Guide} Its ok to swim here.
Me} Are you sure? We're only 50 metres away from the Piranhas.
Guide} There's piranhas here too but the water is 4m deep and they only bite
in shallow water.
Me} Well, OK then....
Approximately 3 minutes later...
Me} OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! F*/k, F*/k, F*/k. (Desperately swims the 10m back
When I got to the shore I found that I had a small chunk of my left big toe
missing and blood pouring everywhere. The fish in the water were going
crazy for my blood but luckily there was a doctor in the camp I was staying in,
she patched me up and my toe is now on the mend quite nicely. A nice way to
finish Brazil you feel....
I last wrote before Xmas so I trust you all had a good time and New Year
was enjoyable too. B4 Xmas I went to a couple of places off the coast b4 I
reached Rio. Firstly I went to Brasilia which I found really interesting
and very different. The entire city was planned to look like an aeroplane in
the 1950s, was built in 3 yrs and is all built in the modernist style, a sort
of St Petersburg for the 20th century. Therefore architecturally its one of
the most important cities in the world and some of the buildings most notably
the Cathedral really are incredible. However, the city famously doesn't
work in a lot of ways with no provisions made for pedestrians and a complete
lack of culture meaning everyone who can afford it flies to Rio for the weekend.
Which is what I did and arrived in Rio on Xmas Eve eve. It was the first
time I'd ever been away from home for Xmas and it really sucked in Brazil.
Everybody works on Xmas eve but the big meal and present giving is about
10pm, on Xmas Day itself very little happens thats unusual and I was
confronted with the bizarre sight of open shops, a fully functioning bus
service and even things like shopping malls open. I, along with everyone
else went to the beach and sunbathed in 42 degree heat instead of watching
the Queen. Strange. New Year was a lot better, everybody wears white and
goes to the beach. The Black Eyed Peas gave a free concert in front of
around 2 million people on Ipanema and it really was a spectacular evening
which didnt end till about 8.30 the next morning.
The only problem was that there were absolutely no limits on people geting
onto the beach and in a city of some 2 million slum dwellers this meant
there were some pretty rough characters around during the concert but I
didnt get robbed and really enjoyed the concert.
Rio had quite a strange feel to it, it is the most beautiful city Ive ever
been to but it feels oddly static. I think this is because (like in
everywhere in Brazil barring Sao Paulo) theres not really a middle class of
any note. There's a big rich population who live on the beach and enjoy the
sunsets and a huge poor population who have no education and no real means
to improve their lives. Theres no entrepreneurialism and I later read that
the economy has not got grown in 30 years in Rio and as a city it seems
content with its natural setting without trying to improve things.
The sites are really great however, and I did Sugarloaf, Corcovado and the
Maracana of course.
I also went running everyday as with sugarloaf and Copacabana as a backdrop
its not exactly hard to get yourself motivated. After New Year I dragged
myself away but found another slice of paradise in an island off the coast
near Rio called Ilha Grande. On my first nite there I managed to stun 15
noisy Brazilian holidaymakers into silence by eating 1.5 kilos of rice and
beans washed down with an entire bottle of hot sauce. After this tho I
became very popular and spent an entire week living the dream with a group
of Brazilian students smoking js and drinking beer on the beach by day and
drinking beer and smoking js on boat parties by nite. Not exactly a hard
When they left I did too and went to the slightly different surroundings of
Sao Paulo. At around 18m people only Tokyo and Mexico City come any bigger
and it was so big and the people so tough it made London look like High
Wycombe. Really it was scary even for a Londoner. I only lasted a couple of
days and whilst it was interesting seeing the huge financial district and
the Japanese community (the largest in the world outside of Japan) I really
was happy to leave.
And thats when I got to the Pantanal and got partly eaten by Piranhas. The
Pantanal is a huge area of wetlands encompassing a huge part of Brazil as
well as parts of Parguay and Bolivia. It's one of the best places in the
world to spot wildlife and I saw Capybara, many alligators and even an
The best way to get around is by horseback and definitely a memory I'll
from this trip is galloping over swamp as far as the eye can see in an
almighty storm. Truly memorable.
I'm now in Paraguay for a few days but will be heading onto Argentina and
then returning to Brazil for Carnaval in February. Hope your lives all go