OverviewSerra da Bocaina covers around 200,000 hectares, the majority in the state of Rio de Janeiro and a small portion in Sao Paulo. The word 'Bocaina' literally means the space between two mountains. This is one of the most imposing mountain ranges in Brazil, with peaks higher than 2,000m and separates the fertile valleys of Paraiba and the coast of Costa Verde, encompassing two different worlds in terms of human activity and ecosystems.
The Serra da Bocaina mountain range offers us a fantastic trekking challenge as we make our way over many of its peaks and along the historic cobbled paths of the Trilha do Ouro (Gold Trail) towards the Atlantic coast. The Gold Trail is inscribed in the history books of Brazil because gold from Minas Gerais was transported along this route to waiting Portugal-bound ships.
Inland from Parati, Angra dos Reis, and Mambucaba on the coast, is the Parque National da Serra da Bocaina, which offers the best opportunity to get to know the landscape of the Serra do Mar on foot. Created in 1961, the National Park covers 100,000 ha, the majority Rio do Janeiro state, and a small portion in Sao Paulo. The highest point of the park is the Pico Tira Chapeu - 2132m. The northern limits of Bocaina are Cunha, Sao Jose do Barreiro and Bananal. Further north of these you are in the Paraiba Valley – São Paulo State; The Southern limits are Ubatuba and Picinguaba towns, north coast of São Paulo State; The higher plateau is in Paraty, Angra dos Reis, Rio Claro and Mangaratiba – Rio de Janeiro State. There are another portion of Serra da Bocaina in the Ocean – Ilha Grande, with the most preservated forested area in Brazil. The word Bocaina is the space between two mountains, really.
The principal path through the Park is known as the Trilha do Ouro, the Gold Trail. The trail was built by the slaves of the early 18th century to bring gold down to the coast, to be loaded into Lisbon bound boats. Paraty at that time was more important than Rio, and thousands of slave hours went into creating this major link to the interior. The trail can be traced through to Minas Gerais state, the last marked 30km stretch linking Ouro Branco and Ouro Preto, 500km to the north, at Espinhaço Shield. Today the Minas landscape has been decimated by mining and deforestation for smelting, but the 100 km stretch over the Serra do Mar to the coast at Mambucaba is still intact, and offers a very attractive walk, passing stretches of virgin forest, at least three powerful waterfalls more than 50m high and a number of farms inhabited long before the National Park boundaries were drawn. The superb views give out to beyond this farmed strip over pristine Serra do Mar beauty; an unbroken canopy dotted with purple quaresmeira flowers, falcons and eagles soaring overhead. On clear days one can see right down to the base of the hills and out over Paraty and the Atlantic Ocean, where the stone path meets the "planicie", the alluvial plain before the sea, where the river Mambucaba ceases its dramatic final gush down the mountain shelf.
Getting ThereThere are a several places to start a trip in Serra da Bocaina. From Costa Verde ( the Ocean side ) is possible to climb some great mountains: Pico do Frade – 1589m, Pedra da Macela ( Paraty ), Serra do Piloto ( Mangaratiba ), mountains in Ilha Grande. The way to get this side of Serra da Bocaina is the road BR-101, connecting Rio de Janeiro – Santos. The main entrance of Serra da Bocaina National Park is in São José do Barreiro ( countryside portion of Bocaina ), in the middle way of the two biggest cities in Brazil. This is the start point of Trilha do Ouro.
MSN Mappoint - Serra da Bocaina
Red TapeTo visit to the park, permission must be obtained from the park administration, in Sao Jose do Barreiro, either in writing or in person, at least 10 days in advance of any entrance to the park. The permit must be presented at the park gate, 26km up the road from Sao Jose do Barreiro before entering. Depending on just how much advance notice you give, the permit is either kept in the head office or sent up the road for collection.
A 26 km unlevelled dirt road runs from the square in the town centre to a gateway and entrance of the park proper. Without your own transport, you could hire a taxi if its dry, (talk to Ze Milton in the only tour agency in town,) or walk - it is not unpleasant, but there's little water and few sites suitable for a tent on the way, other than by the road side. If you drive, you are advised to attempt it without 4wd except in perfect dry conditions; the road is muddy after a night of rain, and the park receives 14 nights of rain a month, with an annual average of four metres. Take your brolly. An alternative is to hold out for a lift from one of the locals living near or in the park; there are a number who have trashed pick-ups that come into town for supplies, normally having to be repaired every kilometer of the way. Sometimes the IBAMA jeep is going and they're happy to take you along if there's space. You might have to wait around for a day to get a ride. Horses could also be negotiated; they are expensive however and you'd have to pay for their handler as well, plus their return time if you're going one way. Bicycles would do well as far as the final descent to the coast, where the path is too degraded to think about biking it.
Ticket Value : US$ 3 per day
Trilha do Ouro - Gold TrailThe most beautiful and challenging trail in the Serra da Bocaina National Park is the Trilha do Ouro. The following desciption of the Trilha do Ouro gives approximate distances in kilometers and total walking time in hours from the park gate, excluding rest time.
