I expected it to be love at first sight. Me, the boy from Australia, living a Peter Pan type existence running from responsibility in search of distractions, seeking sun, drink, women and song. And Brazil, the land of endless beaches, the thong bikini, samba music, caipirinhas…
Sounds like a match made in heaven!
But truth be told, outside the five days of insanity that was Carnival, I haven’t really enjoyed my first few weeks here (and more on Carnival in my next post).
I could be shallow (which is often easier for some to comprehend) and blame the general unattractiveness of the women I’ve seen so far. With a few notable exceptions, the north of Brazil is not as blessed with the overtly gorgeous women the majority of photos promoting the country display, the majority of which are taken in Rio and further south. But surprisingly (to some perhaps) my tastes are just a little more complex than that, and it takes more than just the physical appearance of the locals to determine whether a place “grabs” me or not.
Part of the problem is the heat and humidity, almost overwhelming on some days. I love heat. Love, love, love it! But sometimes when you partner it up with extreme humidity, that love becomes a little harder to feel.
And then there’s the ugliness and dirtiness of the cities I’ve been to so far. Indeed this may be the biggest issue. Outside of a small colonial area in two of the three cities I’ve been to, the rest of the urban areas have been very ugly and nondescript. Smelly. Dirty.
Yep, so far I would place Brazil – or at least the very few places I’ve been to so far in Brazil – in my top 10 dirty, smelly places in the world list. Big call huh?
Grittiness has its place. I’ve been to a number of “gritty” cities that exuded character, that dared you to love them in spite of the chaos, the smells, the rubbish strewn streets. The mean streets can have a certain appeal when there’s something deeper within them.
But I haven’t felt any of this within the three cities I’ve been to so far.
Natal does have a pleasant enough beach, though I wouldn’t call it anything incredible, and the rest of the city is extremely underwhelming. Recife has an old town area, Olinda, the main area for the daytime Carnival festivities, but the city itself is faceless and lacks character. And the beach… you can’t swim at the very long beach in Recife due to the abnormally high number of sharks in the water, a result major harbour and river construction they did a decade or so back. So it’s 40 degrees on the shade and perhaps you can splash some water on your ankles to cool down a little.
I had hopes for Salvador, sizable expat population usually reflects the quality of the location, but once again I found this quite an ugly city. Again a nice old town area, but when it’s 40 degrees it’s a little hard to enjoy some lovely buildings and streets. And Id seen far nicer Colonial towns in other parts of Latin america. Anyway, heading down to Rio in a few days, here’s hoping that’s a place more my style.