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