Saturday, June 18, 2011

Corumba - Can There be a More Relaxing Afternoon?

Another gorgeous day and we have not seen any cachoeiras (kashew-waydah) on this visit. What is a cachoeiras you ask? Well it is a waterfall and central Brazil is known for all its waterfalls (cachoeiras) and ecotourism. On my first visit to central Brazil in December, we had a blast driving down some dirt roads in search of some waterfalls around the city of Mineiros. Margarete has told us about the Salto de Corumba which is about 110 kilometers from Goiania and she and Luiz have the day all planned out. We pick Margarete up along with another cousin Milena and off we travel. The drive through the countryside is magnificent with its rolling hills and occasional large canopied trees. They are so majestic and everything is so green. Both Luiz and Margarete warn me that the dry season is coming soon so enjoy the greenery now because soon it will be brown. Much like Iowa in the late summer I guess.

After a short fifty minute drive we arrive in the little town of Corumba de Goias where we stop for directions and of course coffee. The town is very colonial and I am all for walking around and taking a look but the waterfall is close and sightseeing in Corumba de Goias is not on the itinerary now. After a short drive we arrive at a small park which is obviously for campers with a campground, shelter, pool, and beach along the stream.  We try and find a parking spot in the shade as once again it is a sunny day and after we find a parking spot, we begin to search for the path to the waterfall. As with many things in central Brazil, there is limited signage and it is often difficult to figure out where we should go. Finally we find an employee to ask for directions and off we hike in the direction of the trees not realizing the trek ahead.


The trail leads us through a meadow filled with native grasses and wild flowers. The air is crisp and the sun occasionally peaks through the clouds. I stop to admire the beautiful foliage and blooming plants a couple of times. Brazil has such a diverse plant life, it is a mix of plants and flowers I know and some I have never seen before. Soon we are at the edge of the meadow and it is time to start our climb up the hill side.   At times the climb becomes quite steep and we begin to wonder what lies ahead and in the back of our minds we cannot help but wonder how we will make it back down. We are always happy when stairs and handrails appear to help us with our efforts. It is more exercise then any of us are used to and we spend some time laughing at ourselves trying to traverse the path.  At least the day is beautiful and we have the shade of the trees around to keep us cool. Even though the trail is more difficult then we had thought, it still seems serene because of the picturesque surroundings. We finally reach the summit and crawl through the narrow opening to come out on a huge gray rock. The rock overlooks a small pond at the bottom of a majestic two to three story tall waterfall.


The spray from the waterfall creates a haze which glimmers in the sunlight above the little pond. There is a group of people wading in the water under the waterfall but we are not sure how they got there. From where we are, the rock has a steep edge that I would not want to get too close to. I take a moment to sit on the rock and reflect on life and enjoy a few minutes of quite time. It is easy to fall into meditation with these surroundings. There are few places in the world which lend themselves to reflecting on life as a waterfall does. As I gaze on the past, the mist from the waterfall refreshes me and time passes. Soon it becomes time to head back down the trail as our days adventure is not over yet.  I quickly snap a few photos even though the lighting is not great as the sun is directly above the waterfall. But I truly want to enjoy this experience again later with friends. We gingerly hike back down the trail meeting a large group of people on their way to the falls.  I am happy we came when we did as these types of places are always better with less people.  You are able to enjoy the quite and serenity.

We arrive back at the camp, hop into the car, and head back to the small community of Corumba de Goias. Founded in 1731 as Corumba, the first inhabitants of the town were miners coming to search for gold in the neighboring rivers. The town is still full of that colonial architecture and has been preserved pretty well. In 1902 the town changed its name to Corumba de Goias to relieve confusion with the larger city of Corumba in the state of Mato Grasso in west central Brazil. Like most Brazilian towns it has a large Catholic influence. In Corumba de Goias the influence is apparent with its twenty foot tall Statue of Christ perched on top of the hill overlooking the community and the large Catholic chapel on the town square. The Chapel is our first stop as we wander around taking photos and admiring all the details of the square. It is a quaint little town with its buildings painted white and trimmed with bright colors. 
An old man is busy working on repairing the wall of the square and a small group of school children are walking down the cobblestone street towards the little store. After a few minutes we get back into the car and continue through the narrow winding streets of the city heading towards the Statue of Christ. We only have to ask the school kids for directions once and soon we are admiring the view. The statue looks out over the whole town of approximately 4,000 residence and I am pretty sure we can see most of it from the viewing platform. Luiz and Margarete inform Milena and I that there is more to our day so we crawl back into the car ready for our next destination. By this time I am pretty sure it is lunchtime and I am ready for some good Brazilian food. 

