Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2



Well back on the road again after a brief, but pleasant (although rushed) interlude at home in London. So, another newsletter to keep you all posted of my goings on.

My flight from London via Paris to Rio de Janeiro was less than a pleasure, having a seat amongst all the obnoxious rowdy screaming children bouncing about and jumping all over the place including on me. As a result I arrived less than bright eyed and bushy tailed.

It turned out this didn’t really matter as Rio is all but closed on Sundays. So after wandering around the old part of town (which is not that interesting), I managed to work out my plans for Brazil. It then transpired that considering the distances concerned and my relatively short time on this trip it would be more efficient and not much more costly to fly around the country, which all needed to be booked up, meaning I would actually have a pretty rigid itinerary, something I am not particularly good at or fond of.

Anyway, with this out the way I went to see Pao de Azucar, Sugar Loaf Peak which offers pleasant panoramas of Rio’s harbour and the cable car featured in the James Bond film Moonraker, when Jaws bit through the cables. Nothing that dramatic on my visit. From there I headed over to Corcovado, a hunch back mountain with the famous art-deco statue of “Christ the Redeemer¨ at its peak looking over Rio. From there the views are more spectacular and one can see some way in all directions, particularly the harbour and one appreciates why it is rated as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

From Rio I headed up to Recife, I can't remember the initial reasons for me going, but it turned out to be a good decision. The town itself didn’t hold much charm although there is a nice beach that stretches for many miles. When I went for a walk one day I came across a dive school and went to enquire about costs and what sites they would be going to. After chatting with Maxwell, a Dive Master there for a while I was almost forcibly included in some drinking with a group of locals who were just using the bar at the school. By the time it was getting dark we were all the worse for wear and one of the number was doing a good impression of a dead man as we through him in the back of another guys pick-up truck to take him home.

When it came to the diving it was very good, we went to a couple of wrecks one of a small paddle steamer from the 1850´s and the second a big cargo ship that sunk just a few years ago. We saw a nice big moray, as well as a variety of other fish. In the evening Clemente, a Columbian who had been the other client and I went off to Olinda (just a short bus ride away) as the Carnival started there earlier than anywhere else. Olinda is a nice colonial town and the Carnival was a street party with groups of drummers on the street and lots of people in fancy dress. There was also a good concert with Mundo Libre SA, a good mangue-beat band. This is a relatively new type of music where different styles are fused together. The vocals being similar to Samba vocals, lots of percussion, violin, electric guitar and samples thrown together. It is difficult to describe, but the whole thing works surprisingly well.

The following day I had to get up early as we headed off for a longer trip to go diving. It was a couple of hours drive along the coast and then a couple more hours by boat out to the site. Another wreck of a paddle steamer but this time a large one. The story is that apparently the captains of the two paddle steamers shared the same mistress and the captain of the smaller one had threatened that if he ever saw the other man’s boat he would ram it and one day he made good on his promise wrecking both boats. The smaller of which was dragged by the current most of the way back to Recife whereas the larger sank near where it was rammed. At this site the visibility was good, and we saw stingray, moray, nursing shark, some other small shark, truck fish, porcupine fish, lobster, crayfish and some other nice stuff. The group (all Brazilian except me) were good fun and with a combination of my Spanish, some English from them and a fair amount of tolerance had a really good time, before during and after the diving.

From Recife I went to Salvador, the former capital of Brazil and a nice old colonial town. The main reason for me being there was because this is the location of the world’s biggest carnival with millions of people partying. I finally met some other decent travellers (up to this point all the other travellers had been quite anti-social). My first night there was a slow one, but it picked up from there.

The next night there was a great concert of various samba bands with some great percussion and a good fun vibe. It was also that night I met Joe Pandeiro, a local guy who is also a legend in Samba percussion with a style, instrument and type of music named after him. He is also a really nice bloke who despite his status in the musical fraternity was not the slightest bit pretentious, far from it. Over the next days I was in Salvador I saw him almost every day and we had a many good laughs and drinks together.

