Dominican Republic and the in-between

From Brazil to Luxembourg to Dominican Republic and Colombia

04.05.2022 – 16.6.2022.

Long way back to Brazil

It’s been over two months since we last wrote about our adventures in Peru, and so many things have happened since then. This period following our Peruvian trip brought many crazy ideas, several mini and long-distance trips, and new adventures that changed the way we travel, possibly forever. We took several flights from Peru to Chile in order to get back to the Atacama desert where Sr. Cabron Porsupuesto was patiently soaking up the desert sand and heat before going back home. We’ve spent a few more days in Atacama chilling (or more like freezing at night) under the starry desert sky, and enjoying the Chilean wine again accompanied by the little barbecue dinners. The borders finally opened and it was time to start the 3000 km long way back to Brazil. The way to Curitiba was an exhausting adventure on its own; we got lost, almost ended up in forests of Paraguay, the hotel we booked (and had the confirmation of booking) was closed (and it was the middle of the night); we ended up eating dinner during someones’s wedding party in a random restaurant, and had to search for border police (at the border itself) in order for me to get a stamp in my passport. From the north of Chile to the south of Brazil, besides the beautiful memories we made, we also we brought loads of mud from Argentina, and salt and desert sand from Chile. The car was so dirty it really needed the deepest of cleaning to be put back into the state we have received it in. It was time to say goodbye to Sr. Cabron and return it to its owners. You served us well, Cabron! Gracias.

Sr. Cabron Porsupuesto in the Salar of Agentina, going back home

In Brazil, as usual, smiley faces welcomed us back. It was nice to spend some more time with friends and family before starting new travel adventures. It was a creative time, Jorge was working on his music album and I got to try, and fell in love with, making ceramics. We took a quick trip to the beautiful Ilha do Mel that gave me another not-so-beautiful food poisoning. I still love you, Ilha, I just will never ever eat shrimps there again.

After 2 weeks in Brazil, Jorge had to go back to Luxembourg to fix a few documents and he had the nightmare two days, stuck at the airport, before he could actually get back to Lux. Thanks for that, KLM. Jorge spent two weeks in Lux with our friends and I decided to enjoy Brazil a little more (also, it was really expensive to go back for this very short period of time) but I admit, I was a little sad to miss the great moments Jorge had with our crazy friends in Luxembourg. To make myself less sad… I took another trip, I was on my own this time and I can’t complain at all. I’ve spent four amazing days in Rio, which is probably my favourite city in the whole world. I was wandering Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana, enjoyed açai, people watching and reading my book on the beach. I’ve been to Rio 3-4 times before so I also wanted to see something new. I went to Ilha Grande, a beautiful island south of Rio and enjoyed very relaxing time on the beach listening to bossa nova coming from beach bars. But then the days spent alone started to be long…

Both Jorge and I realised that two weeks without each other is at least 12 days too much.. we realize that this is pretty much crazy since we have been spending ALL the time with each other in the past 8 months. It’s crazy but it’s amazing at the same time, so it was time for us to meet again. And what’s a better meeting point than a beautiful Caribbean island country? Dominican Republic it is!!!

Dominican Republic: A tropical paradise!

Before meeting in the Dominican Republic, we have already made a crazy plan of how the rest of our trip would be – we basically had bought a van in Costa Rica! We found the add in a Facebook travel group, and made a deal with them without actually ever seeing the van (well, we did see some pictures of it). Then we figured that in the next almost 5 months we will be living in a tiny metal box with no shower nor toilet and so we decided to treat ourselves first with something quite the opposite. And kids… that is how we ended up booking four days in an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

This was the first time for both of us to stay in a resort, since we’re not the kind of vacationers that will only sip cocktails and stay on the beach. But OMG, we might become just that in future since those four days were a total bliss. The hotel is like 20 meters from the beach, it has many restaurants, three huge swimming pools, pool bar, daily entertaining activities and well… as many piña coladas as you wish. It was a perfect spot to recharge batteries, do stupid dances at the pool, walk on the perfectly white sand beaches and just relax.

But ok, we couldn’t stay too lazy. After four very relaxing days at the resort, we decided to book a cheaper accommodation and visit more things. We went to the Saona island – it’s basically paradise on Earth with the greenest and the bluest and the cleanest sea water we’ve ever seen. The little boat taking you to the island stops at the natural pool with transparent, incredibly green water, in the middle of the sea, and then the crew serves the well known Dominican rum while you chill in the water. I mean… can it get better than that? Short answer is yes. After that amazing swim, we reached the island bordered by perfect palm trees, and were served the finest piña colada in its original pineapple recipient. The lunch was also included in the price of the excursion but it was probably the worse food I tried in the Dominican. Who cares, everything else was absolutely heavenly (obsession with the pineapple pictured here below).

