Days 122-128 – Vargem Grande

For those who have been reading our blog avidly (and I expect that is most of you, of course), our first encounter with the concept of ‘workaway’ was in Coyhaique in Chile where our host forgot all about us, didn’t have space and we ended up staying with a brewer we door-stepped for a week.

This week was our second encounter. We had been in correspondence with David for a few months, whose project we liked the sound of, and agreed to spend a week with him helping on his build. All we knew was he was building an eco-hostel in Vargem Grande, a small village in the rainforest an hour outside Rio, and we were to help somehow. The way it works is that for around 5 hours a day of labour, we get a bed and food, pretty good deal!

We met up with David, a lovely young father of a 4-month old, and a very enthusiastic, passionate man. He kept telling us how excited he was we were there and how beautiful we were (if he wasn’t married with a kid I’d have been more creeped out). 

He drove us to his building site via a waterfall for a quick dip plus a visit to numerous friends of his – he seems to know the entirety of Vargem Grande, despite not actually living there yet. The build is almost finished, but in the meantime he’s been living in an apartment in Barra, some 20 minutes away.

En route he explains to us that the floors in the house are being painted, so we can’t sleep there. Instead we are being hosted by Bill, his 65 year-old American neighbour!! When we arrive we find out that indeed we are being hosted by Bill for the first two nights until the floors are dry, which also means we need to work for Bill. Now Bill doesn’t live on a building site, so the only work he had for us was to clean. 

Not quite the work we had expected, but the house and views were quite special, and we had a very enjoyable two days cleaning Bill’s house, enjoying his good cooking and the cosy evenings watching Homeland on Netflix with our new friend. Bill has lived in Brazil for over thirty years, but before that sold bikes in California (to California’s elite, including Robin Williams!), fought in the Vietnam war, and traveled extensively. Needless to say we had wonderful conversations and he was full of anecdotes and tips, so we genuinely loved our time with him.

We then moved up to the house, which was an entirely different world. Completely unfurnished, very modern, no wifi, deserted after 4pm, but with the best views in town. David didn’t have huge amounts of work for us, but we filled our time planting seeds in the many grow beds, painting numerous fences and doors and generally tidying up after the 6 full time builders.

The plan was to build a family home, but David being the dreamer he is (this build has taken 2 years so far, as he keeps adding dreams to the list!), the revised plan is now to be a self-sufficient family home plus hostel, with numerous eco friendly elements. 

Although there wasn’t huge amounts to do, he was very keen to teach us about his way of life – he took us on drives, to the beaches (widely thought of as some of Rio’s best), to a farmers market and introduced us to his lovely family. He took us for very local meals, including our first try of fejoada, a bean stew, and farofa, a toasted manioc flour (which tasted like sand). He also introduced us to couve juice, which many seemed to drink every morning without fail and was growing in copious amounts in the gardens. It translates as collard greens, closely related to kale, and is juiced with some apple juice to make a healthy (yet very bitter) start to the day.

We were also introduced to real rainforest nature – in the mere 5 days we were there we saw toucans, a snake, 5 crocodiles and too many lizards and iguanas to count! 

Despite being only an hour outside Rio, it really is a different world, and one we’d hugely recommend seeing. Who knows, if you plan to travel to Rio any time in the new year (or more realistically later in the new year), do look up ‘Another World Hostel’, and go see for yourself. 

Bye for now x

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