Trip Start Apr 30, 1970
27Trip End Dec 20, 2007
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After my first short visit of Rio de Janeiro and Iguazų waterfalls at the end of my travel around South America in summer 1984, I returned three years later to Brazil for a full visit in one month of the country together with Carmen, my former wife.
We bought the convenient Brazil Air Pass that allowed us to fly through the whole country paying only about 300 usdollars each, while only flying between Rio and Bahia costs about the same price!
We arrived in Rio just a week before Carnival, in February ,hoping to see all the preparations to the great show, but except for a two hundred musicians beating on their drums at a Carnival school club, we could not see anything else
There are only four great "locura" crazy days between saturday and tuesday, when most of the reach people of Rio leave the city that is assaulted by tourists and the poor people of the "favelas" who have worked and earnt all year long to prepare the greatest show in the world.
The tickets to enter the "sambodromo"-stadium to see the show cost one third of the average brazilian salary and we bought them for the Saturday night show, starting at 09.00 pm and ending at 08.00 am on Sunday.
The sambodromo is about one km long with two floor side galleries from which you can see the whole companies each one of about 5,000 people walking and filling the road with their huge waggons even 5 meters high but made of light materials in order not to use polluted engines but just pushed on by hands.
Each company displays its topic, generally chosen among local history, tradition or a specific recent highlight and the costumes, the colours, the sexy mulatas (girls) and the music made you get crazy and driven to dance and sing along as each company repeats its song during the one hour long performance
The first, second and third winner companies have the privilege to walk again during the following week-end when Carnival is over.
The competition is very strong not only among the companies but even among the spectators, as each one supports a single company.
On tuesday afternoon we flew to Bahia, to see the Carnival da rua, Street Carnival that is completely different. Here there are the Trios Electricos, giant trucks on top of which samba-rock groups play their music at thousand watts power, followed by participants closed inside a big rope circle to protect them from the violence.
They are all dressed with the same costumes that is generally a long coloured coat.
The tourists are seated on their occasional galleries at payment while all the others walk all around in a total chaos and noise. After some hours all the trucks remain blocked in the same place, therefore you see the same truck and listen to the same group music all the time
The following morning we saw public cleaners with powerful water sprays and everything was soon cleaned up.
In Bahia we visited the old part called Pelorinho, with old colonial houses and the square where the esclaves used to be sold and punished.
Bahia remembers me Santiago,Cuba or New Orleans, Louisiana as it is full of black people, descendents of the esclaves taken from Africa for the sugar-cane cultivations.
There are baroque old churches, a spanish castle, palm trees beaches and a famous island, Itaparica with a Clubmed at short distance from the coast.
Condomblč, santeria, vodoo, capoheira (an esclave dance of two white-dressed dancers fighting by legs), fat black women dressing white skirts, spicy food, Jorge Amado writer,etc...are the highlights of this interesting city, old capital of Brazil before Rio and Brazilia.
We then flew to Recife, the capital of the Pernambuco North East State, that looks like Rio, with long sand beaches and high skycrapers
Olinda, close to Recife is much more interesting and nice, its name means o beautiful, old capital with white colonial houses and bouganvilles flowers on the Pacific Ocean.
It also celebrates a famous Carnival but it was unfortunately over.
We visited two other historical places: Parati, a nice town well preserved as it was in the 17th and 18th centuries and Ouro Preto ,another beautiful town full of students, flowered hills and baroques churches.
The next stop was Belem at the mouths of the Rio de Amazonas, the longest river all over the world, so broad that sometimes you can not see the opposite bank.
I just remember a big fish market and high buildings of a modern but not interesting city.
We flew along the big river to Manaus, the Amazonas capital that is more interesting as you can visit a Great Opera House where all the big artists performed during the last century when this city was very rich due to its treasury: the rubber.
We took some excursions by boat along the river to the place where two differents branches of the river meet and you can see the different colour of the waters.
We also sailed inside a little boat and visited some villages and a tiny island from which we escaped soon in order not to be eaten by millions of mosquitoes
We were told that in order to see monkeys, high trees, parrots, alligators,etc.. we should have sailed at 4 hours far from the city but we decided not to do it.
We flew instead to the modern capital of Brazilia, built around 1960 by the architect Nymeyer that looks still today as a city of the future with its strange buildings and the lack of meeting points that gives it an aspect of an unpleasant place to live in, so that the public officers and clerks go back to Rio at week-ends from where they moved when the new capital was built.
The last city we visited before coming back to Rio was Belo Horizonte of which I remember only a big square at the end of a long and broad alley where the Pope John Paul II celebrated the Holy Mass during his visit.
Rio is fascinating not only for its several long sandy beaches but for the amazing view of the bay from the Corcovado (a mountain with a big Jesus Christ statue and a botanic garden at its base)and Pan de Azucar (another round mountain reachable by an air cableway)
Behind the modern and giant new Cathedral we took a tramway (bonjinho)to reach the old district of the city, St.Tereza, on a panoramic hill.
As all Brazil cities, Rio has a lot of beatiful and old baroque churches.
We used to go every day to Ipanema beach, to beach out and then drink a capirinha at the Vinicio de Moraes bar, where the famous poet and music composer used to spend his free time.
You can meet the Brazilian people and enjoy their performances of live music made by beating some objects, what else they have at disposal or they find on the table, forks, glasses, etc.
I miss (tem saudade do Brazil) this nice country and its friendly people, the exotic cocktails, the fruit salad and juices, the tasty little cafezinho, the portuguese pizza, the churrasco (lots of grilled meat of different type), the fejoada (beans soup), the Choppy (a particular type of beer by glass) and the amazing mulatta Rio girls, the sexiest girl in the world!