-> road stories -> south america = Brasil!

¨I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superhuman abundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life.¨ -Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness

In February 2004 I flew to Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America and travelled overland by bus, foot and boat to Cartagena, Columbia. The trip lasted 8 months.

These are the newsletters I wrote along the way.

Starting from The End of the World...
I overdosed on orcas...
...travelled up the Rio Paraguay
only to land in a hammock with a cowboy in Brasil...
then tripped out on Bolivia...
and marvelled at market savvy Peru...
until I got to gorgeous Columbia, and left too soon.



Brasil is the sexiest country I believe I will ever visit in my life. There are entire stores devoted to naughty catholic schoolgirl minis and even the fat old ladies rock spandex and let their bellies and bums squirt out from between the seams because hey, it's flesh, wonderful flesh, and what is an ass for if not to shake and what is a belly for if not to squeeze. Brasilians come samba dancing out of their mama's wombs and can outfun the funnest of us and still have energy for more. I mean, honestly, let's see you samba dance for 8 hours and still be wiggling it, and it has nothing to do with being fit and everything to do with being fun. I was relieved to leave those gaunt gorgeous birdboned Argentinians behind and be around some curves!

I spent a week alone in a quiet posada in Bonito, Brasil, an ecotourism model, floating eyeball to eyeball with thousands of tropical fish up and down the clearest cleanest rivers. Then I was ready for people again, so booked a budget tour of the Pantanal through the local youth hostel. And a budget tour it was. On the way to the Pantanal, my bus seat companion turned out to be an absolutely lovely bloke from London named Glenn Street. Glenn is not 21 to 24, not fresh out of university or the Israeli army, and has
about a million and one fantastic stories to tell since he has been a sound guy for the BBC and Reuters
for 12 years. We became quick compadres. The others on the tour were recent Israeli army graduates and a snooty couple from France. We spent an afternoon on a porch in the middle of nowhere in the rain waiting for a theoretical truck to take us further into the swamp.

The truck appeared and my groupaphobia swung into full force and I did not want to clamber into the back of the pickup truck with the other backpackers. Fortunately my chick status landed me bitch seat in
the cab, a mixed blessing. The driver stank and the guy in shotgun was a groper. As a result, I
spent a few bumpy hours negotiating pokey fingers. The groper would put one finger on, say, my outer thigh, and if I let him keep it there for longer than a certain period of time, he would try two fingers, which sometimes was okay, but a palm was not, so he would get a shove in the ribs. Then the truck would jolt and we would bump around and his hand would land on, say, my arm, which allowed one or two fingers, but again, no thumbs, no palm. Eventually, my outer thigh became a kind of no man's land where he was permitted to rest one fingertip, but that was it. I was tired of it, but when I saw Glenn and company banging around on top of 12 giant backpacks in the back of the pickup truck, which was trundling through 12 inches of mud in the rain in the dark, I continued nonverbal negotiations with the groper.

The camp was like something out of Survivor but without the gimmicks, styling or subtly placed merchandising. The guides shuffled us into an octagonal screened in palapa structure with 20+ hammocks arranged like spokes around a central pole. Glenn's bad back demanded a tent and my groupaphobia skyrocketed to emergency levels and we finagled a spot in the guide palapas and two tents of our own. Two scummy tents on the hard ground suddenly seemed like the ritz carlton to both of us.

Early the next morning we were marchmarchmarched out of bed and into the jungle to see some wildlife
goddammit. Our guide scornfully rushed us through this thicket and that complaining about our loud flipflops, our stinky insect repellent and our general gringoness. We were a group of 5 - the snooty french couple, a canadian architect, Glenn and me. We saw some monkeys, storks, weird mammals, some parakeets, then were driven back to camp for rest, food, and an afternoon march.

The night before, the groper had said he would make sure he was my guide since we were getting along so well, I guess, and I hurt his feelings by expressing enthusiasm for another guide who I had heard was
excellent and more into wildlife than wild life.

So I got the colonel. He called Glenn, Claire, for some reason, so we started calling him Betty, but I don't think he noticed. Anyway, Colonel Betty hated Israelis full stop, thought most other gringos were pretty useless (which we are in the Pantanal compared to that lot) but was happy to be living there with the
rest of the Pantanal cowboys.

