Return to South Brazil

Departing California was bittersweet.  Our time at home was filled with so much joy and love, so many moments great and small it seemed that 10 weeks had passed too quickly, but also, it was just right.   We departed with a deep gratitude for all we saw and shared.  The road was calling.  With eyes on adventure in South America, we headed to LAX for the 3 flights back to the island of Florianopolis, Brazil where our van was parked.

Flying in and out of days and through the night into other time zones and countries, it really becomes kind of unbelievable to us how far we have really driven!  That said- we have put on 25,000 miles in over 2 years.  Many people put that on in a year of daily commuting to and from work.Our pals Shirley, Rafa and 6 year old Lucas greeted us warmly at their house just down the road from where we had stayed a few months ago.
The van was parked just as we left it and we spent the next few days catching up with our friends & cleaning everything from top to bottom while getting moved back in.  We have spared you these boring photos (ok, we never even took any… buckets of soapy water and scrub brushes aren’t that photogenic).

Super Banda Musical Circus was performing as part of the 4th Annual International Festival of Clowns (who knew!) preformed at the Circus of Doña Bilica just down the road.   Emily laced all the kiddos up with some makeup, we grabbed popcorn and waited patiently for the big-top to open.Sierra was charmed by the music, lights and clowning around, even giggling at some of the right moments, which just made our row laugh the harder to see her tiny face scrunched up in delight.  Coco & the other kiddos rushed to the front, excited that they matched the singing, dancing performers!Coco takes percussions very seriously.Colette’s favorite part of the circus was the finale, when the clowns poured out balloons and “sprinkles” (confetti).  All the children swarmed the front in a riot of giggles.All moved into the van, we set off for our first real time on the road as a foursome.  Exciting!!  Sierra had spent her first 2 months in the little casa on the beach, then the last 2 months couch surfing in California.  The time to set sail on our land yacht arrived.

Our first port was the dreamy beach town of Praia do Rosa.   We set up camp at the south end of the road and took a deep sigh- ahhh to be back on the road.We see our lives on the road as living in the world, more than living in our van.  Right from the van was a small point and trail which led to rocky outcropping.  Coco would climb out of the van first thing in the morning for a little walk on ‘her trail’… and by walk we mean skipping, jumping, and climbing barefoot while singing, shouting or whispering both happy songs and secret incantations.

Time has a way of pouring out sweetly as a child.  Like honey from a comb, it dribbles out in no rush, sweet and pure.  As we grow older, this gift of time is diluted, watered down with appointments and alarms, our busy comings and goings, and we forget how to tap into that slow rhythm.  To watch children play is the greatest reminder of how to remain present.

