Day 41: The Sao Francisco River Valley7 min read

Breakfast this morning was SO good! French rolls, cheese, and some sweet bread with coconut that reminded me of the pan de coco that my family loves to get at China Town in Seattle. Mmmm…it was one of the many highlights of my day.

Passion FruitWe left the house around 9:00 to meet up with a friend of the Reiner’s who would take us to a grape plantation. The man’s name is Marceu and we picked him up at the place where he works. He took us to a plantation, and the owner of the plantation, Renato, gave us a personal tour of the vineyards!

Petrolina is still a desert area, but it has the Sao Francisco River running through it. Because of this river, the Sao Francisco River Valley is home to many fruit plantations. We drove by fields and fields of grapes, passion fruit (maracuja), coconuts, bananas, guava (guiaba), and several other things I can’t remember.

Crops are harvested from the valley all year long because it doesn’t get cold here. It’s just warm, ideal crop-growing conditions all the time, and Sao Francisco provides a steady supply of irrigation. So the plantations are designed in such a way that parts of them are being harvested while the other parts are already producing the next crops.

Tasting the Passion FruitRenato began by showing us his passion fruit. The ones he grows go to the local stores and markets. Marceu broke open a couple and we tasted the fruit inside them. It reminded me a lot of gooseberries because of its tartness, and it even looks like a massive gooseberry. However, I thought it tasted a little better. I also know what sweetened maracuja tastes like, and I love it. πŸ™‚

Next we moved onto the grapes, and we learned all about the process of growing, tending, and harvesting grapes. We started with some vines that had already been harvested and we’re in the process of beginning a new crop. Some of them were being pruned to remove access foliage, and others were already producing big bunches filled with hundred of tiny grapes. Basically, the field had grapes in every stage of development.

Unripe GrapesI do not remember the exact number, but I think they said that the ideal bunch of grapes has no more than 100 grapes on it. When the new bunches start producing, a section of the vine has thousands and thousands of “grapes” on it, so they have to be pruned way back so that only a few hardy bunches will produce satisfactory fruits.

We moved onto some bunches of grapes that were a light purple, and they let us try them. They were so good! But, they told us that they were not ready to be harvested. But if they already tasted good, the ones that were ready would be even better.

So we moved on to the dark purple ones that were ready for harvesting, and sure enough, they were amazing! Mmmm…fresh grapes off the vine. I had lots of fun taking pictures of them and eating them as we walked along. It was so fun to just keep eating fresh grapes as I walked among them.

Ripe Purple Grapes

Next we looked at the green grapes. We also looked at the various stages that they were in and ate some. After that we moved on to the processing and packing building where workers packaged the grapes to be sold. Each box of grapes holds 10 half-pound containers of grapes, and we watched as they measured out the grapes with the new weighing machines that Renato had just started using.

Grapes GiftAs we left the building, Renato presented presented us with a whole box of grapes as a gift. It was such a pleasant surprise! Five pounds of fresh grapes from the vineyard we had just trod. Before we left we thanked him for his time and kindness and got a picture with him.

We drove back to the warehouse where Marceu works and he took us around the giant refrigerators to show us several more varieties of grapes. For 20+ years he has been in the exportation business, receiving grapes from the growers and selling them abroad.

Tasting GrapesWe tried four different kinds of grapes, two more seedless purple varieties, a seedless green variety, and a seeded green variety. The green ones with seeds were the sweetest green grapes I have ever eaten, and I couldn’t believe how good they were. When we left, we got one more surprise- he gave us a box of purple grapes and the two boxes of green grapes! So we went home with about 20 pounds of grapes!

It was such an enjoyable morning of learning and free stuff. We got to enjoy really good grapes for the rest of the week because of the generosity of those two men. Now if I ever see grapes from the Sao Francisco River Valley, I can say that I have been there and experienced it!

We ate lunch back at the Reiner’s house with Uncle Jim and Aunt Julie right before they made the trip back north to Crato. We had lasagna, garlic bread, cajuina, and of course, grapes. πŸ™‚

It was sad to see the Leonard’s go because I had spent every single day with them since I arrived. More than that, I wished they could have stayed with us to help with the ministries that we were going to be involved in during est of the week. But Uncle Jim had some important meetings to attend, and they would return on Saturday, so we said good-bye to them and looked forward to their return.

Boarding the Ferry on the Sao FranciscoAfter resting for a couple hours and making some snacks for EBF, Uncle Doug took us downtown in Petrolina where we took a short ferry ride across the river and visited some shops. When we first got off the boat, Uncle Doug bought coconuts for both Destiny and me, and we sipped fresh coconut juice as we walked down the streets.

Speaking of which, I’ve heard it called coconut juice, coconut water, and coconut milk. How can it be so many different things? Weird. I never think of milk, juice, and water as being even close to the same thing.

Moving on, we came to a store that was like a dollar store, and Uncle Doug sent Danae, Destiny, and me in there to buy a ball. We needed a ball for the games that evening at EBF, so he gave Dnae R$ 20 and told us to buy the cheapest ball we could use.

Drinking Coconut JuiceSo we went in there, found the balls, and Danae successfully asked the employees for the price of the ball we wanted and purchased it. We all felt great after that minor accomplishment.

As we walked back to the river we stopped by a large music store that had several interesting instruments in the windows. We gawked over them as Danae pointed out a one-valve trumpet, pocket trumpets, and a trumpet with a slide or something like that. It was really fun to see so many weird things in one place.

Destiny with EBF KidsWe rode the ferry back across the river, went back to eat a supper of vegetable soup, garlic bread, grapes, and cajuina, and then we went to Juazeiro Oito for the second night of EBF. We had a few more kids tonight, and once again we had fun singing and playing games with them. Once again I watched as the kids walked home by themselves at night when we finished…

Uncle Doug took us to an outdoor restaurant for a snack on the way home. They grill meat on a stick, just like a kabob with nothing but meat, and they served it to us in long hot-dog bun-like pieces of bread. I tried both kinds of beef and the frango (chicken), and I liked one of the beef Β ones the best.

Well, that’s it for today. It was a really long, really enjoyable day, and tomorrow we get to go to Bahia to visit rest of the Atha family. Not sure exactly what all is planned, but I heard we get to do some driving around with William. Oh buddy… πŸ™‚

Danae Eating Meat on a Stick

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