Monday, July 31, 2006

Chan Chan, Peru

From dust to dust.

The great city of Chan-Chan was the capital of the Moche Empire, just before the Inka took over and annex them in bloody negotiations. The city is just outside of Trujillo and is left alone with no protection. The city that at one point hosted more than 30,000 people is estimated to have more than 100,000 structures. When you walk in this gigantic cemetery of human construction, the weight of the 20 centuries Moche culture fell on you. You move around in a ghost town full of sand. The wind shaping the left over structure will finish the job of the Spanish and the robbers who destroyed the city.

We visited the Huaca Arco Iris (Temple of the Dragon), which dedicated to the rain. It was the only temple from the Moche culture which was painted. Gold was its colour and faked the Spanish on their way to the city of El Dorado.

The Museum of Chan-Chan is just here to show that Peru still have some work to do in preserving its own culture. But the main attraction is the visit of the Palacio Tahudi (Governor Palace). The size of the edifice itself is impressive. We are talking about 4 times the size of a soccer pit, and it was his office. Wonder his house looked like.

The morning we visited as well the 2 temples from the Moche as well.

The Huaca del Sol (Temple of the sun) that you see on the picture, and the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the moon) from where I took the picture from.

The del Sol is only a quater of what if was before and was rip off by the river near by and the spanish (again!) on their way to the pacific. The de la Luna was used for ceremony purposes and they found some human rest with no head in the cemetery. Guess what, it seems that they were not that friendly with their own people after all.

These giant structure are here to remember us that we all have our time in time.

Trujillo, Peru

Trujillo (TRU-RI-YO) is a lovely Peruvian town close to the coast, and in the middle of some really interesting ruins. The city itself is a bunch a road surrounded by an oval highway in where cab drivers try to make they wheels crying all the time. The main Plaza de Armas is a typical spanish architecture. Big houses, big doors to let a man on a horse to go in, and of course big spanish wood balconies.

What I like the most in these Spanish colonial town from the mid-16 century is the architecture itself. The square central place in where one can walk at night or sit for hours doing nothing like I usually do, is the central point of the city. You can meet anybody anytime in this place. The other thing I like is all the colours you have on these houses. Blue, pink, yellow, red, green. Name it you have it.

Except for its central place, and the pijana (Vanilla Ice cream, Chantilly, Crème Brulé, fresh slice of Pineapple, and a fat Cheese Cake, all at once) at the Armilias restaurant, this town is not that amazing.

Well, wait a minute.
Maybe just for the pijama this city is worse a pick.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Mancora, Peru

One street.
One wave.
This is what is Mancora in reality.

I have no clue why people choose on the unique coast road of the north of Peru, Mancora ant not San Juan the village before or Pedro del Mar the village after, but everybody was there that weekend. It was also the National Day, and during a whole weekend people came to that small street from every part of the north of the country. It was a mix of local people with they tanned face from the sun, surf addict with they tanned back from the sea, and the tourist with they white face looking for some sun. This is always interesting to watch how the mix is cooking. Usually neo-hippies arrived at the end of they (s)trip usually plant a tent on the beach, and try to find a way to make few bucks. They sell necklaces or bracelets made of seashell or other local materials. The tourists try to found out the best deal in town, the one in which you can have a beer, a shower and a sandwich for 99 cents. And the locals try of course to make everybody happy by selling what they other wants, like surf lessons, Pisco Sour on the beach, Ceviche on the side road, or other drinks that one’s imagination can not size unless drunk.

My hostel was 25 meters away from the beach, at the end of the road, after the sand dune and before the village recycling program. I was really happy in fact that I was a bit far away from the main road, because you can’t sleep at all during the night when the disco is at your foot step, unless you are already death. My problem was in the early morning, because I was at the end of the beach restaurant road, and at around 8 AM they all start playing music to attract clients. My wake up call was a thousand layer cake of local music. And I have to say that, that weekend I heard more Shakira and her lips moving more than one millions time. This, of course will count toward the most popular tune of the summer. Geta will have to make it up on perfusion for the last week if he wants to rich only the top 10.

Everybody’s job in this one street in the middle of the desert is to take some sun during the day and some fun during the night.
And we all did it very well.

During 3 nights I partied like a dog from bar to bar and slept my night on the beach rolling over one side to the other to finish my tanning. I was in party heaven. My digestion system was on a 3 hours turn around due to some empanada testing, and all the alcohol help me kill the remaining parasites that I had at the end of the weekend.

The only time I heard silence was during the 15 minutes blackout at 4 AM in the morning the last night I was there. I left my liver and some energy in this town, but I am sure that somebody will use them.

What is worse than competing at a bar with one Irish?

