Parque Nacional do Catimbau is a virtually unknown destination, even in the northeast of Brazil. A tough landscape of cacti, scrubland and hot sand gives way to spectacular canyons, caves, and hidden inscriptions by the land’s ancient indigenous inhabitants. As a National Park, it’s existed since 2002, but it’s treasures have been attracting researchers for many years.
From Ingá and Cabaceiras, we travelled inland for a day, to reach the gateway to the park, the very small town of Catimbau. This is still within the Sertão region, so over 200km from the Atlantic Ocean, high up on a vast 800-1000m plateau.
We had a bit of fun on the way with the cameras:
There are only two places to stay here, we opted for the one next to the square, “Pousada Vale do Catimbau“. It’s run by Dona Zefina, and we got a private room with a fantastic anti-mosquito contraption. That was R$80 (€20) / night each, including 3 meals per day.
Luckily, it turned out the Pousada owner’s husband also runs the pub, so every visit to the bar was accompanied by a free shot! Thanks!
Our very helpful park guide, Macilio, works in the tour agency on the square, and took us out, morning and afternoon, on both days we stayed. Two days is ample time to see the park, but you’ll be busy!
He charges R$100 (€24) / day, but some trails are a few R$ extra. Since the charge is per guide, it’s better to go in a bigger group, if you can. But since the park gets so few visitors, this could be difficult! You’re likely to have the place all to yourself, during your visit. Nothing but the distant clanging of goat bells to break the silence.
Stone Arches (That’s “The Church”)
Prickly dangerous things of all kinds
Fruits that taste like custard, and sweets
A giants causeway (or fish-scales)
Ancient inscriptions, up to 6,000 years old
A take on Sceilig Mhichíl, for giants
And inspiration for Gaudí
It’s hard to overstate how impressive the visit was. A landscape completely absent of water, save for a few brief showers, but home to a vast forest, full of edible fruit. Around every corner, a new feature to surprise you, or some new plant with a surprising use. This one cures chicken flu! This one is good for high blood pressure!
To top off our visit, we happened to be in town the weekend of their annual festival, Festa do São José. Saturday night, the town came alive to the sound of Forro Music (only after Mass ended of course), dodgy substandard fireworks (sold in the pub) and roaring motorcycles. Like Mad Max, but family-friendly, and with country music!