Nestled in the heart of Brazil, the captivating region of Chapada dos Veadeiros offers a mesmerizing escape into the beauty of untouched nature. Renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, Chapada dos Veadeiros encompasses a diverse array of natural wonders that leave visitors in awe.
From majestic waterfalls cascading into crystal-clear pools to vast expanses of lush savannahs and mystical rock formations, this enchanting destination promises an unforgettable journey into the untouched realms of Mother Nature. As you venture through Chapada’s winding trails, you’ll encounter an array of mesmerizing waterfalls cascading down the rocky cliffs.
In addition to the waterfalls, the region showcases a diverse range of ecosystems, including expansive cerrado vegetation, which is a unique type of Brazilian savannah. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in a world of wildflowers, native grasses, and twisted trees that create a picturesque backdrop for wildlife encounters. The cerrado is home to a rich biodiversity, housing over 10,000 plant species, countless bird species, and a variety of mammals, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.
Chapada dos Veadeiros is characterized by its unique geological features, sculpted over billions of years, and its rich biodiversity. Composed of ancient quartzite and granite formations, these mountains are a sight to behold, offering breathtaking panoramic views from their towering peaks.
The combination of these geological marvels with the lush greenery and vibrant wildlife results in a symphony of colors and textures that create an unforgettable visual spectacle.
Chapada dos Veadeiros receives approximately 250,000 visitors each year, drawing people from all corners of the globe who are enticed by its captivating landscapes and the profound spirituality that permeates the region. It is astounding to consider that merely four decades ago, Chapada dos Veadeiros was part of “the corridor of misery,” renowned as one of the poorest areas in Brazil.
When I first set foot in Chapada dos Veadeiros back in 1992, tourism in the region was scarce, and the main town of Alto Paraíso resembled a humble village with only a handful of paved roads. The prevailing ambiance was one of serene tranquility, with a palpable sense of calmness lingering at every corner.
The town’s population was a fascinating amalgamation, a captivating blend of descendants from the region’s original settlers, predominantly comprised of miners, hunters, and farmers, cohabitating with an eclectic mix of hippies and followers of various New Age philosophies.
Among them, a noteworthy community of devotees of the controversial Osho made their home in this remarkable place.
Just a few miles from Alto Paraíso, nature takes over.
When I first stood amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Chapada dos Veadeiros, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty that surrounded me. The picturesque cerrado trees, adorned with vibrant blooms, painted a mesmerizing tapestry against the azure sky, while the graceful flight of macaws and toucans filled the air with their colorful presence.
The sight of the veredas, lush wetlands emerging from the rocky savannah, added an enchanting touch to the scenery, their delicate and luxurious ecosystems thriving amidst the rugged terrain.
And as I immersed myself in the restorative waters of Chapada’s cascading waterfalls, I could feel the gentle caress of nature’s embrace, washing away the stresses of the world and replenishing my spirit.
In that moment, surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty and life-giving waters, I understood that Chapada dos Veadeiros held within its realms a sacred sanctuary, where the harmony of nature’s wonders and the healing power of its elements converged, inviting me to embark on a journey of self-discovery and rejuvenation.
Having visited the region numerous times since 1992, my heart held a long-kept secret dream of one day calling it home. However, I grappled with the realization that it was a place seemingly isolated from the trappings of modern civilization.
It was just impossible to figure out a career plan in such an isolated place and, despite my profound interest in spirituality, the idea of donning an orange robe and immersing myself in meditation, dedicating my early days solely to the study of Osho’s teachings, felt akin to escaping into a secluded bubble.
In 2018, after 36 years had passed since my initial encounter with Chapada, the depth of my love for this enchanting place became too overwhelming to ignore.
Fueled by a profound desire to delve deeper into its mesmerizing beauty, I made a life-altering decision to bring some of my shamanic retreats work to the region.
With a solid career foundation and a growing reputation for my shamanic retreats, I was already welcoming individuals from all corners of the globe, so why not doing it also in Chapad dos Veadeiros?
Moreover, the advent of the internet and mobile phones had revolutionized connectivity, erasing the barriers of distance and transforming the once-isolated small town into a place that was now just a few screen touches away from vibrant metropolises like São Paulo, New York, or London.
