Archive for March, 2012

As the Bolivia expedition draws closer, we are starting to get our equipment together. For those of you who saw the shopping list for this training project, you will see just by looking at the list that it is certainly not going to be cheap.

Where we are going is over 6,200 metres high, and we will be going over glaciers and snow. Being so high up in the mountains the most important things that we will need are the right clothes – layered clothes. So today we spent some time at one of the mountaineering stores in São Paulo, Half Dome, looking at the different options.

By layered, what we are talking about are multiple levels of clothes on top of each other that will insulate our body from the cold, wind and rain/snow outside whilst at the same time letting our bodies breathe – especially when we are sweating carrying loads up the mountains.

A base layer (Curtlo Thermoskin Zip Base)

The inner layer, by the skin of the body, must be a reasonably snug fit and made of a material which will take the sweat away from the body. If you don’t get the right materials (generally synthetic), your sweat will be trapped and could lead to all sorts of problems as your clothes gradually become soaked from the inside out. Don’t use cotton! The salesman at the shop (also called Fabio, but no the same as our climbing trainer!) showed us the difference between materials and their affect by spraying a little water on them – on one, the spray instantly disappeared into the clothing whilst on the other the spray just turned into a drop of water on the inside of the fabric. I imagine me, sweating away going up a mountain wearing the latter, and it wasn’t nice!

The second layer, the mid-layer, will be a looser fit. The looser fit will trap the air between this layer and the inner layer, and in the cold, we may need more than one such layer, though we will need to remember that we will be warming up as we walk. Also, these layers will be designed with materials that will help transport the moisture from our bodies out – again, so we don’t get soaked by our own sweat!

Marmota Soft Shell jacket

The final layer, the outer (or shell) layer, needs to be wind and rain resistant, and at the same time, breathable so that the moisture from our bodies is drawn further out. It needs also to be pretty durable and resilient to sharp rocks as if it rips and rain gets into your layers, then your layers are no long so effective.

How much is this costing…? well here in Brazil just for these layers for the legs and the body, well about r$1,600 (US$ 1,000) per person. The advantage here is that we can pay in installments (3 to 6, depending on the store) whereas elsewhere will most likely be cheaper, but we wouldn’t be able to do this. So we are biting the bullet at the moment as we look for sponsorship – ultimately it will be equipment that will last a really long time so is a good investment no matter what.

A Super Sopa

Posted: March 30, 2012 by Natália Almeida in Nutrition, Português, Training
Tags: , , , , ,

De volta da Casa de Pedra, depois de um dia puxado de  musculação e exercício aeróbico. Nada de escalada mas muita pedalada, corrida e levantamento de peso. Ao chegar em casa queremos mais é comer algo gostoso, sentar pra resolver as coisas do site e dormir.

No onibús vindo pra casa já pensamos o que fazer para jantar e a decisão foi uma sopa de cenoura com gengibre e laranja que a minha cunhada Steph faz e é simplesmente uma delícia. Passamos no mercado, compramos o que sabíamos que faltava e ao chegar em casa esquecemos da laranja. O jeito era ver o que tínhamos em casa e inventar algo novo. Coloquei as cenouras pra cozinhar junto com uma mandioquinha. No fim acabei agregando um monte de coisa pensando na refeição ideal que a Dr. Isabella (nutricionista) nos pede. No fim a Super Sopa tinha  além do que já citei alho, gengibre, azeite, linhaça em semente e moída, ervilhas, ovos, sal e temperos.  Na real só faltou a saladinha pra ter ficado do jeito que a nossa nutricionista gosta, da próxima vez vou experimentar colocar espinafre  pra ver se fica bom.

E ficou realmente gostosa, o gengibre deixou ela refrescante e a sopa apesar de completa não era pesada. Ficou um creme muito leve. Sobrou o suficiente pra janta de hoje e quem sabe hoje eu não tento um espinafre e conto pra vocês mais tarde.

Se você quiser tentar em casa é bem fácil apesar de eu não saber algumas medidas direito.

