terça-feira, 19 de abril de 2011

Day 4 - Vale da Castanheira

On this day we went for the first time to the hardest point of the whole Deserta Grande: Vale da Castanheira, the lair of the fabulous spider, Hogna ingens, which only inhabits this secluded valley. Of course that we needed to start this walk by the Vereda, and there we went, with the help of Clemente and Manuel José, who gladly helped us to carry material for pitfall trapping. After the Vereda, we headed for Risco, which is a path in the East side of the top of Deserta Grande. In this point you have some places where you have only few tens of centimetres to put your feet, and if you miss those centimetres, you have absolutely no chance of another try. If you suffer from height sickness, you shouldn’t walk in places like Risco and if you don’t, go slow anyway! There is quite an impressive point in Risco, in which you can easily look to the west side of the island from a totally vertical wall, I must confess that I only had a brief peek from it… Another point of interest in this long walk through the top of the island was the passage through the highest point in the island, the Rocha do Barbusano, with 479 mt; by this time we were reaching lunch time but just a bit more through Pedregal with some points full of lava bombs (later I got to know that these are not lava bombs strictly speaking but some kind of boring geological thing like spheroidal disjunction, according to Pardal, but I will continue to use “lava bombs” to designate these so-cool formations), there we were just about to get to the Valley. Nothing like a 8 km hike through cliffs and mountain tops to open the apetite!

After reaching the Valley, Clemente and Manuel José went back to Doca, and I, Pedro and Isamberto started the Hogna ingens assignement, which consisted on a transect starting from the house located in the southmost part of the valley (I should call this house Hotel Castanheira from now on) following the west side of the valley to the northern most point turning back from the eastern side of the valley. Presently, the spider is aggregated in the northern most point of the Valley, and this is due to the invasion of the valley by the herb Phallaris aquatica, which covers the ground around the rocks and obstructs the spider’s hideouts. In the central area of the Valley, you can barely see H. ingens. By the end of the afternoon, with only about half of the transect done, time to return to Hotel Castanheira. This piece was quite hard for me, since I just added 5,5 km to the 8 km done in the morning, and because I don’t reach even close to the mountain goats Isamberto and Pedro (in the good sense, of course), I achieved the needed rest many minutes after them.

The confort in Hotel Castanheira is scarse or non-existant, depending on the quality of your sleeping bag and mattress, plus at night many “cagarros” (Calonectris diomedea borealis) started to fly about the Valley, doing their distinctive call, that also didn’t contributed to get some sleep. But because you don’t walk in Risco at night, this was not a preference, it was a need!

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