The weekend before last we were invited to spend the Sunday with our Brazilian friends.

We picked Victor up from his home in one of Brian’s bangers……. It seems that when you have a lift, you automatically share your good fortune with others, so our next stop was to pick up Lito and then head off to Vane’s house to drop him off, and pick up another friend, before Victor took us out to Cabo Branco.

Cabo Branco. The most easterly point on Brazil.

Cabo Branco. The most easterly point on Brazil.

Cabo Branco is the most easterly point of Brazil and is a very low key affair compared to Land’s End or John ‘o Groates. Victor is a fount of knowledge and told us all about the Brazilian versions of Robin Hood and Maid Marian……..Lampao and Maria Bonita, who led a band of outlaws in this area at the end of the 19th century.

Marcus Lampao and Margie Maria Bonita!

Marcus Lampao and Margie Maria Bonita!

Behind the headland, with it’s shack cafe, lies a most unexpected masterpiece of modern architecture which houses a concert hall, film theatre and a scientific and cultural centre.

A floating glass hexagon .... so different to the other Brazilian architecture.

A floating glass hexagon …. so different to the other Brazilian architecture.

In the foyer to the concert hall there is an astounding piece of art work, documenting the development of Joao Pessoa since the indigenous Indians right up to the present day.

The History of Joao Pessoa

The History of Joao Pessoa

When we got back to Vane’s house we went through the security gate into a totally unexpected mini tropical forest. The road to her house is a dirt track, although it is in the city of Joao Pessoa. She and her late husband designed and built her house about 15 years ago.

Victor and Vane on the veranda.

Victor and Vane on the veranda with a glimpse of the garden behind..

Inside the house with a lot of Vane's artwork on show.

Inside the house with a lot of Vane’s artwork on show.

At the front of the property is a valley designated green belt forest, but directly behind her the developers have been allowed to build a twenty storey apartment block.     Unlike in Britain, where views are enjoyed by the house owner, the views are unseen by Vane as she has a ten foot high security wall separating her from her from the beauty and the beasts that lie outside!
We spent the afternoon chatting over a meal of fish, meat, beans, manioc and rice, which Vane must have spent all morning preparing. As it began to get dark it was decided that we should go to see some folk music and dance in the artistic quarter of the town.

A circle dance with dancers taking turns to show their moves in the centre.

A circle dance with dancers taking turns to show their moves in the centre.

The venue is the home of an artist who has opened his house to artists to display their work and he also invites local musicians and folk groups to present their music and dance.

A twenty strong group with just percussion and voices.

A twenty strong group with just percussion and voices.

It was a great evening and I managed to pick up the basic steps of the dances that originated among the slaves that worked the sugar plantations. There is a lot of government support for the African heritage brought by the slaves and shows a determined effort to narrow the gap between those of Portuguese descent and those of indigenous Indian and African lineage. Whatever the reasons for the music and dance, we had a wonderful time!!

My birthday dawned and we set about celebrating in Jacarė style …….very laid back!

We got the bikes out and went to a local buffet style restaurant for lunch, followed by a trip around the local builders merchants looking for hooks for the awning……….Marcus really knows how to show me a good time!!

After that we went back to the marina for an international boules competition with three French, four English, one Brazilian and a Dutch man.

Claire, Allan, Marc and Camille on the piste.

Claire&Allan (England), Marc&Camille (France) on the piste.

In the evening Allan and Claire, the other British couple, met us at the bar and then took us back to their boat, Moonstone for a birthday dinner and an evening of unfettered english. A fine way to celebrate 62 years.

On Sunday we were invited to go to Lito’s to a family party to celebrate Mother’s Day. He is one of ten children and they had decided to get together and have a party.

We went, armed with drink and a box of chocolates for the mother, only to find that their mother had died six years ago! We arrived by taxi and as Marcus directed the driver into Lito’s neighbourhood, he explained that this is one of the most dangerous areas of town. He was amazed when we asked him to drop us off and insisted that we take his card in-case we needed to call for help!

The prejudice is amazing…….yes, the area is poor and no doubt there are criminals that live there, but not everyone is a criminal. Lito’s family were delighted to meet us and made us very welcome, sitting us down at the table inside and plying us with food and drink.

Most of the family and neighbours in the street in front of their house.

Most of the family and neighbours in the street in front of their house.

It is difficult to say exactly how many people live in Lito’s house and who lives where as the family seem to have three neighbouring houses.

We met three of Lito’s brothers and four of his sisters and a lot of their children………all a bit confusing, but everyone greeted us very warmly and tried to talk to us. Luckily we understood enough to get by and there was a lot of joking and laughter to fill the gaps.

At one point a very drunk friend on a horse appeared, skidded to a halt and proceeded to give rides up and down the street

Pony rides with a difference.

Pony rides with a difference.

………I had a go, but Marcus declined!

By the time we left we had been adopted into the family, Marcus had been given two shirts and we had arranged for six of the family to come to the boat next weekend for a sail up and down the river!

The Eldest brother with his new brother Marcus sporting the football shirt he was presented with.

The Eldest brother with his new brother…….. Marcus (sporting the football shirt he was presented with).