Two Irish.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Crossing border between Ecuador - Peru

My Cusqueña Malta was very sweet and well deserved when I drank it at 8 PM. But before that beer, I had a long day of travel ahead of me. Let me tell you the story.

Five years ago, Peru and Ecuador where at war precisely in this crossing border zone, and the only two roads that existed between these two countries were closed for any kind of transit. Few dead later, the two countries "re-open" the coast border, and only that one. Even today, crossing the border on the other side is not recommended without a gun. So when I asked the information tourist in Cuenca (the lovely Ecuadorian colonial town of ...) how to cross the border, they were very vague and were pointing direction to many different aspects of my transfer, like buses, stamps and some cab drive as well. I should have known at that point that it would be not that easy to do it, but I was trusting and reluctant to see evil in the eye of this beautiful Ecuadorian woman, yet short. She told me that I had to take 3 buses to go where I really wanted to go, and that seems reasonable in these countries.

So, I woke up really early that morning and went to the bus terminal station at 7:30 AM to pick the next bus to Machala (Ecuador), the biggest nearest town to the border. Happy of myself and satisfied by my early woke up to take the earliest bus in my life (8 AM), I drop my guard, and ask for an empanada de queso with a coffee at the corner lady before taking the bus. I climbed in the bus and sat in what I evaluated the most comfortable seat around: stable window, in the middle of the bus and almost clean. The crown hardly filled up half the bus, but at 8 AM sharp we took off direction south. The next half hour was only dedicated to fill up the gap in the bus by stopping every time someone decided to raise his or her hand. The luck gave me a native woman for company. We were chitchatting about the price of the wood and the one of the rice in the lower land of Ecuador, when the most impressive man I saw in this trip climb in the bus, and he decided to use the seat behind me to put his self person. I use all the back seat stretch to make him fell as uncomfortable as possible. This is the costume in these countries in which you have to delimit your space, but unless dogs, I am not pissing on each corner, so I use the only method I know of, and lead back my seat. I feel his knees and he feel my back, but we were all happy.

After few minutes, we started right away to move up and down, right and left, side and side through the mountains that surround (the lovely Ecuadorian colonial town of) Cuenca. The smell that just came from the back of my seat was one of these that, with no doubt, could be recognize in millions. Somebody else breakfast was certainly lying in a nice plastic bag, and that kicked off a vague of window opening but to my surprise, no complain at all. The smell made me think of my empanada, and my coffee earlier eaten, so I decided to focus on the farest point I could. That was the time, my behind gigantic friend decided to stood up and walk to the front of the bus. I was really scared that he would as well compete with the previous person in who had the best breakfast that day, but he dove down and grabbed a black book and a plastic bag, from which he took out a box of candy. He was facing us with a red face when he announced us that we were all lost and he knew the solution.

Jesus is the answer!
During 45 minutes he went on and on about what Jesus could do to us, and how miserable our life was without Him in our heart. I could not concentrate to what he was saying because the only thing that I tried to accept was at the time the empanada that was stuck in my stomach. He shouted many times that we all going to dye and we should convert now. All evangels went through and I discover some that I forgot during this crash course on the Christian bible. He really encouraged us to lower our head and pray to the Devine and give our life to His greatest. I was praying instead that he would stop yelling. My stomach problem was suddenly replaced by a massive headache, and we were still turning up and down, and we were still climbing the gigantic mountain ahead of us.

I was not looking at him when the miracle happen. A more impressive hole and a turn in the road made his black Bible fall over to the front of the bus, closely followed by his hand wrapped around it, then his arm attached by the wrist, and finally his entire body linking all the previously mentioned part together. I though all along that he had a vision that the next turn we were going to make was the last one, but in reality the last turn was for him and he fall on his back. I was quite happy and smiled at the new divine silence, and did not care at all about the bus-priest. Life on earth was good again.

Like a devil out of his box he jumped back on his two feet and told us that he needed our help to save the world. For two soles a candy or 20 the fives, we could help us build paradise on earth and bring back peace on this planet. He was de-masked: He was a candy maker who used God to sell his merchandise and not a seller of God merchandising his candies. When he came close to me asking me how much I was willing to pay for my soul, I gave him my most evil look I could, and not even say a world. Thinking about it, right now, I might have lost paradise for only 20 soles. Anyway, the end of the valley signed the end of the bus-priest and the beginning of a well deserved silence. He took off to a new bus trip in the other direction. The end of our bus trip was enlighted by few stops and some more breakfast on the floor. I think that I did not join the group simply because my window was wide open and I was appreciating the newly scenery full of bamboo and felt more appeal by the worm and hot weather that was pouring on us.

