What The World Can Learn From Brazil About Living Well (part 2)

3. Brazilians love getting in the exercise

You know, physical activity is an essential part of life in Brazil. This country indeed has the second-largest fitness industry in the world following the U.S.

You see, even the gym’s outside, popular sports such as soccer, volleyball, futevolei, jiu-jitsu, Capoeira, as well as polo are apt to be useful for people to get the sweat on.

What is the result? Considerably lower average weight as well as BMI compared to in the U.S. As per government data, the a 30-something Brazilian man’s average weight is 5’6″ as well as 163.5 pounds (a 26.3 BMI) and one woman, 5’2″ as well as 137 pounds (25.1 BMI), as opposed to the U.S., in which one comparable man is 5’9″ as well as 199.5 pounds (29.5 BMI), 5’4″ as well as 169 pounds (29 BMI) for a woman.

4. Brazilians dão um jeito

You know, there is always a sure way to attain something. That message of resourcefulness and resilience is central to the local culture, where the jeitinho Brasileiro’s concept, one alternative “way” or shortcut for getting the things you need is considered central to daily life. You see, the “jeitinho” is known as the word jeito’s diminutive form, meaning one’s manner or way, and address the way that one can circumvent one inefficient and sometimes corrupt bureaucratic entanglement in Brazil.

5. They juiced before juicing became a big thing

You know, there is a reason that fancy SoHo juice bars are stocked with Brazilian staples such as acerola, açai, as well as passion fruit: Brazilians started consuming juices of fresh-pressed fruit decades ago. Casas de sucos are not only for skeletal stylists on a diet, but also in Brazil they are extra popular for anyone.

What The World Can Learn From Brazil About Living Well (part 1)

Brazil holds one charming position in the public imagination, owing to its unparalleled physical beauty, the abundant arts and culture as well as the incredible warmth from Brazilians. Its natural wealth is staggering – you know, it is home to plenty of the Amazon rainforest.

In other words, the abundance, innovative business of South America’s largest country, and natural beauty have captured any public imagination.

1. The priority is Happiness

You know, Brazil’s alegria’s intrinsic, infectious nature is not to get understated — affecting not only culture but also policy in equal measure.

In case you do not know, Fundação Getúlio Vargas – one organization, announced the generation of the trusted Well Being Brazil Index — one measure of happiness as well as wellness to get implemented in various cities from Brazil to assist public officials in implementing policies which support and enhance well-being.

According to Morena Baccarin – an actress who is Brazilian-born, American-raised. they have had one joy for life in Brazil – not being like in any country she has ever seen,” 

Such attention brings a real impact on the citizens: Brazilian women are scored as the happiest female people in the world on one happiness index survey that is conducted by FGV. From the same poll, Brazil ranked as the most satisfied among the BRICS countries (India, China, South Africa, Brazil, Russia) — meaning, the countries’ happiest contending with vast inequalities as well as fast-shifting economic aside from socio-political circumstances.

2. A way of life is Celebration 

Brazilians are known for their celebration of carnaval — one annual festival which precedes Lent. Between many more extensive than life costumes, joyful processions and infectiously dance-friendly music, it would be simple to think that the holiday may be the best celebration in the year from Brazil. Yet, that would be wrong: They turn all occasions into the demonstrations of joyfulness, artistic expression, and community togetherness.

How Can I Eat Like A Local In Brazil? (part 3)

Drinking as well as eating in Brazil are regarded as many fantastic socializing activities since these are necessities. Foods such as beans and rice are Brazilian staples aside from being consumed just about daily. The food routine daily includes three primary meals other than snacks in between. Here, lunch and dinner are considered as the socializing time. It is also the time for relaxing as well as appreciating wholesome dishes.

Afternoon

For a refreshing snack, particularly in the summer, you should not ignore acai with banana or granola.

Evening

During the week, this meal tends to become one family event with people in the family eating together. Else, they at least savor dishes at the same time. You know, the family’s teenagers may like taking their food to appreciate in their rooms. Dinner often has beans and rice and is served with stroganoff, meat, pizza, or lasagna. It is one wholesome meal enjoyed around 8 p.m. or 7 p.m. and will be the day’s last meal.

