Stand by me

Where ever possible I have tried to keep this blog picture heavy, however there have been some mammoth hikes (8 hours plus!) that I think deserve a couple of sentences that go beyond what can be seen in a picture.

The one thing about being in a tropical country at the end of their spring/beginning of summer is that when it rains my god does it rain.

This was particularly true of the mountainous region of Chippada and something that took both Andre and I by surprise. We had been spending the day at a particularly beautiful stretch of a river (about a 2 hour hike from the Pousada) with multiple descending levels each with their own waterfall and mini lake, all set within a high valley overlooking the vast green vegetation of the national park.

Given the altitude of the place, we could see a storm in the distance which appeared to be moving away from us. After watching this storm develop from afar for about 30 mins debating whether or not we should leave, we both decided that there were enough locals and Rasta’s there to warrant us staying; thinking that the storm would most likely pass us by.

As you could probably guess that didn’t happen; the one crucial point that both of us failed to realise was that everybody else around us had modes of transport to take them home and so could afford the time to wait till the storm actually hit. We on the other hand only had each other, a vest and our trusty Havaianas,to walk the rugged dirt track back home.

It was this particular hike back which lasted the best part of 3 hours that conjured up the image of the 80’s classic “Stand by me” since it was such an epic journey back that was at times life threatening given the bolts of lightning and crushing roars of thunder. If that wasn’t enough the road had gone from being a relatively well constructed dirt road to a fast flowing river with large chunks of rock simply coming away from the at times quite steep sections of the road.

Whilst this was a rather stupid position to find our selves in it was one of the most exhilarating and beautiful things to go through; the rich soil of the road had created these streams of chocolate like milk similar to that of Willie Wonka.

Being completely soaked right through to the bone for over 2 hours began to get a little much, particularly since we would at times have to jump to the edge of the road to avoid a crazy Brazilian drivers who would be sliding around what has to be the worse road in the world. However it was all worth while when we got to the final bend in the road and the rain had subsided to reveal the most natural waterfall high in the mountain which we were later told had only ever appeared twice in the last 12 years…a truly magical experience I will never forget.

Given all the rain we decided to do an early morning hike to Fumaca, which is called the ‘smoking waterfall’ because it is so high that the water evaporates into mist by the time it gets to the bottom, it is also the highest waterfall in Brazil. We had already done the hike a couple of days before with a local tour guide knowing that there wasn’t any water but given the hight was told it provides the most breathtaking views across the national park.

This as you can see below isn’t simply a myth…

You would have thought that given our last experience with the rain we would have prepared slightly better for this mornings 4 hour return hike, however given the amount of rain that had already fallen and the glorious sunshine we as per usual left the house in shorts a vest and the most inappropriate foot wear…although today was slightly better since we ditched the flip flops for a more sturdy piece of foot wear given the steep climb up. For me this is a trendy pair of retro Hummel high top trainers and for Dre his work out vibrem’s.

Upon arrival to the base of the mountain you are made to sign into the trek, where we were asked if we knew the route up, for which we both responded yes given we had already done the hike, deep down hoping that each other would remember the route up. Given the downpour of rain over the last couple of days the hike had moved from a green ( easy) to red which is the final classification before closing the hike for being too dangerous.

The steep climb up was done with ease in half the time it took us with the guide, probably because we were like Mario and Luigi jumping from rock to rock in an attempt to use the hike as a work out ahead of the next stop being Rio were we had heard that the bodies on the beach were a lot hotter than we had seen so far!

However, this is where the ease ended, what followed was another freak storm which meant what had been a path turned into a fast flowing river which we had no choice but to navigate through…to add to the fear factor the water was pitch black which as you can probably tell from my facial expressions left the image of water snakes in my mind!

The fear was all worth while given the amazingly powerful waterfall we got to see;

After enjoying the view for about an hour we decided to see if we could get to the other side where we had been the previous day to see the opening of the fall from above. I won┬┤t go too much into detail since Andres mother may read this, however lets just say Andre tried to cross what he said was a shallow part of the river about 500 yards from the end of the cliff only to lose his footing and get carried away in the power of the river.

