Escaping the Crowds – Rio de Janeiro

By Guest Contributor LIONEL BEEHNER of the New York Times

WHY NOW Caipirinha and samba keep the party going in Rio de Janeiro, no matter the season. Despite pounding rains that devastated certain Rio neighborhoods, the city’s famed beaches are relatively unharmed and attract plenty of bronzing Cariocas through May. Meanwhile, because the months between Easter and July are Rio’s low season, hotels slash prices by as much as half, and flights from New York City drop to about $700, which shaves another $300 or so from high-season prices.

 

WHAT TO DO Be sure to see Maracanã Stadium before the temple of Brazilian soccer, which was opened in 1950, receives a $280 million primping this year for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. A new subway stop in Ipanema makes the Hippie Fair — an open-air arts and crafts market held every Sunday in General Osório Square — that much more convenient. That leaves you just a few blocks from the beach, which should be empty come June as the whole city fixates on the World Cup in South Africa. 

 

WHERE TO STAY Off-season deals exist all along Copacabana Beach. The new Arena Copacabana Hotel, with the requisite rooftop pool, is offering low-season rates from $156 for a double. For a less touristy area, the hilltop neighborhood of Santa Teresa has a swarm of boutique hotels, with some of the best views of the city’s skyline and rock formations. The recently opened Hotel Santa Teresa  has 44 rooms starting at around 750 reais (about $440 at 1.7 reais to the dollar).

 

TO EAT Good luck getting a table at Aprazível (Rua Aprazível 62; 21-2508-9174; aprazivel.com.br) during the high season. But this Santa Teresa favorite, known for its sweet views, outdoor garden and inventive Brazilian cuisine, frees up in May. For something more casual, head to Chico e Alaíde (Rua Dias Ferreira 679, 21-2512-0028;chicoealaide.com.br), a recent addition to Leblon’s botequim scene. Its appetizers of shrimp and jerked meat may taste familiar to patrons of Bracarense (Rua José Linhares 85; 21-2294-3549); the two bars share the same chef.

 

 

DON’T MISS So you think you can dance? Before hitting Lapa 40 Graus (Rua do Riachuelo 97; 55-21-3970-1338; lapa40graus.com.br), a steamy samba lounge spread across three floors, learn a few steps. Carlinhos de Jesus Dance House (Rua Álvaro Ramos 11, Botafogo; 21-2541-6186; carlinhosdejesus.com.br) offers classes for beginners starting at 45 reais a person.

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Posted in Hotels in Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro | Leave a comment

Carnival in Bahia

By Brazil Nuts Tours Director ADAM CARTER

It is said that few things start early in Bahia. Carnival is one of them. Carnival officially starts on Thursday night at 20:00 when the keys of the city are given to the Carnival King “Rei Momo”. The unofficial opening though is on Wednesday with the Lavagem do Porto da Barra, with throngs of people dancing on the beach. Later on in the evening is the Baile dos Atrizes, starts at around 11:00 and goes until dawn, very bohemian, good fun. Check with Bahiatursa for details on venue, time etc.

Carnival in Bahia is the largest carnival in the world. Unlike Rio de Janeiro, (very much a spectator event), Salvador encourages active participation. It’s time for dancing in the street. It is said that there are 1 1/2 million people dancing on the streets at any one time.

There are two distinct musical formats to be seen and heard during carnival. The Afro Blocos are large drum based troupes (some with up to 200 drummers) who play on the streets accompanied by singers from atop of mobile sound trucks. The first of these groups was the Filhos de Gandhi (founded in 1949), whose participation is one of the highlights of Carnival. Their 6000 members dance through the streets on the Sunday and Tuesday of Carnival dressed in their traditional costumes of white and blue, a river of white and blue in an ocean of multi-colored carnival revelers. The best known of the recent drum based Afro blocos are Ilê Aiye, Olodum, Muzenza and Malê Debalê. All of these are groups which operate throughout the year in cultural, social and political areas. Not all of them are receptive to having foreigners amongst their numbers for Carnival. The roots of the so-called axé music comes from these groups who have looked to their African and Brazilian origins, creating exiting new rhythms. The basis of the rhythm is the enormous surdo (deaf) drum with it’s bumbum bumbum bum anchorbeat while the smaller repique played with light twigs provides a crack-like overlay. Ilê Aiye take to the streets on Saturday night and their departure from their headquarters at Ladeira do Curuzu in the Liberdade district is not to be missed. Their departure time is around 21:00. The best way to get there is to take a taxi to Curuzu via Largo do Tanque thereby avoiding traffic jams. The ride is a little longer but much quicker. A good landmark is the Paes Mendonça supermarket on the corner of the street from where the bloco leaves. From there it’s a short walk to the departure point.

The enormous trio eléctricos, 40-foot sound trucks with powerful sound systems that defy most decibel counters, are the other format to be heard during the festivities. These trucks, each with it’s own band of up to ten musicians, play songs influenced by the afro bloco’s and move at a snail’s pace through the streets drawing huge crowds of revelers.

Each of the Afro Blocos and blocos de trio have their own distinct costume. Each has its own security personnel who cordon off the area around the sound truck thereby permitting bloco members to dance in comfort and safety. Entrance to this area is only permitted to those wearing the relevant costume.