– Corte 5 cenouras, uma mandioquinha pequena e um tomate grande em cubos e coloque em mais ou menos 1l de água temperada com sal e azeite pra cozinhar. Quando começar a ferver adicione os 4 dentes de alhos e o gengibre (um pedaço grande).

– Quando as cenouras estiverem macias coloque aos poucos no lliquidificador para bater, junte as sementes de linhaça ( +/- 2 colheres de sopa, e essa linhaca deve ter ficado na água de um dia pro outro). Você vai bater até virar um creme.

– Leve de volta ao fogo adicione as ervilhas frescas, os temperos a seu gosto  e três minutos antes de tirar adicione 2 ovos. Eu mexi para os ovos ficarem em pedacinhos cozidos, se você quiser deixá-los inteiros só coloque na panela e não misture.

– Agora é só servir, e aproveitar.

A happy patient!

In the larger scale of American emergency medicine, First Responders are quite low on the totem pole. Here in the United States, the general order from least trained to most is: First Aid, First responder, Emergency Medical Technician – which is then divided into EMT-B (basic) and EMT-I (intermediate). Above that you have your Paramedics, Medical Directors etc. Learning any type of emergency medicine however is a crash course in seeing the world differently. Cuts, wounds, a broken leg, how people injure themselves; it all takes on new life. Instead of seeing an accident and saying “Oh My Gosh!” you begin to say, “Cool. How can I help?”

Wrapping a hypothermic patient

Wrapping a hypothermic patient

Wilderness Medical Associates hosted a fantastic 8-day class at an Outward Bound house in northern Philadelphia, PA. The two instructors, Brian and Carl, were a plethora of information and balanced each others personalities quite well. Plus, we learned a thing or two about how to save someone’s life.

For eight days we ate, drank, slept, breathed and literally lived in a world of Wilderness Emergency Medicine. Breakfast at 8, with everyone in the class, class from 8:30 until 6pm, then dinner (again with everyone) and then study time. Study time was going back to our seats in the class room, discussing what we learned, asking questions, and throwing ideas around about different scenarios. During the day we learned the technical aspects and applications to treating and figuring out various symptoms. At night we discussed situations and how these technical aspects would apply. We began to get creative. We began to contemplate wilder and stranger situations. We learned some pretty important lessons through it.

The first: Medicine is always changing and there is no ‘never’ and ‘always’. What might work for someone, might not work for someone else. That being said, not every question has a permanent answer. The answer may change with the context.

With that, we learned about questions that cannot be answered or are unexpected. It was presented in this way.

Instructor: “If you hear hooves running behind you, when you turn around, what do you expect to see?”

Class: “A horse.”

Instructor: “Nope, it’s a zebra.”

Basically saying that not all questions will give you the answer you expect. We had a lot of “zebra questions” throughout our class.

In the end, we learned our 6 protocols for what we’ve been trained to do, and how to do it well. We learned how to deliver certain medications for pain, anaphylaxis and asthma. Spine day seemed to have made quite an impression on me as I had a dream last night that someone got into a fight and I had to “clear” his spine to make sure there were no injuries to the spinal cord.

For anyone that goes on hikes, works outside, has kids or simply is interested in emergency medicine, there is no better company than Wilderness Medical Associates. Everyday we learned something new, the instructors were honest about their knowledge base, and they took all of our questions seriously – including the zebras.

Now it’s up to us to review the information in months to come and make sure it’s fresh in my head. Unfortunately, as with many things, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

I’ll end this post with some quotes I wrote down in my notebook from the instructors. Whether odd, useful, or funny – they all have their place!

“As long as we’re eating and breathing, peeing and pooping; life is good.”

“Despite all our best efforts, good intentions and right decisions, some people just die.”

“Everybody gets one free puke. After that, it’s serious.”

“Repeat after me, ‘I will never, ever, ever, give anyone, insulin. Ever.’ It can kill even the most healthy person.”

