In our wandering around the Paribanian Sertao we discovered another small wonder of this apparently arid land, actually? great dispenser of pleasant surprises.
The Picu region? offers the traveler various attractions both from a naturalistic and historical point of view. Abandoned mines to explore (always with the help of a guide), open-cast quartz mines still in operation where the Garimpeiros (Brazilian miners) work to extract crystal and archaeological sites with engravings and rock paintings dating back thousands of years or are.
Our companion, a man of great competence, former garimpeiro and a great connoisseur of the region, nature and history? state Edson Calado of which we leave the FB profile for those wishing to contact him.
https://www.facebook.com/edson.calado.92 (rigorosamente in Portoghese)
PICUI 'THE LAND OF THE TURMALINE
Picu? ? just an insignificant dot in the map of Paraiba, a small and sleepy town located in the middle of the Pariban Sertao, nothing would suggest that such a place? lost may have some reason of tourist interest, but the beauty of Paraiba? just the unpredictability? and the surprises that its places sometimes offer. It happens so? to run into places like this, to me? happened by pure chance crossing the region to go from Campina Grande, second city? of Paraiba in importance, in Natal, capital of Rio Grande do Norte. The trip required a stop to sleep and the only possible option within a radius of 100 km. was it really Picu ?; cos? I found a very simple but clean pousada to spend the night and a small restaurant that proudly sported the sign on the street with the words "a melhor carne do sol do Brasil".
I sat down at the table and a young waiter approached me. almost timidly to take the order. I asked what was special about their carne do sol (it is good to explain that it is a beef that is exhibited in damp rooms to dry slowly), the gar? On mi guard? with a note of disappointment and swallowing saliva, still intimidated by my gringo appearance, he replied that Picu? ? famous for the meat festival held every year and the restaurant? renowned throughout the region. I ordered a portion of meat instantly and the boy rushed over. smiling towards the kitchen, opening the saloon door with all his might. Once the ice melted, did the waiter stop? chatting telling me that in the city? there is a guide who knows the routes of the region and could also accompany me inside the old mines of tourmaline now in disuse, he gave me the guide's phone, I paid the bill and went to sleep.
The next day, after making the necessary phone calls, I was on Edson's pickup truck ready to explore the Sertao and its secret wonders. Did I spend two days with Edson who accompanied me? along the paths of the sertaneja region where you always have the feeling of being the only human beings on earth, to make this mood of solitude vanish from time to time a small house appears with its white conical tank where the rainwater during the few rainy days of the year. Precious element is the water in the Sertao, the water that is missing for months and when it appears it transforms the desert into a flower garden in a few moments, this? one of the wonders that nature, so harsh but so? phenomenal, he manages to dispense with so much wisdom.
Picu? ? entered in the chronicles thanks to the discovery of a vein of tourmaline, a hard stone that in this region takes on characteristics of extraordinary color and purity, so as to transform it into one of the most? existing prizes, with exceptional valuations on international markets. The paraiba tourmaline mines are located on top of a plateau overlooking the city? and? It is possible to visit a short stretch of it, Edson has worked for years in the mines so for him there are no secrets here and then he starts to tell his experience of Garimpeiro (miner) and shows me every little vein of hard stone of the mine, tourmaline not if he finds more, he tells me, but there are large open-cast quartz mines and he offers to take me to visit them the next day together with the natural reserve of Olho D? gua das On? as, a protected area of local flora and to the archaeological site of Cachoeira do Pedro where there are a series of prehistoric bas-reliefs carved in the rocks of a canyon.
