Sunday, July 30, 2006

Report # 8a

(Text was lost somewhere/somehow here)
't shops - they all congregate in one street or area. that is all shoe shops in one place all clothes shops in one place, etc. Was walking along fashionable street in Fort the other day and maybe 10 blocks were 90% shoe/handbag shops all with the same styles and same prices!!?? - leather sandals from R10. Sorry ladies I didnt buy you all anything!

Saw my first road accident as leaving Fort - well, after the event: ambulance was treating someone on ground and a motorbike was lying in middle of road so dont know if cyclist hit a pedestrian or was hit by a car.Intersting, this place has about 20 PCs and none of the innards are in boxes - they are screwed to a board along the desks above the monitors - it is so hot they would melt in a normal box. They also have about 8 fans blasting air around too.Took a trip into Belém centre today and saw first view of Amazon - a bit special if not emotional. The amazon at this point - about 20-50 kms upstream from mouth - is 320 kms wide!!! but it has lots of islands scattered across that area especially one big one which is 200x250 kms in size. My impression is that Belem is cleaner and better maintained than other places I have been. I saw lots of very attractive homes with front gardens and steel fences rather than normal concrete wall. Big buildings in centre were wuite tidy and reasonably modern. But the point of special interst is the main plaza which is about 300x200 mts fully grassed containing several large gazebos and two small museums (about the size of a suburban church) it is Sunday so park was in use by heaps of families - very, very pretty and the nicest I have seen in Brazil. The streets along edge re filled semi-permanent stalls selling the normal artesan stuff pllus paintings and CDs. Walked 3-4 blocks to the river and was very impresssed witht the old docks now revamped and modernised and very clean and contains a museum and a mutitude of 3-5 star restaurants and bars. Prices R20-40 per plate and worthy of any restaurant in Australia - I guess the figures are same as Aust but exchange means half price. There was one flight available today at $300 (very high!) and I only had 40 mins to get to airport so I said no. Will try some city tourist agencies tomorrow. Okay - enough for now. Have a great week - for those who have to go to work!!!

Hugs Nobby

Report # 8

Happy Sunday morn to all,
Now in Belem at mouth of Amazon river looking at how to get out of here. Left you in Fortaleza in #7 - update: Jeff tells me that at this level each degree represents about 111 Kms of distance so I was 220 km frm equator - THAT”S WHY I COULDN”T SEE IT!!! Also the distance travelled up to Fortaleza was about 6800 and now add 1600 to that making 8400.

Interestingly in each city that I have hit there seems to be a big event on the night of my arrival - that happened in Fort, the Monday night is a great spectacle in the area where I was living but the rest of the week it is pretty ordinary, altho still lively! Well, Fortaleza is a nothing city really and the carnaval called "Fortal" - pron fort-a-ow - was a non event for me. We went in a mini bus from hostel and stopped at next poussada and collected 6 girls wearing the important "tee-shirts" which give entry to the privileged areas -cost them R200=$100 - I was with two young good looking Sth African (white) guys. The girls made eyes at them and said they liked them so I translated and pointed out who liked who. Took 45 mins to get there scads of people; bought R3 ticket to enter giant fenced field - like Sydney Easter show but no sideshows - only drinks, drinks and food stalls. Inside there was a fenced off area maybe 500 mts long on other side of a small lake with stages and bands playing non-stop. There are several 2-lane roads which circle thru the area ending in the private area. First of 4 bands on a huge semi-trailer truck, 2-story high started blasting rock music and moved slowly along road. The full width of road and from 100 mts in front to about 200 mts behind truck was roped off in  moving barricade held by people every mt. The people with that colour shirt could enter the barricade and move with the truck dancing yelling and singing with wild abandon.

The trucks were covered in lights and sound system big enough for Sydney Opera house. The base notes - every 2nd or 4th beat blasted physically like the blast from a bomb - or what I imagine that is like. Within 20 mts of truck the sount just hit your whole body - whooomph!!!! Took about 30 mins to go 400 mts and disappear into Pearly Gates - never to be seen again - along with the "followers"; about 100 mts behind the main truck was another semi fitted out as a bar selling drinks to patrons, 50 mts behind it was a flat tray truck re-supplying the many vendors carrying esky''s who were also selling to the crowd. To me it was a bit like a mobile nightclub - suited to the young music lovers who wanted to get drunk and dance. While this first truck was moving one Sth Sfrican started making up heavily with the girl who had chosen him!! However the next truck was hers - theirs, 6 girls - so they went to join the truck and also disappeared in to Pearly Gates. About midnight the 3rd truck also went thru. I understand that the bands are the most popular ones in the region and so have big followings and the locals knew all the words of the songs. By about 01.00 I was a bit bored so left - we had all long since split up. Outside the main entrance were many 100”s of other people who did not choose to pay. But the music was so loud from several bands all playing on diff stages that it was enought for them. But for me a big non-event - there were certainly 1000”s of young people - M & F - there looking for a night of riotous fun and I suspect they all got it but for an older fogey it was not my scene.

I left the next morn for Belem with no hicccups except that what was supposed to be a 24 hr trip took 32 hrs so we arrived last night at 20.00 instead of midday. I have booked into  cheap hotel near Terminal while I check out ways to move on from here. I did not know it is the last weekend of school hols so all flights from Fortaleza were full and so are all flights from here for the next few days. Will investigate what I should do. Cannot fly to other countries as the only airline doing that is Varig which is rapidly going down tube and cancels most flights and gives no refunds. So it is Manaus or nothing at this stage.

