2014 Holiday in Brazil (blog)
|Posted by Nad on 1 March 2014 at 23:46|
|Posted by Nad on 12 April 2014 at 21:23|
|I hadn't heard anything from Mum and Dad well after they should haven arrived, so I sent a worried email. A few hours later they replied with the following final holiday drama!
What a journey home!!!!! We got on the plane at Santiago as planned at 11.55pm, there was a bit of revving and the plane moved away from the terminal, then the captain said we seem to have a mechanical problem we are going back to the terminal. Well we sat there for about 3 hours and then he said that we were going to a hotel for the night. That meant we had to get our luggage off the plane, go through customs and immigration and then get to the hotel. So at 4,30am we got to bed with the alarm set for 8.30am as we had to be at breakfast by 10.30. They were supposed to pick us all up at midday, but of course they didn't arrive until nearly 12.30. Anyway, we then got on the plane to take off at 4.10, however after a few revs and such like the captain said he was sorry but there was the same problem as before and they were waiting for the mechanic everyone burst into spontaneous laughing. Eventually after 2.5 hours, we took off, everyone cheered and clapped lol!
|Posted by Nad on 30 March 2014 at 20:59|
|On Monday the 29th we arrived in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. Beth and I arrived in the morning after more than twenty four hours on the bus. We arrived later than expected too because our bus arrived in Curitiba nearly two hours late due to being held up by a protest. The protest was in São José, a small city just south-east of Curitiba, which has a very dangerous stretch of motorway that a girl had gotten run over on a few days prior. Then during the protest which was occurring just as our bus was on its way through one of the protesters was run over and killed too!! well at least the protest should have made a very clear statement about how dangerous that section of the road is! Here's a picture of the route for our last leg of the journey, and a hazy photo of the sunrise taken through the bus window which matches our mood at the time!
Brasília and its District are located in the Central-West region of the country, along a plateau known as Planalto Central. It has a population of about 3.6 million, making it the fourth largest city in Brazil.
As the national capital, Brasília is the seat of all three branches of the Brazilian government, legislative, judicial and executive. The city also hosts the headquarters of many Brazilian companies. Planning policies such as the location of residential buildings around expansive urban areas, as well as building the city around large avenues and dividing it into sectors, have sparked a debate and reflection on life in big cities in the 20th century. The city's design divides it into numbered blocks as well as sectors for specified activities, such as the Hotel Sector, the Banking Sector or the Embassy Sector.
The city was planned and developed in 1956 with Lúcio Costa as the principal urban planner and Oscar Niemeyer as the principal architect (see also the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba). On April 22 of 1960, it formally became Brazil's national capital. Viewed from above, the main portion of the city resembles an airplane or a butterfly as can be seen in the following image (click on the image too see more detail). For more information about the city and it's interesting structure, see our Brasília category.
Mum and Dad arrived later in the evening and we stayed for our first night all together at Beth's parents house. The house is about an hour out of the main city in Brasília on about ten hectares of land. It's a very hot climate there so they're growing lots of tropical fruit. They also have chickens for eggs and cows for milk and grow sugar cane and corn.
Beth needed some time to get centred and catch up on silence and meditation, but her sister Rosie (pronounced "Horzie") kindly offered to take Mum and Dad out on some of the visitor tours and learn about the city and some of it's most important features and buildings.
One of the outings Rosie took us on was to the Palácio do Congresso Nacional (National Congress Palace) and the Palácio Itamaraty (Foreign Ministry Palace) which were both designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The first photo shows the Congress Palace which looks very interesting from the outside but is (in my opinion) pretty ugly and "boxie" on the inside. The tour through this building was a couple of hours long and guided by a very energetic and passionate women who really seemed to enjoy explaining all the details of the governmental process. Unfortunately they don't have English guides on weekends so we understood very little and Rosie could only translate the most important points as there was a great deal of information delivered continuously and rapidly!
The Palácio Itamaraty was an awesome building, one of Niemeyer masterpieces in my opinion, the bottom floor is a 2200 square metre area without any support columns - that's about ten times the size of Mum and Dads whole house! This room is almost empty apart from a small permanent stone seating area with a interactive art piece in the middle (the photos below show a configuration Rosie and I had just made - some of the layers were stuck so we have to make the most natural shape we could that passed through the immovable ones :-) and a pool with Amazon plants in it at the far end. The building has three floors and contains many huge conference and guest rooms containing many amazing art works, the golden one shown below is called the screaming woman and is on the top floor over looking the other buildings.