“If you learn anything from CPR, remember one thing: Pump Hard, Pump Fast.”

“Treat what you see, do what makes sense.”

“A lot of what we’re teaching you isn’t only for being out in the wilderness. It’s just good medicine.”

“At the same temperature, water takes heat away from our bodies 25 times faster than air.”

And Lastly, one of the more important things our instructors said. It applies to just about any situation whether you’re in emergency medicine, corporate management or making life decisions.

“Do the best you can with what you got.”

Back from the gym at the end of the day. No climbing today, just running, cycling and weights but back to the walls tomorrow for some more traversing. Getting back to our house and we pass a 24-hour supermarket and as we didn’t really have much at home, we popped in to get some stocks.

We initially thought we would make a carrot, ginger and orange soup – my sister-in-law Stephanie makes a great soup, so we thought we would try and emulate that! We had the ginger in the house but didn’t think about the oranges at the time though, so already we were moving on to something a bit different.

When we got in, we looked around with what we had left and ended up adding a tomato, half a manioc, four clothes of garlic and olive oil, peas and linseed (linhaça in Portuguese) and eventually a couple of eggs in, before seasoning. So following our nutritionist’s advice, we had cereals, vegetables, proteins and oils in one. Just missing the salad!

It actually turned out to very good and tasty. The ginger added a nice strong but refreshing taste to it which was great. It was nice and filling as well, so we have enough for tomorrow evening as we didn’t feel the need to eat too much (in spite of wanting to!).

In case you want to try, I am afraid the instructions are definitely not the most sophisticated in the world as it was all extremely improvized! Though it is really quite easy to make…

  • Cut up about five large carrots and the tomato into about a litre of water (not sure exactly as it wasn’t really measured!) along with the finely chopped up garlic clothes and a couple of spoons of olive oil. Grate about half of a decent sized-root of ginger as well and add in.
  • Heat up the water and cut up the manioc into the mix; leave to boil for around 10 minutes or so
  • Pop it into blender with a couple of spoons of linseed and … well, blend…!
  • Pour back into the pan and leave on a low heat, adding the peas. Leave to simmer for another ten-fifteen minutes or so (depending on how hungry/patient you are!).
  • Three minutes before serving mix in your egg – we stirred it in so it all spread in the soup, though leave it whole if you like.

Not sure if the photo makes it look the most appetising meal in the world or does it justice, but really, it is healthy and refreshing, and very good!!

A slightly simpler lifestyle for some...

The day starts here at around 7am; crawling out of bed to the shower; making sure we have a breakfast which includes fruit and cereal (tapioca which is made from manioc is quite nice, and papaya with granola is also a good compliment; frozen juice pulps help for the drink as well); and then feed the cats. Fortunately they don’t have so many dietary demands, though they can be a bit fussy about exactly which meat they will eat. On the point of cats (I don’t believe I have introduced them properly – ah well, I will in another post!) by the way, exactly what we are going to do in two years’ time is not fully clear – unfortunately we can’t take them with us! What we do know is that we will definitely be wanting to find a good home to take care of them for three years or so – any offers..???!

Metro rush hour in São Paulo

The journey to work normally takes from an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how packed or late the trains are (these days one of the lines has been suffering regular energy problems, which has neither helped with the crowds nor the punctuality – for a bit more about a gringo’s life in São Paulo city itself, I wrote an article about that a little while ago…). The stations are designed not to facilitate flows of thousands of people coming and going to and from different directions, rather, to bring everybody together in a clash of passenger-rage and confusion before filtering them out onto the platforms at the end. I try to carry a heavy rucksack with me to work, as it is still exercise and helps me get used to carrying the weights, though during the rush hour, this can be quite tricky…

And then work… from 9am to X pm, depending on the projects and deadlines. I work in a consultancy job which means we are pretty client orientated, helping clients work out the non-financial risks of working with companies in Brazil for example, and building up pretty extensive reports for them. Can be quite pressurized with lots of deadlines at the same time. Currently one of the researchers is on holiday which means more work for all of us.

