To come back home after so many new summits on the Andes it's not easy. Brazilian mountains are not so big and there's never ice or snow, they're gorgeous too but in a different way. To do so i had to visit a completly new place for me, even at brazilian soil (i said to many friends overseas that we have tons of mountains here at my country and they didn't believe me he he he). So i chose the Caparaó National Park, a place i never went before.
It is a gorgeous brazilian park and third oldest, created in 1961. The distance is huge: 830 kms (around 515 miles) from São Paulo, and that means 12 hours on a bus to get there. Too far away...
I'm trying for so long to get there but my friends can't make it, at the time i was working and only the distance itself makes it harder to be there in just a weekend, it's not enough. You need at least 5 days to visit the park: 1 to go, 1 to come back, and 3 to be there. When i got there, i was absolutly alone for the 3 days. Lucky me!
The first bus leaves you at Manhumirim, city on the east of Minas Gerais, in the border with Espirito Santo, another brazilian state. And when you get there another bus for the little city of Alto Caparaó. There you'll find the park entrance. A fee must be payed: R$ 10,00 (about US$ 6.00) for get in, and more R$ 6,00 (US$ 3.75) for each night of camping.
After a looong walk of almost 4 hours, from the main square of the city (970 m high), passing thru the park entrance (1.230 m high) and the first camping called Tronqueira (1.970 m high) i reached the second and last camping, Terreirão at 2.370 m high. That would be my hotel for a couple nights.
I bumped with a fine couple there with a guide. They hiked Bandeira Peak and got back and after 5 minutes more they would go down back to the city. They wore the only ones up there, and that means i would be alone with the birds, quatis (nasua nasua) for 3 days and two nights. Lucky me ah?
Set up my tent, cooked myself a lunch with noodles and salt porc. After that and some rest i was walking around picking up some trash on the ground and putting into trash cans. There's plenty of trash cans there, but the Quatis are dirty little ones, they open looking for food. Tragedy...
After that i waited for the sunset on a strategic place towards the valley, when it happened, i took some photos and stayed there with my mp3 on, absolutly alone...for me, really great time.
Around 7pm i went back to my tent to have dinner and read a little. Next day would be a great day for hiking.
Next morning my watch screamed at 4 am but i was too lasy to get up. I keep sleeping for 3 hours more, and i woke up around 7am. Usually i never eat anything before hiking but this morning i had some chocolate, two little bars of a very tradicional brazilian chocolate called BIS. Got myself 1l of tangerine juice and 3l more of water and went out my tent to start my hiking day.
After only 15 minutes i was ready and started walking. No need for rush at all, i still was alone up there. Just me and the Quati trash thieves he he he. My first idea was to see the sunrise from the summit of Pico da Bandeira ("Flag peak" - it has that name because in the old days of 1.859 the Emperor D Pedro II thought that it was the highest brazilian mountain, so he ordered that a flag of the empire was fixed on its summit) but as i said before, i woke up too late for that. I changed my mind, i would start by the Cristal Peak, 9th highest brazilian summit.
Before go there i thought it would be hard to find the trail to Cristal Peak, i was wrong. I found it easily and went up following the rock totens and after something like 35 minutes i was on a huge plateau, still following the rocks. I crossed this plateau and bumped to a great valley. I had to cross that valley to reach my objective. So after some water i went down the valley thru the trail well marked. Impossible to miss.
It was far away so i almost gave up. But i was siting, looking at my desire right there, a thounsand metres away (straigh line) and i was thinking (so close yet so far away...). After 5 minutes more i got up and started walking again towards the mountain. I couldn't give up, no way! The weather forecast was good, so i had all the time in the world to get there!
There was a lot of rocks to follow and the woods are not big, really low so you can see all the time where you're standing on and watch out for dangerous animals like snakes and poisonous spiders. At brazilian lands you have to be careful about insects and snakes.
After a while i was on the main pass between Bandeira Peak and Cristal Peak, and it was easy, no big deal about it. A new stop for some juice and one more chocolate, five minutes later i was standing on the top of Cristal Peak: 2.769 m. The view was superb of 360°! I was really happy to be up there, set up my tripod to some pictures, a panoramic view too, rest for ten minutes only.
Cristal Peak summit.
After all that, finaly the gran finale, Bandeira Peak, 3rd highest peak in Brazil at 2.892 m high. Impressive view of 360°, mountains in Espirito Santo state, big cross, panoramic photos, self portrait, rest for 40 minutes, perfect!
After a while i had plans of go down on the opposite wall to try to do another summit, Pedra Roxa. It's a mountain that almost no one goes. The oficial altitude is 2.649 m and it's not so easy to get there as the others. You have to really go on hiking for this one. So i saw it was possible to try to get there directly from the summit of Bandeira Peak, but there was some huge clouds coming nearby, really close. The wind was stronger than before so i decided to postpone this mountain. I think it was better this way.
So i went back to my camp by the tradicional trail going down from the summit of Bandeira Peak. You can't miss, it is like a street, wide open of rocks and there's some yellow paiting showing the route (unnecessary!). After 50 minutes i was back at my tent to clean myself, lunch and some rest.
I got back at the camping at 12:50pm. Still alone! Amazing, that's rare at Caparaó Park. Lunch time, got the trash back in tre cans (damn Quatis he he he) and after some rest i went back to the same rock to see again the sunset. Later some reading inside my tent and after that, sleep.
Next morning i woke up sooner, 6am. Only 5 minutes after that i was ready and outside my tent walking up to Morro do Cruz Negro (black cross hill). A forgoten mountain, big for the brazilian standarts (2.658 m). It was easy bcuz you have to follow the same trail to Bandeira Peak and after like 15 minutes you go out the trail crossing a open field on your left until you see a wood stick about 3 m high (ten feet). Left turn again and go up, easy, like 35 or 40 minutes you'll get there.
The original idea was keep going to reach the two summits on the picture above, Tesourinho and Tesouro, looooong walk. But the weather changed and i decided to head back to the camping, it was better.
I did just one more thing on my way down back yo the city, look for a bug to take a photo, and I found it! Well it was dead but I got my picture.
Long walk down of 12 kms (or 7,5 miles) to get to the city again and the bus back home. It was really good to be there and i hope to come back soon!
Paulo Roberto - São Paulo - Brazil.