The landscape surrounding the national park is rocky and arid; the most fertile farming land is in the Valley of Pati, nestled in a valley deep within a series of canyons. During the mining boom, the valley was settled by farmers who provided most of the food stuffs for the growing diamond mining population. Because of its rather inaccessible location — from the nearest town 12km on foot or donkey, as there are no roads here — the community of a dozen families still live a lifestyle similar to a hundred years ago.
We started our four day hike to Pati with a gradual climb out of the Valley of Capão onto a high plain. This plain extends for a good 20km until the steep descent into Pati. The long valley consists of a deep canyon with four extensions that jut out in every direction. The houses, many of which provide housing for hikers, are spread out throughout the valley and it can take a full days hike to make it from one side to the other.
We spent our first night halfway through the plain in a shelter simply called “Rancho” — a lovely space between goiaba, orange and lemon trees crawling with monkeys (and snakes…!). By the next night we found ourselves in a toca (rock shelter) on top of the valley with a beautiful view into the canyon (near the waterfall called Cachoeirão). On our third day our actual tour of Pati commenced: we descended into the valley and camped a small, somewhat abandoned compound called Ruinha (meaning “little road” — this used be the main street of the valley back when there were over 1000 residents!). We hiked around the start of the valley and visited some of the families in the area. As we cooked our vegetarian bolognese with ingredients from the local store, we were reminded that everything we ate that night had either been produced in the immediate vicinity or carried in by pack mules!