Carnival becomes more decentralized as years go by. The traditional route is from Campo Grande square

(by the Tropical Hotel da Bahia ) to Praça Castro Alves near the old town. The bloco’s go along Avenida 7 de Setembro and return to Campo Grande via the parallel Rua Carlos Gomes. Many of the trio’s no longer go through the Praça Castro Alves, once the epicenter of Carnival. The best night at Praça Castro Alves is Tuesday ( the last night of Carnival ) when the famous “Encontro dos trios ” ( Meeting of the Trio’s ) takes place. Trio’s jostle for position in the square and play in rotation until the dawn ( or later! ) on  Ash Wednesday. It is not uncommon for major stars from the Bahian ( and Brazilian ) music world to make surprise appearances.

There are grandstand seats available at Campo Grande throughout the event. Day tickets for these are available the week leading up to Carnival. Check with Bahiatursa for information on the where the tickets are sold. Tickets are US$ 10.00. These can be bought on the black market for three times this price on the day. The bloco’s are judged as they pass the grandstand and are at their most frenetic at this point. There is little or no shade from the sun so bring a hat and lots of water. Best days are Sunday through Tues.

For those wishing to go it alone just find a friendly barraca in the shade and watch the bloco’s go by. Places to avoid are the Piedade Square and Relogio de São Pedro. Both of these areas are on Av. 7 de Setembro where the street narrows creating human traffic jams.

The other major center for Carnival is Barra to Ondina, along the seafront. This area has become very popular in recent years, rivaling the traditional route mentioned above. The bloco’s alternativos ply this route. These are nearly always trio electrico’s connected with the more traditional bloco’s who have expanded to this now very popular district. Not to be missed here is Timbalada, the drumming group formed by the internationally renowned percussionist Carlinhos Brown.

Carnaval in Pelourinho :

This area has been become extremely popular in recent years also.  It is here that the more traditional form of carnival is to be found,  brass bands playing favorites carnival tunes followed by crowds through the narrow  streets of the Pelourinho area.  This is perhaps the least daunting of the carnival manifestations, a  good introduction to the revelries.

Viewing area, commercialized by private companies have sprung up along the seafront route at Barra.  Payment gets you the identifying  tee shirt, wristband etc that allows   you access to an enclosed area, above the street, giving great views of the action down below.  All have bar and bathroom facilities, security personnel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bahia, Carnival, Salvador da Bahia | Leave a comment

Chef and TV personality Hardeep Singh Kohli talks about his visit to Belo Horizonte and Brazilian cuisine..

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Peripheral Vision

By Gust Contributor JOHN BOWE of the NEW YORK TIMES

One recent, drizzly Sunday, I met the artist Vik Muniz at his Ipanema home to drive from Zona Sul, the beachy, bathing-suited Rio of Copacabana lore, to the less renowned poorer part of the city in the north. As we whizzed up Avenida Brasil through an area called Mare, Muniz indicated a cluster of favelas arrayed around a public pool called Piscinão de Ramos and quipped, ”You have to think of Rio as St. Tropez — surrounded by Mogadishu.”

Muniz, who splits his time between New York and Rio, sited his studio in a grim northern barrio called Parada de Lucas, in order to be next to the city’s largest junkyard. The proximity allows Muniz, who creates work from found objects, to prowl the premises with abandon. His studio recently appeared in ”Waste Land,” a documentary that charted his collaboration with a group of poor catadores, or garbage recyclers, from nearby Jardim Gramacho, Rio’s biggest landfill. After drawing classically styled portraits of catadores, Muniz recruited them to help recreate the original drawings with enormous collages composed of painstakingly arranged buckets, nuts, bolts, old refrigeration units, tractor pieces, chunks of plastic and so on, spread out all over the studio floor. Shot from high above, the junk collages became a series of photographs in 2008 that traveled around the country and drew half a million visitors. The photographs were sold at auction and collected by museums around the world. The garbage pickers got to watch their bodies become art, then junk, then art, then money.

Outside the studio, we chatted with a guard who goes by the name Paulo. Paulo works for both Muniz and the junkyard owner, and lives in a favela on a steep cliff directly above us. Muniz had recently asked him to find a kid from there to come shoot a .38 pistol at a metal box in the studio, for an art project. What Paulo discovered, however, was that no one in the drug gangs uses .38’s anymore — they’re too small. They prefer adult-size weapons like AK-47’s and M-16’s. If that weren’t unsettling enough, Paulo and Muniz both informed me that, at this very moment, we were being observed in the scopes of young snipers bearing such heavy arms. After all, the favelas — and their valuable drug trade — remain under constant threat of invasion by the military police and rival drug fractions. 

It’s this constant and perversely high level of contrast that defines Rio. Rich versus poor, mountain versus beach, the spray of an AK-47 versus the coo of Caetano Veloso; rampant social injustice versus stunning natural beauty. In short, it’s a great place to be a gainfully employed artist.

Brazil, as is well known, has been on an economic tear, and Rio, fueled by newfound wealth and pride, in preparation for the 2016 Olympics (and the 2014 World Cup), has gone on a spending spree. Work is under way on Santiago Calatrava’s Museum of Tomorrow, a sleek cantilevered structure that should go a long way toward transforming the downtown waterfront area. Other flashy projects include the Museum of Image and Sound, the Art Museum of Rio and a new home for the Symphony Orchestra called City of Music.

