Sana is known for being a hippie town in the middle of waterfalls, wildlife and spectacular natural sights. It is located in the mountains of Casimiro de Abreu, about 1.5 hours away from our place in Buzios. At eight in the morning, we were packed and ready to go hiking there for the day, explore the countryside of Brazil and bath in natural pools. We were waiting excitingly outside of our apartment for the tour guide to pick us up.
However, at 8.15 there was still no sight of our tour guide. This wasn’t the first time that someone showed up late during our time in Buzios and my mum assured me that it was just a matter of ‘Brazilian timing’, nothing to be worried about. Secretly I was quite concerned that something had gone wrong with the booking, especially when at 8.30 there was still no tour guide around, but right when we thought it was acceptable to phone up the tourist office without coming across as neurotic Europeans, a car stopped in front of us. A man in a bright pink shirt greeted us and introduced himself as Juliano. It turned out we had a private-chauffeur who would be our guide for the rest of the day!
The car itself was the most unstable decayed ride I had ever seen: there were holes in the bottom and no windows left whatsoever. Because of the wind, our hairs got tangled and our eyes filled with sand. Fortunately, we had the most friendly tour guide who noticed our struggles and stopped the car to put some windscreens up. This wasn’t so easily said and done, as there was no way to attach those windscreens to the car. With much improvisation, some red strings and different kinds of knots we eventually managed and continued the trip in a semi-closed car. Generally, the traffic in Brazil scares the hell out of me, as they seem to drive intuitively without there being any rules nor specific lanes…
Nevertheless, the drive was beautiful and completely worth it, as the view from the ‘window’ was breath-taking. Impressive mountains were layered one over the other in various shades of green.
Juliano was lovely and although he didn’t know much English, we somehow managed to communicate with him through pictures, smiles and with the few words my mum knows in Portuguese. He did mention really wanting to learn English though, and explained to us that the only English he knew was the question he got asked by all the tourists: “Do you speak English?”. The funny thing was that because he only learned this phonetically, he believed that ‘speakenglish’ was one word. Now, he kept telling us ‘I want to learn Speakenglish’, or asking ‘What is un dos tres in Speakenglish?’. We did give him a crash course in speakenglish and had a lot of fun together!
The hike itself started off at a small building where they kept snakes in glass jars. My mum proudly showed off her boots to the people working there and believed they would keep her safe from the snakes. Before she knew it though, a random man squeezed her calf and said that snakes could reach there too! Not very reassuring… However, we were told as well that although the snakes are present in this area, they are rarely seen by tourists because they are scared away by everyone walking these trails. We did not know yet that we would lose track of our trail though…
We started off with a short walk to the first waterfall. We had to hold onto a rope and cross through the water to get to the other side. My mum afterwards told me that at this point she truly felt ‘old’. Her motor skills and balance are not what they used to be. She clung onto the rope and with help from Juliano she eventually made it across. There, we swam in a natural pool and admired the small falls and large banana trees all around. There was also a natural slide, where Juliano took advantage off many times. He didn’t really come across as a guide but rather as a friend who showed us around. He joined everything and splashed around as a baby in a bathtub. He was very helpful and caring though and constantly proposed to take pictures of the trip.
After about half an hour of swimming around the natural waterfall-pool, we continued on our hike. For the most part it was uphill and rather tough. We had to pause many times to catch our breath and afterwards I read that the track was meant for hikers with experience, which we are definitely not! During this walk, Juliano proposed to make a video of us. We thought it was a fun idea to have a one-minute video or so of our struggle to get up the mountain, but instead he kept filming almost all of the time! He was really enthusiastic about this, even though my mum and I kept joking to one another about who would actually watch thirty minutes of our backsides while we walk… We let him do his thing though, and before we knew it we arrived at the next waterfall, which overflowed in several other waterfalls. Again there was a natural pool, even bigger this time. We had lunch on a big rock and relaxed for a while in the sun.
Our friend-guide decided that he wanted some adventure rather than take the same road back, so he took us through the water on our bare feet. It was very slippery and we continued by taking mini-steps, crawling or sitting on our bums and gliding. I fell quite hard at some point, but the scariest thing was that I couldn’t break my fall and slid closer and closer towards the edge… almost into the waterfall! My mother shrieked and thereby forgot to focus on herself for a moment which caused her to fall down as well! Luckily, we both managed to get up again and decided to put our hiking boots back on to have more grip. Juliano grabbed our stuff and with three backpacks on his back he kept running back and forth to help us out in turn: across rocks, through the water and hanging from bamboo! He had no idea where we were anymore but we just kept going. I really wondered at some point how emergency services would find us if one of us were to break something or we encountered a snake… I took it so far, that in my imagination that cute half-an-hour video of us walking the normal trail would be the last thing they would find of us…
Luckily, we stumbled upon the trail again and found our way back safe and sound. Our shoes were soaked and were hanging underneath our legs like two heavy water tanks. To gain strength, we passed by a self-service restaurant where we had the cheapest meals of our lives: 2.50 for a full plate! With that ramschackle of a car we found our way back to Buzios, where I slept for a full 12 hours before waking up to write this blog 😉