Friday, August 12, 2005
On sunday the organizers planned a boat trip to the nearby island. We took an hour boat ride to the big island in the bay. We ended up at this pristine beach. I went swimming out a ways until the water was probably 20 feet deep, but the water was so clear it looked like I should be able to touch the bottom. By the rocks you could see schools of fish, and as the tide came in you could body surf. I told some Brazilians if I lived in Rio I would come down here almost every weekend.
On Saturday afternoon they drove us from the hotel to the small town of Paraty. The town had been the end of the trail from the gold mines in the 1700's. After the mines closed, the town become more or less a ghost town. About 50 years ago people found this now almost perfectly preserved colonial town. It was different from any of the modern towns I had seen.
As you can tell on the pictures walking around was difficult in the tiny old streets. The cobblestones were usually about a foot or more in diameter. You felt like you were walking on a rocky trail. One person in the group I think twisted his ankle walking around. There were great little tourist shops, nice restaurants, and fun looking bed and breakfasts.
The trip there and back was a ride. It was along windy bumpy roads. The bus driver decided to see how fast he could go around the corners. Anyway almost every was sick by the time we got there. I was nervous about the trip back, so I stopped at a drugstore to pick up dramamime. Since we didn't know how to say sea sickness in Portugese we communicated it by hand signs and moans. Somehow we were able to get the dramamine.
The beach for the hotel was done the hill. It was a quiet little cove. To get there we took a chair lift down.
Everyday at lunch there was a break so I (and about half the other people at the conference) would go for a swim. The water was warm, there was beach volleyball, and some fish swimming around. The only problem was after being in the sun I usually slept through the next talk.
After 4 great days of touring Rio it was time to start the conference. As fun as it was to see the sites I was anxious to be able to talk to someone and not have to eat dinner at a restaurant alone.
The conference was about 2 hours south of Rio in an area called Angra Dos Reis. It is an archipelago of about 400 islands. The hotel was actually on a small part of the mainland and looked across at the main island. As you can tell from the pictures the hotel was beautiful. There was no town, restaurants, or shops nearby so we ate all our meals at the hotel. I won't bore you with how good the actual talks at the confence were.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
One of the sad things in Brazil is the poverty. I heard someone say about 90% of the people live in poverty. In the background is a favela. This is their word for slum. These are unofficial neighborhoods. There are no police, fire, or ambulance. Usually no busses, running water, and stolen electricity.
The favelas are run by drug lords and are incredibly unsafe. The homes are cynder block and tin. Some of the largest in Rio will house over 100,000 people.
I was told sometimes at night if there are two warring favelas near each other it will look like a firework display is going on. It is a gun battle between the buildings.
On sunday I couldn't find a church to go to and most of the town was shut down, so I took a bus into the mountains of Brazil. The town of Petropolis was founded by Portugese royalty. They didn't like the heat of the city so they built a town in the mountains.
The picture is of the emporer's palace. The mountain setting and gardens were beautiful. The temperature was about 10 degrees cooler.
Throughout my trip the weather was about 80 and sunny every day. Not bad for winter. I'm glad I didn't come in their summer. It can easily get in the 100's with very high humidity.
The next day I decided to take the gondolla up to the top of Sugarloaf. It is a peak about 1000 feet above the ocean. It was a beautiful clear day so I thought I would have a great view. The picture of the city shows Copacabana beach in the foreground. Ipenema is to the right behind the near peaks.
One thing I found hard was taking taxis, no matter how hard I tried they couldn't understand what I was trying to say. I decided it was easiest to simply right down an address and point. Each morning I would take a piece of paper and right all the addresses I thought I would need and then point to the different ones.
At stores I couldn't understand how much something cost. So if I couldn't see the total on a sreen or register I would simply hand a large bill. That worked, but by three or four days I had about 10 reas (there monetary unit) of change in my pocket.
The first day there I went walking through the towns of Ipenema and Copacabana. Each beach is about 2 miles long, so I think I walked for about 8 miles. After a long flight I was worn out, but from the pics you can see it was worth it. The picture with the umbrellas is of Copacabana with Sugarloaf in the background. The other picture is of Ipenema with Leblon in the background.
This is the view of Leblon from my hotel room. Leblon is a city right next to Ipenema. In most cases Leblon, Ipenema, and Copacabana are only about 5 blocks wide, so you can tell there are lots of tall condo buildings.