Kategorie-Archiv: Brazil

Rio de Janeiro revisited

Final days and observations

Whenever I am leaving a place that I got to like and where I was staying a bit longer, I start looking at it differently. It’s a bit like saying good-bye to what I got used to in the last few years, month, etc.
Brazil only took seven-ish weeks to capture my heart and that despite all the world cup diversions.

So, I went back to Rio to finish off with Brazil and look at things differently. It is less looking for something new when you fresh arrived, but more like trying to imprint all you see into your memory to grasp as much as you can of the place that you know you are about to leave.

So, I did pretty much that and abused a walking tour for it, or met with a few people I met on the way. When I am doing this, this soaking in of things, all those little things that would catch my eye, that no local would pick up, but are perfectly describing the place for me, because they are so normal and yet so different from anywhere else, like this traffic light for instance, that amazed no one but myself.

Or, there is a place on Copacabana beach, in between all the bars that are there, which is run by the largest TV station, Globo. If you haven’t heard, Brazilians are obsessed, not only with football but even more so with telenovelas. And to that extend, that their president Dilma (Brazilians call their presidents by first name) rescheduled a meeting, because she wanted to see a season finale (yes, that was her official explanaition).
So unsurprisingly, that place at the beach has a few flat-screens and shows telenovelas until late. When I discovered it, about close to midnight, people were sitting there with their packed luggage stopping on the way to the airport to catch a flight, so they wouldn’t miss an episode…

telenovelas

Then, I did a few touristy things as well, like look at some architecture of libraries and town-halls. There was this museum contemporary art I went to and besides all the art, there was another thing I thought was very Brazilian. There was one room which was labeled adult content and that you should be older than 14 to view it.

pron

I had a chuckle, being on my way to a country, with legal drinking age of 21 and where countless people think porn is satans deed and intelligent design is socially acceptable.

Meanwhile, I went to that one market that all the cities seem to have. In Rio de Janeiro it is called Uruguaiana and it is really something. Yes, you can buy all the fake stuff and stolen things and its crowded as fuck, but what is special about it, is that, unlike most of those markets in other cities, here tourists and locals alike go there. It is normal to indulge in these places, as things are cheaper here then in most other parts of the town.

Which goes hand in hand with the fact that locals also buy of street vendors. Actually, it is perfectly normal to sit on the beach, getting served drinks by the bar that provides the chairs, buying food of some other dude that walks past and offers shrimps or fruit while completely ignoring the bars food menu and browse through the goods that are being brought to you, may it be cloth, jewelery or dvd’s; all genuine of course.
But it seems like this here, as soon as you have money, you’ll use it to display status or have other people work for you. Because labour is so cheap, anyone who can afford it, would rather pay someone to do their washing and groceries, than themselves. I’m not sure how much a washing machine is in Brazil, but R$10 doesn’t seem too cheap to get a small bag of cloth washed.

So off I go, making my way to the airport – giving a stop at the telenovela place a miss – but getting excited about meeting Morgane and cruising the country that couldn’t be more different to here in oh so many ways, not just legal drinking and porn age.

Ilha Grande, Paraty

ilha grande shore

Ilha Grande is one of those island paradises, that everyone always keeps talking about: no cars allowed and beautiful beaches everywhere.
Well, although it’s only town is rather touristy, the rest of the island is sheer beauty. So, I joined Kavita and Uli on their road trip towards São Paulo, stopping at Ilha Grande and Paraty, before I had to make my way back up to Rio de Janeiro again, to spend my last days of seven weeks Brazil there.
After all the World Cup madness that was exactly the decompression that I was looking for.

The drive down the coast from Rio de Janeiro was already very nice. And so different from driving up north and north-west. The roads are so much nicer and so are the houses along the road; even the poor seem to be richer down here. We also passed Brazil’s only nuclear reactor and although there are plans to build a second one, about 80% of Brazil’s energy is produced by hydroelectric plants. Wanna talk about carbon footprint in ‘first world’ nations?

