FROM CANELA IT’S a short jaunt southwest to Tres Coroas. Passing through Gramado, I took a detour around the Lago Negro at Gramado, both touted as a “place to see.” I’d already visited the centre one afternoon and enjoyed a costly latte in an expensive bookshop. The town is very germanic and mainly geared up for tourism. Fine if you like that sort of thing but it’s not my cup of latte…
Skirting the deserted lake through the surrounding trees, glancing at the white swan-shaped pedaloes huddled on the shore of the black water reflecting a marbled silver sky reminded me of a long past family holiday in Scarborough back in the UK, reminding myself that I am alone here far from family and a generation from those happy times…
I guessed my way back, weaving through the suburbs returning to the RS115 south.
Away from the urban limits of Gramado, the sky began to brighten revealing patches of cobalt blue and intermittent
Trickling around Tres Coroas’ gridded intersections and backtracking along the 115, I found myself crossing the same junctions from different directions.
Finally recognising a storefront on a corner of some traffic lights that marked the junction I needed from Google Streetview, I only had to select the road that had the view of the distant mountains and cruise west noting any gate numbers that may be present.
Overall, the journey should have been easier but had finished with irritation of looking for the street and now an illusive house-number. Like one of those
To my left on a gate was the number I thought I needed but the house sat, still and stoic behind high-security fencing. I paused for a few moments but nothing moved. I unpacked the laptop to double-check the address. As the screen yawned its way into life, movement in my mirrors caught my eye. A group of schoolgirls approaching along the path. Lara and Olivia were among them, different from how I remembered them back at Princesa dos Campos. They recognised me first and offered a welcoming smile before passing through the high-security gate into the sanctuary of the garden.
I stashed the laptop and looped a 270 degree
The reason the house appeared dormant was that Lis and Filipe had been next door at Filipe’s mother’s house wrestling a roof tent off the top of their Renault. Even with four of us, 70kg is heavy to manoeuvre, shuddering arms stretched out above shoulder height, desperate for the steel brackets not to make contact with the car’s gleaming roof.
I was showed upstairs and offered a room with apologies about the pink decor since this was Lara’s. I smiled as the contrast between what I usually make do with doesn’t reach the criteria of
Filipe’s Brother in law, Edison, arrived that evening curious about my journey. Fluent English made for easy conversation and the evening passed rather too quickly.
I’m treated to two nights of good company, easy conversation, watching movies and sharing Chimarrao (Mate). I’ve yet to learn the skill of drinking through the metal straw without scolding my tongue…
Filipe has a home business making custom wooden flowers for souvenir shops. A workshop in the back garden means a good degree of self-sufficiency and freedom from ’employment’ slavery. Something I’d held as a dream for a long time in my working days.
I never really fully relax as a guest – maybe about 80% to start with. Oversensitive etiquette issues get in the way… different people have different customs and I worry too much on getting them wrong. Best not to worry about it since worrying doesn’t help any. Second-guessing is no better than just relaxing. Still, getting a slap as a kid for putting elbows on the table leaves a lasting
Friday the first of March and I’m up
Shaking hands and bidding a cheery Tchau, I’m pointed up a lane before Filipe swings back to the road and I rattle over the dirt track 15km through the rustic village of Linha Café Baixa and along
Parking under a tree for a few moments, a rubber-gloved man emerges from the toilet block a hundred yards away, discards, mop, bucket and gloves approaches and welcome me. He lives at the house next to the entrance and appears to look after the Parque Laranjeiras single-handed. I book a couple of nights and exchange some cash for a page torn from his receipt book. The first night includes a one-off charge for the tent, subsequent nights are just per person.
There’s power here but no WiFi except at the restaurant. I pitch up next to a socket so I’m able watch a movie in the night. An exploratory wander around the site brings me to the restaurant at the far end of the sports field. The door is ajar. In the hallway, excursion leaflets on a table, to the right a doorway labelled hostel. To the left, the restaurant open and empty, barring a woman at the table closest to the door with a stack of papers and a calculator. Hacking away at Portuguese I manage to ask if the restaurant is are open for food. I think the answer was “depends what you want.” and I settle for a coffee, toasted cheese sandwich and the WiFi password. That would do me until the morning if need be.
The next morning, Saturday, The restaurant opens for breakfast and I work online for a bit. Claire from the middle tour company of the three offices across the way detects I’m an English speaker as she settles her bill, and recommends the white-water rafting. “The red one next to Ecotours, over there.” The river flows around the park in a horseshoe shape with a nationally-known competition kayak course along the northern stretch but the trip starts a few km north at the dam. It wasn’t too expensive but I eventually decided I’d rather have the money. The restaurant is on the toe of the horseshoe facing west with no view of the river: only of the tour offices across the field.
Later on, cars start trickling and pretty soon the site’s buzzing with
Dome tents pop up and tarps are strung between trees. The store opens up and the whole site becomes alive with noise and activity. I soon inherit some neighbours in intimate proximity, close enough for boisterous kids to repeatedly trip over my tent lines and uproot the pegs.
Carlos and his family notice my bike and invite me for churrasco. He works in a hospital hence his English is good. After lunch, he lends me some swim shorts we all amble down to the river. The riverside bustles with families. People sunning themselves and leaping into the water off the rocky bank. We swim down the top part of the rapids between the occasional inflatable rafts drifting around the corner and on down the kayak course. I only brushed the rocks on the way down but Carlos hit them hard and limped ashore before retiring. The obvious hazard is the fast flow down between the rocks but if you don’t panic and keep your wits it’s easy enough to swim to the side into one of the many slowly stirred pools. The not so obvious hazards are hidden by the
Sunday morning the crowd thickened but by the evening had quickly evaporated. Shutters were up at the stores and restaurant. Only Clair and another girl remained before kitting up to both leave on a single motorcycle. Rain is forecast and they were keen to get off despite being the last ones there. Apparently, today was the end of the season and the park would be closed for a few months now although still available for camping if you don’t mind the solitude.
