Published: March 29th 2010
December 3rd 2009
São Paulo, Brazil Mel
Brazil and Uruguay
They were putting up huge Christmas trees at Munich airport, and there have been a few other changes too. The boarding security gates are no longer gender segregated. Maybe, I am not the only one who felt panicky about the similiarity to Iran. And, there are lots of new smoking cubicles and even a huge smoking longue. And, there is a sign to a prayer room with symbols for around 6 religions on it. So, looks like they will all have to pray in the same room whether they agree with each other or not.
I was sardined between 2 other passengers in the middle of the plane, and felt unlucky, until I realised that it meant I get double the number of drinks. Everytime a stewartess gave either of the ones beside me a drink or snack, she would also give me one.
Those direct flights are great. I got around 5 straight hours sleep. When I woke, there were flaming red, orange and black streaks accross the sky. I wondered if the sunrise would send all the other passengers scrambling in the overhead bins, for cameras and camcorders to get photos for TravelBlog. It didn't.
As they brought the breakfast around, the red turned to orange and the orange turned to yellow, and then the sun came up, as the plane landed in that spot I have been staring at on the world map for the last 6 months, since buying the flight ticket.
I went through the usual immigration, customs and swine flu queues, and 3 hours after the flight landed, I was in the centre of São Paulo. I thought, I had managed to accidently say the right things or look at the immigration and customs in the right way, because they smiled, stamped and tore bits of this and that off with the minimum of fuss, before waving me on. But, since then absolutely everybody has been the same. A person couldnt possilbly feel stress here. Even though my attempts at Spanish are still being peppered with bits of German and English, people patiently listen and helpfully answer in Spanish, rather than Porteguese.
Everywhere in São Paulo I have seen so far, looks like Thomas Street in Dublin, except for a shanty town which looked shabbier. As cities go, it would win no beauty contests. Apparently though, it is the type of place that grows on a person. Many who live here love it. The ultra easy going and friendly receptionist gave me a map and excitedly told me about all the culture spots to go to. It was way too much for my jet lagged brain to take in, but I did single out one street that is apparently a hub of life and pretty spectacular in her opinion, so I will hang out there tomorrow for a while. I heard the night life is incredible in São Paulo too, but there is no way I am taking to these crime ridden streets after dark to find the clubs or anything else. Everybody seems to agree without exception, that it is very dangerous here.
I have just made myself a delicious coffee in the hostel kitchen, to make up for the sugar mixed with brown tasteless liquid I got in a cafe. That is the way they served the espresso. And they even brought me a bowl of sugar, in case they had not already added enough. Brazil used to be one of the worlds major coffee producers. Why are huge coffee producing countries so often unable to produce a decent cup of coffee in their restaunts? :D Dirk Jan
Bleh! How's the milk etiquette in Brasil? Mel
Well, they added the milk as I asked, but when the coffee is so bad, getting the splash of milk right is no consolation. Dirk Jan
At least they didn't make you pay... Mel
They probably did make me pay for it. The bill wasn't itemised.
The weather is certainly warm here with warm sunny periods and also heavy warm tropical showers. Mel
The overnight bus was very comfortable, but there still wasn't much sleeping being done on it. When it stopped, at a restaurant, for a while, somebody was robbed, and she cried the entire night, while other passangers searched the bus, and the police boarded at one point, and the bus company boarded at another, and they all searched the bus. Dirk Jan
Robbed on the bus, that sucks :( Florianapolis, Brazil Mel
Here I am on tropical island, in a hostel beside a lagoon, after bus ride that lasted longer than plane journey I took a couple of days ago.
I wandered into a place that reeked of marijuana, with a couple of old hippies running it. They gave me directions to the hostel, and I escaped after they showed me the mosaics they make with broken bits of mirror, and hang in the street for peace, and invited me back so we could have mutual teaching each other our languages, and other we will all do it together suggestions. I don't mind the hippies, but 2 days of talking slowly and passing around the marijuana stuffed peace pipe would drive me nuts.
I considered skipping the hostel I have booked, and going to the less alternative surfers one. This one I booked has an add on the internet, offering a free ceramic bowl to anyone who stays more than one night.
I had apprehensive predictions about this place being also owned by ageing hippies, and my having to join them in ceramic bowl making.
