Diary/Photo Journal

Week June 08 - June 14, 2014

After a long week in Brasil, we were reminded that the maps do not necessarily reflect the actual roads that exist at any given time.  Roads marked as secondary or unimproved were barely more than trails carved out by vehicles and roads said to be paved were, well, let's just say someone saved some money on the asphalt part!  Nonetheless, we jostled our way through and around the State of Piaui and I especially was taken aback by the substantial part of Brasil that is semi-arid and anything but tropical.

Travel through the State of Piaui in
northeastern Brasil, a semi-arid state
and quite a trek on something that
resembled roads

The main road between two cities was one
dust storm after another.

Some interesting crossings

The bridge to nowhere or hey, what am I
supposed to do with this?

Got to see a little wildlife

Traveling through this state reminded me of driving around Arizona, Utah and Colorado, just with a bit more bushes and a little less cactus.  Massive rock formations, mesas and ridges punctuate the landscape and take your breath away.  For days we drove through an around these landmarks while stopping at a few of the unique points of interest along the way. 

A watering hole in the middle of nowhere on
the main road between cities

A sprint horse race track in the countryside

Typical little town dotting the landscape

Absolutely nothing open but for this little panificadora
We tried just about everything you see...yum!.

Beautiful landscape

Ahhh, nice way to end the day - the dust kicked up by the vehicles looks like fog...
but no moisture here

One such place was Fervadouro ("boiling water").  Fervadouro is an artesian well that has bubbled up through a pit of sand and when you walk out into the sandy pool of water, you immediately sink several feet (Gerson sank down to his shoulders).  However, almost as quickly, with feeling nothing but water under your feet, you are held in place and even lifted somewhat as the force of the upward thrusting water keeps  you "afloat" in the sand.  Although there are several of such pools in this region, this phenomenon is very rare and not many others exist in the world.

After hundreds of kilometers of dirt/rock/eroded
roads, we were looking forward to the asphalt
road...that was, until we saw that the road was
actually potholes surrounded by asphalt

Something out of the southwest? 

Gerson being held up in the
quicksand by an artesian well

A walk in the countryside

Landscape in the semi-arid

Local traffic

We had quite a bit of driving to do because parts of the state we wanted to visit were not as accessible as we would have liked and therefore, we found ourselves making a few detours and losing many hours of daylight.  Nonetheless, we got to enjoy the landscape and see Brasil from a different perspective.  It also allowed me the opportunity to see what I thought was a singular owl in the daytime, when in fact, upon viewing my photos on my computer, was actually a pair of owls in their burrow staring back at me while I was taking a picture of them.  What a surprise that was!

One of my most surprising pictures ever -
I thought I was fortunate to see one owl,
and then when I saw the picture, I had four eyes
looking back at me!  Mr. and Mrs. in their burrow.

Local hawk - Gaviao

Striking cardinal-like bird

Bones from 10,000 years ago

Nacional Parque
Serra da Capivara

Cave paintings from
25,000+ years ago

Many paintings of dancing,
celebrating, having sex,
hunting and helping each other

We did make it to our goal and that was the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Parque Nacional Serra da Capivara near the city of Sao Raimundo Nonato in the State of Piaui.  This national park is a gem in Brasil and still being excavated and treasures being discovered.  Established in 1979 (named a World Heritage site in 1991), this park covers approximately 319,000 acres and was created to protect the largest concentration of prehistoric sites in the Americas.

These Moco's (rodents) showed up everywhere
The second picture has a baby nursing

Some interesting rock formations

Do you see the face in the rock?

Gerson standing tall alongside
of the roots from a tree above

Water erosion between two
large rock formations

The park contains thousands of artifacts and paintings and much of the artwork dates back over 25,000 years. If you know your anthropological history, it has been widely thought that humans crossed over the Bering Strait (when the ocean was much lower than it is now) and populated the Americas from the north to the south (referred to as the Clovis First Theory).  This immigration was thought to have started about 13,000-15,000 BCE and most of the evidence that led to this conclusion was located in North America.

When the Serra da Capivara area exposed fossils and cave paintings that dated back to 25,000 BCE (and some scientists state there is artwork that dates back to 36,000 BCE), well, you can imagine the controversy that erupted.  Even if these dates are approximate, the park contains the evidence to challenge the fundamental traditional theories of the origins of humans in the Americas.

Thousands of incredible cave
paintings to be in awe of

Our guide (required) Helio
explaining some of the paintings

The last picture may depict a
saber toothed cat

Large termite nest
Look closely and you can see the lighter
colored stripe that runs the length of the
tree - that is the tube that the termites
make to transport their community

Impressive walls formed by a river
thousands of years ago

With the continuation of excavations of the area and the improvement in scientific dating of the artifacts and paintings, the park is redefining the history of South America and more specifically, that it was not necessarily colonized from the north.  A strong working theory is that when the ocean was much lower than it is now (estimated 140 meters or 459 feet lower), many islands were visible in the Atlantic Ocean and these landmasses were accessed by the nomadic people of "Africa".  It is thought that over thousands of years, these people went directly across the Atlantic and as the fossils, artifacts and paintings are substantially found in Northeastern regions of Brasil, it is thought that the people entered South America via this area.

Nothing like crawling under large
rock formations to access the caves

The amount of paintings was almost
overwhelming, but so amazing

Gaining access to the caves
was half the fun

Going under a huge rock wall to gain
access to a small slot canyon with caves
and paintings

At lunch, we fed a very young mother cat
a bit of chicken and she quickly scampered
up a tree, jumped onto a roof and vanished into the peak.  a quick look around revealed what she had hidden in the rafters.

