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Cambará do Sul

Posted by Nad on 10 de março de 2014 at 14h59min
This post has the following tags: 2014 Holiday in Brazil
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.
Canela to Cambara.jpg Cambara do sul.jpg Hotel in Cambará.jpg

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...

Good times in Cambará.jpg

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 :-)

Cambará canyons 3.jpg Cambará canyons 2.jpg Cambará canyons 1.jpg Cambará canyons 5.jpg

We got some nice close up shots of this big black vulture too!

Cambará vulture 1.jpg Cambará vulture 2.jpg Cambará vulture with fleas.jpg

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!

Cambará canyons second day 1.jpg Cambará canyons second day 2.jpg Cambará canyons second day 3.jpg
Cambará canyons second day 4.jpg Cambará canyons second day 7.jpg Cambará canyons second day 9.jpg
Cambará canyons second day 5.jpg Cambará canyons second day 6.jpg
Cambará canyons second day 8.jpg Cambará canyons second day 10.jpg

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...

Wolves waiting on the road.jpg Wolf on the road.jpg         Nek minute...         Bitten by wolf.jpg

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!

Canela & Gramado

Posted by Nad on 5 de março de 2014 at 15h29min
This post has the following tags: 2014 Holiday in Brazil
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!
Porto Alegre to Canela.jpg Dads photo from the Gramado bridge.jpg

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).

Holiday house in canela.jpg

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.

Car crossing the dam.jpg Brazil construction method.jpg Brazil construction method 2.jpg

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.

Red fiat at the top of the hill.jpg Mum & Dad visit the land.jpg Mum, Aran, Beth in vege patch.jpg

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.

Dads photo in the house.jpg Dads photo in the forest.jpg All heading back to canela from the land.jpg

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.

Arca verde - mud house construction.jpg Arca verde - toilet.jpg Arca verde - wood stove.jpg

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.

Gramado buildings 1.jpg Gramado buildings 3.jpg Gramado buildings 2.jpg

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 ;-)

Dads sneaky gaucho shot.jpg Dads shot of the gorge on the way to Vaca Velha.jpg

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!

Beth explaining Niva quirks to Dad.jpg Dad in Niva.jpg  
Aran struggling with 50kg sack of lime.jpg Dad & Mum putting lime on vege patch.jpg Dad & Mum studying the soil at the land.jpg

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.

Afternoon at Rafaels.jpg Mum holding brazil nut shell.jpg
Bugeio at Rafaels 1.jpg Bugeio at Rafaels 2.jpg

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.

Canela possada dogs.jpg Last visit to Cafe Martha.jpg

Porto Alegre

Posted by Nad on 1 de março de 2014 at 18h24min
This post has the following tags: 2014 Holiday in Brazil
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 :-)
Chile to Sao Paulo to Porto Alegre.jpg Acores street view.jpg Acores church from above.jpg First dinner together in Porto Alegre.jpg

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 - 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 :-)

Indian restaurant.jpg Civilised holiday.jpg

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.

Leaf player.jpg Old building in Porto Alegre 1.jpg Mum on overpass.jpg

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.

Dads plant photo 1.jpg Dads plant photo 2.jpg Mum & Dad with turtle.jpg
Skeleton trees.jpg Spikey tree trunk.jpg

On Monday, we then hired a cute little red Fiat and set off for Canela!

Our holiday car.jpg

2014 Holiday started!

Posted by Nad on 1 de março de 2014 at 17h45min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Mum, dad and aran at acores.jpg
Mum & Dad arrived on in Brazil on Monday. We met them at the airport in Porto Alegre at about 1:20am Tuesday morning and went back to the hotel we'd be staying at for about a week. I've create a separate blog for the holiday called 2014 Holiday in Brazil, and made a short link for it so it's easy to remember which is just

Giving up coffee!

Posted by Nad on 2 de fevereiro de 2014 at 05h23min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Beth's quite addicted to coffee and can't start her day properly without it, and when she doesn't have it for a day she gets a horrible headache. She decided that due to these negative affects it has on her that it's not very compatible with our healthy lifestyle out here on the land. Both of us have been drinking coffee every day for most of our lives. I agreed with this too and decided to also give up, I thought that for me it wouldn't be much of a problem because I've been without coffee for a day or two every now and again and I didn't really crave for it and didn't notice any headache.

Well about four days after we stopped Beth's headaches started to subside, but I started to get very sick, I had huge migraine headaches and vomiting! then after that subsided a bit, all the muscles in my legs began to ache constantly as if they were all over stretched. No matter what position I'd try and be in nothing would stop the pain! I couldn't sleep at all for four nights!

