Experience the true Brazil with all its rich customs and hospitality. Superb riding, at all paces, at 3,000 to 5,500 ft elevations – surrounded by outstanding ever-changing scenery. The impressive mountain panorama of the Southern Brazilian High Sierra, with 1 National and 2 State Parks offers a variety of superb natural attractions, such as wide open and hilly grass, bush and woodland, lush patches of magnificent South American araucária pine forest, a great number of clear rivers and rapids, lovely green valleys and the canyons of the Serra Geral mountain range.
Animal and plant live of this part of the tropical highlands is well preserved, specially birds blue-crowned trogon, siriemas, buff-necked ibis, Southern lapwings, quails, a great diversity of hawks, falcons, eagles, saffron finches, shiny cowbirds, owls and many others. The area is also habitat of puma, and you may be lucky to discover its trail, while he is far ahead or... behind you. Other animals of the region are ocelot, pampas deer, armadillo, coati, otter and capibara.
The region is scarcely populated by small dairy farms and cattle ranches that seem almost lost in the vastness of the land. This is the home of the mountain gaúchos and horsemen. They have conserved and show proudly their traditions. On weekends, folks gather in the rustic galpões, the barn and animal shelters of the farmhouse and dance and sing while an opulent churrasco BBQ is prepared at the open fireplace. Beautiful horses and superb horsemanship are on display at the frequent rodeos, where people, typically dressed, show up to dance to the chamamê, xote or vanerão, the Brazilian rooted country music, live, of course. Our guests will visit, whenever fitting with logistics, these traditional events and enjoy great hospitality and fun there.
The Santa Barbara ranch is located some 20 km distant from the town of Urubici. Our longtime partner “Zorro” Elvio and his wife Rosie, manage this working ranch of about 600 ha land, where some 400 cattle of mixed breed graze happily through out the year. Pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs and cats also are part of the family. The Santa Barbara is, as all the other ranches in the region, a small ranch by Central Brazil standards like in the Pantanal. It is family run and non-touristy. Guests are treated like friends and have the rare opportunity to participate in the day to day live of a traditional southern Brazilian mountain ranch. For our rides we choose out of a herd of 30 horses.
Nearby the Santa Barbara ranch is the Canoas river. Its creeks and rapids do invite for trout fishing. Host Elvio knows not only all the secrets of ranching, but is also a skilled fisherman, while his wife Anna Rose takes care of the kitchen, where the trouts end up for dinner "Belle Meuniere" style. Talking about food: it consists of enormous portions of delicious, regional food (also vegetarian, if required), mostly homegrown and homemade. Our guests will further relish on authentic churrascos from the fogo do chão and the stimulating mate tea from the chimarrão, a gourd with a silver spoon. An early morning camargo straight from the udder, makes you forget the delicious capucchino of your favored Italian restaurant. Another traditional delicacy for the highlands gaúchos is passoca, grinded lamp meat with pinhão, Paraná pine nuts. At this point we would like to mention that at Santa Barbara, and elsewhere we emphasize and cultivate between visitors and host a relationship that is strictly based on friendship and common respect.
From Florianopolis over Urubici to Jararaca/Fazenda Santa Barbara
Our São Joaquim Adventure Trail starts with pick-up at Florianopolis airport. Our regular transfer to Urubici is set between 10 am and noon. A three hours scenic drive from sea level takes you to the high sierra of Santa Catarina and the village of Urubici. The village of Urubici is a community of farmers and ranchers with an important production of meat, vegetables and fruits that is being exported all over the country. The region produces also apples (Gala and Fuji), plums and is the state biggest producer of vegetables. Mountain rainbow trout and mate tea are other products still, for which Urubici is known. There are no polluting industrial activities of any kind in the whole region! From November to May, on nearly every weekend, the region hosts regional, national and international rodeos and rope throwing competitions. These are very colorful events where visitors will see beautiful horses, top riders, displays of fine leather handicraft, local products, typical food and drinks, and after all, since we are in Brazil: plenty of good music and dances. To put it simple: Urubici is rural Brazil at it's best.
After arrival, our clients usually like to visit a farm supply and handicraft shop, where they can buy at very reasonable prices anything related to cattle, farming, the horse and riding. We recommend waterproof leather boots with rubber sole, beautiful gaucho ponchos and hats, horsewhips and lassos from raw hide and much more... Depending on the month/day/hour of arrival however we might drive over to the Gaucho Cultural Traditions Centre, to watch a regional rodeo instead.
We will now proceed to our trail basis, the Fazenda Santa Barbara farm, which takes another 40 minutes drive, partly on bumpy dirt road. The Fazenda Santa Barbara is part of the Jararaca community, named after a snake Bothrops jararaca, a venomous pit viper that is quite common in Brazil. No reason to worry however. The snakes did not survive the transformation of the region into cattle country. The Fazenda is surrounded by magnificent Araucaria angustifolha also known as Paraná pine forest. The tree, an endangered species, is characteristic for the Southern part of Brazil. The warm welcome of our hosts Rosie and Elvio, her husband and our guide, includes a generously set coffee table, here called café colonial. Now, you will be ushered to your rooms either at the main house or the new guest house, a 5 minute away, where you can relax from the long journey to get here. The group will meet again for dinner and overnight.
From Santa Barbara to Morro da Taipinha and Back
The hearty farmer breakfast includes a hot camargo coffee, a local specialty, served in the barn, where it is prepared with the fresh milk right out of the udder. In the meantime horses are saddled and we depart to discover the greater area around the fazenda. The ride will take us up to the Morro da Taipinha mountain at about 1,700 m above sea level. To get there however we will have to tackle with dense forest, swamps and steep hills, safely negotiated by our sturdy mounts under the skilled lead of our guide Zorro Elvio.
