San Diego, closing in

out of fuel

On our way out of Arizona, we basically wanted to get to San Diego as quickly as possible. Quite understandably as there was the whole Pacific Coast Highway waiting for us and here where we were, well, there was beautiful sights in Arizona, but we had a crazy as festival to get to.

But more car stories first: We went to pass through Flagstaff to camp close the nearby James Canyon at some site JamesAndPaula scouted. I underestimated the distance and we ran out of gas about 5 miles before getting there. While waiting about a couple of hours for the two to catch up and bring canisters of fuel, we became sure fairly quick, that we would be sleeping in a bed that night.
A bit odd was that no one stopped in the two hours to offer help or even ask if we were ok. Maybe it was because we were pumping loud music while having a dance or Morgane did not look inviting enough, who knows.

So, on our way back into Flagstaff to fill her up and find a motel, just when we crossed a railway crossing, the exhaust came off again. Lucky as always, the next building across was a motel and two doors down from there was a muffler shop. The exhaust got welded the next morning, but I learned that the front wheel alignment was pretty bad and was eating the tyres. That bad that the radial was coming out of the rubber on the inside. The guy from the shop gave them a few miles, if even. Consequently we had the tyres changed a few doors down from there as well and then we were ready to catch up with JamesAndPaula.

AZ forestColo(u)rs like in OZ

It was not long before the Californian border, that we did catch up with them for a break at a small town coffee shop. Passing the town of Hope (only 87 citizens?) we were following JamesAndPaulas lead to camp somewhere close to a side arm of the Colorado River in the wilderness of California. After more than an hour of dirt road adventure in the dark and a few turning arounds, we supposedly arrived where we wanted to go initially. Trying to put up our tents in the heat, we failed to peg anything in the hard ground. And with the massive heat that the dessert would still radiate although the sun had been down for hours, we left it at that.

The T-Bird cafe

In fact, it was so hot I couldn’t get to sleep until late, only to wake up two hours later to find Morgane still awake and a pretty bad sounding thunderstorm approaching. We decided after some debating that we would take the tent down, because we did not have any pegs in the hard hard concrete ground. JamesAndPaula joined and after a couple of hours drive we ended up at the all saving WalMart parking lot in El Centro close to the Mexican border, where JamesAndPaula would go back to sleep.
However, Morgane and I couldn’t, so we would go and endeavour the superstore. It was quiet, which was understandable at 4:45am. After trying camping chairs for a good half hour, deciding which ones were to be ours, bikes were next. I dared Morgane to take a ride around the shop, but when it was my turn I got told off, so we left.

hanging out at WalMart

Despite ourselves not contributing much to finding places to stay overnight, it was safe to say Morgane and I got a bit fed up by JamesAndPaulas choice of camping locations, although the whole did not spare a certain comical aspect.
The patterns on the road to disaster were usually similar and very well observable from driving behind them: A fight about who reads the map right, followed by a missed exit or turn, some more arguing, arriving somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and then some more arguing – this time with us – that it was actually not to bad, because it was free. Having said all that, Morgane and I had a petty good time at WalMart, that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Tyre did not abide to my will

And then there were the tyres and their alignment. Passing close to the Mexican border – that close that we could see the border fortification – I realised that the used tyres acquired in Flagstaff were just as worn out as the ones were, that they replaced. It was just outside of Tecate, about 35 miles to San Diego, where we felt the car behave differently, especially in turns. Even JamesAndPaula could see us wobble and so we stopped to have a break and assess the situation. In an atypical display of stubbornness, I decided that we would make it to San Diego and change the tyres there, after getting the alignment attended to. Fifteen miles later – just outside of Jamul, an old indian village – you can guess (and see on the picture) the situation I got us into. On top of that, I could not loosen the last nut, regardless how much force combined with WD40 I would apply. One road side assistance later we were on our way to San Diego to meet the mechanics for alignment and some new front tyres.

