Perequê / Padre José Trail

IMG_6808 The Perequê River flows through the southwestern portion of the Itutinga – Piloes section of Serra do Mar State Park (São Paulo). It divides the Cubatão and Poço mountain ranges and is Cubatão´s main eco – attraction.

The actual kind of trail that partly joins the stream is of historical importance because it corresponds widely to the former Padre José Trail which is directly related to the foundation of São Paulo. It is named after Padre José Anchieta, who in January 1554, together with two other Jesuit priests climbed this trail in order to reach the Piratininga plateau (nowadays Planalto Paulista) and the Anhangabaú River (actual centre of São Paulo). The Holy Mass they celebrated there on January 25 (feast day of the Conversion of St Paul) is officially considered the birthday / foundation of São Paulo.

tupiniquins trailHowever, some historians argue that the origin of São Paulo goes back to October 10, 1532 when the Portuguese explorer Martim Afonso de Sousa, guided by João Ramalho and Indian tribal chief Tibiriçá climbed the plateau via the Tupiniquins Trail and eventually established a settlement or at least a military outpost there. Due to constant attacks of Tamoios Indians, the Tupiniquins Trail (sometimes also referred to as Guaianás Trail), which follows the Mogi River to actual Paranapiacaba was closed in 1560 by Mem de Sá, Brazil`s third general governor and substituted by the shorter but significantly steeper Padre José Trail. For whom understands Portuguese, here is a nice short novel about one of these Indian attacks.

IMG_6752Back to reality! The Padre José Trail can be reached from three different trail heads. The shortest and directest way which according to the park´s management plan is called „Travessia“, is from the old Anchieta road, some meters before the entrance of the Caminho do Mar parking place. A little path leads through some pretty dense woods to a larger trail through open grassland. Following this trail for about 10 minutes, a bifurcation appears where you turn right heading to the edge of the plateau. From there on, the trail follows the crest with splendid views on the mangrove forests of the Santos Lowlands (Baixada Santista).

IMG_6817aAfter an hour or so it reaches a large energy tower from where a smaller trail descends to the Pereque river and the municipal park of Cubatao. Somewhen the trail vanishes, so you have to follow your instincts, heading in direction to the noise of a large waterfall. Having reached it just follow the trail which parallels the river on the right side. There are some further beautiful cascades and pools on your way until reaching the entrance of Cubatão municipal park. Allow 8 to 10 hours net walking time When you decide to do the „Travessia“ as a roundtrip, take sufficient water, the hike is extremely exhausting.

IMG_6280aYou can also access this trail further east, eather via a normal trail starting from a sand road or via a trail the commences at the old Anchieta road. The second option leads to a small bridge where you step into the Pereque river, which at that point is a mostly shallow stream. At some locations this stream gets deeper and muddier with the water up to your neck. At these points you might consider leaving the water and continue along its margin (put snake protection and pay attention where you put your hands, a knife is highly recommended). After an hour or so, you reach a smaller waterfall where it joins the trail of the first option.

IMG_6339aFrom there you continue on the left stony shore of the Pereque river downstream. At a certain point cross the river and you will find a trail in the woods. This trail leads you to a magnificent viewpoint of the Serra do Mar escarpments where the Perequê river plunges 200 meters or so into the deep (don´t continue here!). From there you continue a trail in western direction until reaching the bifurcation described above.

Unfortunately, these trailheads are located close to the Greater Sao Paulo area outskirts where constantly assalts are reported, particularly on weekends. So be careful!


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Where and how do I find the real Brazil?

juatinga When you go to a travel agency or tour operator in your country and ask about Brazil, he probably will try to sell you the whole country in a ten day trip to  typical locations, such as Foz do Iguazu, Salvador, the Amazon, among others….

Are these really Brazil’s most popular travel destinations? Yes, they are. And is it worth to visit them? Depends. If your objective is to see a large number of beautiful sights in a short time and don´t care about mass tourism, costs and transportation time, this is probably the right choice. But is this the real Brazil, where I can meet unspoiled culture, people and habits? Probably not.

