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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : The tropical Brazil

 Looking at the map of South America, I really had the impression that Brazil was tooking over all its neighbouring countries. Brazil is massive state, this is the fifth bigger country in the world. Brazil is half of South America and has a border with all the countries of the continent, except Ecuador and Chile. Crossing it, traveling in it, has been an adventure in itself, especially by hitchhiking. Brazil is a very surprising and diversified country. Going in the south is very different from being in the Nordeste or even more in the Amazone.

The brazilians can identify themselves to a very rich culture. Through the music, the langage, the food, the drink or the environement itself, Brazil is unique. The country is getting better economicaly speaking but also had problems like the huge difference between rich and poor, the high level of insafety or the deforestation...
Follow me on this journey of 8500 kilometers by hitchhiking, in the biggest Portuguese-speaking country of the world!

Map of the brazilian areas


The brazilian culture

I think that it is better to describe you directly the brazilian to begin this article about Brazil. From the beginning of my journey, I found a very special interest to study the culture of the local population, aiming to understand the world from the point of view of its inhabitants. This way, I had a closer look to the brazilian culture.

Inhabitants

-Diversity of the country
As I was saying higher, the country is very diversified. The culture is, but also the origin of its source. In the south of Brazil (yellow on the map), we will find a population that is mainly originary from Europe (Portugal of course, but also Italy, Spain, etc...). In the Nordest (red on the map), we will find a main part of the population that came fron Africa during the “slaves trade”, while in the Amazone (green on the map), it remains some natives population that live in the rainforest, although very few nowadays.

-Sport
Sport is very important in the life of the brazilian and of course especially football. The biggest clubs are Flamengo and Fluminense in Rio de Janaeiro while in Sao Paulo, this is Palmeiras and the Corinthians. The best players of the world often are coming from Brazil, like Pelé, Ronaldo or lastly Ronaldinho.

Here I am with a flag of Fluminense

It is possible to find football fields pretty much everywhere in the country. On the numerous beaches of the country, you will surely find the necessary to organize a game with your friends.

Here in Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, there are the useful posts to play your favorite sport the whole year.

Also, new kinds of sports have been invented in Brazil. Let´s talk for example of “futevolei”, which is a kind of volleyball that is played without the hands. I could watch some games of this sport on the beaches of Rio or Vitoria and to be honest, I have been absolutely amazed by the tecnical level of the players.

A game of “futevolei” in Copacabana

Brazil will host the next world cup in 2014. I can already imagine the madness that will be in the country at this time.

-The life on the beach
More than any other country where I have been, Brazil has a real beach culture! What would do the brazilian without those long streches of white sand along the ocean?

In every city of the coast, and even when it is on the interior with a lake or a river, the brazilian is constantly looking for a way to spend his morning, his evening or for the least his week-end near a beach. By the way, I rarely had the opportunity to see so beautiful beaches since I started my trip.

A beach on the west side of Rio de Janeiro

-Appearance and superficiality
The Brazilians like to go to the beach but surprisingly, few are swimming. A lot even don´t even know how to swim!
The motivation for a stroll along the coast is to be able to freely show your body. The brazilian generally like to build his body to look as much desirable as possible. Indeed the beach is the perfect spot to show your muscles, your innumerable tatoos or for the ladies their tiniest bikinis.

There are body-building devices a little everywhere near the beaches, even here adapted for the elderly people in Rio de Janeiro!

In the newspaper in Florianopolis, the idea was given since the very suggestive first page.

Still, I found all of that a little bit superficial, because it seemed to be that the appearance had more for goal to define a person instead of its actions. Firstly visually entertaining, the second impression was that I couldn´t really go over the tatoo of the swimsuit because everything was centered there. However, the visit of the Amazone gave me the chance to discover a deeper Brazil.

Music
I liked so much the brazilian music!
I think that the Brazilian accent on the Portuguese language helps to give this charm to the music. “Samba” of course, but also “forro” that I dansed and a parking-lot refitted on a dance-floor for the night in Rio, the “MPB” (musica popular brasileira) or even the sensual “bossanova” (surely my favorite kind of brazilian music) can put you in the perfect mood to understand the brazilian life from the inside.

Food, drinks
Discovering the local gastronomy is often a good point to start to understand the culture. In Brazil, I didn´t miss it. If I have to nourish myself, it is a good opportunity to learn more about the Brazilian way of doing it after all!

-Mainly in the south even if you can find it everywhere, the “Churrascaria” is a restaurant where you can try at will all kind of different meats.

A waiter of Churrascaria in Palmas in the center of Brazil

-The “Feijoada” is a meal made of rice, black beans and some pork. I found it several times on the road, especially sharing the diner with the truck drivers who where heating their Feijoada on the side of the road.

-The typical alcoholized drink is the “Caipirinha”. This is a cocktail mixing the cachaca (sugar cane alcohol), limon and sugar cane. The cocktail is delicious, especially consumed during the evening... on the beach.