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Once settled in we had to fight ourselves through the various tourist tour companies only to realise that all of them are pretty much doing the same and also grant the same ‘special discount’ – just for us of course. No surprise, but confident that we had as shit a deal as anyone else we book a tour around the whole island, stopping at various spots except the most famous beach, Lopes Mendes, which is a separate half-day tour. Fine with us, but.

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The tour featured jumping of high cliffs into beautiful bays, being lazy on white beaches, losing my sunnies again on one of them and bumpy speed boat rides that were a test for everyone’s vertebral column. So much fun, however towards the end it felt like it was one or two stops too many; sensor overload completed. Unplanned random encounter was seeing a whale. So good!

jumpin off here
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Serendipity struck at dinner. When we were about to leave and Kavita and I went to pay, the table next to us held up Uli, asking him if he wanted to see a picture of the most famous person in Manaus. After answering yes, he was shown a picture where someone takes a 15 person selfie with me (after the Germany win against Brazil). Uli couldn’t say much, but call me over and I was pretty baffled as well, to see that guy. I remember him using a steady-cam-harness for his videos and pictures. We exchanged emails and maybe I will get some footage. But given how my skill of acquiring footage has been so far, I am not holding my breath.

Paraty next. A well preserved colonial town famous for it’s historic center with it’s cobblestone car-free streets, that get flooded every high tide. It was also my last night with Uli, before he continues to São Paulo and I make my way back towards Rio de Janeiro. Needless to say we drew all the options available until the early morning, exercising all what Paraty had to give. That included torrential rain, a Mexican festival, which actually got better as the amplifiers failed, super cheap Caipirinhas that tasted like petrol, a lesbian bar, Uli thinking he could actually beat me in 10-pin and crossing broken bridges in early morning hours.

I was really grateful that I could meet him again after three years, so we parted with a smile the next day. As a good-bye gift he gave me his flag, that has been in Maracana for the final to make for mine being stolen out of my dorm room while I was asleep. I felt a bit ashamed that I had nothing to give back to him, but a lousy Polaroid the day before.

Hopped on the bus to Rio de Janeiro, mainly to do a bit more exploring and catching up with people I met along the way.

Rio de Janeiro

I arrived in Rio, knowing that Uli would be coming as well, one of my best friends from Germany, who I haven’t seen in years. So quickly checked into my hostel in Vidigal, which is one of the most famous favelas in Rio. However, it was close to the border of Vidigal and Leblon, which is one of the richest areas. The hostel was 300m from the German Team hotel, to give you and indication how close rich and poor are in Rio.

My hostel and the German team hotel

So we went out to see the Brazil Holland game for the third place with a bunch of Brazilians, all friends of Ulis friend Kavita. But we were both tired from our flights, so we only practiced a little bit for the day after.

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Which should be memorable in so many ways. While Uli was actually able to get a ticket (for way too much money) I watched with a bunch of random Germans behind the official Fan Fest at the Copacabana. We must have been about 50-100, maybe. We were joined by quite a number of Brazilians, who wanted to party with us. Hey, even a bunch of English guys were standing there supporting Germany (in German colours!). They asked me not to put any photos online however. But still we were outnumbered by the Argentinians by about ten to one.

I could not see the end of the game, because as soon as Germany scored with five minutes to go, some of the Argentinians that surrounded us, threw beach chairs at us, so even though we had the Brazilians protecting us. Everyone was running for the streets, where there were heavily armed policemen. I took a small hit in the rips and a scratch on the leg, while others got knocked out on the sand. Pretty intense, but it was just a few idiots.

This is not my video and it was only a third of the action, as you will notice the Germans are already gone:

Most Argentinians I met after were friendly, although still a bit sour. I found Kavita and Uli a while later at the apartment they rented around the corner and we went out to Lapa until early morning, to finish it off with a swim at Copacabana around 9h30. What a night. After I woke up in my hostel I noticed that my flag was missing. The same flag that had been on Australian and Brazilian TV and was given to me by Uli in 2006 prior to the game against Argentina. It is a pretty safe bet that some Argentinians took it, given that my hostel was full of them.

