Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Medoc Marathon, here we come !!!

Thanks to the reminder of a friend, we just join the Medoc Marathon 2012. We shall be there on September 8, 2012, a good birthday event for me, or for our wedding anniversary !!! Come and join us. We have to train more (especially for Maria). (M :I thought I could walk, but early bird gets the treat, heard that if you are not fast enough, there will not be any food and wine left in each check point!!! For the sake of food, I'll run fast!)


Because of this fixed date, our travel plan has a better form, please click "Plan" and see if you can join us in any part of the journey.

See you

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Brazil Carnival in Rio de Janeiro

We have heard so much about the Brazil Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, and it's truely amazing.

A world annual event, taking whole year to prepare, with international tourists flying all over the world to participate, with accommodation - from hotels, youth hostels to camping on roof top charging at least 3 times higher than usual, flocks of tourist paying a handsome amount for Sambadomo tickets and Carnival packages or to the extend of being a part of the parade - all of these reflect a great economic drive around this very established world event.
It's our first time in Brazil and it's our first carnival. We don't know much about it. Just the homepage about Sambadomo, or sites selling expensive carnival packages.

Actually, we found Carnival and parade not only happened in Rio de Janiero but in many other South American cities during the week or month of the forty days before Easter Sunday. It had a long tradition, related to Christianity, European culture, African culture and Aboriginal culture . It happens in Sao Paolo, Salvador (Brazil), Barranquilla (Colombia), Oruro, Santa Cruz, Tarija and La Paz (Bolovia), Montevideo (Uruguay), Los Tambores de Bariovento and Los Diablos de Yare (Venezuela) and so many more, all at the similar time, some bigger or smaller in scale and others longer or shorter in duration.

Carnival in Rio include free parties and parades in the street, where people dressed up in costumes, dancing and drinking, with live music, drumming and dancing.  While the Sambadomo is the show of the year, in four consecutive days, from 7pm till the next morning, where expensive tickets are sold, for each night individually and there will be live TV show all night long.

 Locals who cannot afford the expensive tickets could either watch the match in from afar in the streets, riverside or flyover, or on TV.

We managed to find a second hand tickets at 3am in the morning for one of the night, got a very good seat on ground level, next to the judges and got these beautiful pictures.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The foresty and beachy Ilha Grande, if only we can stay longer

Leaving the exciting and magnificent Rio de Janeiro reluctantly, we went to Angra do Reis to catch the ferry to the island. With some directions from the information we sorted out that we should take a bus to the pier for the government ferry. Before we set off for the ferry, we had to repack our backpacks so that gears for winter and necessary for the hiking and camping were packed away and stored in the bus terminal storage service. It took quite some time. We also bought bus ticket from the bus terminal to Joinville, where our next host was.

When we got to the pier, a more beautiful sailboat without sail was taking mostly backpackers and getting ready to take off. I have the gut feelings that it was not that government ferry because it took no other goods but people. We walked further and found that government ferry waiting and the ticketing office had not opened yet. After an hour of waiting, when I bought beef, vegetable and kerosene for the camping, we were on the way to Ilhe Grande.

There are several hiking trails on the island. Rounding the island took four to five days. We were there only for two days and two nights (the only ferry left the island daily at 10am, it was a bit early that we could only stay out for one night and another one near the pier). When we reached the northern part of the island (Abraao, which was the center of the island), we headed straight to the southern part of the island, which was more deserted and away from crowd from the north. We planned that the trail, marked as medium level and took 2.5 hours, would bring us to the destination at 7 pm the latest. It was actually wide trail that even a truck could go alone, composed of only one uphill and one downhill section. The uphill was less slanted than I expected. However, with the still heavy backpack, M had a hard time to walk my speed. It was dark when we arrived the destination. A government guard stopped us from going further because no camping was allowed and the quota for entering the area was full. We were supposed to go back on the same route.