A caipirinha prepared in Porto Alegre, in the south of the country

-The “guarana” is a very famous soda in Brazil. This one is prepared from the extracts of the plant of the same name, that is mainly growing in Amazonia in Brazil.

I believe that the guarana, as the Inca Kola in Peru, is not far from being the most consumed soda in Brazil.

The guarana, here in Vitoria in Brazil


Religion
Religion has a very important part in the life of the Brazilians. The most important religion is the Catholicism, eventhough there are many Christian churches and also a minority of afro-brazilian beliefs like the “Candomblé”.

The sunday evening, I often noticed that it was an important moment to celebrate the religion in the many churches of Brazil. Doors wide open, religious building filled up to the gate, you can listen to the priest preaching and the congregation following the rythm.

On the road, you can find some signs that have religious messages, like here between Florianopolis and Rio de Janeiro with this “Deus te proteja!” (May God protect you!)

In Salvador de Bahia, I found myself on the middle of an incredible ceremony of an afro-brazilian belief. This religion is called the “Candomblé” and this day of February 2nd was dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea “Iemanja”. The religious were mainly giving flowers to the sea, but also coins, jewels and even sometimes freshly made cakes!

The day of the Iemanja in Salvador de Bahia

The many offerings to the goddess of the sea, here a freshly made cake

Telenovela
How many times have I disturbed families in their shop at the time of the Telenovela. It has been almost rude from me to make them turn their head from the television, even for a second.

The telenovela does fit to the life of the Brazilians because it is a perfect representation of it, adapting to the current facts of the Brazilian society. You can find it in every country of South America but I think that it has been done a special effort in Brazil to have a better quality telenovela. They are even exported to Portugal.

Here I am during the time of the Telenovela, which was perfect to learn a little bit of Portuguese (the telenovela is not so complicated)


Hitchhiking in Braz
il

Hitchhiking has been very difficult in Brazil. I think that after two months thumbing in this country, I would say that Brazil is on the top three of the most difficult country to hitchhike with Italy and the United States (that still stay on the top). There are of course reasons to this difficulty: unsafety and interdiction.

Unsafety
Brazil is a dangerous country. It is true that I felt this danger and life very often in the big cities (especially Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo)-

Many of the drivers who gave me a ride told me some mugging or assaulting tales that happened to them or their friends.

I have to say that in Brazil, there is a huge difference between the richest and the poorest, as in South Africa. However here, the “favelas” (Brazilian townships) are totally mixed with the rich areas in the urban landscape. This is maybe another reason why there are so many thefts and assaults.

Some buildings of the favela “Cidade de Deus) (the city of God)

A french friend that I met in Rio de Janeiro told me that she has been mugged 5 times during the 6 months that the stayed in this city...

In the big cities, the vehicles are authorized at night to not stop in the traffic lights, to avoid being attacked.

For all those reasons, the drivers were not keen to give me a ride and in a way, I understand them.

Interdiction
Stopping the cars on the side of the road has been an almost undoable mission. For this reason, I spent much more time than usual on the petrol-stations or in the places where I could directly talk to the drivers.

To realize long distances, the idea was to find truck-drivers. If those one were sometimes agreeing to give me a ride, their company was fordidding them to do so. I often noticed the inscriptions «Proibido carona» (interdiction to give a ride) on the doors of the trucks. I even saw sometimes the owner of the petrol-stations forbidding me to talk to the drivers... And even sometimes near the police-stations...

Proibido carona” (Interdiction to hitchhike) in Brazil... Not easy!


Hitchhiking in the Amazone
I have to say that it was much more easy to hitchike in the Amazone. Although the poverty is even more important there (surely even more than in the favelas), I didn´t have the same feeling of unsafety that I had on the big cities of the Brazilian coast.

A precarious dwelling in the Amazone

Every day, the Amazone is a victim of an intense deforestation and you have probably heard about it. A fifth of the forest has already been destroyed, for using the wood or for cultivating the soil (mainly to do soya in Brazil).

The deforestation of the Amazone in Brazil

I traveled on the famous Transamazonica road who allowed me to reach the city of Santarem, starting from Maraba. This road, which is in a terrible state, can help the deforestation. I have been very surprised to almost not see any vegetation along the road. All those cutted trees have let room for those very naked hills.

The Transamazonica road during the raining season

... That is leading to unavoidable accidents


 

I could hitchhike those 1150 kilometers of muddy road during 5 days... And I could have carry on even more to the west but it seems that there is even less traffic. I have instead chosen to reach the second mean of transportation by using the river network along the Amazone (which will be the subject of an article on the website very soon).

Here I am hitchhiking in the Amazone


The assets

Yes, there is still a good side to hitchhike in Brazil. Indeed, as you will surely be stucked in the petrol-stations, you will have the chance to have free coffees and even having the ability to take a shower, usually for free also.

