A Travellerspoint blog

Week Eight - The End!

Returning to Rio and drawing a close to my trip

semi-overcast 20 °C

Blinkin' 'eck and bloody Nora and where's me cup o' tea. I'm back in England, in case you hadn't noticed. I seem to be all in one piece, so I can run you through my last week and get this blog all wrapped up.

PRACA QUINZE MUSIC FESTIVAL
The weekend I jumped on a bus from Paraty back to Rio I caught the music festival at Praca XV, an outdoor concert venue in the Lapa district. The samba legend Beth Carvalho was the main act. I didn't make it to the Tom Ze gig, as he was playing just a bit too far out of town. I did think it was cool though that the entrance fee to see him play was five Reis, about £1.80, plus a kilogram of food for the poor. I returned to Praca XV on Sunday for the festival closer where I saw Pedro Luis e Parade, a psychadelic rock band, and Lulu Santos, who I found a bit commercial and less impressive. It was all worth rushing back to Rio for. You could see a complete cross section of society there, from breakdancing street children to college kids to old samba ladies (like Beth Carvalho).

IPANEMA BEACH
I allowed myself some time during my last week to chill on Ipanema beach. Actually it isn't exactly a place to 'chill'. Rio is a city on the beach and Ipanema is very much a beach on the city. You can sunbathe and close your eyes but you still hear people shouting and trying to sell you things and the traffic not far off. I kind of like that though. It's an exciting place to hang out. Great waves too; the current sucks you in and spits you out.

DSC00387.jpg

DSC00386.jpg

CATEDRAL METROPOLITANA
The Metropolitan Cathedral, designed by Oscar Niemeyer (who will crop up again later in this blog), looks like a grimy concrete cone from the outside. But from inside Its stained glass windows are awe-inspiring and sometimes, as when I entered, organ music completely fills the space.

DSC00300.jpg

DSC00301.jpg

NITEROI
Niteroi is a city just across a bridge from Rio. It's less renowned as a place to visit, being mostly residential, but it makes a decent daytrip. Its worth it just for the ferry ride over, providing fantastic views of Sugar Loaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer as you look back towards Rio. The main draw of Niteroi for many tourists, myself included, is the Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Oscar Niermeyer. His other well known commissions, beside the Metropolitan Cathedral, include the most prominent buildings in Brasilia. Rio was the capital of Brazil until the 60s, when the government decided to build a whole entire new city out in the desert, hence Brasilia. A friend from Rio told me this was to segregate the seat of power from the general population. This seems cynical, but quite probable. In Buenos Aires, for example, protest and popular descent is possible partly because the general population live so close to the government. If Brazilians wanted to bother or disrupt their government they'd have to make a lot more effort. Even if the foundations of Brasilia are ethically dubious, Niermeyer's designs make up an impressive legacy and he's loved as a national icon all over Brazil.

DSC00330.jpg

DSC00333.jpg

I should mention there's some art in the Neimeyer art gallery, funnily enough. Its mostly modernist concrete art. The Brazilians were very good at that during the fifties and sixties. Perhaps more interesting is the concrete poetry that coincided, focusing on how words looked on the page, arranging them in patterns and shapes that illuminated something of the content.

DSC00340.jpg

Having seen the gallery and walked along the shore, we picked the right time to take the ferry back to Rio. Another gorgeous sunset.

DSC00366.jpg

DSC00363.jpg

DSC00379.jpg

BOSSA NOVA GEEK POINTS
Here I am in front of the Garota de Ipanema restaurant, where Tom Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes composed the song The Girl from Ipanema. The 'girl' on whom that song is based is still alive, now in her sixties. Her daughter is a famous model and there was recently a bit of controversy when both mother and daughter posed for a cheeky magazine shoot. You go girl.

DSC00384.jpg

THE MAZE
On my last full day in South America, which was also International Busking Day according to the BBC, I met up with some people from the Rio couchsurfing community for an afternoon of jazz. The jazz club we visited was The Maze, near the top of a favela in Catete. The views from here were brilliant. The club itself was a feast for the eyes too. The owner, Bob Nadkarni, is an English ex-pat who worked as a sculptor on Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey: 2001. He has paintings hanging all around the club, which put me in mind of Francis Bacon with a De Kooning colour pallette, and just a sprinkling of Spirit of Jazz. Probably. He was a great guy to talk to with plenty of anecdotes. I wish I'd discovered this place earlier. I spent a lot of time there that day, and could quite happily have rented one of the rooms there seeing as they've recently made it a boarding house too. After leaving late afternoon we went for coconut and cachaca based cocktails at a friend's house and then out for a few drinks in Lapa. We started early and finished early. I was back at my hostel around 11pm. I had the opportunity to go out again to a Brazilian funk party, but I felt sated. I'd had a perfect last day and didn't want to risk spoiling it by drinking to fall down.