We went to quite a number of different restaurants and markets, but one really worth a mention is the Sebinho book shop and café. This is a really nice place to spend a few hours when in Brasília. It's a second hand book shop and has a huge range in English, Portuguese, French, German and more. There's plenty of seating both inside and outside with lots of shade and a very nice café so you can eat drink and read as long as you like. Mum and Dad bought a stack of books and we read for an hour or so while we had coffee and beer. They have wifi too, so I was able to get a bit of work done while the others read their new books :-)
On Sunday night we all had dinner together (Except for Rosie's partner Bizerril who couldn't make it that night). The first picture shows Beth's parents in the middle, Beth's oldest sister Patrícia and her partner Nelson on the left, Beth with the middle sister Rosana and of course Mum and Dad on the right. I'm not in that picture as I'm taking the photo. Later Mum had a special announcement for the family - her original wedding ring was too small for her and so had been kept aside for a special occasion, and last night at dinner when we were all together she gave it to Beth :-)
The holiday's rapidly drawing to an end now with only two full days left before Mum and Dad begin their flight back to New Zealand :-( Dad took everyone out to lunch at a buffet called Mungai that's considered to be one of the best restaurants in Brasília. It was very spacious and there was a very wide range of quite typical northern dishes, with some quite strange ones such as snake's armpits (there's a lot of barren desert in the north, so they have to eat anything they can find!) This was the second time that all ten of us had been together at once, and the first time we could get a photo since one of the waiters was able to take it for us :-) After that we all went our separate ways, with Mum, Dad, Beth and I going for a relaxing walk around the botanical gardens. Mum wanted an ice cream to cool down and she couldn't understand what it said on the packet, but got it anyway since it looked nice. When she tried it it tasted quite odd, so she asked us to translate it, and we found that it was a guava and cheese ice block!!!
It's the 10th of April today, Mum & Dad's last day in Brazil. They really enjoyed it over here seeing such a variety of cities and nature with all the similarities and differences compared with New Zealand. They were really happy meeting this new side of the family too, and Beth and I were so happy to see how well everyone got along together even through the difficult language barrier!
We travelled around seven regions together over the last six weeks which has been more than 4,000km! But as you can see from the maps below, Brazil is enormous and our travels have barely scratched the surface! Another holiday or two will be required to explore more of the north east and Amazonian regions of the country :-)
We all got up at 8am to have breakfast and to say some final goodbyes and then left for the airport at about 9am so we'd have plenty of time before their flight at midday. The check-in process was a lot quicker than expected taking only about 5 minutes, so we spent our last hour or so together at a café in the airport and then said a final goodbye at the departure gate. Hopefully it won't be too long before Beth and I are over in NZ for a visit and maybe some of the Brazilian side of the family will come over while we're there too :-)
|Posted by Nad on 24 March 2014 at 21:00|
|We arrived at our hotel in Curitiba at about 8am on the morning of Monday the 24th after a trip of about ten hours from Foz do Iguaçu. The hotel is located right in the main centre next to the Mueller shopping mall, there were some other choices for hotels and pousadas in nicer areas, but we decided that it would be more convenient to be located right in the centre so it was very easy to get to all the places we wanted to see. We only have four days in Curitiba, but Beth and I lived here for a year so we know it pretty well and can get around quickly. Curitiba is our favourite city in Brazil and being here again we realised how much we miss it :-) Curitiba is planned very well and has great support for getting around on bikes or walking. They have a bike lane (which we call "bikee lanee" to pronounce it the way Brazilians do when they say it in English!) which has a nice portion about 10km long that runs north-south perpendicular to all the traffic along a water way. It goes past some nice bosques (small forests) and other interesting places. The transport system in Curitiba is all done by buses and the main roads are made with a wide lane in the centre which is just for buses (they're very convenient for cyclists too, but it's important to remember that it's made for buses not cyclists!). Many of the main buses are very long articulated ones composed of three segments as shown in the picture below.
