Peak went begging

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Well, yes, I didn’t quite bag the Pico das Agulhas Negras. I probably should have known better than to sign up for an intense/difficult walk after 10 months of no bushwalking at all, but there I was, not quite expecting what was facing me: a lot of rock. Combine that with little strength in legs or arms and you have yourself a challenge.

Pico das Agulhas Negras is the in the National Park of Itatiaia in Brazil. The park sits on the borders of the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo and is comprised of various mountains that rise up dramatically from the plateau. A beautiful spot, full of greenery, birds, trees, flowers and a lot mad hikers.

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The first part of the walk was cruisy and it was great to be out in nature again, meandering along and getting to know new people. Then we crossed a little stream (henceforward to be referred to as the Styx to put things in context) and my purgatory started. Up and up it went, up rock slabs that were at such an awkward angle that they had to be tackled by walking on hands and feet. That section was followed by a brief climb up a rope to get up a perpendicular face and then there were more even steeper rock slabs. Energy was fading fast and so as not to hold back the rest of the group, one of the organisers of the trip, Paulo and I took it slower and gradually made our way upwards, while the rest of the group sprinted up the hill (or so it seemed to me).

The going kept getting harder and harder, until we were nearly at the summit faced with a chimney that required movements comparable to those of well-trained Chinese acrobats. I truly couldn’t see how to work it and decided to pull the pin at that point. There was still at least half an hour of climbing to get to the top after that and not enough time to do that before the rest of the group started descending. So instead Paulo and I found a relatively comfortable rock slab in the sun and ate our lunch before starting the descent.

That in itself was almost more torturous than the climb up, equivalent to Dante’s nine circles of hell (it’s always more fun to make it sound worse than it was) and I’ll confess that I mostly descended using my ‘bum bum’ as they call it here in Brazil. But truly, there was no other way of getting down the mountain and the video clip will show that even our guide Jeronimo resorted to that method from time to time. After that there was still a little abseil and more rock to descend, but eventually we all made it across the Styx again intact.

The next day we did a more moderate walk to the Furada del Morro (?), which was an absolute delight. Hardly a soul around (in comparison to the conga line of people that climbed the Pico at the same time as us) and a good work out, but not as hard as the previous day. It stretched out the legs a bit, although probably still not enough, as today I am as stiff as anything and hobbling around the streets of Sao Paulo. Never mind, it was all well worth it and a great experience to get out of the city and into nature here in Brazil. A first time of many, hopefully.

To finish off some video from the Sunday walk.

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