A steep uphill ride, during which several breaks are recommended, the group arrives at the high fields that are characteristic for the region. Here we may see, but hopefully not hear the trumpeted cry of the siriema bird, Cariama cristata, as it advises bad weather ahead. They are also otherwise useful animals, since their preferred diet is snakes! The quero-quero, Vanellus chilensis will watch us all the way and shy us off from their hidden nest raising hell if we get to close. Another typical southern Brazilian bird is the gralha azul or azure jay, Cyanocorax caeruleus, which plays a significant role in preventing the Paraná pine Araucaria angustifolha from extinction. More difficult to watch is the highly endangered red-tail amazon Amazona pretrei.
We will be back at Santa Barbara late afternoon. Time free until dinner, when a delicious Entrevero, a local specialty, will be served. Total riding time today mounts from 6 to 6½ hr.
From Santa Barbara into the São Joaquim National Park to Vacas Gordas
After a solid breakfast the riders get on their horses for a long days ride that will take them into the São Joaquim National Park. On the way we will pass the village of Vacas Gordas which most significantly means: fat cows. Here, we pause briefly for a chat and refreshments with our hosts for tonight, before we continue all the way uphill now into the national park. Ever changing terrain requires up and downhill riding. On their way the riders may eventually encounter a man or two collecting herba mate leafs Ilex paraguaiensis, a bush that grows here naturally between araucaria and other forest.
According to the legend, jesuit missionaries left the region between Paraguay/Argentina/ Brasil, when the order was abolished in 1773, seeking safety and new activities on the highlands of Santa Catarina and introduced thus the Ilex paraguaiensis to the region.
As we arrive on top of the elevations the flat sections not only provide magnificent views but also invites for canters and gallops. Here, aside a soft flushing creek and beneath shadowy trees, we unsaddle and prepare our saddle bag lunch, which is normally a generous chunk of meat grilled over the open fire. There, also our brave horses find their share of delicacies. The siesta may not take too long as more riding is on the menu for the afternoon.
We estimate to reach our destination for the day sometime late afternoon, when will take care of the horses and let them graze on lush pastures. Both, riders and horses, feel to have done a great job today. Meanwhile our back-up car has arrived and takes us on adventurous mountain roads to the village of Vacas Gordas. Unfortunately our hut in the mountains burned out recently, leaving us without overnight options within the National Park boundaries.
After showers a caipirinha the Brazilian national drink, will prepare us for the following dinner of sumptuous local delicacies cooked on the old iron stove. With some energy left we may sit down around the fire place for some storytelling, before we hit the sheets for overnight in this cozy country house. The total riding time is about 7 hr.
From Vacas Gordas into the São Joaquim Nationalpark to the Cayambora Canyons and Back
The day begins early with the back-up car taking us again to the high fields. We collect the horses we left behind last night, saddle them and we are off with destination Cayamborá canyons. Heading first for the Chapada da Macela or Macela high sierra, a region named after a herbal plant, used in therapeutic teas and recommended as treatment for gastritis, stomach and other related diseases. So, if there are stress-plagued riders with one or all of the above problems, remember, that our prices are all in. In autumn, when the plant is in flower, the green of the high fields contrast with the bright yellow of Macela. The region is also home of the mountain lion or puma, Felis concolor. Further ahead, the riders pass a crystal clear creek, what would become some 250 km to the west, the great Rio Uruguay. On our way to the Cayamborá canyon we also pass by the Fazenda Salgado, the former home of our host Zorro Elvio. The national park authorities bought the fazenda founded by Elvios Grandfather. It is now completely in ruins, an eyesore in an otherwise overwhelming environment of natural beauty. Between February and April raspberries, blackberries and delicious wild guavas can be collected on route.
While riding on top of the ridges, breathtaking views into the canyons and on clear days as far as to the 200 km distant Santa Catarina coastline can be appreciated by overwhelmed riders. Not far from here is the Morro da Igreja, with 1822 meters the highest peak in Santa Catarina. Near a freshwater creek we break for lunch. It will be an authentic churrasco, the Brazilian BBQ, lunch out of the saddle bag and coffee from the polaca, our photogenic coffee pot. After the feast, shadowy araucarias invite for a nap, with the rich food doing the rest.
We take another trail on our way back over the mountains to the place where we unsaddle the horses and give them a good treatment. With the back-up car waiting for us we drive again to Vacas Gordas for dinner and overnight. Today, our time in the saddle will be 7-8 hr.
There might not be great desire for storytelling tonight, as today´s riding might demand its tribute.
From Vacas Gordas through São Joaquim Nationalpark to Fazenda Santa Barbara
After an early breakfast we say good-by to our hosts and take the car to meet our horses again. The trail back to Santa Barbara Farm leads past the Fazenda do Baú, a second century old ranch house, right on top of the Morro do Gado Quebra or “crashing cattle mountain”, with another story to be told at the right moment. Not far from there is the former Conta Dinheiro farm, which was owned by Elvios relatives and has also been taken over by the national park authorities. Typically, it is also in ruins now. We pause at an old, wind worn cemetery. Stories about people who got lost in the mountains and were buried here will be making the round in the evenings. The trail continues over several high mountain ridges, and on top of the Morro Careca or bald mountain, at 1,700 meters above sea level, the riders enjoy magnificent views of 360º. Here, the terrain offers great canters on rolling hills. Further down and in sharp contrast with the high fields, we ride through dense jungle of Dicksonia, giant ferns, here called xaxim, and bracatinga, Mimosa scabrella trees.
