All Souls Day on 2nd November fell on a Tuesday in 1971 and many businesses worked on preceding Saturdays so as to allow employees to have a four day holiday which would include the Monday of 1st November.This was called a ‘Ponte’ (Bridge). All Souls was an important date for Brazilians, as it is for most Latin Catholic societies when people go to the cemetaries with flowers to remember their departed, loved ones. Such a consideration did not affect our family and Julie went off to a giude camp at Valinhos, near Campinas and Cliffie and I had decided to trek across the Serra do Mar to Mongagua on the coast, south of Santos. While Ursula and Linie were going to visit friends.

Cliffie had gone to a football match the previous evening at Pacambu with some friends to see a game between Corinthians and Santos and returned home at midnight. As a consequence we were in some doubt about starting off next morning, but eventually took the decision to go and got up at 0500 hrs. on Sunday morning. We had packed a tent and other equipment the day before and also had plenty of food to take as well as two sleeping bags. After a hurried breakfast Ursula drove us along the Marginal to Pinheiros Station, leaving Caroline sleeping with Laura to look after her.

We said goodbye to Ursula when the train drew into the platform at 0630 hrs. and got into a first class coach which was quite crowded but not nearly as much as the other coaches. The train ran along that great open sewer called the Pinheiros River and then between the two large, artificial lakes lying to the south of Sao Paulo, where many of the passengers alighted to spend the day fishing. Once we came to the country the stops were at halts where the train was longer than the minute platforms and because of this we went past our destination which was Rio de Campo to a halt called Mae Maria, four kilometers further along the track. We got down here and, shouldering our packs, started walking back along the track to Rio de Campo, passing through four of the twenty eight tunnels which the train had to pass through to get down the Serra.

We struck off into a track at 0830 hrs. and made good progress through fairly open woods for the first hour coming to a group of scouts cooking their lunch near the trail and shortly after this encounter we ourselves stopped at 1100 hrs. to eat the sandwich lunch that Ursula had packed for us. the weather was fine and, fortunately, not too hot and after lunch we set off again walking for twenty five minutes and resting for five. At a point along a narrow part of the track with a sharp fall to our left and a bank to our right I was leading and stepped a yard away from a snake lying across the track with its head raised for attack. Cliffie noticed it first and we had to drive it away before we could carry on. We saw two other snakes, one moving alongside us in a ditch and the other was dead, presumably killed by earlier trekkers.

Before we descended to a thickly wooded valley with a large river flowing through it we had a distant glimpse of the sea, beyond a second range of hills. We met no one during this descent to the valley and eventually came out to open pastures and saw a shack with an Indian woman and two small children standing outside. On the banks of the river we stopped and pitched our tent at 1500 hrs. The barrachudas and mosquitoes were out in force and we got bitten on our faces and hands. We made a fire and heated some soup and hot water to make cocoa which tasted good and revived us. About two hours after we had pitched camp the vanguard of the scout group arrived and said they had got lost but proposed pressing on to see how far they could get before nightfall.

Cliff and I got into our sleeping bags as soon as darkness had fallen but neither of us were able to sleep too well. During the night someone stopped by the side of our tent and called out if we wanted any bananas. Guessing it was an Indian from the shack we had passed I called out for him to return in the morning. We were up with the light and had more cocoa with bread and bacon for breakfast. Two Indians showed up as we were clearing camp and we traded some food and I gave them a cruzeiro. We set off at 0800 hrs. and had difficulty in fording the very wide river until the younger of the two Indians appeared and showed us the way stepping over on half submerged stones to the track on the other side. From here the going was all uphill and we had to rest quite frequently due to the steepness and overgrown terrain. The Indian, who had stayed with us, left and I gave him two cruzeiros for his help.

When we arrived at the crest of the hill we were labouring up we were tired and sweating although we had only been moving for two hours. The track led us down again into thickly wooded country and we had to cross a number of small but swift mountain streams that slowed us down and we eventually lost the trail. All our attempts to find it again were unavailing and we realised that we were lost. It started to rain so we sat down by the side of a stream to figure out our next move. After some time we decided to follow the stream down, although this was not easy as it was heavily strewn with rocks of all sizes, some as large as a room and others just protruding above the water surface. We could not take off our shoes as our feet were too tender for this sort of travel so we left them on as we waded through the water. Where wading was not possible we clambered over the obstructing rocks, all the time looking for a break along the sides where the jungle came down to the water’s edge.