The bus arrived in Machala with only half an hour delay on schedule, which was really good according to South American standard. That is called on time in here. I dropped off the bus and ran out to grab a cab to go to the next bus company. Oh yes, in South America you don’t have a lot of bus terminal, you have usually many bus terminals, one per company. In fact you go from one place to the other. I then, asked my cab driver to go to the place I wanted to, and we drove around. But literally around, because I recognized the building we were before leaving. My bus station was probably 100 meters away, and to make his trip worth he had to show me the area. I was in no shape to argue, and gave him his due, and ran over to the bus station counter. The lady pointed me the leaving bus when I ask her the next bus to Tumbes (Peru). I flew over and manage to put a foot in the door before the door completely close. I was really happy and satisfied of myself while sitting down, and paid at the “bus-boy” the amount for the ride.

The bus was half empty, and for once my backpack and myself enjoyed each our seats. The only Gringos present in the bus, were the Irish couple that I saw in the previous bus. They managed to be there before me and must have known that the bus station was just in front one another. Few stops help to fill the remaining seats, and gave me the opportunity to look closely at some local food: coconut milk, tamales, or other ... empanadas. Mine was still floating between the first and the second floor. The funny thing was when a guy stood up from the back and with a candy box started to talk to us about his previous life and all the problems he has at home with his wife and 8 children. He then told us that for two soles a candy or 20 the fives, we could help him build a paradise on earth and bring back the peace on his planet. Too bad for him, he was short circuit before by a priest. You can’t beat a priest, can you? Well … maybe literally, but this is out of scope of course.

When we reach the Ecuadorian immigration office, the entire bus looked in my direction and shown me the way out. I though I was having a low profile and people would take me for a local. Probably the backpack reveal the purpose of my stay in the bus. Anyway I stood out, closely followed by the Irish couple. My brief discussion with the “bus-boy” confirmed me what I was starting to realize. We were dropped off on the road, and we had to wait for the next bus later. The wind was my answer to when would that be.

The stamp line for Peru was really small compare to the one for Ecuador. I started to make conversion with the Irish couple to found out if they knew more than I was, but promptly realized that they were as lost as I was, and they though we were already in Peru. The game was on, and we had to move fast then. After being stamped, we decided to team up and find a solution. More is better than one. That what was the cab drive thought as well, and charged us 3 time the ride. The cab drive from the Peruvian immigration office to the one in Peru was really fast but left us instead in Bangkok. It was market time (like everyday, I found out later), and in this no-man’s-lands where no rule existed, we were lost in the thick of it with backpacks attach to our person and worse, all heavy loaded with some $.

You must be kidding me.

We were the only tourist, and after 5 seconds we already had 5 guys around asking us here for change, cab ride or some cleaning solution for the house. They were all pushing us and the pressure was on now. We had to move fast. Only Spanish speaker of the mission squad, I decided to reach the closest Peruvian uniform to ask any questions. My lead was followed by my close and personal Irish guard. The Peruvian uniform showed me a small house with a red and familiar flag on it. What the shoes on the desk in this house confirmed me, was that the Peruvian stamping machine was 3 Km away; and I had to go there to do my business. The shoes went back to its afternoon nap and left me alone to my thinking process. I stood in the door and wait for a happy face and friendly smile to show up to start the saving conversation.

Pedro was looking at me, and his voice was soft enough to reach my busy ears. He proposed me a ride to wherever I wanted. Smart of him, he was on. I asked him how much it was to the Peruvian Border but he proposed me a much longer ride instead. I answer back saying that we would talk about business after our passport been stamped. He agreed and took us to his friend’s car. At that point we were consider like dead meat for all the other player around us. Everybody left us, and the deal was done. Pedro lead us to the back parking lot in the busiest market I saw in my young life. The only friendly sound I could here was coming from my Irish guard that was keep saying: “We are in Bangkok!”

You must be kidding me.

We were the only tourist in the back of a parking lot between countries where official laws do no exist in a place where already rules are there to be, like time schedule, an informative guidance. I was imagining the end of our story in which Tourist being robbed at the border, but nothing happen. Instead, Pedro and his driver, Ramon, drove us to the back door of the Peruvian border. We had our passport stamped in less than 13 seconds. My stomach was not so great at that time of the day. Must have been all the self confidence that it has to generate on my face and probably the beginning of the digestion of my cheese empanada.

We were safe inside Peru, but far away from our common final destination. The next game was on, as soon as we stood out of the passport office. I tried to look around to found out if we could move out of the Pedro-Ramon trap. But they both knew that we were in a shabby situation. Out of the road, we had no way to go to. We could have waited to the side of the road, and kept playing our good faith against our lucky star, but I was more inclined, unless my Irish separatist troop, to grab the welcome cab that took us out of the tricky situation 10 minutes before. I was playing the in-between game and tried to explain the situation in their own respective language with my 2 soles each time. The end of the game saw each team losing a bit of their will. We managed a reasonable price to go to the bus #2 destination: Tumbes (Peru). I was happy to see that my strategy worked out and we, except Pedro, all climbed in the gas-cab. I manage the front seat, and I was glad to have an interesting position, seeing the road, chi-chatting with the driver, and listening to some IRA conversation.

