...because Karen needs to learn to write shorter blog posts.
12.10.2012 - 24.10.2012 30 °C
Rio the beautiful...
- Gerard says that Rio de Janeiro is the most beautiful city he's ever seen. His definitiveness kind of surprised me. How can you decide that ONE city is THE most beautiful, when there are so many of them - Jerusalem and Venice are the first that spring to mind - that are also absolutely amazing in completely different ways? But I must admit that if you're talking about a big city on the sea, it's probably impossible to surpass the dramatic rock formations, lush greenery, gorgeous beaches and lively but laid-back atmosphere of Rio. I CAN say that I have never left any place with a greater feeling of regret because I had not been there for nearly as long as I wanted to be.
- For your information, ALL Brazilian bus drivers are reincarnations of Japanese Kamikaze pilots. The frustrated ones. You know, the guys who weren´t allowed to go to Pearl Harbor. And they're still trying to prove they have the 'right stuff'.
- In Rio, during the first stages of my bikini search, I tried one on in a little boutique which I later found out was owned by Helo Pinheiro, the gal who - when she was a ´tall and tan and young and lovely´ teenager - was the inspiration for the song ´Girl From Ipanema´. From now on, I think the number should go: ´Short and tan and ripe and bouncy, the broad in Ipanema goes jouncing´.
That Rio feeling...
- Halfway through Brazil, we had a ´vacation within a vacation´ (thanks to our dear friend, Annette Heemskerk, for coining the term) in a little seaside village called Arraial d´Ajuda. Why, you might wonder, do you need one of those when you are gallivanting all footloose and fancy-free around South America? Well, when you have been moving for weeks and weeks from one place to another, constantly making travel arrangements to get from A to B, and trying to see all the sights and do the things you SHOULD in each and every place, you eventually become in dire need of a week or so when you have to do absolutely NOTHING! Although, I must say, even our time in Ajuda was disturbed by arrangements that needed to be made. But it was a nice little break in a place where, I think, we may well have been some of the only foreigners.
Vacation within a vacation at Arraial d´Ajuda
- If Rio is Brazil´s hip, cool, heart, Salvador de la Bahia is its rough, warm, soul. About 1,000 miles up the coast, it was the capital of the country when the Portuguese were one of the world´s most industrious slavers, and its African roots and population give it an amazing atmosphere. I´m in ´Bahia´- as the locals call it - as I type this. Through the open windows of the hostel in the Old Town, I hear laughter, rap and drums coming from three different directions.
Sights and sounds of Bahia
- In practically every country you travel in, you´ll come across touts on the streets or the beaches trying to sell you things - from embarassingly ugly jewellery to amazingly good artwork and food in every stage of edibility you can imagine (to say nothing about those who simply think you look like a soft touch for a handout). It´s one of the down sides of travelling, not only because nobody likes to feel like a walking ATM, but also because these people can (too often, in some places) act reproachful, or even rude or unpleasant, if you´re not interested. But - amazingly - we have not come across this ONCE in Brazil. If you kindly say ´no, thank you´, they just smile, maybe give you a thumbs up, handshake, or a pleasant ´Bon Gia´- and move on. What a breath of fresh air! Something else that is nice, the cats and dogs - even those that, apparently, live on the streets - look relatively healthy and well-treated.
From baubles to bubbles - what´s NOT for sale?
- Brazilians LOVE them some tattoos! SO many people have them, and not just a subtle decoration here or there, but multiple ones as big as grapefruits, or wrapped all around their arms or legs. Oh, and you know that popular conception of most Brazilian women having bodies like Goddesses? Well, it's true - although from what I've seen on the beaches, it's more along the lines of the Venus of Willendorf, than Allesandra Ambrosio. With tattoos.
- After the rather bland, unimaginative meat, meat, meat and potatoes food in Argentina (their desserts were their one saving grace!), the fare in Brazil is nice and diverse, with a good variety of herbs and spices. Our favorite discovery have been the fantastic "Weigh-and-Pay" buffets. You choose what you want from a well-stocked steam table, and pay per 100gr of food on your plate. The food is always really good, but man, do they ever love salt here! It´s not that I can confidently say the food is TOO salty, but many would consider it on the edge. I like well-seasoned food and - nine times out of ten - if I eat somewhere, I´ll usually add a little sprinkle of salt, but not only have I never needed to do that here, there have been a few times when I wished they´d put a wee bit less in. People with high blood pressure - beware when you come to Brazil!
Yummy, spicy (and well salted) stuff...
- Something we continue to be VERY happy about, is the generally outstanding weather we are still having just about every step of the way. Yes, it was bloody cold at the start of our trip, and bloody hot in the Pantanal, but our skies have been sunny and clear so very often, and almost all our time along the coast here, the warm temperatures have been tempered by wonderfully cool breezes. My advice to anyone thinking of visiting here - do it in the Spring!
Perfect, PERFECT weather!
- Last, but not least - after a number of months roaming around, I can say that my wondering in my very first post about how fellow travellers would react to us old farts is something of a moot issue. Maybe it was unusual on our previous travels to see 30-plussers on the road, but that's not the case anymore. We've come across numerous 40-, 50-, and even 60-plussers lugging their backpacks through bus stations, or checking into hostels. We're surfing along on a brand-new, veritable wave of older independent travellers. Haha... Don't forget - WE started it !
OK - so the tide IS coming in. Just let me finish my beer and we´ll move....