This day was more of a sightseeing day. We started by piling into a couple cars along with Mark and Beth Wilson and driving to a small restaurant on the edge of Crato for breakfast. This outdoor eatery only serves breakfast, and it only serves one type of food. So when you go there they already know what you want to eat!
They serve caldo de carne, translated simply as “meat soup.” It had ground beef and vegetables and the broth was thickened with manioc root flour. On the side we had French-style rolls. Since we couldn’t really celebrate Jennifer’s birthday on Saturday, this was kind of like her birthday meal since she likes this.
After breakfast we dropped Jennifer off in town for some things that she had to do and then we drove over the mountains for over an hour to a nearby town called Santana do Cariri. Along the way we passed through the oldest untouched national park in Brazil- right here in the Northeast Brazil desert!
Along the way we got stopped by a roadside police checkpoint, and they looked at Uncle Jim’s credentials to verify that he owned the car and that he had a valid driver’s license. In Brasil they will stop people at random to make checks like that. I guess it was a treat for me because the Leonard’s rarely get stopped, and I’m only here for seven weeks and got to experience it. 🙂
As we came closer to our destination, we learned more about the area and how it was rich in fossils. The Cariri valley contains several rock quarries and the Araripe Geopark because of its rich rock structures and deposits.
The whole region here has layers and layers and layers of sedimentary rock, making it a good source for smooth tiles which are easily extracted for mercantile use. A geopark is an area that features many unique, natural geological sites. Among Araripe’s characteristics are a high cliffs that you can climb out onto, a fossilized forest, a host of other fossilized plants and animals, and even a small natural stone bridge.
Santana do Cariri is home to the Paleontology Museum, a small museum with many significant fossilized artifacts. It did not take us long to tour it, but it had many exciting fossils, so I came away with quite a few pictures. They had fossilized wood, small plants, bugs of all shapes and sizes, small fish, HUGE fish, and even a fish eating another fish as it died.
We had a tour guide, and in the first room, he showed us a small model of Santana and its surrounding hills and mountains. According to our guide, the high mountains around us were once the shoreline of the ocean, and the valley that we are in was the ocean floor!
Therefore, all this sedimentary rock was laid down by the ocean before it receded. Looking at the model in front of us with mountains that plateaued at the top and seemingly formed a shoreline, it was a pretty convincing theory if I didn’t already know better.
The next room had a few cases scattered around the perimeter, holding rocks that had fossils in them. They weren’t too impressive, but they were still neat to look at. The good stuff was still to be seen upstairs.
In the center of the room was a huge model dinosaur. According to Stephen, the guide said that the dinosaur had been constructed for a carnival somewhere else. When they were finished they moved it here to the museum. So much for it being some kind of artifact from the area.
Next stop was the upper level, and it was really neat. Local fossils were everywhere, lining the walls. Spiders, crickets, butterflies, fish, frogs, bones, plants…so many different things. Some of the sedimentary plates had fossils of aquatic plants and fish on the same layer, so they looked like a pictures of fish swimming in the water with plants.
been to other science museums before, but I don’t recall any that were specifically dedicated to local fossils, so it was a fun experience. It made me wish I could go find some and bring them home, but in Brazil it is now illegal to take them out of the country.
A few years ago, it was fine to take them somewhere else. In fact, the Leonard’s brought some fossils to Iowa and when they were at a conference at FBBC where Ken Ham was speaking, they told him they would like to donate them to the new Creation Museum that Answers in Genesis was building. If I recall correctly, they said that those fossils can be found in the cafe at the museum.
However, fossils are now property of Brazil, so any attempt to remove them from Brazil is illegal trafficking. If you try to take one of these souvenirs home, you’re a thief. Oh well…
It was shortly after 10am that we left the museum and headed up to a nearby mountain. At the top we dismounted from the car and hiked down a trail that actually led back down to the base of the mountain. The trip down was fun, but yeah, it was not easy.
At least the trail was well maintained. Climbing up and down large rocks was no easy feat, especially for anyone that was carrying backpacks and cameras, hahaha. It was only 300 meters down the mountain and back up, and it took us about 40 minutes to complete. But it was a good workout, considering it was 600 total meters at a steep incline.
Back up at the top, we went out to the edge of the mountain and took some pictures sitting and standing on the edge of the cliff. I like heights and all, but I don’t like falling from heights, so I made sure I didn’t fall or drop my camera. But yeah, we took some of the scariest pictures I’ve ever had in my life.
Aside from the scariness of all but jumping off the side of the mountain, the sight up there was beautiful. We could look down on Santana and the surrounding countryside. It was weird to imagine standing on the shore of the ocean right there, according to the theory given to us earlier.
But the truth of the matter is, even though the ocean did not come up to the edges of those mountains, the entire area was indeed completely covered in water a few thousand years ago. At one time, that point where I was standing was the bottom of the sea. Wow…
Seeing the fossils brought me to the end of the world, as I was reminded of God’s judgment and mercy on the earth, forming those fossils. Now standing on the edge of a mountain, it felt like I was literally at the end of the world…and if I fell off it would have also been the end of my world!
There is a restaurant at the top of the mountain, but since we didn’t order food when we first got there so it was ready when we were done, we would have had to wait around another 40 minutes to wait for it to be prepared. So instead we drove back down the mountain and drove halfway home, stopping at a churrascaria for lunch.
Mmmm…barbecued beef, chicken, and pork with rice, beans, fried macaxeira, lettuce, tomatoes, and cajuina. It was a typical Brazilian meal, and it was good. I had to be careful not to eat too much, and I was definitely satisfeito when we left.
Along the way back we made a couple more stops. We found an old quarry off to the side of the road where they used to cut tiles out of the rock. We could see how they simply cut squares down into the stone and then just peeled up the layers, resulting in flat, square tiles.
We looked around for fossils and brought back a few plates that had some small fossils in them. I also looked around on my own and found some lizards including a large tegu lizard that was probably about half a meter or so in length. Unfortunately it scurried away before I could get a picture of it.
The last place we stopped was a Catholic chapel right off the road that offered a great view of the Cariri valley. We got some pictures of the cities and some beautiful flowers that were growing on the property.
When we got back to the house, Stephen and I collapsed into our beds and took a nap after our exhausting morning. I also did my devotions in Acts 16 since I hadn’t done them yet earlier in the day. In the evening we went to the Cariri Shopping center with Danae, Sarah, Olivia, Jennifer, Neto, Joy, and Beth, and we met Pastor Renato and his family there.
We ate supper there and I had a Brazilian pastel (pronounced something like pasch-tel) for the first time. It’s basically like a big hot pocket filled with different things. Mine had meat and cheese, but for dessert several of us also shared one with cheese and guava jam.
Rest of the night we just walked around the mall, laughing at the prices of expensive clothes, avoiding the security guard who suspiciously eyed my camera and followed us for awhile, and trying some chocolate that Joy bought us. We also sat for awhile and just talked, enjoying each other’s company and laughing at some inside jokes that evolved during the day.
We eventually went back to Crato, talked a little, ate some bananas, and snuggled into our beds because we had yet another early morning approaching. Today’s hike was only priming me for the next day’s journey…