The Adventure Kids travel to Sao Bento do Sapucai, Brazil to experience a new adventure with their friends - rappelling!
Luxury Experience Magazine readers know that we are always ready to experience new adventures, so for our first adventure of the year, we traveled to Brazil where our friends had planned a day of rappelling in January 2007. For readers not familiar with the term "rappelling," it means that you are connected to a line at the top of a mountain, rock face, or building, and that you descend by walking down the face while you lower yourself down. The Random House College Dictionary describes the word rappel "(in mountaineering) the act or method of moving down a steep incline or past an overhang by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body and paid out gradually." Rappelling originated in France in 1876 by Jean Estéril Charlet, and since then, this sport has taken off in all parts of the world. This was the first time that we would be experiencing rappelling, and we were not completely sure that we were enamored of the idea of lowering ourselves off a mountain, but our friends had arranged this surprise adventure for us, so we thought, okay, we will try it.
The day was beautiful with bright sun, brilliant blue skies, and hot and humid weather with the temperature in the 80s as we set out with our friends, Gilberto, Regina and Moara Sacilotti, Rodolfo Bazetto, and Rodrigo Roveri to experience rappelling in the city of São Bento do Sapucai. São Bento do Sapucai is located 102 miles (164 km) northeast of São Paulo in the mountain range of Serra de Mantiqueira in the state of São Paulo near the Minas Gerais border. Of our group, only Moara and Rodolfo had tried rappelling once before, however our friends are not strangers to extreme adventures. Gilberto Sacilotti, Jr., Director of SEGVAP, is a former motocross champion, his wife Regina is always ready for an adventure, and their daughter, Moara, is a motocross champion and competitor. Rodolfo Bazetto owner of PULSE an adventure magazine is a mountain board competitor, and Rodrigo Roveri is a curve board competitor, in other words, this group knows how to play hard!
We stopped at a small café in São Bento do Sapucai where we met our guides, Fabriçio and Bruno of Buena Vista Café and Tourism Company, who would lead us on our rappelling adventure. Many people rappel off the nearby Pedra do Baú consisting of three hills Pedra do Baú (6400 feet/1950 meters), Pedra do Bauzinho, and Pedra de Ana Chata, that extend between São Bento do Sapucai and Campos do Jordão, but we would be rappelling off Pedra do Monjolinho. Although not open to the public, our Guides had special permission from the owners of the farm to access Pedra do Monjolinho. We drove a short distance from São Bento do Sapucai to the farm, and when we arrived at our destination, we looked out the car window and had our first glimpse of Pedra do Monjolinho, a sheer rock face with an altitude of 312 feet (95 meters), situated amongst rolling verdant green valleys and mountains dotted with exotic trees. The scenery was incredible with gorgeous bucolic views as the farmer's cows came to meet us as we left our car, perhaps wondering why we would want to rappel off Pedra do Monjolinho.
Making Friends With The Cows
However, in order to reach the summit of Pedra do Monjolinho, we would need to begin our adventure by traversing the steep terrain of the farm, pass the grazing cows, and watch our step, as the grass and the trail were still wet from the previous days of rain. Dressed in jeans, and climbing in hot, humid weather was probably not the best idea, and as we climbed for 30 minutes ever higher with the sun beating down on us, slipping and sliding along the way, we began to wonder why we were doing this adventure. We should add though, that Fabriçio and Bruno were carrying our rappelling equipment for us since this indeed was a luxury experience. When we took a short rest and looked around at the 360-degree panoramic views displayed in front of us, spectacular is the word that came to mind as our eyes took in the natural beauty of the mountains, rock formations larger than houses, and a ribbon of red earth winding up to a farm off in the distance. We laughed, joked, and posed for photographs before continuing up to our destination.
Finally, after passing under a barbed wire fence, we reached the summit. Fabriçio and Bruno took out the rappelling equipment and began instructing us on what we would be doing to rappel down the mountain. We stepped into and secured our harnesses, adjusted our helmets, slipped our hands into our gloves, and decided who would be the first to descend after Bruno descended to establish our safety line. The group decided that Debra, who would photograph the group from the base would be first, followed by Regina, Gilberto, Edward, Rodrigo, Moara, and finally Rodolfo, who would be photographing the group from his perch atop a high vantage point as well as filming the experience using a video camera mounted on his helmet.
Debra: After receiving instructions from Fabriçio to keep my feet at shoulder width with my weight leaning back, and my knees slightly bent, I prepared myself mentally for this new adventure, and stepped into position as he secured me to the line that I would use to lower myself down. I practiced descending a few feet using my right hand as a release and a brake, and when I felt comfortable, although comfortable is not really a word that came to mind at the time, I joked with my friends, and then focused my attention on my immediate task of conquering Pedra do Mojolinho.
