São Paulo, April 2009 – Serra da Bocaina National Park is a large Mata Atlântica conservation unit along the state border of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It is famous for one of the legendary gold trails (Trilha do Ouro) between São José do Barreiro and Mambucaba.
Less known are the trails in north Bocaina which can be acessed from the colonial town of Bananal. But it would be presumptuous to talk about this part of the national park without mentioning a guy called Carlinho.
Carlinho is the owner of a relatively simple accomadation in the Bocaina highlands (Pousada Brejal) and nobody knows the trails in this area like him. When the military police is conducting rescue operations in this region, they ask him to guide them through the rainforest.
One of his habits is to talk 24 hours a day, which on the one hand is a little tiring, but on the other hand pretty educational. During our first tour to the Bonito river he impressed me twice by identifying a hunter who had been on this trail before, as a right – hander and the second time when he spotted some palmheart cutter who were hiding and watching us from a nearby scrub. The way back to his guest house was terrible because it started raining cats and dogs (april is a little early for this region) sinking up to the knees into the mud. Fortunately we could dry a little bit at the house of Dona Maria, an old lady who according to Carlinho produces the best Cambuçi – cachaça in the region.
The next day I could convince Carlinho to try an old historic trail which follows more or less the Bracuí river from the Bocaina highlands to the Atlantic Ocean. Excellent orientation is required to complete this trail because it is very little frequented, pretty dense vegetation and in the steeper parts the trail vanishes completely. A little after the trailhead, Carlinho, who also works part time for one of the bigger land owners, to patrol their land, called my attention by a kind of face that was carved into one of the trees. According to him, this is a typical sign of palmheart cutters who identify like this their plunder territory, warning by this other palmheart cutters not to advance any further in order to avoid a serious confrontation.
At one location, Carlinho discovered a tree, from which he cut for about 20 minutes the bark. This would be a good medicine against all types of liver diseases and would sell excellent in Bananal and surroundings. I really liked this guy and promised him to come back to his part of Serra da Bocaina, as soon as possible. But as many times this turned out to be only wishful thinking.