Brazil Travel post #13: Ciao! Goodbye, Brazil (intro post is here).
For our last night on the Tucano, the crew picked up a samba singer and dancer and we had a party on the top deck. The night was beautiful and one of the guides taught me how to make the perfect caiprinha.
The day we disembarked, we went for a city tour of Manaus before our afternoon flight. Below you’ll find the entry sign for CIGS; which is both a public zoo and a military installation.
Here soldiers train for intense, jungle warefare, and at the same time have devoted themselves to protecting wildlife from poachers.
As we continue our Manaus tour, we saw the famed Teatro Amazonas, an operahouse built by the first Portuguese settlers so they could still enjoy European-style High Society when they weren’t busy exploiting locals into rubber production. Sure is a beautiful spot!
That’s all she wrote! Or in my case, all he wrote. 16 days total spent travelling, and almost that long telling you about it. Was the trip worth it?
And now we have a baker’s dozen Brazil posts. I might as well put it all in one place:
Brazil Travel post #9: Welcome to the Jungle! (intro post is here).
Okay, here we are, finally heading into the jungle. And great timing too! One of our fellow travelers, Gerald Peek, took some amazing photos and I was able to access them yesterday. He graciously agreed to let me use them for this blog, so you’ll find a mix of Schannep and Peek photos below.
I’m still sorting through the photos, so that’s all for today, but coming up we’ll have jungle hikes, boat excursions, and river night life! Stay tuned.
Brazil Travel post #8: Cristo Redentor (intro post is here).
For our last stop in Rio de Janeiro, we’re headed to the top of Corcovado mountain to see one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (two down, five to go!). Cristo Redentor translates to “Christ the Redeemer” in English, and is one of the most iconic statues on earth.
In MURDERED, you head up to the top for a major clue in the interactive mystery, and if you so choose, you can take the tourist cog train to the top.
So, of course, I made it a priority to do so myself. You’ll find plenty of warnings out there about how hard it is to get tickets day-of (during a holiday! When the cruise ships are in port! Oh my!), but when you’re travelling in a pair, things can go your way. As soon as we got to the station, the ticket salesman informed us there were two more tickets available for the next train. Despite an afternoon rainstorm, we went for it.
The cog train takes you through the Tijuca forest, up the side of the mountain, and offers several in-car views of the city below.
Once you make it to the top, you’re shuffled past a half-dozen souvenir shops and multiple restaurants.
Eventually, you’ll make it to the top.
And what will you see?
And once you’re done trying to take your picture in the same pose, you can look out over the city yourself.
Brazil Travel post #7: Sightseeing 2 (intro post is here).
Today, let’s head back into the Atlantic Rainforest for some super amazing views.
Tijuca National Park
It’s likely that some of you noticed the lush and verdant Rio scenery and after yesterday’s post thought, “That’s only 10% of the original forest? Whoa.”
Whoa, indeed. But that’s because what you’re looking at isn’t the original forest. The Brazilian government actually brought the jungle back, replanting nearly 12 square miles of forest, thereby creating a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the largest and oldest man-made forests, having been restored in the late 1800s after concerns that the massive deforested farm lands were sucking the area dry of drinking water.
We enjoyed this restored rainforest with a guided jungle hike up a storied trail, all the way up the mountainside to the best view in the city. I must say, if I hadn’t been told, I wouldn’t have known this was “new” jungle.
Escadaria Selarón — The Tile Steps
After a late lunch we went to the famed tile steps, known as the Escadaria Selarón.The steps are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who began by simply repairing the steps in front of his own home with brightly colored, ceramic tile. The project eventually consumed the artist and continued to grow, expanding even to this day.
There are literally thousands of tiles, brought in from all over the world, so here you’ll see a small selection of those pieces that caught our eye.
That’s it for today!
Tomorrow? Let’s finish up our Rio sightseeing tour with a grand finale….
Brazil Travel post #6: Sightseeing 1 (intro post is here).
From the outset, I can tell you I’m going to have to split this topic into multiple parts. There were sooooo many sights to see, especially with a “MURDERED Bucket List” in my back pocket.
Jardim Botãnico — The Botanic Garden
Rio de Janeiro was once home to the expansive Atlantic Rainforest, a different type of jungle than its more famous Amazonian cousin. Once Rio was declared the capital of Brazil, the city flourished and the rainforest dwindled to roughly 10% of its original size. This was largely intentional, as Brazil became an important produce exporter, and as demand grew, so did the demand for farmland.
The botanic garden was founded in 1808 by King John VI of Portugal (Brazil was in the Portuguese empire at the time) who decreed that a garden should be built to see which foreign plants might best thrive in Brazil’s climate. Thus, the botanic gardens were born, and once that job was completed in 1822 they became a public site.
Today it is a beautiful park full of exotic flora, including 900 varietals of palm, as well as wild monkeys and hundreds of jungle birds. Here are a few of the fantastic images we captured:
MAR — Museu de Arte do Rio
From natural beauty to created beauty. The MAR holds some of Brazil’s most impressive artistic pieces. Let’s see a few.
Brazil Travel post #5: Food & Drink (intro post is here).
Brazil was a culinary delight. Travel not only serves to open one’s mind, but to broaden your palate as well. Join me now as I show the best this self-proclaimed foodie discovered on our trip.
Brazil is known for red meat and a “Churrasco” is the ultimate steakhouse experience.
It’s a special experience where young men (sometimes dressed in traditional cowboy garb), bring choice cuts of meat to your table, slice you off a bite, and continue on. You choose how much you’d like, which cuts, and if you’d like to make room for the salad bar. Hint: you’re not here for salad.
This type of experience can be found in MURDERED if you choose to go to São Paulo with Agent Bertram:
“Ever have churrasco?” Agent Bertram asks when he picks you up. Before you can answer, he adds, “There’s a great place near here.”
