Tag Archives: Brasil

Christ off the menu

14 Apr

More of an update on these mudslides I’m afraid since they are the main thing on my mind, Brazil-wise, at the moment.

Christ the Redeemer is currently unreachable by tourists as mudslides have affected the area all around it’s perch on Corcovado. The city are saying it could take up to six months to remove the debris and get access to Mr Redeemer going again. This seems like a ridiculously long time, especially considering every poster for Rio I see has a massive picture of Christ on it and a promise of the monumental Christ tour, meaning there will not be many dry gringo eyes in Rio for quite a while.

These are the some of the workers trying to clear the rail line which takes the people up to the top:

Brazil Flooding

I’m presuming the fact they are sitting around doing absolutely nothing has very little to do with the fact it will take six months.

The amount of deaths from the floods and mudslides is also now estimated at 230 people.

Update on Floods and Mudslides in Rio

11 Apr

It is still raining in Rio, though fortunately not as much as previously in the week, and thankfully forecasts are that it will stop completely tomorrow. The floods carried on til Friday (bringing the death toll upto 205 people) with the worst mudslide happening on Wednesday in Niteroi. Over 100 to 150 bodies have been pulled from that mudslide alone.

This is a video from ITN News focusing on the floods:

For me it’s the carioca at the end who says the most interesting thing. Why isn’t Rio prepared for tropical levels of rainfall? It’s obviously a big problem, and one which is explained by the poorly-built homes that adorn many of the hills. As I previously suggested it seems that the Government will therefore use these incidents as a reason to move its poorer residents. This has already begun to happen, with resident groups getting in their complaints early.

Raining in Rio (More mudslides!)

7 Apr

It does seem I may have picked the perfect moment to traverse oceans. England has been dry and calm over Easter weekend, only a cold wind to grumble about, but the bouts of sunshine have at least given the illusion that the tides are turning and that the snow which has been covering this place for the past three months and finally gone back to where it came from.

There’s certainly no possibility of using the words ‘dry’ and ‘calm’ in Rio de Janeiro right now. For the past few days there has been continual rainfall, of the tropical variety. I have just been reading some of the reports which are putting the death toll at a minimum of 72 people but most likely rising to over 100.

The majority of casualties have come from mudslides occurring all over the city (Rio’s hills are full of favelas and improvised housing), particularly in the Niteroi and Sao Goncalo areas. It’s the second time this year that such fateful mudslides have occurred. In January, at least 85 people died after a series of torrential rain.

Rainfall was 11 inches over two days starting on Monday afternoon. I have no idea how much rain this actually is, but it is some kind of record so must be a hell of a lot. More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday.

It will be interesting to see how Rio deals with this event. They are one of the main cities for the 2014 World Cup and are also the hosts for the 2016 Olympics. I wouldn’t be surprised if it saw the Government step up the need to shift its poor citizens from their hill-based favelas to alternative housing. I almost feel certain this will happen in some way, though I would have major doubts over how they would find alternative housing for so many people. As well as causing so much disruption to the city (residents have been told to stay in their homes, children are not able to go to school), the rain has also caused some power shortages, especially in Barra da Tijuca where much of the Olympic activity will be taking place. As the first Olympics in South America there will be so much weight on Rio to excel as hosts and so I have no doubts they will take many proactive actions.

More links on the flooding:

Big Floods in Brazil (Euronet / 7th April 2010)
Flooding in Rio de Janeiro (BBC News / 7th April 2010)
April 2010 Rio de Janeiro floods and mudslides (Wikipedia)

Time and all that nonsense

22 Mar

Well I’m certainly not gonna make it sound like I’ve done much over the past week, seeing as I can’t even get my act together to write an entry on this blog. There’s just something about Trindade that makes the idea of sitting down at a computer for any length of time the worst idea in the world. The social cost is too great, not to mention the fact that I could be better spending time surfing, sitting on the beach, finding trails, following the river, listening to music, watching football, drinking beer, etc., etc. The distractions are too great!

That’s not to say there have been some glimpses of productivity though. I have cooked a number of meals, the last of which in exchange for a massage from two lovely swedish girls (an exchange which I believe will be fulfilled very soon) and discovered that we’re allowed to use the table football, pool table and table tennis in the guesthouse over the road (a realisation that has pretty much ruined any chance of me ever doing anything else).

