São Paulo, March 2010 – Itapanhaú river is located in the northeastern portion of the Itutinga – Piloes section of Serra do Mar State Park, in the municiples of Mogi das Cruzes and Bertioga. It combines Mata Atlântica submontane and lowland ecosystems such as a vast restinga vegetation before Bertioga which some years ago was declared state park. One of the highlights of this trail is the Cachoeira do Elefante waterfall at about 200 height meters.
I started to discover the rainforest area between Mogi and Bertioga relatively late. The Elefante waterfall is mentioned relatively often on the internet but useful descriptions of the trail were relatively scarce. So I tried to approach this region in small steps, beginning with shorter trails as Poço das Antas or the Pedra Rachada / Furada waterfall of the Sertãozinho river.
One day, I conquered my fears, left São Paulo at 06 am and headed in direction to the Itapanhaú. One of the problems of this trail is that you can´t park your car safe in the proximity of the trail head. The last parking oppurtunity is about 6 km distant which means a little above 1 hour fast walking on the Mogi – Bertioga highway.
The trailhead was decorated with remains of a dead chicken, an empty sugar cane bottle and flowers, typical signs for a Macumba ritual one of the last nights. This didn´t encourage me any further because you never know which drugged, crazy individuals you might find on the trail but at this point I didn´t care and started entering the woods. Fortunately, I didn´t see anyone during the whole hike which was not that much a surprise because the trail is officially forbidden, few people know the access and the trail is pretty long.
The first time I went wrong, was after having crossed a smaller river, still on the plateau. Instead of descending, I continued along the crest southwestwards, until I finally became aware that this was bullshit. So I had to return for half an hour or so and finally caught the right trail descending to the Elefante waterfall, I still reached relatively early. After having spent some time there, taken several pictures I had to decide what to do now. The initial idea was to return to the car the same way I had come but than I thought, man, you already might have passed more than a third of the whole trail, weather was excellent, there was enough water around, I felt relatively strong, so even not having the minimum idea how to return to the car, I continued descending towards Bertioga.
Fortunately, the trail was a little better than expected, I advanced pretty fast and reached the Caraú ranch, at the end of the trail at around 4 pm. One of the biggest obstacles is the crossing of the Itapanhaú river in the lower part because there is no bridge. Fortunately it hadn´t rained for days , so the water level was until my hips at the deepest point (and the current reasonalble), but at the Fazenda they told me that sometimes people get stuck on the other side for days because there is no way to cross that river.
From the Fazenda, I still had to walk up for 2 hours the Mogi – Bertioga, because there are no busses stopping and hitchhiking is not popular in Brazil. After half of the ascent, I was lucky and a truck driver gave me a lift to my car. I was back to SP at 9 pm, pretty exhausted but somehow really happy.