Entremontes and the Xingo Canyons

Breakfast with a view

For Saturday Valeria booked two boat trips, one down river to the town of Entremontes and the other to the Xingo canyons on the reservoir above the dam. She managed to negotiate us a group discount, there being 5 of us, and we got our own boat for both trips.

Our guide to Entremontes, Breno, (contact +557988799727) was a really obliging, informative guy and picked us up from the beach we’d been swimming from on the night before.

The São Francisco River

The town of Entremontes is about 15 km down river from Piranhas and according to Breno the river is well below it’s peak flow. The advantage is that the bigger rocks are visible.  The eddies and over falls between them betray the presence of submerged rocks and the really trick bits are marked with plastic bottles obviously anchored to the bits to avoid, either that or fishing nets.

Our first brief stop was at the Restaurante Angico, the start point of a walking tour to the Gruta do Angico where Lampião and Maria Bonita, 9 other Cangaceiros and one soldier died in an ambush by the Police on Lampiao’s band.  We would have to have waited 50 minutes for the next tour so headed off again for Entremontes.

The river bank at Entremontes

Entremontes was a fishing village but falling river levels put paid to that and, although they still fish, lace work is the main product. I am not sure of the origins of the village but it appears to have been more important than Piranhas originally and was big enough for the Emperor Pedro II to visit and stay over night in 1856 when touring the state. Before he arrived the place was known by a name that translates into something like Warehouse or Storehouse. Pedro observed that the village was surrounded by mountains and Entremontes would be a far better name – and, of course, it was, which is obviously why Emperors get the big bucks!

Igreja da Nossa Senora Conceição

The village is part of a conservation area with many of the buildings being ‘listed’ and are, for the most part, restored and brightly painted.   The church is a rather tired but picturesque building over looking the centre of town and, almost uniquely, is actually being actively renovated – now!  There were actually guys re roofing the church while we were there! The inside was a mess, fallen masonry, roof tiles and birds nests but there was actual restoration work actually in progress – a real first in my experience!

Apart from the Emperor, the other visitor of note was good old Lampião.  He stayed in Entremontes for one night but it would appear service wasn’t up to his expectations as he came back and wrecked the place.

Lampião has been transformed into a bit of a folk hero, he and his wife, Maria Bonita, adorn numerous souvenirs.  The guide to the village, by the name of Cicero, was all dressed up as a Cangaceiro in an outfit of grey overalls (although they generally wore leather to protect against the bush) ammunition belts, machete and water bottle, the traditional ‘bicorn hat’ and “a shot gun loaded with history”.   Ciscero knew a lot about Lampião and used to guide the tour to the Gruta do Angico where Lampião met his end. There is a Youtube video of the tour, but is not of good quality and is unfortunately only in Portuguese.

Beach on the São Francisco River
The ‘road’ to Praia Dulce

On the way back we stopped off at the Restaurant Angico for a beer and a swim before returning to Piranhas for lunch and then setting off for the trip to the Xingo Canyons.. The drive there was ‘interesting’; Google maps does have its limitations and although the track we needed was shown, Google didn’t realise that was where we needed to go.   Having said that, offline Google Maps is brilliant,  we’ve used it everywhere and it seldom let’s us down.

The excursion itself was a little bit of a let down to be honest; the scenery was nice as we cruised across the reservoir and through the canyons although the guide wasn’t overly informative – but the RYA Instuctor in me approved of his boat handling. Our first stop was a swimming session, which was refreshing but hardly necesssry and then we headed off for a smaller, shallow bay which was just deep enough for the boat. Once moored to a sunken tree we got out of the boat and waded / swam for a while.  That little ‘canyon’ was lovely and was the high point of the afternoon.

The centre of Piranhas at night.

Returning from Xingo we had dinner in Piranhas and on the way back to the Pousada I stopped off in the museum housed in the old railway station.  Only cost me R$2, about 50p, and so I couldn’t really complain when they were chasing me out at closing time, I have to take my time reading the information and only got about half way round. Interesting little place with lots about the Cangaceiros. I didn’t realise how recent this all was; Lampião was shot in 1938 but it wasn’t until 1940 that the last Cangaceiro band was captured. Apparently the last surviving member of Lampiao’s band is in her 90s and lives in São Paulo.

And then it was early to bed as we had an early start ahead of our 700 km trek to Chapada Diamantina in Bahia.


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