Sometimes, Brazilians will dine out to enjoy joyous hours after work as the beverages are on promotion, often until 9 p.m or 8 p.m. It is often the time for colleagues at work to socialize outside of their office hours, destress following a tense day, or to savor a chilled drink in the hot weather. One of the most popular beverages to have during their happy hour is indeed not caipirinha that is more popular among tourists, but one chopp (it is cold beer served in one small glass). Else, it is 600-milliliter bottle beers that are served amongst the group. While drinking, Brazilians will often snack on something – for example, empadas, pastels, or a portion to get shared – for instance, dried meat, apim, salami, fried chicken strips, or croquettes.

How Can I Eat Like A Local In Brazil? (part 2)

Afternoon

People tend to eat rice, beans, fish, or meat and a selection of vegetables and salads. Lunch is followed by a straightforward dessert like pudim (like a flan) as well as almost always by one shot of espresso with a lot of sugar. Plus, it is common to have a specific shot of caipirinha before beginning lunch, just to increase their appetite.

Business lunches are considered a significant part of building client relationships. These ones are often far longer than one hour without any time pressure as well as with the intent of creating one friendly and relaxed environment. Commonly, an important meeting takes place at 10:30 a.m. or so., followed by one business lunch. A popular place to have one business lunch is at one churrascaria (i.e., Brazilian steakhouse with all-you-can-eat things) where the waiters serve a couple of cuts of meat on skewers other than the diverse and extensive salad bar. At lunch, people òten chat informally about life, football, travel, and culture; business comes later.

Some eating etiquettes are present in Brazil. At the dinner or lunch table, it is polite to wait until others have been served before beginning to eat. Food like bread should be eaten with one napkin — Brazilians do not usually touch food with their hands. Also, when a fork and knife cannot do the job, they use a napkin instead. Smoking at the table while enjoying food is one big no-no.

Brazilians often snack later in the day at around 3 p.m. as well as again at 6 p.m. on their way home from work. Some of the typical snacks are packets of milk biscuits and cereal bars. Other popular snacks should be salgadinhos that are savory pastries as well as pieces of bread like cheese slices of bread.

How Can I Eat Like A Local In Brazil? (part 1)

Drinking and eating in Brazil are considered as much great socializing activities as these are necessities. Rice, beans and other foods are Brazilian staples as well as being consumed just about every day. The food routine each day includes three primary meals as well as snacks in between, with dinner and lunch regarded as the time for socializing, relaxing and appreciating wholesome, traditional dishes.

Morning

Café da manhã (also, breakfast, morning coffee), is considered the day’s most practical meal in the country. It is often eaten between 6.00 and 8.00 in the morning, based on what time work or school begins. Breakfast is considered crucial here, but it is one meal of pure necessity instead of one social event. The essential drink is coffee that is often savored either black with a lot of sugar, as one pingado (strong with milk) or média that is half heated-up milk, half coffee. For people who do not love coffee, chocolate powder and dairy are natural not only for adults but also for kids, or fruit juices, particularly guave or orange.

The most typical food is French bread (also, pão francês) toasted with butter and, in some cases, eaten with ham and white cheese. Other breakfast choices include one simple, unfrosted orange or granola, corn cake, or cheese bread (also, pão de queijo). Breakfast is consumed at home before they leave for school or work, or sometimes at the local padaria’s counter.

Afternoon

It is among the most important meals of their day regarding relaxing and socializing. About 1 p.m or midday., hoards of employees leave the office as well as enjoying 60-minute long lunch while chatting about just about anything casually. One of the most popular venues for lunch is the per-kilo restaurant which serves a wide range of food options.

Why does Brazilian women’s skin look so good?

Brazil is known for being home to many Victoria’s Secrets angels – for example, Adriana Lima, and the natives tend to get blessed with a bronze glow, smooth skin, long hair, as well as even longer legs.

Of course, perhaps there is something in the water, yet there is something we can learn from every Brazilian beauty.