The lesson here really is that Trindade is no place to come to stimulate the brain or achieve anything of note. It is the gateway onto a slippery slope of sweet bliss, which I have absolutely no qualms to be swinging my way down. Until I finally leave Trindade, which is a time getting closer and closer, this may well be my last update for a while!

Trindade – how on earth do I get out of here?

13 Mar

It’s closing in on three weeks since I arrived back in Trindade. I still can’t see myself leaving anytime soon. Especially now that the sun has come. It may not last for too much longer but we have had a whole week of sun which for a couple of weeks seemed like an alien prospect.

The hardest part of any day is to decide what to do. There are six beaches to choose from with seemingly one for every occasion. Cachadaco is my favourite of the beaches nearby, a long beach with a few stray currents which sometimes produce perfect waves for surfing. As you have to trek over a hill for 10 minutes it also seems to be one of the most deserted beaches around here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slaterino/4011893799/
Eli, surfboard and Bruce on Cachadaco

Praia do Meio is the beach where all the Brazilians come and hang out. It is always packed with bronzing tourists, generally stuffing their faces at all the restaurants on the beach. Praia dos Ranchos is definitely the spot in the nighttime, the perfect place to pick up a Gabriela at Rogerio’s, something which I’m sure I’ve already mentioned a few times. Following on from that beach is Praia da Fora (kind of a chilled-out family beach) and then Praia Cepilho at the end. This is the number one spot for surfing. It’s only a small beach but it has a real nice point break which brings huge waves up to the coast, making it a great place both to surf and to watch. No surprise then that the next World Cup of surfing will be held right there.

My favourite beach of them all though has to be Praia Brava. It’s not a beach to go to every day seeing as it takes an hour and a half of walking but it is definitely worth trying to go as often as possible. At the moment the sun is too hot for me to even contemplate 3 hours of walking under it so I am waiting for a few clouds before I next go.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slaterino/4012573540/

It’s the most deserted of all the beaches here in Trindade, and the only one that is closed. It also happens to be a nudist beach but so far I’ve only ever seen one naked man on there. A very disappointing innings really. It is quite common to see many different birds on the trail to the beach, as well as a few giant lizards if you’re lucky. Instead of taking the trail back now I walk up the river starting at the beach. This route will eventually take you to my favourite waterfall. A beautiful set of four falls which you can climb up, before taking the route back to the bottom again before doing it all again.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slaterino/4011889065/

As well as all this, there is the waterfall and swallowing rock just near the hostel, the trail to the Indian’s head and the fact that there are always plenty of people to meet and of course my mistress, Gabriela, always waiting down at the beach. Leaving just doesn’t seem like a possibility!

Cachaça, more than just Brazilian rum

8 Mar

There are two main reasons that I’ve been writing less since I arrived in Trindade (on the green coast of Rio state). First is the fact that being in a small fishing village with rainforests on all sides and a plethora of beaches doesn’t make sitting down and spending a good portion of the day on the internet a tempting option. The second is cachaça. This is the national drink of Brazil, and is used to make caipirinhas, a cocktail made from mixing cachaça, lime, sugar and ice, and which is increasingly becoming popular in other countries. This is reflected in the price, with caipirinhas sold in the bars of Rio, Sao Paulo and any-other tourist-leaning city for upto 15 or 20 Reais, which is about 5 pounds, and ridiculously over-priced. Until 1990 cachaça and caipirinhas were both drinks primarily of the working class. The word caipirinha is derived from the word caipira, which means something along the lines of country bumpkin in portuguese. After that point brewers started making artesanal cachaças by aging the drink (made by distilling sugarcane, in a similar process to most brandies) in wooden casks, giving the alcohol a deeper flavour as well as colouring it a golden brown. In addition, the rising popularity of caipirinhas in the United States meant that exports became a lot more common and that visitors were more aware of this drink, which was now available in pretty much every bar you can find in Brazil.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3146602528/

