Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pipa

From Salvador, we headed further north to one of the hippest beach towns on Brazil's coast - Pipa. It came with the highest of recommendations from fellow travellers and did not in the least disappoint.
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Within minutes of arriving in Pipa we found a place to stay only one block back from the beach. Here we met the only other person staying in our hostel, an Israeli called Oren.
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We had been told that it was possible to swim with dolphins at a nearby beach called Golfino (which by the way means dolphin in Portuguese, so that's a pretty good start). We asked our new Israeli friend about the veracity of this claim and said he had never head of such a thing. So we set out together on a mission to discover the truth.
To get to Golfino, we had to walk across Centro beach. This was no problem until such time as the beach came to an abrupt end with large stretch of rocks. Under any other circumstance we would have cut our losses and turned back but Oren, who had served as paratrooper in the Israeli army, pressed on without another thought. We didn't want to be shown up as lightweights so we followed him across.
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And it was a good thing too because when we finally made it to the other side, we jumped in the ocean and within moments we were surrounded by wild dolphins! As it happened, that day was our second wedding anniversary and although we now agreed it was easy to swim with the dolphins here, we still felt pretty special.
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No prizes for guessing which one is Oren but if you aren't sure, why are you reading our blog? By the way, he did eventually show us up when we went out for an all you can eat asado (BBQ). After many, MANY rounds of beef and lamb, Jez finally gave up the ghost. You may recall that Jez has a pretty good reputation for making the most of all-you-can-eat situations. Anyway, long after he had unbuttoned his pants to make room for his newly expanded stomach, Oren was still ordering more rounds of meat. Where he actually put it is anyone's guess!
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Pipa has some outstanding surf beaches...which is great if you are a surfer. For those of us that aren't though, surf lessons are offered. On a whim, we decided to take one lesson. To be completely honest, we were utterly hopeless. The first sign that we were not cut out for it was when we did the land exercises. After many failed attempts to copy our instructors, they decided it would be far easier to do it in the water. We had our doubts about the relative ease of getting up on the board in the water compared to on land.
Our doubts became a big fat reality when we got smashed by waves, swallowed copious amounts of water, bruised parts of our body's we were previously unaware of and were laughed off the stage by 10 year old surf pros. Suffice to say when we woke up the following morning contemplating whether we should return for our second lesson, we pressed the snooze button instead.
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In another fascinating discovery, TZ found out that one of her ears which had been pierced as a child was still open after a decade of not wearing earrings. The earring in the photo was supposedly from a rare bird in the Amazon and was priced accordingly. Since we were going to the Amazon anyway, we didn't buy this lovely blue feather. When we did make it to the Amazon, we found a far more impressive and cheaper collection of feathers. Now TZ has three. 
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Almost every day we walked past a place near the beach that piqued our interest. We didn't know what it actually was though. There was jewellery and art on display but when we looked inside, there was a bar. When the owner saw us he asked if we played any instruments and whether we wanted to return for a jam session. What was this place? We had to know.
So on our last night we returned. We found out that the owner had come from Uruguay with his wife to enjoy the spoils of the hippie lifestyle Pipa had to offer. They simply built a house here which they lived in long enough until it became legally theirs. He painted while his wife made jewellery. Random people were invited over to jam and spectators could come and buy drinks. It was here that we discovered the very essence of Pipa, the reason why so many people are attracted to it and why no one wants to leave. 
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Tearing ourselves away from Pipa was indeed difficult but our next stop would be one of the most unforgettable places we had been to thus far - the spectacular world class diving island called Fernando de Noronha.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Salvador

