quarta-feira, 31 de outubro de 2012

Florienopolis 10-31 to 11-2 2012

October 31 

Renting a car
Our original plan of renting a car hit a speed bump after processing our paperwork.  We had the keys, insurance and had negotiated into upgrading the car.  Steve and I jumped in, excited to speed off to the beach.  I looked down at the center counsel and noticed the car was a stick shift.  I dont know how to drive stick.  I asked Steve.  He had no idea either.  Turns out a non stick shift car would be 90 USD a day, which is ridiculous.  So we decided we should probably take a quick lesson from the Hertz guy on how to drive stick.  He got into the car and gave us a mediocre lesson in halted English.  Steve felt this would be enough to get us by, although I still had my doubts.  Steve started the car and it immediately stalled.  I looked at Steve and we decided that learning to drive stick on a rental car in a foreign country is not the best idea.  So we took a cab to the hostel.
How do you work these things
Taking a cab.  A little disheveled after our failed rent a car attempt/
The Hostel:
We decided to go big and get a nice room for teh last two nights of the trip.  So here is a view this morning from my bed. Today is a low key day as all of the traveling and minimal sleep is starting to catch up.  Today we rest, tomorrow we celebrate Haloween! 
A view out my window from my bed
The rest of the time spent in Florienopolis was a blur. A combination of fatigue from constant last minute travel plans, four months of not having a stationary place to live and a bit more mild weather lead us to just take a bit of time to chill. The season was low and the tourists were few. We were staying in a hostel and for the first time we were surrounded by English speakers. The hostel was really cool, but it felt a little like a young frat house and I was seriously lacking the desire to mingle with more Americans on the trip. While in Florienopolis, Steve and I hiked to secluded beaches (Mole and one other) that aren't so secluded in the high season, had great dinners and just mingled."

Halloween party:
The standout of this area was the Halloween party. After regrettably shaving my mustache because of feared looks from locals, we got ready to head to the party. We bought tickets to the event with no clue how fun it would be. The party was hosted in a mansion atop a hill that was decked out Haloween style. The setting had the perfect contrast of a few tourists,many locals and paid Halloween actors. Actors dressed as goons and goblins would interweave between beautiful people dressed in their finest clothes. We were told this is where Brazilian woman dress to look their prettiest in order to score wealthy men so they don't need to work anymore. We were told to dress to impress. I wore jeans and a T-shirt but still managed to get a fair amount of attention when I told people I was from California. We stayed out until 5 in the morning and took our party bus back to the hostel in Barra de lagoa. Both Steve and I crashed.

There was no longer any more room at the original hostel, so we relocated to another one closer to the lake. It was cool to see a different area, but by this time we were both pretty spent. I had completely lost my voice and could only communicate through whispers and Steve was so tired that 
he slept through our late night party plans. We ended up having a nice dinner then going to bed early. We woke up and I began the 26 hour journey back to LA.

Trip Perspective: 
Over 16 days: Spent the night in 11 different places, took 5 plane flights, three overnight buses, two ferry rides and visited four distinct regions. Such a great trip and a great perspective of Brazil.

Trip Single word memories:
Caypeereenya, close fala English, ao karo, pal, pal de quejo, all of the fried snacks and aucre stands, adorei, oi tootabone, oi tootabein, voice kech chirach uma photo comigo, reall good fruit crossbreed ending in __muia, kilo restaurants, salty meat, double kiss rio, single kiss São Paulo, vose e sexy and linda, caporera, small waters at restaurants, obrigado, boom boom, banian dressed up ladies, acaraje, farafa, pay first and then give receipt to people at the bar.

Trip Event memories: 
Party in São Paulo, climbing Christo, hanggliding naked, sugarloaf, showing up to airport with no plans, banian culture, chapada waterfalls and snorkeling, morro São Paulo calm warm water beaches, beach workouts, florienopolis deserted beaches in low season night life.

