Driving aimlessly around northeast brasil…

16 August, 2009

Ok, we started off three days ago in Recife in the state of Pernambuco, which is pretty much in the most eastern point of Brasil. Now three days later we are in Aracaju in the state of Sergipe about 600km south of Recife. Here is map of our route so far:

Our route so far

So, what have we seen?

Well the north east of Brasil is the poorest and probably the most beautiful part of Brasil.

We have seen endless beautiful coconut palm framed golden sand beaches with warm, clean, green sea. Some are crowded with families enjoying a day at the beach, others are completely empty.

A crowded beach – with a festival like atmosphere!

We have seen miles and miles of waving sugar cane fields and also miles of perfectly lined up plantation palm trees – maybe for coconut farming? we couldn’t tell.

We have seen endless gently rolling hills with big white brahma cows wandering around or relaxing in mud holes.

We have seen an continuous stream of little towns, either right on the coast or strung out along the side of BR-101, the main highway along the coast.

Sugar plantation workers town

We have see lots and lots of potholes! Our poor little rental car has taken some big hits, but like an old boxer she is ploughing on – and Greg is driving a little slower and following the line the locals take weaving in between the potholes and the puddles and the washouts.

We have seen beautiful colonial churches and amazing colonial era shops and houses in varying states of repair (sometimes the unrenovated ones are the most stunning).

Another postcard worthy church

We have seen lots and lots of cars and trucks with stickers about Jesus on them, we have also seen loads of massive modern evangelical churches – proof that religion is alive and well up here!

We have seen some beautiful bayside cities – we stayed for two nights in Maceio which was just lovely, the city is strung out along a bay, there is a reef about 2km from the coast and loads of boats are parked up on the shore with snorkelling gear for anyone who wants to snorkel in the clear green waters.

Maceio was a great, it had a really comfortable, laid back atmosphere, lots of great restaurants, a running path along the shore and a never ending supply of ice cold coconuts for Cath to drink.

Maceio

We also stopped at the infamous Porte de Galinhas, one of the most popular beach spots in the north east, but it was a real tourist trap complete with touts and hustlers on all the street corners, so we enjoyed a quick meal of freshly fried fish and hit the road again.

We have also seen the grim face of poverty, it seems much more prevalent than in Sao Paulo, not just the brick and tin favelas of Sao Paulo that we are now used too, but also the much more basic mud and palm frond shacks that dot the roadside.

We have eaten some great food, from an awesome traditional lamb stew to Peruvian ceviche, awesome parmigiana, breakfasted on ice cream at a shop that had 70 varieties and eaten freshly fried to order potato chips:

heart foundation approved!

But I think we reached a culinary peak today at a truck stop in the middle of sugar cane country, the place was massive and catered to the never-ending stream of truckers zooming up and down the coast. It was a rodizio, an all you can eat meat restaurant and it was great and only about £5 per person for all the beef, lamb, pork and chicken you could eat!

We eventually rolled ourselves out of there and got back on the road to our current location Aracaju in the state of Sergipe, tomorrow we will head to one the best Portuguese era towns nearby then make our way towards Salvador.

More news as it comes to hand!

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Fernando de Noronha – wow its terrible!

14 August, 2009

Ever since we arrived in Brasil, everyone has talked about FdN, telling us how amazing it is, how it has the best beaches in Brasil, but no one had actually been here, all this advice was always second hand.

Well now we have been there and here is our first hand review….

Please, do not come here. It is awful, overrated, overpriced. It is better to stay away.

Okay, the smart ones have still kept reading, which means I now need to tell the truth. It was beautiful. Almost as good as some parts of Queensland! For those who know me, I am, unashamedly, a beach snob. Having been fortunate enough to grow up in South East Queensland, Manly, I had easy access to some of the world’s most fantastic beaches being Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Stradbroke Island, not to mention holidays to the Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island etc …

So when I first arrived in Europe, I was a little shocked to have seen the pathetic attempts at beaches in England, France, Italy where they seem to have confused pebbles for sand. Hmmm…. Nothing like stretching out on pebbles. The Thai’s and the South Africans put in good attempts but it just wasn’t the same as a good Queensland beach, where the water is always warm enough to swim in, you can leave your wallet and your car keys under the towel so they are safe (no one would ever think to look under there) and where the waves and the water were clear …. That is until FdN:

Our first view of the island from the north

This island is idyllic. Only 300km (a one hour flight) from Recife on the north coast of Brasil, it is a little oasis, whose perimeter is stacked with gorgeous beaches, fantastic dive spots, low-key posada’s, no frills restaurants and a bunch of genuinely friendly locals. The island has 500 residents, 3500 tourists and workers…. The only way you can start a business here or move there permanently is if you were born here or marry a person who was! Which means there are no big name resorts, no chain restaurants, you get the idea.

We spent five days here and stayed at a great Pousada called “Leao Marinho”   , only a 10 minute walk from the nearest beach, or a 1 minute buggy ride, with a very hospitable hostess, and all of the amendities you would ever need.

The first day was spent with our guide “Wellington” he was cool, even spoke slowly enough for us to understand his Portuguese. We did well with most of the Portuguese translations: Turtles = Turtagos, Dolphins = Golfinos, Mermaid = what the ??? Still we managed to figure it out with some excellent charades techniques! At R$60 each for the whole day, it really was terrific value. We snorkelled in 5 spots, saw most of the beaches, learnt history etc …

Cath the mermaid

Greg still looking for his mermaid!

We basically spent the next four days snorkelling, swimming and gorging ourselves on tapioca pancakes filled with fresh coconut, banana and doce de leite… We started off by riding around the island on bicycles, then we realised how many hills there were and we wanted to save our energy for snorkelling, so we switched to a Dune Buggy — so cool, only limited by the cost of fuel – at £1.30 a litre, it hurt a little…

Ours was the litte blue dune buggy!

Keep in mind, it’s a really small island – about 17 sq kms, in fact its so small, there is only one road – national highway 363, a whole whopping great 7kms of it from one end of the island to the other!

It definitely was a “doing /activity” holiday…. , because the beaches missed their usual Brasil traders, there was no beer, hot corn, umbrellas, food etc, coupled with no shopping and no resorts meant that you had to get amongst nature or get bored … which suited us perfectly!!! I feel like I’ve been to a fitness camp.

In the end we saw the following animals snorkelling, and I mean really closely: turtles, dolphins, sea snakes, eels, sting ray, manta ray, heaps of beautifully coloured fish not to mention the birds. Just gorgeous.

It really is one of those places best summarised by photos … My words can not do justice to the WOW factor of this place. So many shades of blue. Enjoy the piccies!

Another day, another empty golden beach!

The two brothers and another amazing snorkelling/diving spot.

The water was this clear as far as you could see!

Bye for now!