I was reassured when I entered and saw there are no tell tale pointy leafed plants in the garden, and the other guests don't look too mellow. Dirk Jan
This place is great. So relaxed, it is like a home away from home. The breakfasts in places like this in brazil are generally a buffet, with bread, cheese, ham, fruit, coffee and.sometimes cakes and cookies. And you.can eat as much as you want. It is enough calories for the rest of the day, so I just buy some things like fruit to eat for the other times. With breakfast included in the hostel price and free internet in most of the hostels, it makes Brazil not so expensive, even though the regular backpackers complaint is that it is the most expensive country in South America to travel in. I suppose what is expensive here are the bus rides. They are more expensive than in Europe. Dirk Jan
I was thinking that way you might avoid being stuck in a hostal with beach lovers. That can't be a bad thing :D] Mel
That depends on what they are like. Some are OK. And the town is not package holiday land, which is where the not OK one usually are.
It is weird to see christmas trees candles, and boughs of greenery with red ribbons on them here, while big tropical flowers peek through the open windows and huge leafed tropical plants are flourishing in the warm damp tropical air outside.
I always though of Christmas stuff such as trees in the house red ribbons and candles as something to brighten up our lives, when it is cold and grey outside. Something that is clearly not needed here. But I suppose the catholics didn't see leaving Europe as reason to drop Chrismas. Mel
All the buses going to Punta del Diablo today are full.
Hopefully there are more going south, and I can get there by hopping down. I should have bought the bus ticket, when I arrived here, but I didn't think it would be a big deal. Anyway, fingers crossed, that I get a bus out of here tonight. I suppose the wise thing to do would be to buy the bus tickets before booking the hostels, but I am not all that wise. Dirk Jan
The folks in Uruguay will be in a good mood - yesterday evening, the national football team qualified for the World Championships in South Africa next year. Hope you'll find a bus :) Mel
A hippy just arrived with 3 nine year olds, who are now energetically swinging on the hamocks in the garden. One of them belongs to the
hippy and the others to the hostel owner. The mothers lit up a bong, with a large helping of marijuana. I am glad, that I did not mention that I haven't received my free ceramic bowl. Punta del Diablo, Uruguay Mel
Woohoo!X I am now in that hostel in Uruguay. Tired, but they have given me coffee and breakfast, so I am perking up a bit.
Puanta del Diablo is an isolated little fishing village with wild foamy sea, which just gets enough backpacker action for it to be littlered with hostels, surfing opportunities, horse riding tours... It reminds me of little fishing villages in Ireland where the young people who live there can't wait to exchange the windswept and rugged natural beauty for places like London and New York. And todays weather is not unlike that of those Irish villages either. It is like a chilly, drizley, Irish coastal Summers day. The other people staying here say the weather changes a lot.
Despite costing less than 10 Euros per night, this hostel has million dollar sea views. I am typing this while looking out accross the sea, in your direction. The whole place has a rustic feel to it, with terraces, living room etc furnished with drift wood, wicker and swinging hamocks.
Every Uruguayian I spoke with so far has asked if I am from the north or south of Ireland and if I am Catholic or Protestant. I suppose having not travelled as much as I did, they have not yet been subjected to such over simplified interrogations of their own political situation, so have no idea how tedious it is. Dirk Jan
You could tell them you're from the land below and strictly pagan :-D Mel
Speaking of politics, I decided to find out a bit about Brazils current political situation, so did some reading on one of yesterdays long bus rides. I wondered if everything was sunshine and smiles, or is it one of those countries where the citizens manage to be cheerful, friendly and somewhat happy, despite it all. Apparently there is now a lefty in power, who has managed to win the trust of the foreign investors, who were worried about leftists in power who squander a countries wealth on things like eliminating misery, povery and desperation amongst its citizens. He has also managed to win the confidence of the people of Brazil. So, all in all the people of Brazil seem to have plenty to feel happy and hopeful about.
I didn't get much sleep last night, so can't remember which S. American leader claims the economic crisis of early this year was caused by the blue eyed blondes of the world. Not the Brazilian leader? He seems too concerned about social justice and fairness, to make ridiculous comments like that. Maybe it is that dip stick who is leading Venzuela who said it? Dirk Jan
That's far more likely, yes. I can't remember who said it either. Mel
I am trying to figure out whether to try to get my hands on more Uruguay money. Only one ciggy left and no food. I have enough Uruguay money left only for the bus fare back to the border. But, I will wait until tomorrow to decide. I am very tired, and it looks way too cold outside to go and buy things. I am glad I brought those extra clothes. I could even do with trousers and socks now, because it really is cold. Typical of S. America to be incredibly hot in one place, and then incredibly cold just a night bus away. But, we are surely at sea level, so it should be warm here? The beach is right ouside the front of the hostel. Dirk Jan
So brilliant that you get internet everywhere :-) Mel
I think, I might actually go back to Florianapolis again. It is a beautiful place. So is Torres, according to what I have read, but Florianapolis has better bus connections to São Paulo, so maybe that is a good idea, since I have a plane to catch. And I can stay in places longer if I don't have bus trouble etc. Yeah, I think that is what I will do. And, I think booking the hostel in advance again is OK, because it is best to make sure, and also it wasn't too much trouble cancelling the last time. Mel
I am leaving here today on the 13.00PM bus to the border. Hopefully, I can get buses to Florianapolis without any trouble. If so, I should be there by tomorrow morning. Chuy, Brazil and Uruguay Mel
Here I am, back in Christmasland. There was no sign of Christmas in Uruguay.
