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Living the Dream

Adventures in Brazils Atlantic Rainforest

The Serra Verde Project

Project Overview

Serra Verde Project is an ambitious scheme to create a rural eco-lodge and education centre in the foothills of the Picos do Marumbi in Brazil. We aim to become self sufficient in energy production and organic food, as well as playing an active part in the local community. Only 6km from colonial Morretes and in the foothills of the impressive Picos do Marumbi, Serra Verde is situated in a great location. It currently has a small house, pupunha plantation, bananas, coffee and a fantastic river frontage, not to mention its own Atlantic rainforest reserve!

We intend to make this reserve accessible to local children and those with disabilities. Through our Friends of Serra Verde Rainforest Scheme we aim to be able to both extend the reserve & to make it accessible to those in wheelchairs.

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Our education centre will promote the importance of preserving the Atlantic Rainforest as well as offering English lessons to locals. We aim to further develop this sustainable site to be a fabulous base for rock climbing, mountaineering, biking, hiking, soaking up the local culture or just kicking back and enjoying a caipirinha by the river!

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Featured post

Why My Plans Are Made of String!

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“Napoleon built his campaigns of iron and when one piece broke the whole structure collapsed. I made my campaigns using string, and if a piece broke I tied a knot and carried on.”

Arthur Wellesley Wellington

For those of you that don’t know Arthur went on to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo and effectively end the French control of Europe. Though it’s two hundred years old I find the Iron Dukes’ words more relevant than many of his more contemporary and fashionable counterparts.

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In business and increasingly at home we are forever told that we need to set ourselves targets, have goals and a plan to get there. Often these include spreadsheets and charts which are supposed to measure progress. However it is all too common that these charts take over and become more important than the objective itself. When this happens the target dates, costs and so on are often endlessly amended, rendering the whole process worthless. When things don’t go to plan then rather just fudge the spreadsheet surely it be better to review the objective. Is it still relevant? Do we need to change the plan? If we don’t re-evaluate our objectives regularly then we run the risk of making the process (who doesn’t like turning all those little excel boxes green!) more important than what the process is trying to achieve.

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Since moving to Brasil we have had to continuously review and change our plans – carefully constructed timelines went out of the window, money ran out, unforseen problems with power, sanitation and bureaucracy all played havoc with our meticulously detailed plans and spreadsheets.

When you’ve moved your family to the Brasilian rainforest; your plans aren’t working, you have invested everything you have and nothing is progressing as you thought it would be from comfort of your office in England you have a stark choice. You can give up – we followed the plan but it just wasn’t to be. Or you change the plan.

Students SPELL

We opted to change the plan!

We never intended to open an English School in the local town, but after several problems working with other schools and many broken promises we now have our own small school. Though not in the original plan it has become a vital source of income and has helped us integrate with the local community and we really enjoy teaching! Our small Pousada is also going well. I am proud that we have managed to evolve our goals and now have two small, fledgling businesses. For all the complicated spreadsheets and plans the most important objective we had in moving to Brasil was more family time and we have definitely achieved that. So nearly two years after leaving England and 10 months after realising that our plan wasn’t working we are still here….following the Iron Duke’s advice and making our plans from string so that when they break we just tie a knot and carry on!

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The Amazon – Trying to See the Wood for the Trees!

Amazon Fires 2019

Thousands of fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil – the most intense blazes for almost a decade. However, images purported to be of the fires – including some shared under the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas – have been shown to be decades old or not even in Brazil.

So what’s actually happening and how bad are the fires?

The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) says its satellite data shows an 85% increase on the same period in 2018. The US space agency, Nasa, has on the other hand said that overall fire activity in the Amazon basin is slightly below average this year.

Amazon fires

The Amazon is home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.The fires in the region are terrible and a tragedy for our planet but with so much misinformation and fake news it’s very difficult to get a true picture of just how much of an increase there has been.

What is clear is that deforestation is a huge problem which has depressingly broken new records of increase consistently for the last 30 years. Loggers and miners are long term offenders but the biggest culprits are undoubtedly the cattle farmers. A long established way of increasing grazing land has been to set illegal fires to clear the forest – once cleared it is no longer protected and can be used for cattle.

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Trying to get a clear balanced picture is very difficult; much of the world’s news comes from Brasilian NGO’s and the News Channel Globo – all of which are politically aligned against the current government which has cut the funding and subsidies granted to them by the previous regime. Bolsanaro is a self styled Trump prone to ill informed and populist rhetoric and remarks – such as the now infamous ‘poop ever other day’. His lack of diplomacy has alienated both the world’s press and many of the world’s leaders.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that non-governmental organisations had started fires in the rainforest, but admitted he had no evidence for this claim and this morning he tweeted ‘So, if you are wondering who is going to save the Amazon, here’s a very straightforward answer for you: it’s not the empty, hysterical and misleading rhetoric of the mainstream media, transnational bureaucrats and NGO’s, but the sovereign action of Brazil.’

My personal hope is that whilst the focus of the world is on the Amazon that we can take hold and actually address this very real, but depressingly old problem. The world is watching and the time to act is now, before the focus of the world moves onto a topic of fashionable outrage. If this opportunity is wasted I fear that my children will live in a world where the Amazon is reduced to a couple of small National Parks. Lets not forget that Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest is now only 8% of the size it was 100 years ago.