The next days consisted of generally socialising and partying at night, with a modicum of sleep thrown in. On the Tuesday, I received an E-mail from my Dutch friend Micha who I met in Mongolia. He basically said how his life was a bit boring consisting of work, a couple of drinks and sleep. So I replied with a sarcastic one saying his life sounded crap whereas I was having a great time doing carnival in Brazil, why didn’t he come out here? On Wednesday I got one from him saying he would be arriving Friday morning. So Micha arrived on the Friday and we caught up over a few beers and had good nights that night and the next. I spent a fair amount of time hanging around with a couple of guys from Birmingham I met out here, John and Mark, who teach and play Samba back home. To them Joe was a god but unfortunately they couldn’t communicate with him at all as they spoke no language but English. Despite my poor command of Spanish, adapted to Portuguese it usually fell to me to me translator when Joe was with us, which was to begin with a slow process, but it got better. On Thursday when we were trying to see about John and Mark playing with a bloco (a group of musicians, dancers and others who parade round the streets together) I had picked up some Maracas and just played about with them for a minute. We then went to a music shop where the guys had to pick up some stuff, where Joe started teaching me how to play his style on the Pandeiro whilst we were waiting, something I slowly grasped although not proficiently. Then on Friday I found that Joe had left some maracas as a gift for me. It all goes to show how refreshingly unassuming the guy is.

In Salvador there are different things going on during Carnival. There are obviously bars playing live or recorded music all night, there are small and large concerts, there are blocos parading around the streets and there is a procession of blocos on the big roads. The blocos going round the streets at most numbered a few hundred people. They could be an impromptu grouping of musicians or a group all in uniform with a particular theme as well as an entourage also in a uniform of sorts, which can number several thousands of people. The larger blocos are mainly confined to the big parades where they have huge trucks with some of the band and singers as well as incredibly large sound systems pounding out shatteringly loud music. Some of the trucks also have bars and hospitality areas on board.

On a couple of the nights we went to see the big parade of blocos but it is not as relaxed as the partying in the old town as there are so many people on the streets, on the Thursday (which was only a warm up night really) there were probably half a million people in the area of Campo Grande alone, but there were other locations where more parades were going on. The other problem with the throngs of people is that there are thieves out taking advantage. Several people had watches stolen (someone tried to steal mine, but I slapped him about a bit before pushing him into the throng of people to be carried away).

Our last night in Salvador, Saturday night / Sunday morning turned into a big one where we went to a couple of different parts of town to see what was happening and Micha and I went pretty much, straight from the bar to the airport where we got upgraded to business class - Micha totally drunk decided to meet everyone getting on the plane in the departure lounge before we boarded despite most of them not speaking any English and certainly no Dutch, I chose to sleep as we waited to board. Thankfully we both fell asleep before take off and only woke up as we came into land in Rio a couple of hours later.

Rio’s carnival is a different affair to the one in Salvador, the main bit being the parade of the Samba schools at the Sambodromo a stadium built specifically for the event. With a six hundred metre road down it these massive samba schools put on a spectacular show as they parade along with more than ten thousand dancers and performers in costume. Followed by the batteria (drum section), band and singers who have been singing their song for the past hour and a half. Each school has a maximum eighty-five minutes to make the six hundred metre distance and most only just about manage to do it in time. Each school sticks to a particular theme, which ranged from: The history of Brazil; The great mystical Circus; The peoples of the Northeast; and The richness of the Amazon. It starts at nine in the evening and we left as the last school was finishing up at seven in the morning after a nice sunrise. The show was really spectacular with incredible costumes and floats and displays of dancing, as well some very impressive displays of the female form. It is not as much of a party atmosphere as I was hoping for despite having met decent people sat around us it was more like grand theatre than a big fiesta.

After a few hours sleep Micha headed back to Holland and work and I began recovering from the excesses and lack of sleep from the previous days / weeks.


Greetings again, once again doing my best to keep you posted of what exciting or otherwise happenings have happened on my travels recently.

After the last newsletter I headed up to Porto Seguro, which is north by about eighteen or twenty hours overnight. At the bus station I met Florence, Sophia and Bettina from France, Michael from Nottingham and on the bus Johnny from New Zealand. Over the next days we stuck together as Carnival finally came to an end. Our first night in Porto Seguro we all got very drunk due to the more generous mixing of drinks here. Even by Brazilian standards the proportion of alcohol was very rich. Aided with Dutch courage we danced to the samba blocos until we realised it was unsafe to do so anymore, so headed back to the hotel.