Salvador Part 2 10-30-2012

October 30, 2012

Goodbye Morro São Paulo: 
We slept in late, went for a run, did some push-ups and pull-ups, had breakfast, checked out of our place and headed on the catamaran back to Salvador.
Boatride back
Dont ask
Approaching Salvador
Salvador Sunset
Terca da bencao (Blessed Tuesday): 
This is the big day in Salvador. The streets of the historic city are lined with drum bands, live bands, people dancing, drinking and celebrating. It started as the day that the parishioners at the church would give brad and donations to the poor. It has turned into a huge party. We checked into our hostel, got some free caipirienhas and headed straight to the madness. We rand into Marco, our previous tour guide and he gave us the rundown of the celebration. We chatted for a while as steve are some acaraje which is deep fried mashed been dough in dende oil stuffed with shrimp sauce and hot peppers. We then set off.
Caipirienha time
The main square.  The calm before the storm
Church steps:
On the church steps there are thousands of people dancing and drinking to a live band. Steve and I felt like targets here for pick pockets, we both had an uneasy and unsafe feeling, but we were in a crowd of people and there was a mild presence of armed security. As we were walking down the steps, some pick pockets tried to take our wallets. They come in large groups, push you from each direction to confuse you then try to take your money. Steve caught two hands reaching in his pockets and grabbed them, I walked down quickly and had a zippered pocket that they managed to unzipped halfway before my hand blocked it. We headed back to the hostel and emptied our pockets out and headed back to the square.

Tourists as targets: 
I have traveled around the world and there is one thing I dislike more than anything is being a target. Locals who approach you in a friendly manner to talk and only see dollar signs. Everyone who approached in the Bahia region who was friendly wanted something. A tip for showing us where our hostel was that we already knew, selling drugs and working girls, to eat at their restaurants, to buy their drink, give you free church bracelets only to trick you into buying necklaces, beg for money or to sell tours. Nobody approached you as a tourist with open arms and no expectations. This leaves me on guard. In huaraz (where I traveled last for my climbing trip) it was the complete opposite. You were never hassled and the locals were friendly directly from the heart, not the wallet.

Main plaza live music: 
We transitioned to the main plaza for more live music. We mostly just people watched. Homeless vagrants sifting their way through the crowds to collect empty beer cans. Women and men were everywhere shaking their hips and dancing samba - which seems more like an exercise of how quickly you can shake your booty and get low to the ground than a dance. Steve and I were getting tired and had a 5:30am flight, so we headed back to the hostel to sleep. Next stop Florienopolis.

Morro Sao Paulo 10-28 to 10-29-2012

October 28, 2012

The Island:
As we approached the beach by boat, I realized that this wasn't just any beach. It was a mini laid back town nestled in a microscopic island two hours off the coast of Salvador Brazil. Reggae music was playing, the ocean was calm and crystal clear blue, we were surrounded by beautiful people, friendly people and the entire island had a very relaxing vibe.
Sleeping on the boat
Leaving Salvador Behind
You arrive at the dock and there are loads of men armed with wheelbarrows to take your baggage to teh top of the hill for a small fee.  We polite denied their requests and set off to find a hostel.
On the dock
We searched around different hotels and hostels bartering (since it is low season) and searching for one with tow beds, air condition and centrally located. We found one that was a two minute walk from the main beach which is called second beach. Perfect!
Alley to our hostel just minutes from the beach
I spent the entire afternoon playing in the ocean like a little kid. I generally stay away from the water in Santa Monica beach because it is cold and I usually only prefer to be cold if it involves attempting to climb a mountain. So I don't spend much time in the ocean. I was like a kid let loose in a candy store. I found myself at point of the day pretending to be a fish with lasers and attacking other fishes by twirling and thrashing. This obviously as all in my head and must have been a site to see if someone was watching me from the beach.
Beach View
Lunch on the beach
View of second beach - it is nice to come in the low season - less crowds
Brazilians don't get many beach sunsets because they are bordered by the Atlantic. So thirty minutes before sunset each night on this island, everyone gathers at a bar on the highest hill of the island that overlooks the ocean. Live music is played, drinks are served and everyone watches as the sun descends.
 October 29, 2012

