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Brazil :: Caipirinhas, churches and, hmm... (part 1)

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Thursday, 28 July 2005

From crispy snow-white beaches to crazy after-dark favela parties, from swimming with piranhas to getting bitten by small tarantulas, from Manu Chao and Tiken Jah Fakoly concerts to 6 days cruising up Amazon side channels in a slow boat, Brazil undeniably fulfills its reputation of being a continent of its own.

After partying a few days on Ilha Grande with a group of fun loving Americans and Pepita the transvestite, I headed to Rio to discover one of the most famous cities in the world.

Even though the carnival only occurs once a year, each night in Rio is a new celebration. The first night was spent in renowned Lapa: heads popping up from everywhere, barbecues and cocktail stands lining the roads, thousands of people crammed together down narrow streets. This is a regular Friday night. The next day a live concert was organised on Copacabana beach. Again, crowds gathered from all parts of Rio to drink and celebrate the Latin Spirit. Even after two full nights of events, this didn't seem to deter anyone from going to a huge funk party in one of Rio's favelas.

But Rio isn't all about partying. The Christ Redeemer and Pan de Azucar are great spots to visit. Copacabana and Ipanema beaches are great to relax on - although these really should be avoided during the weekend, when they become cattle markets: people so closely tucked together, come to show off their bodies: the women aren't too bad, but men stand and gaze into the air striking ludicrous poses worthy of Johnny Bravo - "hey mama!". Nevertheless, Rio really struck my heart as one of my favourite destinations.

Then came Brasilia. "Brasilia?" everyone would say, "Why are you going to Brasilia? There's nothing to do there!". Once there, the question became: "Brasilia? Why did you come to Brasilia? There's nothing to do here!". Well, that wasn't quite true: the day after arriving, a free concert was organised by the French consulate to celebrate "La Fête de la Musique 2005". And nothing less than Manu Chao and Tiken Jah Fakoly singing the night away!

Getting out of Brasilia however was quite a different experience. With only one bus a day to Lençois and with no places left, the only option was to catch a bus to a tiny town called Seabra, 60 kms away from destination. "Yes yes, buses leave every hour to Lençois from Seabra!" I was assured. Well after a painstaking 20 hour journey, I arrived in Seabra only to discover that the next bus out of there was 10 hours later!

So, with all this time to kill, and armed with a travel companion, we decided to go get a drink. Somehow, we managed to pick the dirtiest, dodgiest, mankiest looking bar in the whole town. We ordered caipirinhas and beers then started chatting with the locals sitting there. After a five minute wait, our drinks arrived with flies circling the glasses, and girls circling us. Uneasy and a little unsure what all this was about, we were suddenly asked: "do you want sex?"

We were in a brothel! Well, not to say, we got out of there real quick: two fresh juicy tourists stopping over in a town few tourists ever visit, it was simply too good to be true for these girls, and simply too hazardous for us!