We were hungry again and made a meal sitting on a large, flat rock in the rain. Although we had nothing warm to eat and the day had turned damp and chilly, the sausage, bread, apple and orange we ate, and with water to drink, revived us so we felt encouraged to press on with greater expectations. Shortly after our meal I saw a lean-to roofed with banana leaves on the right bank and clambering out of the stream we found a trail alongside which led to an abandoned house. There was open country and in the distance was a banana plantation. Another house came in view and near it were the tracks of a narrow gauge railway line evidently there as transport to some outlet.

We followed the line and after walking for about an hour came to a man and a boy. They said the trolley was further on but it had broken down otherwise they would be glad to give us a lift to the road which was an hour or so walking distance away. We trudged on, the rain was now lighter but the ground was wet and soggy and the going was slow. We came to a group of men around a trolley which they had just finished mending and they agreed to take us to the road. We piled our packs on to the trolley and sat down on the platform; while two of the men, one on each side on the platform projected us along by punting the ground with long poles. We made about 10 kilometers an hour except when we came to an upward gradient and then I had to get off to lighten the load. At the end of the line we thanked them and I gave them five cruzeiros. The road was half a kilometer away and we headed in the direction they gave us for Mongagua until we were able to stop a passing bus.

Two wet, ragged and travel-stained individuals arriving at Mongagua caused some amused stares. In the small praca we saw the yellow Dodge Dart with Ursula and Caroline waiting for us. There was great jubilation on our part to know we had got through and the rescue party was here. After a hot milk and coffee at a nearby bar and eating the home-made cakes that Ursula had brought we set off back to Sao Paulo to arrive home by 1830 hrs, What a joy it was to have a shower, to change into pyjamas followed by a hot meal.

Fast forward to 1972 – Cliffie is now a Patrol Leader in the Scouts and his Patrol, the Panthers, came last in the points system adopted by the Scout-leader, Bill Robertson. They needed to think of some enterprise that would gain them extra points and I proposed to Cliffie that he take his Patrol on a hike on Corpus Cristi day, June 1st, which was a holiday. I had seen in the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper tourist supplement a recommended route down the Serra da Cantareira to Bertioga on the coast and, after some discussion, this is the one they decided to take. The total number who volunteered for the hike was seven, they being Bill Robertson and his assistant Eduardo, three scouts in the troop, Cliffie and myself. Ursula and Bill’s wife volunteered to go to Bertioga in cars to bring us back.

Last year Cliffie and I had crossed the Serra do Mar which is a coastal range running from the south of Sao Paulo for 1,500 kilometers along the Atlantic Coast. The Serra da Cantareira was another mountain range running from the north of Sao Paulo and with a greater history than that of the southern range. It was a passage for tropeiros and merchants who travelled with mule carts and horses from the interior States of Goias and Minas Gerais in the 15th and 16th centuries. This had been the route for the gold from Morro Velho sent to the port of Ubatuba in the 17th century for shipment to the Bank of England.

We set the alarm clock for 0230 hrs. on Thursday and before going to the agreed meeting place at the Praca Roosevelt went to pick up Eduardo and Bucas Cleaver. The train left promptly at 0410 hrs. and we felt so cold on the journey to Mogi da Cruzes that, to keep warm, we tramped up and down the central isle of the not-too-well maintained coach, while a group of youths were actually playing football down the other end of the coach. It was still dark when we reached Mogi at 0530 hrs. and we walked from the train to the station square that was surprisingly quite animated at that time with coffee bars open and people strolling about. After about ten minutes we came to the bus company office where we were to book tickets to take us to where the hike started. The office opened at 0600 hrs. and there were about forty five people waiting evidently proposing to do the same hike. The bus left at 0630 hrs. and stopped en route for ten minutes at a small settlement. Here Eduardo and I got out to look over the church. The journey to our destination was across entirely uninhabited terrain on dirt roads but in good state of preservation and so it was smooth and comfortable. We had been told at the office the arrival time was 0800 hrs. and it was precisely on the hour that the bus stopped and the entire complement of passengers got off.

We all headed for the only discernible track that led into the bush and soon came to a wooden bridge across a river. The trail was wide and, at the beginning, the hikers spread out according to the pace they were going to keep. It was easy walking and when the sun came up it was very pleasant, so there was an air of festive jollity as people went along. After about half an hour the track narrowed and woods encroached on either side. When we came to undulating country the trail snaked and wound around outcrops of rock. It was shortly after crossing another bridge that spanned a deep, ravined gorge with a river that we and the other hikers close to us were stopped by a guard who announced that the land belonged to the Santos Docks and he had instructions to let no one pass.

