Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cross Country Travel - Day 3

After a good night sleep,  we wake up, eat a little breakfast provided by the hotel,  put on shorts and t-shirts and we are on the road by 9:00A.M.   The travel begins like it ended the day before with fields, grass lands and sunny skies.  Soon the terrain changes and becomes hilly which is something different and yet familiar. The area reminds me of the Great Smokey Mountains in the eastern United States and just like the Smokey Mountains there are a lot of low lying clouds this morning(which looks like smoke).  Every time we head on a downward section of the road we soon encounter limited visibility due to fog. The lack of visibility slows our progress as we are unable to pass any vehicles that are creeping up the hills. It seems like the scenery would  be wonderful but the fog keeps us from enjoying it and I struggle to keep my eyes open (for some reason I really want to take a nap).  We finally get to the other side of the valley and peak up above the fog for a moment to see fields of pine trees, but the view is fleeting as we soon head back into another valley and the thick fog.  After about 2 hours of in and out of dense fog we stop at a truck stop for a coffee break and gas refill.  The truck stop is very similar to those found in the United States with displays of candy, snacks and sodas properly positioned to tempt you into spending a little money.   The restaurant served average food, the restrooms were dirty (but not the worst I have seen)  and the rest of the store is loaded with souvenirs for the average traveler to spontaneously purchase.  Junior and Luiz strike up a conversation with a truck driver that has come from the opposite direction and he says the fog continues for quite a ways.  We adjust our expectations a bit as we recalculate what our end of day destination will be due to the slow day of travel.  Soon we are on our way and after a short while we are pleasantly surprised as it seems the twenty minute stop for coffee has allowed time for the fog to lift. We do not have any more visibility issues today. We drive up and down more valleys and hills and everything seems so green compared to where we have been the last few days.  This part of Brazil has had a lot of rain last week and the rivers are out of their banks and there are a lot of ponds where fields and pastures used to be.  I am sure the people who live here are glad it is a sunny day.  There is an occasional splash of color provided by the Ipe tree (Eeepay tree) to contrast the green.  We had originally planned to tour a small town or two during the day but due to the slow going in the morning we decide to bypass these little detours to make up time.  The first little towns we pass still have their white declaration signs at the entrance but by the end of the day these entrance signs will be much grander (see below). The small towns are also changing a bit as we drive along. Instead of the brick walls with brick houses hiding behind,  the houses here are made of wood and there is no brick wall for hiding.  The roofs are still tile and clothes are still hung out to dry. 

In this hilly country side we begin to see some vineyards and wineries along the road.  This part of Brazil is known for its wine and although it is not as developed as Napa Valley,  it has some quaint wineries.  I will definitely be bringing back a bottle or two for friends.  The other crop that I notice in this area is coffee.  I have never seen coffee fields before and imagine what it would be like to harvest this crop.  It must be hard work.  I will have to pay attention when I have my next cup of coffee to see if it is grown in Brazil. 
Soon we drive through a small rain shower and it is obvious the weather is beginning to change and get a little cooler.  When we stop for lunch, everyone is wearing coats and I begin to question why I have shorts on.  I dig in the trunk and pull out my fall jacket and a pair of socks which will hopefully keep me warm until we stop for the night.  Back in the car we drive through a little more rain, by some more little towns and Luiz points out a tree along the road which seems appropriate for this rainy weather.  It is an evergreen that looks like an umbrella.  I have never seen this tree before and it is truly majestic.  It is an Araucaria angustifolia, otherwise known as a Parana Pine or Brazilian Pine.  The Parana Pine grows in the south central area of Brazil (where we are traveling) and due to logging and the collection of its seeds for food -- the tree is currently on the endangered foliage list of Brazil.  All along the road now we see people with a small fire and jars of what looks like boiled peanuts.  The native people of the region harvest around 3400 tons of the seeds each year and sell them for winter snacks. (wikipedia to the rescue) Junior and I discuss stopping and trying some and in hind sight I'm not sure why we didn't since my time in Brazil is about trying new things, but we didn't.  The afternoon of driving is pretty uneventful as each little town passes by with it's Catholic church providing at least one shot for photos as we cruise through. 
For our afternoon break we stop in a small town and since we have made up some time we decide to walk around a little and explore.  This will truly be a good break from being crammed in the car. It is a cute little town with wooden houses and visible green yards. (only thing hindering viewing the front yards  is an occasional iron fence)  We venture into the old rail station that has been turned into a town hall.  There a lady offers us coffee and the use of the restroom as Luiz asks her a couple of questions about how far we are from today's destination.  They talk in Portuguese of course and I listen intensely for any words I may know. Trying to figure out what the just of the conversation is.  We leave the town hall and and across the street there is a large house that grabs out attention.  We head in that direction and I am amazed by the great amount of detail in everything from the peak to the porch rail. 

 Its a grand old house and I am sure there is a story.  Is it a residence, a hotel, or what as it is quite large for the homes we have seen thus far in Brazil.  On our return to the car there are some kids walking down the street and I ask Luiz to ask them if there is a story.  They look at us like this was an odd question and advise us there is a lady that lives there.  (I did not need anyone to translate the look they gave us)
We get back in the car and we all notice it is getting quite cold.  We travel until just after sunset and stop in Lages for the night.  Lages is located in Santa Catarina with a population of around 160,00.  Established in 1766 it initially served as an Inn on the trade route between Rio Grande de Sul and Are Paul and today the local economy is forestry, agricultural, livestock and some tourism.  (Thanks wikipedia) We grab a Subway sandwich and find a hotel.  It is getting cold as the sun is no longer providing any warmth. Unfortunately the hotel we choose has no heat but they do bring us plenty of blankets and a small electric heater.  All will be good! (OK maybe it will be a little colder then comfortable but this is a road trip and what is a road trip without a good story about the hotels you stay in)   

Enjoy the video with a little splash of color and the photos below

The entrances to the towns got larger...

Mud slide from the rain.

A great drive through the umbrella trees

Another little town with a little creativity

Ipe tree in the fog

Splash of color



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