03.01.2008 - 25.01.2008 20 °C
Ahhh.... finally we are in Brazil - the land of the Samba, Capoeira & Caprinha amongst other delights. It also has an extremely strong currency which makes it the most exp country in South America. The Real had gone up by at least 40% against the sterling in the last 4 years - 15% in the last 12 months alone!! No wonder so many backpackers avoid Brazil. It took us a few days to get used to the high prices.... but it is Brazil after all. The plan was to head down the Brazilian Coast upto Rio and then head inland to the Pantanal and Iguazu falls before heading into Argentina.
We landed in Belem which is abit of a dump, and then took a bus the next day for Sobral (24 hr journey). From Sobral we had to take a taxi to Jericoacoara which is a pretty little beach town. There was a lot made out about the place, but the beach wasn´t that great. We stayed there for 3 days and then made our way to Olinda. Olinda is a small town by the coast which is famed for its museums and holding one of the best carnivals in Brazil. We headed to Maracaipe beach after a couple of days at Olinda - this was a much smaller and quieter beach town - and the beach was fantastic. Spent 3 lovely days there before heading on to Salvador.
Salvador is in the Bahian state - this state is the Brazilian Africa. Salvador probably also hosts the best carnival in Brazil. The Rio carnival is famed for its glamour, but its in Salvador where they party hard. It seemed that everywhere people were just waiting for the carnival to begin. There were rehearsals going on everywhere in the streets, there seemed to be a party breaking out everywhere you go and people practicing capoeira in the evenings. Salvador is a great place to unwind in the mornings and party in the evenings. They had a celebration (Festival of Bonfin) one day - which is supposed to be the biggest celebration outside of the carnival, where there was a carnival like procession and we got a little taste of what it would be like in the Carnival. We also managed to go to a concert by one of the bands who would be playing at the carnival.
After 4 days in Salvador we headed to Rio - took us 28 hours in the bus. We have been in Rio for nearly a week now and have only seen the sun yesterday.... its been cloudy and drizzly all week - just like London!!! We managed to catch a domestic football match at the famous Maracana - it looks much smaller than I imagined. Football matches in South America are great to watch just because of the supporters - all of them sing for the whole match - and sing even louder if they are winning. We went to a favela tour where they showed us the biggest slum in Rio, and Latin America (small compared to Kibera in Nairobi though) - and thankfully it was not as dangerous as the City of God slum... However, these slums are much more developed than the Kenyan ones, with most of the amenities available (sometimes scarce) and there was one building which had a rooftop pool!! Last night we went to see a Samba school rehearsal for the carnival. Carnival for these Samba schools is serious business - there is a competition every year for the best school. The one we went to has won it for 4 of the last 5 years. There were thousands of perople who paid to see these rehearsals. Pretty amazing stuff.
Tomorrow we are off to Campo Grande for the Pantanal.