Today we did the sort of thing that helps us to explain to others that we are ‘cactus loco’. First, as I lifted one of my cameras on our way out, I put my back out (again!).
Next, we drove 126 km along some of the worst asphalt roads that we have seen, ever. On the bright side, there were lots of people hard at work to repair the worst holes in some places and to transform this into a nice smooth asphalt road in others. I guess about 50 km was excellent, but we spent most of the time on the very poor remainder.
Next, with my ignorance of getting data into GPS units the hard way cured by Marlon’s teach-in last Sunday, we set off full of confidence on a 1.2 km hike (in midday heat!!) where every step got us closer and closer to our goal – until I was entirely tangled up in vines in front of a 40 m rock face going straight up. At that stage, 40 m up would have got me 10 cm closer on the GPS read out, so I learned that this was not the best approach.
Cliff had actually found a path, something that Marlon’s notes referred to, but an idea that we decided to abort when our city slicker car was having increasingly worse problems dealing with a track, damaged by recent heavy rains. We had a set of walkie talkies, but like true idiots, we had left them in the car. Shouting in a forest to see where the other person is is entirely ineffective (cactus explorer’s lesson # 5,346), so it was a minor miracle that we both eventually found the path and reached the top of the hill where in an open space the cacti were presented as a miniature botanical rock garden.
Why? So that we could see Melocactus levitestatus in one of its habitats, at Iuiú, again on limestone rocks (S1595). Marlon’s ‘Bahia travel tips’ suggested that we should find Melocactus levitestatus, Facheiroa estevesii, and the fantastic, new bottle tree species with red flowers, Ceiba rubriflora.
We found a number of bottle trees, some that we could identify as Ceiba sp. but as they were not in flower, we can’t confirm that they were rubriflora. Other cacti reported include Pilosocereus gounellei (not seen), Quiabentia zehntneri, Arrojadoa rhodantha (not seen), Pilosocereus pachycladus and Cereus jamacaru.
Earlier in the day, we had spent an hour at an alternative site that was easier to get to , again, suggested by Marlon’s route, but when we arrived at the exact GPS coordinates, I was hugging another Ceiba, again not in flower, that was probably the reason for Marlon’s visit here. One or two P. pachycladus and C. jamacaru (but it seemed to us to be a different form to the one that we had grown used to seeing) and that was it.
Just another 126 km back to the hotel, where the restaurants were closed and companies were having their Christmas parties so that there was no where open for us to eat and that sums up perfectly the typical day of a couple of ‘Cactus locos’ in Brazil.