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Travel with Hafeez to Brazil III
In Brazil, the train service was nonexistent and air travel was expensive. A bus suited me as I travel frugally.
So on 6th July, 05, l boarded a night bus at Campo Grande bound for Brasilia. Soon on taking my seat, I slept for a pretty long time. When I woke up I learnt from fellow-passengers that the bus were running on Hightway BR 060. It had a brief stop-over at Jatai, famous for agricultural produce like soybeans, rice and corn. Besides, it was reputed for cattle farms and poultry.
At about dawn, the bus stopped at Rio Verde before a cafeteria. I went inside the cafeteria and ordered for a full breakfast. I noticed that a fellow passenger didn’t get in but was loitering around. I waved at him and invited him to join me. He came after a little hesitation and together we gulped bread, butter, papaya and some salty grilled cheese washing it down with hot milked coffee. In broken English, he told me his woes. Once he was a well-paid technician living at Campo Grandewith wife and a daughter. Suddenly, everything turned turtle. He lost his job; his wife deserted him taking away the kid with her. After six months, he found out that she was living in Brasilia. Spending all he had on a court case, he got child visitation rights but was reduced to a pauper in the process. By doing odd jobs, he was raising funds enough to afford a visit once in two to three months. With a shine in his eye, he narrated how Florestana, now three, would cling to him; encircle her tinny hands around his neck babbling and screaming. By that time, the bus was honking. While returning I bought some Cadbury Chocolate and pushed the pack towards him as a gift for Florestana. He put a trembling hand on my back and started weeping.
Goiania - Brasilia
By noon, the bus entered a sprawling city, Goiania. It was a delightful surprise to see streets lined up with tropical fruit trees and a series of lakes flocked by birds. After Goiania, the road became wider with four lanes and the bus gained speed but slowed down near Anapolis City built on a plateau at an elevation of 1,017 meters. The temperature dropped down resulting in a cold sensation. It turned mild on reaching Santo Antonia, a small city in southwest Goias state. By sunset, the bus reached Brasilia. I looked for “Information” and found a tourist-desk near the exit. I was advised to go to “Blaco M” for budget hotels. Hailing a taxi. I went to the place where small hotels had lined up. I stayed in one, Pousada Asa Sul, W3 Sul 704, Bloco M, Casa 09, Brasilia, Distrito Federal.
Brasilia, Capital of Brazil
7th July 05
After a good night’s sleep, I had breakfast and sat in the lobby for watching TV Channels like BBC & CNN. The mood in Brasilia was festive. The government had just survived Mensalao Scandal where the government was charged of “big money payments” to politicians for towing the party lines. The funds were stated to have come from state-owned enterprises and countries like Cuba and Colombia. But the President Lula faced it boldly, curbed all allegations and put Brazil on its way to prosperity. Unemployment came down, debts to the IMF paid off, two years ahead of schedule.
With the help of a city map, I went to The Monumental Axis, the famous highway with the widest divide having six lanes on either side, a total of twelve lanes. It was an architectural delight to see in one go all world famed monuments like Cathedral of Brasília, Cultural Complex of the Republic, Itamaraty Palace, National Congress, Supreme Federal Tribunal, National Memorial, JK Memorial, Television Tower, Plaza of the Three Powers, Planalto Palace and Justice Palance. I went up the Television Tower and observed the city design like bow and arrow or an aircraft with curved wings.
In the evening I went to Patio Brasil. There were hundreds of shops displaying books, toys, electronics and garments. There was a good blend of local and international brand name stores. In its food courts one can find signs like McDonald, Kentucky, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Red Lobster and Starbucks. Patio Brasil also has beauty salons, travel agencies, movie theaters and other entertainment for all ages.
City Park in Brasilia
Parque Da Cidade
I stayed for another two days. There was a beautiful park about 4 km away from my hotel. I decided to walk.
The park, Parque Da Cidade, can be described as lungs of the city. It appeared bigger than Central Park of New York but totally safer. A large number of people were jogging in this oasis of pristine nature in the middle of the city. I had another opportunity for bird-watching as there were rare species like crested seriema and toco toucan.
I decided to spent quite some time here as it had fine walking trails. My favorite was Cristal trail. For an hour, I moved in the wilds of the park, studying a variety of trees on the way like casesalpinia, pau-terra, gujak, and palm trees.
