Less than two weeks into our new lives in Brazil, and we’ve already had our first grand adventure. We wanted to go somewhere fun this weekend, but on short notice, needed something we could accomplish in a day. Luckily, we’ve already made friends with many Bauru locals willing to give us recommendations. One destination that kept coming up was Brotas, only a two-hour drive from Bauru. The area is a popular spot for river rafting, hiking and weekend vacations.
Most of the hotels and pousadas were booked up for the holiday weekend, but after a bit of research we decided to make the trip out on Sunday to seek out the Cachoeira Santa Maria. (Cachoeira means waterfall in Portuguese.) We left early in the morning for Pousada das Palmeiras, a beautiful fazenda located in the Brotas countryside, to meet up with our guide for the day.
After pulling into the gorgeous property, we were courteously greeted by the pousada’s owners. We had our Google translate on the ready to let them know our plans, but they waved us in and welcomed us like family. That is one of my favorite things about Brazil – you don’t have to be able to fully understand each other to get along beautifully.
Our tour left at 12:30 p.m. so we had some time to enjoy the property before we departed. We sat down for a cafe da manha simples (breakfast), and then wandered around taking in the sights. I enjoyed making lots of animal friends.
We also took a walk along the road in front of the property to get a better feel for the area.
The day was relatively cool compared to recent weather, with highs in the low 80’s (Fahrenheit) and a chance of rain. The clouds thankfully held off until we finished our hike, making it the perfect day! Before we knew it, it was time to get started. We set out with our guide, who looked a lot like Jimmy McNulty (aka, a guy you can trust).
I really had no idea what to expect from the hike. I only had one fear going in: spiders. Thankfully, that fear was unfounded. But the hike itself was a lot more of an adrenaline rush than I had planned on. To be perfectly honest, I’m not a particularly adventurous person – at least not to the extent that I like to climb up things or jump off things or swim with things that can eat you – and if someone had described the hike to me exactly as it was, I might have let my nerves get the best of me and not gone.
Don’t get me wrong, it was in no way dangerous and a true dare-devil would scoff at the activity, but it was certainly more of an adventure than I partake in on a regular basis.
Everything started out nice and calm, on relatively flat terrain with our guide, whose name I believe was Lenny but let’s just call him McNulty, pointing out various fauna of interest. As we came upon this lovely flower (it smelled like honeysuckle, but I know nothing about plants so it could have been anything), the ground started to get a bit wet beneath our feet and we heard the gurgle of the river up ahead.
I’d already heard from friends that the majority of the hike was through the water, but in my head this meant frolicking through a little stream, not hiking through a fast-moving river. At first I was a bit timid, but plunged right in behind Tom and McNulty, and it wasn’t so bad!
Those walking sticks were clutch. As were our canine protectors, who were supposedly there to fight off any wild boar that may appear? That was very comforting…
After awhile, I began to feel like a pro. The thing I like most about hiking is that it forces me to confront things I would otherwise avoid in life, like spider-infested woods and spandex. In both cases, you simply have to suck it up and pull through. We kept up a good pace, and arrived at the waterfall within 40 minutes.
In a way, I had half expected the actual fall to be a disappointment, as most of the time back home hikes claiming waterfalls as an attraction have usually turned out to be pretty lame. But this. This was not lame.
We waded into the pool in front of waterfall, the rushing water splashing in our faces. The force was great enough that it sounded like a helicopter overhead, causing similar pulsing movements in the pool below. It was unlike anything I could have imagined. After cooling down a bit from the sweaty hike, we settled on some nearby rocks to take in the natural wonder and rest our legs for a bit. The pups were tired too.
Eventually, we had to break away from the scene to head back out on the trail. The hike back was relatively uneventful aside from me busting my butt Fred Flintstone style on a slippery rock. You win some, you lose some. It hurt, but luckily I landed on my fleshy parts and was able to get back up and keep going. When we arrived back at the pousada, the staff was in front of the grill ready to great us with cold beers and snacks.
We were given strips of steak, grilled bread and chicken wings to sate our hunger after a long journey. We could hardly communicate with one another, but food is a universal language. One woman kept encouraging us to “experiment” by trying to various foods they had to offer, and this interesting beer trick.
Turn a beer upside down, fill the top with rock salt and stab holes in the aluminum – then drink up! Good fun. We were only at Pousada das Palmeiras for a few hours, and already it felt like home. I would definitely like to go back for an overnight stay and to try out more of the tours they offer, both on the fazenda and in the surrounding areas of Brotas.
I don’t think we could have asked for a better first excursion here in Brazil. I’ve posted the rest of the photos from the trip on the Bad Sentences Facebook page, check them out here!
The tour cost $55 reais (about $18 USD) including transportation to the trail and snacks before and afterward (not sure if this was just extra generosity, or always included).