On the move

(disclaimer to readers: this is a LONG one, but has lots of great pics and now featuring video! We hope you enjoy!)

We left Rio on 10/1 to travel around in areas south and west of the state of Rio de Janeiro before we ‘settle in’ again in Buenos Aires starting October 17th.

Right before we left Rio, we snuck in some final tourist sites, including the famous Corcovado (meaning “hunchback”) Mountain with the famous Christ the Redeemer statue (with outstretched, encompassing arms).  If you watched any of NBC’s Olympic coverage this summer, you most likely saw the statue and view from the Corcovado about 5,492 times, but here are a few more shots from our visit just in case you missed it:

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View from the Corcovado:

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Sean’s most-prized companion Puppy wanted to join us for this particular excursion…

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And he didn’t want the rest of them to feel left out, so they came along for the trip too.

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Colin’s new buddy, “Sook” (acquired in the Houston Airport once we realized that his true best friend “Beary” didn’t make it into the shuttle from Berkeley to SFO!) also joined us:

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We also fit in a driving tour of some points of interest in and around Rio, including a tour of the flavela Vila Pereira da Silva, which is a small community above Rio’s South Zone Laranjeiras neighborhood that is home to the now-famous Morrinho Project. The Morrinho model, which was started by local youth in 1997, is a model of the city constructed from bricks and other recycled materials. From the project’s own website: “It began as a simple childhood game to escape from the realities of violence and corruption that surrounded the teens and their community. Morrinho has increasingly garnered attention for its aesthetics and ingenuity of its young creators, growing from a local phenomenon to an international exhibit. It has been able to use that attention to evolve, not only as a work of art, but also, into an organization with aspirations for social change.”

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The project has been featured in art exhibits all over the world, including the Venice Art Bienalle.

Our photo-bombing skills continue to evolve as well…

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Our first stop after leaving Rio was in Ilha Grande (‘big island’) which is a few hours’ drive south + a short boat ride from Rio. In fact, we felt right at home because we took “The 101” south to get there. (For our New Jersey readers, this is the same as saying route 101 :))

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Known for beautiful and clean beaches, lush forests, many beautiful birds and tons of marine life, Ilha Grande is a popular vacation spot for many Brazilian vacationers, in addition to tourists from abroad like us. With no cars on the island, and development limited to preserve the area, the population of the island tops out at 12,000 residents.

While Mother Nature didn’t exactly favor us with the weather while we were there (3 days of mostly rain), we made the most of our visit including exploring parts of the island coast by boat, hiking between gorgeous beaches, and snorkeling in both the Lagoa Azul (the Blue Lagoon, which in this case was actually green) and the Lagoa Verde (Green Lagoon, which was also a green lagoon ;)). We saw huge sea urchin that looked like they were glowing with lavender light, schools of different small fish, huge orange star fish, and reefs covered with anenomes.

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Cecelia and Sean didn’t hesitate to work on their boogie-boarding skills, and we got in many hands of our current repertoire of card games: crazy 8’s, hearts (we’re learning!), and of course “I doubt it,” known to some as “baloney” and maybe even to others (not saying who) as “BS” (we play the ‘baloney’ version). Next on the list are Spades and Bridge.  Wish us luck 🙂

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Highlights of Ilha Grande in ranked order were definitely 1) the gorgeous nature of the barely developed island, and 2) a little spot on the beach about 200M from our Pousada called Cafe do Mondo. The food was honestly nothing of note, but the playlist on the bartender’s laptop was somehow ideal for playing cards in the pouring rain at the beach, and we had a lot of fun drinking chocolate quente (hot chocolate), along with a caipirinha or two (of course) beating each other at cards, and watching the waves rock all the tiny boats in the bay.

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The lowlight of Ilha Grande was probably when the water got a little rough when we were returning to the island from our day of snorkeling and our boat captain said to us “I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen conditions like this,” referring to the combination of winds from the south with rain.  Then he added “it’s definitely been more than 5 years…I can’t remember seeing this weather, so strange.” The water was only a bit rough, but really, I would have preferred to hear about the unique nature of the weather and water conditions once we were safely back on shore.  For any Seinfeld fans out there, it called to mind George’s encounter with the whale he saved when he was a marine biologist: “the sea was angry that day my friends” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0u8KUgUqprw

From Ilha Grande, we continued south to Paraty. Paraty (also spelled Parati, and pronounced “para-chee”) is a coastal historic town that has the southernmost beach in the state of Rio de Janeiro.  We learned (and maybe Jim already knew) that it was first settled by the Portuguese in 1667. It is a beautiful town of old churches and cobblestone streets with no cars allowed in the historic downtown, and it is surrounded by forests, waterfalls, islands and emerald-green sea.