An hour lunch break at midday, which is pretty much always an hour and always outside of the office (very civilized in comparison to back in England where a sandwich at the desk will more often than not be taken on the break), then back to the computer screen.

The evening, however, belongs to the project. I am trying to really get organized at work so I don’t have to leave much later than 6pm, meaning that I would be able to go pretty much straight away to the local bakery and grab an Açaí with banana juice before going on the hour journey to the climbing wall. Weights, running or cycling, and climbing there for two-three hours, before back to the house for another shower, more project organizing and writing a bit for the blog/going through some of the videos we had filmed. So bed (after feeding the cats again and giving them some more attention!) is usually around 1 or 2am… The cats will probably jump on to the bed for the night as well.

All in a day’s work… though it would be lovely to have a few more hours or so in the day. Exactly how long I will be able to manage with the full time job as well as the 360 Extremes Expedition is another question, though as I made clear in turning down the opportunity to go to India (and funnily enough right now, another opportunity to go to China has come my way – strange how these things all come around at the same time. Six month ago I probably would have jumped at the chance…), the priority is definitely the expedition. I hope I don’t regret it!

Eu não sei se você viram um vídeo que o Ben postou aqui um tempo atrás sobre o Rope Swing. Mas é justamente  por causa desse vídeo que eu decidi escrever sobre essa loucura.

Não vou mentir que me dá um medo só de olhar mas também me dá uma vontade, imagina a adrenalina que deve ser, e também a sensação de estar voando… Amei a minha experiência de paraquedas e pensar em ter alguma sensação parecida com aquela de cair me deixa tentada.

A questão também é que achei muito difícil achar informações sobre essa prática na internet e acho válido contar aqui um pouco sobre o esporte, os perigos e as curiosidades.

Então vamos lá, chega de blá blá blá e vamos ao conteúdo.

O Rope Swing foi inventado há uns 15 anos não sei ao certo por quem específicamente mas a única certeza é que surgiu na terra do Tio Sam (EUA). Lembra muito o Bungee Jump só que ao invês de se cair direto do ponto de ancoragem a pessoa se afasta lateralmente, assim ao saltar se cria um pêndulo que passa próximo ao chão e sobe novamente.

O grande nome desse esporte é Dan Osman, um americanos que ficou famoso por praticar esportes de montanhas levados ao extremo. Em 98 no parque Nacional de Yosemite nos EUA deu um fantástico salto a 180m, 3 semanas depois resolveu tentar quebrar o próprio recorde só que dessa vez sua corda rompeu e ele acabou falecendo com o impacto. O que se diz é que ele deixou a estrutura e o equipamento no local, expostos a chuva e sol o gerou uma falha no equipamento.

É um esporte de alto risco que só deve ser feito acompanhado de gente experiente, e também já aviso que é uma pratica que machuca a coluna assim como o bungee jump.

Aqui no Brasil o esporte não é conhecido mas se pode encontrar lugares no interior de SP, em Brasília e Minas Gerais.

Segue vídeos:

Salto Recorde


Meu primeiro contato com a Slackline foi numa reportagem e achei bem legal, as pessoas pareciam se divertir bastante com a nova onda carioca. Ao chegar na Casa de Pedra e ver a fita armada não resisti e fui tentar. É, mas o que eu não imaginava era que antes da diversão viria a superação. Pra ser sincera ainda estou tentando me superar. Eu tento, tento, tento, tento e tento e a evolução é zero. O Ben já está começando a se divertir, já atravessou a fita de ponta a ponta algumas vezes mas ainda não arriscou nenhuma manobra, mas do jeito que ele evolui isso não deve demorar. Se eu conseguir andar 3 passos até o meio do ano já fico feliz. 

Pra quem não conhece muito o esporte vou tentar explicar brevemente, a prática consiste em se equilibrar sobre uma fita de nylon estreita e flexível e surgiu na década de 80 no Vale Yosemite porque os escaladores para montar vias tinham que acampar por dias e esticavam as fitas de escaladas para se equilibrar e caminhar.

