Feliz Ano Novo!! A very late, but very Happy New Year to everyone from a sunny Brazil!! Apologies in advanced for formatting errors on the blog, I'm attempting to write it on a severely cracked iphone. I learnt a little too late that hammocks, phones, and balance do not bode well when one is intoxicated by caiprinias. My phone now resides in a sock, has a hissy fit around 3pm daily, and attempting to send emojis means dabbling with shards of cutting glass. I give it until the end of the week. But hey, I made it through all of January with a phone, so Ive got to give myself an air high five for that!
So, my trip. I'm not going to lie, on the train to Heathrow Airport I had a sudden reality check about what I was doing coming out here by myself. After losing my bankcard, and not even realising when I arrived in Brazil until the day I flew, it raised several alarming question marks in my own head (and no doubt my parents) about just how capable I am of not being my usual hopeless self when I'm travelling alone on the other side of the world. Well here comes the truth... it's been absolutely fine. In fact its been more then fine, my trip so far has been amazing. Going to a non-Western country on your own as a girl to travel raises quite a few fears, and certain stigmas, but so far in my experience as long as you keep your wits about you and go by the book then you should have little to worry about. I couldn't be prouder, and happier with myself for getting out here and just doing it.
And one thing which continually surprises me is just how receptive everyone seems to be to a solo traveller. I have had no problems meeting people, befriending people, or a lack of invites. Gone out the window are the cliques which are formed back home and everyone seems to get along. I've formed friendships with many people which in day-to-day London life I possibly would have not, and found each of these new different friendships to be an entirely rewarding experience. Something which cant help but open my eyes to how I view new friendships, and how I should change my initial ideas of first impressions back home.
I'm struggling with the language I'm not going to lie. It took me the first two weeks to say 'thank you' the correct way - 'obrigada'. Until then I had been saying 'arrabiata' (which of course is an italian pasta dish), which was always followed by a palm-to-face moment. Which was then followed by me wondering if it was time for dinner yet.
My lack of even basic Portuguese means I've taken to using lots of grand hand-gestures and facial expressions as an attempt to get my point across. Being the ever organised person I am, I obviously turn up in Brazil without an adaptor for any of my english plugs. Cue me in shop attempting to explain to a confused shop assistant what I want, by grandly mimicking with my hands the plug going into the socket. The shop attendants confusion shifts to a knowledgeable 'Ah Si!'. Perfect, workable hair-straighteners here I come! She returns triumphantly... carrying a pack of condoms. Since that misunderstanding I have somewhat downplayed hand actions, I am still yet to find an adaptor, and I am still yet to have straight hair.
Alas, I've fared no better reading Portuguese. Such as that time I was on a night bus and misread the buttons in the loo. Theres me pushing the panic button wondering why it wouldn't flush, until theres people at the door and little english me shouting 'It's fine I'm just trying to flush!!'. Or that time (well, three times) that I've doused my hands in liquid sweetener at cafes, reading the front to be antibacterial hand-wash.
But let's start from the beginning; Sao Paulo. I turn up on New Years Eve to the hostel I frantically booked last minute, to find out my booking was so last minute that they don't have it. And that the one person working there trying to explain this to me doesn't speak any English. The only space they have left is a solo room. I take the solo room and walk into the dormitory to introduce myself to make NYE friends...and nobody speaks English. Or seems interested. I walk back to my room and the door handle falls off, locking my belongings behind it. I spend the next hour with the hostel employee on google translator - 'I need to make friends tonight - dont want to be on my own...' - 'what kind of friends' -'no i think your misunderstanding me' and another half-hour trying to get the door handle back on to retrieve my belongings. By now its 9.30pm, I'm terribly sweaty, despairing, and leave for another hostel. On entering my next hostel two English speaking girls are just about to leave for New Year festivities. I take two minutes to change from my twenty-hour flight clothes, wipe the sweat off my brow and stick a bindi on. I have never spent so little time ever getting ready, let alone on NYE. All vanity has pretty much gone out the window on this trip, along with the thought of ever having straight hair, or proper makeup on. My companions take me to a club, and we drink Caiprinias first on the street. All the Brazilians are dressed in white as it's meant to bring good-luck and prosperity for the year ahead. I'm head to toe in dark blue; so go figure. And so, I dance my jet-lag off in a cachaca induced state with perfect strangers who are all saying Feliz Ano Novo and someone is even sick down my leg (thank god for flip-flops), but in the imperfect madness of it all it became a perfect New Year. And one I'll certainly never forget.
I move on from sprawling, hot Sao Paulo to the beautiful Florianopolis. And from there to the breathtaking Igacu Falls. And briefly into Argentina (but no steak!). And from there to the rhythms of the Salvador streets. And from Salvador to the pretty little town Lencois and to trek Chapade Diamantina National Park. And from there to the Unesco World Heritage town Olinda. And then from there onto Natal, and then onto the beautiful beaches of Praia da Pipa, which is where I am currently residing.
And what have I learnt so far from all of this? Brazil is BIG. I've travelled on more 28-hour bus journeys then I want to think about again, and I've eaten at more roadside pitstops then restaurants. But thats what travelling is, being on the road right? And by damn Brazil has a lot of it.
After all my grand designs on go-pros, and different cameras, and camera head-straps, I've realised that the best moments on this trip just cant be captured on camera. Like swimming in a lake at night surrounded by fireflies. Or boating right up to the mouth of Igacu Falls and laughing so hard that I am choking on the water flying in my face. Or lying out looking at a full moon and the most stars I've ever seen through the leaves of dancing palm trees. Or playing dominoes on the street with some old men that speak no English, and me no Portuguese. Or trying to keep up to the pounding drum beats at a sweaty Bloco in Salvador. And then after the Bloco *ahem* be interviewed by Brazilian television afterwards and be asked to dance like a Brazilian for the camera. Proving the point - Definately not one of my best moments captured on camera.
My plans of coming home a skinny traveller have quickly diminished with the Brazilians diet. Revolving round meat, cheese and bread (fried of course) for every meal, I am just thankful my harem pants are elasticated. Thank god for the caiprinias are giving me one of my five a day!
My backpacks ridiculous. I shouldn't have packed half the rubbish I did. And I'm too stubborn to throw any of it, so I spend half my time nearly toppling over once its on, and purposely booking hostels that do not require an uphill walk. Luckily Brazilian men are so charming, and helpful. And in my packing panic of quite how many hot-pants I should bring, I forgot the key essential of packing enough underwear. Cue me turning a group walking tour in Salvador into the guide having to take me underwear shopping. And cue him telling me after, that the shop was laughing at me as I did not buy the norm (thongs), but instead only pants that grandmas wear.
I've nearly been here just over a month and I don't want to stop. England seems a bit of a far away dream, and a cold one at that. I cant recommend getting away enough to people, and now I've done this I can't recommend enough just doing it by yourself. Pushing your boundaries is all part of finding out who you are and what you can do. My next stop on this journey is the Amazon, to sleep in the forest, catch my own food, and carve my own forks and plates out of trees and stuff. Whilst it all sounds very Bear Grylls, I have the feeling the only boundary I will be pushing is starvation, as I cant say I'm too optimistic about my survival skills. I think the mosquitos will be feeding better than me...