I spent 9 hours in the border town, Chuy. People kept asking me what I was doing in that God forsaken place. I was trying to get out of there. Anybody who is there is either trying to get out, stamping passports or selling things to those who are trying to get out. I arrived in the Brazil side of the town at around 2PM, to discover that the next bus going north was at 11PM. The lady at the bus company wanted to see my passport, with the Uruguay exit stamp in it. I didnt have an exit stamp, and she told me I can't stay here in Brazil if I don't have one, and would have to go back 2 KM to get one, if I want to stay in Brazil. I considered telling her I don't have a passport, because announcing that I am an alien in Brazil with no doccumentation is one way to get the immigration to come to me, rather than my having to go back the 2KM. But, I thought there might be unforseen complications with that plot, so I decided I would go get the stamp.
People were asking if I wanted a taxi to take me there, but I said no, because what else would a person with 9 hours to spare do except go for a walk. I walked through the bustling town of duty free shops, motorbikes, horses and carts, vendors selling cheap tat and food outlets, soldiers and police, and then past fields with cows, horses and then on past a swamp. There was a sign at the swamp saying to beware of Dengue fever, so I stopped to smear on some more of the heavy duty DEET containing repellant I had bought. Then, at last I reached the immigration office which I had sat outside at dawn a few days previously, waiting for the bus to Punta del Diablo. The same immigration officers were there, and I wondered if those guys live there, since they seemed to be there at all hours. I got my Spanish confused and asked for an entrance stamp. Luckily they remembered me and asked if I am going back to Punta del Diablo, so I realised my mistake and managed to get the right stamp. The exit one. Despite having had plenty of sleep the night before, being thrown off the bus and send back to Uruguay would have been a strain on the patience. This sort of bullshit is almost tolerable when I am not tired, rather than after a gruelling bus journey. So, here I am back in Brazil with 4 more stamps in my passport than when I was last here. Dirk Jan
Wahey, red tape is the common denominator for the entire world it seems. Florianapolis, Brazil Mel
Yeah, red tape. Sometimes I make my travel destination decisions based on avoiding red tape, unless there is a treasure like Punta del Diablo which I absolutely want to visit.
Ah, I had a great nights sleep and listened to the usual backpacker complaints this morning about noise and disturbance during the night, that I didnt hear. I am regularly envied by others who can't afford more than a dorm bed, for my ability to sleep through anything. But, between jet lag and all those overnight bus journeys I am frequently too exhaused to notice the usual things that bother people who are sharing dorm rooms with others.
So, Christmas day is this day next month. Woohoo! I love Christmas.
Would you book the night of the 27th in that same hostel in Sao Paulo, for me. Dirk Jan
Booked one, also city centre. São Paulo, Brazil Mel
Remember you found on the internet how to get to the international airport via metro and local bus. Would you mind copying and pasting those instructions into an email. I want to make sure I don't get lost on the day. Taxis to the airport cost much more than I thought. Even the official airport bus costs over 30 dollars US, and I would still have to take the metro accross the city to the bus station to catch it. I might as well take the public bus that only costs a couple of Euros. But, it is making me nervous in case I get lost. Would you make sure the insturctions are to the international airport and not the domestic one. Dirk Jan
Finding out. I'll answer you tomorrow with that, watching football right now :) Mel
I am in no hurry for it. :) Mel
I am at the Okupe hostel. I went to the other address and there was no hostel there. Apparently, it is at another address. It sure was a mistake to walk around the city and then walk to the hostel, before even checking in. I was so tired when I got there, that I just gave the women there, who couldn't speak any English an earful, and stalked off. She said, there isn't any hostel at that address. It is a bit like the border situation. This kind of bedlam is just about tolderable when I have a good nights sleep, but after 3 hours sleep and a sweaty trek around the city...
