February 23, 2004

Food in Brasil

Ben and I try to eat cheaply for all of our meals. Generally, that means avoiding touristy restaurants and looking for places where locals eat. Brazil has alot of "pay by weight" restaurants that are cheap. These places have lots of selection and we can eat well there for less than $10 CAN combined. In other restaurants, we will order one entree or one appetizer and share. Portions are huge and sometimes we will have leftovers which will be a surprise for anyone who is familiar with Ben┤s appetite. We usually eat rice, beans and meat with some combination of tomato, green pepper, cucumber and onion. The meat is generally breaded or salted beef or chicken but we have also had a fish dish. The beef seems to be the safest choice as we have had some questionable chicken and fish. Local beers are less that $0.50 CAN, often cheaper than water. All of our breakfasts thus far have been provided by the Pousadas we stay at. They generally consist of coffe or tea, fresh squeezed juice, piece of fruit, bread with jam, cheese and butter and a piece of cake. Some are better than others. A couple of the Pousada┤s have had freshly deep fried bananas in the morning. Mmmm, tasty.

Ben hasnt had any stomach trouble, but I┤ve felt a little ill on more than one occasion.

Posted by bforsyth at 12:27 PM | Comments (5)

Salvador - Carnival

Thursday Night - February 19
Carnival has begun! On Thursday night, the first official night of carnival, Ben, Dieter ( Belgian friend ) and I walked from Pelhurino, the old center of Salvador, to Campo Grande, the start of the Curcuito Osmar carnival route. We were a little concerned about safety because we had heard many stories about crime during carnival so we left our digital camera at home and just took some small bills with us. The first bloco was an afro performing group that danced to an infectious drum beat and were dressed in tribal garb. The second group had an egyptian theme with drums and horns. They were at last 300 people and carried out the king of the carnival dressed as a pharoah. There was alot of ceremony including flower petal and confetti throwing and lots of dancing as the king kicked off the first night. They moved on at a snails pace and were followed by a group of young kids doing coreographed dances. We watched a few more groups go by including a group of at leased 100 men dressed as fairies in pink tube tops and tutus. They were a riot and had the crowd howling. We started the walk bak to Pelhurino after this as we were a little beat and knew that Friday and Saturday were bigger carnival nights.

Friday Night - February 20
Ben and I bought tickets for a bloco called Timbalada that was recommended to us by our guidebook and also by our friendly english speaking ticket seller. Tickets were about $50 CAN each and included a cheesy white and florescent orange tank top with a cartoon cupid on the front. We wore the shirts and headed out to meet our bloco at the Barra-Olinda carnival circuit. This circuit runs along the beach and is more popular that the original circuit. When we arrived we found at least 3000 others wearing the same tanks. The Timbalada en Voce bloco consisted of 2 huge semis, both covered in speakers. The first had the band set up on top, and the second had fans on top with bathrooms and beer below. The Timbalada en Voce trio featured three performers, a male, and then a female opening act and then the star Timbalada. They played in rotation for the duration of the route. We started off around 6 and reached the end of the route at midnight. The truck moved very slowly, especially when the performers were in front of TV cameras or camaroches ( viewing areas fans had paid to attend ). The two trucks and all of the thousands in the orange and white t┤s were surrounded by private security guards stretching out on either side of the road. The guards pulled out on a huge rope that encircled the trucks and all the members of the bloco. This rope kept onlookers out and provided us inside the bloco with lots of dancing room. Beer and water vender kept sneaking in to sell to us at the front of the bloco. Drinks were available in the second semi but it was so crowded that it wasnt worth going all the way back there so business was good for the venders. ═t was humerous watching these guys sneak in, get kicked out and then repeat. The music of the 3 performers was fantastic. The crowd seemed to know every song and most songs seems to have a dance associated with it that the crowd all knew. The only song that Ben and I recognized was Redemption Song by Bob Marley. By the end of the route, we knew all of the songs because they repeated then 3 or 4 times. As we progressed, people became increaingly drunk and rowdy. The enthusiasm and energy in the crowd was overwhelming. There were mosh pits and sometimes a line of people in the middle of the bloco would stand still, while people ahead of them continued moving and created a space. When enough space had been formed they would run full tilt and throw themselves at the crowd ahead of them. That was scary, a bit like a stampede!

