Monday, October 31, 2011

Photos for Iguazu Falls

Here are the photos from our trip to Foz do Iguazu - Iguazu Falls. Both Brazil & Argentina sides. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Whales and a Recumbent Tandem Bicycle

The whales are the Southern Right whales, which breed, calf and migrate between the state of Santa Catalina in Brazil south to Patagonia and Antarctica. I had been on the lookout ever since Santa Catalina but since it is October and I hadn’t even sighted one, I was beginning to think that the migration south had begun. So, here we were on our first full day at Santa Teresa and we decide to spend it at the beach. Tom wants to fix the door and it will be easier to exercise Winston on the sand away from the main park. Tom is in the back holding the door and I am driving. As we come over the crest of the cliff to the beach parking I suddenly see whale fluke, not just one or two but what appears to be a pod of at least 8. “Wow” I yell to Tom, “Wow, whales”. Then I remember he can’t see. Hang on”, I tell him. “No, get the camera”. I careened down the hill to the parking area. I did not know how long they would stay and I wanted to get some photos, if possible and check them out with the binoculars. Slamming the brakes on and barely taking the time to put the RV in park, I jump out. “Can you see them?” I ask Tom.
Winston, not knowing exactly what was happening, ran around us jumping and barking. I was entranced. I had so hoped to see these amazing whales. On the endangered species list, it is reckoned that there are only about 12,000 left in the world, although they are gradually increasing in numbers since countries are making a consolidated effort to conserve their breeding and migration. Their skin is dark grey or black with white patches on their belly. The females can grow to be over 45ft. long. They are known to have a unique form of play which scientists call “sailing” whereby they use their elevated flukes to catch the wind. They stayed in the bay all afternoon, not more than 200 feet offshore, sometimes closer and we watched as much as possible. We surmised it was a pod of perhaps 8 – 10. It could have been that they were feeding or maybe even calving. There were some smaller whales which could have been young. We were unsure but I was in 7th heaven. I couldn’t believe my luck and could barely take my eyes off them as they swam, surfaced, sailed and even arced from the water. I was in awe at their size and beauty. And so it was, as the sun starting to set and we walked Winston on the beach, we gazed out at two of the whales seemingly at play. Their bodies arching through the water and their flukes high above the surface as they dived. “Sailing”, it is a good term for it. As we headed back to our campsite, I just could not stop thinking about them, the Southern Right whale. When we got back to our site, another surprise awaited us. We had neighbors. A young German couple, Carsten and Anne are on a yearlong honeymoon trip through South America but... (and I swear I am not making this up) they are doing it on a recumbent tandem bicycle. For the second time today, I am in awe. A bicycle! Not in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) could I imagine doing this journey that way. They transported their German designed and made cycle from Hamburg to Porto Alegre, Brazil and they hope to ride to Patagonia before going to Chile and Peru. Anne sits in the front on the recumbent seat and Carsten takes the back. We chat about our respective trips. They, of course, face a whole different set of challenges than us but they are enthusiastic and confident that they will be able to accomplish it. We wish them well and hope to meet up with them again as we travel south.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crossing the border into Uruguay.

