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The Astonishing Smaller Serra da Canastra Waterfalls

06/19/2014 - 08h53

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MICHAEL KEPP
SPECIAL FOR FOLHA

In my opinion, the best waterfalls are never the biggest. Sure, Iguaçu is breathtaking. But less stupendous waterfalls that massage your back, shower off your sweat and give you a swimming hole are more inviting.

After all, what's the point of spending hours hiking to a falls that you can't get wet in and can't interact with? It´s like the difference between ogling a celebrity and being seduced by someone you've just met.

I have been all over to find such falls - from the three national parks (Chapada Diamantina, dos Guimarães and dos Veadeiros) to the Mato Grosso caves and the Rio Grande do Sul Canyons.

But to find them, São Paulo residents need only to go to the Serra da Canastra National Park, in the south east of Minas Gerais, as I discovered on a three day trip.

The park´s picture postcard is the Casca d´Anta waterfall, the third largest in Brazil. Like Iguaçu, it is magnificent. But this bridal veil waterfall drops 186 meters with such force that if ever anyone is tired of life, they should try getting a massage under it.

The steep descent on slippery rocks makes getting to the natural turbulent waters of the natural swimming pool a dangerous endeavor.

The top of the Casca d´Anta, where the fall begins is frustrating for a different reason. From the viewpoint, after the water has spilled over a rocky step-like formation, only the first few meters of the water´s vertical drop are visible.

It is worth hiking to the top of the waterfall, because you trek through the Serra da Canastra national park, an area of thick vegetation and low shrubs, where the San Francisco river takes its source. This is the area that the park is originally intended to protect.

From these springs, sandy rocks of sandstone and quartzite act like sponges, retaining the rainwater that runs to create streams that together form the Velho Chico.

WATER AND SUN

The two most inviting and interactive falls that I found in the Serra da Canastra are located on private property close to the park. Entry costs US$ 4.5. One of them, the Fundão waterfall is a 60 meter bridal veil that gets sunlight all day long.

The sheer amount of water from the fall together with the depth of its emerald green pool make a massage impossible. But they turn the bubbly water beneath the waterfall in to a natural hydro massage.

The Cerradão waterfall is even more charming. This 140 meter cascade breaks at two points over rocks protruding from the lower part of a quartzite wall. The rocks soften the fall, making it perfect for a massage. Its crystalline pool surrounded by ciliary forests turn the area into an oasis.

Waterfalls are even more charming when they are exclusive and when your travel companion is also wonderful. When my wife and I visited the Cerradão falls, we were alone. It is perhaps the closest we have ever been to paradise.

The world´s highest waterfalls

1- Angel Falls in Venezuela: 979 metres
2- Tugela Falls in South Africa: 948 metres
3- Three Sisters Falls in Peru: 914 metres
4- Olo'upena in Hawaii (US): 900 metres
5- Yumbilla Falls in Peru: 896 metres
6- Vinnufossen in Norway: 860 metres
7- Baläifossen in Norway: 850 metres
8- Pu'uka'oku in Hawaii: 840 metres
9- Bruce James Falls in Canada: 840 metres
10- Browne Falls in New Zealand: 836 metres

MICHAEL KEPP is a US journalist living in Brazil. He is the author of "Stumbling in the Tropics - Tales of a Brazilian gringo" (Record).

Translated by MILLI LEGRAIN

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