Tuesday, 1 December – Salinas to Pedra Azul
Today we had considered (last minute) to go back to Mato Verde to find what we had missed, but when we drove back it rained (not hard), during the night it rained (leaving large puddles, so quite hard?) and when we left it still rained. So we decided against 50 km of dirt – mud.
As we dove along BR 251 it brightened up a bit and at one point, I looked over my shoulder and saw ‘Buiningia habitat cliffs’. Cliff did a U-turn and we found a track. We agreed that as we did not have far to go today, we’d take a look at the condition of the track. There were a couple of gates and bridges (all painfully noted on the way back for future use) and then the track opened out at a magnificent Coleocephalocereus aureus site, the same form (s.n. Buiningia brevicylindrica var. elongata) as on Sunday’s stop. But here we could drive to it!
When we arrived at our hotel in Pedra Azul, yes, one with wifi, I could hardly wait to tell Marlon that we had found yet another location for this plant. He had written five emails while we were on the road, one with a large attachment (thanks Marlon!) and by the time that I was about to start my email, this morning’s images had downloaded. I wanted to send him a screen shot of Google Earth to show him how the three sites lined up, his original site that we had looked for on Sunday, our Sunday site and this one. Much to my surprise, this morning’s location was exactly on Marlon’s site. At least we had gotten here independently (even if it was through my stupidity that we missed the location on Sunday.)
As a result, I can give you Marlon’s account of what grows here:
Plants seen: Pilosocereus pachycladus (s.n. P. cenepequei), Pilosocereus multicostatus, Melocactus bahiensis subsp. amethystinus, Coleocephalocereus aureus, Tacinga inamoena, Ceiba jasminodora, Orthophytum falconii.
We managed to recognise all of them except the Orthophytum, which on the internet appears to be a small and insignificant Bromeliad. I can hear cries of outrage from the Bromeliad fans!!
After booking into our hotel, we went for a stroll around the town. It was prettier than I remember, but then in 1999 we stayed at a farm outside of town and only drove through to climb 365 steps to a cross on the huge rock overlooking the town, so did not really see much of the colonial architecture claiming to date back to around 1919. Suddenly we were accosted by a woman and two teenage girls. They asked us questions in Portuguese and were disappointed that we could not speak Portuguese. They ran off in a hurry, to look for other men?
Towards the end of our stroll, we passed a park where some sort of activity event was in progress. Lots of teenagers running around, voices over P.A. systems and lots of laughter. We went to take a look. Again I got accosted by a lady, again she was disappointed that I did not speak Portuguese. Then another lady appeared. She spoke a little English and explained that today, 1 December, was HIV-AIDS awareness day and handed me a leaflet. It seemed to be a world wide event and as Cliff & I represented ‘the rest of the world’, could I say some words in English to the audience? Never afraid of a public speaking engagement, I had a microphone pushed in my hand. I had heard enough BBC Radio 1 Roadshows in my younger days to know what was expected.
My thunderous ‘Hello Pedra Azul!!!’ was greeted by a tremendous cheer. ‘HIV-AIDS is a world wide concern. It affects people in England as well as Brazil. Take it very seriously. Many famous music and film stars in the world have died of it and many more ordinary people. Be careful and follow the advice of your teachers!’ Loud applause.
There then followed a competition of which team could fill the condom that were being given away with the most tap water. For a second we were worried that the first price was to throw the filled condoms at the English, but that was not the case. Cliff & I privately judged the ‘Wet T shirt’ competition that resulted.
As we left the park, the ground was littered with what looked like used condoms, as if a very aware orgy had just taken place (I imagine).
Tomorrow we’ll return to cactus hunting.