É um esporte que pode ser praticado por pessoas de qualquer idade e os benefícios são diversos como a melhora do equilíbrio, da concentração, dos reflexos, da consciência corporal, coordenação, entre outros. Hoje é usado nos treinos de muitos escaladores, surfistas e skatistas porque os movimentos e músculos exigidos são muito parecidos.

Você pode ver abaixo que com prática e criatividade muita coisa é possível!

Já falei num post anterior sobre a nossa ida ao Parque intervales e sobre as trilha que fizemos, a maior dificuldade e a maior emoção foi dentro da caverna principalmente na Caverna do Fendão, nesse vídeo tentei re-criar o clima que vivenciamos lá dentro. Então apague as luzes e preste atenção.

After a month or so of being very careful with what we eat – avoiding milk and derived products such as cheese and yoghurt, Isa, our nutritionist here in Brazil, came back to visit us.

A few standard questions for both of us – how were we feeling with the different diet? Any differences at all in the way our bodies had been reacting to the foods? Any particular benefits or negative points? Aside from the yearning for natural yoghurt and cheese, however, both of us have been feeling good and in spite of milk having been an integral part of our diet before starting with Isa, we had managed to balance our diets pretty well: eating every three hours with mixtures of nuts and fruits; ensuring our lunches and dinners have a mixture of proteins, vegetables, salads and beans etc; and drinking more and varied fruit juices. (One of the great things about Brazil is that there are so many juices you can drink – our favourites here include a mango with pineapple, cachou and acai with banana though there are plenty of others; you can find juice bars with hundreds of different juice combinations!)

Isa introduce the food pyramid to us (very similar to the one in the picture), with the base being breads, cereals, followed by fruit and horticultural products; legumes and proteins and some milk products; and at the top, oils and more sugary foods in very limited quantities. When she said that we can drink milk products again (within reason), it was nice though at the same time we haven’t been really tempted to indulge ourselves too much and it has actually been quite easy to limit ourselves in the quantities we take.  She also introduced to us the idea of supplements for our training in the gym as the last thing we want to do is burn muscles whilst training instead of the carbs. Also, vitimin supplements will be important for us doing the project and it would be unwise just to start on them out of nothing without the body getting used to them.

So, it will be another month before we see Isa again, and though it will probably be the case that this last month will have been the most difficult to get used to, we are going to have to be careful and measured throughout the next five years to make sure we get through this in good shape.

Novidades no 360 Extremes, agora estamos trabalhando 

com Luciano Oreggia, diretor de televisão com larga experiência em vídeo de esportes. Já dirigiu por dois anos programas no Rally dos Sertões – o maior Rally do Brasil e um dos maiores da América

Latina – também é responsável por diversos vídeos da Red Bull Brasil e hoje trabalha na Sky Sports Brasil. Antes de ser diretor foi jornalista do canal de televisão Globo.

Há tempo queremos trabalhar com ele, sabíamos que ele seria perfeito para nos ajudar a produzir os vídeos e documentários do 360 Extremes nos próximos anos garantindo o alto nível de qualidade como um projeto desse exige.

Estamos super felizes em tê-lo à bordo dessa aventura.

A Natália e o Luciano se conhecem há anos e já trabalharam em diversa ocasiões juntos, aqui um trecho do Rally dos Sertões dirigido por ele e editado por ela:

Luciano Oreggia

Posted: March 23, 2012 by Ben Weber in English, The Journey
Tags: , , , , , ,

More movements behind the scenes with the 306 Extremes Expedition – we are now working with Luciano Oreggia, a television director in Brazil who currently works with Sky Sports in Brazil, who has directed various television sports such as the Rally dos Sertões – one of the major car rallies in Brazil, and who has worked in producing a massive number of Red Bull videos over here. He has previously worked for a good period as a journalist for the mainstream television channel, Globo.