Hans-Günther 2 – 0 Stanley (this time around, anyhow…)

leaving ArizonaFirst CactusPaula
JamesLook mum...Sundown
Hopewaiting for triple a

On the road to Gallup

oldest building in Santa Fe

Time to leave Albuquerque behind and go for some serious country-side visits such as to Santa Fa, a small but well renown town that goes by the name of Stanley and off to Gallup to dive deeper into rural activities.

unattended photo garden, based on donationsowner claims she runs

On our way to Gallup, we took a detour to the east to pay Santa Fa a visit, passing through a town that claimed to have preserved the wild west spirit, whose name I forgot. Quite nice, but more touristy than we wanted it to be. But, we found inspiration for some decorations for Burning Man, so that was a plus.

flowers for the domeold house

From Santa Fe itself, I was not expecting much and was not surprised. However, we had a nice spot in a national park where we camped the night before and with James and I chopping some firewood out of massive logs to some nice beats of my mate Gareth in Melbourne, we had a pretty delighted evening.

Stanley Church

More important than camping at some national park near Santa Fe, was that on our way back we would go through Stanley, New Mexico, a town know to all mankind. Familiar buildings can easily identified on the pictures. But most grateful were the citizens of Stanley, knowing that the reason for their worshipness was coming back to town. Needless to say people were over-joyous and started a parade. That our Convoy stopping here probably temporarily tripled the citizen-count, was no matter.

We joined route 66 in Gallup and decided to stay for the night. With it being Saturday, we decided to go out, so we found the only venue in Gallup that actually offered DJ music, dancing and a bar. City Lights was not much more than a motel bar with some small DJ setup. Nevertheless, Morgane was delighted, because she claimed it reminded her so much of anything she was going out to on her island La Réunion. Despite the distance (La Réunion lies on the east coast of Africa, just a bit south-west of Mauritius), she reckoned the dress-ups, the music and even the dance moves were all similar to her going outs when she was 17. So if you would like to get a feel of Tropical island shenanigans and are close to Gallup, there you go.

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Leaving Gallup for a breakfast in the lovely scenery of the Red Rock State Park, it was where I though my eyes would deceive me. There I was, standing in New Mexico, looking at a VW bus T3 with German numberplates from my hometown Bonn, around which two elderly ladies were enjoying their camping morning.
I learned from them, that they were 72 and 75 and imported the T3 via Mexico a few years ago. Importing it that way gave them ten years of travel time with the bus, without having to go through administrative hoops in the US. The two would travel for eight to ten month a year and then put the bus in storage to return a few month later; they were into their third year. They have always been nomadic families, being married to two ex-diplomats. While they are touring, their husbands are doing a similar thing somewhere else. I was quite impressed by their determination to pull this off.

Besuch aus Bonn

They also provided me with some information about the area and hinted that there was a native American rodeo about to start. Never having seen a rodeo, off we went. We were just in time for the mutton riders – young cowboy under 8 riding sheep – pretty weird sight.
Wild Mustangs and bull riding was on the program too, as well as calf roping and all that other stuff, cowboys apparently do. It was all pretty unglamorous, but it felt like this was what the people in the area would do on the week-end. Families of any size and ethnicity would join and watch, while having bad hot dogs and sugared soda. We certainly loved it and preferred it to some Buffalo Hillbilly Bling Bling tourist show. After, we decided it is time to head for Flagstaff.

Mustang

We just left Gallup via the interstate, when suddenly the sound of metal grinding on the tarmac from below the car was breaking our rodeo-high. We pulled over and our guess that the exhaust came off had been correct.
There we were, on the really small emergency lane of the Interstate with one of the highest speed limits in the US, trucks blazing past. After jacking up the car in 35 degrees heat, I was baffled to see that the exhaust pipes actually had been clamped together, instead of welded, and that the clamp came off. However, this was a good thing for now, as it allowed fixing it on the sport by simply reclamping the pipes together. Half an hour later we finally were on our way to Flagstaff.

Ha-Gü broken

In Flagstaff we would pause for a night to get the exhaust welded, before encountering more issues with bad weather while camping in the wild hot desert of California and Hans-Günther being moody again.