Some general impressions of Brazil: in no special order just as the thoughts occur to me: Sao Paulo is a huge city and maybe woth seeing for that alone but has no special beauty; Rio is a must and has lots to see but the beaches to an Aussie are ho-hum. I have not seen one Brazil girl with slumped shoulders and they nearly all seem to be very comfortable with their sexuality which maybe accounts for their attractiveness - men too of course, but they dont appeal to me so much! Ouro Preto is a pretty little city for those interested in the archtecture. Salvadore is my pick of cities and is a must especially the Pelourinho - old city now a UNESCO listing and very interesting. The spontaneaity of dance and music make it very special - Tuesday night is the best. The scenery throughout the whole country has not been much diff from Aust - varying from dry grass to green hills and flat plains. I have not seen any local trees of any consequence every hill has been cleared of tress - perhaps even worse than Aust. The only tall stands of timbert I have seem were eucalypts!!! However there are palm tress growing wild nearly everyehwere espec as you move north - dont know if they are coconut palm or not.

Along all the roads the fields are fenced and frequently the area between road and fence is cultivated by the poor. Fences are nade with posts every half mt or two mts so lots of labour expended but it is cheap here. Nearly every building is built entirely of concrete often the ceilings as well - everyting is just 20 cms of reinforced concrete. Some are built with pillars of concrete every 2 mts and in-filled with cheap bricks then “rendered” in concrete. Bridges, fences in town, everyting is grey concrete going black/charcoal as it ages. All the footpaths are cobblestone constantly in repair and in need of repair. All roads in cities are paved but suburban roads and many main raods are also cobblestone. They use speed-bumps = lombadas - to control traffic everywhere especially in suburbs. They are mostly 1 mt wide concrete hump 20 cms high which means buses must come to dead-stop. They are used before toll-booths, before traffic lights, near big intersections, etc. In general all streets look tired and dirty even in nice areas as the quality of construction is not like in Aust as they use heaps of unskilled labour.

You also must be prepared for an assault on your nose as you move around - people throw everyting on the ground - there are litter bins and they fill quickly - and so there are lots of smells of rotten food and I think also urine (from the street people?) I have seen some official garbage trucks but mostly it is collected by tribes of little people - boys, girls, ladies men - who move around with bags carts tricycles etc and sort and gather the rubbish and presumably sell it or get paid somehow. People seem to leave nice piles of plastic shopping bags full of rubbish around light poles during the night and someone comes and collects it next day. All the millions of cans and plastic bottles get thrown into bins or on the ground but collectors gather all these for recycling - you see the scavengers going through all the bins regularly. Every street and every corner has its share of sellers - lollies (sweets) drinks, papers, fruit, cigarettes, sunglasses, CD”s, handicrafts, drinks icecream, beer, coconut drinks - just an endless sea of sellers either in fixed stalls or in mobile carts. Outside my current hotel are 3 stalls one makes hamburger type food - meat eggs ham, rolls, drinks etc. Next to him is a guy selling sweets and drinks, and next to that is a lady making some sort of pastry things. They gave carts with large gas cylinders and stainless steell cooking tops and I have eaten from many amd all are okay. There are millions of street poor and they beg or steal or work where they can. However I have not seen any of them treated with disrespect; they are accepted as poor but not put down because of it, and well dressed people can hold a conversation with them.

I know you guys are in mid winter - as am I - but here the humidity is 95% and the temp is between 25-30 all the time. It means you dont run anywhere, you move slowly and avoid things from 12-3.00pm if poss. I can understand a tiny bit of the language now if I know the topic, but if two strangers are talking I cannot understand a thing. They all understand me when I speak my badly pronunced words but they come back with 5-10 words joined together and I am lost - but I am getting by. However looking forward to being somewhere where I can understand without too much thinking - Spanish ill be such a relief. I have to admit that the Portuguese sounds are still totally foreign to my ears. Algis, if I get a chance I will send some notes on pronunciation - eg agitate is pronunced a-hee-tah-shee. Well, time is almost up and this should be enough reading for you for one session.

Cheers and love

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Report # 7

Bom dia a todos - Howdy (good day) in English - Now in Fortaleza which is on the far north-east coast of Brazil. I am just 2 degrees south of the equator so if someone knows what that means in Klms?? - maybe 50 klms? There is a lookout on one of the buildings here where you can go up and look out to sea and see the equator in the ocean - I think it is yellow colour! Anyway it is 28-30 degrees C everyday here and nights are 22-24C and it is humid - and this is mid winter!

Another big city - 2 million I think built right on the beaches like Gold coast but all the beaches in town are heavily polluted so the beach freaks need to travel 2-30 km out of town to swim and the famous Jericoacoara beach is 5 hrs west of here with huge sand dunes and lovely beach - but that is not the Brazil I wish to know - it is for tourists and no locals go there. Now Tues morn here 11.00am and I arrived last night 2 1/2 hrs late at 18.30 and bus to town walk a couple of kms by which time I was soaked thru. Am in big Internat Hostel with clean rooms good mattresses - it is off season so not many people staying. Prices are not up for the Carnaval as it is not big on the tourist list.

Well, I think I left you in Salvador last week. I stayed till Sunday and just soaked up the sounds and music and people. No special sights to visit as in Rio but a wonderfully vibrant city and I would include it as a “must” on any trip here. The music was what caught me most - they play something all the time day and night - up till maybe 02.00am. Saturday i explored the centro and was amazed at the number of street stalls lining the streets - I mean they were almost continuous leaving only a metre or so for passers-by - they sell fruits, drinks cigs, clothers, sunglasses, watches, CDs DVDS and any thing imaginable that you might want to buy. So I just walked among them all with absolutely no trouble and no fear. I had bought my ticket to Fort beforehand and chose Sunday as deprture at 20.00 (the only time) but as it happened it rained all Sunday so it was a bit of a lost day. Sat night I went out to try the town with some others from the hostel - a French guy, and a Barcelona girl who is living short time in Brazil and studying the percussion music. So she knows many locals - some suspicious ones if you ask me! - but we met one of these - a guy who was dirty and dreadlocks and and unwashed but nice guy - and he went to every location where there might be action but nothing really exciting. Stayed in a reggae bar for 45 mins and had a beer - lots of pros in there and some drunks and verrrrry loud English music played endlessly - justy two dors down from my hostel - I hear it every night - same songs every time. We then went to several places with live music but preety much justlike a open air club scene lots of people drinking and hoping to meet simeone and enjoy some dancing. But not my scene really. I called it a night after about 12.45.

