Every year during the second half of the eighteenth century, as river levels dropped, an average of 1,500 Indian crewmen departed nearly 50 villages for the remote interior forests and waterways of the Amazonian sertão. During the next six to eight months, as they searched for cacao, sarsaparilla, nuts, or turde eggs, the crewmen might experience all manner of hardships—epidemics, tribal attacks, famine, mutinies, or the loss of the village canoe and its cargo, to name just a few. Then, upon arriving home, they might find their families reduced to utter poverty or sickness, their wives taken in by other men, or their crops abandoned and devoured by pests. Yet despite the arduousness of the state-sponsored collecting expeditions and the hardships imposed upon those left behind, the trips offered a range of opportunities that other kinds of compulsory labor did not. Some of those who were not required to participate, such as the native officials, even did so voluntarily.