This newfound accessibility bridged physical gaps and provided an opportunity for me to immerse myself in the essence of Chapada, nurturing my passion for the region on a more profound level than ever before.
In March of 2020, amidst the striking landscape of Morro da Baleia, an iconic mountain in Chapada dos Veadeiros, I found myself eagerly preparing to welcome a group from Europe.
However, uncertainty loomed in the air.
It was the early days of the pandemic, and as fate would have it, I had just arrived when the entire country went into lockdown. The nearest airport in Brasilia was shuttered, and a police barrier was erected on the sole road leading to Alto Paraíso, effectively halting the influx of outsiders into the town.
In that moment, the realization struck me like a lightning bolt – my longstanding dream of living in Chapada had abruptly transformed into my new reality.
Living at the foot of the Whale Mountain
Morro da Baleia, the Portuguese word for Whale Mountain, has received this name thanks to its shape. It looks exactly like a gigantic whale, planted still and solemn in the middle of the arid savannah of Chapada. At its foot, on a 24-hectare farm, I spent the last 3 years of my life.
Part of the farm’s soil is rocky and arid, and the scarce bushes of twisted trees and exotic flowers pumping from the ground are not big enough to protect you from the hot sun that can burn you during a dry day of summer.
Yet, a 5-minute walk leads to a spring surrounded by luxurious palm trees. The spring slowly turns into a river, creating natural pools of refreshing water. Part of the farm has been turned into an agroforest, an intelligent and organic system that provides fruits and vegetables in abundance and also nurtures the soil and feeds the whole ecosystem around.
I vividly recall reclining in my hammock, gazing up at the sprawling branches of a magnificent mango tree, and opening my laptop with a determined intention—to delete all the appointments meticulously planned in my 2020 schedule.
The initial vision for the year had been awe-inspiring, with a whirlwind tour spanning six European countries, a blissful stint in California, and an immersive two-month adventure in Southeast Asia.
Alongside hosting retreats and delivering lectures across the globe, I also anticipated warmly welcoming inspiring individuals for retreats in Brazil. However, as the pandemic took hold, all these grand plans dissipated into thin air. I must admit, an unexpected sense of relief washed over me.
At that moment, a profound realization dawned upon me—true happiness and well-being do not solely derive from the multitude of amazing experiences one undertakes.
There exists a delicate element called rhythm, which holds even greater significance.
It is about engaging in activities that nourish my soul while aligning with the harmonious cadence of my inner self. It became evident that taking a break, stepping back, and embracing a slower pace was incredibly nourishing and restorative for my overall well-being.
During the initial year of the pandemic, my daily routine became a tapestry of meaningful activities that nourished my body, mind, and soul.
The early mornings were dedicated to two hours of breathwork and meditation, grounding myself in serenity and preparing for the day ahead.
As the sun rose, I would venture into the agroforest, spending three hours immersed in the gratifying work of gardening—planting and harvesting my own food.
The tangible connection with the earth, the sweat on my brow, and the abundance of nature’s gifts felt like a precious privilege, especially when contrasted with the hours spent by city dwellers in long queues at supermarkets.
After a rejuvenating midday bath in the refreshing spring, I would prepare a nourishing meal with the ingredients lovingly tended to in the garden.
As evening fell, I would find solace in the pages of books, the melodies of music, and heartfelt connections with friends through virtual meetings on platforms like Zoom.
Throughout this transformative period, I embarked on a profound journey of self-discovery and reconnection with Mother Earth. The resilient plants of the cerrado taught me invaluable lessons about sustainability, guiding me to live with only what is necessary and align myself with the elements of the environment.
I learned how to thrive and offer my best to life in every circumstance, drawing inspiration from the resilient spirit of nature itself. It was during this time that I truly understood that true sustainability begins from within, and by nurturing our connection with the Earth, we flourish and contribute our best to the world around us.
Forged in resilience: The inspiring legacy of the Kalungas in Vão de Almas
At first glimpse, Chapada dos Veadeiros may strike you as nothing more than a neo-hippie village, a sanctuary where ecopunks congregate, seemingly to selfishly detach themselves from the real-world problems.
Brace yourself for a spectacle of dubious pow-wows, drenched in psychedelics and exotic dances, drawing in visitors from every corner of the globe.
