Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

The AmericasI have travelled the length and bredth of the Americas since I started this trip back in December, but the time has come for me to move on.

It also means that I will no longer need to keep butchering the Spanish language that I have learned to some degree as I have moved south from the USA.

There have certainly been plenty of highs as well as a few lows to keep me grounded on the road, but as ever it is time to move on because the planet has so many more waves on offer for me to enjoy along the rest of this trip.

Las OlasRather fittingly I saw this road sign next to the pizza place on my last night in Chile.

It translates to The Waves, which is an odd name for a road if you ask me, but the sign was pointing westward towards the east and that is exactly where I am going.

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World record holder Serginho Laus surfs the Pororoca tidal bore wave past debris from the Amazon jungle on the Araguari river in northern BrazilThe time has come for me to leave Brazil and I am going to have to do that without seeing the world’s longest ‘wave’.

The Pororoca like the Severn Bore is a tidal bore, which is a phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave of water that travels up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current.

Pororoca 2The Pororoca has waves up to 4 metres high that travel as much as 800 km inland upstream on the Amazon River and adjacent rivers. Its name comes from the indigenous Tupi language, and translates to “great destructive noise”.

It occurs at the mouth of the river where its waters meet the Atlantic Ocean, and is best seen in February and March, so I can’t blame the Panamanian customs for missing it.

The wave has become popular with surfers and an annual championship has been held in São Domingos do Capim. However, surfing the Pororoca is particularly dangerous, as the water contains a huge amount of debris from the shores of the river. The record for the longest time captured on tape riding the wave is a staggering 43 minutes!

Piranha

I had talked about surfing this with my Brazilian friend Rommel before he died, however it is probably just as well that I didn’t have the time to have a go at it on this trip.

Apart from crocodiles, cayman, etc living in the river the Amazon is also home to it’s own very angry fish. The Piranha!

Check out this footage of a few people who did manage to surf it a few years back: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a_2g6uTDb0

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Hotel De Cataratas AerielI only had a very short time available to me in the Iguacu National Park to enjoy the falls and the wildlife living nearby, so I treated myself to a stay at the Hotel De Cataratas.

It is the only hotel in the park and as you can see from this aerial view is right next to one section of the massive waterfalls. 

Hotel De Cataratas RoomThe hotel is operated by the Orient Express group who run the trains fromLondon to Istanbul, and a similar level of opulence to what you would expect there can be found here.

It is however far from cheap and I think I spent more on one night here than I did in the whole of El Salvador and Honduras combined! 

Hotel De Cataratas Pool 3Having spent plenty of time in hotels before and during this trip I have become rather good at making the most of the facilities on offer anywhere I go.

Although it is the winter here in the middle of the rainforest it was still more than 25C so I spent a great afternoon sunbathing on the loungers by the pool. All the while being brought olives, peeled fruit, nuts and caipirinhas by the retinue of staff who really didn’t have much to do. There was even time for a deep tissue massage before I left.

It was an extravagance, but made sure I left Brazil with some wonderful memories despite the surf not being up to much while I was at the coast.

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Iguacu Falls

The Iguazu Falls, the Iguazú Falls, the Iguassu Falls or even the Iguaçu Falls (depending on where you come from) are the waterfalls of the Iguazu River on the border of the Brazilian state of Paraná and the Argentine province of Misiones.

The falls divide the river into the upper and lower Iguazu, and are the main reason that I came to the Iguacu National Park. My guide book described them as making Niagara Falls look like a mere trickle.

The Iguazu River flows through Brazil for most of its course. Below its confluence with the San Antonio River, the Iguazu River forms the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. 

IMAG0125Thanks to Panamanian customs seeing Argentina from across the other side of the river is as close as I will get to that huge country.

It is a shame because all the Argentinians I have met on this trip have been fantastic people and few have anything like as much animosity towards the UK as their Prime Minister Cristina Fernández de Kirchner would have us all believe.

IMAG0154There are developments to allow tourists as close as possible to the falls themselves on both sides of the river.

This walkway (that I really have no idea how one would go about building) sticks out right into the middle of the falls from the Brazilian side. 

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As you can see, you get drenched going out along the walkway and the down pressure of all the water going over the falls creates so much wind that the spray is driven into you and soaks you in seconds.

The falls which actaully compromise over 270 separate waterfalls stretching over 3km are breathtaking. 

DCIM100GOPRO

On the Brazilian side this is the last place to get close to the falls but you can almost stick your hand into the torrent of water.

I took some video while I was there which you can check out here using the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Qo8ctWnmk

I can admit to not noticing the rather menacing spiders lurking above me whilst filming! 

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I spent an entire afternoon just marvelling at the power of this place which my pictures will never do justice to.

It was awesome.

Nuff said!

IMAG0131Any foolish notions of bombing in were quickly set packing you would not even last seconds in the water, with or without surfboard!

The only other thing to report was this amusing sign.

I didn’t know banisters could drive!

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JaguarI left the coast because I was flying down to Foz De Iguacu in Brazil to check out the Iguacu National Park.

It is a vast nature reserve extending 225 thousand hectares into both Brazil and Argentina that was set up in the 1930s to protect the local fauna and flora.

Caiman

It is home to more than fifty species of wild cats including pumas, jaguars and ocelots

The River Iguacu that flows through the middle of the park is home to cayman, and represents the border between Argentina and Brazil.Toucan

There are also countless birds including many eagles and toucans such as the one I spotted here.

