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Day 41: Cardeal Mota, Serra do Cipó National Park

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'We don't know how to travel.' José politely dismisses any suggestion of ever leaving his farm.
Michael Palin - BrazilSteady rain in the night and, around four o'clock, something more sinister. It sounds as if someone in a nearby room is packing. Things roll around and there is a noise of crunching and crackling as if something is being wrapped and unwrapped. But as my mind slowly focuses I realize that it's not coming through the walls at all. It's coming from above me. Someone or something is moving about overhead.

I'm relieved to hear at breakfast that I'm not the only one who heard noises in the night. Roberto the proprietor is initially sceptical, but eventually comes clean and admits that what we probably heard was a skunk, driven indoors by the wet weather. Becca, our location manager, says that her sister had two of them in her flat in Rio. They had to be removed by masked firemen. All I can think of, as I look out of the window at the solid sheet of rain, is that my visitor may be joined by a few friends tonight.

Ironically, we are off to see someone whose home in the nearby mountains was recently close to being destroyed by a massive forest fire. Today, slipping and sliding along an ochre mud track to her house, with ash-strewn soil and the blackened stumps of trees glimpsed through the mist, the Brazilian mountain landscape resembles a First World War battlefield.

Felicity 'Flick' Taylor is a New Zealander who lives in the forest up near Morro do Pilar. Once married to a Brazilian whom she met as an exchange student, and by whom she had two children, she returned home to New Zealand when the marriage ended. When her parents died fourteen years ago she felt drawn back to Brazil. She bought a house deep in the National Park and filled it full of her parents' furniture. Considering the rain and the cold, she welcomes us in most cheerfully. But then she had been up since dawn listening to New Zealand's 7-6 victory over France in the final of the rugby World Cup.

The forest fire that had so recently threatened her spectacularly situated house sounded horrific. It had burnt on and off for the best part of a week, practically dying away at night then surging up again in the heat and dryness of the day. She tried to keep it at bay with her garden hose but on the fourth day firemen arrived to escort her from the house. Flick had other ideas.

'I told them I'm not leaving, and neither are you guys!'

That night she put up the fire-fighters in her house and next day, though the flames advanced to within twenty metres of her back window, they at last put them out.

If the house had surrendered to the fire it would have been a terrible loss, because not only is it in a fine location but it also contains all sorts of good furniture and an eclectic collection of glass and ceramics. The architecture is based on the traditional ranchinho – the 'little ranch' style of the early pioneers, the bandeirantes, who rode their mules out to these mountains in search of diamonds.
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'We don't know how to travel.' José politely dismisses any suggestion of ever leaving his farm.
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  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 41: Cardeal Mota, Serra do Cipó National Park
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Cardeal Mota
  • Book page no: 173

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