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Archive for November 24, 2009

Tuesday, 24 November – Diamantina to Pedra Menina and back

The best laid plans …

There is obviously no excuse for not getting it right. After yesterday’ s scouting trip plus the homework that I had set myself, today was a disappointment for me.

Marlon had suggested by email:

‘   …to Pedra Menina it is even easier, if you take the paved road to São Gonçalo do Rio Preto, then take the paved road to Felício dos Santos, and from there Pedra Menina is not too far and the road is good – they were actually paving it last year, it might be paved road all the way to Pedra Menina now, or at least it is to Felício dos Santos).’  This was the road we had chosen for today.

The reports (from June 2008) were accurate. Although not completely finished, they were still working on the bridges, it provided a very fast access to Felicio dos Santos. There things were in a big mess with the original track blocked, being prepared for tarmac laying. Good job that there was no recent rain or the temporary tracks around the problem spots would have been impassable.

But here the good news stops. The bad news is that we had the impression that the usual maintenance on the track to Pedra Menina had stopped soon after Marlon had passed last year, probably in anticipation of the promised hard top. But where was it? Lost in the post? Money run out on the previous stretch?

To make matters worse, there were umpteen side tracks all clearly NOT sign posted, and if there were signs, they were to metropoles not on our maps or radar.  My GPS had some idea that there were ‘Terra’ (unpaved tracks) and I had taken some key coordinates from Google Earth the previous evening to act as winch posts to enable us to head in the right direction. Sometimes we were right, but on several occasions we had to go back a few km, after asking directions in our, by now fluent (NOT) Portuguese. It was a great relief when down in the valley we saw the village that I immediately recognised as Pedra Menina. It should be plain sailing from here.

Again, we were to be disappointed. It was easy to see the quartz field where we had seen wonderful Uebelmannia gummifera ssp meninensis in 1999. I had their exact location coordinates. I had the coordinates of the track towards them and even the side track that would get us the last km to them. But that last side track was not to be seen in ‘reality view’, only as a wish on Google’s ‘virtual view’. We tried three possible tracks but had to turn back each time as our little town car was not able to handle the deep ruts left by much larger vehicles at much wetter previous times. At one stage Cliff had to reverse about 500 m down hill on such a narrow track with the ridge between the ruts taking bites at our exhaust system By now it was 15:15 and time for alternative options was running out, especially as dark skies were looming – we did not want to be caught in rain before returning back to hard-top.

Had we been earlier, we could have left the car and walked across the valley to the quartz field and back, but there was no time to do so.

Anyone wanting to see this location in the near future better note that the local unpaved roads are mostly in a bad condition and that sign posts to anywhere that might be shown on a map are non existent.

A tiring and disappointing day.