Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Rio Cai - Brazil.

The sun drops behind the horizon in the Pantanal, Brazil.

Canadians and Americans familair with their country's size and diversity will be impressed with the similarities found in Brazil. Although we commonly associate Brazil with beaches, bikinis and soccer fanatics, there are also many low mountain ranges with excellent river drainages stretching from the far south all the way until the great Amazon Basin thousands of kilometers to the north. While in Argentina a friend spoke about the town of Tres Coroas and some rivers nearby, so Michelle and I decided to make this the first stop on our road trip through Brazil.

Paddling the waterways of Brazil could mean paddling with 100 pound Capybara rodents.

Our adventure in Brazil began the day after we came up through Uruguay and entered the province of Rio Grande do Sul. After many hours driving past Capybaras and drunk cyclists, Tres Coroas was finally loacated and soon after we were welcomed by Marcos Paredes, founder of Canoe which is a national brand of kayaking gear made locally. Marcos was a former Brazilian national slalom team paddler and he was excited to see some foreign paddlers in his country. He explained that although slalom is very competitive and supported in Brazil, playboating and river running is still developing. Kayaking gear is limited and getting things from other countries requires paying a ridiculous import tax of 100%. Just recently a Brazilian kayak manufacturer started making boats, but besides the annual kayak rodeo organized by Marcus in Tres Coroas, whitewater kayaking is developing gradually in Brazil. What Tres Coroas did provide was an interesting dam controlled class II-III run with a good playspot that we spent a few days at. It was also the Rio Cai (Kai-yee) nearby however that Marcos was hoping we could get down after some more rain.

Good times on the Rio Cai in Southern Brazil.

The Rio Cai turned out to be a medium volume class III+ river in a remote subtropical setting. There is also a nice waterfall and a couple of more difficult rapids in the middle of the section make this 20km stretch interesting. It was a great feeling to be running rapids in an environment so unfamiliar and exotic. The upper reaches of the Rio Cai have even more gradient and according to Marcus this section has yet to see a team of kayakers. Paddling around Tres Coroas was only the beginning to our 6 week 7000km ramble across the Brazilian backroads. Facing the uncertainty of big cities, dangerous roads and a different language, Brazil was a country filled with amazing hospitality, helpful citizens and some quality paddling.

For most kayakers trying to check out Brazilian paddling without a car, they will probably find that the rivers are rather distant from each other compared to places such as Chile or Ecuador. But assuming you are flying into the two major Brazilian cities, there are a couple of good places to check out. If you find yourself in Sao Paulo looking to paddle, you might want to venture north up to Brotas. Brotas has only one river but there are some local Brazilian paddlers who will be stoked to show you some fun whitewater while monkey's climb above in the trees. Paulo is a kayaker from Brotas who has a rafting company called 'Tribu di Agua'. If you fly into Rio de Janeiro, head east along the coastal highway until Casimiro de Abreu. There you will find Adventuras Canoar. Breno who owns Canoar is an avid kayaker, and the Rio Macae is an unknown classic that flows by his camp.

The Rio Jacare located in Brotas, Brazil.

Thanks to our Brazilian friends who showed us a river or two, and expect a lot more whitewater discovery in Brazil to happen in the near future. You can read about some other experiences we had in Brazil along with the rest of our adventure by checking out Michelle's travel blog.

Some other rivers to paddle in Brazil include:

Rio Itajai do Sul (III-V) - Ibirama, Santa Catarina province.
Rio Iapo (II-V) - Tibagi, Parana province.
Rio Bonito (II-III) - Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul province.

Another river in Brazil known to have some good whitewater is located north in the Tocantins province - Rio Jalapao. There is also some good creeking to be had in the south just inland from Florianopolis.