The following morning we got up, despite our bodies reluctance to do so to move onto Arriael de Ajuda, which involves a short ferry crossing and a short bus ride. With the help of some Antipodeans we then found a nice, cheap hotel to recover from the trials of the previous night and the exhausting journey (only tiring because of our condition). That night was the last night of Carnival in Ajuda so we went and watched the concert and partied there, but this time wisely kept the amount of drinking to more reasonable levels. The concert was okay, though not particularly great, the band would have been better if it weren't for the fact that the lead singer spent most of the time just talking so there were big gaps in the music, whilst he had a diatribe.

The rest of the time I spent in Ajuda was spent recuperating, basically taking it easy. Then I got the bus back down to Rio, to get a plane to Brasilia, to get a plane to Manaus in the Amazon basin. Essentially this entailed spending the next thirty six hours travelling or in transit. On the bus to Rio, a Brazilian girl was staring at me for a long time (here many of the women are far from shy), I thought maybe she was interested in me for one reason or another. When the bus stopped for a while at a service station she said she recognised me from Carnival night in Porto Seguro. I apologised that I didn't remember here as I had been very drunk at the time, but apparently we hadn’t spoken or anything, it was just that she and her boyfriend had apparently been watching me dancing for some time. She didn’t make it clear if this was a compliment or not, but apparently I have a distinctive dance style. I don't know if it is something to be proud of or

On arrival in Manaus I met a couple of pleasant Israeli's Yomit and Ron, and the three of us shared a cab to the hotel. When we got there it was one in the morning, so no buses. Then found out it was only midnight, as Manaus is in another time zone to Eastern Brazil but still no buses. Earlier that day in Rio I had noticed that my watch seemed to be an hour fast, which I later found out was due to the clocks changing to winter time. So I gained an hour, then in Manaus I gained another, just when I didn’t really need them.

Manaus, is not a very attractive town, it is mostly industrial, it has limited charms like a tropical Birmingham. It is however a common starting point for some exploration of the Amazon. With this in mind I spent most of the next day looking for a company that suited by wants, needs and preferences for a five day trip. After numerous meetings with many different firms I decided on one, based on itinerary, price and gut feeling. When I got back to the hotel I saw Ron and Yomit who had not found anyone they liked and were going to settle for one they weren’t too enthusiastic about, I mentioned mine and took them to meet Sandro, who owns the company and they decided to join me, but only for one night as they had to be back in Manaus the following evening. As they were paying we joked about my commission for bringing them. Then as we were leaving Sandro called me back and gave me thirty Reais to say thanks and (for a few drinks). When we got out I offered to split the money with the Israelis, but they wouldn't take it, so it was a pleasant side effect of being a good Samaritan.

Early the next morning Clemilton our guide came to pick us up, also going were: Metka and Andrej from Slovenia, and Brian from Miami. Everyone seemed to get on well enough from the start, which boded well. We had a journey by minibus to the ferry across the Amazon and then another minibus. From which we stopped to look at some impressive lilies. They were known as Victoria Lilies until recently (a homage by the British horticulturist who first classified, them to the queen), but have apparently just had there name changed to something more Brazilian, which I forget. The leaves can be huge like big round trays floating on the water with a pretty flower as well. The leaves can get to two or three metres in diameter. We then got back in the minibus to get a motor canoe for an hour or so to the lodge where we would be staying that night. At the lodge, which was still under construction, we had lunch, hung our hammocks and took it easy for a little while. A chicken decided to lay a egg in Brian's bed Then we headed off to fish for Piranhas, the famously vicious fish. After a little while fishing with sticks, line covered with copper wire to protect it from the nasty teeth and a hook baited with small pieces of beef we caught some of the nasty nippers. After a while fishing we caught about fifteen between us. I caught two and a half, the half being one that jumped off the hook just as I was getting it to the boat., The one that got away must have been half the size of the boat (In reality the fish was the same size as the others caught (six to eight inches / fifteen to twenty centimetres long), but in fisherman speak it would be improper to admit to that).

After a reasonable catch of the biting buggers, we went to see the porpoises. In the Amazon they have the worlds only fresh water porpoise, unlike the worlds only fresh water dolphins, which are in the Mekong river in Laos and Cambodia. These porpoises have a long snout, longer than a bottle nosed dolphin for example but are smaller. They are often pink, which gave rise to local legends that say they are incarnations of the dead and that they can come back on land as men from time to time. This helped to protect them from local hunters and they are not shy around boats as a result. On the way back to the lodge for dinner we saw a large (three metre / ten foot Cayman) at the side of the river, which was nice. Caymans are in the same family as Crocodiles and Alligators but are a different species, but can also be lethal.