Flames leap out from the kitchen, kissing the meat as the chefs rotate each skewer, trying to keep in as much of the juices as they can. You’re in the Churrascaria now, a high-end restaurant dedicated to Brazilian beef. Churrasco is synonymous with barbeque in this country, and they have a specialized way of cooking it. The sizzling spit from the grill and the smell coming from the kitchen is intoxicating and on an empty stomach, you start to salivate.
“You’re in for a treat, Hotshot. Good luck looking the same at steak back in the US ever again.”
While we weren’t able to make it to São Paulo, we did go to the famed Churrascaria Búfalo in Manaus. If you’re in the area, go.
As mentioned, the exchange rate in Brazil is currently very favorable for those with American dollars to spend. To this end, we went for a gourmet sushi experience for our first night in Ipanema at a restaurant called Tenkai. We ordered specialty sake cocktails that blended Brazilian tastes with Japanese style. The Brazilian-made sake with lychee fruit was to die for. We couldn’t quite decide what to eat, so we opted for a 60-piece sushi feast. It was so big, they had to sail it in on a boat…
Aside from red meat, if you’re eating like the locals, you’re eating seafood and some variation of manioc (a root that’s a staple of the diet). Stews are ubiquitous, usually accompanied by rice. Breaded and fried entrees are common.
One of the best places for this type of food was at a restaurant in Urca called (wait for it)… Bar Urca.
Unlike most countries with a large oceanic border, Brazil seemed to serve primarily river fish. With the largest freshwater waterway in the world, this isn’t very surprising, but the entrees themselves certainly were. We tried many variety of fish on our Rio Negro boat tour (blog posts on this topic will arrive eventually, I promise!), and each one was new and exciting. If you’re someone who’s not into seafood because of that “fishy taste” — I’d recommend trying some river fish.
Bebidas — drinks!
Brazil also offered a full array of new and exciting drinks, from coffee to fruit juices to alcohol.
The drink you’ll find everywhere is the caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. Sugarcane rum, lime, ice, and more sugar.
Beer is also common, and even those imported from outside of Brazil could be exotic to us.
To end our drink experience, we decided to try to the Brazilian take on Colorado craft brews:
That’s it for today. I tried not to retread over the food/drink mentioned in previous posts (like the amazing breakfast at the Copacabana Palace!) or spoil too much for the future (piranha fishing! piranha fishing! OMG, piranha fishing!).
Brazil Travel post #4: The Favelas (intro post is here).
Today, we journey into one of Brazil’s favelas. What exactly is a favela, you ask? At it’s simplest, a slum, but the favelas are so much more than that. 11.4 million people live in one of Brazil’s ramshackle hillside communities. Let’s explore exactly what makes a favela so unique.
The favelas of Rio de Janeiro are world renowned stacks of poverty, drug use, prostitution, and violence. Rivaled only by the slums of Mumbai, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than in the favelas of Rio. Or at least that’s how it used to be.
First, some history.
Before “favela” became a generic term, it was the name of one particular village. The first favela was formed at the turn of the 20th century, after the War of Canudos, the bloodiest military-on-civilian massacre in Brazil’s history. The soldiers killed nearly every man, woman, and child in a 30,000 person settlement in a military action dubbed a civil war.
When these 20,000 soldiers, many of whom were suffering from what we would today call PTSD returned to Rio, they found no government assistance nor any place to live. They founded the first favela, and it was named after a skin-irritating tree found in the massacre region.
From these inauspicious beginnings, more favelas cropped up as more poor citizens were displaced and found no other option but to band together and fend for themselves.
If your choices in MURDERED lead you to work with Agent Danly, and his subsequent investigation leads him into the favelas, it’s a prospect so dangerous that he’s hesitant to allow you to accompany him.
“Listen, you’re doing great, but I’m not sure you should stay with me. I aim to get to the bottom of this, even if that means coming head-to-head with the drug cartels in the favelas. You can’t even imagine what it’s like in there—gangsters dance in the clubs while shooting AK-47s in the air. Even the kids are armed and they won’t hesitate to shoot you if they think it’s worth a laugh. I can’t put your life in jeopardy like that…”
So if these place are so dangerous, why were we crazy enough to visit?
In preparation for 2014’s World Cup and this summer’s 2016 Olympics, Brazil has made a considerable crackdown on crime, and this includes “pacification” of the favelas. Pacification is a hostile take-over of the slums in a military operation. Elite special forces are sent in to take out any violent resistance, and then a permanent police force is left to keep the region free of drugs and firearms. In fact, once a favela has been pacified, the Brazilian flag is placed on a high building top — to show that the government has conquered this foreign territory within its own borders.
So while I was expecting this:
What we got was this:
Rocinha is one of Rio’s older pacified favelas, having been pacified in 2011, and our visit was full of unexpected experiences. The people who live there can range up to middle class, our guide informed us, and in addition to pacification, the city government has helped the community receive clean water, free electricity, even wi-fi.
We were a bit wary of a visit, not because we thought we’d be unsafe, but because we didn’t want to offend or exploit people or go on some sort of voyeur tour.
The visit was anything but. Our guide is a well-known figure in the community and the tour company gives back a portion of every ticket, totaling to tens of thousands of dollars donated thus far. There were smiling faces waiting to greet him by name, and we were even given a trip to see the schools they support.
In addition to the portion of our tour price donated, we bought jewelry made by the students, music and paintings made by locals, and even the “best caipirinha in Rio” at an alley shop.
If you ever get the opportunity, I’d highly recommend a visit to the favelas. Just make sure the one you go to has been pacified, use a reputable guide, and don’t go at night. Just because improvements are made, doesn’t mean those elements that gave the favelas their reputation are gone completely.