Monday, May 21, 2012
IF RAPPELLING OR ABSEILING IS YOUR THING...
Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral National Parks are located in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul, near the border with Argentina and Uruguay. Here, winter temperatures can often be close to zero and locals proudly call themselves gaúchos and have in their history a bloody movement that tried to create an independent nation.
Approaching any one of the 60 canyons that form the adjoined parks is almost a surreal experience. Most don’t have any protective fences and are surrounded by ancient araucárias, a monkey-puzzle-like tree, often covered in lichens and Spanish moss. Itaimbezinho (which in the indigenous Guarani language means 'cut rock') is the best-known of the canyons and also the easiest to reach. However, Fortaleza Canyon is not only bigger in depth (3,000 feet) and length (5 miles) but is also the most impressive, a place of untamed nature that captivates all, and the perfect reward after 13 miles on a rather hard dirt track. When Aparados da Serra was created in 1959 as one of the first Brazilian national parks, few araucária trees had survived the greed of nine local loggers. Fortunately, with the help of new environmental laws, the wood has had an impressive recovery within the park’s area.
The canyons attract those who like adventure or tranquillity, from families to adrenaline junkies, and are home to animals including the armadillo, the elusive mountain lion, the maned wolf, the brown howler monkey, the pampas deer and the capybara, the largest living rodent in the world. Amongst 150 species of birds, the bright blue and black azure jay and the noisy southern lapwing, which fiercely protects its nest made on the ground, are there to be spotted.