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In Paraty, the adventures continued, and we took two different day trip tours with two different guides to explore the amazing natural areas surrounding the town. The first day, we did a jeep tour to visit waterfalls and to swim, including one that had a natural waterslide of solid rock that Jim, Cecelia and I all braved the frigid water to try.

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On Day 2 in Paraty, we boated over to a natural pool created by huge rocks at the end of remote Praia Do Meio (Trindade Beach) and swam with fishes and crabs [this linked map shows our starting point in Rio, Ihla Grande south off the coast, and Paraty, including Trinidade Beach].

We also saw the historic Capela Nossa Senhora da Conceicao (Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception) which was the first church in the Paraty region, built around 1686.

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It didn’t take long to realize that we’d only be scratching the surface of Paraty in the three days we were there, and Jim already has a mental to-do list for the next time he returns. Bottom line is that Vaya Adventure clients will probably have some great new options in Brazil as a result of our fun (and Jim’s hard work) while we were in town.

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Most of the hotels and pousadas have some type of entertainment for the kids, and as a result, Sean’s pool skills have developed considerably in the past 6 weeks! Just watch out if he challenges you to a game once we return next Summer.

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Our final morning in Paraty, the sun came out and stayed out, which was perfect for Jim and Cecelia and their planned sea kayaking adventure.

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After Paraty, we were graciously hosted in Jundiai [pronounced june-jai-ee] (a city of 400,00 outside of Sao Paolo) by one of Jim’s business partners, Douglas Simoes, and his family, wife Luciana, and kids Anita (7), and Miguel (6).

Jim and Douglas have been working together for close to 2 years, but we were still a bit disbelieving to receive an invitation to host our entire family of 5 for three days and nights in their home. Anyone who has shared a meal, an afternoon, an overnight, or maybe even just a car ride with our entire family knows that it has it’s moments. Not to mention, by the time we arrived, we had been wet and dirty for 6 straight days of rain and adventure  in Ilha Grande and Paraty. Grandma and Marmo will both cringe to hear that we not only showed up as not the best-smelling houseguests you could hope to have, but with 4 loads of dirty laundry to boot.

Douglas and his family planned an entire weekend’s worth of activities for us- they wore us out, and we had a great time! We kicked off at a birthday party of one of Anita’s friends on Friday night and then woke up Saturday morning for a guided nature walk with 4 other families (17 people in total!) and enjoyed a traditional Brazilian BBQ lunch that they prepared at home. Lunch is typically the biggest meal in Brazil, and this was no exception, with us eating tons of yummy grilled food hot off the grill, until we were (very) full! On Sunday, we joined in a neighborhood activity, led by Luciana, to replant seedlings in the community garden, and to plant trees in the community park. Sunday afternoon we were treated to a live performance of a popular kids’ band from Sao Paolo, Grupo Triii at a 100 year old theater (recently refurbished) in downtown Jundiai.

Their community also just happened to have a soccer field which was heaven for (especially) the boys- all you have to do is show up with a ball, and soon enough, you have enough kids for a great game (and the moves on some of these (young) kids, wow!)

We topped off the weekend with a sushi dinner(rodizio-style) with a big group of friends and they surprised Jim (and me) with a cake and singing for Jim’s birthday.

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It was an amazing three days and we were overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality of Douglas and his family (and friends!) It was so great for the kids to hang out with other kids, language barriers notwithstanding, and they had so much fun with Anita, Miguel and their neighbors and friends. The kids don’t always know exactly how to tell us (at least with words, that is) but we know they need their own space too, and this was a great opportunity for them to get some.

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It can be hard as a tourist or traveler to feel like you’re an observer day after day, and that you’re watching how others live without really experiencing how it is to live in that way or that place. It was so wonderful to be in our hosts’ home and to see a small slice of what daily life looks like. And one thing that Luciana and I agreed on almost right away is that despite all the differences, there will always be so many things that are the same for families, and really, for people, everywhere. Listening to Luciana talk to her sweet daughter Anita (with whom Cecelia made fast friends) was great Portuguese practice for me, and more than once, I smiled or laughed out loud because I recognized the exact same conversations happening between them in the car, at bedtime, or at mealtime, that I have with my own kids all the time.

After Jundiai, we were off again for more adventures to Bonito and the Pantanal. Stories of our adventures in both places will be featured in our next post as we get caught up after a few super busy (and offline) weeks.

Hasta pronto (see you soon, in Spanish) from our new base in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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