chapada222By Pedro Souza
November 26th, 2016

Brazil is a country known for the beauty of its luxurious nature. Every state hides its own wonders, just waiting to be explored by the outdoors lovers. Based in the state of Goias, the Chapada is a plateau with an estimated 1.8 billion years of age. In 1961, the national park was inaugurated by the then president of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek. With an area of 655 square kilometers of very well preserved land, the park has become one of the most popular destination for nature lovers in Brazil. To get there, one needs to take the road, since there are no flights directly to the park. The most common way of getting there is by taking a bus from Brasília. If you are far from Brasília, you can get there by plane and then take a bus to the Chapada.

The park’s rock formations are among some of the oldest in the world, which help to form the cerrado biome. The cerrado is a form of savannah characterized by its vegetation formed by crooked trees, low forests and grassy plains. This environment is also home to a rich fauna, which attract many nature enthusiasts. One can find animals such as the maned wolf, the pampas deer, the jaguar and the capybara, which is the largest rodent in the world. The park is also a delight for birdwatchers, with species such as the savannah hawk, the great black hawk, the crowned eagle, the king vulture, the ringed kingfisher and many species of macaws and parakeets. There are also many lakes, river, waterfalls and canyons in the park, which compose a truly wonderful landscape.

There are basically two places in the park where visitors stay: Alto Paraíso and São Jorge. Alto Paraíso is a small city close to the entrance of the Park. It has more infrastructure and choices of places for eating and sleeping than São Jorge. São Jorge in contrast, is a small village with little infrastructure. While some may find it troublesome, others find it to be a better place to truly experience the Chapada. Those that are more adventurous can also gather their supplies and camp by themselves in nature, but the vast majority will prefer to stay in one of these two places, where you can find a comfortable place to sleep, restaurants to eat and tourism guides to hire.

Most tours involve visiting the canyons and waterfalls that abound there. The main river in the park is the Rio Preto, which runs through the Chapada forming beautiful waterfalls along the way. Among these, the most famous ones are the Carioca Falls and the Rio Preto Falls, which impresses visitors as it falls from 120m of height. Another place worth visiting is the Vale da Lua (Moon Valley), a surreal scenery composed of a rock formation full of craters, that give it its name. Among the formations, one will find grottos, waterfalls and natural pools where one can bathe. These are just a few of the park’s attractions, which contains a huge array of waterfalls such as the Poço Encantado (Enchanted Well), Macaquinhos (Little Monkeys), Anjos and Arcanjos (Angels and Archangels) and many more. There are also plenty of hiking trails that will take you through these waterfalls and through the canyons, among the rich fauna and flora that abounds in the park.

If you enjoy spending time in the outdoors and appreciate nature, this is easily one of the best places in Brazil to do so. Whether you want to relax with your family and friends or to have a true adventure in the Cerrado, the Chapada dos Veadeiros is the place for you. So what are you waiting for? Come see for yourself what this hype is all about. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

cachaca222By Pedro Souza
November 26th, 2016

Most foreigners have only come to know cachaça as a component of caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail that has become popular worldwide. Yet, it is a drink widely appreciated in Brazil, most often drank pure. The cachaça is a distilled spirit made with sugarcane juice, with an alcohol content usually around 40% of its total volume. Currently, it is the most popular distilled drink in Brazil, and it has become embedded in Brazilian culture.

No-one knows for sure how exactly did cachaça originate, and many conflicting versions exist. What is agreed on is that it was created after the Portuguese brought sugar cane from the Madeira Island. According to one version of the story, cachaça was accidentaly created when a slave from Pernambuco that was storing “cagaça”, a liquid formed when sugar cane juice is boiled. This would have caused it to ferment naturally and create the first cachaça of all. Another version is presented by Brazilian historian Luís da Câmara Cascudo in his book “Preludes of the Cachaça”. According to him, cachaça was first distilled around 1532 in the city of São Vicente, where the production of sugar in Brazil originated. In his version of the story, it was the Portuguese who distilled it at first, after learning techniques from the Arabs.

Regardless of how it originated, it has been a part of Brazil through the vast majority of the country’s history since it was found by the Portuguese in 1500. At first it was consumed by slaves, but other people soon began to appreciate it. The drink spread quickly through the coast, becoming an important part of the emerging economy. Through merchants, it also spread outside of Brazil, being well received in some parts of Africa and Europe. In Portugal, cachaça became so popular that the Portuguese crown decided to heavily tax the cachaça that was coming from Brazil and out-competing the nationally produced “bagaceira”. This led cachaça producers to rise up against Portugal in 1660 in what is now known as the “Revolta da Cachaça” (The Cachaça’s Revolt).

Later, cachaça spread to the states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, which is a state that is nowadays notorious for its cachaça production. In Minas, cachaça arrived with the gold rush. Stories tell that white cachaça was transported in barrels to Minas, arriving there with a brown color and a flavor acquired from the barrel. Supposedly, it is because of this that cachaça started to be produced inside oak barrels. Whether this is true or not, the cachaça production in Minas tends to favor the brown cachaça produced inside oak barrels.

In the 19th century, cachaça started to be devalued by the new Brazilian elite that was born from the ascension of coffee. The new coffee barons copied their manners and culture from Europe, and the elitists that they were, they despised cachaça as a drink for poor, uneducated black people. Despite the elite’s rejection of cachaça, it remained a popular drink for the majority of the population, and it was also celebrated by intellectuals who mocked the Brazilian elites and their aversion for national customs.

Nowadays, it is celebrated through the whole country, and produced by more than 4 thousand “alambiques”. It is interesting to note that while the production of sugar cane has always been associated with powerful land-owners in Brazil, the production of cachaça has always been and still is made in an artisanal manner. And through the country, one can enjoy an incredible array of cachaças, varying in flavor, color and strength. Many foreigners do not like their first taste of pure cachaça, but many say it is a drink that grows on you. If you enjoy a good drink, do not miss an opportunity to have a taste of cachaça. And if you ever find yourself in Brazil, this is just the right place to do it.