My dehydration headache transformed into a full scale migraine with all the bells and whistles and while the others were on their afternoon frogmarch through the swamps I spent my time in my hammock popping painkillers, throwing them back up again, and explaining to cowboy after cowboy who came in to check me out, offer me tea, coffee, massage, water, aspirin and so on that I would be okay. I kept opening my eyes to big eyes searching my own in the dusky light, strong rough hands stroking my forehead, howler monkeys moaning and howling and just wished I weren't so sick. Everything and everyone had the most brilliant auras.

Finally, 3 am found me all better and good timing too because 430 found us all in the back of the truck (well, not me, i was riding bitch again) to wade around in a murky swamp full of alligators for piranha fishing. We hooked steak onto our hooks and waded into the water, which felt like about the
dumbest most counterintuitive thing one could do. It only took a short time to acclimate to alligators swimming around us and have our hooks constantly yanked on and a few hours later everyone had caught
something so we headed back for part two of the day. This really was an industrial strength budget backpacker tour, but I wasn't exactly expecting Tarzan to come swinging down from the trees to join in on a medley of the Great Cycle of Life for my money anyway. I was warming up to the camp, I guess partly because of the gentle thoughtfulness of these rough loose pantanal guys who lived like Peter Pan's Lost Boys playing lasso the cowskull, tease the gringo with live tarantulas and snakes, dancing to pantanal cowboy music with a women if there was one willing and with each other if not, drinking cheap cachara (brasilian firewater) out of the bottle, swapping hatsshortsshirts indiscriminately and laughing, working and living their days out.

Our guides pulled on jeans for the afternoon and hopped barefoot onto their horses. The Israeli army followed and loudly hiya'd their horses into frantic gallops, to the guide's chagrin. Glenn and the Canadian kept their horses creeping along in the back. My horse was the kind of horse that liked to have its nose in the horse in front of it's butt the best, so we just cruised along. When my horse got near the french girl's horse, she said in her salty french girl way, "my horse does not like your horse" and so I kept away. We rode around in the fields scaring big white brahma bulls and cranes into flight until sunset. The groper was with us, and was riding like a maniac. He  was a tiny dirty little thing who was lost in his  riding leathers and too big hat but there was a moment  during the sunset when he pulled off his hat when no  one was looking except for me and his hair fell  rippling black all the way down his back and his horse  did exactly what he wanted it to and the sun lit up  his frame and he became exquisitely gorgeous for just  a moment. But then he saw me looking at him in awe and  the negotiations were fired up again and he turned  back into the groper.    

(Note: this part has sex in it. Just a warning...)  That night it started to rain and I abandoned the beer  I was nursing at the bar and ended up in a hammock  with one of the cowboys getting a  justafootthenahandthenaneverything massage. All ten or  twelve guides had offered their services to me, in the  darkness, I couldn't even tell which one I had ended  up with but for a minute lightning flashed and I saw  he had a pierced chin, so made a mental note to ID him  in the morning. He was a bit too bitey and slappy for  me in bed so I lost interest as quickly as it came and  so that was the end of my cowboy interlude. So, I went  for 3 years and 10 months without even being kissed  properly then fell into a hammock in the dark for a  little fumble in the jungle with someone whose neme I  never caught. I was giddy and flabbergasted by the  turn of events, but Glenn and a cool American girl  named Suzy who had been living in Sao Paolo for the  past 4 years told me that this kind of thing is as  routine in Brasil as coffee drinking is in the rest of  the world. Glenn has a friend in Rio who complains all  the time about how nothing ever gets done in Rio  because all everyone ever does is have sex. I wouldn't  have believed it until I saw a sliver of Brasil myself and I can honestly say that I have never been  anywhere that is so sexually lighthearted, open and  free. Everything about Brasil inspires fucking - the  music, the language, the dancing, the scenery, the  weather, the clothes, the food, but most of all the  people because they are all thinking about fucking  each other all the time and doing it as much as  thinking about it.     

My pantanal cowboy made me a necklace out of plant  fiber and alligator teeth and just before I climbed  into the truck to leave the Pantanal he dragged me  into his cabana for one last passionate kiss so I left  the pantanal aglow with a great taste in my mouth.

Okay, dear darling reader, where do you want to go now?

Hmm, let's see...I want to...

Play with orcas...
Float up the Rio Paraguay...
Dance the Forro...
Learn 10 reasons why Bolivians are the weirdest people in the world...
Float through the jungle...
Find a tropical island paradise...

None of the above. I am too busy for that crap. And I think it is time for you to get a real job, Katherina.

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