To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
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Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Short Foray Into Brazil

In Petropolis with Johann and Alessandra
My journey to Brazil in December of 2013 was sort of accidental.  I'd been having coffee with my friends Johann and Alessandra when they passed through my little hometown of Talent, Oregon, when they mentioned that they were planning to go home to Brazil, in the mountains just north of Rio de Janeiro, for Christmas.  

Wearing funny hats, Christmas Eve
I think I said something wistful like "well, if you decide you want company for Christmas, I'd love to come...," and forgot all about it until Alessandra's email arrived inviting me to do that very thing!    
A magical tree fern, 15' tall
So there I was, a few days before Christmas, welcomed into a lovely Brazilian family celebration, in a truly exotic and fascinating country I'd always wanted to visit!

Does this look ominous to you?
a gorgeous butterfly laying eggs
Of course, I had taken my sketchbook, so all of my time not spent in family doings was dedicated to wandering up and down the lane flanked on either side by dense jungle-ish vegetation, filled with marvels like tree ferns, peculiar plants resembling venus flytraps (but with no moving parts), gorgeous butterflies—one I photographed was laying eggs, ferns that resembled octopi (or octopuses, if you prefer), and any number of other wonders. My mouth hung open in amazement a good deal of the time. 
 
Since it was still the rainy season in Brazil, I also spent some time on the veranda with my sketchbook (and in a hammock, I admit), trying to do justice to the marvels all around me with drawings and paintings in my sketchbook.   
The ultimate "picture window!"
As in other tropical countries I've visited, the house was open to the outdoors, and much of the family's time is spent in an open room next to the kitchen, sort of a combination veranda and lanai opening onto a little walled garden. It's one of the most "scenic" window views I've ever encountered.

Even when it was raining, this "wallpaper" was enchanting.  I just loved sitting there watching the birds who came to eat bits of fruit scraps the family put out for them. 
I love to sketch in a hammock
Sometimes I even disciplined myself to draw. Frequently on my forays up the lane, I was dodging raindrops or scrunched under densely-leafed trees waiting for the weather to clear and trying to protect the sketchbook page as I drew.  That's not really conducive to finishing a sketch in any detail!
Fortunately, I've discovered that drawing in a hammock can be very comfortable provided I can find a pillow or two to prop myself up in a relatively erect position. I got some nice sketches from that hammock.
Rainy afternoon sketching session.
 Unfortunately, my sketchbook for that marvelous interlude is buried in storage, so I can't share my drawings/paintings of this fantastic trip—but more about THAT later!  
(Actually, I really should have posted this entry before I posted the previous Belize one, since it happened before. But that didn't happen, so you're stuck with this out-of-sequence tale.)

Meet Mr. Toad!
A giant toad came to visit numerous times while I was there, often after dark. I took photos of it, hoping to sketch from the view finder, which I find an invaluable tool. In fact, I've made it a habit to always photograph things as I'm sketching so that I can add details or color later when I am in more comfortable sketching/painting circumstances. 
A "vegetarian" octopus...fern, that is!

So, while I haven't yet actually sketched the toad, I can, one of these days when I have some spare time, sit down with my sketchbook and camera (or maybe I'll actually print out my photo) and add that marvelous 6" toad to my sketchbook.

An ornate cathedral in Petropolis
Alessandra, Johann and I spent most of one day in the nearby historic town of Petropolis, the former Summer Palace of the second Brazilian emperor, with its fascinating buildings and places to marvel over. I'm not a connoisseur of historical buildings, but I found Petropolis charming and quite interesting. 
Marmoset feeding on sap.
Of course, with my natural history leanings, I thought the little marmosets roaming the grounds of the Imperial Palace were fully as interesting as the more human-oriented structures for which the town is famous. 

Cashew fruits au naturel
I think the family was amused at some of the things I found fascinating, since to them, they're everyday items. For instance, I was intrigued by the cashew fruits sold in the supermarket in little styrofoam packages covered with a clear film, exactly the way tomatoes are marketed in Oregon. 
View from Johann's balcony
With cashews, you have a choice—eat the sweet fruit you see here and trash the nut, or forego eating the fruit, leave it on the tree, and let the nut ripen. The fruit is pretty tasty, actually.  There's a great article about the cashew fruit/nut here.

I also thought the mountains were astonishing. Many of them rise like perfect volcanoes (although they're not), and the sides of many are solid, nearly vertical, basalt (I think), with bromeliads growing out of them like hairy moles. 
Bromeliads dot these near vertical slopes.
I was never able to examine them close up (we only drove past these monoliths in the car) but I'd love to spend some time exploring these steep mountainsides!
This is a MUSHROOM?
During my stay, Alessandra and I encountered this brilliant red mushroom which we mistook for a piece of plastic rubbish at first.  I mean...it's so outlandish! 

The day after Christmas, it was time for me to leave, as NOW I was headed for Belize to scope out the possibilities of buying some land in the lovely Better In Belize Eco-community I had been exploring online.  But before I leave this post, I want to show you some of the more interesting/beautiful things I encountered in those Brazilian mountains just before Christmas.

 
A lovely cream-colored, sculptured 8" wasp nest

I needed a good plant ID book, but never found one. What is this?
AHA! My brother David sez it's  Hamelia patens
Common names: Firebush, Mexican firebush, firecracker shrub, scarlet bush

This 3" caterpillar must morph into a LARGE butterfly or moth.

An inch long, this is the biggest leaf hopper I've ever seen!

There were lots of cecropia trees all around the house and mountains.

Even the lichens on the trees were beautiful.
My flight, leaving from Rio, would dog-leg me through Newark, New Jersey before depositing me in Belize City some thirty hours later, so it was a marathon event—but very much worth my time since it catapulted me into the next frame of my odyssey.  (okay, now go back and re-read the post before this one ;o}.





5 comments:

Iris said...

You must love your life so much! Not to be funny but you must have been eaten by every mosquito known to man! Do you ever worry about West Nile or other bug-borne sickness?

Joel Sax said...

Did you get to see the World Cup?

I have long wanted to visit the Amazon or some other tropical place. My brother-in-law is in Senegal now, so we hope to visit him there. No rain forests, though.

Irene said...

Hi Iris and Joel,
I do love my life, and make every effort to optimize everything, which can be difficult on my limited means. I don't like being eaten by mosquitoes, though, and usually carry mosquito repellent with me. I may try garlic pills, which are supposed to repel mosquitoes, but which might repel people, too.... Joel, no I left before the World Cup. I'm not really into sports and wouldn't want to fight the crowds. The Amazon is truly amazing. I was there a few years ago and had a wonderful time. Enjoy Senegal! It's on my bucket list!
Irene

Irene said...

Joel, here's a link to the first day of my Amazon trip. You might enjoy this, as I went to a lodge some 60km from the nearest town.

http://naturejournaling.blogspot.com/2011/01/darkest-peru-at-last-dec-20-21-2010.html

Iris said...

Yes I know, the mosquitoes find the one spot I don't spray. I like Cutter Natural for DEET-free. Thanks for answering!

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