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Petar Caves, a 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'

02/09/2017 - 12h23

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BRUNO MOLINERO
SPECIAL ENVOY TO IPORANGA (SP)

It is so dark inside that it makes absolutely no difference whether your eyes are open or closed. The silence is broken only by the drops of water that fall on the rocks.

When the guide turns on the light on his helmet again and authorizes visitors to do the same, everyone breathes with relief.

With the lights, the stalactites, stalagmites and other rock formations with strange names are visible again.

Visitors are reminded of curtains as they see the travertine and helictite in Petar (Tourist State Park of Alto Ribeira), in São Paulo.

With more than 250 caves cataloged, it is one of the oldest parks in the state. It was created in 1958 in an area over 35,000 hectares and the site became a tourist attraction after the 1980s.

The park changed the lives of the residents of the cities of Iporanga and Apiaí (some 315 kilometers from the capital, São Paulo) as they found an important source of income in the tourist sector.

Junior Petar/Divulgação
Caverna Tememina, in Apiaí (SP)
Caverna Tememina, in Apiaí (SP)

Environmental damage – which included uncontrolled visits and people who took stalactite tips back home as souvenirs – made Ibama, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources, prohibit the entrance of tourists in 2008.

After two months of closed gates, the state government created an emergency plan that allowed 12 caves to be reopened to the public and called for a mandatory guide during the visits (at the cost of some US$ 76.99 per group). Single tickets cost US$ 4. The idea was to carry out a definite management plan for the area within two years. However, Petar still works provisionally.

There are all types caves open to visitors: with many or few rock formations, with spiders and bats or no animals at all and even rivers flowing inside.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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