Top Ten Brazil Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures

Raft the Jalapco
By Shawn Blore
  |  Gorp.com

Travel northwards from Brasilia through the dry-as-dust scrubland and eventually—long after the asphalt has given way to gravel and the potholes have swallowed two of the three spare tires from your 4x4—you'll see the Jalapco highlands rising the up like a mirage. Isolated in the eastern regions of the sparsely populated state of Tocantins, this extensive plateau gives rise to no less than five rivers, all of them pristine enough to drink from.

The main river, the Rio Novo, is best explored by raft. (Bring your own or book with an outfitter in the gateway town of Ponte Alta do Tocantins.) Expeditions begin on the placid waters below the Ponte do Rio Novo. Drifting quietly past the caimans through a gallery of overhanging trees, you'll see wolves and deer coming down to drink, monkeys crashing through the canopy, and macaws and toucans cawing noisily at the disturbance. Near the edge of the plateau the river picks up speed, churning and surging through numerous rapids, pausing once in a while for a lazy flat section before once again cascading downwards. Four days later you wind up at the Cachoeira da Velha, a beautiful horseshoe-shaped waterfall that looks like a scale model of Niagara, except that at the bottom of it, you can swim.


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