Tag Archives: Brazil

Farewell Brazil

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

IMG_0794Some how two weeks have already flown by and today is our last day in Brazil. Thankfully, we get the morning off to relax, pack, and prepare ourselves for the journey off.

DSCN8153At 2:00pm our guide Vera picked us up for our final adventure in Brazil; Parque Das Aves. The Bird Sanctuary is a private business that works to preserve native birds, reptiles, and even some mammals, along with their natural habitat. The park receives animals rescued from the black market pet trade, as well as injured and abandoned wildlife. The park is placed inside of a native forest with large enclosures for the birds to have plenty of space for flight and nesting. Guests are even allowed to walk through some of the larger enclosures to get a more personal experience.

 

DSCN8170It wasn’t all animals though. The park is a nature preserve where visitors can learn about the native flora of the Parana Forest. Interpretive panels explained the importance of various plants as food and medicinal sources for wildlife and humans a like. The park isn’t very large, but it was easy to spend several hours there strolling through the pleasant surroundings and enjoying the company of rare and beautiful birds.

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Alas, we were forced to leave as we had a flight to catch out of the Foz do Iguaçu airport.

Over 24 hours later we all arrived home – safe, exhausted, hungry, and weary, but we were home. As with all travel there were unexpected delays, missed connections, and bad airport food, but luckily all of our luggage arrived when we did!

Hope you enjoyed our posts, because I know we all enjoyed writing them!

Iguaçu Falls

After our late arrival in Foz do Iguaçu last night, we indulge by sleeping in until 8am.  After a quick breakfast at the hotel buffet, we are in the van at 8:30 with our local guide, Vera.  Vera is from Foz do Iguaçu and has been guiding tours of the area for 28 years.  We know we are in good hands.  Our mission today is to see both sides of the famous Iguaçu Falls, named as one of the great wonders of the natural world.

The Iguaçu Falls are waterfalls on the Iguaçu River at the border of Brazilian state Paraná and Argentine province Misiones. The falls have a flow capacity equal to three times that of Niagara Falls. 20% of the falls are in Brazilian territory, and the other 80% in Argentina. The “Garganta do Diablo” (“Devil’s Throat” in Portuguese) is the tallest of the falls at 318 feet.

We arrive at the Brazilian side of the falls at 9am.  The falls are surrounded by Iguaçu National Park, a huge swath of sub-tropical rainforest.  Vera pays our admission and we begin our journey to the falls.  A short walk later, we get our first of the falls.  All we can say is, “Wow!”

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One of the first views of the falls through the trees–it would only get better.

A view from a platform on the Brazilian side.

A view from a platform on the Brazilian side.

A viewing platform.

A viewing platform.

Two hours and hundreds of photographs later, we climb back in the van to visit the Argentinian side of the falls.

On our way to Argentina, Vera takes us to a local barbecue spot so that we can try mate.  Mate is a tea-like drink made from Ilex paraguariensis.  Drinking and sharing mate has its own set of traditions, much like coffee does in the US and Europe. We are in a bit of a hurry, so we are only able to enjoy the mate for a few minutes before we must leave. We pass around the special mate cup, sipping the hot liquid from a silver straw.  It tastes a little bit like very strong green tea.

Back in the van, we cross the Argentina border with no problems.  A short time later, we enter the Argentina side of the Iguaçu National Park.  As we begin our walk to the falls, we quickly notice the popularity of mate amongst park visitors.  Many carry the distinct cup and thermoses for extra hot water.  After a short train ride and a lot of walking, we suddenly come upon the falls and look down straight down into the Devil’s Throat.

After the train ride back to a visitor center, we are tempted to take the train back to the park entrance.  Fortunately, Vera insists we take another walk. Little did we know, this walk includes several more stunning views of the waterfalls. We can see the platforms where we walked on the Brazilian side earlier that morning.  We can’t resist taking more photos.

Falls from the Argentinian side.

Falls from the Argentinian side.

Finally, we are done with the falls and climb back in the van to return to Brazil. We are very lucky to have Vera as our guide. Not only does she know the Iguaçu area very well, but she also loves birds, animals and plants.  All day long, she points out plants and animals that she knows will interest us and carries with her a book on wildlife that we frequently reference.  We are grateful to have her as our guide.

