Riverboat Cruising

November 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm (Travel)

10807812_10152772387975589_1211825936_nOne of the things I most wanted to do on my Brazillian adventure was to take a riverboat cruise on the Amazon.  There was no real logical reason for this want other than the way the Lonely Planet described it as a real life experience.  Perhaps I was aiming high wanting to do the whole stint from Belém to Manaus… five days, who knows?  Would I recommend it?  Not sure, but it’s definitely been a whirlwind of emotions and experiences.

Boarding the riverboat with my new Danish travel partner Philip, who looks a lot like Justin Timberlake, was exciting.  We found a spot and had help from the locals putting up our hammocks.  Then the waiting game began.  Apparently the crew of our boat Clivia had been involved in an accident last week and the owners wanted them to pay for the damage and inconvience.  This resulted in the crew refusing to man the ship and an hour and a half delay before we even got started.

IMG_2201The first day was still exciting.  The Amazon followed a narrow path and we passed numerous dwellings along the banks.  The houses often look less than sturdy and are all made of wood.  Some looked remarkably small and others had personal piers that led from the front door right to the water.  Colourful churches were also present, as were all types of different boats for crossing the river.  Some speedboats attached themselves to our boat and rivebank children climbed onto the boat selling bags of river prawns with impish grins.

Watching them I couldn’t help wondering if being born on the Amazon meant that they would always stay here.  What chances do these children have that live in such remote places?  What opportunities do they have to learn about the world and how their lives could be different?  Of course my teacher instinct kicks in and I wonder about schooling and how much their parents value their education.

IMG_2199The boat has stopped numerous times along the way and watching them load and unload the boat is always interesting.  At one stage a boat attached itself to us and loaded their wooden sticks as we travelled along.  Two young boys, probably about the age of my year fives, helped their father load their cago.  We saw bags and bags of nuts being unloaded and know that their is a ridiculous amount of limes being transported too.  We’ve seen fridges, flatscreen television screens, sofas and mattresses.  Makes you realise how important these types of vessels are for the transportation of goods along the river.

Along with goods we have seen people come and go too.  There are not many that have been here for the whole trip but with those we share the biggest smiles.  With my blonde hair the men tend to watch me a little closely but I think a few are just keeping an eye out for me.  Food is shared often and I truly wish I spoke Portuguese.  We’ve played dominos with the locals and Philip has made great friends with an adorable little boy, who is quite impressed with his iPad.

IMG_2198I’ve been surprised at how clean the boat is kept.  The cleaning lady does the toliets on a regular basis and there is always toilet paper and soap.  The floor is also swept.  The toilet also doubles up as a shower and is amazingly refreshing and the smell is no worse than others I have experienced.

Our last night we were infested with bugs.  I mean this quite literally.  We hadn’t really had any creepy crawlies the whole trip and then PRESTO they came out in force.  It was like the place was swarming with them and they seemed quite harmless but to be quite frank, that is not the point.  They bounced off all parts of your body, and the worst part, they kept getting tangled in my hair.  There’s not much worse than having to check your hair every five minutes for bugs.  Like most insects they are attacted to the light and it wasn’t until we managed to get the crew to turn off all deck lights that they slowly disappeared.  Going to the toilet during the night is am experience I would prefer to forget though.  Even now the floor is littered with their dead bodies.

IMG_2184It sounds like an exciting adventure, huh?  To be honest it haws been mainly boring and I will be glad to finally step back onto dry land.  I have spent most of my time reading in my hammock powering through the first five novels in the Mortal Instrument series and the last novel in Ken Follet’s century series.  In fact, I managed to run my e-reader right down twice which is no mean feat.  I’ve spent time just watching the trees go by, occasionally glimpsing the river dolphins and other times marvelling at how wide the Amazon is in places.  If you didn’t know better there were times when it looked like we were out at sea rather than travelling up the Amazon.

