CHECKING OUT OF Motogaragem and bidding a reluctant farewell. I packed away and joined the SC110 south for the Trilha da Cascata do Avencal, only 10km down the road.
Two cars parked in the shade of the trees at the trailhead, a remote enough place that I wasn’t worried about leaving my worldly belongings strapped to the bike unattended.
More a clamber up a drying rocky river bed than a hike, the view and cooling spray of the tall slender waterfall was worth the fifteen-minute ramble over perilous slick boulders. The sun beat down hot on my head but the fine mist cooled my body and revealed its perpetual rainbow.
75km isn’t far on immaculate asphalt and sweeping through the bends in sparse traffic, bathed in Santa Catarina’s golden sunlight. The warmth of the Brazilian air blew the disappointment of the loss of the phone out of my bones into my wake on the SC110.
Turning left onto the SC390 didn’t present many opportunities for refreshment and I took lunch at a small non-descript Cafe that had a limited selection of flavourless food presented with indifferent service. Even so, it was a welcome break.
Late afternoon, the sky began to darken in the east, bringing with it a damp and penetrating chill. I thought about stopping to unpack my coat but I had already passed through Bom Jardim da Serra which is just 10 minutes from Serra do Rio do Rastro. I just gritted my chattering teeth and shivered out the last handful of kilometres.
The Mirante da Serra do Rio do Rastro perches on the lip of the canyon that descends quickly to the lowlands and I coast into the spacious car park to join the numerous bikes parked at the viewpoint in the corner. I dismount, remove my helmet and peer over the railing at the serpentine route down the mountainside. Just before it disappears from view in a haze of cloud ascending the mountainside. Was that going to be it?
My Peruvian plate on the Pequeno moto attracts the attention of the other bikers and my ego enjoys the social interaction before rain starts to spatter on the paving of the lookout. “Give it 10 minutes and it will pass.” one of the brotherhood of bikers tells me. I stroll purposefully toward the restaurant across the car park for shelter, warmth and a coffee while the rain passed over for the next half hour.
Back at the railing, with the sky now blue and clear, the view extends all the way to the town of Laura Muller and beyond, 15km away. Two audacious coaties roam the viewpoint and boldly mug anyone holding a snack. A little girl squeals and tries to run away to no avail, a coati gives chase and swipes her bag of chips, leaving her mother to mop up the little girl’s tears.
A couple approach and tell me they have a Pousada in Bom Jardim 60R$ including breakfast opposite the College. I promise them I’ll see them later. Since I’ve seen no secluded camping spot along the way and the air here is cool and damp, I settle for the Pousada. Feeling cold and tired tends to nudge my budget limits upward.
Looking for Pousada Do Papagaios I now notice how many pousadas in Bom Jardim there are, many more than I noticed the first time through but I stick with my promise pausing near a man outside a church to ask where the college was. He points to a building about a block away next to the Police Station and my wheels soon crackle over the loose black stones chips of the driveway to the warm welcome of Pousada Do Papagaios. I’m instructed to park the bike inside the cafeteria which is open to the driveway via double garage-sized doors and I settle at the table next to my bike and enjoy a hot coffee.
Telmo ignites the barbecue by launching a match into the gasoline-soaked pit and a ball of flame blows itself out of the fireplace and up the chimney of the Barbecue. Anna makes me another coffee before showing me my double sized ensuite room. The building is built of bare wood suggesting any time frame of the last few hundred years. I could be on the set of a Western. The planks are without soundproofing so noise travels easily between the rooms. despite that, the place has a rustic charm complimented by the warm friendliness of Telmo and Anna.
I surf the net for a while before two bikes roll in. Two couples that I’d bumped into at the Mirante with their partners. “Ah Ingles!” One of the women says. They sit at the table across from me and I abandoned by the animated Portuguese chatter. I’m half present while I’m online checking messages and posting updates, getting fed barbecue buffet which appears to be complimentary.