The Katamaran ride back to the mainland was amazing too, pure pure joy and relaxation (Jorge was probably too relaxed and slept most of the trip). The endless blue sea, nice music, perfect wind that takes some heat away and thoughts of : shit, my life is amazing!

Perfect beaches and paradise islands are not the only thing Dominican Republic has to offer. We also decided to visit Santo Domingo, the capital of DR. The beach days were over since one needs to go outside the city to enjoy the beach but we did enjoy wandering the streets of Santo Domingo, visiting museums and trying local food. It was nearly 40 degrees outside which made our air-conditioned museum visits even more pleasant.

Beautiful and colourful city of Santo Domingo counts with loads of colonial and resistance history visible in its architecture, nice food scene and food markets, and beautiful nature around the city. We visited the “3 ojos” park with cave pools whose colour is totally surreal. It was so damn hot that day, we almost fainted but it was well worth it!

All in all, Dominican Republic was amazing and we decided to go back every time we need to recharge batteries and enjoy the magic of the Caribbean. Our next stop was supposed to be Costa Rica, but we decided to first spend a couple of days in Bogotá since our layover was there anyway.

Layover in Bogotá

It was raining cats and dogs when we landed in Bogotá, but the day after the weather was perfect for exploring the city. We got loads of great tips from our friend Carol who lived in Bogotá until recently and enjoyed thoroughly the food scene, the gold museum, wandering colourful streets of Candelaria and seeing at least a tiny bit of what Colombian life is like. We got incredible views, incredible food and met some really kind people.

We got only a tiny taste of what Colombia offers: it tasted reaaallly well so we cannot wait to have the opportunity to explore this country more. Our trip to Bogotá was very short because we had to be in San Jose, Costa Rica, to take over our van and arrange all the documentation we needed to cross many borders in the upcoming months. Our new, crazy and simple van life had started with the most magical sunsets. More about that… super soon!

Florianópolis – Ilha da magia, SC, Brazil

Happy New Year, amigos! Yeah, we are only two weeks late to wish you a great start into the 2022 but that’s just because we started our year in a slow, lazy pace; we had the best time in Florianópolis! Florianópolis (officially Santa Catarina Island) or popularly called Floripa, is an island of vibrant colors, magical sunsets, amazing food, and never-ending parties… no wonder they call it also Ilha da magia – The Magic Island, popular among surfers, hippies and beach lovers.

Curitiba, PR, Brazil

08.12.2021 – 16.12.2021.

Curitiba: family, friends, food,fun!

Curitiba is Jorge’s hometown. I got to know the city well in 2015 when I have spent 3 months living there, but there are still many places I haven’t seen. Curitiba counts nearly 2 million people and it is huge also in geographical terms. I heard from a few Curitibanos that their city is considered the most “European” of all Brazilian cities. Curitiba does have a lot of European influences from what I gathered, just like the rest of Parana. Loads of people I met have Polish, Ukrainian, German and Italian predecessors and you can find anything from pierogis to Oktoberfest in this region.

When I first visited Parana, I realized that, even though I knew Jorge for a while back then and heard many stories about Brazil, I still had some sort of stereotype of how Brazilians might look like; you know, stuff we see on TV. Parana proved me wrong; here you will find all kinds of skin tones, eye color, hair type, height,… It is like this in the rest of Brazil too! Lesson learned 🙂

Curitibanos also say that they’re the “coldest” of all Brazilians; some examples are that they won’t start a conversation with a stranger just like that or help another car change the lane in the traffic jam. I wonder if that’s the reason this city is considered the most (West?)European? LOL

Either way, I think they’re absolutely wrong. While I cannot vouch for 2 million other Curitibanos, those that I have met are not “cold” at all. Hugs here are real, strong and long – you know that moment you kinda feel it’s time to let go of the other person – don’t do it! – wait another 5 or more seconds and enjoy – we all missed hugging in these past 2 years. Here is the example of amazing homo curitibano I met (I met these two before all the others; now they even live together!):

Obviously, Curitiba to us is all about spending time with family, eating great food, jamming with friends and having constant hangovers, full bellies and full hearts. Let’s concentrate on bellies first! Here are some of the meals Jorge’s mum and brother prepared for us (see name / link with description in caption):

Now, full hearts! I cannot even start describing how well I was received by absolutely everyone I met. People are so genuine, kind, curious, grateful for my broken Portuguese; they’re always offering drinks, hugs, food, friendship, their homes… I always say that to me Brazil is so familiar. Familiar in terms of what I have just described here above – it is the kind of friendships I have in Bosnia. Brazil is also (politically, economically and perhaps ecologically) as messy as Bosnia. But the way we all talk (over each others), hug, share, love… is very very similar. Plus, since almost all Jorge’s friends are musicians, artists and singers, parties never end… But who can describe the feeling of seeing family and friends after 2 full years better than Jorge himself? Here are his impressions:

This was the first time I have been far from my hometown for so long. In fact I was born in a nearby city called Ponta Grossa, but I’ve spent most of my youth in Curitiba and I feel like a “real” Curitibano. My days in Curitiba always start with a visit to my mom and eating her famous “empadão”, a chicken pie (see pic above). I really love it, and my mom prepares the best one in the world! For me, visiting Curitiba this time was particularly special, I really missed those long hugs from my loved ones!