We estimate to arrive at Fazenda Santa Barbara in the early evening hours. As we have not changed horses for the last 4 days, demanding all of the strength and energy they could muster, they will be are tired now and have earned the best possible care, which is what they will get. The riders are offered an invigorating chimarrão tea and hot showers which should prepare them to enjoy one of these dinners only Rosi puts on the table, which is a big one... Later on, when the flames blaze in the fireplace, Zorro Elvio will tell us how and why he loses newborn calves and pigs frequently to the puma. As usually one story leads to another, intercultural encounters, knowledge and understanding spreads among the group, which is one of the declared aims on our rides. This was another long riding day, with estimated 7-8 hr in the saddle. Overnight.
From Santa Barbara to Cadet/Fazenda da Mena
After breakfast we mount on fresh horses to a region, called Cadet, which is today´s destination. Differently from the previous days we will be riding through sceneries only with little elevations. On mostly open hilly terrain we observe agricultural activities, like vineyards, apple orchards and cattle farming. During the ride we will have opportunities again to take our mounts to enjoyable canters and gallops. Before we arrive at Fazenda da Mena we have to cross the river Uruguay, provided the water level and currents will be adequate for safe passage. We estimate to arrive at Fazenda da Mena in late afternoon. Relax, refreshments, shower, Dinner. This fazenda is another property that belongs to the large family of our host Rosie, who was actually born here. The charming old wooden building is framed by enormous araucaria trees and a lake, where frogs concert in the warm evening hours and at night. It is nearly 100 years old and one of the first cattle farms of that region. The group will have spent 6 -7 hr in the saddle today.
From Cadet/Fazenda da Mena to Fazenda Santa Barbara
Like on the ride to the Cayamborá canyons we have a support car carrying provisions and personal belongings. While Elvio saddles the horses we give Rosie a hand to load luggage and the other stuff onto the 4×4. For the way back from Fazenda da Mena back to Fazenda Santa Barbara we ride on another trail which offers nice and easy riding. On route we break for visit to the Salto do Rio Lavatudo waterfall, a river that forms, together with the Rio Pelotas the Rio Uruguay. Here, right at the falls, we will have a scenic lunch. Arriving at Jararaca horses are unsaddled and left to graze on the rich pastures of our trail leader and host Elvio's property. Those who wish to change activities for a moment and relax their minds can go fishing in the pond right behind the main house, or take a walk around the property, playing with the dogs and cats, watching pigs and chickens, until Rosie calls in for dinner. Most probably the entrée will be some crispy grilled fish... Today's estimate is about 6-7 hr in the saddle.
From Santa Barbara to Monte Cará and Back
As riding is our aim these days we take on another great destination over 1,600 m above sea level, which is the mount Cará. After having passed some nearby properties the group passes open fields and dense forest and will hardly meet any living soul in this area. Wild flowers and splendid orchids like the lovely red sofronites and bromeliads grow from December-January on branches draped with moss. For our siesta, we have chosen a beautiful panoramic spot at the top of the mountain with great views of 360º and as far as to the village of Urubici down below. Here a spring surfaces right out from between the stones with the purest mineral water, beating Perrier, Evian and other sophisticated brands hands down. We picnic sandwiches, cheese, fruits, cookies out of the saddle bag, washed down with a fresh boiled coffee or tea prepared cowboy style, on the open fireplace.
After an appropriate relax for horses and riders, the trail goes on through highland forest covered mainly with shadowy Paraná pines and the ever present vassourinha bushes, which are used for firewood, broom, brushes, but also produces pollen for a delicious honey, that is even exported to Europe. We are planning to arrive home around 5pm totaling some 6 hours in the saddle.
From Santa Barbara to Monte Alegre and Back
The last full day of riding fun will take us to the Monte Alegre mountain, claimed to be even higher than the Morro da Igreja, which is 1,822 m above sea level. To get to the Monte Alegre and back, the riders will face again dense forest, swamps, steep and rocky ascents and high camps with grassy hills, accessible on hidden trails that only a trained scout as Elvio can identify as such. Our saddle bag lunch today include most probably a decent chunk of beef masterly grilled on the open fireplace, homemade cheese and rolls, cookies and apples, coffee and tea. After all that we recommend to take our sheep skins off the saddle as they guarantee a comfortable snooze.
A long days ride, but it is worthwhile the effort, mainly because of great adventure riding and an overwhelming mix of outstanding landscapes and views. Back at the Fazenda, Rosi has prepared some decent caipirinhas for apéritif and a fare well dinner for the last evening, with delicacies from the local cuisine. For the rest of this last evening among our hosts we have invited friends with their gaita and violão. So there will be dancing and great music from the Gaucho lands, like the hot and swinging chama-me, venerão, xote, milonga, chimarrita. Today´s estimate is 6½ hr riding time.
From Santa Barbara over Urubici to Florianopolis
Packing gear and getting ready for departure to Florianópolis. Depending on the flight details there might be the chance to go for some early riding in the morning. There is always enough time however to pay a visit to the mysterious pre-historic stone wall carvings, unexplored and unexplained to this day. If not done so already on the arrival day, leather handicraft from saddle to boots, ponchos and hats, reins and other riding accessories can be purchased for reasonable prices in the local stores. We recommend booking of a late afternoon flight out of Florianópolis.
End of the São Joaquim Adventure Trail
This itinerary is subject weather conditions, legal impediments or safety recommendations and might require change of dates and destinations for any given day during the ride.