Beach run and beach: 
We slept in late and woke up to do a each workout. I'm starting to feel like I am getting back in shape. They had a makeshift bamboo pull-up bar, so I did some pull ups. Jumped in the water to cool off. The water there is so warm. It is like a bathtub. You can just relax in it for hours.
Chillin after the beach run
We finally had the mixed seafood moqueca for dinner. It was loaded with all different types of seafood. The served a side of pirao (a thick four and seafood broth porridge), farafa and not sauce. Mighty tasty.
Yum Yum
Full moon party: 
We relaxed a bit and had some food and drinks on the beach. Steve met a girl on the beach and was talking and dancing with her for a while, so I headed back to the hostel to sleep. Steve told me the next morning that the girl was a prostitute and when she told him that, he lost interest. Prostitutes are called "working girls" in Bahai and after careful inspection, they can easily be detected. They are overly made up, always have a cell phone, short skirts and tend to migrate into areas of white people and make eye contact.

Chapada 10-26 to 10-27-2102

October 26, 2012

Arriving in Lencois: 
We arrived at the bus terminal at 4:30 in the morning, picked up by our drivers and dropped off at the hostel. Crickets were chirping and we were surrounded by greenery. We made our way up the dimly lit halway to the reception. The power was out, so he lit the way by candle light and showed us to our bedroom. We were the only two staying at the place, so we had five beds to choose from in our giant room. We got a couple hours more of sleep and awoke to a buffet breakfast of meats, fruits, bread and juices. What a treat. We didn't have time to eat breakfast, so we packed it in baggies and caught a ride to our tour bus.
We had the five bed honeymoon suite
Ready for adventure
 Stop 1: Poco de Diablo (Devil's Pools) 
We started the tour with a bus ride to Devil's Pool. We began with a short 20 minute hike down to a miniature waterfall feeding into a small lake. We jumped in and swam a bit until it was time to leave.
Great view form the top
Great swimming
Stop 2: Gruta de Lapa Doce (Stalactite Cave) 
We drove deeper into the heart of Chapada to a Stalactite Cave that used to be a water source for the ancient tribes. We dawned our helmets and began the descent into the cave. We followed a tour guide speaking only Portuguese holding a small lantern. As we got deeper into the cave, he had us huddle around him as he blew out the lantern. It was completely dark. We had a moment of silence and then climbed back out. Pretty amazing inside. It takes 33 years for the stalactites to grow one centimeter. Some where over 10 feet tall!
Gotta wear the helmet
Cool Stalagtites
Cool Stalagtites
Stop 3: Gruta da Pritinha (Deep water caving with snorkel gear) and Gruta Azul (a cave with water glowing cobalt blue. 
We had lunch and then continued to our snorkel destination. We funneled into a cave and were each given snorkel masks, flippers and a flashlight. We followed the guide deep into the cave. I could only see the beam of my flashlight as I would navigate deeper and deeper into the cave. There was one point when i felt lost, so I surfaced and removed my mask to find the group. I was far behind. I surfaced to sounds of the guide yelling at me in Porteguesee. I assumed he was telling me to hurry up. After the snorkeling, we went for a short hike to a miniature body of water that was instensly blue. It was explained that this was from the minerals. Steve snapped a few pics and we headed out.
After snorkeling the cave
Gruta Azul
Stop 4: Morro do pai inacio (watched the sunset from father mountain) 
This was my favorite site. It put me at ease. Hiking up to the top of the plateau and watching the sunset was incredible. The surrounding views were lush trees and plateued sandstone formations unlike anything i have ever seen before. It felt between a mix of the American Southwest and Costa Rica. As the sun set, I took a deep breath and thought a little bit about my life. How lucky I am to be surrounded by people I Love and who Love me, have the freedom and flexibility to take time off from my job to travel the world pursuing my passion, and to have no idea what is to come in the next year but be completely content in living the questions. I anchored myself in the moment. I took a deep breath as the sun disappeared from sight, outstretched both hands from my body while pressing my ring finger and thumb together and froze the moment in time. I knew if I ever had to go back to the moment, all I would need to do is press my thumb and ring finger back together.
Flying from the summit
attempting to look serious
The sunset
We returned from the tour, had some dinner and then watch a Caporera school preforming the ancient martial art/dance for us to traditional music. The participants were all ages from 6 years old to in their 50's. It was incredible to watch.
Bad Ass
Impromtu plans: 
We got back to our hostel to check airline flights and prices skyrocketed. Internet was slow and we were frustrated that we would not find a good fare out of salvador. We decided to "figure it out later" and are crossing our fingers in hope of continued luck on this trip.