We head back through the winding streets of the little town and make a quick stop to purchase watermelon and pineapple from a local farmer selling his produce on the side of street. He cuts open a pineapple and offers us a taste. It is so sweet and delicious that we decide to buy two and eat them there. The other pineapple and watermelon purchased we are bringing with us for lunch. We drive a couple of kilometers and turn into the driveway of a little homestead. There is a horse tied up on a pole at the entrance and she stops eating grass only momentarily as she raises her head to greet us. The car rolls to a stop (in the shade) and all four doors pop open. Maragete, Luiz, Milena, and I emerge ready for the next part of our adventure.

The homestead is the residence of Margarete’s cousin and we have been invited to have lunch there. Home cooked Brazilian food (just like home cooked American food) is always the best. The place is a cute little acreage that has an old run down hotel on the property. Margarete’s cousin is proud to give us a tour as they are currently in the process of renovating and bringing the property and hotel back to a more glorious day. Just beyond their quaint home, her cousin leads us down a well manicured path, past the old single story hotel building into the woods. He leads us down a trail through the property and soon we come to a small babbling brook with a couple of waterfalls. I soon imagine spending an afternoon sitting in a hammock enjoying the relaxing sounds of the stream flowing over the small waterfalls. It’s the type of setting one would wish for if your day was set aside for just relaxing. As we return up the hill we take a quick peak into the hotel and it is obvious they have made quite a bit of progress on their renovations. Further up the hill we pass by the blue swimming pool and are soon at their home. We take a seat around the table and wait as they begin to cut up the watermelon and pineapple for our appetizer. I look around and can easily visualize myself living in this style of home. The living area is a covered roof with two side walls. The other two sides of the room are open overlooking the pool and the rest of the property. Most traditional homes in Brazil have a similar open air floor plan as the cool breeze is needed to flow through the home and keep it cool. I head to the pool and sit on the edge to dangle my legs in the water. This plan is soon aborted
as the water is freezing cold and when I say freezing I mean it is just a few degrees from having a layer of ice on the surface. A little disappointed my plan did not work, I head back to the table where they are playing a game that is familiar to me “dominos”. I join in and we play a couple of games as we wait for the meal to be ready. After a couple of games I catch sight of a blue hammock in the corner of the room. Maybe I had foreshadowed my own life earlier in the day when I imagined lying in a hammock by the stream and you already know I love a good hammock. I excuse myself from the dominoes and crawl into the
hammock and take a good afternoon rest. It is not long before Margarete's cousin announces that the food is ready and we all come together for a great feast of beef, rice, and beans. After dinner we sit and talk a while (well I listen for words I know in Portuguese) and soon the afternoon is over and it is time to head back to Goiania. I spend the last few minutes of our visit reflecting on how good life is when I can slow down and enjoy. Often I am working or worried about working and I realize that it has been a long time since I allowed myself time to sit back and enjoy a little quiet time. How I miss this and need to make it a regular part of my day. We load up into the car and head towards the city.  I am calm and relaxed as it has been a wonderful day. I am definitely ready to explore and find another cachoeiras on another day!

(Go read about our visit to Goias)

Poem by Jill Eisnaugle

Come sit outside, this summer’s day
Relax amid the gleam
Formed by each vibrant sun-filled ray
Resting upon the stream
Breathe softly to embrace the calm
and peacefulness around
While thankful that within your palm

You hold God’s love, abound.
Come take a stroll, among the pines
Lining the dusty trail
See all that nature’s joy defines
In eye-catching detail
Smile for the birds, flying in pairs
And those who live alone
While knowing that nothing compares
To the glory you’ve been shown.

Come rest upon the fertile plain
Beneath the rainbow’s light
And know that every drop of rain
Reveals a blessed sight
For in the clearing, lies a place
Where relaxation thrives
Infused by God’s almighty grace
To dwell throughout our lives.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

PECUARIA de Goiania - A day at the Fair - Goiania Style

We arose today to bright skies and the usual sun shining through the windows into the apartment.  There is
not a cloud in the sky and the breeze is crisp and inspirational.  After a great breakfast of fresh papaya, tangerines, and a Brazilian pastry we decide it is a good day to head to the Pecuaria de Goiania (Agricultural Fair of Goiania). The pecuaria is a very popular destination in the city for the sixteen day celebration of agriculture and country music.  This year the pecuaria is celebrating it 66th year of Agricultural Exhibition of Goias and the 26th International Exhibition of Animals.  As you can imagine it has a long history of excellence and I have heard stories of huge crowds of people at the fair. However, we are attending on a weekday and so that should translate to less crowds which makes me happy.

