Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Survived!

I made it through Carnival! Wow, I feel like one of the walking wounded. After 6 days and nights of debauchery, I am just spent. Mattis and I were seriously happy that it was over, I just do not have the party endurance for this kind of thing any more. I am glad I did it as it was one of those events that like the running of the bulls, I just had to do before I died. I can honestly say though that I have no desire to do it again. If by some chance I were to find myself in Brazil for Carnival in the future, I would only go out two or three nights and space them out. Every time you go out for Carnival you end up seeing the sunrise. I hate that! I like the way we do it back home where you go out have dinner at a decent hour, maybe go to a bar or dancing and head home before or around 2. That way you can do something with your day and wake up at a decent hour. Man, I am getting old. If I would have come here at 19 or 21, I would have been in hog heaven!

It was a great experience though, like nothing I have ever seen or done before. Pictures, unfortunately, will be slow in coming as Mattis´ camera got stolen on the last night and so we are trying to find some to post as I did not take any. Hopefully we can find a few on his computer to post as we had some great ones. Some of the videos he took were really fantastic too, so it is a shame he got his camera stolen.

I am heading home tomorrow and am glad to be getting back to the states. I am upset that I will not get to do any trekking in Patagonia as that is something I have wanted to do for many years, but oh well, there is always next time.

For now I can leave Brazil feeling that I had a wonderful experience, met some great new friends and really went wild for Carnival. Until the next adventure!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Brazil, Brazil, Brazil.

Carnival is mad, totally mad. I have been to quite a few parties in my day and I can safely say that this takes the cake.

The first night we took it easy as I was still feeling a bit sick. Trying to sleep while samba bands blare their way down the street outside of your room is difficult to say the least, but we managed. Speaking of our room, boy did we get horn-shwaggled! I think this room was Quasimotos old hang out. It’s at the top of a 6 story building, accessed by a winding wooden staircase. After making the ascent you are rewarded with a wonderfully tiny attic room with a slanted ceiling so low you can’t even stand up straight! We have one lovely window about the size of a postage stamp in the corner and two beds that must have come from the finest local prison. All that at the exorbitant Carnival prices! Oh well, its cool and dry and right in the middle of the action, so who cares. The owners are super nice too, if a little hyper. These guys like to party too and could not comprehend that I was not going to go out the first night. They told me to just drink extra if I was sick!

The atmosphere here is like nothing I have experienced before. All day and night groups of revelers walk the streets in groups playing music, wearing elaborate costumes and dancing. And EVERYONE dances, all the time! No joke, I have seen children in diapers here dancing the samba better than I can. It is a part of their blood here and the complex steps of the dance they have down before they can properly walk. Everywhere the people dance, even your waiter or the police (who thankfully are everywhere), it’s funny.

The second night of carnival we went out with a group of Aussies we had met in Rio. We went to a part of town called Campo Grande, which is one of the three carnival areas. We are staying in Pelorino which is in the old town and is a beautiful area of cobbled streets and traditional architecture. The Pelorino is a family oriented area although the party is still pretty wild. Campo Grande is definitely more of a young party area and it had some of the large floats you see on TV. We had a really good time walking the streets and drinking cheap beers with our friends. I took it easy though and called it a night early.

The next night we went to the Baha part of town which is meant to be the big, crazy and most elaborate party, and we bought Bloco shirts which are expensive but allow you to walk along with the parade in and among the big floats. That was incredible! We were in a group of thousands and everyone dances down the carnival route next to their float drinking and going crazy to live music from the biggest groups in Brazil. All around us on both sides of the street were thousands upon thousands of people rocking out on the sidewalks in apartments, clubs, everywhere. It was just out of control and one of the most fun nights of my life.

One of the strange things about the event that I knew about but Mattis did not, was the tradition of the boys trying to kiss as many girls as they could. It is a part of the event for a guy to grab a girl that he thinks is pretty and plant a big wet one right on her lips. The guys try to kiss as many girls as they can, the girls try to kiss the cutest guy they can and hang on to him all night. It creates a weird dynamic of girls trying to avoid being kissed by guys they don’t like and guys trying to woo every girl they lay eyes on. To someone who didn’t know better it would look like repeated sexual assault, but everyone, you and old, is doing it.

As I had said I knew what to expect coming into this but Mattis did not. The first time we saw a young guy very eagerly trying to kiss a girl who was trying to get away, Mattis reacted the way either of us would have back home and flattened the guy! I had to jump on him and tell all the people giving us dirty looks that we were just dumb tourists and explain to him that that is the way things worked here. He thought I had lost my mind until he saw the same thing repeated over and over again. Then, enough beers into the night and he was running around partying it up. I laughed at that as the guy lecturing me about passing up on culture was rocking out with the best of them!

