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Beginning Our Escape Through Brazil


January 8th, 2020

Today we crossed the border into Brazil over the Rio Jaguaráo

And the first stop was, of course, immigration, which took about five minutes. Then we walked over to the Customs (Aduana) to get the temporary import permit (TIP) for Tigger.  Here we had to use a computer to fill in the information ourselves (a bit slow and frustrating) and then the form was printed for us.  We, entering as Canadians, receive 90 days in the country that can be renewed once (Americans have this option as well but not Europeans – the latter have to leave for 90 days before returning) and the TIP corresponds to those dates.  We plan to stay here till around June so we’ll have to attend to an extension in three months’ time.

Back in March 2017, when we were in Boquete, Panama with Mark and Christine, two young Brazilian couples camped at the same hostel as us.  Cirilo asked his girlfriend, Ciriani to marry him and we all celebrated her saying yes.  They actually got married last November. We have kept in touch via FaceBook and they invited us to come visit them in Brazil.  So today we had a 500 km / 300 mi to San Antonio da Patruhla to see them (with nothing interesting to see enroute).  They asked us to pick up a case of wine for them at the border (which we did) and arrived at their apartment building before five.

The roads in this part of Brazil and pretty good but they are toll roads and tolls have been costing either about $3 or 1.50.  Sometimes, there were freeways, but mostly not.  The temperature has definitely increased since we left Uruguay as has the humidity.

Upon ringing their apartment, it turned out, Cirilo was not home from work and Ciriani, was out (she is a primary school teacher so she’s on summer holiday) so we went for a walk until she got home.  The plan was then to go to his father’s house where we could “camp” comfortably with power, water and internet, so Doug followed Ciriani in her car with Fran to Paolo’s house.

Here, Cirilo had already arrived and we were treated to Brazilian barbecue. Paolo has a built in barbecue in his front room and we sat around chatting, drinking and then eating.  We were unable to meet his wife as she was at the coast enjoying the beach.

Meat is cooked on sticks not on a grill

We spent two nights here and also got a few things done.  Cirilo arranged dental appointments for us to get out teeth cleaned, the housekeeper here did our laundry (which was washed, hung outside to dry and folded by noon!) he tried to get us in to see his mechanic to get an oil change but that didn’t pan out and mostly importantly, arranged cell phone service for us.

The second night we shared (thanks to Cirilo’s chef skills not Fran’s!) the leftover meat in a traditional Brazilian cowboy sort of casserole with rice, tomatoes, onions, corn and palm hearts.  Ciri had made and brought a strawberry sort of pudding with Nutella in it for dessert.

When we were in Brazil the first time (the Pantanal), we learned that there is no cell service (unlike every other Latin American country we’ve been in) that you put money on the phone and buy your packets, either data or phone time, through an app or a text; you have to call and in any other country that may have worked for us as we speak Spanish enough but, in Portuguese, no way!  So at that time, Doug had managed to get the cell phone store attendant to set us up with two weeks of data as we were going to be in the country for no longer than that.

So, Cirilo, Ciri and Cirilo’s younger brother, Gustavo, who also speaks English, took us to the Vivo cell phone office and after discussing the issue with them, we worked out a way to make calling unnecessary.  Instead of doing the normal prepay plans, if we got a monthly plan that is paid at the end of any monthly period, the phone could be set up in Cirilo’s name (as you need a local ID number), with our email address and we could pay the bill from the email sent to us monthly, at any bank or Vivo branch.  When we leave Brazil for good, we can get in touch with Cirilo and he can cancel the number.  All sounds good in theory so we’ll see what happens.  It’s pretty cheap too: we signed for 100 GB for a month for about $25 and probably some taxes.

The weather is getting hotter now.  Today reached around 30 C / 86 F and it got hotter on Thursday – near 40 C / 104 F and much to Fran’s dismay, it’s humid!  We’ll definitely have to use our AC tonight.

So after the phone was all set up, we returned to the house, said goodbye to everyone and went on our way.  We filled the gas tank up and made our way north west to Gramado.  This is a small city with a German background that has taken advantage of its higher elevation and turned itself in to touristy town with a focus on outdoor adventure, chocolate and Christmas.  It reminded us of a ski resort place where the focus is shopping and restaurants.  There are a lot of fondue places and before leaving San Antonio, Cirilo helped us purchase a Groupon coupon for one of them:  La Casa do Fondue (the House of Fondue).  The coupon said it good Friday to Sunday for lunch or dinner and weekdays for dinner.  We drove the 80 km / 50 mi and found the town very busy with people and cars as well as lots of Christmas decorations everywhere.  We were glad that iOverlander had a place to park for the night on it as there is no way we could have fit, even for a day trip, in any of these small streets.  The camping/parking spot was just outside the hustle and bustle on a quiet street in what appeared to be a very wealthy neighbourhood.  We parked and headed over to have lunch only find the restaurant closed despite being a Friday.  So we’ll try again at dinner time.