 

On Monday the 12th it was Awen’s birthday, so we all got together in the bar area to have birthday cake and present opening. They had made two cakes, one for Awen and one for me with just three candles…..one blue one for 60 years and two white ones……we didn’t want to burn the place down.

Awen, Gabriel and Arthur   waiting for the paparazzi to be ready!

Awen, Gabriel and Arthur waiting for the paparazzi to be ready!

My turn....I had to be quick to beat Gabriel to it!

My turn….I had to be quick to beat Gabriel to it!

On Thursday, we did some more sight seeing and took a mini bus trip from the marina to see something of the interior of Paraiba and a cachaça distillery.

Our first stop was at a small-holding by the side of the road where we were given fresh pineapple and melon.

All the Manioca, yams, carrots and fruit are grown on about 2 acres of land.

All the manioc, yams, carrots and fruit are grown on about 2 acres of land.

It is amazing how much they produce on a small piece of land and how many animals they can keep.

Just two of the live stock.

Just two of the live stock.

We watched as this cow was moved into the traces of the cart. With a few words from the farmer and a couple of shakes on the chain around its horns, the cow knelt down, placed its muzzle under the yoke…….

Muzzle in lift position.

Muzzle in lift position.

…………slipped it up its nose and lifted the yoke high enough for the man to pop it over its horns, as it stood up.

Yoke up and in place.

Yoke up and in place.

I had no idea that you could train a cow!

You may have noticed that the cow looks like an Indian holy cow……..that’s because when the English built a railway in the north of Brazil they found their European cattle couldn’t cope with the climate, so they brought in cattle and workers from India. The legacy can be seen today.

Our next stop was A Lagoa Grande ( At the big lake) which is a large rural town, built around a lake.

The big lake of A Lagoa Grande from the church tower.

The big lake of A Lagoa Grande from the church tower.

It has some impressive colonial architecture and despite Marcus’ aversion to heights, we ventured up the church tower for a panoramic view.

Looking down on the theatre square and painted colonial buildings.

Looking down on the theatre square and painted colonial buildings.

The town has a massive market area which we discovered doesn’t open on a Thursday! Among the more striking shops in the high street is a coffin shop, just down from the church,

The Coffin Shop

The Coffin Shop

………the coffins are lined up like fridges……..as if customers are welcome to open them up and check out the interiors and try them for size.

Onward to the Cachaça distillery. We left the cobbled side road and headed into the country side on an unadopted dirt track. Cachaça is made solely from sugar cane and water and the countryside provides both. The white painted chimney of the Volupia distillery marked our arrival. The distillery consists of a big old steam engine that drives a sugar cane crushing machine…….

The fly wheel of the cane crusher engine.......pre First World War and made in .........

The fly wheel of the cane crusher engine…….pre First World War and made in ………

.....shipped here in 1948. It must have been old then!

…..shipped here in 1948. It must have been old then!

……….a furnace, that steams the crushed cane and then: the mash bins shed, the distillation room,

The distillery room with Nicholas translating for us.

The distillation room with Nicholas translating for us.

………the storage and ageing vats and finally the quality control room where the cachaça is checked for purity and the labels are stuck on by hand.

Into the 21st century!

Into the 21st century!

The restaurant and shop are clearly set up for coach tours in the brewing season,

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but we were the only people there for the tour and tastings.

Marcus was like a little boy in a sweet shop.

Marcus in the tasting room.

Marcus in the tasting room.

All the cachaça was free to taste and each jar contained different fruits that flavour the cachaça. Somehow he couldn’t quite decide which was the best!

A good meal and we're on our way again.

A good meal and we’re on our way again.

After having lunch in their restaurant, we left the distillery and set off for another large town, Araiea. The main tourist attraction here was a preserved 17th century house that belonged to the ‘owner’ of the town. Seemingly a very rich man who kept slaves. We had a guided tour, which thankfully Nicholas was able to translate for us.

The inner courtyard of the 'slave house'.

The inner courtyard of the ‘slave house’.

The outdoor slaves were kept in 5 small windowless 9’x9′ rooms opening onto the courtyard each of which  housed 12 slaves.

12 slaves were housed in this room.

12 slaves were housed in this room.

The more trusted household slaves slept on the next storey with fewer to a room, but still no windows. Although the altitude at Araiea means that the temperature is less than at sea level, it is still in the high 20s to low 30s

The gateway the slaves used to work the fields or to be punished on the whipping stump that was just to the right of the door.

The gateway the slaves used to go to work the fields or to be punished on the whipping stump that was just to the right of the door.

………the conditions must have been awful. Portugal was the last country to ban slavery, so this house would have been used well in to the 19th century.

We rounded off the week with a dinner party on Friday……. we invited Brian and Sylvia and Allan and Claire on board for dinner and served a really British meal of prawn salad, filet steak and rice pudding. It was lovely to be reminiscing about England and listening to all their tales of daring do. (Just to assure you that we didn’t ‘push the boat out’ with the filet steak…….it is incredibly cheap over here at about £10 a kilo……Bear that in mind Steve when you’re planning your route!)

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