Category Archives: South America

Salvador: Marching To Its Own Beat (Literally)! Colours And Music Abound!

Salvador, Brazil, is a city that marches to its own beat. Literally.

Percussion is a big part of the local culture here, with locals banging on bongos, snare drums, and other large drums as they dance through the streets of Pelourinho. Salvador is famed for several modern day and historical interests. There is a huge African population here due to the slavery trade that began in 1549, and therefore Afro-Brazilian culture dominates the city. It’s amazing. Culture, cuisine and outdoor parties provide an effective distraction from the poor economic reality which blights most of the city.

Home to the largest carnival in the world (eclipsing Rio’s), it’s no wonder that in Brazil, Salvador is referred to as “the capital of happiness.” The first colonial capital of Brazil, the city is one of the oldest in the Americas. Walking around these streets you will find colourful buildings, ancient churches, and in Pelourinho, the location where Michael Jackson filmed the video clip for “They Don’t Care About Us” (Lago de Pelourinho). The song plays constantly, all day everyday, while a man sells the opportunity to go upstairs and out onto a balcony where travellers can stand with a… cardboard cutout of Michael Jackson! MJ recruited the Afro-Brazilian cultural group Olodum to play drums in his video clip, and the group has become such an integral part of Salvador that they now have their own official stores selling merchandise, including the t-shirt MJ wore in the clip.

There’s a shady vibe which overshadows much of the city, unfortunately. Street-side binge drinking, drug addicts who are as high as a kite, and a few gangs tend to roam about the place commonly. A brawl involving around 20 people broke out just metres from me while I was buying a hot dog from a hot dog stand (the best hot dogs in the world, trust me) in Lago de Pelourinho. A man in a hat ran up to a group of people and punched a guy in the head, knocking him out cold. The crowd then chased the man and started throwing punches at him. I rushed in to help the guy on the ground with his friends, and eventually he came around, but he couldn’t stand up.

There’s no beating around the bush: As lovely and picturesque as Salvador is (it’s a lot more pleasing than Rio), it’s surrounded by favelas, and not just any favelas, but some of the most dangerous in all of Brazil, which consequently has elevated it to one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. Out of everywhere in Latin America, Brazil appears to have serious poverty issues. Countries such as Bolivia and Peru are poor, and even though Brazil is rich, they just look like they are in such worse condition than other countries. It’s gritty, chaotic, can be violent, and the drug problems in some areas is alarming.

Like any place, keep your wits about you and you won’t run into trouble. Keep that in mind and you’ll love Salvador!20140719-145405-53645776.jpg

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Rio: Hectic, Gritty and Fast-Paced! World Cup Insanity!

Rio was a fun, exciting place to visit that was absolutely nothing like we had expected. It was one of those scenarios where travel marketing captures and sells very precise locations of a place (kind of like what Tourism Australia does), and when you arrive, you find that things are different.

We stayed in Copacabana Beach, only a few blocks from Fan Fest – the outdoor mosh pit created by FIFA for football fans, complete with massive outdoor screens, live concerts, DJs, and makeshift stalls selling cocktails. It wasn’t a good idea to have drinks from these places, let’s just leave it at that. Brazil can certainly be dangerous, and from our experience was far more shady than Bolivia (which we heard was bad). I think Brazil’s tourism does a great job of highlighting the amazingness of Rio – visiting Christ The Redeemer was breathtaking – but you seriously have to be on high alert in some areas. If you are, then you’ll enjoy the city!

Copacabana Beach has been our favourite beach so far. The waves are massive and smash you hard into the sand if you don’t time your dive right, but they are so much fun! The waves must’ve been around 2 metres, maybe close to 3, but they’re so close to shore that you cannot avoid them. The only concern is when a wave picks up a sea of bodies in front of you, as it tunnels towards you and you have nowhere to go. I had to dive beneath the waves and cover my head a few times, as I was expecting to get pummelled by bodies. The looks on everybody’s faces read the same: “This is gonna hurt!”

Rio has great Brazilian BBQ grills that serve up chicken, beef, and farofa – a manioc flour with eggs and banana. It’s a cool city that can be enjoyed by everybody, but ironically given its wealth, it doesn’t deliver the confidence nor freedom of exploration that far poorer countries can. For example, even though Bolivia is touted as a cocaine enterprise, unless you were looking for it you wouldn’t notice. The attitude to drugs there is like Greece: Amongst the youth, it’s unacceptable. In other countries, it isn’t as much of a shock.

Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control in Rio, we have no photos to show, so we’ll have to show you some that other travellers have taken which we believe does justice to this wild city!20140719-143936-52776917.jpg

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World Cup In Curitiba: A Special Gift From FIFA & Visa!

Our Latin America adventure revolved around realising one incredible dream: To go to a World Cup match!

We booked our (very) expensive tickets about six months ago, and in order to guarantee seats we had to purchase a MATCH Hospitality Package. This included prime seats with fantastic views, unlimited alcohol, and a selection of snacks. We must have eaten close to twenty sandwiches that day.

After much stressing with MATCH Hospitality’s shoddy attempt at organising, you know, only the biggest sporting event in the world (it eclipses the Olympic Games by an average of four times their viewership ratings), we got our hands on our prized tickets! After our friend had to cruise all around São Paulo solo, being told at each destination that the tickets aren’t there (even though MATCH stated in an email they were), and being told to visit a random hotel where they were apparently waiting (they weren’t), our hearts managed to avoid minor heart attacks once we finally got them. Other people had this problem too: surely MATCH won’t be organising Russia 2018. It was actually a horrendous experience to get our tickets. Nonetheless, when the big day came in Brazil’s most forward-thinking city, we were ready to cheer on Australia as they took on Spain.

Prior to the match, FIFA representatives came up to us and offered a free, behind the scenes stadium tour. It was only us three and two other Brazilians who went out of the entire crowd! We were taken into the press conference room, the media centre (where all the journalists from around the world come to write about the games), the Socceroos’s locker room, out onto the pitch (where we sat in both Australia’s and Spain’s dugout), and to cap it all off, Sam was given the official match ball to place on the podium for kickoff. It was a once in a lifetime experience, and one that we will never forget!

To celebrate going to the game, which Blair and I had promised we would since October 2007, we all bought several boxes of fireworks (not firecrackers) and set them off in the streets. Because a full day of Budweiser’s is best capped off with explosives!
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