Saturday morning we left the hotel at 11am for Mateiros. My colleague Ramon, a Brazilian postdoc who is based in Sao Paulo, rented a 4 wheel-drive pickup. The day before we were told by some Baja race car drivers who were staying at the same hotel that the road we are going to take to Mateiros is terrible, the SUV we rent is not gonna hold up (they were heading to the same place) (and they were right..). That’s why Ramon went to trade our SUV with a monster pickup..At that time I started to have some idea about how adventurous our trip will be, but I was so off-set from the reality…
The first two hours we were on paved road, and we only passed two small towns. Starting from the third hour, we got into unpaved road with mixed sand and stones. It is so bumpy that I feel my organs are not placed in the correct position anymore. I had to remove my seat belt because the force it adds on my shoulder and belly left scratch marks on my skin, I’d rather free falling..When there’s big bump, the four of us will yield out “yeehaw”, synchronized.. I woke up at 3 am that morning because of the jet leg, but the road was bump enough to keep me from falling asleep– I had to hold the handle really tight all the time.
The landscape, however, is the most magnificent terrain I’ve ever seen! Most of it is virgin land, flat without an end, covered with grassland and some shrubs, or trees. We drove hours seeing no village or any other civilization sign, just Cerrado, only Cerrado, different types of Cerrado (savanna). Because it is the dry season here, we often see the land burned from fire, leaving black marks on everything. There is also smoke arising to the sky at faraway places.
Cerrado is on the edge of Amazon forest. It is the transition area from forest to dessert. Most times we only pay attention to rain forest and deforestation, however, the disappearing rate of Cerrado is more worrying nowadays. Farmers from other regions come to Tocantins and buy a huge piece of land for a very cheap price, clear out all the natural vegetation, convert it to plantations or cattle ranches. As a type of sensitive ecosystem, the impact can be devastating. Cerrado has rich species and a huge bio-dome, any threat might trigger some kind of degradation.
While most vegetation in Cerrado is a typical dry grass-tree mixture, time to time, we can spot some palm trees, forming sort of an oasis. Ramon explained to me that it is caused by the difference of micro-environment. To form the oasis, there must be either a river/stream, or underground water. We tested his theory to be true next day, which will be another story.
Ramon thought the 300 km will take us five hours and we should arrive Mateiros by 4pm. In the end, it took us 7.5 hrs. We left with bright sunshine, and arrived with stars shimmering in the sky. Trying to cheer up, we were being optimistic and pretending the city we’re heading to will have skyscrapers and bars with nice beer…despite everyone knows it’s a city in the middle of nowhere with a population of 1,788 in the year of 2008 (the sad truth is you can’t even find the latest census update online about this city). I still remember how excited everyone was when we finally spot some lights at the end of the road.
When finally arrived the hotel, we retrieved our luggage from the truck. Surprise! My blue suitcase was covered by the red dust even though the truck was sealed by a nice cover…It is not the worst..I found all my clothes are covered by red dust as well when I opened my suitcase, and I packed mostly white T-shirt…
Again, it is not the worst..”Ramon, when you rent the car, does the back look like missing one light?”..”No No No…It has both lights on”…That’s when all of us burst into laughter..The road is so bumpy that we didn’t even realize we lost one light!