Current Date: March 18, 2003 8:05 p.m. (Natal)

Current Itinerary: Still planning to hang out here for a couple more days...then move north to Fortaleza, Jericocoiera (sp?), Sao Luis, Lencois, and then Belem for the Amazon.

Note: Website has been updated considerably and there are new pictures up (www.thecooperchronicles.cjb.net). Check them out!! I also added a bigger map that has the path I have traveled drawn on it.

Note #2: I want to make a public congratulations to my friend, Durran, from ND, who has recently informed me that he is engaged!!! Way to go D!!!! It is tough to be so far away from loved ones for major life events. You are all hearby notified: Nobody else is allowed to do anything major until I get back:) Alright, alright...on with the show.


Thursday, February 27, 2003

A pretty uneventful day as I spent most of it traveling. Woke around 10 in Morro to an empty house (sniff, sniff) showered packed and headed for the ferry. Made it in time and got on to the packed boat. It was smaller than I thought...just a multi passenger boat that held about 60 people...not a large boat that holds cars and things of the like. Big downside to that type of boat ride...not exactly smooth. I highly recommend to anyone taking the ferry from Morro to pay the 10 extra reals and take the slower, larger ferry. I had to ride the whole time out on the deck so I could have the wind in my face. I did not mind though and I actually met a VERY cool couple that was from Santiago, Sergio and Francesca. We had a great chat during the last hour of the boat ride. One really great thing that happened during the ride was that I saw flying fish!!! It was pretty surprising. I mean, I didn't think they could stay up for that long. They would soar over the water for several hundred meters, just like a bird. It was very impressive!! Also spotted a couple dolphins.

After the boat ride, I snapped a pick with Sergio and Francesca, we exchanged e-mails, and I carried on. Awhile later I got to the bus station. I did a bit of internet b/c I knew that once I got to Recife and started Carnaval festivities, I would not have the time or the means to check or write e-mails. Also I needed to find the American airlines number to try and change my ticket that I was forced to buy as round trip for under 30 days to save money. As I expected, I had to let the ticket burn, so I officially do not have a plane ticket to get back to the US. That may be interesting down the stretch...one of the many problems that will be forced to worry about later...hmmmm worry. I word that has been out of my vocabulary for the past month. Kind of nice. On that day though, I was reminded that I have really jumped off a cliff with no safety net. I bit scary. I decided to call home to hear a comforting voice. Talked to my Dad for about 6 or 7 minutes. Very nice. I was ready to move forward.

Walked to the nearby mall to get some cash and grab a bite. That mall was enormous!! Anyway, eventually found the good ol' B do B, got cash and I was ready to get some food. Just wanted something quick and I figured I had been in Brazil for a whole month so it was acceptable for me to just grab some McDonald's. It was pretty much the same things as back home...quite an uneventful meal.

Headed back to the bus station...on the way ran into Chris/HOU. Of course we were meeting at the bus station to ride the bus together to Recife, so it really wasn't that big of a surprise. Anyway, she had the bus tickets so we met back up an hour later and were ready to head to Recife. When we got on the bus, she ran into a friend of hers, Agosto, who had been her guide when she did a hike in Lencois a couple weeks earlier. Pretty cool. We talked on the bus for awhile, recapping our previous few days. I worked on journals for awhile and then fell asleep, greatly anticipating Carnaval. It would not dissapoint.

Friday, February 28, 2003

Arrived in Recife around 7:00a.m. It turned out that the another guy (who was also Chris's guide in Lencois) was coming to pick Agosto up from the airport. We waited with him and we were lucky enough to catch a ride to the hotel. Got there around 8:30 and I was VERY impressed. The place was very posh...we had a great view of the beach and a nice room. It was located a bit far down the beach in an area just south of Boa Viagem called Piedade, but it was cool. A little ways from the action but our tour package included a free, airconditioned bus ride from the hotel to Olinda and to Recife Antiguo everyday. The value of this was not appreciated by me until I realized how difficult it could be for others to make the same trek. Way to go Chris!!! Just a quick side note...you may notice that whenever airconditioning is involved in anything that I tend to mention it as if they were giving out free gold bars or something. Well, let me tell you, airconditioning down here is certainly a luxury...not a norm. Most places are pretty damn hot, so when you get airconditioning, you appreciate it.