That evening we went out to catch a Cayman, or more accurately for Clemilton to catch one. Which he managed within just a few minutes. This is done by going out in the dark and trying to see a red ye or two brightly reflecting from your torchlight. Then Clemilton grabbed the thing out the water and into the boat. Understandably the sort he was prepared to grapple was not the large variety, but the smaller type. There are two main types of Cayman in the area those that grow large, like the one we had seen earlier that day and this type, which is not as big. This one was a little over a metre long from nose to tail, but just because it was smallish doesn't mean it can’t be very nasty. They are odd creatures, hermaphrodites that actually change sex depending on their temperature. After an interesting explanation of the animal and an opportunity for each of us to hold it we let it go, and we went back to the lodge for an early night and I had a terrible nights sleep being eaten alive by mosquitoes despite the net. In the light of morning I discovered that the net was about as effective as a chocolate fire guard as it had more holes in than Nixon's records. After breakfast we all set off for a Jungle trek where Clemilton described the variety of flora and more limited fauna around us. This included a water vine, which has a good filtration system and holds good clean water for a thirsty trekker, so we all had a drink. There was also a Tarzan vine we could swing on, a Brazil nut tree, which we got some fresh nuts from, and lots of other flora, including a Brazil wood tree, which was what the country was named after. Clemilton then managed to coax from its hole what we had been looking for in particular all along, a tarantula. He then explained its behaviour and all about the furry spider in depth. Then sweaty and thirsty we headed back to the lodge again for lunch and the Israelis then headed back to Manaus. That evening another big group arrived at the lodge, so I hung my hammock in Brian’s room (with a decent net this time) as most of the sleeping area was open plan and they were very noisy. In the afternoon we took the canoe to other parts of the lake (we spent most of the time on or around lake Mamori) where we saw more bird life, including Jacarandas, Kingfishers, Egrets, Chicken Eagles, Vultures, etc. and some small monkeys and porpoises again.

After dinner we went out spear fishing, or more precisely watched Clemilton spear fishing, with a torch looking through the water for a fish then trying to spear it, which he managed on the third fish. We also saw a small Cayman who decided to go underwater when we came by, but as it was clear water and we had light we could see him swimming under which was nice. During all this we all had to be silent and sit very still, which would not have been too much of a problem except for Brian and I were sharing a very narrow seat and both have back problems, he hurt his diving from a log. We were also watching some disconcerting leaks in the canoe, so when Clemilton finally caught a fish we were relieved, until he went onto try and catch more, something we didn’t need, one demonstration was enough so we headed back again for a good nights sleep.

On the third day after breakfast we went canoeing through some of the narrow channels, amongst the trees in areas that in the dry season are actually above water, but at the time we were there were submerged by several metres in parts. We didn't see much in the way of more wildlife, but it was still enjoyable and at one point we could hear some howler monkeys, but only see where they were from moving branches and leaves not the animals themselves. Just after we returned the heavens opened for a massive tropical downpour, which caught the other group on the way back from their jungle trek. After a couple of hours of torrential rain the rain abated a bit and half of the other group left, whilst half the remainder complained of the exertion. They were set to go into the forest to camp that night, but five of the six remaining decided not to, as it was all too much for them. We then found that the Slovenians had missed the boat, they should have left with the others so transport was arranged for them. Andrea a Swiss girl who was the only remaining one from the other group then joined Brian and I, the remainder of our group for the rest of her tour.

After the rain stopped we went off by canoe to a Caboca house. Caboca are mixed local and immigrant people who live in the forest farming, fishing etc. They were very hospitable and good fun and made us a reasonable dinner. What was confusing however was that they all had incredibly similar names that all sounded like Jesseial. Apparently quite common in Brazil to have similar names for all the children. In the evening after I embarrassed myself in barefooted football Clemilton mixed some lethal Caiperinhas, the Brazilian national drink, which has cachasa (a sugar cane based spirit) lime, sugar and lots of ice. As a result we were all merry quite quickly and I don’t know how much our singing was appreciated by the family who were trying to sleep.

