Brazil is not just about beaches. It’s true that many of the major cities are strung out along the coastline, but there is a whole world in the interior of the country waiting to be explored. Much of it is still well off the beaten track. And I am not talking about the Amazon. There are places with vast deserts of scrubland and sand-dunes, along with waterfalls and natural swimming-holes. One such place is the Jalapão which I visited a few years ago on an organised trek.
It’s an immense savanna-like region, sparsely populated and with little infrastructure. But there are also rivers and waterfalls that break up the desert and meseta plateaus from the top of which there are uninterrupted views across the landscape, best enjoyed at dawn.
The only real way in is by 4×4 jeep and then to trek, climb and swim. I am always a little wary of organised tours as they totally depend not only on the efficiency of the agency, but also your fellow travellers. I was really lucky on my trip to book through the excellent Norte Tur (http://www.nortetur.com.br) based in Palmas and also to be in the company of a really great crowd of like-minded adventurers.
Palmas is north of Brasilia, and, like Brasilia, is a new town. I spent the first night there and it’s a weird place to say the least; huge avenues leading seemingly nowhere and baking under a relentless sun. It feels like a city still waiting to be fully populated.
There were about 10 of us in the group, all Brazilians except me, mainly from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It was great that we all got on since we were going to spend several days together, helping each other abseil down rocks and retain a sense of humour when you have to get up at 3am to climb a plateau and enjoy the sunrise.
It’s reminiscent of the outback in Australia or parts of East Africa and it remains one of the highlights of my time in Brazil.