We took a walk around town including walking to visit Lago Negro

and then returned to town to sit and have a cold drink – despite being at nearly 800 m it was overcast, muggy and hot but it was cooler than San Antonio for sure.

At 5:50 we headed back to La Casa and it was open with a few patrons inside already right at six.  We were seated, showed our coupon and enjoyed a three course meal.  The regular price for this type of meal was R80 ($20) but the Groupon was R26 (˂$7) but of course without drinks.  We shared a large Antarctica Beer (very good) and the meal began.

First course was a cheese fondue with potatoes, bread, and two things we weren’t sure what they were:

Then came a small slate grill with a flame under it where we cooked sausage slices, chicken and beef:

Lastly, we had a chocolate fondue with bananas, pineapple, wafers, papaya, melon and orange pieces for dipping.

The plan after dinner had been to go back to the town centre to watch the lights come on but by  now it was raining and everything was foggy so it would not have been pleasant or photo worthy but we did take a couple of snaps of lit up decorations when we could get close and focus:

We spent a very quiet, damp night on the street and left the next morning.

Saturday we drove through the sister town of Gramado, Canela (much more subdued).

And then about 130 km to Canion Itambezinho in Parque Nacional Aparados do Serra to see what is claimed to be the deepest canyon in Brazil but the drive here was wet and gray and we didn’t expect much upon arriving.  We did check out the visitor centre and did the short walk to the first viewpoint of the falls:

We were told the best chance of a clear sky is in the morning so we are spending the night just outside the park entrance (no camping in the park) in order to enter right at 8 am tomorrow, weather permitting.

We tried the generator again (it had worked this morning!) but it was reluctant to start.  Doug went out and tinkered with it and it finally responded.

We did some walking, reading and relaxing before dinner.  It rained on and off but never very hard. The nighttime temperatures here are great and we quite comfortable.

We were getting ready to head to the gate when a group of young Brazilians became curious about our rig and lifestyle.  After chatting with them and giving them some hot water, we made our way into the park.

We first walked to the nearby viewpoint to see if we would be able to see into the canyon as although the sky had been clear when we awoke at seven, it was clouding over.  Lo and behold we saw this:

So we walked back to the first viewpoint we’d gone to yesterday and could now see this:

We decided it was worth the 6 km / 4.2 mi hike to the canyon views.  Most of the hike was along a dirt road but there were no views as the trees obstructed everything on both sides.  Less than a one kilometre from the end, the vegetation ended and the canyon came into view..

There were three view points along this section and we checked them all out:

We returned back the way we came, got the gennie started and made tea.  We returned down the dirt road to Camabará do Sul, where we were able to get a cell signal, got online for a bit and then made our way to Canion Forteleza 44 km / 31 mi away in Parque Nacional La Serra Geral   Again like yesterday, the clouds gathered, but it never rained.  When we arrived at the park entrance, the guard confirmed that the weather would be best for walking in the morning and we asked if we could park here for the afternoon/night – others had done it (iOverlander) and he agreed.  We spent another afternoon reading in the shade of the truck and the weather was quite pleasant up here at 1000 m / 3280 ‘ with partly cloudy skies.  This was our view from the shade of Tigger:

The temperature dropped nicely for sleeping and it was super quiet here; no dogs, roosters, traffic or even lights!

We awoke to clear skies on Monday and drove to the end of the park road to do a hike to see this canyon.

Can you find Tigger in the photo?

It was about 1.5 km and the views were nice but not out of this world.  We returned down the road about halfway to do another hike to the top of Cascada do Tigre Preto and then to its viewpoint (another 1.5 km farther) if we thought it was worth it.

With a bit of stone stepping, we made it to the edge of the waterfall  and Fran enjoyed nice cool water on her feet (she was wearing Keenes) and lovely views into this part of the canyon.

We decided it was a pretty tall waterfall and there appeared to be sufficient water flowing over it to warrant the other hike to the view point.  We were rewarded with this views:

the top of the Cascada we’d just been to

By now it’s getting warm again and we are sweating so it’s time for showers.  We opted to drive to a roadside pullout just outside the park and there we used our outdoor shower in relative privacy and felt SO good.

We returned up the dirt road back to Camabará do Sul once again, picked up a few items we needed, got some intel on the roads going north and made our way about a couple of hours before finding a huge pullout/roadside quarry where we thought we’d spent the rest of the afternoon and night.

We are attempting to figure out how to get to, see and enjoy Carnival in Rio.  The issue is Tigger; there are no campsites in the city and the parking available for “camping” has no services – we expect it will be hot with possible rain so we think an AirBNB will suit us better.  Traffic will be horrendous so we’d rather not have to drive in the city but would prefer to stay near the heart of things.  We’ve been querying various AirBNB’s but so far not much luck on the parking front.