Friday, August 14, 2009

Trip to Birds' Island. Antigua.

It was a wonderful easy day, with a wonderful crew on Wadadli Cat catamaran and a stunning setting: the sun, the wind, the beaches and the warm water, fish and birds... I had to record it. Days like this one do not happen often.

A full version is published on my YouTube page.

Это был такой замечательный день, с не менее замечательной командой и не менее замечательным окружением: солнце, ветер, пляжи и тёплое море, рыбы и птицы... Такой день заслуживает быть занесённым в архивы. Такие дни случаются не часто.

Полная версия этого видео опубликована в YouTube.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Green Monkey Reserve, Barbados

Green monkeys are fed at 1 pm every day. All other animals come along. Watching this big friendly bunch at their family dinner is a real treat.

Каждый день в час пополудни зелёных обезьян кормят. Все остальные животные тоже присоединяются (на халяву) и вся эта дружная компания располагается вокруг "семейного" стола. Наблюдать их - одно удовольствие.

Sex on a pavement - Секс на мостовой (Green monkey reserve, Barbados)

An excursion with Adventureland to the Green Monkey Reserve was a fantastic experience for many reasons. One of them was an opportunity to be just a few cm away (or close - it depends how you look at it) from various animals. Turtles were among them. Hundreds of them (and most of them were horny) were roaming around (in the forest, on the pass ways, in the water... They made incredible noise and obstructed our way on every step. They demanded attention - and they got it.

Экскурсия с компанией Адвенчалэнд в Парк Зелёных Обезьян оказалась абсолютно замечательной - по многим причинам. Во первых, мы узнали много нового, во вторых - наш гид был умница и юморист, а самое главное - мы пообщались со многими животными букрально лицом к лицу. Черепахи (довольно большие) были среди тех животных. Сотни если не тысячи черепах ползали по лесу, по дорожкам, возились в воде - и почти все хотели большой и горячей любви. В этих поисках они преграждали нам путь постоянно. Они хотели, чтобы мы на них обратили внимание. Так мы и сделали.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New transport - Segways

I have observed a peculiar new transport I have not seen in Australia yet. I saw it in both Americas.

I recorded this video in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The fact that tourist guides run tours on those things (I have no idea how to call them) shows that they are easy to operate and do not require special training. What a great idea! I would love to try one of those.

I was told they are called "segways".

This video was recorded in one of the Disney Theme parks. These guys work on the parking lot organizing new arrivals. These wonderful small machines save them a lot of walking.

Я увидела новый вид транспорта, который я ещё не видела в Австралии. Я видела это в обеих Америках.
Одно видео было записано в Пуэрто Рико, где гид вела экскурсию по городу на этих машинках. Из этого наблюдения я делаю вывод что ими легко управлять и особого обучения не нужно.

Другую сценку я записала в Эпкот центре в Орландо, Флорида. Эти люди работают на парковке и машинки позволяют им экономить на ходьбе.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Food in Puerto Rico. Richie's Cafe in Rio Mar.

Out of all dining experiences this one will be memorable for a different reason... It is the only dining place I will remember not so much for its food (not bad at all!) but predominantly for its fantastic ambience.

First of all, if you visit a country try to eat local food. Richie's Cafe serves Puerto Rican menu, so it is an educational experience. Most dishes are deep fried - absolutely not my taste, but once in a life time I showed some flexibility and tried it. And did not regret it.

Local produce comes in combination with a breathtaking view and excellent service.

Service included more than just knowledgeable and friendly waiter: when we made "not a perfect" choice of dishes our waiter treated us with his own selection of small bites at the cafe's expence. When a barman heard that Chris likes Russian vodka he treated Chris with a shot of vodka, also "on house".

Richie - the owner - was there all the time greeting people, chatting with them, creating homely atmosphere. By the way, he also does the vallet parking and driving customers to the nearest hotel, which is Rio Mar Beach resort in Rio Grande, not far from the famous El Yunque national forest. When a storm came and it started bucketing down (oh, yes, we experienced a real tropical storm - a sort of mini-hurricane, while we were there) - Richie was there mopping the floor. Modesty and ability to work hard always make a strong impression on me.

I don't know what is their secret, but they know in this cafe how to make people feel good, relaxed and happy.
If we ever come back to Puerto Rico Richie's Cafe will be in our list of things to do!

About food in Puerto Rico. Tijuana's Bar and Grill.

