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Rio do Boi Trail is one of my favorites – I have done it three times and plan on doing it again. It is a hard 12-kilometer trekking inside Itaimbezinho canyon, rewarded with a swim in pools and waterfalls in the middle of the cliffs.
The trail is in Praia Grande, Santa Catarina. The starting point is at Ibama Station, where you register to enter the park. The trail has this name because the cattle that grazed on top of the canyons used to fall down in the river.
It is easy at first – we walk on a dirt road in the middle of the woods – but soon the hard part begins. You walk on rocks and most of the time with your feet in water.
There are moments when you need to join hands and cross the river together, because the current can be strong depending on the season. At some points the water is waist-deep.
The first time I did the trail I had smooth-soled sneakers and slipped very often. Then I chose to go on wearing only socks, which increased the grip on the rocks but made my feet a little sore the next day. I did that because I am used to walking on uneven grounds. On the other times I wore my boots, which ensured good stability.
During the trail we stopped several times to have a swim in a waterfall or natural pools and have fun in natural water slides. Some waterfalls are extremely high and it hurts when you go in, it feels like being insanely slapped on the back.
Even when it is cold, it is worthwhile getting into the water. When I did the trail in winter, the tour guide told me the water temperature was 5°C and challenged me to jump in. At first I thought he was joking and said “Ok”. He took his coat off and then I knew it was serious, so I could not chicken out – I went in.
When I dived in I lost my breath and immediately screamed in pain, but when I got out the feeling was great. I felt my blood was running faster and I was warm, given the higher temperature outside the water. It was so good I convinced everyone to go into the natural pool at the end of the trail!
You need to hire a local tour guide who knows the area well; if it rains the river level can rise up fast and you will be stuck.
The tour guides advise taking an old pair of sneakers, it will be soaking wet. However, take a pair tough enough to survive a long walk.