So, where would I have to go and what would I have to do, to come a little closer to Brazil’ s “heart” and “soul”? You must visit locations that are less accessible to the average tourist, for instance places you can only reach on foot, by trails or by boat.

Can I do this on my own? In most cases not, as tourism so far hasn´t reached these places, trails are unmarked and only locals know the path. There are frequently people getting lost in the rainforest. For your own safety, only enter these trails with an experienced tour guide.

How is the comfort level there? Relatively low, many of these places don´t have electricity and overnight stay often is in the houses of the local community. These are simple, hospitable, charming places and above all, this is the real Brazil.

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Travel to Brazil – When to go?

In general, the climate of Brazil can be divided into a tropical zone north and a subtropical zone south of São Paulo.

The regional climate, of cause, is much more complex as the dry Caatinga desert, the semi – dry Cerrado savannah or the humid Amazon rainforest proove. All three biomes are located in the tropics. Local weather conditions should be requested at Brazilian climate institutes (e.g.

The climate of the Atlantic Rainforest is defined by two main perceivable seasons; a cool and dry winter from May to August and a hot and humid summer from November to March. For monthly rainfall and temperatures of some of our tour destinations, see climate diagrams.

However, due to the climate change which unfortunately didn´t stop in Brazil, the historical data climate diagrams are based upon, nowadays are only partly reliable. About 10 years ago, for instance, the summers between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro were characterized by daily, short but strong precipitations in the late afternoon and winters were predominantly dry. Nowadays, seasons seem to be less pronounced and rainfall occurs sporadically any time of the day.

To decide when to go to Brazil can be a hard decision. If your main objective is not to get wet than, especially for outdoor activities and particularly for hikes in the upper part of the Mar / Mantiqueira mountain ranges, the winter month probably are the better choice (also because of the visibility). On the other hand, nature in terms of color intensity and voluminosity of the rivers and waterfalls is a little more expressive during the summer month.

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Travel to Brazil – What to do?

hiking atlantic rainforest When you plan to travel / spend your holiday in Brazil, apart from the typical nature of a biome, your preferable travel destination (s) might depend very much on your favourite activities.

a) Just beach holiday
Even if there are many beautiful beaches in different places of the world, which is why this should not necessarily be the main reason to visit this country, following a short description of the three principle beach types to be found along Brazil’s 8.000 km coast line:

  • Endless flat coconut palm beaches with and without dunes, partly with offshore reefs and coloured sandy cliffs, so – called falesias, in the northeast.
  • Charming deserted and semideserted beaches with little bays enclosed by rainforest covered mountains of the Serra do Mar mountain chain, in the southeast (my personal favourite).
  • Rio Grande do Sul in South Brazil seems to have one endless flat rectilinear beach from north to south, with dunes but without coconut palm trees and reefs. It reminds a little the Netherlands / European Atlantic coast beaches.

Of outstanding beauty are the Lençois Maranhenses National Park in Maranhão, the coastal part of the Southeast Reserves (São Paulo / Paraná) and Discovery Coast World Heritage Sites (South Bahia) such as the bird paradise Lagoa dos Patos National Park (Rio Grande do Sul).

b) Outdoor activities
For outdoor activities, particularly walking / hiking / trekking / climbing, mountain biking and kayaking, definitely the Atlantic Rainforest should be your choice. It offers countless historical trails, beautiful deserted and semi-deserted beaches, mangrove and restinga vegetation, rainforest covered mountains of up to 3.000 height meters (Mar / Mantiqueira range), charming rivers, waterfalls and pools, traditional communities and some colonial towns. Additionally, it is easy to access via the São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro international airport.

c) Speleology
There are many cave areas in Brazil but in combination with rainforest, the Speleological Province Upper Ribeira / Paranapiacaba (São Paulo State), with its fantastic karst landscape and hundreds of limestone caves, is unique. Recommendation: Intervales and PETAR State Park.