Lounged around for awhile in the nice A/C and watched the first TV that I had seen in English since back in SP a month before. That was more satisfying than one might imagine. mmmmmm mindless vegitation:)

Finally we decided to hit the beach and see what it had to offer. I was starving so we went in search of one of my favorite Brazilian snacks...meat on a stick. I gotta say, it doesn't matter what country you are in or what kind of meat it is, grilled meat on a stick is ALWAYS good. The good thing about down here is that you can literally find it everywhere. I must say, I was pretty unimpressed with the beach in Piedade. There was quite a bit of seaweed and debris. As we got closer to Boa Viagem, it got better though. We walked about a half mile down the beach and found a good place to chill. Had some meat on a stick, some chicken, and a couple beers. We lounged there for about an hour.

After that, we decided to try to find internet so I could see if I had heard from Doug about contact info for some folks in Recife. We also wanted to go to the store to pick up a few things for the hotel room. We accomplished both of these things over the next couple hours...no word from Doug. Got back to the hotel and chilled. Watched TV, had a couple drinks and talked.

Around 9, we headed out by bus to Recife Antiguo. We found that the Carnaval festivities were in FULL swing!!! We first hung out in an area that was across the bridge from Recife antiguo. I spent the next 20 min. trying to break my $R50 bill (side note: getting change here in Brazil can be an ABSOLUTE nightmare...nobody ever has it...it is often difficult to even break a 10 (just under 3 USD) and if you have a 50...good luck. Sadly, when you go to the ATM, this is what the machine gives you. I have spent many frustrating hours trying to break larger bills. No one has it here because they cannot afford to keep the cash on hand that is needed in order to give change. Stores open with literally nothing in their cash registers. Another reminder that this is NOT the US) After I finally got change, we were able to enjoy the scene a bit. There was a huge parade going on with many bands, samba girls dancing, and people dancing in the streets. It was quite the spectacle. This party was similar to the one near the Sambodromo in Rio that I had gone to last year. Tons of people partying, vendors selling anything and everything you could want, and lots of music!! I downed a couple meat on a sticks (meats on a stick?...somebody help me out with that one) and then we headed across the bridge to Recife antiguo.

The party was going even harder over there. There were several places where stages were set up and different concerts were going on. On top of this, bands were marching in the street pretty much everywhere you turned. Everyone everywhere was dancing...the city was literally hoping to the beat of Frevo (typical carnival music of Pernambuco, the state Recife is located in). It was great. We walked around soaking up the atmosphere for awhile. There was one bar, London, which seemed to be pretty popular so we decided to go in. It took awhile, but eventually Chris's portegeuse and feminine powers got us past the bouncers and we were inside. It was a cool place...two floors and plenty of room to dance. We stayed for about an hour or so dancing. Finally we went back out on the street for my hourly fix of meat on a stick. We eventually ended up in this other bar (don't remember the name) where we danced for awhile...hmm, is anyone noticing that a lot of dancing occurs at Carnaval? Chris was pretty tired then so she headed home...I kept going of course. I ended up meeting some great girls from Recife that spoke English and we all danced in the street by this band for about an hour. It was very, very cool. I got a cab home around 5:30 and arrived at the hotel, just in time to sit and watch yet another beautiful sunrise from our hotel room...where the view was absolutely perfect.

Saturday, March 1, 2003

Woke around 12. Watched HBO in the room while we had a couple drinks before heading for Olinda. The bus was to leave at 2 so we had plenty of time. I wasn't really sure what to expect in Olinda, but I had heard from many that it was pretty rowdy. Showered up and got dressed and we were ready to rock. Also gave Doug a call and got some info for some contacts in Recife. Thanks man.

The atomosphere of Carnaval was upon us almost immediately after we stepped out of the door to our hotel room. When the elevator door opened, we were greeted with cheers and a slight watergun dousings from costumed folks that were all headed down for the bus to Olinda. We immediately realized that waterguns were going to be a high priority.

The bus ride was a total party. Chris had booked our package through a travel agent friend of hers in Natal (a city that is about a 5 hour bus ride north of Recife) so EVERYONE on the bus was from Natal except for us. Everyone drank, sang songs, and squirted each other with water guns for basically the whole ride (about 40 min.) By the time we got off the bus, we were pretty fired up.