BACK TO BLIGHTY
My journey back home went nice and smoothly. After numerous twenty-something hour bus journeys, seventeen hours of flying didn't seem like such a big deal. I shared a taxi to the airport with a guy and two girls from Sao Paolo. During the ride an argument seemed to errupt between the Paulistas and the driver. The word 'gringo' came up several times. 'Gringo' isn't necessarily a derogatory term - it's just what they call us - but this still made me feel a little uneasy. Eventually it calmed down and the Paulista guy tapped me on the shoulder. 'We were discussing the price. He was going to charge us twenty Reis, but for you the foreigner price of fourty Ries. We don't think that's right, so now you just pay the same as us.' As a traveller in Brazil the people who go out of their way to be nice to you like this more than make up for the ones who see you as a walking bag of money. I enjoyed the flight back, feeling much more relaxed than I did flying the other way. I struggled to remember what my expectations had been.

HOME
And so here I am with a cup of tea, with lots to get on with but no strict plans over the next few days other than to drink a few cups more. I feel I've got what I wanted out of the last two months. I'm happy I did everything at my own pace. Even though initially I had expected to cover more than two countries I do feel like that was enough. Brazil is a really big place. I got a good sense of this travelling everywhere by bus. I'd love to go back someday and see the north of Brazil, Salvador and the Amazon etc. and also Sao Paolo. Regarding Argentina I'm glad I got to have got to know Buenos Aires so well, but I'd be curious to see other areas like Mendoza or Salta that are apparently completely different. Then there's Bolivia and Peru and Columbia and the rest of the world in fact. All pleasant far off dreams for another day. Right now its just good to be back home again.

THANKS, GRACIAS AND OBRIGADO
However much of my travel ramblings you've followed, thank you. If you like you can see my art, performance and writing blog at mpembrey.wordpress.com. I intend to update there more regularly in the future, especially following my move to Brighton in September, when I'll be starting an MA in Sequential Design and Illustration. You can 'subscribe' or 'follow' my blog and receive email updates when a new entry appears. Send me your blog links too if you have them. I like blogs. An especially big gracias to Brian Yule, who was a most excellent host and compadre in Buenos Aires. I owe you a bottle of wine when we next meet senor, though I know I'll struggle to find you one good enough after you've been spoiled by that Argentinian stuff. A big hey/hola/ola to all friends made along the journey who have helped to make the journey: Kirsty, Mary, Sue Lynn, Monica, Rafi, Torsten, Christina, Julie, Hugo, Christian, Gabriela, Chris, Eva, Jason, Blanka, Nick, Jane, Joanna, Emma, Cornelia, Remi, Marcus, Larissa, Owen... I've met some excellent people with whom I am sure I will keep in touch. Keep travelling and having fun wherever you are.

Chau,
Mark x

Posted by MPemb 10:42 Archived in England Comments (0)

Weeks Six to Seven

Ihla Grande and Paraty

semi-overcast 21 °C

My attempt to have a break from Rio and find something a bit different has led me through Ihla Grande, the`Big Island´, and Paraty, a town on the coast four hours south of Rio. Both have shown me extremely diverse tropical environments and given me a wealth of wierd experiences. Before rushing on I´ll begin where I left off, on my last day before leaving Rio. By the way I have a few gaps to fill in uploading photos, but I´ll try and do this over the next few days.

WEEK SIX

JARDIM BOTANICO
Having some time to kill in the morning, I went to tick off another item on the to-do list and visited the Botanical Gardens. There are spectacular plants here from all over the world, and even some exotic wildlife, including little howler monkeys.

DSC00009.jpg

3DSC00021.jpg

SAMBA SHOW
I met up with some people from the Rio couchsurfing community in the afternoon. We went to see an Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at a cultural centre, before a show at a local theatre by the famous samba singer, Martinho da Velha. He was backed by some great musicians who had their own solo spots in between songs. It was quite a show and everyone left smiling following lots of jiggling and handclapping.

