Seeing the world, one country at the time

Brazil in a Nutshell

Brazil is renowned for its beaches, its carnival, its beautiful babes, its music and its food, not to mention Iguacu Falls, the Amazon, the Pantanal, and Rio de Janeiro. And it has good reason to be. It’s hard not to fall in love with the country and its people. After all the other countries we’d been to, we didn’t know what to expect. I’d been to Sao Paulo and Rio and knew that we’d have a nice stay with friends in Sao Paulo and that Rio would be spectacular, but beyond that was all conjecture.

We used Sao Paulo as a base, arriving there to find the smiling face of our friend Flavio Valente and his girlfriend Marina. They took us to our base for the next month, at our good friend Ineida Nascimento’s. During our time there we spent time with Ineida and Flavio’s children, Daniela and her fiancÚ (now husband Alex) and Marcelo and his wife, Maria Claudia. After some sightseeing in Sao Paulo, we headed to Rio for more sightseeing. The first time I saw Rio, arriving at Santos Dumont airport, I was awestruck by its natural beauty. It hasn’t changed since. We spent three days taking in its gorgeous views and trying our hand at hang gliding. It was pre-Carnival season and prohibitively expensive, but we saw all the sights and squeezed in a samba school rehearsal – Portela has been one of my favorite Carnival groups since childhood when my parents brought back Brazilian Carnival music after a trip there. We also visited an infamous favela, Rocinha, the shame of Rio, and discovered that it’s a self-sufficient city of 60,000 inhabitants with its own code of law. The only difference is that they are controlled by drug lords who have regular gang shootouts. It’s a world unto itself.

From Rio we flew south to Foz de Iguacu, where we experienced the awesome power of Iguacu Falls, shared with Argentina, and the Itaipu dam, shared with Paraguay. We even managed a couple side trips to visit these world wonders from Argentina and Paraguay, to see a different perspective. We then headed north to the famous Brazilian beach cities. First on our list was Fortaleza, where Jacqueline Oliveiro showed us around. Next we moved on to Jericoacoara, a seven-hour ride by bus to an isolated natural reserve where the world’s top kite surfers practice. After three days relaxing on the dunes and hanging out with Ze, a friend of Ineida’s, we moved on to Recife, where we spent two fantastic days with Patricia and Thomas, a Dutch couple, getting in the spirit of the traditional carnivals of Recife and Olinda.

We had to leave too early for our taste in order to get to our Carnival destination of Salvador de Bahia.
After dancing all night in the streets to the music of Ivete Sangalo and the trio electricos, (live bands on moving trucks that parade for hours down the streets), we pressed against thousands in the midday heat in the old town to watch the Sons of Ghandy parading. After two nights we were spent and relaxed in our homey hostel the last day. After all, we were flying to Rio that night to catch the last Carnival parade at the Sambodromo, which starts at 8 pm and ended at 8 am. We needed our energy! We’ve never seen so much color and movement in one place. It overloads the senses; loud music, hundreds of drums and thousands of people parading by as you stand and dance for twelve straight hours. Throw in some rain and you have a party! Our last days were spent in Sao Paulo, recovering from colds developed thanks to too much fun and too little sleep.

Needless to say, we will return. There is so much more to discover in the Amazon, in Salvador and Recife, in the Pantanal and other inland areas that we didn’t have time for. Brazil is gigantic and it takes time to discover. We both loved it and we’ve already made a promise to Ze that we WILL be back to enjoy the Lagoa do Paraiso (Paradise Lagoon – doesn’t sound bad, does it?) near Jericoacoara, where he lives. We don’t want to break a promise, do we now?