Another country, another border… and thus we make our way to the Uruguay/Brazil border for yet another round of paperwork. The border we take is in Chuy, which is a border town BETWEEN the two official border authorities, making it a weird little town with Duty Free stores (full airport style) while the main street is literally the official border line between both countries. The Uruguayan authorities are extremely fast – Immigration takes five minutes, and the aduana tells us to leave the car document, he will sign it out later today.
Before trying our luck at the Brazilian authorities we roll into the town for some souvenir shopping, some duty free chocolate to get rid of our last Uruguayan pesos and then straight out to the Brazilian border. No lines, so that is a good sign, and we know that Brazils only rule in terms of Covid is showing your vaccination proof so that should be quite quick. BUT… the immigration fella has a problem with the electronic passport reader and thus has to manually input all our details… 4 times!! So that took half an hour instead of 5 minutes. Then it is on to the customs people to import our car, where again there is no line. BUT the one man that can do international cars (all other four sitting around eating lunch apparently can’t) is back in Chuy town having lunch… Long story short; the car work took another hour, which is a grand total of 1,5 hours for something that could have been done in 20 minutes, hahahaha – WELCOME TO BRAZIL!!
Rio Grande & Laguna
One thing to know about Brazil is that it is one massive country, and with a car and 2 months still ahead of us we need to make careful decisions on where we do and do not go. Of course we can not miss out of Rio de Janeiro, but while contemplating the Amazon, we decided to opt for the Pantanal as it is a location we can drive to. Nevertheless we will have some long driving days ahead of us in this country so we take the first stretch towards Rio Grande from the border with anticipation and some dread. It turns out to be a beautiful drive through an ecological park with along the road crocodiles, hundreds of capibaras (aren’t they the coolest animals on the planet!?) and birds everywhere. We roll into Cassino at the end of the evening and settle into our Airbnb for one night. We have decided to do more of that here, as the prices are quite low in the low season and beat the hassle of setting up our tent!
The next day we leave early to try and get as many kms under our belt as possible. The beaches of Florianopolis are luring the next day, so the least kms we still have to go to get there the better. The route has a ferry crossing at the beginning of it (saving some 45 minutes and 100km), and goes once an hour, so we make sure we get there on time… or so we thought! Turns out trucks get priority, and just as we have only 2 more cars in front of us two double trucks roll in and get on the ferry. So we have to wait an hour for the next one, time we use to get some fruit and bread (we had none left because of the border control which by the way checked absolutely NOTHING) and have a stroll around the town of Rio Grande.
Not much more to do here, and once we have taken the ferry we make a 250km beeline through pastures and greenery. Once we connect to the highway again we have made some very good progress, so we decide to push on and pull a 550km stretch this day which is a good distance considering we only got going at 12pm coming off the ferry! We find a really cute Airbnb in Laguna where we settle in and enjoy the evening, excitingly anticipating the beach for the next day…
Florianopolis & Isla Santa Catharine
We have a relatively short drive into the Florianopolis area, but we get unpleasantly surprised by the Iron Man that is happening that day, causing some serious delay. We arrive at our beach house around noon, and after a quick unpack and lunch head straight out to the beach for some serious tanning and playing. The wind is blowing some clouds by on and off, which does have an immediate impact on the temperature, but with it being a Sunday the spirits are up and the warm hospitality of the Brazilians makes this a perfect day out. People watching is one of our favorite pastimes, and there certainly is enough to see in this new country.
You have got to hand it to these Brazilians, as they seem so confident in their skin and their beach attire matches that! To top things off the end of the day gives us a nice demonstration of beach soccer by some youngsters, which is highly entertaining, and entices Luc to hit a ball or two as well. Completely worn out from all the beach activity we pull ourselves off the beach and into a hot shower before calling it a night. We finally manage to watch the finals of ‘Wie is de mol?’, none of us having the right one in mind, so that was a cool surprise in the end!
Our second day in this beach town we decide to head out to the Praia da Galetha, which is across a steep hill, mostly driven by the fact that the wind continues to blow straight at our ‘home beach’. As the temperatures are still fantastic (certainly for Dutch standards) we do not want to miss out on beach time so we pack our things and start the climb across to another bay. It is a 1hr hike with a serious climb, but when we arrive at the beach it is almost deserted and beautiful. Plus – Much less wind! We settle in, and spend the day sunbathing, bodyboarding, hole digging and all the other fun stuff when you are at the beach. We are greeted by a pod of dolphins passing by, and the frigate birds continue to soar along the beach.
It is also a nudist beach, which makes our boys giggle every time a naked man/woman passes by, but they are not tempted to try themselves. The way back is of course another climb, but we decide to take another route this time. This is fine, but it turns out that at the end of it there is a paid stretch… Dutch as we are we refuse to pay for a hike, much rather we keep the money for ice-cream, so we track back but end up climbing the hill another time… to the frustration of the boys of course. All is forgotten when ice-cream is on the menu, so after some 13km of climbing and hiking we get back to our beach house with sticky ice-cream fingers, all satisfied. Not having had enough of the sand the boys continue to play on the beach while we have a hot shower and get dinner ready. One last game of ‘avoid the foam of the wave’ and it is time to call it a day. Two perfect beach days: CHECK!
Now we are no zoo going folks necesarily, but there were three reasons we decided to give it a go; 1 – It was free (big reason), 2 – it was in the town we were staying in, 3 – it gave us an opportunity to make a list of Brazilian animals we want to see in the wild. The zoo is a very small set up, great for a few hours of strolling and looking for the animals that are hidden. Most are rescues, and the vast majority from Brasil, so it truly was a good way to make the list. Thankfully we could already tick off quite some animals, but we are excited to get some in real life! Top 5 – unanimously decided between us;
- Jaguar – How cool and terrifying would that be!?
- Giant Anteater – Especially the tail, very impressive!
- Lion Tamarin monkeys – Any of the 4 species will do!
- Maned wolf – Very elusive, but who knows?
- King vulture – Coolest looking vulture on the planet!
Of course we will keep you posted on our progress here, but for now we check into another Airbnb and call it a night.
Praia Grande – Avoiding Sao Paolo
Having checked with our Brazilian friends and having to plan our time well, we decide to forego on Sao Paolo and focus on Rio de Janeiro. This means that we take a right turn coming from Curitiba towards the ocean again and will spend the next 600+ km along the coast making our way to Rio. Before we do however we get stuck in a 3km traffic jam that takes us one hour, something we have not experienced in at least a year, and adding to that the temperatures rising in this tropical area the mood in the car is not stellar.
With the delay we get to our Airbnb after 3pm, still in time for some beach and sea enjoyment. The water in the ocean also gets warmer as we head up the coast, so the swim is absolutely fantastic and a great way to cool off. The apartment on the other hand does not have AC nor a ventilator (rooky mistake, I know, but we haven’t needed it in the past few months) so we get ready for a sticky night. Fortunately it is only one night, so we make the best out of it and hope for better in the morning!
After a very sticky night we gather our stuff and pull the car out of the garage to go out and explore the coastline further. We only have 320km to go, but it proves to be slow going along this route, which is not a bad thing considering the scenery we drive through. Jungle meets beach, lovely towns and stunning cliff views across the ocean or towards islands offshore. We hope to see some monkeys but are not so lucky, instead our own little monkeys spend a few hours in the ocean acting like one over lunch. The ocean here is so warm it hardly cools you down, but we can really not complain :-).
Next week: Rio de Janeiro and surroundings