. Hands outstretched, showing you are unarmed. b. Shouting to scare anyone off Think carefully which of these options (1a, 2b for example) do you think is best to do? Answers on next page

58


ANSWERS 1

2

3. 4.

Pointless. The watchers were uncontacted Chamacoba Indians. The safest option

The stupid option High risk

A. You won’t find them. B. They’ll see where you hide Whichever option you chose, your gold will be gone by the time you return to the river. A or B. You return to Ramon that evening. You’ve discovered Spix macaws and gold on the Serra but not the reason why Montgomery Farquahar wouldn’t tell the story of his adventures there. A or B. Either way you never make it make back. I’m sure you can imagine what happens next. A. The Chamacoba Indians will at least know you’re no threat. This is the only way you will find out why Montgomery Farquhar never told his story. B. You shouting is more likely to amuse rather than scare anybody. After ranting on until past sunset, you decide that another option might be more fruitful

What happens next? [The following happens to you only if you chose 4a.] You stand on in the open riverbed for ages. You’re about to pick up the gold when you notice figures standing amongst the shadows of the riverside undergrowth. Slowly the Chamacoba Indians emerge into the sunlight. There are 3 men and a woman. Each man carries a long bow and several bluefeathered arrows. The woman carries something that looks like a leatherbound book. She carefully places it on the ground several metres in front of you. Then- still with no words spoken- the Chamacobas back off into the shadows and out of your sight…

59


You can feel your heart pounding in your chest. Wow- did that really happen? First (friendly) contact with the Chamacoba Indians. - and they have honoured you with that gift. But, somehow, you know you will not see them again. You wait for some time before you cross the riverbed to pick up the book that was left.

60


Chapter 9: Should a Lost World stay Lost?

October1908. Things looked desperate for Major Percy Harrison Fawcett and his companions. It wasn’t that they were lost exactly; their job had been to map the Rio Verde (green river) that marked the border between Brazil and Bolivia and they had worked out their position every day; it was just that now they had arrived close to the river’s headwaters, it seemed they were stuck. Huge cliffs rose up ahead and on both sides of the river. Going forward looked impossible. But, The idea of retracing their route back down the river scared the men even more. There had been so many rapids in the river that Fawcett had given the order to ditch the canoes and continue on foot weeks ago. Since then they had slogged through the spiky bamboo thickets along the river banks being stung by wasps and rarely getting enough food to eat as the water had a funny taste and neither fish nor wild animals to hunt were to be found. Fawcett called the Rio Verde the ‘Poisoned Hell’. The men were starving and had lost the will

61


to carry on (Fawcett even had to coax his head porter on at knife point after he had laid down to die!), yet now their leader was telling them the only way out was to climb up and over those rock pillars in front of them. From his position at the foot of the cliffs, Fawcett described the table mountain ahead of them as like a ‘Lost World’. Anything living up there might have been isolated and remained unchanged since prehistoric times. Even dinosaurs? Pterodactyls? Savage ape-men? That’s what his friend, the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thought when Fawcett told him his survival story after he had returned home to England. Conan Doyle was inspired to write a novel about a group of explorers finding dinosaurs and ape-men on top of a lost plateau. He called his book ‘The Lost World’ and it was a best seller, which led – over the years- to numerous movies and other dinosaur adventure stories; all of this just because of the exploits of some real explorers in the wilds of Brazil at the start of the 20th century. And Fawcett; how did he get his men out? It all came down to a lucky shot with his rifle just when things were at the lowest point some time after they had made it up onto the plateau. He saw a deer in the distance (too far he thought to have any chance of a kill). He just aimed and squeezed the trigger. The meal of fresh venison raised everyone’s spirits enough to get them moving again and get them out of the jungle.

And now you’ve discovered another Lost World. You’ve rediscovered the allbut extinct Spix Macaw, you’ve found enough gold to make you a millionaire and you’ve been accepted by the previously-uncontacted Chamacoba Indians who have left you some sort of book on the rocks on the other side of the river. Could this tell you what you’ve come to find our about your predecessor, Montgomery Farquhar? Why didn’t he tell his story? He could

62


have been rich! And for the discoveries he surely made on this lost plateau, he surely would have been a jungle celebrity. The book is bound in leather, a diary, his diary. You can see the initials MF scored into the cover. It is scuffed and blotched with mould or water damage, but opening it, you see its entries are still readable. The first few pages are observations. There are coordinates or campsites and points of interest taken along his route. The entries stop when the explorer reaches the top of the plateau. Several pages are torn out, then there is one last clearly written page. It is dated June 12th 1929