After a rest day, we did some sightseeing, going to the sugar loaf mountain and the Cristo. All worth seeing, although we probably stood in line longer than anything else that day. Again a proof that things somehow work, but just about.

I decided to join Kavita and Uli on their road trip back to São Paulo, stopping at Ilha Grande for a couple of nights and Paraty overnight. They would continue to São Paulo and I would return to Rio de Janeiro, for my last stop in Brazil.

Manaus

motives like this everywhere

motives like this everywhere

After Salvador and it’s mild climate we arrive in Manaus to be flattened by humidity and heat. Speak about Jungle climate. But all good, we kinda expected that, so we had not much planned for the rest of the day. Carl left me the next day to spend four days in the Amazon, while I could only join after the two semi-finals on his fourth day. I would meet him again for a couple of hours in the lodge, when I arrive and he will leave for Lima.

making friends

Meanwhile, new friends I made got me on a local TV show, for some funny game; an eating competition. Basically, they needed a German and it seems I was the only one they could come up with. Not too important, but this will fit in to what was happening the next day, when Germany won against Brazil. With in one half-time, I pretty much became the most popular guy in Manaus, being the only one wearing a German flag and shirt. Everyone (and I mean everyone) wanted a picture with me.It took me half an hour to walk 50 meters. Funny, but I wouldn’t want to be a celebrity after experiencing this. In fact, the time I am writing this, I have met one guy by chance in Ilha Grande, who took loads of pictures and even a video of the spectacle. Anyways, a bunch of Brazilians (in the end we were about 15) took me out for dinner and to go out until the next day. Everyone we met along the way were still friendly and it was a really nice experience.

After a boring second semi-final, I went to the Amazon to see the beauty for myself. And what beauty it is. I can not attempt to describe it, as it literally made me speechless. Trying to describe the beauty of this jungle will utterly fail, regardless the words being used. If it’s placid serenity will not amaze you, nothing ever will!

Similarly pictures are just a hint of what awaits everyone that decides to see for themselves.

Of course one can do more, than just gaze in awe. Piranha fishing for one, where we threw the little buggers back in after we caught them. Don’t be mistaken, these small little fishies can really harm you. As I was unhooking my second catch, I let it slip a bit too much and it bit my finger, so that my hand was bleeding for quite some time. Generally it does not seem to be a good idea to get hurt in the Amazon, as everything takes ages to dry, because of the humidity. All good, since we used my blood as bait. And it worked quite well: one guy caught eight of them. Funnily enough Carl got bitten just a day before as well.

Piranha 3DDdscf7001a

So I was prepared to be more vigilant when we went on a Jacaré tour later in the day. I held a little fellow of 5 years, but it had some serious strength; about a meter long.

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Then there also were pink dolphins that I saw, but didn’t manage to take a good picture of. They are not really full on pink; they are grey with a pink shine to it and in fact only the old ones become proper pink.

Monkeys are around, and most of all there are a lot of Mosquitoes. Our guide said, that when we would be walking through the jungle the next day, Mosquitoes would be an issue. As if they haven’t been so far already. So, since I just brought one t-shirt to change, I had to wear my rain-jacket at 38 degrees and 100% humidity (or something close to that) to protect my arms. But hey once your soaking and your skin is so oily from sweating, the mozzies are no issue anymore. Nature being nature, we also found some tiny ants that work as a natural mosquito repellant. One lets about 500 ants crawl on the hand before they get squished and become repellant. Thanks :-)

So many interesting things, like a walking tree, for instance. One of the stems dies / gets torn off, it will grow one on the other side and change it’s position. Or mades that grow in coconuts and taste like it as well.

Oh, and I did not see a Jaguar, of course not. Even the guide only ever saw one six times in his life, being about my age. But that’s all fine. I actually came to the Amazon with no expectations and saw so much. It is truly amazing. And everyone knows how I spare with words that that tend to be used over inflationary.

