Published: August 7th 2007April 30th 2007
Vale do Pati
First view of the Vale do Pati, on day 1 of the trek in Chapada Diamantina National Park
I'm in Mexico City at the moment, having come here from Brazil via Easter Island, and as usual I have about 2 months worth of travels to update, so here goes....
From the Pantanal to Brasilia it was another 18 hour bus journey, getting there at lunchtime. Because Brasilia isn't geared up for backpackers at all, I only spent one night there in a 'budget' hotel (10 whole pounds!), having the whole day the next day and leaving on another night bus. Arriving was a bit strange, as when you get to the capital city of a country of 182 million, you somehow expect to know that you're there. But we arrived in a wee diddy bus station without any sight of the city. Turns out that the wee diddy bus station is an Oscar Niemeyer masterpiece, although I had to ask someone on the bus if we were in Brasilia!
The next day I set off on my sight seeing expedition which was over in a couple of hours. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought to walk round all the Niemeyer buildings in the centre, although the complete lack of pedestrain infrastructure certainly slowed things
Pass me my jetpack
Brasilia, city of the future a long time ago
down - there are 2 main 6 lane highways running up and down the centre with hardly any crossings at all, so it seemed as if everyone who lived there was pretty good at sprinting. Being a futuristic city of the 60s, we were obviously meant to be in jet bubbles or something, and not doing anything as medieval as walking. It was a bit strange walking round all these forlorn buildings that were at one point an expression of how the future should be. To anyone who's been to Easterhouse, it wouldn't feel totally unfamiliar (although the shopping centre was better). Having exhausted the nation's capital earlier than expected, I went to the pictures to kill time in the afternoon.
Then I got another night bus to Belo Horizonte, and connected to Our Preto, one of the colonial gold mining towns in the state of Minas Gerais. It's a beautiful town, although the narrow, steep cobbled streets are a bit treacherous in flip flops. Spent a few days there looking round some of the sights, which include a church built by the slaves who worked in the gold mines and raised the money to build it by washing
flakes of gold out their hair.
From there it was back to Belo Horizonte and another night bus to Porto Seguro on the coast (14 or 16 hours I think). I had spent time in some places wondering where all the other travellers were - although there were people I went out with for a couple of nights in Ouro Preto, the other 2 nights I was there there were only a couple of Brazilians who didn't speak English in the hostel, and this is a place that the Lonely palnet gives a whole 5 pages to! So I was sure that when I got the coast it would all be different, but it was not to be. The hostel I stayed in had 3 other people in it, 2 of them spoke some English and they made an effort to look after me, but Porto Seguro was a bit strange in that it was meant to be one of the main tourist towns on the coast, but it was really difficult to get information on how to get to the beach! I spent a day looking for tourist information when I got there, or trying to get some
info on what bus to get to the beach, but with no luck. The two people who were in the hostel took me to the beach one day, but I'd already decided that Porto Seguro wasn't what I was looking for, so decided to leave, although even that took me a day longer than planned as I couldn't get any info on bus times! From there I went to Illheus, although there wasn't much to that either, so I only stayed one night and got the bus to Itacare.
Note* I had just written up all the stuff about Itacare and where I went after that, but the programme just crashed and I lost it all, and I can't be bothered typing it all up again, so I'm just going to be quick:
Spent a week in Itacare, beautiful beaches and great town, lots of wee cafes and places to hang about, spent most of the week with the 3 people I had got the bus there to with.
From Itacare, I went to Lencois, the starting point for treks into the Chapada Diamantina national park. Had to hang around for 4 days until there were enough
There's nobody here
The main square in the capital of a country of 182 million at 1pm on a weekday afternoon, quieter than South Uist on a Sunday. The building is the Presidential office, where the changing of the guard had taken place place a few minutes before to the fascination of absolutely nobody.
of us to form a group for an English/Portugues led 4 day trek. So off we set carrying all our food for 4 days (which I hadn't quite calculated on, and was over my weight allowance that I'd planned, so much huffing and puffing and swaying about on my part on day one thanks to the big bag of vegetables in my pack). Some of the walking was quite difficult, as a lot of it involved getting to cachoeiras (waterfalls), so clambering up and down densely wooded forests, walking over slippery rocks etc. Cachoeiras are the true Brazilian obsession, never mind football, people can talk for hours about them. So inevitably, there were many hours of scrambling about and admiring of cachoeiras, although we also did have a couple of days of walking out in more open terrain. Although there were a couple of other groups about because it was Easter weekend, the whole trek did feel as if we were getting out into real Brazilian wilderness.
After the trek was over, I head back from Lencois to Salvador. I had planned to be much further up the coast by this point, but with just a few days left
High Court, Brasilia
Spent ages getting myself right in the centre and then took the photo squint - doh!
in Brazil, I decided to fly back to Rio from Salvador, rather than Natal, where I'd originally thought I would be by that time. I had about 5 days in Salvador, but to be honest 1 day is enough. It's got its sights and whatnot, but the old area, Pelorinho, is incredibly touristy, and a bit too much for that length of time. So I headed to a beach place Praia da Forte for a couple of days, although had a bit of a shock as it was a Thomsons package holiday place, so was full of pasty British people! A bit too close to home for my liking...So I then started my 5 places in 5 nights odyssey - Praia da Forte, followed by Salvador, followed by Rio (uneventful apart from the 4 guys that were in my dorm room having a full on fight at 6am in the morning), followed by Santiago de Chile (spent the night in the airport, big mistake, it was freezing and they kept the music on all night), followed by Easter Island.
So having spent nearly 3 months in Brazil, here are my observations:
*all shops, no matter how small, have
Niemeyer's buildings were offset by some fluffy clouds on the day I was there
to have a full aisle of cream crackers, even if they only have 2 aisles. These crackers can be an endless number of brands, but can only come in 2 flavours, salted or not salted. It's the law.
*Brazilians eat worse food than Scottish people, usually the only options are fried nondescript meat nonsense. But they spend all weekend doing handstands on the beach, so they get away with it.
*Brazilians don't understand the Portuguese for 'I'm sorry, I don't speak Portuguese'. No matter how many times you say it, they will carry on talking to you, explaining all sorts of stuff, blank expressions notwithstanding. The more you say it, the more they speak.
*Brazil must be the only country in the world where they don't know what you're talking about if you ask for a Macdonalds. To make the question clear, you have to ask for the nearest Macjonaljey, and they will understand. Similarly, if asking for a diet coke, if you say 'diet' they won't have a clue what you're on about, but as soon as you say 'jietjey' all will become clear. Big Brother, although spelt the same, is pronounced Biggie Brother and ping pong is pingy
Beautiful Ouro Preto
The view from the balcony of the hostel I was staying at
pongy. That's about the extent of the Portuguese I've picked up.
*All cliches about Brazilian people being friendly, happy go lucky people are true, apart from the odd grumpy. You can see from the way that Brazilians are with tourists and with each other that friendship is an immediate thing, there's no standing back sizing people up. A big part of the enjoyment of travelling in Brazil is meeting people who are so easy to talk to and get along with, even if they are putting up with my terrible 'Portanol'.
*You're not a proper Brazilian unless you can hold a conversation for 5 hours non stop about waterfalls.
So I was sad to leave Brazil, to see it properly you would need at least a year, it's just so vast and there's so much to it. I was excited to be going to Easter Island, but it was with a heavy heart that I flew out of Rio, knowing that it could be a very long time before I would go to a restaurant and weigh my meal before paying for it.
There are more photos below