We left our beloved Bolivia into Brazil via a small town called Puerto Suarez. Probably not somewhere you would describe as a tourist resort as the supermarket was one of it’s main attractions!! It’s redeeming feature was that it was on The Pantanals, which are the largest wetlands in the world – about the size of Holland, Belgium and Portugal put together. The part we saw was the size of a little bit of northwest Albania.
Your correspondent found that the best way to view the area was not by canoe or on foot or even horseback, no indeed, the best way was to sit at the elevated bar and drink cold beer while looking around. Some of my dear readers may scoff at such a method, but while sat there, we saw three giant otters swim past, as well as several different species of birds. There is method in my drunkenness.
The next day – Sunday – we got up early, packed our bags and got a taxi to the border crossing to Brazil. We got there at 9am as the frontier only opened at 8am, but found a huge queue already formed as people had been there
from 530am waiting. One thing the South Americans seem to enjoy is a good queue. They will wait patiently, talking to friends, buying food and drink from the street vendors. We had no option but to join them.
After waiting for nearly three hours we had moved forward about 100 metres, but as we were not in a rush, not too concerned until…….it was announced that the border was closing at midday!!! This did not fit in with our plans at all. The local people just drifted off, but the majority of gringos demanded to know what was going on and what the officials planned to do about it – their answer was simply “border closed. Will re-open tomorrow”.
Stood in the queue with us were an American couple Jesse and Annie. They were trying to get in to Bolivia (there is only one office for in and out the country) and your correspondent was pleased to find out that he and Jesse had the same attitude for beer, so the four of us found a hotel near the border, dumped our bags and found a place to eat and tried to drink the place dry. The girls
did have a can of beer each, so they had a good time as well.
The next morning, we got up even earlier and got in the queue about 0630 hrs. Still quite a few people already there, but we were confident of getting across, and after nearly 3 hours, we got our passports stamped and off we walked to the Brazilian border. We knew we had to go through a similar process to get in, but when we walked around the corner and saw an even bigger queue we were reasonably depressed. This time it took 5 hours to get through. In the middle of the day in 30 degrees plus. To make matters worse, at the Brazilian control, you do not get people selling beer. I immediately sent a letter to the British Consulate demanding action.
Entering Brazil the first noticeable change was that all the roads were paved; a small thing you may think but quite dramatic compared to Bolivia. The second change is the price of everything. Good grief, a fifteen minute taxi ride cost £9 !!!! We could have got have way across Peru for such a figure. Two pizzas and two beers
cost £20, I considered regurgitating mine to get a discount. If we had started in Brazil we would have been home ages ago.
We stayed in two towns for two nights each. Corumba and Campo Grande. Neither place is worthy of a sentence, so I shall continue on. Here is one of the few countries where it is cheaper to fly than take the bus. So, with that in mind we flew to Salvador, where Brazil came alive.
Salvador is a vibrant city on the coast. I was going to say the Atlantic coast, but was hoping that most of you would have realised that. It has a beautiful historic centre full of bars, restaurants and music at night. Our hostel, was easily one of the best we stayed in. In fact, we had only planned three nights here and stayed for eight. The highlight had to be your correspondent samba dancing. Everybody who was there for that class, was astounded at my level of dancing ability and the amount of natural rhythm in my body. For those who do not know me, the answer to both the above is none. I was good at holding the rope
for others to limbo dance under though.
Each day the temperature got up to 40 degrees, but that didn’t stop us wandering the streets and beaches for swimming. That is, Wendy swam and I sat in the beach drinking beer. We took a ferry from the mainland to a beautiful island called Itaparica where we walked around the main town and then went to the beach for swimming. That is, Wendy swam and I sat under a tree drinking beer (was too hot to sit on beach that day, hence change of routine.
Every week on Tuesday night in the historic centre, there is Blessed Tuesday. Here there is more music than normal and bands play in the narrow winding streets. After a bowl of Moqueca (a huge serving of the local fish or shrimp stew and is delicious – in fact it rivals ceviche!) we found a troupe of drummers warming up and soon there were about a hundred people following them round the streets dancing away. That is to say Wendy danced and I drank beer.
Another visit was to a local hospital. Yes, after 11 months and 2 weeks, your correspondent finally ended up
seeing a doctor. Leg was sore and Wendy was worried that it might be a clot. In fact it was the opposite – my blood was very, very thin. The doctors kept me in overnight for observation, but next day was much better so was sent away. Took about 17 hours in total, for which I was charged over £800. A call was quickly made to the travel insurance company who thankfully agreed that my treatment was covered, otherwise it would have meant no beer for the last two weeks!!
So, with eight days left we have two more journeys. One to Lencois in the mountains, then down to Rio until our return. Stay tuned for reports in the next blog
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