Like most things, taking the first step is always the hardest, and rappelling was no different, as I placed my feet at shoulder width and then stared at the rock face. With the smallest bit of trepidation, I placed my left hand on the rope above my head and then eased myself down the rope using my right hand placed just below my waist to release the tension on the rope which was attached to a figure eight piece of metal, and took my first steps down the rock. Okay, I did it! This was not so bad, I could do this, and I continued inching my way down with my feet touching terra firma or at least the rock face. Of course, I might add that I was not looking down to actually see the distance below my feet, until suddenly after descending for 33 feet (10 meters), I found myself at the end of the rock outcropping, when the rock face turns negative, and thought, okay, what now? I stared at the last bit of rock, gradually removed my feet from the rock wall, and then slowly looked down and thought, this is where the real fun begins. Inch by inch I lowered myself down the rope alongside the rock face with nothing between the sky, the earth, and me except for air. Gradually, I became more comfortable and started looking around and enjoyed the view as well as the experience. When Rodolfo called out to me so that he could take a photograph, I even waved at him! This was great; I was really getting into the spirit of why this could be addictive for people when the next part of the adventure began ... landing on the sloping rock ledge. For this part of the adventure, you land on two feet and then more or less jump as you lower your self down the rest of the way to the base. At last, I was back on terra firma, and as Bruno unhooked my harness from the rope, I could finally breathe. I think I actually whooped with glee, and although rappelling was a great adventure, I was more than happy to be back on the ground.
Camera ready, I positioned myself at the base to photograph Regina, and only when I looked up and saw her descending did I really have an idea of what I had accomplished. Gilberto, Edward, Moara, Rodrigo, and Rodolfo descended with my camera whirling continuously in an attempt to capture the moment of each of their experiences.
Edward: Having time to relax and think about what I was about to do does have its points, but when you are not fluent in the language [Portuguese] you keep your eyes on everyone that goes down the line before you to pick up any visual points available. Though Debra did convey some key points to me before she descended down the mountain, the information did generate a slew of additional questions that remained unanswered as I, being of sound mind, body, and the fourth person scheduled to go down, had to learn for myself, a true firsthand experience. I did try to blot out the handful of vultures that were circling the area, as the group just figured it was nature taking its course with some poor animal lying dead in the thicket of woods that lay below, or the birds had some additional insight. Though I digress, as I had tried to do a few times before having to descend the mountain, it was now time for my journey. I slipped under the fence and approached the starting point with Fabriçio, I listened intently, though most of it was lost in translation, my translation that is. I did recall what the three people who had gone before me had done as I went through the practice drill and nodded that I was ready!
It was now my time to walk the mountain, vertically speaking, and I rapidly descended the first phase of the journey; I heard Moara yelling "devagar" (slow) to me, so I slowed it down a bit. The first section was fun, as I walked the mountain letting my body descend first and then my feet as I traversed steadily down the slope. When I reached the rock ledge, I had to perform the first crucial step and leave the sheath covered section of rope across the rock ledge; the sheath protects the rope from being damaged or cut by the sharp edge of the rock. I methodically positioned the sheath covered rope at the edge and then moved my body and my feet to continue the descent, but my feet did not come in contact with anything but air, I was floating on a rope. Part of what was lost in translation was that at this point, the mountain face turns negative, thus your feet do not encounter the rock, and you are walking-on-air so to speak. In addition to walking-on-air, once I crested the rock ledge and started my descent down the negative edge, this was the first time that the people that had descended before me, could actually see me. The descent was a thrill of a lifetime with Rodolfo yelling to me from his perch on the mountain, and of course, I was talking to myself a bit. It was very special to be floating on air while taking in the beauty of São Bento do Sapucai and the surrounding mountains and valleys. It seemed to be so easy once you got the hang of it, so to speak, as I let just a bit of rope slide through my right hand to gently ease my way down. Before I knew it, I was touching rock face with my feet as I had reached the lower portion of the descent where the mountain turns positive. With a few bounces I was traversing the last section of the descent while Debra, Gilberto and Regina were cheering me on; I had just completed my first rappelling adventure, and I was ready for my next.
The Rappelling Sacilotti Family
As we walked down the mountain, we each shared the spirit of our adventure, and our initial fears, which is good, because it means that you are respectful of the adventure. As with all extreme sports, we readily advise that you check the experience of the company before you endeavor on any new adventure. It was definitely a day to remember, as we took a last look at Pedra do Monjolinho, and savored our accomplishments, along with an ice cream. Until our next adventure!
The Happy Rappellers The Climb Down
The Much Deserved Reward
To read more about Brazil please see Destinations, Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs' Recipes, Spas, Liquor Cabinet, and Music Scene sections.
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