One of the couples in the hostel - French but she was born in Brazil were robbed in Rio daytime when they walked up a small street and got to a point where there were no houses or people; they turned around and were confronted by three teenaged kids in masks with knives who threatened them - bit of scuffle and argument and they took camera and day-pack and some money. But I have always walked where there are people so I guess that helps my safety. As I was walking to bus stop on Sunday to go to terminal a policeman saw me and stopped me and asked which language and then spoke in English(!!!) and asked wher I was going , when I told him to get a bus around the cornere he said wait and he would check itwas safe. He walked to corner and saw two cops on other side of road so said ok it was okay. Wasn”t that kind!!! of course they depend on tourists for economy so they have to protect them or they have no job - but I was grateful.

No drama on trip up - slept all night - no-one next to me - had already bought food for the trip so I didn”t have to use the fast food crap they sell at roadstops. Rained al night I think but by b/fast stop at 09.00 sky was almost clear. My cold had given me a runny nose all day Sat and Sun. On the trip I had heavy sinus blockage which was uncomfortable. But this morn I found I had some Sinus pills in my medicine kit so I have taken some. If that doesnt fix it I will take some antihistamine. During my last few days in Salvador I was approached several times by prostitutes - not many of them were that pretty - and they were asking R50 plus hotel room R10-20. Just interesting that these very young women are in that game - most of them have babies at home as they dont care about condoms - the church says it is a sin to use them(!!!!)

So, Monday night arrive here and Monday is the fun night for Fortaleza. I was put in a room with another Aussie guy - from Sydney - he has been in Brazil for 3 months now and this is his fourth trip so he speaks some Brazilian and know all the ropes. He offered to take me on a tour of the beach area and the local nightlife. So we walked for a couple of hours bought some kebabs from a street stall and then walked around the bar area. He has stayed in a flat in one city on the edge of a favela - R200 a month and visited the favela and got to know the people and eat their food etc. Everything only half the price of what it is outside the favelas. He said most of the good looking girls we passed - who were were not with a man - were pros. They certainly like to be looked at and give lots of come-hither looks and smiles. the hostel is one block from the sand which is 100 mts wide with another 100 mts of paved area which was full of stalls and people - Australia could do with some of this freedom and relaxed atmosphere!!! When we enterd the bar area there were a million people and dozens of bars and restaurants - for the Brazilians as well as tourists. But it was astounding the number and quality of pros that were working. I gues we saw 300-400 and we stopped and chatted with 8-10. Each bar has them sitting at tables or standing along the sidewalk looking provocative. They weere far more attractive than the ones I met in Salvador. Just dozens and dozens of stunning women all giving us the eye. In addition there are girls touting for customers to use their bar - I guess they get a commission. All this in an area say 2 blocks by 6 blocks - hard to judge. Ben the Aussie told me they get you to buy them a drink and while you are there their girlfriends join in and order drinks and food and then you get the bill !!!! We also met two very tall gorgeous chicks who were far more provacatively dressed than any others - they gave us the eye as well but Ben says thay were transvestites. We met another two pros later and chatted for some minutes - both of them 18 and one told us she/he is a transsexual or transvestite - not sure which but she sure was pretty. Met another couple one of whom was from Belem (mouth of Amazon) and visiting friends. Ben liked her so agred to go back and talk later. I got home about midnight and he showered and went out to find her. He told me this morn she was a pro and comes here regularly from Belem because there is more work!! anyway he took her for a drink and them her friend turned up and ordered drinks and food (and he is supposed to know the score!!) so he got landed with a bill!!!

Anyway, they tell me the carnaval starts Wed or Thurs and will have more pros and more non-pros plus dancing and drinking in streets but they say not really much worse than waht we saw last night. So I will let you know. I am now going to try and buy some thongs - footwear!! - and boardshorts as itis so hot. most things here happen at night as the days are so hot. Many Brazs that I meet say they like Fort while many tourists have told me it is a “nothing” city. I will let you know my opinion later. Cheers for now Hugs to all Nobby PS I promisd to tell you total distnce travelled so far - forgot to add it up but I guess it is about 5000 kms - roughly one day in five spent sitting in a bus - c”est la vie - así es la vida - assim é a vida.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Report # 6a

Hi All, since the internet is cheap and I have a few hours spare I thought I would add a few things to the last report.

Salvador was founded in 1501 I think and was the first capital of Brasil which was of course Portuguese. Later it became the centre for a huge and thriving slave trade from Africa, which lasted for 300 years. Hence most of the people around here have some colour in their skin and many are very black. Because of this racial mix it is called the Africa of the Americas. You can still today get food exactly the same as in Kenya and Uganda (hope I have those countries correct). And also the music is heavily Afro particularly with the drums and rythym. So there are carved wood objects that look like they are direct from Africa and there are instruments direct from Africa. In fact one of the pedlers today said he was from Africa - Uganda I think - he was selling the berimbas (?)
which you can see at this address
they are here in the streets. for $10-20. Music is a huge part of the life here - it is going all the time and people dance at the drop of a hat. CD sales are everywhere, in fact in the corridor into our building there is a guy with racks and racks of CDs for sale.

Saw another arrest today of a black guy. Two cops were trying to get him to give himself up but he was shouting ands presumably pleading innocence - one cop had his pistol out and the other had his batton. Eventually the first cop holstered his gun and chased the guy and a civilain bystander grabbed the guy and the cops raced in and handcuffed him. They had been using walkie talkies to call for reinforcments who arrived. They all went into the famous St Francis church here and were pointing at the ceiling and discussing it. One bystander told me the guy was just a loco. So I suspect he attempted some damage of the beautifully painted ceiling of the church entrance - I mean painted as in Sistine chapel type of thing.

