Sunday, 22 November – around Diamantina
We really had run out of things to explore here. That is a lie of course – we could have made stops, say every 1 km along the roads to Datas, Rodeador, Sopa, Inhai etc. walked one km either side of the road and back and so have a very detailed set of data of the cacti of this area. That is for another life time if we should find nothing better to do.
The remaining Uebelmannia (U. gummifera, its ssp meninensis and U. buinigii), are better approached from Itamarandiba, where we’ll be heading tomorrow.
What to do today? On the assumption that there are cacti everywhere here, Cliff picked a random town from the map, Gouveia, from where a track seemed to run west and then just stop. Obviously we were curious where it stopped and if there were cacti on the way. None were reported from our database. Not a cloud in the sky, it was going to be a scorcher!
We arrived in Gouveia earlier than planned, as the road was an excellent paved road. The track to the west was also easy to find. It had a number of forks and we obviously had taken the wrong one as some fifteen minutes later we arrived in a small village which I think is called Francisco Doria a Pereira (S1543), at least that was the name painted on the school.
Back on the original track and another fork, eventually the bare rocky hills approached our track – no hard top here! – so we agreed to have a ‘stomp around’. (S1544a). Just one miserable Cipocereus minensis. We were disappointed not to find any Discos on the flat, as the terrain seemed right.
We carried on, still taking the ‘wrong’ turns, ending up at farms, se decided to turn back. As we approached ‘our rock’ again from the other side we decided that this might be the better aspect, facing more to the north, worth another look (S1544b).
Cliff decided to be a mountain goat and found nothing. I decided that as Discos like the flat quartz at the base, so I’d scout around there. It was quite a large area so I started at one end, from where we had actually found one Discocactus. Eventually I found another, but they were few and far between. Then Cliff came back down and found the hill at the other end from where I was searching easier to descend – and stepped right into the core of the Disco group!
There had been a fire through here perhaps 12 – 18 months ago and the plants illustrated perfectly how, being low to the ground, they could survive such a fire; singed ribs and spines and all. The plants were recovering and made unusual subjects to illustrate their powers of survival. I even found a fruit with seed that looked viable that Cliff is looking after. So, new Disco locality in an area not previous explored by our database contributors.
Then into the town that we had picked at random, Gouveia, for the traditional mid day Coca Cola. (S1545).
It was still early and on the way back (at c 16:00) we passed the turning to Conselheiro Mata, the track where we had had our puncture. It bugged me that since we arrived here, my memory was ‘blocked’ by a mental image from the first or second stop that we had made around here in 1999. From memory, the location was only 50 m from the track. So we turned on to the track.
This time I decided to rely on my eyes instead of the GPS and found a likely spot. Consulted the GPS – yes very near to a 1999 stop for U flavispina BUT that location was on the other side of the track. Now there was a farm there with a party in full progress.
We decided to let my instincts take over, had a look around some rocks, then I saw an electricity pylon and memory cells stirred. Go to it! As we approached we could see flat rocky terrain just past the pylon and in front of a huge rock hill. Things were beginning to click, particularly when I spotted the first Uebel!.(S1546). These days, a barbed wire fence cuts across the area. (or did it already in 1999?) I would search one side of the wire, Cliff the other. We had even remembered the walkie talkies. 15-20 minutes later – nothing! Well, except for Pilosocereus aurisetus with two ripe (split) fruits. Then Cliff woke me up from my search announcing that he had found 1, 2, 3, eventually 11 plants in one spot alone. This had to be the place of our 1999 stop that I remembered so clearly, as Marlon had found a group of young plants (16 from memory) that he had called ‘his family’. There had been two crested plants here at that time, but they were gone now.
This was an excellent way to finish off cactus exploring around Diamantina, with the first stop in 1999 now providing success as our last stop in 2009.