Monday, 23 January 2012

PETAR national park and caves in Brazil

   PETAR national park is situated close to Sao Paulo in Brazil. I happened to visit it when I participated in an astrobiology school in December 2011. I might not be able to impress anyone with photography skills, but I really want to share this 3 day long experience of visiting such a fantastic place in Brazilian mountains full of waterfalls and caves. 

   The park itself does not have a lot of places where you could stay, but all of them are very neat and you have a spectacular view of the mountains.

  There are a lot of things to see around. Caves are the main attraction, but I am sure there are people who would enjoy the local wildlife, swimming next to waterfalls, or just hiking in the forest.

  The amount of various insects is incredible and wish I had a macro lens to show all those "fancy" caterpillars sitting on every log.

  I also loved the amount of colours you get to see. The flowers make this place look amazing

  Sometimes I had an impression that the local fauna is ridiculously big. I happened to see caterpillars that could not fit on my palm before, but that toad on the picture below was an unexpected finding at night.

  Not only it had size of a football (almost), it also walked in a very funny way... yeah, it actually walked instead of jumping. And its gait resembling one of a fat drunk cat that is running in fear of missing another meal. This Jabba the Hut was hunting when our group first saw it. What it just spotted was another ridiculously big representative of local fauna--a giant beetle that had  size of my fist. I didn't have my camera when it happened, about which I badly regret. The next thing that happened, the toad tried to swallow the beetle and... the attempt was successful. Sort of. Just the beetle didn't like being in someone's stomach. It had a strong armour and, most importantly, very sharp and strong limbs with which it started tearing the inner organs of the toad into small pieces, turning the toad into a fountain of blood jumping in agony. After several attempts the toad managed to spit the "victim" leaving bloody mess on the battlefield and the beetle just walked off dragging red lumps of toad's parts.

  Miraculously, the toad survived and I made pictures of it on the next night... not an easy place to live. Even your food tries to rip you apart when it's swallowed.

  A number of frogs there is impressive. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to capture colourful ones.

  Visiting the waterfalls and caves was the best part of the trip. The landscape and plants reminded me of Tobago, especially the rivers and rocks. I am wondering why I could not find any caves in Tobago...

 Waterfalls are not very tall but still spectacular

And a very tiny one:

  We only had time for two caves. The first one was dry which means we didn't have to go in water, but it had a river inside. Essentially, those rivers have been digging the caves for thousands of years.

  To get into the second cave you need to get seriously wet. The water inside is quite freezing and if you add darkness and water falling from top you get a perfect atmosphere of an alien world.

  The surface of the cave walls sometimes looks really bizarre

   What's more peculiar, some of those structures on the walls can produce sound when touched. Almost like strings and I know some Brazilian guy made a music from those, couldn't find the clip on Youtube though.

   Overall, we had a really nice time walking in the caves. I've heard a lot of stories of cave experiments where people were left in the dark for weeks. About strangers getting lost when the caves were unprotected. In one of the caves we were asked to turn the lights off to actually feel what it's like to be in a cave... I'll never forget this darkness and silence. Like everything in the world just disappears. Even thoughts abandon you as your mind gets so confused without external stimuli... We also had a short cave orchestra made on those string structures on the walls. And of course I don't regret about ruining my shoes and pants in such environment.

   In case you ever have the chance of visiting Sao Paulo, definitely think about PETAR park. And I thank the organizers of SPASA 2011 once again, it was a fantastic experience.

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