Southern Cross Tours & Expeditions may not be held responsible in any way if one of the above events take place. Southern Cross Tours & Expeditions however will provide the best alternative possible under given circumstances. Decisions regarding the day-to-day itinerary will be made solely by the trail leader.
Accommodation and Meals
We accommodate our clients in double or single rooms when available at no add cost. Bathrooms with hot and cold showers have to be used jointly. The rooms do not feature air condition which dispensable in this mountainous region. In general accommodations are rustic but clean and comfortable. There is a broad range of food available which is mostly homemade and includes best Brazilian beef of cattle grazing all year round in the open on naturally grown pastures, receiving no additives whatsoever, homemade sausages and chicken, homegrown vegetables and fruits of the season, homemade cheese and a variety of dairy products, pasta, rice, beans, homemade breads and rolls, jellies, honey . While on trail the provisions are carried in the saddle bags, containing beef, meat, sausages, for the BBQ in the open, plus meatballs, manioc flower, sandwiches, crackers, cookies, oranges, apples, coffee, tea, milk. Vegetarian food is available.
Horses and Tack
Our horses are Crioulos, Crioulo / Quarter-Horse or Crioulo / Manga-Larga Cross. They are adapted to the region strong and tough, 100% reliable and sure footed, which they have proofed where they are at home on the highlands and forests. Typical, light saddles are comfortable for both horses and riders with 3 sheepskin layers on top. Western riding style.
In accordance with the ability of the riders, walk, trot, canter, gallop
Level of Difficulty and Riding Abilities
Medium difficulty, vary from sometimes strenuous/sometimes easy, firm seat requested
Phillip and Kayla Barron
The ride was beautiful and interesting. We loved the landscape and the freedom of the ride. It was not a boring head to tail ride on deadhead horses. I was very impressed with our horses and loved the criollos because they were sure footed, even tempered and responsive. They did everything that we asked them to do.
The sheepskins and saddles made for a comfortable ride. I was concerned that I may get sore or that my back may tighten up spending 6-8 hours in the saddle each day but I had absolutely no soreness or back pain.
We enjoyed the steep ascents and descents in the mountains as much as the trotting and loping through the open terrain. I have to say though that the midday break may have been my favorite. It's hard to beat a traditional churrascaría with cowboy coffee followed by a siesta!
Our hosts were perfect. After I had known Peter for a couple of hours I felt like we were old friends and I miss our dinner conversations. Elvió and Rosie made us feel like family, not tourists. Both of them showed my 9- year old daughter Kayla special attention and she could feel their warmth and hospitality.
Elvió took great care of all of us including his horses. He is a true gentleman, farmer, cowboy and a terrific guide. Rosie is an amazing hostess and she took great care of us too. Every day she would cook an incredible breakfast with homemade cheese rolls, bread, fresh fruit, jams and eggs. She would pack us a delicious lunch and always cooked an exquisite, hearty dinner that my grandmother would be jealous of. Kayla is still talking about Ms. Rosie and her cooking and Mr. Elvió and his horses. Even though I know that Elvió and Rosie were working very hard to take care of our group, they made it look so easy and never lost their smile.
Sebastian and his wife were also very friendly, warm and engaging and were always making us feel very welcome.
The accommodations were all comfortable, clean and felt authentic. I appreciate our hosts letting us into their homes. My favorite was Elvio's and Rosie's home followed by Sebastian’s. It was a real treat having a private bath at Sebastian’s. I loved staying at Rosie's brother’s house and meeting her parents because it was like being back with family. I forgot the name of the other facienda were we stayed but I really liked their big barn.
Kayla and I had very high expectations for our adventure and you exceeded all of them. We have and will continue to recommend this trip to others. I want to go on the Pantanal trail and I am also trying to find a medical conference in Rio later this year and would book the horse trip near Rio with you if that were the case.
I want to thank-you for our trip and really can’t think of anything that you should change. If you speak to Rosie and Elvió please tell them that Kayla and Phil say hi.
Ivana Bulirova and Ales Buli
Washington DC, USA
The horses were of excellent endurance, surefooted, very willing and easy to control. We found the Brazilian tack surprisingly comfortable! The ride as such was very enjoyable, difficult terrain that the horses made look almost easy. Ivana and I appreciated the end-of-the-day trots and canters. The Hosts were beyond compare. Rosie and Elvio were exceptional hosts, Rosie’s cooking was fabulous. The accommodations were minimalistic, but it gave us good sense of living on a fazenda. Our Guide was knowledgeable and friendly. How satisfied were you with the booking process? (Travel Agency, Information Provided, Payments etc.) Very happy, no issues.
This is an “authentic” ride to experience Brazilian countryside, with minimalistic accommodation. Also the pace – given the terrains – was slower than most other rides than we took. That said, for all the reasons above the trip exceeded our expectations and we would recommend it to others.
Markus and Kilian
Dear Peter, dear team of RidingBrazil, thank you very much for the wonderful time, the big adventure and all the great moments you gave us in the Brazilian backland of Santa Catarina.
Everything was just perfectly organized, the horses were fit enough to bring us safe through the adventurous forests and highlands. Rosie gave us always a warm goodbye in the morning and a hearty welcome in the evening, a cosy home and last but not least wonderful breakfasts, coffee times and dinners, while Elvio was just perfect with the horses and the lunch/churrasco at campfire.
Thank you very much for sharing all your knowledge about Brazil, Brazilians and the nature. Unfortunately we have already forgotten many names of trees and birds, so we have to come back soon!
