Bit of Brazil

We left Campo Grande with it’s funny, low museum exhibits and headed eastward to Florianopolis. Ivan was there holding on to our new Starlink and his was on the way. Trying to find a place for large boxes in a small space has always been an isssue for us coming from living on a boat and the same goes for Ivan. So we made some tracks along with a million heavily laden trucks over some 1300km making some stops along the way to see things.

When we do long driving days we don’t mind stopping close to the road at sunset to just be done for the day because it doesn’t happen very often. On this stretch it was “postas”- truck stops for options since there really isn’t anything else near. Over 2 nights we noticed the routine. When we pull in, all the trucks are too and they settle in for the night. We thought that the long haul double trailers couldn’t back up but oh yes they can. They politely wedged in right next to us. Then they get a shower, pull out their folding chair, open up the kitchen and make their dinner right alongside while talking on the phone. Most trucks had a setup like this. We hadn’t seen it before.

We made our way across the Brazilian state of Parana to Vila Velha State Park. It has 23 sandstone pillars a that we wanted to see, among other activites that we didn’t really care about. And it was right on the way. Turns out with entry pricing that is costs more to just walk the trails than it does to do the trails to the pillars, see a sinkhole and a lake and do a canopy walk. So…. we got to walk up in the treetops on tiny little wires with a helmet on and a safety harness in case we fell! The sinkhole and lake were nothing to write home about but the pillars were pretty. All in all it was anticlimatic compared to the incredible beauty we have in the Western US.

We moved to a little German farm campground for the night just east of the park. There were all kinds of farm animals but we liked the ostriches the most. Do you see the big ostrich egg on the ground? That would be a filling omelette for sure. We took a nice rural run from there before it started to pour.

The little town of Morettes was our next stop and we parked alongside their cute river. Founded in 1721, this town has lovely old buildings, cobblestone paths and a love of beef stew. They call it barreado and it is made in a clay pot. I read that it was originally made to feed to Carnival revelers to keep them warm. We were there on a rainy Saturday and beef stew sounded great so we sat out on the deck of a riverside restaurant. This stew is traditionally all you can eat. They have a ritual of mixing it thick with manioc flour and then you thin it down again with beef broth. It was nice to try it and the location was great. The stew was OK but we’re not craving it again! It had a lack of anything else but beef.

Finally a view after hours of hiking

Since it had been a while since we’d done any mountain hikes and the rain had cleared, we picked out a trail not far from Morettes for a day hike. It turned out to be a very poor trail in thick jungle with numerous treefalls and one solitary view. While it’s unlike us to not reach the summit, we decided life is too short to hike crappy trails so turned around to make it a 6 hour hike. Since we were covered in sweat and foliage debris, we had to shower before we could think of driving anywhere. That is when we found out we were covered in tiny ticks. Yuck. We hate ticks.

I had read about a little park island just off the coast – Ilha do Mel that you can take a little ferry to and there are no vehicles allowed there, just walking and biking. So we drove to the coast and parked along the beach near the ferry dock positioning ourselves for the next day. We needed to leave early in the morning and when Jon started the truck, I happened to see a spark come out from underneath the truck. Jon suspected the starter but it continued to work when he restarted it. We didn’t notice anything wrong so we continued on to drive to the ferry parking area and do the day as we planned. We walked all over the island on beaches, up rocky hillsides, on sandy paths and through wooded areas and managed to remove more ticks from ourselves. I had even brought the tweezers because I knew there would be more… There was a fort, a lighthouse, a cave and long stretches of beautiful beach. Lots of solitude. And it was a beautiful day.

