Posted by: glenswatman | February 3, 2010

20100122-31 BRAZIL

FRIDAY 22 JANUARY – We are woken
to the sound of a speaker announcement from the church saying that someone has
died.  Cassiano tells us it is common
here for the person to have a wake and then be buried the next day.  They do not use any preservatives on the body
so in the hot climate this is a necessity. 
In fact his own father died at 7pm and was buried the next morning at
9am. Cassiano’s Grandfather owned a coffee plantation just outside the city and
split it between the families when he died. 
Today Cassiano wants to show it to us and we set off with Rodrigo
joining us.  Unfortunately due to more
heavy rain during the night the dirt road becomes impassable.  Returning we are treated to the spectacle of two
toucans on the fence.  We call by to look
at the flooding by the river Sorocaba, now over 5m above normal level but not as
bad as the Parana River (Iguaçu Falls) which is 15m up.  We return for lunch then set out on an
afternoon trip.  Cassiano’s brother in
law Paul and his 2 brothers own a doll factory. 
Laranjal Paulista is the doll making capital of Brazil; guess you could
call it the “Valley of the dolls”!  The
Cotiplas factory is huge, producing 5 ½ million a year and this is only part of
the operation the “Super Toy” factory nearby is also owned by them but run by
one of each of their sons.   This tour is
not offered to the public but done as a favour to Cassiano so we are very lucky
and get to see the full operation starting with the plastic being heated and
poured into body part moulds.    Most of
their dolls have a soft body with the head and arms being filled with left over
plastic to give them weight.  A machine
stitches hair onto the heads but unfortunately not the right colour for
Steve!  At the end of the production line
Paul presents me with a new baby – which I promise to call Paulina after
him.  We are also shown a special room
full of dolls belonging to other companies which they take apart to get ideas
for their new models.  A thoroughly
enjoyable tour.  In the evening we have
been invited to Cassiano’s brother (staying with the medical theme he is a
paediatrician) Adriano’s home for a family meal.  His wife is Adriana and they have a son Tales
and daughter Natalia.  Many homes in
Brazil have a semi open air garage with tiled floor leading to the “Barra
Cao”.  This is a kind of huge outdoor
kitchen with wood stove where families gather. Adriano has recently had a
swimming pool built in the back garden and it looks superb.   Luciano and family join us along with Mum
Eva.  We drink the classic Brazilian
drink caipirinha, made with sugar, fresh crushed lemon, ice and cachaça (a
spirit made from sugar cane).  They cook
a family recipe corn soup which is delicious with chunks of sausage in it.  Dessert is also made of corn, a kind of corn
custard topped with nutmeg, tasty and very filling.  A wonderful chance to get to know more of the
family and share in the lifestyle.

LARANJAL
PAULISTA 2, COUCHSURFING WITH CASSIANO AND FAMILY

 

SATURDAY 23 JANUARY – Once again
we get heavy rain through the night but wake to a sunny morning.  Strolling around the town the church is full
of flowers for a wedding and looks beautiful. 
At weekends the family always go to the fish farm for lunch.  It is a great place in the country and the “tilapia”
is very tasty.  Whilst eating our meal we
see many fishermen catching big fish which they will buy and take home.  On the way back we pass a coffee plantation
and get a close of view of the rows of bushes. 
The green berries are harvested when they turn read and then taken to be
roasted but at the moment look nothing like coffee beans.  Next stop is at the farm owned by the 3
brothers.  Years ago they built the
cachaça factory and now produce 20,000 litres a year.  They have a customer whilst we are there and
we are amazed to find this 40% spirit sells at only R2 (70p) a litre.  After our afternoon naps we set out to find
the carnival rehearsal as we can hear the drums.  Unfortunately we arrive just after it has
finished. 