To buy a bottle of unaged cachaça will set you back around 5 Reais. Considering you can then get around 20 or more caipirinhas from that bottle it’s no surprise that bars are more than willing to bask in its popularity and sell it for 15 Reais a glass. Drinking cachaça in this way is only the tip of the iceberg though. Since arriving in Trindade I’ve discovered far more ways in which people enjoy it. It’s not too surprising that this village would be so steeped in the drink, it’s an hour’s bus journey from Paraty, a place generally seen as some kind of cachaça capital. The drink was in fact actually known as paraty before its other titles of cachaça and pinga (which is more common here) were introduced. In addition, they hold the Pinga Festival every August where a mountain of artesanal cachaças and cachaças flavoured with all kinds of fruits and spices are available as shots from hundreds of vendors on the street.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnycocker/2852010952/

My current poison and reason for spending many daylight hours flat out when I really should be doing something more productive is Gabriela. This is cachaça infused with honey, cloves and cinnamon. Thanks to these spices it does have something of the mulled wine about it and it most certainly warms up the stomach. I’ve also been told that in the south of Brazil they drink a very similar thing which they serve hot (I’m guessing on those days when the temperature is only 15 degrees or someting). There’s a bar on Praia dos Ranchos here in Trindade, called Rogerio’s, who only plays vinyl records, all of which are from the 70s and 80s. Nights spent drinking Gabriela and listening to scratchy Led Zeppelin and Supertramp records have becoming something quite legendary, at least in my eyes anyway!

Another great tipple is Pinga com Mel, which is quite simply cachaça with honey. Even stronger than gabriela but half the price at just 2 Reais a glass (that’s less than one pound) it’s too strong for me to drink solidly. I prefer a beer by the side just to take the edge off every now and again.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lperdigao/172905311/

There is something that will always appeal to me about these drinks over the over-priced caipirinhas. It seems simple to me. If you want a caipirinha then you buy a bottle of cachaça and a few limes and make your own, and if you want to drink what the people drink, then you look for the shoddy-looking old water machine in the corner, or the jerry can with a price on the side, to get a taste of what the people actually drink, and also get a little bit fuzzy in the mouth at the same time.

Ponta Negra, Rio de Janeiro

4 Mar

It almost seems ridiculous that people end up travelling all over Brazil in search of great beaches when there are so many around Rio and Sao Paulo. Trindade, where I’m currently sat, is one of them, on what is known as the Green Coast, mainly due to the fact that it’s flanked by Mata Atlantic Rainforest which pushes right up to the coastline. The main tourist destinations in this area are Buzios and Ilha Grande in Rio state and also Ilha Bela in Sao Paulo. Personally, I think Trindade is far nicer than any of these. As it doesn’t have too many tourists it means that the main industry here is still fishing and that as you go around town, both day and night, you are more than likely to bump into the locals quite a number of times, and considering how friendly they are here you will certainly make friends with them. Going even more extreme than this is Ponta Negra.

Ponta Negra is at the end of a 3 hour trail from Laranjeiras, which is a condominium full of rich tycoons (where apparently the head of Brahma brewery lives.) Laranjeiras can be reached by buses coming from either Paraty or Trindade. From there it’s a good walk to the next beach, Praia do Sono.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/slaterino/3997166988

This is a popular place to camp in the summer time, especially by Brazilians from Sao Paulo and Rio. It’s a really calm beach, perfect for swimming. After this, there is Antigos and Antiguinhos beaches.

Praia dos Antigos

These are more beautiful beaches, lacking the restaurants and campsites of Sono so feel a little more natural and away from the world.

It takes a final hill climb to reach Ponta Negra.

This trip can also be done by boat, but then you miss the other beaches and the satisfaction of three hours hike to get the perfect view of this tiny fishing village from the top of the hill.

View of Ponta Negra

There is something really special about Ponta Negra. The slow erection of telegraph poles along the route indicates that they will soon have electricity, but at the moment this isn’t the case. There are two restaurants in the village, one of which is actually more like someone’s home, but she does have a couple of tables she can put out front and is also a pretty great chef, so deserves her status.

Punta Negra's Beach

In the day the kids of the village simply play out on the beach, jumping off rocks and throwing things around. It’s so nice to join them for a few hours!

Ponta Negra Beach

The chooses for getting back are the same as for getting there, with a boat journey back quite tempting, especially as it will give you great views of all these beaches.

Sao Paulo – possibly not a city to explore

9 Oct

I am still waiting for Sao Paulo to reveal itself to me.

