Petar (Caboclos), Brazil

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Petar was created in 1958 to protect one of the regions with the largest number of caves in Brazil. It is a state park located in the south of São Paulo and its full name is Alto Ribeira Touristic State Park, which in Portuguese is PETAR. The Park has an area of ​​357 km², but as there are other preservation areas, there is a total area of ​​2,000 km² of relatively well protected Atlantic Forest, allowing the existence of animals that need large areas of continuous forest to survive, such as the jaguar and muriqui monkey, and plants that are disappearing from unprotected areas such as the juçara palm tree.

There are many reasons to go to Petar, but the biggest of them is of course the more than 250 caves already cataloged, from small cavities to caves with kilometers of extension.

The reason for so many caves in this area is explained by the extensive area of ​​limestone, that is corroded by the action of the water, which here has a high degree of acidity coming from the carbon dioxide found not only in the atmosphere but also in the decomposition of organic matter. Because it is a region with high rainfall and dense forest, the corrosion of limestone occurs faster than in drier regions, such as in Brazilian northeast, for example.

Mata Atlântica

Atlantic forest

Paredão de calcário

Limestone wall

Contrary to the thinking of who never been in Petar, it’s not so common to find bats in the caves, which does not mean that they are uninhabited. Some of the most frequently seen animals are the frogs, spiders and opilions, which look like spiders but are not dangerous. In some rivers there is the blind catfish, which, because it lives in totally dark areas, has no pigmentation or eyes.

Opilião

Opilion

Cobra em decomposição

Decomposing snake

Petar is divided in four areas: Santana and Ouro Grosso areas are located in the Betari river valley, near Iporanga, which has some touristic infrastructure. Casa de Pedra area was used for the visitation of the cave of the same name, but to go inside this cave is currently not allowed for tourists, only being allowed to visit its portico (“entrance” of the cave), one of the largest in the world. And there is Caboclos area, in the center of ​​the Park and which is the subject of this article.

 

Caboclos

Located in the upper part of Petar, the oldest visitor center area is also the one with the least touristic structure. There is only one area to set up tents, tanks for washing clothes and dishes, toilets and some houses used by the park rangers and scientists. There are also two showers, but since there is no electricity, it takes courage to take a shower in the winter, when the air temperature is often below 10 degrees and the water is… Well, the water I prefer not to measure because the last drop of courage could flow down the drain.

On the other hand, this lack of structure has done well to the region, protecting the caves from the impact of mass visitation. Another factor that frighten many tourists is that the trails here are longer than in the other areas, requiring a full day of hiking, sometimes strenuous for those who are not in a good shape.

Área de camping

Camping area

Sanitários, chuveiros com água do rio e tanques

Toilets, tanks and showers with water straight from the cold river

Below there is a brief description, in alphabetical order, of the caves in Caboclos. It is important to note that the tracks are not marked and there are many bifurcations, making it essential to hire an accredited monitor, because in addition to the risk of getting lost, it is prohibited to enter the caves without the presence of a guide.

 

Caves

Aranhas

Following the trail that starts in the camping area, after 5 minutes you arrive at Aranhas cave. In this small cave you will see many opilions, some speleothems and a beautiful view of the river that flows inside the cave.

Início da gruta das Aranhas

Aranhas entrance

Arataca

Cave with few speleothems, it is a 4-hour walk (round trip) and is halfway to Casa de Pedra.

Arataca

Arataca

Chapéu

Last and best attraction of the short trail that start at the camping area, it has many halls and some beautiful speleothems, like a small hole close to the ground decorated with travertines and the Giant Mushroom.

Cogumelo Gigante

Giant Mushroom

Chapéu Mirim I e II

These two small caves do not have great attractions, but they are so close to the camping area that they are worth a visit. They are at the beginning of the trail that head to Aranhas and the Chapeu cavern.

Rapel na Chapéu Mirim I

Chapéu Mirim I

Cristais

A small cave near the camping area, it is cut by a river and, of greater interest, it has only a small hall after a restriction, since the hall that gave name to the cave has its entrance collapsed, preventing the access.

Cristais

Cristais

Restrição na Cristais

Cristais

Desmoronada

Walking only 20 minutes more on the same trail that leads to Pescaria you’ll arrive at Desmoronada. Hope to have sun when you are in this cave, as the rays of light entering one of the mouths form a beautiful view! To have an idea of the size of this room, look for a small orange dot in the left side of the photo and to the right of the column. That orange dot is a person’s helmet.

Desmoronada

Desmoronada

360° image at Canudos saloon

Espírito Santo

The mouth of this cave is almost on the road, so it does not require any physical strenght to visit it, but to enter you must crawl until the main hall, where you can see stalactites, stalagmites, travertines, an elegmite and, most interesting, a fossil.

Fóssil

Fossil

Furo da Agulha

Cave discovered only in 2006, it has restricted visitation and is a 3-hour walk (round trip), crossing only one hill. The name was given because its mouth is quite tight, but after this difficult stretch there are salons well decorated and, fortunately, totally preserved.

Primeira restrição do Furo da Agulha

First restriction at Furo da Agulha

Pequena cachoeira e estalactites

Little waterfall and stalactites

Salão com muitos canudos e estalactites

Saloon with many straws and stalactites

Cortinas

Curtains

Cortinas e estalactites

Curtains and stalactites

Electite com 20 cm de altura

Helictite 20 cm high

Monjolinho

It’s a 20-minute walk after Arataca, (4:40 round trip), this is also a cave with few ornaments, but more beautiful than its neighbor. One must be very careful because there are several chasms throughout the cave.

Gigante da Monjolinho

Monjolinho Giant

Na foto aparece apenas a metade do abismo

This photo show only half of the abyss

Pescaria

It’s a tiring walk because there is a difference of 400 meters (1,312 feet) to go up (and down) in only 2 km (1.2 mi), and the whole trail takes about 5 hours to be covered (round trip). Long cave, with some beautiful speleothems and in many parts it is necessary to walk inside the river.

Cortinas e estalactites

Curtains and stalactites

Coluna e travertinos

Column and travertines

Temimina

It’s a 4-hour walk (round trip) in a good pace, with only a big gap to cross in the arrival to the cave. As it is cut by the Temimina river, get ready to get wet for some time. It has large halls and beautiful speleothems, as the photos below show.

Travertinos e coluna

Travertines and column

Temimina

Temimina

Temimina

Temimina

Chuveiro

Shower

Ninho de pérolas

Pearls nest

Jardim Suspenso

Hanging Garden

360° image of Hanging Garden