I couldn't believe this was due to giving up coffee and thought I must have come down with a sickness, so Beth said perhaps I should have some coffee to see if the symptoms subsided. Sure enough an hour after a cup of coffee my muscles started to feel a lot better again! Late that night they started getting bad again, and once again the next day after another cup of coffee the pain eased shortly after! After a week the symptoms had finally subsided completely without requiring any coffee. I was amazed that coffee could have such a severe affect on my body!

Beth's decided to give up completely, but since I don't really have the psychological aspect of the addiction I've decided to still have a coffee every now and again when we're at a café or neighbour's place, but I won't drink it on a daily basis any more.

A few nature shots from Jan '14

Posted by Nad on 29 de janeiro de 2014 at 06h11min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Azure Jay 1.jpg Orange wingtips butterfly.jpg Brown howler.jpg
3 inch red hairy caterpillar.jpg Blue dragonfly on leaf.jpg Green weta.jpg

Carpenter bees

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 15h49min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
As well as several kinds of wasps, we also have Carpenter bees which unfortunately are not so harmless, the females burrow into wood and will also sting to protect their nests. One was burrowing into our new bathroom door today! The burned oil didn't seem to put it off much either, but some research revealed that they do much prefer fresh unpainted wood, so I've tried screwing an unpainted piece to the door in the hopes that it will use that area when it comes back next - I also drew a bee-friendly symbol on it which should help it decide :-)
Carpenter bee burrowing into door.jpg Carpenter bee mitigation.jpg

Wasps on the house

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 15h47min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Now that it's summer the insect population has really sky rocketed, we painted the whole house with burned oil which seems to have deterred the worst problem insects such as termites, but there's still a lot of interest from wasps. We have at least three different kinds around the house, the first find existing holes and then pad the inside with leaves to make their nest, the second make the typical paper-like nests that hang on the walls and under eves, and the third kind are Mud Dauber wasps. None of these types of wasps are aggressive and don't sting people even when they fear their nests are in danger.

The Mud Dauber wasps are really amazing, they create nests out of clay made of a series of chambers with an egg in each one. They then find spiders and paralyse them with their sting and put a spider in each chamber so the new wasp has food when it hatches. The first time I saw a nest on the side of the house I thought I had better remove it as I didn't know what kind of wasp it was it was and whether the larvae might eat the wood. When the nest fell on the ground I was shocked to see it filled with spiders! I looked on the net and soon found out what was going on. More have been constructed now, but since I now know they're harmless I've just let them be.

Mud Dauber wasp nest.jpg

Capacitor plague!

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 12h37min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Beth was drying the washing with our portable 500W centrifugal spinner dryer when all of a sudden we heard a loud bang and then the horrible familiar smell of burning electronic components! I took a look and saw that smoke was coming out of the 800W inverter!! luckily this is not our main inverter that we use for running the lights and computers, the 800W is only for tools and other high power appliances, but it's still a major problem to have it blow up because it would take weeks to get a replacement.
Tv capacitor pillage.jpg
I opened it up and found that everything looked fine except for two electrolytic capacitors used to smooth the input power which had exploded and ejected their burning electrolyte liquid all over the inside of the case. I found this quite strange because they were rated for 25v but the input can never exceed the maximum voltage of the battery which is about 14.5v.

After doing a bit of research I found that the problem was most likely the "capacitor plague" which affected millions of capacitors made about ten years ago and used by many companies in all sorts of devices from vacuum cleaners to computers, and the typical symptom is capacitors exploding well before their normal lifespan and well within their specified voltage.

The problem is that there's nowhere in Canela or Gramado that sell electronic components and ordering by net would take at least a week, probably two to sort out. But as luck would have it, I saw an old TV at the side of the road in a pile of rubbish, and TVs always have loads of capacitors in them! so we threw it in the car and when we got back I pulled it apart and pillaged all the capacitors from it - they're probably thirty years old, but they're Siemens which is one of the best brands in the business and things tended to be made better back then too :-) I found a couple that would do just fine and they were rated at 40v which is nearly triple what's required so there should be no problems. I installed them in the inverter and sure enough we're back in business!

Vagalumes & Pyrophorus beetles

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 11h32min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Vagalumes are a kind of firefly that make a green light at night, sometimes stable and sometimes flashing. There's a lot of them at this time of year and they make excellent natural Christmas lights :-) Vagalumes a flies about a centimetre long with a glowing tail, but last night a different kind landed on the window and I was able to get a close photo of it, I was even able to hold it in my hand for a minute or so! This one was a different type completely, it's a very big insect about 4cm long and it looks like its eyes are glowing, but actually I think the glowing parts are further back than they eyes. I looked on the net and found out that these are Pyrophorus beetles, they look really sci-fi like some kind of robot bug!
Vagalumes.jpg Vagalume close.jpg Holding vagalume.jpg