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Making Our Way to the Brazilian Coast


January 15th, 2020

We had a nice slow morning getting up, exercising and then we hit the road.

We are heading to the famous 284 curve highway but partway there we decided to go slightly off route and spend a night in Sao Joaquim.  As we were getting the gas tank filled, the gas jockey said he noticed we were leaking fuel!  As Doug when under the truck to look and Fran went around the back of Tigger, we both saw we had a really flat tire!

Luckily on the second issue, there was a mechanic shop right behind the Shell station and Doug aired up the tire enough to get over there.  The tire was deemed to be shot and they put on the spare for us as well as performing a tire rotation that was about due.  The fellow did not have a new tire in our size so we have opted to wait for a bigger city.  In the meantime, since we planned to spend the night here anyway, Doug inquired about an oil change and whether he could look at the gas leak.  He did not have time for either that day but referred us to the Shell station itself; the fellow there could take us after lunch.

While getting the tire changed Doug discovered that the outside storage been appeared to be “leaking” – turned out our 5L jug of oil had sprung a leak and the bottom of the bin was swimming in 5W30 oil! There are a couple of holes in the floor of the bin to let water out (that bin gets a lot of dirt and rain in it) and the oil was dripping out,  The Shell mechanic was able to use the remaining three litres we had left in the container and three other single litres we had so we only had to purchase one.  He did the oil change, lube and filter and it seems he only charged us for the one litre of oil he had to provide!  Doug questioned him a few times about labour costs, but he keep insisting there were none!

Doug had gone to a few more mechanic shops to see about getting the gas leak looked at but no one could take us today or tomorrow.  We’d noticed a gas smell the last few times we’d filled up but never saw any dripping until today.  We figured that they just overfilled the tank and that’s what we smelled.

We spent a not so great night in the truck parking area of the Shell and next morning we inquired about showers (iOverlander reported that they had hot showers here) but were we told no so we filled our water tank and went on our way.  Enroute we realized the emergency brake was not functioning right so we’ll have that looked at soon; not one of our better 48 hours on the road but thankfully, nothing major.

First stop today was the lookout over the 284 curve highway:

The viewpoint is at 1421 m and the curves stretch over 12 km.

It was a nice drive but we’ve driven curvier roads with bigger drops in elevation.

Doug had found a mechanic on iOverlander that looked promising our on way to the Brazilian coast.  We stopped at Becker’s in Tubaráo and were told he could help us.  It was just before lunch time and they were closing up for an hour and a half so we left the keys, and made our way to a big shopping mall to walk and have lunch.  Today the temps here are in the mid 30’s C / mid 90’s F and it’s hot!

We returned to the shop after lunch and not much progress was being made.  Doug advised that we needed a new tire and asked that the emergency brake be looked at too.  When removing the back tires to check the ER brake, it was discovered that we have a slow propane leak!  What!?!?!  After all the trouble we went through to fill the propane tank!  Seems we lost about 10%.  Becker said he could fix that too, so we are settled in for a while.   They say the ER brake is now fixed and the tires are back on.

The lady in the office (whom we presume is Becker’s wife) checked into tire prices but the prices were quite high, so we think we’ll try in a larger city.

With regard to the gasoline leak, they couldn’t find anything obvious so Becker had Doug take Tigger to fill the tank and see if the problem could be recreated.  He then saw where a gasket was loose and they can repair that.  They returned to the shop and they worked to figure out where the propane leak was and found a cracked rubber piece and the attachment to the tank was damaged. Becker still claimed he could fix it and that we could get the tank filled in Brazil.  He had the office call around to see about getting the tank filled.

So we spent the night parked in the garage. Around 8 pm they finally all left, we plugged in and ran the air con to cool off and sleep.

Before 8 am the next morning the staff began arriving but nothing on our truck got touched until mid-morning – they did have appointments to take care of that day as well to be fair, but man do things go slooooooowly here.  Becker is the owner and is often called away to check or look at something and no one seems to focus on one problem on our truck for long.  Today is overcast with and off sprinkling rain so not quite so hot as yesterday.

By lunch time, the propane hose had been replaced and the leak appears to be fixed.  They were unsuccessful in trying to get the propane filled but offered some “creative” suggestions that we were not prepared to try given that no one here is a propane expert.  We’ll just take the chance that once our tank is completely empty, we should be able to get a gravity fill, worse case.

