Vale do Pati: Moments

by kangcuzzi

Three nights ago we returned to Palmeiras, sweaty and exhausted, after a four-day trek through the rolling hills of Vale do Pati. Three days later, I lie in bed with a slightly sore foot and the bittersweet feeling of the present gradually becoming the past. Before the echoes of our trek completely leave my body, I thought it’d be worthwhile to capture, in words and photos, some of our finest moments deep in the wonder of the Chapada.

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The trek began and ended with sleep. On the early morning van ride to Guiné, our starting destination, I remember the van falling quiet as members of our troupe compensated for the 5AM wake-up call. On the ride back to Palmeiras, I fell asleep watching the headlights illuminate the indents on the dirt road, a bottle of green juice nestled in my lap. When I woke up, I saw my homestay mom in the near distance, walking home.

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We walked — a lot. The first day we walked twelve kilometers from Guiné to Seu Miguel’s house, which is nestled deep in the verdant hush of the valley. At our first viewpoint, I remember stumbling into the view and simply feeling stunned. I wondered how the trees in the distance were so violet. In the background, Joás, our eccentric guide, sang a song about feeling saudades for Pati, and each time he sang it it seemed to have a different tune.

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There was a lot of singing involved: wildlife imitative singing, Disney song singing, renditions of Hallelujah, attempts at a two-part, earth-loving hymn. The lattermost we sang at the dinner table each night. Dinner was always a fun process; on the final night, after scrapping our idea of paying for a pre-made meal, the whole group spent three hours in the kitchen whipping up (re-)baked pasta, farofa, and a godó de banana made from some green bananas Joás found, and cut, on the hike that day. Joás’ godó was certainly deserving of his exuberant ‘bom demais!’ (too good!). The repertoire of his culinary improvisation — which included oatmeal made with tea — was certainly something to learn from. Jordan’s improvised oat cake, however, probably (pun certainly intended) took the cake with its ingenuity of utilizing all the extra food we brought.

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Sitting on the top of Morro de Castelo, Jordan, Asia and I got a kick out of playing my favourite simile game, an I Spy… variation which involves the statement life is like… followed by one thing in the near distance which had to be justified in the context. For example: life is like an eavesdropping lizard on Morro de Castelo — it creeps up on you. 

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The next day, we went to Cachoeira dos Funis, where I promptly soothed the physical consequences of an all-black outfit with a dip in the ice-cold water. Trying to catch my balance under the roaring waterfall was terrifying; the water was so loud. Later on I climbed up the first waterfall to find a second, next to which I lay on a bed of flat rock thinking of calm things and feeling the taste of a wild berry on my tongue. I only left because a bee sat on my right leg and refused to move, which made me nervous.

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Seu Miguel has a cat called Mingau that is all too eager to share his love. One morning I woke up at 6.30AM to feel something move against my left leg. It took me two minutes to muster the courage to look down and see what it was… and I was pleasantly surprised to see a little, curled-up body pressed against my own. He later came up and nestled in the crook of my arm for a while, but migrated to the next bed when its inhabitant began to stir. It didn’t help with my cat-related trust issues.

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The final day was a twenty-three kilometer long struggle, but we got there in the end. We overlooked incredible, sprawling vistas with honey-soaked oat cakes and cold sandwiches in our hands. We talked about things from sibling dynamics to funny love stories to childhood quirks. At one point we shouted as loud as we could, only to hear our voices echo back so clearly from a distance.

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Ten hours after our early morning start, we finally entered the van, our legs exhausted and our spirits drained, but high. We hardly felt the saudades creeping in.

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But now, on the first day of our last month, boy do we feel it.

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