Tuesday, May 29, 2007


What a place. One of my favourites. There is so much energy on the streets, music pouring out of the colourful colonial buildings on to the cobblestoned narrow streets. We are staying right in the heart of the historic city, called Pelorinho - its an ecclectic mix of stylish bars and restaurants, forro and samba venues, run down little reggae joints, funky hostels, beautiful old churches, 100´s of little arts and crafts shops and finally - an innumerable count of percussion and samba schools. So many that from the minute you wake up till the second you fall asleep there is a constant sound of drums, bass and more drums in the background. Sometimes its kids practicing their carnaval style smashing on the street corner or its the percussion school practicing their daily smattering. All in all, it is an experience that I will never forget.

We have been going out almost every night we have been here - regardless of what day it is, there is always something going on and it always involves music. We love it.

The problem however with Salvador - is that it is also the most hustly (is that a word?) place we have ever come across. I honestly want to throw something at the street vendors somtimes, because they constantly come up and offer you all sorts of things. Even their own mothers if it would get them some cash. Ok, I exaggerate. But still, I dont remember saying no this much. Except maybe the one rather intoxicated night when I went with some Lankans to the Hippodrome - there was a lot of ´no thanks´that night.

I digress.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Swamp thing

Shudder shudder. Ok this was one thing I didnt enjoy. In Itacare there is a rather large rainforest that sits further back from the beach and many of the supposed pristine and special beaches are found via trails along this rainforest. We met this Swiss girl at the hostel who had a map and said she was going to one of these beaches and asked if we wanted to come. So we thought why not? Ummm.

So the "trail" was through this rainforest and we were in beach gear including flipflops. First mistake. Second mistake was taking the trail. Basically we ended up getting rather negative advice from the two locals we asked when we tried to enter the forest, they said we should get a guide - and we were like ´nah´. Third mistake.

The rainforest was lovely, lots of cool trees and plants, running along a gushing river we could hear but barely see through all the foliage. Then there were monkey calls and weird bird calls and it was cool. And then, there were the bastard ants. Big black ones that were very busy transporting stuff and then we big humans stepped on their trail and boy did they let us know. I could feel the bites stinging for at least 5 minutes after. Bigger than kadi-yas. And then we lost the trail a bit, had to wade through the river and finally got back to it, and then lost it again. This was the difficult part, because we were the only ones there and we had to make guesses on the right trails, plus we had heard that there were occasional robberies in the forest on tourists carrying cameras etc. Hmm.
After picking up the trail, we got to an area covered in mangroves and a swampy looking stream that led towards the sound of the ocean that we had begun to hear.

So we had to trudge through this damn swampy water. And oh Lord it was gross. Yeck. In flipflops. And I saw little squirmy fish and a funny looking frog and oh man did i want to be somewhere else. Finally after getting out of that part, we got to the beach and it was nothing spectacular, deserted and pretty but not pristine.

We had a nice day though and had a nice walk around the rocks etc, and funnier still is we had no choice but to go back the way we came in. Luckily the tide had receded so the swamp was just puddles - but the ants still remembered!!

Itacare - capoiera, surfing and forro

Itacare was an awesome stop for us - ended up staying just under a week. It is much more of a surfy town, bit more down with the kids and rough around the edges. Still the beaches were cool and we got to do some more surfing - though I got smashed around a bit by the waves initially and then managed to catch a few little waves thanks to Lee´s tips!

We got to see some live local forro (pronounced foh-ho) and no it aint for ho´s. Its a sort of local dance like a sexier version of the waltz and its very popular and traditional to the north east of Brasil. It was fun initially as we were in a very local little bar by the bay but then the music didnt seem to change much as time went on - especially the cow bell instrument one of the band members were using...just kept clock clocking all night long. We could even hear it from our hostel balcony later that night.

Our hostel was cool too, owned by two older women who were sisters (judging by the photos on the wall, they were once very funky & wild) - they had loads of cats, little kittens and dogs and were super friendly. Though we were invaded by a bunch of very loud Israeli´s a few days later and it made the atmosphere a little less enjoyable as they seemed dead set on making sure everyone knew they were there. Plus one of them had a guitar and only knew two chords (both bad) and they were on either side of our room so you can just imagine.

We also got to see loads of capoiera - both on the beach while we chilled and live as a demo one night. We preferred watching on the beach because all the local guys like to practice on the sand cause its softer on the body if you fall. And you get to see some unbelievable flips and moves that we didnt get to see at the demo. It is really interesting to note that as we have moved north, so many things have changed in terms of more people doing capoiera, food styles have changed to more yummy fish stew and the music has got more drum beats and people are just generally a bit wilder. And there are alot more Afro Brasilian folk than anywhere else we have been.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Arrial D'Ajuda - bohemian paradise

After a horrendous night bus journey (nutty bus driver who took the corners way too fast and a 3 yr old who drank her soda too fast and threw up right behind us) from Itaunas heading north to Porto Seguro via a ferry - we arrived in a funky little town called Arrial D' Ajuda.