The 1.5 hours drive turned out to be a pleasant time between all of us. We discovered, that Ramon had a fiancé in Canada, and was ready to put his winter gloves any minute, that the Irish had a not such a good time in Ecuador, and were happy to put their bathing suits on any minute, and that I was having some empanada problem, and I was ready to heat the washroom any minute. The warm beer that we all shared did not help either, my digestion mechanism. If I had to do it again, I would had refused it, but I was celebrating our victory over the infamous enemy named foreign administration land, and could not refused a bit of alcohol in my blood.

Before arriving in Tumbes (Peru), Ramon the gas-cab driver asked us to drop by his house to fill up the tank. The short conversation between all the UK speaking guys proof once again that we had enough time under our belt to know that any minute, any time, anything could happen in South America. Ramon was ashamed to see that his new friends were not that trusting after all. He was right about us. We did not trust him fully, especially so close to the goal. But we decided to go anyway to his house and took the necessary gas in case we decided to go to the final place. We reached a bank before the Tumbes bus station, the one for the last bus around 3 PM. We had plenty of time to take the Collectivo for the final beach destination. But after few talks and some giving-up, Ramon the gas-cab driver offered us what should have been the equivalent in price to finish our trip. We would never know if he was right or not but for $US 11, he took us away from the Bangkok and dropped us at the most popular beach of Peru. It was a good deal, and we were happy to settled down, and took finally or a shower, or make a shower.

We reach Mancora in Peru around 5 PM, end of our day trip. Ramon the gas-cad driver dropped us at the front beached hostel, and I was going to main office to ask for 2 rooms.

Did I mention that, that day was National day in Peru, and Mancora was the most popular destination in the whole Latin world? We were in dip trouble. We were so close to make the deal of the year, and we had to climb the last mountain: finding a room in a fully loaded place! As soon as we dropped off our bag, 5 millions of moppet-taxi driver showed up, and started once again offering all kind of service. One offer to go to the hotel we were standing in front off, one offer a oil massage, and another some good surf lesson. But no one asked the right question.

Gordito, moppet-taxi driver saw that we were in trouble, and asked if we needed some help finding a room, I answered yes, and with a big smile left us on the side road. That killed me, the offered some help, and left on the spot. I decided to finally back off and let my Green Guard to finish up the job. We were walking from door to door, refusing 20 dollars room with no water before 6 PM, when Gordito, the moppet-taxi driver ran at me to tell me the good news. He found a room for us. He put back a smile on my face, and we all climbed in his moppet-taxi to the final often dream destination. The deal seemed reasonable to me considering that we had no time for argument and the sun, him, was going to bed. The one bedroom place was seal after 15 minutes of discussion. The Irish troop was stationed close to the beach and was now in safe hands. Then my term came. We drove straight the one street village, banging literary from door to door for a bed on the floor for a poor guy with a sad face. Not to mention that I was unhappy because my empanada had decided to reach as well it final destination and was also ready to crash any minute. My face my the result of the heavy pressure from my guts, and was not that a very good selling point to my situation. We went to the end of the road, and then to the end of the sand road and then to the end of the dune. The light was in fact a hostel in which a spare room was just realized by a impulsive young lady few minutes before I showed up. This was the first time that a female impulsivity will put me to sleep, but life is strange. I bargained with the guy just to make sure he understood that I understood Spanish, but at that point after one hour of turning around in the place to find a (bath) room, I was ready to pay a lot of money. I paid the 3 night I planned to stick around, and signed the paper. The dueño gave the key, which I use on the spot to open “Heaven”.

I ran to the washroom to empanada the place.
I felt that I reached finally home.

A few time later, around 8PM, when I sat on the beach bar, listening to the "Tribute to Bob Marley" from Gilberto Gil and looked at the sky counting the stars, my Cusqueña Malta tasted very sweet and I tough that I had well deserved it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hostel in Ecuador

  • Quito
Hostal Nassau (Pinto E4-343 y Amazonas)
This is a basic hostel in the New town of Quito.
This is very central and probably cheaper (US$7) than the next doors ones.

  • Cuenca
El Monasterio (Padre Aguirre 724 entre Presidente Codova y Sucre).
The best thing of this hostal is the view from the 6th floor on the mountain around.
The rest is basic and the dorm are worse the price I paid (US$5).
The supposely hot shower was cold enough to push me away in the rainy season.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Cuenca, Ecuador

I moved south in a 10 hours night bus (no sleep, very cold, obviously noisy) to a lovely Ecuatorian colonial city called Cuenca.