October 27, 2012

We finally got to wash our clothes and we hung them out to dry in the yard.  Previously we had many dorm rooms with shared showers so it was diffcult to do laundry.
Drying our clothes
Hike to local waterfall: 
We woke up to an incredble spread of breakfast, so we decided to pack sandwiches, fruits and cakes in tupperware for our afternoon hike. We walked to town and with our hand drawn map from the travel agent. We negotiated our way through the town streets and up to the trail. We spent a good amount of time lost and aimlessly wandering and we even ran into a sketchy homeless man asking us for weed in Portuguese. We eventually found our way to our destination, jumped around in the water, bathed in the sun, scrambled on some rocks, hiked to another waterfall a little higher and then headed back into town.
after showering in the mini waterfall
Scrambling up to the second waterfall
Some cool water formations
We went to the same restaurant as the last night because it was so good. They remembered what were ordered the last night and they weren't surprised that we ordered it again. We ordered the filet mignon hamburger. It is basically a torta with fresh fruits and vegetables with strips of filet mignon. Unheard of in the states. The night before we repeatedly told the cooks how good the dish was and even showed them our "gringo handshake' which is a series of snaps, claps and twists.
Bahian street food called Acaraje

From the mountains to the beach: 
We caught the 11:30pm bus back to Salvador and arrived at 6am. I slept teh entire time...damn I have gotten good at sleeping on busses. Right when we arrived at the bus station I experienced Murphy's Law of Traveling. When something goes wrong, everythign goes wrong and it usually comes in threes.

1. It started with having no money and needing to use the ATM but for some reason it was being rejected. Steve tried his and pulled out some money for the both of us. Okay, problem temporarily solved.

2. I then needed to use the bathroom. Shit...no toilet paper (pun intended). I had to waddle over Subway (yes there is subway in Brazil) mid post poo to get some napkins. Problem solved.

3. I had to call the bank to reactivate my card but there was no WIFI at the bus terminal and Steves phone card didn't work - so we took a taxi to a youth hostel and Steve chatted with them as I called my bank on WIFI. Bank closed? Really? I emailed my mom to take care of it - I didn't have the time or the resources. Thanks Mom! Problem solved

