Happiness is a Cold Caipirinha

IMG_3709We were ecstatic when our longtime friend Dave Brinkley and his husband David Cole offered to fly down to Brazil to introduce us to this beautiful and slightly intimidating country.

Dave Brinkley was a high school exchange student in Brazil for a year in the 1970s.  As an adult he worked for a year in Rio.  He is fluent in Portuguese, LOVES Brazil, and he and David are great travel pals.

Our Brazilian adventure started on a beautiful island called Ihla de Santa Catarina (Santa Catarina Island) in southern Brazil.  Santa Catarina Island -MapSanta Catarina is about ten miles longer than Manhattan and more than twice as wide.  The beautiful island, with a tropical coastal climate, features high mountain ridges, a beautiful large lagoon, and many miles of beautiful beaches with soft brown sand.

We passed through the populous city of Florianopolis just after crossing from the mainland.  We drove out to a remote section of the island, to a small resort town on a strip of land situated between the lagoon and the South Atlantic Ocean.

IMG_3585Dave and his Brazilian host family (from his days as an exchange student) have maintained a close relationship over the years.  They have been in each others’ weddings, and Dave and his Brazilian brothers still enjoy a fun sibling rivalry.  Dave’s Brazilian brother Edson (pictured here) joined us in Santa Catarina, and we all shared a three-bedroom house on the lagoon for several days.

Our first adventure started the morning after our arrival.  Just down the hill from our house, on the shore of the lagoon, was a trailhead next to a dock.  The trail winds up and down the hills along the west shore of the lagoon, crossing several rushing streams.  It affords gorgeous views of the lagoon and lots of wooded areas.  The trail passes through several small villages that are accessible only by boat or by foot on the trail.

We hiked for about 5 miles in what the sign posted at the trailhead said was “moderately strenuous” route – easily the most exercise our lazy butts have had since hiking up a volcano in Costa Rica many weeks earlier.  A sweet stray black lab befriended us and followed us for the entire trail.

At the conclusion of the hike, we enjoyed a leisurely three-hour seafood lunch at a rustic restaurant right on the edge of the lagoon.

CaipirinhaEdson, with a devilish twinkle in his eye, ordered up several rounds of Caipirinhas, Brazil’s national drink.  It is a sweet cocktail made from a sugar-cane-based liquor called “cachaça” (similar to rum but smoother).

The caipirinha is both delicious and socially lubricating.

The restaurant setting by the lagoon was serene and beautiful.  Most of the restaurant patrons were dressed in bathing suits, and everyone was barefoot.

For the price of lunch, we also were offered a free ride in a water taxi, back to the dock at the trail head, near our house.  The skipper on the water taxi was a gregarious guy, and he shared the wheel with one of us — and then his young daughter — during the trip back.  It was a glorious day.

Another day we took a drive down the southern shore of the island, to a café in a little fishing village.  The restaurant is famous for the thousands of hand-written notes left by patrons and taped to the ceiling and the walls.   The notes, in every language imaginable, include love notes and witty lines, many of them dating back 40 years to the 1970’s.  Again, we enjoyed more caipirinhas and a lot of laughs.

On yet another day, we headed just east to an ocean beach, a beautiful place that featured some outlandishly huge rock formations on the north end.

With heartfelt thanks to Dave and David, and to Edson — our high-spirited and fun-loving Brazilian host — this visit to Isla Santa Catarina and IMG_3597Florianopolis was truly a great introduction to Brazil.

Obrigado, queridos amigos!

Next, we were northward bound, to Rio de Janeiro (to be continued…)

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