October 19, 2008

Departing Sao Paulo for Curitiba

As I write, it is day two of my relaxation in Brasil. (That's they way they spell the country name down here)

Oh, what a hangover from yesterday. The only way to rid myself of the headache is to. . . . . . drink some more! The caipirinha (sugar cane alcohol, sugar syrup, lots of chopped lime and lots of ice) is soooooooo good.

A really neat part about Brasil is that highway service areas sell booze! Yea, hard liquor! There are no laws down here against having open alcoholic beverages in a moving car, and even if there are such laws, there really aren't any police to enforce them.

In the photo below, we are departing Sao Paulo heading toward Curitiba.
As one departs a major city in Brasil, one inevitably encounters "Favelas." Ghettos. Slums. Without exaggeration, they stretch for miles around every major city. They are dangerous, crime and drug-ridden areas. If you are White and you go in, you will not come out alive.

Here's a couple photos to show some of these Favelas (Click photos to enlarge):

It will be several hours drive to Curitiba. As we change states, my cell phone may or may not continue working. Unlike the US, Brasilian cellular carriers are geographic specific. Some carriers operate in some states and honor visitors like me who use American cellular carriers, while other Brasilian cellular companies in other states of Brasil do not. So I may be out of touch for a few days.

Brasil is about as big (north-to-south) as the United States is (east-to-west). But Brasil has less than half the population of the USA and 90% of that population lives within ten miles of the eastern coast! As such, after leaving Sao Paulo and traveling beyond the ring of favelas, the countryside becomes rural then totally uninhabited almost immediately.

We will travel several hours toward Curitiba with miles and miles and miles of no people, few if any houses, no businesses. Just whatever animals roam free in the beautiful wild.

Another interesting aspect of Brasil are the ants. The ants here are very different than the ants in the USA. The ants here are big and they attack and eat whole animals. If you have a dog and you leave it chained up to a tree with a 30 foot chain when you leave for work, the dog will be eaten alive by ants and be dead by the time you arrive home from work.

Take a look at the photo below. Sorry it is so grainy, we were driving fast (180-190 kph). See the grayish colored things on the hills that look like rocks? They aren't rocks. They are 3,4 and 5 foot tall ant hills! Gazzillions of ants.
In the paragraph above, I wrote that we were traveling about 180-190 kilometers per hour which is 110 - 120 miles per hour. Once you get 50 kilometers outside a major population center, there are few if any police and they don't have radar or laser speed detection gear. Even if they did, their tiny little police cars wouldn't be able to catch you anyway. Here's a pic of one of their police cars:
Basically, along the highways, the cops stay in their stations (which are right on the highway itself) and wait for someone to call-in a crash.

Here's a Brasilian Federal Highway Police station we passed on the highway:
We have several more hours to drive, so I'll bid you farewell for now. More later or tomorrow.