1. Get beautifully bold

The critical learning you can take from Brazilians is to embrace your beauty love – not feel sorry for it.

Thus, whether you are a false lash-junkie, you book religiously in for Botox, or you spend every money on expensive skincare, you should not feel embarrassed or ashamed about your beauty passion.

2. Prioritize your skincare

Picture your favorite Brazilian supermodels’ faces, and other than being stunningly beautiful, all of them have luminous skin as well as clear complexions.

Here, the trip to the office of a dermatologist is not a last resort after the skin condition has attained a crisis point. People here often schedule regular appointments to get rid of their skin ailments.

3. Utilize nature

It is hardly surprising that people here love to utilize their natural surroundings when skincare ingredients entail – they have luscious landscapes.

Brazilians figure out nature’s power. The high caffeine levels of homegrown Guarana fruit deliver new energy for the skin. Not all, the native Brazil nut can provide your skin with vital vitamins. Plus, Babbasu oil works as one national beauty staple for nourishing the skin.

4. Never skip the suncream

As the heat can reach up to 40 degrees in summer, sun cream is essential in every skincare regimen.

5. Do not forget your feet

Here, a pedicure is not an afterthought. Taking care of the toes is indeed as important as having your chip-free manicure. Keep your heels moisturized and prevent blisters.

Everything about Brazilian culture you haven’t known

– Cultural communication

Despite the strong influence of European culture, the Brazilians have a more warm and sincere behavior. When meeting each other apart from handshakes, people can easily touch their shoulders, hug and kiss each other’s cheeks. However, when they were strangers, they only rewarded and shook hands lightly.

– Vocative

People often use the name to call. For older people with high power, “Senhor” will be added to the name. They always appreciate friendliness, fun and rarely express different opinions when disagreeing, and rarely argue.
– Going out eating

Brazilians can invite to eat when they first meet, the owners and guests will sit facing each other and toasts. The expression of unrestrained drinking when new to meals is often not appreciated.

The Brazilian style also has a common characteristic of Westerners, when they meet each other, always make sure they are on time. Despite being invited, equal money sharing is the best when going out together, avoiding paying money for the meal will make Brazilian friends have a wrong view of you.

If you meet on the street, you should not call out loud, but just wave your hand. The gestures like “OK” by hand are considered rude in Brazil, while the gesture of holding hands and giving thumbs up between the point finger and the ring finger is said to be good luck. This is a strange thing and it should be noted when done in Brazil if you don’t want to be considered rude.

– Costume culture

Brazilian national costumes are quite colorful and usually only present during festivals. In everyday life Brazilians dress in casual clothes, sometimes quite cool because the weather here is very hot. But in the work clothes are very discreet, upholding politeness.

– Giving gifts

When you meet for the first time, you should not give gifts, then, if you want them to do something for you, you can give gifts. The gifts just need to express the intention, the desire to please will be more appropriate.

Spotting Carcará Eagles in the Serra da Mantiqueira preserve – Rio de Janeiro

On the way back from an attempt to hike up the Pedra Selada in the Serra da Mantiqueira and ended up spotting a couple of Carcará eagles.

one of the dirt roads winding through the Serra da Mantiqueira preserve

It looked like it would be a sunny day, and we set out from Volta Redonda around 10.30 and by 11.00 we were already riding through the foothills of the Mantiqueira mountains. When we got to the place where the trail starts, it was totally deserted and that was strange, considering that it was a Saturday in the touristic high season in Brazil. We figured that most people probably were afraid that it would rain. About 1 km into the trail it became clear why there was nobody else there. The trail was totally washed away by a landslide and getting up there would be a challenge that I would have gladly taken on by myself, but I saw in the look on my partner’s face that this hiking trip was ending right there. Disappointed, we went down again, and decided to take the rest of the afternoon to ride a loop through the area and enjoy some of the peace and quiet. At one point, we saw two Carcará eagles on the road, enjoying a meal of some kind. Of course the birds took off when we got too close, but landed in a pine tree nearby, giving me an opportunity to shoot some pictures. [tribulant_slideshow post_id=”24208″]

See the eagles in the pine trees?