Foot prayers!Ever wonder how everything stays so green? It is rain…something we wish would come to California, currently suffering the worst drought in its recorded history.  In the summer months, this place fills up and we would never have had the quiet solitude we encountered.  We typically avoid ‘high season’ in most places, instead enjoying the in between moments when a place is not at its flashiest, fullest or most expensive.We shared this family portrait on our Instagram with some 72,000 people, but nobody seemed to notice how hilarious it really is!On our third day, another blue van with a pop-top appeared!  So of course we went over & made friends.  Simon is from Switzerland and is currently traveling with Lisa & Steve from South Africa.Laden with sunblock and long sleeves we set off for a hike in the unpredictable weather.What we first thought was a great shell find, was in fact a still occupied Giant African land snail, Achatina fulica.  Initially introduced to Brazil in 1988 as a great food source for the ‘booming escargot market’  (that never materialized as hoped) and now these giants are considered one of the top 100 invasive species in the world.
The Tibouchina, known as ‘glory bushes’ or ‘princess flower’,  are abundant and native to Brazil.From the hills top, we gained a grand vista down the coast of Ibiraquera.Our very independent 3 going on 4 year old likes to be the leader.  A lot.  Colette is a fiery, passionate little one.  She is a leader, not ‘bossy’ as many girls with the same desire get labeled.  Many things in life are the same, yes?  It all depends on how you look at things that influence our perception of them.  Like if you are expecting salt but get sugar it tastes so strange.
The Malachite Butterfly, Siproeta stelenes, is a gorgeous neotropical specimen whose verdant coloring melts into the background.These gnarly spiky tomato looking bushes were not inviting to eat, and as suspected are toxic.  Native to Eastern Brazil, the Solanum capsicoides are also called Cockroach Berry because the sliced fruit is used as bait for cockroaches.  Hope we don’t have to put this knowledge to use anytime soon.
It seems Colette was a better hiker at 2 than she is at 3, so we have been in ‘training’ for hiking in Patagonia.   Nearing the end of a good hike, it seems the enthusiastic rock hopper is back on track (we hope).
Fishing boats rest in covered dry docks, with ladders to assist their entrance and exits from the sea.
What kind of science experiment is Emily brewing?It is a “chia breakfast jar”!  Colette is always so eager to participate, with almost everything, and this recipe is perfect for kids to help with.  There are endless variations; this particular one based on what was in the pantry, well actually they always are- I am not much of a ‘shop for a recipe’ type of lady… that said let me know how this works for you!
“Chia Breakfast jar”
1/3 cup raw pepita (pumpkin seeds)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 cup strawberry juice (or to top of jar)
*let your little one help measure & pour all ingredients in the jar, screw on lid and shake!
Make sure there aren’t any chia clumps and if there are, mash them up with a spoon.  Wait at least 4 hours for the chia to do its thing & absorb the moisture, but overnight is best.  We use this as atop granola as a yogurt substitute, with sliced fruit or slurped down just as it is.  
All of the high altitude + pregnancy nausea was well worth it, these two are seriously so stoked to be together.At 4.5 months, just like her big sister, Sierra has a new pair of bottom teeth.  Since pouching these puppies through, she has gone from mildly interested in food, to screaming at us when we eat and pulling our plates off the table.  So at 5 months, we gave her some banana.  This is her first bite!
Thanks for the new kicks Huf
Our friends at Bridge & Burn in Portland, Oregon laced us up with some new road-worthy threads, all made in the USA. Here, the women’s Bird in Navy Polkadot & Warbler jacket in Burgundy. T H I S  is what matters.
After 2 years on the road, we know that less is more.  We ‘know’ this, but somehow keeping it a reality is difficult. Especially after bringing all the necessary goods for another, albeit small, human into the van.  After our wheels ground the front fender, our van kindly reminded us it was time for a purge.  So we did.  That spare tire under the front that was the wrong size? Gone.  Those 14 travel books from countries we will not recross for years? Mailed back to Cali.  17 pairs of socks? Later.  Even our beloved dashboard collection was ruthlessly reduced.

There was lots of good stuff, but we were happy to pass the goods on.  A couple headed to the beach stopped to talk, they were Argentine expats living in Brazil who were setting off in less than a year for their own over landing adventure. Sol & Alvaro were the right people at the right time, and scored a bunch of treasures.
We loaded up everything, started up the van and rolled down the windows to depart.  Emily looked at the ocean and joyously exclaimed “WHALES!”   So we turned off the van, pulled out the kiddos and scrambled onto the rocks closest to the Southern Right Whale mama & baby that were in the bay.  For nearly an hour, we watched in delight as Mama whale would teach her calf, then watch baby mimic the same movement.  They are sadly named Right Whales because they were the ‘right’ ones to hunt as they are docile, stay near coasts and have a high blubbler percentage.   They were hunted in Brazil until the 1970’s and their numbers have steadily increased since.  Whale watching is now a source of local income in many parts of Southern Brazil, where the Antarctic residents come to have their young.  What a blessing to witness!
Sol & Alvaro are future overlanders, currently building their rig (a Toyota truck + camper).  They depart for the road in May 2015!   Ibiraquera was the next very close destination that we had overlooked from our hike.  Set next to a stream from a lagoon that meets the sea, we set up our dining room to have our new friends Sol & Alvaro over for dinner of sundried tomato risotto & grilled broccoli.
Sometimes a river crossing is required to restock on wine, oh darn.
Camped in the cover of the woods a stones throw away, we enjoyed the dappled light as a place to get some work done with the help of our Yeti 400 Solar Generator from Goal Zero.   This device will charge our laptop 5 times before needing to be recharged by either solar panels, the alternator from the motor or a wall socket,  allowing us to work remotely and to create content for you all to enjoy, without having to plug in.  Clean energy for a #solarlife that works for our #vanlife- so stoked! After a bit of work, we relocated to the waters edge.  Colette is determined to learn how to swim and her floaties are a new must have item. 

