Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rio Amazonas

As part of our capoeira learnings, Monitor Malhado taught us how to make caxixis. They are reasonably easy to make, but quite labour intensive. Here is a picture of what we´ve been making. We also made a few baquetas by quartering and whittling down a briken berimbau. Beriba wood splinters very nicely.

So after that it was on to Santarém, a smallish city on the Amazon where the Tapajós and the Amazon rivers meet. The first thing we did was check out the beach resort of Alter do Chão, which has a peninsular beach, which is quite interesting and beautiful. We didn´t stay too long, however, as it was 35 degrees or so.

Two days ago we went on an Amazon tour. The tour was to include a trip to see the mixing of the waters of the Tapajós and the Amazona, which was quite interesting. The Amazon river is very silty, and as a results is dirty brown, while the Tapajós is dark blue. There is a very clear demarcation line, where apparently fish move from one river into the other, and get shocked by the difference, and are easy targets for birds, and fresh water dolphins.

The boat we took was a reasonably sized river boat, which could have fit 30 people or so. The unfortunate thing was that we were the only people on the boat, as all the places we went could only offer us personal tours due to the lack of other tourists to share costs with.

Our first stop was at and "inundated forrest", which means that the water level is high enough that the floor of the forrest is water. We picked up a guide named Sabá, who did all the paddling from the front of his canoe.

Immediately upon entering the forrest Sabá pointed up to a three toed sloth hanging out in the canopy. We spent about an hour in the forrest, and spotted more sloths, monkeys and iguanas high up in the canopy. Yes, the iguanas were high up in the canopy as well. They aren´t quite as nimble though, and one we saw fell 40 feet or so into the water.

We´ve also heard of boa constrictors and spiders inhabiting the forrest. Including a carangejeira (think that´s how to spell it), which is a spider that grows to 18 inches and east birds it kills by jumping on. Oh my. Luckily, we didn´t encounter either of those. The spiders we did see were 2 or 3 inches at most, including one that crawled onto my hand when I wasn´t looking... sent him packing quick.

After this, we went back to the boat ad headed further down river. We had catfish for lunch, which was tasty. We had seen a fisherman pulling in a catfish he had caught that must have been 3 feet longs and weighed 50 pounds. Anyway, we were traveling along just fine, until the boat hit a sandbar ad stopped dead. I was wondering how we were going to get out of this, as the only thing the could do was step on the gas. From here our guide took up in the launch further down river to our next destination. This is where things got bad. The launch was a small motor boat, that fit four of us, somewhat comfortably. It had an external gas tank in the bottom of the boat.

After travelling an hour downstream, we were wondering how much further his place was, and were looking nervously at the gas situation. I asked our guide how much further, and he waved ahead and said something unintelligible (It was loud due to the motor). I then looked back at our driver, pointed to the gas and to my eyes to make sure he was monitoring the situation. He game me the thumbs up. Alright then.

After two hours we spot some kids fishing in a dugout canoe, and stop to talk to them. To our surprise (kind of) our guide is asking directions. They laugh at him and tell him it´s back up river. He didn´t like that anwer, so we went over to some adults fishing on the other side and ask them. Same thing. So we turn back. By now we are quite nervous, and it´s obvious that there is not enough gas to get back to the boat. But I figured we would be able to buy gas when we get where we´re going.

We finally reach a community, which our guide tells us is Pato (duck), which is where he usually takes tourists for several day tours. By this time we don´t have much faith in this guy anymore. The sun was getting low, and we had an hour or so of light left. Our guide says because of this we´ll just do a half our tour of the forrest, and takes off between some houses. We follow with questions, such as can we buy gas here, and shouldn´t we leave now since it´s getting dark? After we ask, he stops and asks a villager if he can buy gas... no, not here, further inland a ways. So he says we should leave to make it back to the boat in the light. Again, we say that there is not enough gas to make it back to the boat. He asks us if we want to bet. By this time I am thinking about punching him in the teeth, but we need him to get home. We are astounded at this jackass, and I say "lets just make it back to the boat". Leanna ran ahead and asked a villager the name of the community, to make sure our guide at least knew that much. He did. I ask him what we´ll do if we run out of gas. Paddle. Paddle a motor boat with a single paddle. At this point, we were scared, but didn´t know what to do. Leanna wanted to stay in the village, and she was probably right. However, we went back to the boat and left. I figured the driver would at least know what he was doing and wouldn´t leave wihout enough gas. After an hour, the sun was setting, and shortly after, we ran out of gas. All our guide had to say was, looks like you were right.

The moon was bright, and we could somewhat tell where we were going (although these clowns didn´t seem to know where we were going). We spotted some other people in canoes, and they had little motors. We hailed them, and told them the story, and tried to by gas. They had pure gas and we needed a mixture. No good. They spoke very regional Portuguese, but the gist of the conversation was holy f*ck, sucks to be you guys.

We paddled towards the only lights we could see on shore, which turned out to be a farm. It took about two hours to get there. Paddling a motor boat with one paddle is not easy. Our driver, guide and I took turns paddling from the fron of the boat. I had to tell our guide to aim in front of the lights, or the current would take us beyond. There was not an entrance to the farm that we could find in the dark, however, and our guide and driver left us in the boat and waded into the farm. They returned after a half hour with a two litre bottle full of gas. We took this gas, and started off... in the direction we came. Again, the driver spoke in a manner nearly unintelligible to me, but there was plenty of arguing as to where to go.

After an hour or so, the engine stops, and we half paddle, half pull the boat through some reeds into a canal that leads into a bay. I thought the gas was gone, but it wasn´t, and we continued on into the middle of the bay, where the gas ran out again. It was around this time that the moon set as well, leaving it very dark, with no lights anywhere in sight. We continued to paddle for about 5 hours, until we arrived at a part of the river where the current was too strong to paddle against. This was about 3:30 in the morning. We decided to pull into the shore and look for a branch to tie to and wait for sunrise and help to come in the form of local fisherman.

