Monday, 15 August 2005
After Seabra’s saga (see part 1), we finally arrived in Lençois where a ‘normal’ life of work no longer existed. Fiesta simply replaced everything. But after three weeks in Brazil, this somehow became the norm. San Juan took over everyone’s lives. Never had I seen so many fireworks go off in 5 days for 24 hours a day. Kids throwing live crackers at my feet. Lençois had a real charm even though some nights proved difficult to sleep due to the noise of explosions.
After that, Salvador was pretty much the same story: if it wasn’t the San Juan the Brazilians were partying about, then it was for the victory of the FIFA Confederation Cup, or even Bahia’s (Salvador’s) independence which comes sooner in the year than the rest of Brazil’s.
After so much partying, I then came to realize it is impossible to fly from Brazil to Peru. No direct flights connect Lima. One of my options was to splash out over 1000 USD to fly via Brasilia, Rio and Buenos Aires. Unlikely. So I settled for the second option: an expensive flight to Manaus (on the Amazon River, in the centre of Brazil), then catch a slow boat for 6 days all the way up to Peru, catch a military flight to Iquitos and finally get a regular flight to Lima.
I’m certain the military flight, Grupo Aéro 42, is used to train military pilots: the co-pilot was reading a manual during the whole flight – except during takeoff and landing where a third officer kept taking notes on how the co-pilot was doing. Besides, at 50 dollars a head, and 18 person capacity, they hardly made money on a 1 hour 40 minute flight!
The slow boat Fênix wasn’t such a bad idea either despite different insect attacks each night: the first night, myself and two other travellers from Australia, Cat Frost and Nicola Craft, were dodging giant grasshoppers landing on our faces whilst trying to sleep. Quick explanation: we didn’t have rooms: we were sleeping on open-deck hammocks under a light bulb. And as the boat closely followed the river bank, it served as a giant insect lure (a very successful one too!). The following nights, beetles were our guest of honour– Amazon-sized beetles – crawling up the inside of everyone’s trousers and even crash landing down women’s cleavages. Watching these creatures fly made us all wonder why such clumsy insects had ever been given wings?
Other than that, the boat ride was surprisingly pleasant if not a tiny bit boring. Crosswords, reading and working (translating for an NGO), were all on the menu each day, as well as 12 identical meals consisting of chicken, beans, rice and spaghetti. Showers and toilets ran on water pumped straight from the Amazon, unfiltered, and despite all this remoteness and wilderness, the boat still had two of the most essential South American needs: a bar and a satellite TV! The bar was always crowded and the satellite constantly rotated every time the boat changed bearing. But we got the news every night and that’s where we heard about the London bombings: sitting on a boat in the middle of nowhere on the Amazon.
After all this remoteness and insect attacks, anyone would think a nice break in the city is what one would need. Quite to the contrary we went and booked an Amazon Jungle tour the very same day we arrived at destination and spent the following night sleeping in a hammock in the middle of the jungle! Mosquitoes were pretty much a problem but the two girls had a super powerful Bushman’s Mosquito repellent which kept the mosquitoes from biting us, although the buzzing in the ears is probably just as horrible as the bites! Added to this, I had an unexpected guest sleeping with me in my hammock all night, and she woke me up at 4 am after crawling all over my face: a small and ugly tarantula carrying eggs (see photo in the Colombia section). She even had the guts to bite my arm during the night!
Brazil all in all was an amazing place to spend a few weeks: catching and eating crocodiles, piranhas and sardines, dodging snakes, sinking in ‘quick mud’, sunbathing, sightseeing, socialising, celebrating with the locals, the kindness of the people, Brazil’s nature, parks and art. Not enough could ever be said about the beauty of this country.
Oh, and the ‘churches’ part in the title? Yeah, simply the number of churches in each town was pretty spectacular: Ouro Preto alone had over 30! :)