Rio de Janeiro – Part 3 (and the North-East)

Shortly after my sister’s wedding, I returned back to Rio and then promptly flew up to Fortaleza to explore the North-East of the Brazil. Being so close to the equator, Fortaleza felt extremely different to Rio (which was going through winter at the time). The air was much thicker than I had expected and there were a lot more mosquitos. On top of this, the Portuguese accent in Fortaleza is very strange in comparison (just imagine how Scottish must sound to foreigners).

After a few days of exploring the city, trying to Samba and getting lost in favelas, me and some friends in the hostel rented a car and travelled to a small fishing village called Jericoacoara (yea, we couldn’t pronounce it either!)

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With white sandy beaches, hammocks, cheap alcohol and water sports, many Brazilians travel here for their holidays (and many foreigners have decided to live here permanently… I can’t see why).

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One of the highlights in Jeri for me was a giant sand dune just on the outside of the town where everybody watches the sunset. Just afterwards, everybody runs or jumps down the dune as quickly as they can to get to the bottom (which is a lot more fun than it looks!)

 

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After a week here (and lots of organisation), I managed to split a ride over to an even smaller town called Barreirinhas which sits just outside a giant national park called Lençois Maranhenses. Unknown to the people I was traveling with, it was actually my birthday on the day that we arrived – as soon as they found out, one person in the group somehow managed to buy the largest Caipirinha I have ever seen!

img-20160722-wa0004Over the course of the next couple of days we explored the national park which interestingly has the name, “Lençois” as it looks like a giant bedsheet.

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Shortly after this I travelled to São Luiz and then got a flight back to Rio.

About two weeks after I got back, the Olympics began. During the build-up of the Olympics I wasn’t really looking forward to anything; I didn’t buy any tickets and honestly didn’t think that Rio was ready to host anything. After it began however, it felt like the mood in the city began to change and people started enjoying it. As a whole, I was pleased that nothing went catastrophically wrong (with the exception of a small green swimming pool…) and I’m sure the city felt the same way but probably more so relieved when it all finished.

What also helped during this time was that my friend from school, Diarmuid, flew into Rio just as the games began and literally lived next door to me for the month. During this time, we went a few games together and even hiked up a nearby mountain called Pedra da Gavea.

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After he left, the next few months (my final few months) flew by and I really wished that I didn’t have to leave so soon.

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I’m now going to spend what looks like a year or more in the UK to work, save money and perhaps focus a bit on building a career. I’m really not looking forward to spending winter in England (especially as I just had winter in Rio) but… it is nice to be home for Christmas after spending the last two away.

In the meantime, I will try to work around the unnecessarily complicated visa system and hopefully get a job in Brazil in the upcoming years.dscn0229RIP tan, it was nice knowing you 😥

 

 

Santa Marta

Since it was founded in the 16th Century, Santa Marta has grown into one of the biggest cities on the Caribbean coast. It is a centre point for some of the main attractions of the region however it also has quite a notorious past predominately due to its location.

The city is situated right next to a giant mountain range called the Sierra Nevada. In this vast stretch of forestry you can typically find farms growing either coffee beans, marijuana plants or coca leaves. It was, and still is, the perfect place to grow these products and, as it is also next to the coast, it is the ideal place to smuggle them as well.

Around twenty to thirty years ago, Santa Marta was well known to be associated with cartels. The cartels used the farmland of the Sierra Nevada as well as the nearby harbour (called Taganga) to load up small boats of drugs which would then travel to nearby countries such as Cuba, to then make their way up to the US.

Over the last fifteen years, the power and influence of the cartels has diminished dramatically and these products are no longer being smuggled overseas through these same routes. After speaking with the locals of the region, I quickly found out that this didn’t mean that the farmers had stopped growing the drugs altogether, only that they now had different buyers.

I started work in Santa Marta two months ago in a really cool hostel called DropBear. It was an amazing place to live but I don’t think I have ever felt so lazy and lethargic in my life. The temperature of the city averaged around 32 degrees every day with a humidity of what was at times 90%… even a walk to the shops resulted in buckets of sweat! I think I must have lost half of my weight and I spent most of my time just lying around doing nothing.

During the days that I was working, I was a bartender. This was a pretty fun job to work in and it gave me the chance to learn how to make a lot of new cocktails. That being said, I don’t know whether it was the heat or the work or something about the place, but when I left the DropBear I just felt drained of energy. I felt I lost so much compared to when I first came into the place that I didn’t even feel like I was the same person anymore. I even had a giant string of bad luck during my stay (with my phone breaking, my laptop breaking twice, losing my camera twice and even having my mp3 player break.. the owner of the hostel told me when I arrived that the place was cursed and, after a while, I started to understand why he felt that way).

After leaving the DropBear, me and a friend started to explore the area more in depth. We started to either hitchhike around the coast (which I’ve really taking a liking to) or we took motor taxis wherever the cars couldn’t bring us. One of the best places that we stayed at was in a Surf Camp called Costeño. It was here where I had my first ever surf lesson (and spent the whole time with a mouth full of salt water!). It was great, it loved it!!

We also visited a national park in the region called Tayrona. We camped there for a couple of days, hiking along a great string of incredibly beautiful beaches which sat perched next to the jungle. Most of these were practically deserted and all were within a couple of hours from one another. Seeing the sunset and the sunrise here felt like I was living on a different world.