And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

And So The Buffalo Swam To Marajo (Amazon, Brazil)

“There is a time when it is necessary to abandon the used clothes, which already have the shape of our body and to forget our paths, which takes us always to the same places. This is the time to cross the river: and if we don’t dare to do it, we will have stayed, forever beneath ourselves” Fernando Pessoa

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Marajo is an island in Brazil in the state of Para at the mouth of the Amazon. It is the size of Switzerland and home to many beautiful birds and water buffalo. The story goes that a ship on route to French Guyana ladened with goods and water buffalo from India hit a reef and sank off the coast of Marajo. Some of the buffalo escaped the wreck and swam to shore. The buffalo are descendants of this shipwreck though now more have been brought in. There are large herds of domesticated water buffalo on the island.

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Marajo had an advanced pre Colombian society  from 400AD. The arrival of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century wiped out ninety per cent of the natives  due to lack of immunities to the European diseases. They left behind great examples of pre Colombian pottery. Artisans on the island recreate the designs.

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Soure is a sleepy fishing village.

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The people have a peaceful life, take things slowly and keep up their traditions.

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Fisherman shacks, modern homes and large faziendas (farms) exist side by side on the island, It is the only place to have a water buffalo police force. They say it is used for looking for drugs in the forest but most of the crime is pilfering or the occasional lost drunk or “misplaced” bicycle.( newest police recruit)

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Fazenda Sanjo is a ranch and hotel owned by Ana and Carlos Nunes. http://www.sanjo.tur.br You take a boat down a tributary of the Amazon to get there from Soare.

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Then you have a choice of walking a mile or doing it on horseback to get to the fazenda.IMG_0236IMG_4269

The hammocks are an inviting place for a nap. (and I made a friend)

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You can experience the daily life on a Fazenda in the Amazon.

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There are many activities and nature is your host.

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There is piranha fishing, riding and milking buffalo, canoeing and horseback riding through the river with the buffalo.

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We did that.

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I think pictures are better than words.

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It was definitely the most different thing I have ever seen up close and pretty amazing.

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On the boat ride back, it was very windy and I lost my hat in the Amazon.
It is one of those lifetime jungle, sun and mosquito repellant hats and luckily, it floats. The hat is usually on my head in my travels where there are mosquitos. I live in fear of malaria or dengue so I was glad to get it back.

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A hotel in Soure is the lovely Hotel Casarao da Amazonia which occupies a restored blue colonial mansion. The breakfast is good and the atmosphere is immediately relaxed. There is not a lot of English but if you need it, they find someone.(http://www.casaraoamazonia.com.br)

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The island is a spectacular visual feat of nature.

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The marshlands attract many varieties of birds like the scarlet ibis.

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Vultures fly overhead on the miles of quiet beach.

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Marajo is located at the mouth of the Amazon River where the fresh water pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The fish can be fresh or salty depending on what the fisherman has found that day.

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The Amazon rainforest has foods and flavors that dont exist anywhere else in the world.Every meal is juxtaposition of the intermingling of cultures of 400 years – European, Brazilian and African.
We eat buffalo steak topped with slabs of queijo do Marajo, sweet, soft buffalo milk cheese followed by fresh fruit.

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In the morning there is buffalo butter on home-made toast and jams made from fruits that I never heard of till now.

 

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There is always ground cassava (manioc) at the table and sometimes there is jambu a wild green that numbs your mouth while you are eating it. There is acai served with dried balls of cassava flour. In cities very far away acai has become the new superfood because it is loaded with antioxidants, but here you eat it in a bowl alone usually with fish. When red flags are up a fresh batch of acai has been made.

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The weirdest thing to eat here is uncooked turu and we were on a mission to find some. (Gelderson)

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(apparently Survivor was filmed here and they had it regularly) Turu are tree worms.

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They are rich in calcium and can be eaten raw and like oysters are taken as an aphrodisiac.

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I couldn’t decide if i wanted to eat it or not and when I finally said yes, they ran out of bottled water to wash it. I declined to clean it in the river. ( turu in motion – or my photo is blurry)

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There is a small fishing village on a beautiful beach with houses set on stilts.

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A woman is washing her dishes and setting her cups to dry on the posts children laugh and play quietly.