When we came back on the ferry and went to drive away, the engine of course wouldn’t start- the starter was the likely offender. We tipped the cab and indeed, one of the screws that holds a little plate in place that is important for the brushes of the starter to make contact had backed out and the plate was just hanging there. No surprise after all of the rough dirt roads that we’d been on. Although access is very tight around the engine, Jon had replacement screws that would fit and he was working on that. But the kind parking lot owner was trying to help also and kept calling in friends who might be able to assist. At one point we had so many men hanging around our truck trying to help but in a way in this instance, Jon knew what he needed to do but just needed to be able to get at the engine to do it! Here is a pic of what the scene looked like. As it was getting dark and it was too late for us to get it done to move from the parking lot, Jon used Google translate to say he was calling it a night and thanked all the helpers. Then everyone disappeared in an instant. One thing about Brazil is virtually no one speaks Spanish or English in the parts that we visited. We fumbled along wherever we went. The next morning, Jon got it fixed first thing and we were on our way to Florianopolis to meet Ivan. Part of our route included a ferry hop and so we rode sideways on a speedy ferry that saved us about 80km from going the long way around.

Jon found a place to have a mount 3D printed so that the Starlink could be mounted neatly on the roof

We drove down the east coast into the Santa Catarina state to Florianopolis which is an island just offshore connected by bridge. The population of the area is 421,000 and it felt crowded. We nearly got creamed twice with trucks cutting us off accidentally because it seemed they forgot how long they were. It was good to get to the campground that had graciously accepted our packages and meet up with Ivan. It also was a good place to remove a couple more ticks! This would be where we would install our Starlink internet so that we could be free of looking for internet and counting gigs so we woudn’t run out, or losing gigs because we could never have enough reception to use them. Over 5 days, we took runs, rode bikes, went out for shrimp dinner, hiked, ate ice cream and oh yeah, the guys got the Starlinks mounted and the wiring done. It’s a bit stressful to buy something new and then cut it apart but this is what you need to do if you want to install it permanently rather than set it up & take it down each time you want to use it.

The restaurants along the beach strip had a theme which was the seafood “sequence”. You keep getting one thing after another in sequence. Crabcakes, fried shrimp, sauteed, shrimp, then out comes grilled fish and sides. It was a nice night out.

It has been really difficult to get the parts to make the 12V conversion so that we don’t need to run the inverter for 110 but thankfully we have very kind friends George & Lois, who took it upon themselves to help us and have brought them to Buenos Aires!!! So we may finally be able to get them fully installed the way we want them. In the meantime, we’re really enjoying having service wherever we are!

I had a list pf places that I wanted to go in Florianopolis, especially the southern part of the island that is supposedly more wild but I couldn’t get the guys interested because overall, we all longed for quieter places. Driving around there was really stressful.

So we headed off southwestward to explore a few of the canyons that the area is known for and breathe in some mountain air. The first one was my favorite I think in part because we couldn’t drive all the way up to it because the road was so steep and narrow. So that meant a good long steep hike just to get to the canyon rim where the trails started. It was late afternoon, my favorite time of day and the views were beautiful. For some reason this area is into swings. We’ve seen a lot of them. So… we made use of them to swing out into the view.

There was also a lovely, STEEP waterfall. You could walk right near the edge and get weak knees looking over to how far you’d fall. We spent the night and then moved to a new spot along the road the next day to bike the road since it was so pretty.

Gabriel and his nephew treated us well at the mechanic shop with apples from their town and translation!

When we headed out to the second canyon, it felt like our truck was really dragging up the hills. I mean, we aren’t a jackrabbit going up them but since the turbo conversion Jon did, we can usually stay in 4th gear for most hills or drop to 3rd but this time we were down to second. When we pulled over and there was no wind taking our smell away, we could tell something was wrong- our truck stunk. Right away, 2 friendly guys stopped to ask if we needed help and they were mechanics. They were moving faster than Jon and before he knew it the truck was jacked up. While we were all looking around for the possible cause, I noticed that the front brake drums were hot – it was the brake dust that we were smelling but we didn’t know why. The mechanics suggested that maybe the parking brake had just stuck as a fluke and now things seemed OK, because they did…

So we set off again on a rough dirt road toward the canyon. After about a half an hour of driving, the truck started dragging again and we could smell the brakes. So we turned around (poor Ivan), retraced our steps back to town and parked for the night wondering what we would do as this wasn’t a particularly big town. Jon consulted friends, the forums, Stefan in Germany who has helped us with so many issues and seems to know everything. We got a lot of good ideas, suspected one of 3 different valves in the air brake system and then slept on it.

