If you haven’t already, read part 1 of our visit to Rio Grande do Sul. That’s when we first came across the tops of the spectacular canyons that mark the boundary between Rio Grande do Sul, and it’s northern neighbouring state, Santa Catarina.
Despite this area historically being one of the coldest places in Brazil, when we visited it was blue skies and short-sleeve weather. During hard winters up here it frequently snows – and for that, it’s quite famous. The landscape here is dotted with the famous Araucária trees. Once harvested for their tough wood, they’re now highly protected, and in fact quite endangered. Human consumption of their tasty nuts, the Pinhão, prevents their propagation, and threatens the species. Their strange, alien shape and hanging moss was a constant companion as we passed along the winding mountain roads towards our next destination.
Note: Audio on the following video may be muted due to a disputed copyright claim.
Serra do Rio do Rastro – one of Brazil’s most famous roads, and surely one of the most spectacularly twisty in all of South America. Just above it, there’s a new windfarm with a few viewpoints.
After getting a feel for what we were about to descend, we zoomed down. Just a few breaks for photos, and the odd truck coming up the other way.
After passing a few unusual sights…
… and reaching a dramatic milestone …
… we stayed the next two nights in Passo de Torres, the last town in Santa Catarina, across from the larger city of Torres, in Rio Grande do Sul. By chance we picked a hostel with an unusual feature – a Jiu-Jitsu hostel! We were the only guests, and as an extra bonus, we received a complimentary class in self-defence! I hope we won’t need to use it… Tiago, our instructor, was a great teacher, and he’s an all-round great guy. When he’s not teaching martial arts down in Torres, he’s running a small farm up near in the canyons. He will be totally self-sufficient with his own supplies of water and food, if it goes to plan.
Torres is famous for the dramatic cliffs south of the city centre. Up on top, paragliders take off and sail over the city & its golden beach. Even if they’re “expressly prohibited”
Around the corner, fishermen share space with zip-liners speeding down to the beach. It’s a stunning place. There is a small fee to enter the park, but it’s certainly worth it to follow the grassy trails up to the ridge. On a clear day, you can see the ocean swells way out in the distance, turning inevitably into huge crashing waves as they reach the shore. If you’re lucky you might see a rainbow in the spray!
Our return to the Atlantic Ocean at Torres was just a short one. We’d be making one more big inland detour, back up into the Serra Gaúcha hills. We were making what some might call an “unnecessary journey“, on “treacherous roads”. But we didn’t swim in the sea here.
The dusty trail up Serra do Faixinal ended at the top of Itambezinho canyon. Recommended to us by numerous friends and several travel websites, it’s slightly less spectacular than the other canyon nearby, Fortaleza. Sure if you’re in the area, why not visit both.
Along the way we picked up another puncture (That’s #3 in 4 months!) but got it quickly repaired
Cambará do Sul, the town up above these canyons, is an odd place. The houses are wooden, which is extremely rare for Brazil. It’s prepared for the cold. Drop it somewhere in northeastern Europe and it wouldn’t look too far out of place.
After ringing doorbell at the town’s only hostel a couple of times, we got no answer, and headed to a B&B nearby. They gave us a cheap room with a double discount – no breakfast, no air conditioning. Grand. We spent the night watching some utterly bizarre TV, including a late-night cattle auction:
… and the absurd antics of TV show host Silvio Santos, a kind of Brazilian Donald Trump, a total sleazebag who throws money at his desperate audiences.
In our next post, we travel to Germany. But instead of the strange Nazi history we encountered in Paraguay, this time it’s all beer and chocolate.
- Entrance to Serra do Rio do Rasto windfarm: R$10 / €3 per person
- Jiu-Jitsu hostel: R$40 / €11 per person per night (10-bed dorm)
- Entrance to Torres cliffs park: R$14 / €4 per person
- Entrance to Itambezinho Canyon national park: R$6 / €2 per person
- Entrance to Fortaleza Canyon national park: Free!
- Puncture repair: R$25 / €7 the first time, R$20 / €5 the second time.
- Pousada in Cambara do Sul (Without breakfast): R$80 / €22 per double room