Late trip report: The Veredas Expedition

From: Fernando Rivadavia Lopes (
Date: Thu Jun 10 1999 - 20:46:20 PDT

Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 20:46:20 PDT
From: Fernando Rivadavia Lopes <>
Message-Id: <aabcdefg2110$foo@default>
Subject: Late trip report: The Veredas Expedition

To all,

       It's been over a month since I returned from my lastest trip and I
still haven't been able to sit down and write about it! I've mostly been
caught up organizing endless slides and herbarium samples I accumulated over
the past few years and which I hadn't had time to deal with until now. And I
still am extremely busy trying to organize several articles for a few CP
newsletters and I've also scanned tons of pictures which I intend to put up
on the web soon. I've been editing the more or less 400 photos while my
friend Marcelo Fontana is working on our new web page.

       All of this to tell you that this will have to be a short account of
my latest trip, I won't have time for too many details. In case you forgot,
I went to Brasilia for a friend's wedding and took the opportunity to
explore lots of central Brazil. I drove all around with a friend, mostly in
the state of Goias. In 16 days, I drove nearly 7000km!!!!!! To be exact, it
was 6870km (4259.4 miles), or 429.4km (266.2 miles) each day -- and don't
forget I spent 5 days in Brasilia!!

       Anyways, most of central Brazil is covered with cerrado vegetation, a
type of savanna. Winter is the dry season, so the best time to see cerrado
CPs is in late summer or early fall (March to June), since many of the
species are annuals. Therefore I had to go now or wait 'till next year, when
I may not have as much free time anymore.

       In my last mail, I mentioned that this had been the "veredas" trip
and that I would explain later what this meant. Well the word veredas in
Portuguese is used to describe the gallery vegetation typical to riversides
and natural springs in cerrado areas. The most characteristic plant of
veredas is the buriti palm, which is always present in wherever the soil is
constantly wet.

       As you may have guessed, because buriti palms only grow near
permanent water, they are thus an excellent indication of good CP habitats
(as long as the surrounding vegetation is not too thick). So all along this
trip, we would be driving along the roads, criss-crossing through Goias, and
stopping everytime I spotted green grasses around buritis. My shoes were
constantly wet from sinking in the muddy soils of the wettest parts of each

       In case there are any map-freaks out there like myself, here's the
itinerary of the trip. From Sao Paulo we drove to Goiania, capital of Goias
state, where we spent the night. After examining herbarium specimens all
morning at the Universidade Federal de Goias, we drove NW to the small
historical town of Pirenopolis, at the base of the Serra Pirineus mountains,
where we spent a few hours exploring until dark. The next day we crossed
over the Serra dos Pirineus by a dirt road, explored until noon, and then
headed for Brasilia, stopping a bit along the way to explore some more. The
next few days were spent in Brasilia, mostly with friends, but I did do a
bit of CP hunting in the Distrito Federal too.

       From Brasilia we headed SE to Unai, Minas Gerais state, and then
veered NE, passing through Garapuava and Arinos to the Grande Sertao Veredas
National Park on the NW border between Minas GErais and Bahia states.
Several interesting CP stops on this day. We spent 2 nights at a small town
called Chapada Gaucha, which was only reached after 90km of very bad dirt
roads. The park itself ended up being impossible to explore with my city
car. We got stuck twice in deep sand and gave up. Lots of blue and yellow
macaws, green parrots, toucans, and others in the region.

       Next, we drove back to Unai and then headed S to Paracatu, where we
turned NW to Cristalina, out of Minas Gerais and back into Goias. The
numerous stops along the way didn't leave us much time to explore around
Cristalina, so we did this early the following morning. From there we headed
NW to Luziania, turned SW and passed through several small towns (and a few
great veredas!) until Caldas Novas. There we gave up exploring some nice
mountains because it was a nature reserve where you could only go in with
guides (who weren't there) and even then, you could only hang around the
base of the mts., which was not interesting CP-wise.

       Turning around, we drove NW non stop to Mossamedes, a small town at
the base of the Serra Dourada, which like the Serra dos Pirineus had been
explored by the famous french botanist Auguste de Saint Hilaire early last
century (the latter is the type location for his D.hirtella var.hirtella and
var.lutescens). We spent the following morning exploring these mountains and
then drove W over the mts, through the lovely historical town of Goias, to
Jussara, where we turned S.

