The priest and the wolves

The moon is running now. It toys with them, flying through their world. Nothing stops it. It cheats the night of its darkness, robs the waters silent sleep and coats the mountains with a silvery cape.  

Bounding across land they chase, sprinting, large and fast, scaling mountains, jumping ravines, zig zagging the trees. Their paws pound the earth, their hind legs, and long tail steering them through the night. Their broad smirks masking their hunger. They’re not alone as they dodge the trees and hurdle the hills, but they have no interest in forest food. They must get to the monastery. The wolves know he’ll be there.  For as long as they can remember, and the time before that, the priests have always come and they have always brought them gifts. Gifts of food.

Their guiding moon has stopped. They have come to the cobbled path that men built long ago. It’s lit by a single lantern, hanging from a rusted old arch. It throws the shadows as it moves to and fro in the wind. They have to be careful now. They’re in another world. Their ears are alert, their eyes are wide and bright.  As they ascend the path, they see their calling sign; he has left the light on, the tinted church windows seemingly floating, pinned to the curtain of night. They can hear the murmurings and see the silhouettes of men. The priest has not let them down. Tonight they will ravage, they will tear and claw at meat, crush bones until nothing is left, but a blood stained ground.

Jeepers Creepers! Are you scared? be honest, you’re shitting yourself aren’t ya? you’re sitting up straight, your knees together and trembling, hiding your face behind your hands.  You believe this will protect your life from all things horrid. But of course you leave one eye exposed, and this curious eye gives you away; you are just like the rest. You need to know, you need to be horrified and disgusted and only then will you be at peace!

Ok, so maybe you think that I’ve gone into the horror writing game, well, it wouldn’t be such a big surprise, was it not an Irish man who wrote one of the greatest horror stories of our time: Dracula. I’m sure he’d be happy to know that his creation, albeit a hundred years on, has spawned a seemingly never-ending string of Vampire books, movies and television series, although I’m not so sure if he’d be chuffed with the new metro sexual version. Imagine this, you are a Vampire. Apart from the obvious advantages of sleeping during the day and not having to work, you also have the ability to change into most animals, live eternally, hypnotise people, literally make friends (and get rid of them as you please), have sex with anyone,  you can even fly! But even cooler than this, you can turn into mist!…mist people, mist, Jesus!  So, tell me, being the most powerful, most evil, and scariest thing ever in the history of anything, why do you now, feel the need to settle down, have babies and get a mortgage? 

Well, Mr. Bram Stoker has nothing to worry about, neither I or anybody has come close to dethroning him, he can rest safely in his grave! Or should I say urn. Don’t you think its kind of odd that the creator of Dracula should have his body cremated rather than left in a crypt?

But unlike all these wonderful stories, my tale is quite different. Because my tale of the Maned Wolves (or the children of the night, as Dracula called them) in the hills of Minas Gerais actually happens, it is indeed quite true, and occurs nearly every night of the year.

At the foot of the church the huge wolves step up onto the old stone staircase . Their tongues licking their sharp teeth, their mouths watering in anticipation, their hair standing on end. They are deadly quiet. They can hear the priest talking, he’s calming the audience. Time stops. The breeze has ceased. Their moon has come to a halt and sits above the church in the starless night. They arrive at the top of the stairs, they see their priest. Men women and children lie in wait. The priest smiles. Their time has come. 

“Guará, Guará”, whispers the priest. 

“Guará, Guará, come, come.”

The huge wolf edges closer and closer. I’m standing 5 feet away. Behind me is my wife, petrified, and without realising it, her way of keeping safe, is by pushing me ever so slowly towards the monsters. But in front of me is a 10-year-old kid, gob wide open, busy taking a million photos. I figure, any problem, any sudden move in my direction, I’ll pick up the kid, throw him to the beast, and make a run for it, oh yeah, grabbing the wife of course.  

We are in Caraça, a park which encloses 110km of Atlantic rainforest. It’s a beautiful place, full of hidden treks and waterfalls, and situated only one hour drive from Belo Horizonte. Nestled in this huge forest valley, hidden away from the outside world is a very charming monastery, and once a boarding school actually attended by some of Brazil’s presidents. Nowadays, it operates as a guesthouse, there have been none if very few changes made, the rooms are the same ones used by the young priests over 150 years ago, there is even an open bible on a small night table to greet you, both looking as old as the monastery itself. With all these wolves running around, maybe it’s a good idea!