If São Paulo has long functioned as the brains of Brazil, Rio currently serves as something like the pelvis. The money and power are in São Paulo, as are virtually every important dealer and gallery. For Paulistas, or citizens of São Paulo, ”culture” means wealthy, educated people collecting art, seeing films, attending performances. For Cariocas, or citizens of Rio, the word conjures people mingling at the beach, dancing and downing a few caipirinhas. Add to this the fact that despite the dangers of Rio, São Paulo is far larger, more dangerous still, and it becomes easier to see why most of Brazil’s creative types gravitate to Rio. As Muniz says, ”It’s not a city for art; it’s a city for artists.”

”I like the everyday behavior of people here,” said Bernardo Pinheiro, a young photographer and video artist who was born in Belo Horizonte and lived in São Paolo for 10 years before moving to Copacabana. ”People are easier. Happier.” For artists from São Paulo, he said, ”everything is about strategy. They’re obsessed with form. We’re more intuitive. We joke here that they learn everything at school and we learn everything in the street.”

In fact, says the artist Mari Stockler, it’s the street life, the very ”outsideness” of Rio, that distinguishes her from artists working New York or Berlin. Rio’s sunny climate bring its population outdoors and beyond proscriptive social and interactive patterns that separate most cities’ populations by class, race and function. From street art to folk music, ideas are able to flow here in a way they don’t elsewhere. ”There is a gigantic culture that comes from the periphery, the poorer areas around the city,” Stockler said, ”which then informs the traditions of the central part of the city. There’s a conversation between the two.” For her series of portraits ”Meninas do Brasil,” Stockler photographed girls in the city’s malls, dance halls and beaches. The images of bodies are not celebrating so much as meditating upon the pleasure of being and seeing.

While Stockler’s interpretation of the city leads her toward bodies and people, her husband, the artist Carlito Carvalhosa, interprets the same data in a more abstract manner. Life in Rio, according to Carvalhosa, was in part characterized by a constant, willfully ignored disconnect. High, low, rich, poor, up, down, he said, ”people don’t talk about problems here. They don’t confront issues like class or race head-on, the way they might elsewhere.” Carvalhosa had a meeting the day I visited him with an American artist, inventor and photographer named Clifford Ross. The pair were exploring a way to project Ross’s animated images of a Colorado mountainside onto some kind of surface that Carvalhosa might devise for a public spectacle, perhaps in conjunction with the Olympics. As Ross and Carvalhosa worked away, a fusillade of fireworks exploded from a nearby favela, signaling drug customers that a new shipment had arrived.

”I know it’s a cliché,” Adriana Varejão said, ”but I feel that focusing on Rio really does lead me to the universal.” Varejão, who was born in Rio, is one of Brazil’s leading contemporary artists, whose work is in the collections of the Tate Modern and the Guggenheim. Her house and adjacent studio sit in a neighborhood called Horto, between the 346-acre Jardim Botânico and the Floresta da Tijuca, which, with some 12 square miles, is the largest urban forest in the world.

Rio’s extremes, she said, had led her to a very theatrical sensibility. Not only does the city range from paradise to hell, from the favela to the beach, she said, but the transition from one to the other is so quick as to seem instantaneous. She describes the resulting work as necessarily baroque — ”Because baroque is totally about extremes. It’s this contrapunto of extremes.” 

Varejão’s output over the years has spanned from painting, sculpture and installation to photography. Her recent series of five-foot-wide painted plates feature soothing, but indeed baroque, mermaids, water deities and ripe, ripe fruit. The pieces owe much to the 19th-century work of the Portuguese political cartoonist-turned-ceramist Rafael Bardalo Pinheiro, but Varejão insists that as layered and political as her work may be, it remains beyond erudition. Looking out her large studio windows, opening onto the mountains, I feel like I get it. To live in Rio is to live with beauty every day of the year.

On my final night, I found myself at Rio’s fanciest restaurant, eating dinner with Vik Muniz, Clifford Ross and Carlito Carvalhosa. As we dined, Ross explained the difference between Rio and New York. In the latter, one set up proper meetings and followed a schedule, and yet everything took forever. In Rio, no one takes meetings but he was getting a tremendous reception for his ideas. He recognized that to come to Rio is to surrender control — gladly.

Rio remains a deeply, deeply disturbing place. Three million of the city’s 14 million live in favelas, beyond government control, under the medieval-style governance of drug lords. In 2008, there were some 5,000 murders. And yet, as Muniz said brightly, compared with the past, ”It’s fun to be here now!”

The city of Rio is by far the most attractive physical place to be in a country on the rise. The country’s gross domestic product is growing about 5 percent a year, the incomes of the poorest are being raised, and even the favelas are being pacified. In preparation for the Olympics, the military police are slowly asserting control over them, one by one. To talk about the art world in a place so socially skewed is a little like pretending you’re fine while bleeding from your head. But the fact remained: As Muniz had said, it’s fun to be here.