A little closer: not one but two Carcará eagles, which is quite rare

And a close up. These are really impressive birds

The Carcará’s meal: an ubfortunate black eared possum (Gambá de orelho preto)

Hope you enjoyed this (i know the last picture wasn’t very tasteful, but that also is part of nature, right?)

My Most Loyal Travel Companions.

Meet my two most loyal travel companions…

On the motorcycle and in the car: my Garmin ZUMO 550

Ever since I arrived in this immense and diverse country called Brazil, I have been relying on two things to find my way to far away places and back home again. I say ‘things” because that’s what they are… I’m talking about the Global Positioning System, commonly referred to as the GPS… 

As the title of this post implies, I am using two of these babies:

  1. On the Motorcycle and in the car: A Garmin Zumo 550
  2. On hikes and mountain bike rides: A Garmin GPSmap 60C

I know, some people swear by paper maps, and I respect that completely, but in this day and age, (unfortunately) “time is money”, and I found out that a GPS is probably THE best tool for someone who wants to discover a country the size of Brazil in one lifetime…

On the mountain bike and on hikes : my Garmin GPSmap 60CSx

Seriously, I wouldn’t know how to even BEGIN to figure out where I would have been right now without these two fine pieces of equipment… I was already using them when I was still living a far less adventurous life back in old Belgium and I was glad to find out that also in Brazil they are preventing me from getting lost (ok, not ALL the time :)) and spending thousands (yes thousands) of extra dollars – Euro’s, whatever on gas.

Another invaluable advantage the GPS has, is that it also provides lots and lots of extra information about your environment.

At any point in time, you not only know your exact location (which is always good) but on top of that, the GPS gives you your speed, direction, altitude, distance to the next turn/exit, ETA (estimated time of arrival) and so on… Good luck with finding all that on a paper map

Hell, my Zumo even has a function to keep track of how much gas you have left in your tank.

Especially when I’m driving my Land Rover Defender, I need the GPS to give me the exact speed, because the original meter of the car is totally incorrect… and speed cameras are being widely used on Brazil’s highways and fines don’t come cheap

What about the Software?

Of course, the GPS device is only half of the setup… you need good map software too, and that’s where I had some issues. The first couple of weeks in Brazil, I was using Garmin’s “City Navigator NT – Brazil” map, but pretty soon, I realized that it was not the best choice…

Inside most cities, there was no problem, but once in the more rural areas… forget it. You can just as well turn the GPS off altogether. I guess I discovered the reason why they call it “CITY navigator”.

Luckily there’s a Brazilian organization called Tracksource, made up of thousands of volunteers all over the country, and on their website you can download accurate, totally free – monthly updated – maps of Brazil, to be used in your Garmin device.

This free map doesn’t only have the correct road info, especially of the ones outsidethe cities, but also contains a ton of dirt roads and hiking trails that cannot be found in the Garmin map, let alone on any paper maps…

A few examples (click on the pictures to enlarge):

1. Tijuca park in Rio de Janeiro: Note the difference between the Garmin map and the Tracksource map

Tijuca park – Garmin Brazil City Navigator map

Tijuca park – Tracksource map

2. Pinheiral (a small neighborhood just outside Volta Redonda): Comparison between Garmin, Tracksource and Google Earth

Pinheiral, according to Garmin City Navigator map

Pinheiral, according to Tracksource map

Pinheiral on google Earth

As you can see, not only does the Rio Paraiba do Sul, one of the biggest rivers in Rio de Janeiro State, seem to stop dead in its tracks, but also the roads on the Garmin map are totally wrong compared to Google Earth. The Tracksource map on the other hand is showing the correct situation. I know this for a fact because I am very familiar with this area…

Nothing bad about Garmin here. Just being realistic. Probably the latest version of “City Navigator” is going to be a lot better, but unless they make their map of Brazil free too, I think I’ll stick with what I know is good. It would be my pleasure to test the new version though (If they send me one for free of course :))

