Wednesday, 1 April 2015

0239 In the jungles of Ubatuba

1st AprIl 2015
Into the Brazilian jungle with The Medicine Man !

Some days ago Mauro had said we should go for a walk up a local mountain – but he had not told me what was involved.  Then yesterday, while we were shopping in Ubatuba, we had met Washington, a friend of Mauro’s, in a shop, and we arranged to go up and see him the next morning.  So I presumed this was instead of the mountain walk.  So after our usual hearty breakfast, Mauro and I head off in his 4x4 – But at the bottom of his lane we do a V turn, and head up a dirt track right behind Mauro’s house !  Within 2 minutes the dirt track had deteriorated and Mauro was in low ratio 4 WD as we chugged up steep muddy inclines, through fords, and with the jungle encroaching all around us more and more as we headed up the hill.  Where on earth were we going ???

Suddenly, after maybe 15 minutes, the track opened out into a (very wet) grassy clearing – There had been quite a lot of rain over the past few days, and up here in the “jungle”, they had had more than their fair share.  And there was Washington from the day before – But in a completely different environment !  He lives up here and is totally involved in the jungle and its preservation in this area.  And what a place !! Chickens in their
coops, lots of native plants and bromeliads growing in shaded areas, ad a big tray of something out drying in the sun.  Bark….and a powder.  Turns out that it is cinnamon that Washington collects from the trees in the jungle and then grinds into a powder. 

Moving in to his little house a big table is covered in all sorts of native seeds and
fruit, only a couple of which I have heard of before.  Washington collects them in the jungle and uses them either as medicine or food.  Washington himself is an interesting enough character, with his long hair pulled back in a small bun, and his dark glasses shielding his eyes, but together with all his jungle fruits and medicines, I  am intrigued.  While we prepare to go up the mountain (yes, this is indeed the mountain walk Mauro had
been referring to previously !), bright red birds perch in the trees overhead, and humming birds dart through the outside room where we are standing.  While Washington puts on an all-encompassing (and very “used”) hat and gloves, and straps a machete to his belt, Mauro and I apply insect repellent – We are already being eaten alive my mosquitoes !  I feel as though I am a million miles from civilization, out on the middle of the Amazon Jungle somewhere – I cannot believe I am just a stone’s throw from Mauro’s house !

We set off up the trail, passing a pond where reasonably large fish are very evident, almost creating a ripple effect on the surface there are so many of them.  Then past some palm trees that Washington proudly tells me he has imported the seeds from Australia, and he uses parts of them in his research.  After that, the trail starts to deteriorate – All the recent rain means Washington hasn’t been up here for a few days, and
because everything grows so fast in the jungle, parts of the trail are already over grown.  So we make slow progress up the hill, with Washington continually slashing at the undergrowth with his machete, clearing a path for us as we go.  He doesn’t speak a lot of English, so I am dependent upon Mauro for much of the information, but I am told to be on the lookout for snakes, bears, puma, and a number of other animals that he assures us are regularly seen in this area !!  I started walking a lot closer behind Mauro, and understand now why Washington gave me a big stout stave to carry – It wasn’t to help me walk – It was to fend off any attacking wildlife in the jungle !!

We pass all sorts of flowers and butterflies, as well as a number of fallen trees that need to be hacked in order to enable us to pass, and always there are the long tendrils of vines and creepers of various thicknesses hanging down and frequently making me jump as I feel something on my shoulder !  Finally, after about an hour, we hear the sound of water, and eventually come into this magical little clearing where water cascades down over the moss covered
rocks.  And all around us are bromeliads in the forks of trees, and exquisite waxy looking little flowers – This truly is the jungle, and despite its proximity to civilization, is no tourist frequented eco-park.  The jungle is ever present down the coast of Brazil, and we are only just inside the Tropics, so as one heads north in the country, towards the equator, one understands more about the Amazonian situation, with civilisation encroaching more and more into the native jungle.  I have seen it elsewhere as I travelled up to Iguazu, and then across central Brazil, but today really brings it home to me.

After a little while at the falls, we head back down the trail to Washington’s home, he continuing to slash his way along, all the time talking to Mauro and explaining so much about the jungle and his life up here.  Eventually we get back, and he brews us some coffee made from the beans he has gathered in the forest, and then ground – And I have to say it was superb.  Very strong, but so good.  And sitting around talking about his
environment was just so fascinating.  A girl who helps Washington, and is learning from him about everything, Talia, joins us, and she explains more to me in English – She had worked in Australia for a while.  Finally it was time to go, and after filling in a rough visitor’s book he keeps, I told him I would give Mauro a little kangaroo pin to pass on to him, and he was delighted, and then we headed back down the trail.  He had 9 children in the hope that one of them would take an interest in his work and continue it, but unfortunately none are interested, and even his wife lives down in the town and he rarely sees her. 

There was a great movie a few years ago called “The Medicine Man”, starring Sean Connery, who plays a scientist who goes and lives in the Amazon Jungle and collects bromeliads that he finds have life-saving medicinal properties.  The movie called be based on Washington Mourao in Ubatuba, for he truly is “The Medicine Man” in real life.   An amazing morning spent with an incredible man.  I just wished I spoke some Portuguese so I could have understood more of what he was telling us.

Back at the house, we had some lunch, and then Mauro went surfing with Leticia and Pedro while Giovanna worked at their shop, and I stayed home and sorted out my stiff and started to prepare to head south again. 

Truly a fascinating day. 

Pics here :-


  1. I always loved adventurous movies and stories. I would also love to go to an adventure. It is a great article. Thankyou! for such a nice post.

  2. Now this is life time experience, I so want to experience jungle life for one time in my life. You people seems to enjoy every bit of it out there, thanks for sharing it with us