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Round trip to Brazil and Argentine,
with a peek at Paraguay.

Temaresors tour "Amazonas and Samba".

2003-11-05--19

To see the photos, click at the index to the left.

Wednesday 5th of November
A couple of hours before we departed from home, we got a phone call from Temaresor that there was a trouble with the plane from Copenhagen, so they had rebooked us directly to London Heathrow, where we should go aboard the scheduled flight.
 

We took a taxi to the airport and arrived a couple of hours before the departure. The tickets were fixed quite quickly before we could check in. We had a lunch in the departure hall and the flight departed at 16:45. On the flight we met Göran, who also should join our round trip.

At Heathrow we had to fix boarding cards for Sao Paolo and further to Fos do Iguaçu, although we already had succeeded to check the luggage all the way to the falls. Strangely Göran had got boarding cards for all the way.

We walked around the duty-free shops quite a long time, before we sat down. It was over four hours to kill. The flight was also delayed half an hour before we left 22:30. We had a light evening meal before we tried to get some sleep. The movie wasn’t much to see. It was something Brazilian, which didn't look interesting.

Thursday 6th of November
We both got some sleep, but we were stiff and tired. After a 12 hour flight, we landed in Sao Paolo, the largest industrial city of Brazil. There our Norwegian guide Ole Jörgen Hansen met us. We spent nearly 3 hours on this airport waiting for the connecting flight. Most of the time in company with Björnar, a Norwegian who had joined us on the trip.  

We departed 10:45. It was still quite cloudy, but we had a great view when we approached Curitiba. We made a short stopover before we continued to Fos do Iguaçu. This airport was really small and all official paper handling took relatively short time as well as getting the luggage. We changed travellers checks to Brazilian reais. A bus met us and we got a local guide called Carlos.

It was just about 20 minutes to the hotel Tropical das Cataratas, which is the only hotel inside the national park of the falls at the Brazilian side. We checked in on this continental style hotel and on the way to our rooms we found the hotel to be a maze covering several store.

It was about 28 degrees and sunny weather when we met the group and went down to the falls on the Brazilian side. It was a great feeling to finally see them and I had difficult to avoid taking too much photos…. The view became better the nearer the Diablo falls we came. It's difficult to describe the feeling of the overwhelming falls. They are about 95 m high. Some of the falls are hidden behind the Saint Martin peninsula. We saw a Guana lizard along the path, as well as several Quati, which are related to the racoon. They are quite tame, although you need to beware of their teeth.

After a short stop by the hotel to leave 3 persons, we continued to Macuco safari tours. We started with a guided jungle tour with an electrical vehicle where we sat in wagons. It was an really nice to go through the green vegetation. There  are a lot of signs describing different plants. The last bit was by foot down to the small harbour.

In the harbour was a motorboat which took us upstream really near the Diablo falls. We got really wet, but it was a great feeling to see them from this perspective and you could imagine much better how big they are. Even our guide Ole had not been so far up the stream before.

Afterwards some people in the group bought a video from the trip, which seems to be common on this kind of arrangements. On the way we saw a colourful coral snake, which is extremely poisonous.

At the hotel we took a shower and then went to eat a barbecue buffet by the pool. We had some entertainment by a music trio. The food was abundant and delicious, not to mention the dessert table ... We drank a Guaraná soda. This typical Brazilian drink we discovered on the flight. Really tired and filled up by the buffet, we went to bed.

Friday 7th of November
We went up at 6:30. I had got a mosquito bite the evening before and my left hand was a bit swollen. The breakfast was also very abundant, not least of fruits, of which we ate quite a lot.
 

At 8:00 we left the hotel by bus and went straight to the Argentina border. It was quickly passed, although a lot of people seemed to have their luggage searched, especially those who had been in Paraguay. We went with a small electrical train in the national park. First we looked at the Diablo falls, which were reached by walking on metal pathways. We had to walk over a kilometre, but it was really worth it coming so near the top of the falls. Of course there were plenty of other tourists, but that was expected at one of the biggest wonder in the nature! It was hot and sunny, so the drizzling from the falls were welcome. We saw some kingfishers and aigrettes along the path and Christina and a few other even saw a caiman, who laid lazy in the sun.

At the middle station we stopped to see the hidden falls, which were nicely imbedded in the green nature. There was also a television recording of "Fear Factor", where a guy should walk over one of the smaller falls on a line. Scary enough. Christina still had problems with ache in one of her legs, which had started a couple of days before the departure, but she was brave enough to walk all the way around. We took the train back to the bus and then went back to Brazil and ate lunch in Fos do Iguaçu. We got another really abundant meal with different plates of salads, pastas, meats and fruits.

Then we went to the worlds largest power plant in the world at Itaipu Binacional. It's a cooperation between Brazil and Paraguay, as the Paraná river is a border between the countries. The height of the turbines is196 m and has a diameter of 10.5 metres. Paraguay owns half of the 18 turbines and haven’t paid a single dollar for the project during 1984-91. Instead they give Brazil energy from 8.5 turbine until 2023, as half a turbine is enough for 90% of their energy consumption. 17.5 turbines is enough for 25% of Brazils consumption. We even took a tour with the bus over to Paraguay, although we never passed the customs control. The area is considered as a neutral area and everything is symmetrical down to the number of workers, which are 1500 from each country. During the construction were there 30 000 workers. It's said that about 400 died, but most from car accidents, as they could afford fine cars and drove like crazy to their home towns when they were on leave.

After the power plant we stopped at a chocolate (as we were in the country of cacao) and souvenir shop which is immense. I was difficult to believe you could put in so much stuff in a shop. We bought a football t-shirt for my nephew.