Time for replacement (@Garmin: some sponsoring would be so nice wink – wink…)

No matter how good they were made, my two little companions have had their best time

Extensive use for 7 years caused the buttons on the ZUMO to wear and tear

The worst thing I imagine the unit had to endure, was the crash I had last year when I smashed my motorcycle at 100 km/h into a parked Volkswagen Combi (it was not supposed to be parked there – legal procedure in process :)). I broke my pelvis, my shoulder and a few ribs… The front of the bike was completely destroyed, but amazingly the Zumo worked just fine afterwards…The Zumo has been with me for 7 years now, and has been through a lot… I used it in the coldest, wettest (Europe) and the hottest (Brazil) circumstances, and it NEVER showed any problem… A few times it refused to start up, but that was easily fixed by taking out and putting back the battery…

Only thing is, that in june 2011, I noticed that one of the buttons on the left side had come loose… As you can see in the picture, I used some tape to prevent the button from falling out (and water from getting into the device) and until today it still works just fine.

Also, the battery of the Zumo is no longer holding its charge, and needs to be replaced.

The “in” and “out” buttons all worn from extensive use over the years…

Same thing with the handheld 60CSx… I can only imagine what that poor thing has been put through, mounted on the handlebars of my mountain bike. Years of usage left its marks on the buttons, the surface of a couple of which has worn out to the point that they are no longer recognizable. But I guess that is normal wear, and it doesn’t affect the proper functioning…

Apart from the sometimes though weather conditions and the shaking on the mountain bike, this unit also sustained a crash at 80km/h…Again, I was completely messed up (broken heel, Collarbone and 3 ribs), but the GPS was ok…These things can REALLY take a hit.

That is, until a few days ago…

The end of the 60CSx…

One slippery rock, one fall and this is the result…

After passing the crack and reaching the slippery rock face 50 cm lower, I turned back to grab my backpack. My feet slipped on the tilted rock face and I fell face down on my belly… on top of my poor GPS, which I carried on a clip on my belt…Hiking to the top of “Tres Picos” in the Serra da Mantiqueira, I was crossing a rocky section near a waterfall. The area was wet and mossy, and VERY slippery. I had to make my way through a crack in the rocks which was so narrow that I had to remove my backpack to be able to pass.

I got up with a bad feeling… looked at the GPS and saw the cracks in the screen and the information rapidly fading until there was nothing left but a few spots with all the colors of the rainbow… And that was The End of my 60CSx

So now what?

Well, if I want to keep exploring my beloved Brazil, I’m going to need another handheld GPS, but, same as with motorcycles, the prices for a Garmin GPS here in Brazil are almost double of what they are in the US or Europe… (Oh, so you thought Brazil was cheap huh?) and I’m only going to Belgium in July 2012…

On the other hand… I think this article is a great “product review” for Garmin, and so if someone at Garmin reads this and decides I could qualify as a “test guy” for their products, I would be more than happy to oblige… I promise I will test the crap out of the things they send me…

I don’t know about having more of those crashes though…

Cheers

Do You use a GPS?  Do you see it as a Useful Tool or a Necessary Evil?

Pedra Branca, Rio de Janeiro – The World’s Biggest Urban Forest

Areal view of the Pedra Branca State Park, a 125km² section of Atlantic Rainforest in the west zone of Rio de Janeiro (Photo: Rede Globo)

The Pedra Branca Massive is with its 12 hectares of rain forest clad mountains currently the biggest urban forest in the world and one of the best places for experienced hikers in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

“I looked at Mark and said: “Man, sorry, but I did it… I deleted the track…” None of us really panicked, but we both knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to find our way back through this dense wilderness…”

When travel writer and photojournalist Mark Eveleigh asked me if I had some trekking ideas for hikes close to Rio de Janeiro, I first took him on a tour around the Tijuca national park, which has good infrastructure and a few great hikes for everyone’s liking.

So what about Pedra Branca forest?“, was his next question… I had to admit that I hadn’t checked that one out yet, but after some online research, I found out that the park had some very interesting hiking possibilities, the toughest of which is a 8,5 km hike to the “Pico da Pedra Branca”, the highest point of the park, and with 1.025m also the highest point of the entire City of Rio de Janeiro.

