My friend, Rodrigo, and I took a three hour drive from Brasilia to the small town of Jaraguá, where he grew up. We arrived late and went for dinner, where he introduced me to my first Brazilian fatty food: pamonhas, mashed corn in husks (I’ll dedicate an upcoming post to all the new foods I discovered in Brazil).
The next morning, we road tripped through nearby towns on our way to Salto Corumbá cascades (aka waterfalls). These cascades were part of a relaxed resort area with a bar and buffet, a few pools and water slides. We set off for the biggest cascade first, walking along uneven rocks and dirt and plants. When we arrived there, I could feel the mist from the water falling onto the rocks below. The water was calm for swimming, until I swam right below the falls…
The water fell fast, certain areas felt more like sheets of water and others felt like a steady rain. I had to close my eyes and hold my breath the closer I got below the cascade. I was also laughing and trying not to slip on the rocks below. At its deepest, I could stand on my tiptoes and keep my head above the water. While focusing on all this, I got hit with a deeper realization of how lucky I am to experience the beauty of such a natural wonder.
Later, we spent the night out with some of Rodrigo’s old friends in Anápolis. I truly appreciated how inclusive everyone I met was. Even though we don’t speak the same language, we found ways to communicate (mostly google translate) and teach each other some basic words and phrases. I never felt left out of the action, even with language barriers.
With these newly-made friends, we visited the historic town of Pirenopolis, full of cute shops and restaurants. We spent most of the day at nearby cascades. Unlike at the resort, these cascades had more of a beach atmosphere, shallower water and more, smaller waterfalls. People of all ages waded in the water and sunbathed on the rocks.
The more adventurous ones climbed the highest rocks. I wasn’t a good enough climber to reach the top, mostly because the rocks right below the top were slippery from water flowing over it. In other areas, including the highest point, the rocks were dry from the sun beating straight down on it. But I did enjoy climbing some lower slippery areas in between falls above and below! The water felt nice on my shoulders, like a natural massage.
Despite all the precautions I took, my skin was vulnerable to the sun’s rays. Even my new friends, who are more accustomed to the Brazilian heat, burned at least a little. I used sunblock every day, multiple times per day and often multiples times per hour.
My shoulders sunburned the most, they were red and peeling for a few days. My nose looked red the longest, and lasted a while after I returned home over a week later. After the redness in my cheeks went away, I found a small cut below my left eyelid. I’m not sure if I got the cut before or after my sunburn. I might have had it for a while and not noticed it with my more obvious sunburn.
My nose and cheeks never hurt like my shoulders, but my knees did hurt. I’m not really sure if they hurt from a sunburn, dry skin or both. I rarely sunburn, so I’m not accustomed to the feeling… Yet, my knees seem like an odd spot for a sunburn, especially since the rest of my legs were fine.
I spent a day on a Jaraguá farm, owned by Rodrigo’s family. That experience changed my outlook and nature, fishing, camping and so much more that I’ll dedicate a future blog post to it, so keep an eye out!
On my last day in Brazil, I ventured up a mountain in Jaraguá with Rodrigo and another friend of his. Driving up the rocky road on the mountain, the car’s wheels got stuck in one particular area of the road. A sort of pothole was filled with a group of rocks, but the rocks made that spot more uneven than the surrounding dirt road. That spot was also on a steeper incline, which made it tougher to drive the car over and up.
After a few failed driving attempts, Rodrigo and his friend rearranged the rocks to create a flatter surface. I could have helped, but I was distracted by everything else around me. I was filled with so much wonder and other emotions that I still cannot figure out how to describe (I said the word “crazy” a lot throughout this trip). So in that moment, I didn’t have much room in my mind to process how to help rearrange the rocks without getting in the way.
When we finally reached the top, all I could do was stare at the world beyond me… And that was honestly all I wanted to do. I sat on rocks and dangled my feet above the jungle. I walked to the edges of the cliffs, breathing in deep as I held onto trees and leaned over the city below.
On the three hour drive back to Brasilia airport, I was left in awe over something else I had never experienced before: driving through clouds near the ground. These clouds did not look the same as on a foggy day that I am used to in the northeastern US. They looked like whole clouds, I could distinctly see where one cloud ended and another began.
This was the first time I’ve been anywhere high enough in line with clouds, but not the last. In fact, when I went to Peru right after, low clouds were an even more common sight. I’ll share my Peru adventures in a future blog post!
Although I had not done anything that I would normally consider “big” during this trip, all the little experiences added up to my most mind-blowing vacation yet. Simply another reason to love travel… When we overcome this coronavirus pandemic, if you feel hesitant to visit somewhere because you do not know what to do or see there, remember you do not need to go on big tours to experience something big.