Friday, November 11, 2011

Goiás, Brazil's Best Kept Secret

The World Cup is coming up in 2014. Do you know where it will be? The Olympics are all but around the corner, in 2016. Can you guess the locale? The answer to both questions is Brazil!

What comes to mind when you think of Brazil? Quick, 5 things:

If all that we know of Brazil is what the media tells us a few times a year, it went something like…
  1. Rio [de Janeiro]
  2. São Paulo
  3. Soccer
  4. Carnival
  5. Samba
    - (or possibly…) Victoria’s Secret Models
Wow. We can do a little better than that! You know, it’s similar to what I hear from people when they learn I’m from Texas… Wanna try? 5 Things – go!
  1. Cowboys (They don’t mean the NFL team.)
  2. Ranches (True. Although contrary to popular belief, they are outside of the city limits.)
  3. Desert (We have that, too. …in about 8% of the state.)
  4. Oil (We are blessed, it’s true. We also have natural gas, and a nearly unlimited supply of venison during the months of November through January.)
  5. And… “That’s where Bush is from, right?” (That is mostly correct. He was our governor, and has lived in Texas on & off, for most of his life; although he is actually from Connecticut. I’m pretty sure he sports one of the popular bumper stickers that we see everywhere that says, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.” I would. {{grin}})
Just as I like to broaden the horizons on what all makes up the beautiful & historic state of Texas, I’d like to introduce you to what is hailed by many as the “Brazilian Texas”…the state of Goiás, a state rich in biodiversity and natural beauty.

Centrally located, Goiás is the perfect launch point to any area of the country. Although landlocked, Goiás has many lakes, springs, rivers and waterfalls to explore. If beaches are more your thing, they are only a few short hours away by plane. Goiânia, the capital city of the state of Goiás lies only 125 miles away (45 minutes by plane, or 2 hours by car) from the country’s capital, Brasília. Just as Washington D.C. is a federal district, and not a part of any state, Brasília, D.F. is the same. Brasília is wholly encompassed by the beautiful state of Goiás, not far from one of the main gems of the state of Goiás, Chapada dos Veadeiros.

Chapada dos Veadeiros is a national park that is not only listed as a World Heritage Site, but due to the large amount of crystals in the ground, it is officially earth’s brightest spot, according to NASA. Within this 65,515-hectare slice of paradise there are mountains, waterfalls, exotic plants & animals, and a “Valley of the Moon” that even NASA would appreciate.

To the northwest, forming the border with the states of Tocantins and Mato Grosso, is the Araguaia River. Each year, as the Araguaia River starts to recede due to the annual period of drought, or dry season, miles of white sandy islands emerge in the middle of this large river. These temporary islands serve as campgrounds for the month of July, which draw thousands of vacationers during the peak of the season each year. For the rest of the dry season through October, fishermen make use of the biodegradable huts and structures left behind, until the river reclaims the islands with the return of the rains.

From one side of the state to the other, you will see sprawling ranchlands full of cattle, or expanses of farmlands that seemingly go on forever. The state of Goiás is a plateau that is covered in woodland savannah, or “Cerrado,” which is one of the richest regions in the world in biodiversity, boasting more than 1600 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. Plants are the richest resource, though, with 10,000 different species in this region alone. There are several ice cream companies that sell a variety of fruit flavors found only in this cerrado. The exotic fruits and their corresponding flowering plants are sometimes strange, sometimes surprising, but always a delight. It is such a pleasure to drive through the countryside and enjoy the panoramic views of the varying trees and plants in bloom – almost year-round.

With the exception of the national or main highways (noted with BR-#) there are over sixty 2-lane state highways that crisscross this scenic state. It is best to let someone familiar with local passing and road rules drive, until you get a feel for how things are done here.

The speed limit is typically 80km/hr or 50 miles an hour, but it is not unusual for people to travel in excess of 130km/hr or 80 miles an hour. This is not advised, as not all roads are as well maintained as, say, the U.S. Seasonal rains combined with heavy cargo trucks can result in a surprise hole in the road that wasn’t necessarily there the day before. When smaller cars hit these, it is a recipe for a flat tire. Keeping in mind that most of these are two-lane roads, it is prudent to drive conscientiously.

Photo Credit: Victor Calaa

Getting back to the capital city, you will find that you might want to let a local do the driving, until you adjust to the rhythm. Goiânia boasts more cars per capita than any other Brazilian city, and there are over 1,000,000 registered motorcycles (that are allowed to weave in & out, and drive between the lanes of cars, FYI). Goiânia is currently replacing all of the largest “praças,” or rotary traffic circles, (roundabouts) with regular four-way intersections to help control the traffic congestion. Goiânia is a well-manicured city, and has decorative structures and sculptures throughout.

Photo Credit: Joventino Neto

Goiânia is very similar to another state capital: Austin, Texas. Like Austin, it is a diverse mix of businesspeople, hippies, artists, musicians, college students, speedway racing aficionados, athletes, blue-collar workers, government employees, and everyone in between; and is home to several specialized hospitals that bring in people from all over the state. Although there aren’t nearly as many foreigners as Rio, São Paulo or Brasília, there are several who consider Goiânia, Goiás to be their own well-kept secret.

That is, until now…

(To enlarge pictures, right-click and open in a new window.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Questions and comments are welcomed! While anonymous comments are allowed for those without a blogger account, please leave a link and (or at least) A NAME, so that we know who you are.

Anonymous authors are only good for ransom notes & random quotes (one's difficult to sight, the other is tough to cite).

So, for the productivity of discussions on this site, please leave us your alias, given name [aka secret identity], handle, ID, nickname, nom de plume, or otherwise e-version of your John Hancock. Feel free to make one up, just for us. We'd be honored.

Thanks for playing! :)