45 – Fifty shades of Brazil
45 – Fifty shades of Brazil

45 – Fifty shades of Brazil

Coloured houses in the Paraiba, mocos (Kerodon rupestris!) under giant boulders, discovering what Niemeyer did, getting just a little wet in the amazonian rainforest and white sheets at sunrise! There are certainly more than fifty shades of Brazil!

Road trip in the Paraiba

For 4 days we go around the state of Paraiba (bigger than Switzerland!) in a rented car, discovering this beautiful region. Our trip brings us through varied landscapes: from sugar cane and corn plantation to secondary rainforest covered hills, a step-like plateau where it clearly rains less and that leads us to amazing rock formations. All this is occasionally interrupted by a huge ranch dotted with white cattle and horses as well as colourful villages each with their own cachaça (a type of rhum) factory. Cachaça – cocktail amateurs know this – belongs to the original recipe of Caipirinha!

A world of sugarcane

We visit the multicoloured town of Areia on top of a region covered with vast tropical vegetation growing on red soil and lots of sugarcane plantations. We stay in an unexpectedly pleasant pousada and have a tour and tasting in the picturesque Cachaçaria of Triunfo. The boys had their share of sugar cane sirup and juices. On top of that, the plantation also produces chocolate…

Brazil’s Devil’s Marbles

Driving south we come across more and more arid areas, staying at altitudes over 400 m, which is rather surprising for the Nordeste of Brazil, which is otherwise rather flat and mostly rain forest and mangroves. What you visit in this region are the different rock formations, one of which is exceptional: the site of Pai Mateus, a geological top site, similar to the Devil’s Marbles in Australia. Gradual removal of the soft sand and clay by erosion has exposed the round boulders, allowing them to be perched on top of one another. As we visit the site at the end of the afternoon, we are spoilt with spectacular colours at sunset.

Mocos and more rocks

We see more rocks the next day, as well as native Indian rock carvings called Pedra d’Inga. Throughout the day, we have our eyes open to see more mocos (rock cavy), fairly large rodents living all over that region. We had seen some the previous day and are eager to see some of these shy animals close up. We do, but unfortunately, despite all efforts we don’t get a good shot. To give you a better idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_cavy

The uninterrupted rain on the 4th day makes us drive back to Jacaré Marina quicker than planned, as sightseeing of coasts and beaches are not exactly enjoyable when it’s raining. Hello rainy season!

  • lacke
  • Pai mateus
  • boys
  • rock
  • sunset
  • cactus
  • resto
  • iguana
  • cactus
  • saca de la
  • pool
  • turtoise
  • hut
  • path
  • family
  • meal
  • chicken
  • Inga
  • town
  • dam

Brazils capital

A few days after Alexander’s birthday, which we celebrate in a nice restaurant with a “buffet à discretion” in Joao Pessoa, we take a plane to Brasilia. The chosen pousada (little guesthouse) is very pretty and, at an altitude of 1000 m above sea level, we also enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures! We just have 1 day to see Brazil’s capital and we start with the high TV-antenna which gives us an overview of the town’s impressive structure. We had gotten an idea of the airplane shaped layout when landing the night before… wow!

Brasilias day and night

Where there was nothing at all, Brazil’s capital was planned by several architects and built in less than 4 years. Oscar Niemeyer was the designer of the most oustanding buildings in the city. We are fascinated by the architecture, the design of the city and how fluid the traffic runs through the well thought street plan, that doesn’t allow two-directional roads. But the best thing comes later that day: we drive through the whole city centre by taxi at night. The illuminated buildings are just fabulous!

Change of scenery!

Equipped with hiking shoes, long trousers and light shirts, we fly from Brasilia to Santarem, which is in the Para Region and part of the Amazonian rain forest. We are welcomed in Janicke’s private pousada – a place you want to stay forever. On stilts, the cosy 2-story mini-house has all you need, including its own tarantula or maybe two, monkeys and from time-to-time sloths.

We have nice exchanges with our friendly Norwegian host, who’s been in Brazil for quite a few years. She even shows us how to make her beautiful dreamcatcher mandalas.  


First thing we need to do is buy hammocks because we plan to sleep in the jungle and take the riverboat for 3 nights down to Belém (yes, you need to bring your own hammock!). We take the bus to Santarem and realize that the small village of Alter-do-Chao is really the best place to be when visiting that region. Santarem is a big town, and we didn’t feel the same spirit like in Alter-do-Chao. The village has kind of a hippy-atmosphere with a cute central market place and white sand beaches all around. Before seeing this, I didn’t dream of finding beaches in the middle of the amazon!