There really are no words adequate to describe Iguaçu Falls.  Hopefully some of our photographs will convey some of the majesty of the waterfalls.

Curitiba

We started our day in luxury bus fitted for 60 people and headed to Curitiba Botanical Garden with our guide Fabio. He told us a lot of interesting stories about the history of Curitiba. The name of this city is from a native “pine” tree (Araucaria angustifolia) which has a long history and is well represented in this region. Curitiba means ‘here many pine trees’ in the native Tupi language.

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The Curitiba BG has free admission and many visitors come to the garden especially on weekends. The garden includes outdoor natural areas and a greenhouse. They are well maintained by the largest local cosmetic company in cooperation with the local government. They have their logos on the interpretation boards and labels that make a win-win situation for both government and the company.

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In the garden, we saw the beautiful tree that tells the story about how this country got its name. Brazil means “red wood like a hot ember”.  Red was the noble color in the past and they could use the tree to dye fabric a red color. Also some other beautiful blooming trees like monica (Tibouchina) and golden rain tree (Vochysia) are very impressive in this season.
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Behind the garden is the plant museum where we learned some biology and botanical history. The famous Brazilian botanist, Gerdt Hatschbach, made great contributions to the plant world. 180 plants are named after him, and when you see a plant scientific name that includes’ gertii’ or ‘hatschbachii’, it means it was discovered or named by him.
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The sensory garden demonstrates a great way of allowing people to interact with plants. Josh experienced the garden wearing a blindfold. He experienced the plants only by touching or smelling  them. “It is great and wonderful experience,” he said. After that, we went to the native plant garden which displays Brazilian native plants in well designed landscapes and views. It is a powerful encouragement for people to use native plants in their gardens.IMG_0985

After a delicious lunch in the biggest Italian restaurant in Brazil, we started a whirlwind suburban park tour. At one park, we walked around the big loop to the top of hill where we got great view of the city. Looking down rom the Free University of the Environment to the bottom of the woods, we could see that the lake was made as the shape of the state of Parana. The Bosque do Alemão (German woods)leads visitors on a trail that tells the German tale, Hansel and Gretel, for kids.
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The tour ended at the museum of Oscar Niemeyer, which features postmodern design and state-of-the-art engineering. We loved Curitiba, a city that combines historic and modern culture and architecture, a city that values sustainability with great landscapes and a fantastic environment.

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A day in Sao Paulo

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

IMG_4494Day two with our guide was a little slow. We started out exploring the natural areas behind the Museum Paulista. They are full of native Brazilian trees and tropical plants along with lots of exercise equipment. What’s different about Brazil compared with the US is that we constantly saw people of all ages utilizing this equipment, doing pull ups and using the leg and running machines. The woods in Sao Paulo, along with the parks and open areas all over Brazil were lively and well used.

We then toured the Museum Paulista, which chronicles Brazil’s Independence. Everything was in Portuguese and our guide was somewhat helpful in explaining the items and translating the interpretation. However we realized on this day specifically the importance of a good guide. A good guide can make or break your opinion of a city and the amount you are able to learn. This made us realize the value in mastering some useful phrases in the language of the country we are visiting before arriving. In our case the guide’s English was not great so sometimes we had a little trouble.

IMG_4500The garden in front is modeled after Versailles and is quite formal with a beautiful choreographed fountain. It is aptly named Independence Park and there is a monument to celebrate independence and also the original emperor. It was interesting to see how they were managing the loss of some of the larger trees by replacing them in the formal allées. In addition we were surprised at the amount of boxwood used in the design.

IMG_0658In the afternoon we visited the central market where we sampled lots of tropical fruit and ate lunch. Some of the best stories from the trip happen whenever we attempt to order food. Sometimes the restaurant has a menu in English which is very helpful to us in ordering. However, most of the time the waiter cannot read the English menu so we still have trouble ordering the correct item. All in all that part has been an entertaining learning experience.

That evening we flew to Curitiba. The hotel was old fashioned but the people working there were fantastic! Helpful and friendly, they carried our bags for us, were really appreciative of our smiles and attempts at Portuguese and helped us to order a vegetarian pizza. The pizza arrived with peas, corn, hearts of palm and oregano,…oh and no sauce. It was interesting compared with our vegetarian pizzas in the states but it was delicious. It was quite late and were off to bed.

