25-Mar-2004 -- On March 25th we wanted to visit Ilha do Farol (Farol Island) and stay on the famous beach of the island : Praia da Ilha de Farol , which is known for being on of the prettiest beaches of Brazil. Since there was a confluence on the island we also decided to make a visit. It didnt seem to be such a difficult task according to what we had read on this page from previous confluence hunters.
To get access to the island seemed to be the hardest task. The Brazilian Navy controls the island and people are required to obtain an authorization in the city of Arraial do Cabo in order to be allowed to go there. We stayed in the Navy for about 1 hour filling forms and explaining what we plan to do there. Getting an access for 10 minutes is easier and several tourists do it in order to stand on the great beach of the island(picture #5). However it is more problematic if one wants to stay for a longer period of time and leave the beach to go into the forest. The island is a nature resevere and it is a bit dangerous to leave the beach area due to snakes, scorpions and other animals living inside of the virgin forest. Most of them never come to the beach since the sun heats up the sand too much while the ground stays colder inside of the forest. For this reason I used long pants to make the visit even though it was around 30°C (86°F) and very sunny.
After we had obtained the permit in Arraial do Cabo we went to the seaport of the town and asked the fishermen to take us. Finally we managed to get a boat. The boat trip took about 45 minutes and the fisherman left us at the Navy Post directly at the beach Praia da Ilha de Farol.
When we turned on the GPS it seemed really easy to visit the confluence, the distance was only about 700 meters. Following the GPS we walked across the beach and took picture #5. We finally had to climb a few sand dunes that were pretty high. After climbing the dunes we saw some scrubs and many thorns on the sandy ground, but since we had long pants and closed shoes this was no problem. However a few meters further the forest began (see picture#4): trees started to grow and suddenly the vegetation began to get really dense. Here the beach ended, the ground was not sandy any more, but full of leaves from the trees. Amoung the trees there were some cacti and many many thorn bushes. Most of the island is covered by a virgin tropical dry forest with a unique flora that only occurs in the region around Cabo Frio, because it receives fewer rain than the surrounding areas of Rio de Janeiro state and plants adapt in different ways here. As we were about to find out this forest type is unfortunately much harder to cross that the moist forests of Brazil due to many plants growing under the trees that have thorns. But this didn't take our motivation away, the GPS showed only a distance of 280 meters now....so close, some thorn bushes shouldnt be able to stop us now!
When we entered the forest we found out the opposite. The vegetation was so dense and throny that the plants held us back from continuing to walk...in some parts we had to crawl in others we had to push the bushes away what was really painful because of all the thorns.
Another problem, Our 12 channel GPS didnt work anymore, because the sky was covered by all the trees... how should we orientate in this forest without a GPS? And how should we find the confluence?
After 5 minutes we had to face that there was no chance to make any progress so we went back to the sand dunes and the GPS worked again : 280 meters. We were at the same point than before, just that we had received some scratches from the vegetation.
Carol decided to stay at the beach, but I didnt want to accept that I could not reach the confluence being so close.
So I made a second attempt : I entered the forest from another part of the beach that was more to the north. Additionally before entering I looked exactly in what direction the confluence was, it was 350 meters from here.
When entering the forest a second time I had to face the same problem, the GPS stoped working.... I was fighting my way through the bushes and received many scratches...then I found a lightning,
I held up my GPS hoping it would find new satellites...and suddenly I read 190 meters ! I was close like never before and full of new motivation. Unfortunately this motivation soon ended when I came to several huge stones in the forest. In combination with all those thorn bushes it was abosulutely impossible to continue. Additionally the GPS didnt work again. So I had to go back, the second attempt had failed.
Third attempt. Already really tired and full of scratches I decided to try to access the confluence from another part of the beach more to the south now. Here the vegetation was less dense, only some bushes and some cacti since the ground was still a bit sandy and not so fertile, but the distance was bigger : about 500 meters... I climbed up a lot until I was about 100 meters above sea level... but it didnt help much, in front of me I looked towards the forest again and it was even denser than in the earlier attempts. The ground here was full of bromelias and walking was impossible without falling all the time.
Being frustrated I when back to Carol and rested at the beach for 10 minutes. Then I decided to make one last attempt from a different part of the beach.
Fourth attempt. I found a some kind of tiny track about 400 meters from the confluence that lead me into the forest. Many stones were covering the gound and it seemed as if I was following a small river bed, that had no water anymore. Here it was a bit easier to walk. Unfortunately the track ended soon and my GPS stoped working again, but I had memorized the direction. Also I decided to move on the direction of the sun and the terrain (I knew the confluence was more than 100 meters above sea level and that I had to go up etc) After 20 minutes of fighting my way through the vegetation and after many new scrates in my arms and many new thorns in my pants I found a place without trees. The bushes were really dense, but the sky was partially free. I held up my GPS towards the sky and waited 5 minutes : 200 meters ! I had gotten closer !!
I made note of the direction it pointed to and continued...now it was difficult like in the earlier attempts, but I didnt care any more. I crawled and crawled into the direction I believed the confluence was, but I had no confirmation, the GPS didnt work again. While crawling I saw eggs of repitles and I remembered that the guy of the navy had warned us to be careful with some snakes.
After about 1 hour inside of this forest I finally came to a place again where the trees didnt cover the sky completely : I held up my GPS towards the sky. But it received only 2 satellites, I waited some minutes and it didn't get better. Then I tryed different directions and suddenly it found the position, 70 meters from the confluence and an accurancy of 12 meters ! I couldnt believe it !!!! I finally was within 100 meters of the confluence. Maybe I had been even closer than 70 meters some minutes ago, but there was no way to get to the confluence directly, since the GPS barely works in such a dense vegetation.
Quckily I took GPS pictures, before it lost its connection again. Then I took pictures of all directions. Many pictures didnt turn out, because it was too dark, but fortunately I took many.
After the sucess I wanted to walk back quickly, but it still took 40 minutes because the vegetation kept on blocking me from going on.
Finally I came back to the beach, all my cloth were spoiled and I had to throw them away afterwards (see picture #6).
The rest of the afternoon we stayed at the beach and we swam in the ocean. The salt water helped to desinfect all the wounds I had received.
Later in the afternoon the fisherman came and brought us back.
I was glad to have managed this confluence, it was definetly the hardest I ever reached.