d) Diving
Brazil has no Great Barrier Reef and is not a famous diving spot. However, the Fernando de Noronha island in Pernambuco and the dozens of shipwrecks around Ilhabela (São Paulo), might be worth a visit.

e) Wildlife Viewing
When you can stand the heat and the mosquitos, the Pantanal is the place to be in order to watch, photograph and film animals in their natural habitat. Especially the dry season (winter) is highly recommend, because the flooded areas shrink and the animals have to come out of their shelter in order to access the water. For that purpose, don´t go to the Amazon, you probably will be disappointed. A biologist, who participated in a 7 day rainforest expedition to Pico da Neblina, once told me that he did not see one animal during the whole hike.

  • For birdwatching, visit the Intervales State park, where you easily can observe a different bird species about every 15 minutes.
  • The archipelago of Abrolhos is great place for whale watching during season.
  • When you are in São Paulo, Cantareira State Park is an excellent option to see free living monkeys, especially howler monkeys (Alouatta guariba).

f) Culture and History
Brazil, for sure is a great nature / eco destination but I think it is fair to say that if you come from a culturally rich continent, such as Europe, Brazil, with its young history, in terms of cultural attractions, cannot quite compare. However, the baroque colonial buildings and churches that date back to Brazil´s gold cycle, might be worth a visit. An interesting alternative to combine culture and history with exceptional natural beauty is a visit to the Discovery Coast World Heritage Site in South Bahia or to follow the former gold route (Estrada Real) from the mining areas in Ouro Preto / Diamantinha (Minas Gerais) to the port in Paraty. The Lagamar Complex (São Paulo / Paraná) offers prehistoric sambaquis, traditional fishing communities (caiçaras) and further inland, descendants of African slaves, so – called quilombolas.

g) Others
Apart from Trindade / Martim Vaz, with difficult and limited access, Fernando de Noronha is Brazil’s most beautiful island. If mass tourism isn´t a problem for you and size matters, there is nothing that compares to the waterfalls of Foz de Iguaçu (1 day is enough). Hang and paragliding is possible at the National Monument Pontões Capixabas in Espírito Santo where you can also find Brazil’s most spectacular rock formations. To decide between the carnival in Rio de Janeiro and the carnival in Cologne might be a hard choice but New Year’s Eve at Copacabana is unsurpassable. If you are in São Paulo and don´t pretend to visit Argentine, don´t forget to include a diner at a typical churrasco / rodízio restaurant.

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Travel to Brazil – Where to go?

brazil biomes With a size of 8,5 million sqkm, Brazil is one of the largest countries in the world. It is about twice as big as Europe (European Union) and in order to know all of it, a lifetime might not be enough.

I once met a journalist who spent three years of his life to visit and film all of Brazil`s national parks, an area which represents less than 5% of Brazil’ territory. Since more than ten years, I am personally exploring the rainforest trails in South and Southeast Brazil and sometimes wondering how many of them exist and how long it can take to come back to the same place.

Who already had the opportunity to travel between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, a section which looks minuscule on every Brazil map, will agree with me that 10 days  is not too much, in order to explore at least some of the treasures that lie between those two metropolitan areas.

So, when you pretend  to visit Brazil with a limited time, it may be wise to pre-select some destinations, before travelling. To do so, you may divide Brazil in regions, states, municiples and cities but as a traveller or tourist, a better approach might be, to divide and to understand Brazil in form of biomes.

You can select between the tropical Caatinga desert in the northeast, the Cerrado savannah and the Pantanal floodlands in the center west, the Pampa grassland in the south and two rainforest biomes; the Amazon and the Atlantic Rainforest / (Mata Atlântica). All of these biomes are flat with the exception of the Atlantic Rainforest, where the Mar / Mantiqueira mountain chains expose mountains of up to 3.000 height meters to the tourist.

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