As you can imagine my heart failed at this point with thoughts of whether i had life cover for him or not ­čÖé

luckily Andre (or GI JO Andre as he has been called) managed to find a rock to save himself. After this traumatic experience he put me through we decided to relax with some of that tobacco…this given the 3 hour hike back down wasn┬┤t one of my brightest ideas!

It did however mean that we felt as if we were on the Krypton factor (for those of you who rember the show).

Since the rain had stopped the hike down was surprisingly easy, however I had decided that i was not talking to Andre given his stupidity which made the trek feel even longer.. thankfully Andre remembered that the area was known for its diamonds back in the day which lead us to occupy ourselves looking for Diamonds on the way and having one of those ┬┤special chats` about what we would do if we found one and how we could smuggle it back and what we could do with a million pounds!….by this point i had completely forgotten about being angry with him!

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By garyabela Posted in Brazil

Reggae and Hippie mashup

If the amazing waterfalls cascading over the mountains and plateaus as well as the daily contact with wildlife (including monkeys, parrots and various types of humming birds) wasn’t enough, the small colonial town was a heady mix of local families with a healthy dose of Rasta’s and Global travellers (hippies that have never managed to actually leave) living harmoniously with each other in the most chilled out place I have even been too.

This in conjunction with their unique type of ‘tobacco’, planted the seed to what has now become this blog.

This place will forever conjure up a number of ‘special moments’, too many to put down in writing (and to be perfectly honest, in the light of day, probably not as interesting to read…but at the time they were the moments that unlocked the key to me finally switching off from the city life I left behind in London).

The daily routine consisted of an early start with a huge carb heavy breakfast served up by Sylvia, the infectious Pousada owner; undoubtedly the produce of the Woodstock era (with a strangely husky voice).Breakfast was followed by tough but amazing treks for the most part of the day, before heading back to the lodge for a hot shower ahead of spending countless hours in the small village drinking, eating and chatting to locals and travellers alike.

1. Breakfast

2. Home for the week

3. Chilled nights out

This was also the place were we found the best tasting pizza of all time….and before you think it, it wasn’t just because of the after effects of their tobacco!

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

Chapada Diamantina

This national park completely blew us away; what was supposed to be a two-day stop for a bit of hiking, ended being a week-long vacation within the vacation having pushed back our flight twice whilst being there.

The park is huge ( about the size of Holland) and so it is near impossible to see everything; we stayed in a region of the park known as Vale do Copa (the alternative to Lencois;the lonely planet suggestion).

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves as my words simply won’t do the place justice.

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

What turned out to be the best night out thus far!

We arrived in Salvador on a Tuesday which is always a party night in the area known as Pelourinho…

…also famous for being the set of the Michael Jackson video for “They don’t really care about us”.

see the blue door in the video?

Given that the following day was a public holiday it was even more of a party with street parties going on everywhere…we were lucky enough to be right in the middle of it staying at Hostel Cobreu..allowing us to take some shots of the festivities. ( you do not go outside at night with any valuables)

Insert movie and add caption to stay tuned to the end

We met a cool ‘diverse’ range of fellow travellers and had an awesome night out getting hammered on a local drink called …..(can┬┤t quite remember the name) Which just tasted like shots of Ribena without the water but very strong indeed.

Thankfully the place is full of great street food to soak up the alcohol, particulary `acaraje` which I understand has African roots given that Salvador has the lagest number of African decendants in Brazil.

Whether or not it was the alcohol or the fact that we were in a group, we felt complete safe and left Salvador with a much better impression than we first hand…there is no question that it is beautiful albeit sketchy city.

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

Onto the next hostel

Given the unexpected expense of getting to Jeri we decided to save some pennies and sleep at Fortaleza airport given the 10 hour gap between arriving by coach at 10 pm to our flight leaving at 8am the next day.

If I wasn’t a true backpacker up until now, I can safely say that I am now…having set up camp on the floor in the corner of the observation floor ready to sleep on my backpack I woke up with the harsh reality of being face down on the granite floor with a pain to my jaw that felt like one of the strange plane watchers had tried to rob me in my sleep!