It´s a place, of course, in the middle of the mountain, surrended by pick riching millions kilometers high. I ran around, at 7AM, to found a hostel, and the only one that accepted me was the one on the main plaza del mercado. I was in no shape mentally or physically to discuss anything, and the only question that I asked was, A donde esta mi cama por favor?

The reception was on the 6th floor, and my bed was on the 3rd. I did two back-and-forth just for fun, and crashed in bed at 8AM, to woke up 4 hours later by 3 Israelis, staring at me, asking almost all at once, where I was from. My straight answer left them unhappy, and happily left me alone. There were certainly looking for the 4th one to fill up a Israeli card game. This is probably the first time in my life, that my nationality does not put a smile on peole face and save me from a damaging explanation on what to play when the queen of ace is before a ten of heart.

Anyway, I explored the lovely Ecuatorian colonial city called Cuenca on my time left before the day turn into night. I dont really know how many churches exist in this lovely Ecuatorian colonial city called Cuenca, but I counted more than 12 for sure. At leats, each and every beggers has his/her own porch to spend some time under.

I went at dawn in the lovely Ecuatorian colonial city called Cuenca, to the one of the 3 Travel Agencies of the pace, and had been lectured through all the differents possibilities in the area. The most interesting seems to me the Devil´s Nose train, in which you freeze your butt off on a train roof while tring to not fall over in the one of the canyon you cross along the 2 hours trip you making with all the tourists. I skipped it, but would have done it, if the weather in this lovely Ecuatorian colonial city called Cuenca was not turn to pooring rain. I dont really want to wear my winter jacket anymore. So after a night of talk, with an Italian dude, who is going back to school to do an MBA in Stanford, California, about soccer and the famous world cup, I fall happily asleep in the newly emptied Israelis dorm.

The cold and the rain waive me away from the lovely Ecuatorian colonial city called Cuenca.

Too bad !
It seems to be a good place to hang around.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Quito, Ecuador

Back on the Road, Jack !

I am surended by shoeshine boys, spanish and some Cumbia music everywhere. Glad to be back "home".

I left anyway Rio sad and promise myself to learn Brazilieno for the next time to be able to speak at least a little bit with locals. That was really painfull and frustating as well to move around and not be fully understand what is going on, but at the same time, this is some sort of intensive training for the next exotic places I fully intend to go and where I don´t speak the language of.

So back on the road, and fell like going back to something familiar: some 3000 meters high, polution and some difficulty to breath after 2 days. I like it though, and I did my regular past time in Andinos Cuidades, go to the main plaza (Plaza de la Indepencia in this particular case) and spend the entire afternoon looking around, reading a book, taking pictures or chatting with people. This time, I spend few hours conversing with a gran-dad Ecuatorian Troskiste. This is quite really funny to see the Latine America through the eyes of a post-revolutionary in a pre-capitaliste world. That reminds me of all the Luchas por la Libertad de la Humanidad that was there in the time not so far away. Che was capture in Bolivia afterall.

Quito in itself is not a great place to be in.
The old town is as colonial as the new town is colonized. Few buildings in here and there helps you to justify a stop over, but the main attraction here is the Galapagos Islands trip. This is why people come to Quito and Ecuador. You can book a week tour on a boat to see whatever exist on the planet that can swim for around $1000 to $2000. This is way out of my traveller budget, but I will concider it as soon as I work again. Seems to be amazing from all the smiles and stories that tourists have in the backpacker ghetto (new town).

I spend then, my days hunting for music and try to stay out of trouble in the city. And you can have some here. I was talking to some guy on the street when I heard a very loud noise. It was in fact 2 guys doing some steel-skateboarding with no wheel, on a back of a pick-up. Go figure Jack !

I am off South, and will spend the next 2 weeks to do the 1324 kilometers that I need to do from my schedule.

I quit Quito !

Receipe of the day.
I met some Ozzies, and they told me a very inspiring receipe.

Take a watermelon, make a small hole on top, poor slowly one bottle of vodka in it, and put back the natural cork you just made, where it was. Wait overnight in the fridge, and start your day with it, if you can :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Senses Brazil

You play this game when you are a kid, and since I grow young these days, let me do it again.

If Brazil was a Smell,
I would probably say the smell of the Queijo BBQ with some Origan on the beach.

If Brazil was a Taste,
I would probably say the taste of the Açaí com Granolas and maybe banana on the side.
A day at the beach can not be complete without a cup of this Amazonia fruit turned into an ice cream and sort of corn flakes. The runner up is the Brazilian all you can eat BBQ, where waiter waiting for you to empty your plate, to refill it on the spot. Carretao (112 Visconde ed Piraja, Ipanema) was a delight for a cheap R$33 beer included.

