Brazil: Day 21-22

Today I went on a boat tour of the local island. Yet again, I was the only English speaker on the the tour. To save a little money, I bought my own pack lunch and we went off to our first stop. At the first stop, we all got off the boat and dived into the clear water. I was worried about getting my phone stolen, I decided to keep my phone on me while on the beach. However when we went to leave, I checked my pocket and saw that my phone was missing. I looked all around the beach for my phone but I couldn’t find it. It was gone. This made me extremely mad. When you travel, your phone is your everything. Camera, map, translator and entertainment. Without it I felt lost, alone and unable to communicate with the world. It honestly scared the hell out of me not having a phone, as no one on the boat spoke English, not being able to communicate if hurt might be a real issue. Honestly loosing the phone was like a death to me. Not having a that line of communication or the ability to fill boring silence with music or an audio book really made me feel lost. A went though the 5 stages of grift over a phone, no joke. I didn’t enjoy the rest of the day as I spent the whole day kicking myself for being careless and loosing the phone.  When I got home, I talked with Laura and parents regarding options for phones on my ipad. With the ipad, I didn’t have to get a new phone straight away, however it is a pain to carry and you look foolish taking photos with an ipad. After a while, decided that it was impossible to live without a phone my travels. I honestly wish this wasn’t the case. I wish I could tell you that everything was fine that I could live without a phone but I couldn’t. In London, maybe I could get away without one,but here it is a life line I couldn’t continue without. 

Day 22, spent the morning sourcing a new phone. Much harder than I thought as it turns out some stores you need a special license to buy phones at. Why this is the case, no one in the store could explain to me. In the end, I found the “american store”, which sell technology, dvds and everything you could think of. Think woolworths in it’s hay day. £157 gets you a pretty functional Samsung android phone. The Samgung galaxy J2 to be exact. 5 megapixel camera, 8gb of storage, 4 cores and 2 gb of ram. Honestly not a bad phone for the money and not much more than you would pay anywhere for it. It retails for £147 in the UK when I googled it. The best feature is that functions as a tv and radio. Completely insane

 
Spent the rest of the day sitting on the beach setting up the phone. Realised how similar android and iOS are these days. In a way technology has become very functionality the differences are only mirror and uninteresting now. Downloaded the audible app and started listening to a new book called the forgotten continent. Talks about the history of latin america. Really a must read for those travelling in the area, as it really explain the issues all these counties have. Like for example the classes issues that brazil had with the rich living by one set of laws and the local and poor another. Really lies stuff out. 

I am off to play with my phone again. Night all. 

Brazil: Day 20

Three weeks in brazil has gone so fast. Can’t believe that I have been away for so long and not gone mad with being on my own. Today was a relaxing day, finding my way around the city and getting things straight. The old town is even more beautiful by day and I couldn’t help myself but take pictures. I found out there I wasn’t the only one with everyone around me carrying extremely expensive cameras. It turned out the town was doing a festival of photography and that people from all around brazil had come to take photos of the town. Also the town was showing photography from famous artist in Brazil in many of it’s public buildings and it was free to entry. So I had a very enjoyable morning walking around taking photos.


Getting hungry, I decided to stop for lunch. I don’t want the following to come off as rude, but my waiter was one of the stupidest persons I have ever meet. I asked him (in Portuguese) if he spoke english, he said no. But he returned with the specials board in English and I picked my meal. I then waited for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Getting pretty hungry at this point, I asked the waiter, in Portuguese, how long for my food. He then said 5 minutes. I thought, okay. Another 25 minutes rolls around and I say to the waiter than I am leaving without paying and this was not okay. He panic and grabs another waiter. Turns out that he speaks perfect English and even he is confused at the 2 hour wait time. This is the part that I don’t understand, when I ask them if they speak english, why didn’t he get this guy before. It seems a simple matter to switch tables with each other, so he serves me. Instead, I struggled for 2 hours to work out when the hell my food was. Brazil really doesn’t care about service or understand if you dont speak their language. It is not even as if it is a popular language, it is 7th most popular in the world. A pure lack of common sense is missing from everyone that has served me in this country. I think that education is really an issue, as the common man as a stupid look on their face most of the time and spits in the road. My food finally shows up and it was the wrong meal. I had ordered chicken and was given steak. This is not normally a problem as I love steak, but I have had this issue the whole time I have been in Brazil. Whatever I order, I get given steak. I believe this is because steak is normally the most expensive thing on the menu and they are forcing an up sale on me. But I am not sure, as many time the thing I have ordered are the same price. Confusing. In the end, I sent the food back and after 2 hours 45 minutes, I got my food and walked off without paying.


