dinsdag 30 april 2013


The Amazon river as a guideline

Two weeks ago I started a last trip to my final destination in Brazil,
taking a boat all the way on the amazon river from Belem to Manaus.

First I went by boat from Bélém to Santarem. This trip takes 2,5 days and shows you the beauty of the amazon river. Because we are in full rainseason the river rised up to 7 meters compared to dryseason. So the river is so wide sometimes you almost can't see the other side of the river. Parts of the vegetation and trees are underneath the water level. We pass by lot's of pile houses (paalwoning, NL), many less fortunate people  escaped the city and build houses at the riversides. Knowing that at dry season there high above the river and at the end of rainseason some houses are flooded, no wonder hammocks are the most used type of beds in the amazon region, it also protects you from insects and other animals joining you while in your sleep.

During the boattrip sometimes people or childern come and attache their boat to ours in the middle of the river to clime on board and sell meals and fruit from the forest. Somethimes we where lucky to see dolphins swimming near the boat.

The boat I took in Manaus is quite big, with some private rooms, most of the people sleep in their hammack on deck. The food was very expensive, the staff most unfriendly and the sanitary facilities precare. But I met lot's of interesting people (Brazilian, French, Spanish, German, Colombian, U.S.A., Poland, ...), talking about live and hot social and political issues.

If you really want to get to know a place you have to take your time. This boattrip is the perfect occasion. You can't visit the amazon in 2 days.

Rubber, the amazonian gold
In Santarem I took a bus to Alter do Chão. This is a small tourist place at the Rio do Tapajós. Some Brazilians told me before that the 'Praia (beach) do Alter do Chão' is the most beautiful of Brazil. The only detail I forgot was: 'rainseason', so all the beaches and the beginning of the forests are 7 meters deep under the water now. The advantage is that there are less tourists at the moment and you can take a boat deeper into the forest to watch birds. Something that is hard to spot in dryseason.

From Alter do Chão together with Ian (U.S.A.) and Magda (Poland) we organised a three day trip in the region. Moises our guide took us first to 'Fordlandia'.
5 hours with a fast boat up to the Rio do Tapajós.

Long time ago some tire compagnies monopolised the production of tires forcing car compagnies to pay high prices. Henry Ford, wanted to avoid subordinating and started his own rubber/ tire production lines in Asia and Brazil. At the Tapajó river he bought land and build a new town, Fordlandia. He installs rubbertree (Seringeiro) plantations and a factury for making the natural rubber (borracha) into cartires.
The whole town was build in American (U.S.A.) style and Ford even introduced the Baptist church.

The climat of the area of Fordlandia was perfect for a specific disease that affected the rubber trees, so Fordlandia never became a great succes and Ford had to close the factury.

The exploration of the amazon region would never have been so strong without the possesion of natural rubber. Manaus for example was founded in 1850. The international industry developing the first cars needed huge amounts of rubber for manufacturing wheels. So the economy in the amazon region that was one of the main providers of natural rubber was living his golden era. Around 1920 a chemical proces was developed to make synthetic rubber, this made the market for natural rubber collapse.
Manaus in particular was a city of abundant wealth based on rubber production, but was later left behind by the rich rubber barons as a poor city. In 1967 the Brazilian governement made Manaus a TFA (= tax free area), to avoid further impoverishment. Now Manaus is a city important in Brazil for his production of cars and electronics. Because it is geographically isolated all these products are transported to the rest of Brazil and the world or by plane or by boat via Bélém.

After visiting Fordlandia we went to the Jamaraquá comunity. One of the several comunities of indigenous people living along the Tapajós river. From there we took a 5 hours guided walk into the Floresta National do Tapajós. Most of the forest next to the rivers have already been cut so we call this secondary forest (= capoeira, Portuguees). After walking 1,5 hour we arrive in the primary forest and meet with the big giants. The biggest tree in the area is called 'the mother tree' and is more than 850 years old. In this area grows also rubbertrees, and native cacaotrees. The rubberworkers who worked with the rubber trees introduced mangotrees (mangueiras) and cacao do Bahia. Taking a cano trough the floating forest we saw lot's of birds like the woodpecker (Pica-pau) and parrots (Arara).

Taking the boat on the Tapajós river we meet a big floating boa and we see native rice growing on the sandbanks of the river.

Later when I arrived in manaus I did an other forest trip with Ian and Magda, Antonio Jungle-tours. In a river area 5 hours traveling from Manaus (bus and boat). These tours are quite expensive and very touristic, but at least it gives you an idea of the beauty and richness of the amazon forest. There are a lot of Amazon tour operators in Manaus.

This trip we went a bit deeper in the forest, learned a lot about all the interesting medical and esthetical uses of the plants and trees in the forest and we spotted some animals.