I thought that this was a great way to check the place out and as I expected, Mark was totally on board with the idea

The Pedra Branca State Park

Few people know that the city of Rio de Janeiro is home to the two biggest urban forests in the world. The Tijuca Forest used to be the biggest one for a long time, until expansion of the city’s territory led to the annexation of some of the neighborhoods west of the Pedra Branca Massive like Campo Grande and Santa Cruz. From then on, Pedra Branca became the biggest urban forest in the world.

However… Tijuca forest still has the title of biggest man-planted forest.

With its 125 km², Pedra Branca is a section of Atlantic rain forest, almost three times the size of the Tijuca forest. Just like the Tijuca forest it is a rugged, mountainous area with dense tropical vegetation and peaks up to 1025 m. Its “ruggedness” and steep slopes saved this area (as well as about 100.000km² in other areas all over Brazil) from becoming farming or cattle land.

The Hike to Pedra Branca peak…

I had to leave Volta Redonda around 3.30 am and drive about 120 km to pick up Mark at 7.00 am in Ipanema. From Ipanema it is another 40 km to the east entrance of the park in Jacarépagua.

In a cabin at the entrance, there are two guards and you need to register your name and ID and tell them where in the park you are intending to go. When I said that we were going to the Pico da Pedra Branca, the guards looked at us and said that we were sure going to return with scratched up legs. According to them, the trail was very “fechado”, meaning that it was overgrown with vegetation and barely visible at some places.

The Casa Amarela. somewhere halfway up the Pico da Pedra Branca trail (photo: clubedosavontureiros.com)

They also told us that, different from the Tijuca forest, the trails at Pedra Branca have no indications, apart from a few arrows carved in trees. This sounded like it could turn out to be a real adventure hike.

I had brought my Garmin 60GSx, which is perfect for this kind of situation. I would record our progress, and when in doubt we could just trackback, so even if we wouldn’t be able to find the way to the top (yeah, right…), getting back would never be a problem.

I activated the GPS to start recording, and after a few last pointers from the guards we took off. Pretty soon the trail became confusing. We were supposed to cross the river somewhere, but there were several tracks leading to the river, and none of them seemed to continue on the other side.

After some backtracking, we eventually found the crossing and the trail started to climb steadily from there.To make up for the lost time, we kept going at a fairly fast pace, even uphill.

This was a very different hike than the one in Tijuca National Park. The guards were right. There was no signalization and the trail was quite hard to find sometimes. We had to look for signs like branches that were cut off, that indicated where the trail had been cleared at one point. Also, November is springtime in Brazil, meaning that the vegetation is growing quickly and the trail closes up faster than the people can keep it open.

Another big difference with the pico da Tijuca hike, was that this trail starts almost at sea-level, while the Tijuca trail starts at an altitude of almost 700m. The Tijuca trail is also a lot shorter. So, while Tijuca is a fairly easy 3 km hike on a trail that is well indicated and maintained, covering a difference in altitude of about 350m, the Pedra Branca trail is a 8.5km of dense jungle, with close to no indications climbing about 1000m.

Needless to say that Pedra Branca is not for the average person. You have to be in good physical condition and  If you want to do this hike without a local guide, you better have some experience in finding your way using your orientation skills… as we would find out later that day

Fauna at Pedra Branca: Snakes and stuff…

Making our way through the dense vegetation, we didn’t see a lot of animals, besides birds and butterflies, but we were able to tell there were animals, probably Coatí and Porco do Mato (Peccary) through all the noises we heard all around us… and the animal droppings we found in lots of places along the trail.

At a given moment, I heard a ruffle a few meters in front of me and I saw a green snake slithering from right to left across the trail, disappearing in the thick growth.

These Green snakes (or Cobra Cipó) are considered nonpoisonous, but in reality they posses a strong poison. However,  their non-aggressive nature (they usually flee very quickly) and the fact that the fangs are located in the back of their mouth result in very low accident statistic.

