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.

dscf6342a

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.

São Paulo

Traveling to São Paulo was something completely different. When I finally landed after 35h and also got my luggage it took another few hours (read five) until I finally arrived at the home-stay. All in all no matter, could have gone a bit quicker however. The next morning I was wandering around a bit and I have to say São Paulo is a really triste and grey city. Wherever you are looking skyscrapers and grey; more than in NYC and stretching endlessly in any direction. It was overcast and drizzly, which possibly contributed equally to that I didn’t like it, as the long travel there.
Another fact that might help gauging the feel of the city, is what I noticed while having breakfast in a small cafe on a street corner. I was watching the news and right after the weather report the traffic report is not even talking about various jams anymore. Instead it will display the number of km of traffic jams in the five zones (east west north south and central). 200km is about normal and earlier last week it was 344km(!) when the metro was on strike.

So off to the airport, domestic that is, although my flight to Foz do Iguaçu was from international. Quicker and cheaper I have been told. That might be so, if it wasn’t for the unmentioned one and a half hour wait for the transfer bus. However, just made the flight; if my bus would have been another five minutes late, I would have missed it. But it worked out alright.
Which seems to be some sort of Mantra here in Brazil. Everything is cutting it fine or close to turn to shit, but somehow it magically works out. So I learned pretty quickly to relax and abide to the Mantra, no use getting worked up about things. This relaxedness is one of the best and the worst character traits here, as it seems. Everyone is trusting in the ever-present Mantra that things turn out ok. Mostly that is how’s it going to be. However, I have already seen numerous Europeans freaking out. I am making an effort not to be part of that and indulge in the Brazilian way of life.
I have also quickly learned to be greatly appreciative if someone actually speaks English (or even Spanish for that matter). However it helps me in learning Portuguese, simply because I don’t have a choice, really.

Once again it’s on

Put me on a planet, dammit! So, my work decided that I would either be relocated to Perth or be accepting my redundancy (including the package that comes with it). That means after about six years of residing in Australia, I will get back to what I came here for in the first place: travel!

perth

Conveniently there is this major sporting event happening in a country that lives and breathes football (for the infidels amongst the readership: soccer) already. And now they are hosting the World Cup? Wow!
Not to much after that and not too far away there is this crazy and maybe most renown annual festival in some desert in Nevada. After that, I have very unspecific ideas about what to do and where to go. Some of which can be Caribbean, Mexico, back to South America and near the end going back to my old home, Germany.

I will try to use this blog to deliver my impressions, experiences, ideas and plans about what is happening to me and where to go.

Meanwhile, I spent the last few month preparing for the first leg of the journey, getting flights, some tickets for a couple of games and roughly figuring out what to do, especially in the first week until the madness starts.

getting_there

After flying 34 hours I will gladly make use of the home-stay I booked in some hipster area in São Paulo, especially the shower. The day after I am going to see the Iguaçu falls. I gave myself three days for this, so I can go the Brazilian and Argentinian side, plus walking into Paraguay, even if it’s just for the stamp in my passport.

Then it’s northbound to Fortaleza, which is on the northern coast of Brazil. Surrounded by some of the most beautiful coast lines and national parks of Brazil, I will spend a bit of time here trying to get to know more about the culture. My first game is here on the 21st of June (so a week after my arrival): Germany – Ghana.
I will meet Carl Doust here on the 19th (or was it the 20th?), which should give me a few days to check out a couple of national parks, away from all the mayhem that goes down when Brazil will play Mexico here on the 17th. I might be back for that however, as someone through couchsurfing offered me a place to stay in Fortaleza. And why not party with a local while their team is playing? But that will get decided on the spot.

On the 22nd Carl and I will travel together eastwards. We have until the 5th to get to Salvador, which is plenty of time. My Brazilian friend Gisele was so nice and prepared a whole dossier for me on where to go, what to see and also what not to see on our way to Salvador. Pretty cool!
The reason why we have to be there on the 5th is that I have a ticket to the quarterfinal that could be Spain – Italy (providing both win their groups and first play-off games) – should be good no matter!

Carl and I will then fly to Manaus to have a look at that creek and the little grove there for a few days. Carl flies on to Peru and I don’t really have an idea yet what to do. All I know is that I have a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Austin, TX on the 23rd of July and that I definitely want to have a few days in that city. I am not sure, if I want to give me the city during the final, but hey, why not be there to see Germany win ^^.

My second part of the journey begins in Austin, where I will meet Morgane. Our mission there is to buy a car (a classic one of course) and get on with our road-trip to Burning Man, via L.A. and San Francisco.
Burning Man! I was lucky enough to meet so many awesome people during my time in Australia and now I am very excited to team up and party with some of them there. It goes without saying, that this will even top the experience of a World Cup in Brazil to go and be weird with some of the best people I’ve met in my life!

After that everything else is just a vague idea. Mexico, Costa Rica, Caribbean, back to South America is all on the list but that’s about it. No dates or so, but it will all become more clear once the time approaches.
Almost certain however is that I will be in Europe in February. I would like for one return the favour of visiting friends that made their way to see me in Bonn last time and also visit new friends that will be around there somewhere.

It would be an understatement to say that I am pretty damn excited about this all!