Brazil-Travelogue :Round the World 2003
We arrived in Sao Paulo in the evening, after a 4hour flight directly from Santiago de Chile. Matthias was a little scared to be there after dark, after all he has heard. Sao Paulo has a certain reputation concerning safety...
At the airport Luis and Tonico, good friends of Tati were already waiting. We went downtown and directly in a sweet neighborhood restaurant, where Matthias experienced the first Brazilian meat dishes. Brazil is not exactly a vegetarian country... so Tati said goodbye for any high food expectations she had built up in Chile.
The evening was very nice, so the four of us came home late in Tonicos apartment in the 11th floor. Matthias was already a little more relaxed after an evening without any robbery or shooting (which he envisioned when arriving in Sao Paulo).
Just when we were going to bed at about 1AM, a huge noise, like a major explosion, shook the whole building. The four of us frozen in shock and while hiding from the window... We were all thinking of a bomb going of in the building! At the same second, with the flash of light, the whole building went dark.
After checking if everyone was all right and finding a torch we finally dared to look out of the window. A bus was standing in the wall of the building, a few cars crashed standing around. Two streetlight poles were ripped out of the concrete road. One huge transformer (usually mounted on the top of the streetlights) smashed on the ground leaking oil!
What has happened? After discussing all options but being relieved that it obviously was a strange accident rather than a terrorist attack we went to bed, everyone assuring Matthias that this is NOT usual in Brazil!!
The next morning after a short night, the electricity was still not working... so we went to explore the city.
Sao Paulo is a monstrous city with more than 10 Million people and an extreme atmosphere. Once the city was rich, therefore you see beautiful buildings of the turn of the century, nice places and sometimes even some green. It's a shocking mixture: the most horrifying structures of the 50's just beside nicer and older buildings. The city center, long deserted by the wealthy people who were searching a safer environment in the suburbs, is now rotting away; many buildings are simply falling apart or taken by the poor.
At the same time, people smiling and enjoying life with the minimum that they have. Everyone tries to sell you something; you wouldn't believe what you get offered within a day of walking downtown.
After all an incredible intense and interesting city!
We stayed a few days to get some Visa issues solved and we took our time enjoying having a huge choice of cinemas to check the latest movies. Fortunately in Brazil they don't translate them (always in original with Portuguese subtitles) so Matthias could also follow
One was "The Hours"-we liked so much we would like to recommend it to you - it is about Virginia Woolfe and 2 other women in one of the best movies we know! Please check it out!
We went by bus to Tati's parents on the farm. They live 5hours north of Sao Paulo in the middle of the province Minas Gerais (which has probably the size of Germany). It's as hilly and green as the region Allgaeu (close to the German Alps) but warmer, so the vegetations offers fruit and fragrance that where new a very exiting to Matthias.
We arrived at midnight at the farm; Tati's parents Tarcisio and Elizabeth picked us up from the bus stop along the highway. The next morning after a good sleep in the silence of the countryside we were offered the most amazing breakfast with coffee from the region and a fruit salad out of the farm: papaya, orange, goiaba, figue with a taste and freshness that is mind-blowing.
We washed all our stuff, amazed how much dirt clothes can collect over time! And we enjoyed the company of Tati's sweet parents who where making us very hard to even think of the next part of our trip!
It was very good to have time to relax and to digest all the impressions that we accumulated in the last 3 months... Mexico - Costa Rica - Patagonia - Central Chile ... remember? No? Read the last reports again!!!!
In the farm there was much to see and to learn for us: Tarcisio runs an earthworm farm (yeah, these little longish and thin creatures that move through the earth) to research and develop processes to turn compost into soil. He also does research and trials for the production of healthy soil and bio-fertilizer using a biocatalyst. We watched the trials, conveyed by Tarcisio's motivated employees with high interest and fascination. Within a few days he was able to turn biological waste into new and valuable soil - what an achievement!
Elizabeth taught us how to use crystals in favor of our health, which was more than welcome, as we have to face some angry stomach, sunburn and other illness on our trip!
One nice trip led us to a beautiful valley and hidden waterfalls. How big is the contrast between city and country life!! The people are friendly in the countryside, always ready to chat and help, life is slower, space is wider (!) and the time seems to pass by slowly and with a smile on its lips.