It is well known that there is no worst place to look for food than a place popular with tourists. The owners of restaurants in proximity of highly visited attractions (Del Duomo in Florence, The Ark de Triumph in Paris, The Opera House in Sydney etc) do not worry about their customers never coming back, because they don't come back anyway regardless of the chef's efforts, and normally customers get a dreadful meal at a rip-off price just for the happiness to see a great sample of architecture with a bad sample of food.

Today we experienced an exemption. Right next to the cruise ship pier in San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is one of the most overcrowded places in Puerto Rico, where a few thousand tourists leave the cruise ships and board them a few times a week may be, there is a small Mexican place Tijuana’s Bar and Grill. Surprise, surprise. The food was simple but very good, the service was good, the prices were good…

Friday, July 17, 2009

Burgers are popular in Buenos-Aires

Argentina is known all over the world as a beef country. (Ok, Australians may contest the statement - but the reputation still belongs to Argentina). Meat (with a lot of fat) is everywhere.
Love for meat is developed in people sinse early childhood - I belive in it. I always thought that a family plays the most sigificant role in forming a person's taste.
In Argentina industry took propaganda in their hands.

This is a pack of jelly lollies in a form of a hamburger. It is just a matter putting salad leves, cheese, and other components of the burger in the right sequence.

Funny, in Puerto Rico we saw jelly hot dogs...

What do you think about it?

A few observations about the nature of racism... Comparison of Brazil and the USA

Education from books is irreplaceable. We cannot experience everything or to learn everything from the first hands. We heavily rely on written information and we hope that people who wrote it were responsible. Most likely, they are. But everything in this world is not about the facts, but mostly about our perception and interpretation. Sometimes life experiences present the role of perception in a new light and compromise education we’ve got already.

San Salvador da Bahia made some interesting corrections to my perception of Protestant and Catholic churches. Living in a country with a strong Protestant (Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, The Seventh Adventist) presence I had an impression that a Catholic church was a conservative and non-flexible form of Christianity which had to give way to more progressive Christian schools which relied on self-control and human values more than Catholics, and Christians realised the faults of Catholicism half a millennium ago. I had an impression that Catholics are brain washed people without a choice and a right for common sense. Some of the statements by the popes (about abortions, for example) make them sound senseless and narrow minded if not to say stupid. New Christian teachings do not have to be “true” (the number of them indicate that there cannot be so many truths) but they seemed to be more “people oriented”, more individualised, with a person being a centre point. This point of view undertook a drastic revision in Bahia.

I was pleasantly surprised with the absence of racism or any indicators of ethnic problems. It seems in Anglo-Saxon countries it is a common “issue”. Americans are deeply involved in sorting out who is guilty in doing what and who has which responsibility in resolving ethnic “issues”. Australians cannot stop arguing about Aboriginal “issues”. Ethnic “issues” in India are even beyond comprehension. New Zealanders had “issues” with Maoris. When it was mostly resolved we started talking about them (New Zealanders) as some kind of social miracle workers. Is not it a normal thing for people to live in peace with each other? Apparently not… Brazil is a pleasant exemption.

While in Brazil I kept asking about this phenomenon. Every Brazilian person I talked to about this matter agreed that there are social problems in the country, but there is no racism. The explanations which were given made me re-think some parts of history. Shortly, the theory is that Catholic religion is responsible for peace between ethnic groups and optimism of Brazilian people.

Latin America was under control by Catholic Church of Spanish and Portuguese empires, while Northern America was predominantly under the control of Protestants. Both Americas were slave societies with majority of foreign black population, some local Indian population and a very small population of white masters. But non-white population was treated differently in Roman and Anglo-Saxon parts of Americas and it made all the difference. According to the Brazilians, Catholic masters requested work to be done during the day time, but did not impose many limitations on slaves after work hours. Slaves could speak their native languages, sing songs of their motherland, and perform traditional rituals, if they did not contradict Spanish and Portuguese law.
In Northern America Protestants were deeply concerned about saving the souls of their black slaves. At no time they were allowed to speak their own languages, to modify prayers and religious rituals, to sing “strange” songs, to keep their traditions. A mission of “Westernising” of the slaves was as important as the labour they had to do.
Latin American (Brazilian in particular) slaves had a chance to compromise between their ancestors’ believes and their masters’ believes. They invented a hybrid religion which pacified various discrepancies between Christianity and paganism; it was named “condoble” and it is still alive and popular among Brazilians. They retained a big portion of their African folklore, some African habits, food and music. Most of it is not authentic any more. Habits and things transform with time, but they keep serving as a cultural cushion, giving black population a sense of identity and self-worth.
African population of the English-speaking Northern America did not keep links with their African past (apart from a few places such as Jamaica). People found themselves uprooted. It reduced their cultural and historical worth, made them feel uneasy with themselves, with the society and with white people who did it to them. They say it formed a sense of despair and a need for revenge. I am not an expert on this issue, but I guess if a school curriculum in Pennsylvania includes such subject as “History of African-American population of the USA” it indicates that a country is split very deep. May be all schools in America have the same type of subjects to study? It indicates that Americans do not perceive themselves as one nation. Actually, the fact that Americans of all races so often talk about being democratic and non-racists, and how much they value other ethnic groups and etc, etc, etc… is an indirect evidence that the topic is painful and burning.
Indian population in Latin America was present in church communities, Indian orphans were raised in monasteries and convents. Catholic missions in Latin America are well known. What about Protestant missions - I cannot recall anything about Indian orphans being educated or Protestant priests putting much effort into Indians. Maybe they never were interested?