IHLA GRANDE

DSC00077.jpg

I took an exhilerating speedboat ride to Ihla Grande. Until you get close up it looks entirely green. There are no cars, and no banks on Ihla Grande. Getting fom one point to another generally has to be done by boat, as so much of the island is thick with forest and rocks. It is however surprisingly tourist friendly and there are some quite fancy restaurants and hotels close to the shore. The beaches are something pretty special.

LOPEZ MENDES
This is possibly the most beautful Brazilian beach I´ve seen so far, and much more chilled out than those in Rio - the advantage being that on Ihla Grande the beaches are completely safe. You don´t get mobbed by people trying to sell you stuff either. Just explore and laze in the sun. I did unfortunately experience the worst sunburn I´ve had in a long time after returning, but it was worth it, and hey I may even have a tan when I return to England.

DSC00098.jpg

DSC00090.jpg

DSC00104.jpg

DOGGIES
I had to include this last picture of a dog just to give me an excuse to talk about the South American dogs. They´re kind of wild dogs which you might suppose would make them dangerous, but they´re so relaxed and so free. It makes me even more sorry for dogs in England who get neutered or spayed, kept in small apartments, and taken out on token walks every now and then. Then again I don´t think animal health care or pet protection is likely to be very well organised over here, and some wild dogs probably cause trouble every now and then. Well thats enough animal rights for now. I haven´t had my rabies jab so I should probably be careful, but they´re so cute! Ere boy. Ooos bootiful? Resrooaarr. Resrooarr bootiful...

RUBBISH RAIN
For my second full day on the island I had to suffer the double whammy of terrential rainfall and a grizzly hangover (caparinhas again). I did somehow though drag myself round some of the main historical sites, including the ruins of the old prison which was dynamited in the 1960s, and the aqueduct which still serves the town.

DSC00133.jpg

DSC00138.jpg

PARATY
The rain and grey skies continued for the day of my arrival in Paraty, and throughout my first full day. It was grim. The Sereia do Mar Hostel, recommended to me by my friend Eva in Rio, is a great place. But I felt trapped by the weather and unable to appreciate the supposed tropical paradise in which I found myself. I hid my nose in a book and plotted my escape. I would give Paraty one more day to impress, and then I would be out of here. The next day a few of us took an excursion to a cachaça brewery (that´s the sugary liquor they put in the caparinhas) and a waterfall, Cachoeira do Taboga. What makes this waterfall special is that you can slide straight down it on your bum at high speed. It doesn´t really look that safe, but hey everyone else was doing it. It was great fun and just the spirit lifter I needed.

DSC00157.jpg

DSC00160.jpg

WEEK SEVEN

BRIGHTENING UP
DSC00184.jpg
On Tuesday morning, when I had planned to make my escape to Rio, suddenly the sun came out, the sky cleared up, and all of a sudden Paraty took on a whole new atmosphere. I still intended to leave in the afternoon, but made sure I did a quick tour of the historical centre of town before returning to the hostel. Paraty is an important part of the old gold and diamond mining route. Much of the wealth was taken back to Portugul, but a lot of it made its way to England and helped finance the Industrial Revolution. The centre of town here, as with other towns on the route such as Ouro Preto and Diamente, has the look of a quaint old European town formerly booming with riches.

DSC00175.jpg

COASTAL ISLANDS AND PIRATE CAVES
When I returned to the hostel it was still beautiful and sunny. Putting off my escape to the bus station I tagged along with a couple of friends and was guided by a Brazilian guy who works in the kitchen at the hostel to some amazing sites within walking distance. There were some old Portuguese forts, and further on caves that were used by pirates. These caves are still used for religious cermonies by the assortment of Catholics, pagans, and African religions that live side by side in Paraty. Later that day I checked the forecast for the following day and, finding it favourable, I decided it would be worth sticking around and giving Paraty a chance. Now that the sun was out a whole load of possibilities were out there for me to expore. I was beginning to enjoy myself again, and in no rush to get back to Rio.

