Spending a week sleeping in a hammock on a boat travelling along the Amazon River truly sounded like the tonic for a World Cup hangover. And yet I was unsure of what exactly to expect. So here I will try to convey this unique experience by identifying how best to prepare, what to expect and reveal the (mostly positive) discoveries I made along the way. Warning: May contain sunsets.
Once again, I scheduled myself in Manaus to watch the World Cup, this time for the two final matches. After their embarrassing defeat in the semi-final, the hosts looked to claim some honour in the third place playoff against the Netherlands, who only got knocked out by penalties to Argentina. To cause an almighty upset in neighbouring Brazil, the Argentines would have to overcome mighty Germany, so it looked to be a final to truly relish. I enjoyed three fun nights with my new American friends and lazed around my hostel waiting for my boat’s departure to the Colombian border where I would continue my South American adventure.
The Amazon Basin contains 6 million square kilometres of river and jungle, just over half of which lies in Brazilian territory. My trip into its depths was probably the culmination of my Brazilian travels, provoking my imagination to images of wild cats, snakes, monkeys and macaws, amongst dense jungle, giant trees and along eerie rivers. Guidebooks, tour agencies and online reviews of course dispel such unlikely notions (at least for the usual 3-5 day excursions). So what exactly did I discover during my jungle experience?
My initial two night stay in Manaus was geared towards watching both World Cup semi-finals and organising a trip into the surrounding Amazon Jungle. A dream Brazil v Argentina final was still possible but the hosts faced Germany as significant under-dogs with captain Thiago Silva suspended and star player Neymar injured. The second semi-final pitted my other favourite team Holland against South American giants, Argentina. Was it to be a surprise or sadness, cause for celebration or catastrophe?
Belo Horizonte was hot, Rio was hotter, but heading North to Salvador felt more like tropical Brazilian climate. I ended up spending 5 nights in the state capital of Bahia, visiting the old town of Pelourinho, watching the scintillating World Cup quarter final ties and trying to soak up some sun. My visit didn’t go exactly to plan but I will describe my changing fortunes…
Back in São Paulo. Was 9 days not enough? Probably. But I achieved just as much in the centre of the city in this 36 hour period as anyone visiting São Paulo needs to: a night in Vila Madalena, a visit to the excellent ‘Museu do Futebol’ and a stroll along Paulista Avenue. More importantly, I met up with some friends (both old and new) and had a blast!
The over-indulgence fueled by World Cup fever was responsible for another rushed visit to one of Brazil’s cinematic colonial towns, Paraty. It was a desperately needed escape from big cities, hectic street parties and bustling crowds. The slow-paced, laid-back vibe of Paraty soothed me from the outset and left me wishing I could stay days or weeks longer!