Friday, April 27, 2007

Go Lanka go!

Whoo hoo here it comes. No amount of theme music could build up to the final tomorrow. Very excited about the cricket - trying not to get too wound up and cocky considering Australia is a very good side but we have a chance and that is all we need! So here's to the Lankan team - congratulations for coming this far! Now go kick some Aussie ass.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More stuff about the Brazilians

There is an abundance of VW camper vans, kombis and beetles, thats thanks to the fact that Brasil is one of the last places in the world where they still make them. So loads of people have them, and it is almost too much for Lee and I. They are so cool and we are definitely going to get another one. They are so common, the kombis, that they are used as an alternative to buses here in Santa Teresa and Rio almost like Hi-Ace vans in Lanka. Though much cooler.

Other thing is that Brasilians love their tattoos. They are covered in them and some are plain tacky and others quite insanely large and grotesque, few are very cool. On the subject of tattoos and body art, they also love covering their walls and buildings in art. There is an abundance of graffiti in Rio, and the difference is these guys are so very good. The colours, precision and creativity will put most to shame but it is very different to the stencil graffiti we saw so much of in Argentina. That too would put many to shame. Click here for photos of some graffiti we managed to capture.

The weather plus numerous coconut trees make Brasil reminiscent of Lanka, not to mention the many bird calls in the morning though slightly more exotic. The fruit is so varied and tropical, back to papau, mangoes, guava, passion fruit etc and then so many weird ones from the Amazon like acai, caca and tucupi to name a few. All very different and they use them in their cuisine as sauces for their meat. I also dicovered passion fruit caiparinhas last night. Mm. Thankfully there is no end of thambili here and whats funny is that on most main roads and in the financial district there are coco water stalls selling ice cold thambili, its cold cause they break open the coconut into a sort of cooler that then filters the water through a tap. Yummy on a hot day.

So the g-string legend is true, they are everywhere on both young tanned bodies of the lively girls and on the rather flabbier older wrinkly ladies too. But what is unfortunate is the fact that the men here - wear tight speedo like trunks! Yes they do! they are smaller than underwear but are not teeny - they are just absolutely gross. And should not be allowed, they even wear them while surfing. But supposedly you are weird if you do NOT wear them. Hah.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rio de Janeiro & Santa Teresa

Here we are in Rio de Janeiro - and we stayed in its' most bohemian hood, complete with cobbled stoned streets, quaint little shops, restaurants and gorgeous little music venues which was just so perfect as it was right up our street, so to speak. Only problem is that it is not the safest of areas but then we are in Rio. However we managed to keep it together in the week we were there, so thankfully we were spared any run ins.

We found this cool bed and brekkie network that places you in houses owned by artistic/bohemian people of Santa Teresa, we got to choose which house and so we were in this fabulous old mansion house owned by a youngish artist and his family including two adorable dogs (one is a puppy!!) and two cats. The hood is on a hill overlooking the north side of Rio, and the view from our open air living room was breathtaking both at day and at night. It is incredibly quiet except for the planes roaring above us as they fly low into the domestic airport nearby, it is quite a sight and only happens while we have breakfast so it doesnt bother us!

It is also the only part of Rio still serviced by the tram car which is a fascinating little contraption, costs only R$0.60 for a ride down to the town or if you hang off the side of it (as we did when short of change) you ride for free - just have to make sure you keep the arms and legs in.
The amazing thing bout this area is that it houses two of Rio's most notorious drug trafficking gangs, in the favelas down below us. They are in extreme competiton with each other and weirdly do not bother or harm the general public. Last night we woke up to what sounded like incessant rifle gunfire and rushed out to see from our hill top view, only to find it was a crazy fireworks display.

Eric (our artist host) explained that each gang had decided to fire as many skyrockets into the sky to show their network of supporters and power, so red was for the Red Command and green for the Third Command. And sure enough as we watched, the two different colours exploded into the night sky all over Rio. The Red Command clearly had more supporters. And we found out later, that they use this fireworks system to tell their contacts that deliveries have come in and so on. Its incredibly fascinating since they obviously dont care about the law enforcement!

In Rio so far we have seen the awesome Red Bull Air Race which to be honest can only be explained if you click on the link and see for yourself - the coolest thing is that we were there! Go straight to Lee's blog to see the video we took of some cool stunts these daredevil pilots were doing.

We have visited the world famous statue of Christ the Redeemer - the view from up there was incredible and slightly vertigo inspiring. Kind of gave you a sense of warmth and amazement at the idea that Christ was watching over Rio with all its' colour, vibrancy and dark corners.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Parati - colonial paradise

On the way between islands while on boat, we managed to see some amazing wild dolphins just swimming along and playing in the water, it was such an overwhelming sight. After Ilha do Mel and Paranagua, we journeyed further north east to Sao Paolo - we stayed there for 3 days and let me just say that it is one crazy concrete jungle and as much as I am a city girl, it was too much for me. We met a lovely couple of Australians who we hung out with for most of the time that we were there, went out for some awesome Japanese / Korean food - one thing about the Brazilians is that they love their sushi, and they also love their by the kilo restaurants. So you go and serve yourself typical buffet style only to weigh it before scoffing it down, and thats how they charge you. So you can just keep an eye on it and save money!