SMALL ISLANDS
There are around 380 islands surrounding Paraty. Thats almost as many bridges as there are in Newcastle. A man called Miguel gives boat tours of the islands and my friends Joanna, Emma, and I took him up on his offer to go exploring. Miguel proved an excellent guide and a really interesting character. He´s travelled the world as a casino boat croupier, and now sails around Paraty and sleeps on beaches. The politics of these small islands is fascinating. Up till about eighty years ago anyone could land on them and claim them, so they were all owned by fishermen. All the poor fishermen were later bought off by rich Brazilians and they are now privately owned. Their beaches and docks, however, are still public, and you´re perfectly within your rights to sail over and camp on their beaches. Generally they welcome it. The houses on these islands aren´t all owned by Brazilians though. A certain gringo lady by the name of J.K.Rowling owns a house on one of them. I don´t know how often she comes here to write, and I find it hard to connect the tropical paradise of Paraty and the fantasy world of Harry Potter in my imagination, but there you have it. There´s quite a big literary community on Paraty actually, and there´s a writer´s festival coming up in a couple of weeks.

DSC00237.jpg

DSC00239.jpg

DSC00240.jpg

DSC00260.jpg

This was an island we explored on foot, which had a giant wheel covered in moss - the remains of a water mill powered by slaves in colonial times.

DSC00251.jpg

DSC00256.jpg

TRINIDADE
An hour´s bus ride takes you to Trinidade, with another incredible beach and a natural sminning pool. `Excuse me, are these rather large tropical fish kissing my feet or trying to eat me?´

DSC00284.jpg

DSC00294.jpg

MORE LAST MINUTE CHANGES IN DIRECTION
I was originally planning to head back to Rio this weekend to enjoy another full week there before flying back home. There was also the draw of a free festival I´d heard about in my hostel, supposedly taking place on Cobacabana beach and featuring Madonna, Snoop Dog, The Killers and others. After further research this turns out to be a fantastic hostel rumour. The potential change in direction was heading to Sao Paolo today and spending the weekend there instead. A number of people have warned me against Sao Paolo. Its big and grimey and slightly intimidating. Its not touristy at all. But then others have given very positive reviews. Its full of art galleries and museums which would appeal to me. Besides all the positives and negatives, Sao Paolo the megacity has long loomed large in my imagination and I felt I need to experience it, for better or for worse. So that was the plan until this morning, when I recieved a message from my friend Kirsty that there is a big music festival on in Rio this weekend. There´s no Madonna or Snoop Dog or whoever. But there are some big Brazilian names, including one of my all time favourites, Tom Ze. Ze was one of the legendary Tropicalia musicians from the 60s. Hes still going strong and knocking out quirky and inventive music combining all sorts of genres and styles. I´m catching the bus back to Rio in one hour to try and get tickets. Even if I can´t see Tom Ze there´s heaps of other stuff on all over the city. Its a shame to miss Sao Paolo, but this could work out nicely.

NEARING THE END
The next post will be most likely once I´ve returned home to Sutton, when I´ll give you a full account of my return to Rio, the journey home, and maybe some final thoughts. Until then, wish me luck! x

Posted by MPemb 13:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Week Five

Rio de Janeiro

sunny 24 °C

Seeing that this week has been so fast-paced, I'm going to race through most of the things I've done in Rio since arriving. I'm just beginning to find my bearings in this enormous city. Before I begin here´s a snippet of the coach journey from Florianopolis. This was just as I woke up, around seven in the morning and towards the end of my 20 hour journey. ´You Have to admit, he does do bloody good sunsets´ (for James and little sis and any other fans of Neil Gaiman´s Sandman).

IPANEMA AND COBACOBANA
I just realised I haven´t taken any photos of the beaches yet! Well there´s plenty of time. I´m sure I´ll spend more time lazing on the beach towards the end of my stay. They really are spectacular. Ipanema is slightly nicer and you´re less likely to get mugged than on Cobacobana, which is full of body builders and sex workers. It is unfortunately far from the impression I had of Copacobana from this video featuring Liza Minelli and the Muppets.

CRISTO REDENTOR
The site of Christ the Redeemer is impressive but a little bit too full of tourists taking photos of themselves with their arms outstretched. Plus the statue itself is a bit art deco for my liking. Its still worth a visit though, and it looks great from a distance.

DSC09977.jpg

DSC00023.jpg

SUGAR LOAF
The highest point in Rio from Sugar Loaf mountain is acessible by taking two cable car rides. Now I´m not brilliant with heights, but the slight feeling of nausea was countered by the breath-taking view as we ascended. At the top you can buy a drink from the restaurant and bask as the sun sets over Rio.