We then went to see what was involved in Manioc processing, one of the main crops the people farm and were also told about the work involved when the rubber trees in the forest were tapped to supply the world trade, until the British took the trees to Malaysia where they could be farmed efficiently, accessibly and cheaply unlike the trees in the Amazon which would involve expeditions for months to collect enough to be sellable. There was also apparently a problem with French whores spreading disease, which went to make the rubber trade in Brazil unprofitable.

We then managed to get Brian a lift with someone else back to the lodge and Andrea, Clemilton and I headed further out to find a good spot to camp for the night. Soon after we had gathered some fire wood it once again proved it was a rainforest when the heavens opened again. As a result we needed to make a bivouac for the fire so we went off through the forest to find appropriate leaves, which we then brought back and made a shelter, when the rain then ended. It was actually quite nice, both refreshing and cleansing when it rained. The other advantage being it kept the mosquitoes away for a bit.

Clemilton forgot to bring any cutlery so he carved spoons for us and we had a late lunch. After it got dark some monkeys (I forget the type) came into the canopy above the camp, which was unusual, particularly as there was a fire going. We couldn't actually see them but we could hear them and see where they were from moving leaves etc. Apparently these monkeys are often aggressive and an otherwise very calm and happy Clemilton was a little on edge as a result. After an hour or so of watching us they got bored and went, not to be heard from again and we all had an early night, sleeping in hammocks under the stars with just a mosquito net for protection from wild beasts.

After a simple breakfast we struck camp and headed back to the lodge in the motor canoe. After the first twenty minutes it poured down in sheets and didn’t slow for an hour or more, so in not too long despite rain coats and ponchos we were all wet through. The rain slowed for the latter part of the journey, but still didn't give us a chance to dry out until we arrived. Then I had a shave and wash and we had a welcome lunch, with another group that had been on a trip for the last few days in other parts before heading back to Manaus.

As we got the boat across the Amazon Clemilton explained the “meeting of the waters” where the Rio Solimoes and Rio Negro meet to form the Amazon. However for the first six to eight kilometres the two rivers run side by side without intermingling. This is due to temperature, velocity and density differences between the waters that take time to balance out. One can actually see the dark Rio Negro next to the much lighter, muddier Rio Solimoes with a clear line separating the two waters, unusual and interesting.

Back in Manaus after necessary cleaning etc. we all went out (our group and the other one) for something to eat with our guides before going on to a party where they were playing Foho music, a Brazilian style of music that involves various instruments and has a rocky kind of feel to it. I ended up dancing a lot, and had a good time again.

Andrea and I spent the next day wandering around Manaus and visited the famous Opera House there. An impressive theatre, constructed towards the end of the nineteenth century with materials all imported from Europe, except some of the wood for the furniture. It was all carved, painted, made in Europe though and brought to Manaus to be put together. Even the paintings on the walls that look like frescoes were actually done on canvas and then brought out and stuck on.

Late that evening I went to the airport to go to Brasilia, the capital. As my flight to Foz da Iguacu would be connecting through there anyway, I decided to spend a day there seeing what it was like.

Brasilia was the brainchild of Juscilino Kubitschek, the president of Brazil in the late fifties, early sixties. The city is designed along the plan of bow and arrow, in the middle of a previously unpopulated area. Internationally renowned architect Oscar Niemayer, who had previously designed the UN building in New York, designed many of the buildings. As Brazils most prolific architect he got the job of designing the Cathedral, Sports halls, Conference centres, Ministries, Palaces, etc., which all have a distinctive style. The town itself has a slightly peculiar feel to it as it feels resigned, the whole thing is still a work in progress and the buildings still have to conform to strict zoning, governing the size, height, type of building etc. to try and keep a consistent feel. It is reminiscent of Islamabad or Washington D.C., but the concept they have there has been taken to the next level in Brasilia. One day was enough to see the place, for me and that evening I went to the airport to continue my flight to Foz da Iguacu. My flight wasn’t until the early hours but I managed to get some sleep (though not enough) first on the sofa in the airline staff room, then when they closed up in the departure lounge.

My flight to Iguacu was beset with problems, but the friendly and efficient staff at TAM managed to make it all as a little inconvenience as possible, so when the flight was cancelled to the right airport in Sao Paulo, where we were to connect with a flight to Iguacu, myself and three women, also from London were flown to another airport in Sao Paulo then ushered along and through the place, on to a bus and to the right place where we checked back onto the connecting flight with our bags again. At times we felt like a baton being passed from one relay runner to another, but they were always courteous, friendly and efficient.

