Cadeia do Espinhaço
Jacobina and the Neighbourhood
“Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” Franz Kafka.
Welcome to a new chapter of our journey to the Cadeia do Espinhaço, the fabulous and diversified chain of mountains where wilderness still reigns in large portions and history melts with present in surprisingly ways. In my wanderings on the Caatinga and Cerrado I often have the impression that the clock has stopped and I am transported to a distant past. A comforting sensation of déjà vu.
The northwest of Bahia remains a jewel however battered by the extremes of the climate and overlooked by all level of authorities. In 2014 I visited new extraordinary habitats and met wonderful folks, all struggling to survive in places that offer no jobs and where land and climate (severe drought) are permanent challenges. The Illegal deforestation of the Cerrado, dehydrating the soil irreversibly, continues unpunished. Sadly, my remark of years ago stands valid: “Monoculture, fire and other harmful factors are destroying these biomes forever. Undoubtedly, this will result in climate change and loss of species. What was once the habitat of diversified forms of life is now at risk of becoming a desert.” How will we feed our population in the future? Globally speaking, the question is more preoccupying. See here.
If you are an enthusiast of bromeliads, orchids and cacti you must visit the area. It also offers fantastic opportunities of adventure in the heart of nature: spectacular landscape, rich fauna, waterfalls, nice people and rich cuisine.
The fauna and flora of Bahia is in decadence. Biodiversity is lost at an alarming rate. In 2014 alone the Brazilian savannah lost 6.000 km2 to criminal fires, greed, incompetence and impunity.
The record drought of 2015 hurt very badly the poorest states of Brazil´s Northeast. I visited habitats of superb flora and landscape where Bromeliaceae thrives spectacularly in spite of the adverse conditions. But resilience has a limit right? I saw Aechmea multiflora, Ae. patentissima; Billbergia porteana; Encholirium brachypodum, En. spectabile; Hohenbergia catingae (green and red form); Neoglaziovia variegata; Orthophytum catingae, O. maracasense, O. saxicola and two unidentified Orhtophytum species (new?); Tillandsia retrorsa, stricta…
Inexplicably, the leisure industry despises the extraordinary potential of the region and the inhabitants suffer the consequences of unemployment and lack of public investment in basic infrastructure. If you plan a visit, the accommodations offered in larger cities such as Jacobina are perfectly acceptable with the advantages of the sporadic tourists. In some places I am received with a sentiment of surprise. Once a local small farmed which was serving as my guide asked why had I come to his small village. Upon learning that I had travelled from Rio de Janeiro in search of Orthophytum naviodes (showed him a photo) he couldn´t contain his surprise: “And you came this far just for a wild plant?”
Life is short. Happy New Year!
Oscar, Dec. 2015
Note: Photos by Oscar Ribeiro