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Brazil

Elsewhere in Brazil

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
to shore

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
week.
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
anaconda.
The best way to get around is by horseback and definitely a memory I'll
keep
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
well.
From Ascuncion,
Barney

Posted by carlswall 04:49 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

NE Brazil

You know you've been in the tropics a while when you step out the door and
think "Its a bit cooler today" (as happened yesterday) and then see a
thermometer which reads 31 degrees. So seasons greetings from a no doubt
slightly warmer Brazil.
The last month has seen me traveling along the North East coast which has
seen me go off the tourist map but also hit the party scene pretty hard
after a while in the interior.
My first visit was to an island in the Amazon called Marajo where life has
stood still in a lot of ways. The pace of life was beautifully slow and
after renting a bike for a couple of days found myself weaving in and out of
the meandering buffalo en route to coastal villages where the locals were
just a little bemused to see me. I camped on the beach and gloriously woke
up to the sunrise each morning. After briefly stopping in a couple of
colonial cities which weren't great (Belem and Sao Luis for the record) I
went to no less than 3 national parks in the course of a week. I was
traveling in Piaui and Ceara states which are the poorest part of Brazil
and the stereotypical Brazilian images of Rio, beaches or even the Amazon
did not apply here. The landscape was extremely dry with little vegetation
and infertile land. Transport was only possible via 4 wheel drives on
tortuous sand tracks which meant progress was also slow. The first park was
a stunning sand dune filled area called Lencois (literally 'bed linen') as
the dunes look like this from afar. The dunes are studded with freshwater
pools and I felt incredibly free running up and down the sand with nothing
but more dunes as far as the eye could see. Unfortunately I ran out of food
and so had to leave but happily carried on into a couple of parks in the
interior. These were perhaps less spectacular but I did enjoy going into
smalltown Brazil well off the tourist map and talking to the locals, some of
which had never even heard of England.
It was then time to hit the carnaval in the city of Natal. I really cannot
put into words just how much fun a carnaval is. The best description I can
give is like trying to drink as much as you can for four days but still
being able to carry on dancing to the constant music provided by the bands
passing by on the floats. You can spend a lot (i.e. $50 a nite) and go into
the VIP bit or spend nothing but the 30p beers you drink on the street. I
did the latter and had an absolute blast mixing with the locals, I was there
with couple of other English lads and had four v memorable nites in a
row....
Unfortunately the day after Carnaval finished I was (even for my standards)
spectacularly sick and had 9 separate vomiting sessions. I think my body was
giving me a message and so we headed to one of the many beach resorts which
line the beautiful North Eastern coastline.
I got back on it the next day and had another 4 days of heavy drinking
followed by going to the beach and even swimming with dolphins which came
within about 20 ft of the shore.
After partying so much I decided I needed to calm down a little and went to
the picturesque colonial city of Olinda where I saw many churches and viewed
a couple of the free dance performances which the locals absolutely love
doing.
I'm now in the city of Salvador which is one of if not the cultural centre
of the country. The nightlife and music here too are very good although being
hassled literally every minute by street kids, the homeless and prostitutes
really gets tiresome after a couple of days.
Salvador is also the centre of 'black Brazil' and Ive found it very
interesting coming here. Brazil (along with South Africa) has always been
the Sociology textbook example of how your color determined your place in
society. With a succession of socialist governments various positive
discrimination laws were brought in but the lower status of darker
Brazilians can be seen in more subtle ways. Virtually no-one on television
is very dark at all. The most popular telenovela (soap opera) Chocolate e
Pimhentos may as well have been cast in Ireland. Most of the cast have my
colorings despite the fact that less than 1% of the country seem to look
like this and its also true of the politicians, models and business leaders
where most of them are far whiter than the average Brazilian. However, the
country is clearly moving fwd under Lula and I am loving being in this
beautiful country which seems to love partying more than anywhere else in
the world. The people are very happy here and its easy to see why (according
to the BBC website) 11,000 Brits have moved here.

I realize this has been a stupidly long email so Ill stop now to view the
Xmas advertising which all incorporate snow/robins etc despite the fact that
no part of Brazil ever receives snow! A few of you have asked for photos so
Ill also send a couple of links to albums from the Amazon and carnaval so
apologies for bombarding your mailboxes. Tonight Ill be heading into the
interior to an old mining town then onto Brasilia and eventually Rio for
Xmas and what sounds like the best NYE anywhere in the world. I hope Santa
brings you all the presents you want for Xmas and I know its been said many
times, many ways but Feliz Natal a tudo voce!
From Salvador,
Barney

Posted by carlswall 04:41 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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