This week has been carnival week in Brazil, where the whole country seemingly shuts down and heads to the beach for a few days of intense partying, dancing and music making. Maria and I took the opportunity to head into the mountains, for I am much more a mountain person than a beach person, especially in tropical heat and sun, and so it was that we ended up in the small town of Monte Verde.
The town itself is very much a tourist town, with a high street full of restaurants and souvenir shops, selling cheese and cachaça for which the state of Minas Gerais is famous for. It was built on the model of a Swiss resort, with most of the architecture influenced by chalets of the Swiss Alpines.
It has not yet succumbed to overdevelopment, and hence it was wonderful to explore the town on foot, walking along dirt roads, finding waterfalls and cascades amongst the rich vegetation.
The town lies at an altitude of between 1500 and 1600 metres, and is situated far from any motorways or other major towns. The whole region which is now protected, consists of a slightly degraded Mata Atlantica (Atlantic rainforest) and plantations of eucalyptus which are cultivated for paper. Living in São Paulo where the air quality is so dire, just being able to breathe such fresh air was sensational. The air was rich and sweet with the aromas of such dense vegetation of hundreds of varieties of trees and plants.
Being so interested in Goethe’s Metamorphosis of Plants, you can imagine that it was an absolute delight, a sensory overload at every twist and turn of the roads.
As I said before, I love being in the mountains, especially in Snowdonia in Wales and so it was great to be somewhere with so many trails up to the various peaks, generally around 2000m. Although facilities remain pretty basic, the trails have been well maintained, and it was a dream to be walking in such dense vegetation.
On our last day at Monte Verde, Maria and I decided to tackle the Pedra Redonda climb, a peak of round rock at an altitude of 1,990m.
We were treated to an absolute spectacular view, looking to Minas Gerais in the north and the state of São Paulo in the south.
Below is a panoramic view. You may need to click on the photo to see it in full.
I still need to get used to seeing so much vegetation at altitude, and Maria and I sat for a while taking it all in, and then clambering to the very highest rocks.
I always love walking with Maria, and we stopped many times to allow her to help me identify plants which are new to me. The one in the picture below is called Xaxim, (and also referred to as Samambaia), and is in fact endangered. It is illegal to pick it, but we found quite a few on our travels.
I always say “there is no greater artist than Mother Nature” and I have to say walking was quite slow with so much to look at.
In all Maria and I had a very wonderful few days. We will certainly be going back, exploring even more of the trails and I really felt a huge gratitude to be somewhere so rich in nature.