Category Archives: Brazilianaire Vol. 2

The 2011 travel adventures of The Brazilianaire

Brazil ate my toe! [Not for the squeamish]

So I arrived back home and thought, wow – great trip! Nothing bad happened.

That’s about the moment when I should have touched some wood or something, as little did I know, but I’d brought back a little something extra special with me from Brazil, and yes, as the title of this post suggests, it was in my foot.

About a few weeks after being back in Oz, I noticed my foot was damn itchy, and there was this crazy red anger happening in between my big toe and its neighbour – you know, where the flip flop connector bit sits. I decided I must have had tinea or something, so I grabbed the treatments and sat back peacefully to get rid of the itch.

A month later, no change. So I went to the doctor, and he thought some kind of bacterial infection or irritation, so started treatments for that… 

Another month later I was back at the doctor, and I said to him that it felt like little tiny things inside me eating their way through my toe. Literally the red lines on my toe would move… albeit very slowly. He said that he’d heard stranger things before! Anyway, it was like painfully itchy, and the lines of redness were slowly traversing my toe. It was like a new vein popping up on my toe, with the line moving every few weeks.

He didn’t have any suggestions at that stage, but gave me a call the next day to say that he thought he knew what it might be. Later that night, he was reading a medical journal and came across a story of a guy who’d been travelling in South Amercia and had symptoms very similar to mine. 

(Bless!)

So what was this mystery beastie?  Cutaneous larva migrans… (Wiki them later…) Basically they are parasitic larvae that eat flesh, but can only hang around the outer layer, just under the skin.

Anyway, it turns out the medication for treatment is kind of hard to find in Australia. I was going crazy from the itchiness. It was intense – I mean, these little fellas are literally eating away at my toe – about 0.5 mm each day.

Anyway, over the course of a few months, they had made there way from between my two toes, to the far side of my big toe, then finally they came to rest, and by rest I mean die, under my toenail at the base near the cuticle. 

The result? One ugly toe… heheh but the good news is that it will be growing out and it looks like there is a fresh nail underneath. Woohoo!

So a warning when travelling… Wear appropriate footwear and cover any cuts you may have even if they are small. Take that extra little bit of care, because there are some crazy ass things out there in the world.

I don’t regret any of my travels for a second. And people sometimes go, Brazil? Why would you? My answer – it’s my favourite place on earth. It comes with its own problems, just as anywhere has, but the people, culture, music, spirit and natural beauty of the place far outweighs any reason not to go.

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See you for the next adventures of the Brazilianaire! 2012? 2013? Who knows yet…

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Flight Home!

On the plane to Buenos Aires, the tinge of sadness and iminent imact of reality started to overwhelm me. After a short flight to BA, it was some downtime for me and the other Aussies waiting for teh return flight to Sydney. Mike Munro (This is your Life, 60 Minutes) was hanging around waiting as well… 

All the Aussies banded together, as they do, and helped each other order something palatable from the cafe using broken Spanglish…

The Qantas 747 was the one that was painted red, with aboriginal artwork all over it, and I must say it filled me with a sense of pride to see.

On the plane I sat next to a young Japanese guy who was heading home to be with his family. While they lived nearby the Tsunami affected areas, his entire family was luckily all safe from the devastation. 

The most amazing moment on the way home, was opening the windows halfway through to see parts of Antarctica out the window… awesome!

On landing, and after a quick trip through the Smartgate and quarantine, I was greeted by a rather enthusiastic 3-year old nephew, Morrison. He ran over screaming “Uncle Abby!” 🙂 It was the best welcome home!

 

Final Farewells in Sampa

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As I was only going to be staying in Sao Paulo a few days, I wanted to be right in the epicentre of all the action, Avenida Paulista.

I found an awesome pousada in Jardims that had a really charming feel to it, all while a stonesthrow (with a slingshot perhaps) away from my favourite places.

Livararia Cultura – a bookshop to beat the pants off any I’ve seen… (see picture above for just one of the many areas within this megaplex of literacy) I love the giant dragon in the middle!