I fear we must leave now with utmost haste. Our presence seems to have brought illness to the people that have helped us so. After our initial capture, the Chamacoba have been more intent on showing us their way of life than in keeping us captive. Up on this plateau, game and fruit abound and the Indians live a life of plenty. There is gold everywhere yet these people assign it no value and do not fashion it into coins or ornaments, preferring instead to adorn themselves with the lustrous plumes of the blue macaws, which thrive only here. But now the Chamacoba are ill, some are dying, apparently of influenza or measles, ailments that in our country we shrug off as illnesses of childhood, inconveniences from which we soon recover. 63


To you who follow, please heed these words. The plateau is a wondrous place and so are its people. Value this place and let none know of its existence. My men have sworn solemn oaths that they will not tell their story. To you, dear traveller, I implore you to do the same.

Montgomery Farquhar. So, now you know the truth. In making his fantastic discoveries, Montgomery Farquhar- or rather the common illnesses that he and his men harbourednearly destroyed the Chamacoba people. He realised that to return and tell his story would be like passing a death sentence for those that remained. So he stayed quiet.

When the Spanish and Portuguese adventurers arrived on the South American continent in the 1500s, their main concern was gold- how to get lots of it quickly. Their shining plate armour, gunpowder and horses caused terror amongst people who have never seen such things before, but unknown to the conquistadors they unleashed a far deadlier and unseen weapons; their illnesses. Viruses never before known in South America spread through its people whose bodies had no immunity from them When the Spanish and Portuguese adventurers arrived on the South American continent in the 1500s, their main concern was gold- how to get lots of it quickly. Their shining plate armour, gunpowder and horses caused terror amongst people who have never seen such things before,

64


But unknown to the conquistadors they unleashed a far deadlier and unseen weapons; their illnesses. Viruses never before known in South America spread through its people whose bodies had no immunity from them. When you come into contact with a disease, your body’s defences (immune system) develops ‘anti bodies’ to fight the disease germs. During childhood, though you may never know it, your body may have developed antibodies to fight a whole range of illnesses. You may carry germs from German measles, mumps or several varieties of the common cold, but you have immunity; the germs don’t affect you. The Spanish and Portuguese had grown up with these diseases and had immunity from them. The South American Indians did not. It is thought that millions died, many from deadly smallpox but others from minor everyday illnesses. When European explorers and invaders arrived at native villages, they often found them all-but emptied of inhabitants. Of course, those that survived didn’t get the diseases and now the germs were all over the place, they and their descendants developed immunity to most of them. But not all native South Americans did. There are still isolated groups in the mountains and jungles who have no antibodies for European diseases. Even today people still die of the common cold.

….which is why you must now make a decision. When you return to Ramón and then Gustavo and Cristovăo in their mining camp- and then to the small town where you started, and finally go back home, what stories will you tell about your trip? You could fill your pockets with gold nuggets and tell them of your discoveries- uncontacted Indians, a 300 metre high waterfall and a new population of Spix Macaws. Or you could stay quiet… say nothing. It’s up to you. Which do you think is the right thing to do?

What do think will happen if you tell? 65


But in the meantime you need to think about getting back. Ramón will not stay for long at the entrance of the gorge. You would love to explore this plateau further but now you must go. Look at the map of your route and work out which hexagons you came through in order.

You started out across the campo and

stayed at Ramon’s hut. From there you

Crossed the palm forest

then the pantanal swamp,

entered the cerrado forest and came to

The gold miners’ camp.

Finally you swam into a narrow gorge and

climbed onto the tableland.

Answer on page 69 66


G A

M H

B

N I

C

O J

D

P K

E

Q L

F

R M 67


Leaving Farquhar’s diary on the riverside rocks, you turn to retrace your trail back down the cliffs-and you notice a footprint that was not there before. It’s like the rhea tracks you found in the campo (Chapter3). But this is nearly 50 centimetres long. Monsters from a prehistoric age? Who knows?

You’ve proved yourself a skilled explorer of the grassland, swamps and thorny forest tablelands of a South American Lost World, so what next? You could use the skills you’ve picked up here in the Australian Outback or in the leech-infested forests of Deepest Borneo. Or- you could strike out elsewhere like Under the Ground or In the Himalayas. .

You can read more about Leo Parcus’s adventures in the Lost World of South America’s plains and jungles in Simon Chapman’s book, The Land of Whizzing Arrows,

68


Your Route: Answer from page 66

You started out across the

A H

campo F and L, and stayed at Ramon’s hut K. From there you crossed the palm forest P

I O

then the pantanal swamp O, entered the cerrado forest I and came to the gold miners’

P K

camp H. Finally you swam into a narrow gorge and climbed onto

L

the tableland A.

F

69


Explorers Wanted: Lost World