Did somw walking around and took lots of photos. Also tried one of the ubiquitous green coconut drinks = "coco verde". They take a green young coco and cut the top hole and pour it into a machine and it comes out the bottom cold - clear as water and very refreshing. They call it coco water (not milk). Also tried a famous açai dish which is the pulp of a special fruit - the açai - and is mixed with ice, honey, banana, and muesli. Its colour is deep purple - like aubergines. Very energy giving and weell worth the test/cost. Some music has started up outside - it is 1930 here - drums, cow-bell sound and more drums and now some trumpets or sax - hello it is a procession!!! all dressed in white - will find out later who or why and what. But very Afro and drum controlled. Okay session expires soon - will talk again later. Hi Mary hope you are still around will talk to you next time we can meet !!!!!
Love Nobby

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Report # 6

Greetings on Wed morn here, Must be 2300 there - I seem to have deleted my sent-mails so dont know where I am up to. I think I was still in Rio on Friday and talking of Salvador. Well I met some people who told me I had to visit Ouro Preto - 500 kms nth - which is the famous baroque city - 67,000 - so went in and booked ticket only one bus per day at 2330 so that left all Sat free to explore. I am now in Salvador - Sat night travel to OP explore all day Sunday, then Mon early to Belo Horizante to get the long distance bus to Sal. So Mon was just a fill-in day, left at 1900 and took 24 hrs to get to Sal - arrived last night. Now in CHEAP hostel in centre of old city, more about that later; - to continue:

Saturday was the bestest day in Rio - was due to leave near midnight so had all day free - decided to go to town and do the Centro sights first tried to buy a cable at local mall shopping but none. so went to town - as it happens probably a bit later then best but ok. - 11”ish Saw lots of special old buildings nd places and took photos and walkied around observing people and traffic - fascinates me! One place I went to is called Flower Market - I expected flowers but no - it is a 6-days market that sells everying you could want - electrical esp - well smailler things like watches, cameras, clothes shoes and 50 million cell phones. So I walked around the outer edges and looked, feeling very much a local and nontourist - my shirt was out covering my camera so I llooked like everyone else. Then I realise this place goes inside under the roof in tiny alleys abour 1.5 mts wide So in I go and look and observe and had the best time. Decide it was time to eat so watched the locals - there were several places selling X-burger with a free soft drink (!) for R1.5 that is $0.75 !! can you believe it!! That was meat egg ham (processed)lettuce mustard, catchup (!)and tiny fried chips. Outside near where I live it is R3.5 for a simple burger. Then as I walked I saw a camera shop - miniscule - and they had a sign saying cables for Canon Olympus - mine - and all other brands. Can you believe that!!?? but unfortunatly they did not have any Olympus left. But I was amazed. ( I need a cable for my voice recorder to download to PC - std USB wont fit)

Went outside and photoed people by sitting on a bench and snapped them as they passed. Trying to get the faces of the people. So much variety here. then walked but could not find bus route for home so had to walk and walk for couple kms. came to a cake-bread shop got a choc mudcake and milk coffee for $1.20 - pretty good huh?

Walked home and met up with Luis a Brazilian who speaks Spanish - sort of - and he loves me and adopted me as Nobby Dundee - and he was with the Lady of the World - Natasha (born UK lived Holland, Germany Carrib speaks several languages)- the party animal and they were to meet his amor and go for a drive so invited me and out we go to the north east of city - where tourists dont go as there is not much to interest them and not even mentioned in guide book. So we drove past some big favelas - slums- owned by govt and the people are squatters. Came to what looks like a footy stadium but is in fact a big market area at least as big as a footy oval. Monstrous wall sorrounding - just like a staduim. In we go and it is a giant fair - market of all things from North Brasil. Handicrafts of every type and and cheap as chips. Plus two big stages with music blasting out from live performers. The beat was driving rythym - like rock/roll rythym and dozens of locals were all dancing below stage - beautiful to see. really got my feet tapping even had a 1-minute dance witht the girlfirend. The people here are just so expressive and open. Sons dancing with mother . 50′''s-plus couples dancing and laughing. girls together and some costumed folk as well. Dozens of restaurants but of high price so not for the poor Brazilians - nor for us - like R30 per plate - thats my daily allownace. But lots of stuff to see and people all happy. Great time then we left - after doing the circuit several times and just loving the noise music and people.

Then back home and Luis said he was off to make love (pretty hard in a hostel dorm!) so he dropped Natasha and me and I went in checked all my things were ready and sat and relaxed till 9,30. Exchanged emails addresses with several of the people - A polish girl a German girl, Luis and Natasha. Then talked again with my Argintinian “girlfriend” who works there occasionally - but then found out her brother owns the place and she lives with him in Copacabana and the other guy Daniel whom I thought was Braz was in fact her other brother.!!!! anyway we exchanged emails. They got the places -hostel and the unit in Copa - both only rented - in 2001 just before the crash so they are very lucky.

Went to the Terminal on local bus - wish I had known about it when I arrived - could have saverd R30 - no safety problems possible in buses. Went in and waited one hour bus comes and I go to get on and mine is the next one - 2350 not 2330 so wait another 20 mins. Bit confusing for a minute! Fairly hard to sleep on bus for some reason but arrrived at 0630 and the hostel I had chosen was 300 mts from the terminal and is a quaint little place so I am installed and had brekky. Oh, I forgot the othr exciting thinhg while I was in the city Saturday - near one of the monuments taking photo when 4 cops arrive and detain a poor guy who peddles his soft drinks and beers from a cart on front of the bike. he screams shouts cries and then a 4×4 with 4 more cops arrives and the boss takes him aside and tries to calm hem and explain; meanwhile crowd gatheres and shout at police and the 8 cops are defending their actions saying you dont know what is going on but people are a bit pissed off. Meanwhile there is this Aussie tourist snapping fotos of the action. At the end the big boss smiles at me and I tell him I am foriegner and cant understand, he smiles and tells me the guy is unlicenced and they received tip-off. An Intersting day!!! Luis and others believe the cops were just looking for a bribe - all from a poor poor guy doing his best and not selling drugs or anyting!!!

