Southern Return, through Brazil.
The first drop of rain I saw this holiday month is in Curitiba. There is I am told a microclimate here similar to Ireland. Four seasons in one day. It is inland and on higher ground, both topographically and politically it seems. The airport in Curitiba is very modern, very well laid out, raised chutes to all aircraft, beats the tarmac in Cork.
Rather than taking another 20 hour bus journey onward to my next destination, I cut the trip time and travel in style for an extremely reasonable price, and fly for under two hours to Porto Alegre arriving at a reasonable hour and checking into the Eco Hostel with a savage flu still lingering. I play the usual three tunes for a guitar toting girl from Rio Grande, "Breaking the Girl" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (pronounced in Brazil Head Hotah Shillpers with a guttural "H" at all times I am told), "Mozambique" by Bob Dylan, and "Hard Time Floor Killing Blues" by the lad out of 'O Brother Where art Thou?' at the campfire. This is the extent of my guitar repertoire that I am prepared to make public.
Porto Alegre is a bubbling raw city, with verbose natives, and a good edge and attitude. The market square is rough and ready, like it fell out of the back of a helicopter, I'd say the place has seen better times, I'd say it has seen worse. It's a mad feeling going through it though. Quite colourful, and the amazing thing is, it's just another Brasilian city. This is what is most fascinating about thi sleg of the journey, I'm passing through cities, burning road to get to Uruguay (Brasilian Portugese requires a post doctorate in dialects, in fairness, it's latin, but it sounds dutch, and when they speak english, they sound slavic, figure that out...), and each metropolis is as big as the next. The coast is a conurbation of high-rise urban centres, masses of people, a great heaving swell of consciousness, a tide of individuals, all mad to learn English, travel to Europe, get to know other customs and cultures, 240 million possibilities for the next person I speak to, engage with.
Don't forget, the future I have read, is that some clever dick says that the world's strongest economies are touted to be the BRIC Countries, Brazil, Russia, India & China. I cannot say that I am surprised. Here is a potential far exceeding anything I've ever seen. But I've only been to the first two. The infrastructure is staggering, it might be old, but they are fixing it, day by day. The transport system runs like a finely oiled machine, not a lazy latino in sight.
The west will stereotype this continent and it's leading economic proponent, at it's peril. Brazil is a behemoth, and it is open for business - big style. Every bank I go to, my card is accepted, without question, not the case in Argentina. The buses are sparkling clean, they all have wifi, tipping is included everywhere - no thinking necessary, and across the board the customer experience is first. Customer queues are organised in the same way as those in Scandinavia. It is a privilege to be here to see this. Welcome to the New World.
I meet another fella from Cork. Roberto Leary (I think he has Americanised his name, from Robert O'Leary), is doing the continent on a motorbike (I'm so jealous, but I'll just smile and say "Ah, Good man," as I am slightly older, and can be a little condescending. He is a(nother) great ambassador for the auld green sod, and has been travelling here since his trip to Brazil for the World Cup, whenever that happened. We parlay a while with some programmers from the local university (I share a room with a PHP developer, programming is the thing right now, my friends), and one of them is a Sepultura fan. He is however keen to introduce us to the world of Brasilian Music, and he does this for us:
Rob (who since I wrote last has changed his moniker to Robinho Leary) tells me there is a young fella from a town called Latin (interestingly enough), near Castleblaney, Co. Monaghon down the road in Pelotas who is keeping the guests in check in the only hostel in that town "Hello Hostel Design". He has been there for a number of months, and is quite happy with himself as he becomes a part of the furniture there.
So I have my next destination ahead. Best of Luck Roberto, may your onward journey be as fruitful ! Before I head off, I scour the town for "sopa", but there's no soup, anywhere. And I go to the most McDonalds looking place in the central market in the city centre, and they have a grand bowl of broth. Cheese and bread and all. A happy camper am I, and I'm right for road, as I head back to the hostel to collect my belongings.
Google makes a silk purse out of a pig's ear with my photos on the fly, like this one of the Medicine Faculty, in Porto Alegre.
Arriving at the "Hello Hostel Design" I am greeted by Saviania, who runs the first hostel in Pelotas with his sister. Saviana is a forthright young businessman, who has his fingers in the business of creating a market, where markets are available to be made and developed, in this new Brasilian economy. Opportunity is knocking, and Saviania is answering the door, with a bottle of champagne, a bowl of strawberries, and his best suit on. The brother sister partnership have pulled together a smart interior in a modern edifice off the nearby square, fairly close to the town centre, and halfway from there to the bus station. The area is good, with plenty services in the locality including a supermarket for the frugal backpacking community.
The greeting wall... gonna have to get out the duster soon. Pelotas is a happening trendy spot along the inner coast road, with 4 or 5 universities (Saviania will clarify). They high youth numbers in the town ensure a hardcore nightlife, choice restaurants emerging such as Madre Mia, check out the facebook page (Bar Restaurant and Art Gallery rolled into one, in an interior inspired by the native american art) The electronic music scene is surprisingly well curated here too I am told....
Crazy buildings sitting above the old colonial remnants, as the city burns its candle; its unstoppable energy through economic rises and falls. Just keeping on, keeping on.... This country is balls out rockin'.
And just when you thought you were cosmopolitan, and then you realise that most of the world lives like Limerick City.
The tough lads of Pelotas meet here to run the town (or so their wives let them think). You better have your best Portugese here at the ready, or else, you'll never work in this town again, see?
The town is replete with little ditties like this. The quality of Graffiti I think, expresses the sophiostication of a city's inhabitants. I defy anyone to tell me that this is not art.
Passing by this place, I was looking a little hirsuite. So I took a chance, and he did a grand old fashioned job. I look like a Buorgeoise Parisien from the 50s. All I need now is a pinstripe suit and a finely trimmed tash, and wood panelling to the rear, and the portrait would be splendid.
The Bus terminal, stray dogs, mad auld fellas screaming their heads off, free wifi, and buses to the city centre with all the comfort of a zorb ball, glistening with the splendour of a Pharoahs palace in the evening sun.
The southernmost state in Brasil is home to the thrid largest wind farm in the nation. It's wind vanes as far as the eye can see.
And finally I'm at 'la frontera', into Chuy, Brasil / Chui Uruguay, making calls in the main square, through the free public WiFi. Waiting in the main square, my few hours there are violated by the most ear splitting illegitimacy that was ever made legal....
The scourge of advertising....