What atracts me to the mountains is the experience of autonomy. We live in a world where everything has become relative, we lack values and principles, amid an information chaos and a flood of social contacts, within a society of quantity, not quality. And always in absolute dependency of the supermarket, the restaurant, the energy company, the telephone one, the water supllier. Entangled in such a way inside a complex web of production and consumption as to make it impossible to decide how we want to live. They decide everything.
Mountains, on that sense, are an oasis of peace. They mean getting away from all that and backing off from all the expressions of skepticism, individualism and niilism that fulfill our day-to day life, toward a small season of order, where the basics of life can still be accessed: contact with nature, direct and deeper human relationships, a little mistery and adventure.
On a mountain, one can experience a good ilusion of self-suficiency and independency. For a few days, life has a clear goal: to reach a certain peak and come back down or simply complete a nice hike from one point to another. Everything we need is at hand and can be carried on our backs – backpacks, pans, food, tent, some clothes, a stove, etc. Life is downsized back to essential matters: to find the way, walk, feel dazzled by the awesome landscape, enjoy friendship, talk interspersed with long silences and heavy breathing, setting up camp, cooking, sleeping. For a few days, we have a goal, a clear bearing and we can feel self-suficient.
The traverse of the Orgaos Mountain Range, in southeastern Brazil, can maybe be considered the most classical trekking route in the country, and it is certainly one of the most beautiful. Usually done in three heavy walking days, going up and down mountains, navigating through rock slabs that can have the most experienced trekker lost and contemplating breathtaking scenarios, it is a great off the beaten path alternative for adventurers wandering around Rio.
The trail crosses Orgaos Mountain Range National Park, 100 km off Rio de Janeiro beaches up on the nearby mountains.
I did it during the winter of 2004 along with two great friends.
The trek was wonderful. We did not meet a single soul, except on the very end of it. It was extenuating, but not too much suffering. Lots of steep sections to meditate upon. We did get pretty lost once on the top of the range for some taste of adventure. We watched a historical moon rising. We walked under clear skies and under fog, pretty much on the fashion of any good mountain.
The first day is a 1,373 meters uphill trail from the town of Teresopolis, almost entirely done amid the luxurious Atlantic Forest. The high grass fields are only reached pretty close to the camping point near the foot of Pedra do Sino (Bell Rock), the highest point of the range. While Teresopolis is 890 meters above sea level, Pedra do Sino is 2,263 meters high.
From the camping ground, 15 minutes of scrambling take you to the summit of Sino Rock for a breathtaking scenario: Death Valley, 600 meters bellow, the peak chain of Nova Friburgo on the distance, the Sun rising behind it, and finally Guanabara Bay and the wonderful city of Rio by the sea less than 100 km away.
Day 2 is the most critical section of the trek, crossing several crests over the range. There are many unmarked parts where one must navigate around rock slabs at the risk of getting lost. We did get pretty lost this day.
We reached our camping spot after nine hours walking, as a giant red Moon rose over the Eastern mountains, the silhouette of Sino Rock and its huge walls being swallowed by the shadows on one side, the towers of Assu Castles on the other, and the Sunset still visible way bellow toward the valleys where clouds started to gather at the low areas. My eyes got humid. It was certainly one of the greatest visions I ever had.
The third and last day is spent forever going down. The trail ends at the colonial town of Petropolis on the other side of the park.
It took us nearly five hours to complete this section, with a refreshing bath stop at icy Bonfim River, near the end of the trail.
A less known amazing path of Brazil.