The fact that there is a tension between black and white population of the USA cannot be doubted. Where does it come from – is a very difficult question. One thing is clear – it is not a normal situation.

Our guide Nilze told us that during the trip to the USA she discovered that “black people really hate white people”. She was talking about it with a genuine surprise and disapproval. I don’t know if observations like this one spill a lot of light on the African-Americans, but it definitely serves as evidence that ethnic/racial relationships can be different.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

African flavour of San Salvador da Bahia

I have never been to Africa, but San Salvador is as close to being purely African as it can be. The dominance of black faces is over helming. The presence of African culture is so strong that all other cultures fade away in a shade. Self indulgence in this culture is a total bliss.

First impressions are visual – and they instantly link Bahia to Africa. Even if a woman is not dressed as a “real Bahiana” the local “bahiana style” is still detectable: broad dresses, colourful bead necklaces and – of course – a broad sweet smile from ear to ear. If you see somewhere traditional (authentic) Bahianas – usually they are sellers of acaraju – they wear long and enormously full skirts and turban like head wear. It looks startlingly different and absolutely cute. In combination with the smiles and food they serve they are the most accommodating ingredient of a “Bahia life style”. It does not apply to “Bahianas” who sell their smiles to the tourists for a high price. They flock around the old city, block pedestrian part of the road while pestering foreigners from the cruise ships for money. I am not sure they represent a true Bahia spirit.

Another feature of San Salvador which is not to be missed is capoeira dancers. They practice on the streets and can be spotted from afar. Actually, if there is a group of capoeira boys somewhere around you would not be able to miss them. They definitely draw everybody’s attention. I am not sure if it is a dance, actually. There is music, of course: where in Brazil something happens without music? What about movements – they are so technical, so acrobatic and so fast that spectators sometimes cannot follow the speed of the dancers. Bodies just fly and twist and jump under the most unexpected angles, weapons clash, teeth grunt – and spectators are left breathless and flabbergasted. Only professional dancers and acrobats can imagine how much time and effort goes into the training. People like me – book mice – will never have a clue… Those boys train all day long – while performing – and getting paid for their efforts. Of course, there are capoeira shows in Salvador, quite a few of them. Such spectacular opportunity for a commercial enterprise was not overlooked. Shows can be managed by people unfamiliar with entertainment therefore shows can be very plain and basic, but capoeira itself will keep spectators deeply engaged and entertained.

They say that capoeira came from Africa. Back in the “Golden days” of cacao plantations black slaves practiced sport movements and fighting techniques in a hope that one day they will escape. Those who escaped practiced them because their survival depended on it. Being Africans, they could not do anything without music, and musical rhythms became embedded into an intricate framework of military exercises and eventually exercises transformed into a dance. The length and intensity of exercises are mindboggling and breathtaking. The skills cannot be faked. If one cannot perform up to a standard he will be killed during the show, probably, - or will drop off instantly.

Quite often exercising happens in public parks or on the beach. These capoeira boys become an attraction of the beaches and parks. Their muscular bodies (predominantly black or brown, but not necessarily) is a pleasure to an eye and many hours can be spent somewhere in a shade of a palm tree while watching those boys having fun.