Albuquerque

During all of my trip so far, Albuquerque was the first place that I felt unsafe.
And it so happened to be in the middle of the city: After some driving, we all felt the need to blow of some steam, so we sought out to find the only place worth going out in, the Effex. Well, there was loud ‘bangers-music’, as Morgane would say, which is pretty much shit house music, involves a lot of DJ talking and whoop-whoop throughout the night. It was all I ever expected in small town America, I guess. But, we were not to be fended of that lightly, so we decided to indulge ourselves, being all ready to party and that.

We amused in joining the whoop-whoop crowd that had shit-faced bimbos trying moves in heels and not falling on/off tables and the male counterparts pumping fists and sporting some serious shirt-off-time. While trying to blend in, I guess we must have somewhat failed, as like-minded people found us quite quickly. Morgane and I ended up joining them for an after-party at theirs, which is where we got scared.

If you are unfamiliar with American bar restrictions, everything pretty much shuts down at 2 am (everywhere except in Las Vegas, New Orleans or New York). Consequently, at two in the morning we made our merry way to our new friends, while everyone else was doing a similar thing through pedestrians filled up streets. As it usually happens you bump into people to chat to, here and there, while waiting for stragglers, as it would happen to our new friends and us then. After we parted another group they somehow started a fight amongst each other, involving girls fist punching guys and skateboards being whirled. Our mates insisted this was a fight amongst friends and it would look different, otherwise. Ok fine we thought, until we went into their building and a guy with just boardies entered after us, cracking his gun.
We were baffled and later concluded, that he probably unloaded the bullet of the ready pistol, which he used to calm the fight down we just turned away from. Being totally unused to this presence of firearms, we decided we should go shooting in the next few days.

the wrong pollos hermanos

And then there was the need in our group to go and see shooting locations of Breaking Bad, so we did that for a full day. James was all organised, consulting various websites and knew exactly where to go. In fact he has already been driving past the car wash and the Los Pollos Hermanos earlier the day, before he dropped his car for some mechanical work.
So off we go to the Los Pollos Hermanos, which was a rebranded real life fast food joint. After some posing in front of it, mimicking one the lead characters (see above), Morgane points out that we were actually at a different place on the same franchise.

A1 car wash

Not a worry, we just had to drive to a different end of Albuquerque and after about 45 minutes all was good. We were hungry and ate there as well, which was not the worlds greatest food. But hey, at least we were nourished for what was to come: A long day of driving, finding locations, interrupted by finding toilets. After we went trespassing on a few peoples properties to take more photos – “Morgane, can I borrow you sunglasses, please?” – we finally found the last location, the car wash. Since it took us so long finding it, because it was a different one, just like the Pollos Hermanos, it was too late to get Ha-Gü washed, since it just closed. However, James was happy having visited all these locations, while we were having some fun too seeing those and him.

The real twisters"Pinkmans" house

In our attempt to be good Americans, after having bought classic cars, doing a roadtrip with motels, waffle-houses and roadsideamerica, surely we had to go and shoot some guns. Even more so after the late night inspiration from out party night a few days earlier.

First time eversame

Being the only one in our group that has ever shot a gun before, I was a bit indifferent to it, but hey, I only ever shot German ones, so hand me that 357. I fully expected Morgane to go bad-ass, but what was odd to see those two part-time-hippies turning it up after some initial warm-up. In fact, Paula was the best with the semi-auto-rifle, a gun very similar in handling to the H&K G36. I thought I would rock that weapon, since I was lucky enough to shot with a H&K G36 in my honour-guard days, before it got deployed to special forces. And actually I was one of the best shots in my platoon. But hey, here you see the hidden talents of a hippie, proving herself ready for any kind of apocalypse, beating my ass with that weapon easily. And all that with a rifle almost as big as herself: I’d go fighting Zombies or Aliens with Paula any day, no worries!
I did enjoy the Magnum best, maybe due to some Dirty Harry style demeanor, and it was surprisingly easy to balance; I found the 9mm to be too light and twitchy, but Morgane worked it out quite well and so did James. So, I guess we all found our piece/peace.

