What do you do for Christmas if you don’t believe in it and if you live right next to a national park? You go hiking, of course. The 20 kilometers from Lencois to Morro do Pai Inacio seemed like the perfect distance for a day’s march.
With such a view, less than an hour outside of Lencois, I can imagine that even gardening may be enjoyable.
Or maybe less so when fires are raging all around.
The type of landscape I walked through changed by the minute, from creeks with autumn foliage to desert-type landscapes, then again palm trees and boulevards formed by fruit trees.
From about the halfway point on, the path followed an old aqueduct as well as a path of destruction left by the fire.
After walking for around three hours, always uphill, I saw my destination on the horizon for the first time: the prominent flat-topped Morro do Pai Inacio. A scene like in a Western movie, not least due to my fitting hat.
The mountain seemed close, the path towards it direct, but both impressions turned out to be illusions. Like in the case of a mirage, the optical distance seemed to remain the same at least for another hour, regardless of how fast I walked.
And like another mirage in the middle of the desert, there was suddenly an oasis not marked on my map. A house which looked to be on its way to ruins, but which had enormous trees in the garden, bursting with mangoes. Assuming that the the estate was deserted (I only found skeletons of animals in the yard), I wanted to climb one of the trees when I spotted some shoes on the porch and a pair of miner’s jeans hung out to dry.
Suddenly, the skulls in the yard had a completely different meaning and I ran, straight through the forest through which I had to battle my way for the last hour, until I finally stood in front of Pai Inacio.
Only then did I realize “whoa, pretty steep, this piece of rock” and wondered how all the tourists had gotten their photos from the top of this mountain. I doubt that many of them would scale the vertical wall. And indeed: from the back, it’s easy to climb. Everyone else actually drove up by car and only had to walk the last 15 minutes.
At least that solved one problem which had been posed by the quickly advancing day: in two hours, it would get dark. It had taken me six hours to walk to Pai Inacio, and even if I was faster on the way back and wouldn’t make any stops, I would need to cover about half of the way under the light of the full moon. Romantic, sure, but also spooky with all the snakes, pumas and carnivorous cacti. But if there were people with cars, I would hopefully find someone to take me back to Lencois. Particularly on Christmas.
Before I even had to ask anyone for a ride, Davi, a Brazilian who together with two friends had climbed up the face of the mountain, which I had dismissed as unscalable, said hello. If there were pitons in the wall, I inquired. “No, there is nothing artificial in this rock. Here, you can climb as you want, that’s the beauty of it,” he laughed. And when he heard of my hike, he immediately offered to take me back to Lencois.
The more I travel around the world, the more universal truths I learn. One of them is: In any country in the world, national parks and libraries are the places where you meet the friendliest, most helpful and often most interesting people.
Luckily, Davi and his colleagues weren’t in a hurry, so I could enjoy the cooling winds and the spectacular views from the plateau. Unfortunately, there are rangers here who ensure that nobody stays overnight.
On the ride back, I noticed the “Advogado” sticker on Davi’s car and found out that he is a lawyer, too. To the enjoyment of our fellow passengers, we concluded the day with a comparative analysis of constitutional procedural law, which I would have loved to continue all evening. As I got home, a different surprise awaited me. My landlords invited me to join them for cold meat and whiskey-flavored beer.
Like this, Christmas is bearable.