Brazil was…..bright, foreign, beautiful, unknown, and full of adventure….this is how we did.
What a crazy three days! Greg and I took the 11-hour red eye from Toronto to São Paulo on Monday evening, giving us a 10:30am arrival in Brazil. We met Jessica at 1:30 downtown who came with us on the 3pm bus ride to Rio Preto…which took 6.5 hours. We finally landed in Rio Preto where Marina and Camilla met us. We were supposed to stay the night at Marina’s place but instead decided to leave right away for Bonito. We were high off life and too tired to think so said why not! After some soup and showers we hit the road, finally en route at 1am. What a violent ride…12.5 gruesome hours later we made it to Bonito. The roads are so bumpy there was no hope for sleep so Greg and I were walking zombies. Thankfully our Airbnb was a mini paradise….After some acai sorbet we went to our Airbnb and and passed out for five hours.
We arose at what felt like dawn, had a beer and the group of us went to eat Pastel, a traditional Brazilian savoury pastry, made with Cachaca, a Brazilian rum. It’s flaky like an egg roll but the size of a letter envelope, filled with your choice of meat, cheese, vegetables , or a combination of each. Delicious, needless to say. They had sweet options, too! We all went to bed and slept for another eight hours, zombie-mode being but a memory.
What an amazing Airbnb … After all that travel it was nice to awaken to the sunshine streaming in our bedroom, the Brazilian birds cooing morning song and of course, fresh coffee.
Though we are following a massive truck leaving us in clouds of dust, it’s nice to be surrounded by foliage, palm trees, hills of green and what we consider beautiful Brazilian paradise, which Marina, Jessica and Camilla call ‘nothing interesting’. I guess it’s perspective, the feeling of being in a new place, the wonder of what could be, the imagination soaring in all directions… Will we see Tucanos? Monkeys? What’s next? A lot more bumps that’s for sure…
Today we did our first two tours, starting off with a boat tour of the formoso river. We finally saw tucanos (toucans)! What beauty! The beak was so bright it looked fake, a cartoon. We were two boats of 8-12 people each. After our inevitable water fights the tour was a perfect way to relax and take in the nature. We ended up seeing a few more toucans and even a monkey popped out to say hello! We went down some small waterfalls in the boat, too….What a thrill! I loved being lost in the hum of Portugese amongst the Brazilian tourists (Greg and I were the only out-of-country guests). Thankfully with my Spanish I was able to pick apart and make sense of some of the conversations.
Right before we were about to jump in the car one of the other Brazilian tourists came over, handing me her yellow cycling club of Brazil shirt that her husband was formerly wearing, all because I made a comment that I liked it. Since her cousin owns the cycling shop she said she can get a new one, no problem. What an amazingly nice gesture! This made my whole day!
After the boat tour we went snorkelling with a different group at the San Miguel river, the current taking us effortlessly around schools of fish and flora, just inches from body contact.
The schools of fish, each the size of a slightly deflated football, confidently swam towards us, not allowing us to disrupt their flow, like rush hour on a New York side walk; they didn’t care at all that we were in their space. The underwater flora was bright purples, browns and greens of all shades, flowing so majestically, alive. The current (and guide) took us a few hundred feet up the river, finishing at a path that led us to a zip lining jump, where we held on, flew along the river and jumped back into the icy water…no better way to get the adrenaline pumping!
Our Arnb hosts went far and beyond and gave us a connection to get into a park for free. This may sound like no big deal, but this was no ordinary park. It’s actually a massive freshwater lake, with a bar and restaurant, a volleyball net, tons of space to lay in the sun and a path through the trees along the river, seeing wild monkeys and other jungle creatures peeking out along the way. Parks in Bonito are officially my favourite kind. We drank, we snacked, we took in the sun and we swam with the New York fish.
As tired as we were we all agreed to take in the nightlife on our last evening. We tasted sorbet of the Brazilian rainbow – lime, raspberry, local fruit flavours, tamarindo, coconut and pineapple. There was live music, stores open and people on the streets. The city is small but alive, culture-filled and has that organic, small-town vibe.
Bonito day 4 – Travel Day 6
On our last morning, before our long car-ride back to Rio Preto, we joined two different cave expeditions. Have you seen Pinocchio? While strolling through the caves I felt like the wooden puppet swimming about in the depths of the ginormous whale’s stomach; completely engulfed, swallowed by Mother Nature. Learning about stalagmites and stalactites in Portuguese (half translated into English, thanks to Marina) was actually quite fascinating. We toured Gruto do lago azul, or, blue lake cave, and Grutas de São Miguel. Another breathtaking experience.
The drive back to Rio Preto was much easier after a solid night of sleep. It is the only other place I’ve been to in the world that has red soil besides Prince Edward Island, which I failed to notice until this drive back in the sunlight.
With three hours of sleep at Marina’s, Greg and I actually managed to muster up some energy to walk around São Paulo while waiting to catch our bus back to the airport. It’s the first city I’ve visited where the rich and the poor have no deviding line, where there are children playing in a park only feet away from a homeless man, yelling at nothing but the air and where the slums are in the parking lot of the richest building in the city. There is graffiti on almost every building, the churches stand tall, painted bright yellow and blues, and juice stalls line the street.
Brazil. The whole country amazed me. Between speaking broken Portuguese, connecting with fabulous souls from different walks of life, seeing toucans, monkeys, emu and beautiful underwater life, I consider myself more than lucky and am so grateful for the experience. All I can say is travel, travel to different countries where you may be uncomfortable, don’t speak the language and may be afraid of the unknown. You will undoubtedly only gain joy, experience, gratitude and love for the world and people around you. Eat the food, dance to the music, be corny and laugh at yourself. However, be forewarned, you will become addicted….or at least one can hope.