But the newcomers continue to stream in, some to build safe havens in preparation for the 2012 apocalypse prophesied by the Mayans; others simply to join the back-to-the-land movement. “There are a lot of intelligent people realizing that the world is a mess and that things need to change,” says von Koerber. In the coming months, zoologist Marianne Soisalo is opening Eco Nois, a large environmental center complete with exhibit space and a raw-food café, and Daniela Shook, a former model from São Paulo, is planning to add upscale accommodations at the town spa, Mandala.
You can tell a lot about a place by the words you pick up in the local language while visiting. After a week in Alto Paraíso—okay, two weeks; I extended my stay following the toucan incident—my Portuguese repertoire includes periquito (parakeet), miracao (head trip), desenvolvimento sustenável (sustainable development), and As respostas a suas perguntas ja estao dentro de voce (The answers to your questions are already within you). That last line was another pronouncement of Catarina of the Waterfalls. She said it like she really meant it.