Not enough rain

A short but steep hike brings un onto a little hill overlooking the green lake and the Tapajos river, tributary of the Amazon. We’re lucky to see the beaches. Normally, in the rainy season, the water level is supposed to be higher, covering most of the beaches. Deregulated climate…

  • river
  • house
  • spider
  • mandala
  • sleeping
  • artisan
  • view
  • Hawai
  • rain
  • beach

Night in the jungle

After struggling through the Paraiba and Brasilia with our miserable knowledge in Portuguese (hardly anybody speaks any other language), we’re fixed on having a guide who speaks either English or French or at least Spanish. We finally make a 2-day-tour with 2 guides: a Brasilian and a… Swiss-Brasilian! With several stops, they bring us by boat over the beautiful green lake to the “Forestal Encantada” (Enchanted Forest) and, with a short walk, to the shelter where we hang up the hammocks for the night.

Taking in the jungle-feeling, we make a camp-fire, grill our veggies and sausages and drink the … cupuaçu wine we bought off a German, who built his house remotely in the jungle. We discover the next day that he sells other of his own produce like “cupulate chocolate”, sirups, jams and juices. More about cupuaçu via this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theobroma_grandiflorum

Considering mosquitos as wildlife

The sounds of the night are amazing. Lots of sounds of animals you never see: howler monkeys, frogs, owls… During the night we luckily don’t have much rain, but we have unsuccessful fights against mosquitos at the beginning of the night, then we give up! Eating our picknick breakfast, the guides tell us that they have never had so many mosquitos and such a bad night…

During the morning, we stroll to an iguarapé (a small creek or river) where we can swim and rub our skin with the fine river sand, before clearing the camp and heading back.

Jungle hike

Another day, we take a Norwegian-Brazilian guide for a day tour. Boat trip, 4-hour hike at the national parc of Jamaraqua, through the rain forest… And rainy it is! In buckets! Despite walking under trees and wearing rain jackets, with no shelter to stop, we get intensely washed for about 1 hour and just as we get dry, we get showered again! Who cares, temperatures are so high…

On our walk we see several poisonous frogs as well as hundreds of butterflies, birds and some monkeys. We again are lucky to swim in a crystal clear iguarapé. Back at the starting point, we have a typical meal based on the river fish, probably tilapia. Then we get back into the boat and get very wet again, going against the wind, waves and stream for over 2 hours…

No river cruise

Finally, our hammocks never served on the 3-day journey down the Amazon and Para rivers to Belém. We decided that our experience on rivers and boats can’t be improved by a slow, uncomfortable river cruise with bad food and loud engine noise or alternatively loud music… And the Amazon is so huge, you hardly see either shore!

We sail on

Back in Jacaré marina, we have a few days more to get ready to sail. The fridge guy must come back because the freezer again stopped working during our absence. Which means we have to throw away quite a bit of food… once again!

We plan to stop after a few days on the north coast in a river entrance, but arriving there at low tide and dawn, we consider it unsafe to enter. So, we sail on and don’t stop before arriving on the island of Lençois, after 7 unplanned days.

Lençois, “the sheets”

We approach early in the morning and make our way to the anchorage between the islands with the rising tide which can be up to 3 metres there. The name comes from the white sand dunes, Lençois meaning “sheets” in Portuguese. They are very beautiful and walking across them, you feel alone in this world. The silence is pure, if you listen carefully, you can even hear the sand moving with the wind.

A few cows graze at the bottom of the last dune, where, in the rainy season, fresh water collects and allows a meadow to grow on the muddy soil. Red ibis’ gather in that area and bring some extra colour to the white and blue-green contrast of sea and dunes.

Next stop: hospital

The village consists of a few houses, where a few fishermen’s families live. It’s not where we’ll find a supermarket… Unfortunately, we also never could try their delicious shrimps, as they were not going to arrive before a few days. In fact, we were forced to leave and get closer to civilisation and a hospital, because another infection developed on Alexander’s leg. So, we left after 2 days in order to get closer to Belém. We arrived in Soure (about 40 miles from Belém) on the Para river, after 2 days of sailing and went straight to the little hospital in this main town of Marajo island …

To be continued…


  1. Mum

    Wonderful. What a country.
    Not to mention its capital!

    Is that the famous wooden yellow cathedral? Or was that later in Paramaribo?

    Had to smile at the ‘petrol station’ remembering the one in the hills of Cyprus!

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