A Travellerspoint blog

Live Mirth

Drunk again....

storm 31 °C
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Saturday 30.01.07

Once again, i was called behind the bar at the Ipanema hostel, this time for another June Festival party. Festa Junina events feature not only traditional songs and dances, but often involve dressing up in farmers outfits, with chequered shirts and straw hats. Girls add blush and freckles, while boys sport a Frida Kahlo-style monobrow, a big moustache and black out a tooth! Now looking the part, i jumped behind the bar again to help out for the night, amidst enthusiastic dancing and drinking.

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Sleep has become a commodity, to be weighed, valued and ultimately traded off in favour of other pursuits. Like a shark, I doze briefly whenever i can get away with it, and bizarrely find myself more awake after midnight than at 4pm.

The next Saturday saw the results of the New 7 Wonders come in. In a glorious win for democracy, Cristo Redentor was elected as one of the (believe it or not) seven most incredible feats of mankind since the days of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and so forth, thanks to eight or nine million fervent Brasilians cheering him on. Also this night was Live Earth, with concerts held in cities on all habitable continents around the world, including in Rio de Janeiro. Unlike most of the other concerts, ours was free! With a bit of wrangling, I finished work early for the evening and left for the concert with a couple of Dutch guys, Pieter and Jaap, and a Chilean girl named Dani that would soon be working at my hostel.

The streets of Copacabana in the evening were awash with people, flowing like the tide to the eastern part of Copacabana Beach, increasing in depth until we were swallowed, becoming just familiar heads and arms bobbing through a sea of nameless faces. Close to 500,000 people would have been at the concert, and a massive stage was set up, featuring guest speakers, local and international artists, and crosses to Al Gore and performances in other countries. The crowd pushed and shoved as we attempted to squeeze our way through, but as we reached the sand, I found myself dragged forward by the shirt and kissed intensely on the lips by a Brasilian girl. For a full twenty seconds or more we stayed locked together until the moment passed, and with a 'wow!' from her and a devilish smile from me, we waved each other farewell.

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We found a great spot between two lighting towers about a hundred metres back and next to a beer salesman. By the time the tequila and whisky cups arrived, we were already getting pretty trashed. As we danced, swam in the sea and rolled drunkenly on the sand, two local acts, O Rappa and Jorge Ben Jor, were probably the best on stage. I realised some of my favourite moments in Brasil have been when everyone sings the words to famous Brasilian songs. During those moments, an incredible feeling fills the air, a euphoria and togetherness I have seldom felt before in a crowd of unknown people.

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Posted by Jeremy T 11:42 Archived in Brazil Tagged events Comments (0)

Contemporary Encounters of the Art Kind

rain 24 °C
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Saturday 23.06.07

I was called in to work behind the bar for a party at Che Lagarto in Ipanema, an altogether more stylish hostel than the one I work at in Copacabana, and sporting a full bar and menu. It was packed when I arrived, drum 'n' bass and deep house were playing and I instantly got to work, wrestling with the beer taps and smashing the lime and sugar into submission for Capirinhas. Luckily for me, Brasilians seem to prefer an obscene amount of head on their beer, so my less than perfect beer pulling skills went unnoticed more often than not.

I have come to the conclusion that I was employed as a professional socialite at the hostel. I did't really need to do much apart from encourage people to take the tours, challenge them in pool games, get them to buy drinks and press the door button every now and again. Tuesday I found myself in a new position in the other Che Lagarto hostel in Copacabana, just up the road, where I do pretty much the same thing, except the place is inhabited by the Brasilian hockey teams for the Pan American Games, and they don't speak English, drink or take tours, and are in bed by 9.30pm.

We boarded a ferry on Friday, which powered across Guanabara Bay to Niteroi, to see the Museu de Arte Contemporãnea. My first thoughts upon alighting were how different this place appeared compared to Rio. It soon became apparent Niteroi was the equivalent of Rio's Geelong, or maybe San Diego's Tijuana, Santa's Elves, Turner's Hooch or Bush's Cheney. The one that does all the dirty work, so to speak. Most of the locals we spoke to either had no knowledge of the Museum's existence or didn't know how to get there.

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We found it, only a short taxi ride away, in a much more beautiful part of town, looking a lot like the giant flying saucer from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (minus the flashing coloured lights and 5-note tune on repetition). Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the world-famous Brasilian architect, the museum stands perched on a rock like a gleaming white high-hat from Golaith's drum kit, were rock music invented in the days of the Old Testament. Due to oppressive weather conditions, the views to both Pão de Açucar and Cristo Redentor were replaced by various shades of green and grey, as if someone had spilled dirty water all over a paint palette.

The museum featured an exhibition by a Brasilian minimalist artist named Paulo Roberto Leal. In the grand central circular space of the museum, the effect of his giant Tetris-block shapes and Mondrian-esque primary colour combinations was lost somewhat, but the edge galleries on both floors, were a better place to explore and appreciate the more abstract and interactive of his pieces.