Picture this: as you leisurely stroll through Alto Paraíso on a serene afternoon, you’ll have the pleasure of crossing paths with Europeans meticulously painted like indigenous tribes, high-heeled ladies elegantly draped in saris and adorned with turbans atop their heads, and let’s not forget the pseudo-gurus and psychics, meticulously dressed in their pristine white robes, eagerly peddling their snake-oil offerings of theta healing, astral maps, and tarot readings.
But fear not, for if you dare to delve deeper, buried amidst this seemingly absurd landscape, you may stumble upon a few elusive pearls of actual knowledge, skillfully concealed within the heart of Chapada.
In 2022, as the first wave of turmoil began to recede, life gradually returned to its rhythm, even within the embrace of Chapada dos Veadeiros. It was during this time that I sought assistance with my gardening, longing for more time to devote to my primary occupation. It was then that I encountered an individual who left an indelible mark on my life.
His name is Josevino, a member of the Kalunga community.
The Kalungas were the original inhabitants of Chapada dos Veadeiros, escaping from the clutches of slavery on the monoculture farms of Bahia. Their arduous journey spanned months as they sought refuge in the hidden valleys of Chapada dos Veadeiros.
Only a few survived the treacherous trek, as exhaustion and starvation claimed the lives of most. Those who endured buried themselves deep within the valleys of Chapada, living in secrecy for centuries.
Although slavery was officially abolished in Brazil in 1888, the echoes of fear persisted among the Kalungas well into the 1960s and 1970s, causing them to flee at the mere sight of white individuals, fearing capture and enslavement once again.
Josevino, a man who eschews modern machinery, prefers the simplicity of tending to the soil with his own hands.
I can still recall his beaming smile and heartfelt words, as sweat cascaded down his body beneath the scorching sun of Chapada: “Working the ground is the greatest joy in the world.” Spending countless hours alongside him, toiling the earth, forged a deep bond of friendship between us.
One fateful day, Josevino extended a gracious invitation for me to visit the secluded territory of the Kalungas, known as Vão de Almas, located 150 kilometers away from Alto Paraíso. The final stretch of the journey comprised 50 kilometers of rugged dirt roads, accessible only by a sturdy 4×4 vehicle.
The challenge was formidable, but so too was the reward.
As the road meandered down the hills, the hidden valley of Vão de Almas slowly unveiled itself, captivating me with its breathtaking vistas and pristine vegetation. It was a land where mountains stood tall, their majestic peaks mirrored in crystal-clear rivers.
The community of Vão de Almas was a tapestry of small, hand-worked farms, devoid of motorized vehicles and the sight of a single tractor. And yet, abundance thrived.
Rice, mandioca, and beans harmoniously coexisted with a plethora of fruit trees and native vegetation. This delicate equilibrium sustained the Kalungas, both physically and spiritually.
When they looked into your eyes, their gaze radiated a deep sense of honorability. They possessed the strength of those who have earned their right to live—a right that had been bestowed upon them without cost. Their ancestors faced unimaginable challenges, fighting against all odds to ensure the survival and future of generations to come.
In the face of governmental abandonment, the current generation of Kalungas continues to earn their existence through tireless toil upon the land, braving the harsh climate of the region.
In their resilience and unwavering spirit, I found myself profoundly moved and inspired by the Kalungas. Their connection to the land, their heritage, and their unwavering determination left an indelible imprint on my soul.
The experience of being in their presence and witnessing their unyielding strength transformed my perspective on life, reminding me of the value of perseverance, community, and the profound connection between humans and the natural world.
Chapada Alta – Unveiling hidden treasures and the wisdom of Augusto
In recent years, Alto Paraíso has witnessed an unprecedented influx of tourists seeking refuge from the confines of urban life, eager to immerse themselves in the healing tranquility of Chapada.
However, as I observed the most popular waterfalls teeming with crowds, I yearned for more secluded places where the healing melody of the waterfalls was not overpowered by the clamor of human voices.
After extensive research and months of perseverance, I discovered a hidden gem called Chapada Alta. The journey to Chapada Alta was a breathtaking adventure in itself.
Winding through lofty mountains, each curve revealed a new landscape, where vibrant flora adorned the peaks, creating a striking contrast against the backdrop of the boundless blue sky.