Even if the positive side is not so much after 5 hours waiting for a vehicle, it is still good to have this little bonus that can raise your spirit!

Plane-hitchhiking
Finally, if you have the taste for adventure or if you are so bored to wait on the side of the road between two tropical storms, you still can give a try to hitchhike a plane in Brazil. It is very difficult and you will need to be lucky but it is possible.

The control towel of the airport of Palmas

Here you can try to convince the person in charge if he/she can ask to the pilot of the private planes (little planes of private jets) if they would accept to take an extra passenger. It is often possible that those planes are not full and that the pilot is even offering to take some staff members of the airport, or even members of their family and friends.

Here I am on the top of the control tower in the airport of Palmas

I succeeded this way to find a plane going to Brasilia. Nevertheless, I refused the flight because it was on the opposite direction of where I was going.

Now it is your turn, good luck to you!

 
Urban assets
Touristically talking, Brazil has indeed a lot of assets. Some cities are attractives, eventhough the Carnaval can be a reason for itself to come.

-Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is a famous and rewarding city to visit. The landscape is unbelievable. You surely already know about the Christ the Redeemer, the Sugarloaf and the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

Here I am in front of the Sugarloaf in the neighborhood of Botafogo

The statue of Christ the Redeemer, during a cloudy day

The Selaron stairway with... Selaron himself!

Before to drink a refreshing coconut water while watching the sunset in Copacabana

Rio de Janeiro, with its 12 millions of inhabitants, is a bewitching city. Personaly, this is way too big for me and I didn´t feel confortable in it. Also, the high level of criminality and the shocking difference between the richest and the poorest have been enough important negative points to not make me want to live in this city, as beautiful as it is. Indeed, you access to the paradisiac part of the city only after having crossed tens of kilometers of favelas of which some were the last month on war with the police... The government even used military tanks...

-Salvador de Bahia
Salvador de Bahia has the same problems as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Recife and other big cities of the country on which concerns unsafety and the contrast rich/poor.

Nevertheless this city is interesting because it is the emblem of the afro-brazilian culture and also for the colorful colonial part of the center.

The Pelourinho is the colonial part of the center

The old slave house is an important place for the understanding of the city

-Planified cities
Brazil is an interesting country if you want to have a look on planified cities. The capital Brasilia is itself an example of it. The goal was to create a city to delocalize the economic activity towards the center of the country and to facilitate the access to the rest of the country with the goal to improve its development.

The map of the city of Brasilia looks like an eagle

Other politically planified cities have been raised from the ground, like Palmas in the center of Boa Vista in the north of the country. All those cities have wide avenues that are helping for the traffic but that make the life impossible for a pedestrian. They are generally lacking of charm because they are so widespread, so empty and without soul. However, they are more confortable to live than the coastal cities where everyone live on top of each other, sharing the noise and the smells.

An avenue of Palmas, near the Girasol main square


 

Economic boom
Brazil is currently in a positive economic spiral, that you can witness only by seeing the last growth of the Real. Today 1 dollar=1,65 Reals.

How could Brazil live an economical growth while almost everyone in the world would enter in crisis? What are the assets and kind of development of the country?

I wont scientifically answer to those questions but I can give you some directions that can give you some ideas about it

-Agriculture
Although most of the population of the country is working in the tertiary sector, I found interesting to see the part that the agriculture had in the country. The culture of soya, cafe and sugar cane are important in Brazil. The sugar cane, in addition to the cachaça, helps to realize the ethanol, that could subsitute to the oil in the future.

Here I am in front of a field of soya in the west of the State of Bahia

Of course, some of the big farmers don´t hesitate to cut the trees to extend their “fazendas”, and are part of the ones to blame for the deforestation.

-Rubber
Talking about economic growth, I could visit the city of Manaus that has been built in middle of the Amazonian rainforest along the river of the same name. This city has been developed after the discovery of the tire, which has boosted the industry of the rubber in the Amazone. Manaus got much bigger during this time. Today, we can admire for example the Amazone theater, that has been built with materials coming exclusively from Europe.

The Amazone theater in Manaus

I even had the chance to go inside for a free show the day my arrival and I could admire the paint on the roof of the theater... If it takes you back to the view from the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, this is normal.

 

I have finish my visit of Brazil and I am currently in Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela. I would have like to visit more of Brazil but the big difficulties that I was having to hitchhike in this country made me change a little bit my way in this huge country. However I traveled a little bit more than 8500 kilometers by hitchhiking and boat-hitchhiking in this portuguese-speaking country.

I will arrive very soon to Cartagena in Colombia where I will start to look for a boat to hitchhike on my way to a new continent: Australasia.

The adventure keeps going, and still by car-boat-hitchhiking!

See you very soon,

Jeremy



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