The border crossing was a breeze. The most exciting thing to happen was meeting with a fellow traveler from the States. Doing virtually the same route we are but on a motorcycle and by himself. It was quite amazing that, at the most southern point in Brazil and one of the most remote crossings, the only other person was another American. We exchanged stories as the officials took care of our paperwork. The lady at the Aduana office even spoke English. On the Uruguayan side, we processed through immigration and customs with a minimum of fuss. The person who inspected the RV also asked if we had documentation for Winston. I started pulling the USDA certificate, now almost two years old and certificates for rabies and health. He barely glanced at them and said ok. The fact that we have the paperwork and can show it on demand means more to the officials than actually reading it. He also asked if we had any meat or dairy. Because our refrigerator isn’t working and we are using an ice-chest, we didn’t, but other travelers, beware. He would have confiscated them. Even with this, the crossing only took us about 20 minutes. We had planned our first stop to be at the Parque Nacional de Santa Teresa, which was a campground that Sylvia from Paraguay had told us about. It is only about 40 kilometers from the border but first we need to get Uruguayan pesos, groceries and gas. The towns we passed en route had no bank and we were getting concerned. We arrived in Santa Teresa and immediately saw the old fortaleza (fort) on the hill. Built in 1762 it guarded this area of coastline until the early 1800’s. Although the guard allowed us to drive up to it, it was closed. Apparently, it is only open Thursday through Sunday and we vow to try to return providing we are still in the area. From there it was only another few minutes to the national park. To our surprise, it is guarded by the military. We ask about a bank and store. “Chuy”, the guard answered. Chuy? No where closer? He also said we could drive another 40 kilometers south to Castillos. Since we did not really want to retrace our route, we decided to go to Castillos and then explore some coast, maybe camp someplace else. In Castillos, we found the bank, a small supermarket and gas. Close to Castillos is the road to Aguas Dulces, which our map showed had a campground. However the camping was far from the beach and did not look very nice. We decided to go back up the coast and return to the national park. Dogs are technically not allowed but after we were told to keep Winston on a leash and close to the motor home and we agreed, everything was fine. The park is beautifully maintained with plenty of camp sites and small cabinas for rent. There are easy beach access roads and we chose a camp site on a hill overlooking the ocean. We allow Winston to play a little on the beach, under constant supervision of course and we are pleased with our first day in this small country that remains below the radar for most tourists but seems inviting to us.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Florianopolis to Chui (the frontera)

After spending a night at a posto, we were again on beach access roads following the coastline to Porto Alegre. When we arrived at the small town of Arroio do Sal, there was some great parking by the beach on the very quiet roads. Maybe it gets busy in the summer months or even weekends but now the hotels are closed as are many of the shops, but the sleepy beach town was perfect for us. We were able to allow Winston time to roam the beach at his leisure and the two days we spent here were warm and sunny although very windy. The sand dunes were a testament to the fact that the winds must stay gusty here year long. There was also an internet in town so we were able to catch up on emails and Skype our children. Our next stop is just about 50 miles south of Arroio do Sal. It is another small beach town called Xangri-La. Yes, that is pronounced Shangri-La and we can’t resist. If anything it is even more deserted than Arroio do Sal. We note that many houses are under construction or being refurbished but for who we don’t know. Maybe, people come from Porto Alegre on weekends. We find a shady picnic spot on the beach and decide it is good for the night. The beach is wide and flat with plenty of space for Winston. It’s early and we spend an idyllic day on the beach and lazing with our books. We also decided that this will be our last weekend in Brazil. On Monday we will cross the border. With that in mind, Friday became our longest drive day since leaving Peruibe. Over 300 miles. We went inland and by-passed the city of Porto Alegre. This is a huge port and we could see ships waiting to dock. There was also a lot of traffic and we had no wish to be in downtown with the motor home. After Porto Alegre it was on to Pelotas and a decision to make. We could take the shortest route to the border at Jagaurao but we have a few days left, so we decide to drive to Chui. This is Brazil’s southernmost city. There are also a couple of praias very close to the border after Rio Grande and we hope that one will be good for the RV. But first, we spend another night at a posto. Tom has driven all day and is tired. 300 plus miles is a lot given the roads and our frequent stops to stretch our legs and give Winston bathroom breaks. The road from Rio Grande to Chui is a narrow inlet with lagoons and swamps on both sides of the road. We are treated to an array of different birds and as always we think of Bruce, our brother in law and an avid ornithologist. He would love this. As it was we could identify only a few of the many species. Our last two nights in Brazil were spent at Praia Hermenegildo. We were able to park in a paved area at the beach, right next to the Capela Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes, which we took to translate to the Chapel of Our Lady of Navigators. The small capela is beautiful with an altar dedicated to the Virgin and a 5 ft model of an old sailing vessel against one wall. This is also a popular surf spot and by evening there were at least a dozen people in the water but all wearing wetsuits. Tom debated going in with his board but without a suit did not know how long he could stay in. He reconciled with taking his book and sat on the sea wall to watch. Sunday was spent relaxing and preparing for our border crossing. The capela hosted no service but was open so we could go inside and sit. We took long walks with Winston and contemplated our final day here in Brazil.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ilha de Santa Catarina & Praia Canasvieiras.