I also have to admit that my visits to Curitiba are usually somewhat exhausting. There are so many friends that I want to visit, so many places I want to bring Irma to see… But there is this one special place that I visit every time I am in Curitiba, the “Largo da Ordem” (you can see it in this post’s cover picture); it’s the heart of Curitiba’s Old Town. I remember that when I was about 18 years old, I’ve spent most of my Friday and Saturday nights in this place. At that time there was a bar called “bill’s bar”, a meeting point for headbangers/metalheads from Curitiba. Almost 20 years after, I am still friends with most of the same people I used to hang around with back in those days! Nowadays we don’t dress only in black clothes and I can no longer have the long hair I used to have (Irma calls the young me “Pocahontas”), but our friendship is as strong as it was those days. I am no longer that long-haired headbanger but this time in Curitiba I also had the opportunity to be reminded of that “headbanging feeling” and play drums for the first time.

I’ve met friends over lunch and they said that the drummer could not attend the rehearsal and that they would have to cancel. But my crazy wife Irma then told them that she could play drums. She was very convincing that even I was confused and wondered if I somehow forgot that she really knew how to play. Anyway, I let her keep up with the story and everyone decided we would go to the studio to jam a bit with Alan and Uli’s band (our amazing MELA MELA friends!). The guys prepared the drums and Irma was already laughing. So, what happened? I took the drumsticks and tried my luck! Guys, I think I have a new passion!!! Irma said I got it right, but I guess she’s a bit biased :). You can judge it by yourself though – check out the video story here! Thanks Alan, Uli, Alex and Juliano for letting me be a part of your amazing band!

Back to Irma now.

Indeed, Curitiba was also a little tiring. So many people to see, so many places to go to, only one liver to physically support it all. But at the end, the only bad thing about Curitiba are freaking mosquitoes which seemed to be absolutely amazed by my legs. They have here some asshole mosquitoes called “pernilongo” which I pronounced pernalonga – meaning basically “Bugs Bunny.” LOL. These motherfuckers’ bites hurt, you guys! Better come armed with mosquito repellents, creams and antihistamines (I had all 3 but wonder oh wonder, I forgot to use them). Here are the results:

It took more than a week for these bite wounds to heal a bit (I still have some marks). So, we left Curitiba with mosquito bites, full bellies, full hearts and at least 4 hangovers and went to visit our friend Rafael in Mandirituba (1h drive from Curitiba).

Rafael and his family live in absolute paradise. They have loads of land and they plant veggies there. Jorge’s little godchild Rafinha enjoys running in fields around the house, jumping in the swimming pool and playing with the neighbor kid. She also enjoys marshmallows made in her dad’s special barbecue. When I say special, it is special to me, for Brazilians it’s the most normal thing to have in the house. It’s kind of interior fireplace barbecue which serves as the center of the party.

Brazilian churrasco (bbq) is very different from the European ones I have participated in. It is an whole day event in which the main piece of meat is grilled for like 4 or more hours. Rafael put the giant peace of meat in salt, then he put a metal bar through it, wrapped in a special cellophane and then put it into the barbecue for over 4 hours, on mild fire (see pics below). Meanwhile, smaller pieces of meat like chicken and sausage were served. They’re often and usually served with garlic bread & farofa (a toasted cassava or corn flour mixture), accompanied by a “bem gelada” (very cold beer) and sometimes caipiriha or other cocktails (lately Jorge and some other friends went nuts for Negroni, while Rafael’s favorite remains “Talagasso” – cognac and coke mix.)

For us vegetarians there is a variety of side dishes to choose from: garlic bread, “maionese” (potato salad made with mayo), rice, black beans and farofa (so many ways of making it) and other super tasty & amazing dishes.

Churrascos often or almost always include people playing instruments and singing “classics” (Raul Seixas seems to be a star of many of these parties) or playing snooker and always result in too much food and loads of smiles and happiness. Jorge says he already got some weight – happiness makes you expand 😉

Thank you, Curitibanos, for these amazing days filled with love.

We’re now on a farm in Itaiacoca where Jorge’s dad lives. Read about our farm life and about meeting friends in Ponta Grossa in the next post 🙂