Chapada dos Veadeiros, Brazil
Gather hikers, mountain-bikers and climber to mystics, former prospectors and aliens (as many people claim), all of them over a huge quartz. That’s it, you already have a small sample of people diversity of Chapada dos Veadeiros, in the middle of Brazil. And the best: they all live peacefully with each other and with the exuberant local flora and fauna.
In fact, I have to say that I didn’t see any alien, but several people assured me that if I’ve had looked for hard enough, I would find them. Even an ‘airport’ for UFOs was built for them to land safely, but I think April is not the month for interplanetary holidays, since the parking lot of the ‘airport’ was empty.
Fortunately, one don’t have to be lucky to see the great attractions of Chapada: the waterfalls! They are many and for all tastes. Big or small, with lots of water or just a little stream, good for swimming or canyoning … If your intention is to see waterfalls, this is the right place! Even if you belong to the “lazy tribe”, you can come without fear, because some trails are short and easy.
The place that I’ve chosen as a base was São Jorge village, in the municipality of Alto Paraíso de Goiás, an old village used by prospectors looking for crystals and the closest village to the main entrance of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park.
The lodging options are many, from great inns to campings with very reasonable prices. There are also several restaurants, snack bars and pizzerias, some with a self-service system, ideal to kill the hunger of a full day of hiking.
Fortunately, I arrived the weekend before April 23, when the more than 400 inhabitants of the village honor Saint George with parties, a fair and dancing forró! Undoubtedly, the best way to get to know the customs of the region, besides being the beginning of the dry season, which provides a pleasant climate, green vegetation and large volume in the waterfalls.
Even outside the park, there is plenty to do. By the way, more than inside! In several places it is not mandatory to hire a guide, but because the attractions are on private land, they charge a small visitation fee.
One of the most beautiful and famous places in Goiás is Vale da Lua (Moon Valley), named after the erosion caused by São Miguel river in its rocks, forming an incredible landscape with several waterfalls, tunnels and lakes.
Other points that deserve to be visited are Raizama, Morada do Sol and, mainly, Almécegas, between São Jorge and Alto Paraíso. There are two waterfalls with different trails: the path to Almécegas I requires a bit of physical effort because the hills are steep, but the look is worth every step. It is possible to see the waterfall from a belvedere and go down to the lake if you want to swim, or go back and take the trail to Almécegas II, which is very short and light, perfect for those who just want to chill out.
After a day of hiking, how about resting in naturally warm ponds? Good call, right? Then take the road and go to Fazenda Éden, a few miles from São Jorge, and give a well deserved rest for your legs.
But don’t think that the day ends so soon, since it’s impossible to avoid going (by car) to Mirante de São Jorge to see the fantastic sunset and its sky incredibly starry, as the photos below show you.
A trail that deserves to be done, even there are no waterfalls for swimming, is the one that leads to Janela do Abismo. This trail starts at the Mirante da Estrela, as Mirante de São Jorge is also called, and makes a circular route with 9 km. Depending on the rains, there may be a small waterfall good to refresh the Brazilian hot weather, but the main reason is to be able to see the Rio Preto waterfalls from the front, in a much better position than the lookout inside the national park that leads to the falls.
Created in 1961, its first name was Tocantins National Park and covered an area of 6,250 km² (2,413 mi²). A decade later it had its name changed to the current one, that makes reference, ironically, to the hunters who lived there. In more than 5 decades, the area of the park was diminished by twice but again increased, now covering 2,360 km² (911 mi²).
The visitation is controlled and only a small part of the park is open for tourists, ensuring the excellent preservation of the area, considered as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
It takes only two days to see the main attractions that are inside the National Park. The trail that leads to the Rio Preto waterfalls has a part with rugged relief and is done walkingh 4 or 5 hours (roundtrip). There are two huge waterfalls, one with 120 meters of fall, but that can only be seen from one belvedere and the other, with “only” 80 meters, but that allows us to enter its lake.
The other trail is easier and leads to the Canyons (in fact is not a canyon, but it is called like this) and Cariocas waterfall, a wide waterfall with a beautiful lake full of piabas, small fish that surround the swimmers. Another animal easily found on the stones, very close to the water line, are the water spiders, which stand still waiting for some distracted insect.
The city of Alto Paraíso de Goiás, on the border of GO-118 road, has excellent infrastructure for tourists, who can choose between inns, hotels in the city or farm hotels.
Comparing the waterfalls that are nearest the town, the most beautiful are Anjos and Arcanos, inside Parque Solarion, and Água Fria waterfall, a waterfall with 100 meters of height used for canyoning.
With much worst access, the Macaco River Valley waterfalls are the perfect option for off-roaders or those who like to walk long distances, staying overnight on the trail. Whatever your choose, be sure to hire a guide at the Tourist Center as there are numerous forks and the chances of getting lost are great.
It is worth remembering that, as much as the track chosen, one should be aware of its surroundings, because the encounter with animals is common. Emas, seriemas, toucans, hawks, macaws, wolves … I just didn’t even see the deer (the hunters were efficient) and aliens, which is still a good excuse to come here again.