Roraima and Geology

Roraima, Brazil’s northernmost state, sharing borders with Venezuela and Guyana has a varied landscapes consisting of mountains, savannas and forests.

Its inhabitants include people who have corn from all over the country to join the natives in the building of a land of increasing opportunities, which now begin to attract the attention of tourists.

Roraima’s geological formations have inspired artists and aroused the curiosity of archeologists. In 1912, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the English creator of Sherlock Holmes, published his novel The Lost World, about a world teeming with prehistoric animals and hostile tribes. He drew inspiration from the reports of the explorer Everard 1mm Thurn, who, in 1887, was the first to climb Mount Roraima. Part of one of the oldest mountain formations on earth, whose age is estimated at two billion years, Mount Roraima is a vast plateau or mesa-tepui, as the Indians call it.
The highest peaks rise approximately 3,000 meters and the surrounding landscape consist of lavrados (similar to Africa’s savannas) cut by rivers and dotted with waterfalls. The flora is particularly rich—there are 400 species of bromelias alone and 2 thousand species of flowers and ferns. The Roraima Mount National Park, created in 1989, covers approximately 287 thousand acres. Within it, a marker points to where the boundaries of Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana meet.
The hike is worthwhile because of views and sights, but climbing should be left to experts. Temperatures may drop as low as 5. C, as winds may reach 100 kilometers an hour. Roraima Mt’s eastern face, on the Brazilian side, is the most difficult for climbers. Halfway up, on a plateau known as Vale dos Cristais, small pointed sculptures are seen. The top is a 40 square km sandstone mesa littered with blocks as high as 30 meters and riddled with crevices and chasms.

Pedra Pintada, the ‘painted rock’, in the Pacaraima municipality, also north of Boa Vista, the capital, poses a challenge to experts skilled in deciphering hieroglyphs and rupestrian inscriptions. The world’s largest monolith, 70 meters in diameter and approximately 33 meters high, Pedra Pintada is thought to be an important prehistoric religious site. Roraima boasts upwards of 60 archeological sites, including the Perdiz, Machado, Pereira and Sapo rocks. The vast majority of paintings and inscriptions have not been deciphered so far.

Ecology and leisure

Brazil’s first ecological station is located on the Maracá Island in Monte Alegre, north of the capital. Mostly flat and covered by mixed vegetation half way between the chaparral-like cerrado and the Amazon rain forest, the Maracá Island provides a haven for endangered species such as the jaguar, a variety of Mustelidae similar to the badger and the howling monkey. Visits to the island are rigorously restricted by Ibama, the Brazilian Environmental Authority. Facilities include housing, a laboratory and a library for researchers.
The Praia Grande Island, on the other hand, is open to tourists. It is located near Boa Vista, on the left bank of the Branco River. During the dry season – from October through March – broad beaches emerge. One can hike to several lakes, where a large concentration of fauna and flora of utmost interest can be observed.
Lake Caracanã, in Normandia, near the Guyana border, has a perimeter of almost six kilometers and a depth that ranges between two and five meters. It is encircled by fine-sand beaches and native cashew trees. Here, visitors will find lodging, food and leisure while enjoying constant breezes that will not let night temperature rise above 25 degrees centigrade.

Fish and Wild horses

The Branco River is also a good choice for ecotourism. In Caracaraí, in the south of the state, one finds the only stretch of the river with many large rocks, which form the Bem-Querer rapids and a series of cascades in summer – the dry season. Rustic inns offer enough comfort to visitors wishing to spend more than a few hours enjoying the beautiful scenery of river, vegetation and rocks. In the months of little rain, the Branco and Cauamé rivers also expose beautiful beaches. Of these, Agua Boa, on the Branco, and Caçari and Curupira, on the Cauamé, are excellent choices near Boa Vista, with facilities for visitors.
Fishing is another gift of the Branco River, the state’s main waterway, around which the territory was settled. Along the river and its tributaries one easily finds several kinds of tucunaré, weighing up to 1 1 pounds and caught for sport. The river also abounds in many kinds of fish, such as the pirarara, the piraíba, the dourado and the jaú.
One of Roraima’s greatest spectacles is offered by the wild horses, known as lavradeiros, or savanna horses. It is not known whether these descend from horses brought in by the Portuguese in the 18th century or from the Spanish gerranos of Central America. Whatever their origin, they can be seen running in the Lavrado do Marauí in herds of up to 20. Although intrepid and strong, they are close to extinction, numbering now less than 200. The best way to watch their movements is from a helicopter.

Indigenous presence

The capital of Roraima, with its fan-shaped outline, sits on the Branco River’s right bank, 85 meters above sea level. Its tree-lined, wide avenues converge in the historical center by the river. Some buildings dating from 1830 mark the beginnings of the city. Although long before, as far back as the 6th century, all this territory had been disputed by different countries, it began to be settled only in the 18th century. In 1890 the Our Lady of Carmelites Parish became the municipality of Boa Vista do Rio Branco and the capital of the then Roraima Territory which gained the status of a state in 1988 as per the new Constitution. The residents of Boa Vista as well as those from other locations gather in the Ananuá Park for the June festivities (St. Anthony’s, St. John’s, and St. Peter’s) and other celebrations. They number about 300 thousand scattered through some 200 villages. The Yanomamis form the largest group, numbering nearly 10 thousand, who live in lands in Alto Alegre, Boa Vista, Caracaraí and Mucajaí.
Indian culture continues to exert a strong influence on the life of the state which is also colored by the presence of immigrants from various parts of Brazil. Forró, the dance from the Northeast has taken roots permanently; in Bonfim, the typical event is the cattle roundup and rodeo. Southerners and their descendents keep the tradition of drinking maté, eating at barbecues and wearing their typical attire at Boa Vista’s Gaucho Traditions Center (CTG).

Some Indian customs are maintained, like the Parixara dance, an expression of thanksgiving to the Macunaima god for successful hunting, fishing and farming. Legends and beliefs are also the theme of fair religious activities more common inland. Normandia feast honoring Our Lady of Nazareth while Mucajaí stages Christ’s Passion in the open air, with 140 participants.

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