It is absolutely awesome here. Brasil really got their beach towns right - funky boutiques and bars that would put many in London to shame, cobblestoned streets leading to gorgeous beaches and we are staying a beautiful villa - this off season malarky has its advantages as the weather is perfect but the rates go down! So we have a lovely room in this lush villa that over looks the beaches from a cliff top, and a large pool with tropical gardens in between.

Whoo hoo. We are really happy as we have made our way a significant distance north as while we were in Rio we felt we had slowed down a bit too much. Click here for all the photos we have taken so far.

Lankan passport? Back of the queue.

So can you believe, that my visa trouble has created a rather interesting situation: we are not sure how we are going to get back to London. As hilariously crafty as that might seem to you - it is not some ploy to remain beach bums for the rest of our lives, what with all the shells and beads I continue to purchase and wear Lee will probably DHL me back anyway.

In the past month or so, we have discovered that it is going to be impossible for me to apply for visas to Central American countries from Rio or Salvador as the application process for a Sri Lankan Passport holder, will take up to 5 working weeks for example as the Panamanian consulate informed us. They need to send the application back to the country I am applying to and research me before they can allow approval. Plus the other consulates have been so unhelpful saying I need to go back to Sri Lanka or UK to apply. So we decided that instead of losing sleep over it, we would leave Central America for another time and adventure.

This in a way - is awesome because it means we would spend 6-7 solid months in South America seeing more of Brasil and more time in Venezuela and the surrounding islands. But what we didnt bargain for is that our flight out of Mexico to London would be jeopardized too. Turns out that the info I was given by the Mexican consulate in the UK was wrong and I cannot apply in other countries, only in the one I am resident in. Which means I cannot get a visa to visit Mexico. Damn. So how about just flying into Mex and taking our flight out? No, I need a transit visa. Why? because the diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Mexico are such that this is the rule. And can I apply for a Mexican transit visa while in Brasil or Venezuela? No, because I am a non resident and need to go back to the UK to apply. Uh hmm.

So either we spend roughly USD$2000 (that we do not have) and buy new tickets back home or we ask the embassies again. It has been one of the most frustrating and eye opening experiences in terms of being a 3rd world country passport holder, trying to see the world. I need visas for all these countries, and yet - they do not make it easy for me to get them. I suppose they rarely have people from Asia, especially our neck of the woods, visiting them. Anyway, we are in the middle of trying to work it all out...anyone got a private jet they are willing to lend us?

Tattoo marketing

While we were having that armadillo meat dinner with the locals in Itaunas (see post below), we chatted to the two guys who worked for the host at some bars by the beach. One was a tattoo artist who used to own a parlour in Vitoria - until he was robbed at gunpoint and they took everything. He then proceeded to tell us about a dude in Brasil who is currently offering his entire body as a canvas to any brands who want to advertise. He then tattoo´s (i kid you not) the brand logo on his body - each area has its own price and according to size... and then he walks around and makes sure that people notice him. Crazier still, is if the brand doesnt pay him, he marks a big red cross over that particular brand.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Our beach trail goes on

The beach towns we have been to have been varying in size, shape, level of activity, character and charm. After Saquarema, we were on a downward slope of level of activity as they are displaying the characteristics of very off season. The symptoms are closed restaurants, shops and any kind of communal areas - making it very difficult to get a meal or any kind of entertainment. The thing that is weird is that the weather is fine, still sunny and blue skies - only its chillier in the evenings and the sea is a little more churned up. Guarapari and ConceiƧao de Barra were examples of this - talk about dead. So it was pretty frustrating - not to mention a pain in the royal bum to try and get from one town to another - its like you need a special code and eye scan to get any info on when the buses go and from where!

I will now stop moaning. Purely because we took a leap and came to a small town called Itaunas which is absolutely lovely and has restored our faith in traveling off the beaten track via the coast. This place is normally a packed party town - think Hikkaduwa on Feb 6th (Bob Marleys´birthday) some of my Lankan buddies know what I am talking about. But its fairly quiet cause the holiday season is over, though the weather and the town are perfect.
As is our pousada - especially the owner who found us right after we had got off the rickety old bus and were looking through the guide book for a decent place to stay - and he rode past on his bicycle and asked us if we wanted a place to stay. Bit weary at first but then realised the pousada he owned was mentioned in the guidebook. So off we went and it was a lovely place with hammocks and funky high ceiling rooms.

The owner - he is a funky dude, has an immense music collection, which he wakes us up with by blaring awesome Brasilian or your regular pop rock from the west tunes. One day its Blur, the next is Brasilian jazz and you get the picture. Plus freshly made mango or acerola juice in the morning. Yum.