For seeing more wildlife you kneed:
- the eyes of a native person
- spending more days walking deeper into the forest
- visite the amazon forest in dry season

We also visited a local maniok plantation, a family burning down a part of the forest growing maniok and processing it into 'farofa', some kind of backed maniokflour that most of Brazilians eat with their 'arroz e feijão' (= rice and beans).

At this moment I'm spending my last days in Brazil. Wednesday I will leave Brazil and start conquering Peru. Starting with one month of volunteer work for 'Oye Lena' near Cusco.

So this is my last report about Brasil.

Somewhere I would like to go home for a week and then return tu Latin-America.
The fact that I will be able to settle for one month in Cusco is assuring me.

Photo gallery

The type of boats taking you from one city to an other on the amazon river.

The amazon river in rainseason. The biggest tiver in the world.

Everything produced in the amazon region is transported by boat or plane.

 Also wood...

A house next to the river.

The beach at Alter do Chão.

 The same beach.

Our expedition crew: me, Moises, Magda and Ian.


 The former hospital of Fordlandia

The waiting room

 The school (1931) is still in use

The factory


Rubbertrees (Seringueiros)

The (more than 850 years old) mothertree in the primary forest

Cacao do Bahia, imported by the rubber workers.

Pau Brasil, the tree that gave Brazil it's name.

 A panoramic view from the primary forest.

 Our forest camp.

 Native rice

 Floating Boa
A maniok plantation

 How maniok becomes Farofa

A tarantula almost as big as my hand.

 Painting with natural paint. (Urucu: red, Jenipapo: blue)

 First day

 Second day

maandag 29 april 2013

Copa, Cola and Policia

Copa, Cola and Policia

Copa do mundo 2014

Football keeps the world moving.
In 2014 Brazil is organising the worldcup football.
Every 4 years the Fifa choses another country to rise and shine for one month.
Tourism is boosting at his maximum and a better publicity you can't get for a country than an event like this.

In 2014 12 Brazilian cities will participate in the Worldcup:

South Brazil:                    The center of Brazil:                       North Brazil:
- Curitiba                           - São Paulo                                       - Salvador de Bahia
- Porto Alegre                   - Rio de janeiro                                  - Recife

                                         - Cuiabá                                            - Natal
                                         - Belo Horizonte                                - Fortaleza
                                         - Brasilia                                            - Manaus

The entrance tickets to see the games will be sold together with flighttickets so people can see different teams play. For most of Brazilian people it's to expensive to by a ticket to watch the games. And the main part of the tickets are reservated for foreign visitors.

Already for some years Brasil is preparing for the Worldcup.
The governement is investing 25 billion Real (9,6 billion euro) to organise the Copa do mundo 2014.
Big infrastructure works are started, the construction of new stadiums, renewing roads and airports, building parkinglots, lot's of Brazilians are opening hostels and 'bed and breakfast' facilities...

All these cities are clean up their favela's, sometimes pasificating them, than the police takes over the favela from the gangs that rule the favela. Sometimes they just put people out of their houses and tell them to go elsewhere, because the favela is to close to the area of the stadium.

Every city is building a new stadium or renovating his former infrastructure.
I passed next to the constructionworks in Natal. They demollished their former stadium to build a complete new stadium. Fortaleza was the first city to finish his stadium, which was a triumph, because the cities from the poorer North-East of Brazil are always considdered as less quick and effective.

In one month every stadium is going to organise 4 to 6 games and than the stadiums will be empty again, will they still be used after the worldcup? Is that really worth spending all this money (9,6 billion Euro) for?

Brazilians are crazy about football, but when they hear about all the money the government put's in the worldcup, money that could be much better spend for public facilities.

Brasilians have different opinions about this immense happening.

The only city that will have more profit from his sports infrastructure is Rio de Janeiro, who is receiving the Olympics in 2016.
But we are talking about 2 happenings of one month, and it's over.

Luc Vankrunkelsven wrote some very moving articles for a Belgian newspaper 'De Standaard':
- Dagen zonder vlees in Brazilië
- 'De Braziliaanse tol van koning auto en keizer hesp'

The new stadium of Natal.

"O governo entrou em campo. Estamos avançando para a Copa." 
"The government is doing constructionworks. We are progerssing for the Worldcup."

People in São Luis proud to recive the Worldcup in Brazil.

Captain America
Coca-Cola and other multinationals in Brazil

Coca-Cola, Nestlé and AB InBev are 3 of the biggest food and beverage concerns trying to monopolise the Brasilian and world market. Each in their specific way.

Coca-Cola Compagnie his best growing market is situated in Brazil. You can say that Brazil is the best student of the school of the Coca-Cola imperium, Coca-Cola is verywhere, clothing, slippers, and every bar, restaurant or supermarket. Often it is the only drink you can buy apart from beer.