The start of this nice segment of bikee lanee is only about 5 minutes walk from our hotel so we went for a walk for an hour or so shortly after we arrived and had breakfast. We wandered along bikee lanee for about 20 minutes until we reached the Bosque do Papa which has some replicas of old Polish settlers houses and a nice walk through the small forest which leads to the Museu Oscar Niemeyer, but we didn't go there because it's closed on Mondays. So instead we went to our favourite café in Curitiba, Caffè Fruttato which has excellent coffee, nice and affordable sandwiches and pastries and a really nice garden with a pond containing huge gold fishes and a big turtle :-)
For lunch we wanted to go to our favourite Chinese vegetarian buffet but it had closed down :-( so we had to search for something else and eventually found another more typical buffet that was quite nice and reasonably priced. In the evening we went for a walk around the old historic centre of Curitiba which still has a lot of the original buildings and is paved with cobblestones. We then went to our favourite restaurant, the Brooklyn Coffee Shop, for dinner. Unfortunately Brooklyn has gone down hill a lot, our favourite vege burger was no longer anything special but had gone up a bit to R$18, and the tap beer was flat :-( at least the brownie and ice cream was still very good and Dad and Mum were happy with their burger and Caeser salad.
On our second day in Curitiba we caught the bus to São Lourenço which is the neighbourhood we rented our first flat in Brazil. We visited our old neighbours to say hi and then walked about 15 minutes to Parque Livre.
We then had some lunch and visited "grandpa" who has a great variety of ice cream flavoured with real fruit. We then walked across to Bosque Alemão which is a park built in honour of the German immigrants who began to settle in the city in the early 19th century. In the park visitors can walk on the trail of Hansel and Gretel and reach the gingerbread and candy house, where usually on Saturday afternoons children listen to tales told by the witch.
In the evening Mum and Dad went to the mall next to the hotel for dinner as it has a big food hall in it with a variety of options, and we went to a little pizza place we've been wanting to visit for a couple of years :-) It's a very interesting place because it has no proper name or brand and makes pizzas a very traditional Italian way. There's even been a news item about them. The next day, Beth and I had a day to ourselves and Mum and Dad went on the tourist bus which travels in a loop via twenty seven different places in Curitiba. For a fixed price of R$29 you can get off at five different places and then get on the next bus that goes by to see the next places. They go by every twenty minutes or so. They stopped at Jardim Botanico (botanical gardens) and Parque Tangua and got some shots of the buildings in memory of the Ukrainian settlers.
On our last day together in Curitiba we went for lunch at a Chinese buffet that was our favourite before we found the vegetarian one we tried to go to a couple of days earlier but found it closed down. This one doesn't have as nicer ambiance and isn't vegetarian-only, but it is exceptional value at only R$8.50 (about NZ$5) for all you can eat! and does have a very wide range of food including many kinds of fruit and vegetables, sushi, various rice and pasta dishes, deep fried prawns and fish and much more :-) on the way to lunch we went via the open market so Mum could get some more chia seeds. The market has a huge range of specific goods such as seeds, herbs and peppers as well as all the usual fruits and vegetables.
The next morning Beth and I had to catch the bus very early for a long twenty four hour trip to Brasília, but Mum and Dad had an extra day in Curitiba as they were catching the plane the next evening instead which is only about an hour and a half! While we were sitting in the bus they did a walk around the historical centre guided by a friend of one of the receptionists of the hotel named Rafael. They visited a lot of the same places we'd already seen, but their guide knew everything about the history of the buildings which Mum and Dad found very interesting. One of the interesting things Rafael pointed out was that the Polish settlers houses shown above are not replicas but were the actual original houses that were dismantled and transported to the memorial park!
|Posted by Nad on 22 March 2014 at 14:25|
|We arrived in Foz do Iguaçu about 9:30am and got a taxi to our pousada to drop off all our gear. The bus trip was over 15 hours but it was comfortable and we were all able to get a fair bit of sleep on the way. Mum and Dad paid extra for very spacious seats on the lower level of the bus which fold all the way down so they could stretch out to sleep more easily (and they also got blankets and free biscuits!), but Beth and I opted for the cheap seats at the top :-) Luckily our rooms at the pousada hadn't been previously occupied so we were able to go in to them straight away and have a shower etc.
