..................................................................................................... matsuyama hostel matsuyama guesthouse matsuyama backpackers Dogo Onsen hotel shikoku hostel .........................................................................................


Some three or four centuries ago, the Atlantic rain forest stretched in a wide swath from the headwaters of La Plata to the Orinoco and from the mouth of the Amazon to the Andes. Now it's just a few small islands, a patch of green - all of Brazil, which occupies most of South America's Atlantic coast, is either savannah or plantations of bananas, rubber-bearing geweas, cocoa beans, and anything else that's edible; the rain forest can only be seen in a few small nature reserves. One of them is part of a large-scale joint project between Michelin and the Brazilian government, Ouro Verde Bahia (Bahia's Green Gold). About a third of 10,000 hectares of Ouro Verde is occupied by the biosphere reserve itself, officially established in 2004 (the rest are 'working' gewea plantations, 'baby gardens' and 'nurseries' of the same gewea, experimental plantations of microbiologists Michelin working here to combat the terrible enemy of gewea - fungus Microcyclus uley).

The reserve begins at the headwaters of the small Cachoeira Grandi river, whose quiet course is interrupted by the spectacular Pancada Grandi waterfall a couple of dozen kilometers from the coast, and descends to the ocean. Three thousand hectares is still not much, but 10 years ago of the rain forest in these parts was only a few hundred hectares (and in general since the 16th century, the rain forest area in Brazil has decreased by about 20 times). It is gradually planted, or rather, allowed to spread freely, buying up abandoned and unnecessary plots from the peasants.

We approach the forest on a recent clearcut. It's still sunny here, though the forest is already coming into its own. Hidden deep in the grasses are small but very fragrant irises, and often there are small, three-meter tall, Siagrus palms (a pencil-sized dwarf variety of this species is said to grow in Paraguay). The forest ahead seems to stand as a dense green elastic wall. How to enter it without a machete? In these curso de ilustración digital em EBAC, almost every villager walks with one; however, our guide leads us along a well-trodden path.

The last rain came a few days before we arrived, but it's still damp under the rain forest canopy. It squelches underfoot; the moisture glistens in large drops on the leaves of small parasitic plants that cover the trunks of large trees, on the lianas that hang from somewhere from the upper "floors" of the forest. All the time it is half-dark, hot, and the air is so humid it seems one could drink it. It is not easy to set up the camera: all around is solid green; even the bark is either greenish, or so covered with epiphytes at eye level that it seems green. I walk, all the time slipping on the almost bare ground in high rubber boots, and I eagerly look out for some kind of critter. For example, there are spider monkeys (Brachyteles arachnoides, the largest in the Americas), hardly a hundred of them left in the giant state of Bahia. According to our guide-guide, it's not just the monkeys that like it here - each year there are more and more inhabitants of the reserve, as if the animals have some sort of mysterious telegraph working: "Move here, it's safe!"

By the way, in most tropical areas of South America, there is now no more prestigious (and well-paid) job than a nature guide. They are especially in demand in the rain forests, where it is difficult for an untrained person to see wild animals without the help of a professional. Our guide, however, was not a local - American ecologist Kevin Flescher, who has lived here for 15 years and is in love with the area. Dr. Flescher is the head of biodiversity research for the Ouro Verde project and also studies the big mammals in the reserve - wild pigs, tapirs, cougars, etc. But it's not easy to see anything with his help, either. Up there, a little to the side, shrill cries can be heard - these are the cries of monkeys, they must have spotted a predator. What kind of predator? "Probably a cougar. Colleagues told me that a couple had appeared here recently. I saw the tracks myself. That's very good, which means the forest is healthy," says the guide. I think it's time to bring my gun," he says, thinking after a while. Just in case.

In the bushes a dozen meters away from me in the direction of my travel, someone suddenly hissed cautiously, and the sound began to recede quickly. "Peccaries (forest pigs)," Kevin informs me. We have to take his word for it. And there's a slightly frayed dark bag hanging from a tree - a termite tree. Our guide assures us that, judging by the tracks, there was an anteater here recently, but it's gone now. Near a boulder there are traces of a camp of local hunters - they, to all appearances, were waiting for a porcupine. Maybe they waited for it - but not us.

The trail skirts a funny tree - there are almost no leaves, the trunk is covered with large thorns. What is it doing here, in the dark? It's a seiba (Ceiba pentandra). When it emerges into the light, it grows to the height of a human being, and then it drops its leaves and stops growing. So it stands for a year, or two, or twenty - as long as it takes.