South of Brazil – Canyons and Waterfalls
Our time in the South of Brazil was coming to an end, so we wanted to leave on a high note by visiting the Canyons of Itaimbezinho and Fortaleza and also to spend this last few days doing a fun activity with my father, sister and nephews. Unfortunately my brother and his family were not able to join us. These two Canyons are located near the town of Cambara do Sul, only about 1:30 hours from my home town of Canela or about 170 Km from the State capital of Porto Alegre. These Canyons are part of an area with over twenty other less well known canyons of the same geologic range located in the South of Brazil.
We travelled in a group of 10 people, including myself, my husband Brian, my daughter Chloe, my son James, my father Remy and his partner Lelia, my sister Angelita, her fiancée Juliano and her two sons Pabblo and Lucas. There were five of us in my father’s car and the other five in my sister’s car. The road from Canela to Cambara do Sul is very good, paved all the way and the scenery is the gorgeous Gaucho pampas, green hills and farmland, covered with the native Araucaria trees and pine reforestation. The town of Cambara do Sul sits about 980 meters above sea level and is the gateway to the Canyons. The town itself is very small, with only one main road and very limited variety of restaurants and amenities. We arrived at lunch time and parked our cars near the church, right in the centre of town.
We were all feeling quite hungry, so we decided to get a bite to eat at a nearby little restaurant, which was a very friendly place where the owners cooked us some very tasty burgers (though in Brazil if you order a burger, what you get has never been through a mincer, it’s really a steak sandwich!). With full bellies we were ready to hike our first Canyon, so from the restaurant we drove the 23 Km of a rocky, gravel road to the entrance of the “Parque Nacional da Serra Geral”, to visit the Fortaleza Canyon. This park has no infrastructure and therefore there are no facilities here, we parked the car at the end of the gravel road since there is no car park as such and there are no entrance fees to the Park.
The Fortaleza Canyon is about 1, 240 meters above sea level, it extends 7.5 Km long and it is about 2 Km wide. There are two main trails in this area and we did both in half a day, these trails are not very strenuous and my father who is in his seventies did not find it particularly hard, even though he was not wearing appropriate hiking shoes or trainers . The youngsters full of energy and enthusiasm raced to the top, in particularly Lucas who was on a mission to get there first.
Trilha do Mirante – It is about a 3 Km round walk and takes you up to the Fortaleza Canyon. The views are fabulous and we had a fantastic clear day to see it all, since it can get very foggy here with the unpredictable changes in temperature and pressure between the sea level and the canyon walls, the clouds can be pushed up through the Canyon making visibility totally impossible and dangerous. We had 360 degree views all the way down to the coast. We were surprised that there was hardly anyone there, only one other couple, apart from our group. A place like this in the UK would be absolutely packed full of tourists. There are no barriers and anyone can get very close to the edge, so on a foggy day, poor visibility here could be fatal.
We took our time at the top of Fortaleza Canyon, the vistas were amazing and we could see far down to the coast of the next Southern State of Santa Catarina. We were glad to have brought our water bottles, since it did get quite warm at the top and the sun was biting down on us.
Going down was a little easier and again we took our time as we walked past waterfalls and enjoyed the 360 degree views. We drove to the entrance of the next trail “Trillha”, since it was on the way back towards the town of Cambara do Sul on the same gravel road and again parked just by the side of the road, there was a small sign post showing the way to go.
Trilha da Cachoeira do Tigre – “cachoeira” means waterfall and “Tigre”, Tiger is the name of the river that flows down and forms the fall. My father and Lelia decided to stay with the car and have a rest, whilst the rest of us walked down through the woods until we got to the river and found the top of the waterfall, the walk was not particularly difficult, but there were some more steep parts and I was worried about Lucas and Pabblo starting to cross the river and walking dangerously closed to the drop of the fall. The water was very cold, but also quite soothing on our feet as we removed our shoes to dip our toes in the cool water, we all managed to cross the river to see the waterfall from the other side.
