Cavernas do Peruaçu
Cavernas do Peruaçu Federal Environmental Protection Area (APA) / Veredas Do Peruaçu State Park is part of the Tentative list of Brazil in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park is known for its large limestone caves and rock art. The area has been inhabited by people for over 12,000 years. The Peruaçu River crosses the park.
Map of Cavernas do PeruaçuLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
There are actually two similar sites on the tentative list, this one submitted 16/09/1998, and 'Canyon du Rio Peruaçu, Minas Gerais', submitted 11/03/1998. The latter is submitted by IPHAN, the institute that protects cultural sites in Brazil, but strangly this organization marked it a natural site. The organisation submitting this site is IBAMA, which manages the natural parks, and IBAMA is marking it as a mixed site. As both descriptions talk about archeology, it seems also the first submission should have been a mixed site. Anyway, IBAMA took 6 months longer and apparently took this time to write a proper description, so I will consider only this one.
In his review of Diamantina, Wojciech Fedoruk points out that Cavernas do Peruaçu NP is relatively close by. This drew my attention and I started looking into the possibility of visiting. I reserved three days in my schedule for a visit. Then, I found there is a daily Transnorte bus from Diamantina to Montes Claros at 6.00h, arriving 10.30h. However the busses to Januaria, which is still 40 kilometers from Peruaçu, leave at 10.00h and 18.00h. Very inconvenient, but I contacted the guesthouse nearest to the park entrance and the owner Kescia turned out to be a miracle of organising. I was lucky to get a ride from one of the members of their whatsapp 'hitchhike' group from Montes Claros straight to the guesthouse for only BRS 80. Having left Diamantina at 6.00h, I arrived there 15.15h.
The next day I was lucky again because there was another guest willing to share the compulsory guide and her car to get into the park. We spent the whole day, first exploring a few of the caves and rock walls which have nice and colorful rock art of around 9000 years old. I found the yellow color quite striking as I had not seen it in other prehistoric sites I have been to in Europe. The natural caves we visited in the morning where nice, but not that spectacular. That changed however when after lunch we made for the Janelao (window), which is what the description of the submission is really talking about, the caves that have been dug out by Peruaçu river and then when these caves collapsed opened onto several 'windows'. This is rather spectacular, the path continues for a while, opening up more and more spectacular open air grottoes and high tunnels. In the beginning it reminded me a bit of a giant, multiplied Pont d'Arc but after that I quickly ran out of references. The path ends at the worlds largest stalactite of 28 meters, however it does not seem especially grand, seen from below in a distance, compared to the size of the canyon. After that, the grottoes and tunnels continue, but it is not open to the public. We spent from 8.30h to 17.30h in the park, the guide seemed to enjoy the tour just as much as we did. We met just two other small groups that day. It was quite warm but not extremely hot, and the paths are nicely maintained and the climbing is easy, with the exception of one little river crossing over a big tree trunk, but perhaps this was a guide's shortcut or due to the rain of the night before. Near the rocks are inside the caves one is obliged to wear a helmet and our guide also gave us one walking pole, which seemed rather unnecessary but perhaps when it rains it may be a lifesaver when walking down on one of the red clay paths.
Next day the walk focused on the Arco do Andre. The track climbed up to the 'viewpoint of the entire world', which somehow reminded me of a landscape of Jurassic Park, expecting to see dinosaurs any moment. Then we climbed down through the Arco do Andre and a further clamber accross the rocks led us towards the river. The canyon and the river was less spectacular here than the previous day, or perhaps it was just that the element of surprise was not present anymore. The path down was rather challenging in places, but the guide pointed where to step and how to go down, and I felt safe.
After the walk finished, I could drive along with the guide and her family to Januaria where I stayed in a nice and clean hotel for a low rate. Next day, I took the 6 am bus to Brasilia. The first 5,5 hours of the trip were on unsealed road and the bus seats seemed to have suffered from it, the seats before me were loose and kept moving backwards and my seat's back kept moving too. However, driving on the asphalt felt very comfortable after this. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 17.00h in Brasilia, but we arrived shortly before 19.00h, with no clear reason delay except for a traffic jam near the bus station.
I would say the visit was very worthwhile and affordable, it just takes time to get here.
1998 Added to Tentative List
The site has 1 locations