Access to the canyon of the cachoeira (waterfall) do Pedro is through the property. by Dona Adriana, a friendly lady who welcomes us with a smile offering us a glass of water, the house where you live? built with wood and dried mud and in the courtyard some dogs run around playing chasing each other. From the house a rocky slab extends downhill towards a point where the arid Sertao gives way to a dense scrub of Caatinga, the typical vegetation of the Sertao, we guess that in that point there must be water and in fact we arrive, after a few dozen minutes, to the bed of a river, now dry, but which, as Edson explains, during the short rainy season fills with water and forms some pools right where we are. We follow Edson as he begins to climb the rocks through a crack that gradually becomes more and more. narrow and shortly after we arrive at the mouth of the canyon. Edson stops and calls us to show us something,? only when we get close to him that we notice that the rocks that surround us are covered with engravings, geometric designs and other seemingly meaningless symbols. Edson explains that they are the testimony left by the ancient inhabitants of the region ancestors of the tribe? dei Carir ?, an indigenous group now extinct. The perplexing thing? that engravings are definitely a form of communication, a sort of written text and? I notice that no trib? native of Brazil had developed writing or in any case a communicative form, albeit primitive. Anyway the place? wonderful and surrounded by an aura of mystery and mysticism in fact, as Edson says, it was probably a sacred place where religious and perhaps funeral ceremonies were held.
Let's go back to the car to continue our tour itinerary, next stop the abandoned turmaline mines that are located on top of the hills south of the city. With the car we face a dirt road that climbs with wide bends for about twenty km until we reach a wooden gate that marks the entrance to a property, we enter and Edson makes us stop in an open space, from here we continue to feet, he tells us. We take a path that goes into the caatinga among a riot of succulents and more, Bromelie, Mandacar ?, Umbuzeiros and Pau d'Arco, are just some of the plants we meet on our path. We arrive, after about twenty minutes, in a panoramic point from which you can? see the city? and the valley below, a small church with white walls marks the most? high of the region, inside the church? decorated with dozens of ex-votos left by the faithful who go here every month on pilgrimage.
Past the church do we enter another property? fenced and we arrive at a brick building that was probably a deposit of equipment beside which there is a completely rusty and disused winch fixed to the edge of a large crack in the ground. We need to get off there, Edson says, grabbing the rope attached to the winch and leaning over the crack. Do we see him descend into the semi-darkness? up to not distinguish more? his figure and suddenly reappears illuminated by the light of a torch, the well? only about ten meters deep and the descent is not? vertical but gentle following the profile of some large boulders that form a sort of natural staircase. We go down too and we reach our guide up to the base of the crack, when we arrive Edson directs the beam of light of the torch towards a tunnel that goes down into the bowels of the earth and begins to walk along it explaining that he worked there? for years, when the turmaline vein was still active and shows us some crystal residues still present in the rock. Walking in that abandoned place with Edson's stories makes us relive his experience of garimpeiro and the difficulties? and the dangers that could entail that hard and tiring life, it's just us and the living rock thirty meters underground, for a moment a shiver runs through our backs, but then we have to thank Edson for the fantastic experience.
Yes ? made the time to go back before it gets dark, we retrace the path and return to Picu? for a nice refreshing shower and dinner in a small restaurant in the center.
Today we will go to another archaeological site located in the middle of the caatinga. We drive along the main road south for a few km to enter a dirt road that leads us to a rocky plateau, from here we continue on foot along an uphill path between rocks and flowering bromeliad plants until we reach a large isolated rock that looks like a huge plate stuck at 45? in the ground, the visual effect? impressive and as we get closer it gets bigger and bigger. Arriving at the base of the rock, which was probably a prehistoric refuge, we see a sequence of red paintings on the wall. They are human and animal figures, a hunting scene of ancient inhabitants, when the Sertao was probably rich in water and vegetation.
Edson reminds us how, during the short rainy season, nature awakens and places like this, now parched and scorched by the scorching sun, are transformed into gardens of exotic plants with orchids and other tropical flowers blooming in every direction. But I think that the Sertao has a special charm especially in the dry period when you are surprised to see life anyway, there? where you would never expect it.
Shall we go back to Picu? to visit the open-cast quartz mines and the places where for years the inhabitants of the city? they extracted strategic minerals such as tantalum which has an infinity? of applications in the military sector, so much so that the American army, during World War II, transferred? in Picu? consultants to organize the work and exploitation of local mines. The "Casa de Pedra"? a bunker dug into the rock, a kind of cav?, where the extracted minerals were kept.
It ends like this? the last day of visiting Picu? and we cannot leave without having tasted again the legendary local carne de sol, of course together with our friend Edson, great guide and expert of the place.