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Fueled with Americanism, we made onwards, via Santa Fa and more importantly Stanley, New Mexico! Gallup was to be the next refuel station, where a rodeo and a few unexpected familiarities would be waiting for us.

On the road to Albuquerque

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Onwards we went from Texas to New Mexico, destination Albuquerque. Via various stops including Roswell, the caves in Carlsbad, one of the worlds oldest Drive-Ins in Lamesa, Lincoln the home town of Billy the Kid and a small German community, I was enjoying convoying with three friends, now that JamesAndPaula had joined in.
We tried to stay off the interstates, which was not only much more relaxing to drive, but also gave way to encounter places that are easily missed.

Luckenbach

Our first stop was in Luckenbach, a bit more than a hundred kilometers from Austin, where a small community that claims to be German holds a festival every Saturday.
Usually the town is empty and is just populated for the festival, as everyone seems to live in Fredericksburg.
However, there is still a town sign and plaque explaining the history and a quasi operational post-office, although it now mainly functions as a souvenir shop. I also managed to find an elderly lady that was able to hold a conversation in German, while she was serving me beer and Bratwurst.

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german folk musicyep

Quite astonishing, since all the rest of the town has diverted from anything German so much, that it rather seemed as someones vague idea of it than anything else; that is including the beer and the Bratwurst I had.
But we enjoyed the country music, the shops for cowboy hats and all the tex-mex food trucks for a while. It gave us a unfalsified insight into rural Texan culture and what people enjoy on the weekends.
After some more driving and learning that Morgane can actually nap with the top down at 55mph, we camped at a nice spot near Brady.

55mph no worriesbrady camping

Lamesa, a small town in the middle of nowhere, was where we managed to find the next spot to camp (after some more driving, of course). We must have tickled the curiosity of the Lamesians that went out for a camping week-end with their trailer (the whole 5 miles to the local ground), as we were invited to their local Drive-In-Theatre, one of the oldest still running.
We also got to taste their patented Sandwich(!), called the Chihuahua. Or I was, since it has some sort of meat in it and them veggo’s were pretty much leaving it to me eating it. In return, I was leaving it to them to explain what vegetarian means.
They were earning interesting looks and quite a few “Ohh okaaay…”‘s, while the staff tried to figure out how to make that sandwich vegetarian; I think the guys had a roll with lettuce and sauce in the end.

Texas Drive-InLamesa

However, everyone was very nice and we couldn’t manage to pay a thing, no matter how hard we tried. Maybe also because people were curious about this weird group of people from four different countries ending up in their local adobe. Quite a few laughs, interesting questions (“Are Aboriginals entitled to education in Australia?”) and a movie later, I went to bed with a fascinated smile on my face.

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Next destination Roswell, with a short stop-overs at the Carlsbad Caverns, which were about half-way to Albuquerque. We’ve done all the good tourist things at those two places, as some photos will prove. The caves itself where quite fascinating and definitely worth a visit. However, sound travels quite far and easy, so don’t go if you’re in the middle of processing a Chihuahua or similar.

view from Carlsbad

The most unusual thing we discovered in Roswell was that it was terribly difficult to get any dinner in this town on a Monday night.
Next day, UFO museum to fuel our thirst for conspiracy theories, of course.
In fact, I found it very worthwhile to read the numerous Arthur Davids from persons involved and the related finding and disappearance of metal and rocks presumably connected to the ‘incident’. Then there is whole bunch of ra-ra-ra before another interesting part in that museum, which is about depiction in historic cultures, such as the Mayans, etc.