Having woken after only 2 hours of sleep I found it hard to get comfortable on the floor so decided to solider through and listen to music, the same can not be said for Andre!

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Once in Salvador we had to get what ended being nearly a 2 hour bus ride into the centre where we were staying. Given the number of hours I had been awake I managed to finish the only book I brought with me…(marching powder by Rusty Young…a great read) and so read the Lonely planet section on Salvador twice which has over 3 pages on dangers and annoyances! T

This has to be the most sketchy place I have been to date with armed police at most main corners and eyes from locals that seem to follow you where ever you go. With this in mind I decided to put my handy ‘fanny pack’ to good use hiding all our passports and money inside my shorts. Given the 32 degrees heat and the quick walking to the hostel from the bus stop this great purchase failed me at the first hurdle; having come loose, beginning to fall out the bottom of my shorts.

This combined with my already panicked state of mind lead to a fair amount of friction and that’s just between me and Andre given that he refused to stop whilst I tried to rearrange. To make matters worse I left it to Andre to navigate us to the hostel whilst I hobbled along with my hand down my pants only to realise that all of a sudden the road just became quite and Andre was already ten steps ahead.

At this point the paragraph in the lonely planet warning us not to go off the beaten track down what are called laderia’s (or steep roads down to the lower section of the city) started to come into my mind…it became a reality when an elderly local walking in the opposite direction looked right into my eyes making the no no signal with his fingers.

If my undergarments weren’t already experiencing enough issues they were now as I complete shit myself and turned around to run back to the main road shouting for Andre to do the same.

At this point it was everyone for themselves…although Andre manage to catch up very quickly.

Suffice to say we made it to the hostel in one piece albeit somewhat touchy.

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

Next stop Jericoacora or put simply Jeri

Regrettably we had to leave Luzia and make our way to a remote stretch of the northern cost line the Lonely Planet describes as a ‘backpackers heaven’.

Andre and I weren’t too overly impressed with the place which felt more like a club 18-30s resort for surfers and Brazilians from neighbouring cities; whether this is simply a poor reflection on us (being boring farts) or the lonely planet I am not too sure…the other people in our hostel seemed to love it.

To be fair it took us over two days to get there using various modes of transport some of which I never thought we would actually come out of alive…

First there was the 2 hour jeep ride across enormous sand dunes with an overloaded cargo of people…thought we would tip with every turn!

If that wasn┬┤t enough we eventually came to a river/lake to see this below! I simply couldn┬┤t believe that they would even try to get the big overloaded jeep on to that and have two little boys push it with sticks…

…oh but yes they did, really thought this was the end for us

So having come from such a quiet, remote place off the back of an eventful journey which simply added to our excitement of what were going to find at jeri we were hugely underwellmed…once over the initial disappointment we did begin to see some of the charms of the place…the highlight being the daily walk up to the top of the sand dune by the entire village (locals included) to see the sunset which is supposedly the only place in the world where you can see an emerald sunset…again the lonely plant describes it as…

“….the sun slowly dipped down the horizon and the sky smelted into an amazing kaleidoscope of colours that you will never forget…”

Well I can tell you that I will never forget it since you can’t forget something that never actually happened… Well not while we were there anyway.

Although it was still a lovely sunset and there were other things to do there as well…

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

The delectable Luzia

Once in Attins we spent the next 3 days in what I can only describe as being the most remote place on earth and the most stunning environment I have ever had the pleasure of staying at.

I won┬┤t bother trying to explain since my ability with words won┬┤t do it justice, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

The one thing I will mention is the hilarious family we stayed with and more specifically the slightly crazy but absolutely adorable hostess Luzia, who could talk for ever despite of the fact that we couldn`┬┤t really understand her; although she was the most amazing chef with the best prawns I have ever tasted…sorry mum they even beat yours!

