17-Aug-2002 -- Altitude: 815m (GPS)
The landscape at 48W 22S couldn’t be more representative of the midwest of São Paulo State: a vast and boring sugarcane plantation, broken only by a large sugar mill and transmission power lines.
We knew from the Degree Confluence website that the 48W 22S confluence was located 5.3 km from the small town of Ibaté, near São Carlos. So we left the city of Rio Claro at 10:30 in the morning heading northwest to São Carlos on the Washington Luis Highway.
Twenty kilometers or so before São Carlos we optimistically thought that we would finally send some awesome pictures of a confluence point to the Degree Confluence Project, as we approached the steep hills that characterize the “cuestas” of Serra de São Pedro. From the highway, as we drove uphill to the plateau that encompasses the western half of São Paulo State, we could see the Serra de São Pedro extending for tens of kilometers southwest from us, with its vertical basalt walls outcropping from forest covered hills. Just fourteen kilometers east from there, a mesa-like mountain called Cuscuzeiro, together with Morro do Camelo, compose one of the most beautiful landscapes of the region. Cuscuzeiro and Morro do Camelo are sandstone formations called “morros-testemunhos” - witness mountains - meaning that they were once part of the cuesta and today, after being carved by water and wind for millions of years, are isolated mountains. The Cuscuzeiro, with its vertical walls up to 60 meters tall, resembling those cliffs of Monument Valley, Utah, is a major destination for rock climbers.
The confluence point, however, was a little further, on the plateau. The landscape changed dramatically, as hills, rocks, and forests were replaced by nothing but sugarcane plantations. We passed São Carlos and reached Ibaté. We headed south from Ibaté, on a paved road that seemed to be taking us straight to the confluence. It didn’t take us that far, though. We took then a dirt road right into the sugarcane plantation and a few hundred meters ahead the GPS confirmed what we feared most: the confluence point was located within a sugarcane plantation, 54 meters from the road that runs along the transmission power line.
At first, the three-meter tall sugarcane plantation seemed quite impenetrable. “ - No wonder why they burn it before they harvest it.” said Merzel. Another alleged reason to burn the sugarcane plantation before the harvest is that poisonous snakes pose an intolerable risk to whoever walks in. Well, we had no boots, no snake bite kit, and no machetes...But we are not willing to waste our Saturday, so we tried. And it was a good surprise to find out that it was not impossible to walk through the dense thicket of sugarcane. A second surprise was that sugarcane plants are covered by tiny prickles that stick painfully in your skin. Regarding the snakes, well, it seems like they prefer more interesting places to hang out.
Those were long 54 meters to the confluence point. Guided only by the GPS, as we had no reference point for navigation within the sugarcane plantation, we finally reached the 48W 22S confluence at 11:58 a.m. The pictures tell more about the confluence point.
Now that we’ve had our hardcore adventures within a sugarcane plantation, all that we want is to find a confluence point in São Paulo that falls in a more natural, pristine landscape.
Até a próxima confluência!
Silvio and Merzel