The 390 mile drive from Peruibe to Florianopolis took us two days, spending the night at a posto in Joinville. Before leaving Peruibe, I had emailed friends that we had met who had motor homes in Brazil, asking for places to stay. Jo & Lis had sent some information about a campsite in Praia Canasvieiras. Camping Costa do Sol turned out to be perfect. It had a river flowing to the ocean on one side and was located right on the beach but with plenty of shade. We were able to park with great views of the river on one side and the ocean on the other. They had water, electricity and sewer hookup but no internet, oh well. It is owned by two gentlemen and Ernesto visited us every day. He introduced us to his grand-daughter and her boyfriend, both of whom speak English and are studying International Relations at a nearby university. We stayed for 6 days, enjoying this beautiful island. Praia Canasvieiras is on the north western side of the island so the water is quite calm with only a little surf. The beach is about a 3 mile stretch of gorgeous white, silky sand. Throughout the days, we took some long walks with Winston. He just loves to race on the beach, jumping in waves and then running back to us for praise. It is so good to see him healthy after some of his recent joint problems. The weather stayed fairly good with only one day of rain – not bad for springtime. On our third day, we took a 5 hour cruise with an outfit called Pirate de Caribe. It was tremendous fun. We visited the Fortaleza de Santa Cruz, a fortress built in the early 1700’s by a brigadier to serve as protection for Florianopolis. Lunch was on another small island, a traditional Brazilian lunch of salad, rice, beans with a selection of fish and chicken. Quite delicious. We watched schools of dolphins, playing around the boat and in our wake and we met Pablo and Cesar. They are on vacation from Buenos Aires and spoke English. They were amazed at our adventures and we exchanged contact information. We will stay in touch and they offered to show us around Buenos Aires. We want to try some Argentinean beef that we have heard so much about and see a tango show. They also told us of some places in Uruguay to visit. Our last two days at the campsite were spent doing laundry and catching up on the never ending maintenance of the motor home. Monday found us on the road again, with the idea we will stay as close to the coast as we can to Porto Alegre and the border.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Leaving Peruibe

The good news is we are going to be back on the road to continue our trip. The bad – leaving our Peruibe “family”. After almost 5 months here, we are leaving. The kindness and friendship that has been shown to us is truly a testament to human beings. We befriended our neighbors Fred and Inga who kindly offered us use of their internet, washing machine and shared dinners. Tony and Ingrid and Franklina were steady companions throughout our stay. Luis, unfortunately, had to return to Egypt for business, but we hope to meet with him again. Ecilla, who owns the local TV station and had interviewed us, remained close to the end. We spent a couple of evenings with Patricia, including a memorable night of pizza and episodes of Fawlty Towers in deference to my (and hers) English upbringing. John Cleese still makes me have belly laughs at his antics. Adriana and her husband Nivaldo came to several of our get-togethers and Adriana – God bless her – managed to get my hair back into shape after some previous dreadful highlight work. Their 4 year old daughter, Carol reminded me that I am really looking forward to grand-children. Marcos helped us tremendously and in addition to several shared dinners, we were able to get to know his wife, Anna and daughters Fernanda, Marianna and Amanda. We spent a great evening in Santos with them and Franklina at the Coliseum listening to a symphonic Beatles Tribute night. Fernando came to our home, drove us to Sao Paulo for our trip to the US and introduced us and some of our friends to a great new restaurant. Maureen, we met through Adriana and Nivaldo. Up until our last day we were meeting new people who had heard of us and came to see us. Our final few days was spent packing the motor home for travel. We managed to get in dinners and the afore mentioned concert with friends. Winston sensed changes were in the air again and our sadness at leaving. Our last night, Ecilla cooked a traditional Bahia (east Brazilian) dinner. In addition to her brother Cleber, Franklina, Ingrid and Marcos were also there. After dinner, thanks to a handout from Franklina, they sang a song for us “Cancao da America” by Milton Nascimento which is about friends who leave and friends who return. We ended the evening with an enthusiastic – if slightly off key – rendition of James Taylor’s “You’ve got a friend”. After Marcos drove us back to our motor home for the night, I reminisced and shed some tears. Of sadness but also joy. Before the night was over, I had reminded Franklina, Ecilla and Ingrid – they are my Peruibe “sisters”. I don’t know when but one day I will visit again.