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Mountains in Brasil

May 26, 2013

Despite the mixed weather we decided to head into the mountains (well really hills compared to much of South America) of Rio Grande du Sul. The mountains in Rio Grande are the one place in Brasil where it occasionally snows.

Church in Praia Grande

Our first stop was the town of Praia Grande where we checked with the local tourist office that the road into the mountains that was labelled on our maps as a 4×4 only track was passable in a truck of our side. The answer, in a mangled mix of Spanish and Portugese, was pretty ambiguous but we decided to give it a shot anyway. The alternative route was a lot further and paved the whole way but where is the fun in that.

Bad Road

The plan was to drive up into the mountains and visit the Parque Nacional dos Aparados da Serra which has a number of huge canyons breaking up the edge of the mountain plateau. The road started off as paved with rocky breaks on the corners but soon became unpaved. As soon as we gained some altitude the temperature dropped, the clouds closed in and the visibility dropped. This scotched any idea we had of getting views.

Canela Waterfall

As the weather was killing any views we kept driving and after a particularly challenging short cut where the road narrowed and roughened we ended up on a paved road to the resort town of Canela. This is popular with Brazilians as a great place to escape the heat of the rest of the country.

Canela Waterfall 2

In Canela we visited the amazing Parque Estadual de Caracol whose centrepiece is a massive 131 metre waterfall. There are several viewpoints for this including the bottom of an 800 step staircase at the foot of the falls.  There are a number of other smaller waterfalls here and a nice walk through the forest where we saw coati.

Another Canela waterfall

After spending the night just outside the parque we awoke to a grey miserable day so we decided to drive back out of the mountains, through the incredibly touristy town of Gramado and back down to sea level.  Descending back to the lowlands was rewarded by improving weather as blue sky broke out through the clouds. Looking back to the mountains we could see a band of dark grey clouds hovering over where we had been.

Temple 3

We had heard that near the town of Tres Coroas that there was the largest Buddhist Temple in the Americas. We had a bit of trouble finding our way there but eventually we found the steep cobbled road that took us up to the hilltop temple. Once we had negotiated the security on the door – an automatic gate which is only opened by talking to a monk on an intercom (who only speaks Portugese).

Buddhist Temple

The temple itself is amazing with really ornate buildings and temples including buildings with massive powered prayer wheels which turn constantly supposedly distributing the prayers inside to the winds.

Temple 2

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