Brasilia and a Bloody Big Bug!

We were awoken on Saturday by the distinctive rasp of a toucan just outside the truck's window. What a lovely way to wake up on another hot sunny morning. Another, was the full buffet breakfast provided by the hotel whose car park we were parked up in. We never quite understood why parking and breakfast combined in that way, but we enjoyed it anyway. Heading almost due east again towards Pirenopolis we traversed the Brazilian National road: BR-070. Our sat nav (always a temperamental lady) insists on calling all National Roads in Brazil "British Rail", like some sort of crazed,ex-colonial, Anglophile type. Anyway this section of the national road wasn't quite up to the moniker, although tar some of the way, they hadn't extended it to any of the difficult bits. So all the hills, valley and bridges were rough, single track, red dirt and the flat bits in between were smooth as silk asphalt. image About 20km short of town we stopped at a working cattle farm and historic sugar mill: Fazenda Babilonia. It was declared a national monument in the 60's as an example of a slave built, Portuguese colonial farmhouse. However cruelly it was built, the house was a real rustic beauty. With two large verandas running on either side, massive tree trunk sized wooden floorboards and white adobe walls contrasting nicely with its gently faded greeny blue shutters. Although a museum piece at the weekend it was obvious that during the week it was still used as the family's living quarters. Our main reason for coming to the farm was that they have resurrected the traditional Tropeiros recipes, Portuguese muleteers who came deep inland to find land to farm. With no methods of refrigeration and with food scarce. They had to get ingenious with their preservation techniques and recipes. Served and cooked on one of the huge verandas on a table big enough for several families of farm workers we were presented with dish after dish of delicious foods. From breads made of manioc flour, pork preserved in its own fat, sausages, several types of home made cheeses and a whole variety of tasty morsels wrapped in either maize or banana leaves. In the end we counted 25 separate dishes, excluding home-made jams and sauces. Each had a history and story behind them and all were served up with an explanation from the ladies from the farm. Our favourite was the unusual combination of hot Requeijeo cheese and sugarcane molasses recommended by the farm owner, whilst the girls loved the hot chocolate made with milk fresh from the farm. We positively waddled around the farm yard admiring the cows with the huge horns and the antique farm equipment. imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage Pirenopolis is another Portuguese colonial town. The architecture is very different from spanish colonial, the houses are usually single story, less grand but far cuter looking with their brightly painted shutters. Their churches are also less imposing looking, far more in tune with their tropical surroundings. The town was thronged with people visiting for the weekend as it is just a few hours from the cities of Brasilia and Goias. After looking around for a while for a place to stay we eventually found a small campsite/posada that had space for us and a pool to cool down in. On Sunday morning we set out to explore the town, it was very beautiful but the huge numbers of people, traffic and heat (39°C) made it feel less impressive than sleepy Cidade de Goias, which we'd loved just two days before. I am sure it is a different story the rest of the week though as we were the only people in the Posada that night. image image image image image image In the forested hills surrounding Pirenopolis are several reserves with waterfalls. Although baking hot walking to the two falls in Ecologica Vargem Grande Reserve the water was refreshingly icy. As we lounged on the postcard perfect sandy beach next to the pool at the bottom of Cachoerira do Lazaro falls, the sky darkened and the heavens opened. In a natural bowl with jungle all around and above, we watched the thunderstorm flash overhead. We enjoyed the sensation of goose-bumps after so many weeks of ridiculously high temperatures, as we sheltered under a tree. Unfortunately the reserves don't allow camping, so we headed a little way back along the dirt road to a view point over town and the forest to sleep up for the night. image image Brasilia, Brazil's capital was created in the 60's to take the government's power more into the centre of the country and away from the coast. Famed for its Modernist architecture and urban planning it is the only modern City with UNESCO world heritage status. Planned and developed by Lacio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, Often mocked for its utopian and soul less urban planning, we really liked the city. Laid out in the shape of an aeroplane, the parts we wanted to see where mostly in the "fuselage" section with the highest concentration in the "cockpit" area. The ease of getting around also made a nice change, constantly having to navigate through new cities gets wearing. We took the bus in from the youth hostel we were camping in, in the "tail" section towards the centre. We were amazed to see the buses had "best before" labels on them, they should last 7 years and have a date at the front when they should be retired from service. Also that alongside the usual invalid seat categories at the front, the number one criteria of who should get a seat was obese people! The white painted Niemeyer designed buildings were certainly very different from what we'd seen before and in such profusion, scattered throughout the central axis of the city. The cathedral and Don Bosco sanctuary were two of the most peaceful and spiritual churches we've been to on this trip. Both with stained glass, suffusing the sanctum with light. Many of the buildings including the National Congress used convex and concave bowls as well as other modernist shapes as part of their design. Our progress around town was also aided by the thunderstorm the preceding evening which had broken the unseasonably hot spell we've been having. The ambient day time temperature was now 10 degrees lower, a far more manageable 28°C. imageimage image image image image image image image image One of my favourite little features that the truck has is the concertina mosquito net that is part of the door. We've never seen another truck with it and its brilliant at keeping bugs out. Just how good it is I didn't really appreciate until last night, just as the girls were trying to get to sleep, a huge, and I mean HUGE! cockroach type insect landed on it. The beast was more than 10cm from head to tail and then its antenna were another 10cm on top of that. It was about the same size as a small bird. Of course much hilarity (especially from the girls and I, safely inside the truck) ensued while we tried to get Steve to take a photo of it and then as we flicked it away. Lucy, our little entomologist, of course wanted to put it in her bug catcher but even she had to admit defeat when she realised it was about twice as big as her little plastic pot. Looking it up later we think it was a titan beetle, the worlds second biggest beetle, it has a powerful jaw that can even snap a pencil in half! image Our last day in Brasilia was spent shopping for clothes that the girls had grown out of and replacing broken stuff. The highlight of the day was lunch at a fancy Churrascoria, a restaurant where different types of meats are brought round by waiters with barbecue on swords. They only stop when you turn over a slip of paper to red, it was fabulous! Maybe that's an unusual statement from someone who was vegetarian for 17 years but it was excellent.

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