Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cross Country Travel - Day 1

All packed and ready to go.  We have decided to take a trip to Southern Brazil (Porto Alegre to be exact) and since there are three of us traveling and airfare seemed a little high,  Luiz's brother Junior offered to drive his car so we could road trip.  YEAH! I love a good road trip as you get to see more local things, eat more local foods, visit with local people (ok maybe I won't be able to vistit a whole lot on this trip) and as a bonus you get to see all the countryside from were you are to where you are going.  Of course extra time must be available as all this local searching will require more time. Fortunately for us we all have the time so our plans are set.   Some of my favorite trips have been road trips like: heading to Philadelphia (from Iowa/ 24 hours one way) for the weekend during college when we got tickets to the Army verses Navy football game (crazy!) - many trips to Colorado during college and years after for a ski weekend - (some trips one weekend right after the next / 10 hour drives / I love to ski)  San Luiz Obispo from San Francisco with Lisa to visit my great aunt Twilla (we laughed so hard and had so much fun) - and finally in 2010 Luiz, his sister Beatrice and her husband Osmar took a cross country trip from Atlanta to Yellowstone with stops in  Chicago, Iowa, and the Black Hills of South Dakota.  These are just a few of the great road trips I have taken in my lifetime but back to present day.

We leave the apartment around 8:00 A.M.and off we head.  Our first destination is Mineiros,  Luiz's home town and where Junior lives.  It is a five hour drive on a road currently under construction as they work on making it a four lane highway. On top of the construction mess,  it is harvest season and there are way to many trucks (more then the too many we usually encounter on this drive) which always make it an unpredictable trip.  As I ride along,  I begin to compare the landscape with that of Iowa where I grew up. (day dreaming is such a great way to pass time) This being a heavy agricultural area of Brazil,  it is easy to see the similarities.  There are fields of corn lining the road on each side.  Brown and ready for harvest as it is winter in Brazil and every so often you see a farmer in the fields harvesting the corn.  The road is littered with trucks filled with the freshly harvested crops.  Where there is not fields the landscape is mostly grass lands reserved for cattle to graze.  Again,  it is winter which equals the dry season and everything is brown and little fresh grass for the cows. 

The differences between Iowa and Goias soon become apparent as we drive down the road and the corn fields turn to sugar cane fields.   Iowa is mainly corn and soy bean country and no sugar cane that I am aware of. It is a new experience watching and observing the sugar cane fields as they blur by.  The mature sugar cane stands about six feet tall and you would never be able to tell it was planted in rows as the plants have grown together like corn in a corn field.  How do I know it is planted in rows? There is a field next to the mature where the canes are just beginning to grow. Why is there a field just beginning to grow next to one ready to harvest?   Since the weather is favorable for production all year long in Goias Brazil,  farmers get two harvests from most of their crops each year.  (both facts I have learned since moving to Brazil)
This photo is for my Dad - we could
play I see something you don't see!
But, back to our drive down the dusty road and my sugar cane observations: an airy tassel has popped out at the top of the sugar cane plants in the mature fields which gives the field a soft fluffy look.   Huge trucks sit idle on the ends of the rows, waiting to be filled so they can deliver the harvested cane.  Brazil is the largest producer of sugar cane in the world with India a distant second and a majority of the crop is used for ethanol production in the country.(thank again wikipedia)

Beyond the sugar cane we come across a short field of crops:  Sorghum.  It is another crop grown in this region and although cereal is not as prominent on the grocery store shelves in Brazil,  sorghum is the fifth most used grain to make cereal.  As we drive by, I remember fields of sorghum in Iowa years ago but have not seen it in a while.  For some reason the memories of pheasants and hunting come to mind as well.  When I lived in South Dakota a group of my friends would go out on the weekends and after work and hunt this small bird.  Pheasants loved this crop with its low lying seeds and ability to catch the snow when it came.  We spent many hours driving and walking around in search of pheasants.  It was always a great way to spend a Saturday with friends and the fall pheasant feed was always a good time.  Each of the hunters from that season took a bird or two and prepared it different ways.  We would invite friends over to enjoy our catches.  I think pheasants would love this area of Brazil - especially with the lack of snow and all the sorghum fields.

We drive a little further and the surrounding fields have a silver / white shimmer.  It is easy to see the fields are cotton and the only  other time I have seen cotton fields is on a road trip with my mom from Atlanta to Florida.  She came to visit me and we decided to visit relatives who live in the Gainsville area.  There are many cotton farmers in the lower part of Georgia and I remember stopping to take some photos as I had not seen cotton fields before.   The cotton in the fields on our journey today are getting ready to harvest and almost look like snow shimmering in the sun.

The final crop I observe which is different for me are the rows of eucalyptus trees.  Obvious a crop that is not harvested yearly, but it does grow quickly and has about a 5 year turn around. (thank wikipedia again!) It is well suited for the dry conditions of this area and currently Brazil is a leader in the production of eucalyptus trees which are used for pulp, charcoal, and paper production. 

As we look at the eucalyptus fields, I am distracted by the yellow and purple canopies of the Ipe trees. These wonderful trees lose all their leaves during the dry season in order put forth a spectacular flower display.  The canopy of green is replaced with white, orange, purple, or yellow flowers.  Also knows as the trumpet tree -- the dry area of Brazil we are traveling makes the tree grown in short crooked pattern in the blue sky.  We drive along in search of the yellow flowers close enough to the road so we can snap a photo or two. What a spectacle they create and we continue to search for the more mature trees.  After a few spottings we arrive in Minerios to spend the evening with family and friends and prepare for the trip ahead.  The day ends and  we head off to bed in preparation for a long drive tomorrow.

Please let me know if you would like a personal tour of Porto Alegre -I would be happy to share this beautiful city with you! All inclusive packages available--
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