We continued to walk along until we got to the “Pedra do Segredo”, Secret Stone, which is a stone block of 5 metres in diameter that weighs about 30 tons and is perfectly balanced on a very small base of about 50 cm. Afterwards we walked back to the car, and found my father and Lelia having a nap under the shade of a tree.
I was feeling like a nap myself and so we drove to our hotel for the night, the “Cambara Eco Hotel”, situated not far from the centre of the town of Cambara do Sul, with lovely views over a lake.
We all got a good rest, showered and changed to have dinner at the traditional ” Galpao Costaneira” where the decoration was pure rustic charm. There was a cosy area with a hot stove and a sofa where we helped ourselves to some “chimarrao” a very typical Gaucho green tea type drink taken with hot water and sipped slowly via a metal straw. The food was delicious and again all very traditional Gaucho fare; we chose the tabletop cooked beef, sausages and colonial cheese. There was also a buffet of other Gaucho food such as feijoada, arroz carreteiro and a variety of vegetables and salads. The desserts, also very traditional, where a real treat for me and a trip down memory lane reminding me of my childhood and my mother who used to cook puddings such as ambrosia, sagu etc. for the family.
The next morning we woke up to another sunny and bright day, perfect for our visit to the most well know of all the South of Brazil Canyon’s.
The Itaimbezinho Canyon
The name has its origin from the local indigenous tribe language “Tupi- Guarani”, meaning sharp rock. It is located in the Aparados da Serra National Park, from our hotel we drove on the RS429 road along an 18 km of unpaved road. This park has a better infrastructure and a fee of R$ 6.00 pp (£1.50) is charged for Brazilian’s and R$ 13.00(£3.50) for foreigners. There is a large car park and for parking there is a charge of R$ 5.00 for the day. There are toilet facilities, but no food and drinks for sale.
The Itaimbezinho is one of the largest Canyons of Brazil, it extends about 5, 800 metres long, about 600 metres of width and with a depth of about 720 metres. There are 3 main trails here called “Trilha do Vertice”, “Trilha do Cotovelo and Trilha do Boi. The hardest one is the later and it is only accessed from the interior of the Canyon down below at sea level via the beach of “Praia Grande” on the neighbouring State of Santa Catarina, this trail can only be entered with a professional guide and it can take up to 8 hours to complete, on this trail it is possible to take a dip in the river and get very close to the waterfalls.
We opted for the trail at the top “Trilha do Cotovelo” (The Elbow trail), it is about 6.3 km long and completely flat, mostly following an old road for part of the way and then continuing on following along the top of the Canyon walls, the old road is no longer used, since cars are not allowed here. It takes about 2:30 hours to complete the hike. There are two viewing platforms with stunning views of different angles of the Canyon. The Canyon walls are surrounded by a beautiful forest of native trees including the prehistoric Araucaria trees.
Unfortunately we did not have enough time and energy (we were all starving hungry) to do the other trail “Trilha do Vertice”, which is only 1.4 km long and takes about 45 minutes to complete. It was a shame, since this trail has great views of the waterfall “Veu de Noiva” (Bride’s Veil), that has a drop of about 500 metres. It was a mistake not bringing snacks and although we had a good wholesome breakfast earlier on at the hotel, the long walk got us all dreaming of food and refreshments.
It is better to do these top trails in the morning, since there is a higher risk of fog in the afternoon. There are no food and drink facilities inside the park, so it is a good idea to take plenty of water and snacks, also sun protection and a hat, since it can get very hot.
We finished our trekking expedition and headed back to the town of Cambara do Sul to have lunch at the “Galpao Costaneira” and had another great meal there before getting back on the road and return to Canela. Sadly it was getting to the end of our time in Brazil, we spent the last few days in my home town saying our good byes to the family and last visits to relatives including my beloved uncle Eduardo, who sadly passed away few months after my return to England. He was in his 90’s and very frail. I felt lucky to have had the opportunity to see him for one last visit, he was a constant presence all trough out my childhood and I have many fond memories of him. R.I.P Tio Eduardo!