Markus and Kilian
Margit and Siegfried Broßmann
My husband and I returned recently from an exciting and unique trip to Brazil, organized by the tour operator "Riding-Brazil / Horseback Adventures". The whole trip was organized in all details, very well composed and tailor-made for us.
It started with a 3-day stay at the Iguacu Falls, which were really fascinating. We experienced imposing and breathtaking impressions of the Falls and the surrounding National Park.
Then we went to the diversified coastline of the State of Santa Catarina to watch whales. In the sheltered coastal waters the Southern Right Whales nurse their young and come right up close to the shore. During boat trips we could observe the mother whales with their calves and take pictures of them. It is such an amazing experience to see these huge animals coming so close to the boat that we can almost touch them. Even from the shore the whales can be spotted.
After these two tour components that had rather sighting character, we started our active adventure holidays, with the Sao Joaquim Riding Trail through the mountains of Santa Catarina. The trail led through the fabulous and virtually pristine mountains in the Sao Joaquim National Park and farmland, where grazing cattle and native animals could be observed, but hardly a human soul. The flora enchants among others with huge Araucarias (Paraná pines), Dicksonia Giant Ferns and small, bright red orchids (sofronites coccinae) growing on trees.
Each tour of the trail was different from the previous one, every day surprised horses and rider with new challenges. The horses ability to master steepest ascents and descents in the mountains, to cross rivers, marshes, bushes and thickets was incredible. They were chosen according to the riding level of each rider and were changed several times.
The warm and hospitable reception of the riding guests by the farm team as well as the culinary skills of Rosie and the accommodations, unique by itself, were a great experience. The daily lunch break with Churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) on the open fire and a following siesta under the shady trees provided also special moments.
During the tour, our guide Peter Rohmer, with his broad knowledge, informed us in an entertaining manner about flora and fauna and the farmers life in the mountains of Santa Catarina. As he lives a long time in Brazil, he can explain about the country and its people, history and the current situation in an wonderfull way. He thus gave us a more open view of life in Brazil. It's clear for us that this trip wasn't our last Brazil (Riding) tour.
For everybody who is interested in horseback riding and likes the taste of adventure in almost pristine nature we can fully recommend this trail.
We thank Peter Rohmer for unforgettable travel impressions of Brazil.
With warm regards from Dresden,
Siegfried and Margaret Broßmann
Beate Geigner and Gabi Schulze
Weißdorf, Berlin, Germany
......Gabi and myself have arrived well in Germany and are back to business as normal.
Again, thank you very much for the great time we had in Brazil. The whole journey turned out perfect: the organization, the itinerary, the horses and everything else was just like we had imagined it should be. Gabi also pointed out that this would be one of those rare trips you wanted to do twice..... I agree...maybe in a few years......
Beate Geigner and Gabi Schulze
La vie parisienne a repris ses droits sous un ciel gris et dans une ville embouteillée. On a fêté en une fois Noël, le jour de l'an et nos retrouvailles avec Lane et Franklin, dont c'est l'anniversaire. Toutefois l'aventure brésilienne est encore en toile de fond et les images des canyons sont toujours là. Je voulais te remercier pour ces 10 jours hors du monde dont nous gardons un souvenir très fort. Oriane et Hugo se joignent à moi pour te souhaiter une année 2014 de succès pour tes projets.
A liberdade me falta (It is the freedom that I am missing...)
All started when I punched my favorite passions "Brazil+Riding" into the search engines and Peters website came up. It sounded all very tantalizing but I needed a push to convince myself to go on an organized tour. We emailed back and forth and even telephoned a couple of time. Was supposed to be a 2 weeks journey ended up to be an extensive riding adventure in both regions the Brazilian Pantanal and the highlands of Santa Catarina and I got more that I had hoped for.
I appreciated the beautiful landscape of the São Joaquim National Park, die overwhelming hospitality of our hosts Elvio and his wife Rosi, Hilarios friendliness, despite his tough work, the patience everybody had with me, the early morning Camargo, better than any Italian Capuchino, the unbelievable meals Rosi put on the table and, of course, the rides cattle drives with Elvio and team.
My next venture would take me to an outlet where I was supposed to learn something about the "doma racional" but did not live up to my expectations. It but showed me the another side of Brazil instead. I really missed the simplicity and cordiality of Elvio and his wife.
So was I looking forward to my next destination, which was the world largest wetland, the Brazilian Pantanal. The 3 weeks stay there did touch me, I must admit. Ritas ranch is just gorgeous. I soon changed my delicately decorated and air conditioned room with the hammocks under the giant Mango trees, which enabled me not only to watch the miraculous sun downs and sun rises, but I did also enjoy at closest possible distance, the hilarious morning concert of all the hundreds of birds species, for which the region is well known. I did find the most appropriate comments on the birds of the Pantanal with the pictures of Manoel de Barros: to find the blue I use the birds ! Everyday I made new discoveries in this environment with bustling wildlife and vegetation. I rode with the peões, the Brazilian cowboys who´s tough job I became to respect. I loved to ride after the calves to help to bring em in for treatment. My biggest success was when Tião said "today you really did gallop a lot".
I went with Rita and Negão on a trail to the Rio Negro for a week. On a neighboring fazenda I was introduced to an educational project called "escola pantaneira" aimed to grant basic education to the children of the peões, who otherwise and mainly because of the distances and climatic conditions of the Pantanal, would have difficulties to go to school at all.
