Diary/Photo Journal

Week of December 16, 2007 (see page 3 for second half of week)

We started off this week where we left off last week, visiting with Gabriel and his family.  We also made our way over to yet another friend of Gerson's that lives in Blumenau.  Marcio and his wife have purchased a beautiful home that comes with rather unique attributes (especially for us Norte Americanos).  I kept shaking my head at Gerson as to say "don't even think about it" :-).  When you see the pictures, you will see what I mean. From there, we all piled into Gabriel's car and headed to the beach town of Camboriu.

I always like going to Camboriu because it is always vibrant and pulsing with life.  We ventured north a bit to visit a nice little port town called Itajai (Ee-tah-zsa-ee) and had a terrific lunch in the middle of the market.  We just wandered back, poking our noses into small beaches and driving along quaint roads.  All in all, a very nice day.

Jo and Gerson with Marcio, the proud owner of a spectacular home

What every house has to have, the bar-b-que and the pizza oven
(insert shaking of head here)
Gerson waiting for his beer at the bar (and shaking of head here)
Oh, and you have to have your own personal soccer field
as your side yard (and shaking of head here)
The amazing ceiling over the outdoor bar-b-que "room"
(I wonder why my neck is sore!)

Our wonderful lunch in a popular
market in Itajai

Just a quick stop at a small
beach (Praia Brava) nearby where the only building is the huge Kiwi Bar

The quaint roads to travel

The next day, when we saw the teeniest break in the clouds, it was excuse enough to get on down to Porto Belo and hijack Gabriel's boat.  We made it as far as the floating bar Caixa D'aco (Caw-sha Da-sew) and enjoyed an appetizing lunch of fresh fish, shrimp and calamari.  Between eating, drinking, swimming and diving off the platform, we had a great time. 

Dinner with friends:
Sandra, Jo, Gerson, Louise, Fabricio, Marilia,
Fabio and Gabriel

Diego and Vicente were our waiters for the evening

Gabriel captaining his boat with Jo and Diego leading the way

Louise, Gerson and Diego enjoying the floating bar time

Style points for Gerson's cannonball and Gabriel's almost-flip

Not to mention that we also initiated two more people into wakeboarding - Gabriel and nine-year-old Diego!

A refreshing swim in clear waters

Boating has certainly gone to the dogs

I call the last picture "tranquilo"

It's official, we have wakeboarded in Brasil

Diego getting a steadying hand from Gerson
and Voila!, second time and he is up!

You see that smile :-)

It was awesome to see both Gabriel and Diego get up so quickly and such a long time before Gabriel went down.  He took to wakeboarding like a, well, a fish takes to water.

Gabriel getting ready and up he goes almost immediately

No amount of wake or waves were going to keep him in one place

The smile of a new wakeboarder! 

The colorful buildings of Camboriu

Jo enjoying the comforts of her boat

We were joined by Gerson's sister and nephew, Marjorie and Rodrigo and the next day, we were off to the nearby State of Rio Grande do Sul to venture into and around the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra.  This National Park has been referred to as the "Grand Canyon" of Brasil and it is aptly compared.  This park consists of not one, but several river-cut canyons that can reach depths of over 720 meters or over 2300 feet. 

We stayed in a wonderful hotel fazenda called Pedra Afiada Refugio Ecologico and from our suite, we could look right up into one of the Canion Malacara.  The Refugio is a beautiful and homey place and anywhere you walked on the grounds, you felt as though you were part of the surrounding forest.  Of course, Gerson, Marjorie and Rodrigo did not waste any time before jumping into the sauna and into the natural cool-water pool.

Just a sampling of our road trip into
the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra

Typical homesteads along the way

The entrance to our refugio

Gerson and Marjorie making good use of the facilities

and Gerson enjoying a "refreshing" soak after the Sauna

Our room overlooking the forest canopy and if you look
closely, some of the forest joined us in our room

We settled in very easily and wandered the area for a bit.  As it was getting time for dinner, we retired to the huge common room for a rather good dinner of many local dishes.  The only thing that disturbed us a bit, was a hummingbird or "beija-flor" (kisses flowers) that was caught inside and desperately looking for a way out through the upper windows.  As the hummingbird was unreachable, the refugio's employees told us they just wait until the birds are exhausted and land on the lower perches.  Then, they scoop them up and set them outside.  We trusted their instructions; however, we could not help but pity the poor confused bird. 

As it turned out, a happy ending was to be had the next morning as our little frightened friend was still hovering, albeit very low and slow, in the great room.  The hummingbird finally landed and stayed long enough for Gerson to carefully cradle it in his hands and set the bird outside on a small wall.  In a few seconds, the bird recovered and took to wing as though nothing was wrong. 

A nice view from the top of the tower

Little bird, BIG voice outside our window

This little baby was stuck up in the tower and was gone the next
day.  We just hope he was able to make use of those wings

Rodrigo, Marjorie and Gerson with the canyon in the background

The great room view from
our catwalk to our room and
the dining area

Gerson saving our little

We made sure we got a good look around the grounds and the weather gods favored us with perfect picture taking and trekking weather.  The only disappointment was a playground that forbid "big kids" form playing within.