LARANJAL
PAULISTA 3, COUCHSURFING WITH CASSIANO AND FAMILY

 

SUNDAY 24 JANUARY – The family
are meeting for a special dinner, feijoada – a kind of stew made with chunks of
pork, slices of spicy sausage and onions. 
It is served up with rice, a sort of cooked shredded lettuce and black
beans.  Luckily we have time to swim in
the pool before lunch as we would have been weigh too heavy afterwards.   Cassiano drive us to the local quarry where
kids sometimes swim.  Usually it is a
beautiful blue colour but after the rain it is not so attractive.  We return to his home for a few hours before
going back for the evening family rendezvous. 
This time we eat Esfiha – a type of bread roll baked with meat inside
and for dessert Quindin (sounds like King Dong) pudding and carrot cake.  Our experience in Laranjal Paulista has been
fantastic, great hosts and a wonderful opportunity to meet the whole family and
try many traditional foods. 

LARANJAL
PAULISTA 4, COUCHSURFING WITH CASSIANO AND FAMILY

 

MONDAY 25 JANUARY – Cassiano
is at work but Edilene has taken the morning off.  She watches as I prepare the chilli pasta for
lunch.  We take a walk around town and
visit the clinic where Cassiano is working. 
The waiting room is crowded and young children are using pieces of
cardboard to skate around on the tiled floor. 
His lunch hour is 11 – 12 so we eat very early and invite Eva to join
us.  Afterwards we sit, watch and
thoroughly enjoy the movie “UP”.  Cassiano
nips back from work to take us down to the bus station for our 1430hrs Viacao Calvipe
bus to Sorocaba, R19.55 (£6.50).  No
air-con but a nice breeze through the open windows.  There’s some sort of problem with the bus as
we have to stop somewhere and change to another coach and then we get rain so
it is stifling inside.  Instead of a 1 ½
– 2 hour journey it ends up being over 2 ½ hours and we arrive after 5pm.  No sign of Alex to meet us so we give him a
call and find he is at the station.  His
girlfriend Gisele tracks us down and we meet up with Alex then hop into the
car.  Alex was not allowed into the
station as he has no shirt on, this is because he recently had a motorcycle
accident and broke his collar bone and now has a big sling.  He is an English teacher and has lived in
London.  Just as we arrive at their
apartment complex the heavens open up and within minutes the car park is like a
lake.  It would be impossible to walk a
couple of yards without getting soaked Gisele takes my small umbrella to go to
the apartment to get some big ones.  Even
with umbrellas and a plastic poncho our bags get a bit wet.  It is as if someone is pouring a huge bucket
of water out.  At their 2nd
floor apartment we find they have given us their room and they intend sleeping
in a spare room on an air bed.  They
invite Couchsurfing friend Max and Alex’s student Alandro round for the
evening.  There is a power cut so we sit
chatting by candle light.  We are
carrying a supply of tea bags so introduce them to English tea.  There are no obvious tourist attractions in Sorocaba
but nearby is the biggest sky diving school in the country.  Unfortunately our 1 night stay prohibits us
even considering it.  The other claim to fame
for Sorocaba is that they manufacture parts for the huge wind turbines.  Doubt they give out any freebies! 

SOROCABA, COUCHSURFING WITH ALEX & GISELE

 