So that was Sat The trip to OP was non-event and lucky that Poussadfa - hostel- was walking distance from terminal. Had brekky and went to town - lots of people cant understyand why but extraordinary city with beautiful buildings, many many steeeep hills to walk up and down. The state is called “general Mines” and was great source of gold and metals from 1700 on. Ouro preto means black gold. Between 1700-1800 they took 615,000 kgs of gold from OP out of a total of 965,000 kgs exported. When I arrived many people had gloves and headcaps on and I decided later that we were probably at 1500 mts - a guess- but warm day and lots of photos and many buildoings and churches on all the high spots(!) did not go in to the churches which are all gold-plated to some degree inside. Walked thru one of the old mines - tunnels about 1 mt wide and from 1 to 2 mts high wet and slippery and had to crouch a lot, ceiling glistened with metal chips. Visited some galleries and was told that this was the annual winter feestival of OP and another smaller city 13 kms away so there were functions on in both cities and a squillion Brazs al visiting - plus a few foriegners. Definitely a city worth seeing if you come here. It get bitterly cold once sun was gone but I went to a free display of sound and music from 1800 on. First was street kids who had a drum group and could they play!! then the leader called on other kids to have a go and they coached them along with the more experienced ones. - reminded me of that Japanese band that was in Bris last year. Phenomenal sound. Then later there was a great band of drums, plus a guy on all cymbals and metal things, bass guitar, and keyboard some great modern sounds and a voice from a good looking singer dancer who looks a bit like the Braz footy player - is it Ronaldo? He had a beautiful voice and could sing a great variety of stuff but he did a lot of talking and would sing a few bars of a song then talk and joke forever. By 20.00 my legs were frozen so I left, but certainly a good visit. Stiff walk back up many hills to get home!!

Got up next morn bought ticket to B-H a small town of nearly 5 million, fastest growing city in Braz. Back and ate brekkie then 2 hrs to get to BH. Went to bank to change $ to R$ much walking and asking and finally in to bank. They copy passport and do lots and lots of buracracy, then wait again till called and eventually they give me the money. They charge a flat fee of US$15 for any transaction be it $5 or $5000. Find a cheap restaurant near terminal for lunch - I love these places that serve a full plate of rice, beans meat salad and stuff for $1.50 !!! then a soft drink for $0.50 Went round and found a super market to get some bread and yogurts and fruit - the food at the h/way bus stops is terribale and expenxive. Also for the first time saw 3 dwarfs one begging and two working - have not seen before in BR. Also saw several porn film places for R$5 for 3 movies - have not seen those before either. But then around terminals you always get very cheap and sometimes sleazy places - the guide book says some of the hotels in that area are not for sleeping! Got the bus okay (Monday night 1900) and everyone immediately lay seats fully reclined and turned out lights - at 7.00pm!!! I relaxed for hour or so then was able to sleep. Stopped after 3 hrs and we all got off to strecth and some to eat. Stopped several more times during night for 15-20 mins so useful for toilet stops - price has increased from “a penny” to $0.25 !!!

About 0900 we stopped for brekkie and two thirds of people exited totally. leaving bus mostly empty. Someone said the bus was going and something about the “other” I understood them to mean I had to change to another bus so I raced in a grabbed my things ran out and tried to get my mochila but he said no and rattled off a string of gibberish. I asked the girl who had sat next to me and she said no, I was to stay on this bus. Phew!!! back on to make sure they dont leave without me ( always a tiny worry, as it is easy to miss what is happening). We go for a 3 min drive to the “other” side of the terminal and here we have a 30 min wait. OK I understand that. Go to toilet eat some brekkie and come back andf the bus is gone!!!! Oh shit so I frantically race around asking officials how to get my bag back and get to Salvador. after about 5 mins of panic I gather they have simple taken the bus to the depot to refuel and clean etc and it will return. another phew!!! then I notice soem of my fellow passenghers waiting also so feel safe again. after 45 mins it returns and we continue only now I have two seats. The journey was mostly on two-lane (one each way) lower quality road so the trip was slow as 90% of vehiclkes were trucks and buses; saw very few cars on the long distances.At 1700 we were in a big city and stopped at a terminal for 15 mins - no action; no-one on or off, just wait; then we start again - I presume the driver needed a pit stop. Puzzling - but also nervy for a foreigner without language.

Arrived just before 7.00 pm last night Tues walked across road to urban terminal and found the stop for my destination waited 30 mins. GET ON AND GO THRU TURNSTYLE BUT NO PAY??!! Anther couple on same bus with mochilas and she is Portuguese so she asks driver to tell us when to get off - easy, huh?. I get off and there is people music and noise like you wouldn”t believe. Guess what? another festival in the Old-Center. SO dissuade two hustlers that I dont want theiir taxi or hotel. and one actually tells me wher my chosen Poussada is I walk thru the crowds with music and cops and people everywhere. find hostel - it is almost a dive but quaint and cute and friendly. French girl offers to share her pasta with me. so we shower - separately, eat then ask owner to take us out. Within 5 mins she meets a dreadlocks guy she knows and they disappear leaving me and Beto - the owner. I cannot describe the action that was taking place. There are several little Plazas nearby - my hostel is in one- and each plaza has a stage with performers. It was incredible!!! stunning!!! I have recorded some of the sounds but that doesnt do it justice. In one street we came acroos a group of drummers similar to the kids in OP but these were all Afro with bodies to die for and did they have rythym!! there were 14 drums most were big omes about 90 cms wide and high plus some kettle doms and tambourine things. They would hold thes giat drums up with one hand above their head and hit with other hand, they danced with the drums and thier feet were going all the time. Amazing stuff!! They tried to sell CD but Beto tells me way too expenxive at R$25 - (R$10 is more reasonable) Another group was playing Farol (?) music, another was doing hot pop stuff at 4000 decibels.

