Diary/Photo Journal

Week of December 30, 2007 (see page 5 for the first half of the week)

We got an early start as the weather may be unpredictable; however, the condition of the roads are not.  To say the roads are in need of repair would be a vast understatement.  Apparently, a private company has "purchased" the road and is going to make it a "toll" road.  As a result, the government has ceased doing any repairs or improvements because it is now the private company's responsibility.  As a result, until the road is converted to the toll road, the necessary repairs are slow to be completed, if at all.  You know you are in trouble when you get seasick while driving on the road because of all the weaving and bobbing and up and down motions.

We made it into Guaruja (Gwar-u-zsa) which is about 100 miles from the city of Sao Paulo.  It is very popular beach resort destination for the "Paulistas" and it is actually an island separated from the mainland by the Canal de Bertioga.  We went to Guaruja to visit a long-time friend of Carlos that has a house situated on top of the island with views to both the Baia de Santos and to the Atlantic Ocean. 

An example of some of the hillside homes on
the way through Santos, a nearby city to Guaruja

A delicious frutos do mar meal (lobster, shrimp, calamari, mussels,
fish and octopus all with sauce over rice

The bridge coming into Guaruja and two of the beach
businessmen taking a moment to catch up on the news

Some views of the Guaruja area and

You do not have to look far to realize
why Brazilians drive like they do...
just look at how their traffic Police
park their cars!

After lunch in Santos, we made it to the home of Carlos and Midori Catraio.  The home was like a white jewel on top of the crest in the rock island that anchors one corner of the bay.  The road wraps itself around the house and the view is 300 degrees. 

How they launch their boats into the bay

They use this modified tractor called a "grasshopper"
check out the legs!

The white jewel of Castle Catraio - Carlos, Gerson, Louise, Midori
and Midori's father, Mitsuo

Views from the "front" yard

Carlos Feliz, Carlos Catraio and Gerson

Our room afforded the endless view of the Atlantic Ocean and even more brilliantly, the incoming of the Atlantic storms.  Watching these thunderous monsters sweep across the water will never be a boring sight for me.  There you are, basking in the sun and watching the impending doom of the torrential rainstorm.  We are getting very good at timing our escape into the indoors.

The views from our side of the house

The third picture is of the upper neighbor's
house, only visible from the loft above the
Master suite

The incoming storm

I loved this closet in the Master bedroom:
not only do they have a walk-in closet,
they have a walk-up closet

Gerson enjoying the waterfall into the pool
overlooking the bay

It was not long before the sun was to set and we were given a walking tour of the mountaintop.  We strolled up and down and around stone roads and found ourselves looking out from vistas and viewpoints at just about every turn. 

Gerson and Stephan (Midori's nephew) striking the pose

Many photo opportunities

Gerson having fun with the local flora

An other-worldly bug - check out the
fuzzy feet and the grasping claws

Similar to the cicada, noisy and oh-so

During our walk, we came across so many engineering marvels that my neck was sore from bending upwards and I got dizzy trying to take in some of this man-made "monstrosities".  I say monstrosities, however, not in a negative manner, but rather in reference to their sheer, and I emphasize the word sheer size.

One incredible structure (again, these people obviously do not have to worry about earthquakes) was attempted to be built into the cliff and embedded in the rocks right at the water line.  The fortress-like foundation was completed and what appeared to be the concrete supports for the car elevator (yes, that's right, an elevator for their cars) before the government stepped in and said "no way".  What is left looks like an ancient ruin of some long-lost peoples.

Yes, that is a pool dangling over Gerson

The logs are redwood that the owner
brought special from California and the pool
has a glass bottom and sides

It is difficult to see the purple flowers
cascading down the wall and the
yellow flowers pouring over the top

The walls get lost in the jungle

Do not miss the opportunity to make your foundation wall out
of the mountain rock itself.  Look closely, and you will see the
wall leaching the water - how many houses do you know that
are built over and within their own waterfalls?

The almost-built house - look closely at the last picture
and you can see the eroded supports for the car elevator

We came back from our sunset walk to a fantastic dinner prepared by Carlos's  niece, Gigi.  A typical Venuzuelan dish that we all enjoyed based on the small amount that remained.  We entertained ourselves with good wine, great conversation, the competitive Wii game and looking forward to the next day.

We decided to rent a charter boat and take a run out to an island to fish, snorkel and just have a fun day on the ocean.  Unfortunately, we awoke to the typical summer day and that meant rain; however, within an hour, the rain subsided and we raced to the boat launch.

Just some of the colorful boats on the Canal de Bertioga
that runs into the Atlantic

Some entertaining friends joined us on our trip

Our destination

A very small amount of people live on the island
and the second picture is where they store their

A house tucked away and what do they do for power?
Solar power of course (the pic is a bit blurry...)

We made it to one side of the island and the engine was not even turned off before the fishing poles were in the water.  After not long in the increasing heat, the rest of us found our way into the water and gave the fishermen a good excuse as to why they did not catch any fish (as we were blamed for scaring all the fish away).

We made our way around to another location and we found the rock formations a great place for snorkeling.  The visibility was at least 50' and the fish were in abundance.  Fortunately for the fish, Gerson's spear gun only gave a few fish headaches as the spear point was not small enough nor sharp enough to pierce the fish, but quite a few got bonked on the head. 

Striking the pose with the island in the background

Marjorie and Carlos try their luck

Gerson and Louise taking advantage of
goof-off time

Gerson playing king-of-the-rock

Carlos hoping for a bite before the storm meets us

Marjorie cruising around

Gerson and Louise - we were just practicing with the
spear gun, yeah that's it, just practicing

We got a bit tuckered out with all the swimming and the sun so the timing was perfect when we moved the boat to the outskirts of the passing ocean storm.  It was then that I thought I would take up my hand at this fishing game and asked Junior, our Captain, to change out the baitfish (a large sardine) and place a weight on my line (as I did not want to "drift" like the unsuccessful others).  Well, a few minutes went by and like everyone else, no real takers on the line.  So, I did what apparently we all should do when we want to call an animal to us and I started saying "Aqui peixes", "Aqui peixes" (which means, "here fishies") to the mocking laughter of everyone on the boat.

Well, you guessed it, within less than a minute, WHAM! my line gets hit and I, yes MOI, got the first fish of the day (only by about 30 seconds as Carlos' father-in-law, Mitsuo, caught a similar fish just after me).  The fish was about 3' (one meter) long and called a "swordfish" for its sword-like appearance.  The fish is not that good to eat and it has mouthful of nasty teeth that go with its rather nasty disposition.  Had I know these rotten little buggars were swimming around with us, I might have kept a better eye on my toes. 

By the end of the day, our weather luck ran a bit short and try as we might, we could not outrun the looming downpour.  So, in the spirit of the great day we had, we made the best of the warm deluge and resigned ourselves to our soggy fate.

Yeah, Who's the Woman!!!

Mitsuo and I share the glory

(if you can, zoom in on
those teeth, yikes! No way that
I was removing that hook!)

Junior had the driest spot on the boat

Gigi (Carlos C. niece) Gerson and Mitsuo are all smiles

Carlos and Gerson are soaked

Carlos, Carlos and Gigi braving the rain

We made it back to Carlos' home in one piece, albeit a very wet piece where we were soon warmed up by yet another outstanding meal.  You know you enjoy the company you keep when you stay for hours around the table solving all the world's problems and just plain "bulling".

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