TUESDAY 26 JANAURY – Alex
has bought us tickets for the 0955hrs Garcia bus to Londrina, R67.30 (£24).   Some roads are closed due to flooding so we
leave in plenty of time but the traffic is worse than expected.  Luckily all Brazilians drive like Grand Prix
drivers so with Ayrton Senna (Gisele) at the wheel we make it through arriving with
a couple of minutes to spare.  It is a
more comfortable coach with a wider gap between seats and leg and foot
rests.  Again the countryside is much
like England but much more of it.  
Drinking water is supplied and although there is a toilet on board we
make a couple of stops.  Each time
entering the building you are given either a sheet or plastic card on which to
record purchases before heading to the check out.  Even just to go to the bathroom you must take
a card, walk all the way through the restaurant and shops and hand it in before
leaving.  This time we are only 30 minute
late arriving in Londrina at 1830hrs. 
The bus station is amazing, 2 floors with the top floor round with glass
windows on all sides looking out to the bus stands.  Taking the exit ramp we are approached by a
couple of lads.  Franco (John because he
looks like John Lennon) is our host Kilda’s son and Gabriel (Bola because he
has a big belly) his friend.  Just get
into the car before it starts raining again. 
Kilda lives in a bungalow near the city airport.  She is the same age as me, was married to an
Italian and has 3 children, her 2 girls living in Italy.  She is a sworn language interpreter.   There
are another couple of lads at the house “Gu” (Gustav) who works with Kilda as a
translator and “Bastian” (Sebastian) a friend of Franco’s.  Gu is cooking a Thai curry and it is
superb.  Kilda’s friend Einida, from Rio,
is also joining us so with 8 around the table it is quite a rowdy meal.  After eating the youngsters all head off
clubbing leaving the 4 of us to chat.

LONDRINA 1, COUCHSURFING WITH KILDA

 

WEDNESDAY 27 JANUARY – Our
son David’s 31st birthday but without wi-fi we have to settle for
E-mailing a greeting.  Kilda who was born
here takes us on a sightseeing tour of Londrina “little London”, named by
founders including Arthur Thomas.  There
is an attractive lake here split into many sections but it is very muddy from
the rains.  The firemen are checking to see
whether there is enough visibility for them to do some of their exercises
underwater as they want to check out a new video camera.  We see horses and carts in the city, poor
people trying to salvage useful things that homeowners throw out.  Londrina was once the biggest coffee producer
in the world and at the edge of the city we see huge empty warehouses and a
rusty train on the railway line.  All was
abandoned after the bushes were lost to frost. 
The Japanese immigrant workers remained and there is now a Japanese commemorative
square.  As the city is only 70 years old
the cathedral is very modern and has a very steep “A” frame shape.  Other points of interest are the original
Oscar Niemeyer designed bus station and the “English” style train station with
museum.  Kilda invites us to a friend’s
birthday party in a bar.  We set out just
before 10pm in the pouring rain.  None of
the other guests speak English but of course we have a good interpreter so
manage brief chats.  In the background is
a band with drums and guitarist paid for by the obligatory R4 (£1.40) pp cover
charge. 

LONDRINA 2, COUCHSURFING WITH KILDA

 

THURSDAY 28 JANAURY – As
usual I get up first but we are starting to get a bit worried about Steve’s
lethargy and need for so much sleep. 
Originally we were putting it down to the pain in his hand stopping him
sleeping properly at night but now feel there may be something else going on.  Today Kilda’s sister in law and housekeeper Abigail
wants to cook us a traditional meal for lunch, whilst my cottage pie will put
in an appearance tonight, so we make a supermarket run.   You
may wonder why I make so many cottage pies when we don’t eat them all that
often in England – I know I can almost always get the ingredients, it makes a
change from the ubiquitous rice and beans and if people are late for dinner
(which is almost always the case) the meal can just sit in the oven.  Abigail’s meal is “vaca atolado” which Kilda
translates to “drowning cow”.   Chunks of
beef in a sticky puree of “mandioca” (cassava) which Steve proclaims to be the
tastiest food he has had in Brazil.  Late
afternoon we join Kilda for a ride up to the University where she has been
teaching.  She is taking early retirement
and has to sign off so quite a momentous occasion.  In the campus we see one of the original
pioneer homes and also a scale model of a wooden church.  Return in another downpour.  On TV we see news about the problems caused
by the unprecedented rain in South America, the rail line to Machu Picchu has
collapsed and people are being rescued from Aguascalientes by helicopter.  Early evening we are joined by Couchsurfer
Marcio and his girlfriend Polline from a nearby town. They saw we were in the
area and sent me a message hoping to meet us so Kilda suggested we invite them
over for dinner.  My meal was originally
prepared for 5 people but somehow manages to serve 11 of us as Franco’s friends
Gabriel and Guilherme and Abigail and her sons Gabriel and Matheus join
us. 