Very soon we will be arriving in Manaus.  A hostel bed is suddenly looking very appealing.  Mostly however, I am just looking forward to washing my hair in a proper shower and having a decent bite to eat.

xoxo

More photos?  Check out my Photo a Day Brazil album https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152705041795589.1073741841.509745588&type=1&l=a62aac7f3d

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Beaches, Sunshine and Surf

November 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm (Germany)

IMG_2085After yet another overnight bus we arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed in Natal.  Our whole aim for the stay was to go on a jeep tour which we scheduled for the next day. We lazed around, slept in the hammocks and ventured to the beach in the afternoon.  This was the first hostel since Salvador that really had a backpackers feel to it so we enjoyed meeting new people and the relaxed atmosphere.

The jeep tour was one of the best days of my trip so far.  Joined by our new travel partner Eliza we cruised the Genipabu sand dunes siting on the back of the small jeep in nothing but a bikini.  (Dom excluded of course!)  We saw beautiful landscapes, had thrilling descents and enjoyed the perfect weather.

IMG_2116Along the way we made numerous stops including a sea water lagoon and for lunch, where although the food was too expensive for us, the warm sea water and fantastic body surfing conditions quite made up for it.  The other two stops were the highlights though.  First we went sand sledging down a steep sand dune.  Basically you sit on a wooden board and down you go.  The generator powered device to get back up the hill was also a hoot.  Next we went ziplining across a beautiful lake finishing in the water.  Absolutely brilliant, and the experience was intensified by the operators putting all their strength on the rope so that instead of going down in one big line I bounced along quite happily.

Dom had been going on about Pipa since we started travelling together.  (‘When we get to Pipa Kate, in Pipa we can relax, let’s just make it to Pipa’.)  So Pipa already had magical qualities for me before we arrived.  I was hoping for a laid back not too touristy town where you could lie on the beach and feel like you weren’t sharing it with a million other people and that’s exactly how it was.  Pipa seems to be right on the verge of flipping in to a tourist town, yet somehow manages to keep its charm; locals dancing in the street, the young boys practicing their surfing, smiles all round.

Kate blogWhile there we completed a three day surf course which was heaps of fun, even if we managed to get sunburnt most days.  By the end I was catching some waves by myself and managing to stand up pretty successfully.  Might need to get some more lessons when I get the chance.  Another highlight was visiting Baía dos Golfinhos (Dolphin Beach) which is only accessible during low tide round the cliff face from Pipa’s central beach.  Dolphins really do come to the bay most mornings and we saw them as close as one meter as we swam.  Really quite breath taking.

Otherwise time in Pipa was stress-free.  The days lulled along with absolutely no urgency yet were over in the flash of an eye.  There were things I would have liked to do there IMG_2129but my time simply fell through my fingers like sand.  I could have easily spent weeks there, which I think people often do, but I am glad at least for some full on beach days before my Amazon adventure begins tomorrow. Pipa’s the second place in Brazil I definitely want to go back to!

I’m sitting here back in Olinda once again alone on my big adventure, a weird feeling after travelling with Dom for the past two and a half weeks.  I keep looking over my shoulder and expecting to see his goofy reassuring smile.  You have made this part of my trip so amazing.  Thank you for feeding my Sprite addiction, supporting me with job applications and future life worries and most importantly admiring Havianas at basically every opportunity.  On my side at least, it’s a friendship that I hope to keep for many years to come.

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xoxo

More photos?  Check out my Photo of the Day Brazil album https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152705041795589.1073741841.509745588&type=1&l=a62aac7f3d

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Beach Hopping and Randam Outings

November 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm (Travel)

IMG_1976After a full day of travel I arrived safely in Salvador, managed to find the correct bus and watched in dismay as the sun went down while I was on my way to the hostel.  As a result I arrived at my stop in total darkness with not much of an idea of how to get to my hostel.  Luckily I was saved by a knight in shining armour, Dominic, who after our chance meeting has become my travelling buddy for the last two weeks.  We both had planned to head north up the coast and it has been great having someone to travel with because we get on really well and on our travels haven’t really met too many other backpackers.

