Ten days of absolute zen, amazing nature, beautiful animals, great food and partying with loads of great people – that is the short description of the time we’ve spent in Itaiacoca and Ponta Grossa.
Itaiacoca is a little village some 25 km from the city of Ponta Grossa, where Jorge has spent a significant part of his childhood. Dusty roads will lead you to this little peace of green heaven where Orlando, Jorge’s dad, and his wife Betty live. Their place could be the most beautiful Airbnb you could find around here, even though they’re not renting. I mean, imagine waking up every morning to this view:
Now add the sound of birds, leaves, breeze and the smell of freshly picked vegetables and flowers surrounding the whole place. Feels amazing, doesn’t it? Let me show you more around, but be prepared for loads of pictures because, well… a picture tells a thousand words 🙂
Orlando, Jorge’s dad, and his wife Betty constructed the house in 2017 and moved to it on March 4th, 2018 (Betty says she will never forget that date). I first visited them in their house in 2019 when we traveled to Brazil with Martina, Petra and Manel who, after 3 caipirinhas, forgot that here you share drinks and instead whenever a drink came his way, he just kept it. Needless to say, we had so much fun together and people here told me they still remember how funny my friends are.
At this time, Orlando did not have his garden nor the animals he has now. There was just this little stray dog that Martina befriended and named “Pobrecito”. Two years later, Pobrecito is still wandering the dusty roads of Itaiacoca (proof in the pics here below). Now, Orlando has 21 cows (3 of them have special status and so they have names too: JP, Angelica, Vespinha), a horse (Charmoso), many nameless chickens, 2 turkeys (Seu Peru & Dona Bella), 2 ducks (Maria Amalia & Pedro Jorge) who got their babies during our stay here (so I hope they will name them Irma & Jorge), 2 dogs (Maju & Bolinha), loads of fish in their pond and so much love and care for all of these beautiful creatures. Betty told about the little baby duck with a huge smile and so much kindness in her eyes, while Orlando saved and fed baby bird that fell out of its nest and later found its mum, and told us about it with so much love and pride. Look at these beautiful animals (Jorge and I included LOL):
I got to ride the horse for the first time in my life and even though I was really bad at it (and was afraid to go alone), it was a great experience! Jorge is already an experienced rider, he took Charmoso on a big trip across the fields behind Orlando’s house. My joke of calling Jorge “Rei Drogado” for a while now (from the Rei do Gado – first Brazilian soap opera I’ve seen when I was about 11 years old) turned out to be more legit now than ever before. I even went fishing with Jorge and Orlando – we did it for the entire 10 minutes before catching obviously nothing and getting tired of it.
Oh and did I mention all the amazing flowers, plants and veggies we were surrounded with? Francesco and Marcelo and all those that are as crazy about plants as the three of us, these are for you:
It is absolutely clear and very visible that Orlando and Betty invested a lot of love and effort in making this place their home. Orlando is obviously very attached to his village and we wanted to honor that. We asked him to do a little “interview” with us and tell us more about his memories from his childhood, about his life in the village and the things he loves about this place. Here is a little excerpt of what he told us (and if you want to know more details, you can find the small summary and the audio of the entire interview (in Portuguese) at the end of this post):
“Itaiacoca is a district of Ponta Grossa where my whole family was born. After years living in the city I am now back to the countryside. Here, I have my cows, my horse named “Charmoso” and two dogs. I also plant my food and some medicinal plants… Over the years Itaiacoca changed from water to wine (in this case, Orlando just wants to say that things have changed a lot, not necessarily to bad). For example, in the past, there was no school close by… the closest school was 8 km away and I used to go to school by foot, or on horseback.”
In short, Orlando left Itaiacoca in 1969 and returned in 2018, almost 50 years later. Nowadays, Orlando’s daily schedule is not exactly planned. There is no fixed time to wake up, the only thing he does every day is taking care of the cows early in the morning, feeding the chickens and fish, gathering the eggs, caring for other animals, all that before his first morning coffee. Then, during the day he works in his garden and later he does whatever he feels like doing. Pura vida, isn’t it?
We agree, there’s a lot of work to do to keep this place as beautiful and as tidy as it is but this appears to be so relaxing and natural for Orlando. For us, taking the hammock out and enjoying a book with views over veggie garden would be absolutely enough to enjoy to the fullest, but Itaiacoca has even more to offer. A night walk telling creepy stories and watching millions of stars is one; no light pollution, only the moon shine and the sound of forest and animals. Hiking these dusty roads and having a bath in the cold water of the waterfall called “Cachoeira da Mariquinha” are other super cool things to do in this place. If you’re lucky (as we were), you can even catch the rainbow and swim right under it.
There are other waterfalls and things to see around here;São Jorge & Buraco do Padre waterfalls (beautiful but full of motherfucker mosquitos), and Morro do Cocuruto hills where we went for a picnic with the family (as a group of hat people). We actually never needed to go very far to see the beauty Itaiacoca has to offer; a small hike up the hill behind Orlando’s house gave us mesmerizing views and sunsets.
