Bus travel through the state of Puauí
Destination São Luís, capital of the state of Maranhão.
Bus travel from São Luís, back to Belo Horizonte, witnessing the dry landscape in the state of Piauí.
Our unforgettable stay in São Luís came to an end. We all feared the inevitable, long bus journey to Belo Horizonte, more than 2700 kilometers away. It was scheduled that this travel would take about fifty hours, more than two full days. The route went from São Luís through the states of Maranhão, Piauí, Pernambuco, Bahia, and Minas Gerais. The first night was spent in the state of Maranhão; the following day, we were on the way through Piauí, Pernambuco, and Bahia. We admired the arid landscape in the state of Piauí, so different from the lush green landscapes of Maranhão, and from the green mountainous landscapes in southern Bahia and Minas Gerais.
Undoubtedly, the arid landscape in Piauí is the result of a very long dry period in northeast Brazil. This dry part, which is called the ‘sertão’, has been depopulated gradually. The people have moved to the more fertile coastal areas, or even to the southeast region in Brazil, in their hopes to earn a little share of the richness in these wealthier Brazilian states. Unfortunately, their dreams generally don’t come true: they are forced to settle themselves in one of the numerous favelas (slums), that exist at the margins of many cities, where they continue their lives in poverty.
The Brazilian government is much aware of the drought problem in the Northeast. Since a couple of years, an very ambitious – and very controversial – plan was started: the canalization of the São Francisco River, which flows from the state of Minas Gerais, though Bahia to the border between the tiny states of Sergipe and Alagoas. The 2800 km long river (more than twice the length of the Rhine River!) has a basin that has the size of fifteen times the size of the Netherlands. The construction of the two canals (400 km and 220 km, respectively) already has been started, and is projected to connect the São Francisco River with some smaller, regional rivers. This transposition project is very controversial, because no one has a clear idea yet about the possible devastative effects on the local environment.
On our way back to Belo Horizonte, we witnessed the rough and deserted landscape of the impoverished state of Piauì:
The first six pictures are in sharp contrast with the picture above, which shows the lush green of the margins of the São Francisco River that separates the twin cities of Petrolina (Pernambuco) and Juazeiro (Bahia).
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom