Sunday, July 24, 2011

What’s the Fuss with Florianopolis?

We found our new home in Florianopolis; Hostel Portunol. I immediately liked it. The owner was Chilean and it had a real hippy vibe, relaxed easy going with hammocks, a pool table, communal kitchen and an amazing free breakfast.

Leaving the ghetto kids of Armacao we figured we would see the Florianopolis everyone had been raving about but we were wrong.

Please feel free to comment if I am wrong please enlighten me because my travel companions and I are still baffled to this day about what the fuss with Florianopolis is. Why do people rave about this place? We just didn’t see it. I thought maybe we were both jaded by having travelled a lot in the world and seeing way more beautiful beaches. The place was full of Argentineans on vacation there weren’t too many Brazilians to be seen. The place was very commercial and looked very Argentinean. We wanted to come to Brazil to see a different culture but it didn’t seem like we left the Argentine coast.

My other theory was this, I believe a lot of backpackers on the Gringo trail go to Brazil and then quickly leave as it is quite expensive. They head into the country go to Florianopolis to party on a beach and then head to Rio for the sites and Carnival. Money is getting tight and Rio is charging 50 reals a dorm bed during low season so they may check out Ihla Grande or Paraty then head the F@$% out. So they don’t have much to compare it to. This just may be a theory please like I said before enlighten me. Florianopolis is not a true representation of Brazilian culture in my opinion.

Although Armação’s only night life was the Bell’s Company hostel full of ghetto hip hop youths, it was home to the most beautiful beach we saw on the island. The scenery was incredible to wake up to. We were right on the water, the waves lapped up on our patio as we ate breakfast.

Barra de Lagoa beach where the night life was located left something to be desired. Not only was it lacking in beauty, it also didn’t have table service so Caipirinha O’clock was a bit more of a challenge. It was also overly crowed and full of vendors.

Alright forget the beach we moved up for the action and the night life. Tracy was finally feeling better and we were ready to party. We had a group from our hostel, yes there were actually other people staying in our hostel! We took the bus into town to find bar after bar charging ridiculous cover. How can you charge cover for a sit down bar? I can understand if there is a DJ or a band but they wanted to charge me a left nut (a Brazilian nut to be exact) to sit down and drink at a table. I could have just stayed in the hostel. The bars that did have live music and DJs were loud, obnoxious and triple the cover price of the sit down chill out bars. I wasn’t about to open my asshole to this place. After much disagreement about what to do we gave up on the BS of Barra town and return to our beach. Tracy and I took charge and bought from a corner store a bottle of Natasha vodka, 3 reals cachaça and a bit of chaser. We took the group to the beach where we shot back the Natasha and cachaça straight from the bottle.

So if in Florianopolis we had to bring the party to us, then what is everyone raving about? I am pretty sure we were in the area where everyone stays? What is the secret we were missing? I know I can be a bit frugal but it wasn’t just me who thought the place was ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong I had a good time and we stayed close to two weeks in total in Florianopolis. It is a nice place with beautiful beaches but as you know I am quite behind on this blog so I am writing this after having seen other parts of Brazil. I partied hard on the coast of Sao Paulo and in Lapa, Rio. I even had a few incredible nights out in Itacare. I saw the most beautiful beaches on Ihla Grande, Itacare and Boipeba that most beaches in the world do not compare to. The friendliest Brazilians I met were from Sao Paula and Brasilia so as far as partying with friendly locals this wasn't the place . All of Brazil is awe inspiring but if I were to rave about one place this wouldn't be it.

Kids in the Hood; Armação, Florianópolis Brasil

So I feel in love at first sight with Brazil I was jumping around singing at the top of my lungs, doing my happy dance, little did I know I was in a Brazilian twilight zone. If you are a follower of my blog (which you should be!!) then you may remember an entry from last year where I talked of the weird twilight zone in the Bahamas full of red necks and a traveling freak show. You should really read that posting its pretty darn refresh your memory

but after reading this one first, focus!

Like Abaco, Bahamas this beach destination in Brazil where I was staying called Praia Armação was stunningly beautiful but don’t let looks deceive you.

Tracy had picked our hostel in a hurry so she could show the consulate where we were staying when she was applying for her visa. She found a place with a fantastic price for Brazil and it was right on the beach. I discovered when I mentioned to other travellers where I was going to be staying they had no idea where I was talking about and never came across such a great price. I arrived to Armação early in the morning one day after Tracy. The bus from the mainland dropped me off right in front of Bell’s Company Hostel but it was all boarded up and no one answered the bell. A guy on a motor bike saw me and decided to help out; he climbed the wall of the hostel and opened the door from the inside. This was an odd way of getting in but I went ahead. I decided to try and rest on the couch in the common area until I saw a worker or Tracy.

I eventually met the owner’s mother, had breakfast, read my book, and went for a walk on the beach but no owner and no Tracy. Apparently the owner sleeps in, but how was I to check in? There really wasn’t anyone else in the place except a few Argentinean girls including one who decided to apply sun screen to her naked body in front of me while talking to me in the washroom. The owner’s mother told me my friend Tracy was here but it turned out to be another girl from Australia name Grace (who we later named Gracey, it just fit better with us).

I spent most of the day with my new Australian friend who couldn’t check in to the hostel either. Eventually Tracy found us and she had been sleeping this whole time, a bit too much fun in Uruguay apparently. She informed us the owner was a bit weird and at night the hostel turns into a bar. Most hostel owners are slightly strange and well I was up for some action so all was good. We spent the day on the beach relaxing and close to dinner time the owner had woken up. He was a small man who was a bit weathered from the sun. He never wore a shirt, just red swim trunks. He was very excitable like a 15 year old in a 45 year olds body. He was in the midst of setting up for a party and I was in the way of his sound equipment and disco lights when I was trying to check my e-mails. We went out for dinner at a seafood restaurant across the road which was amazing and treated ourselves to per kilo ice cream. This was the start to our love with per kilo restaurants in Brazil where you load up your plate buffet style and pay by the kilo, an amazing concept!

When we returned from ice cream and purchasing beer from the grocery store we had to get stamped to enter our own hostel. Good thing our names were on the list the teenager at the door had. We then entered the Armação twilight zone. It was a full on hip hop dance party for local teens. They were all underage and looked like they crawled out of the ghetto. Were they filming a Little Bow Wow music video here? It was very odd. The tables on the waterfront had a few older people but the average age was probably 14. In typical teenage fashion the guys were on one side of the dance floor with their hats, white wife beater undershirts and fake chains looking at themselves in the mirror as they danced. The girls were on the other side wearing revealing clothing and shaking their asses a way they shouldn’t know how. We sat at a table with our beer awe struck. There was only one other bar in Armacao that had a few pool tables. Our hostel was the place to be in this small beach village, everyone knew about it. Perhaps it was the hostel owner’s way of keeping these ghetto kids out of trouble, he contains them to one place and they seemed to be behaving although I was pretty sure it wasn’t fruit juices they were drinking. Thankfully they were not allowed inside the hostel just on the patio and bar area. We were sitting amongst it all but the hommies and the fly girls had no idea we were even there.

In the morning random people were passed out in the outdoor common area including one older man who looked like a leather bag from the sun. He seemed to be passed out in the hostel for quite a few days that followed.

Despite how beautiful Armação was we didn’t see any other travellers. There were a few people that would show up to the hostel but they all seemed a bit strange as well. The beach was fantastic with clear warm blue waters that rolled into shore. At caipirinha O’clock we could just sit at one of the beach side tables and be served right there. Nineteen year old Grace was our new protégée we were going to take her under our wing and that started with buying her drinks which would in turn help us out later on. It was all in the name of Alcohol karma.

We discovered there were only three restaurants, one grocery store, a small bar and our hostel the ghetto kid’s night club in Armação . This wasn’t the Florianopolis everyone had been talking about.

Tracy wasn’t feeling well when I first arrived so we didn’t mind hanging out on this stunning beach and going to bed after laughing at the kids in the hood but enough was enough we wanted to see Florianopolis, we wanted action and to meet other travelers. We left this weird twilight zone for Barra Da Lagoa, where it appeared most people stayed by looking at the map view on hostel world.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brazil; My Happy Place

In the book The Beach the author Alex Garland talks about how each one of the island's residents has a particular place in the world. They are all travellers but each personality has a place. For one it was Indonesia, another India. My best friend Candice who loves the ocean and gets happy goose bumps from watching the movie Blue Crush has a destination and that is Australia. An ex co-worker of mine who loves snow did the opposite of me and followed winter around the world; she fell in love with New Zealand. My ex whose favourite colour is tan belongs in the desert...I probably should have known our demise from the beginning as my favourite colour is green and I belong in the tropics. Give me lush green jungles, humidity, white sand beaches, perfect turquoise waters and lots and lots of palm trees!! Give me Colombia and give me Brazil!! You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I looked out at the ocean in front of me; the green hills behind me and the sun shine beating down on me. The other Tracy was nowhere to be found but that was ok I ran out to the end of the little island that sat in front of our hostel. The green grass contrasted with the black rocks in the water and the blue waves crashing on them. Then I did what I hadn’t done in quite a while. I did a, holy shit I am F-ing here happy dance. I threw up my arms and twirled myself around and then, yes I admit it I may have sang the Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music. Thank god it was 7am and no one was around to see this nut job.

