Archive for the Brazil Category
The best way to get around Brazil (and all of South America) is by bus. It’s not like taking the Grey Hound from Philly to NYC or that dreadful overnight bus in Albania, complete with chain smokers…it’s more civilized. Executivo class buses provide a snack pack, pillow and blanket for your comfort, and lido class buses include the snack pack, pillow, blanket and seats that nearly fully recline. In order to get to Foz do Iguacu, we took a 6 hour bus back to Sao Paolo, only to get on an 16 hour bus to our destination.
The Rocinha favela is located on the hills of Rio de Janeiro which ironically has the best views of the beautiful beaches below. Rocinha was built by refugees or former soldiers the government had no use for. Started in the late 1800’s, the government allowed public land to be used for housing, largely ignoring the poor shanty towns until it began spreading into the metropolitan areas. With an estimated 20% of Rio’s population and roughly 750 favelas surrounding Rio, the government is now taking notice.
Crime is not tolerated in the favelas. The drug lords who control the favelas are fierce about controlling any activity that might attract police presence. There is a complex network of lookout posts that make it virtually impossible for the police to enter the favela unnoticed. Rather than attend school, many of the kids prefer to work for the drug lords. The favela tour gives back to the community, donating part of the proceeds to an activity center where children go for half the day to keep them off the streets.
From Paraty we headed straight for Rio to meet up with Hedda (and her friend Claire) for a few days to catch up since we last saw her in July. The overcast skies didn’t keep us from doing the requisite tourist activities. We went up to Christ the Redeemer, watched a football (soccer) game, toured Rocinha favela (township), watched Brazilian volleyball on Ipanema Beach (no hands, only feet, head and chest), went to a churrascaria for all you can eat meat, and went to Lapa for dinner where Hedda almost had her wallet stolen. I’d say we did all that we could do as a tourist in Rio.
“Hearing that soccer was the world’s most popular sport was sort of like hearing that broccoli was the world’s most popular food. You want to ask, ‘Have you tried pizza?’”
I have to agree with Chuck Klosterman on that one. We went to our first soccer game in Rio, and although there wasn’t much action on the field, there sure was plenty in the stands. Keep in mind this video was shot BEFORE the game had even started.
Today we took a 20 minute mini bus ride from Paraty this morning to Trindade. From Trindade, it was supposed to be a 30 minute hike through Praia do Meio to Caxiadoce. Sounded easy enough from the start…but whenever Mike and I go on a hike, it’s never a direct route. We seem to always get lost. The half an hour that it takes everyone else, always takes us much longer…today it took us two hours.
Caixadoce is a natural pool of water, formed from these giant boulders (that form a circle in the water) which also serve to protect you from the surf of the ocean. The water felt cool and refreshing after the hike. Here’s Mike’s relaxing and enjoying the afternoon sun.
There’s also an alternative to hiking…small motorboats go back and forth from Caixadoce to Praia do Meio for only 5 reias each (about $2.50 ). For our return, we decided to skip the hike and take the 4 minute motorboat back. Five minutes after boarding the boat, we were relaxing under beach umbrellas, drinking a cold beer.
Hard to see but Mike is sitting on top of the rocks where the waves are crashing in on him.
From Sao Paolo we took a 6 hour bus ride up the coast to Paraty (pronounced par-a-chee), which is an old Portuguese town with quaint churches, cobblestone roads, and great restaurants. Paraty is the perfect historical old town, that has been well maintained, but not yet completely over-run by annoying tourist traps and rather than the typical tourist souvenir shops, it seems there are many local artists selling their own creations.
Yesterday we spent the day on a boat touring around the many small islands off the coast of Paraty. The boat ride was great fun with live entertainment, food, and stops at a few of the 360 islands nearby to swim.
According to the Patricia, there’s not much to do in Sao Paolo except eat (& drink) and shop–which is what we did. Similar to my story with Neil, Patricia had been inviting me to visit Brazil for Carnaval for some time. But every year was the same excuse, I just didn’t have the time to make the long trip. But just recently she landed a big job that brought her back to her native Brazil, so the timing couldn’t have been better to visit Sao Paolo and check in on Patty, and do the thing we like most, eat.
The big thing in Brazil is the churrascaria, which is a Brazilian steakhouse. There are two styles of steakhouses; the traditional steakhouse where different types of grilled meats are bought out on a huge skewer (called rodizio dining) which is sliced and served table-side. The second style of Brazilian steakhouse has a grilling station near your table, and the waiter will bring out a large piece of meat, slice it, and cook it, and serve it at the same pace you eat. As you nearly finish eating what is on your plate, more is served. We ate so much at lunch that we weren’t hungry the rest of the day, but rest assured, we still forced down dinner at 10:30pm (Brazilians eat late).
The gauchos (former cattle ranchers) in the south of Brazil are very serious about this second method of cooking steak. Patricia’s friends mentioned that it is a “selling point” to those buying a house. Apparently, these grills are the centerpiece in the living room of any self-respecting gaucho.
Oh, and BTW, Patricia is happy to be back in Sao Paolo, reunited with her family, meeting up with old friends, and energetic for her new job.