Rita was an excellent host, explaining this unique environment, pampered me, while I enjoyed life in the saddle and my personal freedom on this beautiful spot called Pantanal. Peter rode with me and my friend on the last part of the trail. Like in São Joaquim did I enjoy his esprit and charm and first of all, his deep knowledge of Brazil and many other issues.
I will never forget when we rode together through the night. Suddenly we were embedded in a sea of stars, cormorants flying in front of us as being on a string and far ahead the light of the Barra guiding us home.
Thanks Peter for everything, your way, your openness and human warmth, the super organization of this unique travel adventure. I want to come back.
Karina and Mikko Kaukoranta
Helsinki, Finland & Manaus, Brazil
It took a whole night to fly from Manaus to Florianópolis, where João – Elvio’s son – was waiting for us. The drive with an ancient pick-up truck took 3.5 hours from the beautiful Island of Santa Catarina to Urubici, a tiny mountain town of 2,000 inhabitants. The contrast between tourist-filled beach city Florianópolis and rural Urubici is striking, and our first thought was "what are we doing here!".
Peter came to the Urubici Park Hotel, welcomed us and explained the program. Typically, Peter prefers a group of 4-6 persons, but now it was only us. We were invited to Elvio’s – a gaucho and our riding guide – house for a simple home-cooked lunch with Elvio’s wife Rosi, daughter Rosanna, son João and his wife and a baby, and a German couple who just finished their one-week riding vacation. We felt immediately welcomed, and the feeling being alone in the middle-of-nowhere disappeared for a whole vacation.
Since this was our first riding vacation we had not been quite sure what to pack. No problem. Even though it was Good Friday, a shop selling riding gears opened just for us. We bought waterproof leather boots, hats, vests, and a knife. The prices were very reasonable, so there really is no need to carry everything from home. The boots proved to be excellent, as in many places it was muddy and wet, and cleaning the boots was much easier than cleaning our hiking boots would have been. Jeans were perfect for riding, and we preferred long-sleeved shirts to avoid scratches as the trails went through dense forests. Light wind-jackets were in the saddle-bag, but we did not use them. The new vests we used occasionally, but the temperature was 18°C-26°C, so there really was no need for warmer clothing when riding. The rain capes provided by Southern Cross kept us totally dry during the couple of rainy afternoons we had. After our purchases at the store, we did not need money.
The horses were crossbred crioulos, smallish, strong, reliable in the difficult climbs. We are both tall, but it was not a problem. We mainly do jumping at home, so long-distance riding was very different. Due to difficult, rocky and mountainous terrain, the pace was mainly walk or trot. On the plateaus, the horses and riders enjoyed cantering as well. The trails went up and down. Climbing from 900 meters to 1700 meters and down again! Every mountain felt like Mount Everest – finally reaching the top, the incredible feeling of freedom, seeing the range of mountains and valleys. It felt like we are conquering a country never explored. Occasionally we saw other ranchers and stopped to talk with them, which strengthened the feeling of being a family member and not a tourist.
Daily ridings were from 5-7 hours, with longest day 10.5 hours. Every day we had our picnic or barbecue lunch. Lit a fire, cooked coffee, barbecued meat, had homemade cheese and took a nap. Water was no problem – there are creeks all over, and the water is drinkable.
We are Finnish, but have lived over one year in Amazonas. We speak some Portuguese, but relied a lot on Peter. Language is not a problem. Even though Elvio’s family does not speak any other language than Portuguese, they are used to foreigners.
Our cozy chalet at the Vale do Neblina Inn Our cozy chalet at the Vale do Neblina Inn An early camargo café with fresh milk – better than any capuchino Riding over highland pastures Riding over highland pastures.
Urubici Park Hotel was modest, yet tidy. Second night at Pousada (Inn) Caminhos da Neve. We shared a nice lodge (living room, two bed-rooms and one bathroom) together with Peter. Three nights at the Ranch Conta Dinheiro, owned by Elvio’s brother. Very modest, but cozy. All of us - Elvio, Rosi , their son, and Peter - stayed there. Five bedrooms and two bathrooms, with hot showers. The last three nights at Pousada / fazenda Dois Rios. Rogério and Salete are Elvio’s neighbors. Since Elvio and Rosi just moved to new ranch that will be renovated, they could not take us to their home. We had nice after-ride coffee there, but stayed overnight at Rogério and Salete’s where we had dinner and breakfast.
We liked to visit ranches and pousadas, and enjoyed living like family members. The standard of this kind of lodging is not high – e.g. the nights were cold and no heating - but the warm and kind atmosphere you cannot experience in any hotel!
Who is this trip for?
In Scandinavia girls and women do horseback riding. In Brazil it seems to be much for men. The trails and riding was manly – Elvio using his machete to cut the trees to open a trail for riders, simple lunches, and sturdy horses – it was very masculine. No dressage, no fancy gears. But certainly fun!
Riding skills are not that important, but you have to have a good balance and self-confidence. And you must be able to trust the horses. Even though the saddles are good, you’ll be suffering, if your bottom has not recent experience of riding!
This was our first riding vacation but certainly not the last. The experience was not only a vacation, it was also an adventure. We saw marvelous landscape, beautiful nature, met friendly people, and best of all, we were treated like friends.
I was on my way towards the trip of my dreams. I was going to spend one whole week on a traditional south Brazilian farm with cattle, horses, riding and nature. To live on a farm together with a family and take part of their every day life was something I was really looking forward to. I did not know really what to expect, but when I drove in on the little road far up in the hills, and for the first time saw the place, I was sure that my time here was going to be special.
We went out riding every day, for many hours, in the fantastic nature in the surrounding hills. We went on places I never thought would be possible to go riding on and we even climbed mountains with the horses. It was fantastic; one of the highlights for me was to gallop on top of the mountain, which gave me a total feeling of freedom!