Yet, even within the captivating scenery, Chapada Alta farm held countless surprises in store—28 waterfalls, canyons, caves, and a majestic stone arch sculpted by the hand of nature.
It was there that I had the privilege of meeting Augusto, a 75-year-old man who had called Chapada Alta home for the majority of his life, alongside his beloved wife, Nazira. Augusto exuded the strength of a warrior and the gentleness of a child.
Augusto possessed an intimate understanding of the medicinal properties of every native plant that graced the land, harnessing their healing potential to address a myriad of ailments. He cherished sharing his vast knowledge and harbored a deep desire to preserve it for future generations through the publication of a book.
While rooted in his Christian faith, Augusto spoke passionately about the native biome, the cerrado. “Go, and walk in the cerrado,” he urged. “As you walk, the pores of your skin open, allowing your entire body to breathe in the cerrado and its medicinal essence. It is through this harmonious connection that the cerrado heals both body and soul. All we truly need is found here, in nature. When we live in balance with it, we experience fulfillment and gratitude.”
Augusto was a tireless worker, commencing his farming endeavors before the break of dawn and persevering until twilight. His existence served as a living testament to the profound wisdom he imparted. Despite his demanding schedule, he always found time to engage in meaningful conversations, eagerly sharing his life experiences and knowledge.
I have made regular visits to Chapada Alta, drawn to the soothing wisdom that emanated from Augusto’s presence. At his humble veranda, I find solace, immersing myself in his words. Now, I am dedicated to gathering the necessary resources to assist Augusto in realizing his dream of publishing his invaluable book—a timeless testament to the richness of his knowledge and the reverence he holds for the cerrado.
In the quietude of Chapada Alta, surrounded by the majestic beauty of nature and guided by the wisdom of Augusto, I have found inspiration and a renewed appreciation for the deep interconnectedness between humankind and the natural world.
Macacão Farm: Nurturing harmony with nature through sustainable living
I embarked on a treacherous journey to Macacão farm, my Ford Ranger pick-up barely escaping the clutches of a raging river. However, the true test lay in traversing the miles of land where the once-vibrant cerrado had been ruthlessly decimated, making way for vast soy plantations. It was a battle to hold back tears as I witnessed the devastating aftermath of this destruction.
The cerrado, a vital biome in Central Brazil, spans a staggering 204 million hectares. Yet, the relentless march of monoculture has ravaged 57% of its native vegetation. The prevailing agricultural model operates with predatory intent, tearing away the very fabric of the land. By removing the trees, rainwater can no longer permeate the subsoil.
Meanwhile, the insatiable demand of these plantations depletes underground reservoirs, leaving them dry and barren. These lucrative monoculture farms generate billions of dollars from the export of soy and corn, yet the vast majority of this wealth remains concentrated in the hands of a privileged few. Modern cultivation techniques have rendered human labor almost obsolete, resulting in a stark absence of employment opportunities. The farmers reap their profits while leaving behind a wake of devastation.
However, amid this environmental chaos, a beacon of ecological consciousness and reverence for nature emerges at the end of a rugged 40-kilometer dirt road: Macacão farm.
Nestled in the heart of Alto Paraíso, this sanctuary stands as a stark contrast to the prevailing destruction. As I arrived at Macacão farm, I felt a sense of relief and hope wash over me.
Owned and nurtured by a 75 year-old man, called Vitor, Macacão farm embodies a deep commitment to preserving the beauty and integrity of the land. Here, sustainable practices reign supreme, ensuring that the delicate balance of the cerrado is respected and protected.
Walking through the farm, I marveled at the thriving ecosystems that coexisted harmoniously, from the flourishing native vegetation to the abundant wildlife that called this place home. Macacão farm serves as a testament to what is possible when humans choose to live in harmony with nature, embodying the principles of ecological stewardship and regenerative agriculture.
In this haven of ecological awareness, visitors are invited to reconnect with the land and rekindle their sense of wonder. Whether immersing themselves in the pristine waters of the cascades, exploring the intricate web of trails that wind through the farm, or engaging in educational programs that foster environmental understanding, each experience at Macacão farm is an opportunity to cultivate a deeper connection with the natural world.