I turn in about 10.00 and lay in bed waiting for the noise in the cantina to die down before quickly falling asleep before it finished.
I pack up and load the bike to leave for Laura Muller straight after breakfast, a warm and sunny day brightening the view and turning up the colour on the Mirante. Shortly after setting off down the road to the pass, I notice Canyon Rondo and take a detour to that 4km rattling over loose gravel to stroll along the ridge and among the wind turbines. I might have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t so eager to ride the Serra.
The Serra is a pleasure to ride but you need the neck of a Giraffe to enjoy a good view over the parapets. The road runs wet where the water continually spills off the mountain so I cautiously lean around the bends. The town of Laura Muller is deserted. Sunday, maybe people are at church and I roll up to a cafe for lunch as the only customer to check the map. From here I want to go to Cambara do Sul, which is back up the Serra.
I ride back up to the Serra unsuccessfully looking for camping spots There was a campsite near Canyon Rondo but I didn’t fancy riding 4km over rugged terrain again. I decided to return to Pousada Do Papagaios unpacked and settled back in my old room.
Telmo suggested I go to see Canyon Laranjeiras and drew me a map. 12KM north into the countryside past the end of a dead-end track. I booked another night so I didn’t have to cart my luggage along.
The next morning, Telmo drove me to the start of the trail with me following on the bike, since that was easier than trying to explain where it was. I waved and headed up the dusty trail. I passed a sign scanning it for places beginning with L, nothing so continued. At the 12KM mark there was no sign of the farm at the end of the track that is the start of the trail or a hint that the trail would end soon. I double back and notice at the sign that I missed “aranjeiras” The missing L of Laranjeiras threw me but if I’d have stopped to check the map, I would have avoided the 16 KM detour.
I paid my 10R$ to the farmer, he inspected Telmos map to make sure I didn’t need a guide and pointed to the start of the trail up an escarpment that disappeared into woods. The sun beat down between the trees making the 2KM hike thirsty work. I carried a one-litre bottle and had finished it before arriving at a crystal clear stream near the lip of the canyon. The water tasted cool and clean, babbling over sun-bleached rocks before continuing down the gulley to dramatically spill over the rim into the canyon.
The edge of the canyon was sharp a 90-degree angle over the rock to the sheer face of the canyon. I lay on my stomach, white knuckles over the ledge and pulled myself to peer over the edge at the terrifying 200-metre drop below. I’m not great with heights so sat back from the edge for taking photos at arm’s length. I had the place to myself.
The canyon stretched to the left around a bend behind some trees out of sight and the right disappearing into some distant woodland. I turned to the right and followed the edge as far as a waterfall and river too wide to cross. Not wanting to backtrack over familiar ground, I followed the river bank and decided to take a shortcut over the field. The lush looking pasture turned out to conceal soggy marsh and I tried hopping across the clumps of course grass for keeping my feet dry.
This shortcut felt like a mistake. Progress was slow and difficult and I’d crossed five separate sections before I could see the path at the stream where I filled my bottle. Catching my eye, a silver coloured bundle nestling in the long damp grass. Picking it up, a Quechua Quick Hiker Ultralight Tent… Quality kit. someone had waded across here before and were likely very disappointed later on to discover themselves homeless without their tent. The grey bag had been bleached silver by the sun and easy to tear. I picked it up and the grass beneath was brown and dead. Clearly, it had lain here for some time, maybe months. I clipped the straps around my satchel and continued to path at the stream.
Reaching the stream, I kicked off my boots and stripped off for a refreshing bathe then sat on a rock eating Anna’s packed lunch drying off in the warm breeze and yellow sunshine.
Cresting a rise on the trail, the view of Bom Jardim on my return is a homely and welcoming sight. Telmo and Anna feel like family despite our language barrier. Enjoying the lunch near the stream made by Anna augmented that feeling and felt even more precious than the stunning view of the canyon itself.
While beautiful locations can be pursued and admired, its the social encounters that bring them life and meaning…