Weekend Retreat

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cheymus, a fellow Canadian from Victoria, and myself were bound for Campos do Jordao, a mountain city to which Sao Paulo’s residents flock for winter weekends. There’s no snow to be found or anything, but it’s a breath of fresh air from sandwiched Sao Paulo and there must be some Swiss or German influence as all the architecture is quite different from the typical Spanish or Portugese-colonial vintage we’d been drinking in lately. Our bus arrived an hour after it was supposed to and Bruna and Cristina were waiting at the bus station for us. It is a small but nice-feeling thing to be waited for on arrival and we walked to Cristina’s car to stow our bags and then went looking around the town. Strawberries dipped in milk chocolate on a skewer, anybody? I could have just eaten the gourmet sweets around the place but there was another treat on tap: microbrewed beer by Baden Baden. We tried four of their varieties and found each to be well-crafted and imminently drinkable. As well, we shared some tapas and watched flocks of Brazilians on their long-weekend milling around the place. The girls are such good company and time flew by very quickly before we loaded into Cristina’s car and drove 20 minutes out of town to the much more quiet San Antonio do Pinhal. It was late enough that I dozed off on the ride back and then we got to our Pousada (bed and breakfast) and crashed.

The next day the girls had all planned out for us: we were going to go fishing and eat what we caught. Then in the afternoon we’d climb a stone. This is the description from Bruna who couldn’t find the English word for what she’d wanted to say: karst. We slept in as there was no creepy Chilean dude making funny noises in the dorm and writing hate-poetry for you to find in the nights. The view out the patio of the town and valley below was nice and I definitely felt happy with my decision to be a little more vacationing and a little less touristing. So we got breakfast a bit late and enjoyed every minute of it. Three different cakes, breads, meats, cheeses, desserts, freshly squeezed orange juice and grape juices awaited. It got to be late enough that we, unfortunately, missed out on the fish part of the day and went to meet the hostel owner who was going to take us on a walk to the ‘mountain-top’ (the revised description). We were wearing jeans and t-shirts and were not dressed properly for what was to come: a hot hike/climb to the top of a huge karst upthrust overlooking the valley. The name of this, by the way, was Pedra do Baú and is worth a visit if you have time in the area. But we made due and although Bruna herself was ready to throw in the towel at several points she pressed on and our host told us we were his first group to all make it up. After about an hour hiking uphill through jungle and palms (with fresh bananas to keep us going) we got to the base of the stone and then it was climb-time. Someone had been good enough to basically drill a ladder into the stone and we climbed but it wasn’t exactly for the fearful and Cristina lost her glasses which went skidding by me faster than I could react.

From the top you could see miles in all directions and we walked to a place where the stone actually overhangs the valley floor below and took a bunch of photos there before descending again. The restaurant at the base had an all-you-can eat buffet for 17 reals that was hard to resist and we watched the sunset and ate some more Brazilian cuisine before heading back to San Antonio. A band was playing in the town below and you could hear it as though they were in the other room which saved us going out to see them, although we probably wouldn’t have anyway: they were pretty bad. We did go out and have some lasagne and invent a new way of thanking someone in Portugese: obri. Why say obrigado when the first syllable is still available as a word?? I’m trying to spread this similar to my attempts to spread “mismo mismo” through Spanish-speaking Latin America. Results have been mixed. So far. Cristina let Cheymus drive his car back which was good since we later learned that her eyesight isn’t all that great and night driving is probably not the safest thing.

And before we knew it the weekend was over. We had another great breakfast and chatted with a Brazilian couple that was also staying there and with whom we’d climbed Bao and then drove into Campos do Jordao to get our bus tickets. There were no busses to Paraty which I’d hoped would be my next destination so the options were backtrack to Sao Paulo (me? Backtrack?! Never!!) or just go to Rio and maybe do some trips out of there. Cheymus was up for it as well so the two of us said goodbye to our lovely Brazilian friends and boarded the bus. I have to admit I was surprised at how quickly I was attached to our little foursome and how sad I was to see them disappear as the bus sped off, but that is something I should be used to by now. As I ride this bus for Rio, my final stop in South America (save some day trips and expeditions to the surrounding areas) I am reminded of all the great people I’ve had the chance to get to know on this trip and in spite of knowing better from past trips, am hoping that I will at least meet up again with a few of them.

San Antonio do Pinhal Photos

1 comment:

Katerina Pashakis said...

Νο....thank you Dean for allowing us to follow along on your latest adventure :) I always enjoyed your posts and photos!!!