Having got yourself to park gate, the 4WD road continues another 25km into the park, to Fazena Barreirinha, but to ride this section would be to miss one the best preseved sections of forest along the trail, and two of the principal waterfalls, Cachoeira do Sao Isidro ( 3km/1h walking ), and Cachoeira dos Posses ( 8km/2.00h walking ). Both require that you walk away from the track, and down to the river. You pass above the Bonito Valley and start up a hill that takes you past a turn for the Fazenda do Veado, (10km/2.30h). Keep to the main track and eventually emerge out on a ridge of bracken. There is a small make-shift chapel further along this part with macumba images in it [21km:4.30hrs] Do not disturb these images. The practice of macumba is very wide spread through the backcountry here, brought in by the black slaves and never effectively flushed out by Catholicism.
Soon the track veers to the right and starts to descend through a saddle. Come off the motor road and take the short-cut small trail heading down to the farm house visible in the lap of the valley 300m away; if you miss it, the road eventually arrives at the same destination.
This is Fazenda Barreirinha, ( 25km/5h walking ) marked as Fazenda do Sertao on the IBGE map, Tiao and Wander and their seven children offer food, lodging, showers and camping space. The house contains no less than 15 beds within its wooden walls, but it is rarely full, except, perhaps, when Carnival might bring a group here from the city. The facilities are priced separately, full board at US$ 15, camping charged at US$ 1 per night. The choice is yours. A good excursion from here is the 40 minute tramp straight up the hill to catch the view looking down into the bay of Ilha Grande, and Paraty.
Continuing past the small locked church you start to walk on the original stones of the Trilha de Ouro. Along the way you pass a very small patch of forest with a trickling stream exiting as a waterfall and crossing the path ( 30km/6h walking ). Just here is another suggested camp. Much of the land around here is farmed, a few cattle and some maize being the norm. Although some fruit is harvested, such the oranges and goiabas of the Fazenda Central ( 35km/7:15h ), which comes after a 2km stretch of cooling forest, worth spending some rest time in; Another great camp, you can also spend time absorbing some of the huge copious wild strawberries that are abundant here.
Crossing a stream and following the muddy descent the path arrives at an open pasture by the bank of the Mambucaba river, which at this point is a good 30m wide. This Farm ( 37km/8:00h walking], (which also forms part of Fazenda Central ) is run by Sr. Ze Candido, who also offers basic food and beds with mattresses and blankets.
Don't cross the river here, but walk behind the farm and again find the trail which proceeds parallel to it. Shortly you hear through the trees the sound of the largest of the parks waterfalls, the Cachoeira de Veado ( 41km/ 9:00h walking ). If there were a symbol for the park this would be it. Crashing over 60m into the Mambucaba, the Deer Falls are wonderful place to camp, stay, bathe, fish and recount campfire tales. The best site is the flat ground just across the log bridge, with the site of the top of the falls over the trees. A trail leads up for a much closer look, and it is possible to swim in the pool of the veil beneath.
The trail crosses the river just beyond the camp ground, on a long bouncy log bridge, and follows to the left through some maize fields to ascend to the path that must be taken left up into the forest again. A last view back at Veado Fall ,across the valley before disappearing into the forest for a few hours. The path here is original stone work, that unfortunately hasn't been repaired for a good while; with constant use by horses and heavy rain, the clay on which the stones are laid is waterlogged in places and rather treacherous. You're advised to pick up a stout stick to help you down the 9km ( 4 hours ) between Veado and the suspension bridge on the plain below ( 50km/13h – walking ). On the way are two rivers that must be forded, and while you at it you can swim in them. They also provide an opportunity to put on repellant against the "borachudos", pium flies that are much more tenacious than any mosquito, becoming prevalent as you appoach the coast. The plateau is reached before you exit the forest where there are banana clearings. The common non-indiginous herbaceous plant growing all along the side of the path is butterfly ginger, genus Alpinia named for its flamboyant white flowers which appear in the summer months and fills this stretch with perfume. Pull one up and compare the root to cooking ginger. The mud here is unavoidable, it is sometimes better to ride yourself of your boots and go bare foot.
The suspension bridge marks the boundary to the National Park, as it lies on the 100m contour. Nothing can now be built legally above this line anywhere in Brazil. But there is a while to go yet before reaching the beach. The jeep track slowly widens and the occasional car is seen serving the various farms; it might be possible to catch a lift (to the town of Pereque, an uninspiring concrete dump), that lets you down before reaching the main road. Mambucaba ( 65km/16h – walking ) itself is on the other side, with a small beach and a pretty colonial church.
CampingAlong the Gold Trail have a lot of places to camp, some of them free and another well-paid.
WeatherSerra da Bocaina is one of the wettest places in Brazil, with 200/220 rainy days / year. Very hot in Summer but, at Winter, the temperatures can drop to -5° on the highest mountains.
LinksViagens Maneiras - Serra da Bocaina
São José do Barreiro site