We just got greedy. We didn’t listen to the advice of the people who live here. But, as usual, we were able to make the best out of a difficult situation and lived to share the story.
Have you ever had such an amazing trip that you wanted to keep the fun going, long after it was time to throw in the towel and head home? This is one thing that has happened to us several times. The most recent was on our way back home to Joinville from Gramado. It was supposed to be a 6 hour and 40 minute drive. Yet it turned into about 9 hours 40 minutes with two of those hours in sheer terror (for me at least!).
The State of Santa Catarina is home to some beautiful Canyons – or so we hear and have seen online. We decided to take a detour on our way home from our little vacation to visit one. Driving through the beautiful rolling grassy hills of Rio Grande do Sul we decided we did not want the scenery to end. We were gushing, “how beautiful” and “amazing” the entire way. You see the original weather forecast called for rain, but nature surprised us and the sun came out. We pulled over several times to take some photos and video. Then we made a sharp turn left—to the north—for the canyons of Santa Catarina.
I might interject here that my English students warned me to stay on the main road as the mountain roads were not good. But we were ripe for more adventure, and all common sense was thrown out the window. We rationalized by saying that we had a good vehicle for the roads. Our car was stocked with about 10 bottles of wine, lots of specialty beer, chocolate, cheese, and salami. See we were returning home from the Valley of the Wines and Gramado. We were well prepped for any survival situation! I also remembered to bring my corkscrew this trip. Always prepared to drink wine is my motto!
We came to a small town close to our canyon turn off. Being responsible we stopped at the local travel information center. We spoke a man there. He gave us information about the canyons. He told us the road was a dirt road and a little rough but that our vehicle would do just fine.
As Dale began to drive down this dirt road I had a little deja vu from our first drive on a Brazilian dirt road to the Rota das Cachoeiras. We took a turn there that was only about 5 kilometers to the nearest highway. It too a dirt road that turned out to be the road of death and we had to turn around. You can read about our adventure (and watch our video) at Rota das Cachoeiras here.
We continued on. The sunshine gave away to a mist. Then suddenly there was a heavy fog about 1 kilometer from the park entrance. At the park entrance we paid to get in and we were told that visibility of the Canyon was around 50%. We thought what the heck, we were already there. We decided to walk the easy Canyon trail. We were disappointed to see that it started raining even harder and visibility was actually 0%. We had a blast though taking pictures of me in front of the Canyon and laughing like loons.
You see I believe that getting there is part of the adventure of being a world traveler. We have been lucky many times with perfect weather, but when you travel luck is bound to not be on your side all the time. It’s important to take these unforeseen events and turn them into something memorable and fun!
I don’t believe in feeling sad or being in a bad mood just because of some fog and rain. So we tried to take some pretty pictures of trees in the fog. We laughed with the other tourists walking on the trail who asked us if we could see anything. Then we started planning when we would return. It also turns out that now, every time I see that picture of me standing in front of the “Canyon” all blanketed in white I remember this trip. I remember how much fun we had together and the joy of surviving to share this story. It is now one of my favorite photos!
After all the fun taking ridiculous photos in front of vast whiteness, it dawned on me that it was raining even harder and we had to get down the mountain. We spend the next what seemed like an eternity, snaking our way down the canyons, in the fog and rain. Mud was running down the dirt road. Big rocks were jutting out in the path. We were turning sharp corners in minimal visibility. And to my right and at times my left, there was nothing but thick heavy whiteness through the trees.
I said a lot of unladylike words that my mom would scowl at—and most of it caught on video. I figured I might as well get video of our last few moments together fighting. That way our parents would have something to remember us by once they found our bodies and mangled car. Then Dale and I joked that we still wouldn’t get to see the Canyon if we drove over a cliff due to the fog, and what a waste that would be! I also tried to get Dale to stop the car several times so I could open a bottle of wine but he wouldn’t. What a spoilsport!
At about that time we saw in front of us a small 2 door sedan, just a little ahead. The car was very low to the ground and it looked as if the muffler would scrape the rocks. To us Americans this is crazy, but in Brazil, this is normal. Roads are not exactly in great shape around here, in fact a lot of Brazilians drive potholed dirt roads on a daily basis. We were almost down the canyon when the road turned into pavement. Only for about one minute—then back to dirt around each curve. It was bizarre and in my opinion not safe. Just getting used to pavement, speeding up, to suddenly hit a dirt road is not a fun experience! Some of my recent terror of mountain roads in Brazil comes from a horrible tragedy that happened close to our home involving a tour bus.
We did survive to tell the tale. And now I also know why most people pay to go with a tour group to the Canyons in Santa Catarina. While I want to return–must return to see the actual Canyons—I hope it won’t be for a few weeks. I need time to forget how scary that drive was!
So, there are three morals of my story. One, listen to Brazilians when they tell you not to veer from the path. Two, always make the best out of all your travel experiences. In the end it is about the experience and the people you meet and bond with on the way. And three, don’t be greedy. Know when to call it good and go home and rest. You don’t need to fit a million activities into your trip. It’s okay to slow down, relax, and enjoy the ride.