It was raining. It was dark. We were tired. We didn’t want to go back. So we kept showing that we did not understand what he said, dropped down the backpack and waited for what came next. Luckily that there was another guard coming to take us to an activity hall where we could set up our tent in a sheltered balcony. There was water and electricity (if only we had M’s electric stove). We made the beef, rice and the bamboo soot found by M on the way: because of the smoky stove the beef was not well made, the bamboo soot was bitter and the rice was ok.

a local fishing boat
The next morning at 6am we were awaken up by the same guard who observed us packing up and leaving, so we did within half and hour. We did not blame her because she gave us a good place to stay already. After having breakfast near a beach we went on another trail leading us to Paranoca, another beach on the south.

It was my first time in an south american forest. We were lucky that the trees were so high and we were shaded from the strong sun. There was not much tough terrace, except some less clear path. There were also streams for us to add water and rest. We have been scaring off many animals which moved too quickly for us to see. There was some howling sounds especially in valleys since we came to the island but we still did not figure out where it came from. 

After 4.5 hours, more than the map suggested (2.5 hours), we reached the Paranoca beach. It is a beautiful one with minimal people and also with campsite. We had lunch there and reluctantly left after 2 hours. If we had not bought any bus ticket we would have stayed there for a night.

We had to walk the same route back to the Abraao; 15 km to cover and we knew it would be dark when we got there. When we passed the village where we slept, we went in to local grocery store, also a bar and there we saw a cool woman who introduced us a place to stay for free. M liked her a lot because she looked just so cool. We had a set lunch made by her , gained energy and started our last 8 km back to Abraao.

picture taken by M@6am when bit by mosquitoes

our belonging on the beach
It was a tough walk for M, the torches were out of battery and we went slow. M felt sleepy and we walked even more slowly. When we arrived it was 2am. We found a beach and slept there. M learnt that sleeping on a beach at night was not a good idea with insect bites (she was still healing on two mosquitoes bites on her palms). I had been standing on my heavy backpack (more than double of M’s backpack) to wait for her and my feet hurt a lot on next day. Finally we caught the 10am ferry back to Angra.

the beach we slept on, still beautiful isn't it ?

Not counting the long and slow walk, I enjoyed the trials and the beaches a lot. If only I had more time to stay longer, I told myself next time I would sail to there and cover all trails there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Having a good view of Rio de Janeiro

On the last day in Rio de Janeiro, Julia and Cauan took us to Pedra da Gavea, an 842m high hill at the south west of Rio de Janeiro. It was still part of the National Park of Tijuca. Previously there was an overnight hike by another couchsurfer but it was cancelled. We looked forward to this hike.

Richard joined us walking to Julia's apartment. We arrived at 9am as planned and the couple were still not quite awake. We made breakfast for them but they did not eat much. They didn't have much water left so I used the water filter to fill up the water-bag. We squeezed in their tiny land rover and set off at 10:30am. There were two other friends going along so we had to go to the entrance from the ground (around 5-10 mins away) in two batches.

It was all the way uphill starting from the forest. There were shades all along so it was comfortable even with the hot Brazilian sun. There were many jackfruit trees, we heard that locals prefer it less than other fruits and only farmer's markets but not supermarket sell it. We also saw a very small breed of monkeys of which the name we did not know.

About 2 hours later we reached near the top where we saw some upright rock wall. People are doing rock climbing there, we followed their path and climbed up a little; it was not difficult for us, certainly too easy for Richard who grew up in Arizona, but a challenge for Julia. The couple stayed there and we walked on. On the top there was large rock surface for one to bevee and this should really give a good view for sunrise and sunset (although no-water is an issue).
It is a great view of the city and even higher than the christ statue and the sugar loaf. And it is free! We don't need to pay entrance fee!

We got down to the entrance at around 4pm, thirsty and exhausted, different from what had been said that it was only a 2-hour-hike. I went to find water, sneaked in someone water tank to get some water, when Maria got coke from the park guard and was allowed to use the toilet (!). (M: Nice guard! We watched news on TV together, it seems to be riot in Sao Paolo, where some people are not happy with the Samba competition result and a guy ran to the judges, snatched the adjudication paper, torn it to pieces and ran away, he was caught afterwards; other some others burnt down a float!)

The couple and their friends came half-an-hour later. We went down to a restaurant with all-you-can-eat for R$30(with tips) and also buy-one-get-one-free for drink.

It is a good ending for our stay in Rio de Janeiro and we shall be back.


