Surviving Sao Paulo, southern Brazil and the City of God

It’s too dangerous! Don’t go there! Bad people! We have been told that too many times. And we are so glad that we are bad listeners. In 2009 before our maiden overland voyage north of South Africa we were told that bad things would happen to us and that we were irresponsible parents to be taking our children to wild and dangerous places. Often it is the people in those supposedly dangerous places who tell you “be careful, bad people, its dangerous” when describing the road and countries ahead. We have a few golden rules though that we seldom break unless forced to by bad planning, navigation, circumstance or a combination of all three.

1)      Don’t travel at night.

2)      Don’t break too many laws

3)      Let suspicious characters know that you have noticed them

4)      Dress simply

5)      Keep valuables out of sight

6)      Take care of each other

7)      Party with people you trust.

I think it was Paul Theroux who said “bad roads, good people”. That has been our experience in Brazil but we have also found good roads, good people and no roads, good people. It seems to me like the world might actually be populated by good people! Amazing, beautiful, friendly, generous, caring, honest people.

That said, I swear we saw a werewolf the other night! We had camped for two nights in a military area under the Sugar Loaf in Rio city and then camped two nights in a parking lot on the beautiful Grumari beach south of Rio. On the second night in Grumari a local lady came to us and said “perigrosa aqui, criminales, cuidade criancas”, dangerous here, criminals, caution with children! We hardly slept that night waiting and watching for the criminals to make their move. Around midnight a tall something with long thin legs and a large upper body glided very quickly and un-naturally towards the three beach kiosks 50m in front of us. It slid in behind the first kiosk and after thirty seconds it headed towards the second and then the third kiosk and disappeared out of our range of view into the restaurant area to our right. After about three very long minutes the creature re-emerged and headed back the way it came. It was moving very swiftly with very little effort but between the second and first kiosk it seemed to sense us in the Land Rover hidden in a dark corner of the lot. It paused for a moment, seemingly in mid stride, perhaps to sniff the air and then moved rapidly back onto the beach and vanished. Luisa and I had almost soiled our sleeping shorts! We lay there, in the roof top tent, staring out the windows, waiting for the beasts return, the howl and the sound of ripping canvas. Eventually the sun rose and we ventured out to look for tracks. Werewolves wear size 12 sneakers! True story.

We have met very few overlanders in Brazil and this is insanity. We have  read countless trip reports and blogs of overlanders in South America and very few venture into Brazil. Too dangerous and too expensive is the common verdict. Despite our previous experience of misguided advice we were nervous about entering Brazil. We have seen City of God and had the general perception that Brazil was a bit of a rouge state, corrupt and dangerous. When we drove into Brazil from Chuy, Uruguay, we were expecting the worst. Our guard was up, the pepper spray and knives handy, the doors locked.  “Don’t mess with us china, we are South African”. Well, I can safely say after driving through 2000 km of Brazil, spending almost a week in Sao Paulo and camping behind little fences, that the skeptics are dead wrong. I want to be Brazilian, I want their chilled out lives and amazing beaches, great food and caring demeanor. I want the confidence to wear a speedo and the opportunity to see all these beautiful girls (and moms and aunties and grannies) proudly wearing their G-strings and little shorts. Brazil is absolutely packed with gorgeuos, confident, friendly and sexy woman. You may think my wife would be annoyed but luckily she is all of those things so she fits in quite well and she has the added advantage of being a redhead so she can do no wrong.

I have found that we are aqua overlanders. If we look at a map and see a large body of water we head for it. Warm, blue water is a preference and a bit of salt never killed anyone. So far we have stayed in some amazing places here in Brazil. Cassino, Torres, Sao Francisco, Florianopolis and Ubatuba are beautiful, amazing, safe and friendly coastal towns and cities.  We are enchanted and we have still too visit Rio and, if we believe what we are told, Brazil will only get better the further North we travel.

So Argentina to Alaska is taking a detour. this is the beauty of a self financed expedition that we are the masters of our own destiny and we are free to decide which roads to travel. We are looking for opportunities to volunteer in Brazil and find out how they deal with Mosquito borne diseases. We are adding a chapter to our story and I think we are going to love it.

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