The Farm we lived in

The view

The Family

The Food

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

The real back packing begins

unfortunately the time at casa do Fragoso had to come to an end.
The next adventure was visiting a national park (Lencois Maranhenses) in the very North of Brazil just next to the Amazon. Getting there was an adventure in its self and consisted of a 6 hour flight to Sao Luis (via Brasilia which I only found out was the capital of Brazil! I know I have never been very good with geography..or come to think of it anything academic but in my defense it is relatively new (1950┬┤s)  and was purpose-built to be the poster child of this newly emerging powerhouse Brazil…as it turns out it’s not been the massive success everyone thought (still early days I guess) but it does post some of the finest architecture and city planning I have ever seen (even if jut from the window of the plane). It is also the beginning of my new appreciation for anything designed by Oscar Niemeyer, who is probably the most famous Brazilian architect with an equally interesting life story.

Once in Sao Luis (the only city the French manged to conquer in the 15 hundreds…although like most things they have left it to fall into disrepair…as an interesting aside it was the original birth place of Reggae in Brazil) we had to get on a 7 hour bus journey to a remote fishing village on the edge fo the national park called Barreirinhas to stay a night in what they call a posada (B&B to you and me) for the night before embarking on a 5 hour boat ride up the river to our final destination on the edge of the national park a small fishing village called Attins and then a further 40 minuet 4X4 ride to our next home from home for a while.

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

Day trip to Olinda

This is one of the first capital cities in Brazil founded by the Portuguese, although later taken over by the Danish for a brief period. Absolutely beautiful place with amazing colonial architecture simply dripping in history.

This was also the birth place of our ┬┤jumping pictures┬┤ after realising that you all back home would get board of seeing the same looking building over and over again with my ugly mug infront of  it…not to mention the gut that I had grown due to over eating…and yes I know this is not something new for me ­čśŽ

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In a similar vein we also first introduced our traveling buddy who is quite fittingly known as  ┬┤Pufft┬┤  for those not too familiar with the ghost busters 80┬┤s classic. The story behind this is that it was given to us by Andres friend, Jon Lawton because it is probably the only openly out gay bad guy in any movie, as such we felt compelled to take him along with us for the ride!

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I  am also told that Olinda hosts the best carnival in all of Brazil…unfortunealy we will miss it, however have been invited back by our host family…the men supposedly get in drag for the occasion….I have no idea why the family thought we would be interested in that! I am telling myself things must have simply been lost in translation…we are definitely not those community types!

By garyabela Posted in Brazil

First Stop Recife

First week of this 8 month-long adventure was the North Eastern city of Recife to stay with Andre┬┤s friend who he met over ten years ago for just three days whilst on tour in the US…a little strange considering he only got back in touch when we decided to go to Brazil! Although I must say that once we arrived it felt completely fine with her and her family; who were hugely excited to simply have foreigners over to stay.

The next week was  quite simply pure luxury; staying in a huge two-floor penthouse apartment with mum and dad (Eulalia and Mario), daughter (Marianna), dog (Scooby), Felio the parrot (yes I know very cliches; be rest assured, not all Brazilian families have parrots!) and finally the maid Anna (aka Annnhaaa).

The week consisted of daily outings, local authentic nights out attempting to dance Forro (the regional form of Samba…luckliy for me Andre┬┤s Germanic rhythm made me look gtreat…see video below) and 3 large meals every day with more food than we knew what to do with…strangly everything seems to have sugar sprinkled over the top as well as a funny form of cuscus type powder called ???which I was told was specific to this region).

video of Andre to be uploaded

Felt like a home away from home with the only difference being Anna waiting on us hand and foot…duties included making the bed (although you will be happy to know that we did our bed every morning…just felt a little rude), cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner which also included all of the cleaning up (we weren┬┤t even allowed to clear the table!) and finally our washing…mum you would love her!

We also had the pleasure of being taken to their beach house for a couple of days in a place called Porto Galinhas which is a palm-fringed beach with the most stunning holiday homes. Also know as the port of chickens it gets its name from the fact that after Brazil outlawed the slave trade, illicit slaving ships would land here loaded with crates of chickens (galinhas) as a cover for their human cargo.

Uncomfortably there was an entirely different maid at this property too that would simply look after the house and its guests!

Thats the beach house we got to stay in! The beach also has these little tide pools called piscinas around clusters of coral reefs just off the main beach…the fish are insane and actually bite you. As you can see from the pic below my hight was not conducive to this particular activity !

By garyabela Posted in Brazil