For the last weekend of September the company invited all Swedish expatriate families as well as Brazilian local families involved in the project to get together, get to know each other and have a good time. The project is spread out in the country between Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia mainly and so many of these people I know only by name and their families not even by that much. So we were all, I think, looking forward to this trip very much. The venue for the event was an old coffee plantation by the name Fazenda Sant’Anna located near Ampora Sao Paulo. We drove there as Peter had to be there for a management meeting early in the agenda.
Welcome to the jungle
The drive was a regular sugar cane edged drive until we got to the town of Ampora and the paved road suddenly ended leaving only a red dirt road beckoning us to continue into the Atlantic Forest. This is the part I love about driving in this area, the part where we seemingly leave civilization and go into Indiana Jones mode driving our jeep through the bamboo jungle with vines hanging down over the road. Our heads turned up into the canopies searching for monkeys. After a while the dirt road turned into a cobblestone road (probably cobbled by slaves in the 1800s) leading up to the Fazenda Sant’Anna. We were met by other parts of the management team and Pamina who has done most of the legwork for this weekend.
We got the key to our room and went to offload our bags and check out our digs for the weekend. Just entering the courtyard was like entering one of my dreams with wrought iron gates, vibrant flowers and beautiful swaying palm trees and terracotta tiles under foot. Our room was on the top floor of the “Sede” which is Portuguese for main house and was a large house with at least 15 rooms and then 4 beautifully furnished living rooms leading out onto a wrap around porch complete with wicker chairs and a beautiful view of the plantation grounds. Our room mirrored the rest of the house with beautiful old wooden furniture, stone bathroom, wall to wall soft carpeting and our own wrap around balcony with a view over the lush green canopy of tropical trees. There was a ruckus coming from various trees around the house. Turned out to be green parrots conversing. Very cool.
While Peter went to the management meeting, the kids and I unpacked our things and then went down to explore. The company had made goodie bags for all the children with balloons and slinkies which kept Livvie and James busy for a few hours before all the other families started to arrive. While the kids played I took a tour of the Fazenda and just klicked away on my camera at all the beauty of Sant’Anna.
In the 18th century the area Sant’Anna was a landing place for travellers from Sao Paulo on their way to Goias. The stretch from Atibaia-Braganca to Mogi Mirim passed through the red stream which today is the location of Fazenda Sant’Anna. The Fazenda itself dates back to the end of the 19th century when coffee production was booming and was Brazils biggest export. Most of the coffee produced and exported (40-60%) at the end of the century was grown here in Sao Paulo state on plantations like Fazenda Sant’Anna (Fazenda i portuguese for Farm). In 1888, however, slavery was abolished through the Golden Act and the plantations lost their workforce. Some farms turned to immigrants to replace slaves to continue producing coffee while others shut down their coffee business and turned to other business options. In 1968 the current owners acquired the fazenda and began transforming it into the event resort it is today.
Sidebar – Brazils rural turism
Today many fazendas have made the transition farm to hotel. Brazil may be, to many, the epitome of perfect beaches and tiny bikinis but escape the beaten bath and you will discover another side of Brazil; the interior or rural side which is lush and mountainous with sunsets that rival that of the coast. I prefer escaping to the rural side of Brazil with its perfect balance of rustic, historic charm and modern luxury and just enjoying the peace and quiet feeling completely tucked away in the Atlantic rainforest. See my previous post on Fazenda Ambiantal Fortaleza (FAF). An active coffee plantation that doubles as rural getaway.
Highlights of Family days at Fazenda Sant’Anna
On Friday people kept coming in during the course of the day. Had a nice casual dinner during which Jonas, the site manager, was thanked for his efforts these past 2 years and was given a gift from all GDDN expats of a framed portrait of the entire team and a rotating grill insert. (Something you can only have in a Brazilian “churrasco” so now Jonas has to go home to Sweden and build a Brazilian grill in his yard. 🙂
It was fun meeting everyone involved in the project and their families. I met another Caroline whom I instantly connected with as we discovered we have a lot in common besides the name including a Scottish heritage!
The hotel had a great gym so I took the opportunity to work out 4 times during our stay! Had morning tabatha workouts in the morning and ran with Peter in the afternoon on the various trails in the rainforest. On one of the runs Peter’s trained hunter eye spotted a set of very big tracks; even for a dog they were big! Let’s just say we both set new personal records for 3km.
On Saturday the company had hired babysitters to entertain ALL the kids ALL day. Genious! So after a workout and a nice breakfast the grownups gathered for presentations about the project to better understand the process. Afterwards we played organisational games in a teambuilding effort out in the sun on a large grassy area. We also split into teams and answered questions about the company. My team did not win. Neither did Peters.
On Saturday afternoon, we all hung out by the pool. We were told there would be caipirinhas at 15h00 but only 6 where made before the bar ran out of lime! I was one of the lucky six. 🙂 While we did this the kids were playing with the babysitters….
After getting ready for the BBQ dinner we had drinks with Linda and Anders in their room. Linda had brought a chilli and ginger spiced syrup which she mixed with cachaça, bubble water and some lime. Delicious but we all broke out in sweats it was so spicy.
On Sunday we all went home after a leisurely breakfast. Took another rout home this time which was more scenic as it took us through the country instead of through the town Amporo out to the big road. I find it fascinating to see these little rural villages when we get a chance because the villages, in any country, are very representative of the country and culture. The big cities are too influenced by internationalism.
The villagers were all either at church or on the soccer field. Big groups of people were walking together in their Sunday best. They were probably on their way to a family churrasco which seems to be the Sunday custom here. We were already sticking out like a sore thumb driving through the village so I didn’t even venture to take photos.
All in all a very nice weekend with fellow expats so I hope this becomes an annual event.
Writing this has made me long for the mountainous interior of Brazil again so maybe I’ll browse the internet for another weekend getaway….