We decided that since the weather was a bit drizzly and we were off to a late start it would be best to go to the bird park first. I was kicking myself because I really wanted to get some awesome shots of the birds and butterflies this time but I left the camera at home and Dad's one isn't very good for high quality close shots :-( The falls on the Brazilian side are nothing special compared to the Argentinian side, but the bird park is awesome! there's many exotic birds like Macaws and Tucans and you can go right into the enclosures with them! The last row of pictures below are from our previous trip here a couple of years ago since we had our good camera with us that time, and also the queue to hold the blue Macaw looked to be about an hour long! The light brown birds shown in the third row below with the tuft of feathers on the top of their beaks are Seriemas which we have on our land. That guy looking disapprovingly at me being bitten by the Tucan is a park attendant, he didn't realise that I had previously survived a pampas fox bite so was worried that I could be hurt.
It's not only birds though, they also have a reptile area with snakes, crocodiles and lizards, and a really cool butterfly and humming bird enclosure that you can go into and be surrounded by many colourful butterflies which often land on you. Unfortunately we couldn't get any decent shots with the small snapshot camera, but I managed to get one of a big blue butterfly that landed on a guys shoe :-) The last shot below was actually taken on our land, but I've added it here because it's one of the kinds that were in the enclosure (and also there was space for one more photo!)
On our first full day in Foz, Mum, Dad and Beth all went to Puerto Iguazú in Argentina to see the falls which are far more impressive from the Argentinian side than the Brazilian side. Unfortunately I had to stay behind because I had to catch up on some work, but Beth and I came a couple of years ago and saw both sides then. The falls had a completely different character about them this time, there was much more water and it was very muddy. Here's a few of the best shots Dad got of the falls on the Argentinian side, we have some more here including those taken on our last trip. The first photo is from our trip two years ago, and the second from yesterday so you can see the difference in the character of the water.
As well as the falls themselves there's a lot of interesting animals, lizards and insects to see and interact with there. The main animal attraction are the Coatis, one of which is shown in the first picture below. When we came last time they were very cheeky and would put on performances for people to entice them to feed them, and would even go through people's bags when they weren't looking to get nuts, chocolate, bags of chips and anything else they could find. This was all quite cute and entertaining, but now there are signs everywhere saying that they should not be fed because their attitude has become more aggressive. They've even been biting people and some of them are known to carry rabies which is something that even the most hardy of pampas fox survivors need to avoid at all costs!
On the last day Mum and Dad decided to go on their own to see the Brazilian side of the falls which turned out to be a really good idea because they got to see a lot of the parts of the falls that they had missed the day before because they hadn't had time to do the lower trail on the Argentinian side. Even though the Brazilian side doesn't get as close up to this part it's still an amazing sight to see, and might even be just down to personal taste as to whether one side is better than the other or not, so it's probably best to see both sides just in case :-) Here's some of the best photos from the Brazilian side, again there are more in the category for Foz do Iguaçu here including those from our last trip.
While Mum and Dad were out looking at the Brazilian side, Beth and I did some investigations of our own about Foz do Iguaçu - we found that there's a nice beer made locally called Chopp Promalcer which we had with a chwarma and a pizza on Lebanese bread at a nice little place called Brasaburger. Then on the way back to the hotel we found that there was also ice cream made locally in Foz do Iguaçu too and the two Litre was only R$11 so we went back to the hotel and had some of that before a swim which was very nice. We had to get the bus a few hours later so we still had a lot of ice cream left, but the girls at reception were very happy to help us out with that problem!
We then got a taxi to the main bus terminal and set off about 8pm back to the east again heading for Curitiba about 650km away. The trip was a fair bit shorter this time (about ten hours), in fact the trip to Foz from Florianopolis actually went via Curitiba so we were going back exactly the way we had come. Mum and Dad still were in the comfortable seats on the bottom level with us in the cheap seats at the top again :-)
|Posted by Nad on 13 March 2014 at 22:27|
|We set off from Cambará do Sul about 9am so we could get up to Florianópolis by early evening. The drive was a bit longer than expected because the routes that Google maps provided us turned out to have very long stretches of rough dirt road on them which we didn't want to risk in our tiny Fiat packed full of baggage and people! So we had to go south out of Cambará instead of north, then turn back north from Terra de Areia about 75km south-east of Cambará. You can see the route that Google gave us in blue on the map below, and marked in red is the route we ended up taking after talking to some locals. We then got into Florianópolis which is about 350km north/north-east of Cambará at about 6:30pm. The weather was misty and rainy all the way up, and Florianópolis itself was pouring and looked like it was seriously set in and the weather forecast says it will be like this for the whole week!