       That night was spent at Ipora and then we continued S over the Serra
do Caiapo mts to the city of Rio Verde, where we headed west to Mineiros,
near the SW border of Goias with Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul states.
That day was one of the best CP-wise. Tons of stuff along the way. Yet the
best was a close encounter we had with a giant anteater. I've seen many
before in cerrado areas, but had never found one that was so "tame". Usually
they run away as soon as they smell you (they can't see or hear too well).
Although they don't run very fast, it's hard to keep up for very long,
running through thick grasses, leaping over red termite mounds, and ducking
under short twisted trees.

       Anyways, this "tame" giant anteater we bumped into near the city of
Jatai while exploring a hill covered in CPs. It didn't mind us and just kept
on feeding! After a while it simply began walking away calmly, allowing us
lots of cool pictures. So we didn't run out of air running after this guy,
but unfortunately both my friend and did run out of film too fast!

       We spent several days in the city of Mineiros, exploring all around.
THe main attraction there is teh nearby Emas National Park. This is one of
the best places to see wildlife in Brazil -- but only if you're in a pickup
truck or higher, to see over the grasses. In my simple city car, we could
only spot animals in sections of the park that had been recently burned and
thus cleared of the grasses which can reach around 3m in height. Plus, I had
to keep my eyes on the dirt roads and couldn't help my friend much in the
search for all the well-camouflaged animals. I was also frustrated that most
of the park is now closed for visitation, so we could only drive around 4
"circuits" varying between 13 and 60km each.

      Inside the park we only saw a few deer, 2-3 giant anteaters, several
seriemas (a large road-runner-like bird) and a few emas (Rhea americana, the
S.American ostrich). But outside the park we saw TONS of emas!! We'd already
seen a few while driving through Goias and M.GErais, but around the Emas
National Park are the HUGEST plantations I've ever seen, corn and soybeans
to the horizon. The emas spend the day outside the park in the plantations,
where it's real easy to spot them. The first day, I actually tried counting
how many we saw, and I arrived at nearly 100!!

      Anyways, we explored several great CP sites in and outside the park
for 2 days. We would've returned to S.Paulo next if we hadn't run into some
car trouble. Too many dirt roads had had their toll on the poor machine. We
needed a new tyre, needed to fix a hole in the fuel tank, etc. The night
before we were to leave, while talking to the 2 mechanic brothers who were
fixing the fuel tank, one thing led to another...

      One of teh guy's kids showed up and began talking. They found out I
was a botanist. They wanted to take me to school for show-and-tell, excited
at having met "a real scientist!" Somehow we got to their phone card
collection. I became interested in the waterfall cards. Then there was one
of a really nice tepuy-like hill with smooth cliffs. They told me it was not
too far away. Out of nowhere, catching me completely by surprise, the uncle
mechanic suddenly uttered music to my ears as he claimed that on top of this
hill he had seen CARNIVOROUS PLANTS!

      Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've heard this story before. At first I was taken
by surprise, because he'd said the magic words first, without even knowing I
was into CPs (I think he must've been mind-reading!). But the truth is that
tons of people come up to me all the time with the same story and it's
always Aristolochia sp. or something else. I'm used to it by now. So I asked
him what it looked like and how he knew it was a CP. To my total disbelief,
he described a red rosette of sticky leaves around 8cm in diameter which
he'd observed catching small insects!

      No it wasn't the diameter of the plant that shocked me (I was sure he
was exaggerating), but the fact that a very poor, dirty, toothless,
illiterate, unschooled guy who surely had a very tough life living in the
middle of nowhere, had actually stopped to observe and study local
vegetation so well and been able to realise what was before him. Needless to
say, I was all over him with more questions! I immediately decided to stay
one day longer in Mineiros and convinced the guy to take my friend and I the
following day to this tepuy-like hill which he told me was called Pedra

      Wow, were we in for a surprise! Actually, several! Only around 50km NW
from Mineiros, we descended from the plateau we were on. Looking back, it
was one huge escarpment all along the horizon. And several "detached" pieces
formed a tepuy-littered scenery which was really spectacular! High vertical
walls glistening in the morning light with dripping with water. Even before
we climbed the small one called Pedra Aparada, we found some AMAZING CPs
growing over smooth wet rock surfaces.

      So what were they? What was the huge Drosera that was said to grow
there? OK, it wasn't as big as the guy had described -- but I nonetheless
found the largest Drosera rosettes I'd ever seen in Brazil!! It was surely
one hell of a fantastic day to wrap up that wonderful trip!

           Stay tuned for the tales of the CPs found, next.....

Best Wishes,

Fernando Rivadavia
Sao Paulo, Brazil

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