I walked around the town for the rest of the day, what was left of it and went back to the hostel when it got dark. Nearly home, I was just turning into my street when out of no where, the street turned into a political rally. People on the street were shouting and all road was filled with cars with yellow flags with the number 15 on them. All the cars were going crazy, making noose and playing music. When I saw a street food vendor get punched and heard the police, I decided to leave. I ran back to the hostel and locked the door behind me. For the rest of the night I heard the madness going on outside. I asked the host what the deal with the number was. Each person in the election is giving a number to campaign under. People use this number to show support, a little like the number on the back of a football shirt. Crazy.


Early night tonight, got a boat tour in the morning. Night.

Brazil: Day 19

Day 20 and today was a very long day. Getting in late at 2:45 this morning, it was pretty painful to wake up at 8 so that I could pack to leave. I found, to my horror that the checkout time was at 10, so I had to hurry. I dragged myself out of bed and reached for the light switch in the room. Pressing the switch, nothing happened, I tried the fan and other switches, nothing. Odd, I looked at my phone to see if I had an signal, no wifi. Interesting, so I put dressed quickly shoved all my stuff in my bag and checked out. As I was leaving, I asked about the wifi and the light. The manager explained that the storms of the last couple of days have been the worst for many years and for the reason, they was no power on the whole island. Meaning no lights, no fans, no wifi and no phone signal, as I am guessing the cell towers require power. This meant, I had some very boring hours a head of me. With nothing to do and being so hung over, I ended up just watching dogs the beach fight each other for hours. 


My boat was due to leave at 1:30, so I got the dock at 1 just in case. Just in time to see a boat (from the same company I was using) leave. Confused I asked the woman working there if it was my boat. She didn’t answer and walked away. Confused, I sat there thinking, I was stuck on this god forsaken island, when 1:30 rolled around. Then 1:40. At 1:50, I really started to panic when I boat finally turned up and I was ushered aboard. The choppy seas did nothing for my hung over and I was very glad to get onto dry land. 


From there, it was a 5 hour bus ride to the town of paraty. I was dropped at my hostel. The hostel turned out to be pretty nice, with a really nice English speaking host, great wifi and a really big television. I was hungry, so decided to treat myself to a meal out in town. I didn’t really know my way into town, so I just followed the sound. The roads into the old city  is pretty horrible, looking like a city in any third world country, street food and horrible shops. Which is all the stranger, when the road turns really nice and then becomes the old town. It is hard to explain how beautiful the old town is, it is really nice. It is extremely well preserved port town from the 1800s, which was once very rich, as it was a hub for silver and diamonds in the past. Walking along it cobbled and uneven streets is like travelling back in time. There are also lots of cool shops and resterants. For the first time on land, in brazil, I felt like a tourist again. Like looking at a old city in Europe like Dubrovnik or many cities in italy. I was in love. I had a very enjoyable pizza in town, if not a little pricey and headed home. 


Been a really long day today, want to get some sleep so I can get up and explore tomorrow. Night all. 

Brazil: Day 14-15

Not a lot to report. Day 14 was taken up with a 7 hour couch ride to Salavador and the flight back to rio. I landed in rio at 11:00 at night and I had been there before i went straight to the bus terminal. However, what I didn’t know was that the buses stop at 10:30, so waited for 45 minutes before thinking to look it up on my phone. From there, I decided to get an uber to my hotel, which proved more difficult than I thought, as uber would not pick me up at the airport for some reason. So I decided to walk into the area where it would pick me up. This ended up being a stupid idea, as I had to walk (with my bags)  nearly two miles. When I did get an uber, the guy couldn’t find me and I cancelled the trip. I requested another uber, to have the same stupid driver try to pick me up again. This process of me requesting, getting the same guy and cancelling repeated 4 times, until I was starting to worry how I would get to my hostel after all. Then I remembered the uber has another setting for the type of car, once I changed it to uber premium there was then an option for uber english and I jumped to order that. The uber driver was nice when I got in. Offered me some water and everything. He seemed very worried about dropping me off at my hostel as “it’s a very bad part of town”. A comment, I found very unhelpful, with a hostel booked and it being 1:30 in the morning. He dropped me off and speed off as fast as he could. 

Day 15 was similarly uneventful, with a bus that took me to the next stop on my trip, the island of ilha grande. After a peaceful bus and boat ride, where I mostly watched season 6 of suits I got to the island. After getting settled in, I had dinner on the beach. It was very nice, but I got the vibe that this island wasn’t really for me. Looking around, it was nothing but couples. Then I worked out what most of the people on this island were, hunny mooning couples. This made me feel like a right lemon, so I finished my food quickly and headed off. 