Our pousada, Porto Lagoa (located here) was really nice, a well made tidy and spacious wooden house with kitchen and lounge area down stairs and bedrooms up stairs. It's situated close to Lagoa da Conceição east of the middle of the island and is very close to some nice restaurants, cafes, markets and other shops. Actually we highly recommend people stay at this pousada when they come to Florianópolis for the first time because the guy who runs the place, Paulo, speaks reasonable English and knows all the trails and attractions inside out - in fact he designs the maps for many of the tourist establishments!
The rain let up a bit later in the evening so we went up the road for some Sushi as there's a nice looking place only 100 metres up our road. It was really good sushi too, better than I've had in years! the chef was really nice too and talked to us a lot to practice his English - he also made lots of nice special dishes for us like a small dish of fish marinated in lemon and a dish of salmon decorated into the shape of a rose and served on fire! (missed the photo of that dish sorry)
Amazingly the next morning was perfect blue sky even though the forecast was still saying there would be nothing but bad weather persisting for the whole week :-) so we decided to make the most of it and get down to the beach asap! Paulo, the guy who runs the pousada, recommended some good places we could go during our stay here including a nice local track through the sand dunes to Praia da Joaquina which is one of the main beaches to see in Florianópolis. We could tell it was definitely a local track by the extremely dodgy "bridge" across the swamp to the dunes! The beach was really nice with very fine white and gold sand, massive dunes to jump on, and perfect blue ocean with largish but very safe waves to swim in :-) The north end of the beach was quite populated, but not too bad since we've arrived shortly after the holiday period, but most of the beach was empty and quiet.
Today (Saturday) we went to the south of the island. It was a really nice area down there with very quaint little villages right up against the sea (the sea is very calm there since we were on the western side which is facing towards the mainland). It reminded me a lot of Devonport about 30 years ago with all the little old boats on the sand :-) we liked it so much there that Beth and I called up a number we saw on a small 1000m2 section a few streets back from the beach with a run-down little house on it that was for sale, but we didn't entertain that thought for much longer when they told us they wanted at least R$1 million for it!!!
We also got some nice shots of a butterfly we haven't seen anywhere else and some cool local graffiti :-)
Dad and Mum spotted a couple of tiny monkeys with long bushy tails in the tree outside the pousada, but unfortunately the little things were flitting about too fast for them to get any photos. They were very cheeky too, when Dad was looking up at them they both all of a sudden simultaneously propped their bums up and peed at him!!! We were able to identify them well enough to find out what they were though which is a Black-tufted marmoset, you can see how small they are from the photo we found below of one of them with a bunch of bananas. Later in the day we went for a walk around the town centre and Dad managed to snap a great shot of a fisherman casting his net just as we were walking past.
On Monday we got up early so we could get started on a 7km bush walk around the side of the lake before it got too hot. The trail ends at a place with some restaurants we could have lunch at and then take a nice ferry trip back rather than walking in the hot afternoon sun. It was a very pleasant trail with a lot of nice places to stop and enjoy the beach by the side of the lake, small waterfalls, and an old mill house.
Unfortunately the heat became too much for Mum after a few hours and we still had a few km to go to get to the end, but luckily just as we thought it best to stop we arrived at "Ponto 13" (the 13th stop of the 19 in total). The guy there was very friendly and advised us that the waterfall further on was very dangerous and we'd be much safer drinking beer at his restaurant! well being a local who had lived there all his life we thought he probably knew best, so we sat down for a beer and a nice meal of prawn muqueca :-) the guy was very down to earth and sat with us at our table talking about local life there, he also showed us some of the model boats he'd carved from the local drift wood - some of them have even been taken back to New Zealand by various visitors over the years! We then caught the ferry back to "Ponto 3" where we'd left the car.
Today, Wednesday, is our last full day in Florianópolis :-( we decided to go and check out a trail that sounded not too difficult at the south east end of the island which started at a beach called Solidão. The beach and trail were very nice, the trail passes some small houses where the people still live very simply without any electricity, one cute house had a nice white horse in it which followed us a little way down the trail. The trail ended at another nice beach and a restaurant that we were going to have lunch at, but it was closed! as it turned out it was very fortunate that it was closed though, because after we walked back we found a really awesome restaurant called Ana Maria at the end of the next beach to the north, Pântano do Sul.
