South America’s Old, Unsung Way
Much of the forest hike, like the larger statewide route, is symbolic – a best estimate of where the original route might have been, though there is more certainty on some stretches, especially where historical maps and archaeological sites exist. This region of southwestern Brazil has been a hotbed of archaeological excavations since the 1970s in search of traces of the Caminho de Peabiru, as it was once dense in indigenous populations (estimated at around two million people, mainly Guaranis, at its peak). in the sixteenth century).
Like many others I’ve spoken to, Rocha is obsessed with the mystery of the trail and has even published his graduate thesis on the subject. Historians, astronomers and archaeologists have also pored over it for decades, gathering old maps, colonial records and oral histories to try to understand the origins and purpose of the trail.
The general consensus is that the main route of the network connected the east and west coasts of South America: it started from three starting points on the Brazilian coast (in the states of São Paulo, Paraná and Santa Catarina) which joined in Paraná, continued through Paraguay to silver-rich Potosí and Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, to Cusco (the capital of the Inca Empire) in Peru, then to the Peruvian coast and north from Chile.
“In general terms we can say that the path followed the movement of the setting and rising sun,” Bond wrote in his latest e-book, History of the Caminho de Peabiru, released last year.
In it, Bond analyzes a number of plausible hypotheses about the origin of the trail, concluding that the trail system was probably created and used by various Aboriginal groups over the centuries, but that its defining characteristic was the desire to connect the Atlantic and the Pacific. “It doesn’t matter how many and by what people built it, but that it was a road which, at a certain time, was considered by the natives to be a specific and homogeneous path which represented on Earth the movement of the Sun in the sky, ” she wrote.