So off to Rio to see the final. But not only that, I was also going to meet Uli, whom I haven’t seen in years and who had decided within 48h to fly to Rio and go to see the game. ^^

Salvador

Historical Centerthe second of three tourist things we had to walk past

Salvador is famous for it’s historical center, but somehow i never saw all of it. Instead I went on a free walking tour organised by a couple of the local couchsurfing community. This tour is aimed at showing the Salvador beyond the touristy attractions, going where tourist will be told to never go, because it might be unsafe.
Pedro, our guide took us through what just lies a few blocks away from the tourist attractions, but is never been seen by anyone but locals. One can tell, as the buildings there are not maintained at all. In fact only the touristic center is maintained.
There are so many empty building just standing around unused, often the inside burned down by the owners, so it would not attract squatters. They are simply waiting for anyone buying whole blocks, instead of trying to make up the buildings. Most of the buildings are actually heritage listed, but that wouldn’t stop anyone here from changing or tearing them down.

at least since 1939

at least since 1939

What used to be the old financial district is now just a bunch of empty buildings that do not house anyone. And that although housing is an issue in Salvador, maybe even as much as in Rio or São Paulo. Entire area that used to be the bohemian center of the city, in the 50s are now very dodgy – as in no-go even if it’s day and you are Brazilian, if you don’t know anyone there. Lucky for us Pedro knew the people there and so he could share with us what lies beneath the pretty face of Salvador.

Fonte NovaFonte Nova

What I like about the Stadium in Salvador is that it is actually in the city. Unlike in most other host cities (except Rio de Janerio) it is just a five minute cab ride from the center or the bohemian center in the other direction.
I went to see the quarterfinal Netherlands vs Costa Rica, a game that later should become famous for exchanging the goalie 1 minute before the penalty shootout and that same goalie saving two, thus winning the game. Apart from that there’s not much to say about this game.

After going out in Rio Vermelho, Carl and I would return the car in the morning and fly off to Manaus to get into some Amazon action.

Olinda

Olinda was good for a bit of rest before driving to Salvador, which is about 850km, projected time of 12h30 no breaks, so the plan was to have an overnight stay along the way in Maceió. Especially considering, that so far we pretty much took about 25% longer than what ogle-maps thinks is possible on Brazilian dirt roads.
Apparently Olinda is Brazil’s capital of Carnival. Not that you could tell by inspecting the historic center. It is very residential, but also kept nice and despite it’s reputation, it doesn’t come across as made up for tourists.
All the newish buildings are kept in Recife, which is in sight distance from one of the hills in Olinda. I am buying Olindas charme.

Olinda, Recife in the background

Apart from one half day of exploring Olinda, we pretty much chilled out for a bit, due to torrential rain and that we needed some rest for the long drive.
It was the weather however, that made us decide that we would drive the whole distance in one go, without an overnight stop in Maceió or whatnot. That way we would win an extra day in Salvador and also we would have all the shit weather during the drive, which is a bit exhausting, but much better than having it somewhere where we are staying.

We arrived pretty much exactly after 13h including about 90minutes of breaks, which means we did beat the projected time by an hour. Giving our record so far, I was quite proud if that. However, after I drove the whole way – Carl and someone who we gave a ride were out for a bit longer the night before, so they slept about half the drive – I just collapsed to bed.

In Salvador there were a few things waiting for us: The quarter finals including me going to Netherlands – Costa Rica, a free off the beaten track walking tour organised by the local couchsurfing community and nightlife ^^.

Road Trip Fortaleza to Olinda

Finally we are on our road trip. We were excited for the newly gained freedom having a var, however it was a bit of an ordeal to get the rental sorted. Just so much: it is better to rent directly with the company, than going through an agency that uses partners.
First destination, Canoa Quebrada, about 170km from Fortaleza.

Everything is much more made up and kept nice than Jeri, which makes it lack some charm for me. It is very touristy, so there is not much to say about the city. However, the red sand is a nice change and you can go and carve your name into the walls of dried sand.

Main Street Canoa QuebradaCarl showing off
Our carving efforts

Next stop Maracajau (400km), another fishing village, but all we could do from Canoa Quebrada, leaving after mid-day. That was also due to ogle-maps idea of routing us via dirt roads. There were bitumen roads, but they were full of pot-holes, so driving on these and the dirt roads at night was equally fun and demanding a lot of concentration.

