Excited that we had at least found evidence (from afar) that P. claviceps was still around, we asked the hotel owners and various people in town for more information to get to places with steep cliffs.
The first of these tips led us through some streets to tracks at the edge of town. We again asked and were told that if we parked the car here, we could walk through their garden / fields and see the cliffs. We obtained indeed a wonderful view over the river, to cliffs that suggested that they might be some 100 m. tall ….. below the waterline. But we had learned at the P. leninghausi site that these plants like to grow at the tops of such cliffs, and pointing our zoom lenses that way had soon found things that could be clumps of P. claviceps. Could we get any closer? A bit of investigation revealed that we were standing on a similar cliff, but on the side of the river where the cliff face was mostly in the shade – so no plants.
We noticed that people had been hacking away at this cliff and in town had seen stone yards and souvenir shops selling Agate. And here, we saw rounded stones used in making the rough track, cracked open to reveal beautifully coloured crystals that a skilled craftsman could turn into attractive jewellery or ornaments. We went to one shop selling this finished product, bought a few stones and obtained more information of where to look. The information was not needed – the stone was everywhere and it was tempting to pick up every boulder we saw. But I digress.
From our cliff side view we thought that we could see a concentration of claviceps on one particular spot. We were unable to get to this spot, but could we get down to the river’s edge opposite this group of plants. We followed a track that eventually twisted and turned down the hill, ultimately through the usual dense vegetation but that ended up at least 750 m too for to the right of our spot. I could see clouds of insects around Marlon and Cliff and knew that I too had to be on the insect menu. More wrestling through the jungle – must pack a large machete next time – wonder what airport security will make of that – they’ll never believe that it’s just a tooth pick. Then our vague path joined a more established one and we finally arrived at the river’s edge, dead opposite where we wanted to be. This was actually the home for a local fisherman, with a small, single seater wooden boat, partially filled with water. Marlon chatted with him while our cameras clicked. No, the boat was not big and strong enough to take a single passenger. As we were still taking pictures of the same plant, I’ll continue to use S1508 as my stop number to file away these pictures.
Having had some luck cactus spotting at one of the barragem – dams yesterday we decided to try a second one, Barragem Eng Maia Filho (S1509) but this one was only 24 m high and there was little evidence of cliffs, exposed or drowned near by. Another ‘no cacti’ stop.
For S1510 we travelled back to town and took another track that took us to a village where the indigenous people still lived in rather primitive conditions. We were told that we should take a gift and a bottle of brandy had been suggested, but in the end we offered some money and asked for R$10 to allow us to park our car and then pointed us to a good path that took us to a nice waterfall. Not very high, but with an enormous volume of water being pushed through a narrow gorge. I took some movie clips here and photographed Cereus hildmannianus for the record.
For the last excursion of the day we decided to take the old road from Salto do Jacui to Estrela Velha, the village from where we found our first claviceps cliff yesterday. Now that a new main road had been built elsewhere, the old road (just a dirt track) was not so well maintained. After bumping along for 6 of the 12 km between the villages we were wondering to just leave it and go back to the hotel. Just then Marlon spotted the tell-tale yellow flowers of Parodia linkii! Just a small group in area but large in number, crammed onto a rocky outcrop between the side of the road and the grain fields. We took the usual 30 or so pictures and checked the extend of this population. At the far end of the rocky outcrop we still found Parodia, but here it was P. glaucina. As before when we found these two growing together there were no signs of intermediates or hybrids, so the barrier to these two species that flower together must be one of the less obvious ones. As there was a distinct gap (40 m.) between the two species, I decided to use two stop numbers, S1511a and S1511b.
Earlier, when we returned to the hotel for lunch, we all aired our frustrations of having tried so hard and still not found an accessible population of P. claviceps. At times like this it is good to dream of the solution – a boat to take us along the appropriate stretch of river where we could photograph the plants from close up. We then presented our ‘dream’ to the hotel owner who, after some phone calls, told us that a friend had a boat and tomorrow could collect us, take us in his pick up, with motor boat in tow, to yesterday’s dam from where he would take us for a morning’s run along the river. He was not cheap (R$400 – i.e. R$134 each) but eventually agreed that as we had come so far already and as Cliff and I were unlikely to return to this State again, it seemed churlish not to push on with this offer.
So, we have an 8 o’clock appointment with our captain and hope to show you some great pics afterwards (internet connections permitting).