The JeTZ would like to apologise not only for the tardiness of this blog but also for the fact that despite our best attempts we cannot write it. Since we published the last blog, both of us have tried in vain to put to words the amazing time we had in Salvador and have failed dismally.
As such, we offer this: A selection of our best pictures and snippets of what we have written thus far. As we are now more than 2 months behind in our blogs and only two weeks away from leaving South America, we will in the meantime move on to the next blog.
Should you have any questions, queries or any theories of your own as to what our pictures mean, feel free to contact us. Or even better, feel free to complete our blog for us!
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When we arrived in Salvador we though the bus driver had taken a wrong turn and that somehow we had landed up in the heart of Africa. We had known that as one travels north from Rio de Janeiro the darker the people became, but we didn't realise that it culminated in Salvador where the majority of the locals are descendants of Africans brought across to the Americas as slaves...
We were unable to find any relevant photos for this introduction. We liked this one but actually it is a photo of an Indian, not an African.
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On our first night in Salvador we ventured out into Pelourinho - the old city. Here we were enticed into a reggae bar. Jez was trying to communicate in his limited Spanish with a stoned, drunk, and toothless local who naturally only spoke Portuguese. The local was dumbfounded when he dropped his beer and then looked at Jez in the most perplexed manner. When Jez replaced the guys beer with his own the two became friends for life, and solidified this pact by swaying on the spot to the sounds of reggae.
In real life, this was a really funny story! But it turned into an epic ramble that was not in the least funny, maybe you will find the teaser more interesting?
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TZ: What was the name of the museum we went to?
Jez: Not sure, we will have to check the diary. Where is the diary?
TZ: It is in our main luggage...
Jez: Should we just leave this blog for today, its not working...
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Near to our hostel was the beach Porto de Barra made famous by being ranked the 3rd best beach in the world according to the Guardian newspaper. As such we expected to see plenty of English at the beach, but in fact it was...
Not sure where Jez was going with this sentence, I think he has forgotten too...
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Meanwhile, in a separate blog attempt, TZ tried to describe the scenario of us having no idea what food this was even after we tried it. When Jez read the following sentence "Later we discovered it was sugar cane. Oh the humiliation" he said something like "why was it humiliating?" And that ended our blog attempt for the day.
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Salvador is the capital of capoeira...
We had various discussions on whether to explain what capoeira is which came to a dead end.
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This is a poor attempt to unblur a photo of an amazing capoeira performance we saw. We thought if we made it smaller it wouldnt seem so blurry. I think at this point we threw the laptop against the wall.
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Today capoeira is widely practiced by Salvadorians and you can see performances just about anywhere. But most impressive are those dedicated souls who practices their moves on the beach.
There are 4 photos in this series but apparently seeing all 4 is overkill...right lets leave the blog for today.
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Not content to be mere spectators, the JeTZ took up capoeira themselves. After day one we could barely walk but we loved it so much we went back for more punishment for the next 4 days. There are no photos of us unfortunately but let's just say we were quite far from looking like pros!
We were not able to capture just how amazing our classes were, how inspirational our teacher was and how jealous we were that 10 year old kids could kick our arses!
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As you now know, you can get just about any product or service on the beach. So when the masseuse came around with his watering can and oil Jez gave him the big thumbs up. Whilst working away the pain in Jez's bruised feet, he serenaded us with an impressive collection of corny American pop songs.
BIG FAT LIE!! This photo was taken way before we had done any capoeira  classes. But he did sing to us which was funny.
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At this point we ran out of photos and after a big discussion on our word to photo ratio the blog was left unfinished.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Costa do Sol

Buzios is a beautiful beach town made famous when Bridget Bardot visited it back in the 60s. We spent 3 days here in a vain attempt to get out of Rio and head north towards Salvador. At some stage between eating grilled cheese sprinkled with oregano and watching the worst Brazilian movie in history, we found out that we could not go any further north than Buzios. We would have to take another 4 hour bus ride back to Rio and try again.
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And try again we did. We took a bus to Petropolis, a colonial town made famous by Portuguese Royalty who set up shop in a rather impressive looking palace. For all its pomp and circumstance, Petropolis was actually a boring and forgettable experience..not to mention we had to take another bus back to Rio to try head north again.
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In the end we decided to flag these useless side trips and take the pain - a 17 hour bus to Porto Seguro just south of Salvador. On our first day we discovered two things. Fantastic caipirinhas are made by this lovely lady. Take a good look at her face so you remember not to have them from anyone else should you find yourself in this neck of the woods!
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This guy is one of the most accomplished crepe makers in Brazil. We thought he was making a coconut-based crepe but actually it was made from a kind of root vegetable called manioc. We will tell you more about this amazing vegetable and its myriad incarnations in the next few blogs.
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Absolutely mandatory is a visit to one of the many beach clubs. This one was called Axe Moi (pronounced Ashe Mwa) Learning how to dance on the beach is a favourite past time of the locals. This mob learnt some pretty fancy footwork which would come in handy later that night...
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Meanwhile, down at the beach some people were in a big hurry to get a tan and so took up the services of the portable spray-on tanner. 
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The girl in the left of the above photo seemed to be undecided as to whether she wanted a spray on tan. Apparently her decision was pending on something she was looking for in her bikini bottoms. Actually, the public touching of one's own privates is very common place on the beaches of Brazil. These chumps felt no shame in interrupting a solid posing session to scratch their itchy genitalia.
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As we lazed around on deck chairs we started to feel a wee bit peckish. There was no shortage of food sellers walking past us. We surveyed their goods and almost invariably bought something - like salted fish from this guy.
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Jez devoured his leaving nothing by the head and tail. Click for a demonstration on how salted fish is eaten...
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Anyone for watermelon? Yes please!
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Cold water? No thanks, we dont support child labour.
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That night we thought we'd put on our dancing shoes and head back to Axe Moi for a party...when we got there the only thing our feet were good for was kicking ourselves. Those that had learnt the dance moves that day got to actually use them that night. And if you werent dancing en masse then perhaps you would like a colourful spray-on tattoo?
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We left when the big act came on - a cheesy sing-along which of course we didn't know the words to. Back on the street we saw something that's actually not that strange in Brazil. Cars with giant speakers in their boots blaring with music so loud you walk away partially deaf. Click below to find out what you look like if you did not go to dance school at the beach.
The next day, we went to another beach. There was no dancing at this one. It was quiet and we were very well looked after.
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The beach was actually located on an Indian reserve. This was evidenced by a lot of people walking around dressed as Indians and selling Indian type crafts. Just minutes away from the water was a museum. At the entrance we were greeted by these friendly kids. We paid them the 1 Real entrance fee and entered.
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Exhibit one, a tee pee. We looked around for some explanation and found... a child, our tour guide. She rapidly explained to us in Portuguese what we were looking at. Here is a bed, here is a table, would you like a photo? Click. She whipped through the rest of the museum and ended off with a not so subtle cue that we were to tip her.
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We left the museum no wiser than we arrived but we did find some suitable attire for our up and coming trip to the Amazon.
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Friday, March 07, 2008