It was nearly 18 when we returned to the hotel. We took the chance to go up in the hotels lookout tower (belvedere), to have a good view over the hotel area as well as over the falls. We saw a lovely turquoise bird speckled with several other colours. We packed for the departure tomorrow and we had to think about separating some luggage as we couldn’t have all with us on the boat to Amazon Village.

We ate a lighter meal by ourselves in the restaurant with a view over the falls. On the way back to the room we met Signe and Lars. Signe promised to give me something to put on my swollen hand during the night. After tending to my hand we went to bed.

Saturday 8th of November
We went up at 4:15 to put on sun lotion, fix the last luggage and checkout. It was nice to leave the luggage outside the door as the bellboys probably could take it an easier way then we had to walk to the reception. A quick and still abundant fruit breakfast in the restaurant, before we departed at 5:30.
 

It was still dark when we arrived at the airport. Ole and Carlos fixed the check in. In the departure hall we got the message that the flight was delayed due to bad weather conditions in  Sao Paolo, but we departed only 45 minutes late.

When we arrived at San Paolo we wanted to change our travellers checks and when we finally arrived at the front of the line we discovered that we needed to go to another booth. We departed on time to Manaus and flew a really modern plane with individual choices of movies, but we spent quite a lot of the time catching up some sleep. We had to set back our watches another two hours when we arrived.

When we had gotten our luggage, we quickly took out what we needed for our stay and left the rest to be stored somewhere in a locked place in Manaus.

We had two local guides from Amazon Village and started with a round trip in the big city of Manaus. This is a tax-reduced area, which has attracted many electronic industries, like Nokia and Siemens. The first stop was at the fantastic opera house, which was built during the era of rubber barons. It was inaugurated in the end of the 19th century and most of the material as iron and marble was imported from Europe, except the 120 different tree sorts for the fantastic floor. There were also crystal crowns, lovely iron pillars and several beautiful paintings.

We continued in 33 degree and high humidity to the market. This is less spectacular than expected, although it has been there since 1882.

Along the road we saw several more or less shabby houses on wooden pillars, as the height of the water changes a lot depending on the rain periods. The harbour have heavy traffic, as the rivers are the main transportation roads.

Just outside of town was the departing point for our large passenger boat along Rio Solemoes. Soon the black Rio Negro merged into it and you distinctly could see the white and black parts for a long distance. It is very green along the river banks and only a few houses here and there, but you could see several boats. Now and then we saw some dolphins.

We turned into the tributary Puraquequara river, which we should go up and down a lot the forthcoming days. There are a lot of floating harbours along the river and even a floating house in the middle of the “motorway”, as the water function as roads rather than separating the small villages. Halfway up the river we changed to 3 small motorboats, as the water was too low during the dry season.

As we arrived slightly after 18:00 it was already dark. This due to the fact that we were only 3 degrees below the equator. We gathered outside the hotel to get a warm soup while they still were smoking the bungalows against mosquitoes and other creeps. The other part of our bungalow was occupied by Björnar. Christina immediately found the hang mat on the terrace comfortable, but I never really liked it. A large buffet dinner was served at 19:30. Some of the dishes were prepared according to your preferences while waiting. Plenty of choices of mainly fruits as dessert and I took a lot of my favourite, the pineapple slices. Due to the 2 hour change of time we were really tired when we went to bed, after talking with Björnar at the terrace.

Sunday 9th of November
Christina and several of the other slept badly during the night due to heavy rain and thunder. Also a beetle, which was drilling, had made a lot of noise. I hadn't heard either of them and slept really well.

We got up for breakfast at 7:30. There were a lot of juices and fruits, as well as baked bread with fillings and eggs. Christina was worried that her foot still ached when she walked, so she decided to stay in he hang mat during the morning.

The rest of us started by boat for about 10 minutes before we got ashore for a jungle walk. We divided the group in two and I followed our guide Luis and an Indian, who also was called Luis. They seemed to know quite a lot about the jungle. We tasted the bark of the quinine tree, which the Indians had used against malaria long before us. They cut in the bark on a couple of trees with a white thick milk, which we also tasted. They showed us a liana, which contained fresh water. Luis lured a large spider of the tarantella family to come out of its nest, as well as the largest ants, which are used for the manhood rites among the Indians. The ants gives a fever, but the rite makes the Indians immune against them. We had some rain during the walk and when I took photos I could see that the light was bad in the jungle. During the wet season the height of the water is 20-30 meters higher. Luis (the Indian) swung in a couple of lianas and also showed how to climb a palm tree with a simple sling of a palm tree around his feet. I tried it and just got one single step, so I realised that this needs a lot of training and technique.

When we came back to Amazon Village, I confirmed to Christina that it probably was best that she stayed at home.

After the lunch buffet and a couple of hours rest, we went into the jungle behind the hotel area. First we got good photo of the parrots, which are around the hotel begging for food. We made quite a short walk before we made a stop to test different sorts of fruits and even fish served with the base food manioc and salt. Alex told us about all the military activity in he area. This had increased, not only to protect the borders, but also to protect he Indian reserves and hinder the drug traffic. Just 4 days earlier they had bombed a clandestine airfield close to the Colombian border. Brazil have compulsory conscription and all conscripts need to spend at least one week in the jungle by themselves, surviving on what it could offer and only bringing salt.

The last part of the walk was to a rebuilt Indian village, inhabited only by one family of the Tucano tribe, who lived there employed by the hotel to supply it with handcrafted decorations, but they also sold some to visiting tourists. Here we got the chance to test both larvae and fried termites. None wanted to try the larvae, but the termites actually tasted as some kind of crushed snacks and I ate several. On the way back we had the option to pass a ravine on a rope bridge and while waiting for everybody to pass, our legs got attacked by tiny biting ants. This kind of ants were said to clear the jungle, as many animals also avoided them.