The Compagnie owns different Brazilian softdrinks (Kuat), fruitjuice brants (Del Valle), water compagnies (Crystal), tea (Chá Matte Leão).

'Brazil Coca-Cola, live positive'


In Brazil Nestlé is close to having the absolute monopoly in the market of dairy products and more.
From his headquarters in São Paulo they dominate the market of dairy poducts in the whole of Brazil.
Nestlé has worldwide over 450 factories and sells his products in 86 countries al over the world.
It was founded in Switserland. 

During the years Nestlé bought different compagnies like Kraft Foods. They possess different brands of coffee and tea, bottled water, milkshakes and other beverages, Chocolate and confectionery, performance and healthcare nutrition, Ice cream, breakfast cereals, baby food, seasonings, soups and sauces, frozen and refrigerated foods, pet food and framaceutical products and cosmetics.

Nestlé is, together with Coca-Cola Compagnie and some others, on its way to privatise the world freshwater reserves. 
This is not the first time that Nestlé is coming into discredit. Here an other example of actions to boycott Nestlés for his harmful politics.

'A critical geography: geographie of a industrialised world' (1997)

'The 20 biggest European multinationals with the best sales results'
Nestlé was already in 1997 the number 13 on the list.

AB InBev
After criticizing the whole world let's talk about our own products. Anhauser-Bush InBev, that call's himself a global brewer, is at the moment the biggest beer multinational in the world. It started in Leuven in 1366 with the brewery of Den Hoorn, known for brewing Stella Artois, and grew bigger and bigger, gowing together with other breweries becoming Interbrew. When the 2 biggest beerbrands in Brazil (Antarctica 1882 and Brahma 1888) merged in 1999 they formed AmBev. In 2004 AmBev and Interberw merged to become InBev and in 2008 they incorporated Anheuser-Busch (1860), an brand from the USA. It became Anheuser-Busch InBev, the biggest                    beermultinational in the world, half Belgian, half Brazilian.

The director is Brazilian, but the headquarters are still in Leuven (Belgium). AB InBev, owns more than 200 different beer brands.

The second biggest brewing compagnie is SAB Miller (London, UK), the third biggest is Heineken (Zoeterwoude, The Netherlands).

What about our local and undependant brewers?
Do they all have to be become part of this beergiant?

I think we should try as much as we can to support the remaining undependant and local brewers. And try to prevent them from losing their authenticity.

I remember when Interbrew bought 'Hoegaarden', they wanted to move the production from the city of Hoegaarden to Leuven, but they didden't manage to do it because the taste of the beer wasn't the same anymore. So the way how the beer gets brewn and the place where it's made really matters.

The old abandonned brewery of Stella Artois in Leuven (B).

Brasil = Gangsters paradise?

If you have to belive the media and the people Brazil is a very dangerous country. The most save way is not to go there. The crimerate is very high, every day there are some hundreds of people killed in homicides, muders and robberies are dayly life reality.
But compared to a population of 194 million people (2012) that's maybe not some exagerated. The main part of the murders happen far away from de (touristic) city centers in the thousands of favella's. We're talking about most of all young boys between 13 and 30 years old involved in drugtraffic and gangs.

In places as Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia and Fortaleza you have to be carefull for pick-pockets. But that's as much of a threat for local people as for tourists.

Brazil's media is based on a politic of fear. Sensation newspapers and television never stop showing pictures and video's of murders. As long as everybody gets paranoid.

The sensation newspapers in São Luis, the reggae capital of Brazil.

The weekend I spend in São Luis, more than 10 people 
where killed in the city favela's. All drug related stories.

Television, day and 24 hours spreading messages of crimes and murders.

Brazil is also a very save country, I 'm lost counting all the different types of police corps: Ronda do Bairro, Policia Municipal, Policia do Rodovia, Policia Federal, Policia Militar, Policia Civil, Policia do Tourismo, Policia do Meio Ambiente, ... And there's still a lot of corruption, but that's getting better now.

A roadblock between Natal and Fortaleza. 

Next to the police in the whole country you see private security guarding private property and public spaces.

So after three months of travelling in Brazil, I feld more or less same during my trip.
-You just kneed to be aware of this danger.
- Don't do stupid things, like walking arround at night in unknown places.
- Having luck not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
- And learn to manage more or less the langauge, than your a lot less vulnerable

Some places I felt really save, that's more in small towns not overcrowded by tourists and more in the south of  (European looking) Brazil: Florianopolis, Curitiba, Bonito, Alter do Chão (Santarem), Olinda, Natal, Recife, Manaus.

So Brazil has a higher crime rate than a random European country, but that must not keep you from traveling this country. I enjoyed brazil a lot.