Goodbye Brazil, you beauty

I’m gonna miss ya. The acai, the squeaky sand, the laid-back locals, the stray dogs, the turnstile buses, the random cow statues, the monstrous waterfalls, the heat, the acai, the butterflies that sound like electricity, the mangoes for breakfast, the caiparinhas for lunch, the acai, the hershey’s, even the tongue-twisting Portuguese… did I mention the acai?

Here’s a few haphazard pics I’ve had time to upload… there’s only 5 so it’s not really an overview, more of an introduction, or an image appetiser if you will…

The spitting incident

When we were in Sao Paulo we visited a pizzaria. I ordered a ‘chic’ pizza which came in a metal tray to keep it warm. The waiter neatly picked up a slice using two forks and closed the lid on the remaining three. All good so far; the pizza was good, Jemma was enjoying her meal, we complimented the food and we were glad we had came. Then disaster struck.

I decided I would like to continue my excellent meal with a second slice of pizza. So, holding the metal tray in one hand, I attempted to copy the waiter and lift a slice of pizza with the two forks. This proved more difficult than I had anticipated, as it was a delicate juggling act to lift the pizza while freeing it from it’s stringy cheese moorings. Why had I even tried I ask you!??! But instead of accepting defeat like a sensible human being and dropping the forks, I opted to drop the lid of the metal tray on the pizza with my hand still in it, while refusing to let go of the slice.

At this moment a waiter, who had no doubt seen my ungraceful floundering from across the room, came to assist. He took the metal dish from my hand, and easily passed me my desired slice of pizza, replaced the dish and smiling in one slick move. Right then I could have closed the situation with a shred of dignity by laughing, apologising and we could have parted ways on good terms. Sadly it wasn’t to be.

As he smiled I rushed to say thank you, but instead of words, a sizeable chunk of ham flew out of mouth and across the table. We all saw the ham. It was a big healthy chunk of pink solids that was unmistakeably of the dead pig variety. The waiter pretended not to see it. Jemma laughed with sheer glee, and I, I was so embarrassed I said nothing. I just stared straight ahead, hoping, that if I kept staring, this would all go away…

* * *

There are many other stories and incidents to update on since my last post… we´ve said tchau to Brazil after three weeks and hola to Argentina, land of steak, red wine and the wilds of Patagonia… but this will have to wait until the next rainy day in South America…

Paraty: South America’s most blinding town

The streets of Paraty take no prisoner. There is an enemy lurking there that few can withstand, and all eventually succumb to. It is not the perpetually insidious mosquito that I speak of, nor the troublesome boat owners yelling ‘passeio’ at every passerby. No, it is the sunlight. Yes, the fricking sunlight. Wherever you walk in this admittedly beautiful cobbled town, the white walls and polished stones reflect the tropical sun directly into your brain in an attempt to permanently blind you. *

So after escaping Paraty with both our vision capabilities thankfully intact, we have arrived in Sao Paulo, which I believe is the biggest city in the southern hemisphere. The Lonely Planet says 19 million people inhabit these grey, towerblock lined streets, and from what we’ve seen it certainly does go on and on and on in every direction. There are no majestic rainforest-covered hills rising above the concrete like in Rio, no gorgeous sandy beaches like in Paraty, this is a city at its most functional and ugly. As a Brazilian told us last night “you want fun, you want to relax and party – you go to Rio. You want to make money, you come to Sao Paulo.”

Finally I would like to add that following on from my last post I did try an ‘espanhola’ and it was, all things considered, pretty disgusting. I fully attribute my inability to sleep that night down to that thick death liquid, but in retrospect I probably should have seen that coming. It’s difficult to describe the taste but it was something like a milkshake made from an alcoholic cow that had been solely fed on rotting old pineapples. Ironically, Jemma, my girlfriend and sprightly travelling companion (also a long time abstainer from alcohol) loved it. But there’s no accounting for taste…

* I would like to add that once you get over the brightness, it is a beautiful little place to amble around and spend a few lazy days doing very little…

“Donde esta la boat” and the espanhola

To say my Brazilian is a little rusty would be an understatement; there are sunken 15th century Portuguese caravels with less corrosion damage. So you can imagine the puzzled look I got when I asked a Brazilian on Lopes Mendes beach “donde esta la boat?” which I think is a combination of at least three languages, none of them in regular use in Brazil. But it’s amazing what you can convey with some ‘innovative’ hand waving…

The espanhola in the title refers to a drink which has inspired intense revulsion and fascination simultaneously… a reaction which demands an attempt at this beast. If it weren’t for a tropical storm, I would’ve experienced it already.

These are the ingredients:

>Red wine
>Pineapple juice
>Condensed milk

A week in Brazil

So a week has passed and Brazil has me hook, line and sinker. It hooked me with Rio de Janeiro and it reeled me in with the island of Ilha Grande. Rio is without doubt one of the most spectacular, exciting, varied cities in the world. It´s even got Cape Town beaten (sorry dad).

In Rio I have discovered the joy, the majesty, the elixir of life that is the acai berry (pronounced a-sai). It has several juice incarnations and all of them are brilliant, but an acai milkshake just about tops it.

To South America - Me getting close to the acai

Forget the amber nectar, it’s all about the purple nectar with bits in it

Other good things about Rio: they bring you your beer in an ice bucket; Cristo Redentor looming imperiously above the clouds; and the small inquisitive monkeys in the Mata Atlantica rainforest covering the hills around the city.

Some of the downsides: trying to get on a city bus with a backpack; when it rains it really rains; and any excursion you want to take costs a small fortune when you´re on a budget.

Two hours from Rio is the island of Ilha Grande. A jungle covered island with no cars, few roads and one of the best beaches on the world. Lopes Mendes is nothing short of spectacular, perhaps even more so because you have to trek three hours through the sweltering jungle to get there. When you arrive you won´t care it costs 2 pounds for a coke, you´ll be so taken aback by the white sands and azure sea you´d gladly hack off a limb for one.

To South America - Ilha Grande dock

We´ve booked an extra night on the island because, well, why the hell not… I cant think of anywhere else I´d rather stay right now… It´s been an amazing first week in South America, I´m not sure how the rest of the trip is going to live up to this amazing introduction. Muy bien!