Back at the hotel we got a soup while waiting for smoking the bungalows again. After a buffet dinner, we went out with the boats looking for caimans. We were divided between 3 boats as usual and this time we had life jackets on. We went around with strong lamps searching the banks found nothing. But it didn’t really matter as it was nice just sitting in the half dark with all the tree silhouettes along the river. We could get a glimpse of the full moon behind the clouds. Finally we met up with the other two boats and in both the guides had actually caught a caiman, which they showed everyone now and told us about them. They had to release the larger one soon, as it got too tiring to keep his mouth and hold him so he wouldn't escape.

After the tour we were spending some time at the terrace before going to bed early again.

Monday 10th of November
It seemed to be a hot and sunny day when we left after breakfast for a walk. First we stopped at a house to get a description how to prepare their base food manioc. There was also a boa constrictor, which hugged Christina... We also saw a couple of sloths in a tree. They were really posing for photographers. Unfortunately Lars Bohlin got suddenly ill and had to sit down for a while. He got a glass of milk with salt from the owner of the house and he soon became better. He and his wife Ann-Mari decided to go back and Luis escorted them. Probably Lars suffered from lack of water and minerals.

We continued down to the bank where 3 boats met us. A few minutes  later we went ashore again to visit a school. Today the teachers had a study day in Manaus, so the children had had an early day from 6 to 9 and there were a few still hanging around. Anyway we could look into the classrooms and the ABC books.

We continued quite a bit along the river in the boats, mostly looking for birds. We saw some vultures, kingfishers and aigrettes, but the bird life is sparse in the dry season.

The next stop was at a small village where most of the people worked for our hotel. We noticed that several of the houses were built on poles although they seemed to be high up from the river and also that the houses only were painted at the seaside. Most houses had a television antenna, which is a kind of status symbol, but the electricity were generator driven and only started between 18 and 22. They could see important things like news, soap operas and soccer matches. In the village there are several large plantations of the manioc root and the village even have two bars. Christina and I bought guaraná sodas and looked at the souvenir shop, which a 11-year old girl had the responsibility of.

We walked back to the hotel, which just took 10 minutes. There it was time for lunch away for lunch. At 14 we went out by boat again to fish piranhas. Christina was lucky and got one, but Barbro who sat beside me got nearly 10, as well as the largest one. It was quite hot sitting in the sun. After an hour or so we continued to a floating harbour nearby. There we looked how to collect and handle latex from rubber trees. The old man had learnt this from his father who had it as work. They went up 3 in the morning and could collect from 150 trees before the sun went up. This jovial man really know how to pose for tourists. Afterwards they had fried our piranhas and we tasted them, before it was time to head back again to the boats.

It was dark when we returned to the village and we walked along the oil lamp lit path up to the hotel. It wasn't long time before the buffet dinner, so we immediately went to the restaurant. Afterwards we looked at the sky to see some star constellations, but it was too much light around us in the hotel area, although most are battery driven. Back at the bungalow Christina took her favourite place in the hang mat and I took a cold water shower before we went to bed.

Tuesday 11th of November
We went up 6:15 to pack before breakfast. The hotel staff carried our small bags to the harbour and we went aboard the 3 boats again. Although it was just before 8:00 in the morning, it was already really hot and sunny. We enjoyed the trip of 40 minutes and felt quite at home on the river now. We changed to the larger boat and got into the shade on the upper deck. It was getting more humid and out on the big river we could see that the rain was chasing us. Just before 11:00 we reached the harbour in Manaus and some drizzling started when we entered the bus, which was waiting for us. It took over half an hour to get through the town and to the airport, where we said goodbye to our guides. A quick repacking of the luggage and then we went to buy some postcards, which seemed to be difficult to find in this country. There were poor choices if they had any at all.

When we finally checked in, we didn't get places beside each other. It was another hour to wait before we could board the flight to Brasilia. We departed 13:25 and I sat beside Nils and Barbro. I had time to write a few postcards before we arrived.

Already at the arrival we noticed the futuristic architecture of the buildings in Brasilia. Our new guide was Almeiro Perreira. It was dark when we arrived at Blue Tree hotel, which was a modern style hotel. The outside had a red colour and every line was modernistic. After we had checked in it was really nice to take a hot shower and shave with hot water. We went out for a walk at the back of the hotel and saw a yacht, which probably was operated by the hotel on the artificial lake.

We ate a light dinner together with Bengt and Anita before it was time to go to bed. We had a splendid view of the full moon over the lake from the balcony.

Wednesday 12th of November
We went up 7:30 and packed again before breakfast. The guide and bus was late so we didn't depart until 9:30, but this is quite common in this country and we had been quite lucky before!

Brasilia was built 1958-60 and inaugurated 21st of April 1960. Responsible to move the capital from Rio de Janeiro was president J Kubitchek. It's situated on 1100 meters above the sea and the structure plan of the city centre is like an aeroplane. There live about 1 million people in the centre and another million in the suburbs. Everything is very spacious with about 200 m2 green area per capita. Oscar Niemayer is the architect who was responsible for the architecture of the capital.

First we had a look at the president palace, next to our hotel. The guards were very friendly and actually told us that we might take a photo of them. The representative guard was dressed in a uniform from the 19th century.

Our next stop was in a habitation area. Each area consists of 4 block with 11 apartment buildings, totally housing 10 000 inhabitants. All buildings are open at the ground floor, so everything should easily be accessible. An apartment costs about 200 000 reais (80 000 USD) The area also contains shops, school, kindergarten and everything else, which is needed. There is even a small chapel open for all religions and the one we stopped by is called Salve Maria. In the area is also a lovely African parrot tree. All trees were planted when the buildings were constructed and there were very few birds in the beginning, but now it's known to be a lot of them in the trees.

