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I’ll start with a link to the Pousada Ecologica das Bromelias, where we have enjoyed our Christmas stay. No snow and ice, but then we did not come here for the winter sports and ski slopes!

http://www.brasiladentro.com.br/112261/br/hoteis-pousadas

It had rained during the night and a steady drizzle fell as we set out this morning. Delmar was going to take us to locations: Tabuleiro das Duas Irmãs and the turning, off BA-052 to Cafernaum where on the east side of the road is the western limit (?) of the habitat range of Discocactus zehntneri ssp boomianus.

By the time that we arrived at Tabuleiro das Duas Irmãs (S1622) it was still drizzling, but our worries that the dirt track from the BA-052 (little more than a dirt track itself in places) would be impassable once wet were unfounded. I’m sure that Cliff can give a better geological explanation, but it appeared to me that this Tabuleiro was a white sand in-fill between a pushed up layer of conglomerate rock. In real terms it was like walking through soft sand with just a thin top layer wetted by the rain. There was quite a caatinga vegetation here, so we were soon soaked from both the bottom up, as we brushed against wet vegetation and from the head down, from the rain. As it was still hot, any bits not affected by rain or wet leaves was soon soaked in our sweat! It was an easy place to get lost in, as large rock outcrops needed to be negotiated round the correct way, or else long detours were necessary to get to where you wanted to be. Even Delmar missed a turn in the track occasionally, so that we had to retrieve our steps.

Cactus wise, I think that we have now just about seen all the cactus taxa that the area has to offer. The sandy Tabuleiro was once again the home for Micranthocereus polyanthus ssp alvinii with Melocactus concinnus, M. paucispinus, Stephanocereus leutzelburgii, Micranthocereus purpureus, Pilosocereus pachycladus and as well as lots of different Orchids (not in flower), bromeliads and a charming little Eriocaulaceae sp. The rain had also brought out a large number of apparently solitary giant ants, about one inch long. It was easy to see their pincer mouth parts with the naked eye. Cliff found one carrying a large berry! But bad light made it very difficult to get a good depth-of-field picture of it close up.

As skies darkened we got back in the car and once back on BA-052, the heavens really did open for a while. Stretches of the road had been patched up with sand and on previous days had caused a huge dust cloud for every vehicle that met up from the opposite direction or overtook us. Today, the road surface floated slowly down the slopes and off to the side of the road. As we approached the roundabout for the turn south to Cafernaum, the rain stopped and the sun came out!

We had soon found the tell tale rocky hillsides and found a place to park. Again, as soon as we had fought our way through a small forest that separates the hillside from the road, we were amidst thousands of D. z. boomianus! (S1623). Unlike the visits to the previous boomianus locations, many plants here were in fruit, with fruits half full with what looks like viable seeds and the other half full of small ants. Fortunately they were not the 1" version that would have had your finger off.

Reviewing the pictures there are some truly impressive skies on display. Strangely, it stayed dry here.

Tomorrow we leave Morro do Chapéu and travel to Feira de Santana to meet Marlon at his flat. Then on 28 December we race to Salvador to pick up John Senior, who is already fed up with cold winters in New Jersey. The four of us will then go on a two week Marlon guided tour of northern Bahia – all new territory for me.

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