I learned so much from the fantastic horses and off curse from my excellent guide and host Elvio. He and his wife Rosie took such good care of me during my stay, as well as all the boys staying there. We had many laughs together and this week is something I never will forget. For me it was a privilege to be able to stay on such a unique place that was not only a home but a real working farm. I wish and hope that a lot more people go and visit this fantastic place that is so far from other tourists and busy streets. You will get an experience of a lifetime!
Thank you Peter for arranging my trip and thank you again Elvio, Rosie and “the boys” for opening your home to me and sharing your life.
Detlef and Andrea Lock
Who has been looking for the great freedom in the US, has never been to Brazil. After having been about 4 times on horse back trails in Arizona I wanted to experience a tropical environment. This is how we arrived at www.ridingbrazil.com with Peter and his partner Elvio, in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
We were very lucky, as we have been invited to a rodeo that happened to take place in Urubici on the weekend we arrived there. The competing vaqueiros (cowboys) are to rope in cattle on a track. The lasso however may not slide down over the cattle's head but must stay fix over the cattle's horns only. A extremely difficult exercise. This colorful event with the vaqueiros concentrated and tense when their turn arrived and the locals their welcoming us with utmost kindness, made us looking forward with eager anticipation for our ride, that started early next day. We immersed nearly immediately into the green of exuberant vegetation. A steep ascent, passing by bamboo, giant ferns, araucaria pine forest and uncountable subtropical flowers and plants, lead us to a wonderful lookout. From here we overlooked a see of araucaria pine forest, high field pastures and a waterfall, where we would rest for lunch, a couple of hours later. The performance of the horses this very first day was absolutely stunning.
Also, on the next day, our mounts managed masterly the uphill and downhill, and there were lots of it. Again we rode through these magnificent araucaria pine forests and other exotic trees that were heavily occupied by bromeliads and orchids. The old man´s beard trees let your imagination run loose…. What a landscape....!
On the third day we horses changed. We could see that the animals were treated with care. Again the landscape changed constantly. Now we rode on hilly grasslands already on the high camps. While riding on, we met a small herd of horses that were running loose on the range. There watched and circled us curiously. A bit later we drove some cattle to a nearby fazenda. Since we still wear our hats from Arizona, we got the real cowboy feeling right here in the deep Brazilian backcountry. Suddenly we were covered in thick layers of fog which added a mysterious aspect to the overwhelming mountain panorama. We probably missed another spectacular outlook over the canyons, because of the fog, but this has been still another thrilling day.
Not different were the days ahead. Again, we saw constantly changing vegetation and scenery. From to mountain tops that we had climbed with our brave horses, which seemed to have converted to goats, we head great views over the wide open lands and the untouched nature. We enjoyed every minute of this ride.
We will not miss to mention the delicious meals prepared by Rosi and Salete, sweetening this holiday week for us. There was also the hospitality we experienced everywhere on the fazendas – despite our language problem. But, we had always Peter at hand who would translate for us. Both, Andrea and Myself, we had not expected that this tour would be so overwhelming.
Our thanks go again to Elvio, his wife Rosi and Peter from Riding Brazil. Our best wishes to all the others.
Detlef and Andrea Lock
In November 2013, I decided to revisit Brazil. To see more of the country, enjoy the beaches and meet up with old friends. But also, with one main purpose: to do a horse ding trail. Not just a couple of hours, but at least a week. I am very happy I found Riding Brazil. It took some organizing and emailing back and forth, but Peter was really helpful, thinking along with me and within a few days it was all arranged. I was welcomed by Elvio and Rose, their grandson Leandro and Nicole, who works for Riding Brazil.
What a great time I had! The riding was fantastic, the scenery amazing, the friendliness and care everyone took of me was wonderful. I have done trails before in other countries, and each time one of the best parts of the trip is the immersion into daily life in a totally different environment. I loved the total absence of a phone or internet connection and the resulting feeling of freedom and quietness. No restless Facebook checking, staying in touch with people and 'urgent' emails. But lots of riding, (good!) food, good company, a bed and a shower. And the places we stayed offered more than that even. Because each house was someone's home, it felt really personal, warm and welcoming and everyone made me feel at home.
What I also liked, was the flexibility and suggestions of Elvio and Rose. For example, the first day I had some time to acclimatize (after an 18 hour trip straight from Holland) and had a little swim and sunbath in the river with Nicole and Leandro, we went to a rodeo one afternoon and evening, we had dinner out in Urubici after I merely mentioned that I loved pizza, and when Nicole found out I would like to experience some cow herding, that's what we did.
As to the horses, they were amazing. Elvio really takes pride in them and looks after them really well. Their sure-footedness and stamina never stopped to amaze me. Steep slopes, deep rivers, rocky underground or tricky mud pools, thick bushes, they took it all in their stride without hardly a misstep.
To remember how good the trip was, I just look at the photos and in each one I see myself smiling like a happy little girl.
So, if you love horses, want to experience real Brazilian country life and to discover more of Brazil than the beaches, Riding Brazil is definitely the place to go.
Yusuf M. Pirgali
London, United Kingdom
I am not a very good rider but my wife is (Coralie Amon), so I was wondering how the horses would be and whether I could sit on them for 7 hours or not!
We arrived at the airport and were greeted by Peter Rohmer with a Taxi waiting to take us to the Ranch, he spoke very good English and could speak fluent Portuguese to the local people, too. This made our communication very easy provided Peter was with us, and he spoke German to my wife when he could.
