Thursday, 4 March 2010

A visit to the longest beach in the world

   Trivia Q. Which of the continents has the most countries?

SATURDAY 27 FEBRUARY – It is a poor morning which makes it easier for us to leave. We catch the 1045am COT bus to Chuy, U$50 (£1.60). You have to ask if you want to stop at the Uruguayan border as it is about 2km before the town. After getting off the driver tells us we must make our own way onwards. Exit formalities involve a quick stamp in our passports. The official tells us it is 4km walk to the Brazilian border; there are no buses or taxis available. We set out walking and try to hitch a ride. The 3rd vehicle pulls up and he offers to take us into Chuy town. With our luggage in the back and 3 of us huddle into a 2 seater cab we set off. He speaks no English but we learn he is a dairy farmer and appears to know everyone in town judging by the number of people waving at him. He asks where we are going and we tell him the name of the city in Brazil. Next thing we know he tells us we are now in BRAZIL and a block later he drops us at a bus station. Tickets to Pelotas R$37 (£13) with the bus leaving at 1pm. Perfect timing as it is now ¼ to 12. I walk up the street to find an ATM and realise the central strip of the main “dual carriageway” is actually the border between the two countries. On each side of it cars are moving in both directions but there are no border controls. After getting my money I return and find that Steve has worked out Brazil is now 1-hour behind (3-hours behind England) so we have a 2-hour wait. Walking around we spend the last of our Uruguayan money on drinks and stuff to eat. There are few people on the bus but a couple of km out of town we pick up more at the Brazilian exit border. The driver has taken our passports and quickly deals with entry formalities. We now realise that this point would have been the 4km walk from the Uruguayan border but going into the city was a little shorter but still happy we got a lift. Our journey continues through very flat land with cattle, rice and soy fields and wetlands. The bus stops almost every 1km to pick up or drop off a local so the journey is slow. In the wetlands we see many capivara, a rodent that is as big as a pig plus and a wide variety of birds. In Pelotas we phone our host Beatrix who arrives a few minutes later. She is a 40-year old single lady and very chatty. Her home is a very old building near the centre of the city and she has given us her room and moved into the single spare bedroom. Her English is perfect as she lived in USA for 5-years working as a nanny to save money and improve her English. She could earn more money doing that than working as a lawyer here in Brazil. Now she has returned and bought a couple of houses and works as a lawyer and English teacher. In the evening she takes us for a drive around the city where we see some very nice architecture. The wealth of the city came
from salted beef in the times before people had refrigerators. We end up at Laranjal beach on the edge of the lagoon. It’s too dark to see properly but looks very nice. After a drink in a bar I cannot resist the ice cream buffet next door with many flavours of ice cream, sauces and decorative toppings. The diet starts tomorrow.


SUNDAY 28 FEBRUARY – We are woken by what sounds like bad karaoke but turns out to be the local church nearby. Today Beatriz is hosting a vegetarian feast where friends will all bring a dishes to share. I am most surprised that I enjoy so much of it including the raw cold vegetable soup. Carla works at Princesa Isabel bakery and has brought along a delicious dessert with chocolate oreo type base and kind of cheesecake topped with bananas. Quite a few people speak English and we have some interesting conversations.
In the evening Beatriz takes us out to Nella pietra for pizza. She orders a huge pizza with 1/3 tuna, 1/3 meat and the pièce de résistance 1/3 chocolate and strawberry with dulce de leche stuffed crust. The diet starts tomorrow.


MONDAY 1 MARCH 2010 – Beatriz’s Mum and Dad, Iara & Alberto have invited us round for lunch. Their maid has prepared the typical beef Milanese style along with black beans, rice and salad followed by a delicious crème caramel style dessert. Her Mum has been world champion at computer Solitaire whilst Beatriz was second and she shows me her speed skills. Return to Beatriz’s late afternoon, she helps me improve my blog and phones around a makes an arrangement for us to be interviewed by the main football blogger in town. In the evening we wallow on mattresses in front of the TV watching movies.


TUESDAY 2 MARCH – The football blogger arrives but speaks no English so Beatriz gets to practice her translating skills even though he and Steve manage a good bit using the international language of football which seems to involve throwing around players names. Beatriz wants to show us the ocean beach so we head off to the coast stopping en route for a delicious all you can eat fish lunch, R12 (£4)pp. Cassino Beach is the longest in the world at over 250km and the sand is hard and flat enough for you to drive all the way to Uruguay. We don’t have time for that but make it to an interesting ship wreck and also see a large dead turtle. The Embaixador bus to Porto Alegre, $43.70 (£15) leaves at 4pm. It is a very comfortable bus and Beatriz has told us the company is one of the best in Brazil as they treat their employees really well lending them money to buy houses and helping with their children’s education.

   A. Africa

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