Sunday, July 30, 2006

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