”We don’t have such a fixed sense of our own history as you guys do,” Carvalhosa said. Brazil’s contradictions and disconnects — at least for those who could afford them — were themselves perhaps the very root of the culture. Artists could have a good time here for a while. Would Brazil’s radically polarized income distribution ever get smoothed out? Who can answer such a question?

”It’s a country of soft boundaries,” Carvalhosa said. ”You never want to say yes. You never want to say no.” He paused, and added, ”But in this space, there is a kind of freedom.”

Posted in Rio de Janeiro | Leave a comment

A Word About “The World’s Greatest Party”

 

 

By Brazil Nuts Tours Director ADAM CARTER

CARNIVAL… a time when the entire city explodes in  five-day-long revelry. While to the casual observer this is an apparently chaotic time, with seemingly no rhyme or reason to the ebb and flow of events and rituals, there is in fact a logic and schedule (albeit a loosely adhered-to-one) that governs the festival.  To help you enjoy the best of Carnival in Rio, please review the synopsis of the main events, and consider booking some of your Carnival activities in advance.

Carnival in The Streets

By far the oldest, most widely enjoyed and, of course, cheapest form of Carnival revelry, “Carnival na rua” is simply this: the coming together of people – some in elaborate costume, some not, to dance, parade and party through the streets. Every neighborhood in Rio has its own form of Carnival in the street. For the tourist, however, the most notable are:

The “street corner samba bands” in Ipanema and Copacabana 

During the “official” Carnival period of February 27-March 05, 2003 (and earlier too) spontaneous eruptions of street corner samba can be expected at any time of the day or night, with groups of festive café-habitues or returning beach-goers starting an ad-hoc parade through the streets of these fashionable areas. Prepare to join-in! On a more organized level, the popular “Banda da Ipanema” (The Band of Ipanema), and certain groups in Copacabana, will have scheduled, just slightly more formal parades. Don’t miss them. Ask your hotel concierge for up to date schedules.

The parades and festivities on Avenida Rio Branco in downtown Rio

On selected days of the Carnival period, the streets of downtown Rio around Avenida Rio Branco will come alive with daytime parades of some of the samba groups from Rio’s working class and middle class areas. This is a very festive event with the streets thronged with families and merry-makers, by far the most traditional of all Carnival events.

The Carnival Balls 

With a wide-range of themes, dress and constituents, the only thing these extravaganzas have in common is their schedules. They don’t really start until 11:00PM and they go strong until sunrise, with a never-ending succession of samba bands pounding out a non-stop, steady rhythm all night long, delighting the “cariocas” with a mix of this year’s samba hits and classics from Carnivals-past.

Most of these balls are quite informal affairs, open to the middle and upper-classes of Rio. They are raucous but essentially quite safe as drunken Brazilians appear to have much less propensity to brawl than their gringo counterparts. There are also “popular” balls, cheaper, wilder and potentially raucous are also available, but we recommend against them, for obvious reasons. No real dress code exists, and contrary to what you might imagine, no costume is required. Party-goers will appear in anything from a tuxedo to a g-string. Our recommendation: dress light (shorts and colorful shirt, for example) and some simple “accessories” of hat, mask, glitter, etc. from the many street vendors in Ipanema and Copacabana.

In summary, we urge you to attend at least one of these balls …it will be a story you can pass on to your grandchildren! Check with your guide or our office upon arrival in Rio to determine which ball best fits your profile and interests.

We do not sell tickets in advance for these events, since the ball schedule is always subject to change until the last weeks before Carnival. But based on past years, you can expect the following:

The Red & Black Ball: The ball of Flamengo, Rio’s most exciting, media-obsessed soccer team (like the NY Yankees). A wild affair.

Ball of the City: Rio’s most elegant affair, usually held at the incredible lavish Copacabana Palace. Fred Astaire would have gone to this one.

Gala Gay Ball: A ball run by and for Rio’s exuberant gay community, with visitors (both gay and straight) welcomed from all over the world.

Panteras Ball: “The Panthers Ball” is the showcase for the upcoming young and beautiful models of Rio to show their stuff. A particularly lusty event.

q  And a host of others to be announced…

These balls are general held at large venues throughout Rio, such as the Intercontinental Hotel, The Copacabana Palace Hotel, Scala Club, The Metropolitan, etc. We urge you to consider hiring a car or cab, perhaps in tandem with other Brazil Nuts travelers staying at your hotel, to get smoothly to and from your event. Check with our office our your guide upon arrival.

The Main Event: The Carnival Parade 

Certainly the best-known (and let’s be frank – also the most expensive) Carnival event is the legendary parade of the top “samba schools” of Rio de Janeiro. This event is so big and complex that it is now divided into two nights (Sunday and Monday) and lasts from approximately 10PM to just past sunrise each night. It is an incredible sight.

