Reflections on Brazil

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Lucy

My favourite thing is the Brazilian flag. I think it is green for the rainforest, a yellow diamond for the dry land and a blue circle for the sea because Brazil has all those places.

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We went to the Pantanal, it was very exciting. We discovered that Hyacinth macaws are really endangered but where we were there there were lots of them, they were very noisy. Blue macaws are not endangered but we only saw two of them. Mummy found me a huge long tail feather from one of them. We didn’t see jaguars on my birthday but we did see them on the second and third day. We were all very excited but Daddy was the most excited.

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We went to Rio and stayed near “Coco-banana” beach. We went to the beach but the sea was very cold. I knew all the places because of the movie “Rio”. We couldn’t go to Christ the Redeemer because it was so busy. I wanted to dance in front of the statue like the birds do in the movie.

Alisha

We were really lucky in the Pantanal to see jaguar, I really wanted to see a cub but they were all adults.

In the Diamanté National Park, I found a real diamond on the ground. It had lots of flaws in it though, so when we held it over a flame to test it it broke in two. I don’t mind though now I can make it into a necklace and a ring.

In Brasilia we saw lots of beautiful buildings. I especially liked the cathedral because of its funny shape.

We went to Rio and stayed in an apartment, it was a bit weird because there were clothes in the cupboard and things in the bathroom that belonged to someone else. We liked staying near Ipanema beach. There were ladies walking around in tiny bikinis with their bottoms hanging out. The one thing I really wanted to see in Rio was carnival but it wasn’t the right time. I’ll have to come back when I’m older for that.

A carnival costume I designed:

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We went to a German town where there was a big Christmas display. It felt very strange seeing Santa, snowmen and baby Jesus in the stable when it was baking hot and we were wearing shorts and T-shirts.

Gilly

We’ve been in Brazil longer than any other country on this trip and we have seen so many different things. The driving distances have been long as we’ve crossed the country but as we wiggled down the coast, it has often been just a few hours between beaches.

Brazil has some of the world’s best beaches, being here in early summer meant that the weather wasn’t always sunny but it was lovely and warm and we often had them almost to ourselves. Many of the beaches were backed by the Atlantic rainforest as well, which ticked all my “tropical beach” fantasies. The sunshine helped us fall in love with Rio too, we had been 5 years ago in their winter and although we enjoyed ourselves it didn’t standout. This time though, staying just behind Ipanema beach with everyone out enjoying themselves, we love it and totally understand what all the hype is about.

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We’ve come to love the Brazilian buffet, good, hearty, home style food usually paid for by weight. As you enter a launchonete, you are handed a slip of paper, you fill up your plate, it’s weighed and you pay on leaving. There is always salad, rice, beans and a whole host of meats and stews. It’s been ideal for the girls as they can chose exactly what they like and Steve and I have got to try lots of unusual Brazilian dishes. Even better for the girls though has been the self-service, pay by weight ice cream buffets! The range of flavours were astounding with a whole gamut of fruits we have never heard of, again a great chance for Steve and I to try new things out and the only thing restricting the girls has been their parents.

Steve

I have really loved been in Brazil. We have spent 9 and a half weeks here and driven just less than 10,000kms but we still only saw a part of it. It’s such a big country with so much to see that there would still be plenty more for us to see if we did not need to head South. We have struggled with the language here although towards the end we did start to understand a little of what was been said. It will be good to be back in a Spanish speaking country so we can communicate better with local people again.

Even with the language difficulties the people have been very friendly and helpful. The sights we have seen have been fantastic. My highlight must be watching a Jaguar swimming and hunting in the Pantanal. The Pantanal was fantastic and staying in the grounds of the Porte Joffre Lodge was a perfect place to be. We have also spent some great times on the beach which have been so different from one an other but are all great places to relax.

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We have also seen some lovely Colonial town and I particularly enjoyed our time in Rio, definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The food has been first class and we had some lovely meals at Churrascarias where I fully indulged in the fantastic meat that was on offer. Mind you we are going to be eating great meat for a while as it will be just as good in Argentina.

As we headed South in the country it became more developed. The Southern part is really no different from Parts of Europe. This was especially the case around Blumenau where it looked like Germany although with a more tropical twist.

All in all a great country and I am sure we will be back one day.