Colourful ribbons is another visual feature of San Salvador. Those small silky ribbons of bright pretty colours are everywhere for sale, and in use by nearly every body: collections of ribbons can be seen tired up on rare view mirrors in the cars, on wrists of people, on handbags, on necklaces, colourful stripes are printed on dresses, sarongs and beach towels…The colourful ribbons stand for condoble, local religion.
This religion – just like capoeira - was invented by black slaves a few hundred of years ago. When they were brought from Africa and Christianity was imposed upon them by their Portuguese masters, the slaves hid their worship of pagan gods of the remote motherland behind the obedient worship of Christian idols: Jesus, Madonna and others. Jesus acquired a new name – a name of the African counterpart, as well as all other Christian deities… With African names those Christian images (or characters) acquired some peculiar non-Christian qualities, the stories from the Holy Bible got mixed up with the African legends and myths. A new religious mutant was born. It was named “condoble”.

Multiple gods of this religion have their unique names and functions. They are colour-coded. Any follower of condoble can select which gods are to worship more, which ones are of that person’s patrons, those colours will be chosen for a bunch of ribbons to decorate things. The ribbons indicate how popular this religion is in the area, how many devoted followers take sacred rituals seriously. A few brief conversations here and there proved our observations to be right. One of our guides told us that he came from a non-religious background but at the age of 14 he “had a call” and joined a capoeira group and a condoble church. I suspect that capoeira could play a leading role in this “call”, but it does not change the fact that a well educated and mature man is still a devotee of a pagan Parthenon… Read books by Amadu – and it is exactly what you will find in his heroes: condoble myths and gods are not separable from daily routine, they communicate with people frequently, condoble superstitions rule business and private life. It sounds similar to medieval Europe even if (I assume) modern Brazilians are educated (at least within a high school level) and should not be buying fairy tale as easily as our ancestors but it seems – they do.

The outcome is a colourful, unusual city with a unique culture of its own, with colours of its own and a very recognisable image… I loved these people, I loved this city.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A few notes about San Salvador da Bahia

This name - San Salvador da Bahia - used to sound as a sweet dream. Every part of it was exotic, starting with the length of the name and its geographical location and ending with a colourful chain of characters from the books of Jorje Amado. He was the one who created this Bahia dream in a first place.

I was about 13-14, when I read “The Sand Dunes’ Captains”, a book about teenagers of my age – with a totally different life. I got addicted to the writer and his book characters in an instant. I was captivated by the sand beaches and palm trees (a heavenly dream for somebody who lived in Siberia with 8 months winter and 2 months of summer in a good year). I was fascinated with black faces of the Amado’s heroes; I was 16 when I saw a young African man in Moscow for the very first time and I instantly thought that he was the most beautiful man I have ever seen – no doubt, Amado played a role in it. I was imagining condoble rituals, music of the carnivals and the taste of acaraju. In my mind I walked the poor streets of a lower city, had my evening promenades along the city harbour, recognised the shops and restaurants and knew people by face.
But in my wildest dreams I would never imagined that I will actually see it for real…

There is a poem by Silva Kaputikyan “Don’t face your first love”- Не встречайтесь с первою любовью. It is a wise advice. Nothing can compete with our imagination and our first strong attachments. My dream was dead and buried as soon as we left the airport: there were no recognisable huts and cabins – instead there were high rises of the outer “sleeping” suburbs. They were modern, colourful and reasonably well maintained. People in those apartment blocks could not worship Yemanja: there is no room for the African goddess of sea and love in standard concrete and steel apartments. There was something I expected though: a lot of sun, unbearable heat, palm trees, purple shadows on the streets and exotic flowers. There were small shops with big bunches of fruit hanging on the walls and very cheap meals (unfortunately, bad meals). There were black faces. There was a beautiful coastal line. A compatibility with my dream ended there.

San Salvador broke my heart. Especially, the old city: the city of past, the city of history, the city of plantation owners’ glory, the city of African traditions and wild characters of the books by Amado. It seems it is all gone with a wind. The rare remnants of history are meant to attract tourists: a few restored churches here and there (some are splendid), an odd old building (such as Portuguese Library) managed to survive the city decline, a couple of cobble stone streets are cleaned and painted to allocate local merchandise for passing cruise ships and a big blue building houses Jorje Amado museum.

Step one street further - and face the horror of reality living in the “yesterday”. Black from rot and crumbled down without maintenance, the old city is pitiful, scary, sad and ugly.
It is ugly, despite the leftovers of the intricate plaster work on the 17 – 18 century facades, elaborate fencing and old parks here and there. It is pitiful because of the lonely facades of buildings which are no more. It is scary because of the drunks and persistent salesmen. It is sad because of the over helming poverty and lack of maintenance.

The city of Old Sailors and Dona Flor disintegrated… became history.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Project Tomar in Puerto du Forte, Brazil


We met Chichiko in one of the coastal restaurants in San Salvador da Bahia.
He seemed to be happy...

