THE TROPIC FOREST REGIONS - -THE AMAZON VALLEY 793. The equatorial river.—Two great equatorial rivers, the Kongo in Africa and the Amazon in South America, reach the Atlantic near the equator. The Amazon has more water than the Kongo; more, indeed, than any other river in the world, because its valley has both the northeast and the southeast trade winds (Figs. 540, 541) to blow moisture from the Atlantic into the heart of South America. What proportion of South America along the equator drains into the Pacific? into the Atlantic? (Fig. 566.) The Kongo has falls near its mouth, but the Amazon valley is so flat that large steamers from New York and Liverpool can go to Manaos, 1000 miles up the river; and smaller ocean steamers go on to Iquitos, 2500 miles from the sea—farther than Denver is from New York. Although the Amazon is navigable 425 miles above Iquitos, the trade of the whole great valley is small. It has very few people.
794. The jungle.—In this river valley the climate is much the same as in the Kongo (Sec. 727), and here, even more than in the Kongo, nature has thus far been more powerful than man. Here (Fig. 566, Al) the forest owns the earth. Nature builds up forest faster than man has been able upon the whole to cut it down. This is not a land of fields and farms. There are no roads except the rivers. The canoes of the natives and the gasoline and steam launches of the white man pass up and down streams where they are not choked with fallen trees.
This forest, one of the largest in all the world, is of little value for lumber. Most of the trees have crooked trunks and worth less, soft wood. The good trees are scattered far apart and tied to many others with creepers and vines, so that the work of get ting them costs more than the tree is worth.
795. Floods.—Each day during the rainy season, for weeks at a time, the rain comes dashing on the forest leaves with a roar like that of a railroad train. It beats into every crack and crevice of the houses. The rivers rise and water creeps into the forest. Some
times the hunter may wade all day long in water that covers the level land. Many of the houses in the river towns are built on poles driven into the ground (Fig. 573). Even the chicken houses are put on stilts, and the poor birds must spend the rainy season in the house. From some places it is a hundred miles through the forest to the nearest dry land. In one place an American explorer traveled in his canoe among the tree tops, marking his way with a hatchet.
796. Tribes buried in the forest.—Is it any wonder that this is a land of few people? Some tribes live on the higher land between streams, in places that are harder to reach than oases in the desert of Sahara. These places are cut off from the rest of the world by the thick forests, and also by low lands flooded several feet deep for months at a time. From time to time some explorer finds people who have never before seen a white man.
797. Pests.—The tropic forests of South America are lands of pests. We might say that this is the land of the insect rather than of man. Mosquitoes are so thick that the trav eler often wears gloves in hot weather, and has a net around his face and neck.
The vampire is one of the many kinds of bats living in these woods. At night one must be careful to cover his head and feet with mosquito netting; otherwise the vam pire may slip into the tent and bite a hole in one's nose, or perhaps in a toe, and then suck the blood. No stock fanner can succeed, because the vampires kill all his unprotected chickens and even his horses and cows.
Hungry alligators lie in wait in the rivers.
One of the eight hundred kinds of Amazon fish has teeth so sharp that it can bite a piece out of a man, after which other fish, smelling blood, will come racing to eat the man alive. Lovers of the water are care ful where they swim in this region. The boa constrictor climbs the forest trees, and the jaguar crouches in the branches ready to spring upon its prey.