LONDRINA 3, COUCHSURFING WITH KILDA

 

FRIDAY 29 JANAURY – I
usually wake when I hear Abigail arrive and chat to Kilda but today find I wake
at ¼ to 10.  Abigail has been out since
5am getting in line to get her son Gabriel a national identity card so he can
go to a different school.  Only 80 are
issued each day whilst 1000’s wish to apply. 
She arrives back around 11am having been the first to get one.  I join them for a drive to the new school to
register.  Kilda takes me to a couple of
fruit and veg markets to explain the different produce.  She buys some “xuxu” which Abigail will puree
with flour and bake in the oven.  Another
person in the store obviously speaks English and understands what is happening
because at the checkout she asks Kilda why she is buying “xuxu” for us as it is
like a “hole in the wall” and tasteless compared to others things she could
have bought!  At another stall Kilda asks
for “pinha” a kind of fruit that looks like a mini artichoke.  She asks the stallholder to pick some good
ones for her English friend who has never tried them before and he jokes that
he could give us anything as we would be none the wiser.  Abigail cooks up the “xuxu” in a kind of
soufflé and it is very tasty.   Kilda is
joined by Gu for our drive to Maringa. 
Unfortunately it is raining for most of the journey but we arrive in
sunshine at the tree lined city. 
Fernando meets up with us and we follow him to his home.  He lives with his parents but his Mum is away
in USA for the birth of her first granddaughter.   His Dad Valdevino speaks no English but
seems pleased to have us as visitors. 
Bruno his brother speaks quite a lot of English and is a computer
programmer.  Early evening Fernando takes
us for a drive around the city.  There is
a magnificent modern cathedral with the highest spire in Latin America, around
400m.  The nearby park is closed at the
moment as the resident wild monkeys are sick but we walk part of the perimeter
and are amazed at the sheer number and age group of people using the outdoor
gym equipment.  We return to watch some
TV before Fernando heads out for the evening, at 11pm!

MARINGA, COUCHSURFING WITH FERNANDO

 

SATURDAY 30 JANUARY – Well
the rain has caught up with us again. 
Fernando was out late last night but when he gets up mid morning he
cooks us our second breakfast of delicious banana pancakes.  He takes me to the supermarket to buy the
ingredients for a curry which I cook on return home.  In the evening we are joined by Fernando’s
brother and his girlfriend Isabella and his friends Pamela and Aniston for
curry night.  Afterwards we introduce
Fernando, Alisson and Pamela to “Arsehole” which they really enjoy.  Again just before midnight Fernando and his
friends head out for the evening.

MARINGA 2, COUCHSURFING WITH FERNANDO

 

SUNDAY 31 JANUARY – Wonderful
sunshine for a change.  When Fernando
returns we head off to the bus station to book our onward journey.  Although we hate night buses it makes sense
for us to take the Maringa bus leaving just after midnight and arriving in
Iguacu at 7am, R$67 (£25).  Fernando
shows us many other areas of the city including a nice park dedicated to
“Lourdes” and a street lined with an amazing amount of clinics covering all
ailments.  On the fringes of the park the
monkeys are out playing and although signs forbid it many people are feeding
them so we cash in on the opportunity to take some great pictures.  At one stage a car pulls up and the passenger
window is open and a monkey immediately tries to get inside and freaks out the
occupants.  Other people give the monkeys
food then make a quick run to get in their cars.  Actually it is almost as funny watching the
stupid people as the monkeys!  Valdevino
cooks up a delicious lunch which we eat with the family in the outside
area.  In the afternoon Fernando, Bruno
and Isabella join us playing “arsehole”. 
At midnight Fernando takes us to the bus station concluding our
enjoyable visit to Maringa.

BUS FROM MARINGA TO FOZ DO IGUACU

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