20 Mar 2008

Competition trekking in Copaíba Parque, Minas Gerais

Posted by walterheck

Last week I received a phone call from my good friend Felipe, asking me if I wanted to go with him to a competition trekking event. He was invited to join a team and he was wondering if I wanted to walk with them. I would not be on the team, I would just be following them. This is called being a “bug”. A few days later someone on the team canceled, so Felipe asked me if I wanted to participate as a registered trekker. I was a little afraid that I would not be physically fit enough for the challenge, but I accepted anyway. Follow the jump to read more about the adventure we had…

Felipe picked me up at my place at 7am (should have been 6:30am, but Felipe is a true Brasilian 😉 ). We headed back to his place and waited fro one of the other two team members to pick us up. We decided to grab some fast breakfast and since it was so early I drank coffee (those who know me, know in what kind of state i must have been for that to happen 😉 ).

A bit later we were picked up, and we picked up our fourth team member. We headed out to the Copaíba Parque, the location of our trekking adventure. We arrived quite early, so we had enough time to prepare. Felipe explained to me how this competition style works. Before, I thought we would get a point on a map and just had to get there asfast as possible. That was completely and utterly wrong. I will try to explain the rules in a nut shell for you.

Basically, the idea is to walk a track (in this case around 8 Km) as accurately as possible. That means that you get a set of directions that you have to follow exactly. An example is: walk for 200m to 80 degrees with an average speed of 62 m/min. The directions come in the form of a paper booklet with simple graphics describing the instructions. Along the track there are a number of checkpoints, registering either the time you passed it, or the distance you think you have walked until that point. You receive points for every second you are late or early at a checkpoint, and for distance checkpoints you receive points for every meter you are wrong. If you miss a checkpoint completely, you receive 2000 points which basically means you are out 🙂

In our team, there were four people. Two (Rubens and Felipe) were navigators reading the booklet and keeping track of what and where to go next. Gélio was counting time and steps. That means he had a palmtop keeping track of the time, and a device in his hand counting his steps. He has to take steps that are all teh same distance, in order for us to be as accurate as possible. I was in charge of “the chip”. That is basically a USB-key that you have to connect to the computers at the checkpoints to register the exact time you passed the checkpoint. The rest of your team keeps walking in order to reach the next checkpoint exactly in time.

After explaining all these things to me, and after seeing all the teams that were taking this thing extremely seriously I got a bit scared that I would mess up. Some of the groups were obviously taking themselves way too serious, adding to my nervousness.


We started the race and the first part was reasonably quiet. I should have known that was just before the madness started 🙂 Jumping into 1,5 meters deep trenches, running your ass of to get to the next checkpoint,trying to run through heavy mud and jumping across creeks waist-deep were common all along the track. 8 Km becomes a very long distance when you are breaking your neck every 5 seconds 🙂 For examples, look at the videos of the race on YouTube. At the end of the track I became frustrated trying to crawl through a barbed wire fence while Felipe and Gélio were yelling at me from 50 meters uphill that I had to hurry up because we neede to register the chip. Apparently I started speaking dutch at some point, a nice indication that I was almost exhausted 🙂 The last few hundred meters of the race I couldn’t run anymore, so Felipe came runnign back to get the chip and register the last checkpoint. That probably saved our ass completely 🙂

In the end it was all worth it, as we finished 2nd in our league (detailed results here)! I was very surprised, and very happy. It is nice to receive acknowledgement after such a physical challenge. We had a nice lunch before the price awards and then returned home.


That would have been the end of this blog post, if something very shitty didn’t happen later that day. After the race I went to Felipe’s house to have a meeting to discuss the national couchsurfing meeting we are organising. That meeting was very productive and Felipe, Ricardo, Juliana and me made some good progress. After the meeting, Ricardo dropped me off at my place. That’s when I found out my keys were gone. I have no idea where i lost them, but apparently I did. I called Vilmar, but he wasn’t coming home. he and Leo had some suggestions for me, but I was dead tired and just wanted to sleep. I decided to call Felipe and ask him if I could stay the night at his place. He was of course okay with that, so I returned back to his place (think a 20 minute busride and 15 minutes walking, after a day like this at 23:00). I sent my boss an email that I couldn’t start working at 4 am like i normally do and then I went to sleep, finally!

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One Response to “Competition trekking in Copaíba Parque, Minas Gerais”

  1. Helo,
    I readed your post. I stayed in this event too.
    I play trekking around one year and until today I go to the all events trekking. I love this competition.
    I know Gelio e Rubens, they are old player of trekking, they are good players.
    As I readed, you liked this trip.
    And would I like to know you better. Where are you from? Are you still staying in Brazil?
    Can you visite my home page, trupikeiros.blogspot.com? Bring a comment that.