That night, we went out to a massive nightclub in Lapa just behind the Arcos named Fundaçao Progresso, where two bands were playing. The first group played Samba and traditional Festa Junina (June Festival) music, and in between the bands, we played sideshow games for prizes, such as fishing for polystyrene balls, or throwing rubber balls into a clown's mouth. Of course drunk again, we waded through the streets, filled to capacity with people and their rubbish to a taxi to take us home at the end of the night.

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Posted by Jeremy T 11:30 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Costa del Oil Part II

sunny 31 °C
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Tuesday 19.06.07

After a leisurely swim on a blustery day at Ipanema, me and an Englishman (apparently an ex-Manchester City player), went to watch a five-a-side beach futebol match. The skill of the players was mind-blowing, the players dancing across the sand, bouncing the ball on their heads or feet as they dodged their opposition. Soon, we were offered a game, played to best of three goals, and with the two of us, and three skillful brasilians on our side, we took the field. Never have I felt so unfit, at times knee deep in sand, breathless whilst being deftly side-stepped by my counterparts. Despite this, I scored a goal and we won 3-0!

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Wednesday and Thursday ran off singing La Bamba somewhere between the beach and an empty plastic cup formerly containing Cuba Libre, which left Friday to explain my whereabouts:

We were picked up at 7.30am for a tour to the Costa Verde, in the west of the state of Rio de Janeiro. After an hour or so, the road was meandering around a coast littered with islands, but the vistas of beauty around every corner had been invaded by characterless towns, industrial harbours, oil tankers, and small patches of water carrying unclean-looking slicks, froth and rubbish with the tide.

Sailing off in an elegant boat, able to hold 60 people or more, we passed numerous stately dwellings, some only accessible by boat and perched on the water amongst trees with their own private beaches or piers. Our first stop was Angra dos Reis, a town that has all the charm of a pack ox, thanks to the two oil rigs parked out the front in various stages of construction. Like the lumbering ox though, this town pulls its weight as an important centre of the oil extraction business that has taken over the area. Closer in, we came to rest amongst fishing boats, whilst people boarded, and herons and vultures alike scanned the harbour for signs of food. The town, climbing the hills behind, was a mess of concrete and brick, homes of industry workers, painted painfully brightly in some instances. Here in Angra lies the essence of the Costa Verde - fishing and oil. These two industries are locked in a tumultuous symbiotic relationship, pushing each other to destruction amidst violence and broken promises to their surrounds, all in the name of Ordem e Progresso (Brasil's motto).

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We lay anchor at a tiny islet named Ilha Botanica, surrounded by beautiful water and sandy beach to have a swim, and apart from distant oil rigs in sight, it was easy to imagine a little slice of paradise here. Little islands such as this were dotted everywhere, formed volcanically like the mountains of most of the state, and gorgeous coves abounded, but signs of progress in the region were never far away. After seafood for lunch, we headed to our last stop, Ilha Grande. 'Great Island' is a popular tourist spot, as well as a weekend getaway for locals. Once again, the beach was set in a beautiful cove, with an old white church overlooking the scene.

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Back in the city, I joined a group of wealthy Cariocas to visit a beautiful bar, Estrela de Lapa. It was without doubt the nicest bar i have visited so far in the city, with a fine selection of Cachaça including my favourite, Sagatiba. It was in celebration of a special event, the June festival, which was marked with a 9-piece samba band playing traditional songs and dances, some of which reminded me of a cross between a polka and the Hokey Pokey. Dancing and laughing until close, we left to enjoy 24-hour pizza in Ipanema before heading home.

Posted by Jeremy T 09:45 Archived in Brazil Tagged boating Comments (0)

City of Ex-Men (and Women)

sunny 32 °C
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Sunday 17.06.07

Praia de Copacabana, one of the world's most famous beaches, would be wide enough to land an open-topped 747 on, wings and all, were it equipped with a roll-cage, giant dune-buggy tires and a couple of hundred surfboards tied on top. There are goals for beach futebol matches set up permanently all over the sand - enough area for two fields and a volleyball or futvolley court side by side with plenty of space left for the Brasilians to sunbathe while wearing swimming gear at least three sizes too small.

Big dumping waves broke close to the shore today, and the undertow pulled stronger than a road train on the Sturt Highway. Nevertheless, I thought I'd try a spot of body surfing, and, for not first time in my life, found myself breaking upside-down along with the wave, with what felt like plenty of time to contemplate my fate on the way down. Now carrying plenty of sand with me, despite the fact I was wearing no underwear, i joined the others to get changed back at home.

Gigantic Cemitario de São João Batista occupies a huge space in Botafogo under the gaze of Cristo Redentor, and is just a quick taxi ride through a tunnel from the hostel. Offerings lie out the front for those inside, such as bottles of alcohol, cigarettes left to burn down, various biscuits and bread, and strangely, a basket of rotting meat and a dead rooster. As we entered this place of quiet repose, all else ceased to exist beyond the cold stone structures and the odd tree or creeping bush. This city of death imitated that city of life, Rio de Janeiro, still bustling with energy outside the gates. Of course the famous, important and wealthy took central position with their family mausoleums, busts and statues. Thousands of other elaborate structures were perched on top of lavish tombs, adorned with crosses, angels, Jesus and Mary, like stone wedding cakes for the dead.