Our guide Ole has a special feeling for Dom Bosco, which was our next stop, as it was there he got married three years ago. The church is really ugly outside and looks like a large concrete bunker, but inside it is 40x40x16 metres and has fantastic painted glass. It is painted in 12 different nuances of blue and in each corner is the glass painted in 9 different kinds of purple. In the middle there is an enormous 3.7 ton large crystal lamp. The impression is great inside this church and there are few old churches that have impressed me that much before.

We continued to the military headquarters, where they have parades. An arch was build with a fantastic acoustic, which made a speaker to be heard far away. It looks like a shield. Beside stood an obelisk, which symbolises a sword.

A short stop by the memorial of J Kubitchek, where unfortunately Göran more or less fainted due to lack of liquid and minerals. Luckily there were some who had brought liquid replacement medicaments, so he soon recovered quite well.

The television tower was the next stop, where there were plenty of sellers of different kind of gems and necklaces. We went up by elevator to a platform at 75 metres in the 224 metre high tower. We had a great view over central Brasilia, particularly towards the governmental buildings, which were in line with the tower on the central axis. We could really see that the city is mainly built for cars and not for pedestrians. Nearby is a large area with buses in many colours parked. They are used for shuttling people between work and their homes in the suburbs. I just wonder what all the bus chauffeurs do between the tours?

At a short stop at FUNAI, the national foundations of Indians, we could buy different Indian handicraft, before we continued to Spettus steakhouse to have a remarkable barbecue lunch. We took salad and other food at the buffet table and then waiters came and carved up different kind of meats and sausages at the table for each one. A bit stressful, as they came by very often. The dessert buffet was also delicious and they even had fresh strawberries, but also the passion fruit pudding we loved so much at Amazon Village. We were really filled up when we came out in the dry heat again.

Another spectacular church is the cathedral, although less then Dom Bosco. The clock tower looks like a wine grail and a building beside looked like an oblate and the cathedral is like the crown of thorns.

We made a special visit to the embassy area. Ole had called both the Swedish and the Norwegian embassies and we were welcome at both for a special short visit, which not even Ole had done before.

We drove back to the centre and a made a stop by "three powers square". There is the federal supreme court, the president's office, and the senate plus the congress, including a 28 storey building with their administration. By law no building may be higher than this one. We were lucky as there were a kind of military parade outside the president's office. I went down to an exhibit hall under the large square to see a model of the city and some original drawings. There is even a special model for blind people.

Our last stop was at the ministry of foreign affairs, where Almeiro guided us as Ole isn’t allowed to do it there. There are a lot of old furniture, tapestries and paintings. Among them the desk where the treaty of the Brazilian independency was signed 1823. All set within a modern building

After that it was time to go to the airport and we made a group check in. I took the opportunity to buy stamps, as they had a post office. It was tricky to place 3-4 stamps on each postcard. They can't be used to tourists from abroad... They didn't have air conditioning at the airport so it got quite sweaty. We finally departed at 20:30 for Salvador. When we arrived after 1.5 hour of flight, we had to set back our watches. This was even a surprise for Ole, but our new local guide Eddy explained that the province of Bahia had done this due to political reasons!

It took a while to reach Tropical Hotel da Bahia, which is quite near the centre. It was really noisy in the reception. We recognised an English group who had been in Amazon Village. We got a room on the 9th floor and we went straight there, as we were very tired and it already was quite late.

Thursday 13th of November
We woke before the clock rang, so we had plenty of time for breakfast before we should leave at 9:15. Of course the bus was delayed. Bahia is well known for it's "mañana" temperament, so Ole wasn’t surprised, although Eddy was on time. He seemed to be well organised.  

It was around 30 degrees and sunshine. First we went to Barra, a part in the South-West of the city, where the Atlantic ocean and the All Saints Bay meet. Plenty of sellers met us, but they were quite friendly and not so pushy. We went around the lighthouse, which was built on a fortress. Inside there is a navigation museum.

We went back northwards by the large lake with several statues of different candomblé gods. Salvador has 2.8 million inhabitants and used to be the richest and most important colony of Portugal. This was due to the sugar canes. The Portuguese bought about 4 million slaves from different parts and tribes in Africa. They systematically broke up families to avoid the risk that they should be able to organise riots. The slaves mostly had to work at the plantations. This situation supported the evolution of candomblé, which is a mixture of Catholicism and African spiritualism. 1888 was slavery finally abandoned here, as the last country in the world. About 75% of the inhabitants of Bahia has some African blood in them.

Then we stopped nearby Pelourinho, which had high criminality with drugs and prostitution until 1985, when a large restoration was started. About 800 colonial buildings was restored and the area is now a part of World Heritage of UN. 85% of the inhabitants were moved and compensated to make the project possible. The houses are really colourful in plenty of different pastels. There are over 200 churches in the city and we saw several during our walk. In the Pelourinho area there is a policeman in every corner and it is tidied every day.

After having strolled around for quite a while and also visited some of the numerous souvenir shops, we came to the church of Sao Francisco. First we looked into the Covent part with nice blue paintings on ceramic tiles. All portraying different sayings in Latin. Then we entered the church which has marvellous carvings in Jacaranda tree, most of them covered with a thin layer of gold. There are of course some traces of the African heritage, for example a couple of black saints. The construction of the building started 1720.

