Brasil 3: Up the southern coast of Brasil

It really helps to have good friends in foreign places. Within 3 days after arriving in Montevideo, Uruguay, we were ready to hit the road again – thanks to Burkhard and Anke Schleicher, who have now moved closer to Montevideo onto a small holding at Atlantida,approximately 45 minutes from the international airport. During our absence Burkhard had the vehicle serviced and well looked after. I did a small modification on the electrical system so that the C-tek charger is no longer mounted permanently. We recharged all the batteries, reconnected the new auxiliary battery and Burkhard assisted with purchasing from BSE the SOA insurance for Uruguay – Seguro Obligatorio third party insurance. Most companies can only insure vehicles with local number plates (placa) –this would be a problem for us for quite a while until we found better ways. Burkhard had also completed two containers to house motorcycles for overland travellers by bike, including sleeping quarters.

As always filling up the vehicle in Uruguay hurts – R18 per litre and requiring close on 210litres.

Then we moved on to our other friends, Jürgen and Gisa Hecker in Punta Ballena further towards Punta del Este, where we spent another 3 days relaxing and doing the necessary shopping for the trip. We took a drive to Piriapolis, where we visited Piria’s house, the founder of the town and had tea at the old hotel Argentina, also built by him as well as the church, today reduced to just ruins.

The border town of Chuy was our first goal after a night’s camping in the forest of Fort Santa Teresa where we already had stayed on the downward journey.

At the border we had a small hiccup – according to Brazilian customs our vehicle had never left the country the previous year when we had visited the Iguaçu falls. However, the officials were happy to see in our passports that we had left to Paraguay and rectified the omission – after some 20 minutes we could pass. Then the question arose whether we needed the Carta Verde – the obligatory third part insurance. However, at the Carta Verde office along the route to the border the lady advised she can only issue it to local vehicles and we had to go to Cambio3 in town – who in turn advised us that we should look elsewhere, they were not selling it at all. In the end we had no choice and proceeded without it, despite our best efforts. ( we were forced to travel all through Brazil without this insurance – not advisable – read in a further blog post where we dug up a company in Salta with head office in Mendoza –Argentina- where you can get cover for all the countries and arrange it via internet in advance)[search for Triunfo Seguros or Speiser Seguros -both can help]

We managed to travel another 102km up to the small coastal town of Hermenegildo, where we camped at Pachuca camping, simple but clean ablutions with hot water and Wifi (Real 24 for 2 persons, approx. ZAR 100). In this area of Brazil many wind turbines are erected, during our stay on this part of the coast the wind never died down.  The sea is brown and rough and much storm damage to the holiday houses was evident along the beach. Due to the tide being very high (full moon) we decided against traveling the 200km along the beach to Rio Grande on our own.

As we travelled further north inland the next day we realised that the area must have had plenty of rain – along the road all the fields were flooded, cattle grazed in the water and we saw many Capybaras on the shores of small lakes as we passed. The area was generally very clean with little rubbish along this stretch. We reached the harbour town of Rio Grande and took a tour through the city to find the jetty where we had to catch the ferry the next day. Then we made our way past large fertiliser, oil and container terminals as well as a shipyard. We had not seen THAT many large trucks for a long time waiting to be loaded and unloaded. We then drove south to the town of Cassino where we camped at the camping site Ferroviários for Real 50 (ZAR 220) and took a stroll to the beach. Heavy showers surprised us during the night and we were very happy to notice that our roof tent was still not showing any leaks after two years of usage.

Next morning we waited at the ferry and were lucky to catch the 10:00 one to São José do Norte (30 minutes, Real 33.50) and continued to the North inbetween the Atlantic and Lagoa dos Patos, flat terrain with many smaller farmers. We turned down to the seaside village of Bacupari where we found a sheltered private camping site along Lago Bacupari for Real 20 pP including hot shower, Wifi and a tame Capybara named Tuketuc. It gave us a chance to feel their hairy texture and hear the grinding sound they make – barely audible and highly pitched.

Moving on we decided to pass Porto Alegre, being a large city and we could not detect anything worth seeing. At Osorio we turned down towards the Atlantic – an area full of holiday park developments and water amusement parks, continued along the BR101 highway northwards and stopped for the night at the surfer town of Garopaba – at Camping Lagoamar we could not enter as there was a VW Kombi gathering, so we took a stand on the RV parking section amidst large RV all connected up.

For supper we decided to walk down the windy beach and enjoyed prawns and pasta with a beer named “Eisenbahn”, which seemed to be a popular brew here beside “Bierbaum” and “Schornstein Bier”. The area seems to have a number of German craft brewers.

Next morning we took a trip through the little town and proceeded towards Florianópolis (called Floripa by the locals) along the highway BR1010 where a speed of 110km is permitted, however electronic radar traps abound.

Floripa is a large city consisting of an industrial part on the mainland and a more residential part on the Ilha Santa Catarina – sometimes confusing to drive due to the many one way streets – a few times excited drivers coming towards us gesticulated that we were not quite observing the traffic rules. The problem was that the are no prominent signs indicating one ways  and, if lucky, there is a small arrow on the street name sign. As we realised later, this seems to be the standard signage in many countries.


