8. Flora; My Attempts At Hunting

April 03-

The deepening shadows remind me that the day is almost over. My little lantern throws friendly light from a bough above my head; my hammock is snugly rigged & now tis time to write up observations of the day.

The going being a little less irksome today, I have been able to be somewhat more leisurely with my pace, & even to collect some samples, & perform a rough dissection on a tree frog which I had first sketched as you see on the facing page. It's markings were quite extraordinary, & I fancy would occasion much comment at the Zoological Society.

It is somewhat dispiriting that travelling on my own this way, & thus acting as my own porter somewhat inhibits my ability to catalogue as I go, but still I can aim for some level of accuracy & veracity, as far as is possible given the tools to hand. As well as the frog, I followed the trail of some leafcutter ants, to their cunningly constructed nest, & searched out the funnel spider's trap-doored lair (though you can be sure I was well apprised of the danger to myself in so doing). Less perilous, but wondrous, the colonies of clay globes built by termites. These minute architects suggest the hand of some creator, yet my humanism makes me distrust such conclusions; nature is passing strange in its manifestations. ̉”here are more things in heaven & earth..."

April 06-

I have spent the day half maddened & dazed, feverish & dreamlike as I hack & cut my way towards my goal, brushing flies from my lips & eyes, feasting on the stinging sweat, the suppurating bites. Bits of leaves & branches, beetles & unidentified seeds add themselves to the tangle of my hair & the folds of my clothes. My route is determined equally by compass & intuition, for it is rarely possible to travel in a straight line for long. Some of the land that I am crossing has evidently been cleared at some point in the past - the Jungle has reclaimed it's own with extra ferocity, throwing up tangled areas of plants.

This afternoon I encountered a marshy area, and as I could see no clear route around it, I had perforce to go through it, precariously balancing on fallen logs, on stones, on anything solid enough to hold my weight in the valleys of mud between the river's tributaries. After this I came to an area where the Jungle floor was clear, huge trees soaring over the ground carpeted with their dead leaves & strange species of fungi; mosses, creepers & roots and prada replica handbags hanging down from the secondary growth, high above the ground. Looking up I could see ferns & orchids & parlour palms, parasites on the trunks of giant sequoias. I wish I were a spider monkey; I envy their graceful passage through the highest reaches of the Jungle.

I have fallen into a pattern of travel now. I walk from daybreak to dusk with infrequent stops for rest & refreshment, supping on fruits that I recognise & pools of water collected in Jungle hollows, or tapped from the trunks of trees. Today I got lucky, & caught a small bird, but there's precious little meat on them, barely worth the trouble of searching out dry firewood. The river has its own dangers; swift moving & silent water snakes, many-teethed amphibians, & the animals & birds usually avoid my somewhat clumsy traps.

This afternoon I tried to shoot a peccary, using the heavy musket I carry with me, the report deadened against the deep gloom of the Jungle. But it is difficult to aim & fire the clumsy weapon fast enough to hit anything, & I was certainly no match for such fleet footed game. I do not know enough of the habits of the Jungle creatures to follow the trails of capybaras, or catch possums in their lairs. Now I dare not waste what little powder & ammunition I have left in case I should need it to defend myself.

Chapter 9 »