Friday, 20 November – around Diamantina
Hats off to Cliff today.
We had to get yesterday’s puncture fixed and foresight or luck had it that a Borracharia was situated just across the road from the hotel. Our helpful attendant this time assured us that it could be fixed and collected at around 13:15. This was more of a town-sized tyre-man, where there was a manager and a fixer, rather than the usual one man band that would sit around until a puncture came in and then jump into action. This guy managed the flow and he had a delivery of tyres due and needed the fixer for the unloading and stowing away. As a result of needing a manager, the price of fixing the puncture and hammering out the wheel into shape resembling round was sufficient to pay two rather than one person. At R$45 it was still reasonable compared with the UK.
We decided to do a bit more sightseeing in Diamantina while the tyre was being fixed. I suggested this time that we should take the more easterly entrance than the one taken last Saturday, as I seemed to remember that this was the side that we’d enter from in 1999. Narrow streets, impossible slopes and Diamantina cobble stones (flat, worn smooth over the years), lack of direction signs and signs to indicate one way streets and which way they run all contributed to me lifting my hat to Cliff the driver for the first time today.
Just as we thought that it was time to go home I was pounced upon by a gent, my age, parking his motor bike. I must look English because he started a flow of very good but loud English and insisted on taking me around the corner to see ‘justice done’. I played along. Just by the bus station there was a dead tree. Most of its branches had been cut off, but right at the very top some branches were left and a bird’s nest was visible, Two golden yellow birds were flying to and fro. Apparently the tree was to be cut down, but not while the birds were nesting. Everything stood still for nature and conservation. A nice thought. I took extra images of the tree and birds. All pictures were recorded under last Saturday’s Stop number, S1518a.
It was about 14:00 when we picked up the car. We decided to go back to Mendanha as we had so far only seen three of the typical (in habitat) bluish-grey Uebelmannia pectinifera ssp pectinifera. This time I had done the best homework possible: detailed screen prints from Google Earth showing the relevant locations in relation to the village and tracks and noted the coordinates of turns on tracks. Our scout around a few days ago had already revealed that the bridge across the Rio Jequitinhonha (not easy to say after a few drinks, try it!) was for pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes only. The alternative track was in poor repair and took all of Cliff’s driving skills to manoeuvre our low ground clearance little Chevy Meriva along the ruts left by cars with much wider wheelbases but eventually we had to give up. It seemed to far to walk in the heat to reach the nearest location on our records and the vegetation looked much more dense than I remembered from 10 years back. We decided to park the car and walk along the track, ignoring previously recorded locations and just having a stomp around where things looked possible.
Cliff found a clearing in the distance and an unofficial trail that went that way. Hats off to Cliff again. We arrived at rocks that quickly ascended quite steeply, with some evidence that they had been worked, to collect quartz crystals, we assume. (S1538).
I photographed some Cipocereus minensis and the other ceroid that is beginning to bug me, as I don’t recall what it is. I’ll send Marlon a picture to ID. That way this would at least not be a ‘no cacti found’ stop. (Something that few people record but that would ultimately save so much time.) Then Cliff shouted excitedly that he had found U. pectinifera, first one, then another and so on, until I was getting a complex about not finding my own – again, hats off to Cliff. I’ll start spreading the story that he comes along as my guide dog.
Somehow, finding you’re own spots is much more satisfying than finding plants at somebody else’s location. Unfortunately today was absolutely clear with only an occasional slight breeze, we we were soon having difficulty seeing where we were going with sweat dripping into our eyes, despite hats and sweatbands. After 30 minutes we were back in the car, with air-conditioning at full blast, driving back to the hotel where a cold beer was calling us.