May 16, 2013

Santuário do Caraça

Off nestled in the impressive Caraça mountain range, the former monastery and boarding school of Caraça was an experience. A 25km road takes you off of the main highway and brings you through lush forests to the cluster of buildings at the base of a mountain. Here there’s wonderful nature to take advantage of — there are a plethora of well-trodden trails starting on the main grounds, most of them leading the impressive waterfalls and swimming holes.


The evenings at Caraça, however, hold quite a special attraction in store for visitors, the hora do lobo — the hour of the wolf! More ritualistic than it perhaps sounds, one of the priests has trained the wild maned wolves of the area to come up the church steps and eat from a plate of meat scraps he sets out, almost every evening. It’s quite an event!


It works like this: After supper in the impressive dining hall, visitors gather outside near the church steps around a plate of meat scraps as the evening mass starts. Everyone keeps quiet as they can, enjoying the cool evening and the stars above, and waits.

After missing a brief appearance the night before, we got lucky on our second night, when a pair of these majestic creatures silently trodded up the stairs and spent a quarter-hour chomping on the bones in the chicken scraps. It’s amazing that the large crowd (some 20 people this night), awe-struck by the audacity of these animals, doesn’t frighten them. But it doesn’t seem to, and they spend their time cycling between chomping through meat and bones and keeping lookout down the church steps. Quite an experience!!


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