Frans Cafe – even with the irregular table service, you come back to have the great coffees, cakes and of course, to be seen.

MASP & Parque Triannon – both opposite each other on Avenida Paulista, these places are both great spots for the eyes to take a deserving break from the monotony of Sao Paulo’s endless cement buildings. It’s a big city after all, with more than 22 million in wider Sao Paulo.

Conjunto Nacional, Rua Augusta, Shopping Frei Caneca – all fantastic spaces to meet, eat and feel a part of it all…

All too soon it was teary farewells and I was once again on a plane, headed for Buenos Aires, then home…

(Thanks Brazil! Another awesome trip!)

Sao Paulo – Restaurant Week!

Last time I was in town, it was Fashion Week – this time it was Restaurant Week, and I have to say, it is the BEST IDEA EVER!

Sydney, are you listening? Feel free to steal it… and soon!

All the top, and I do mean top restaurants in Sao Paulo create a special one-week only set menu for around 30-40 Reais ($25 AUD more or less) which includes an entree, main and dessert.

It’s a busy week, and the hip, social scene of Sao Paulo taketo the streets every night to take advantage of the bargains and experience some of the finest food the country has to offer for a fraction of the usual cost. 

We trundled our way along to the already packed ‘Capim Santo’, where I was so tempted by the other normal menu, I ended up ordering from the usual menu for the normal price. I was not disappointed! A flavoursome Baiano dos Dois, fantastic entrees with flavours from the north of Brazil all tantalizing my tastebuds. It was a great way to say farewell to friends Ricardo and Carol. Saudades!

 

Courage for Acaraje

If there’s one reason and one reason alone to go to Salvador, particualarly if you like traveling with your stomach as your guide – then acaraje has to be it!

Made from ground feijao, (black-eyed peas), this deep fried ball of goodness is then topped with spicy sauce – ask for it ‘bem quente’ (trust me!)

After the spicy sauce comes a seafood mix, some salsa and a few other variations depending on the vendor you’ve chosen. Top it off with a few prawns and you have a cheap snack that packs a punch, which I have to say isn’t common in the foods in Brazil…

I hadn’t had one in 6 years, so I asked the baiana lady if her acaraje was awesome, because after 6 years, I needed awesome. She laughed, assured me it was and then asked me if I wanted it hot or cold (spicy or mild). Very hot please was my reply. It burnt the sides of my mouth and throat, but it was truly an awesome acaraje. 

This street food is sold by vendors all throughout Brasil, often by the Baiana women, wearing their traditional costumes. For awesome acaraje in Salvador, head to the lighthouse at Farol do Barra. I think her name was Maria… Still savouring the taste!

 

Salvador and the Rain Shaman

Bidding my island adventure adieu, I was on a plane to Salvador. Having been there last time in 2005 and stayed mostly in Pelourinho the historic centre. It rained every day last time I was in Salvador and I didn’t even get to experience their beaches once. This time I planned differently… I stayed in a great location in Barra, near the lighthouse. The pousada Ambar was awesome and had spectacularly good breakfast each morning. 

I had a pretty watery connection with Salvador, and it still held strong this time. Finding myself cut off from the beach due to the rain, it was back to the Mercador in Pelourinho for some trading. Yes, it’s touristy, and there’s plenty of ‘religious’ women who want you to grease their palms for your protection and blessing… but there’s genuinely some great merchandise there as well. 

The famous Elevator connecting the high part of the city with the lower costs just 15c to use. It’s kind of a must if you’re there, and a quick and easy way to get up and down between the two parts of the city. 

At the market, I found a lady selling the most awesome necklaces made out of small tiny seashells, each one meticulously painted a different hue. She also had some amazing necklaces made out of the seeds of acai, my favourite amazon berry! (A plus was that Australian quarantine had no issue with either!)

It was a good days activities while the rain persisted.