By the time we reached the end of the route, my back and feet were aching and we were hungry for dinner. We pushed our way through thick crowd towards the bus stop. Ben was being sandwiched between two guys, while walking through the crowd as they attempted to pickpocket him. He realized what was going on and pushed them out of the way. We walked to a nearby bus stop and looked for a bus that would take us to our hotel in Pelhurino. We jumped on a bus to the neighbourhood of Lapa, bordering Pelhurino because Pelhurino buses were not running during carnival. The bust first took a 20 minute detour to a carnival pickup point and then started off in the opposite direction we wanted to go. Frantic, I confirmed with the bus attendant that this bus did in fact go to Lapa. We continued further and further away from Lapa and I started to get frustrated. I returned to the attendant, suspecting that this bus actually went to the airport and my guess was right, event though it said Lapa on the front. This is about 45 minutes each way from town, so we jumped off and seeing no buses, caught a taxi home.

Posted by bforsyth at 12:11 PM | Comments (2)

February 18, 2004

Lenšois

Today Sarah and I got back from a town inland from Salvador by 400km called Lenšois. On the 12th of February we took a 6 hour bus ride from Salvador to Lenšois, not knowing where we were going to stay that night. On the bus we met Deiter, a Belgian, who is travelling by himself around South America as well. We chatted on the bus for a while and napped for another while and after a stretch of more pot holes than road we ended up in Lenšois, in the dark, without a place to stay. We were bombarded by people trying to get us to stay at their Pousada (bed and breakfast) or trying to get us to go on a trek with them the next day in the National park nearby, Chapada Diamantina. We were heading to a Pousada that was recomended in our guide book, Pousada dos Duendes, and asked around how to get there since we didn┤t have a map of the town. Once we found it we were told they were full but a guide that works for them runs his own Pousada and we could stay there for the night and come back to Duendes the next night. We contimplated this for a while and decided that we would go with this guy. It turns out that his pousada is his house too and he rents out rooms to help pay for the rent. It was empty except for Sarah, Deiter and I, which was kind of nice.

We slept well that night but we were awoken at 5:30am to the sound of the local roosters. The roof┤s aren┤t really sealed to the walls so sound gets in everywhere, it sounded like the roosters were in our room. Lucio, who runs the pousada had left for a 5 day trek, he is a guide, so a woman that lives downstairs made us a delicous breakfast. After breakfast we walked over to Duendes and checked into our room. We read about a waterfall not too far away from the town that you could slide down so we decided to walk to it. After a 45 minute hike we made it to the waterfall, went for a dip and slid down the falls, which looks more painful than it is. After lounging around in the sun for a while Sarah and I headed back to town while Deiter had a siesta on a rock at the falls. We had a siesta ourself in our room, Sarah in the hammock on the patio of our room, me in the bed in the room. We had a very tasty dinner at the Pousada with the other guests for only 7 Reais each, about $3.50 Canadian. After dinner we talked to the manager of the Pousada about going on a hike the next day. We decided to do a 3 day hike through the national park that would take us to some caves and waterfalls. We went to bed early to be well rested for the hike which we were told was challenging.

We started the hike at about 9am on Saturday the 14th. We stopped at the top of the slide waterfall to take a dip and get some water since we would be going up hill for the next few hours with little to no shade. We were somewhat dubious about the water since it is a brown, tea like colour but the guide said that it was fine. It was a long, hot hike until lunch, I could have really used some trail mix. After lunch we went to a really nice waterfall that we have a good picture of but can┤t upload quite yet so be patient. After a refreshing dip at this waterfall we hiked for another hour to the first campsite near another waterfall. There were 8 of us in our group along with 2 guides, and by the time we got to the campsite another couple of groups were already there. So the campsite was pretty full and Sarah and I ended up sleeping on a large rock with a bit of a slope. The guides made us a dinner of pasta and meat sauce and then we went to sleep under the stars. We were awoken around 2am by rain hitting our faces. Everyone else was scrambling to get in the cover of some over hanging rock that we didn┤t sleep under in the first place because it was pretty nasty. Sarah and I toughed it out and the rain never got too heavy and only lasted about 5 minutes. We woke up with the sun, had a breakfast of porridge and melba toast and started onto the second campsite.

