The Amazon is known to everyone as one of the world’s great waterways. Its interest and allure is enhanced because it is also in one of our planet’s most mysterious regions. The Amazon jungle is massive, often dense and impenetrable and occupies huge portions of the South American continent—very much ‘the New World’ and one of the last places on earth to feel the impact of Western civilization. Even today it hides its secrets well and we know that there are likely to be more hidden tribes, fauna, flora and archaeological sites yet to be discovered. This exotic landscape was first invaded by Europeans in the 15th century and the events of those tragic and turbulent times as Europeans collided with the ancient civilizations established there are recorded within the pages of this book. The exploration of the great Amazon continues today, and Amazonia entrances explorers and travellers alike, just as it has done for almost 500 years. This is an interesting account of one of our last frontiers and is recommended for your reading pleasure.
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In a few days four hundred men set out for Yurbaco. A short way out from the shore some of the men came across an object that made Ojeda more furious for revenge than anything that had yet occurred.<br>
When the suspense over the fate of Ojeda had become most intense, just before he was discovered helpless on the mangrove roots, the faithful Isabel determined to set out alone to see if she could learn anything of the fate of her lord, trusting to her kinship with the Indians. Ojeda was much disturbed when he learned of the dangerous but loving mission on which she had gone, but all hoped for her safe return. The object which the advanced scouts brought so tenderly back, was the body of Isabel. She had been bound to a tree and her body literally filled with poisoned arrows. Ojeda kissed his image of the Virgin, and, laying his hand on the head of the faithful woman, swore that never again would he stay his sword in mercy to an Indian, a vow which not many weeks later was singularly broken.<br>
The Indian village that had been so disastrous to Ojeda was reached some time after nightfall. The force of men was equally divided, and just before midnight, they approached silently from two sides upon the slumbering people. The chattering parrots that filled the trees, often made just as noisy by some prowling animal, drowned all the sounds made by the stealthy steps and cautiously whispered commands of the approaching men. Orders were given to permit no Indian to escape, and to take none alive. The savages were so completely surprised that they could make little defence. The slaughter was complete. Not a man, woman, or child was left alive.<br>
While ranging the village for booty, they found the body of Juan la Cosa tied to a tree, and so hideous from wounds and the poison that the soldiers would not remain the rest of the night in the gruesome place. After securing about thirty-seven thousand dollars worth of gold ornaments, they destroyed every vestige of the village.<br>
Nicuesa went back to his ships the sworn friend of Ojeda, who now took the advice of the lamented La Cosa and sailed on to the Gulf of Uraba. A fort was built, but the incessant hostility of Indians with poisoned arrows still surrounded them and harassed them at every step. Famine added to their horrors, and it seemed that they would be able to survive but a few days longer, when Bernardino de Talavera and his lawless band arrived with a well equipped Genoese ship, which he had seized from its owner and crew at Cape Tiburon, on the western end of Hispaniola. The relief did not last long, and they were again in the midst of famine, when Ojeda determined to return to Hispaniola in Talavera’s stolen ship, it being the only seaworthy one in their possession, in order to obtain help, and to see why Martin Fernandez had not come on with the promised supplies. Relying on the great service they had been to the colony San Sebastian, and upon the influence of Ojeda, Talavera and his crew determined to go with the ship.<br>
Once at sea, the utterly incompatible characters of Ojeda and Talavera asserted themselves, and a quarrel ensued, in which Ojeda was put into irons by the crew. While not far from the coast of Cuba a violent hurricane came upon them, and Ojeda was released to help pilot the ship. Not long after, it was driven, a helpless wreck, upon the coast. The miserable men, now willingly led by Ojeda, set out along the wild and swampy shore for the eastern end of the island, in the hope of finding some way to reach Hispaniola. Their sufferings from famine and hostile natives, many of whom had fled from the terrors of San Domingo, were such that when they came to a village where lived the Cacique Cueybas, they sank to the ground exhausted, completely at the mercy of the Indian chief. So far from taking the opportunity for revenge, the cacique tenderly cared for them as long as they chose to remain with him.<br>
Their only hope now seemed to be in reaching Jamaica, where there was a settlement established by Juan de Esquibel, whose head Ojeda had sworn to take off on his first visit to that island. But conditions were altered now, and Pedro de Ordas was sent across in a canoe with some Indians to solicit help for the wretched Spaniards.<br>
While starving and exhausted in the swamps, Ojeda had vowed to his Virgin patroness that if he were saved from the impending peril, he would erect a chapel in the first Indian village, and leave his beloved image there for the conversion of the heathen. This he did, and Las Casas says that on a visit there some years later he found the oratory kept in scrupulous order, and the image held in such reverence that the Cacique Cueybas ran away with it for fear the good bishop might steal it.<br>
When Pedro de Ordas reached Jamaica, so far from holding enmity against Ojeda, Esquibel at once sent a caravel for the unfortunate men, and cared for Ojeda at his own house. Ojeda was soon enabled to go to San Domingo, where he found that Martin Fernandez had already departed for San Sebastian with a ship load of supplies.<br>
On hearing that Talavera and his crew were at Jamaica, Diego Columbus, in accordance with his strict ideas of justice, sent some men with an order for their arrest, brought them to trial, and hanged them. The testimony of Ojeda at the trial of Talavera and his men was largely instrumental in their conviction, and some of their friends resolved to assassinate him. One night, as he was going to his lodgings, he was set upon by a band of ruffians. His sword was out in a moment, with all his old-time vigour. Although assailed on all sides, he laid about so effectively that the midnight enemies recoiled and then fled, pursued by the valiant but prematurely aged warrior. Not one of them escaped without a dangerous wound to nurse as a result of their lawless temerity. From this episode on, Ojeda is named no more in the Spanish records. This man of amazing feats and romantic exploits became a monk in the convent of San Francisco, according to Gomera, and Las Casas says that, when dying, he asked to be buried in the portal of the convent, so that all who entered might tread on his grave.