We had a huge meal of four types of prawns, fish, chips, rice, salad and even a couple of fish balls and a small deep fried crab that only cost about eight NZ dollars each! plus they sold a local type of Guaraná that was so nice that even mum had a few glasses and she normally hates soft drinks! The north end of the beach was a really cute little village that was right on the beach - so much so that the waves were coming in past the parked cars! we also saw a boat on the beach which looked at first like it was named Zenia, but turned out to be Zenir :-)
We left Florianópolis on Friday the 21st and set off in a bus 936km west to the Iguaçu falls which is located on the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay which you can see on Google maps here. We had to leave the pousada about midday, but the bus to Foz left at 6pm so we had a few hours to have a look around the city before we left. It was quite a change from what we had come to think of as Florianópolis because the area we'd being staying in the pousada was more like Waiheke island with lots of little cafés and restaurants, beaches, quaint villages and people walking round in their swimming gear often carrying surf boards with them. But the main city area where the bus station was is very much like Porto Alegre with open markets, street performers and a lot of tall high-rises intermingled with older buildings. We wandered around for a bit and ended up relaxing in a nice bar with well priced prawn pastels and nice tap beer, the fish and prawns in the market were well priced too and all caught locally on the island. The shot of the bus below is taken at one of the stops along the way at about 3am, every few hours it stops so people can stretch their legs, have a quick smoke and buy a coffee or snack.
|Posted by Nad on 10 March 2014 at 20:59|
|We arrived in Cambará do Sul in the late afternoon and unpacked our things into the pousada that Beth had booked a few weeks ago. We had separate double rooms with a shared deck which you can see in the photo below, our room is on the right and Mum & Dads on the left, and the middle door is the hallway. Cambará has a lot of nice waterfalls and canyons which we'll go and look at over the next few days.
Cambará is a very small tourist town about 170km north of Canela and Gramado, there's not really much for the locals to do as everything is set up primarily for the tourists, so they're left to find their own entertainment like this young fellow practising his lassoing skills on a wooden cow in the main street...
The guy who runs the pousada we're staying at had some pamphlets for the local restaurants and one looked really nice with a speciality of a fish or prawn soup served in a pumpkin. We went there and the place was very nice, but when we looked at the menu and saw that the pumpkin meal was R$90! well that's just highway robbery!!! we got straight up and walked out... but we couldn't find anywhere much better especially since Beth and I are vegetarian, so we ended up having to pay R$25 for a small bowl of soup! (at least it was nice soup though).
We got up early the next morning so we could get to the canyons early as the guy who runs the pousada had said that the visibility tends to be better in the mornings. The breakfast served at the pousada was simple but nice with a few different kinds of breads and cheeses, a toasted sandwich maker and some fruit. To drink there was coffee, fresh pineapple juice and a carafe of a nice Brazilian drink consisting of Mamão (large papaya), banana and milk which all go really well together.
We then set out for Parque Nacional Aparados da Serra which are the canyons closest to the pousada. Unfortunately visibility was very low, it cost about R$25 in total for us all to enter the park and they warned us that we would likely not be able to see anything, but we went anyway as we really need to get out and stretch our legs. Although it was extremely misty it was a very nice walk and we did get some quite nice pictures and met some nice people too, a couple from Spain and a girl from Russia :-)
We got some nice close up shots of this big black vulture too!
We asked the guy who runs the pousada (I should know his name by now!) if he knew anywhere we could eat that was more oriented towards locals rather than tourists - even he couldn't disguise his shock at hearing the cost of the soup in a pumpkin! he mentioned a small place on the main road called Regina which we went to and found really nice. It was simple food of Brazilian beans and rice, chips, salad, eggs and a steak for Dad and they had Mums favourite ice tea and espresso for me. It was really reasonably priced at R$13 for ours and R$17 for Dads with the steak and that included more rice, beans or eggs if we felt like more! not only that but when we arrived the restaurant part was closed that night and the women opened it up especially for us! I think we'll go there again tomorrow night :-)
Today (Wednesday) we went to Parque Fortaleza which is a bit further away. It was even more misty today, but this place was amazing! the canyons were huge (over 1000 meters deep) and there were no signs or fences or anything there, which is extremely dangerous but made it a truly awesome experience. We found it incredible that we were able to sit right on the edge of a vertical drop over a kilometre high! You had to sit down and shuffle towards the edge to avoid getting vertigo and feeling sick and dizzy!