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The beach is impossibly wide and the sand gives way to the Para River which joins the Amazon downstream and disappears into the horizon.

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There are a few hut umbrellas and small restaurants serving cold beer, fresh fish and always fresh coconut water.

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I walk for miles on this beach alone fascinated by the patterns in the soft sand surrounded only by vultures.

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I can hear my thoughts and the only noise is the kind you make yourself.

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I leave Marajo with my volume turned on low.

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I have to thank my tour guides Osvaldo and Gelderson, who’s knowledge, kindness, patience, excellent English, sense of humor and nothing is a problem attitude made the trip to the Amazon even more wonderful. People like them always remind me of how small the world really is.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

Belem Part 2 – More Food In The Amazon

Belem Part 2 – More Food In The Amazon

“I am not a glutton. I am an explorer of food.” Erma Bombeck

We arrive in Belem on a small plane from the island of Marajo at the mouth of the Amazon.

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I thought I was afraid of small planes.

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But the flights were smooth and the scenery was spectacular.

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We started our visit  with lunch at La Em Casa. http://www.laemcasa.com/ It is located in Estacao Das Docas mall a remodeled train station with a beautiful river view.. There is a buffet lunch serving all the traditional dishes.

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The restaurant was started by Anna Marie Martins and it was her son Paulo who brought attention to Brazil, South America and the world about the quality and flavors of regional Amazon cooking. His daughters Joanna and Daniella continued the tradition. Daniella works as a chef in the restaurant and Joanna runs the Paulo Martins Institute and Ver o Peso of Para Food, a festival (Feria Queso)l promoting the flavors and cooking techniques of the Amazon. Joanna is interested in having chefs come from all over the world so any who are reading this should contact her. You won’t be disappointed and you will learn a lot. Its a great time for all foodies to start their visit to the Amazon. contato@institutopaulomartins.org.br  I was lucky to meet both of them and saw how passionate they are about the world getting to know their delicious food. At the rate they are going, we will all soon be eating tucupi and jambu and loving it.

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After that huge lunch we had to try the ice cream at the most famous ice cream parlor in the country,Cairu because there is also a branch in the Estacao Das Docas mall. sorveteriacairu.com.br/ There are Amazonian flavors made from local fruits such as bacuri, muruci, sapoti, graviola, and açai, and“mestiços” (mixed breeds) such as carimbó (cupuaçu and Brazil nut) and maria isabel (bacuri, shortbread, and coconut). The ice creams are so good that five-star restaurants in Rio and São Paulo proudly feature them on their dessert menus.

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Among the many fish we ate in the Amazon region, are filhote and pirarucu. Filhote is the main ingredient in peixada, a stew that includes potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro.  (from La Em Casa)

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Pirarucu is Brazil’s largest fish, measuring up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) and weighing up to 80 kilograms (176 pounds). It is usually dried and salted before being grilled on a hot tile or cooked in coconut milk, and then served with farinha and light, buttery feijão manteguinha,  (from Romanso do Bosque)

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We saw Pirarucu at Ver o Peso market.

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It is an outdoor market selling Amazonian products with about 2000 stalls on the Amazon River.

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The unusual name of the Ver-o-Peso Market dates back to colonial times, when the market housed the offices of the Portuguese colonial tax collector.

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Ver-o-Peso is a shortened form of the Portuguese phrase “Haver-o-Peso” meaning “possess or obtain the weight.” The tax collector was charged with collecting a tariff on all goods coming down the river  based not on monetary value of goods but on their weight. It is now a Unesco World Heritage site. (cleaning off the fish smell as vultures fly overhead)

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There are things you know like acai berries and brazil nuts and wealth of produce from the Amazon that is sold nowhere else in the world. (acerola berries)

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if you’re a fan of large, oily, and irresistibly rich Brazil nuts, you’ll find them all over in Pará, where they’re known as castanhas-do-Pará, and are sold — plain, salted, or caramelized — by vendors on the streets of Belém.

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There are fruits with names like cupuaçu, bacuri, muruci, uxi, taperabá, tucumã, bacaba, and pupunha.

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Wait until you smell and taste them, which you can do in forms that include juices, compotes, jellies, cremes, puddings, liqueurs, and sorvetes.