DSC09987.jpg

DSC00017.jpg

DSC09993.jpg

DSC00021.jpg

DSC00031.jpg

SANTA TERESA
A very historical area of Rio, Santa Teresa is quiet but there are some gorgeous old buildings and great shops with all sorts of fashion and craft items for sale.

DSC00012.jpg

DSC00019.jpg

ROCINHA
I took a tour of Rocinha, the biggest favela in South America and home to some 200,000 people, with a tour group called Be a Local. When I first heard of these tours I wasn't sure it was something I wanted to do. There was a fear that it would be treating a poverty-stricken area like a museum. But several people, including Brazilians, strongly recommended it as something that puts a lot of money directly into projects which help support and develop the community. Besides, the favelas are a very complex social phenomenon, and not quite as simple as poor people living in bad conditions. There are those living there with PHDs, or those who work in hostels or banks and various other places, leading a normal life outside the favela. They all tap free electricity, many own computers, and there´s a whole range of poverty and wealth existing side by side. They were founded over a hundred years ago by ex-slaves who the government refused to provide housing for. They´ve always lived by a seperate set of laws. The drugs trade makes for a strained relationship with the police, and every few weeks there´s a raid, drugs are seized, dealers and sometimes civilians are killed. But a lot of the time it´s all for show. If the police wanted they could shut down all drug operations in the favelas in no time, but of course they and the government ultimately pofit from this trade, so its in their interest to allow trade to continue whilst keeping the population in fear. Despite this, the favelas are completely safe for us gringos to visit. There´s an understanding that tourists bring money into the favelas and if they were put off visiting by crime it would be disastrous. But as our guide told us, the guy who shakes your hand in the favela may be the same guy who takes your wallet on Copacabana beach.

7DSC00021.jpg

6DSC00023.jpg

6DSC00023.jpg

DSC00024.jpg

DSC00034.jpg

LAPA
A chaotic street party that stretches for miles across the Lapa district. I didn´t take my camera as it really wouldn´t be safe. I remember lots of people and samba dancing and too many caparinhas. Caparinhas are a lethal mix of white rum, lime and sugar. The helpings of rum and the sugar here are generous, to say the least.

FOOTBALL
One of the things they say you have to do in South America, even if you´re not that into football, is go and see a game. Fluminense played Santos yesterday in a league game. I don´t know much about Fluminense, but Santos are Pele´s old team. We were on the Fluminense side and got our ass whooped 4-1. Sometimes though its just as entertaining being surrounded by angry fans as it is by jubillant ones.

DSC00053.jpg

COUCHSURFING
I´ve been staying in The Girl From Ipanema Hostel, which is nice enough (though its no Tucano House. I don´t know if I´ll ever top Tucano! Miss you!) I joined couchsurfing.org a few weeks ago, but hadn´t made much use of it until now. It´s a site principally for finding people who are willing to let you crash on their couch for your stay, but its also an online community where you can team up with people for sightseeing and going out and whatever you´re into. Someone on the forum suggested meeting to check out some galleries tomorrow before seeing a live samba show. Yes please! I´ll do that tomorrow and possibly get drawn into this couchsurfing thing, which may be like joining some sort of cult. It would be good to meet some more people. You do meet plenty of people anyway travelling round by yourself, but sometimes it can be tough if you want to do something specific and have to find a group of people interested in the same thing.

MOVING ON
I´m thinking of moving on from Rio sometime in the next few days. My initial plans to go North to Bahia have been called off due to a dismal weather forecast for the north - rain for the next two weeks! But maybe its good to have my options limited. There are plenty of incredible places much closer to Rio that I´ve been discovering through talking to other travellers. One in particular has great appeal...

MONKEY ISLAND
Ihla Grande is an island just a few hours south of here by bus followed by ferry. The official tourist website describes it thus:

Ilha Grande has a rich history with stories that are far more interesting than those in storybooks. It was once a hideout for sea pirates who made their money by looting European trading ships. The thick tropical jungles of Ilha Grande provided the perfect refuge where the pirates could hide their boats. The island was also a hub for the slave trade in Brazil. Since Ilha Grande is strategically located on the sea route, it has been colonised by the Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese at various points of time. After the proclamation of the Republic in 1889, Ilha Grande had an important hospital and then a prison. The prison was closed down in 1994, after which eco-tourism and tourism have flourished. The flourishing tourist trade has led to the development of a number of great Ilha Grande hotels, pousadas and hostels to cater to the increasing flow of visitors.

