A lime green and yellow church sits by a sprinkle of houses, all pastel coloured and tinted with dust and sun. Silence of the dunes is broken, great stretches of pasture appear.
A true gaucho – hat, belt, knife in belt, even a checkered shirt – rides along, 4 dogs following in a straight line behind him. They are all different breeds. They follow in order of size.
A tartaruga crosses the rode to the other lake, her green storied shell glowing luminous in the bright sun.
A boy runs around his lawns, dodging ceramic swans, riding a stick and whipping his rope in a gallop,
A young girl walks out of a stone off-white house, with a yellow metallic roof. A large velvety white flower pats her in the face with a soft slump, bouncing back on its long neck to laugh with its siblings. The small blonde girl steps back, disappearing slightly into the doorway, before returning with a strong punch to the offending blossom. Flying back it dodges while another leaps forward. Batted back and forth the girl fought valiantly against this tamed untamed pot plant, before relenting and running back inside, as we move along our way.
We are driving on the 101 from Rio Grande; where our car was popped on a boat to be towed across to São José do Norte. The fields stretch and the houses are eaten by the landscape. We are now creeping along a spit of Rio Grande do Sul, between the sea and dunes on one side, and more dunes, and the massive Lagoa dos Patos, on the other. Horses pick gently, grazing, sharing vast expanse with lumbering, kind eyed vacas. Cowww and vaa-ca. Was it something about their soft noses and huge eyes that made both languages name them onomatopoeically? In Portuguese, onomatopoeia is onomatopéia. It’s a small world after all.
The sunset stains the clouds deep reds and mystic purples, while the horizon glows orange. The low lights reflect on flat mirror ponds, sunk into soil, tracing the vermillion and violet linings of clouds. Why do we wish for silver when gold shines so much brighter?
A large, soft, nose, covered in short, brown, hair, nudges through the water, sending the sketches shivering. Slick, its furred brown back rises out of the water, as the capybara wades through the marshland. After the first, whole clans appear, with small children following like baby bears with moomin shaped heads. While they walk slowly, and we crawl along so as not to miss them, the sun falls fast without our attention. The horizon shrunk to a line of embers, as we slipped into dusk.
After we passed the boarder last night, a run to Rio Grande, to sleep, we slowed to a crawl on the 471, between Levante and Santos. A long road of dunes, between Mangueira Lagoon and Lago Merin. On the other side of Mangueira Lagoon is the sea. One side the dunes are unspoilt, gleaming almost white in the sun, while the other has scrubs, and even pines, exploding out of the dune. We come so close to large wind farms that I finally see their size, really, they even have little doors. Under the stretched blue sky, the undulating dunes, inhabited by spiky and rounded plants, look like the surface of some other planet. Here the road is uninhabited for a fast-forward of half an hour, maybe 40km of country – my pokey English distances don’t fit with this terrain.
Bright light nut wood sticks up in straightened posture, the walls of a house, its window looking over grazing land for a distance I can’t guess. A ladder leans on the structures side. It will have a roof before it’s done, but for now I imagine sitting in there, looking up at the great blue sky.
A house alone. The larger the surrounding space, between the house and any other buildings, the smaller it looks; the stronger it looks. Standing in contrast to the vastness around it, the smaller, the brighter, the more unassuming the house the greater its’ implicit strength. As, after all, it is standing, strong, without need for allies, gates, roads or tenements as company. Houses standing strong hold human outposts in the expanse of Sertão space.
A country so beautiful to make hearts stop and blood spill, still so much space to be in, visibly. So much of it inhabited by cows, however, who knows how much is free in any sense – how much is as it once was? It’s unfair to ask this of Brazil over anywhere else – in the U.K we have converted a larger percentage of our country’s freeborn nature to pastures, towns, and the like. But Brazil holds more, more beauty, more diverse flora and fauna, more land left to take, or to protect; more people continuing ways of life only possible when so close to the land they live on. It is unfair to ask more of Brazil when so many of the countries asking have long ago destroyed most of their natural beauty, and killed almost all (or all) of their indigenous people (Hello, America), but it’s the cruelty always enacted on a beauty and mystery that rises above the rest – everyone wants to claim it, maybe to remove its habitants, to make it ‘usable’ by agricultural standards, maybe just to fence it off to keep it ‘safe’. Kátia Abreu, minister for agriculture calls indigenous people ‘lazy’, and tells the world that they have no right to their land. Because they don’t work it, don’t use it up and turn it into something other. It’s hard to watch the land with this in mind, and think of it disappearing, wiped over – as the mining sludge is still wiping away massive swaths of land in Mina Gerais, maybe the biggest environmental disaster in history.
That is happening countries, by European standards, away from Rio Grande Do Sul. Though there still lies in the land the beauty that people have killed for. We keep driving, what else can you do, everyone wants to see the land, there is nothing like it. I want to walk across each plain and mountain, jump in the sea, and the waves beat in my chest. But we are driving, and yes, that hypocracy is clear to me. Because everyone wants a part of Brazil; of Sao Paulo, of Rio, of the Amazon, of Pantanal, of Rio Grande do Sul, of Florianopolis, of Para, all should be named but there are really too many, and states are still not specific enough. Like too many who have come to see, since the dawn of ‘exploration’, I also want my piece of Brazil, and I don’t want anyone else to touch it…