Portela Samba School rehearsal

Portela is one of many samba schools in Rio. They have rehearsals on Tuesdays. The rehearsals happen in a huge stadium with a building in the middle. The dancers walk around the building for 3-4-5 hours. All participants are equally welcome% old and young, fat and slim, ugly and pretty, talented and not really.
It is an experience of mass-madness and belonging to the group more than anything else.
All those people who live locally, come once a week to become a part of the community. Old friends meet, kids play with kids, boys meet girls... It is a busy evening

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Водопады Игуазу

Я побывала во многих странах, повидала много прекрасных мест по всему миру. Игуазу превосходит всё, что я когда-нибудь видела.

Есть впечатляющие и прекрастные точки на этой планете, но я не могу припомнить такую невероятную концентрацию природной красоты, такую насыщенность, такую щедрость природы! Обычно нужно приложить усилия и потратить время, чтобы достичь чудо природы, чтобы дойти до него от ворот национального парка – или что там ещё...

Парк Йосимити в Калифорнии был прекрасный, но это была как бы «обыкновенная» красота, без особого разнообразия растительности и животного мира, довольно монотонная красота – нам пришлось проехать не менее часа от подножия горы до вершины вдоль всё тех же однообразных сосен, до Glacier Point – и там уже мы замерли с открытым ртом и бьющимся сердцем перед величием и мощью природы.

Горы в Швейцарии очень впечатляющие и необыкновенно красивые, но это тоже своего рода монотонная, повторяющаяся красота. Алатау возле Алматы тоже исключительно красивые! Горы вообще впечатляют меня очень сильно.

Я видела красивые водопады в Южном Китае и на Филипинах, впрочем также как и здесь, в Австралии, - у нас тут есть очень красивые водопады, и даже в наших окрестностях есть на что посмотреть.

12 Апостолов произвели на меня очень сильное впечатление.
Но – опять-таки – это одно место, пусть очень большое, но столько времени нужно, чтобы туда добраться, потом ты посмотришь-посмотришь – и нужно возвращаться.

Водопады Игуазу самые нескучные и самые бесконечные. Всё время что-нибудь происходит: в воде, в лесу, в воздухе. Воздух густой от бабочек всех размеров, форм и расцветок. Звуки жизни ошеломительные: постоянно вокруг меня что-то пело, свистело, кричало, шуршало, орало дурным голосом, рычало, гавкало, плескалось, хрустело... Даже если не видно, кто там в кустах, то всё равно знаешь, что ты здесь не один, что всё живёт на полную катушку...
И водопады – большие и маленькие, очень высокие и совсем миниатюрные, широкие реки, бегущие по камням, и крохотные лужи, примостившиеся там и сям, и неописуемая мощь и напор воды больших водопадов.

Игуазу – это место, которое нужно посетить хотя бы раз в жизни. Ах, какое место!

По разнообразию и богатству я могу сравнить с Игуазу лишь одно место: остров Фрейзер в Квинсланде, Австралия. Там тоже сочетается необыкновенное богатсво и разнообразие природы: бесконечные пляжи божественной красоты, постоянно изменяющийся ландшафт, полный сюрпризов, и изобилие жизни: все эти дельфины, морские коровы, птицы, рыбы, динго, пауки... Невыразимо прекрасное место.

Туры в Бразилии

Несколько коротких заметок о турах в Бразилии... Я думаю, они заслуживают внимания. Мы поучаствовали в бразильских турах на мировом уровне и в абсолютно бездарных.

Не берите тур в большом автобусе на весь день в Рио-де-Жанейро! Они – эти туры - не стоят беспокойства и денег, которые вы на них потратите. Чем больше людей участвует, тем больше беспокойства. Гид собирает группу из 40 человек из соседствующих отелей в течении приблизительно 3х часов (из 11 часов, которые написаны в рекламе про этот дневной тур). Туристы автобус не ждут обычно, в том числе и Западные туристы, которые в своих собственных странах отличаются пунктуальностью. Мы тоже превратились в недисциплинированных туристов, которых нужно было ждать. Это было вызвано безалаберным отношением агенсв и их сотрудников к информации. Туристу могут сказать, что он должен прийти в 9, а автобус приедет в 8. Туристу могут сказать что тур будет во вторник, тогда как тур сос тоится в понедельник.... Никогда нельзя быть уверенным что информация верна, пока гид и автобус не появятся на пороге гостиницы. Автобус ждёт каждого туриста, который не пришёл, и это занимает вечность!!!