To put it in familiar terms. This event is essentially the “Super Bowl of Samba”, with a lot of money and prestige going to the winner. Each samba “school” (organization, really, most based in the poorer “favelas” of Rio) has its own supporters occupying a series of grandstands and special seating areas (from simple to deluxe) who will cheer the school along the ¼ mile long “sambadrome”. Each school contains from 3,000 – 5,000 “sambistas”, all divided into sections of dancers, singers, and floats. The school’s progression tells a story (ranging from historical tales to satires on current political events), and it is judged on a series of criteria, such as the theme, music, dancing, organization, costume, etc. It is an amazing spectacle to behold.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Carnival Parade, however, is more than just a show for tourists. It is a manifestation of a deep-rooted and rich culture than spans four hundred years, with roots emanating in both Europe and Africa. It is in the Carnival parade and all its pageantry that this culture is expressed, and its expression is a mighty thing to behold. It is, however, a mystery to most visitors, and without some basis of reference, the visitor might feel somewhat confused as to what they are watching.  Therefore, to best enjoy this particular event, we strongly urge that you grab a good guide book (Pamela Blooms “Brazil Up-Close” is the best we’ve seen on the topic) and read just a little bit about the roots and ideas that are the basis of the parade… It will make your participation in this event all the more rewarding.

 

 

Posted in Carnival, Rio de Janeiro | Leave a comment

Manaus Optional City Tours

Check out a few of our Manaus city tours…

Half day city tour 

Your guide will make arrangements for the pick-up time for your half day city tour of Manaus. Departure by bus, visiting the CIGS zoo (Jungle Warfare training center), Adrianopolis district and its modern houses, the Indian Museum, the Government Palace, the Penitentiary, “Igarape dos Educandos” (a waterway) with its houses built on piles over waters and typical boats and old mansions from the “boom” times of rubber extraction. Also visit the customs buildings, the Cathedral, the Opera House and Sao Sebastiao Square with its monument to the inauguration of the ports.

Full day Meeting of the Waters

A boat ride across the Rio Negro visiting Salvador Lake, walking in the jungle, swimming and canoeing activities. A visit to “Igarapes do Guedes” (a branch of the river separated from the main stream by an island), where a typical  lunch of fish will be served. Afterwards you will cruise down the river to the “meeting of the waters” .  This is the area where the waters of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes meet but do not immediately mix. 

City Tour With Opera House and Indian Museum  

Visit to some typical neighborhoods in Manaus with a little stop At the Rio Negro Palace, where the local Mayor lives and where we can appreciate its architecture. Then, visit to the Indiam Museum, where we can see some of the tradition, objects And costumes used by these people. After that, visit to the Teatro Amazonas, the mainly touristic spot in the city.

Alligator Spotting 

Night tour with all the mystery of a Tropical night. Sailing along Solimoes River and Amazonas River, Specialized guides with Potent spot-lights show the nocturnal fauna,where we can do Alligator foccusing , and where the night comes to life for all The creatures of the Amazon.


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Featured Lodge: Yacutinga Lodge & Wildlife Nature Reserve

Yacutinga Lodge & Wildlife Nature Reserve

 

An environmentally friendly Lodge and Private Wildlife Nature Reserve located in the heart of the Argentine Rainforest,  surrounded by the Iguazu National Park.

The Wildlife & Nature Reserve area, which covers 570 hectares, is part of the 270.000 hectares of protected Rainforest; shared  by Brazil and Argentina  and known as the “green corridor”.

Yacutinga Wildlife & Nature Reserve  still maintains richness in bio-diversity, far away from massive tourism concentration.  You can enjoy diverse out-door activities with a soft adventure and eco tourism focus, such as; canoeing, biking, bird-watching or walking which will provide you with a variety of information unlocking the mysteries and peculiarities of the Rainforest.

The Lodge offers you 40 suites, 3 restaurants, a pool, naturalist guides, and a natural inventory of over 270 species of birds and mammals.

 LOCATION AND DESCRIPTION:

Yacutinga Lodge & Wildlife Nature Reserve is located on the Iguazu River in the northeast of Argentina, a country full of contrasts and traditions; Patagonia and its glaciers in the south, the Andes and its peculiar geological formations along the spine of the country, the Pampas and the gauchos, Buenos Aires with its tango and the subtropical Rainforest in the north with its richness of wild fauna and the spectacular Iguazu Falls situated 42 km down-river from Yacutinga Lodge.

 

The Iguazu National Park in the northeastern  province of Misiones, is a region of large rivers, humid tropics, red soil and bright green jungle, full of giant and ancient trees, peculiar endemic flora and a large presence of wild fauna.  Iguazu itself means ‘large waters’ in Guarani language.  The park, located on the Argentine border with Brazil and Paraguay, presents a pristine area of subtropical rainforest, with more than 2000 identified plant species, more than 400 species of birds, mammals and reptiles and of course also contains the impressive Iguazu Falls, one of the worlds natural wonders featured in Frank Coppolas’ famous movie “The Mission”.

The rainforests of Misiones consist of multiple levels of distinctive biosystems ranging from more than 30 meters high  descending through various levels of trees down to the herbaceous plants on the ground.

In addition to this magnificent jungle, the province contains several ruins of Jesuit Missions, declared by the UNESCO as a Human Cultural Heritage area.

The Iguazu Falls are an important highlight of any travel-plan to South America, and can easily be reached from Buenos Aires (Argentina), Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo (Brazil).  From the falls, traveling through the heart of the Iguazu National Park and some Argentine State Parks to reach the Yacutinga Lodge & Wildlife Nature Reserve, you are completely surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle.  As the nature reserve is surrounded on three sides by over 5 km of the Iguazu River, the final leg of your journey to the lodge is by boat.  The Lodge can be reached easily from Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) or Foz do Iguazu (Brazil).

