Making the best of a travel delay in Chapada dos Veadeiros

I arrived shortly after 6 pm. The sky was a haze of red, yellow and blue, punctuated by wind swept clouds and palm trees that dotted the horizon. Although it was a nine hour drive from Uberlandia to Chapada Dos Veadeiros, a table top mountain near Brasilia, I looked out over the expansive landscape with satisfaction. I was happy that things were working out.

sunset at jardim de maytrea

Jardim Maytrea, where I stopped to view the sunset, is a look out point on the side of the road between Alto Pariaso and Sao Jorge (a smaller and even more hippie town than Alto Pariaso). About two km further down the road, the pavement stops and one has to drive 16km on a dirt road to reach the town of Sao Jorge.

After the World Cup ended, my plan was to join two Brazilian friends on an epic road trip across South America. Ahead of us lay Bolivia, Peru and Chile. Unfortunately, beaurcratic documentation issues set road blocks in our path. Our trip would be delayed by a week so that everything could be sorted out.

There was little I could do from my side. I don’t speak Portuguese and these were matters with the Brazilian state. Wheels needed greasing, and when gringo hands are involved, the cost of lubricant increases significantly. So I reviewed the surrounding area, picked a place that I had never been before, rented a car and 9 hours later I was in the Chapada dos Veadeiros. I had done minimal research on my destination.

Jardim de Maytrea landscape

I returned to Jardim de Maytrea later on in the trip. This time I ducked underneath the barbed wire fence to get some better photos with some fellow travellers.

I made it to my hostel in the town of Alto Pariso, located on the outskirts of the Chapada, shortly after 8pm. I parked opposite my accommodations near an open square the size of a suburban back yard, mostly brown, with patches of green, a seesaw and bouncy horse.

To my surprise the park was inhabited by a score of hippies. Was some jam band having a concert in the immediate vicinity? I strode over to gawk and investigate further.

Dreadlocks, sundresses and Rastafarian colors were the status quo. People were selling artwork, metal trinkets and jewerly. The pungent smell of weed filled the air – either that or somebody had to do a load of sock laundry really badly. Someone strummed a guitar and it wasn’t long before an impromptu sing along soon followed suit.

But there was no jam festival, no phish concert. I asked around and found out that’s how it is. Always. I thought to myself: What’s with all the hippies?

The Waterfalls of Chapada dos Veadeiros

The next morning, after a quick breakfast of Coxinha, coffee and orange juice mixed with acerola, I packed up my day-bag and headed off to visit Sao Bento. Accompanying me were two fellow travellers I had met at my hostel the night before.

Sao Bento farm is located about a 10 minute drive from alto paraiso. After paying 20 Reals and hiking about 2km, we arrived at the first of three waterfalls that the farm boasts. After spying the waterfall through thick foliage, we climbed down to the pool at its base. I jumped in. The water was cold. Really frickin’ cold. But within minutes, my body warmed to the idea and I was able to swim lazily around the natural pool.

We made it to the second waterfall, and then the third. The hippies were there too, banging on the wood planks that they sat on, searching each others faces to confirm they wear on the same beat.

Almecegas 1 Waterfall in Sao Bento Farm

Almecegas 1 Waterfall in Sao Bento Farm. The other side is accessible, but you have to go on a longer hike. From the side that we were on, you can access the natural pool at the bottom.

 

Pool at the bottom Almecegas 1 Waterfall in Sao Bento Farm

A natural pool forms at the bottom Almecegas 1. During my visit, I shared the pool with about 10 other travellers, although many stayed out of the water because it was cold.

Almecegas 2 Waterfall Sao Bento, chapada dos veadeiros

During the dry season, it is possible to tan on Almecegas 2 itself. In the background a typical rock formation of the Chapada.

Almecegas 2 Waterfall Chapada dos Veadiros

A woman cleans her hands at the top of Almecegas 2 in Chapada dos Veadiros.

Almecegas 2 Waterfall Chapada dos Veadiros

It is possible to dive off the top of Almecegas 2 into the pool 15 feet below. The man diving and his girlfriend taking pictures on the rock face behind him, hitched a ride from me on the first day walking to one of the waterfalls. By the end of the first day, I offered a ride to Vale De Lua the following day.

Sao Bento Waterfall Chapada natural pool

A picture of Sao Bento Waterfall, the third waterfall I visited at the Farm with the same name. In the pool behind the group to the left, impromptu water polo matches often occur.

A drumming session takes place at the edge of Sao Bento Waterfall.

A drumming session takes place at the edge of Sao Bento Waterfall.

New Age Tourism

I love places that are a bit left of center. Places that have personality by the bunches. Even if I don’t believe in the rhetoric thrown easily around the campfire behind the hostels, I love it’s enthusiasm.

At dinner that night, I gave a dusty, glazed-eyed man that was hocking his wares a slice of pizza. He, in return, gave me a small wire trinket, adjustable at two main hinges. Wide eyed, he kept making different forms with the trinket while explaining something about each shape to me in Portuguese. I didn’t get 95% of what he said, but I could tell he was enthusiastic about his good none the less.

He fiddled with it. First a tiny hat. Then a flower. Next a UFO. And for the coup de grâce, a mandala, a shape that represents the universe in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Mandala Trinket given to me in Chapada dos veadeiros

Mandala Trinket given to me in Chapada dos Veadeiros. The shape of the Mandala is considered to have some mystical powers by believers.

Many of the shapes mirrored the Chapada itself. To the believer, the Chapada is a spiritual lightning rod. Early that day, at one of the waterfalls, I was told that the Chapada is located on a giant bed of crystal and that it’s on the same 14th parallel that Machu Pichu traverses. Supposedly, it is the brightest natural formation viewable from space. The light from the crystals makes it a favorite landing pad for UFOs, or so the conspiracy theorists postulate.

I walked back to the hostel belly full and eyes tired from a long day. I had walked maybe 10 km and swam another one. I tucked past the reception desk and my room, which was off to the left, passed the communal bathroom for 14 people, past the kitchen and outside to the campfire that was glowing underneath the star filled sky.

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