 

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Sao Paulo Botanical Garden

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

We met our tour guide at 9am today and set out for Sao Paulo Botanical Garden to walk around for a couple hours. Lindsey had tried, tried, and tried once again to make contact with the garden, but had heard very little in response, and so we arrived thinking we were there only to see some pretty sights. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Unbeknownst to us, Lindsey’s emails had beeen heard and we were met by a team of employees who were there to escort us through the garden. Our entourage included Nelson, an administrator in the education department, Rafael, an intern at the garden, and Adib, a seasonal worker who volunteered to be our translator.

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The garden is partnered with the Botanical Institute of Sao Paulo, and therefore has a large research component as well as acres of beautifully maintained grounds. Sao Paulo BG was and the Institute were originally created by the state to help preserve the State Park and watershed in the area. The focus of the garden is around conservation and preservation of the natural flora of Sao Paulo and has a very active plant-rescue program to help save plants from construction projects around the state. Most recently they rescued a large group of Cyathea (tree ferns) from a highway construction project, which they replanted near the main entrance for a stunning affect. It is remarkable to see what we call “indoor plants” growing in large quantities outside.

DSC_0585As we continued through the gardens and conservatories, we found ourselves in an ever-growing number of school groups. Nelson explained that there is a kindergarten on the grounds which frequently brings the kids onto the grounds, but also Sao Paulo Botanical Garden hosts over 35,000 children a year for local public schools. Students come to explore and to learn about the different ecosystems in Brazil and how each one is important. At the garden, visitors have the opportunity to explore a çerrado (savanna) ecosystem inside one of the greenhouse, walk on an elevated pathway through a preserved Mata Atlantica (Atlantic Rainforest) and to learn about native orchids, bromeliads, and trees found throughout the entire country. By the end of the morning I think we all had a much better understanding of Brazilian ecology, thanks to Sao Paulo Botanical Garden.

We then said farewell to Nelson and Rafael, and went with Adib to have lunch at the café located on the grounds. After lunch we got permission from the Director of the Garden to go into the research facilities located on the grounds. Though it was summer DSC_0533and many employees were on vacation, we were able to meet with some researchers from the mycology department, the seeds physiology department, and the orchid department. We even got to go into their orchid house, which holds one of the largest collections of orchids in Brazil.

We had originally planned to stay at the garden for only about three hours, but by the time we left it had been 6 hours, and we could have stayed longer for there was more to see.

Our driver picked us up and then we headed off to Parque Ibirapuera, which translates to Rotting Tree Park. This park was built on a swamp and for many years the city could not get trees to grow, they would just rot – hence the name. It was not until they started planted eucalyptus trees to absorb the moisture that the park was fully implemented. Ibirapuera park is now a beautiful public park full of residents running, walking, biking, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Our new friend Adib, who agreed to come along with us from the botanical garden, showed us around and made sure that we all got back to our hotel afterwards since our tour guide had to leave before we were ready to go.

It was a wonderful day of walking and enjoying nature. Luckily we weren’t flying out that night since I think we all needed a good night sleep.

Rio and Sitio Roberto Burle Marx

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

DSCN28269am sharp and we are out the door with our guide Gerardo. Our destination today is the Sitio Roberto Burle Marx, but first Gerardo is taking us on a whirlwind tour of the city of Rio.  Driving along the Copacabana beach, we pull over for 5 minutes to snap a group photo on the famous sidewalk designed by Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.

 

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Back in the van, we drive through the city to the Sambadromo, a huge stadium designed by Oscar Niemeyer just to host the samba competitions during Carnival.  Gerardo gives us a quick lesson on how to dance the samba and then Laurie, Ling, and Josh try on carnival clothing and pose for photos.

 

 

 

 

 

We finish our city tour at see the cathedral, a huge, imposing concrete structure inspired by the pyramids at Chichen Itza in Mexico.DSCN2863

 

 

 

 

 

An hour later, we arrive at the Sitio Burle Marx, the home and studio of landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Burle Marx was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1909.  As a young man, he traveled to Germany where he was inspired by the use of Brazilian plants in the Berlin Botanical Garden.  Returning to Brazil, he began collecting plants around his home in Guaritiba and designing landscapes for friends and clients.  He is most well known for the design of the Copacabana promenade and the landscapes around some of the government buildings in Brasilia. He also designed the Cascade Garden at Longwood Gardens. Burle Marx’s property in Guaritiba was donated to the Brazilian government in 1985 and became a national monument. It houses over 3,500 species of plants and many works of art by Burle Marx and other artists.