 

YACUTINGA LODGE

Description

The Lodge buildings follow smoothly with the natural step of the terrain and maintain harmony with the surrounding jungle.  Local materials, such as stone and large wood pieces gathered from naturally fallen trees, have been incorporated into the general architectural concept, conforming this concept to the wilderness of the area.  Only 4 hectares of the 570 total have been used for the facilities of the lodge and special care has been taken to use only naturally fallen trees.  An absolute minimum of forest has been disturbed to accommodate the buildings.

The main building which contains the reception, an indoor restaurant, an inside garden and a terrace bar provides a special atmosphere enhanced by the Palmetto palm forest formation which surrounds the whole place.

Descending the impressive wooden stairs from the main building you arrive at the central botanical garden with its two open-air restaurants, the pool, a vegetable garden (the Lodge is self-efficient in terms of food supplies) and the main self-guided cat-trail (an elevated wooden walkway suspended in the trees) allowing you to enjoy and observe the canopy of the surrounding native forest from a unique perspective.

The facilities consist of 10 separate sleeping areas called “Butterflies” (due to the amazing variety that congregate here), spread through the forest around the common areas.  Each Butterfly contains four private suites, all with the comfort of 42 sq. meters.  The suites provide split-level accommodations with rustic details comprised of an entrance porch leading up to a sitting area and bedroom and further up to the bathroom.  Each suite has private facilities (shower / tub)  with 24 hour warm water.  During winter-time, wood stoves provide heating in remembrance of the colonial period.  Nice jungle views are common to all suites, providing a relaxing environment, in-touch with the “green”.

There are a total of 40 suites of which 6 are doubles (queen bed), the other 34 are twins.  Triple occupancy may be booked on request

Philosophy

From the very beginning the Yacutinga Lodge project was concerned with both having a low impact on the environment, while providing excellent tourist services.  We have achieved these two different concepts by following a sustainable development philosophy, focused on:

 

  • The responsibility of managing one of the last untouched private rainforest reserves.
  • Employment of local labor to provide environmental education and income to our neighbors.
  • The prohibition of hunting and all other nature spoiling activities.
  • The development of native flora  seeding programs, to re-insert endangered plant species.
  • The performance of wild-fauna re-breeding programs, to re-locate native species in other areas.

 

Considering the philosophy of Yacutinga Lodge, we have enhanced our efforts to diminish our effects on the environment by using recycling and alternative energy systems:

  • Drinking water is very pure at the Lodge.  A well, 85 meters deep has reached the second nap of our red clay latheritic underground soil providing the best potable drinking water.
  • Hot water for showers is provided by solar heated tanks.  On days when the weather does not permit this, heating is assisted by a natural gas system.
  • To reduce energy consumption we have designed a recycling water system for the pool.  Using tropical rainfall we keep the pool clean by recycling this natural fresh water collected by the huge roof of the main building.  During rain-forest storms, the collected water flows over the 2 garden waterfalls to the pool at an average rate of 400 lt./min. The rain water then exits the pool along with floating debris (fallen leaves), is filtered and finally flows at the same rate up to the compost store area where it is again naturally filtered and re-used.
  • A separate waste-water recycling system is designed to clean water used by showering, hand washing or vegetable washing. This water goes through an engineered gravel marsh planted with various rain-forest swamp plants. Waste-water flows into the gravel marsh and saturates it.  Within hours the marsh is drained and filled with air, changing the balance between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.
  • The buildings have been designed to use nature to maintain a comfortable temperature. The earth remains about 15 to 17 C. cool throughout the year while the air temperature can soar to 30 C. or more in the clearing.  By shading and digging we have harnessed the earth’s natural cooling abilities.  Cool ground air in the shade is drawn up from under the structure through natural convection currents which are enhanced by the thermal pull of the hot zone created at the top of the roofs by the solar water tanks.
  • Our energy requirements are provided by batteries which can be recharged by solar power.  We use a solar array facing the northwest to maximize this solar gain.  However, due to the variable weather conditions of the rainforest and the fact that at full capacity, about 2200 watts/hr energy is needed, a diesel generator is operated sparingly and quietly.  To minimize this need we kindly ask that you conserve electricity thoughtfully while you are staying at Yacutinga.

 

While maintaining our commitment to living in harmony with nature, we have also managed to provide our guests with the highest standards and amenities possible in the jungle:

 

  • From phone, fax, and email via a cellular link, to cool refreshments from the bar, right down to a comfortable bed with fresh linen.
  • The food that we serve is all organic and locally produced with vegetables and fish farmed on the reserve, fruits picked from the wild, milk from our cows, and eggs from our chickens.  Local farmers provide the remainder of our food needs at busy times.
  • The main lodge is used as a base from which our daily activities in the reserve are organized, from an early morning canoe trip down the San Francisco River that cuts right through the reserve, to guided nature walks that unlock the mysteries of the rainforest.
  • At Yacutinga Lodge we base our services on maintaining the cultural roots of the area, adapting native meals to international standards; using “baqueanos” – local peasants –  as assistants to complement information on medicine plants, tracks, indigenous ‘cosmovision’ and many other topics that cannot  be obtained through literature.