If Brazil was a Sound,
I would probably say the sound of the Ice Tea man on the beach singing my children Baden Powell song Sodade.
On the other hand, when you go to discos or bars, 2 main tunes are fighting for the most popular. On the left side you have David Guetta's "The World is Mine", and on the right side is Shakira´s "Hips Don´t Lies". The winner will be announce at the end of the summer of course.

If Brazil was a Picture,
I would probably say the view from Corcovado. From there you understand why Rio de Janeiro is called the “Cidade Marvilhosa” (Marvelous City). The take off from Rio to Sao Paolo at night was also a fabulous experience. We flew over the entire city of Rio and I had the chance to be on the right wing (the left one). I could see the entire city at night with the crist over looking the different bays.

If Brazil was a Touch,
I would probably say the touch of the sand on any beach, the feeling of having sand betwen your toes and in your hair way after your shower been taken.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hotel in Brazil

  • São Paulo

Pousadas Dos Franceses
I paid R$42 for a room with a private bathroom, with breakfats included. This is a central place and very familiy oriented. Recommend in Sampa for sure

  • Rio de Janeiro

Hotel Lemon Spirit (Leblon)

I paid R$35 for a dorm with a commun bathroom. This place rocks because people are nice, it´s close to the beach and very friendly overthere. Leblon is a much better place to stay than Copa or Ipanema. So far this is the best place I stayed in, and I highly recommend it.

Some Usefull links
Airlines company that do not bankrup (so far)

So usefull links to prepare your trip there

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Riviere de Janvier (*), Brazil

From time to time, my flip-flops push me to do something more exiting than beach laying laziness. So I do thing around in Rio. I don´t do a lot, but I do it well. I getting bit by bit close to this lay-back attitude that Cariocas have all the time. Why bother when life is quite good.


I went to see a soccer game of 2 Carioca teams, Flamingo Vs Vasco de Gama. It was quite impressive to finally put my foot in the most impressive stadium in the world. People saying that when the lower ring is in full capacity it can contain up to 200,000 people for a big game. We took a tourist mini-van and went to the place. Be a local organise many activities, and one of them is to bring gringos to locals places like Maracaña for a game. I would not do it by myself otherwise, and not recommend it to anyone. The guide told us the classic scary story to let you know that this is dangerous, so then by definition cool, about the last similar game, in which a off-duty policeman, happy to see his team winning, shoot in the air but killed 2 people. Anyway, passing through security at the stadium reminded me some of the Columbian border-crossing that I had to do some time ago, but I realized why. The craziness of the people in this place is equivalent of the one Lapa on a big night shift.
The game was quite borring since the 2 teams put on the field their B-Team. The fanclubs were singing from the beggining (well 1 hour before the start technically) till the end. We had some fireworks in the head, fight in the back and banderas in the eyes all game long. But eh ! This is a soccer game afterall, if you want to see and get cozy stay home. You are not going there to see the game, you are here to live the game. For me, I was really happy to see a soccer game in the Carioca bigger stadium in the world MARACAÑA ! My dream came true finally. Soccer is great and this is why this is the biggest and most popular sport in the world.

Soccer is not a question of Life and Death, it´s much more important than that. I was in the Flamingo kop, and Vasco won 1-0.


Where to start?

Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Barra, Botafogo....

Each day is a new beach for sure in Rio. So many choices, so little time. Let me help you. The best beach for people watching is the one at Ipaneme, at the Post 9. All the (very) young, (soon) rich, and (certainly) famous people are there! One can have a eye fracture if not ease on your staring around. Sun glasses helps to watch without beeing catch watching.

I personally gave up on this sport, and read 4 books in 2 weeks of beach. But I was almost the only one who was reading a book, most of the Cariocas do other thing on the beach. Men in the small speedo do play soccer, soccervolley, surf, kayaksurf or beachvolley. I even so some playing a strange soccer game in which the ball was not allowed to touch the ground! Women do shopping on the beach, yes you heard it, shopping. Because you can buy anything you want on the beach. Here is a few thing that I can remember of: Italia (Icecream), Queijo Feijado (BBQ Cheese with a portable BBQ), Empanadas, Cakes, Globo (Sort of Springles), Shrimps on a stick, Sausages, Towels, Suncream, Bikini, Soccerball, Sunglasses, Tatoo, Beers, Capirinias, IceTea. I am sure that if I waited long enought, I cold have bought a TV and some DVD. Beach is not an activities, it´s the place where you have to be seen, and have to see. You, most of the time, do nothing there, but you do it well.

I rate my tanning 5 towels out of 10, and I can handle the upcoming winter with some sort of smile somehow on my face.