DSCN2904Thanks to our tour guide Gerardo, we have a wonderful and insightful tour of the Sitio. Gerardo translated everything that the Sitio tour guide said and added his own information about Brazilian plants.  He also provided everyone with much needed mosquito repellant!

The Sitio is truly stunning.  Swaths of bromeliads.  20 foot tall Plumeria trees. Contrasting black and chartreuse foliage (years ahead of his time) and the use of textured plants and hardscaping.  So many native Brazilian plants, including the Helenconia hirsuta ‘Burle Marx’ that the designer discovered in the Amazon region. Burle Marx’s use of native plants in design is inspiring.DSCN2946

We left the garden and returned to Rio late in the afternoon.  A shopping trip before dinner turned into a hilarious adventure after we got caught in a downpour (we were told it doesn’t rain in Rio!) and took a wrong turn walking back to the hotel.  After a misadventure with a sink, we finally made it to dinner at a churrascaria (a Brazilian steakhouse) where we indulged in beef and sushi and various Brazilian dishes.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate our last night in Rio and the start of our day off.

Rio Botanical Garden

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

Welcomed by the ‘tropical water’, we landed in state capitol Rio de Jeneiro, the third stop of our entire journey. After breakfast at the hotel, the first year fellows headed to the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden with  our two chaperones and our new local guide Gerardo. Gerardo (pronounced Herardo) is a transplanted Argentinian who has put deep roots into Rio and is a devoted Brazilian soccer fan. To our surprise, he also loved plants as much we do and he shared his plant knowledge with us during the tour.

DSCN1872In the garden, we met Thais Almeida, a curator who has been working  at the garden for almost 10 years. She  toured us around the garden. Rio BG was founded by King John in 1808 when he was Prince Regent. From Thais we learned that the garden has a collection of both Brazilian native plants and exotic flora from all over the world which include historical collections as well. We saw trees such as mango tree, jack fruits and some others from Asia. The famous palm tree allee along the main road shows the exotic view of the tropical region, some of them have been in the garden for more than a century,  which is quite impressive. This garden is federally funded, but it has some problem with financial development which has negative effect on the collection.

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DSCN1909Greenhouses are important in this area as well, including an orchid house and a bromeliad house. They have native living orchid collection and also species collection in their herbarium where we had a brief tour. They did very good interpretation of orchid with information like the name of orchids, the habitat of orchids and so on. Also, the bromeliad collection is very significant, starting with two pineapple plants in front of the IMAG0263Bremilliario.

After the Botanical Garden, we went to the national forest area which is adjacent with the garden. Covered with tall tress, the shade composed a natural umbrella where people can enjoy the cool air in summer. We ended our tour by stopping at the Chinese Vista, which is a great location to get a view of the city.

Thanks to Gerardo who gave us a great plant tour and shared many wonderful stories of Rio. IMAG0267

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Inhotim

Photography by: Longwood Graduate Fellows

Our day began with an early pick up at the hotel by our very personable tour guide Luciana. On the drive to Inhotim she told us about Belo Horizonte’s history and helped us with some Portuguese words and pronunciation. Inhotim is located about an hour outside Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais. Well known for the mining of precious metals,specifically gold and iron ore, Minas Gerais is also known for the mining of gems like topaz, amethysts, aquamarines, emeralds and diamonds. Along the way we observed mango trees galore, a million Mimosa-looking species, flowering in every color of the rainbow, plus plumeria, mandevilla and an abundant amount of graffiti, not just in Belo Horizonte but all over BraziI’s cities. Belo Horizonte and its outlying areas are quite hilly which made for an interesting ride in a stick shift van with 8 people on a small road with 42 speed bumps.

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I think it’s fair to say that Inhotim took our breath away the minute we arrived. The visitor’s center was like an open air flower festival with fresh stunning arrangements around every corner. A large iridescent cobalt blue butterfly floated by on the breeze as we took a group photo and basked in the seventy-something degree air while we awaited our meeting with Leticia Aguiar, Botanical garden and Environmental Manager. Leticia spent a lot of time with us. She described a relatively new botanic garden (officially only two and a half years old) led by a visionary man who intends to create and promote a contemporary style of living. A garden in a community connected with art, the environment, and people. She told us about their comprehensive ongoing sustainability efforts, many adult and Children’s education programs, and an exciting tree rescue mission just to start. Her presentation about Inhotim’s philosophy reminded us a lot of Longwood’s mission, vision and values.