Sunrise and the Atlantic Ocean in the background

Morning view of the Canion Malacara

View from our room

Gerson sulking because he could not play on the log bridge
The sign says: "Mini Treeplace - Maximum 60 kilograms
(about 120 pounds)

View from another side of the refugio

and yet another view into the Canion Malacara

View over the lower landscapes and on to
the Atlantic Ocean

Map of the Canyons and surrounding area

We decided to enlist the services of a guide and climbed, clambered and crawled up the rocky Rio Malacara.  Up and up we went, past bearded trees, enormous boulders and recent rockslides to come to a refreshing little pool formed at the base of a terraced-fall. 

The start of our little trek up the Rio Malacara

Our trail

The cool bearded trees

Time for the Geology lesson

Flavio keeps us on track

A recent rockslide that came from the Canion Malacara in the

A floating spider (about the size of my palm) - suspended a few
feet above the rocks

We made it!

Of course, the small piscina in the rio was why we chose this hike and we made the best of cooling off in the crystal clear water.  And, as all good things seem to come to an end, we dragged ourselves back to the refugio to have lunch and hit the high road, literally.

Marjorie's face shows
the measure of how
"refreshing" the water was


The only tree that withstood the thunderous rockslide from
the Canion Malacara

The butterfly's markings look like eyes with stripes down to a nose

Another bearded tree

Our lunch outside on the patio

We drove up one of those roads that no one tells you the distance, but rather, the time it takes to actually get through it.  Even though it was not the worst road we have traveled, I think we all had a few loose teeth afterward and not to mention, a little less hair.

One thing we found encouraging, was the large areas of reforestation efforts.  Just about around every corner (as there were many), we saw tracts of land devoted to the regeneration of a species of pine trees dedicated for replenishing their construction stock.  As I said, very encouraging.

Some of the fantastic scenery and landscape that
accompanied our drive

Reforestation efforts

Marjorie and the view over the landscape below

Our entrance into the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra

Our trail along the edge

I call the third picture "where's Rodrigo?"

See the tufts of trees on the ridges?  Those are Araucaria
Trees and the park has the largest remaining forest of
these once endangered trees

This particular trek took us along the plateau that rims the Canion Itaimbezinho (Ee-tie-eem-baz-een-yo), a narrow, 5800 meter (about 3.6 miles) long canyon that unlike what we would see in the United States, there are no guardrails, no posted attendants, no true restrictions to access the edge (I say "no true restrictions" as there was a sign or two saying "Perigo" or danger and a low wire strung across some posts).  The day was stunningly beautiful and it gave us an opportunity to just take in the wonder of nature with no other people around. 

The magnificent opening into the Canion do

and one lone splash of color to contrast the
green and grays


The sentinal Araucaria (Pinheiro) tree that stands watch
over Rodrigo

I kept reminding Gerson I was worth more
alive than pushed over the edge

The Canion Itaimbezinho was created when the Rio Perdiz roared its way to the ocean.  When you see the river now, it is difficult to believe the power the river garnered at one time.

Having enjoyed this side of the Canion Itaimbezinho, we took a smaller trail around the other side and wove our way through an eerie forest and along the canyon edges once again.

Ok, "where's Gerson?"

A very cool start to our walk


An incognito inhabitant

This "gate" are to block livestock from venturing through
(however, Gerson figured it out :-)

A very photogenic forest flower called a Bromelia

Posing for those great pictures

You tend to get the feeling that you are walking on top of the world because there are no other landmarks that are higher than you.  As this area does not get snow, the temperature is rather pleasant all year round and green is the National Park color. 

Cascata do Andorinhas

Gerson held onto my pants so I could
lean over and take the second picture.
Marjorie just gasped and I again
explained, I was worth more alive!

The start (or perhaps end) of
the Itaimbezinho canyon

Love the Pinheiro trees topping
the canyon

A Pinheiro dwarves
Gerson and Marjorie

A bit outside of the park is the hamlet of Cambara and it is the epitome of the "one horse town".  A very short "main" street that if you blinked, you missed it.  Our first stop, to find Gerson authentic gaucho dress that he looks to wear when we host bar-b-ques at our home (you have been forewarned).  He found his garb rather quickly which included the typical baggy pants that tuck into a type of legging, leather sandals and the necessary belt. 

We did find a wonderful pousada that both Gerson and I appreciated the owner's business savvy.  We had poked around and the prices were rather high (for the type of local facilities) and we came across this little place.  As there were four of us, we asked to have a dorm-style room that would accommodate us and rather than the owner try to jam us into one room for the same price, he offered us two rooms for the same cost as one.  As no one else was staying there and as the owner understands that "business is business", we liked his style as well as the extension of his home.

This was our entryway down and across
to the dining room for breakfast

Our cozy room

Pousadas usually have a little sitting area

The restaurant we ate at grew its own vegetables

Our road out of the park and I am being kind when
I say "road"

In any part of the world, there is nothing like
a boy and his dog

I just don't see anyone worrying about
earthquakes in this part of the world

At most pousadas, you are provided with a nice breakfast that consists of breads, meats, cheeses, juices, coffee, etc.  Our little place was no exception and we even got the good company of the owner and his daughter. 

We did so much this week that I had to continue on another page so as to not have you waiting hours and hours for this page to download.

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