Vitor’s journey began in Angola, a land ravaged by the devastating grip of war. Fleeing from the chaos, he sought solace in Europe before finally finding refuge in Brazil in 1992. A skilled chef by trade, Vitor has dedicated himself to crafting delectable vegetarian dishes that nourish the souls of those who visit his farm.
Year after year, he plants an increasing variety of native fruits, including cashews, coconuts, barus, and other local species, creating an oasis that sustains not only the people but also the surrounding fauna. With unwavering conviction, Vitor proclaims, “Nature is our mother. If we treat it with respect, it will provide us with sustenance and everything else we need.”
Employing their own hands, Vitor and his family have painstakingly built an eco-hostel, constructed in the tribal style reminiscent of Angola’s countryside natives. Powered by a modest solar panel, the energy generated is just enough to charge a few cell phones and operate a modem.
Instead of a television, the harmonious symphony of birdsong and the breathtaking view of the mountains serve as the main entertainment. In this tranquil haven, the silent landscape becomes a canvas on which Vitor and his family paint a masterpiece of love, humility, and gratitude. Their creation stands not only as a remarkable living artwork but also as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path to a better future for our species.
Vitor’s farm is more than just a place of respite; it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the profound connection between humanity and nature. Through their harmonious coexistence with the land, Vitor and his family exemplify a sustainable way of life, one that cherishes and protects the earth’s resources. Their farm serves as a model for others, a shining example that showcases the possibility of coexisting with nature in a mutually beneficial manner. In a world often clouded by uncertainty, Vitor’s farm offers a glimmer of hope—a reminder that through love, humility, and gratitude, we can forge a brighter future for ourselves and generations to come.
Embracing the call to honor and preserve
As I reflect on my journey through Chapada dos Veadeiros, I am filled with awe and gratitude for the profound experiences and connections I have forged with this remarkable region.
From the breathtaking waterfalls of Cachoeiras do Macacão to the resilience of the Kalungas in Vão de Almas and the ecological consciousness of Vitor and his farm in Macacão, each encounter has left an indelible mark on my soul.
Through the course of this article, we have traversed the diverse tapestry of Chapada dos Veadeiros, unveiling its breathtaking landscapes, rich biodiversity, and the inspiring stories of those who call this place home. We have witnessed the destructive forces that threaten the cerrado, the main vegetation of Central Brazil, and have discovered the tireless efforts of individuals like Vitor, who strive to preserve and protect this precious biome.
In the heart of Chapada, we encountered the Kalungas, a resilient community whose history is intertwined with the land they now call home. Their strength, wisdom, and deep connection to nature remind us of the power of perseverance and the importance of preserving our heritage. Their story serves as a poignant reminder that even in the face of adversity, resilience and hope can flourish.
At Chapada Alta, we were welcomed by Augusto, a man whose profound knowledge of the cerrado and his dedication to living in harmony with nature inspire us to reevaluate our own relationship with the natural world. His words echo in our hearts, reminding us that true fulfillment and gratitude lie in finding balance and alignment with the environment that sustains us.
Finally, we ventured to Macacão farm, where Vitor and his family have created a sanctuary that exemplifies the possibilities of sustainable living. Their commitment to ecological awareness, regenerative agriculture, and reverence for nature serves as a guiding light, offering hope and inspiration for a future where humans coexist harmoniously with the Earth.
Chapada dos Veadeiros is more than just a destination; it is a transformative journey that invites us to reconnect with ourselves, each other, and the natural world. It is a testament to the resilience and beauty of our planet, reminding us of our responsibility to protect and cherish it. As we leave this enchanting realm, may we carry with us the lessons learned, the memories forged, and the inspiration to create a more sustainable and harmonious future for all.
In the end, our encounter with Chapada dos Veadeiros is not just a fleeting experience, but a call to action—a call to honor and preserve the splendor of this extraordinary place, and to carry its teachings with us as we venture forth into the wider world. Let us cherish the wonders of Chapada dos Veadeiros and strive to protect its pristine landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and the profound wisdom of its people. May this remarkable region continue to inspire and ignite the flame of change in our hearts, reminding us of the interconnectedness of all living beings and the responsibility we share to safeguard the natural treasures that enrich our lives.
See more photos of Chapada dos Veadeiros and other incredible places of power on Instagram. Follow @rudaiande