Today was Angie’s last day in Brazil – the last fourteen days had simply flown by. The cacti had been great and she had managed to see most of the recognised taxa of her favourite Frailea as well as a good selection of the Notocactus group in the genus Parodia.
But Marlon had a surprise in store. We were less than an hour’s drive from the nursery of Kurt Ingo Horst in the small town of Imigrante and there would be time to fit in the visit before Cliff and I would drive her to the Airport. Great!
Better news still, when we arrived, Kurt Ingo suggested that we’d have time to drive to the best site for seeing Parodia (Eriocactus) leninghausii We left Kojak tires and the attached Fiat Doblo at the nursery and had a comfortable drive to a hill 300 m above Kurt Ingo’s nursery in his Chevrolet 4×4. Woody struggled to keep up in the other Doblo, but made it to a small farm of a friend of Kurt Ingo’s, where we left the car and went on by foot, first along a level mud track, with Begonias in flower between the grass. Then one of Kurt Ingo’s assistants, armed with a large machete took the lead and hacked a path for us through thick vegetation.
??? announced that we had arrived and through a gap in the vegetation, we could see them: huge stems of P. leninghausii growing from the steep cliff face. Seeing them here in their natural habitat explains their habit of tilting their apex to one side – towards the sun and away from the cliff face.
Kurt Ingo gave us a quick demonstration before I was the first to try my hand at abseiling down the cliff. OK, so it was only 10 m at most to the ledge from where I was able to take shots all around, touching the plants while trying not to dislodge them. But it would have been at least 100m farther down if the ropes had not held! Then it was Woody’s turn, followed by John and Wiebe. Cliff and Angie decided to act as official photographers and probably have the best pictures of our combined ‘acts of heroism.’ It certainly was a great experience to add to the growing list of unusual ways to see cacti in habitat. As always, what we see as a group we share with the group so that everyone will have a complete set of pics of the ‘Leninghausii Experience’.
We returned to the village of Imigrante and after lunch and another visit to Kurt Ingo’s nursery, it was time for Angie to say her goodbyes and for Cliff & I to drive her to the airport. The day had more than made up for yesterday’s disappointment and will be remembered for a long time.
After over two hours of driving on increasingly busy roads (it was building up to Friday afternoon rush hour in Porto Alegre) we arrived to the wonderful air conditioning of the airport. Cliff and I looked at each other, knowing that temperature wise we had more to come in Minas Gerais and Bahia.
We arrived back at our hotel in Lajeado at eight, having made a wrong turn driving out of the airport. We knew where we wanted to go, but the stream of traffic just made it impossible without running the risk of causing a major accident, so we took the wrong turn and made the next ‘Retorneo’ but got stuck in a jam caused by a car trying to drive over a motor cyclist.
Tomorrow the smaller party continues our adventure. Only ten more weeks before Cliff and I follow Angie’s example and fly back to the UK.