Beer and a Big Waterfall

With the hot weather in Brazil it has been nice to have a cold beer at the end of the afternoon. However the best part about the beer is that it is cold. The main brands have, to be honest, been quite tasteless similar to much of the beer in South America generally.

Brazil has received lots of immigrants over the years and there are communities from Japan, Italy and many other countries scattered around the country. In the South of Brazil an area was settled by immigrants from Germany and they have retained much of their German customs and traditions including brewing Pilsner the pure way.

So with Christmas approaching we decided to head to Blumenau to see if we could stock up with some good beer for Christmas. Blumenau hosts the second largest Oktoberfest in the world and whilst we had missed that we were sure we could find some good beer at the small breweries in town. The first night we headed to an English pub that served German beer and English fish and chips. Wandering around the town it felt more like we were in Bavaria than Brazil. There were a number of alpine style buildings which seemed very strange in the heat.

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The next morning we headed to the exhibition grounds called Vila Germanica. There was a Christmas market on and it was just like the markets we were used to from our time living in Central Europe. The girls enjoyed all the Christmas decorations and exhibits but said it felt strange it been nearly Christmas when it was so hot.

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Later we headed to a brewery to grab some supplies. Not having satisfied our beer shopping needs we headed to another “German ” town not far away called Pomerode. Here we decided to sample the beers before buying some more supplies. Wanting to sample them more extensively and to enjoy some German sausages we needed to find somewhere to park for the night. As we could not find anywhere we headed to the tourist office and they told us to just go and park at the local exhibition grounds where they had all the facilities and we could park for free. Very German, very nice and very well organised. We were then able to return to the brewery restaurant for dinner.

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Our last stop in Brazil was Iguazu Falls. This necessitated another long 850km drive so we had 2 long driving days spending the night at a truck stop again. Along the way we stopped for our final Churrascaria at a truck stop for lunch. It was delicious.

Just outside Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian side is a Youth Hostel with nice camping. It also had a swimming pool so made a great place to camp up for our visit as it was hot again.

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We intended to visit the falls on both the Brazilian and the Argentinian side. The Brazilian side gives a better panoramic view of the falls which stretch 2.7kms whilst the Argentinian side takes you closer to the falls although the pathway to the biggest falls had recently been washed away in the floods.

As it was a Sunday there was a long queue to get into the falls. Most of the visitors were Brazilian with only a smattering of non South American visitors. Once inside the park a bus took us to the start of the trail overlooking the falls. We had all visited the falls before on a holiday to Brazil and that time had stayed in a hotel inside the national park right next to the path overlooking the falls. This had been fantastic as we were able to walk the trail before the park opened. As we are Overlanding this time as opposed to just having a holiday the hotel was not an option.

However even with the crowds the views were just as spectacular as last time and the weather was fantastic too so that at various points rainbows appeared in the spray from the falls.

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The trail is only about 1.5 kms long but the views along the way were truly memorable.

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The trail finished at a large waterfall where you were able to get very close to the waterfall which also meant you got pretty wet from the spray.

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We had a fantastic day out. Iguazu Falls have been voted one of the seven natural wonders of the world and it certainly lives up to its billing.

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To get to the Argentine side of the falls meant we would be leaving Brazil and crossing the border. We have really loved Brazil and even though we have stayed over 2 months could have quite happily spent longer.

Even though it is only a short distance to get across the border it was still quite a long day. First money had to be sorted so we could take dollars into Argentina. Then the border needed to be negotiated, which turned out to be very easy and possibly our easiest border crossing. Then we needed to shop for food as we do not like to take much across a border as fresh food can be confiscated. In order to shop I first needed to find somewhere to get hold of pesos. On top of this we had forgotten that in Argentina everything closes from noon to 4pm for the afternoon siesta. Finally we had everything sorted but still needed to drive around a bit to find a camping spot. We finally found one that also had a pool but just before we arrived we had had a massive thunderstorm so it had cooled down a bit. Still Alisha and Lucy were keen to try the pool out.

The next morning we headed to the Argentine side of the falls. As it was a Tuesday and we arrived at opening time there was no queue and we were able to start the trails on our own. The views were again spectacular and we got to see the waterfalls both from the bottom and the top just before the water crashes over the ledge.