The wolf’s ears like radars, rotate back and forth, sensitive to every sound.The priest pushes the tray of red meat towards him.  There are about 30 people with me, all wildly taking photos, the animals are oblivious to it all, and seem rather more interested in any sudden movements made by its spectators. Then looking happy with the situation, slowly, it crouches down, extends its long body, its mouth opening, it’s eyes never moving from the priest’s, it quickly takes a piece of meat and runs back down the staircase into the night.  But the show is not over, not long after, the female appears and more or less copies the same ritual as her male. For the next 45 minutes they each take their turns sprinting up and down the old church staircase until they are satisfied with their meal, then they run back to their forest sanctuary.

I’m an animal lover. So, for me, it was an amazing experience. At the start, yes, you do get this sense this could be taken from an old B-horror movie. But then you see the wolves are more scared of us than we are of them. This decade old story of the feeding of the maned wolves on the steps of the church is very much a unique one. It’s a result of the work of the priests, the traditions, the rules and unity that co-exist between man and nature in Caraça national park. It’s another little gem in the state of Minas Gerais which strangely goes unnoticed. A perfect weekend away.  If you go on a Friday, you wake up on Saturday morning to a view of lush green Atlantic forest. Breath in the fresh air, as you walk through the beautiful Monastery grounds on your way to a filling breakfast of bread, ham, pão de queijo (or course) Minas Gerais cheese (of course), a choice of juices, and fantastically strong and sweet Minas Gerais coffee. If you want, you can even cook your own scrambled eggs. Then put on your walking boots, choose from many short or long treks in the mountains, finishing with a refreshing bath in a waterfall. Then, in the evening, satisfy your hunger with a typical Minas Gerais countryside meal, polished off with a few beers, then go watch the magic that occurs between the wolves and the priest. The next day, you can do the same, and then you’re back in Belo Horizonte in an hour. One nights accommodation, 3 meals each, all for R$160 per couple.  Bargain. 

But Jaysus, it’s also an ideal setting for a good horror flic…

Saliva dripping from its huge jaws, it growls an ungodly sound that surely comes from the depths of hell itself. It eyes the Irish man with satisfaction of impending doom. It seems to smile, as it slowly licks clean its huge teeth, with its repulsively long tongue, readying itself for the kill.  It leaps and roars a deathly sound, “No” screamed his extremely fit Queen, but the dashing King (me) is too fast,  twenty years of martial arts training with Chinese monks in the hills just to the left of the The Great Wall has given him swift and animal-like reactions, and just as it’s teeth are about to set into the head of the attractive King (still me), he picks up the 10-year-old boy and stuffs him into the oncoming gaping hellmouth of the Wolf. “Yes” shouted his stunning Queen, “serves him right for breaking the rules and bringing a camera, little feck…” But before the gorgeous Queen could finish, a metro sexual Vampire sporting a Gucci 3/4 length leather jacket, Ralph Lauren white shirt with protruding collars, a fantastic pair of Giorgio Armani Ocean-blue-swede trousers, and finishing with a ravishing pair of pointed-white-Chelsea boots from Tom Ford….appears unapropriately in a blinding flash of brillant-lavender smoke, grabs the Queen who looks at the metro sexual Vampire in horror and then faints immediately, due to the over powering stench of Channel No.5. “No” shouted the muscular King, but just as the girly Vampire was about to drain her of her credit card, a swooping sound and a deafening roar comes from above the Church. “It’s Dracula” cried the King, “a real Vampire”. Dracula in bat form, flies at the girly Vampire, releasing the sexy Queen from its clutches. Then in the form of the Prince of Darkness himself, he grabs the girly vampire by its head, “I have returned! ” he yelled. “I have returned to rid this earth of all you Calvin Klein boxing-wearing Vampires”. Dracula then squashes the girly Vampire’s head, it explodes. Dracula then picks up the beautiful Queen, motions her awake, stares into her big brown eyes, she is petrified, she screams, and then Dracula with his large….

The End.

….the wolves are here! check out our video:

Lobo Guara do Caraça

For more photos of Caraça, become a friend of  the Irishman in Brazil on the facebook logo at the top of page!

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