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There are herbs that cure everything and many types of natural viagra, different cachacas (Brazil’s liquor used in caipirinhas) and all kinds of stuff used for religious and spiritual ceremonies that look fascinating.

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I could have spent a lot of time with the herb ladies and in those questionable spiritual ceremony stores.

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Who knows what I would have brought home if I spoke Portuguese?

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We take a ride through the jungle up the Guama River.

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We are headed to the island of Combu where Dona Nena harvests cacao from trees on the island and makes chocolate wrapped in banana leaves and chocolate drinks with carnation milk (my fav).

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Everything is laboriously and lovingly done by hand – a far cry from the Hershey factory in Pennsylvania I visited as a kid. (cacao)

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While most of the families living on the jungle river make their living harvesting acai and brazil nuts, Dona Nena is bringing back the ancient way of making chocolate and the chefs in Brazil can’t get enough.

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It’s delicious and not too sweet – just the way I like it. Brazilian designer chocolate from the Amazon – why not?

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One of our dinners was at Romanso do Bosque which is an inviting beautifully designed restaurant. http://www.restauranteremanso.com.br   Indigenous ingredients and traditional Brazilian cooking combined with new ideas was the basis for an interesting tasting menu. Chef Thiago Castanho’s modern take on ancient flavors was creative and delicious. By then, I was starting to recognize the flavors of the Amazon. I tasted the jambu in the tucupi and honey sauced pork sausage (not normally being a meat eater, I loved that one)

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There were shrimp covered in tapioca, balls of fresh fish, smoked Pirarucu and filhote.

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There were two desserts. The first was tapioca, tapioca ice cream and brazil nut sauce.

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When I couldn’t eat another bite, they brought this. I didn’t even ask what it was but I finished it.

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The flavors of the Amazon are the flavors of the forest and the river. They are in the mystical ceremonies, potions and celebrations. They are in the lives of the fishermen, farmers, ranchers, healers, cooks, musicians and artists. The flavors of the Amazon are the flavors of the myths and stories of the Amazonian natives who came before. I bite off a piece of my modern chocolate from Combu and read about the origin of cassava, fire and the story of the woman who gathered the brazil nuts.

Bom apetite,

JAZ

Ten Reasons To Go To Brazil

Ten Reason To Go To Brazil

“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life.” Paulo Coelho (yes he is Brazilian)

1. The beach – there are over 1500 beaches and five hundred islands.

2. Amazon Rainforest and Eco Tourism –  It is important to support and help preserve our environment in a responsible way.

3. Sao Paulo Street Art – It’s my thing.

4. It is the home of the acai berry.  If you live anywhere that is health trendy like LA, acai is the food of the moment. It comes in a bowl or in a drink as far as I can tell. No one really knows why it is healthy – kind of like the chia seed. You order it at a trendy expensive juice bar in a voice that sounds like you just know. I’m shallow like that. I’m going to learn the  Brazilian way to pronounce it as well so I can correct all the wannabe healthy people.

5. Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro. It’s one of those iconic Brazilian symbols that I always see in photos and movies and wonder if I will ever be there.

6. It’s another one of the best coffee in the world countries. Those are my favorite.

7. I can practice my Spanish. I mean because I will have the time. They speak Portuguese in Brazil. The languages sound similar to us because they are romance languages and not English. I am hopeful that as in any country but America people speak more than one language and Spanish will be one of them. Otherwise I will rely on my third language of hand motions and charades.

8. I’m not a big drinker but I do love Caipirinhas which happens to be the national beverage of Brazil. It is made with cachaca a sweet Brazilian rum made from sugar cane, lime juice and more sugar. I feel as with all cheap liquor now, the market is changing and when I get to Brazil there will be many premium cachacas to try.

9. Capoira combines dance, martial arts, music and acrobatics. It is known for quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for a variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques. It was started as a fighting technique between African slaves who were forced to fight each other. They found a way to make dance like fighting.

10. The yellow soccer jersey. My first live professional soccer game was in Buenos Aires and I have been hooked ever since. Though they lost the World Cup on their home turf and were humiliated by Germany, they have still won more World Cups then any other country. It is the “o pais do futebol.” – the country of futbol.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

JAZ