Cool, huh? There are monkeys too. Part of the reason this has such appeal for me is that it reminds me of my favourite computer game and one of the all time best things ever: Monkey Island. There were four Monkey Island games in all between the mid eighties to late nineties, but the first one, The Curse of Monkey Island, still stands out. It´s a comic adventure game (point-and-click puzzle-solving) set on an island just off the Carribean. The hero, Guybrush Threepwood, becomes a mighty pirate by defeating the sword master of Melee Island, finding the treasure of Big Whoop, and rescueing the beautiful governor Elaine Marley, all the while avoiding the clutches of the evil ghost pirate Lechuck! So yes I expect Ilha Grande will be just like that, and I intend to introduce myself to the people I encounter there by saying, ´I´m Guybrush Threepwood, and I´m a mighty pirate!´ I´ll let you know how that goes.

Once again, lots of love to you all. Send me your news and stories, be they real or make believe. Shibber me Tibbers! Argg! x

Posted by MPemb 18:05 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Week Four

Learning to relax in Florianopolis

sunny 22 °C

DSC09870.jpg

I´m coming to the end of my stay in Florianopolis feeling slightly sunburnt and wholly satisfied. Its been exactly what I needed, after the chaotic excitement of Buenos Aires, and in preparation for the Brazilian megacities. Tucauno House has presented the best hostel experience I´ve had. After just a few days it feels like family. Everyone does things and makes things happen together: going to the beach for walks, eating together, drinking together. There´s a great variety of nationalities here and I haven´t met a single person I haven´t liked. The House has plenty of room to just relax and be yourself too. I´ve spent quite a bit of time in a hammock just reading and dozing in the sun. Good food (and much healthier than Argentina), good beer, good weather and good company. More people should stop by in Florianopolis. As a holiday destination it has just about everything. I promised photos last time. Here are a few places I´ve visited roundabouts the island.

BARRA DA LAGOA
A small beach area near where I started my stay at the Backpacker´s Sharehouse. Don´t stay at the Sharehouse but do check out the beach here. There´s also a turtle sanctuary, which unfortunately I haven´t had time to visit.
DSC09864.jpg
DSC09827.jpg

COSTA DA LAGOA
A charming fisherman´s village accessible via a stunning three hour walk through tropical woodland bordering the lake.
DSC09945.jpg
2DSC09939.jpg

PRAIA MOLE
One of the most popular beaches. Also worth checking out is Joaquina, with its enormous sand dunes.
DSC09840.jpg
DSC09839.jpg

FORTALEZAS DE RATONES
In search of a bit of island history a group of us took a daytrip on the ferry to see three abandoned Portuguese forts, positioned on small islands in a triangle formation at the mouth of the river. In the end they proved useless as a form of defense, but they make a beautiful exhibit of the Florianopolis´ colonial past.
DSC09895.jpg
7DSC09898.jpg
DSC09906.jpg
DSC09887.jpg

BACK ON THE BUS
Tomorrow I´m heading to the big one, Rio de Janiero. It will invlove another 20 hour bus ride. Except this time I´m going to pay attention and it will actually be a 20 hour bus ride and I will get off in the right place. Honest. I´ve booked three nights in the Rio Hostel Ipanema which came strongly recommended by the guys here. I´ll have company as quite a few of my friends here at Tucauno will also be in Rio at the same time and a few of them even in the same hostel. I´ll also be meeting up with Kirsty from Estoril Hostel in Buenos Aires. It makes the prospect of arriving in a Brazilian megacity much less daunting when you know you´ll instantly be amongst friends. I´ve changed my flights so that I return on June 15th from Rio rather than Buenos Aires. This saves me having to pay my way back down, and gives me just under a month to explore Rio and possibly fit in a couple of other places as well. Salvador in Bahia, Northeast Brazil, is a possibility. That´s one of the artiest places where a lot of the famous singers and poets hail from. Rio should be enough to keep me occupy for a while at least before I think too seriously about anywhere else though.