In the park there are also a huge number of deer, monkeys, and a several very poisonous snakes and spiders. DCIM100GOPRO

However the things that I had the most contact with are these little fluffy things called coatis.

Don’t let their appearance deceive you though, they have very sharp clawws and have long sinced recognised that carrier bags carried by tourists are a potential source of easy food.

DCIM100GOPROThroughout the day I saw several people fighting them off after the coati had crept up on their purchases from the souvenir shop unnoticed.

They would immediately set about ripping any packaging to pieces.

To try and minimise the ongoing assaults the national park have put up signs all over the park asking you not to feed the animals.

However and I checked this several times, nowhere did it say that you were not allowed to get them drunk!

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Barra-da-TijucaIn a desperate attempt to bag another surf whilst in Brazil I went down the coast to the other contest site at Barra de Tijuca. It didn’t take long in the taxi and was pretty cheap.

I was hoping to see some of the surf you see here, which regularly breaks on the beach there.Barra Surf

However what I found upon arrival was much more like this. 

Not in least bit inspring and the waves were not even worth putting on my boardshorts to try and go for a bodysurf.

(I write this historically and am a tad peeved that a swell arrived the following day as soon as I had left the coast. As I have said before though, that is surfing.)

Barra De Tijuca Sign 3It was good to see the machinations of the world tour once more even if I didn’t get to see the top guys surf.

Incidentally South African Jordy Smith won the event taking him to number 2 in the world rankings behind the current leader and beaten finalist in Rio, Ariano de Souza from Brazil

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rio-carnival-samba-women

Rio is famous the world over for its carnival before the start of Lent on Mardi Gras. I believe it stretches out over a few days due to the scale of the event but it is certainly a bit different to the pancake day which is how we celebrate the occasion back in the UK.

It would have been good to be in town during the festivities but I would have had to miss out on so many of the great waves I enjoyed through Central America and we all know what my priorities are on this trip.

The costumes and the of course the women are amazing and it is certainly something I would return to Brazil for at a later date.

Sambódromo 2The Sambódromo is a permanent grandstand lined parade avenue which is used during Carnival.

I did get to see the Sambodromo but was more likely to see tumble weed when I was there than a parade of dancing girls.

Sambódromo 4It was hard to believe that such a dull street is party central for the entire planet every year.

Apparantly anybody can take part if they put together a costume. They usually cost hundreds of pounds and take hours of work, but I am not sure the world is ready for me in sequined hot pants just yet.

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Girl From IpanemaDuring my stay in Rio I have been based in the Ipanema area of town.

It is most famous worldwide for the tall and tan and young and lovely, girl from Ipanema who goes walking by.

For those unfamiliar with the song, it is a Bossa Nova classic and has been sung by many great singers such as Frank Sinatra and more recently was covered by Amy Winehouse. 

Cafe in Ipanema

The lyrics to the song were written in this cafe by a bloke who would have coffee here every day and see a stunning girl walking past everyday.

Garote de Ipanema is the Portuguese translation of the song’s title.

I stopped in for a bite to eat and enjoyed the steady procession of delightful young things that still walk by on their way to the beach.

Girls from IpanemaAt the beach itself there are still no shortage of muses for any songwriters that are in need of inspiration.

I had a brief chat with this young lady, but she did not seem to be too impressed by my offer of composing a song on my ukulele for her.

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Arpoador 5

Like the Billabong Pro itself I am a bit stuffed by the lack of waves at the moment.

I am having fun in Rio regardless but there really are not much in the way of waves. This picture is one of the contest sites and you can see the huge lighting pylon that they use to illuminate the sea if things get a bit dark. 

Arpoador 4The waves really weren’t anything to write home about and I didn’t take my camera out with me when I went body-surfing again in amongst the crowd of people trying to do the same, so I don’t have any exciting pictures to show you.

However I couldn’t pass up the opprtunity to surf one of the stops of the world tour, especially when the whole of the surf industry was in town.

Surfing here means I have actually bagged the Atlantic on my travels. It is an old friend even if we are used to playing together on the other side of the water.

I can claim surfing in Brazil too, although I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in the surf on offer. Nothing you can do about Mother Nature though. Surfing is just like that sometimes. Waves breaking all week long when you are in the office and then nothing at the weekend when you are free.

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Air France 447Air France Flight 447 was a scheduled flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

On 1 June 2009 the Airbus A330-203 aircraft serving the flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

All of the 216 passengers and 12 aircrew were killed.

Rommel and Emily at Severn boreSadly two of the many friends from all over the world that I have made through surfing were among the people on that flight. Jose & Isis were travelling between the two countries to spend some time with their families.

I knew Jose (or ‘Rommel’ as we knew him) through having spent so much time on the water with him. He was, by a long way, the best surfer I have ever been surfing with.

This picture was taken on the day we surfed the Severn Bore together back in the UK. As you can gather by the outfit the water in the UK was somewhat colder than Rommel was used to here in Brazil. It never stopped him going though.

Flower Spot 3At the time of the crash I was getting treated pretty awfully at work and was dealing with some painful things outside of work too, which did not allow me to grieve properly. Consequently the incidents of that week have remained a very raw subject for me, and I couldn’t visit Rio without paying my respect.

I found a quiet spot just around the headland from the Billabong Pro surf contest site and spent some time thinking about the people involved before tossing the roses I had bought into the waves below.

‘Via Con Dios’ my friends.

 

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