Anyway, after a messy time in Sao Paolo which really isnt anything to write home about, we came to Parati, which is where we are now. This is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in our trip so far - it has amazing colourful buildings, all one storeyed, quaint cobblestoned streets, nostalgic old churches, a pier with brightly painted boats with names like Bucanero and finally, enough bars and restaurants to make your stomach rumble. We decided to stay here for more than the 2 days planned, so who knows! There are handicraft shops and artists painting on the streets and tiny boats that take you out snorkeling to hidden islands. Paradise. Check out the pictures here.

Island hopping

From Santa Catarina, we then arrived in this beautiful colonial gem of a town called Paranagua which looks like a place you´d imagine in Cuba. Colourful old buildings, cobbled streets and right by the water. We arrived here only to take a 2 hour boat to a car-less island called Ilha Do Mel, for Easter weekend. It was absolutely beautiful but totally packed with locals as it was a known Brazilian favourite for surfers. We spent a lovely 3 days on the island, partied like crazy with a group of these cool Paulista surfers (Paulista is a term for people from Sao Paolo, they were a bunch of insanely loud guys) and we got a chance to explore the hidden beaches and lovely little pathways of this tiny island. Most of it however was an ecological park, protected by the council and so you couldn´t go there as there were protected species of all sorts! We did see a red, black and white patterned snake on the beach we were on, and that was so frightening.

Still, islands rock!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Have surfboard, will travel!

We have bought a surfboard and a hammock! Our lives as the beach bums we truly are, is about to begin... it was super exciting, while being on the Ilha de Santa Catarina we were driving around looking for another place to stay and while I drove, Lee was gleefully getting me to stop at all the little surf shops to enquire on the costs etc, though we were only doing it for fun. Well sort of. And then, we found an awesome board though it was more of a short board than the 7"4 that Lee has back home. And we figured, we`re on holiday! So we bought the board for a great price, it is a bit mashed up but it came with leash, wax and cover; while in the buying mood we then bought a hammock from across the road because we had heard that some beaches were so secluded that one can only stay on them if they had a hammock. Makes sense hurray! Click here for Lee´s online album where we have uploaded loads of Brazil island photos!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Brazilians - some thoughts

A couple of interesting things I have observed about Brazil and the people so far:
The similarities between Sinhalese and Portugese are incredible - I know this obviously thanks to the colonization however, it is bizarre to hear our words spoken so many thousands of miles away from a country so very different. Words like janela, beira, mesa, pan, sapaththu, boththela and the list goes on. It is even more astounding to think a tiny country like Portugal, so insignificant as a power in the world today, colonized and influenced such a large country like Brazil - and such a far away little country like ours.

Initially, the food here was not as amazing as Argentina - mainly rice, beans, fish and manioc which forms the main base for their breads amongst other things. No doubt we can see the African influence on that one. However as soon as we hit Floripa and Sao Paolo - wow, we were getting hit with every cuisine you can imagine - but startlingly, one of the main foods that the Brazilians eat is Japanese food. Sushi is everywhere and I know some of my fair weathered buddies will be drooling at that thought - even fast food sushi stalls though it is all safe cause their fishing industry is so incredibly strong.

In Argentina we barely saw any other ethnicities other than their own, and as we went north we did see a fair number of MaĆ­puchi and Indian descendants. But here in Brazil, it is as if we are in some fantastic mixture of race, ethnicity and colour - African, Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Indian etc. It is immensely interesting to people watch, plus this mix is not just in the cities but in the tiny beach fishing towns as well.

The Brazilians are loud and they love their beer and caiparinhas. The wine here is soo expensive, so beer it is! We have yet to listen to some kick ass music though it is so far much better than the Argentine! It is much more expensive, there are more people willing to rip you off and generally the city folk are not as friendly as we had hoped. Though the surfers and island people are.

Foz to Florianopolis

It has been a little disorientating trying to realise that we are in a whole other country with a wholly different culture, attitude, habit and mostly language. Good Lord Portugese is a difficult language to pick up and understand, also it is oddly vulgar (i can´t think of another word as I know that can seem pretty offensive but it gives an idea of what I mean) to the ear. I was so used to how the Argentine´s were proud of their pronounciations, like the a was a "aah" and you dragged it out and everything was anunciated. However here, it is like they swallow their letters and phoenetics and the a sounds like the o in the word "come". I am probably confusing you. So I will stop here.

FloripĆ” is a large city, south of Sao Paolo and Rio, and it is on an island called Ilha de Santa Catarina - which is an island very popular for surfing, bikini watching and snorkeling not to mention just general exploring. Alot of the beaches can only be accessed by foot. But we rented a car because we figured that it would be easiest to get about on the island - it is roughly an hours drive from the north of the island to the south which is pretty cool if you think about it. The south east is the best for surfing and away from the awful family tourists, trashed young students and perfect for us semi partying chilled folk.

There are some fantastic beaches, we discovered one which we spent a few days was on a small jutting piece of land off the east edge of the island, which was literally a big hill that sloped down to the beach and it was white sand, clear bright blue waters, lots of surfers and no tourists. Perfect.