The Serra da Capivara National Park contains thousands of cave paintings (and who knows how many more will be excavated in the future) and show that the area was more tropical than the semi-arid climate in place for the past thousands of years.  There are paintings of animals that include horses, giant sloths, camelids, caymans, llamas, jaguars, deer, armadillos, lizards, tapirs, giant rheas (ostrich-like bird), etc, along with paintings of hunting, childbirth, dancing, sex, playing and fighting

Spectacular views and landscape
only accentuated the beauty of
the cave paintings

I know my memory of the first time
I drew the sun it looked a lot like
the last picture...seems that the sun
and our interpretation of it have not changed much in 25,000+ years

Did I mention the views!

And the paintings!

And the fun access challenges!

Looks like a celebration of sorts.

We spent all day in the company of a required guide (Helio) and climbed in and out of many incredible sites.  There were massive wall faces covered in hundreds of paintings and as many of these walls were along an ancient river, the sediment that we were standing upon probably hid many more feet of wall paintings.  Most of the sites were difficult to access and necessitated our walking up very narrow trails that wound around boulders and along cliffs and even a few crawls under rock walls to get to the other side. 

There were a couple of anticipated sites, one being "The First Kiss of the Americas".  The cave painting is thought to be around 23,000 years old and if that date holds true, the painting is the first "kiss" depicted in art in the Americas.  We could not resist having a bit of fun with the artwork and recreating the scene.

It is thought that the first painting is of
parents playing with their child

Walking along the ancient riverbed

Partially excavated "home"

Yet another cave

"The First Kiss of the Americas"
This painting is said to be over 25,000 years
old and makes it the first documented kiss
of the Americas

And we in the Americas are still kissing

Another remarkable site was Pedra Furada (Pierced Stone or Drilled Stone) and is a large hole or arch in a huge wall of rock.  We viewed this natural phenomenon from across a breathtaking valley and then drove around to stand right alongside of the beautiful formation. 

We also walked along fingers of rock that stood hundreds of feet above the valley floor and were only 15-30' wide and climbed down rock faces 30-40' to gain access to the amazing formations and paintings. 

Several similar pictures but each
so spectacular, that I wanted them
all included.

Hole in the rock called "Pedra Furada"

Look closely at the overviews for
the Pedra Furada

Having a bit of fun at the Pedra Furada's

The rock sheer walls were intimidating

Walking along a spit of rock over a
hundred feet above the ground

We spent over eight hours in the park and would need many more days in order to see the entire park.  The amazing thing is that this park is not readily visited by Brazilians!  Fortunately, an airport is being built ( in Brasil, you believe it when you see it finished) and the airport will provide easier access to the small towns that depend on the tourist traffic to the park and ultimately, easier access to the park. 

If further dating and testing substantiates that a migration into the Americas occurred from areas other than through the Bering Strait, then this park and this area will be of significant importance to our understanding of the evolution of humans in the Americas

Cave paintings added to several thousand years ago

More partying!

And, yet another interesting access seeing as we
had to climb down the face of this rock with just
the use of our hands, feet and confidence

What a day!

Leaving a town and driving through a
makeshift community that just build on other
people's property or the government's
property and are very difficult to move.

Not to feel too sorry for these people, as
you can see, there is a satellite dish in the
mix and they do not pay for any utilities
that they often tap into or just redirect.

Leaving the State of Piaui, we finally got clear of the challenging roads and made our way into Juazeiro (Jew-a-zay-row), Ceara,  wherein I got a taste of what the World Cup and futebol really means to Brazilians.  Every street, every building, heck, even the sidewalks and light poles were decorated in green, yellow and blue.  All types of vehicles were adorned with variations of the Brazilian flag and people were proudly wearing the country's colors.  Within minutes of arriving at our hotel, I  was 'forcibly' removed from our hotel room by Gerson so we could get to a nearby restaurant/bar in time to watch the World Cup opening match with Brasil vs. Croatia. 

Getting ready for the World Cup
entire towns/cities got into the spirit

Neymar has a lot on his shoulders
but did not disappoint


Gerson and his BFF, Presidenta Dilma Roussef
celebrate a goal the same way


Fortunately for the entire country, Brasil won the game (2-1) and you could feel the sigh of relief by millions of people. 

The stop here was just to make sure we had a place to watch the opening game so we headed out early the next day for a long drive to our next important stop, Praia da Pipa, just south of Natal where the USA was to play their first World Cup match against Ghana.

We have definitely left
the semi-arid country
and heading to the coast

A torrential downpour and
quite the street flooding

Rain or shine,
soccer is played

Natal is famous for its sand dunes and
the World Cup stadium was called
Arena das Dunas

We just happened to drive past the buses
carrying team USA (missed the photo) and then Mexico

Getting our tickets and making friends
The World Cup mascot - Armadillo (Tatu)

We arrived at our wonderful little Posada Aconchego on Friday night and just in time to watch more World Cup games.  The next day, we headed into Natal (about 1 1/2 hours north) and dodging the end of torrential rains, we found the FIFA outlet that was distributing the game passes and came away with our golden tickets. 

While we were driving around, looking for a per pessoa buffet lunch (popular lunch establishments), we were slowed by a large police escort contingent on the other side of the boulevard and before we knew it (and before I could get my camera out), the bus carrying Team USA passed by.  Being better prepared, a few minutes later and coming from a different direction, we saw the Team Mexico bus pass by and snapped a photo.  It was fun to watch several cars stop and people jump out and wave their Mexican flags in support of the team. 

Although the local news reported that the second highest number of fans here in Brasil are from the United States (almost 200,000 tickets purchased by Americans), it would not be hard to believe that the third largest number are from Mexico. 

Let the Beautiful Games begin!

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