While we were in the crowd a pickpocket felt me up - pockets that is - but I had prepared and had no wallet just loose notes in a zip pocket - and anyway I felt him as did Beto and we watched him as he moved on. He was quick, I doubt you could have stopped him if a wallet was in an open pocket. We just laughred and put it down to experience. Several beautiful young women smiled at mne and stared me in the eyes - Beto said they are professional and cost R$60 - and I didnt have that much on me (hehehe)!! SO I am now in the old centre called Pelourinho meaning Pillory (??)so it must have been the place where they flogged the slaves.

SanP was 22 million - rather ugly, but flat and with everyting you could desire from a city - as in culture etc. Rio is about 9 million and has its own friendly spirit, totally hilly and so divided into pockets as the hills are too steep to build on - except the lower slopes. I tried to estimate the number of buses they use there - say 300-400 routes each with a bus running every 10 mins how many buses is that? multi thousands I guess. Have not seen any accidents anywhere, despite the apparent chaos. Sal proper is on a promontory about 8 kms by 8 kms (sort of rectangle or trapezoid for those who know!!) pointing south. The docks and old centre are on west side (left) and the residential suburbs and beaches are on the east - right- open Atlantic side. They have spent millions to restore the old centre which is a maze of cobblestone streets twisting all every which way. One could easily get disoriented and semi-lost here. Trip to here was about 1600 kms so next time will tell you total distance travelled. I Plan to stay 4-5 days then off to Fortaleza where the Carnaval starts next Wed - would like to be there before then to ensure accomm. Thaty should keep you all reading for a few minutes. Have fun stay cool. Love to all - thanks to Merlin, Diana, Margo, Jeff and others who sent emails good to know I am not boring you. Cheers and love till next time. By the way - I didnt use internet from BH as it cost 5-8 times what it is costing here!!
Chau Nobby

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Report # 5

Hi to all,

This is really a continuation of number 4 which I sent this morning.

My impressions of Brazil:- a place full and full of people - huge contrasts between well-off and poor which is sad but the people are aware of it and hopefully over hte years the social problems willl be resolved. The people are friendly and fun - evenn the poor and homeless are able to laugh and sing. Very hard to understand the spoken language - the sounds are so foreign to my ears - but others who speak several languages say the same. Even when they repeat something several times I have to say I can”t understand.The traffic is wild and furious with horns blasting all the time but they all get thru and seem to willingly accomodate each other. The buses drive at a great frenzy and have suddeen starts and stops and scream around corners but with no problems. The bikes (motor) are the thing there are thousands of them and they weave constantly between the various rows of cars and people with their horns beeeping all the time.Some amazing buildings - mix of old and new - and slums thrown in with the mix. Some stories to tell - when I first arrived in BA I realised the one thing I had forgotten was a torch (to go to loo at night mainly but also to find things in backpack (mochila). So planned to buy one. Next morn on my travels between bus terminal and hotel and back again a guy ran thru the carriage and gave everyone a gift (so I thought!!!) I glanced at it and thought it was a key- ring - probably a promotion of some kind. I dropped it in my little day-pack got off at the next station and thought no more of it. But next trip someone else came along with another gift - a card full of all sorts of sewing needles and it had the price on the top (1 peso) asnd some people actually paid the guy on his return trip a few minutes later, while the rest gave the item back. THEN i REALISED THAT THIS WAS A FORM OF INCOME FOR THESE PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO social security (bloody caps lock!!) and I checked my little item and it was 2 pesos !!! and guess what - its a torch!!! 4 cms long as thick as a pencil and gives a brilliant blue-white light runs on watch-batteries and even has a spare set of bastteries. So on my first day I robbed some poor Argentinian of part of his income. Sorry buddy - didn''t mean to.

The other thing is about Sugarloaf - I read the guide book to say you could climb to the very top if you were fit so guess who decided to climb it!!! there are two mountains with a valley - dip- in between; the first is Urca at 220 mts and then Sugar at 396 mts. I walked the paved path at the base expecting it to wind behind the hill and allow climbing from rear. But path stops and sign says dont go past here without experienced guide!!, so I backtracked to where a side path branches up the hill and started out. Brandon, it is about 150 mts up with high steps at about 35-40 degress - sort of like steep stairs, rocky twisting and winding and in rain forest. I was out of breath in 5 mins but made it to a point where it flattened out heart was at about 145. (my max optimum)I branched to right towards sugar and reached the end of the path at the base of the sheer vertical rock face of sugar going up another 250 mts. Two guys were climbing with all the professional ropes etc that one needs. I backtracked end took the left path and got tp Urca all hot and sweaty after 220 mts steeeeep climb. Brandon, your stairs will be a breeze after that. Anyway took the cable car to Sugar and back down. Terrific trip well worth it. And tell your friends - they cannot climb Sugar, only Urca. Today went to get ticket to Salvador - 28 hours up the road - but ticket is $100 instead of $50 expected from guide. so did not have enough cash on me - have a large locker at hostel with all valuables locked in - Mary, the extra padlock came in handy!! So have to go back again. But tonight met a guy - Brazilian - staying at hostel who is from Belo Horizonte which is near to Ouro Peato the world famous baroque town and he says I have to visit it so may do that and then go to Salvador from there. Ouro is only 4 hrs from here. Plan to leave Sat (it is now Thurs night) Eating all the local food but stock up on yogurts and chocs for emergencies. Thats enought for now - till next time - presumably from up the road a ways. No safety problems at all in any respect. I must say I am taking all precautions and am very aware that I cannot afford to have any accident like falling or cutting etc as that could be a disaster. So I take lots of care in even walking, crossing streets, using implements etc. I am well and happy and enjoying the trip

Love Nobby

Report # 4

Greetings to all from the famous city of Rio de Janeiro,
Quiero disculparme a todos mis amigos que no hablan bien ingés - que sólo tengo tiempo escribir una vez. Espero que uds entiendan lo que escribo - lo hago con muchos errores en deletrear. Quero desculpar-se con todos meus amigos que não falam bem o ingés - porque só tenho tempo escrever uma vez sem tempo corregir os errores do escrever.

