Thursday, September 28, 2006

Itacaré and Porto Seguro

After heading from Salvador, our next planned step was Belo Horizonte. However, Just before leaving Recife we got word from our friend Shandy that she is in Brazil with her boyfriend, in a surfing town called Itacaré. So we decided to stop in and see her. She is living in an apartment style place, a little off the beaten path. It also just happened that the appartment next door was empty, so we were able to stay there for a few days.

I had a chance to do some surfing with Shandy, who is a pro. It was fun, and I think I did alright, considering it was my third time, and the other two times where 5 and 10 years ago. I think I got up 3 or 4 times, and caught one wave quite nicely so it shot me out (onto my face, but shot me out none the less). It was nice to have Shandy to make sure I was where I was supposed to be, and let me know which waves to go for.

Also, as it happened, apartments off the beaten path have their advantages. A troup of little monkeys wandered by the apartment one afternoon, and we raced up to the back window to have a front row view. They were tiny little guys, who looked like Tamarin Monkeys, only black. Very cute.

After Itacaré, we planned to head to Belo Horizonte. However, Leanna hasn´t been doing too well with the bus rides. Although the buses are quite nice, the roads are winding, and often pretty bad. So we decided to break up the journey and stop in at Porto Seguro, which is somewhat like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. It turned out to be a good idea, as there are lots of hotels (800 the guide book says), so the prices are quite low. Also, there is a bit of history, as Porto Seguro is where Cabral landed in 1500. They call this the discovery of Brazil, although Pinzón did make it here a few months earlier (but he was Spanish... the nerve!). 3 years later in 1503 another Portuguese party landed and laid this marker of the Order of Jesus. We aren´t too clear who this order was, but I guess they financed the voyages or something.

We also went on a ´tour´, which turned out to be a drive to a beach, with several stops at stores masked in culture. For example the brochure says that we will see indigenous culture, dance and so forth, but all we did was stop at an indian artesans store for 10 minutes. Lesson learned... the beach was nice and deserted... although they did try to make us pay 20 reais each when we got there. They like to take tourists to the most expensive places, as I assume they have deals with the local merchants to either get free stuff or a cut of the action, not sure which.

The next step will be Vitória, which is 12 hours away, and from there we will take a train, which is slower, but should be a much nicer ride. We´ll let you know how it goes.

mike and Leanna

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bahia update

Oi Galera,

We´ve moved on from Recife, after four months. In the end it was a very enjoyable experience, and we made a lot of friends, not to mention played a lot of capoeira. The group had a roda de despedida for us at Prof. Pitbull´s academy. Good times.

Now we are in Salvador da Bahia, known for it´s African roots. A large number of Africa slaves were brought here by the Portuguese from about 1500-1900, and it is said to be the place in the new world that most retains African culture. We are staying in a hotel on the Largo do Pelourinho, which is where slaves where bought and sold (and beaten... Pelourinho means whipping post).

It´s under debate where Capoeira originated exactly, but the modern forms led by Mestre Bimba and Mestre Pastinha originated here in Salvador. Last night we went to a class at the Associação de Mestre Bimba, which is headed by Mestre Bamba, who in turn has a group in Edmonton led by Prof. Reni.

Tomorrow we are off to Ilhéus, and then to Itacaré to see our friend Shandy!

mike and leanna

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Haven´t you always wanted a monkey?

After the gong show of Santarém, we grabbed a flight to São Luis, and Parque Naçional Lençóis Maranhenses. Lençóis in Portuguese for "blankets", and refers to the appearance of huge sand dunes. During the rainy season lakes form between the dunes and make for a beautiful landscape.

To get to the park we took a van 3 hours from São Luis, and then a 4x4 Toyota truck through the sand to the dunes. The truck ride is pretty crazy, and we were thrown around a lot. It´s worth it however, and cooling off in one of the lakes between the dunes is so refreshing. Just perfect to scale another dune and jump in the next lake.

The next day we took a motor boat down the river Preguiça to a place called Vassouras, where we found a half dozen playful little monkeys. They come out of the edge of the forrest to grab fruit and other things offered (or not) by the people there.

They are quite playful and tame. One really wanted to get into my water bottle, and was quite frustrated by it. He tried bashing it with his hands, jumping on it, biting it, and had he been stronger would have carried it away.

While he seemed to have all his attention on the water bottle, he kept himself secured to me with his tail, which has quite a grip.

Vassouras also has a smaller version of the dunes, with one or two smaller lakes between them. Although there were less of them, the dunes were larger, and steeper. There was a rope to help people scale the dunes (we were spry enough to not require them). The sand is very soft, and it´s fun to run or slide down the sides.

After Lençóis, we returned to São Luis, hoping to make it to one of three places next on the list, but found that the roads east of São Luis are terrible, and no one had heard of the places we wanted to go. We might have made it, but it sounded sketchy, and being a long weekend even sketchier. We opted for a cheap flight we were lucky enough to find straight back to Recife, where we are now, recuperating.