Sources: BBC News, Rainforest Alliance, Washington Post

Freguesia do Livro

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We’re very happy to have received our first box of books from Freguesia do Livro and believe that our ‘reading station’ in the heart of the Atlantic Rainforest is the perfect setting to enjoy a good read!

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Freguesia do Livro is an organization based in Curitiba who’s goal is to ‘encourage reading through free literary circulation’. The initiative encourages reading for everyone everywhere. Since 2011 they have been collecting books and creating ‘reading stations, aswell as assisting in the creation and maintenance of community libraries.

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We’re also very excited that we are about to start work building our eco-library – the plan is to make the walls with tyres and bottle bricks and to cover it with a ‘green roof’.

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Breakfast with Rosana

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Just across  the Rio Marumbi from Pousada Serra Verde you will find Rosana Conservas. It is here in a small kitchen that Rosana makes her  famous preserves and jams.

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Rosana uses locally sourced fruit and vegetables (if you look out the window at breakfast here you can see where the Xu Xu is grown!). Her products are tasty, natural, have no added colourings, preservatives and a low carbon footprint. You can visit the kitchen, small shop and meet  Rosana most days between 8am and 6pm.

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Here at Pousada Serra Verde we love serving Rosana’s products with our breakfast – our favourites are Abacaxi com Gengibre, Mimosa and Doce de Goiaba. We are sure that you will love them too!

‘What if…’

In December 2002 I headed into the Bolivian Yungas to visit the remote mountain town of Chulumani. One morning I sat drinking coffee looking out over the forested mountains, listening to Strauss and thinking…what if ????

The Yungas

Six months later my trip was over and I returned to work in England. ‘What if…’ remained with me, though as routine and everyday life took over it got pushed further and further to the back of my mind.

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In December 2017 we changed ‘What if…’ to ‘Oh my God we’re doing this!’ We bought a disused pupunha plantation in the Brasilian Atlantic Rainforest and set about building our Pousada. Living the Dream isn’t easy; very long days, few days off, battling the elements, the forest and wildlife whilst coming to terms with a different culture and language all have presented huge challenges over the last 16 months. However last Sunday I sat in the sun, drinking coffee, listening to Strauss in our Pousada in the Brasilian rainforest; no longer thinking ‘What if…’

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Finally Open!!!!

It’s been a long year with it’s fair share of ups and downs but on 28th December Pousada Serra Verde opened!

We have 2 family chalets, an accessible chalet & a hostel which sleeps groups of upto 7. 

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The pool and Fairy Trail have been real hits and we have been delighted that our guests seem to love Serra Verde as much as we do!

IMG-20181226-WA0000.jpgThere’s no time to rest though with our 2019 projects including 2 glamping pitches and the construction of a library from tyres and bottles with a green roof! #livingthedream #pousadaserraverde

One Year On…

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We’ve now been in Brasil for a year. As was to be expected it has been a challenging but rewarding time. We arrived to find our house half eaten by cupim, the roof leaking badly, the water tower about to collapse, much of the land badly overgrown and then faced endless beaurocracy whilst trying to sort things out.

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However we have risen to all the challenges thrown at us and amongst other things built 5 chalets, 2 fossa’s, a water tower, a swimming pool, endless walls and fences, re-roofed the house, replaced cupim riddled house walls and windows, built paths, opened an English school, become part of the community and rescued Luna (our dog).

 

We’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot of new skills including: how to manage the forest, how to handle snakes, endless building skills, gambiarra, how to open an English school, the children have both become fluent in Portuguese, how  not to get too frustrated with how long it takes to get anything done, how to live with frequent and long power cuts and how  to really enjoy a much simpler and more basic lifestyle.

Our English school in Morretes opened this week and our Pousada – Pousada Serra Verde   

will be opening at the end of this month.

So we are pleased with our progress thus far and are really looking forward to year 2!!!

Wildlife at Serra Verde

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One of the things I love about living at Serra Verde is that you never quite know what you’re going to meet as you wander through the garden.

We’ve not been here a year yet and have met monkeys, iguana’s, an ocelot, snakes, a huge array of butterflies, toucans, woodpeckers and numerous other birds of all shapes, colours and sizes!FB_IMG_1540403190949

The Atlantic Rainforest has incredible biodiversity and we feel blessed to be able to live here. Once Pousada Serra Verde opens in December we look forward to sharing this wonderful place with you!

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Real Ale in the Rainforest!

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ThePorto de Cima Brewing  Company is to be found in the shadow of the Marumbi mountains on the banks of the Rio Nhundiaquara.

In this tranquil setting Curt uses the flavours and aromas of the Floresta Atlantica to create some truly memorable beers.

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With more than 17 labels there is a beer for all tastes – my new personal favourite being ‘Joao De Barro’, which is an English style bitter ale! The brewery terrace looks out over a stunning mountain vista and is a truly special place to enjoy a beer.

The brewery and beer garden are open Friday – Sundays, 2pm -6pm and are well worth a visit.

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