I was in my happy place

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Border Freaks Iguaçu Brasil

Crossing the border from Iguazu Argentina into Foz do Iguaçu Brasil I had to hop on a bus from the station near my hostel, it dropped me of at immigration to fill out papers and another bus of the same company was to come by and pick me up to continue into Brasil. This wasn’t such a frequent event though and I was concerned when a weird Belgium girl with extreemly large glasses and a bowl cut told me she had been waiting by the side of the road for over two hours. I later found out she was trying to get to Paraguay which was in the other direction.

More and more strange people joined me on this sweltering road side including a French girl who when I asked her where she was from she replied in a forced French accent, “I don’t know how you pronounce it in English but France.” It took all the will power in the world for me not to laugh in her face. I don’t want to be a judgemental person but some people just really shock me. She got really peeved off at me because I didn’t have a bus reservation from Iguaçu to Florianopolis and that I didn’t own a watch or any type of time piece. I told her I don’t like time strapped to me but really I’m not working I’m just traveling I will get there when I get there and when I am hungry I will eat, that simple. I had to laugh when she started taking off all her wooden and plastic jewellery because she didn’t want to get robbed in Brasil. A group of Argentinean guys arrived one had a severe black eye. An American military looking guy joined the group who seemed to know the Argies as he was talking to them in Spanish. As I was trying to convince the Belgium girl to take the bus back into Argentina so she can get to Paraguay or to just forget it and go to Brazil two girls in leggings with long hair and two suit cases each which were almost the size of them arrived. They tried to get on a bus which they didn’t have a ticket for so there was a long shuffle of getting their suit cases on and then trying to get them back off again. Where did these people learn to travel and how did they get this far. Finally my bus arrived and I left the freaks behind except for the girl from “France,” pronounced in a snobby French accent. I’m pretty sure I continued to annoy her the whole way to the Brasil side and to the bus station. Most likely she is writing a blog right now about the freak girl from Canada.

The buses were quite full going to Florianopolis but I got on one and didn’t have to wait long, take that Frenchie!! The quality of overnight buses suddenly dropped 50 points between Brazil and Argentina. I believe it was one up from a chicken bus, there was no wait staff, no food, and no movies and where was my damn champagne! Had I been spoiled by Argentina?! What has happened to me?! The bus was packed with Brazilians that had loaded up on cheap goods at the border to bring back to Brazil and sell. The women looked trashy and the men seemed drunk. I sat back put my music on and read my book ready to embrace the thirteen hours which could have been a lot shorter if we didn’t stop about twenty times. It was ok though I was finally in Brazil everything was new, foreign and slightly confusing. No more familiar Spanish world I was ready to take on a new country!

Iguazu Falls and the Sex lives of Travellers

My Brazilian visa was sorted and safely stamped to my passport; I had a lovely time on the Argentinean coast and a good last few days actually enjoying what Buenos Aires has to offer. It took me a while to like this city but it left quite the lasting impression. I was however very happy to be leaving and traveling again. I was even happier to be getting out of Argentina and onto Brazil. First however there was Iguazu falls which I could not leave South America without seeing. Just like every bus in Argentina I got on a 20 hour bus to get to Iguazu from BA. I thought I had book the champagne bus with the seats that turn into beds but when I got on all I was greeted with was a candy and had more Alfajores to look forward to.

I was excited to see the scenery as we got into the north of Argentina close to Brazil and Iguazu falls. It was green, lush and tropical; hmmm...Argentina has been holding back this beautiful north from me!! I had to change buses a few hours before getting to Iguazu and arrived on a bus full of young Israelis. I promised myself to go in the opposite direction of this large Israeli group. As the bus pulled through the main street of Iguazu I was hit in the face with heat and humidity and my hair went into instant afro. It was hot! The bus passed a hostel that had a pool with hammocks and beside was a girl reading a book; I knew this was where I was going to stay. It turned out it was the same place my friend max recommended, Iguazu Falls Hostel which is an HI hostel and against my religion but I went anyway to price it out. I left decided to check around but I just ended up walking up and down the street trying to decide. What happened to my amazing traveller instinct and my knack for finding amazing hostels?? Tracy, focus here! I went with my gut and returned to the HI.