Stepping off the bus, we had a few things that we needed to take care of before we could really get into the action...the first of which was to acquire waterguns (the true first aquisitions were beer and meat on a stick, but I think that goes without saying). We got waterguns pretty quickly and we were armed and dangerous. I did not want to carry my digital camera out into the mass carnaval crowds so I needed to find a disposable. We stopped at little minimart and picked up an actual camera...very cheap (4 USD) and some film. We were also both lucky enough to be able to break our 50 while we were there...a virtual impossibility on the street as I mentioned before. Finally we were ready.

I must pause here and just point out one of my favorite things about being in Brazil. Whatever it is that you need here, somebody is selling it on the street. I mean, you can leave the house with virtually nothing, and buy EVERYTHING you need before you get to where you are going, without altering your path to that place. It's perfect. You never worry. Forgot sunglasses, no problem...forgot sunscreen, no problem...whatever you need is out there waiting for you for a very cheap price. Ciro (the waiter at Chez Michou in Buzios) put it best...in South America, if you have money, anything is possible. Since we had left the hotel, we had gotten beer, food, water, waterguns, a camera, film, and change. Perfect.

As we came out of the place where I got the camera, we met this pretty cool guy, Agosto, from Natal that was on our bus. He invited us to a party in his room that evening before heading to Recife Antiguo. Cool.

Anyway, to get into Olinda, it was a short walk down the main road from where the bus dropped us off. Even on that stretch of road there were TONS of people...but I was not prepared for what it would be like when we got into town.

Olinda is a pretty small, colonial type town with a maze of narrow brick roads and many old, colorful buildings lining all the streets. It sits atop a hill that overlooks Recife, so most of the streets are steep slopes upward. I have no idea what the population of that city is normally, but it must be far less than what must have been 1 million people that were literally cramming the streets to capacity. The place was so alive...music coming from all directions, bands marching, people dancing, everyone in costumes, watergun and foam fights...just a total managerie of madness. Right exactly where I wanted to be!!!! We quickly dove into the festivities and we were wisked away into the wave of people. The entire day was a total blast!!! We eventually found Agosto (not from Natal, the one who was Chris's guide in Lencois) and the other guy who had given us a ride from the airport the previous day. We hung with them for quite awhile up on a hill and watched the crowd pass below. Quite entertaining. Eventually we rejoined the madness. At some point we got seperated and I was off on my own...I was not bored:) It was a GREAT afternoon in Olinda. Carnaval how I had always pictured it!!! And I still had 3 more days of it!

Caught the 6:30 bus back to the hotel...Chris was not back yet. Started to rehydrate with some agua and get prepared for another night in Recife Antiguo. Olinda had taken a lot out of me...dancing around and drinking all day can really wear a guy out! Chris showed up about a half hour after me. We recapped our days and sat and talked and drank for the next several hours. We decided not to catch the hotel bus to Recife Antiguo and to go on our own. It was cool hanging out in the hotel for that time. Around 12, we finally decided to go downtown. I was pretty beat but it's Carnaval...must go forward.

Got to Recife Antiguo...had some street hotdogs. I can't remember if I have talked about those hotdogs yet so I am going to take this oportunity to do it. The street hot dogs in this country are AMAZING!!!! You would not believe how much stuff they put on them. It is like a whole meal...and they taste VERY good. The put meat, corn, peas, tomatoes, mayo, ketchup, pickles...and every other condiment in the book. They top it off with shoe string frenchfries and it is a tasty treat!!!

We stopped by an area that I had went to the previous day that had a good concert. We got there right at the end of a set for a really good band. As they were changing sets and getting ready for another band, they actually played a Bangra song. Bangra is a sort of Indian dance music that is sort of a mix of hip hop and traditional indian music. My friend Neal introduced me to it a couple years ago and I love it. Chris happends to live in the same house as Neal in Houston so she is also very familiar with it. We danced like nuts...Neal, I thought of you the whole time. Wish you could have been therer for that moment. It was a serious high point to our night. Something special for us.

I was pretty tired at that point and started to hit the wall. We went to a small restaurant to eat quickly. I was literally falling asleep at the table. Finally we mustered enough energy and got up and hit another Frevo concert. We danced very hard for about an hour and decided it was time to turn it in. We knew that the free bus back to the hotel was leaving Recife Antiguo at 3, but we had no clue where it would leave from since we took a bus on our own to get there. Miraculously, we found the bus right at 3 (this was NOT easy and we were very excited when we found it...I am not doing a good job of describing the elation we felt)...got on it and headed home. zzzzzzzzz

Sunday, March 2, 2003

Inner thoughts: "Good lord...yesterday was fabulous. I had no idea it would be that good. Let's get it on!!"