在Rio de Janeiro美女朱朱家寄居,睡了一晩好覺。第二天,也是星期五,「家長」朱朱及高雲也要外出工作,朱朱交上家匙,讓我們自由出入。(香港相對治安良好,我不禁自問,我會有信心將門匙交給只識了一晩的人嗎?)


原來,小型街頭嘉年華(blocks),一個月前已開始。大街封了路成為行人專用區,人人扮鬼扮馬,穿上Rugby Sevens South Stand那種服飾,有自製的也有現成的,如白雪公主衫、小仙女冀及神仙棒套裝、化妝舞會面具、小丑帽、海盜帽、V煞面具、藝妓朱咀面具等(他們對中日了解含糊,化身kabuki會穿旗袍及化白塊面,中國餐廳係食sushi及yakisoba), 街上地攤也滿是Made in China道具,有些更會約齊一班好友穿上同樣的服飾,如一班男生赤裸上身穿上廖片,一班海盜,或情侶穿成一套的,如新郎、新娘反串版,男白雪公主與女巫或Peter Pan 與Tinkle Bell。

令我好奇的是這裏的男生不太介意裝成偽娘。可能因為有些身型高大,手瓜起"月展",自信十足,也樂於開玩笑,走上街更是樂於被拍照;另外,這裡對同性戀的態度開放,男女、男男、女女情侶也當街拖手、擁抱、熱吻,看似女性化的男人也聯群結黨、䀚首闊歩上街出遊。這也可能與巴西人口的多元性有關,由於初有印度人移居,隨後由葡萄牙人統治,從非洲輸入大量黑奴,後來南部地區又有好些意大利及德國移民,(我們在Medianera及 Joinville的寄住家庭也有德、意血統), 而聖保羅更是日本以外,被認為最多日本人的城市。另外,亞馬遜一帶仍有印第安土著聚居。民族大溶和、相處溶洽,卻又互相影響,在音樂、舞蹈、飲食等又發展出獨特的巴西文化。似乎也是一個甚為有趣的文化硏究課題。

講番Carnival, 有block的時候,街上滿是拿著放滿冰的發泡膠箱子小販在賣啤酒、罐裝vodka drinks和水。(可能這紅酒貴-阿根廷的五倍價錢,本地紅酒味如提子汁,本地人多喝啤酒、vodka或土泡竹酒Cachaça做的cocktail-Caipirinha)。

街頭Carnival行列中,總有一班打著鼓、鈴鈴茶茶或一架大聲放著音樂的開馮巴士,一出現,人潮便會跟著音樂走,並一邊跳舞、一邊唱著同樣的歌,那些carnival歌是他們從小唱到大,或每個地區的block也會有自己的主題、自己的歌,他們會派發紙扇、上面寫上歌詞 ,人人便跟著唱。人們在街上可以站很久,等音樂隊伍出現,否則便談談天、喝喝酒,遇到朋友打個招呼,不分晝夜,將街頭變為酒吧,便可以消磨一整天或8am-4am,而且整個月如是!真佩服他們泡的體力!

星期五,還末是公眾假期,卻是Ash Wednesday 前五天,嘉年華週正式開始的日子。星期一、二倒是公眾假期,好些本地人由週五至下星期日也會自己放假,不是參與嘉年華,就是往外跑一個短途遊行,避避人潮,無論如何,也是放慢工作的holiday mood。


我們找到一家看似歷史攸久的糕點、麵包店Casa Cave 吃了一件雞批及杏仁脆糖酥皮餅,超美味!


之後,到了公園一小山丘的修道院 Convento Santo Antônio。那每天也有幾台彌撒,而且整日有神父當值讓教友吿解。但因嘉年華關係,原來之後幾天也會關門大吉,今天是最後的開放日。暗叫好彩,搭到尾班車!我們參與了半台彌撒,並四圍參觀。服務台的職員見我們遊遊蕩蕩,提醒我們隔壁的小聖堂快要關門,建議我們速速前往。入塲要收R$3一位,當是奉獻吧。一進去,哇哇不得了,與修院聖堂平實的裝修相比,這邊盡是奢華,周圍也是金砌的,有點像萬佛寺。關門在即,只看了15分鐘,但其面積不大,算是開開眼界。