After spending a further three days there I am none the wiser. This is supposedly the biggest city in South America, so you’d expect there to be a few things to excite a weary traveller, but I`m still waiting to find them.

On my last trip there I was trying to sort a few things out and decided to go for a bit of an amble near the centre. I didn’t realise this at the time, but Sao Paulo is not a city in which you can amble, that should be saved for the Yorkshire Dales it seems.

I was only three or four blocks from the centre when I noticed a restaurant offering meals for one Real. This is without doubt the cheapest meal deal I have ever seen. To get anything under seven Reais in Brazil is a miracle in itself, so to have a whole dish for just one is some kind of phenomenon (this equates to about 33p at the moment, normally it would be around 25p but the Pound is not my friend at the moment).

I took a closer look and realised that I had missed lunchtime.

There were around 5 or 6 ladies in pure white overalls cleaning down the room, itself pure white and rather large, with full pressure hoses. Whoever had been eating there wasn`t too bothered about the food going in their mouth it would seem.

I carried on walking and noticed two policemen pass me. Then a police car pulled up on the right, and a further couple of coppers passed me on the pavement. I suddenly realised that maybe this wasn’t a good area, but there was no way I was going back on myself.

I walked past a series of bars, heaving with drunk, one-toothed, silver-haired Brazilian men. It was only 1.30 in the afternoon. Then I came to my main challenge.

I could see the Estadio do Luz at the end of the street, a known bastion of safety. But first I would have to walk past a 200m stretch of road with delinquent, 100% toasted vagrants on one side and some of the most unlovable looking prostitutes on the other. I took a deep breath and went for it.

As I walked I couldn’t help but make a mental note of everything I had on me (100 Reais, 2 bank cards, camera, blue pants) and just hoped that I would get out of there with all of these still on my person.

I got through it, but not without feeling as perilous as I’ve only ever felt in one other place – the centre of Salvador. There is something about a strong Police presence in these situations that seems to encourage some of the edgiest environments possible, a real pressure cooker. Speaking to people later it became quite clear that – yes – this was the worst neighbourhood in Sao Paulo and – no – you should never walk through there on your own. I won’t make that mistake again.

On the other side of the spectrum, I stayed in Vila Madalena for two of my days in Sao Paulo, which has to be described as one of the loveliest parts of the cities.

Every street is dedicated to a different product, including a whole row of 60s antique furniture, ethical goods, unbelievably expensive bars and too many clothes shops by half. Plus, the area used to be frequented by a whole bunch of hippies in the fifties with the main reminder of their presence in the street signs. Harmony, Sunflower and Wizard are all roads in this area.

Which means you can say that bar you really like is on the corner of Harmony and Wizard which really can’t be a bad thing!

Life at the Copa

17 Aug

Gold supplement, whey protein, guarana powder, natural energy booster, superfoods, green defense, monster mass, fish oil……..

Rio is a city obsessed with looking good. Supplements and stimulants are sold from every corner. After all, it just wouldn’t be possible to run along Copacabana, go to the gym and have that game of volleyball without a pure protein shake. There surely can’t be many cities where the locals spend more time on the beach than the tourists. Quite how they pull it off is a miracle. Maybe everyone is on the nightshift. Maybe they get time off when the sun comes out. Who would want to buy a mattress anyway when it’s this hot? So off we all go to the beach, to show off our toned abs, to take pictures of our new arse implants and to generally stare at everyone else. It’s not a bad life!

These guys know all about it: http://www.copacabanarunners.net/ipeak.html

The Pig is Back!

15 Aug

Almost every newspaper I open has a one-page advert for Influenza. I think there’s better things to spend your money on.

It seems that swine flu is following me around. Every day I have seen more and more people wearing face masks. A teacher friend in Rio has been given the month off from work. She’s outraged. They want to make her work all Saturdays when she returns so that she won’t have lost any days. Apparently, there has been almost 200 deaths. Almost all of them occurring in the South of Brazil, where winter is definitely at its worst.

Of the deaths, only 16 have occurred in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Of which, most have been children or pregnant women. I think wearing a facemask on the street seems a little over-the-top. There are 15 million people living in Rio state. Surely the odds are against ever contracting it.

For the latest death toll visit here.