You don’t need to be a wildlife expert to enjoy Yacutinga ;  beginners will have plenty of time to relax, soak up the atmosphere of the area, take out the binoculars and share  nature oriented trips, escorted by bilingual naturalist guides.  For the expert we have designed specific trails for bird-watching, entomology, orchids and other epiphyte species, game observing and track scouting.

YACUTINGA WILDLIFE & NATURE RESERVE

The Wildlife & Nature Reserve

To describe, with words, the rainforest to someone who has never witnessed such majesty with their own eyes is near impossible. 

The overwhelming presence of various layers of vegetation overlapping from the ground up to the highest canopy formed by giant trees, the profusion of vines of all types and sizes creating an inextricable web with numerous epiphytes plants clinging to everything that can provide support, balancing in space trying to fill the void, and in the end the impressive variety and infinity of species, shapes, dimensions and colors that are the result of this natural chaos all constitute a whole that is so extraordinary as to defy description and can only be comprehended by someone who has seen and admired something similar, never to be forgotten.

The tropical jungle is imposing in its whole, admirable in its parts and curious in its details.  The majestic silence that at times reigns over the jungle can at once be enjoyable and awesome yet overwhelming.  The songs of the birds, the buzz of the insects and the howl of the breeze through the branches all conspire to break the oppressive silence enhancing the calm.

The consciousness that one finds alone in a virgin jungle, far away from civilization, separated from all that is known by a vastness of green without end and in which we ourselves can only see some meters can produce profound feelings that can not be explained by reason.

Certainly, the forest can offer endless hours of interest and unique enjoyment.  The spectacle that presents the lively morning with the light of the sun flooding over the green glistening with morning dew, surrounded by the awakening birds is surely seductive.  Moreover, the enjoyment of the fresh morning can extend to midday as the suns rays conquer the canopy of the forest and penetrate the dense cover.  The evening in the jungle is no less attractive or fascinating.  A whole world of life awakens with a stretch during the brief sunset to commence their nocturnal lives.  On days that are very hot or windy, the night arrives with greater noise and activity.  Mammals, birds and insects all take advantage of the darkness and cool of the night to hunt or gather for their survival, creating a concert of diverse and curious sounds that continuously attracts the attention of both the experienced and the amateur ear.

As soon as the cool of late afternoon descends upon the forest the nature lover will be lured by the life of the jungle to observe the many creatures as they go about their daily chores.  One of the most likely places are near water where the soil is rich in alkaline salts and minerals.  It is here that peccary, tapir, capybara and many other mammals can be seen licking the salts from the soil and bathing in the ponds.  The palmetto groves and various other plants surrounding the waters, attract several types of birds such as; toucans, parrots, caciques and jays for a feast on their many fruits.  It is at this time too that the curious guest may come across one of the elusive predators of the jungle.  These creatures at the end of the food chain such as; jaguar, puma, ocelot and foxes are endangered species threatened with losing their natural habitat.  Yacutinga Nature Reserve and the surrounding protected areas provide a sanctuary for these rare hunters.

One needn’t stray far from the lodge to enjoy this spectacle of nature as the common areas have a high concentration of butterflies which create clouds of colors.

 

The Guarani Indians and the Jesuit Missions.

 

The Guarani Indians:

The area inhabited by the Guaranis covers about 50.000 square km, which mostly is jungle without roads, with exception of a few settlements at the periphery of the rainforest.

The Guarani Indians can be divided in 4 sub-groups : the Guayakis (very little information is available about them), the Mbyá , the Chiripá and the Pán. 

It is confirmed through  their folklore, songs, prayers, cult objects and religious exercises that the Guaranis believe in a superior being, in immortality of the soul and life after death.

Their culture contains several interesting customs and traditions.  They celebrate initiations  for young men ( TIMPETA stick is introduced in the lower lip) and women  (“purified” through special washing rituals).  They bury their dead underneath their huts.  Infidelity and incest are punished severely. A baptism day is celebrated in August where they pray for a better life.

Most of the stories relate to the animals of the region and provide the basis for their myths and legends.  The Cacique is the head of the tribe and inherits this title.  However, a new leader can be elected if authority is wrongly applied.

Their huts are simple, as life is concentrated around the fireplace, usually in the center of the house, where they get together to sleep and where all meals are taken.  Their diet consists of corn, manioc, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, beans, peanuts and well as fish and meat.  The children grow up preparing themselves to be mothers, housewives, hunters, dancers and builders.

Traditionally, their clothing is very simple, although lately western fashion has been adopted.  Jewelry is an important part of their fashion and can be made using seeds, animals teeth or inexpensive metal.

Means of transportation are definitely non – existent and the Guarani generally keep within a radius of 30 to 50km around their village. They use the help of lianas (vines) to cross small rivers, very seldom using canoes, in fact they purposely obstruct access to their settlements in order to avoid visitors. If they need to move on, they carry all their possessions on their backs in self-made baskets.

The Jesuit Missions: 

Misiones province, the Argentinean state where Yacutinga Lodge is located, is so named for the Jesuit missions that once existed in the area.  Starting in 1607 the Jesuits established 30 missions among the semi-sedentary Guarani Indians in the upper Parana river. Perhaps as many as 100.000 Indians lived in these settlements and were instructed in the Spanish language, catholic religion, music, hand-work, literature and arts.