We continued over the Jesus square to the governors old palace, where we took an old elevator down to the harbour. In the old customs building there is a market, where we walked around and spent some time. All shops were filled with plenty of stuffs. Christina found a tambourine, which Wilfred had wished that we brought back.

Outside where there plenty of young boys and girls begging. When we went up on the bus a small boy snatched a golden necklace from Anita, but she was quick enough to catch him and a nearby police helped her to get the necklace back. We saw the police still held the boy when we departed, as he at the same time was talking with some elder boys. Probably the boy was taught pick pocketing by the elderly boys.

Some people in the group went to a jewellery shop, but we where looking forward to a calm afternoon by the pool. It was already 14:00 when we sat down for some light lunch. It took quite a while before we got the food and had signed the bill. The cashier made at least two errors and we saw the waiter tried to correct him. When Christina left some tips, she told him that it was only for him and not for the cashier. He just laughed heartily. It was nice with a swim. Christina laid in the sun, while I preferred the shadow. When the sun had disappeared we went up to the room and I wrote the last postcards.

At 21:00 we went down to the reception, but the bus was late as usual... Finally we arrived at the marina and an old tobacco warehouse, which was rebuilt as a restaurant. We were served yet another abundant buffet with a lot of choices, but we just made one main turn and one dessert turn, as we were getting a bit tired of buffets.

We had great places just by the scene, which was good when the capoeira entertainment started. First were there dances where they portrayed the candomblé gods. Then a couple of dances about the daily life, like harvesting of sugar canes and fishing. All accompanied by drum beats. Eventually they came to the main attraction, the capoeira, which is a mix between dance and martial art. The practises usually start training when they are 2-3 years old and they have an extreme body control. They could without no problem work as acrobats at a circus. The main part are when they are kicking over each others head without hitting each other and with increasing speed. Particularly the oldest guy was extremely skilful. The show finished just before midnight.

Friday 14th of November
We went up quite early as we left 8:15 for the marina. The boat should leave at 9:00, but we had to wait for a couple 25 minutes. It was warm, but with a nice wind on the two decks on the schooner. There were quite a few other tourists on the boat. Three young guys who called themselves "cheiro mole" (nice bouquet) fixed the entertainment with drums and mandolin.

It took about 1.5 hours before we reached the island Frades. All tourists on three ship overwhelmed the small beach who had quite a lot of restaurants, as well as a  lot of sellers who constantly tried to sell necklaces, jewels, snacks and other things. It was really warm to swim in the Atlantic Ocean. I tried a snack with grilled cheese and oregano, which tasted good.

1.5 hours later the beach was emptied and everyone boarded the ships again and continued to the largest island Isla de Itaparica. It had no real harbour where we went ashore, so first we went into a small motorboat and the last few metres we waded. There were several young guys who met us and wanted to help us for some money plus several other sellers on the beach, but they weren't allowed to follow us into the restaurant. The buffet was quite chaotic, but as usual a good mix of food. It was warm but nice to sit outside under straw roofs. There were also some capoeira entertainment with younger guys. Especially a young boy of about 9-10 years old impressed a lot despite his age.

We just relaxed after the meal before we left at 16:00. It was even more chaotic when the guys wanted to help us aboard again. Probably it had been easier if we had been alone and could have drawn the boat nearer land. Some lifted Barbro aboard and of course they wanted money for this. Still we had too wait on several people who had taken the proposed bus tour, which was late and delayed us nearly half an hour.

Of course we had entertainment on the way back too. The musical trio tried to involve the public even more this time, probably to get better tips. It was getting more windy and was nearly dark when we returned to the marina around 18:00. The bus had arrived and it turned out to be a minibus for only 11 passengers! Ole was upset and finally the captain took 3 of us in his private car. It could have been worse.

At the hotel it was nice to get rid of the salt before we went out to eat. We met Björnar in the reception and he said that he hadn't found any good restaurant in the neighbourhood, so we went to the hotel restaurant. After having a light meal it was time to pack and we were enough tired to go to bed early.

Saturday 15th of November
We went up 3:30 in the morning. Soon we were finished and checked out. They had opened the breakfast restaurant for us and we departed just after 4:00. The bus was nearly on time and it was light traffic, so we were at the airport at 5:00. About an hour later the flight to Rio de Janeiro left. At takeoff it had started a light rain.

The weather was pretty good in Rio de Janeiro when we met our new guide Arnaldo. As we couldn't get our rooms in another 3 hours, we went to Corcovado, the mountain with the statue of Christ on 703 metres height: There is a view over most parts of the city Rio de Janeiro, which has about 6 million inhabitants.

After we had got train tickets, we had an hour to wait. We made a short excursion to Largo do Boticario, a square nearby with several colonial style houses. They were built by pieces of even older houses, from the 600 buildings which were destroyed when two large avenues were built through the city. The place is just by the Carioca river, which in an Indian language means "white man's house", but nowadays this is a nickname of a person who lives in Rio.

Finally we boarded the train up to Corcovado, which is situated in Tijuca, one of Brazils 47 national parks. The train takes about 20 minutes and has a slope of 30 degrees at the steepest part. The statue is 38 metres high and made of concrete, but the external part is made of soap stone. For the last part you can choose from either 200 steps or a newly built elevator. The statue was built during 1922-31. It is a beautiful view over most parts of the city. It's not the highest peek, but it was chosen just because that it would be visible from nearly everywhere. Unfortunately this is an extremely crowded place, both by inhabitants of the city as well as by tourists.

Afterwards it was time to check in at Hotel Sofitel Rio Palace. Christina and I must have got an odd room, as our room was really large and we noticed that it would cost 800 reais per night (about 300 USD). It was just in the corner towards the hotel pool. We were so tired after the early morning, so we started by sleeping a couple of hours.

