The monastery at Parque Caraça is about as serene as you can imagine. It’s nestled alone in a valley, at least 15 km from the nearest soul. It’s simple, but architecturally stunning against the surrounding mountains. Now, part of the facility welcomes visitors as an amazingly affordable pousada. All meals are included and served in the giant hallowed dining halls. We slept in the ‘Brother’s Wing’.
If you would like a chance to play modern-day Saint Francis of Assisi and coexist with nature in a peaceful countryside, this might be your calling. Hiking trails lead up into the hillsides in every direction. Pairs of parrots roost in the churches eaves, other birds have nests full of chicks in each bush, giant tree frogs hang lazily from the branches. And, then there’s the wolves…
In an attempt to befriend the local maned wolves, the priests started leaving offerings of dinner scraps for their blessed neighbors. Each night, after a church service and a traditional snack of chá e pipoca (syrupy sweet tea and popcorn), the few guests can wander outside to the front steps and wait for the other nocturnal visitors.
After the food was placed, we sat on the steps and patiently waited. Bode was reading a book, but still managed to be the first to spot a wolf quietly climbing the 22 steps to the cathedral. We were frozen and silent as this wild animal studied us before deciding to come closer.
These are tall and lanky canines – rusty brown, with a black stripes on their neck and black feet. They are clearly timid and wary of humans – always looking toward the steps as an escape – but still confident enough to come within a meter of a spectator, looking us right in the eyes. At no time do you think this is a tame animal.
After a few bites and a pork chop for the road, the first wolf scampered off. Amazed at what just happened, we waited longer and saw 2 wolves come 3 times over the course of the next few hours.
But, despite the presence of a full bar at a monastery, sitting outside on the stone steps began to get uncomfortable and we eventually decided to turn in for the night. One we won’t soon forget.