After five and a half days cruising along the Amazon River, our journey to the edge of Brazil was complete but it was a somewhat unsettling transition into Colombia. My Colombian friend, Fernando, assured me that this was not the real Colombia but simply another Amazonian town with the subtle changes in currency, flag, language and food. Indeed the presence of jungle lingered with the daily spectacle of screeching parrots (or perricos) and nearby Via Tarapacá, a road lined with botanical gardens, swimming holes and canopy adventures.
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.
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!
‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ (Marvellous City) is an accurate nickname for Rio de Janeiro, home to towering mountains, lush rainforest, sandy beaches and blue seas, as well as buzzing nightlife in its many lively neighbourhoods. I have had the fortune of living in the spectacular lakeside town of Queenstown, New Zealand, in the gorgeous harbour city of Sydney, Australia, and I am even fond of commuting to and from work back home in London, seeing Big Ben through the London Eye and glimpsing Tower Bridge beautifully lit up at night. Rio would be another city I would be grateful to call my home, but in just four and a half days I merely scratched the surface. I also came at a time when World Cup tourists created a different (yet still amazing) atmosphere, so Rio is firmly etched in my list of places I must visit again. I will take you through my journey of views from the tops of spectacular outlooks to lying face down on sandy beaches; identifying the highs of World Cup fever to the lows of harsh Rio hangovers!
The atmosphere of the World Cup in Brazil was unbelievable and I really want to convey this by telling an uplifting story that was told by the two English guys I met in Ouro Preto. This capped off an inspiring day of so-called solo travelling, where I escaped the madness of the World Cup in the big cities of Brazil.
Hardly one of Brazil’s top tourist destinations, the country’s 3rd largest city found itself on many itineraries this month for hosting 6 World Cup matches in its 58,000 seater stadium, Brazil’s 2nd largest. For me and my 5 English companions, this included England’s pointless game against Costa Rica, where England were already eliminated and Costa Rica had already progressed to the 2nd Round. But was it worth the 2-day trip? Was there enough to keep me entertained? And ultimately would I recommend anyone to visit Belo Horizonte outside of the World Cup festivities?