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Lincoln was tiny and made up for passers through to stop and indulge in the touristy nostalgic flair the city has. Billy the Kid is only mentioned rarely around town, but then again it was enough to lure us there (or better James’ English tourist self).
In the end, we were grateful for this and the short break with the first descent coffee in ages, as the time in this little place doesn’t run at all.

wanted: touristcoffee break

A bit further down the road we encountered quite a thunderstorm and I was glad Ha-Gü passed the test. Thanks to Morgane’s artistic photo phase, we also got about ten nice pictures taken (out of the two-hundred or so attempts).
We arrived quite late in Albuquerque, but that couldn’t stop James from reveling on about what Breaking Bad sites we would have to visit, pretty much as soon as possible, before we were dismissed to bed.

just oneroad to Albuquerque

Austin

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I finished one adventure, now the next was about to start. Buy a car and then on to a road-trip through the US via Burning Man. But before that all happens, it seems I had to miss a flight, one way or the other:

In Rio I had some drama with the ticketing of my $57.89 flight to Austin, so after a good hour of discussions with the airline, I had to call Australia to get it all sorted myself and checked in 25 minutes before departure. In Dallas then, where I was to lay-over for an hour, I went into the lounge with someone I met on the plane. As it happens, we lost track of time and so I missed the flight to Austin, learning the hard way, that flights don’t get announced in US lounges. No big deal, as I got a reissued ticket for no cost for a later flight. I definitely did not need any coffee that day, but.

yay

More excitingly, arriving in Austin, it was just a few hours until Morgane arrived. I picked her up from the airport and we pretty much were spend the next couple of days catching up over the last months.

While we were organising the car acquisition, we did some more exploring, but essentially this city is not a city where you don’t have a car. Regardless, either on bike or on foot, it’s quite nice. There’s some green and in general it is a pretty wide city. It feels like a small town dragged out with a spatula and a few more parking lots as garnish.

Then we finally picked up our car, a ’63 Mercury Comet S22 V8 Convertible. Woohoo! Chrissened it Ha-Gü (from Hans-Günther) and the same day JamesAndPaula made their way to Austin meet us. They had been road tripping for quite a while, coming from Maryland in a ’77 Chrysler New Yorker (named Gandalf). We spend a couple of days in Austin going out, celebrating our reunion with JamesAndPaula, who promptly changed their travel-plans to drive with us towards San Diego and then up via San Francisco to Burning Man, rather than going through Utah.

Our first longer stop should be Albuquerque, New Mexico. Going past small town Texas and Roswell, of course.

Rio de Janeiro revisited

Final days and observations

Whenever I am leaving a place that I got to like and where I was staying a bit longer, I start looking at it differently. It’s a bit like saying good-bye to what I got used to in the last few years, month, etc.
Brazil only took seven-ish weeks to capture my heart and that despite all the world cup diversions.

So, I went back to Rio to finish off with Brazil and look at things differently. It is less looking for something new when you fresh arrived, but more like trying to imprint all you see into your memory to grasp as much as you can of the place that you know you are about to leave.

So, I did pretty much that and abused a walking tour for it, or met with a few people I met on the way. When I am doing this, this soaking in of things, all those little things that would catch my eye, that no local would pick up, but are perfectly describing the place for me, because they are so normal and yet so different from anywhere else, like this traffic light for instance, that amazed no one but myself.

Or, there is a place on Copacabana beach, in between all the bars that are there, which is run by the largest TV station, Globo. If you haven’t heard, Brazilians are obsessed, not only with football but even more so with telenovelas. And to that extend, that their president Dilma (Brazilians call their presidents by first name) rescheduled a meeting, because she wanted to see a season finale (yes, that was her official explanaition).
So unsurprisingly, that place at the beach has a few flat-screens and shows telenovelas until late. When I discovered it, about close to midnight, people were sitting there with their packed luggage stopping on the way to the airport to catch a flight, so they wouldn’t miss an episode…

telenovelas

Then, I did a few touristy things as well, like look at some architecture of libraries and town-halls. There was this museum contemporary art I went to and besides all the art, there was another thing I thought was very Brazilian. There was one room which was labeled adult content and that you should be older than 14 to view it.

pron

I had a chuckle, being on my way to a country, with legal drinking age of 21 and where countless people think porn is satans deed and intelligent design is socially acceptable.

