At a fazenda, exploring Rio de Janeiro surroundings

Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos with God’s Finger standing high

If this wasn’t my most unusual weekend. Although I’m from Sardinia, land of farmers and shepherds, it never happened to me to stay in a farm for more than a lunch span.

During this trip to Brazil, while I’m based in Fortaleza, I’m spending a week in Rio de Janeiro, one of my favorite cities in the world, if not the number one among all. Apart from visiting the wonderful Feira Hippie, the Sunday market where artists and local artisans showcase their work, and walking along breathtaking Rio’s promenade, this time I had the chance to spend a truly unusual weekend at a fazenda, typical Brazilian farm at about two hours drive from Rio, where cows live together with horses, donkeys, chickens, parrots and all kinds of tiny colorful birds.

Our fazenda

The route, filled with near-misses and nasty bends, offers unforgettable views. On the way to Teresópolis, lovely city named after the former empress Teresa, we admired the overwhelming views of Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos, National Park of Organs (the musical instrument), a gorgeous mountain range formed by a cluster of peaks close to each other and resembling an organ.

Just before Teresópolis a lay-by allows tourists to stop and photograph the peaks, with God’s Finger, the highest boulder, commanding the view.

Our green friend harassing the horse of the farm

As soon as we (my parents, my friends and I) arrived at the fazenda, we were welcomed by two gorgeous horses and a sweet little donkey. Growing up in Sardinia did put me in contact with plenty of sheep, horses, cows, chickens and all sorts of domestic animals, but I lived in a town so had little contact with the farming reality. However, I can say I felt immediately at ease. I could easily understand why being surrounded by animals is considered therapeutical.

I’m perfectly aware that in a mere weekend I couldn’t have the chance to understand what living and working in a farm is like,  but nevertheless, these two days gave me a hint of it.

Cows early morning arriving for milking

The first thing I did was to greet all (or so I thought) members of the farm, with a longer stop with horses and dogs, that appreciated my cuddles better than the other ones, probably due to a lack of cuddles their way. I believe workers have little time for cuddles.

Especially the horse proved lovely, coming near every time I approached his fence and posing clearly in the wait for a cuddle.

I was not as lucky with the little calves. I tried to go near very slowly, I crouched, I held out my hand to them slowly not to scare them, I was dying to give them a cuddle, but apparently they were not as willing to receive it. At every step of mine they shook terrified. I crouched and held out my hand until one of them looked curious enough to get close to me, put his head under my hand and flee as soon as I moved a finger. A fleeting moment of farming bliss.

Nei milking and the ever-present parrot supervising

The morning after, at dawn, after quickly visiting the chickens and their little ones, we joined the farmer Nei for the milking, waiting for the cows to arrive and gather with their calves. So many things I learned in less than an hour I watched Nei at work. For cows to produce milk they need to see their calf, if the calf accidentally dies, the farmer can “trick” the cow by showing her the little one’s skin, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.

Nei pouring the fresh milk into a bigger container

Another thing I learned, although I doubt this is the rule, parrots like fresh milk. Every time Nei poured the fresh milk into the big container, his green parrot (that couldn’t even bear my presence) took a sip. Although I did feel this parrot was a bit confused and didn’t have a clear idea of his role in the planet, I found his dirty beak very funny.

The parrot caught red-handed

We soon learned this parrot is actually the main character in the farm, he’s always everywhere, he’s the constant presence in almost all my pictures, he tried to peck at me (and once even succeeded) every time I was ready to take a shot, he was always in poll position whatever thing we were to do and whatever place we were to visit. He only trusts, and doesn’t peck at, Nei and his brother, he flies to their shoulder or head as soon as he sees them, when they go catch the bus, he boards with them. A constant cute, grumpy presence. Needless to say, he also pecked at the horse.

The sweetest moment when the baby calves drank mother’s milk

Let’s be honest, grumpy parrots or not, shy calves or not, I adored being surrounded by such natural environment and behaviors. Such a pity it was only two days, I wouldn’t mind at all staying there for a month or else, give me a laptop and an internet connection, and this can easily become my office.

  1. Oh, I think I could easily do more than two days there, too. Perfect scenery and spending time with the animals. Love how the parrot was ever-present! :)

    • It was absolutely lovely, I don’t even remember last time I slept so well. The parrot was adorable, he couldn’t stand me but he was always around me, I think he was still trying to figure me out :P

  2. On a passé 2 journées magnifiques!Le brésil c’est ça aussi, une nature magnifique, pas obligatoirement les plages et la mer!

  3. Della settimana a Rio questi giorni alla fazenda sono stati i più belli: natura incontaminata, mungitura come si usava in Sardegna anni fa,pace, silenzio! pensare che la modernissima e popolosa Rio è a soli 100 km!

  4. I would LOVE to do this. I really enjoy the rural life in Brazil and have been looking for more places to see animals, enjoy the nature,etc. In fact, I am preparing a post about possibilities for Brazil to promote more tourism to the rural areas, through something like an agriturismo.

  5. I love parrots!!! They are very intelligent and can get very attached to their owners as demonstrated here. In some species, any separation from their owners can lead to severe depression where they start picking out their feathers etc. Not sure of the species here but he seems very well looked after and happy as well. You are right when you say, he was sizing you up. Probably, if you had been there longer, he would have warmed up to you. I would like to own one but obviously traveling and parrot ownership do not mix. Your last photo of him nicking the milk is so adorable.

  6. Despite the fact that I have never been in Rio de Janeiro after reading this post I can easily say that there are a lot of interesting travel activities available in Rio de Janeiro surroundings. Thus, travelers can always relax and spend time with pleasure in Rio de Janeiro and its surrounding areas.

  7. This sounds amazing! I loved spending time in farm country in Costa Rica, because of the tropical touches, like the birds!

  8. Reply
    Cole @ August 29, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Cutest photo of the parrot and horse. Looks like a fun experience.

  9. I will keep this in mind when I make my way to Brazil. I think I would need a relaxing escape after the busy city of Rio.

  10. Rio has so many cliches and can be so easily dismissed as being about beaches and g-strings. I love that you’ve found something like this just an hour or two away from it. It shows much more depth to the place!

    • There is so much more than that in Rio, it’s such a vibrant city, you can find street dance around every corner, you just feel the vibe as soon as you get there, so far it’s one of my most favorite cities ever.

  11. Glad to read that you were able to get some animal therapy and enjoy the fresh air. Cities are fun, but green spaces are for recharging.

  12. Looks like an amazing time. Our travels haven’t taken us to Brazil yet, but when we go, I’m going to visit a farm. What a great experience. PS. I love the parrot.

  13. Dear Angela,
    I saw the amazing fazenda and wondered where I can find it. I am in Rio de Janeiro now looking for a farm like this. Is it possible to contact tha place?


    • Hi Christina, it was a very beautiful place indeed, but it’s a private house, I wouldn’t know if there are these types of farms that open to visitors, maybe tour operators do organize such experience for tourists? Let me know if you find any!

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