We took a walk along Copacabana to see the sea and the people on this famous beach. Even if it was getting late there were still quite a lot of people. We were recommended to avoid bringing any valuable things, except very little cash, as the crime level is very high, particularly where there are a lot of tourists. We found a and had a meal before we walked back again. In the hotel bar, we finally tried the well-known Brazilian drink called Caipirinha. We sat on the terrace looking out on the beach. It tasted mostly from the lime but after a few sips, we both felt that the sugarcane liquor is really strong. Anyway it probably made it easier to fall asleep again...

Sunday 16th of November
We got another abundant breakfast buffet and I even found out that you could order waffles with chocolate upon them. Maybe not the most nutritious, but it's holiday...
 

At 8:30 we left for Pao de Açucar, also called Sugar Loaf, due to the form of this mountain. It is 396 metres high and 1913 an engineer got a cable car built in two steps up to the top. This worked until 1972, when they built the one which works today. We had a marvellous view in another angle over the city, compared to Corcovado. The weather was lovely and hot today again with about 30 degrees later during the day.

We continued along the Flamengo park, which was filled with people doing different kind of sports and other outdoor activities, as this is popular on Sundays. This park is a part of the reclamation area, which was a part of the sea and now filled with material from two mountains. Those used to be behind the old centre of the city. The centre also used to have many more old buildings, but around 600 colonial  buildings were destroyed to make place for a couple of broad avenues, which today are too small during heavy traffic.

Next stop were at the Maracana stadium, which is well-known for it's soccer matches. It can take about 110 000 peoples. Then we stopped by the samba stadium, which can take about 80 000 people. A ticket costs from 200 USD and up for a one hour show on 650 metres. The main attraction is a competition of the 14 best samba schools in Rio de Janeiro. Most participants are from the Favelas, where mostly poor people live.

The Sao Sebastian Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro is another remarkable creation. Outside it is quite ugly and looks like a kind of pyramid. Inside it looks immense and the four coloured windows together with the large bronze statue with Jesus on the cross hanging in the middle are overwhelming. The height is 90 metres. The squares that cover the walls are actually holes, so the church is nicely cool inside.

Our last stop was at the square by the City Hall, where you also have the city  library, the opera house and the museum of arts. On the way back to the hotel, Arnaldo sang the famous Rio bossanova "The girl from Ipanema”. He also told us that from a tie you can make 20 bikinis for the girls on the Ipanema beach...

After a quick visit to our room to leave our valuables, we walked in the heat to the beach of Ipanema. This is the favourite beach of Ole and I can agree that it looks better than Copacabana. We ate a salad at the restaurant "Barril 1800".

We then continued to the hippie market nearby, where we got some desired shade. You could find quite a lot of nice things here and best of all, the sellers were never pushy. On the contrary, you had to look a long time and start touching things before they cared. This isn't a market for tourists, although many had found it. We were lucky to find a present that we had been looking for there.

Back at the hotel, we spent a few hours by the pool and several in our group also found their way to it. It was nice swimming and reading for a while before we went up for a shower and out to find a restaurant. We tried one with a view towards Copacabana beach. During our meal we heard samba rhythms nearby. Of course we went looking for it. It was difficult to hear the lyrics between the drum beats. They used many different percussion instruments. When they finally stopped, a man started to talk and we suspected it was some kind of political speech.

We went back along the beach and took off our sandals to let the sea sweep our feet along the way. It was a nice feeling walking along the enlightened beach, as there still were many active people, especially people who were fishing. We were quite tired after another day with a lot of new impressions and an overwhelming heat.

Monday 17th of November
After breakfast we went on a tour to a couple of favelas. It was sunny, but slightly hazy. The group had to be divided into two minibuses and we joined the guide Siddharta, who speaks really good English. He had been in 41 different countries, mostly in Europe and worked as a guide on these trips. Twice he even had been in Sweden.

22% (about 1.2 million) of the inhabitants in Rio lives in one of the 753 favelas. They are mostly situated around the mountains. The Brazilian law says that if you build a house on public land and nobody claims it for 5 years, you can't be forced away. As there are mountains more or less everywhere in the city, there is a strange mix with poor and rich area everywhere and not in the outskirts as in most other big cities. An area should have at least 50 houses to be classified as a favela.

Most inhabitants have a job with the minimum salary of about 100 USD. They for example work in hotels or as a taxi or bus driver, security or construction helpers. It would be impossible for them to get an apartment by Copacabana where the prices are 4-8000 USD per square metre. Very few middle-class people would not even consider go visiting a favela, as they have a lot of prejudges against them.

When you hear about the favelas you mostly hear about the violence and crimes, but it's only about 5% of the inhabitants, who are criminal. The other are just people who try to survive through honest work in some way. It is true that the so-called "Commandos" decide a lot, but mostly about things that have influence on their drug dealing business. There are three very strict rules, that they force upon everyone in the favelas: No robberies or thefts within the favela. Nobody sees, hears or speaks about anything “evil” (Commando crimes). Don't mess with the drug dealers and they won't mess with you. These rules actually make the favelas the safest places in the whole of Rio! If anybody breaks the rules, they get killed. Still there are domestic violence, mainly due to alcohol problems.

The Commandos actually help the inhabitants sometimes, for example with supplying water tanks. Most inhabitants hates the police, as innocent people often are killed during police raids. Raids are common, but the criminals know how to avoid them and where to hide. This gives the inhabitants very ambiguous feelings towards the criminals.