Meanwhile, I went to that one market that all the cities seem to have. In Rio de Janeiro it is called Uruguaiana and it is really something. Yes, you can buy all the fake stuff and stolen things and its crowded as fuck, but what is special about it, is that, unlike most of those markets in other cities, here tourists and locals alike go there. It is normal to indulge in these places, as things are cheaper here then in most other parts of the town.

Which goes hand in hand with the fact that locals also buy of street vendors. Actually, it is perfectly normal to sit on the beach, getting served drinks by the bar that provides the chairs, buying food of some other dude that walks past and offers shrimps or fruit while completely ignoring the bars food menu and browse through the goods that are being brought to you, may it be cloth, jewelery or dvd’s; all genuine of course.
But it seems like this here, as soon as you have money, you’ll use it to display status or have other people work for you. Because labour is so cheap, anyone who can afford it, would rather pay someone to do their washing and groceries, than themselves. I’m not sure how much a washing machine is in Brazil, but R$10 doesn’t seem too cheap to get a small bag of cloth washed.

So off I go, making my way to the airport – giving a stop at the telenovela place a miss – but getting excited about meeting Morgane and cruising the country that couldn’t be more different to here in oh so many ways, not just legal drinking and porn age.

Ilha Grande, Paraty

ilha grande shore

Ilha Grande is one of those island paradises, that everyone always keeps talking about: no cars allowed and beautiful beaches everywhere.
Well, although it’s only town is rather touristy, the rest of the island is sheer beauty. So, I joined Kavita and Uli on their road trip towards São Paulo, stopping at Ilha Grande and Paraty, before I had to make my way back up to Rio de Janeiro again, to spend my last days of seven weeks Brazil there.
After all the World Cup madness that was exactly the decompression that I was looking for.

The drive down the coast from Rio de Janeiro was already very nice. And so different from driving up north and north-west. The roads are so much nicer and so are the houses along the road; even the poor seem to be richer down here. We also passed Brazil’s only nuclear reactor and although there are plans to build a second one, about 80% of Brazil’s energy is produced by hydroelectric plants. Wanna talk about carbon footprint in ‘first world’ nations?

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Once settled in we had to fight ourselves through the various tourist tour companies only to realise that all of them are pretty much doing the same and also grant the same ‘special discount’ – just for us of course. No surprise, but confident that we had as shit a deal as anyone else we book a tour around the whole island, stopping at various spots except the most famous beach, Lopes Mendes, which is a separate half-day tour. Fine with us, but.

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The tour featured jumping of high cliffs into beautiful bays, being lazy on white beaches, losing my sunnies again on one of them and bumpy speed boat rides that were a test for everyone’s vertebral column. So much fun, however towards the end it felt like it was one or two stops too many; sensor overload completed. Unplanned random encounter was seeing a whale. So good!

jumpin off here
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Serendipity struck at dinner. When we were about to leave and Kavita and I went to pay, the table next to us held up Uli, asking him if he wanted to see a picture of the most famous person in Manaus. After answering yes, he was shown a picture where someone takes a 15 person selfie with me (after the Germany win against Brazil). Uli couldn’t say much, but call me over and I was pretty baffled as well, to see that guy. I remember him using a steady-cam-harness for his videos and pictures. We exchanged emails and maybe I will get some footage. But given how my skill of acquiring footage has been so far, I am not holding my breath.

Paraty next. A well preserved colonial town famous for it’s historic center with it’s cobblestone car-free streets, that get flooded every high tide. It was also my last night with Uli, before he continues to São Paulo and I make my way back towards Rio de Janeiro. Needless to say we drew all the options available until the early morning, exercising all what Paraty had to give. That included torrential rain, a Mexican festival, which actually got better as the amplifiers failed, super cheap Caipirinhas that tasted like petrol, a lesbian bar, Uli thinking he could actually beat me in 10-pin and crossing broken bridges in early morning hours.

I was really grateful that I could meet him again after three years, so we parted with a smile the next day. As a good-bye gift he gave me his flag, that has been in Maracana for the final to make for mine being stolen out of my dorm room while I was asleep. I felt a bit ashamed that I had nothing to give back to him, but a lousy Polaroid the day before.