But finally, a smidgeon of sun broke through and I was determined to see what Salvador life on the beach was all about. 

While not the crystal clear waters of Fernando de Noronha, it does have some great swimming spots. Porto da Barra is one, where on a small slice of sand, the sun worshippers flock to pray to their god.

Serviced tents provide everything you need (water, shade, and a watchful eye while you bathe) and they even water the sand under your feet so it doesn’t get too hot. (I did find that a bit too strange…)

With a calm bay in front of you, this sheltered beach faces out to a row of boats moored about 500 metres off shore. With a brisk swim, swimmers make their way out to the boats to sit on them, sunbathe and strike up a conversation with another swimmer.

Again, just like Rio, you can buy almost anything on the beach, so just bring a little money, sunscreen, sarong and a sense of fun…

 

Bugger….

Feeling somewhat adventurous, I hired a dune buggy for a day to get to some of the harder to reach spots on Fernando de Noronha. The freedom was wonderful, and I ticked a few more places off my list that I’d been meaning to see or go back to. 

First stop though was down to the petrol station to fill up. I must say it was a bit challenging trying to stay on what I consider to be the wrong side of the road. Plus I had no idea how much fuel this thing was going to need or use. With some help from the locals, I was off and running. 

And I soon found myself back at my favourite haunt, the Baia do Sancho. 

After a 300m walk to the cliffs, you then descend down two sets of rickety ladders to end up walking down onto a gorgeous stretch of beach. Giant white birds with pterodactyl-style tails were flying and circling around overhead, before sheltering in the trees that hugged the cliffs around the calm bay.  It was somewhat like a scene out of Jurassic park, but without the fences, or the maneaters…

There was a giant tree at one end of the beach providing shade and protection for the handful of tourists who had come to snorkel and bathe. At the other end, tranquility and isolation… 

I loved the freedom that the buggy brought, even though it was a bugger to drive. At night it was dangerous too, as the top of the buggy obscured most of my vision of the road… Regardless, it was all going well. That was until… it broke. The gears snapped or something <insert technical explanation here later> and left me practically immobile on a busy enough stretch of road where there no places to pull over. Directly on either side of the road were large gullies for the rain…. and no place for stopping. 

With some mild swearing from other drivers, and a bit of a panic, I managed to veer the buggy by reversing down the wrong side of the road, and snagging an impromptu parking spot out the front of one of the restuarants. Lucky for me, one of the guys hanging around out the front, knew the owner of the buggy hire company. And it got all sorted within a half hour… 

They offered me a replacement buggy, but that thing was crazy I tell you. I said, ‘maybe tomorrow…’

(Hell no!)

Postcard Photos at Every Turn

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If you truly want to be in awe of Fernando de Noronha, then I recommend starting with one of the general island tours on your first day. (Blue Marlin had some good tours!) It’s great as there are some areas of the island you are only allowed to go to with a guide, particularly where the sea turtles are hatching and their breeding grounds. Once you’ve gone around to all points of the island, heard all the local stories, seen the views and taken those tourist pose photos (see below), then you’re pretty much free to pick and choose from the type of scene you want to for the rest of your time. 

 

From the sandy stretch of Praia Baldro to the snorkeling haven of Baia dos Porcos to the enchanting Baio do Sancho, you’ll be spoilt for choice on this island. Waves? There’s a beach for that. Snorkeling, there’s a hundred bays for that. Chilled down time, there’s a beach for that too…. 

Buggies, Bikes or Hikes are the best way to get around the island – and it’s not that big a place that you can’t get to or from any one place without too many worries.

Tour operators offer boat trips around the island too. Dolphins love to play alongside the boats as you head to the bays around the island and drop anchor to snorkel. I didn’t really rate snorkeling before this trip. I’d been snorkeling up in Cairns, and it was fun, but would I be itching to do it again – probaby not. But here, the sheer volume of wildlife underneath the waters, and the absolute purity and clarity in the waters around the island make snorkeling or diving a must. 