quarta-feira, 24 de outubro de 2012

Salvador Part 1 10-24 to 10-25-2012

October 24, 2012 

Nowhere to go: 
After attempting to book a flight out of Rio from a bogus travel site, we were stranded at the hostel at 4am bewildered. Tipsy and tired, we decided to sleep off the confusion. I was woken up at 11am by Steve shaking my shoulder. "They're kicking us out." He said. "The skydive instructor was put on probation and the company is upset with the hostel. The just told me they have no more rooms available." I glanced over at the two empty beds beside me? "Really" I said. "Yeah man, we gotta go." Now whether they were upset or just joking, we will never know. But I did know that that claimed to be fully booked so we had nowhere to sleep that night in Rio. So we did whatever any logical travel would do. We packed up our bags and took a cab to the airport with no idea where to go.
After we had to leave the hostel
It had always been a thought of mine to show up to an airport with no plans and to book whatever flight seemed to suite my fancy. It is the ultimate expression of freedom and adventure. Steve and I decided to just go for it. To fly by the seat of our pants (no pun intended). So when the driver asked us which terminal to take us to, I smiled and said "I have no idea." When we arrived at the first ticket terminal I said "Vose fala engles." She shook her head "no" Okay, time to put my Portuguese to practice. "Cuanto es Salvador?" I said. "500 reales" she replied. "Caro, ao estudiante" was my Spanglo/Portuguese attempt to say "expensive, I'm a student." Since both Spanish and Portuguese are romance languages, there is often subtle overlap in the words. She smiled and said "nao," which means no. I proceeded to list off every major destination to fly to in Brazil but Salvador seemed like the best option, so we booked it! After jumping to the front of the check in line to save time, we passed security and arrived at the gate just as the flight was boarding.
Buying last minute tickets to Salvador
Arriving in Salvador
We arrived at our hostel in Barra and immediately rushed off to find some food to eat.  One thing that we noticed was that the prices were twice as cheap, the food portions were twice as big and the taste was twice as salty.  We ordered one stewed beef dish for the two of us.  The was we ordered was that we picked the coolest sounding name on the menu since nothing made sense to us.  We lucked out with great food.  We walked to the local market to pick up some exotic fruit and then headed to the beach to watch an unofficial youth soccer match;  We chatted overlooking the waves about the differences between Salvador and Rio.  Our conclusions were that most of the people are Black/Brazilian, it is much less touristy, a little gritty, it felt like we were really traveling instead of resort hopping, the food is way different and the fruit way better. As we sat overlooking the ocean, we sipped our sip coconut milk and discussed how cool we were that we were in Brazil and all our friends were probably still at work.  Hmmm..Now that im typing this, our night sounds kinda bromantic.  I can assure that there was no kissing and we both slept in separate beds.

October 25, 2012

The best place to see all of the history and culture of the founding city of Brazil in Pelouorinho. This was the first major city and home of 80 percent black/brazilians secondary to the prominent history of African slaves in the area. We took a bus to the historic city and set off to find tour guide. Searching for a tour guide: The guidebook told us that it didn't matter whether you chose a local tour guide or an official as long as they seemed knowledgeable and spoke good English. So we set off to find a guide. The first guide we tested was terrible. He would only know his memorized facts in English and when I would ask him something outside the norm he would just nod his head and say yes. "What year was this church built" I wold say. His response "Yes...Yes..."
The main square
Marco the tour guide: 
The second guide we tried passed all of our tests and we negotiated a price. He agreed and took us on an incredible tour of the old city. We started at a church, worked our way into the streets to see the men who made the instruments for carnival, talked about the architecture, saw the center square where blacks used to be whipped, the black church that they built for themselves when slaves, where Michael Jackson sang one of his songs and filmed a video (this seemed to be very important), thew market, a caporera martial arts demonstration that both Steve and I got pulled up into and road the city elevator which takes you from the lower market to the upper city. It was pretty damn cool. A fun three hour tour filled with information.
Kissing The Bahian Womans Hand
San Fransico Church of Fake Gold

Marco negotiating prices for us at the store for cachaca booze
Steve getting a Caipoera lesson
Fish at the fish market
The elevator from the market city to the historic city
Overlooking the bay
With Marco at a nice Kilo resturant
Our cachaca that we bought - cheers for dinner
 Beware of the Bracelts: 
There are people in Salvador who go up to you and give you three flimsy bracelets for free, say its from the church and you need to make three wishes. You cannot take them off until the wishes come true. They then say that they helped you and you need to help them. They take out Jewlery for you to buy. Steve and I saw many ladies tricked in these schemes and Marcos told us to watch out. 
A tourist getting swindeled

We needed to kill some time before a dance show so we visited the Afro Brazilian Museum, watched a street performing drum band of children and chatted. While waiting, we saw a tour agency and decided to poke our heads in to kill some time and see prices. We were amazed by the tranquil beauty of a place they showed us called chapada. Exotic caves, diving, hiking and waterfalls had us sold. We decided that we soaked in enough culture from Salvador in a day and we would leave that night on a 6 hour overnight bus ride to Chapada.  Right before the bus we had just enough time to grab some moqueca to eat and shower.
really good moqueca