Hopped on the bus to Rio de Janeiro, mainly to do a bit more exploring and catching up with people I met along the way.

Rio de Janeiro

I arrived in Rio, knowing that Uli would be coming as well, one of my best friends from Germany, who I haven’t seen in years. So quickly checked into my hostel in Vidigal, which is one of the most famous favelas in Rio. However, it was close to the border of Vidigal and Leblon, which is one of the richest areas. The hostel was 300m from the German Team hotel, to give you and indication how close rich and poor are in Rio.

My hostel and the German team hotel

So we went out to see the Brazil Holland game for the third place with a bunch of Brazilians, all friends of Ulis friend Kavita. But we were both tired from our flights, so we only practiced a little bit for the day after.

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Which should be memorable in so many ways. While Uli was actually able to get a ticket (for way too much money) I watched with a bunch of random Germans behind the official Fan Fest at the Copacabana. We must have been about 50-100, maybe. We were joined by quite a number of Brazilians, who wanted to party with us. Hey, even a bunch of English guys were standing there supporting Germany (in German colours!). They asked me not to put any photos online however. But still we were outnumbered by the Argentinians by about ten to one.

I could not see the end of the game, because as soon as Germany scored with five minutes to go, some of the Argentinians that surrounded us, threw beach chairs at us, so even though we had the Brazilians protecting us. Everyone was running for the streets, where there were heavily armed policemen. I took a small hit in the rips and a scratch on the leg, while others got knocked out on the sand. Pretty intense, but it was just a few idiots.

This is not my video and it was only a third of the action, as you will notice the Germans are already gone:

Most Argentinians I met after were friendly, although still a bit sour. I found Kavita and Uli a while later at the apartment they rented around the corner and we went out to Lapa until early morning, to finish it off with a swim at Copacabana around 9h30. What a night. After I woke up in my hostel I noticed that my flag was missing. The same flag that had been on Australian and Brazilian TV and was given to me by Uli in 2006 prior to the game against Argentina. It is a pretty safe bet that some Argentinians took it, given that my hostel was full of them.

After a rest day, we did some sightseeing, going to the sugar loaf mountain and the Cristo. All worth seeing, although we probably stood in line longer than anything else that day. Again a proof that things somehow work, but just about.

I decided to join Kavita and Uli on their road trip back to São Paulo, stopping at Ilha Grande for a couple of nights and Paraty overnight. They would continue to São Paulo and I would return to Rio de Janeiro, for my last stop in Brazil.

Manaus

motives like this everywhere

motives like this everywhere

After Salvador and it’s mild climate we arrive in Manaus to be flattened by humidity and heat. Speak about Jungle climate. But all good, we kinda expected that, so we had not much planned for the rest of the day. Carl left me the next day to spend four days in the Amazon, while I could only join after the two semi-finals on his fourth day. I would meet him again for a couple of hours in the lodge, when I arrive and he will leave for Lima.

making friends

Meanwhile, new friends I made got me on a local TV show, for some funny game; an eating competition. Basically, they needed a German and it seems I was the only one they could come up with. Not too important, but this will fit in to what was happening the next day, when Germany won against Brazil. With in one half-time, I pretty much became the most popular guy in Manaus, being the only one wearing a German flag and shirt. Everyone (and I mean everyone) wanted a picture with me.It took me half an hour to walk 50 meters. Funny, but I wouldn’t want to be a celebrity after experiencing this. In fact, the time I am writing this, I have met one guy by chance in Ilha Grande, who took loads of pictures and even a video of the spectacle. Anyways, a bunch of Brazilians (in the end we were about 15) took me out for dinner and to go out until the next day. Everyone we met along the way were still friendly and it was a really nice experience.

After a boring second semi-final, I went to the Amazon to see the beauty for myself. And what beauty it is. I can not attempt to describe it, as it literally made me speechless. Trying to describe the beauty of this jungle will utterly fail, regardless the words being used. If it’s placid serenity will not amaze you, nothing ever will!