Woke around 10:30 and decided to go down to the pool. It was very packed. We ran into Agosto (the one staying in our hotel) and asked him what happened with the party the night before. He said that everyone totally passed out after coming back from Olinda...this was not surprising, it really takes a LOT out of you (as we would learn on this day).

I met a bunch of other people from Natal and we all partied in the hotel pool for the next couple hours before the bus was leaving for Olinda. It was a TOTAL blast. I remember that we were all pretty bombed already before we even left for Olinda. For all you H-town folks...This was on a Sunday. I had the thought that day that I probably had not been drinking that much on a Sunday morning/afternoon since the fine, fine, days of La Strada. I was a bit Nostalgic (sniff, sniff).

We all went to Olinda and went even harder than the previous day. A full afternoon of dancing, drinking, watergun and foam fights. I literally got lost in the packed streets of Olinda, (no kidding, it took me 45 minutes to get out) but once again, I was NOT bored.

Got back to hotel at 7:45 and was completely exhausted. Laid down...woke up at 3:30 a.m. This is becoming a bad habit.

Monday, March 3, 2003

Inner thoughts: "I cannot believe I still have two days left. My body hates me. Hotdogs, meat on a stick, beer, and caipiroskas are the only things I have injested for 3 days. Must keep going. Carnaval."

Tossed and turned for a few hours...could not sleep again. Watched a couple movies on HBO. Drank 40 gallons of water.

Went down to the hotel breakfast around 10:15. Mmm, papayas. That's more like it. From that point, we began to repeat ourselves...out to the pool, off for another CRAZY day in Olinda (not boring...oh, and another highlight...climbed to top of highest point in Olinda. There was a beautiful view of all of Recife from there) and then tiredly arrived at hotel. We were able to stay up this time though and headed for Recife Antiguo that night. Just after we got there, an all out downpour began. We got pretty soaked. It is Carnaval though, so it is okay. We went to an concert of a band that Chris has heard was really good. They were a heavy metal band that was okay...but we had a good experience there. We literally ended up in the center of a mosh pit. It was strange to watch it develop. Everyone jumping and jumping, then sort of bumping into each other and then just going nuts. It was fun but we quickly moved to the edge. Still, we got the full experience of it all. A very good example of organized chaos.

From there we walked around the area a bit...chomping on meat on a stick and watching bands.

Inner thoughts: "I did not think it was possible, but I am getting tired of meat on a stick. Can somebody play a different type of music besides Frevo? Are my feet still attached to my body? I cannot feel them. Whew...sleepy."

In other words, Carnaval was seriously taking it's toll on me. A phenomenon that occurs to almost everyone. It is hard work doing all this partying.

We tried to find the free bus back to the hostel but we were unsuccesful. Grabbed a Kombi (I will explain this another time...it is like a bus) and got back to the hotel around 4. Zzzzzz

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Inner thoughts: "must find nourishment...last day, must keep going. Cannot feel legs. Liver grossly overworked."

Whew, it really was getting tough down the stretch. Could not even attempt to get up before 1:00, which left us with very little time to mentally prepare for another day in Olinda. Made it, but it was tough.

Olinda was still going strong...a few drinks and walking the streets. Chris ran out of gas and headed back to the hotel. I kept going until just after 6, determined to get as much as I could muster out of the last day. Danced around a bit and had a great time. It would be the end of Carnaval festivities for me.

Got back to the hotel and decided we would just have a chill night. It would be Chris's last in Brazil. She was returning to Houston the next day after being down here for 2 months. We went to the hotel restaurant for a very fancy dinner...we even got sort of dressed up (well, she looked great...I looked more like a backpacker who was trying to dress up). It was a great dinner and we had a good chat as Chris reflected on her whole trip. Went to bed early.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON CARNAVAL:

First thing is...a huge thanks to Chris for booking the hotel and being an AWESOME Carnaval partner. If anyone out there is going to do Carnaval in Brazil and only do it once, DO NOT GO TO RIO. Olinda was a million times better and much less touristy (although, of course there are many tourists). It was Carnaval as I always pictured it...I had a great time and it even exceeded my expectations. I cannot say with certainty if is better than Carnaval in Salvador, but I am sure it is close...and it is cheaper with much less crime. It was a total blast and very exhausting...but worth every minute of it. Truly something that all of us should experience in our lives.

AC

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