Pot-holers [spelunkers] will be thrilled to hear of the existente of PETAR, in the south east of the state of São Paulo, between the villages of Iporanga and Apiaia, near the border with the state of Paraná [Google Maps]. PETAR stands for Parque Estadual Turístico do Alto Ribeira (Alto Ribeira Tourist State Park) and is best known for its more than 300 caves – it is a nature preserve set in the middle of the Atlantic rainforest, very rich in limestone. Some of the caves cannot be visited, others are restricted to spelunkers, and a good number of them are opened to the general public. Being in the middle of the rainforest, PETAR offers, as well as the opportunity of exploring caves, interesting treks along rivers and waterfalls.
Our friend Emília has just been to PETAR and has published on her A Turista Acidental blog a very thorough guide to the park. It is written in Portuguese. Emília is a very friendly Brazilian who will answer queries if you have any – she speaks English. Her blog entries on the subject are:
One of the most complete websites about the region is PETAR Online. It doesn’t have an English version – as a matter of fact, it’s only in Portuguese. As well as information on pot-holing, it contains a section devoted to adventure sports on the area.
There is a youth hostel in Iporonga, the Capitão Caverna Hostel.
For those interested in images of the region, Alex Uchôa, an exceptional photographer, has an album of PETAR online.
You can reach the region using public transportation. The bus company Transpen goes to Apiai, on the area of the park (it leaves from the Terminal Barra Funda bus station in São Paulo). There are four buses per day, the trip lasts 6 hours and costs R$54,70 in November 2007. But a private car comes very handy when it comes to moving around the PETAR area; without a car you will have to pay someone to take you to the different points of interest.