Turistas in the Jungle

Shortly after moving to Brazil, we were so impressed with the mountains surrounding our small city of Joinville that we couldn’t wait to go hiking.  Dale researched several trails in the Joinville area and read the reviews in Portuguese.  He found one particular trail that the Brazilian reviewer reported was “facil” or easy in Portuguese.  This “muito facil” (very easy) trail leads up to what is called “Castelo dos Bugres” which means Castle of the Bugres in English.  Please keep in mind we were new to Brazil so our grasp of the Portuguese language was not very good at that time – and definitely not up to discerning sarcasm in a written post!

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Pre-Hike. Elizabeth looks so happy!

The Burgres are a group of Indians native to Brazil.  At the end of the trail there is an interesting rock formation and cave which is at the center of many legends about the Indians in this area.  One legend is that this area is the entrance to the center of the earth.  It is also reported that the view from the top of the trail is very beautiful. At least from what we’ve heard!

So we packed up some gear in our backpacks, including water and a first aid kit, and headed out.  It was a hot, humid, and foggy fall day and it had rained recently.

The trail started easy enough but very shortly we encountered several obstacles.   The first part of the trail was a large, flat gravel road, cut through the trees.  This looked to be a nice relaxing hike.  A few minutes later, the trail narrows, but overall is still fairly smooth and an easy walk.  That is when we encountered our first major obstacle.  We had to cross a stream and the “bridge” consisted of 3 large tree branches, not attached to anything, just placed over the water, about 4 feet above the water.

Bridge LR

To compound matters, it was very narrow and there was not a rope or anything to hold onto.  Crossing this “bridge” would require good balance.  We took a few minutes to look around and discuss if we would attempt to cross, go back, etc.  We finally decided to grab some tree branches overhead and attempt to cross while using the branches overhead to balance.  We made it across the “bridge” without falling from 4 feet up into the water.  We were very proud of ourselves and continued on after taking some photos and celebrating our new status of “outdoor fit couple”.  Little did we know this was just the beginning of the trail from hell.

After continuing on some time, the trail began to narrow even more, became a muddy mess, and more difficult to traverse.  We worried about snakes because Brazil is known to have some of the most deadly snakes in the world.  We joked about how this is how horror movies begin, with a couple in a different country, in the woods, going for a nice day hike, getting lost.

trail 1

We began to wonder how much farther the trail went, and was it one way up and one way down, or did it loop.  We had no idea.  We discussed how it was not very smart of us to leave for a hike, telling no one where we went and not having a map of the trail.  We started to get tired because the trail went straight uphill.  Then we thought about, what if one of us sprains or breaks an ankle, how would we get back to the car?  We discussed turning around several times but stubbornly continued on.

We eventually encountered a giant mud pit.  We were able to cross it by stepping on some of the rocks.  We encountered a second mud pit that we were able to go around through the brush.  After what seemed like several hours, we were exhausted.  Dale found a large piece of bamboo to use as a walking stick which we then fought over.  Eventually we were so exhausted we decided it would be best to turn around and head back to the car while we still had energy.  We were afraid we would get too tired and become careless and slip and sprain an ankle.  We laughed about how we were probably just a few short feet from the rock formation and lookout but we turned around anyway.

On our way back to the car, just as I was bragging to Dale about my awesome coordination while traversing yet another mud pit, I slipped and sunk into the mud and got stuck.   We laughed and took some pictures.  At this point we were both muddy messes.  We were also so exhausted that we no longer bothered looking out for snakes and Dale joked that he hoped to get bit by a snake so he could die and not have to walk anymore!

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When we encountered the stream we had to cross again, I, no longer able to balance skipped the bridge all together and just walked through the water.  At this point I was already covered in mud and figured it didn’t matter if my feet became wet.

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Not so happy now!

We finally returned to the car, with bug bites galore, mud everywhere, sweaty, and almost certain I had a tick or parasite somewhere when we met two young Brazilian men at the trailhead.  They were very friendly, and they asked where we were from. One of the men spoke English very well.  We asked them about how far the trail went and found out we were almost at the top.  They invited us to join them and offered to take us to the top, we obviously declined as we could barely put one foot in front of the other.  They said goodbye and then jogged up the trail enthusiastically.  I’m guessing they probably made it to the top in less than 30 minutes and probably jogged the entire way.

We vowed to return and complete the hike.  We actually decided to go this summer, only to change our minds when one of my English students told me that summer time in Brazil is when “the snakes come out”.  I guarantee you that this story will continue. We will type an ending to our story this fall and we will redeem ourselves.  As for now, I’m just glad we didn’t disappear in the Brazilian jungle to never be seen again!