When we got back to the car there were some small Graxaim (Pampas fox) there waiting for us :-) we have these on our land and we hear them calling each other nearby in the forest most nights, but we haven't actually seen them yet so it was nice to see some here today. They're very cute and it looks like they're used to the visitors at the park giving them food scraps, so I thought it would be a nice idea to give some of our granola to one of them...
Lesson learned: When a place that doesn't even bother to put handrails at the edge of thousand meter cliffs puts signs in the car park telling you not to feed the wild animals, you don't feed the wild animals!
|Posted by Nad on 5 March 2014 at 21:29|
|The drive to Canela and Gramado from Porto Alegre is about two hours, the first hour is quite boring as it's all through the industrial outskirts of Porto Alegre, but the second hour is a nice drive through natural bush which is very similar to driving through New Zealand native bush. The altitude raises slowly from sea level up to about a thousand metres. The following photo that's almost a compulsory shot is the view from the bridge leaving Gramado on the road to Canela which is about 7km further. On a very clear day you can see hundreds of kilometers into the distance and really get a bit of an idea of the size of Brazil which is almost six thousand kilometers from top to bottom!
We rented a nice little pousada in Canela as a base while we visit some of the sites around here over the next week, so we dumped all our stuff there and got an early night. A pousada is something sort of halfway between a hotel and a B&B and are a very popular and cost-effective form of accommodation in Brazil. The next day after a compulsory stop at our favourite cafe (Confeteiria Martha) we decided to show Mum and Dad our land since the weather was good and it could possibly be the only chance to get there in our tiny red car! The quickest route by car is to go via Barragem do Salto which is a dam about 18km from our place (our place is about 35km out of Canela).
Driving across the dam can be very dangerous because the road has huge breaks and pot holes in it, and after its been raining the water raises up over the road concealing the uneven surface completely. Dad was quite shocked because the road is never closed even though the water level will sometimes be a metre over the road with a very powerful current making it impossible for even the strongest 4x4's or trucks to cross. We've crossed it in our Lada Niva with about 30cm of water and even that was pretty touch and go!
It's a real contrast to the "nanny state" method of governance we're used to in the west. Another similar thing Dad and I find really interesting was the way that buildings are constructed over here, where they form the main structure from concrete using old wood panels nailed together to form molds to pour the concrete into that are held up with tree branches. Bricks then fill up the walls between the concrete supports. This method is used for nearly all buildings from one or two story shops up to huge forty story apartment blocks and allows any construction company to do it without needing cranes to lift heavy prefabricated concrete panels.
The little red car made it no problem, but we left it at the top of the road about a kilometer from our house because the last bit of the road is the worst and if there was any rain we wouldn't be able to get it out again, so we hiked down the last bit with all our bags.
Mum and Dad were really excited to finally see our place in real life :-) they stayed for one night, but were a bit scared to stay longer as there was some rain and they'd remembered the photos we'd taken of the river rising up and coming only a few meters away from the house! So after some photos of the vege patch and a short walk around our little forest we had some lunch and headed back to our place in Canela again.
On Thursday we all got up early to go and visit Arca Verde (Green Ark) which is a rural community about 10km out of São Francicsco de Paula who grow all their own food using permaculture and agro-forestry techniques. They also make their houses with various natural building techniques such as straw-bale, mud & daub and adobe.
After that we went to Gramado so Mum & Dad could check out the architecture and culture there which is quite unique within Brazil. The whole place has a very strong German influence as many German settlers arrived there a hundred years or so back. Many people there still have a strong German accent and look quite German too.
Beth's Dad had got some of our soil analysed and the results said that it was extremely acidic. Mum and Dad recommended that adding limestone to the soil would help a lot with this, so today (Saturday) we picked up a 50Kg sack and went to the land again to plant some fruits, vegetables and nitrogen-fixers we'd got from Arca Verde and to spread the Lime over the garden beds. This time instead of going via Barragem do Salto (the dam) we went the longer way via Passo do Inferno (Hells pass), Vaca Velha (Old cow) and Lava Pé (wash feet). Even though it's a rough dirt road about 30km long this route with all its crazy names is actually an official numbered highway that the bus goes on! just imagine a bus timetable in New Zealand saying "old cow at 9:45, wash feet at 10:30" :-) This route is also much more scenic with some nice lakes and a big gorge which we stopped at to get a photo - there were also a bunch of Gauchos taking in the scenery and Dad managed to get a sneak shot of them too ;-)
We left the little Fiat up the top of the valley again since it probably wouldn't handle the steep slope out again, so we had to come back for the sack of lime. Dad was feeling adventurous and volunteered to take Nivinha through the muddy forest path and up the hill to get it. Here's a shot of Beth looking very concerned about his impetuous decision while she's explaining all Nivinhas quirks to him!