Matthias understood the difficult situation for many Brazilians: Life is pleasant outside of the cities; unfortunately the work is in the few big cities. Because of the size of the cities and the chaotic traffic situation... commuting is not really and option. So you work and earn money OR you live. Both together seem to be difficult...
One night, after dinner and heading to our house (the farm consists of several building spread over the land, between fruit trees and hills) we were talking about the wolf pictures Matthias has seen. This wolf is something between a wolf and a wild dog and it is called "Lobo Guara". Regional by nature, they often visit the farm and... almost vegetarian... mainly eat a fruit that strongly smells of chewing gum, the lobo fruit.
Anyways.... There were we, in the dark of the night.. talking about the wolf and... suddenly Tati moves the torch and - right in the light - there it was! The wolf is slender and tall, the shoulder approximately as high as Matthias hip. It was just there... looking at us, a little scared and very curious. It must have heard us but decided to meet us here in the dark of the field. We also, were a little scared and very curious. Matthias was longing for the camera in his pocket and Tati was calmly talking to the Wolf. The wolf surrounded us with smooth and proud movements. We watched the movements fascinated by the beauty and grace of the animal. After a while the wolf satisfied its curiosity and it walked off, happily, with a lobo fruit between its teeth. Sweet!!
After one week on the farm and in the beautiful region we were starting to plan out travel of the country, meaning to select a few of the thousand possibilities in this huge country.
We took a bus to Belo Horizonte the (not so exciting) capital of Minas Gerais, where we stayed for one night before traveling to Ouro Preto, a city that in the 18th century was one of the richest in the country. Huge goldmines were found, exploring 80% of the worlds gold at the time! Many rich churches and houses witness these times. They told us a lot about Brazil's culture, including the start of the liberation of the slaves and Brazils independence of Portugal.
We ended up staying much longer than planned; too beautiful was the city, which is UNESCO patrimony.
At the last night - noise!! - our host asking us to leave the building - FIRE!!! Not our building... uffs... but 1 block away the night sky was painted red; a tall 3-story building on the market square was burning. The electricity was cut and our part of the city was dark. Only illuminated by the red smoke that we saw over the roofs. Just when we wanted to go there to see what was going on people came into the house, agitated, telling that it was not safe out in the dark. Criminals took advantage of the chaos to rob people in the dark. No way!!
20 minutes later we went in a small group to check if the neighbor buildings would catch fire. The buildings in the city center were built hundreds of years ago... of old wood and very close together... such a fire could easily be a threat to the many surrounding buildings!
On the market place a picture of chaos: thousand of people watching the fire, the flames 20 meters high, ghostly illuminating the scenery. The few fire fighters and the police were watching helpless. The fire fighting equipment, consisting of 1-little-water-truck-plus-weak-pump was simply useless against the flames. The nearby hydrants all defect (!). Eventually a water supply truck arrived giving water for a few minutes of fire fighting activity. Finally the building was burned to its grounds; the neighbor building was also severely burned. We went home, mostly frustrated that the city with all these unique and not replaceable treasures has no money for a proper fire brigade.
The beauty of Ouro Preto and its churches and little streets kept us for 3 days. Thanks to Tati's parents, who borrowed us their car, we were very flexible and drove to Carassa, a monastery hidden in a valley between beautiful mountains and waterfalls. We were able to stay overnight in the monastery and to eat in the refectory! Such a picturesque environment.
Back in Belo Horizonte we met Elizabeth, Tarcisio and Gabi, Tati's sister, who had just arrived from Germany. We enjoyed the city life together including all the amazing restaurants and cinemas.
We took a plane to Salvador in the province Bahia in the northeast of the country. "North" in Brazil means closer to the equator and that means WARMER! Matthias... who was complaining about the "low" temperatures in Minas Gerais (about 20-25C) was very happy about the 30C in the city. We arrived in the Easter weekend; the city was rather quiet and it gave us opportunity to enjoy the attractions without the usual bustle.
Bahia is very different from the south of Brazil; not only in terms of temperature. Being mostly of african decent, white skin is the exception. The air is full of energy and music, fragrance of the ocean, cocos and fruits. Women in traditional white dresses sell tasty meat and cocos items in the street. Most food uses Dende oil - Palm oil. A little hard on the stomach- but soooo good!