This developed into a typically Brazilian scene that I soon saw would be played out in its nuances to the end, without heat or haste, acrimony or discord and, in the end, we would pass. The watchman stood on a lower track, leading to a small, brick house set back in the woods, and the hikers, each moment that passed the number grew, stood in a group on the main track, higher than the watchman and facing him. He was sorry, but orders were orders. The crowd understood this but was it reasonable? After catching a train from Sao Paulo at 0400 hrs. to be sent back at 1000 hrs? The guard admitted that he could see this point, but the fault was with the newspaper that had published the information about this route and had enticed all the people present to trespass on private land. Well, yes. They saw that clearly enough but if the Santos Dock directors did not agree with people enjoying their leisure time on this land should they not have published a letter in the newspaper advising people of their refusal to allow access? That is true and would be attended to by the directors. It was going to be done. Ah! but it had not yet been done? The watchman admitted this was so. There are some ladies present pointed out some of the more gallant hikers, and it is not courteous to send them back. The scout group had an authorization.

The guard was retreating mentally and, predictably, in perfect harmony with the flow of un-pressurised reasoning from the spokes-persons amongst the hikers, a man turned his back to the guard and, facing the massed hikers, rubbed his thumb and forefinger together and indicated a whip-round of one cruzeiro a head would prove to be the clincher. General agreement was swiftly returned and, as at a signal, the hikers casually started to move along the trail while the collection was taking place and the voice of the guard could be heard saying, ‘remember, if anyone asks you, you are without permission.’ Further along the trail the man who had proposed the collection came returning the cruzeiro notes saying that the guard would take nothing.

The group spreads out once more and continues along the track; the event of the meeting with the guard has given all a common talking point and people are socially fraternising as they walk and there is a general feeling of comradeship. We come to a bend and there below us, and far away, lies the coast, clear and defined by the line of white surf between the blue of the sea and the pale ochre of the beaches. Between us and these desirable beaches is the wooded serra falling to the greener coastal strip. On either side are the irregular formations of the ranges of hills, thrusting forward or sweeping back to gullies and valleys. The visibility is good and we can see islands out to sea.

Half way down Bill gives the order to stop for lunch and, without preamble, each one of us finds a spot nearby; bags and packages are opened and soon there is silent concentration on the consumption of sandwiches, rolls, fruit and drinks. The food is devoured in short time, all of us were hungry and it is only a little after 1100 hrs. We start off again and keep going, mostly downhill then cresting the inner hills until we come to the foot of the serra where we see a neatly kept collection of wooden houses, each one painted white and with a small varandah. Unbelievably, a London double decker tram waits close by on rails that stretch away into the distance. Except for the wooden houses, the tram and the rails there are only wooded hills behind us and a green flat plain in front.

We climb on to the tram and wait; soon a man comes out of one of the houses and starts up; the journey is through flat pasture land and banana plantations where, interspersed, the hills of the range seem to run parallel with the tram track, at a distance. The driver tells some of us that the tram runs from here to a wide river and is for the benefit for the Santos Dock employees who live in this isolated colony. In half an hour the tram stops at its terminus on the river and a row boat, able to take five passengers, and is rowed by an old man, proceeds to make the first of the many journeys that will be required to get all the passengers across. At the other side of the river we are told that a bus will arrive shortly which will take us to Bertioga. But, in spite of the sun’s heat, we prefer to walk. It is down a wide, sandy road with trees and flowering bushes on either side, and each of us step out at our own pace. Some of the scouts are tired by this time and lag behind. Eventually, we start to pass the occasional bungalow and then, as a rather dream-like finish, we simply walk out of our road on to the wide expanse of sandy beach. Out of the heat with our sweaty bodies the sea feels wonderful as we strip and throw ourselves into the cool water.

When we got dressed again we walked along the sand to a bar and consumed glasses of chope (draft beer). We had arranged to meet Ursula and Bill’s wife at the ferry at 1500 hrs. and were there in time. They arrived shortly afterwards and we went over to Santo Amaro island distributed in the two cars where we had oysters and prawns and Bill and I had a batita (sugar cane spirits) each. Then it was homeward bound.