Tuesday, 26 January 2010

DIARY BRAZIL Laranjal Paulista

Trivia question - Which three countries border Iguazu Falls?

THURSDAY 21 JANUARY – A great start to the day when we hear that Claire has passed her next lot of exams to be a chartered accountant, this means she now has a diploma.  Luiz walks home at lunch time and tells us the city is in chaos, with cars at a standstill, due to all the flooding after it rained for most of the night.  Unfortunately Luiza does not arrive back in time to share the delicious fish and prawn stew that the maid has cooked.  Fortunately Luzia makes it back in time to drive us to the subway to connect with our coach.  We are booked on the 2pm Valle de Tiete http://www.valedotiete.com.br/ bus to Laranjal Paulista, R32.77 (£11.50).  Our journey takes us through very green countryside much like England other than a few fields having termite mounds.  There are many problems on the road and
our journey takes almost 4-hours instead of 2 ¾.  We call Cassiano who soon arrives with his daughter Carol.  We are their first Couchsurfing guests and they are very excited.  Carol has offered her room whilst she is staying next door with her grandmother.  Cassiano’s wife Edilene speaks no English but we still manage to communicate well.  The family have a dream to travel in a motorhome so we are happy to tell them how wonderful it is.  The pizza meal is of a variety called “Portuguese” with ham, peas and cheese.  Edilene heads out to work with the local scout group whilst Cassiano takes us on a walking tour of the town.  It is so nice to be in a small place without the high rise buildings.  Returning we call in to his brother Luciano’s house.  We meet his wife Roberta and children Rodrigo (12) and Cecilia (4) both are learning English and although shy they want to chat to us.  Settling down to bed we realise our proximity to the church, which chimes the time every half hour!

FRIDAY 22 JANUARY – We are woken to the sound of a speaker announcement from the church saying that someone has died.  Cassiano tells us it is common here for the person to have a wake and then be buried the next day.  They do not use any preservatives on the body so in the hot climate this is a necessity.  In fact his own father died at 7pm and was buried the next morning at 9am. Cassiano’s Grandfather owned a coffee plantation just outside the city and split it between the families when he died.  Today Cassiano wants to show it to us and we set off with Rodrigo joining us.  Unfortunately due to more heavy rain during the night the dirt road becomes impassable.  Returning we are treated to the spectacle of two toucans on the fence.  We call by to look at the flooding by the river Sorocaba, now over 5m above normal level but not as bad as the Parana River (Iguaçu Falls) which is 15m up.  We return for lunch then set out on an afternoon trip.  Cassiano’s brother in law Paul and his 2 brothers own a doll factory.  Laranjal Paulista is the doll making capital of Brazil; guess you could call it the “Valley of the dolls”!  The Cotiplas factory is huge, producing 5 ½ million a year and this is only part of the operation the “Super Toy” factory nearby is also owned by them but run by one of each of their sons.   This tour is not offered to the public but done as a favour to Cassiano so we are very lucky and get to see the full operation starting with the plastic being heated and poured into body part moulds.    Most of their dolls have a soft body with the head and arms being filled with left over plastic to give them weight.  A machine stitches hair onto the heads but unfortunately not the right colour for Steve!  At the end of the production line Paul presents me with a new baby – which I promise to call Paulina after him.  We are also shown a special room full of dolls belonging to other companies which they take apart to get ideas for their new models.  A thoroughly enjoyable tour.  In the evening we have been invited to Cassiano’s brother Adriano’s home for a family meal.  His wife is Adriana and they have a son Tales and daughter Natalia.  Many homes in Brazil have a semi open air garage with tiled floor leading to the “Barra Cao”.  This is a kind of huge outdoor kitchen with wood stove where families gather. Adriano has recently had a swimming pool built in the back garden and it looks superb.   Luciano and family join us along with Mum Eva.  We drink the classic Brazilian drink caipirinha, made with sugar, fresh crushed lemon, ice and cachaça (a spirit made from sugar cane).  They cook a family recipe corn soup which is delicious with chunks of sausage in it.  Dessert is also made of corn, a kind of corn custard topped with nutmeg, tasty and very filling.  A wonderful chance to get to know more of the family and share in the lifestyle.

SATURDAY 23 JANUARY – Once again we get heavy rain through the night but wake to a sunny morning.  Strolling around the town the church is full of flowers for a wedding and looks beautiful.  At weekends the family always go to the fish farm for lunch.  It is a great place in the country and the “tilapia” is very tasty.  Whilst eating our meal we see many fishermen catching big fish which they will buy and take home.  On the way back we pass a coffee plantation and get a close of view of the rows of bushes.  The green berries are harvested when they turn read and then taken to be roasted but at the moment look nothing like coffee beans.  Next stop is at the farm owned by the 3 brothers.  Years ago they built the cachaça factory and now produce 20,000 litres a year.  They have a customer whilst we are there and we are amazed to find this 40% spirit sells at only R3 (35p) a litre.  After our afternoon naps we set out to find the carnival rehearsal as we can hear the drums.  Unfortunately we arrive just after it has finished. 

SUNDAY 24 JANUARY – The family are meeting for a special dinner, feijoada – a kind of stew made with chunks of pork, slices of spicy sausage and onions.  It is served up with rice, a sort of cooked shredded lettuce and black beans.  Luckily we have time to swim in the pool before lunch as we would have been weigh too heavy afterwards.   Cassiano drive us to the local quarry where kids sometimes swim.  Usually it is a beautiful blue colour but after the rain it is not so attractive.  We return to his home for a few hours before going back for the evening family rendezvous.  This time we eat Esfiha – a type of bread roll baked with meat inside and for dessert Quindin (sounds like King Dong) pudding and carrot cake.  Our experience in Laranjal Paulista has been fantastic, great hosts and a wonderful opportunity to meet the whole family and try many traditional foods. 

MONDAY 25 JANUARY - Cassiano is at work but Edilene has taken the morning off. She watches as I prepare the chilli pasta for lunch,.  We take a walk around town and visit the clinic where Cassiano is working . The waiting room is crowded and young children are using pieces of cardboard to skate around on the tiled floor. His lunch hour is 11 - 12 so we eat very early and invite Eva to join us.  Afterwards we sit, watch and thoroughly enjoy to movie UP.  Cassiano nips back from work to take us down to the bus station for our 1430hrs Viacao Calvipe bus to Sorocoba, R19.55 (5.50).  No air-con bus but a nice breeze through the open windows.  There is some sort of problem with the bus as we have to stop somewhere and change to another coach and then we get rain so it is stiffling inside. Instead of taking 1 - 1/2 hours it becomes over 2 1/2 hours journey.
Trivia answer - Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina

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