Often young boys start their criminal career when they are 12-14 years old as eye-watchers or messengers. A major task for the boys is to warn with firecrackers, when the police is coming, which we heard several times during our stay. When they are 15-17 years old they start to sell the drugs and most customers are middle-class people from the outside. Just 5% is cocaine and 95% is marijuana, as it is cheaper. The main drug problem in the favela is actually the alcohol and there are plenty of bars. When the boys are 18 they start to bring shipments and may belong to the inner circle. Most boys are killed before they reach the age of 25, and if you are a boss you might be 35. The reason to join the Commandos is probably the same as all over the world. Young boys get tired of school during their early teenage and see the "only" possibility to earn a lot of money in a short time and soon they can't turn back.

Most of the cocaine comes from Peru, Colombia and Bolivia, but Rio has a "better reputation", so it's easier to ship drugs from here to Europe. The commandos are very well organised and that is due to the former dictatorship, who put a lot of intellectual to jail together with criminals and they exchange a lot of knowledge during this time. Those intellectuals were used to handle large secret political organisations.

The anti-robbery “law” created a funny situation a few years ago, when two corrupted civilian dressed policemen tried to rob a bank in the favela and they were chased away and banned by the commando...

There are two reasons that the inhabitants to allow the favela tours. First they want to prove that there are no crimes to be afraid of. The second is that these favelas aren't dangerous, as there are no rivalling commands in them, but just one in each. Our visit was voted in a democratic favela committee, which decides most things regarding social and moral aspects. They have a board containing a president, vice president, secretary etc.

The first favela we visited was Rocinha, which is the largest one with 60 000 inhabitants. On the way up we passed the American school, which cost 1000 USD per month to attend, so the contrasts are big. The quality of the houses are different. The oldest houses, which are about 50 years old are in much better shape with nice facades and they often had most facilities. Most of them are situated along the winding road, so they even have an address. This means that the residents are allowed to get a passport, open a bank account and have other social benefits. On the other hand they need to pay propriety tax for their houses. The water supply is often the worst problem, although it has been better the last years. The houses which are just 30 years or younger are still growing on the height, as one of the ways to earn money is to "sell a roof" and this makes that unfinished roofs are very common. The increase of inhabitants in this favela has been about 10% in 5 years.

We stopped by the main road and got one of the best views over Rio, with both Corcovado and the Sugar Loaf, as well as the American school and other fancy buildings. A guy who teaches both guitar and English for children in the favela, sang for us. We gave him a tip, but we were not really interested in buying his CD. Nearby in a stand we found a lovely painting, which we bought.

The tangle of electrical lines were really intriguing. It's a wonder that it really works.

At our next stop we entered one of the better houses, where we had a good view over the favela. We also had a view over a construction site nearby, which where built like a high-rise house and it had apartments to rent. The main reason that the houses are well constructed, so they don’t fall down, is that many of the inhabitants work as construction helpers in Rio. The best houses are often owned by people who works within the favela, as they want to save a lot of money by avoiding the transportation to work.

We could see the slope of the mountain where the poorest people live. The higher up on the slope you live, you have a greater risk of landslides. Further away, nearby the sea we could see Beverly Rio, which is one of the richer parts of Rio. Along the road we could see that all kind of services were available, including two banks and a post office. The butcher even accepted several different credit cards.

There are two radio channels and three newspapers within this favela. There are 35 satellite channels available for just 7 USD per month, but they are often "tapped". There are doctors and dentists available for the less poor for 10 USD per month. Nearby the favela lives a well-known plastic surgeon, which famous people pay millions too, like Niki Lauda after his accident. Once a week he helps people in the favela for free, mostly people who are harelipped. I was surprised that people actually are well dressed, as in any other part of the city.

We made a last stop in the centre and walked along the crowded street looking into shops. We saw many motorcycle taxis and carriers, which are quite convenient on  the narrow streets. I got the feeling of being safe among all those smiling people and hoped it wasn't just because Siddharta’s positive views. This feeling stayed until we saw the reason for the firecrackers we had heard earlier. Several well-armed policemen stood at the end of the most known drug dealing street and they were known to not understand or care about ricochets and that they might kill innocent people.

We jumped into the minibuses and continued through some rich areas towards the small favela called Vila Canoas, which just has 2 500 inhabitants. At the edge of the rich area, we first visited a day-care centre, which is called Para Ti. It's subsidised by both the favela tours and Rotary. It can have up to 150 kids in the age of 6 to 16. They even have 7 computers in the school.

Although 95% of all kids in Brazil and 97% in Rio go to school. 60% drops out after 5 years. There are not enough motivation, as they are not encouraged enough by neither parents nor underpaid teachers. 13% of the children, mostly rich ones, are going in private schools, where the teachers are better paid. It is most problem to get teachers for subjects like physics, math and chemistry in the public schools. Most of the school budget is invested in the public universities, which are considered to be the best. This means that the rich pupils prefer the public university, which they are much better prepared for, since they have gone to private schools. President Lula has now introduced a law that enforces at least 20% of the pupils to be either black or coloured, which rich people are trying to get rid of. Still this is the only possibility for many poor people to have a chance to enter the university. A disadvantage with the public universities is that the underpaid teachers often are on strike. A few years ago they were on strike for three months.

The main purpose of the school Para Ti is to keep up the motivation of the pupils to continue school. During the 12 years Para Ti has existed, 35 of their former pupils have finished university. A lady works voluntarily at the school after that two of her daughters have entered the university thanks to this school. She sees this as her payback. Mostly she teaches knitting and crocheting.

We walked around in the maze of narrow streets and Siddharta seemed to know a lot of people. A graffiti painting on the wall showed several soccer players who started in the favela and now are multi-millionaires. Some of them are donating money to the favelas as their payback. We saw a church, although it was just a house with a cross on the wall. 75% in Brazil are Catholics, 15% are evangelists, 7% are atheists and the rest belong to a mix of churches like Presbyterians, Methodists etc.