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On the trails we also saw a large family of Coatis. Although they look cute there are signs everywhere warning you that they bite so you need to keep back from them. The kids loved seeing the baby ones role around and play. There were also lots of lovely birds and butterflies to see.

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Goodbye fabulous Brazilian beaches…we are going to miss you.

The coastal road south of Paraty wound over rocky headlands and through lush Atlantic Rainforest. After less than an hours drive we turned off to an even steeper and even more windy side road to the beach at Trinidade.

The Northern stretch of beach was scattered with huge granite boulders, so large that they had to build the road over one of them. There were loads of campsite but only one big enough for us just before the village but we were happy as it was right on the beach.

DSC01036.JPGThe road into the village.

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It is obviously a busy little place in high season but it had a relaxed feeling with small posadas and cafés catering to surfers and Brazilian visitors. The sky was grey and drizzly but with the temperature at a balmy 25°C it didn’t bother us at all. The girls were just thankful not to be smothered in sun cream like usual, when we went out to play on the beach. They loved scrambling up the huge boulders and jumping off onto the soft sand.

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With the weather still overcast the following day, we took a hike south past two more absolutely stunning beaches and through the rainforest. The coves and offshore forested islands made the waters calm and picturesque. At low tide a natural swimming pool was formed by huge rocks, so after a sweaty rainforest climb we could cool down in the shallows.

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Heading south once more, we’d hoped to find another little gem like Trinidade to camp up in. However as we got closer to São Paulo it became more developed. There were still gorgeous slivers of yellow sand between densely forested rocky headlands but these had smart gated communities wedged in front of them. We enjoyed the views but couldn’t find anywhere to park up for the night. As the terrain flattened out I eventually saw a sign for a green shady campsite just back from the beach. A long walk along the beach under the grey skies stretched our legs.

Last Christmas we had a fantastic time with my Mum and our family friend Else in a gorgeous hotel in Belize. This Christmas we are going to be in Argentina, hopefully with our overlanding friends Betti and John (www.burtway.com). Mum carried a whole stack of gifts around Central America before she finally met us. This time the girls are only getting physical gifts from us (and Santa of course). So now comes the dilemma of what to get them, we can only fit so much in the truck and anyway we trying to get away from the whole commercial Christmas thing. Steve and I were sorted present wise though the next day with a stop at Decathalon, a massive outdoor activity shop outside São Paulo. We found replacements for lots of things that have worn out over the last year and a half, perfect. Even Steve gets quite uncharacteristically enthusiastic about shopping when it is that easy.

Itanhaem, South of São Paulo has another lovely long beach but in the windy grey weather we enjoyed a long scoot along it, rather than a lounge in the sun that afternoon.

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A long day’s drive south brought us to the peninsula of Porto Bello in the state of Santa Caterina. The beach resorts we passed through were built up with high rises, we could have been anywhere around the Med. At the far tip though a steep descent over the last hill brought us to a rocky cove. With just a campsite, bar and a small sandy beach, it was a perfect spot for a couple of nights. When the sun came out on Sunday afternoon, as we sat on the pristine beach after a busy morning of jobs it got even better. Brazilian schools break up in the next couple of weeks, so we are still in the low season but Retiro dos Padres is the first place we’ve seen quite a few campers. We have often been the only ones in campsites, although the size and facilities suggest they do get really busy once the season starts. We were back virtually on our own again on Sunday night though. It will be interesting to see if it is busy in Argentina over Christmas too.

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The island of Santa Caterina is reached over a four lane bridge and as built up as any European resort. However, beyond the high rises on the far side of the island it is much quieter. We found a fabulous campsite in a pine forest in a national park, just a 500m walk through the woods from the beach. Such different scenery from what we’ve experienced in the rest of Brazil, we could have been in Canada if it weren’t for our fellow campers’ thong bikinis. We had a lovely couple of days enjoying the powdery soft white sands and freezing surf.

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The 12 beaches that we’ve been to over the last few weeks have been unbelievable and very diverse. It’s been hard to chose but our favourite 3 have been Taipú do Fora: great snorkling in a wonderful natural coral pool, Trinidade: massive boulders on a windswept beach with a rainforest back drop and who could forget Ipanema in Rio: world class people watching. It’s been hard to leave the coast and head inland!