When we made it close to shore, a piranha jumped in the boat, knocking into Leanna. Understandably, she jumped, knocking me and our guide into the water. I got back in pretty damn quick. Our guide was back in quick too, and we had a look at the fish. About dinner plate size and pretty ugly looking. Up until this point we had been scared and hungry, but now we were cold too. We waited out the hour and a half until dawn, and the current had died down. We continued on, and quickly ran into some finshermen, who told us that the boat was just around the next bend. Right up until the last minute, I didn´t think we were going to find the boat, and didn´t know how we were going to get out of the situation. The boat was a sight for sore eyes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Hi All,
Thought we would put up a post with some pictures of some of the people we have been hanging out with here.

This is Kong. As exemplified in the picture, he is generally not a very smiley-type guy...but he was rolling on the floor laughing in one of our classes the other day. Just seeing him laugh like that got me going to the point of tears.

This guy is Baixino. He appears to be pregnant...

And this is Maçete, whose capoeira is so fast, he does three movements for every one of mine.

And this is the exceptionally talented Negão, who we know from Canada. He speaks great English and has been just wonderful to talk to since I don't understand 100% of what is said here (maybe 50-60% on a good day). It is so nice to have a break from Portuguese sometimes.

This next guy is the aptly named Sapo, who does crazy flips.

And Cabaça with Maçete, two guys we train with at Pitbull's academy.

And last but not least is Pitbull himself, who has taught us a ton over the last couple of months.

Anyway, all is well here. We started taking our Malaria pills today in preparation for our trip to the Amazon. We leave in exactly a week. Side effects of the pills include depression, hallucinations, nightmares, irritability, etc. We'll let you know how it goes. That is all for now!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Marco Zero Roda

On the second Sunday of every month Aché Brasil has a roda in downtown Recife at Marco Zero, where the city began. This month we were early, and stopped in at Paço Alfándega to take in the view from the top. Very nice. The tourism industry in Recife likes to compare Recife to Vienna... lots of bridges, I guess.

So here is a picture of Marco Zero, where the roda´s are held. Last month the roda was cut short because a "Mestre" showed up with a chip on his shoulder, and just wanted to fight. The roda degenerated until CM Gordo stopped it. Seems to happen often in street/open rodas. Lots of guys like to grapple, and it makes for pretty ugly capoeira.

Anyways, this month nothing like that happened, and we had a great roda. Here´s a picture of Prof. Pitbull airborn,

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hello all,

So lately we´ve been hanging around with CM Gordo and Vitor. Here´s a picture of us taking a look for a dove that a kid had injured with a slingshot (good aim). It was dead when we found it.

Sunday night is normally time to go to the Sé, which is the big hangout in Olinda. There is always a roda there on Sunday nights, which has a reputation for being a tough street roda. I played in it the Sunday before last, and it was a good time... a bit rough, but nothing out of the ordinary. Last Sunday, however, we staying at home and had ourselves a back-yard roda. It was a much tougher roda than the one at the Sé! But a good time was had, and we worked up a good sweat.

Also, a couple weeks ago now, Instructor Soldado left for Malaysia to teach Capoeira there. There was a festa for him at his girlfriend Ani´s house.

Lately we´ve been helping out CM Gordo with his new CD, which has some really cool songs on it. Ok, I´m going to cut short, as my time on the computer is almost up... tchau for now.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Whatcha' gonna eat when there aint nothing better??

Hi All,
Sorry we haven't written anything for awhile. Can't say that we have been all that busy really...there is just nothing much new and exciting to report. We are still in the Recife area and still doing lots and lots and lots of capoeira. That has resulted in a rather dramatic shift in our schedule. Capoeira classes are every evening, sometimes until about 10pm. It generally takes us quite a while to get home (from some classes about an hour and a half or more) because Janga is quite far away from the center of the city (it is part of another city actually, called Paulista)so we come home late, and then take a couple hours to eat and calm down so we are never in bed before one...and therefore never up before about eleven these days. I guess that is what being on holidays is all about.

Of limited interest is the fact that another phase our acculturation into Brazilian society has begun. This is manifested by my cooking of feijão...beans. As sick as I am of eating rice and beans (not that I don't like rice and beans, it is just that we eat them a minimum of once a day, everyday), I have learned make them in the pressure cooker...and now we could potentially eat beans three times a day! I even put the horse/donkey meat (charque) in, just like a real Brazilian!

I have also figured out how to cook tapiocas. Here, tapiocas are kind of like pancakes made out mandioca flour, encasing tasty fillings, like cheese, chicken or coconut, not like the pudding we call tapioca at home. Quite good I think. I wonder, can you buy mandioca flour at home? As far as I can tell, mandioca is the same as macaxeira (also the source of Farinha I think too)...one Brazilian food Mike and I have not taken much of a liking to. Mike has even created a song, to the tune of Macarena expressing his dislike..."whatcha' gonna eat when there aint nothing better? Heeeeey macaxeira!" Maybe we'll get used to it eventually, which would signal the beginning of yet another phase of acculturation.

Speaking of cooking and food and such things, I should mention that the juice here in Brazil is absolutely awesome. For about $0.75CDN you can get a big glass of freshly made juice (comparable to Boosterjuice/Jugo juice juice), which we ensure that we do everytime we possibly can. As of late, Mike has started making juice at home too. Mmm mmm good. We absolutely love maracujá!

Anyway, I had planned to include a few new photos in this update but the computer I am at won't let me, so I will try again next time.