The journey took around two hours to get into the countryside and gave us a chance to see the country, outside of the main towns and made us realise how beautiful and vast Brazil is. When we arrived at the Ranch of Elvio and Rosie, we were greeted very warmly and made to feel immediately welcome, we were shown our room and were given a nice snack and coffee.The next day we went riding, and the horses were smaller than we are used to in England but took my weight very well, and were a dream to handle as they seem to know what you want to do with out to much effort or control. Over the week we were there my wife and I tried different horses until by midweek I had found the perfect horse who was responsive and fast, but could still tackle the varying landscapes we rode across!
The week went by so quickly and the great hospitality made us feel even more like one of the family, with the great Brazilian cooking done by Rosie, we were able to really feel how they lived as farmers, gauchos and ranchers. The landscape was beautiful, too, with challenging rides and changing scenes that would change by the hour and day. The rides were individually suited to the group Peter had with him, and would take us to areas where we had not been the previous day.
We had two weeks booked for our holiday in Brazil where the second week was staying in Club Med in Salvador, but whilst I was laying by the pool in our second week I thought that I would rather be back in the saddle riding around with Peter and Elvio! So I would highly recommend this trip and it has all the genuine flavour of Brazil and is a good experience without being at all touristy.
I hope to return to Brazil and do this again but next time make it at least two weeks!
Joc and Andy Studdart
Wakefield, United Kingdom
......we had a fantastic holiday, it was really unique in going into the real Brazil and getting to know the people and the place. You as our guide and Elvio and Rosie as our hosts really made the holiday so Thank you very much for that and please pass on our thanks to them. We had some interesting gesticulating conversations after you went!!
I think we could honestly say that it is the sort of holiday you would want to do twice, especially the canyons, that was a very special day, but the views from the top of Monte Alegre was also spectacular. Rio was a complete contrast but a wonderful city, I did not expect it to be so beautiful with stunning mountains, beaches and forrest. Annette was a great guide and we had a lot of fun with her, too.
Joc and and Studdart
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
This year I strayed from the usual Montana riding experience or the alternative of crossing New Zealand to try riding in the Santa Cantarina state of Brazil. I knew the area from business trips and wanted to get behind the cities, hotels and beaches to the real Brazil.
The reality was ahead of my expectations-this riding beats Rockies and European trail riding hands down.
The trip starts with a pick up from the delightful holiday island of Florianópolis, also good for a few days pampering at the end of the trip.
I was early in the season and the ride consisted of myself and the intrepid boss of Southern Cross, the German Brazilian Peter. Driven by the Ranch Owner Elvio we wound up the valley to the mountain town of Urubici. The gaucho experience got off right away with a visit to the local rodeo where I was warmly welcomed despite being as conspicuously foreign as if I had worn a NASA space suit. This is the gaucho life with gaucho people and their lives centres on their horses. You rapidly realize you are not visiting a dude ranch for visitors.
The proper riding started the next day. There is not much in the way of tourist infrastructure here and the tour is cleverly built around Elvios extended family. So you mount up at his Mum's house and then head out trailing from family Fazenda to family Fazenda for a few days, before reaching Elvios own ranch deep in the plateau country.
The horses were sturdy local Crioulo and Crioulo crosses and made short work climbing through the sub tropical vegetation up to the plateaus where we were free to canter at will through the mountain pasture. The saddles are comfortable and padded by 3 layers of sheepskin, and the raincoats came out several times for Lord of the Ring type deluges and proved the best I have used anywhere. The mountain rains made for adventure as we made our way through the sub tropical vegetation along with thunder crashing down.
Most of the time it was bright and sunny and we meandered from fantastic view to fantastic view. Lunchtime was usually an improvised barbecue by a stream and a well earnt snooze after a swig or two of Cachaça.
The horses were rotated regularly since the going is tough and we learnt their individual personalities, as well as the mules that carried packs.
The star mule took our luggage back to civilization at the end of the week causing only slight concern when it disappeared over the horizon with Peters working cash flow for the next few weeks and my passport and credit cards. But in the true Brazilian way order was soon restored.
The accommodation was simple but comfortable and the food and drink varied and plentiful. Evening entertainment centred on what became a needle chess championship or just hanging out drinking wine and beer.
We had plenty of chances to see the ranch at work, from milking (ever tried an early morning cappuccino straight from the udder?), to herding to activities that brought a tear to my eyes never mind the bullocks. Everything is at a steady pace and you can participate a much or as little as you wish to.
Language is an issue but Southern Cross makes sure that translation is available. And in any event, everyone is so friendly and laid back you get the message eventually.
Without reservation, this is a superior alternative to the trail rider in search of an authentic trip. The riding level is moderate and the most required skill is confidence in steep ascents and descents. It's more hanging on than dressage! Once you have gone through the Santa Catarina experience, you will find the conventional European or North American trail ride tame.
It's good value too, at about 1000 pounds including all, but you do need to get to Florianópolis. It's an easy flight from São Paulo and the holiday becomes best value when combined with some sightseeing or sun worshiping to set off the flight costs.
Prices and Travel Details
|10 days / 9 nights
|minimum 4, maximum 6 participants
|We can organize the trails on different dates upon special request
- Private Transfer Florianópolis-Urubici-Florianópolis
- 10 days, 9 overnights, full board
- 8 riding days
- 4 meals /day, refreshments
- Horses and guides
- Alcoholic beverage
- Long distance calls
- Gateway is Florianópolis (FLN)
- No SGL supplement, where available
- For beginners and advanced riders alike