Costa Verde

The JeTZ philosophy on travel planning:
Arrive in a destination with barely, if any, knowledge of the place. Bide our time until we encounter a local or backpacker. Befriend said local/backpacker and extract from them their favourite destinations in and around the area. Head to those destinations next.
This is how we landed up in Isla Grande, an hour or so from Rio.  The Rabs and JeTZ boarded the schooner below praising our ability to have found a cheaper way to reach the island than taking the  official boat across.
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But that's probably because they pay the staff on board according to their age!
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The following day, we organised a boat trip which would take us around to different beaches and lagoons on the Island.
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At the first stop we could jump off the boat and snorkel. Unfortunately, Jez's hired snorkel is now home to a small family of lobsters after it fell into the murky ocean never to be seen again.
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On the boat we spotted this guy sporting a fantastic tattoo of Golom. We cannot believe the trouble people go to in order to make it into our blog!
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At the next stop we could swim out to a beach which had a beautiful warm lagoon waiting for us. There we found an enterprising photographer cashing in on people who had swum across without a camera. We took up his offer for a quick photoshoot.
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Isla Grande is basically a big forest. To access the beaches around the island involves either walking through trails in the forest or as we had done the previous day, taking a boat around. We decided to explore some of the trails and see what beaches we would land up in. This was one of our favourites.
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There was no beach to speak of so we just hung our bags on trees and waded around looking at fish.
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At night, we had a bit of routine going. It involved playing several rounds of Rummy or Truco (a Brazilian card game) while diligently drinking Johnnie Walker and Coke. Here mum makes it clear that there is no way they are schlepping around any more bottles of whiskey and if she has to she will finish them herself!
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Then the munchies would set in. By this time, most restaurants were closed leaving us with few options. Unfortunately, sometimes the food that was available was pretty bad...like this guy's crepes. Here TZ consoles Jez and promises him that we will find something else to eat.
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And that we did. The portable desert carriage was a big hit. It always delivered the best chocolate cake, rum balls or coconut slices.
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Next stop: The Rabs and the JeTZ cross back to the mainland and bus to the quaint colonial town of Paraty. Unfortunately when we got there, the weather had taken a turn for the worse...
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No matter, we braved the floods and walked into the cobbled streets of the old city to see what treasures we could find. This was a good start, a Cacha├žaria. How many kinds of Cacha├ža exactly? We dont know, but in the order of hundreds. Naturally we spent the next 2 months in Brazil drinking a lot of Caipirinhas until we managed to find the perfect one!
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The next day we took a walk to the estuary just outside the old city. Here we found an array of brightly coloured boats beckoning us to come for a ride.
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We were making ourselves comfortable on the top deck of the boat when we noticed our driver had a little trouble reversing.  Our anchor line managed to get in a tangle with the other boats.  The other drivers laughed and guffawed at his lack of reversing skills but he showed them all when he stripped down to his jocks, jumped in the water and freed us.
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But trouble followed us out to sea when Jez decided to tan his white arse on the top deck of the boat. The Water Rats in Paraty let Jez off with a warning: If he wishes to take off his underwear, could he please wear this red life saver to spare him his dignity. Perhaps those present at Jez's bux party will understand the significance of this better.IMGP0517IMGP0514
We returned to Rio where we would have to say our farewells. TZ's onset of homesickness finally kicked in after 1.5 years of not seeing her family.  But good times were still ahead for all. The Rabs would continue their holiday in South America with a visit to Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires. And the JeTZ were due north to visit more of Brazil's beautiful beaches.
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Coming up, despite their very best attempts to get to Salvador, the JeTZ land up in a beautiful beach town made famous by Bridget Bardot and a not so exciting colonial town made famous by Portuguese royalty.