You could see down for 40 metres through the water to the sea floor below with little difficulty. Giant sea turtles lazily swim around, as do manta rays, sharks (friendly mostly), fish of all sizes and colours. 

I didn’t make it diving, but maybe these videos might whet your appetite!

On the island, the birds slowly circle overhead above the beaches, as hordes of small lizards roam the rocks and scurry when the giant rat-like creatures come snooping around. Natural beauty is everywhere… just as you’d hope.

Party Comedown in Paradise

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What better way to comedown from the massive party that is Carnival in Brazil, than a week in paradise… with nothing better to do than pamper oneself in nature.

For me, that piece of paradise was an island off the coast of Brazil called Fernando de Noronha. It’s the result of a volcanic blip spewing forth from the ocean floor, but oh what a blip it is. Unbounded nature meets beauty on this island where tourism has been limited in order to preserve its integrity. Turtles, birds, dolphins, sharks and so many fish of all descriptions teem in the waters and around the island. 

The best place to catch the flight to Fernando de Noronha is from Natal, where it’s about an hour’s flight off the coastline. As you near the island, the pilots do a quick circuit of the island to let you drink in the views, and it’s a stiff drink to say the least! 

The island is only 18.4 square kilometres, but it fits a lot of diversity in the space. If you love snorkeling, diving, natural beaches, hiking or wildlife, then this island will suit you perfectly.

It’s not the easiest, or cheapest place to stay at in Brazil. In fact it was the most expensive of all the places on my itinerary. However planning ahead can help keep costs down. Book ahead for the cheaper bed and breakfast stays. I ended up going middle of the range, because hey, I was there to treat myself. 

I arrived at Beco de Noronha, my pousada, to find the friendly staff waiting for me with a cocktail, and a foot massage as they settled me into the island routine. (Nice routine!)

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After settling in, and having a brief walk around the island, I found myself heading into town for some dinner. I found the cutest restaurant called Cacimba, where the food was amazing. I went back a few times to this place during my stay, as they had a modern take on some Brazilian style dishes that I really got into.

While the adrenalin of Carnival was fast leaving my body, the relaxation and bliss of being here on this incredible island was taking over.

 

 

Fast-talking Friends

The real test of mastering another language is when you’re accepted into a group of friends – and they stop talking slowly in their native language for your benefit. 

The storytelling begins, the pace quickens and the vocabulary suddenly takes on rarer and unusually evocative words – all of which means that confusion reigns supreme.

It’s a slap in the face for the cocky linguist (I avoided using cunning there…), and a challenge afoot to learn more…

One such time was the trip back from Bezerros to Recife. The car was abuzz with storytelling, most of it coming from Wilton – who could only be described as the fast and the furious. It was pretty safe to say that I had no idea what on earth they were talking about for most of the conversation. Perhaps my brain had had too much and shut down, but I was processing ‘nothing’.

It made me stop and think about sometimes how I talk with my friends back home, and if I change the way I speak to make it easier for my friends from afar to understand.

The key to helping them understand is not really to speak louder. That only helps in the clubs and bars! Try these tips instead.

– Avoid using descriptive language which relies on cultural references. We love to describe things in ways that only a local will understand – but remember that not everyone may get what you mean. A work colleague had fun once by talking about the ‘elephant in the room’ and one of her teams overseas were probably wondering why the hell we had elephants at the office. Cliches can lead to plenty of confusion for foreigners.

– Don’t shorten all words – expand them out at first, and slowly introduce conjunctions. 

– Keep it simple. Shorter Sentences are best. After all communication is better when its flowing between two people, so try practicing listening and speaking. 

– Keep as much of the conversation in the present tense, or be specific when refering to past or future events. Tenses can confuse and confound at the best of times, even more so when you’re learning a language. 

Of course, not everyone wants to be understood – some prefer the challenge. Ask your friends from afar, and check in with them to see if you are going too fast (or slow) for them. After all, they are probably here to study English, and learn the unique flavour behind Australian lingo.