Archive for June, 2007

Brazil in pictures: blue moon from São Paulo

Brazil in pictures: blue moon from São Paulo

blue moon

This photograph is nearly a live broadcast. I took this picture 20 minutes ago. It’s the second full moon of the month, the legendary blue moon. As you will see, when I took the picture, with the moon still being hit by the rays of the setting soon, it was more of an orange affair than a blue one.

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June 30, 2007 | By More
A list of the other wonders of the world

A list of the other wonders of the world

As part of a joint initiative with Blog de Viajes, our sister blog De Viaje a Brasil has published today an entry (in Spanish) with a list of all the sites in Latin America that are on the UNESCO tentative list, waiting for the day when they will be upgraded to World Heritage Status. The list can be seen here: Una lista de las otras maravillas.

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June 28, 2007 | By More
Brazilian National parks

Brazilian National parks

Brasil has 62 National Parks, and the list grows every year. Out of those, 22 are not opened to the public, as the government lacks the funds to run them, and only a very small amount of those parks opened for visitation have an infrastructure that remotely resembles what we understand for a National Park in the northern hemisphere.

The best known and most visited of all the parks is the Parque Nacional do Iguaçu.

Having 22 parks no one can visit is, of course, a contradiction, as the raison d’être of a national park is to exist so people can visit it. Worse than that are the very real threats hovering over all the parks -whether opened or not, a threat that comes in multiple shapes: illegal forest fires, deforestation, hunting, plantations, illegal mining and trafficking of wild animals.

To see the complete list of National Parks you need to visit the website of Ibama, the Brazilian government’s body supposedly responsible for the protection of the enviroment. There, click on Mapa do Site on the top bar and then, on the very last section of the following page, Unidades de Conservação, select Parques Nacionais. There isn’t a direct link to the page (the Brazilian government urgently needs someone to redesign all its webpages). Ibama have information pages on only six parks:

The Folha de São Paulo published in 18 March an article on the fall on the number of visitors to the national parks, a fall due to different factors (the draught in Iguaçu, lack of safety in the Parque da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro). On the article there was a table with the number of visitors to most of the parks in 2006, information I am reproducing here:

  • Abrolhos – 6.326
  • Aparados da Serra – 47.676
  • Caparaó – 31.472
  • Chapada dos Guimarães – 112.260
  • Chapada dos Veadeiros – 17.441
  • Emas – 2.486
  • Fernando de Noronha – 49.568
  • Iguazú – 954.039
  • Itatiaia – 79.458
  • Lençóis Maranhenses – 21.000
  • Jaú – 778
  • Serra da Bocaina – 5.481
  • Serra da Canastra – 34.979
  • Serra da Capivara – 9.505
  • Serra do Cipó – 13.675
  • Serra dos Órgãos – 97.333
  • Serra Geral – 29.286
  • Sete Cidades – 16.993
  • Tijuca – 744.425
  • Ubajara – 51.440

It is surprising to see the tiny amount of visitors some of the parks receive, a result of the total lack of infraestructure together with the lack of interest from the authorities in promoting an alternative kind of tourism.

In spite of grandiloquent and bombastic speeches from Embratur and other official bodies responsible for the promotion of Brazil as a tourism destination, information continues to be one of the unresolved matters of tourism in Brazil – it would cost so little to do something on this field! I search on the Portal Brasileiro do Turismo (belonging to the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism) for information on the national parks and discover only six of them are mentioned.

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June 27, 2007 | By More
Brazil in pictures: rush hour in Caraiva

Brazil in pictures: rush hour in Caraiva

Caraíva

During our recent trip to the region, we were witness to an exceptional moment in the serene and remote Caraiva (a scene that belongs to the imagery of the big city): the rush hour. Of a serene and gentle kind of sort, that is, nothing like the frantic comings and goings we’ve grown used to.

When the kids arrive back from school, across the river, there is a temporary explosion of boats going up and down the river, people crossing on one direction, people coming back on the opposite one. The rush hour reaches its climax in moments like the one portrayed here, when three boats dispute simultaneously the space in the wide Caraíva river. If only the rush hour could always be like this!