When landing on the island, I was told that the bar next to the dock was the source of the islands night life, so I decided to check it out. At 9pm it was still extremely quite and I didn’t meet anyone that spoke English that I wanted to talk to. There were a group of americans that seem like frat boys playing a drinking game, but I didn’t fancy talking to them. But as I already ordered a drink, I decided to hang around for a bit. After a while, I started to feel people were looking at me on my own and feeling a bit weird. But want of anything to do, I found an empty hamick and jumped in. I thought, “no one will question a man in a hamick, right?”. So I jumped in the hamick and got very relaxed. I woke up the the sound of a series of loud coughs. Over head was a very tall and angry looking black man looking down at me. I rubbed my eyes and looked at my watch. It was 1:20 in the morning. I had jumped in the hamkin at around 9:30 and just passed out. Looking around the bar / club, it was completely empty apart the staff looking bored at the edge of the dance floor. Clearly they were just waiting for the customers to leave before they could go home. Turning bright red, I quickly jumped out of the hamick , thank the owners and sheepishly walked home. 

Tomorrow, I explore the island. Night all 

Brazil: Day 12-13

Had some admit to catchup on, such as booking the next hostel and transfer, so spent some time the hostel. This was more of an issue, as the place was a mess. It was less of a hostel and more a spare room in a farm house populated by a family. This family also runs a resterate out of the front of the place, so it was never quite. It didn’t help that the building was falling to pieces. The toilet in fact had massive holes in the roof and when you went to the toilet, the rain would come in. Not fun. 


With the cost of the two tours burning a hole in my pocket, on my last day, I decided on my last day in town, to do a tour of the local area by myself. It turned out the local area, had a lot to see. But it was pretty scary just walking off into wilds on my own. 


I walked around for around 5 hours, which is amazing, however, only 10 minutes from the hostel, I managed to misjudge a jump between some rocks and fell. I landed really badly and hurt my leg. I limped home and got myself patched up. 

 

Leaving town early tomorrow. TTFN

Brazil: Day 10

Today was a big day. Getting in late last night, the host at the hostel pushed a number of the local tours on me. Being pretty tired at the time, I was not in the mood for the sales pitch but I agreed to do tour 1 to get the host off my back. What I great choice this was. Researching online will not bring up a massive amount (in English or otherwise) about the national park. It is a little unknown gem that only those in the know go to. Which is why the town is so small and still beautiful. With little information to be found online, I thought a guide at least for the first day would be a good idea. Luckily the host picked out a company that had guides that speak English, which is no mean feet, as many of the other tour companies didn’t, as I was later to find out. Waking early, I had the hostel’s breakfast and made my way to the bus. Getting on the bus, the guide introduced himself. He was a nice and friendly guide named Daniel. The bus were a nice group of people included families and group couples. It turned out that everyone a part from me spoke Portuguese . But the guide was cool with doing the talky bit twice, once in English for my benefit. I meet a really nice Korean guy named Cho, who spoke really good English ( and 6 other languages to boot) and we became fast friends. 

First stop on the tour was a waterfall. See picture below. What you may notice about the water is that it is brown. This at first seemed very odd, but as daniel explained, it is a feature of the area. The water is stained by organic matter that washes down for the hills. This gives the water the brown colour and makes a natural tea of the water. The colour is harmless and is meant to be really good for your skin if you swim in it. At the first waterfall, we all jumped into the water. WIth some work we all made our way too the falls. It was hard going, but amazing to dunk your head under the water of the falls. 


Next we went to a hill that gave great views of the local area. Daniel explained that these hills were special as they used to be at the bottom of the sea and were made from different levels of bedrock. 


Next we went to a cave, that had some of the most of amazing geological shapes I have ever seen. The guide explained difference between stalagmite and stalactite. That they take 33 years to grow even 1cm. He showed us the shapes that the early man saw in the rock. There was also a family of bats to look at. 


Driving for another 45 minutes, we were taken to a series of pool. The first was a bright blue pool. The guide explained that the blue was an effect that came from sunlight hitting the cave wall and reflecting in the water. Whatever it was looked amazing. 


For the final event of the day, we went cave swimming. This cave was about 700m into the rock and your went with the a snorkel. The swim took around 35 minutes, there and back. It was amazingly quite, with only the sound of your own breating and the light of the waterproof touch your were provided. The battery in my torch keep going out and I was surrounded in darknes, which meant i had to swim in complete darkness. Which made things interesting. 