We use our stove every morning to boil water for tea so instead we’ll run the gennie and use our microwave for things like that (Fran thinks microwaved eggs taste better anyway!) So now the emergency brake just needs to be tested but by this time, it’s time to break for lunch and they offer to take us to lunch but we need our steps and decide to walk back to the mall for lunch.

After lunch a test drive is done and the ER brake seems fixed.  So we can finally leave this town.  We make our way about 40 km / 25 mi to Laguna on the coast and here we meet our first Brazilian beach complete with dolphins!  The weather is not great, still overcast but dry.

If any of you watched the David Attenborough series “Seven Worlds, One Planet”, in the South American episode, you may recall they filmed a place in Brazil where the dolphins actually help the local fisherman to fish.  This is where we are now.

We parked Tigger and wandered down the spit towards the lighthouse and lo and behold we came across one fisherman and one dolphin and then later two more came along but did not participate.  The dolphin acts like a sheep dog, “herding” the mullets towards the fisherman.  After watching for a bit, another fisherman joined him, but didn’t stay long.

We then continued on down the spit right to the lighthouse and then back to Tigger for the night.

Next day, after moving Tigger a feet metres, (we’d parked beside an ice cream kiosk that was closed that first day but was going to open today) and both went for walks.   Fran opted for the beach which was quite busy near the main part of town with at least twenty mobile food/drink kiosks (lots of caipirhinas for sale).

and Doug went into town trying to run a few errands.

We stayed a second night but it was Friday night and not that quiet so Saturday morning we moved on after stopping for groceries and a new beach umbrella (yeah!).

We drove north along the coast to the small town of Vila Nova where we parked on the boulevard in a residential neighbourhood right along the beach.  We had beach access over the small dunes and there were pit toilets, food kiosks and a lifeguard stand.  We set up our new brolly and spent a few hours sitting on the beach reading and wading in the water.

We did some beach walking and the saw a lot of jellyfish, big and small.

The beach is quite long here but not as commercial as it was at Laguna.

After debating the next morning, we did leave and try to go to the big city of Florianopolis which is supposed to have amazing beaches; MISTAKE!  Even on a Sunday traffic is horrendous and after almost crawling into the city, crossing the bridge onto the island, and then the stop and go traffic trying to cross the island, we gave up.

The department store chain: Havana has the Statue of Liberty outside many of its locations


we saw SO many beaches that were far too crowded for our liking

we stopped here for a bit but no place to park Tigger safely overnight

We figured the beaches would be so crowded, we’d never find a parking for Tigger anyway.  So now the hunt for a place to end up today began.  We struck out so many times even trying to find a wild camp on a beach.  By 3:30 we figured okay, it will have to be truck stop as at least we know we’ll fit!  So now we are through the large city of Camboriú (there we SO many high-rises, we have no idea where all these people are or what they do) and cannot believe the density of housing.  We understand that the south of Brazil is the most populated with the biggest cities but it’s quite ridiculous – the humanity goes on and on….

We settle for an Ipiranga gas station, fill the tank and get parked.  It has clouded over again and the humidity is rising so we start up the gennie and run the AC for about an hour to cool off Tigger.

Sidebar:  When we drive for more than a couple of hours, the floor of the coach of the rig gets quite warm and it can take a long time to cool down the entire coach.

It rained some overnight and it wasn’t the quietest night but we were safe and had access to bathrooms.

We left Monday morning and made our way about 40 km / 25 mi to the beach at Tabuleira in the small city of Barra Velho and expected to park on the main beach road as others had but found a grassy parking lot across from the beach where a Brazilian motor home was parked and we asked about overnight parking (in Spanish of course) and they said it was free!

We got parked, grabbed our chairs and umbrella and stayed on the beach for several hours.  Here we observed a fellow putting up his umbrella with a cool little tool that digs and clears the perfect size hole – we’re going to look for one of those!

Fran went in the water (the water temp is now quite bearable) a few times and there were fresh water beach showers here so we were able to rinse off nicely.

We spent a second day here, doing our usual routine and had fresh water showers on the beach before calling it a day there.  It’s supposed to start raining tonight and for the next two days so we’ll move on tomorrow and want to be settled somewhere before the weekend so we don’t have the issue we had last weekend trying to find a place.