Maracajau itself was quite uneventful, apart from watching the Brazil Chile game (penalty shoot-out) with the locals. One guy tried to offer me his neighbors daughter, but I thankfully declined. After I had to decline two more times, stating that I am here to watch the game, not to hook up with the (admittedly pretty ordinary) offspring of his mate, he must have gotten pissed off. At least I give him this benefit of the doubt, when he was offering me his other mates 10 year old son ten minutes later. Strange little village, hey.

Breakfast was hereFishing village

Since so far, our mission to surf Brazil was sabotaged by smallish whitewash waves throughout, we decided to go to Pipa (150km); it is supposed to be one of the most famous surf beaches in Brazil.

Natal

On the way we stopped in Natal to check it out. In a pretty big mall, it became apparent that Brazilians have a different ideal of beauty and are being influenced that way too: Female mannequins have big boobs and / or a six pack. Not that that would resemble the view on the streets too much, despite all the raving about Brazilian women.
Oh, and then there was a cleaner, who’s work attire was skates and protectors; brilliant idea!

Big Rack City BitchAbs what elseStrike a pose

Off to Pipa, via more dirt and pothole roads, where we stayed just for the night. All the fun seemed to have happened the day before we arrived, which was a Saturday, so we decided to lay fairly low and try to get a surf in in the morning, before we leave about midday. Unsurprisingly, luck wasn’t on our side, with winds strong but onshore only. So we had a body surf and both got smashed quite a bit. Carl’s shoulder took a beating while I came out fairly unharmed. It is a lovely little surf town, which is definitely worth a longer stay than we could afford.

Pipa Praia do AmorPraia do Centro

Next destination: Olinda, about 250km south. It is the capital of Carnival in Brazil. and famous for that and it’s historic center.

Jericoacoara

Jericoacoara

Paradise is not too far off, when referring to Jericoacoara, or “Jeri”. That small fishing village, that can only be reached by 4×4 vehicles via unmarked track along the shore, lies so picturesque six hours west from Fortaleza. It became famous not too long ago, when kite surfers and sailboarders from all over the world started coming here for it’s strong and steady wind conditions.

This place seems to cater for that, however the tourists that find their way here are usually of the more relaxed kind. Some vendors are promoting their goods asian-aggressively and it is good to keep in mind that especially higher prices are open for negotiation. Still even here not everyone speaks English and it sure helps to be polite and try Portuguese first.

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After now almost two weeks of being exposed to Portuguese, I feel confident in getting around. It greatly helps that Brazilians seem to be very forgiving at my (sometimes futile) attempts of making sense in their language. It is not that I would start a debateclub now, but given that I never spoke that language before I think I am doing ok. In Jeri English does work, however.

lagao paraiso

There are several lagoons close by, filled by rain water alone. By sand buggy we went to two of them, which was easily one of the most beautiful spots I’ve been to in my life.

Dunes around Jeri

We, two Russian-American girls, an Algerian-French and me, were lucky that it wasn’t perfect weather. For one, that we did get changing light along the trip, which give much more exciting color-combinations (the photos can hardly resemble it) and secondly, that we didn’t get sunburned that badly.

Next Carl and I will pick up a car back in Fortaleza and start driving eastbound and down.

Fortaleza

I was spoilt by Fortaleza. Such nice people that hosted me and the city has a certain charm to it. Beautiful beaches and going to the Germany Ghana game definitely were the highlights, but getting to know the people and their culture was at least equally good. This is something I haven’t done in my so far short stay.

looks like someone has been to Cologne

looks like someone has been to Cologne

My host IImara and her friend Erica took me out the second night and I danced Forró in a club that had me and an American couchsurfer as the only gringos. Forró (pr: fo’ho) is the samba of the north, much more influenced by African rhythm and it also features an accordion. Almost sounds a bit German, if it weren’t for the Brazilian beat and many young hotties swaying their hips to it. My new friends were nice enough, not to give me too much shit about my limited dancing abilities.
There was more Forró at the fan fest on the beach. Brazilians were going crazy, first for the Brazil Mexico game and then to a local hero – Michel Teló – who gave two one hour concerts after the games. It is a more pop-ish version of the thing, but still the elements are there. The venua was closed for more people to be let in with a capacity of 35.000, but my guestimate would be 20 max.