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June 26, 2007 | By More
Showers: the curse of the f-letter

Showers: the curse of the f-letter

Veteran readers of this blog will remember a text I wrote some months ago on the Brazilian showers. We came back from our recent trip to Arraial with a new and fascinating adventure to share with you. I will be naming no names, especially because we made the unforgiveable mistake of not taking photographs of what we saw. I’ve had to use CGI to recreate the scene of the crime below.

I promise that, in spite of the comic undertones of the story, nothing here is invented.

We went through three different rooms in one of the pousadas where we stayed (notice the giveaway, in a few day’s time the shrewdest among you will be able to identify the place). The reasons for the change of room were unrelated to what it is being described here. All the rooms have an ample shower with hot water coming from a single boiler that feeds all the premises. After opening the tap [faucet], the hot water took anything between 5 to 10 minutes to reach the room. All that time, cold water was being wasted down the drain. What made the situation much worse was the peculiar labelling of the taps. The cold water tap was identified with the notorious F letter (cold is frio in Portuguese, so that’s what you would expect, no obscene language round the corner). So far, so good. But the hot water tap was also identified with the very same F letter. Did they not look nice together, the two F’s! Such an outstanding example of lack of imagination led to scenes of desperation.

1. I open the right-hand side F tap (which we would eventually discover it was the hot water tap). I wait for 5 minutes and as there is no sign whatsoever of the hot water I assume I’ve opened the wrong tap. The hot water tap must be the one on the left.

2. I open the left-hand side tap (cold water one). 5 minutes, and no hot water. 10 minutes, and no hot water. If I had waited for 2 hours I would have never had hot water coming out from that tap.

That day we took cold showers. We moved to a new room. First thing we checked, the shower. And there they were, the bastards. The two F’s sitting there about to take the piss out of us. Little did they knew we had mastered the magic secret of the double F.

1. I open the right-hand side tap (as we had discovered on our first room, it is the hot water tap). Nothing, 10 minutes and no hot water. I don’t believe it! (for you Brits out there, picture Victor Meldrew saying this).

2. I open the left-hand side tap (which, as we had discovered on the previous room, it is the cold water tap). 5 minutes and no hot water. No surprises here, it’s what we expected.

As I wasn’t having another cold shower, I got dressed and went down to reception to find out what was going on. After all, with the taps opened for so long, we might as well have emptied the reservoir that supplies Arraial. The owner of the pousada appeared and said there was no problem whatsoever, we just had to open the hot water tap and let the water flow. We told him that was impossible, we had unsuccesfully tried to do that. And then the had no alternative but to share with us a juicy secret that heralded our second change of room (in actual fact, the change was motivated for a more serious reason). The builder who installed the water pipes liked to have a good time, and on this particular room he single-handedly decided to change the order of the hot and cold water pipes. So, on room 2, the F tap on the left was the hot-water tap, unlike room 1 where the F tap on the left was the cold-water one. Likewise, now the F tap on the right was the cold-water tap, unlike room 1 where the F tap on the right was the hot-water one. Are you still there?

On the third room we skipped the empty -an -entire -reservoir -to -find -out -which -is -the -hot -water -tap stage and asked directly. Does room 3 belong to the category “the builder was in a funny mood that day” or does it follow the pattern of the rest of the pousada?

After such a jumble of Fs, room changes and cold showers I reached the inevitable conclusion: we were being the victims of a cruel vengeance orchestrated by “the system”, the Upper Council of the showering world, waiting for the moment to take revenge on me for the publication of the entry I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Get thee behind me, cursed shower!

P.S.: I don’t know how much a tiny letter Q (for quente, hot in Portuguese) costs. But I am positive it costs far less than the amount of water wasted while trying to find out which tap is the hot-water one. Somehow I don’t think the pousada owner had come to the same conclusion.

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June 25, 2007 | By More