People will say that you haven’t really experienced Brazil until you’ve gone to Rio, and I thought that might be true until I spent a weekend in the countryside.
We received the invite from our friend Alilson who works in the city with Nate, Dana, and Brendon. Alilson lives in São Paulo during the week but drives home to his family in Perdões every Friday evening to spend the weekend with them. Perdões is located in the state of Minas Gerais and the drive takes about 5 hours from São Paulo (and yes he does this EVERY weekend to see his wife and kids, talk about super-dad).
Knowing absolutely nothing about Perdões, I really had no idea what to expect. We arrived in town around 10 PM Friday, so there really wasn’t much to see or do, but Alilson welcomed us to his home for some late-night pizza.
What I found to be especially cool about Alilson’s house is that you never really feel like you’re inside because everything has an open flow to it. The big glass doors in the kitchen open up to his back patio which is complete with a pool table, the most amazing hammock I’ve ever been on, and a perfect sized pool with a picturesque view of his town.
We made sure to get an early start Saturday morning as Alilson said we would be taking his boat out for the day. Aside from our weekend in Rio, we really haven’t had much time by the water, so this was something we were really looking forward to. Our drive to the lake was down a long and winding dirt road like something out of a movie. We were surrounded by beautiful scenery, coffee plants and men on horses who greeted us with a lot of happy yelling and waving.
When we finally arrived at the lake, I was actually awestruck. I knew it would be beautiful, but the property was far beyond what I was expecting. There was one house at the top of a hill still being built, and closer to the lake was another structure with a dining area, kitchen, bathrooms and a big room with lounge chairs facing the lake.
Even better was the gazebo at the end of the dock and variety of outdoor seating; My personal favorite was the big blue wicker orb hanging from a tree.
The highlight of the day was definitely our boat ride around the lake. Nate and I have been dreaming of getting back to our beloved home at sea (yes, we live on a boat) so this was a real treat for us. While it was amazing to finally get back on the water, it made me miss the Fasttrak that much more, and I’m sure Nate would agree with me.
Just like the beaches around the world, lake-life is different depending on where you go. If you’ve spent some time boating on a lake, you know it’s best when the wind is mild, the water is complete glass and there aren’t many other boats around. We got lucky with the perfect day.
The lake in Perdões was completely smooth and we were basically the only boat out there. The lake is surrounded by mountains and farmland scattered by cows, and we cruised by different coves, some of which had small waterfalls. On one end, we came across a really cool private community where each house had a tiki-style gazebo at the end of their dock (one dock even had a bar and hot tub built into it).
Cachaça Distillery Tours
We started our Sunday morning with tours of two separate cachaça distilleries. For those of you who have never had cachaça, it’s a sweeter “hard” alcohol made with sugar cane.
The first distillery we went to was for a better-known brand, João Mendes. If you’ve ever been on a wine tour, it’s the same type of experience, but cachaça will definitely hit you a bit harder so you want to take the taste-testing nice and slow.
While the first place was great, it was nothing compared to our second stop.
The next distillery we visited was called Cachaça Carinosa, a big, beautiful farm scattered with plants and animals. When we arrived we were greeted by at least 5 barking dogs, the warmest welcome I’ve ever received.
The landscaping was absolutely beautiful, and despite the language barrier, our tour was amazing. The most memorable part of this distillery came at the end when our guide brought us to the cellar where they keep all the goods.
The main difference between these two distilleries is quality. While the first one we went to was much better known, they tend to focus more on how much they’re producing. Cachaça Carinosa however, is a family run business who work to make the finest cachaça.
I learned that the best cachaça is generally aged for about 8 years. So to give you an idea of the difference between the two, the 4-year-old cachaça at Cachaça Carinosa is just as good, if not, better than the 8-year old Cachaça at João Mendes.
An Orchid Wonderland
Our next stop Sunday morning was a place very special to Alilson and his family. He brought us to the house he grew up in, which his dad still keeps to take care of the many orchids he grows there. I’ve come to learn that the orchid is a very popular flower in Brazil and I see them almost everywhere I go. There are at least two in my hotel room and sometimes they’re even used to decorate trees lining the street.
Orchids have always been one of my favorite flowers, so this spot was definitely a highlight of my weekend.
Our last stop on Sunday was by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced. I’ve done F1 racing before and while the idea is similar, this was about a million times more fun. The track Alilson took us to is located at the top of a mountain and owned by a good friend of his who happens to be an undefeated racer in the area.
Luckily we didn’t keep track of winners and losers, but I’m pretty sure I was lapped at least three times and I know I spun out more than once.
For me, living in Brazil has had it’s ups and downs and sometimes it’s hard to feel at home here. This weekend away from the city felt like exactly what I needed to remember how lucky I am for this chance to travel and experience a lifestyle so different than what I’m used to.
While I absolutely recommend visiting Pedrões for a taste of the Brazilian countryside, I know our experience there would not have been complete without our host Alilson, and his wonderful family and friends.