Sorry for the bad audio quality, see the official video here:

..and one more to enjoy here.

It felt a bit decadent to walk out of the fan fest and then have a swim right to it while it was 22h and 28 degrees. Somehow this place reminds me a bit of Australia, just mix in heaps more passion and it is pretty damn close. Brazilians are very relaxed, there is a big beach culture and everyone is wearing havaianas. Even going out in thongs is no problem at all, no matter how nice the club is.

Brazil - Mexico: Capacity 35k (official) guestimated 20k there

Brazil – Mexico:
Capacity 35k (official) guestimated 20k there

Then there was also me going to the Germany game against Ghana. And what a game it was. I don’t know if you could see this on TV but about 15 minutes into what I would consider a boring first half security started taking fan banners down and not giving them back, right where i was sitting: third row of the German block on the upper deck. Boo’ing and loud chanting against FIFA by the whole block was the result. That kinda convinced the security to give back the banners, as they could not keep them all. After a bit more chanting and more mediocre football on the pitch, the block started to put the banners back up. Looked like that security gave in, but as I found out later, there were quite a few tweets and fb message from people sitting in the stadium. That many, that FIFA actually felt the urge to respond to this officially, declaring that it was a misunderstanding in banner size regulation and that they are of course allowed to be hung up.

And the second half, wow. It was quite easy the best half of the tournament until the third round of games. However, I would have preferred a win for Germany.

Surfs low but nobody cares

Surfs low but nobody cares

Oh, and did I mention the local food? So good. You will find a Churrascaria pretty much everywhere. It can anything from a guy with a charcoal barbie offering skewers of meat or corn; or when they are a bit more advanced it’s a outfitted garage, which qualifies as a proper restaurant (boteca). Anything nicer is usually not of better quality and just pricier. So don’t bother with a fancy restaurant. More on food later (maybe even some food pictures).

It was also in Fortaleza that i got to notice Brazil’s graffiti. Their style is much more morbid than anything I have seen so far, which might be related to the state the country is in. Being deemed the country of the future ever since Hermann Hesse wrote it in 1966, the locals feel that they are still that, for almost 50 years now.
Having said that, I have seen some nice work and the beauty here is that people just accept the (awesome) art on their wall, instead of over-painting it like elsewhere.

Foz do Iguaçu

Foz is much more to my liking than that grey megalopolis I just came from.

International Airport Foz do Iguaçu

International Airport Foz do Iguaçu

After being to the waterfalls, I am totally amazed by the sheer beauty, photos won’t do that any justice at all.

view from the first vantage point - rainbows everywhere more rainbows

I haven’t seen anything that powerful and impressive in my life yet. The Argentinian side was closed the whole time I was there.i That was due to massive rain a few days ago, resulting in a record highest waterthroughput, about 4 time as much as normal (normal ~ 13.000 m^3/s – measured 46.000 m^3/s). The video gives an idea of the forces and note that the water is usually blue. I am failing to describe how good an experience this was, all I can say, this is a must for anyone even remotely close (i.e. on this continent!).

Missing out on the Argentinian side, I decided to go to the Itaipu dam, notably the largest hydroelectric power plant on the planet. Quite a sight with the flood gates open, due to the rain. When I arrived on the plane, I could see there were two of them open , but.

largest hydroponic powerplant in the world

largest hydroponic powerplant in the world

Finally I went for a quick stint to Paraguay, but that wasn’t impressive at all. It all seemed like the Cuba depicted in the Godfather, before the revolution. I met a few pommies and they insured me that this is particularly bad and there are nice bits of Paraguay to come back to. I enjoyed coming back to Foz, where everyone is getting ready for the World Cup Opening Match, dressed in yellow and green, music everywhere on the streets and even the shitty vuvuzelas are having a revival.