Dowtown Rio is turn into a party time one a week on Friday night. All Rio and the suburbs go to downtwon Rio and turn the street into a big Carnaval of Capirinia, Local beer, Teaquila shots and other Cachassa drinks. You usually know when you start, but never know when you finish (or been finished by) Lapa.

This is a must Carioca experience. Samba is free!


They are everywhere around us, please help us!
Sometime there is only one highway that separate the most expensive place in Rio from the most dangerous Favela in Rio.

When you hear firework in Favela, it´s because the police or the military are coming and they try to informe the entire 200 K people living in the area. This is strange, but this is life as well. Brazil is really a "terre de contraste", and a mix of people. I did not personally do a Favella tour, more beacuse I was concern to paid someone to se some other ones living in a sort of a cage. Did not want to feel in a zoo, while walking amoung my own species.

On another note, I encourage everyone to watch the wonderfull and well documented movie City of God which is the name of one of the Favela in Rio, to understand and grasp a bit more about the life of some of the unlucky ones in Rio. From time to time, teh rich and the poor mix up, it happen at the soccer game, at Lappa for few drinks, and most importantly during the Carnaval where the poor spend all their money to dress up, and the rich spend some of their money to watch down.

In Brazil, a few has a lot and a lot has a few.

Pão de Açucar

Should be good to see it, but I had to leave at least one tourist thing for the next time. Because I´ll come back here. This is the closest place to paradise on earth, and I become praticant now.

Slow down

"A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours" John A. Priestley

Monday, July 17, 2006

Rio de Enero (*), Brazil

Staying in one place after moving in my journey almost everyday from place to place helped me to start a routine. A new routine that finally been polish after hours of hard thinking and some also long and endless discussion with Cariocas at my hostel.

Morning is most of the time short in time (cause of late wake up) and consit of trying to wake up slowly after a jag of coffee and some papaya and water melon fresh fruit. If my never ending wake up does not work after some coupe of hours, I try to motion my brainless stomach to the corner fruit juice and indulge myself with a glass of exotic fruit juice. Since I don´t understand any words of portuguese and I am too ashame of moving around in the city with a dictionary under by arm, I rather use my instinct and ear to order my morning fruit juice. I end up usually with a full glass of colourfull juice that I can´t even name in my own mother tongue. I chosse depending on my mood the longest name, most sexy of shorter, first or the one with the most vowell in it. Anyway they have more than 50 different juice, that keep me busy for some time.

The afternoon starts most of time with a self massage of suncream at the hostel and a towel searching over the pile of clothes from the 9+ person that inhabit my dorm room. The one block or 36 seconds walking distance that separate my hostel door to my beach spot is done by my newly bought brazilian flip-flop without any more direction or advice. My stincky towel lay out on the Ipanema beach or Copacabana Beach or Leblon Beach is now executed is less than 2.6 seconds and is roundly done in an elegant and effortless coordinated motion. This would be close to a Step back to ride the tiger motion of the Taichichuan 108 original forms. White rose and candle are spread in most beaches and is the trace of a local thankfull ceremony. This is the only marks on the sand that I fully respect in my hunt for the best spot on the beach. Roasting from one side to the other is what keep me busy most of my afternoon time. At 4-ish the sun usually disapear behind some clouds or some buildings depending the day and is the signal to slowly move back to the Lemon Spirit hostel.

The evening is officially started by a most welcome hot shower that takes not only the salt away from my lips, but also the sand between my feet toes. The dinner is spend at one of the already mentionned corner shops that offer fruit juice and sandwiches. Standing with locals from every social class, I enjoyed usually my Maracuja (passion fruit) fruit juice with a Frango-Queijo (chicken-cheese) sandwich. Big Polis, Sarense, or Bibi are my favourites spots so far. The late evening is explored in Gringo group to a different bar almost everyday but is wetted by Caipirinhas followes by Skol beer almost everytime.

Life is hard under the sun or Rio, and I trying my best to be able to adjust myself by the end of this week before I leave for new adventures.

Fact of the week
Copacabana beach is not anymore my dream beach of alll time.

Last friday, the 14th of July, I was laying on my towel reading a bad book, when the shadow of the back building told me that it was time to go back to the hostel. I was surprise to found out that my short was missing, with some $25 and my .............. prescription glasses. I walk back the 6 km blindless and was mad at myself of letting my glasses in my pocket of my short knowing that things are usually taken away from their gringo owners on beaches. In the end, this will be probably the most expensive short I will have in my life and this stupid unattention will cost me an extra $300 in my budegt. The good news is I will have a new pair of glasses from .... Brazil, but only tuesday. In the meantime I am leaving on contact lens. Oh well this my adventure of the week, time to go back to the beach :)

I am now officlally at 3 towels out of 10

(*) Rio de Janeiro translated in Spanish

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

River of January (*), Brazil

Due to many differents circonstancies I see myself stuck in Rio de Janeiro for quite some time.
Worse place to be stuck in, some say ! I admit that, and take the challenge of entertain myslef in the marvelous city during a long period of time.

