terça-feira, 7 de setembro de 2010

Colina do Sol ... paradise at last

Article: Virtually Magazine, by Richard West

As you can see from the previous article, Praia do Pinho is a work in progress. While it is a spectacular accomplishment, is well organized and policed, and has more facilities than most clubs, for Celso it was not quite finished. Celso's dream was to create a Naturist paradise which offered sufficient support and structure to city people, so that they would be able to move to there permanently. While there are several houses in Turtle's paradise, and businesses such as the restaurants support some members, it still fell short of Celso's dream. This, in addition to political considerations, caused him to look elsewhere for the paradise he still sought.

"Paula and I left Pinho beach one day. In 30 minutes we sold our house and restaurant. Actually, it might have been more like 20 minutes. I walked to the beach and asked of a friend, "Do you want to buy my house?" I asked another, "Do you want to buy my restaurant?" I left Pinho beach in less than 30 minutes with $20,000. Perhaps one day I'll sell Colina do Sol in 10 minutes. We like to be free; if we have chains we cannot be free."

"Pinho Beach was a lot of work. I had no previous experience doing anything like this and had to make things up as I went along. There were no INF delegates to help out. After that however, there was a man who had 14 hectares of land by a beach called Pedras Altas (High Rocks.) He had gone to Pinho Beach, liked what he saw, and like many others asked me to come and create a Naturist beach. I went to Pedras Altas and realized that it was a beautiful beach and that we could do something here. It is a secluded beach with clear calm water. We began to think that this is where we could carry on with the project to build a place where people could come and live and work. We could develop a lot of ecological and holistic enterprises with the cooperation of this individual. Pedras Altas started another kind of job with its own difficulties and it was not a good job. Pinho Beach was a good job; I really enjoyed swimming out and catching boats, dragging whales, chasing after helicopters, and challenging the authorities by changing public opinions. It was an adventure which felt good when we won. At Pedras Altas we built a beautiful project to start a new Naturist beach, but we soon ran into a wall of bureaucratic problems. We spent 2 years of work and meetings in offices with the deputy's assembly, the governor and with the mayor getting approval for buildings and with concerns about the environment etc etc etc. The politicians and authorities were on our side this time; they wanted to help us. We started; we created a Naturist beach, but after all this time we still didn't have approval to build all of the bungalows and buildings that we wanted to make. There were some people in public places that we needed approval from, who must have been against Naturism, and would not sign the necessary forms. Pedras Altas was at least twice as hard as Pinho Beach to get started, and I didn't get the same results ... but I learned a lot."

"Finally, when we decided to look for another property to start another project, which today is Colina do Sol, we combined all of our experience that we had from Pinho Beach, from Tambaba, from São Paulo, from Rio and Pedras Altas. We learned from our successes and failures and decided this time to do everything right, because Colina do Sol had to work. The success and level of development that you see here is the result of a lot of experiences. We needed to have intelligent ideas written in models for contracts and rules, a code of ethics, and clear procedures so that investors would feel secure putting their money into the project. We have a clear line. People know what to expect from them. People can come here and expect to be here for years. They have confidence in Paula and myself because of everything that we have created before. We have some good friends and partners from many of the previous projects but we alone are recognized for our persistence in reaching our objectives."

"We came to Rio Grande do Sul because my father had a house. Paula and I had 2 children by this time, Gabriel and Valentina. I started my Naturist magazine again. I had published 3 issues of Naturis magazine and then stopped for 2 years. Now I was starting it again. We spent 1.5 years looking for some property to start a Naturist club. When we saw the property we realized, finally, this was beautiful. This is where we had to build our Naturist club. After looking at 30 or 40 different areas, we said, "Wow, this was it!" By that time however, we were completely broke. All our money had been spent and we had no money to buy it with."

"I had many friends from Pinho Beach and other places that had told me, "No problem Celso, when you are ready to start a club just call us; we want to be your partner, we will help." I started making phone calls and telling my friends that I had found a place and wanted to start a club. As soon as they found out where it was, they would say, "Where?? Rio Grande do Sul?? It's in the south. It's too cold there. You can't have a Naturist club that far south." No one would even come to look at the land. But Paula and I believed that this was the place to start a new and successful project. The property was for sale, and we were determined to have it. I remembered a man from near Pinho beach, who had money and was familiar with my work. After discussing my plans for the property, he was the first to come and see the land. There was nothing but grass and trees at the time, but as I showed him around I pointed out where I was going to build the lake, and where the volleyball court would be, and where the houses and buildings would go. He was impressed and told me that he could see that I was enthusiastic, so he agreed to lend me the money to buy the land. It was not cheap. He agreed to lend me $50,000 with 3% interest per month, ($1500 per month in interest) and regardless he wanted the $50,000 paid back in full within 12 months. Furthermore, the first interest payment was due in 30 days."