But all went well and Dad got us through the mud safely - although he did drive our car into a tree! but Nivinhas such a sturdy Russian car that we were more worried about the poor tree :-)
All the vegetables were much bigger and doing quite well, and there was even some colour in the vege patch - a few more tomatoes which we had with lunch and some bright pink flowers which almost have Mums name, they're Zinnias :-)
On our last full day in Canela we all went to visit some friends of ours who are renting a place on some rural land in Barragem do Salto (the dam about 18km from our land). They had some other friends visiting too and one of them, Rochelle, had lived in Australia for a couple of years and was keen to meet us and practice some English :-) I took one of my large hacky sacks along as I suspected that it'd be something Rafael would enjoy, and I was right - me, him and another friend, Dennis, played for a couple of hours and I woke up the next morning having a fair bit of trouble walking as I haven't played for a long time now!
Like us, Rafael has the Bugio monkeys come and visit in the trees in their garden, unfortunately it was getting a bit too dark by then so the couple of photos below taken by Dennis are the best any of us could get of them. There's also a photo of Mum holding a brazil nut shell, none of us knew that the brazil nuts we're used to actually come in a group of eight or ten that are encased in an even larger shell about the size of a cricket ball.
Then on the morning of Monday the 10th we packed up ready to head off to Cambará do Sul. The dogs at the pousada were sad to see us go, but at least they were able to comfort each other :-) Before leaving Canela we had one last visit to our favourite cafe, Confeitaria Martha for some coffee and pastries.
|Posted by Nad on 2 March 2014 at 00:24|
|We picked Mum & Dad up at Porto Alegre airport at about 1:20am on Tuesday 25th, they were pretty jet-lagged but in good spirits :-) They first arrived in Santiago, Chile and then got a flight into São Paulo and then another flight to Porto Alegre. Mum was really hungry because she couldn't eat any of the food on the plane since it all had gluten or other things which aren't part of her strict diet! Luckily Beth had pre empted this scenario and bought some nice fresh fruit so she could have some good healthy food back at the hotel. We're staying at a place called Hotel Açores on the top floor where we can look down on the street and some interesting buildings below. Our first dinner together was very Brazilian with rice, beans, beer and a soccer match on the TV right next to us :-)
The beer we're drinking in the photo is Ceveja Polar which is brewed locally here in Rio Grande do Sul (but not really - shhh!). Note that it's web address is polar.rs - they really like to think of themselves as a totally different country down here, so the local businesses often use the .rs top-level domain which is actually for the Republic of Serbia, but also conveniently matches the two-letter state code for Rio Grande do sul :-) this is actually mentioned on the Portuguese wiki entry for the domain.
This week has mostly been about taking it easy so Mum & Dad can recover from their jet lag! The main things we did here in Porto Alegre was to introduce them to some of the local food such as Pão de queijo and Açaí (prepared as a frozen fruit drink with Guaraná and blueberry, apple or grape) and show them some of our favourite cafés and restaurants around here - there's some really nice vegetarian Chinese buffets with a huge range of delicious dishes. The first photo below is taken at Beth's favourite Indian restaurant which serve just a single meal so there's no trouble deciding what to have! The second one is a little less of a cultured setting and is their first taste of the traditional Guaraná fruit in the form of a soft drink :-)
They also really liked checking out the street markets and performers and the architecture of the many old buildings which are scattered throughout the city. The old man below is playing classical songs on an acoustic guitar and accompanying it by playing a leaf in his mouth.
On our last day in Porto Alegre we went to the botanical gardens to have a look at some of the exotic plants and at the similarities and differences of the plants and weather between here and New Zealand. Unfortunately we were a bit too slow and missed out on the snake enclosure which had closed half an hour before we got to it.
On Monday, we then hired a cute little red Fiat and set off for Canela!