We are looking forward to working with Luciano, who will help us in producing the films and documentaries of the 360 Extremes project over the next few years and ensuring that the work we produce is of the top level quality that a project such as ours should be. Great to have him on board, so onward and upwards!

Natalia has worked on various occasions with Luciano and has a great relationship with him – here is a short clip from the Rally dos Sertões, directed by Luciano and edited by Natalia.

See more about Luciano’s work and films here!

As training continues apace, we have got to find new, interesting and challenging hikes within reach from São Paulo for the weekends. There are a number that we have found which look great, though am absolutely certain that there are many others which would also be fantastic for us.

The main ones which we have found so far are:

Horto Florestal: Quite an easy place to go hiking, though plenty of trails that can take a good amount of time. Advantages are that it is easy to get to: hop on the metro by our house up to Parada Inglesa (25 minutes) then a bus to the park (20 minutes). Can easily spend a good five or six hours walking around and keeping your eyes open for wildlife. Disadvantages are that perhaps the hikes are too easy… though it’s all good exercise. It will be good for the weekends when we can’t get out of the city as well.

Parque Intervales: Difficult to get to: three and a half hours bus from São Paulo city, then an hour taxi-ride; also difficult to get back from: the buses back to São Paulo leave at either 4.30pm or 1.30am…  So if you just go for a day hike, you will be back in São Paulo at around 5am. Definitely need a weekend or longer. Lots of trails can be done over occasionally difficult terrain, but still not the most challenging of walks around. The caves are nice but feel a bit like a gimmick, for want of better words. Oh and for two people, expect to spend at least US$ 300 for a weekend. Ouch. We will be going back but not regularly.

Agulhas Negras: The fourth highest mountain in Brazil apparently in the region between the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. Picturesque park region which would be good for camping and also for a number of different hikes around the area. Not been there yet, though looking forward to when we eventually get there. Will probably take about five hours or so to get there, so leaving quite late from São Paulo city to arrive there in the morning.

Pedra do Sino: A good 10 hours or so away from São Paulo, so to go here will require a long weekend at the least. Plenty of tough hiking to do here up the mountains, and the hikes are long enough for camping out in the open – one of the choices for the Easter break, and something that we shall be doing more regularly as we progress in the project

Serra de Canastra: A massive park region in Minas Gerais state, here there is scope for endless days of hiking. Plenty of waterfalls and steep walks, will be great to go through! The main entrance point is from the Tiete bus terminal in São Paulo to Piumhi where the first bus leaves at 8am and last at 10pm, and takes about seven and a half hours. Then you would get an hour or so bus ride to São Roque with the early bus at 6.20am… A bit of a journey but looks like it will be worth it!

As I say, plenty more treks to do for sure, and am certain that we will be adding to this soon.

Join me at http://www.350.orgWe are delighted to announce the decision of the 360 Extremes Expedition team to raise funds for over the course of our project! One of the key goals of the 360 Extremes Expedition team is to raise awareness of how climate change is affecting the world, in even the most extreme environments. Indeed, it is more often than not that these extreme environments and the inhabitants of these environments, whether people or animals, are the worst affected by global warming. One just needs to look to the Arctic circle and how the decreasing sea ice is having severe effects on the Polar Bears and other life in the area. The situation is such that we aim to complete this epic journey through going through the Americas, over the North Pole, down through Russia, Asia and over the South Pole by entirely carbon-neutral means – a manner which fits in perfectly with the goals of aims to build a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. The campaign is named after 350 parts per million, the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, according to the latest science (current CO2 levels are at 390ppm). In less than three years, they’ve helped create a network of over 500,000 supporters and over 1,000 partner organizations in over 180 countries. has organized some of the largest mobilizations in the planet’s history. The organization’s online campaigns, grassroots organising, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organisers in over 188 countries. 

The cause we are all working to is one for all of us – one for all of our futures. Please help us in supporting them: your donation means the world to all of us.