Underneath the sea of stars & surrounded in silence, Praia do Luz was home for a night.  
Colette Nova: spreading love and joy for 3 years 9 months here on Earth.  
Another day, another hike.  With scenes like these how can you not get out and explore all the breathtaking beauty at every turn?Sunrise over the Atlantic.
Alvaro had to work, but Sol, who is a yoga instructor, had the day off & was available to take us on an inland adventure. The Rio D’Una separates two counties, neither of which wants to pay for a bridge over the river, which runs an astounding 50 meters deep at this seemingly calm crossing.   The Brazilian solution- have a floating ‘balsa’ and pay a few people to operate it 24/7.  
After a long & bumpy road, we arrived and enjoyed a late afternoon hike on the sun dappled trail to the cachoeira (waterfall).
We have said it before, and we will say it again.  Local knowledge is far better than any guidebook.  We would have never found this series of falls hidden in the jungle, if we hadn’t been welcomed so kindly by Alvaro & Sol, Emiliano & Luz.
While tobacco consumption in Brazil is low in comparison to the rest of the world, it is the # 2 producer (following China).  Tobacco requires a relatively small area to produce a living wage for farmers, for example: 1 hectare of tobacco would require 6.5 hecatres of corn or 9.6 hecatres of beans to create a comparable income.
This scene could have as easily have been 1914 or  2014.
Emiliano helped row the balsa back across the river.   He & Luz are talented musicians who later played a few magical songs for us beneath the stars.
We were all at super relaxed after a gorgeous day enjoying the delights of Mother Nature.
This Brazilian black tarantula, Grammostola Pulchara, was out for a stroll near a path to the beach.  More of an “ooh!” than “eek!” Adam stopped to look closer at the hairy spider with Colette, who as you know from her name of “Baby Spider Rainbow Rainbow Sierra Luna” for her sister, is not an arachnophobe.  Popular in the pet trade, it is illegal to export wild caught specimens, who reach up to 7″ when full grown.
When you meet friends on the road you really sit well with, it makes it all that harder to push off.  We could have stayed in Florianopolis, we could have stayed in Praia do Rosa, but we have our eyes on Patagonia for the South American summer, so working our way south is mandatory.  Next up was Farol de Santa Marta.