Well, it’s not like we were only meditating and enjoying 50 shades of green; it appears that it’s impossible not to party in Brazil. Just like in Curitiba, families here know how to throw a party. We were lucky to be here in the time of Tio Eli’s (Orlando’s brother) birthday party; and party in Brazil means organizing a huge barbecue. This time, the bbq prep was even more special; the youngsters, together with the more experienced bbq men of the family, wake up at 5am to start the fire for the enormous amount of cow ribs (costela) which will cook slowly for about 6 hours until the rest of the family comes to the party (around noon). Vegan nightmare, huge feast for the rest of the crew. During this preparation, first beers are opened and first cachaças are poured. Jorge was already drunk when I woke up around 9am LOL. Here are the details from that huge barbecue party:
Once the meat has finished cooking, loads of side dishes are prepared and served; cachaça, beer and music are in every corner of the house and the garden. People talk, laugh, hug , exchange past stories, share updates and sing together. Even I sang (correction: I “sang”) with Orlando who appears to be a pro in playing viola and singing sertanejo songs, and I also got to meet the real gaúcho, Sr. Osni Da Luz, (drinking chimarrão in the pic). But it’s not only in those big parties you have a pleasure of experiencing Brazilian music. Orlando and Jorge shared many beautiful moments singing and playing together. Two years ago they made us all (Martina, Petra, Manel and I) cry because them playing and singing together was so beautiful and emotional, just like this time around.
This time of the year parties never end, so we also got to spent the Christmas with Orlando, Betty and their family. Another barbecue, another day and evening full of music, food, hugs, “Secret Santa” presents fun (I got a really really nice hat even though I only asked for a mosquito repellent – read previous blog-post on Curitiba to understand better why this is what I wanted for Xmas (after going through 2 bottles of repellent in 2 weeks LOL). Thanks Tia Cenira!
All in all, Itaiacoca was food for soul. Many thanks to all these wonderful people that made our stay there so enriching in so many ways.
We also had a great day in Ponta Grossa with friends Vinicius, Maris, Ramon, Larissa, Tiago & Talita who now all have the cutest kids. Needless to say, there was bbq and loads of fun moments. Thank you guys for making our every visit to Ponta Grossa so special!
We also got to visit “Tito’s chopperia,” a very old traditional bar where everyone stops by for a “chopp” (draft beer) and later we went to Botequim da XV, a very cool restaurant with live music and great food. They served us black bean soup, the “caldinho”, in a cup which you could refill as many times as you wanted. That thing was so super tasty so of course I went for seconds 🙂
I forgot to take more pictures in Ponta Grossa, but if you want to see what we’re talking about, check out our Insta story highlights, at least I didn’t forget to make videos of these experiences 🙂
We left the countryside with full hearts and bellies – this seems to be the new normal for us 🙂 We’re currently in Florianópolis, one of my favorite places in Brazil, surrounded by hundreds of beaches. Yep, we will spend the New Year’s Eve on a beach !!! (I know, for Brazilians this is completely normal but I’ve spent 34 of my New Year’s Eves in snow so…)
Anyways, more about that and the plans we’re making… in the next post 🙂
Find the audio of the entire interview with Orlando (in Portuguese, duration 34 minutes) here. For those who do not understand Portuguese, here’s a little summary:
” Itaiacoca is a district of Ponta Grossa where my whole family was born. After years living in the city I am now back to the countryside. Here, I have my cows, my horse named “Charmoso” and two dogs (Bolinha and Maju). I also plant my food and some medicinal plants… Over the years Itaiacoca has changed from water to wine (in this case, Orlando just want to say that things changed a lot, not necessarily to bad). For example, in the past, there was no school close by… the closest school was 8 km away and I used to go to school by foot, or on horseback. The teacher appointed was a person that knew how to write and read; that was enough to be nominated as a teacher by the Mayor. (…) Kids from first the to the fifth grade studied together in the same classroom, having the same subjects; that was until 70s more or less. From the 80s on we had “normal” schools around, and the transportation to bring the kids to school. Today, everyone here has access to universities, all the younger ones graduated.
From 8 to 15 years old I lived and studied in Ponta Grossa and then went back to Itaiacoca; the university was for only a few people back in those days. My grandfather Antenor said that the city was not profitable, that I had to go back and farm. However, a friend of the family convinced my grandfather that I was a smart guy who had to go live in the city, and he got me my first job there.”
Over the years Seu Orlando went through different jobs as a clothes and appliances salesperson and finally as a sales representative of wheel bearings, which became his profession for 40 years. In short, Orlando left Itaiacoca in 1969 and returned in 2018, almost 50 years later. Nowadays, Orlando’s daily schedule is not exactly planned. He tells us that he planted lettuce, kale, pumpkin, green corn, zucchini, watermelon, string beans, okra, potato, sweet potato, cassava, eggplant, cucumber, chives, cabbage, beetroot, leek, onion, garlic, carrot, peach, blackberry, grape, plum, lemon, fig, pomegranate, persimmon, cherry, avocado… yummy!!!