Esse final de semana fomos para o Parque Estadual Intervales para fazer uma trilha, o mais impressionante foi ao chegar ver que o parque é muito famoso nos Estados Unidos. A maior parte dos freqüentadores são americanos. Como pode, um lugar que fica a menos de 4 horas de São Paulo, que ninguém nunca nem ouviu falar, ser famoso no exterior?

O motivo de tanto sucesso é a grande diversidade de aves. No meio da Mata Atlântica o parque oferece diversas trilhas, cachoeiras, grutas e cavernas e diversas opções de ecoturismo. Uma pena que a gente só tinha ido passar o Domingo, o site do governo do estado não descrevia bem o parque e pensávamos que só tinha uma trilha para fazer.

Fizemos a trilha Divisor das Águas com um percurso de mais ou menos 13 km e com uma duração que pode chegar a 9 horas. A caminhada é longa mas sem muitas dificuldades, alguns trechos molhados e escorregadios mas nada demais. A maior dificuldade foi ao entrar nas cavernas. Foi a nossa primeira experiência e não imaginávamos que seria tão complicado. Na maior parte tínhamos que andar agachados, com água na altura da canela, alguns trechos com o teto baixo e largura estreita. Alem disso tínhamos que iluminar o caminho porque dentro da gruta era um breu só. De uma galeria para outra tínhamos que pular fendas, se arrastar em túneis, escalar mini boulders… Uma experiência desafiadora e muito gostosa.

Certeza que iremos repetir.


Para você que gosta de aventuras:

Parque Estadual Intervales Monitor R$ 50,00 por dia.

Hospedagem no parque? R$50,00 por dia.

Sai ônibus da Rodoviária da Barra funda para Capão Bonito de lá você pode pegar um taxi o custo médio da corrida é de R$70,00.

Para mais informações sobre essa e outras trilhas: anos.

After a three-hour bus ride then an hour’s taxi ride through the pitch black of the Paranapiacaba mountains to the south-west of São Paulo city, on Saturday night we got to the São Paulo state Intervales Park near the town of Capão Bonito. It was quite a long journey to say the least and quite an expensive one to say the least – park entry fees, taxis, buses… it all built up… Taxi drivers who see strangers to the area with not much of a clue of how to get to their final destination do have a big temptation to perhaps increase costs a little… But it was a break from São Paulo and nice to escape the city so I won’t dwell on that. Furthermore, for Natalia and I, it was more training with a good 15km hike planned for the next day.

The Park is well up in the mountains and features a load of caves as well as over 100,000 hectares of Mata Atlantica forest. Countless  species of birds, mammals, reptiles (snakes… I hate snakes….!) and insects inhabit park so we were looking forward to seeing more of what nature had to offer us. Also, in spite of us arriving at around 9.30pm, they had some dinner waiting for us, though we did have a little trouble finding where we would be staying at the park (stumbling through the pitch black even with our torches was not the easiest of things to do!).

The following day, up bright and early to meet our guide: we were not allowed to go alone on the trail we were going to do – it is pretty easy to get lost in the forest and both Natalia and I did get a little disoriented. Also the trail meant going through caves which were like labyrinths… without a guide we would not have had a clue! And the guide also kept his eyes to the ground to make sure we didn’t come too close to any of our scaly friends…

As it turned out, we didn’t see any snakes, nor monkeys. Lots of butterflies and birds (humming birds in particular) as well as cave spiders. We got pretty grubby going through the caves and waist deep through the streams, which was quite fun (quite tricky as well with the camera in one hand (stopping it falling in the water) and the torch in another as well). The humming birds are just so fast, they are very difficult to take decent pictures of – especially with manual focus (they blend in pretty well with the forest, making the auto-focus very tricky to use), though I think I managed to get a couple of decent shots (I hope you like!). Also, the hike was pretty tiring, going through the forest, up and down hills, and in the end worth the journey (though we will probably stick with places closer to home for the next month or so – at least until the Easter holiday when we would have more time) – if we had more time rather than just our one full day, we would have stayed longer to do some of the shorter hikes… but I suppose this is a good reason to go back there some day as well!