Back to grey.

View of Rio from the Sugarloaf.

I’ve been back from Brazil for a week now, and it’s so difficult rewiring myself back to European life. Going outside into the dark and the cold is that that extra bit harder than before, and it was always hard.

The first few days back in England I was zinging with vitamin D and good health, and I slotted back into work like I had never left. After a few more days the sleepiness hit while my body clock adjusted to the lack of light. Now I think I am more or less back to my SAD dozy self, but it was good to feel zingy and healthy while it lasted!

As usual, I don’t really want to write a travelogue, because those are only really interesting to the person who experienced the trip.  So here is a brief summary instead.

I loved Brazil and we hardly saw any of it. There is so much still to see. We ran out of time and didn’t see everything that we wanted to, but this was mostly down to us being utter GRINGOS. We missed a bus out of Argentina because we didn’t understand that we had to catch it from a different town, and ended up milling around border towns for far longer than we desired.

This is what we were at the border to see. Iguaçu Falls. Probably the highlight of the whole trip.

There is not much English being spoken in Brazil. Of course you come across English speaking tourists, but the vast majority of tourists you meet are Brazilian, followed by Argentinians. So everyone speaks Portuguese and Spanish but hardly any English at all. I managed to learn about 12 phrases of Portuguese before we left, and these were very helpful for buying stuff and getting bus tickets, but they weren’t nearly helpful enough. Anyhoo, we managed. You just get used to being laughed at and laughing too. And saying “Não falo Portugues” every two seconds when people strike up conversations with you.

Deserted beach on the Ilha Catarina. It was a 90 minute hike through steaming jungle to get there, but it was worth it.

We still managed to have some long and animated conversations with people in Portugueselish. While stuck on the border, I played endless games of dominoes, Uno, and a game of chess with a little girl who didn’t speak a word of English. It  didn’t seem to bother her that we didn’t know each
other’s languages (and in the chess game, the rules),  so long as she won!

Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil has such a unique and rich culture. I love the way the people have embraced indigenous and African aspects of their varied racial history and fused it into one culture that everyone celebrates and identifies with. I wish South Africa could achieve this in the future. I think it can. It is inspiring to behold. I’m not saying that there is no racism in Brazil. But go there and see how the people are and how they identify with what it is to be Brazilian. I love it.

The Pão do açucar  (Sugarloaf mountain in Rio).

The Sugarloaf from Praia Vermelha.

That’s another thing. I have always heard South Africa being compared to Brazil in terms of crime and the gaps between rich and poor. I know there is crime in Brazil and that it is bad, but I am sad to say that it is a joke to compare it to South Africa. I never felt anything other than safe in Brazil. Their public transport is amazing, their bus system is better than in the UK, and the metro is safe day and night. People, women, walk around many neighbourhoods alone at night.

I know that the favelas are not safe and that some areas away from touristy places are more dangerous, but the fact is that I felt much much safer than I ever felt in South Africa.  Walking alone at night anywhere in South Africa always felt a bit like running the gauntlet for me.

Cristo Redentor in Rio.

I didn’t g0 around comparing things the whole time, I was too busy bodysurfing and drinking a million excellent caipirinhas.  It was just that the crime thing really jumped out at me. I loved my time in Brazil, and would love to go back. I love travelling around South Africa like a tourist too. I’m not trying to run it down. Brazil has been dealing with its colonial history since the 1500s. South Africa is much younger so we have a few centuries still to work things out.

Historical Paraty.

I loved all the music and the dancing in Brazil, and the drumming on the streets, and the beaches and the mountains… I could go on. But you really have to go there for yourself and experience it all. You will have a great time, guaranteed. Just be prepared, Brazil is not cheap. It has a booming economy and is the wealthiest South American country, and therefore is also the most expensive. But with all that sunshine and all that sea and jungle and mountains lying around for free, it’s worth every centavo. And you can do some things for free.

The Lapa Steps in Rio. Viewed for free.

We managed to see an actual Carnaval rehearsal in the actual Sambadromo stadium, for free! That was quite an event. The stadium was packed with Brazilians and beer,  and all kinds of food sellers. People were singing along and dancing along and just looking happy. It was such a nice vibe.

The Carnaval participants were only wearing their practice outfits, and they still looked spectacular, so I can’t imagine what the real thing is like, except that it must be amazing. You really felt the Brazilians’ love for their country and their culture in that stadium. It was inspiring.

Also when we were trying to get into the stadium we ended up in the performers’ area… which was barricaded… and we couldn’t find our way out… basically we nearly ended up in the parade and I most certainly have no idea how to samba. When we were trying to leave the same thing happened! You would think we were tryin to join in or something. Um. GRINGOS.

Carnaval rehearsal.

Now I just need some time to figure out what 2011 is going to be all about. I missed out  January in the cold and dark. It is already getting lighter here in the evenings. That gives me a good feeling. I may survive the winter here intact this year.

Salvador, in Bahia. They used to sell slaves in this square.

Brazeeeeeoooouu! I miss you and love you and some day I hope to see you again! The Amazon is calling my name.

Ipanema  beach, Rio.

P.S. If you want to see more of my photos, I can send you a public Facebook link, but I will probably only give it to you if I know you, ie. if you have commented on my blog before. You know, in case you are an axe murderer or summing.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Damaria Senne
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 09:11:59

    Welcome back. Brazil sounds wonderful, and you make me want to experience it too. And the pictures really bring everything to life. I think what you missed seeing this time around gives you an excuse to go back?


  2. tiah
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 10:32:08

    Sounds brilliant!


  3. T
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 11:05:20

    What’s with the view of Cristo’s ass hey? ;)

    Happy to see you’re back home safe and had a fantastic time. And remember, the reason you never see everything you want to is so you have an excuse to go back again :P


  4. Helen
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 11:08:56

    I want to go to South America so much! It look amazing! please send me the link, I want to see the rest of the pictures (and I’m only an axe-murderer on weekends)


  5. sleepyjane
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 18:12:24

    Ohhhhh I want to go to Brazil too!


  6. Po
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 19:19:22

    hey guys, you have to go it is so worth it! I am already dreaming of the rest of S.America and hunting for a Spanish course so I won’t be an utter GRINGO next time.


  7. Prixie
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 11:26:36

    looks lovely! I would like to go for the 2014 world cup! :) fingers crossed…


  8. Dora
    Feb 03, 2011 @ 15:17:07

    Oooo…I can definitely identify with your zingy and healthy vibe! I’m getting it right now after Thailand…..and just like you say, am fearing it going away and I’ll be left in the drab old cold again! Boohoo.

    I was pleasantly surprised at how you described Brazil in terms of safety and great public transport! I don’t know a thing about the place – except for news reports and movies about favelas, so I’ve wrongly thought it to be a very unsafe place!

    Great news then! Very glad you wrote about it so I’ve learned something new. I hope I’ll get to go one day too.


  9. Tamara
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 12:23:06

    Sounds and looks like a wonderful holiday. And your pics are the only temptation to join FB. Do you by any chance have a Flickr account?


  10. Po
    Feb 07, 2011 @ 12:27:15

    Hey Tamara, I did have a flickr account, well I do but I keep filling it up and I don’t want to pay for more space. Facebook is free :) Picasa is probably a good one to use, but since I started putting them all on Facebook I just kept going. But there’s no need for you to join if you don’t wanna, cos people can still send you public links anyway.


  11. Spear The Almighty
    Feb 09, 2011 @ 09:42:06

    Well it looks awesome. The fact that it is relatively safe just make it more awesome. :)


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