After all this, I was completely spent and returned to the van to get taken home. On the way back, I saw this lake, not even part of the tour but just stunning and felt truly at peace. Even saw this like monkey on the way back!
An amazing day, one I soon will not forget. 

Brazil: Day 9

Today I am taking my first long hall bus in Brazil. Very happy to be out of Salvador, I got an cab (after giving up on uber!) to the bus station. The next stop on my trip is lenciuos, a small town located 7 hours driving from Salvador. It is a small town that a hub of hostel for those giving to give the national park. The bus ride turned out to be more my pleasant that I thought it would be. I was seated behind some Aussies, that were from Brixton, London. So spent much of the trip talking to them. They both said that I seem to be very well prepared, as I was talking about all the backups I had for money (multiple cards) and all the apps (like Google translate) I had installed. This was a nice feeling, as I have felt like I have been winging it for my whole trip, but these guys seemed much less prepared than I and they seem to have not died. 

Getting into lenciuos, the first thing you notice is the town is extremely small. Some reports put the population was less than 1200, but I would believe it was less. Than town has about 15 shops (most of which are for tourist) and 7 restaurants. 3 of these are pizza places. Later checking into my hostel, I decided to have a pizza. 

Big day tomorrow, have a tour of the national park planned. 

TTFN

Brazil: Day 8

To get away from the horror of Salvador (see my previous post), I booked a boat trip. Salvador has little in terms of tourism, no one speaks English and there are no official tours that I could find. With a serious lack of interesting options for stuff to do, I booked a boat tour. Now I will admit, I didn’t even know what the tour was for, but the only other option was to sit around the hostel with the only one English speaking person. Getting up early, I went to the marina. The old city were I am staying is located in the old fort on the hill. So to get down, there is a paid for elevator. This turned out to be quite fun, with the elevator being run like a metro / tube system. It was full of clearly bored people, just trying to get to work. It is funny, as the lift ride took less than 60 seconds to complete. Once at sea, level I made my way to the boat. Getting the boat was interesting, with no one speaking any English and everyone seemly completely clueless on how to run a marina. I finally got a ticket and got on the boat. It turned out that was a pleasure cruise around two islands. The historical information will was to be provided and it was just a chance for the rich Brazilian on the boat to look at some islands. To be honest it was a nice change of pace to do something touristy for a change, as I hadn’t done anything like this since I landed in Brazil. The people on the boat were asked what language they spoke was and I turned out to be only English speaker on board. The crew did they speech in Portuguese, Spanish and English. But I noticed that when they talked, it was for 15 minutes in Portuguese, 10 minutes in Spanish and 1 minute in English. I for sure missed a tonne of the content of the speech. In fact when we landed on the first island, the details of when to return weren’t even clear. I got something for around 12:30 on the harbour. I went for a walk along the beach and got a lovely photo, see below and returned to the boat. 


When I got to the harbour for 12:30 there was a boat on the dock and me and some other people I knew were on the boat with me got on. When we did get on the boat, we notice that it was a different boat. After a couple of minutes, two gay guys I knew were on my boat jumped off. Me and some others followed. It turned out this was another companies boat. No one of the boat had bothered to check if we were with them. Worst, they arrived the exact time that we were meant to leave. The boat companies in Brazil are a joke, without any understanding of how to run a tour or what the hell they are doing. 


We landed on the second island, that was extremely beautiful, looking like a tropical island, that bond might be found walking out of the water in. It is pretty unclear what the food arrangements were, I am saw that the boat team had explained it in other languages, but not to me. I worked it out in the end and had a steak lunch. 

An interesting day. Brazil is not designed for tourist and it is give me new found respect for tours I have take all around the world, for how well origanized they were. 


Night all. 

Brazil: Day 5 – 7 

I got in late from an extremely expensive taxi ride to be hostel. My hostel is located in the historical part of Salvador. This area is world famous for it’s 18th century buildings and has even received funding from an international historical body. The area is so famous in fact, that all of the photos you see of the city online of the old builds could easily have been taken for a window at the hostel. However, the historical area of town is located between two of Brazil’s worst ghettos. In the historical area, there are police every 300 meters, armed to the teeth with guns and other weapons. However, if you walk for 5 minutes in any direction then the area gets very unsafe. Locals will stop you and say not to go down the end of roads. This gives you a feeling of being trapped in a 3 x 3 block cell, that if you walk out of, you will be mugged within minutes. This gave the city a vibe that wasn’t enjoyable. I was told about the person that ran the hostel, not to take anything of value out with me and to only carry as much cash as I need to eat / needed. The old buildings are really amazing, but I really would not advise anyone to go to this city for longer than a day. The feeling of being trapped and that the city was unsafe, very left me for a second. 

