When we first arrived in Brasilia almost four years ago, we felt that we had all the time in the world to explore this great country. In fact we thought we had too much time! Frankly, neither C nor I were all that thrilled to be posted to Brasilia – but that is another story for another day!
However, time is surely and steadily ticking by, and I am becoming acutely aware that our time here in Brazil is running out. All these trips and excursions that we have put off for one reason or the other are starting to pile up and the likelihood is, is that we won’t be able to do all of them.
So, one day just by chance I looked at my calendar and saw there was a long weekend coming up where C would actually be in town – I jumped at the chance to spend it at Chapadas dos Veadeiros National Park. I immediately got in touch with a few friends to see if they wanted to join – and as luck would have it, two couples had already planned to go and the third couple were keen to join as well. So within 20 minutes of sending out the initial email we had all booked and paid for our accommodation and we were set! I love it when the stars align like this!
Chapadas dos Veadeiros is a national park that is an easy 250km drive north of Brasilia in the central state of Goias. The national park is famous for its dramatic canyons, river and waterfalls as well as it’s quartz crystal rock formation – and was declared a world heritage site in 2001. The park itself is about 650sq Km, however the whole region and landscape surrounding the park is breathtakingly beautiful, with lots of trails, waterfalls and swimming holes to be visited.
In fact, the rich crystal rocks and landscape of this region have attracted all sorts of ‘New Agers’ who have set up alternative communities. There seems to be many different spiritual, religious and yoga retreats in the area (not to mention lots of apparent extraterrestrial sightings), and I have heard that many people who have been burnt-out by the grind of Sao Paulo come here to take a break.
There are two main places you can stay when you visit the Chapadas – Alto Paraiso or Sao Jorge. We stayed in Alto Paraiso which is about 38km from the entrance of the park and seems to be more developed than Sao Jorge. In all honesty though, apart from getting in touch with my inner hippy and shopping for crystal, Alto Paraiso itself is nothing to write home about. Sao Jorge on the other hand –seemed to have a bit more character and charm. Located 2 km from the entrance of the park, this former crystal-mining hamlet with its dirt road and relaxed vibe – felt more like a seaside town in Goa than an obscure little village in the middle of Brazil!
I think the lonely planet guide book summed it up best when they said you will see a lot of crystals, dreadlocks and dirty feet….
The look my boys gave me when they realised I had taken them to a vegetarian restaurant!
However you don’t go to this part of Brazil to explore the towns, you go to explore the nature! And during our time there we managed to go on two excursions. The first day was a rather mammoth 12k hike to the waterfall in the park itself. Now, 12km may not seem like a lot to you – in fact it seemed perfectly reasonable to me – 6k in have a swim, relax and then 6k out– but then add blazing hot sun, a 10.5kg baby + Baby carrier and a grumpy husband in the mix – I can assure you, it will feel like eternity!
Thank god we were with friends – as I highly doubt C and I would have completed the trek had we been on our own! However, was it worth it I hear you ask – ABSOLUTELY! Although tough with all the baby gear (and neither C nor I being in great shape) it was a wonderful day spent with friends, taking in the beautiful scenery, observing the macaws flying over head and swimming in the cool natural pool by the waterfalls. Baby C loved it as well (In fact I was pretty envious of him). He enjoyed sitting in the borrowed Deuter Baby Carrier so he could see what was going on, he got to splash in the shallow waters playing with the cheeky fish, then enjoyed a long leisurely nap all the way back. I will hasten to add – that our group was the only people who had brought our babies with us – and I felt that we got a few interesting looks – I think the Brazilians knew better!
The second day excursion was far more gentler – I knew there was no way I was going to get the grumpy Peruvian out on another hike. So when one of the couples talked about visiting this little park right by our pousada called cahoeira das loquinhas, with board walks and little dipping pools we decided to join them. Unlike the national park which is not baby friendly in any way – this place was perfect for us. We could gently stroll to one of the many natural dipping pools in the privately owned park, and as we were there on a Monday we had the whole place to ourselves. It was incredibly peaceful and idyllic spot and I would love to go back.
Despite not being overly impressed with the town of Alto Paraiso – we did stay at a fabulous pousada there called Casa da Lua Pousada. I loved this place and I would go back to in a heart beat. The pousada has a very relaxed atmosphere, and is made up of the main house and a series of well appointed and comfortable rooms with verandas built in a semidetached fashion in the garden. The garden itself is beautifully maintained with a fire pit in the centre which proves to be a lovely gathering spot in the rather chilly evenings. There is also a large hot tub in the garden which offers a welcome relief after a day of hiking.
Although this pousada is not designed for children – it is child friendly (and pet friendly which is unusual in Brazil). And one of the greatest perks for me is that they had restaurant onsite that is open on the weekends or when there are enough people staying there. This for young families was excellent! It meant we could all put our babies to bed, open a bottle of bubbly and enjoy a lovely meal together on the premises without worrying about the little ones. I will also add the meals were not only VERY generous in portion but also delicious! I am not ashamed to admit that it was the idea of the pousadad’s spaghetti bolognese that got me through that hike on the first day….