Wednesday, June 27, 2007

So Far in Brazil

I´ve been in South America for almost a month now. I arrived in Rio de Janeiro on the 30th of May and stayed there for about 8 days. When I arrived it was a bit cold and rainy, so I jumped on busses and walked so that I could become oriented with city. Rio is big and intimidating- even for a New Yorker!

(Note: Since I seem to have better knack for images than words, I´m going to rely on these snap shots to illustrate my journies. Enjoy!)

On the third day there I met three British chaps James, Rich, and John from the Manchester area of England. We went thoughout Rio visiting all of the tourist sights. We mostly made fun of eachother and the other tourists. We had a blast.

James at the entrace to the tram for Sugar Loaf.

Waiting for the tram at Sugar Loaf. Sugar Loaf is the highest peak of all the moutains that surround and go through Rio. If I remember correctly the elevation at the top is somewhere arund 2,ooo ft.

John being an enthusiastic tourist on a helicopter landing pad on the way to the top of Corcovado (the big Jesus statue in Rio).
Through a friend I linked with some Brazilian guys. The guy all the way to the right is Raul (in Portugese R is silent, so you would pronouce his name as Haul). We went to a samba club in a neighborhood called Lapa. Its one of the oldest parts of Rio and the streets are lined with colonial buildings. On a Friday or Saturday night many Cariocas (Portugese for a native of Rio) flood to this neighborhood and go crusie around to clubs. But its different than we all know. Alot of the clubs are in buildings, but also include the immediate sidewalk area outside of them. What is so ineresting about it here is that many things that happen in closed or private spaces in the states occur out in the open here. That night the streets were packed with people eating, drinking, and dancing. Everyone was laguhing, joking, having conversation, and making friends in the street. It was a culture shock. I didn´t see anyone standing around looking bored or trying to be cool. Everyone was enjpying themselves and not afraid to show how much fun they were having. I went to a traditional samba club where a live band played until 5am. The whole place was packed until it closed. Even though they were totally wasted, they got me back to the hostel in one piece by 7am. By the way- drunk driving is common here. I had to find out the hard way!
Corcovado is atop another high peak that overlooks Rio. The Brits and I took car to the top. Its quite spectacualr even if your not that into Jesus. The statue looked to be about 70 feet high. Here are some photos from that day:

The stairway from heaven.

One of the fun activities that the hostel set up was a tour of the biggest favela (ghetto) in Rio called Rochino. The favelas in Brazil are similar to indian reservations in the states. The people that live there don´t have to pay taxes on their property because these sections are owned by the government. The poor are thrown into these sections and have far below standard living situations.

This is one of the billions of little streets in the favela. This place made City of God look like Park Ave! There is one large main street that runs up the hill. We were raced to the top on little motor bikes where we met the guide who took us down tiny streets and alleys like this one. It is so large it took us 3 hours to walk down. The guide explained how a favela is a city within a city. The habitants all share electricty or steal it from one another. There are tiny open sewage lines that run along side the side walks. The favela is extremely dangerous except for those that live inside. Unlike the ghettos in the states, the people that live in them hardly harm one another. Most of the violence goes on between the drug dealers and the police. The police allow the drug dealers to govern the favelas. Most favelas in Rio are run by three different gangs. (These groups are famous for providing much needed resources such as support for day care, medicine for the sick, and money for the poor. They also have been known to build asphalt roads, host huge community parties, and even sponsor other recreational spaces and activities, such as soccer pitches. These groups normally maintain a very high level of control over social behavior, strictly prohibiting street crimes such as rape, muggings, and break-ins within the favela.) (Took this from Wikipedia). And they do a good job. The police rarely have to come in. The guide told us that if you are in the favela you are safe. If you live near one or enter one without permission from the drug dealers you are putting your life in danger. He showed us a day care and an artists´ studio. The people there seemed to be happy and content for the situation they were in.
The city within the city:

This picture is misplaced but I think its inersting. Tourists at Sugar Loaf:

The meat is amazing in Brazil. All over Rio there are `Charriscurros`, which are all you can eat restaurants that serve meat right off the skewer sliced onto your plate.

