If you look at a map of Brazil, you will see that the city where I live, Goiania, is located right in the centre of the country, far from warm beaches, big forests or cold latitudes. Fortunately, though, we have our assets, which include more than the mere bars and urban entertainment common in the capital city of a Brazilian state.
You see, Goiania sits on the Cerrado, the vast tropical savannah that is one of the biggest and most diverse of Brazil’s ecosystems. And not far from Goiania lies the special jewel of the Cerrado: the historic city of Pirenópolis. It’s the right place to go when you want to escape the hectic big city and it was the destination we had chosen for a brief holiday among friends.
A Stroll Through the Centre
We left Goiania early, so that it would still be morning when we arrived at Pirenópolis. The roads had been very quiet as we moved away from the city; the presence of the Cerrado grew stronger until we got to Pirenópolis at the foot of the Serra dos Pirineus (Pirineus Mountains).
We parked our car, so that we could walk to and through the historic town centre. Pleasant ladies immortalised as statues above the wooden windows of colonial houses watched passersby as we made our way to the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary), a traditional architectural landmark in Pirenópolis that hosts folk religious festivals such as the world-famous Festa do Divino Espírito Santo (Divine Spirit Festival). The street was full of cheap craft shops being admired by a few people sporting hippie-style clothing. The easy rhythm of the town made minutes pass quite slowly.
For visitors like us from the capital of the state, the surroundings provided many opportunities for us to renew our Facebook photo galleries, and we began snapping pictures of the church, the colourful colonial houses and even the ‘Mascarados.’ These masked characters, typical of the local folklore, are often seen during the Cavalhadas festival, which reenacts the epic victory in the Middle Ages of Charlemagne over the Moors.
Next we enjoyed a typical lunch in one of the local restaurants, where you can savour foods like galinhada, one of my favourite dishes of rice and chicken prepared with saffron in a special way; or feijão tropeiro, a full-bodied bean stew made with flour, sausage and bacon. Delicious!
The Waterfalls of the Highlands
After a quick rest, we went off again, choosing as our destination one of the dozens of spectacular waterfalls embedded in the surrounding Brazilian Central Plateau.
We chose the Cachoeira do Abade (Abbot Waterfall), which was a little far from the city, yet our efforts were rewarded since contact with nature is all part of the charm. The Cerrado’s twisted native trees and exotic flowers filled small canyons along the route to the lush little waterfall. Once arrived, we found only a few tourists and water so cold that it made even the sea where the Titanic sank feel warm. OK, it wasn’t so extreme, but the waterfall is really cool! Here we enjoyed time just to rest and think things over.
To replenish our energies, we had bought some homemade chocolate-chip cookies in the tourist office near the waterfall – the perfect boost with which to return to the city. After another walk in the town centre, we stopped for a cold beer at an outdoor café where we could enjoy this typical late afternoon. The cobblestone street was crowded with tables, chairs and tourists. Some boys with scary masks reminiscent of the masked bullies commonly seen during Cavalhadas were asking visitors for money.
We ended with a late snack of empadão goiano, a regional delicacy similar to a salt pie filled with meats and spices.
As our plan had been to escape the frantic pace of the capital, we headed back to Goiania feeling rejuvenated, even after a such short time. Pirenópolis is such an amazing place! It truly has a different energy, which inspired the good memories in this story!