Matthias was busy to try all the new tastes... manioc, fish, coconut sauces, crab and thousand other see food kinds... Tati showing him the possible and impossible variations and experiencing herself some new food... a few vegetarian options were tested and approved. )
On Easter's Sunday during breakfast we were wondering what we were doing last year at that easter. Well we were hiking at the "Lago di Garda" - Gardasee in Italy. And that was when we came together! So we are celebratin 1year of Tati &Matthias - how much happened in that year - we can't believe it.
Salvador offered music day and night.. in the streets... bars ...buses..everywhere! At night people are dancing, the atmosphere is incredible. After 3days of this intense city, we were heading towards "Chapada Diamantina" a national park 6 hours west of Salvador.
Lencois is a beautiful old village that, being in the mining area, was once really rich. After the gold finished the city shrank but its buildngs survived to be rediscovered by the Ecotourism. We found an amazing pousada (bed & breakfast), "Alcino", that would be our home for the next week. Alcino is an artist who paints ceramics and offers an incredible rich, fresh and friendly breakfast. Fruits of the region... home made bread and cake, fresh coffee and all sorts of freshly cooked and baked home-recipes. No wonder that we stayed at breakfast for hoouurrrs every morning and started to gain some pounds...
Chapada Diamantina, what a beautiful park to hike, to do walks, to enjoy the numerous waterfalls and rivers. Mountains stick out of the relatively flat lush land like huge tables. They have flat tops that are covered with all kinds of chrystals.
We went for hikes and explored the park and some wonderful caves in the region.
One day we took our scissors comb and mirror to a waterfall and Tati gave Matthias a (...more and more experienced) haircut.
It was difficult to leave... but our next destination, Barra Grande, was calling!
After a long trip by bus and boat we finally arrived, a little village on a peninsula south of Salvador. Sunny beach, fine yellow sand, Palm trees as far as your eyes can reach. The pousada we found was located at the beach with a huge fruit garden. It was Mango time - you can't imagine what the means here! It was virtually raining those beautiful fruits with and sweet and aromatic fragrance and taste. Matthias got really excited and started collecting them and to pile them up around the window of our room. Trying all the kinds and tasts was our day task!!! )
Other fruits like Graviola and Caja were also ripe and ready to enjoy. Did I tell you how beautiful those fresh fruits are? WOW!!!
The next day we made a reservation in a pousada at "Taipus de Fora", a famous beach 40minutes south. We got picked up by the friendly driver, and found paradise on earth in the family pousada at the beach. The houses were well built at this astonishing location. The ocean was wild, waves crashing in the clean sand. At low tide natural pools of several hundred meters length opened up and invited to snorkel between the corals and colorful fish!
After a swim and a walk in the hot sun... just "relaxing" in the hammocks in the shade or in the pool in the pousada.
On the way back to Salvador we made a stop in Cachoeira, an old city which was once the main trade place between Bahia and Portugal. Now is pretty unknowing and doesn't even have a place in the Brazilian guidebooks... shame!
We stayed in the monastery which is now a pousada, renting out high-ceiling and history-breathing rooms.
We visited the first Dannemann plant, the production place of the world famous cigar brand. We could see the handmade process of cutting, rolling and packing the cigars. After watching the ladies for a long time and asking many questions one of the workers stood up and asked Tati to take her place and roll a cigar. She did very well, the cigar sits here on the table... almost to beautiful to be smoked.
Back from Bahia after 2-hour flight... we were back in Belo Horizonte in the appartment of Tati's parents. After some relaxing and enjoying some city life again... for a change... we went to the farm were we realized that our time in Brazil was almost finished!! O
It was just time for a little bit of enjoying the quiet time in the farm and off we went to Rio de Janeiro... our last stop! Two days to have a glimpse of the Wonderful City... as its inhabitants call it! The mix of mountains, green areas, parks, beaches... just in the middle of the city is astonishing. A look throughout Dona Marta's lookout gives and idea of the beauty and also from the rich/poor contrast in Brazil. Just beside the most amazing houses of the really rich people... favelas ... slums are just there, coexisting somehow! After a spot at a Brazilian Churrascaria, to have a final taste of Brazilian's barbecue... Yummmy... not for Tati of course... ) but we sure left Brazil with lots of good memories and big wish to have more time to explore this huge country...visit friends... stay more time with family... so much to do... 6 weeks were certainly not enough. But...KiwiLand was calling and there we went... directly to Auckland, New Zealand... looking forward to a new step of our World Adventure!!!
|Start of journey:||January 2003|
|End of journey:||January 2004|