We met a ton of amazing Brazilians again and had a simply awesome night. We were dancing and drinking and just loving life. It started raining sometime around 2 or 3 in the morning and no one even noticed. It felt good actually as it was a warm tropical rain and everyone just started making out and dancing more! I took it easy on the alcohol again but had a wonderful time and am looking forward to doing it all again. Although tonight, we bought tickets for a Camarote which is a space on a big platform where you hold still and dance and drink and eat and watch the parade instead of joining in. I have a feeling it wont be as good, but we want to try all aspects of the Carnival since we will not likely return. For the record, as I know people will ask, yes I kissed a few girls too, it is almost impossible to avoid it (not that I was trying to avoid it!). Girls would just come up and start dancing with you and plant one on you, then the kiss has to be good or everyone boos! So you really have to put your energy into it or look like a silly gringo! It makes for a unforgettable night of wild dancing, kissing, drinking and generally being really happy all night.

If anyone out there is contemplating Carnival, go for it, it is unlike anything I have ever experienced and is well worth the money. I hope everyone back home is well! I will post pics tomorrow of the following day, the internet is really slow today.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brazil, top three countries I have ever been to.

This was our spot in Rio, we ate here everyday. Great food and super friendly staff.

The Botafogo side of the stadium.

The Flamenco side.

A shot of the Marvelous City from the top of Sugar Loaf.

Our gang at the soccer match.
Brazil is just flat out an amazing place and Rio specifically is wonderful. So far we have met nothing but incredibly nice people and been having a great time. On top of that I get to hang out with my best bud after a year away. Mattis and I lived together for 8 years, so to say that we are close is an understatement, the guy is like a brother to me and being able to hang out again in such a cool place has been a really fantastic experience.

Brazil is a country full of friendly people, super friendly. Even the touts and street vendors, who in other countries can be a major nuisance, here will go out of their way to help you out without expecting anything in return. Everyone loves to dance and sing and is always smiling. People here seem very happy.

We went to a soccer game last week which was a really cool experience. It was the two biggest teams from Rio, and arch rivals: Flamenco and Botafogo. I have always wanted to go to a Soccer game in a big Latin American city as they are so passionate about the game and it was definitely worth the money. The crowds go nuts, they sing songs the entire game, wave huge flags, beat drums, dance. The atmosphere is fantastic. They don’t serve alcohol at the games, and I could see why, it would just get out of control. They even had helicopters flying over head with police officers carrying machine guns!

Soccer is not my game, but it was pretty neat being there. Botafogo was winning with an early goal but in the last 15 seconds Flamenco scored with a truly impressive leaping side kick (I am just describing what it looked like, I have no idea of what the actual move was called!) to tie the game and the place went nuts. It was really fun.

The weather turned beautiful that day, and stayed so for the rest of the time we were in Rio. We hit the beach and soaked up some rays, swam and had a nice chill one. Brazilians just do not like wearing clothes, is my theory. At the beach or cruising the streets of the city the guys wear soongas, speedos, or little shorts and the girls are very nearly nude. They have thong bottoms and the top has just enough material to cover the naughty bits. They sell beer on the beach for about a buck to a buck fifty and everyone hangs out and chit chats with each other or plays some sport. Needless to say, Mattis and I definitely enjoyed the day!

Our last day in Rio, Mattis went on a tour of the city and I went on a boat cruise around the harbor. The boat cruise came with all you can eat food and alcohol (not bad for $30!) and was full of 20 something Brazilians and travelers from all over the world. Mattis couldn’t believe that I was passing up a chance to gain some culture in favor of going to a party. That made me laugh as not too long ago Mattis was the one always wanting to go out and do fun stuff and I was the serious one always working. It just goes to show that people are constantly changing.

The boat cruise was fantastic, I hung out with a big group of Aussies who, as typical Aussies, were a ton of fun. We sailed around dancing, swimming, drinking Caprrinhas and eating Brazilian bar-b-que. It was one of the most fun days I have had in a long time. A little too much fun, unfortunately as I basically pulled an all nighter, only getting about two hours sleep before getting up to catch a flight to Slavador where we now are. On the flight I started getting chills and my muscles were aching, then by the time we got to our hostel I had a scorching fever and nasty cough. I was worried I had Malaria or something as I was pouring sweat and having difficulty breathing. We got to a pharmacy and I got some medicine and by about midnight the fever broke and I was feeling a little less like I was going to die.

Slavador is gearing up for Carnival around us right now and there is electricity in the air. This is going to be a crazy good time, you can just feel it. Carnival in Salvador is the biggest party in the world, and something Mattis and I have always wanted to do. I am going to take it easy tonight as I am feeling a lot better and don’t want to regress, but I am not going to miss out on this just because of a little bug. It is a shame I wont be getting down to Argentina as I really wanted to do some trekking there, but it is out of my control. Brazil though, is turning out to be plenty of fun and full of new experiences.