I walked around an area somebody recommended I see, after waking myself up with some coffee first thing when I arrived in the city, because I would just fall asleep later and not get to do anything. Well, São Paulo is São Paulo, which is Rios ugly sister. The recommended part of the city was just a little less shabby than the rest of the city. But, it is a cool place to hang out, because lots of nice cafes, and it looked like street musicians might be there later. And there is a fantastic looking park, which looked like those hot houses in the botanic gardens in Dublin, except it did not need artificial conditions to make the tropical plants grow.
Anyway, would you log into my email and cancel the other hostel for tonight, with the booking agent(hostelbookers.com? or whatever) and also send an email to the hostel with the booking number to cancel it. I think, the actual hostel part is already done by the guy who works here, but would you also send an email, just to make double sure, so they don't take the money off our credit card, because I didnt show, or did show but unshowed again....
They said I can stay here at the Okupe Hostel, because there is an ACDC concert in São Paulo tonight, and they said it is utter chaos at the hostel. People keep leaving without saying anything. They don't check out or don't reclaim their deposits, and the guy said I might as well have one of the beds, as they don't have any clue how many are still actually occupied. So, I hope I don't wake up beside some drunk person in a ACDC T-Shirt who was not there when I went to sleep.
Anyway, at last I am resting. Dirk Jan
I've asked them to cancel. Bit late but we'll see :-) Mel
It should be alright, because my not staying there was partly the hostels fault. If they are at a different address, there should be a sign in English saying so, at the listed address. If they do charge us, I think I might pull back the payment and send an email to hostelbookers explaining.
The noise here is the hostel is horrendous. I don't know where the ACDC fans are hiding themselves, because ACDC playing would not be too bad, but at one side of this room is Michael Jackson blaring, at the other some morning television show, which is alternated with very loud video games. I even got up early, because early morning is usually very nice in Brazil. But the noise is taking away from the feeling of being in Brazil, because I can't hear the birds singing outside, or the breeze rustling in the trees like I usually can at this time of the morning. Dirk Jan
Yeah, if they don't restitute us I'll try and pull it back. We have six for that I think.
I also think the email is such a great thing. Imagine you going away and I wouldn't hear anything bar maybe a postcard until you get back. Much, much better this way :-) Mel
There is an English guy staying in the hostel, who is complaining that N. Ireland, Scotland and Wales are costing Britian money, and that nobody in England wants N. Ireland and that Ireland should look after it. I told him it is still part of the UK, so the British government is responsible for it. He thinks the solution is to send all the Irish people who are in England back to Ireland and to send all the English people back to England and that Ireland should take back N. Ireland. He said, he thinks nationalism is something to be admired and everybody should be nationalist. I told him, I don't think the Orange men would be too keen on being forciably sent to live in England. He thinks the Orange men don't count because they are weird. But, then who are the nationalists he is admiring?? I was about to ask him, when he launched into how Ireland helped the Nazis during the second world war, by not switching off their lights and allowing the Nazis to land in Ireland. I told him, I don't think it was quite as simple as that and that Ireland was a neutral country during the second world war, who did not support the Nazis but they did/do have a tense history with England which caused certain grey areas when demands were being made by Britian and Germany during the second world war. Well, I am glad I am leaving the hostel before breakfast tomorrow, because that guy keeps casting me strange sideward glances, even though I told him that Ireland predominantly does not want aggrivation with England or any country, because all but the most overly nationalist Irish people want to continue to progress as we have been doing economically, politically, educationally..... He then started saying he had trouble in Ireland when he was there, because he is English and that black people have trouble in Ireland too. I told him, there is no legistlation against any black Irish citizen, to prevent her/him availing of all opportunities that other Irish citizens can avail of, but there are of course the weirdos who will be prejudiced against everybody except those they deem worthy of the rights they themselves are entitled to. He then started telling me that not all the English gained from exploiting the world. I told him I know that, but he still continued to defend this point, even though I wasn't disagreeing. I asked if he often gets a hard time from Irish people, about the Irish, English political situation. Judging by the way he keeps looking at me, I think he does. But, maybe he also includes me amongst those who are giving him a hard time about it. Often the way with political discussions. Dirk Jan
If he thinks that's having a hard time... You are being totally civil about it. The !
It's early Sunday morning here now - your plane is still scheduled as planned :-)
I forgot to call him a :D I had a feeling something important was left unsaid.
When I was talking about the black people in Ireland, I told him there is also prejudice against women in Ireland. He probably didn't like that either, because whatever quick fix he has for the gender situation is likely a load of nonsense too. He would probably suggest we get a country of our own.