Well before anything a very special thanks to Dora and Geraldo for five wonderfuldays in their very comfortable house and with incredible warmth and friendship. You have made my entry to Brazil a very special one and have helped me “acclimatise”.

Gustave - Doras son - and a friend took me on Sat to the centre of SP and we had the world famous feijoada - mixed meats, black beans and marioc powder, rice - fabulous dish. Also tried the famous caipirinho cane alcohol based drink - as I am a white rum drinker it was very palatable and I am sure several would easily wipe yu out. We visited some markets drove thru various portins of city to see buildings. Traffic is incredible - so much. Not exactly a pretty city but contains everything in cuktural sense. Imagine ALL of Australias museums, galleries, libraries etc gathered into one city and you have SP - it has nore people in a fairly small area than Aust has in whole country!!! Did some sigtseeing around Mogi with D-G on Sun, then Monday met old friends from Camino of 2003. Chatted mostly in Portuguese but also Spanish and Eng - pleased that I could talk - hesitantly - in Port. The friends were very understanding and helpful and spoke slowly.

Tuesday I left at midday for RJ and 5 hours was here. Chose a popular hostel which is jumping with young people who all want to party and get drunk. They seem to have unlimited money - for parties - altho they economise by staying at hostels. Yesterday went to Ipanema and Copacabana beaches - to an Aussie they are rather ordinary with low surfing waves. Lots of people and ALL women regardless of age or size wears bikini - not pretty on the old/fat ones. Topless is forbidden.

yesty arvo I climbed half way up Sugarloaf then took cable car to top and back - a must see for visitors views are spectacular. Still have to see Christ Redeemer plus centro sights will probaly leave Subday for long trip north.
Cheers for now Love and hugs Nobby

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Report # 3

Greetings to all my friends out there,I am now living in luxury in the house of Margo''s friend Dora and husband Geraldo. They are absolutely spoiling me with kindness so I may stay here for the next two months instead!!

As I said the Falls were great but hugely reduced in water volume so I decided that the view from the Brazil side would be less than worth while. So I left the next morning for Foz do Iguasu which is about 30 mins from the Arg town. Bought ticket got on local bus and takes us to Arg border control - easy, took 2 mins; then to Brazil border where you must disembark and wipe your feet on wet pads to remove contamination - I didn''t know about this and did not see the pads so did not do it till 30 mins later. We had to go thru formalities here so bus goes on and we are to catch next bus in 20 mins. Formalities take 5-10 mins but easy, then we wait and wait and wait. During this time I realised what people were doing with the pads (I''m pretty quick you know!!!).Eventually after about an hour or so another bus came and 15-20 mins later we are in Foz. The Arg Pto Iguazu is small town, but Foz is 280,000 so very bustling city. We drive past the Terminal Urbana (I need the internat terminal) and I wondered if we should get off there but only one foreign couple did so; so I waited. 5 mins later we all have to get off and I am in some unbelievably busy crowded (dangerous?) place which is not on my map and I have no idea what to do.

That''s when I start to learn that maybe I am a Control-Freak because suddenly I am out of control; my language is absolutely minimal and I don''t know where I should be. So I clutch my two mochilas to me and start walking (where?)ask one man and he says go this street and find bus. but no buses; stop and buy choc and juice, ask girl how to get to terminal; she is very kind and speaks slowly and says cross the street and take bus from this side and go to urbano then at urbano go to International terminal - emphasises two buses - clever girl. I take bus to Urbano and as you enter bus there is a very narrow turnstile where you pay the ticket person and squeeze thru the stile - try this with two mochilas on. I have to remove both and the man helps me but is frustrated that I turned the style without going thru - probably it counts the numbers?? But we arrive safe, ask policeman how to get to International and he says wait over there. I wait 30 mins no bus so I ask bread seller how and he says there is a better place and takes me - very kind - to better spot where any of 5 routes will be okay. Ten mins later I take bus but we all get in rear door and don''t have to pay; I worry so go to ticket lady and tell her I am going to terminal when do I pay; she says you don''t pay ??? OK Still don''t know why.

At the terminal I look for company going to Sao Paulo (16 hrs trip) ask about tickets there are 4 leaving during next few hours and seller says the 7.00 pm one will get me in at 9.00 am . I am so confused I didn''t do the maths and work out that 16 hours will be 11.00 not 9. Anyway I get ticket for 7.00 and have 3-4 hours to kill. Food inside is fast food USA style and nothing substantial. SO I check my big bag and go outside and find a market with all sorts of locals and food and cafes etc so I ask in one and they have buffet for $2 (all dollars I quote are US) so I go in and get meat rice and 5 salads. Good stuff.

Inside I note that people are going thru Customs. The bus area is all fenced off with high chain-wire and entry is only thru customs door - like in an airport. I go and ask my seller if I have to go thru customs and he says yes be there 30 mins before. I am a bit concerned because they are opening every bag of every person and I have medicines in my first-aid kit and if he asks what-how and why I cannot fully explain except I have Doc´s script for them all. Meanwhile I get confused and think I have to be at customs at 7.00 (clever, huh?) and only at 6.55 do I realise my mistake so scurry to collect bag and run to customs. Lady looks at me and sees I am honest so she waves me thru !!!! Kisses for her!!

