So with my Salvador hopes dashed I decided to head to Pirenópolis, a small historic town about 4 hours northwest of Brasilia. It is also the closest town to the Parque Nacional Brasília. The original plan was to go to this gateway city for a day and move further westward to Goias Velho. That plan never really panned out.
Traveller’s Cardinal Sin
So initially I was planning to take all my stuff with me to move on to Pirenópolis from Brasília, but my family friends convinced me to take a smaller bag for the few days that I will be gone since I had to catch my flight out to Montevideo from Brasilia anyways. In the rush of things and my paranoia of losing/having something stolen, I always dispersed my passport, IDs, credit cards and loose change. Foolishly I left the house for bus station without any ID (passport, driving licence, etc). I got to the station, bought my ticket to Pirenópolis and waited for an hour or so till departure time. When I came to board the bus I realized I did not have a single piece of ID on me. There was no way to return the ticket and obviously I could not board the bus. I felt so stupid, how could I forget the most fundamental thing in travelling. I ended up losing out on a whole day as the only bus to Pirenópolis would arrive there fairly late at night and since I did not have my accommodation set up, I ended up spending the night in Brasilia and leaving in the morning.
Because of time constraints I didn’t really make it to Goias Velho and spent 2 days in Pirenópolis. The first day I spent exploring the city and trying out more fruit juices. (Random aside, I was in love with the plethora of fruit juices in Brazil. I quickly settled on a favourite maracuja (passion fruit). I was obsessed if a cafe or restaurant was out, I would leave and walk to the next.
Parque National de Brasília
The following morning I got up early and headed to the tourist office to figure out logistics of getting to the national park and doing a bit of hiking/ seeing the various waterfalls. I bought my entrance to the park and was considering paying the ridiculously overpriced transportation fee when 2 Italians came by to inquire. We started talking and decided it would be a lot cheaper to split a cab between the three of us. The cab dropped us off at the foot of the trails near a juice stand/resting area. We arranged with the taxi to come back. We then parted ways. I started following the various trails marked out. Out of the 6 major waterfalls in the park, I could only make it to 3.
It was dreadfully hot and I couldn’t really stand to hike any longer. At one of the falls (called Meia Lua) I saw 2 people jumping off the side of the falls and swimming into the downstream pool. After both surfaced unharmed and realizing the water was deep enough for such a jump, I started talking to them. I found out they were both Brazilian. At this point, I really wanted to swim and more importantly try the cliff jump. So I tucked my backpack aside and with my clothes (a pair of scrub pants I wear as pjs and a shirt) I went swimming. The cliff was probably 25ft high. It was so scary, I took me a good 5 minutes of staring down at the water till I finally got the courage to jump. It was a bit tricky in the sense that you had to move back a bit and run, taking a leap as far away from the cliff and the nearby rocks to minimize injury when landing. It was so exhilarating!!! That feeling where your internal organs are crawling up to your throat. I was in the air for a good 4-5 seconds. I did the jump again 2 more times. More people caught on to this particular waterfall and surrounding pool. So when a crowd of people showed up, I gathered up my stuff and continued hiking a bit further uphill to a less crowded region.
After an entire day of hiking, swimming and cliff jumping, I headed back down to the resting area to change to dry clothes and wait for the taxi so I can get back into town and catch my bus back to Brasilia. I waited for nearly 40 mins near the juice stand and no sight of the taxi driver. At this point I had started talking to a Brazilian couple vacationing in the area. Initially they thought I was Brazilian. We communicated in what now seemed to be my perfected Porteñol (Spanish and Portuguese). Lucky for me they were heading back to Pirenópolis so they gave me a ride to the bus station. I made it back 30 minutes before the bus was due to leave. Definitely good timing because at that point I still didn’t have my bus ticket yet.
Although it wasn’t Salvador , Pirenópolis was just as amazing. The falls and the experience of getting to jump of the waterfalls were out of this world.
I got into Brasília late Saturday night, got a few hours of sleep and then Salma and her brother Samer drove me to the airport to catch a 5am flight back to Montevideo via Sao Paulo.
Final thoughts on Brazil
I’ve come to the realization that Brazilians are not really accustomed to accents. Since many Brazilians don’t really have any interaction with many foreigners, they have trouble understand those speaking Portuguese with a different accent. Some have trouble understanding those from Portugal.
Also, Brazilians are very patriotic and very proud of vacationing within their country. In many cases, I found that tourists know the country better than natives because the natives don’t really travel around as much. Not really the case with Brazilians, they love taking vacations in other parts of their own country. I wouldn’t blame them, Brazil pretty much has such a vast range of options, with pristine beaches, natural attractions in abundance and lively urban culture found nowhere else but Brazil.
Brazilians are super friendly and for the most part really upbeat even in their everyday language. For example “belleza” means cool or “I’m doing well” literally translated it means beautiful. Also, as a solo traveller I found that it was very easy to engage in conversations with strangers around. Generally most people around would initiate conversations. In so many cases complete strangers helped me with directions (or the ride down from the waterfalls).
If I had the opportunity I would definitely like to spend a longer period of time exploring other parts of the country. Even though I covered quite a bit of ground in terms of exploration, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.