DSC_0366DSC_0412IMG_4208The garden itself was vast and sweeping- perfectly manicured-down to the valleys and up the mountains with art galleries and pavilions connecting each garden together. We only had time for a few of the galleries. The contemporary art was created specifically for Inhotim. Beautiful or thought provoking each pavilion inspires one back out to the gardens. We enjoyed a delicious lunch at one of Inhotim’s restaurants in the typical Brazillian buffet style. After a special tour around the production facilities, we had to get on the road to the airport. Sadly, we didn’t see everything Inhotim had to offer that day and so it was difficult to tear ourselves away. It was an inspirational visit however and we are excited about the great work being done and the opportunities forged for future connections as a result of our visit.

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A few hours later we boarded the flight to Rio de Janeiro. Emerging from the clouds we found ourselves flying down to a beautiful jewel of a city. Nestled between lagoons and mountains, surrounded by boats and ferries, the city lights were just turning on. It was dusk and Rio looked like a piece of diamond jewelry- twinkling and shimmering in the sunset. Islands dotted the harbor, rainforest sprung up between the buildings and the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer stood above the water welcoming us.

The Regal Victoria

Photography: Longwood Graduate Fellows

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The familiar knocking wake-up call came at 5:45am this morning and once again we put on clothes, life-jackets, sunglasses, shoes and promptly hopped in the canoes. This morning we were only going a short distance over to the shore, where we disembarked and got onto an elevated walk way to journey through the rainforest canopy. It was wonderful to be able to get a new perspective of the rainforest, without having to get into a tree-climbing harness. It was the destination, however, that we were most excited about; we were on our way to see Victoria amazonica growing in the wild. As we emerged out of the forest, the walkway continued into the water where we were able to see many plants below us, including blooming Amazon Water-platters. It was truly amazing to see these majestic plants growing in the wild. The experience was only improved by a surprise visit by a group of capuchin monkeys!

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After all the excitement of our early morning adventure we returned to the boat for breakfast and then with reluctant hearts we began to collect our belongings, and repack our bags. Our last stop on the boat was at the meeting of the rivers. This is where the Rio Negro, the river we have been traveling on, and the Amazon River merge. The water continues on for thousands of meteres more to the Atlantic Ocean. The dark waters of the Rio Negro and the silty rivers of the Amazon river meet just East of Manaus, yet the water takes another 6km, creating a very unique natural phenomenon.

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From here the boat continued to the Manaus bay, where we disembarked and returned to the hotel to await transportation to the airport. It was sad to leave the amazon and our wonderful boat, but we were very excited to see what Belo Horizonte had in store for us.

 

If you want to learn more about Victoria amazonica and its importance at Longwood Gardens, check out Laurie’s blog post here.

The Amazon (Continued)

Photography: Longwood Graduate Students

With the bell ringing, we got up at 5:30 am and started an morning exploration of Rio Negro rainforest.

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The  mysterious journey of the plants and animal kingdom started along the bank of creek.  Although it  is the rainy season of this year, the water leve of the Negro River still not as high as the previous years which we can tell from the water mark on the tree trunks. Many epiphytic plants, such as philodendron, bromellias and many other ones telling the different life styles of Amazon. The most exciting part is to get the chance seeing cattleya orchid in bloom on the top of 60 feet tree trunk. At the same time, bird watching we saw parrots, toucans,vultures displayed the biodiversity in Amazon rainforest.  Many of these species named with Amazon and that means they only exist in this region. Also, quite a bit tropical features were caught with the more exploration.

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Jungle tour was led by both local guide and translator for 2 hours. We got into the deep heart of rainforest which only has 10% sunlight. All the plants survive in their own special ways in this complex ecosystem. Several native trees such as Makuku, rose wood, Brazilian tree, water vine, ferns, philodendron, heliconias which make us feel like back in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens,  while all the plants here grow in their original ways surrounding by the animal and insects neighbors.

The great experience of rainforest gave us the best lesson of biodiversity which makes everybody think about conservation and preservation a lot more afterward.

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