We stop to pick up Margarete (our travel companion) and she comes out dressed in her cowboy best with boots, denims, plaid shirt and cowboy hat.  I understand that Goiania is very much like the area of Iowa I grew up in with lots of agriculture and livestock.  They vary a little because the city loves its cowboys and country music and it is often compared to Texas or Nashville in the USA.
Arriving at the fair grounds, there are a lot of available parking spots and we head straight to the ticket window (thinking we have come at the right time).  We purchase our R$20.00 ticket and head to the gate.  Upon passing through the gate,  I am quickly transported back to the county fairs of my youth. As an active member of 4-H I would proudly take our garden produce, wood working projects, and entomology displays to the Buena Vista County Fair in hopes of the coveted blue ribbon. Many of my friends exhibited their livestock and I would support them as they paraded their animals in front of the judges.  It was such a great learning experience and when the judging was finished and we ended up with those blue, red, or white ribbons,  I remember just how proud I was..

The other fair we regularly attended was the Clay County Fair in Spencer Iowa.  Since our school district was in Clay County we would get a day or two off of school to attend the fair.  It was always a great opportunity to spend time with family or friends. All the carnival rides, baked goods, produce, livestock and you just never knew who you would bump into. I remember those days like they were yesterday.  As we walk through the livestock barns of the pecuaria it is easy to see the similarities.  The barns are full of magnificently manicured cattle, washed and ready to head out for judging.  Lots of vendors set up to sell all the agricultural equipment one would need.  We stroll around a while and see some of the exhibits and stumble across an exhibit sponsored by the Goiania history center.  The exhibit is filled with artifacts and farm equipment of the early years in Goias.  I take a moment to reflect back to the stories of my grandparents and the thrashing machines they used to harvest the crops.  What a wonderful time and the exhibit is a great tribute to this era. It is filled with grain crushing instruments and all sorts of artifacts from early farms in the region. 

We are surprised as the fair grounds seem to be empty and our plans of eating lunch are doused as a vendor informs us that everything is closed today until 5:00 P.M.  We continue walking around a while through the small carnival and by the bandstands.  Imaging what is must be like during the evening when the country music stars are performing.  After the grandstands we decided we have seen most of the fair and since everything is closed, it is time to head out. Honestly it felt like attending the Clay County fair on the day when the cattle are leaving to make way for the horses to arrive the next day.  My experience at the pecuaria is definitely a great trip down memory lane and I am truly glad we attended.  I hope to go back sometime and see it when there are larger crowds and do some good people watching.  Until then check out your local fair!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Taste of Brazil - US foods made with a Brazilian twist!

Food we eat in the USA, but it's just a little different in Brazil - some of the twists better - some of them keep the food in the same ball park. 

1) Ice Cream (not as creamy as in the United States but the flavors run the range and I think it will always top the list for me I scream - you scream - we all scream - for ICE CREAM - Jill Marks -- I thought of you)

2) Pizza (Still always one of my favorite foods and I don't eat it very often -In Brazil it is strictly thin crusted everywhere I went but they add bananas, eggs, and heart of palm just to name a few of the different ingredients topping pizzas in Brazil - I definitely liked the caramelized bananas and ham)

3) McDonald's (Good - fast - burger and fries - need I say more - OK a little more, I really wanted to see if the taste would translate in another country and it did, now I had my McDonald's for the year)

4) Churrasco (Meat grilled -- of course they are known for their grilled meat and they know how to do it.  Different then the USA as they don't use tangy, sweet, or spicy sauces to flavor the meat -- just salt)

5)Banana's Foster (Caramelized bananas - Yum and then add the #1 in the list *ice cream* and you are going places)

6) Brownies and Ice Cream (I think Betty Crocker has spoiled me on brownies - again they were good - I have just had some phenomenal brownies in my life)

7) Rotisserie Chicken (found at the market down on the corner - we looked at it a couple of times before deciding to have it for dinner.  Very similiar to what we find at the grocery store in the good old USA)

8) Chocolate Cake -( I know for many people this desert would have made it further up the list but for me it is simply chocolate cake and since it was not that different then cake made in the USA (id did have a delicious chocolate cream filling) ,  it found itself at number 8 )

9) Appetizers (How can quail eggs - pickled vegetables - heart of palms - cheese and processed meat - good but then again nothing real special. One time they brought it to our table and we ate it only to be surprised when it was on the bill and expensive too)

10) Brazilian Nuts (So fresh and oil - not dry and dusty like good old planters nuts)