Of course, the Atlantic Rainforest is known to be home to a few other species, like the Jararaca (pit-viper), the coral snake and the Surucucu (Bushmaster) and these guys are really dangerous…

Rattlesnakes (Cascavel) are also found in Brazil, but they live in dryer areas more to the north…

You should always be aware of the fact that, no matter how beautiful the surroundings, there are also some real dangers out there. Always check the place where you’re going to sit, or your boots before putting them on… Spiders, scorpions and ants like to crawl in there…Don’t put your hand in a hole in the ground, be careful when climbing trees etc… with a little caution and common sense you can prevent your great hike from turning into a nightmare in a heartbeat

I guess you can understand that I’m always kind of dumbfounded to see people (usually Brazilians) in flip-flops and beach attire hopping around in these jungle environments.

Ok… so far the Biology class 

Casa Amarela…

The Casa Amarela. somewhere halfway up the Pico da Pedra Branca trail (photo: clubedosavontureiros.com)

There was a guy -apparently living there – with a bunch of dogs. It was not immediately clear what his role was, but I guess he is some kind of caretaker of the Casa Amarela… we chatted for a while, had a few bananas and were on our way again. It was there and then that I realized that I had left my camera in the car… Damn!One of the way-points (actually, the only one), somewhere halfway the trail to the top, is the “Casa Amarela”, a building that was once the main house of a “sitio” called Santa Barbara. (sitio = small farm – bigger than a Chacara, but smaller than a Fazenda). The fact that we arrived there meant that we were on the right track… Yey!

The guy told us that it would be about one more hour walking to the top. He also said that from here the trail would become even steeper… which sounded fine to us. :)

There was a barbed wire fence going up the slope, which made it easy to follow, and after a while we reached the only clearing of the whole trail where you can get a glimpse of the surrounding landscape. This is very much a hike for people who want to enjoy the time in the forest and don’t care so much about the visual aspect.

The only clearing during the 8,5km trail to the Pico da Pedra Branca presenting a photo opportunity (photo: http://www.clubedosavontureiros.com)

We didn’t have a lot of trouble following the trail from the Casa Amarela, but at one point we reached a T-section, where we initially took a left, but quickly realized that this was not the right direction. So we tried the other way, until coming upon a little wattle and daub hut in the forest, surrounded by banana trees.A little further the path started to go down and it continued to do so for quite some time, so after having climbed almost 800m, you go down again, losing 100m, so if you were glad that you “only” had 200m to climb, make that 300m…

We checked out the place to see if there was someone (apart from the donkey that was going about his business of grazing quietly) to ask the way, but the place was deserted. We went back and eventually Mark discovered the trail… We had walked right passed it without even noticing. Another indication of how easy it is to get lost in these forests.

The Top…

This was the only way to get up the boulder and see something of the surrounding landscape… Photo: Mark Eveleigh – thewideangle.com

If you expect an easy overview of the surrounding scenery, you’re in for another surprise. The vegetation is so dense up there, that the only place you can see something is on top of the boulder, and of course there’s no ladder After another 20 minutes of steep climbing and crawling over and under fallen trees and bamboo, we found the top, which is clearly marked with a 3m high boulder that looks like it has been carefully placed there to make this peak a few meters higher than the Pico da Tijuca…

Luckily there’s enough bamboo around and that’s how we were able to get on top of the boulder where Mark could take a few photos.

It just was too easy to be real. Something just HAD to go wrong…

This was probably the moment where I told Mark that I accidently erased all the GPS ‘s data… Photo: Mark Eveleigh – thewideangle.com

During the hike to the top, I had noticed that I hadn’t cleared my previous data in the GPS, so I had no correct idea of the distance that we had already walked. At one point, Mark mentioned to “reset” the data in the GPS once we would reach the top and then the GPS would record the correct distance as we would backtrack down the mountain… mmm… good idea.

I saved the track and cleared the recorded data, but the numbers were still not reset to zero. I thought I had done something wrong and repeated the procedure… this time I saw all zero’s. Ok, we were set and ready to go!!