I get on the bus and there are only 10 people so when I sit in my seat next to a guy he says why don''t you sit somewhere else - look there are plenty of seats. SO I move then later when others get on they all sort themselves out and no-one worries about seat allocation.

Later a lady comes along asking everyone something and half the people give her money (??) (?a hooker) she asks me and I say no understand, my seat companion gives R10 ($5) and recommends to me to give but I refuse. I sleep well on and off then many hours later the bus stops and guys get on and there is much arguing from everyone for 15 mins and they check all tickets and argue and open the cargo doors and argue and then all get back on and we move on still discussing it. I recorded a bit of the noise and Geraldo told me later the lady was collecting to pay off the customs duty people and the stop was a contraband bust. Things come in cheaply from Paraguay and get sold in black market in Brazil .

9.00am comes and goes and we are still many miles from SP - I had rung Geraldo from Foz (now that''s another challenge!!) and he was expecting me during the morn. So I am concerned for him. We get to outskirts of SP (22 million!!) and the 6-8 lane motorway is at a semi standstill. Takes another 1-1.5 hrs to go 20 kms so we arrive about lunch time.

I ask how to get a bus to Geraldo''s city of Mogi das Cruzes and get three conflicting stories - the moral: never believe people in company ticket booths as they don''t know and probably don''t care. Eventually info desk man takes me to correct location and get ticket and bus leaves I get to Mogi at 3.00 and ring Geraldo - no answer; repeat 6 times till 5.00 and he answers. Telecom were working on line and so his line was out. He picks me up and speaks great English - what a relief!!. Dora doesn''t get home till 7.00. Beautiful and charming lady who looks 15 years younger than she is and so kind as is Geraldo. They have a 2 hectare farm on outskirts of Mogi which is itself 350,000. Charming spacious 3 b/r and 3 bath/r house so I have private bath and double bed.

We talk till late then Friday when Dora goes to her classes (doing 2 year full time course in Altern medicine and massage -finishes this Sept) she takes me on train and sends me to city with wonderful map and directions. I visit the municipal markets and see the streets around there, visit a famous church and monastery still in use but monastery is closed. Church is cathedral size and dark and beautiful with many locals praying. I return to the streets and get coffee and Churro - caramel filled cone of doughnut-type pastry. The sights of the street when I exited the station were mind-blowing. Wall to wall people like I have never seen, with sellers and their tables all down the street (on the roadway and footpath - and it is a narrow street) all shouting and yelling and blowing noisy instruments and cars and motor bikes weaving thru the tangle - especially the bikes they drive fairly fast with their horn beeping continuously and hope the people get out of the way. A total assault on the ears and eyes and mind. I was fascinated!! The market was in wind-down so was not as crowded but it is like Vic-markets or Adelaide and the variety of meats cheeses meats fruits and every other foodstuff was beyond belief. Even little entire piglets fully skinned hanging up, steaks about 50 cms long - just amazing. But I spent most of my time walking up and down the street looking at all the sights - very memorable. Then train/metro back to meet Dora at her station. The trains ran every 5 mins and every one was jam-packed like sardines and every platform had people standing 3 deep the entire length of the platform so when the doors open and 100 get off and 200 get on you can imagine the scramble. When we had to change trains the people getting on were 3 abreast so we had to fight and push to get off while they tried to get on. I have made contact with the two guys I met in Spain on the Camino and we are going to get together this weekend - Alex our `adopted` son is at the beach and returns tomorrow and will come to this house. Silvio has not yet finalised but we will meet.

I will spend a few more days here and perhaps get to meet some of Dora''s children; We will try to pre-arrange accomm in Rio before I leave - I think it is only 6 hours to Rio . Dora and Geraldo say I MUST see the Carnival in Fortaleza . and Dora''s uncle has a modest hotel in Manaus and he may be able to arrange trip to the authentic jungle where he has a primitive hotel.Have just spoken with Gustavo - Dora''s 32 yo son - who wants to take me to SP with his girlfriend. They come at 11.00 am . Can you believe such kindness! He speaks very good English My Portuguese is so minimal - I can say things but cannot understand much of what is said back to me. My pronunciation was so bad - now I am learning some better sounds from Dora and Geraldo. Hopefully in next month I will improve. But the sounds are so opposite to what my mind thinks it should be: the o at end is said like u, the r is said like h, the rr is said like h, the -on -om - ã o all sound like a strongly nasal ´ow´ - so my mind knows how to spell it but it takes several seconds before the brain can work out how to make the correct sound. OK all you students of mine can stop laughing!!!

I am off to have shower and get ready for Gustavo. Cheers for now, hugs to all and special one for you Margo you must be needing it by now!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Report # 2

The second Epistle of Nobby to the Ozzies Wed 5 July 15.50 —

I am now in the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguazu (280,000) and have decided not to stay so am leaving tonight for Sao Paulo - 16 hr trip for $50.

Had an enjoyable stay in Posadas though not as successful in seeing the people as we had hoped. But had a good rest then 400 kms north to Puerto Iguazu small town totally dedicated to tourism. Pretty and pleasant, stayed in a hostel after having met som yoiung UK travellers on the bus. (I have 6 mins left so may not get a lot done.) Visited the Falls which are humungous but have not had rain since last summer so very very low and I guess only 10 of normal volume but still huge.I walked all the paths they had which was about 6-8 kms and took lots of fotos.

Left this morn from there to cross the border and that took a lonnnng time thru waiting for buses and not knowing where to get off and so going too far then having to get another bus back to the international terminal. But am here now and have a few hours wait then o/nite to SP. Big hugs to all and will flesh this out next time.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Report # 1

Data lost