I Love Barra Velho

this is where all the seagulls hang out
view from town back towards “our beach”

The BR101 highway is the north-south route in much of this part of the country but it does not stay as close to the coast as we’d like now.  To get to a beach you have to do an out and back trip, and sometimes that’s not a really short distance so we want to be sure it’s worth it.  We saw on iOverlander that that was a huge truck stop about half way to what we hoped would be our weekend destination and it had a sani dump!   We got there mid-morning and got parked but could not locate the dump station.  Doug went to ask and found out it was now closed.   So we figured why stay here as it’s raining and there’s no place pleasant to walk, the restaurant seems more high end (which was weird for a truck stop), it had no power points inside and you had to pay for showers.  We opted to drive in  the off and on rain to the coastal town of Guaratuba where there was a municipal campground that seemed reasonably priced (this time of year, the prices are jacked up and we hate to pay too much when all we want is power and maybe a shower since we don’t need Wi-Fi as much since we have all that monthly data).

This campground is on the edge of town and the price was about $17 a night so reasonable.  They offer bathrooms, hot showers, power, water and newly installed Wi-Fi.  Power is still of the 220V kind here but we understand in the larger cities coming up, we’ll be back to 110V – which means we don’t need our transformer!

We got parked, plugged in and met our neighbours – a family from Aruba!  Ger and Natasha have three kids and bought a 30’ motor home in the US, drove to Mexico and then shipped it to South America and have been travelling for over two years now.

They speak Dutch, Spanish, English as well as Papiamento, a local language.  It was nice to have English speaking neighbours and we enjoyed happy hour with them that night.

The forecast called for a wet Thursday although it didn’t start raining until early afternoon.  We managed to get in a couple of walks to the supermarket in the morning and will stay here hoping to enjoy the beach three blocks away over Friday and the weekend.  The campground is not full but the campers are all Brazilian and Portuguese speaking other than us and the Dutch family.

the nearby beach on one of the overcast days – see the black flag?

We spent Friday at the campground again – it rained in the morning only.  Fran managed to get a huge load of underclothing washed and dried in the afternoon (it’s been over two weeks since we’ve had laundry done) and we enjoyed another happy hour with Ger and Natasha.

Saturday we awoke to sunshine, Fran did some more laundry and we walked to the supermarket for groceries.  In the afternoon we took the Dutch girls over to the beach for a few hours of fun. Sebola, Genevieve and Leitcha (6, 7 and 16) are very nice girls and the little ones had a blast playing in the surf.

After one last happy hour together, we all decided Sunday was a good day to leave the campground.  “Truckhuis” is heading south and we are going north.  This campground we’ve been at is the first since Ecuador that actually boasts a sani dump, so we took advantage before leaving by flushing out our black water tank really well.  Sunday was a beautiful day and before taking the ferry northward, we stopped in the city of Guaratuba to get a huge load of the remaining laundry (including sheets and towels which Fran won’t do by hand!) done at a coin operated place.  We drove to the ferry terminal and to our surprise, drove right on board!  The cost for the ten minute ride cost less than $2.

We arrived at the city of Caioba but it looked packed with people so we drove further up the coast to Matinhos where we parked on a side street perpendicular to the beach.  We set up our umbrella and were happy with our choice of beach – busy but not wall to wall people.  For lunch there was a small restaurant nearby and Doug arranged for them to bring us lunch including drinks right to our spot on the beach.  We inquired of Lucien about where showers might be, and he told us his restaurant/home had one we could use.

this little tool helps you dig a hole for your umbrella pole – works great!

Around 5 we went back to Tigger, got shower supplies and after showering (and finding out there was actually a cost for them) we decided to drive along the coast more in hopes of a better overnight spot.  About a klick up the beach road, Fran spotted a grassy parking lot that was emptying out and we snagged a spot near the back end of the lot so that if we decided to stay a second night, we would not be in the way.  We positioned Tigger to take advantage of the sea breeze and spent a quiet night here with a Brazilian couple in a VW combi that drove up about a half hour after we did.

Monday after our exercise time, we enjoyed another day on this lovely beach.  It was much less crowded but there were still plenty of vendors selling their wares on the beach; reminded us of beaches in Mexico.

a pair of the many beach vendors – this one has cotton candy!

Today we took our out inflatable boogie boards and use them!  We’ve not been at a beach with good enough surf AND warm enough water to use them since Ecuador!

Doug searching for a good wave

Since it was supposed to be cloudy with rain beginning on Tuesday, we packed up that morning and made our way inland.  We have a few things to get done in the country’s largest city, Sao Paulo, and the sooner we get there, the sooner we can leave and get back to beach time!