First, we sat down for about 15 minutes to have lunch (more bananas :)) before setting out to start the descent… which would not be a walk in the park either… Some sections were really steep to climb up, so descending these sections would be a tough cookie on calves, shins and knees.

I wanted to load up the saved track into the GPS to start backtracking, but to my surprise, the track was no longer in the database… WTF?? I checked again, nothing… restarted the GPS… nothing… Ok, this was not very good news. Mark had even said at one point to make sure I would not delete the track, and I had reset the GPS data before with no problems, but somehow I had managed to delete EVERYTHING… Saved tracks, routes, waypoints… the GPS was as empty as the Greek treasury ….

I looked at Mark and said: “Man, sorry, but I did it… I deleted the track…” None of us really panicked, but we both knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to find our way back through this dense wilderness… We sized up the situation and concluded that it should be possible to find “a” way out, considering we still had about 6 hours of daylight left. Plan B would be to spend the night in the small hut that we found earlier… I wasn’t looking forward to plan B, that’s for sure 

Finding the way out of the Pedra Branca forest…

Ok, so the new challenge of the day was to get back down from the mountain in one piece without GPS and only a vague idea of how to go about it… Swell

The first part was easy enough, and soon we were back at the T-section I mentioned earlier… We knew we had to go left here and climb about 100m (in altitude… not distance)  to get back to the clearing. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Somehow we found ourselves coming back to the T-section over and over again… the proverb “running around in circles” suddenly didn’t seem so unreal anymore…

From my online research, I remembered that there were several entrances to the park, and one of them was in Campo Grande. The GPS was still doing a perfect job as map and compass and showing me where we were, and I suggested that the path leading to the left from the T-section might be the one leading to Campo Grande… It was a hunch and the route to Campo Grande was 11,5 km instead of the 8,5 to Jacarépagua, but that would still be better than spending the night in the forest.

This man was on his way home to his chacara in the Pedra Branca forest. He said that we were on the right way out (well, I think that’s what he said) Photo: Mark Eveleigh – http://www.Thewideangle.com

We decided to take that route, although it meant that we didn’t know where (in what kind of neighborhood) in Campo Grande we would end up. Also, from Campo Grande we would have to find transportation back to the car in  Jacarépagua on the other side of the mountains, which would be a 35km bus, van, taxi (whatever) ride… Our plan to get back in Ipanema by 5.00pm went straight down the drain.

This trail was a lot more open, so we had good visibility over the surroundings almost the whole time, which made it easier to navigate. After 1,5 hours we started to see some chacaras, and that was a great thing, because the people living in the chacaras would have to have a road to get to Campo Grande to sell their products.

At a given moment we encountered an old man on a horse making his way up the mountain. I made him stop and asked if we were on the road to Campo Grande… He started saying a lot of things, but because about 95% of his teeth were gone, it wasn’t easy to understand him. We continued on the same trail, which was very tough at some places, making me feel sorry for the horse.

Having a beer and talking to the locals after making it out of the forest… The man next to me is 73 years old, came to Brazil with his father from the island of Madeira when he was 10… Worked in the field his whole life and never learned to read or write.

Eventually the trail turned into a double track road and we ended up in a small bairro of Campo Grande, where we had a cold beer at the first bar we found…

There was a guard at this side of the park as wall, and I asked him to call his colleagues in Jacarépagua to advise them that we were on the other side, but he said that he didn’t have a phone, and even if he would, he didn’t have any contact information of his colleagues. Even though I found that a little strange and very unprofessional, I can’t say I was surprised… After all, this is Brazil, right?

After finishing the beer (which gave me an instant headache – I don’t mix well with alcohol…) we found a bus to take us to the central station in Campo Grande, from where we took a van to Jacarépagua, where we had diner in a very ok restaurant (which I can’t remember the name of) before driving back to Ipanema, where we arrived around 9.30pm…

I checked into the hostel where Mark was staying as well, took a shower, a nap and after a caipirinha on Ipanema beach I went to bed… All in all it had been another fantastic day!!! (right mark? :))