With two kiddos, we have found there is a much shorter travel window, requiring more frequent stops and more acrobatic contortions from Emily as she climbs from front to back & back to front as needs demand.  As expected, travel with 2 is different than 1.  Sierra is quite a good traveler, with a sweet and mellow temperament, but has her limit to hours in the carseat.  Emily & Colette trade off who sits in back with her, while Adam drives us safely.  When she naps, Coco & Emily both sit up front.  We are getting our flow, we are learning along the way.
We free camped south of town down the beach a bit, on a wind whipped stretch we had all to ourselves.
The small town and lighthouse seemed a world away. 
If Joshua Tree was on the beach, perhaps it would look like this.  
Adam was feeling pretty good with his beach driving skills.
And then… yeah, the challenges of being a heavy 2 wheel drive + soft sand.
We brought back the sand ladders last year, but this was their inaugural usage.
Colette was super stoked to have Papa build sand castles with her for so long!  After some major digging, and reversing to set the sand ladders, Adam finally got us out.  We were reminded (after the fiasco) by our cyber-friends and fellow overlanders Drive Nacho Drive, that if we lowered the air in the tires to 12 psi, it would have been no problem to get out- a good one to keep in mind! 
Two bottom teeth, a smile that melts hearts- Sierra is a happy camper. A year ago we met Leticia & Diego in Arequipa, Peru as they traveled from Brazil through Uruguay, Argentina, Peru & Chile in their 1979 Chevy Chevette.  Emily was early pregnant and they inquired where we were going to have the baby… we said we weren’t sure, but perhaps Brazil.  They enthusiastically replied, “Yes!  Go to Florianopolis!”  which was the first we had really heard about it.  With lots of research, we decided that was a great idea.  So we did.  Fast forward a year, we arrived in Novo Hamburgo to reconnect with old friends!  It was a wonderful added bonus when we arrived at their white marble palace that was the entire 12th floor of a building.
“I made Sierra a pillow fort so she will be very, very cozy- but did not cover her head so she can breathe.”  big sister Coco announced.
Colette is great at living the life of luxury.
Emily’s 34th birthday was celebrated in Novo Hamburgo, Brazil.  33rd: Sacred Valley of the Inca, Peru.  32nd: Playa Cerritos, Todos Santos, Baja Mexico.  Blessed to celebrate another trip around the sun, with a trip around the earth!
For the day, we headed up to Gramado & Canela, two neighboring European style villages in Brazil.  We had to stop at Casa do Milkshake!  The sorvete (ice cream) buffet is a popular thing in Brazil and Coco is not mad at that!  Her favorite (dairy-free) flavor is acai; a sweet treat for our little sweetie.
In Southern Brazil, mate is the drink and people tote around their thermoses everywhere (as in Argentina and Uruguay).  Served in a dried calabash gourd cuia, and drank with a metal straw bomba the bitter tea contains antioxidants, 15 amino acids & 24 vitamins and minerals. Leticia & Diego were sure Colette would be stoked to head to the Village of Papai Noel (Father Christmas), where the fun house mirrors made us all giggle.
Sierra, Colette &Brazilian Santa Papai Noel, November 2014.Emily has some weird party tricks.Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Canela is an English gothic style church that dominates the skyline of the small town that embraces Christmas cheer with all its might.  Birthday dinner was fondue & champagne!  While Brazilian wine is horrid (trust), they make some pretty nice espumante–  Salton Brut was the order.  Platters of bread, boiled baby potatoes, broccoli, cornichones, olives, carrots, 12 types of sauces to accompany the meats you cook at your table on a small charcoal grill (very similar to a Japanese yakiniku) accompanied the first 2 courses of cheese fondue that came with a small flame to keep it bubbly and oozy. Mmmmmm, melted cheese with wine!  Then, when we thought we could dip no further, out came the chocolate fondue with pineapple, strawberries, cookies, and a bunch of other yummy options.  It was a perfect end to a lovely birthday!
Diego is a hairdresser and took us down to his salon Studio D’Hope, which was a great little salon.  If you find yourselves in Novo Hamburgo, stop in!  While overlanding in his Chevette, Diego cuts hair on the road!  It is always fascinating to us how others make their adventures a reality.
We bid our friends adieu, and set off towards Uruguay.  Time for another country, and new adventures!Sometimes on the road, camping at a gas station is the easiest option.  The Brazilian ones are certainly safe, clean and a popular stop for 18wheelers, so you always have neighbors who know life on the road.  We never cross borders at night, so posted next to a field, popped the top, did a little post-drive yoga and hit the pillow-top.Next stop, Uruguay!  Thanks for having us Brazil, we will be back!!!