Few days back I decide to meet in person the Redeemer Christ (Corcovado) who watch out for a almost a century now over the bay of Rio de Janeiro. I was there at sunset, and I decided to go there after my adventure to the city center. I then took a cab and went through the beautiful , relax and colonial area of Santa Tereza. This is one of the dozens hills that constitute Rio and its suburbs. Rio seems to be name in reality after safe areas surrended by favellas. When you look around you have thousands of people living in favellas over all hills around the place you are. At least they have a good view !

So the crist was there in front of me, and the view from his feet was spectacular for a lack of a better word of course. You could see the entire Rio, with its famous beaches on the left, its Maracaña stadium on the right, favellas arounds and 2 airports in front. I stood there till the night took over Rio, and its lights start mixing with the early stars of the night.

What a view !

I contemplated the scenery and went back home thinking about how great this city is, and lucky I was to stay there for some time, taking some holidays in my holidays. Rio and its hunchback are worth a trip, now when you add beautifull beaches, and year round nice weather, what else do you need to add ?

Thanks for asking, my tan is going darker everyday (I will rate myself 2 towels out of 10), and I will make sure I will have some more before the end of my stay in Rio.

To answer a specific answer that I had been asked, the best women I saw in Rio are on the Ipanema Beach at the Gate 9.

(*) Rio de Janeiro translated in English

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Farca Italia

It´s all over!
Italie won over France.

This is what history will remember of the entire Gemany World Cup. That, and the Zidane head-kick (almost the same reaction as the King Eric few year earlier).

But what a poor image for this wonderfull sport. I am not talking about the Zidane and his folies, but the Italie team. No kids will dream on Team Italie 2006 for sure. This is just a team of 11 goalkeepers who won the world cup of penalties kick! A new rule should be added now, all players should have a descent hair cut.

Today I am sad for the game.
I am switching to beach volley.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro (singing)

I took a bus from Sampa to Carioca, and 6 hours later I was in the most famous and glamourus city on the planet. Come on´, this is winter, and people walking on the Copacabana or Ipanema beach, some surf, some tan, but everyone in smiling !!!

YES. I am going to take care of my ever long lasting cold in the sun city of Rio.

Fisrt of all I am really happy to walk in T-shirt, and my new Brazilian Flip-Flop.
My skin is starting to ich from my afternoon tan at the Ipanema beach, and I will probably layer up a new one tomorrow in Copacabana just to compare the 2 of them.

It great to be again in a beach city, where people are more relax, cooler and warmer at the same time. Shopping in flip-flop with some sand between your toes is my kind of summer experience. I watched people-watching, and probably been watch people-watching at the same time. The sand is as white as you can imagine (not too small, but clean enough to lie down on it), the waves are as good as you can imagine (not too big, too noisy, but big enough to have some surfing going on). This is the perfect city to start the sunny vacation.

Keep you posted on my tan.

People-Watching of the day
I spent quite sometime watching 4 guys (2 teams of 2) playing beach-volley ball but with they feet. This is quite impressive.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sao Paulo, Brazil

"Scheintstyuie" (*) like we say in Kardistanty Inferior.

They screw up my vacation !

I was just happy to finally reach my destination, and it´s like someone turn off the music during the party. Everything stopped at 17:14. No more cheering, no more wishing, no more clapping. The perfect silence. It was nonetheless a perfect beggining, with the yellow fever at each and every corner, not the one you can have a shoot against, but the one that wont leave you for 4 years, or your life depending if you are born in this place or not.

I was watching the soccer 1/4 finale between France and Brasil in Sampa (Sao Paolo), wishing that Brasil explose the French team by 1-0, and then start partying for at least 10 days untill the final. And what happen is much more dramatic than the end of the world. The entire city of Sampa, 17 millions people at least, started to cry altogther at the same time that the referee whistle the beggining of the apocalypse for the Brasilian coach.

My new friend (AMOXICILINA), and I were immediatly back in my hotel room, and we spend the entire night fighting back each other, trying to figure it out what would be the next steps of my travel.

The next morning, the rain started early, and since then try to wash the last dream that any young kids could still have. Wish could have been different, but soccer is magic and unpredictable. Better hope that the French team make it all the way, otherwise I will never forget them for ruining my vacations.

Sodade is raining on Brazil. Obrigado Brazil !

Time for shopping, I saw some good place where you could have wonderfull Brazilian soccer jersey for half price. Anyone interested ?

(*) You better not want to know what it means