"It was August, the middle of the winter in Brazil. There was a guy who worked watching the land, who was to be paid $100 per month, and we didn't even have that much. My father guaranteed the loan with his house. We started writing to all the friends we knew, that were interested in living and working in a Naturist project, and 20 days later we had the first meeting of Naturists. On 20 August, we had 9 Naturists arrive. In order to finance the project, our plan was to sell concessions. The idea is simple, if someone wants to run a business operation such as a store, he purchases a concession which gives him the right to run the business. We don't sell the land, only the rights; membership and house are separate. This allows people to move to Colina do Sol full time, and make money while living there. We still needed to make the first interest payment in another 10 days, but during that meeting we sold our first concession for $1500. After this first sale we were sure that Colina do Sol would be a great success. Our dream was quickly becoming a reality."

Colina do Sol occupies the top of a hill, with a spectacular view of the surrounding forests and other hills. Way below you can look down on the small village of Taquara. You can see it especially well from the upper balcony of the saloon. The saloon is large building with a bar, dance floor, and pool table. It is one of the many concessions which operate in the club. There is a restaurant of course which comfortably seats 30 or 40 people inside and out, and has a nice variety of Brazilian food. The food here is quite different from North American, but is also quite palatable. There is a store which sells a wide selection of food and necessities. One of the concessions is for the construction of houses and other buildings, which are going up in record numbers (about 2 starts per month.) To service these building starts, there is a hardware store. (That's right - a fully functional hardware store, to purchase plumbing, nails, axes etc.) This is the only hardware store I am aware of in any Naturist club! Another concession worth noting, is the BBQ. [In Brazil, BBQs are a major specialty which are as identifiable with Brazilian cuisine as pizza is with Italy. When in Brazil, you definitely want to dine at a BBQ, which typically is a large restaurant with a 40 foot wood fired grill, and 40 to 50 different types of BBQed meat on the menu.] The BBQ in Colina is a building which offers the same service to club members, but scaled down. There is also a 14 room motel, sauna / hot tub, exercise room. There is a camping area - for tents. These are the main concessions, but they continue to expand.

Construction is going on at a tremendous rate. Within 3 years of purchasing the property, (which has long since been paid for by the way), there were 65 buildings. These range in size from small cabins to the saloon and hotel. One house that I visited was 3 storeys high and featured a carport. The interesting thing about the buildings is that they take advantage of the abundant supply of natural materials. From the forests eucalyptus trees are used for beams and corner posts, since they are long and straight, and taper very little. Once the frame is in place stones, which are readily available, are used to build the walls, along with cement which is mixed from the camp's gravel. Probably half the material cost of construction is free. Originally, an artificial lake was built. This has now been finished with cement to become a large swimming pool, and a 3 ha lake has been built to take its place. The lake features a beach which Celso is particularly proud of, because truckloads of sand were shipped in from 200 km away to make a really nice sandy beach. Actually, there is a second lower lake, and off the large lake there is a marshy area that has attracted the attention of many wild birds. Of course there is volleyball, along with a small soccer pitch, various other games and a nice playground for the kids. There are walkways and roads all around the club, and particularly around the lake there has been a lot of landscaping done. The camp is also secured by large gates at both ends of the camp. One of the interesting ideas is actually off the camp. Several, non-Naturist concessions offering holistic services are under construction. The idea is to encourage local non-Naturists to use these services, who will then become interested in the club, located right next door.

Colina do Sol represents the pinnacle of success of Naturism in Brazil. Though it is a very new club, it was built on a solid foundation of knowledge and experience from many other projects, successes and failures, throughout the country. The membership obviously reflects this solid foundation, as it is growing at an enormous rate. It is not uncommon for a club owner to pull out a photo album and show off the 'early days' of his club, pointing out events that took place in the 'old' lake before the 'new' one was built, etc. Celso did this. The difference here, though you wouldn't notice until it is pointed out, is that the 'early days' were not 30 or 40, but only 3 short years ago. Certainly, I plan to return to this paradise, but from what I have seen it wouldn't surprise me if I disembark at the 'Colina do Sol airport!'

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