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Toward the edges lay the middle classes, and climbing the hills, almost favela-like, were the resting places of those unable to afford an ornate memorial. Rows and rows of sealed stone sets of drawers stood, some with their own little flower boxes. The pots, flowers long gone, like the souls unable to tend them, were overgrown by moss or now containing only barren earth. Above this loomed yet another favela, with lively music floating down onto the silence below, like raindrops falling in a desert.

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While on our way to Ipanema at night, our combi van strangely began ascending the winding road to favela Cantagalo. Instantly we were suspicious, and soon we were halted at a police roadblock. The police, two with fingers poised on triggers of their handguns, and one wielding an assault rifle pulled us and the driver out for questioning. From what I understood they were either stopping the vans routinely to stop drug-runs for tourists to the favelas, or to curb recent robberies of tourists by vans such as these. Either way, we were eventually set free, stirred but not shaken, back down the hill to Ipanema.

A SADDENING STATISTIC ABOUT SAVING SUPERMARKET SHOPPING BAGS

We all know saving plastic bags is a great idea, and of course in Australia we have the green cloth bags that can be reused. A sobering thought is, for all the work we do in that regard, the same cannot be said for many other countries. Take Brasil for example:

Brasil contains 180 million people - that's one Aussie for every 9 Brasilians. They barely ever fill the bags to the top, and always double bag. Lets say a quarter of all plastic bags in Australia were saved by the green bag, and the average Australian would otherwise normally use 4 plastic bags a week. That makes 60 million bags per week, a saving of 20 million bags. Using that formula, each Brasilian would use at least 10 in the same amount of time, making 2160 million plastic bags every week! Thankfully, as a country becomes wealthier, it tends to become more environmentally aware, so we may see improvements on this (and hopefully the recycling and indoor smoking fronts) in the coming years.

Posted by Jeremy T 09:32 Archived in Brazil Tagged educational Comments (0)

Booze Schmooze

Doing as travellers do best....

sunny 34 °C
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Wednesday 13.06.07

Day after day of great weather meant going to the beach was inevitable, and we caught the bus for a 10 minute ride to one of the most famous in the world, Ipanema. On the sand, we were soon offered beers, corn on the cob and a whole lot of random stuff we didn't want, but apparently weren't allowed to pass não off as an answer. The view all around us, of sand, sky, ocean, mountains, buildings, islands and gorgeous cariocas was of the kind to bring forth in future moments of nostalgia.

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There are little bars all over Copacabana that serve rice and beans and a meat of your choice. For 6 Reals (AUS$3.50), they are pretty much the cheapest places to eat. The beer doesn't come much cheaper either, served by the longneck in big yellow cosies and shared around in table glasses, with little pork scratchings to snack on. It is also here, of course, that the neighbourhood drunks gather, sometimes asking for money to buy more booze, other times spouting off incredible epiphanies in Portuguese or falling over.

It was a similar story the next day, while waiting for a friend of Kyle's from favela Cantagalo at Copacabana beach. Our white skin acted as a vendor magnet, who attacked us in waves, trying to sell us pretty much anything except beach towels. At this time of day, half the crowd was reclining, becoming ultraviolet sponges, while the other half was watching them, each other, or even themselves to comical degrees.

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We all ventured to Apoador Point, between the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. After a big swim, I sat on the rocks amidst barnacles, limpets and sea plants, watching the water froth and boil in front of me, creating whirlpools and waterfalls as it relentlessly attacked the land. Its a comforting fact, that no matter where one is, the same fundamental forces are at work.

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Friday morning we went to the huge market above Urugaiana metro station in the centre of Rio. Fed by throngs of people, the market has become so obese that it now occupies several surrounding blocks, with permanent shops transformed into bargain bins in themed areas, perhaps with suitable names as Plastic Trophy Cul-de-Sac, or 'It fell off the back of a truck' Lane. The majority of temporary stands sold either football shirts, pirated music & DVDs or mobile phone paraphernalia.

Che Lagarto Hostels boat party occupied the Friday night time slot, and when we arrived at Marina Gloria, on Guanabara Bay not far south of the centre of Rio, everyone waiting for us on the boat were already (sea)legless. Loaded with sixty tourists and local staff from three hostels, half a tonne of meat for Churrasco, and enough Rum and Cachaça to blow the whole thing out of the water, the boat spluttered loudly into the bay.

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Watched perhaps by just the stars and the odd low-flying jet aircraft, we transferred said alcohol, by way of Cuba Libre (Rum and Coke) and Capirinha, into our bloodstreams and stumbled around, but only far enough to load up on more meat or a drink refill at the back of the boat. A few, whose insides must have resembled that of hot lava lamps, were vomiting over the side, but most kept it together until we docked at 1am, ready to party the rest of the night away in Lapa.

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Posted by Jeremy T 07:53 Archived in Brazil Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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