There are seldom orphans and beggars in the favela, those are often living outside and don't belong anywhere. Most black and coloured people who succeed and become rich, are doing it in a sport (mainly soccer), as an artist or as a drug dealer. 54% claims to be white in Brazil, 6% are black and the rest are mixed. The truth is that a larger percent of the white are actually mixed, although they don’t want to admit it.

The main problem in Brazil are all the corrupted politicians and administrators. All people from 18 to 65 has to vote, otherwise their social benefits are withdrawn, but there are a lot of people who sell their vote for just a pair of shoes or something like that. There is a story in Rio, which says a lot of the politicians. On the zoo there used to be a monkey, who loved to throw fruits and other stuffs at people. If there were a political visit at the zoo, there were always a lot of photographers, who wanted to take a picture if a politician got hit. About 10 years ago before they had electronic voting, you could just write name of the politician you wanted to vote for and in a campaign the monkey got 500 000 votes as a protest against the corruption! The monkey died a few years ago and some consider it as a political murder....

The three hours trip went quickly and I had a strange positive feeling despite all prejudges which say that these are the most dangerous and horrible places in all of the city. I just hope that more people get the chance to experience this and I will demand that the travel agency will make the favela tour included in the round trip. Siddharta concluded that we now must be heroes, as Rio de Janeiro is considered the worst city, regarding robbing and stealing, in the world and we had survived the worst part of Rio...

We ate a light meal at the hotel and we then decided to take a walk along Copacabana, as it was slightly hazy and quite okay for a walk. There are several stands for snacks and coconut milk, which are the locals favourite. Of course several people wanted to sell things to us, but they were not too pushy. Further away some people played football volley and other played soccer, but it was less crowded than on a Sunday. We walked slightly more than halfway before we turned, as we were afraid that Christina's foot would start to hurt soon.

After a couple of hours rest, we met with the other at 19:00 and went by bus to restaurant Marius at the other end of Copacabana. We had a good buffet before we continued to Leblon and the theatre Plataforma, where we attended a samba show. With a lot of drums and colourful dresses they described the history of Brazil. The drums was accompanied by a woman and two men who sang. My favourite was a solo show by a man who resembled Fred Astaire in his dancing style and Christina's favourites was the samba drummers. There were also some capoeira. They were more acrobatic, but less personal than the guys we saw in Salvador. Before the final, they got several groups of people from the audience to sing a song from their country on the stage. Of course they started with the Japanese. It was fun to see this karaoke freaked people living up. The Dutch people was also a great sight, particularly a real "party woman" in their group. The final ended with general samba on the floor in front of the stage, where the actors tried to get people up and dance. It was still 35 degrees and warm winds at midnight when we returned to the hotel.

Tuesday 18th of November
We wasn't in a hurry for the breakfast today and afterward we packed. We took a walk along Copacabana avenue (parallel to Atlantica avenue by Copacabana). It was interesting to stop in grocery store to see what people eat. There were several shops that sold Christmas stuff, although is was difficult to imagine Christmas in a 35 degree heat this sunny day (which later became up to 38 degrees) and probably the hottest on all the trip. We also bought a CD with mixed samba music.

After we came back to the hotel it was time to check out and store the bags in a luggage room. After putting our hand luggage and valuables in a couple of rooms (one was actually our former room), we went with Ole and a few other to the vegetable and fruit market near Ipanema beach. It was getting really hot even in the shadow and I was missing my sun hat, which was in my bag. The market was really lively and many locals had filled the trolleys with groceries that they draw around the market.

Afterwards we went to a restaurant at avenue Copacabana to eat a cheap buffet. It was one of Ole’s favourite restaurants, where he used to go with his wife. Back at the hotel we picked up the hand luggage and joined the other at the pool bar, where we gave thanks to Ole, who had taken unusually good care of us all.

We went to the airport at 17:00 in the middle of the rush hours, so we drove quite slowly in the beginning. Just when we should enter the tunnel below Corcovado, we saw that there had been an accident and after that the traffic went much quicker. It's very common with accidents, particularly during rush hour. It took just over an hour to reach the airport, which left us with good time to check in. A trainee took care of us and the first fault he made was that he only checked the luggage to Copenhagen, but that one we saw immediately and he fixed it with some aid. When everybody had checked in, we noticed that most of the other had gotten three boarding cards instead of two as we had. When we spoke with the supervisor, it turned out that he had made a second fault, as it should be a separate boarding card to Sao Paolo, where we should change plane. The luggage shouldn't be any problem and we finally got it right.

After we had said goodbye to Ole and Arnaldo, we found some chocolate and of course a final couple of Guarana sodas to spend our last few reais on. We went through the security control and had to wait 1.5 hours before boarding for Sao Paolo. The sight over Rio de Janeiro was gorgeous with all the light over the city and we could without problem identify several landmarks.

In Sao Paolo we had to get off the plane and walk more than a lap round the international flight hall, including a new security check and join a new long queue before boarding a new flight. We departed about half an hour late and I decided to skip dinner and go to sleep as soon as possible.  

Wednesday 19th of November
I had slept quite well, although I had woken up and changed position at least once every hour. Christina had slept less than me, so she was quite tired. We had a good  breakfast and a few more hours of rest before we landed at London Heathrow 12:45. We had to wait in the plane for about an hour before we continued to Copenhagen. We said goodbye to the others and had to wait another hour before it was time to board the plane to Gothenburg. Wilfred and Mikael picked us up at the airport and finally we reached home at 20:30, quite exhausted after the long flight.  

Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson
Christina Arrindell

 

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Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson