Friday, 26 November 2010

Quick update from Ilha Grande

Oi oi folks! That's how they say 'hi' here. Still makes me laugh whenever I hear it, as it just sounds so rude to my English ears. It's like, I'm walking down the street and suddenly someone hails down a mate with a hearty "OI!" and I turn round, expecting a fight, thinking, "What, what's going on?? ....oh."

Wow, lots has happened since my last entry. I cannot believe that I only have two full days of my tour left, and that I fly back home a week today... Eep!

Well, maybe I should start with where I am now, which is Ilha Grande. Ilha Grande, unsurprisingly, means 'Big Island' and is off the coast of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro state. It's a paradisal island full of rainforests, coves and beaches, and is unlike anywhere else I've been, in that the whole island is basically a protected nature reserve. There are no ATMs here, no banks, and no roads, just a couple of small villages, some sandy dirt tracks and hiking trails. You can also take boats from the main pier, but there are no cars allowed anywhere on the island. The only vehicles you see belong to the local emergency services, and everyone else either rides around on a bicycle or walks.

Eco tourism is encouraged here, but it's small-scale. So it's really refreshing to feel so out the way. No Starbucks, no McDonalds, just sand, sea and lush greenery. In the sun, Ilha Grande looks like this:

Sadly though I haven't seen it at its best, because the weather so far on the Brazilian leg of our tour (the part which is supposed to be all about the beaches) has been a little bit poo. It's still warm, and at times the humidity verges on unbearable, but we've hardly had any sunshine or blue skies; instead it's been very grey, overcast and rainy. But you know what, I shouldn't complain because I've just been on the BBC news website and seen warnings for ice and snow in the UK. Brr!

On the subject of Brazil and weather, when I was in Buenos Aires I went out for dinner with one of my roommates at the hostel. Her name was Iris and she was German, maybe 42 or 43 years old (I can't remember which exactly), and an architect. She was really friendly and lovely, and very open to my suggestion that we go out for dinner to an all you can eat buffet place in Puerto Madero, which is the dockland barrio in BA.

Iris told me that she'd already spent quite a bit of time in Buenos Aires, and that she loved splitting her time between Germany and Argentina. She also told me that she was thinking of buying a flat there, so she was clearly a huge fan of the city. One of the things that came up in our conversation over dinner was Brazil. She herself had already been there a few times, and I was curious to know what she thought, and how she felt it compared to Argentina. She didn't seem too enthused, which I found interesting. She said that she found that in Brazil, everything was a bit more lax, and that the prevailing attitude there is a lot more laissez faire, which, depending on the type of person you are, is either a predominantly positive or negative thing. She mentioned how so many of the buildings that she saw are just left to crumble and decay. No-one bothers to tear them down, improve them, build new ones, they just remain they're as if to say, eh, well, there's always tomorrow, don't worry about it.

In the little that I've seen of Brazil I kind of know what she means, and to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if the weather has a lot to do with it. It's so fricking hot here, but not hot like it was in BA, where it was more of a dry heat; it's a sticky, humid heat which pervades everything. You always feel slightly damp, and in constant need of a shower. And everywhere I've been I've seen stray dogs and cats sleeping in the street, just lying and basking in the sunshine, chilling. I often wonder how anyone ever gets anything done here. It must be pretty hard to be industrious or care much about anything when your other option is just to laze about, sweating profusely and drinking caipirinhas all day in an ill-advised attempt at rehydration.

Speaking of caipirinhas, they are fookin' lethal here. I had one caipirinha in a restaurant the other night and after about two sips, I was pissed. To say they are liberal with their measures of cachaca is an understatement, but I still love it. Mm, limey!!

Oh shit, I have to go. We're throwing a surprise birthday BBQ party for Akiko and it starts in about 5 minutes. D'oh! Will try and update again soon. Ciao!

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