The second campsite was only about 2 hours away along the river bed. It was more of a real cave than the first campsite but even more nasty. Before setting up our sleeping area we went on a hike to the bottom of the Cachoeira da Fumaša or the smoke waterfall. We hiked without our bags since this was a side hike. It took about 2 hours to walk through the jungly forest where we saw a monkey to get to the bottom of the falls. The falls are 384m high, the second highest in Brazil. The wind at the falls blows the water around making it look like smoke, hence the name. After another refreshing swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls and lunch we hiked back to camp for another swim and dinner. We decided that the cave was too crowded and stinky (it seems that anywhere was considered a good place to go to the bathroom by previous hikers) so we slept outside on a rock again. As we were falling asleep we saw the flashes of distant lightening but it was clear out so we thought we were safe. Well, we were wrong. At 11:30pm we were awoken by rain, we thought we could tough it out again but we were wrong. It got heavier and we got progressively more wet. We decided to look for a spot in the cave but it was too full. By the time I got back from looking for a spot in the cave the rain had subsided so we foolishly decided to stay where we were. It wasn┤t an hour later when we were awoken by rain again so we moved to a rock under a tree near the cave that looked relatively dry. We managed to sleep until 3am when the rain made it through the tree and woke us up again. I put on my jacket and tried to sleep through it (the inside of our sleeping bag never got wet). We slept on and off until the sun came up at around 5:30 which is when we got up too.

Breakfast took a while because the guides were sleeping under cover and managed to sleep in an hour or so longer than us. After breakfast we started day 3, which was billed as the most difficult day. It didn┤t dissapoint. We climbed basically straight up for about 2 hours with only a few stops along the way. My legs were burning but it definately was not as difficult as the Elsay lake hike Ritchie, Amir and I did up Grouse mountain last summer. After all the major ascending was done we stopped for a swim and lunch at a nice little waterfall and pool. From here we walked to the top of the smoke waterfall, and along the way we aparently crossed paths with a Cobra that freaked out Sarah even though she didn┤t see it herself.

The top of the smoke waterfall is an impressive sight, similar to the view from the top of the Chief but with water and in a horseshoe shape. You had crawl on your stomach to the edge of the cliff for a view, which was pretty scary. After baking in the sun at the top of the waterfall (pictures coming, hold your horses) we started the walk across the top of the plateau to the town where we would catch a ride back to Lenšois. I found this part of the hike more difficult than the climbing because it was so hot, there was no shade and Sarah and I were both a little sun burnt.

Eventually we made it to the town, had a beer and cooled down before the ride back to Lenšois. The hike was only 30km but the car ride is 70km because of the terrain. Our ride was a big toyota land cruiser with bench seats for 10 people in the open back of the truck. The first half hour was pot hole filled but it was smooth sailing after that. Back in Lenšcois we cleaned up, had dinner, a few beers and crashed. The next day was spent in a hammock reading and waiting for the 11:30pm bus to Salvador. The bus trip is a whole other story and will be posted soon.

Posted by bforsyth at 07:19 AM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2004

Freakin Hot

So Sarah and I arrived in Salvador, Brazil yesterday after about 27 hours of traveling, including a 7 hour lay over in Houston and a 9 hour flight from Houston to Sao Paulo. Sao Paulo didn┤t seem too hot but Salvador is quite steamy. I think it is about 30 degrees and about 100% humidity. We shelled out 70 reals for our own room last night so we could get some sleep, which was kind of hard to do because there was a band playing in the street right next to where we were staying. But in the end the noise didn┤t stop us from getting a good amount of sleep. Now we are just wandering around, looking for cheap bottled water and trying to figure out what to do next. I think that we might go inland for a few days before coming back for carnaval.

If anyone out there has a brain module for Portugese we could reall use one :) We tried reading over the phrase book on our flights but I don┤t think much sunk in and very few people here speak English. But we hope that since we are staying in a more popular hostel tonight that we will meet a lot more travellers and have some people to talk to.

A big thanks to Ritchie and Chris for letting us crash at their place before we left. I miss your chilly living room already :) We will post some pictures soon but this computer seems to have blocked most ports, including ssh, so I can┤t send a zip file of picts to antiflux and I don┤t want to use the web upload feature of gallery, so you┤ll have to wait for pictures.

Posted by bforsyth at 05:28 AM | Comments (9)