Similarly pictures are just a hint of what awaits everyone that decides to see for themselves.

Of course one can do more, than just gaze in awe. Piranha fishing for one, where we threw the little buggers back in after we caught them. Don’t be mistaken, these small little fishies can really harm you. As I was unhooking my second catch, I let it slip a bit too much and it bit my finger, so that my hand was bleeding for quite some time. Generally it does not seem to be a good idea to get hurt in the Amazon, as everything takes ages to dry, because of the humidity. All good, since we used my blood as bait. And it worked quite well: one guy caught eight of them. Funnily enough Carl got bitten just a day before as well.

Piranha 3DDdscf7001a

So I was prepared to be more vigilant when we went on a Jacaré tour later in the day. I held a little fellow of 5 years, but it had some serious strength; about a meter long.

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Then there also were pink dolphins that I saw, but didn’t manage to take a good picture of. They are not really full on pink; they are grey with a pink shine to it and in fact only the old ones become proper pink.

Monkeys are around, and most of all there are a lot of Mosquitoes. Our guide said, that when we would be walking through the jungle the next day, Mosquitoes would be an issue. As if they haven’t been so far already. So, since I just brought one t-shirt to change, I had to wear my rain-jacket at 38 degrees and 100% humidity (or something close to that) to protect my arms. But hey once your soaking and your skin is so oily from sweating, the mozzies are no issue anymore. Nature being nature, we also found some tiny ants that work as a natural mosquito repellant. One lets about 500 ants crawl on the hand before they get squished and become repellant. Thanks :-)

So many interesting things, like a walking tree, for instance. One of the stems dies / gets torn off, it will grow one on the other side and change it’s position. Or mades that grow in coconuts and taste like it as well.

Oh, and I did not see a Jaguar, of course not. Even the guide only ever saw one six times in his life, being about my age. But that’s all fine. I actually came to the Amazon with no expectations and saw so much. It is truly amazing. And everyone knows how I spare with words that that tend to be used over inflationary.

So off to Rio to see the final. But not only that, I was also going to meet Uli, whom I haven’t seen in years and who had decided within 48h to fly to Rio and go to see the game. ^^

Salvador

Historical Centerthe second of three tourist things we had to walk past

Salvador is famous for it’s historical center, but somehow i never saw all of it. Instead I went on a free walking tour organised by a couple of the local couchsurfing community. This tour is aimed at showing the Salvador beyond the touristy attractions, going where tourist will be told to never go, because it might be unsafe.
Pedro, our guide took us through what just lies a few blocks away from the tourist attractions, but is never been seen by anyone but locals. One can tell, as the buildings there are not maintained at all. In fact only the touristic center is maintained.
There are so many empty building just standing around unused, often the inside burned down by the owners, so it would not attract squatters. They are simply waiting for anyone buying whole blocks, instead of trying to make up the buildings. Most of the buildings are actually heritage listed, but that wouldn’t stop anyone here from changing or tearing them down.

at least since 1939

at least since 1939

What used to be the old financial district is now just a bunch of empty buildings that do not house anyone. And that although housing is an issue in Salvador, maybe even as much as in Rio or São Paulo. Entire area that used to be the bohemian center of the city, in the 50s are now very dodgy – as in no-go even if it’s day and you are Brazilian, if you don’t know anyone there. Lucky for us Pedro knew the people there and so he could share with us what lies beneath the pretty face of Salvador.

Fonte NovaFonte Nova

What I like about the Stadium in Salvador is that it is actually in the city. Unlike in most other host cities (except Rio de Janerio) it is just a five minute cab ride from the center or the bohemian center in the other direction.
I went to see the quarterfinal Netherlands vs Costa Rica, a game that later should become famous for exchanging the goalie 1 minute before the penalty shootout and that same goalie saving two, thus winning the game. Apart from that there’s not much to say about this game.

After going out in Rio Vermelho, Carl and I would return the car in the morning and fly off to Manaus to get into some Amazon action.