If anyone out there reading this is considering a vacation in the near future, think about Brazil. It is an amazing place, and easily one of the best I have ever been to. I will absolutely be returning.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rio, The Marvelous City, is aptly named.

Some pics and a video thanks to my buddy, Mattis.

Rio is an incredible place, it definitely lives up to all of my expectations. Brazil is one of those countries that has always captured my imagination. It brings exotic images to mind of the Amazon, beaches, and beautiful women. To be here now and see it all confirmed is really cool.

the city itself is a mix of old and new, with skyscrapers sitting right next to stone buildings that are hundreds of years old. There is also a striking mix of poverty and wealth. The city is long and narrow, crowded between the beaches (which are beautiful) and the mountains. The further from the beach you go up into the mountains the poorer it becomes. The flavelas, or shanty towns, are very dangerous and home to extreme poverty. But only a few blocks close to the water and you have beautiful tree lined streets and lifestyles very similar to the USA.

Speaking of which, the people here are amazing. They are really outgoing and eager to talk to you , even if you have no common language! Portuguese is tough to understand as unlike Spanish, it is not phonetic. It sounds a lot different than you would think looking at it written. There are lots of sh and z sounds and they speak pretty fast, making it difficult to pick up words. However the natural friendliness of the people tends to make communication no problem.

It seems like a lot of the people here are really into fitness as well as everywhere you see people jogging, cycling, playing volleyball, soccer, or footvolley (volleyball with your feet). Most of the guys go around shirtless and most of them are ripped! The girls as has been said a million times, are very beautiful as well. The people here also LOVE to party. They go out early and all night, usually until the sun comes up.

Last night we went out to a part of town called Lapa with a group of 25 backpackers and had a great time. The entire section of town is one great big party, with people walking the streets drinking, eating street food, going into and out of bars and clubs. There are Samba bands on the street and people dance anywhere and everywhere. It felt like a festival there were so many people, but its like that every Friday and Saturday night! We had a great time dancing with the locals who like Colombians, are very good. The culture here is very exuberant and it seems like everyone loves to live.

Mattis and I also went out with a local named Rafeal who is a friend of a Brazilian guy Mattis met traveling in Russia named Luciano. Rafeal took us to a great club not knowing us from a can of paint and introduced us to all his friends and gave us the VIP treatment just off of the good word of his buddy. That is pretty typical of the people here.

We are going to do a tour of the city but it has been raining during the day for the past few days, unfortunately. We also plan on going to watch a soccer game tomorrow night which should be really fun. After that, we wrap up our time in Rio and head up to Salvador for Carnival which if normal life here in Rio is any indication, should be insane.

I will upload some pics tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Made it!

Well, a long long journey later I am in Rio, tired and in dire need of a shower, but well. It is so wonderfully beautiful here! The weather is perfect, I left behind hail and snow back home, if you can believe that for the California coast (I have never in my life seen the hills near my house snow capped) to come to amazing white sand beaches and perfect 75 degree weather. This is nice.

The city is great too, I have not seen enough to give a full report, but suffice it to say that this is a beach lover´s paradise. There are more beautiful people strutting around here than I have seen in a while. I am definitely going to enjoy my three weeks and I am stoked to be seeing my best buddy soon as I can find the hostel! It´s always a bit of an adventure getting your bearings in a new place, but that is part of the adventure. I have it narrowed down now and it only took an hour, which is pretty good considering I have not slept a full night in well over 24 hours and speak only a few words of Portuguese. Luckily some friendly locals have pointed me in the right direction, everyone so far has been very friendly and helpful, which is always a pleasure.

I will post pictures as soon as I take some! Love to everyone back home, I made it safe and sound.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A new year of my life, a new adventure!

Well, I am 28 today, survived another year, and today I am also beginning a new adventure. I am off to Brazil to meet up with my best buddy to explore and to celebrate carnival, something we have always wanted to do. It should be a wonderful time and I am very excited about it.

Due to unforeseen events in my personal life, I have to cut this trip shorter than expected. I will only be gone for the month of February, so no Argentina this time around, or trekking in Tierra del Fuego which is a bummer, but is unavoidable.

So, this will be a relatively short three week adventure. Funny how experience alters your perceptions. I am bringing a little duffle bag and that's it, I barely even thought about what I would bring, in my mind I barely register a three week trip when a year ago that would have been a major expedition.

I will post regularly about my adventures with my friend, Mattis and look forward to seeing what the largest country in South America has to offer.