Monday morning, the restaurant remains closed but the store opens for a short spell and I buy some chicken, cheese and bread. Only a motley crew of young white-water rafters appear and amble down the lane into the only open tour office, emerge in red floatation attire and sing the bus and its trailer of rafts away up the lane and out to the dam to be rinsed back down the river an hour or so later. My own private adventure suits me just fine. all that whooping and cheering is not my thing.
Yesterday’s rain arrives a day late. I strip the hammock from the trees sling it between the rafters of a picnic shelter above the table. The breeze wafts its damp chill across me and I wander through the woods to warm up and gather firewood. Some of it kindly left stacked next to extinguished campfires by the weekend’s campers.
The firepit in the shelter happened to lay directly under a stream of water channelled over a broken section of the roof so I cleared the ground and built one a fire there warming myself crouched on the ground while cooking the chicken.
7th of March makes it 6 days at Orange Park and I up sticks for the weekend bound for Nova Petropolis, a scenic Germanic town of tourist attractions but no suitable camping opportunities I could make out. The best and closest option on iOverlander seemed to be Tenda do Umbu 20km out the way of the next destination of Bento Goncalves. Edison, at Tres Coroas, had told me about Tenda do Umbu which is a popular biker’s hangout, a bonus feature only 300 metres up the road from the camp spot.
But first I take the detour to Chagdud Gonpa Brazil Buddhist Temple. Somewhat incongruous in Brazil but secluded enough in the hills to reduce the contrast in cultures.
Barriers over ant runs I found amusing. Not that I willingly step on them but I reckon casualties are minor without going to this trouble.
The hot and bright afternoon soon turned cool and dark, as I left, with a cloudburst just as I pass a wooden hut offering coffee and artisan cakes. The shower conveniently lasted as long as it took to enjoy the refreshments and off I set, backtracking to Gramado and on towards Nova Petropolis.
An easy road with busy traffic, I soon breeze through Nova Petropolis’ welcoming arch and skim the town’s scenery. I’d come back for a closer look later. The 235 emerges west of the town and merges with the 116 north to Caxias do Sul and south to Novo Hamburgo. Southbound is the default and I flow with it down towards the village of Picada Café. The afternoon cools and darkens. Clouds become pregnant with rain but they hold back exhaling only a breath of drizzle.
Down, down on sweeping bends, road surface damp beneath the tree-
The scenery along the 116 is beautiful and enchanting. Without being aware, I’d been on the Rota Romantica since San Francisco da Paula but this had been the most beautiful stretch so far. It looked more like Germany than Brazil.
Down across the river at the valley floor then, up and up. A relatively gentle twisting slope but long and persistent. Throttle fully open for the tiny engine to haul its load up the inclines and around the bends trying to not lose
Six kilometres later, a sweep over a crest and down beneath the trees to a left-hand bend and I crane my neck right as I pass the Picada Café Mirante. A layby extending up through some trees to a small hill crowned by a hidden electricity pylon hidden overlooking the green valley. Only one truck parked there.
Pleased about finding it without any problems, or coasting past without noticing, I gently slowed on the remaining straight to Tenda do Umbu: an oasis of souvenir shops, a café and a Petrol station. It’s late. Twilight already creeping over the thick cloud cover that was now almost close enough to touch. All
Back at the layby, almost dark, the truck had gone leaving the site pleasantly deserted and I set about scouting around for a good pitch. A track led up each side of a tree-lined plateau of picnic tables up and beyond another rise hosting an electricity pylon. There wasn’t much level ground up there and I certainly wasn’t going to camp on the flat area inside the electricity pylon and bathe in its
Down to the left, half-hidden in the trees, lay a roofless, dilapidated concrete hut or house, litter and leaves scattered over the floor in a cold soupy atmosphere. I wasn’t paranoid enough to hide out in those dank, depressing shadows. Up on the vacant picnic plateau, I chose a spot on the edge beneath the trees where I couldn’t easily see passing traffic, which meant I’d be reasonably well hidden right there… and I wouldn’t expect company at this time of day and in this weather.
I peaked through the tent flap as a single car followed ists headlamps up past me around the pylon and down the other side, probably not noticing me. The night was beautifully quiet and anonymous with only the of the occasional passing car’s distant swish whispering up the hill and through the trees. I liked it here. So much so I decided to stay an extra night, free of charge, not counting the electricity pylon although a socket on it would be handy.
I welcomed the grey dew-soaked morning for making it less appealing for passers-by to intrude. Gathering up my laptop and bag, I zipped up the tent, left the bike propped next to it and set off to the café. Glancing back, it looked like someone was home. I marched up the road to Tenda do Umbu, a café displaying a wall of biker stickers. I didn’t have a sticker of my own to add. Never got round to it… even after learning about them. If you are planning a trip, I’d recommend you get some stickers printed. They are a simple gift, perfectly portable. Locals like mementoes. Get your country’s flag on the emblem too. Even if you’re not a big fan of nationalism, people like to know where you hail from. People just love them.
Planting myself in the corner. Café com
Strolling back to the tent, the weather had brightened up. The sun had dried out the grey air and cast dancing leafy shadows over the Rota Romantica.
My camp remained how it was left: in tranquil solitude. Breaking out the hammock underlined the warm dry afternoon. Preserving the PC battery for the evening’s entertainment, there isn’t actually much left to do so lounging in the hammock, reading under the dappled shade could be fully enjoyed without temptation or distraction of cyberspace…