Gramado and Canela were two cities that I didn’t have much interest in visiting. I’d stayed in Gramado toward the end of 2018 with my family. It’s a town that is popular among Brazilians and notable for its effort to create a Northern-Hemisphere-Christmas-Atmosphere year-round, as well as its plethora of chocolate shops. Canela is a more relaxed cousin of Gramado, with a similar affinity for chocolate, without the Christmas spirit.
I hadn’t planned on going near them, but that third day of my trip, I found myself driving through Gramado on the way to Canela. Headed toward a distillery on the edge of the latter town, I had no choice. The drive reminded me of my family’s experience and the joy that my kids had found stuffing themselves with chocolate and frolicking in soap bubble snow. The chalets and clean streets were, indeed, a visually pleasing reminder of my short voyage.
Flor do Vale was about a fifteen-minute drive from the center of Canela. Along mostly well-maintained roads, I found myself passing restaurants and a large vineyard. The road turned from asphalt to rocks and dirt.
The distillery appeared on my right, a tour bus parked in front. From the outside, it reminded me of a castle. A large stone wall protected the inner structures. A young man greeted me, released the chain blocking the front, and asked me to pull inside.
A series of small buildings, reminiscent of a medieval village huddled around a circular, cobblestone driveway.< This place had, clearly, been made to attract tourists looking for a place to sample “artisanal” cachaça. I parked the car and got out. I told the young man that I not only wanted to tour the distillery, but go hiking to the waterfalls that the company’s website described. For a price of twenty reais, I fulfilled my wish. I began with the tour of the distillery, which wasn’t a tour led by a knowledgeable professional, but self-guided. Having already seen similar operations in other places, I knew much of the information that the placards explained about the cachaça creation process.
At a leisurely pace, I managed to get through the tour in about 15 minutes. A sample bottle of a p rata cachaça had been left near the still, along with a stack of small plastic cups. The bottle was open. Mistakenly, I took a small sip. I didn’t spit it out, but I was not pleased with my decision.
Regardless, I wasn’t there for the cachaça. I was there to go hiking.
The trails were hidden behind a slow-moving river and a rustic looking house. The grounds on the way to the trails were well kept, with a number of benches, blooming flowers, and a well-manicured lawn.
The signs warned that some of these waterfalls were more difficult to reach than others and that people with difficulty walking should probably only go to the nearest overlook, which I presumed meant a view of the waterfalls.
Feeling myself quite capable of a challenge, I decided to go to the farthest waterfall first. I started on the trail. Once I made it into the dense brush, I began to feel the dampness and started to sweat profusely as I made my way.
Along the trail there was a rope handrail, which certainly wouldn’t provide much support for anyone who needed help walking, but could be used if one got a little dizzy. I reached a series of wooden boards that had been driven into the terrain for use as stairs. The planks were slick with moisture. The slope became steep, and I had to maneuver slowly.
The slippery slope was worth the effort, however. Before I got to the clear water below, I could hear the rush of the waterfall. Finding myself alone at the bottom of the stairs, I looked up and saw the water pouring over a slight break in rocks that were about thirty feet above my position.
The water was cold, but not unpleasant. The sun was hidden behind the trees that overhung the small pool into which the waterfall fell.
I sat for twenty or thirty minutes and decided to move on to the next waterfall. This one was just as challenging to get to because of the dampness, but also just as worthwhile. I climbed over a few boulders to sit underneath the waterfall, feeling the spray as it landed in the deep pool.
After another thirty minutes, I moved on. My last stop was the overlook closest to the entrance of the trails. Overlooking one of the waterfalls, with other views of the mountains, was quite pleasant.
To be honest, for the first time on the trip, I wasn’t excited for the tasting. I’d come to the distillery for a hike and that’s what I’d done. The tasting was more of a formality than anything, something to say that I’d passed another cachaça down my throat.
I tasted three of the products, all of which were perfectly fine. However, I didn’t feel like buying anything. Nothing called to me. By that time, I was beginning to feel hungry and I just wanted to get some food in my stomach. So, after buying a shot glass to commemorate my visit, I left.
I made my way toward the center of Canela. Osvaldo Aranha is one of the main drags in the town, and so I decided to drive it to see whether anything was open. Of course, EVERYTHING was open. I parked about a block away and soon found myself overlooking the street with a caipirinha, ordering a meal from a waiter at Santo Bistro e Café.
I ate chicken in a mustard sauce, with salad, rice and French fries. To be sure, I was hungry. But the food was also quite good.
When I was done, it was early afternoon. I headed back to Nova Petropolis to sneak in a quick nap, which I slipped into easily.
By the time I woke up, it was late. Clouds had started to gather in the sky for the first time during my trip. It was only a bit after 5, but I was hungry again. I’d noticed a bar not far from the hotel. There I went and ordered a caipirinha as well as a pizza.
I sat people watching. By the time I finished, the sun was going down. The next day, I’d be visiting two distilleries and I needed my rest.