The Iguazu falls were impressive and I was glad to see them up close and personal from the Argentinean side. The motor boat ride practically took you right under the falls. I roamed around on my own comparing the falls in my head to Niagara which are also impressive but not as big. Niagara however is not in nature and suffers from the eye sore that is Clifton Hill a street of souvenir shops, haunted houses, hotels and casinos. Anyone who thinks going to Niagara Falls for their honey moon is romantic probably got married in Vegas or is stuck in the 1960’s. This place invented the word tacky.

Iguazu is no stranger to the tourist but the park is so big you can take your time and really take in the majesty. I was however at yet another amazing world site on my own doing the ol’ hand in front of face camera pose...pathetic! I noticed a couple who looked British or Australian and was going to go over and say hi but shied away. I continued through the park and was surprised to see the couple again it was hard to miss the guy with a dread locked rat’s tail hanging down his back. He approached me to make some comment about the large breasted woman. Stupid me thinking he was trying to make friends continued with the conversation but he looked at me shocked. He got me confused with his friend and was really embarrassed. Especially because of his breast comment which would have seemed odd to any other person but me who was eager to accept a new friend.

He got passed his embarrassment and didn’t think I was a complete weirdo; I was introduced to his friend who he actually met in line to enter the park. They were both traveling alone and staying in different hostels. She was from England and he was from Australia. We got on well, spent the rest of the day wandering together and agreed to meet back at his hostel.

I hadn’t planned on drinking especially since I had to leave the next day for Brazil but at it happens when you travel and you meet people it’s never just a beer. We sat in the lobby of the guy’s pousada as they weren’t allowing guests in the pool area to drink. Next thing I knew the bar was lined with our empty litre beer bottles. They were both really cool people and also had travelled a lot but they weren’t your average traveller, they were nomads like me who had adventures in different countries and stories to tell. As it does when drinking mass quantities of beer, the topic of conversation turned to sex, traveller sex. Alcohol has a way of relaxing the mind and lubricating the lips releasing your secrets and information. I am a bit of a romantic, a free spirit and a lover of men but I realized in the traveller world I would be considered a nun compared to the wild antics these two got up to. When it comes to sex, love and romance it’s a whole different ball came when you are travelling the world but that’s a different unwritten blog or how my Argentinean friend would call it, “the naughty Tracy blog.”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Leaving BA

~Buenos Aires

A place to live and to enjoy, to spend money, to party, to drink, hedonism, food, wine, seduction, tango and chic.

Buenos Aires is not a city to fall in love, this is not a city of romance. It’s a city to lose your inhibitions, a backdrop for hedonism, over indulgence and excess. You can’t come here on a budget and you cannot just pass through it taking in the touristic sites. Many travellers discover this and end up living here. It sucks you in. Buenos Aires is not a city to visit it’s a city to devour.~

My last day in Buenos Aires

As I said goodbye to Max my bag felt lighter which was puzzling because I had spent the day in San Telmo buying last minute gifts and purchases including a heavy antique door knocker. Maybe buying these gifts lightened me of my emotional baggage. I was buying gifts to take home, I was going back in two and a half months to start a new life.

Maybe this trip was wrapping Latin America up, saying goodbye to past lovers, making amends and realizing Colombia was an infatuation. I will always travel it’s in my blood but even this gypsy needs a home.

My last day in Buenos Aires I came to love the city and see why so many foreigners stay. I felt comfortable on the streets and in the subte. I knew my way around and when someone asked me for directions I gave them with confidence. I gave up eating out and eating when the Argentineans did. I bought food in a grocery store and made lunch to go. I wandered the market in San Telmo which meandered almost to La Boca where I translated for some American tourists. I made my way back to Luis Guillon without getting lost. As I read a book about Evita on the train an elderly lady in front of me asked if I liked reading things about the Perons. I said I did and she said she is a Peronista, it was odd like someone from my book had jumped out in front of me. She told me things were better back then, things were cheaper and then she rambled on the whole way to Guillon but I couldn't hear her for the wind of the train blowing hard at me.

It is sad leaving any place you have been for a while and I really don’t know when I will be back. I may need to conquer another continent but first there is Iguaçu and Brazil!!

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