Salvador, while very beautiful, was not one of my favourite places.  I found it quite confronting that there were police men  everywhere, at every street corner.  They even told you which streets not to go down!  The city beaches were not particularly nice and overall it just felt quite unsafe to me.  I stayed in Pelourinho and enjoyed walking through the old town admiring the crazy amount of churches.  I spent a lovely day with three travellers visiting Igreja NS do Bonfim which is the church were the fitas (coloured ribbon bracelets) originate from.  Each ribbon is tied with three knots, giving three wishes.  These ribbons are tied to churches and also worn as bracelets.  Legend has it that when the bracelet falls off the wishes will come into fulfilment.  I am still wearing mine!

Salvador did have a cool vibe for going out.  We spent a Tuesday night enjoying free caipirinhas at our hostel before partying with the locals.  Tuesday is the party night in the old town and we enjoyed a live band and then later samba music at a club that spilled out onto the cobbled lane.  My highlight was the most amazing grilled cheese baked by a man who carried his little grill with him.  I’ve been looking for another man like him ever since, but to no avail.  The city was alive with the beat of drums, locals practiced capoeira in the main square and every night there was somewhere within walking distance to appreciate.

IMG_1997Dom and I made our first stop at Praia do Forte to visit the Projeto TAMAR, a non-profit organisation that works towards supporting sea turtles.  Unfortunately there are only five types of sea turtles still alive, but they can all be found in Brazil!  The turtle reserve was really interesting and we got to see four of the five species AND some baby turtles, which were absolutely adorable.  The highlight was getting to feed the turtles.  🙂  The project looks absolutely fantastic, involving many local people and providing jobs as well.  Maybe we will be lucky enough to see some turtles in the wild during our trip as it is nesting season and many of the places on the list also have turtle breeding programs.

We moved on to Maceio after one night because Praia do Forte felt more like a tourist town for Brazilian tourists, plus we only went there to see the turtles.  Here we had only one goal too… take a jangada (traditional sailboat) and visit the natural pools formed by the reef about 2km off the seashore.  The trip on the jangada was pretty cool but the water was not as clear as we were expecting.  We did see some fish but to be honest the drunk Brazilians were more entertaining.  They seem to think being on holiday is all about drinking beer.  I kid you not, we have seen people at the beach with a can of beer in their hand as early as 10am.

IMG_2026Once again we moved on quickly and spent two nights in Olinda.  This lovely city is only 6km north of Recife and we decided to stay there due to the promise of a swimming pool and the feeling that a sleepy town would suit us better.  We are definitely glad we made that decision as Recife did not have such a cool vibe.  In Olinda we had live music every night and the best tapioca served by a smiling lady who thought we were hilarious as we watched our food cook so intently.  The town was lovely to wander through, especially as we visited on a Monday which is generally the rest day.  I loved the colours of the old colonial house, browsing the numerous art studios and admiring the huge giant puppets that feature in the Olinda Carnaval.

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Marker showing the place where the Portuguese founded Recife in 1537, their first capital of Brazil

We didn’t think much of the actual city of Recife (it was a little hard to after picturesque Olinda) but we did enjoy visiting two museums.  First was the Centro Cultural Cais do Sertao Luiz Gonzaga, a museum dedicated to Gonzaga’s music and Pernambuco culture.  The museum was very modern and interactive and although there was much we could not experience due to our level of Portuguese we did enjoy the film installations and listening to all the different types of music.  In particular it was a lot of fun to sing along in the karaoke booths, especially as neither of us are particularly good singers, were not familiar with the songs and of course had trouble reading Portuguese.  Secondly we visited a forró dance museum, which would have been much more interesting if the English had been easier to read.  Too much information, too close together and painted red on a white wall.  We did see the backend of a dance class which was pretty cool.

By the time our two nights were over we were itching to get back to the beach.  Olinda andIMG_2071 Recife are not known for their beaches and in fact you cannot swim at Recife due to sharks!  Before we headed off we had a lovely dinner with Cres from Pantanal fame.  He happened to be in Olinda at the same time as us and it was lovely to see him again and catch up on his travels.  It’s funny how paths can cross at random places.

Next stop Natal.

xoxo

 

P.s  More photos?  Check out my Photo of the Day Album https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152705041795589.1073741841.509745588&type=1&l=a62aac7f3d

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