I'm the Mayor of Rotterdam! (Eu Sou o Prefeito de Rotterdão!)
São Paulo, Brazil
They say there are two places in the world where one can have the best skydiving experience: Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro. I had already been to Cape Town, which means that I had no choice but to skydive in Rio. It is pretty much the same everywhere, but what makes these two places so special is the amazing view. I could do it in my homeland, but I would see nothing but meadows and cows.
I had never skydived before, so it was pretty exciting. I didn't take into account the low temperature at 10.000 feet and got into this tiny plane with only my t-shirt. As it got colder and colder the only thing I wanted to do was jumping out of the plane. To be honest, I wasn't that scared or nervous. Doing the Urban Rush in Bolivia is way scarier. Instead I was excited and looking forward to making that jump. It was truly an amazing experience, it was a good day and Rio is simply beautiful.
The next interesting thing would be the slums in Rio (better known as the "favelas" of Rio). The general image people have of these places is that it's dangerous and that it should be avoided at all times. This is not entirely unjustified. However, the favelas have seen major improvements in the last years. There are many favelas and some are still led by drug dealers, but more and more of them are being controlled by the police. A lot of money is invested nowadays to keep on developing these neighborhoods. I'm sure the World Cup of 2014 and the Olympics of 2016 have played a significant role in the rapid development of these favelas.
I'm not saying that you should go out there by yourself, but I do believe that many people have the wrong image of these favelas. It's quite safe to say that the favelas controlled by the police is safer than the ones where drug lords are in charge, but if you're able to get a good guide no one will hurt you when passing through the favelas. The people in the favelas are actually happy with the tourists as they generate money for the community and the people living here want to show the outside world that they are normal human beings with normal lives. When I was wandering through the favelas it looked like the people were pretty happy. Regarding architecture, the favelas are really interesting. It's amazing to see how these tiny little house are built on top of each other and how easily one can get lost without any guidance. Walking through the favelas is like walking through a giant maze.
After Rio I needed some time off, so I went to this beautiful island called Ilha Grande. The funny thing about this island is that there are no vehicles on this island. If you want to go somewhere you either do a hike or take a boat. The island has a lot of beautiful beaches and the most famous one is called Lopes Mendes beach. This beach is often placed in the top 100 of best beaches in the world. I hiked a bit on the island and did a boat tour which was really a nice thing to do. I managed to recover from my time in Rio.
Before I went to Paraty I had never heard of this place before. All the backpackers on Ilha Grande were talking about this place and apparently it's not that far from Ilha Grande. I packed my bags, took the boat to mainland Brazil and took a bus to Paraty. It was a pleasant journey as it wasn't that long and I had met some cool people on the way.
Paraty is a nice little colonial beach town. I stayed in quite a peculiar hostel, but the people who I met there were really cool, mainly English people. There wasn't much going on here though. I wandered through the nice atmospheric city center and I also dedicated one day to go to another town called Trinidade (famous for its beaches, nightlife and the natural pools).
Most bacpackers I had met were not really enthusiastic about São Paulo. According to them it's just a huge and awful city with massive buildings. I wanted to see this for myself.
São Paulo - often referred to as Sampa - is a massive city, it's the largest city in South America and here is where all the money is at. I understand why people would call this an ugly city, but I believe you should stay Sampa a bit longer to be able to appreciate it more.
There are actually quite some things one can do here. There are lots of museums, there's a huge park, there are plenty of nice buildings and markets, there are many bars and restaurants and nightlife is just crazy. I did two "free" walking tours here in Sampa and each tour covered a different part of the city. For the ones who don't know this concept; a free walking tour is basically free guided tour. As the name describes the tour will be done by foot and the guide shows you all the interesting places of the city and gives you some insight in the history of all that. It is pretty interesting, because normally you would miss half of this stuff and you would just take pictures and leave again. Now you're actually learning something. Of course, it's not really free; at the end of the tour all the participants are expected to tip the guides. How much you give depends on how much money you have and on how much you liked the tour. After the tours I had to go out of course! Missing the Sampa nightlife is like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffeltower!
Eu Sou de Prefeito de Rotterdão (I Am the Mayor of Rotterdam)-
Last weekend I had been in touch with a few fellow couchsurfers and their plan was to go to a little town called São Luiz do Paraitinga, which is not far from Sampa. I got into the car with them without any expectations and it turned out to be an amazing weekend. We saw some nice waterfalls at Cachoeira Grande and spent the day partying at São Luiz do Paraitinga. The initial plan was to go back to Sampa on the same day, but apparently there was a huge festival in this town so we decided to stay here and sleep at a farm (thank you Roger) not far from this town. The best thing about this weekend is that I managed to convince everyone (except the Japanese guy, they're way too clever) that I was the mayor of Rotterdam. 26 years old, travelling for a year, and mayor of Rotterdam! Free beer for you guys when you come to Rotterdam!
Thanks Roger, Tais, Barbara, Yo and Daniel! You're the best!
What To Do Next?-
After more than 6 months of travelling I noticed that my energy has been drained from my body. It seems that I'm travelling slower and slower each time (which is not necessarily a bad thing). I've been in Sampa for more than a week now and I should be carrying on, but I still haven't decided what to do yet. I love Sampa and its people and I made a lot of cool friends here and these are good reasons for me to stay here. I haven't made up my mind yet; either way I'm going to have a blast!