When I finally got to Iguacu, I was very tired and in bad need of some sleep, which I managed to get. Next morning when I was going off to have a look at the town and down to the falls (the falls in Iguacu are spectacular and are justifiably rated one of the seven natural wonders of the world, they were also used to good effect in the film “The Mission” with Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro). Jogo a guide who managed to convince me to join his group going to the Argentinean side of the falls for the day accosted me.

On the way, shortly after we entered Argentina, we stopped to see the point where three countries (Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil) meet, at the junction of the Iguacu and Parana rivers. We then went onto the falls themselves. These are incredibly spectacular with a number of different cataracts, which combined send over three times greater volume of water than Niagara. The falls are on the edge of the forest and have a really natural beauty to them, with cataracts dotted over two or three miles, dropping hundreds of metres at some points. One is able to walk around different routes that show different views and otherwise obscured cataracts. Unlike Victoria falls, these are not in such a straight line but wind around the whole area. So just when one thinks it is the end of them, another cataract comes into view. We all went for a ride in a speed boat, which took us around some of the more dramatic spots and actually under some of the falls where we all got totally drenched. We then dried off on the walk to see more falls before heading back to Foz da Iguacu, in Brazil.

A couple of days later I went to see the Brazilian side of the falls, this doesn't take as long, but the views are much more dramatic as one sees the size of the falls and for how far they stretch. Really extremely picturesque. Along the paths we had to be careful of the coatis, a tropical carnivore related to the racoon. These things are scurrying about scavenging from tourists and even trying to get in to bags at times.

As the Paraguayan border is so close, I went to have a look at Ciudad del Este, the frontier town the other side. It is not a particularly appealing place, renowned for its shopping above anything else, although even this was far from brilliant. I do always find it curious to see how sharp the contrasts between two countries can be when crossing a border. Crossing into Paraguay made Brazil look very wealthy, something it isn't really. Strange how things can change so abruptly in the space of a couple of hundred metres.

On my last day in Brazil I went to see the Itaipu dam, the only one of “The Seven Modern Wonders of the World” in South America. It is not the most fascinating thing except for those with a keen interest in hydroelectric generation, but it is nonetheless very impressive. It was the largest single building project of the twentieth century and its height is equivalent to a sixty-five storey building. There is a plethora of mundane statistics, but I think I have already said enough, except that during the tour one of the spillways was open and the force and quantity of the water was phenomenal, pouring down the spillway and then launching skywards as it hit the bottom. This one dam (which was built in the 1970’s by Brazil and Paraguay) provides ninety five percent of Paraguay’s electricity consumption and twenty five percent of Brazil’s, that is a lot of power.

My time in Brazil has been very good, although off to a slow start on the social side of things it managed to excel after not long. Once again on my travels I have met some really good people, both local and other travellers.

Brazil has been more a place of stunning nature than of historical or cultural interest, although I have seen these aspects it was not its forte for me. It has also been somewhere of great partying and festivity and a lot of dancing and music.

Although a vegetarian could survive in Brazil it is definitely a carnivorous country, where beef is king and they have excellent restaurants serving almost every part of the cow in different ways. However after over a month here I almost feel like I should be waking on all fours, mooing and chewing the cud. What worries me most though is apparently it pales in comparison to the beef eating of the Argentineans, I’ll have to see.

The women in Brazil are also definitely worth a mention. They have a seductive manner about them that seems to exude sensuality, even if they are not particularly attractive per se, they can be very sexy. They are also generally unpretentious and few of them wear or need to wear any make up, all appreciated attributes. What many guys find particularly appealing though is that they are not at all shy about what they want or think and there is little beating around the bush.

Probably the most endearing aspect I have come across amongst Brazilians is their friendliness. I have almost no encounters with Brazilians who were not extremely friendly, even when I asked them confusing questions in my confused Portuguese, they would always try and help. This has meant that I have had lengthy (although sometimes unintelligible) conversations with total strangers, simply because they wanted to talk to me, they were serving me a drink and wanted a chat, I asked them directions and they wanted to know where I was from and what I was doing, or simply because we were sat or standing near each other.

So once again that is all for the while. Now I head off to Argentina, more specifically Buenos Aires.



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