A couple of weeks ago I started telling you the story about my favorite getaway place in Brazil, the farm, describing my perfect day there. The story was interrupted by a visit to Rio de Janeiro, which automatically switched my inspiration from one magical place to another. Nevertheless, it is finally time for a continuation. Read on to find out what happens when siesta is over and it is right about time for adventure again.
Some time after lunch is the part of the day when it is best to go on longer hikes and explore the farther corners of the farm. Around 4 o’clock, or even later when it is summer, the sun gets lower, the air starts to cool down and physical activity becomes possible again since hearty lunch and scorching sun had made it impossible for a while.
It is not every weekend that we get to go to the farm, so choosing the right activities can be a challenge. There are a number options as to where to go or even which form of transportation to take. We would love to fit them all in just one day if we could. However, a day is not exactly a flexible measure, so you will see soon that the description of my perfect day in the farm is actually a sum of all of them. This is how a perfect afternoon would go:
We might ask Arnaldo, Maria’s husband and also works on the farm, to show us his small and neatly kept vegetable and spice garden. He explains us proudly what is what, how to use and how to take care of each plant. You can find everything from big bushes of basil with strong wooden stalk, funny little cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, pimenta biquinho to lemon grass that smells so soothingly, and much more there. Once Arnaldo showed us how and when to pull out the cassava root and gave us tips on how to cook it. Another time he explained what is this bitter green vegetable that Maria sometimes prepares for lunch and where it comes from.
Or then again, we might go horse riding finding our way between the young mahogany trees on slopes with beautiful views or following paths that take us through the eucalyptus forest. There are two tame horses that, even though quite old, are still somewhat fit for horseback riding – Faisca and Falcão. While Falcão is probably one of the calmest horses you will ever see, it is equally impressive how hard it is to make him pick up the pace even just a little. Do whatever you want; it is Falcão that dictates the rhythm of the ride. Usually he just prefers to follow Faisca within a few meters of distance.
What characterizes Faisca the best; however, is her love for her home pastures and the desire to get back there as soon as possible. Therefore, Faisca is quite reluctant to move further away from her home. Yet when turned in the direction of her loved pastures, she gradually speeds up to the point of magnificently galloping with the wind whistling in your ears and your thighs burning from all the exercise you’re getting from trying to keep yourself firmly in the saddle. That is only if you let her, though. If you decide to hold Faisca back or finally go the other way, she just probably sighs a little in her mind but obeys without protesting.
Going on horseback is rare though, mostly because of the preparation it requires and because those horses in their golden years have deserved their retirement. We might go for a walk instead and spot all kinds of different birds and animals on our way, like capybaras or burrowing owls. We have come across the footprint of a jaguar a couple of times, yet we have never actually seen one on farm grounds.
There is an incredible variety of bird species demonstrating their beauty. Most of them singing loud in a haste of getting over with the last preparations for the day before the sun goes down. I have to admit that I can recognize just a very small number of them. One of the most entertaining ones is Seriema, however, that when chased, interestingly can only follow a straight line and, thus continues running in right front of you until you get tired and stop or the path makes a curve. Quite different from what a hare would do.
The farm hare and Don Ferdinand go way back. There is a hare (at least one, maybe more) that lives close to the farm and suddenly jumps out on many of our walks close to the Mahogany trees. One fine day Don Ferdinand decided that he would catch the hare and cook it for dinner and even bet on it with his cousin. Since that day it has been the hare that has been toying with us.
He might suddenly jump out from a bush right next to us and then disappear again in quick zigzags. We stay looking for him for a while with no apparent success and just when we are about to give up, he jumps out again close by and runs away in zig zags again, yet never goes too far. I am beginning to suspect that the chase might actually be more entertaining to the hare than it is to us. The fact is, we have never gotten as close as to be even able to point the arrow at him.
I have a similar relationship with a Toucan that has made its nest inside the palm tree next to the main house. My intentions have never gone further from a photo or a video of the amazingly colorful Tucano entering his house. Nevertheless, he has never granted me with this honor and just flies away whenever I spot him on a nearby tree on the lookout and point my camera at him even form a distance.
Or instead of walking, we might take the red old jeep or motorcycle to dash through the farm grounds and the eucalypt forest with wind in our hair and straws of grass leaving slight scratches on my bare calves – I always forget to wear long pants when taking the moto. Not very smart, I know.
Our final objective is usually to find a perfect spot to watch the sunset. Pepe loves to accompany us even when she has to run for her life to keep up with the jeep or the moto until she can no more. When we get near to any kind of body of water, Pepe immediately lies down in it to cool down. I think I have not seen another dog that loves water as much as Pepe does. She usually comes back from these “walks” looking more like a mop than the beautiful golden she is – all wet and muddy, full of dreadlocks and burdocks.
Before the sun goes down, we gather pine cones and pick up dry sticks to help us light the bonfire later at night. Then, we either climb on top of the water tower or find a higher area between the young mahogany trees or wherever we are at the moment to watch the mesmerizing sunset that paints everything in its reach in warm red colors. When we finally get back to the house, it is already getting dark very quickly. The fresh calmness of the night has substituted the merry hustle and bustle of the day. The bats have finally woken up as they fly over our heads so close that their wings almost touch the top of our heads for a fraction of a second.
Back in our room we get out of the dirty clothes, look for any ticks and take a nice long shower. Once groomed, dressed in clean clothes and feeling all fresh’n’happy we head to the main house to meet everyone else for snacks, sometimes drinks and to wait for dinner. This is the best time to have relaxed conversations with everyone that will continue once at the dinner table and enjoying Maria’s cooking. I rarely can say no to dessert, yet I definitely prefer fresh fruit or homemade sweets made out of fruit and vegetables to all the cakes, doce de leite or chocolate sweets. Homemade doce de abobora (pumpkin sweet), doce de laranja (orange sweet), doce de banana (banana sweet), goiabada… You do not know what you have been missing once you try one of these! Scrumptious!
After dinner and sitting on the porch for a while, it is time to light the campfire. We have already gathered enough sticks and pine cones to make the job easier. Now we just have to choose a spot and make it happen. Then, we drag some pool mattresses or a beanbag next to the fire and sit or lay down surrounded by the darkness to be hypnotized by the flames and the lovely starry sky.
When we had just started dating and it was my first time on the farm, we were lying on the mattress on the grass hugging and looking at the moon and stars. The sky was incredible, full of stars with a huge moon reflecting light to everything around us. Both, Pepé and Dores had lied down leaning against us on both sides. I was lying on my right side, with my head resting on Don Ferdinand’s shoulder.
Suddenly I felt a weight on the left side of my thighs. When I looked up, I saw that the fierce farm cat Mia that rarely shows herself or looks for human contact, had appeared out of nowhere and very quietly curled up right on my left hip. So we lied there, the five of us, all in a big hug, watching the stars and I felt such love and happiness that I had never felt before. We often remember this incredible moment, and honestly, you can see me trying but no words can do justice to what it actually felt like. It was nothing less than a perfect ending to a perfect day.
And every time we go back home to São Paulo (which kind of looks like Gotham City at this moment and in comparison) we feel integral, much more balanced and fulfilled than before leaving the City.
Don Ferdinand even tends to say that after a couple of days in the farm, my eyes turn even greener than they already are. Maybe it is just the reflection of all the green around me, but also a sign of how important going back to nature is to keep in touch with our surroundings and ourselves.
Now you know all about our secret spot to recharge and enjoy the life in a completely natural and healthy way. So tell me, what is your secret to find and maintain balance?