再往街上逛,想找吃的,街上有不少小吃,除咸甜爆谷、燒腸仔、蒸粟米、串燒、朱古力果仁,更有趣的有Tapioca,貌似pancake,即做即吃。小販倒一些麵粉似的亁身白色粉末去鐵板上,以一個圏定型,然後加上自選的夾料,自動定 型,摺合即吃,夾料有芝士、朱古力、香蕉、玉桂、dolce la leche (似煉奶的本地甜物)等,價錢R$2至$4不等。另有一款叫Churros recheados,是海洋公園那種玉桂條,但好似puff咁,可在中間注入朱古力、dolce le leche等,只售R$1,熱騰騰,趣卜卜,超好味。

然後,我們到了Museu Nacional de Belas Artes逛,入場費R$8,但因嘉年華及大維修,今天以後將關門兩星期,又是最後機會,唔睇無得睇。館內藏量豐富,有些早期巴西畫家的作品、以Rodolfo Bernardelli較有江湖地位,亦有宗教內容的畫及雕塑。更有一個Amedeo Modigliani的專題展覽,算是對歐洲現代藝術發展加深點了解,認識下巴黎那班茂咖啡室的藝術家。


飯後,到了Copacabana海灘的戶外酒吧參加每週一度的couch surfing聚會。巴西的couch surfing似乎是大受歡迎,十分普遍,一晚居然有近400個host及surfer參加。與新朋友談談天、喝喝酒、坐坐海灘,更有帶著小結他、鼓、敲擊樂器的來jam jam歌,亭自在的,飲酒更打折,難怪那麼多人出席。而我們總算到過Copacabana海灘。海岸缐超長,沙子又幼又白,能有這樣一個海灘在城市中,怪不得里約熱內盧的beach boy, beach gal男潮女索。






 睇到兩點幾, 諗住去另一邊看台入場處碰運氣, 要不然番酒店睇電視, 點知俾我哋用150 Reis (約七百港幣)買到兩張近評判團的地面觀眾席飛,比原價平超過一半, 當然只看到最後三隊的演出, 包括上年的冠軍 Beija-Flor。其實看一隊以經不得了,場面的浩大,震奮人心的主題曲(雖然我不憧葡文, 但同一首歌連續重複唱,再加場刊有歌詞, 連我都可以跟住唱,當然我都係唔知唱乜),華麗的服飾,龐然大物般的花車,性感兼動力澎湃的森巴女郎、一隊的個半小時演出及投入已經係各種感觀的强烈剌激(更有以奶製品為主題的隊伍放出氣味,使整個場區充滿乳酪味)。一個巴西朋友說,演出雖然長達11、12小時,但現場看是不會累,正如他們連續party十幾小時也不累差不多。事實也是如此,是百看不厭,但同時也很費神,不停party都會攰掛。

咁近同表演者接觸,同佢哋握手,同佢哋一齊唱歌,而佢哋又好齊咁唱歌舞成個幾鐘,好以一齊開party咁。當中近有年過六、七十的公公婆婆,他們自然不是和年輕的舞者大力跳,但全時間穿上不輕的服裝跳舞轉圈也真厲害。在電視睇報導有講唔少公公婆婆不支暈倒,係乜嘢令佢哋咁搏呢?係傳統? 錢? 名譽? 這三天的大龍鳳背後的人力物力預備工作、傳統傳承,是世界級的,可以是一個很豐富的人類學研究課題。


去到最後一隊,題目講非洲安歌拉民旅對巴西文化的影響 (前兩隊中前隊講牛乳對人的貢獻,後隊、即上年冠軍隊講巴西原住民被欺壓的歴史),每隊帶來的震撼有増無減,當然有遊客喺之前已經走咗(所以我哋先有平飛),徒料!誠然,一晚睇七隊也蠻累人的,但我們仍興致勃勃,完場時更跳出觀眾席,在賽道一齊跳舞,盡興到天光,懐着不捨但勞累的心情回家。

當天睡到下午四點,爛程度比阿根庭的探戈之夜有過之而無不及。 雖然亦心思思想去多次搵平飛,但第二日要去行山,而且當晚有另一個歷險旅程(下回分解),所以無去,後來知道當晚的一隊拿了冠軍。