For quite some time, I've heard about the caves in Minas Gerais. It's Semana Santa (Holy Week), and my husband has 5 days off, and myself and the kids have 4 days off. We'd talked about taking a little trip, but we just didn't get our act together soon enough. So instead I convinced the hubby to drive to Gruta da Lapinha--probably the closest cave to Belo Horizonte. We met up with a friend in Pampulha.
We take Pres. Antonio Carlos (the "road" or "freeway" or in my opinion, big street) to get to Pampulha. We think it's kind of funny that the city has named the overpasses after African Countries. We finally got around to taking some pictures to share. And by the way, this is probably one of the nicest stretches of road in BH--it's new, it's wide, it's not bumpy. It's great!
|Congo Republic Overpass!|
After we got to Pampulha, it took about an hour to get to the Gruta. You have to drive to Lagoa Santa, and then follow the signs for "Gruta." I wish I could say that I had better directions, but I wasn't driving, and Corinne got the directions. And I'm really bad with directions anyway. But, if you are going to try it, I'd say go for it, because it wasn't so complicated.
The cost is R$10 for adults, and R$5 for meia (kids, students, senior citizens) and kids 4 and under are free. You HAVE to wear close-toed tennis shoes. We made the mistake of having Beatrice wear crocs, and they told us she couldn't wear them, but then eventually everybody just ignored it and she was able to go in. Ah, Brazil. The land of rules, and the land of ways to avoid following those rules.
We packed a picnic lunch, and enjoyed it at the covered picnic tables. There is a little snack shop, but it looked like it really only had coconut water and Popsicles. There were several dogs around, lizards and butterflies, and the kids loved playing with them and running around while we adults chatted.
Then it was time to don the helmets and go into the cave.
|Dora, Sebastian, Kevin and Bea|
|entrance to the cave|
|cool formations in the cave|
|watch out for spiders!|
|more formations in the cave|
The guide didn't talk about this (not at least according to my understanding of his Portuguese), but Peter Lund discovered these caves sometime in the 1830s. Peter Lund was a Norwegian naturalist who came to Brazil for treatment for tuberculosis, but ended up doing a lot of research and exploring caves. He's considered the Father of archeology. I'd heard that it was at Gruta da Lapinha that he found the oldest human remains in South America. However, I did a little research and found out that the remains were actually found at Lapa Vermelha in the 1970s. Luzia, fondly considered the "first" Brazilian, is the oldest human skeleton found in South America, and is between 11,400 and 16,400 years old! But Luzia is considered representative of the "Homem de Lagoa Santa" or the people that lived in this region during that period. And the connection of all this to Peter Lund, is that Lund did find 31 skeletons that belong to the "Homem de Lagoa Santa." But I don't know where this was. And if this has anything to do with Gruta da Lapinha. I've opened up a can of worms here...
I'm glad we went to the caves, and I had a fun time getting out of the city and satiating my curiosity. However, if anyone out there is thinking of going, I would recommend spending more time at the park or in Lagoa Santa to make the most of the drive. We spent about 3 hours driving there and back, and only about 2 1/2 hours eating lunch, playing and touring the cave. There are lots of restaurants along the road close the cave that looked interesting (quaint little farm-restaurant looking places), and the guide for our cave tour mentioned a hike to another cave that sounded interesting. So with a little more research and planning, you could add this cave tour to a fun day out of the city.