The next morning, Jon picked out a truck mechanic shop in town to see if he could buy some parts. Driving over to it, the front brakes were dragging pretty badly and the the only way to release them was to keep stopping and applying the parking brake, then release it and drive a few hundred feet, then repeat. When we got to the shop and mimed about our issue, they came right out and crawled under the truck. Once again, it was jacked up before we could blink and there was a circle of mechanics around troubleshooting the problem. They suspected the shuttle valve near the front of the engine and while at first they said they didn’t have the part, one of the guys came out a few minutes later with it in his hand. Meanwhile, the shop owner called another family member, Gabriel, who spoke English, to be with us for the day so he could translate. He was a great guy and we enjoyed talking with him. He’d come to the US before and was excited to return with his girlfriend. At one point he disappeared for a few minutes only to come back with a giftbag for us of apple cider, apple chips and apples. Because the town we were in was the center of Brazil’s apple crop business. It was such a nice thing to do and what started out as a scary day full of dread ended up rather pleasant overall because once they were done and we did a test drive the problem was fixed!!!! So in the end, the valve that shunts air between the parking brake and the front service brakes was sticking and allowing air to actuate the front brakes when the parking brake was off. It took a couple days to get rid of the brake dust smell but everything seems to be working now and we have our fingers corssed that we can have a quiet break for a bit. Had the USA not had their 25 year rule for importing a used truck that wasn’t sold in the US, we would have a much newer one and we think of this whenever we have a problem.

So off we went to toward Cambara do Sul through rolling hills and pretty countryside with a healthy German descendent population. This cute little town is the gateway to the Aparados da Serra and Serra Geral National Parks. We could camp right at the visitor center with several other travelers and the vibe was good. We sat out at happy hour to watch a whole herd of women on horseback walk by as part of a multiday celebration of the anniversary of the year 1935 I think it was when this region wanted to cecede from the country. They lost but they celebrate the attempt. The parks protect 2 rather impressive canyons and also the Parana pine which is a cool looking pine tree that looks like fireworks to me. Both had hiking trails and beautiful scenery including a lovely waterfall.

After the canyons, it was time to make some miles to get back to Argentina and to Buenos Aires to meet up with the parts that George & Lois are bringing to us- yay! So we did a couple of long driving days, stayed at a couple of truck stops, crossed the border no problem and then stopped for a day to hang out by the river Uruguay. We took a run, put the packrafts in for a bit and hung out along the shore relaxing. It’s quite amazing what some towns provide for people who want to camp and at no cost. This one even had a solar hot water tap so people could fill their mate cups and thermoses. Yep!

The past couple of days we’ve explored the little towns of Concepcion del Uruguay (decent running) and Gualeguaychu (Carnival museum and fattening lunch). We are back in Gaucho country. Pretty much back to where we picked our truck up in middle of July. A lot has happened in 2 months time and it’s been great.

We really enjoyed our time in Brazil and look forward to going back next year to explore the Amazon and the N. Pantanal. We did find some of the parks to be a bit nutty with their pricing and so many require guides that it affected what trails we chose. And then there’s paying to park all the time in them. Those parts weren’t our favorites. But the people have been so kind to us, we’ve learned a lot about Brazil and there are some really beautiful places worth seeing no matter the cost. Brazil isn’t all about the Amazon! We are enjoying being back in Argentina too. It feels more peaceful here in a way and nice to get back to some of the foods we like. It’s a bit weird that the largest bill- 1000 pesos is worth about $1.50 US but then our money goes far here. We feel sad for the Argentinian people. We can’t wait to get the Starlink parts and be free again to roam without any pressure.

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