(NOT)TINGHAM
Last night I had a very odd nightmare in which I took a plane to Rio and ended up in Nottingham. I called the travel company and asked them why the plane had gone to Nottingham. They didn´t know. I asked if I could get the next plane out to Rio. No. I walked the streets of Nottingham in despair. This was a disaster. The streets were grey and rainy and there were some men in clownsuits. I was very relieved when I woke up in a hostel bed in Florianopolis. Not that I have anything against Nottingham, but its not on my itinerary and if the next blog I write is from Nottingham you know something will have gone very wrong indeed. Yes. Anyway. Rio here I come!

Posted by MPemb 11:25 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

The Happy Accident

Buenos Aires to Florianopolis

sunny 27 °C

I think I may have finally wondered off the map and into paradise. I´m in Florianopolis. I´ve come here by mistake, but it´s one of the greatest mistakes I´ve ever made.

DSC09826.jpg

DSC09827.jpg

MY BRAZILIAN BUS EPIC
My passport wasn´t ready in time to jump on the magical mystery tour to Peru, but it was just in time to board a bus to Porto Alegre, Brazil, my intended next destination. I´d heard mixed things about Porto Alegre, one of the most important cities in Southern Brazil, but I was curious enough to want to check it out. I also figured it would be a convenient point in Brazil to stop and decide whether to travel further north next or head back down south and into Uruguay. I braced myself for a gruelling 20 hours bus ride. Little did I know. The view from the bus was constantly amazing and surprising: gorgeous forests, vast lakes, tropical trees. You don´t see all this when you travel by plane. Can I be blamed for slipping into a daydream? Somehow I just wasn´t paying attention when we stopped at Porto Alegre. It seemed to me sometime later that it was taking longer than expected. I asked a Peruvian woman sitting nearby ´When do we arrive at Porto Alegre?´ ´Porto Alegre? We passed it three hours ago!´ Whoops. She and a couple of other fellow passengers were very nice and helpful in communicating to the driver what had happened (I´ve only just started learning Portuguese, though the similarities with Spanish are very helpful). When we next stopped for lunch I was told I could jump on the next bus back to Porto at no extra charge. As we ate a Brazilian guy told me that the next stop was Florianopolis. I wasn´t entirely ignorant of Florianopolis. I´d heard a bunch of Australian surfer dudes I met at my Spanish classes raving about it. In fact I had the name of a hostel in my notebook, just in case. ´So which is nicer? Porto Alegre or Florianopolis?´ ´Oh Florianopolis. It´s like comparing Paris to Brussells.´ ´Hmmm...do you think the driver would let me stay on the bus if I payed the difference?´ ´I don´t know. I can help you ask if you like.´ And so I stayed on the bus for the small fee of fourty Reils, about twelve pounds. The other passengers were quite amused by this directionless gringo and were nattering to me all the way there. I was already beginning to realise just how warm and friendly the Brazilian people are. Finally, with an optimistic sense of adventure, I set foot in Florianopolis. It was mixed with a certain ammount of nervous exhaustion too. I´d travelled 750 miles in 28 hours.

HOSTEL HOPPING
I began my stay at the hostel in my notebook, the Backpackers Sharehouse in Barra Delagoa, near some of the major beaches. It was mostly filled with surfer dudes and party animals, which was fun for a couple of nights. But it was quite far from the town centre. There were some people there who had been in Florianopolis for a couple of weeks and they hadn´t ventured any further than the end of the beach outside or bothered to learn a word of Portuguese. This morning I decided to jump ship and head to a hostel I´d heard recommended in the centre of town, Tucano House. It´s rated as the 2nd best hostel in South America by the Guardian. The Guardian usually seem to know what they´re talking about (The Lonely Planet by the way often doesn´t!) I definitely made the right decision. The staff and the people here are lovely and chilled out and the amenities are spot on. They organise walks and tours and are generally more proactive than the Sharehouse. I can´t wait to explore more. I´ll definitely have some more spectacular photos for you soon.

DON´T WORRY...
I´m not going to be too pro-active. Florianopolis is a great place to chill out and absorb thew wonderful atmosphere and I intend to do as little as possible today and possibly tomorrow. Also, its one of the safest cities in Brazil so I don´t have to be quite as paranoid. I don´t know how long I´ll be here, or what´s up next. Meh. I´m in no hurry to leave that´s for sure. Aaaaah. Where´s my caiparanha?

Posted by MPemb 13:36 Archived in Brazil Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 10) Page [1] 2 »