After 8 days in Rio my good friend Anita flew down from New York and we flew to a city in the north of Brazil called Forteleza. Since its winter now, the warmest parts of Brazil are in the noth which is close to the equator. Forteleza was kind of a dump so we only stayed there for a night then left early the next morning for a small fishing town 6 hours north called Jericoacoara. We ran into these guys on the way and had to wait for them to cross the road.

When we arrived there we were explained that we were about to enter a state park that had no signs and it was nescessary to have a 4x4 car. We were both tired after the long drive and thought we could get through without 4 wheel drive but a kid came up to us and explained that it would be nearly impossible. He was only 18, but he was the only guide in the group that swarmed our car that spoke English so we let him guide us. His name was Bruno and he grew up in the town. He guided us through small towns with red clay dirt roads and old corroding farm houses made of stone and concrete. There were black hairy pigs and roosters running along the road. After we drove through some small towns we came to the beach which was covered in large dunes. Note: we knew we needed 4 wheel drive but because of the communication barrier at the car rental place the woman at the desk thought we were asking for a car with 4 wheels! Fun. Well we figured it out. Thats a picture of Bruno and I letting out some air from the tires so
we could get through the sand easier. After about 5 miles of driving over beaches and dunes the tiny town of Jericoacoara appeared from no where. It was tucked behind a large dune. We stayed there for 4 days a stayed in a pousada on the beach. It was amazing. Jeri is tiny town of fishers, hippies and surf bums, and only a few tourist because we were there in the low season. It was magical there- it seemed as if time didn´t exist.

Anita at the edge of allowed driving area in the park:

An old rock formation on the beach:

Our guide Bruno:

Sunset on the dune:

After Jericoacoara we flew down a little futher south to a city called Salvador da Bahia. Its an old colonial city where the first slaves were brought from Africa. It is where the game/martial art Capoeira was invented. It seemed very Catholic there because there were many churches but
Candomble is widely practiced here too. Candomble is a form of religion that mixes Catholicism and Voodoo- like practices. I only took one picture there because we stayed for a short period. This image was taken in church. It is of a man reaching his hand out of the door during a church ceremony. This church was the first church founded by black people in Brazil. We weren´t allowed in the ceremony.

After a few days in Salvador and the surrounding areas Anita headed back to New York and I caught a flight to the city Manaus which is located at the northwestern region of Brazil in the Amazon jungle. I spent 3 days there.
The picture you see below is where two separate rivers meet: the Rio Negro flows into the Rio Solimões.

I spent 3 days and 2 nights in the jungle. I was taken down the river for about 2 hours in a small motor boat to the camp by a guide. We were taken through the jungle and shown trees and plants that contained natural medicines like a tree that produced quinine which prevents malaria. He also hacked off a piece of another tree and iodine bled out. Inside other trees were rose water that he said Chanel uses in their purfumes, and this rubbery white stuff that was instantly flammable but also used to patch holes in boats and used as a decongestant. He also took a sloth out of a tree and let us hold it. One evening after we watched the sunset he rode the boat along the edge of the river in the dark with the flashlight in his mouth. He spotted the reflection of floating orange eyes and drove the boat over towards them an reached in and snatched out a little aligator.

Some jungle homes...

A party barge in the jungle:

A jungle family on their way to the grocery store:

My jungle guide Marcello:

Junlge water lillies:

Jungle sunset:

Aligator snatching:

Jungle home:

Jungle sunrise:

That´s all the images I have for now. After the my jungle excursion I flew to the most southern part of Brazil to a city called Florianopolis which is where I am now. Its so different from the rest of the country. All the other cities were ethnic, pretty run down, and chaotic. But most cities in southern Brazil were colonized by Europeans- mostly Germans and Italians. Everone here is fair skinned and the city is extremely clean and orderly- very much like a European city. Tomorrow I´m taking a 20 hour bus ride to the capital city of Uruguay: Montevideo. After a few days there I´ll head down to Buenos Aires. From There I´ll go south to the Patagonia then head north through Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and finish in Ecuador where I´ll fly back to Rio to get my flight back to New York on August 13th. I´ll definately post another blog in a couple weeks when I have more stories and images. I hope you all enjoyed it and I can´t wait to hear back from you! I hope you all are having a great summer.