Другой недостаток – дорожное движение. Рио разделён горой и соединён туннелем с одной полосой в обоих направлениях. 7 миллионов человек ездят каждый день из конца в конец города и пробки начинают формироваться уже с 7 утра и до 10 утра. Вечером история повторяется приблизительно с 3.30 до 6-7 часов вечера. Нет никакой возможности избежать пробки, свернуть никуда невозможно, и автобус будет плестись в очереди в туннель ещё 2-3 часа. Утренняя пробка не играет роли для тура, потому что к тому времени, когда все туристы соберутся, пробка уже рассосётся. А вот после обеда... экскурсия разрекламированная как 11-часовая превратится в 5-часовую с 3 часами сбора туристов и 2-3 часа ожилания в пробке. Мы не продумали возможность нашего собственного тура по Рио с использованием городского транспорта, но наверняка это было бы куда приятней и дешевле. Метро в Рио очень хорошее, хотя и дороже чем в Буэнос-Айресе. Предостаточно такси, конечно, но такси тоже застрянет в той же самой пробке.

Ещё один недостаток большой экскурсии – языки. В большом автобусе(а иногда и в маленьком!) соберутся туристы из Бразилии, Латинской Америки и из других стран. Поэтому экскурсии ведутся на трёх языках одновременно: португальском, испанском и английском. Английский – не самый популярный и нужный язык в Бразилии, поэтому гиды могут знать его очень плохо и комментарии будут коротенькими или никакими. И вообще – в целом – никто, кроме администратора отеля, не говорит по-английски, а вот испанский очень популярен и даже капелька испанского помогает лучше чем очень хороший английский. Наши уроки испанского очень даже оправдали себя в ресторанах и на улицах Бразилии. Даже люди, которые забирали нас из аэропортов или отвозили нас в аэропорты, не говорили по-английски ни одного слова. Хотя, нам попалось два гида с исключительным английским: во время тура в фавелы и тура в Пуэрто ду Форте в Баийе.

Маленькие экскурсии намного уютнее и дружелюбнее. Ими мы наслаждались от души.

Taking tours in Brazil

A few short notes about taking tours in Brazil… I found it quite remarkable. We had experiences ranging from world class excellent to the most disastrous.

Don’t take a day tour in a big bus in Rio-de-Janeiro! It does not worth a trouble and money paid for it. The more people involved, the more trouble you will get. It takes around 3 hours (out of your 11 hour tour) to collect 40 people from different hotels, even if the hotels are located on the same street or very near. The tourists are never on time, including Western tourists, who are usually quite punctual in their own countries. At some point (actually a few times!) we became the same disorganised tourists who do not come on time. It is caused by very poore/leasurely communication. A tourist can be told to come at 9 while the bus comes at 8. A tourist can be told to come on Tuesday but the tour is on Monday… You never know that the information is correct until the guide and the bus turn up at the hotel. The bus waits for all tourists who did not turn up, and it takes ages!!!

Another set back is traffic. Rio is divided by the mountain and connected by one tunnel with a single line each way. 7 million people commute from one side to another and traffic jams start building up since 7am to 10 am. In the afternoon the story repeats itself from about 3.30 pm till 6-7pm. There is no way to escape the traffic jam, nowhere to go – the bus will spend other 2-3 hours in a queue. The morning traffic jam does not affect the tours, because the jam is long gone by the time all tourists are collected. But in the afternoon… 11 hour excursion cuts back to actual 5 hour excursion and 6 hours of waiting. We have not investigated a possibility to do the same tour on our own using public transport, but probably it would be much cheaper and more pleasurable. The subway is excellent in Rio, though it is a bit more expensive than the Argentinean subway. Taxis are readily available, but they will stack in the same traffic jam.

Another set back of a big excursion is languages. A big bus (as well as some small ones as well) collects Brazilian, Latin American and International tourists, and the guides run the show in 3 languages at once: Spanish, Portuguese and English. English is not the most popular language and comments can be very limited if any. And – in general – nobody speaks English apart from hotel receptionists, but Spanish is well spread and even very basic Spanish is better than nothing. Our lessons of Spanish were justified and helped us a lot in restaurants and on the streets of Brazil. Even people who picked us from the airports or took us to the airports did not speak a word of English. However, we met a couple of guides with exceptionally good English: one in Rio and 1 in Bahia.

Small excursion groups are cosier and friendlier. Our trip to Favelas was exceptionally good, as well as individual tours we had in Bahia.