We also got to know some other locals through a guy Lee got chatting to while surfing one morning, super friendly chap from Sao Paolo, we even got a free delicious home cooked meal from the dude´s pousada owner who he is friends with. The dinner included the hottest chillie sauce (which we confidently sprinkled on all over our food - yeouch!!), mussels, beans and what we believe to be illegal armadillo meat! Tastes just like chicken, but the shell gave it away to be something a bit unusual. We had to keep quiet about the ´tatu´because it is illegal to hunt them, I dont usually condone that kind of thing but we definitely would have insulted the owner if we refused. Anyway it was a real interesting experience.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Big waves

And lots of professional surfers was what we got in the lovely little beach town of Saquarema. Known to be the best surf spot in Brasil it was full of cool stands with young hip beach bums wandering around trying to get a glimpse of the pros kicking some ass on the waves. It was the Brasilian Surf Championship Circuit session and some of the stuff we saw was exhilerating and really impressive! The waves were huge on the first day but on the day of the final they just sapped out and were flat! Very disappointing - plus we were staying in the same pousada as the champion surfers, we got chatting to the manager who seemed to be doing everything but managing! Totally stoned and playing the bongos.

Saquarema was cool but besides the surf comp, there wasnt too much else going on. So after a bit of back and forthing trying to find bus tickets on borrowed rusty bikes, we got ourselves on the bus the next day back to Rio before heading north and leaving the state of Rio de Janeiro behind - been there a month!

Surf's up in Saquarema

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Football mania - Rio style

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Barra, Prainha and lovely Lankan hospitality

We were lucky to see a whole other side to Rio which not many travellers get to do - it was more of what its like to live and work in this big beautiful city. It has been a wonderful and welcoming time because I was fortunate enough through friend and cousin connections to get in touch with some family (thanks to Minha and Mariam!) - the awesome Dilshad and Munira! They have a beautiful home which they so graciously invited us into, and an even more gorgeous family - 3 super girls Nafisa, Tahani and Zahara - who entertained us no end during our stay. We were treated to wonderful care and hospitality not to mention a home life we had totally missed for the past 3 months. It was so nice to just have a kitchen table to sit around and talk, a comfy sofa, home cooked food and all the comforts of home! Plus a bonus Lankan curry which was delicious. We feel like we have made some solid friends - also we are certain we know the bus route from there to the dodgy Rio bus station which is about 1 hour across town by heart now!

We got to check out the nearby beaches for great surf in Recreio and Prainha which was right round the corner and is the best in Rio. All in all, a wonderful time. Thanks guys!

Thursday, May 03, 2007


It is a very cool place - though parts of it look just like any other big city, the charm of the crystal blue beaches, walkways, trendy little cafes and bars make it something very Rio. Plus, Ipanema had been formed in my imagination from as far back as when I was a little girl listening to my grandfather's Sinatra cd's - Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema) being one of his favourite numbers, and as a result - mine too. The restaurant of the same name where the song was written, is slap bang in the middle of the neighbourhood.

We stayed in a cool hostel, mainly because the crowd of people we got to know were suprisingly on our wave length - and not just one or two, but most of them - also it helped we were all in similar stages of our lives while travelling... we went to a huge Rio football match on Sunday (possibly equivalent of the F.A. Cup Final) - the two teams (famous Brasil over) called Botafogo vs. Flamengo are neighbourhoods in Rio - and holy Moses are they passionate. We were a group of obvious gringo's herded into the Flamengo side by our football guide who pretty much told us there was no better team on the bus ride up to the stadium - which was packed 60,000 strong! Flamengo was clearly the more supported side and we donned the red and black team colours - some bought the t-shirts before the game, others (me) sported the red and black bandanas. Check Lee's blog for some awesome videos we took.

Rest of our time in Ipanema was cool - we had another amazing night in Lapa with the hostel crew, went out for delicous sushi at a seemingly trendy restaurant that had queues outside (always a good sign of food quality in my book) and high street shopping - I found a Mango store!
The beaches are unbelievably clean for a city, bright blue waters and white floury sand plus lovely coconut palms lining the pebble stoned side walks. Ipanema is also famous for its' Hippie Fair which is rather obviously named, but wow it had some amazing jewelry and artesanal crafts. I did manage to not explode the budget though. Helped that Lee had a leash on me.


Ah so it was not meant to be. It was a fun day nonetheless - turns out that there were ALOT of Aussies at the hostel we were staying at and some of them were sweet enough to support Lanka. I also proceeded to consume a little too much beer and caiparinhas (courtesy of the Aussie owner who started to feel bad for me when we started to lose, so those were free...bad move). I discovered later that most of the people in the hostel were flocking into the TV lounge to check out the Sri Lankan chick who was shouting, whooping and chanting - hey, it added to the atmosphere and Lee was whooping too.

At least Lanka got that far. Good going boys. And I had a mother of a hangover the next day.