My fellow photographer Belmira McLeod picked me up and we went to Hotel Oriente in the center of Itajubá. About 100 of the bikers had been staying there during the night and they were getting ready to leave. Unfortunately, Belmira did not feel too well and decided to return home. But she let me borrow the car for the day, so after making sure she would be ok at home, I was on my way.
The trail — first leg
The bikers were following a pilgrimage trail that goes from Alfenas, Minas Gerais, to Aparecida. Aparecida has the second largest Catholic church in the world. Most of the trail is on dirt road, and parts of it can not be driven by car as it is too narrow. Itajubá is one of the stops along the trail, and this is where I met the bikers and started to follow along.
Well — at least where I could. For the parts that was too narrow for cars, I had to take a slightly different route and the meet up a little further ahead. So my first leg went up to Wenceslau Braz, a city named after a Brazilian president. From there I had to get on a dirt road up to a small place called Charco. It is really high up and at this time of year, cold! One of the local residents told me that they sometimes get a few snowflakes coming down!
I got some good pictures on the way up as well as pictures of bikers arriving at Charco. This day, there were also people on horses along the trail.
From Charco, I had to get another route than the bikers again. This time I had to pass through Campos do Jordão, a city that has adopted an Austrian building style and has become a favourite tourist spot for people from the big cities.
On the way there, I had to help a bit with one of the assisting cars following the tour as it suddenly stopped and lost a bit of time. But the trip down from Campos do Jordão to Aparecida was still spectacular and I caught up with the bikers as they were entering the church area around 18:00!
A long day, but absolutely worth it. And I am already planning on doing the whole trail, this time possibly by off-road motorbike.