Saturday, September 27, 2008

Best and Worst of Brazil in 30 Days - Karen's List of Superlatives + Friend Photo Gallery

Today, I arrived in Lima, Peru. And there just happened to be a contest between traditional schools of dance!
I am in El Tambo Hotel in an area called Miraflores. My 11-day mountain bike tour with Sacred Rides in the Andes officially begins tomorrow.

Part of my heart is still in Brazil! I had a wonderful month there in Santa Catarina, Sao Paulo, Rio, Porto Velho, Manaus and the Amazon jungle. For closure, here are some highs, lows, oddities and new friends I met during my first visit to Brazil.

BEST YOUTH HOSTEL: Tie between Hostel Misti in Rio (owned by an Argentine, German) and Hostel Manaus, owned by an Australian, Alex, in Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon.

WORST HOTEL: The sex motel in Manaus, which will remain nameless for its own protection. I learned that motels in Brazil are a different beast than in the U.S. (See previous blog posting).

BEST JOB: This award goes to professional juggler and former trapeze artist Olivier Sourty of Paris, whom I met at the Rio youth hostel. Check out his current circus cabaret show in Paris.

BEST ADVENTURE TALE: Pavel Toropov! This British citizen of Russian heritage recently completed a grueling, solo, 9,000-kilometer bike tour from the tip of South America, Ushuaia, Argentina, to the Brazilian city of Manaus. I met him while he was recovering at the youth hostel in Manaus.

I was riveted by his tales of biking through the Amazon, surviving stretches of jungle infamous for jaguars, venomous snakes, spiders and heavily armed militia. He endured endless sand pits that forced him to push his fully loaded touring bike for hours at a time and suffered devastating heat. He believes no one has completed this same south to north route (and I can tell why!) A trained biologist, Pavel, 32, funded his 8-month journey by teaching English in Seoul, South Korea, where he plans to return. YES, FULL STORY TO FOLLOW!

BEST HAIR: Facundo, de Argentina, whose wild red-tinted mane looks like a lion's. He says he got it from his Italian father. (See photo, below). Runner up: Ricardo of the Amazon.

WORST DAY: Yesterday! I left the Manaus youth hostel and was almost at the airport via taxi. Realized I had forgotten camera charger, so had to pay another taxi fare (and stress about time crunch). Returned to hostel and back to airport again. Then, after 5 hour flight, I missed connection from Sao Paulo to Lima due to late flight. Was told I had to wait 9 hours until 6 a.m. flight the next day. Also had to admit to myself I have some sort of bronchitis.

BEST DANCING: For fear of theft, I did not take my camera to Rio's Favela Funk Party, a late-night dance club of sorts housed in a huge warehouse in a favela, a poor neighborhood. I will forever regret not having film footage of the most gorgeous dancers I have ever seen. No, they were not women - but young men in a trio, performing a combo of samba and MTV-style hip hop steps in perfect synch. The audience was mesmerized by the pro-quality of their dancing.

Photo Gallery of Guardian Angels (in reverse chronological order)
Percy Silva Luciano of Lima was extremely kind to me when I needed it most. I had a massive meltdown at the airport when I learned about the missed flight to Peru and resulting 9-hour layover in Sao Paulo Airport. He helped translate the Portuguese and explained to me (in Spanish) what was going on. We bonded again at 3 a.m. at the check-in for the flight. He watched over me to make sure I got through customs, etc. before meeting his wife and son.
SAO PAULO AIRPORT Therezina Warmling Alberton. A little bit of shopping therapy helped my mood considerably at the Sao Paulo airport during my 9-hour delay. But I also felt better due to the warmth of this shop owner, Therezina, an artist who makes lovely scarves out of found materials, including fishermen's nets. I bought a green scarf from her (similar to the red one she was wearing). I was especially happy to make the purchase when I discovered she was working on her birthday! Her store, HomemArte, features handmade works.

Sam, of London, Susan of Switzerland and Amazon tour guide, Francisco, all made my life much easier by speaking English and being very caring when I was sick (with bronchitis) and had to skip parts of the jungle tour.

Ricardo, Rico for short, (pronounced "Hico,") became my guide in the Amazon jungle after I said farewell to Francisco and the gals. Later, we returned to Manaus by bus and he showed me to a great restaurant for soup to help my congested lungs. Here, Rico talks to a woman who lives near the Manaus youth hostel.
Fabio Flores, from southern Brazil, was an amazing help to me. I arrived in Manaus from Porto Velho quite exhausted, perhaps from the tropical heat. Upon my arrival at the Maunaus youth hostel, he just happened to be outside in the street. He helped me with my luggage, translated Portuguese to English, then helped me find a nearby motel since the hostel was booked. After that, he walked with me to the famous opera house and we had a drink of fresh juice in the plaza. He headed to Belem at 5 a.m. that morning to stay with his biologist aunt.
Geraldo introduced me to his sister, Gloria, below. Thanks to Gloria, I had a lovely lunch out on my final day in Porto Velho. More about them on my blog.

Miguel, a Brazilian with German heritage (and his daughter) had never met me and was kind enough to take me out to a traditional Amazonian meal and even drove me to the airport at the end of my stay in Porto Velho. More about Miguel on my blog.

Facundo Ventresca, Best Hair Winner, is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, but has decided to move to Rio. I met him at the Rio youth hostel. Despite a steady downpour he showed me some of the best sites in Rio.

Marilyn Diggs, artist and writer, Sao Paulo. Though we had only met recently, online, through, Marilyn gave me such a warm welcome in at her home that I immediately felt like we were old friends!

And of course HUGE THANKS to my family, especially, Mom, Dad, Brenda, Kathryn and Joy, for loving emails and to my Dear Friends in Santa Cruz, California, and elsewhere who have stayed in touch during my trip! I also thank all of you who have read and commented on my blog!