Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra

At the same time I happened upon the super-sale fares to Maceió, I also booked tickets to Porto Alegre. I wasn't sure at the time what we'd do there, but the tickets were cheap and we'd never been to Rio Grande do Sul (the southern-most state in Brasil), so we decided we had time to figure out something fun. And boy, oh boy, did we ever!!!

A little bit North of Porto Alegre are the mountains of the Serra Gaúcha. The area was settled originally by German and Italian immigrants and the region has a decided different feel to it than the other parts of Brasil we've visited. It is a land full of national and local parks, lots of beautiful waterfalls, alpine villages, and cooler temperatures. It is about the last thing most people think of when they imagine Brasil, but it was spectacular! It will take me a few posts to get though everything we packed into our 3-day weekend!

We got into Porto Alegre late Friday night, October 16, and spent the night there at the Novotel. The next morning we took off driving our rental car towards Cambará do Sul. Unfortunately, the 2-1/2 hour drive turned into something quite a bit longer. About halfway there, we were informed by a nice gentleman stationed at the road barricade that part of RS-020 had fallen off the side of the mountain and we would have to detour a couple hours over to Gramado and then up to Cambará do Sul. It was a bit of an inconvenience, but better than falling off the side of a mountain, I suppose!

Once we finally made it to our destination we went immediately to Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra. This national park is home to Cânion do Itaimbezinho, a narrow canyon measuring 5800 meters long and 720 meters deep, along with a couple waterfalls. Unfortunately, it was super foggy in the canyon that day, so we couldn't see a whole lot. But, it was a beautiful place and we enjoyed a few hours of hiking that afternoon!

Tying his shoes and getting ready to hike (while also pleading with Gabs to please stop kicking her right foot - she is long enough now that her legs dangle at a rather inopportune height for her dear Papai!)

This is me in front of the impressive canyon . . . that we couldn't see. :(

Eric mocking Gabriela's open-mouth grin she displays every time the camera is turned on.

The fog did thin out just enough for a moment that we could catch a glimpse of the very top of one of the waterfalls!

This area is full of these trees that look like they are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. They are called pinheiro-do-paraná or pinheiro-brasileiro (latin name: Araucaria angustifolia) and I am totally in love with them!

We hiked around both sides of the canyon enjoying the cool, refreshing air and foggy, ethereal scenes around us.

As the afternoon continued on, it started getting down right cold! The damp fog didn't help matters either! After Gabriela's little cheeks had flushed a lovely shade of rose and her nose was quite cold, we headed back into town to find a place to stay for the night.

We ended up choosing an adorable little chalé at Pousada Oliveira. After going out for yummy fondue that night, we came back and built a roaring fire in our little fireplace. We put Gabs down to sleep for the night and then spent the next couple hours cuddled up on a blanket on the floor chatting and sipping wine in front of the warm fire. (And then made a quick run from there to underneath the covers. In usual Brasil fashion, there was no insulation and no heater - you could actually feel a breeze coming through the place. It dropped down close to freezing that night, so the room was quite chilly!)

Bundled up before going out to supper

The couple who owns Pousada Oliveira are two of the sweetest, friendliest people we've ever met, and they fell head over heels in love with our kiddo. The next morning when we got up for breakfast (which was served in a little room in their home next to the chalés), the lady immediately asked to hold Gabriela while we ate. We were planning to feed her some banana and papaya first, but after that we handed her over. The lady took her around the house and looked out windows and told her about everything they were looking at.

Later on she came back in the breakfast room, handed Gabs back to me, and chatted with us some more. She and her husband commented on how great it was that we were feeding Gabriela fruit. They said their daughter only wanted bottles of cafe com leite (coffee with milk) at that age and that she was very picky - it had to be just the right mixture of coffee and milk and sugar. I had to work really hard not to let my jaw hit the table.

Trying to change the subject a bit, I rattled off the list of things my 6-month-old is eating these days (avocado, banana, pumpkin . . .) And then, the lady went on to cut a piece of frosted chocolate cake and bring it over to me. She said that you know, a little sweet doesn't hurt anything and, here, let Gabriela try this cake. As my mind was racing as to how I could tactfully explain, in Portuguese no less, that I really wasn't comfortable with her having CAKE, the lady walked out of the room and so I gobbled down the cake myself. (It was yummy! But really? For an infant?)

That morning it was sunny and beautiful, so we were looking forward to checking out another park in the area!


DRL said...

well... at least she didn't give her the cake without you knowing, as happened to me on Monday! A crazy lady gave Canadoca CAKE! And she is not eating food yet at all. Well, except cake of course... and here I was obsessing about what food to give her first, even having my mom look up what is best for her blood type. Silly me. Cake is of course the best option.

Am thinking that you may have had a change of plans being that the weather was not really Sugarloaf-friendly. But let me know that you guys are okay just the same, all right? Safe travels.

Stephanie said...

It looks beautiful despite of or maybe because of the fog! I love the pictures!

Crazy that she gave her child coffee when she was a baby! Honestly a lot of times Im surprised at what they do give kids (my family in particular) and what they let them play with. And then on the other hand, how they are crazy strict about things like clothes (if the baby is cold or hot)...definitely different here.

Corinne said...

yes, coffee and tea for infants. I heard that a lot!! I got lucky and kept chocolate off the menu for Kevin until his first birthday, but I had to put my foot down MANY times with my husband about tea and mingau (which is just sugar with a little bit of cornstarch!).

Beautiful pictures of RS!

Bruno said...

Hey Emily, since you liked the Araucaria tree, in BH I think you should go to the little park Amilcar Vianna Martins. I don´t remember seeing it in any of your posts. It´s a very small and unknown park in the bairro Cruzeiro. In your way to Mangabeiras, driving up Afonso Pena avenue, you turn to Rua Cobre, just 2 blocks before the Oi building, about 4 blocks after Contorno Avenue. Next to the Fumec university. In Google maps, you can see it in "Avenida Afonso Pena, 3450". The entrance is in Rua Cobre.

It´s very, very small, the area you can walk is not much larger than the Mirante dos Mangabeiras. But it has a beautiful view of the city and it´s very safe and quiet, even in weekends it´s gonna be you, the guard, and maybe 2 or 3 people. Very relaxing. And, the most important, it has a lot of Araucarias. There´s one small area full of them, and with a VERY nice view to BH mountains. Usually the mirantes are near the mountains, and being so close they don´t seem so impressive. But in this park, you see all the buildings of Cruzeiro, Anchieta and Sion and then the mountains behind, it´s beautiful. And it also has an old water-box building, in neoclassic style, about 100 years.

I hosted a picture I took there in Imageshack:

This is a view to the city. You can walk in this platform and see much more, but I think this pic alone gives you a good idea.

As you can see, though in the map the park is just a small block surrounded by buildings and dense neighborhoods, it´s a very quiet, open and 'panoramic' area, because it´s in a small hill. Try to go there in a sunny-blue-sky day. ;)

Rogério Penna said...

Too bad about the fog Emily. Gee, it must suck to travel 2000km to see some canyon and you cant see it because of fog.

Did you and Eric got to see the Serra do Rio do Rastro, between Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina? I dont think its very far from the canyons. Look for it on google...

There is a beautiful ad from Davidoff Adventure (perfume), featuring Ewan McGregor, filmed around Serra do Rio do Rastro. They had lots of fog too, but it only contributed to the feel of the add.

Rogério Penna said...

here is a link to the ad

but I suggest you look for Serra do Rio do Rastro at Google, since you cant see much of it on the ad :)