To make a change from the horrible feeling of being in the city, I ordered an uber to the beach. This turned out to be a pain, as none of the uber drivers seem to understand how to get to the old city or are unwilling to come up the hill for it. It took 4 drivers to get to the beach. After getting there, I saw there was nothing special about the beach. Enjoyed a little time by the beach and decided to get some food. The first and only time while in Salvador, I found a nice restaurant and eat a meal. The restart was full of the local rich people, as every seemed very well dressed. It is very interesting to compare these iPhone using, well dressed young 20 something that as earlily be located in Spain or London, compare to the cleared drug filled homeless that are everywhere in Salvador ghettos.

I have been told that the police present is only because the olyipics are currently on, that in a matter of weeks, the town will go back to the hell is used to be. Others have said that the police are currently in a all out war with the crime lords that run the town. That in fact the police are in the process of killing off the slum lords to make the city safer. I am not sure what to believe, I am just happy to get out of this crazy place. 


Getting a lot of early nights while in this town, down want to be outside when it’s dark. 

Brazil: Day 4

Last day in Rio. Not sure I am sad about this. Have found it a hard city to get around without a car. I won’t stay here until I had a car.  

Got up very early today and went to the sugar loft. This is a massive mountain outside the city with great views. You can climb up it but with short on time and money, I decide to do the cable car. It rocked and was well worth money and saving of time. But I was really cutting it fine to get my flight to Salvador, so ended up getting an uber. It was extremely cheap and will be using uber in Brazil going forward, it rocks. 


In salador now. Not got a feel for the place yet, will keep you updated. 

Night, Jon 

Brazil: Day 3

After the long couple of days that I have had, decided to have lie in. Slept in 10 and didn’t get out of the hostel until 11. Today’s focus was getting to the Jardim botánico gardens. This was a slow as it was a cross town. After taking a metro train and a 45 minute bus ride, the trip took over 2 hours in the heat. With such a long trip, I decided to treat myself to a burger in this hipster looking burger joint. I managed to order (some how) and waited for the food. It took 1 hour 30 minutes for my burger to come. It seems as if they were only making 8 burgers at a time and with a place full of punters look for food, it was slow going. 

The gradens were truly amazing. They have been around for over 100 years and have planet life from all over Brazil and the world. The planet life is so good in fact, many scientists use the planet life in there research. 


Getting home was long and I had interesting thing happen on the metro. A guarded dragged me out of my seat and pointed at a sign. It turns out in Brazil they have women only cars. I am not sure how I feel about this and what is says to the culture that a woman only car is still required in Rio in 2016. Seem very backwards to me. Not sure how they got the olyipics… 


Had a few drinks in the hostel bar. Ment some interesting people. I think I like the none English better, as they are friendly. They were some “gap year” girls there from England and they refused to be speak to me. To hell with my countryman, I had good time. 

Not to unreasonable late tonight, have to get a flight tomorrow. 

TTFN

Brazil: Day 2

Day 2 and today is the day to really get my head around the city. Yesterday I was pretty tired and didn’t really explore in any meaningfull way. Not having my head on straight didn’t help with that. Today is really time to explore. 

First things first however, I had a little bit of admin to catchup on, getting my phone sorted. Being in country for over a month, means not having a phone is really out of the question. Besides, as I am finding that not one understand English, having a phone to get directions and use google translate is a must have! So I went out to a SIM card. In the UK, this would have been the most simple task, with every news agents worth it’s salt selling sims. Not in Brazil. Because of some country law, all sims must be registered ( most likely to deal with crime ) and as an none Brazilian getting a sim (or chip) as they call them was interesting. I will not bored with the details but 2 hours, 5 Tim stored later, I managed to get a prepaid sim with data. 

Wanted to get the big guns out of the way first, I decided to go the Christ first. Looking at weather reports, it seemed like the best day to do in the time I was going to be there. However the weather was rubbish, with much of the Christ cover by cloud while we were there. The cloud cover also limited by view of the city. But it did mean I could get the most epic self ever. It was worth a look for sure. It the views of the city were amazing and the scale of the Christ was truly amazing. 
With little light left in the day, decided to have a walk a long the beach. Went home a different root and found these amazing red stairs, pictured below. I love that they did that work for something that seems to serve no other purpose than to look really cool. I think it speaks to the soul of Brazil that art and music are so important to them. 


Another long day with 26k worth of steps . Will sleep well again today. Night all