Still in Brasil!

Sunday, March 30, 2003
Hello Gringos! Well, I promised to tell you about Candomble, the religious ceremony I went to in Salvador. Here it is: In a way, it was like most religious ceremonies... kids whispering behind the backs of their parents, teenagers giggling, and then there's always the really really serious people too. Otherwise, it was entirely different than any religion I have ever witnessed. The alter was not front and center.... the congregation was. There is no "priest like" person. Each of the parishioners take over the ceremony with their chanting and dancing... all the while trying to work themselves into a trance! No joke! It really has more similarities to a very verbal aerobic workout rather than a Catholic mass. While I was in Salvador, I met this German who had just come back from the Pantanal. I had decided NOT to go there after my experience in the Amazon... but after an hour discussion about her trip there... I was sold. I had to go. The only problem was, it was really, really, really far away. A little over 50 hours by bus, with the capital city of Brasilia at the halfway mark. So, I bought a ticket to Brasilia and left the next evening. I spent a day in Brasilia, as kind of a layover. Did you know that the city was designed to be shaped like an airplane? I thought my guidebook was just sarcastically comparing the shape to a plane.... but no! My hotel was actually located in the fuselage section of the city/plane. Interesante, no? I took a tour of the city sites, learned a bit of history of Brazil, and discovered the Brasilia has no normal roads. Every road I saw in the city had five or six lanes and each seems to lead to a mall... where I promptly went to the movies. Thanks, Hollywood.

Anyway, I hopped on another bus heading to Campo Grande, gateway to the Pantanal and home of the cheap tour. I arrived at noon the next day and booked a tour leaving an hour later for the Pantanal! Nice! Did you know you can swim with piranas? As long as it is breeding season, the fish supply is plentiful and you don't have any bleeding cuts, that is. Fortunately, all the criteria was met and I went swimming! It was a little weird seeing a few of us swimming while the rest were catching piranas. I went horsebacking riding through swamps, saw loads of birds, and some wildlife too. There were more mosquitos there than I thought existed in the entire world! It was unbelievable. In the evening you literally had to RUN from your cabin to the dining hall. A great experience, and, believe it or not, worth the 50 hour bus ride.

I had a few more days before I was due in Ilha Grande for the Island Weekend with the hashers, so I took ANOTHER overnight bus ride to the Iguazu Falls in Argentina. I have been hearing about this place ever since I arrived in South America, so I really wanted to go. It was so good it actually lived up to 3 months of hype! Picture the Niagara Falls, but much wider, and with pathways at every possible varying height and location around the falls. One platform even took you out practically over the falls. Barrel anyone? Then I got to take this boat that sped under the falls again and again and again. It was amazing! They managed to turn a UNESCO World Heritage Site into a water park. I think the job of that boat driver was to get us as wet as possible. That evening I played my first ever 16 person card game using 3 decks of cards. And, fun fact, I spent less time in Argentina than in any other country on my trip: 6 hours. How's that for a record?

I just spent this weekend meeting up with the Rio Hashers in Ilha Grande. I had such a great time, and got invited to Sao Paulo by some of the people I met this weekend... and I'm going to try to make it to the Sao Paulo Formula One race! We will see, I don't actually have the tickets yet. Okay, I'm off to book a tour around the island tomorrow to go beach hopping! Hope everyone is doing fine...... and Happy 29th Marcia!!

Love, Alison


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