Through this, the Guarani Indians were forced to undergo a difficult transcultural lifestyle transition.  By 1767 the Jesuits were driven from the New World by Spanish and Portuguese slave trading and policy.  The native Indian population never fully recovered and all that is left of this period are the ruins in the forests.

 

 

 

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Guarani Village in Paraná

By Brazil Nuts Director ADAM CARTER

When driving down through the rainforested mountains from Curitiba to Florianopolis, you pass by a sign: Guarani Indian Village of Mbyá Guarani. Though the Mbyá Guarani founded their village, which they call Caruguá, only in 1999, the idea was to escape the pressure of civilization around their original village in order to preserve their culture. Chief and pajé, Karaí Tataendy (alias Marcolino Silva) had the foresight to look for another area to settle and the good fortune to meet up with Jorge Roberto Grando, who passed the use of his property to the tribe.

Soon after the land also became part of the natural preserve of the Paraná Water Company (Sanepar), which means that the Indians can be assured of their natural environment and forest has found its natural guardians. Funai, the Indian Agency has already completed a first survey in order to demarcate the land as an official Indian reservation.

With only minor influence from the modern world, Indians grow up bilingual (learning first guarani from age 5 to 7 and then Portuguese). The ancestral Guarani rituals are also passed on: the children learn about the supreme God Nhanderú, the guardian of nature Karaí, Tupã who takes care of all people, Jakairá of the waters and Quaray of fire and sun.

Around the big bonfire in the house of prayer, men, women and children smoke the sacred pipe Petyngua (fumo de corda), and the smoke will take their thoughts to Nhanderú. Powerful and energetic chants contribute to a state of trance. The Mate herb tea also passes.

Knowledge about the use of medicinal plants is also passed along.

However, one of the problems for the tribe is that the fact that they are in a preservation area (not an indian reservation area), which limits their use of the land. They cannot plant food nor are they allowed to hunt and fish. This means that they depend in part on charity to keep on going.

They are actively looking for ways to achieve financial independence : the beautiful handicrafts produced by the tribe is starting to find its way into the market, a viveiro de mudas, medicinal skills and of course receiving visitors, like groups that want to learn about Indian way of life.

Statistics from the IBGE population census of 2000 show a huge increase (150%) in the number of people who declare themselves Indian. In 1991, about 300 thousand people self-declared themselves Indian. In 2000, the number was over 700 thousand. Though natural population increase and better census methods are part of the explanation, it is also thought that a re-appreciation of Indian ancestry in Brazil is a major factor.

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Best Bets: Praia do Forte

By Brazil Nuts Director ADAM CARTER  

Praia do Forte Resort *****  Resort, outside the village… Our recommended spot for a real tropical beach experience. Designed in a Polynesian style of low, thatched-roof buildings set on an excellent palm-fringed beach, this resort offers many water sports and leisure activities with a very laid back Bahian flavor. Enjoy great food, wonderful music and delightful poolside atmosphere. Rain forest treks and strolls through the adjacent fishing village complete the scene. This ecologically-oriented spot won “Best Brazilian Resort” two years running.

 Pousada Sobrado da Vila ***  Pousada, inside the village…Less expensive and more laid back, this considerably simpler — yet very charming — pousada is located in the middle of the fishing village of Praia do Forte, close to the beach and to the fascinating Projeto Tamar. It offers rustic style accommodations, some with living space, balcony and bedroom. A funky alternative where you can walk right down to the beach and mingle with the local people on the shore or visit an open air cafe for a fresh shrimp stew and cold beer.

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Praia do Forte: Alluring & Laid-back Hideaway

By Brazil Nuts Director ADAM CARTER 

What’s The Buzz?

Praia do Forte is a small fishing village 50 miles north of Salvador along the coast road called Coconut Highway so called because of the many coconut groves along the route. Praia do Forte is a small fishing village 50 miles north of Salvador along the coast road called Coconut Highway so called because of the many coconut groves along the route.

The village takes its name from the castle built in 1556 by a Portuguese settler called Gárcia D’Ávila . The fortified castle was to be the headquarters of his massive farm, the first farm in Brazil. He brought the first heads of cattle to Brazil and introduced the “slash and burn ” technique of deforestation as he cleared the virgin forest for pasture land. In a less destructive manner, he was also responsible for the introduction of the coconut and mango trees to the region.

Praia do Forte is now a tranquil resort with a strong emphasis on the preservation of flora and fauna. The resort has ample quality accommodation, numerous restaurants and offers some of the best beaches in Bahia.

Inland from the coast there is a restinga forest, a forest that grows on sandy soil with a very delicate ecosystem. Near the village there is a small pantanal, a marshy area that is host to some of the most abundant bird life in Bahia. Early morning and late afternoon the pantanal resounds to the calls of snail kites, kingfishers, cormorants and chattering parakeets.

The Tamar Project was set up in 1980 to preserve the sea turtles, which traditionally lay their eggs on the beaches and were in threat of extinction. One of the most successful preservation projects in Brazil, Praia do Forte is now the headquarters of the extensive national turtle preservation project which receives funding from the World Wildlife Fund.

 

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