In the northern suburb Canasveieras we found a quiet camping spot at Caminho do Rei, where we had hot showers, could wash some laundry but the Wifi was very slow.

On Sunday we took a drive around the island Santa Catarina and frequented some of the beaches and surf spots – we particularly enjoyed the area around Praia Mocambique, as it was along the nature park Estadenal Rio de Vermelho and not developed.

Many of the other beaches were all fronted by condominiums and difficult to park and to access. Returning late afternoon we decided to spent another night at Caminho de Rei Camping and it offered us a good opportunity to have a decent piece of beef on our braai.

After an early breakfast and sorting the not-so-dry freshly washed clothing we ventured into the old part of Santa Catalina which really tested Karin’s navigation skills on the i-Pad – one way streets, not clearly marked, but Pocket Earth was our saviour as so often and we found parking close to the cathedral and plaza, which was dominated by an wonderful old ficus tree.

From here we proceeded north past São José and Itapema on a busy highway. The number of trucks on the roads in Brazil required concentration especially in our right-hand drive vehicle. At a wonderful small town with an excellent surfer beach, Balnerario Camboriú, we got lured into a seafood restaurant – excellent and more expensive than expected (large platter for two and drinks – Real 206).

No regrets, it was very good and our last opportunity to sample the local seafood as our route was now taking us inland to Blumenau, through the heartland of underwear, swimwear and leggings manufacturers – tempting placards and small shops all along the way.

At Blumenau we found camping very close to the famous Oktoberfest venue at Camping Florestal, Real 50 for 2 in a lawned backyard of a business amongst some highrise buildings. Pity the little stream running past smelled of sewage, we parked closer to a wall only to realize next morning very early it was a bus depot and busses left around 5am.

However, it was convenient to walk from here to Villa Germanica, which hosts the annual Oktoberfest –the biggest in Brasil. Here you can buy all paraphernalia required to look Bavarian for the occasion –beermugs, hats, Dirndl outfits, lederhosen – but hardly any German was spoken.

After visiting the town centre to buy a SIM card at Vivo for our hotspot ( Real 40 for 4.8Gb per month) and to see some of the German-influenced architecture and we visited the modern cathedral.

Thereafter we proceeded to Pomerode, another neat town established by German immigrants. We decided to proceed via Jaraguá do Sol and turned down to Corupa (plenty banana plantations here) where we stayed at Camping Rio Novo, in order to climb up the trail in the Reserva Battistella along 13 waterfalls (6km total) ending with the 125m high Salto Grande.

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We continued on the BR280 via Rio Negrinho, Mafra, Unio da Victória and took the gravel road to Porto Victório,

along Rio Iguaçu, and then northerly to Bituruma, hilly landscapes with a lot of agriculture, finally ending in Entre Rios at hangar 03 at the little airport just outside Village 01,where we received a friendly welcome by owner Walter Milla and Karoline Heinrich. A very inviting post on i-Overlander lured us here.

Walter’s crop spray airplanes are parked here and we learned that Entre Rios consists of 5 villages of the German Donauschwaben that have emigrated here and build a thriving community based on a cooperative system. When the 500 families arrived in 1950, 12-20sqm houses were built cooperatively, all the same using the Araucaria wood and every family received a 5000sqm plot with adjacent 1ha field and 100ha to be paid back. It is amazing what they have developed since – intensive agriculture with some farmers having 20000ha under crops, a very large silo storage as well as a malting works that supplies 17% of Brazil’s malt. No longer are any of the original dwellings used, they have made way to large and modern houses, a museum, hospital and administration complex. Next day Siegfried Milla, Walters father, was our host and tour guide and we visited the interesting museum as well as the memorial house of the previous co-ops president, Mathias and Elizabeth Leh.

Karoline owns Brot& Café in town where you can have traditional lunch or just a cup of coffee and excellent cake. Also not to be missed is an evening at the brewery and restaurant Donau Bier!.

From this community we learned that close by was a similarly successful Dutch colony and we decided it would be worth visiting Carambei. We wanted to see the Parque Historico where we were told overnighting with an RV was possible –although no baheiro (bathrooms) being a problem by night. Through our contact with Douwtje van Westering, a guide of Cooptur in Carambei, we met Dick van Geus, whose family owned the land where the historical Parque has been developed on and finally parked at a private facenda owned by Gerda van Geus and had a wonderful evening at this friendly and welcoming community. Our knowledge of Afrikaans certainly broke the ice but a number of people here also spoke German.

The park also houses an interesting collection of butterflies and moths gathered over many years by Adolpho Los.

If travelers are interested, contact Douwtje for a tour.

Next morning we continued towards Tibagi, on the way we wanted to see a canyon in the Parque Estadual do Guartelá – closed on Mondays like many other attractions like the museum in Castrolanda – it seems Mondays all attractions are closed in this region.

This blog covers 1-17th September 2017