In the centre was a large lake with wide footpath on its edges.
Another highlight was Paranoa Lake. A boat took me around with its smooth, easy ride in the calm waters of the lake. It was a man-made lake that stretching around eastern edge of the city. It was being used as water sports and was studded with marinas and yatch clubs. It had a floating restaurants and it was pleasant to see people enjoyed windsurfing, sailing and jet-skiing.
The boat passed under Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge. Also, it took me closure to the Palace da Alvorado or “Palace of Dawn” where President Lula was living.
In about two hours I was back to the city.
My next destination would be Chapada Diamantina about 322 km away. I had much difficulties in explaining where I wanted to go. There were so many chapadas and twice I was booked on the wrong bus. Eventually, I sought help of Tourist Desk. Pointing on the place on a map hanging on the wall, I asked a lady attendant to write it on a slip. It did not help as there was no direct bus to that spot. But Brazilian are very friendly people. The bus company called all and sundries to suggest an itinerary.
I left Brasilia on a night bus and reached Tanquinho at about 8 am. When I got down the bus, I was greeted as a cattle buyer. A three-day cattle market was thriving in a nearby area. I told the people gathered around me that I was for trekking. They advised me to go to Lencois. Even some one called a taxi and negotiated for me one-way trip for US $12. Since the place was 13 km away in a hilly area, taxi-charge seemed reasonable. (I must appreciate honesty of Brazilians, even cabbie never cheated and shopkeepers didn’t charge higher to a stranger.) The taxi dropped me before Hotel Colonial which appeared like a villa. Perhaps, it was a residence converted into a guesthouse but was a good place to stay for a few days.
In the afternoon, I strolled in the town. It was a nice place with its cobbled streets, small churches and brightly painted old buildings. It was nestling in the foothill of a mountain range, lush green with trees and plants. Soon a tout joined me and told me background of the town. It was an historical place gaining importance at the time of diamond rush in 1844. The name “Lencois” meant sheets. In hey days, the area was filled with tents of prospectors, locally known as garimperios. The tents were everywhere sloping down by the hills and looked like a sheet. When boom busted, Lencois turned into ghost-town. For a very long time, doom and despair prevailed. A turning point came only when the area was made accessible through a network of roads. Massive funds were invested to preserve the old colonial buildings for retaining their real-life image. Surrounded by abandoned mines, the area became a top tourist attraction.
In about 15 minutes, I reached end of the town, marked by Rio Lencois. The river was mostly dried up except for a sleek water line shining in the sun. The dry river-bed was made up of red, white, yellows and pink pebbles. It was a pretty sight and I moved around for a long time returning only after sunset. By that time, the downtown was sizzling with music, food-stalls were having a roaring business, a large number of travel shops had opened up alluring tourists for waterfalls, mountain hikes, fishing and swimming. I had some sandwiches with sugar-cane juice and headed down to my hotel to sleep. The hotel being away from the hustle bustle, the night was incredibly quiet except for sweet chirping of the birds.
Chapada Diamantina National Park:
Early in the morning, I joined a group of 14 people and left for Vale do Capo on a coach. After about one hour, the coach stopped and our guide asked us to get down. He pointed to high point and started walking on a winding path. Rock after rock, step after step, we ascended without stopping. It was sometime quite strenuous for me. But being in the company of young, I had no problem. Many helping hands were extended whenever I stalled and was pushed or pulled to scale steep or slippery ascends.
Once on the top, it was a pleasant surprise to find out a flat ground. For the next 6 km, we walked over a lush-green plateau dotted with bright tropical flowers, exotic vegetation and red-rock boulders. At many places we passed through a dense growth rubbing our shoulders with tall plants and bushes. Luckily, these were not thorny and we had a massage like feelings. I got tired with a long walk but looking at others lingered on. Eventually, I got used to the rhythm of a move and enjoyed it.
We stopped by edge of the plateau. It served as a fantastic lookout. The views of the surrounding landscape were amazing. Literally, the entire Chapada was spread at our feet. In a short while, the guide started some interesting stories in Spanish. I understood a little from his body language but soon lost interest. I lied down on the grassy ground looking at the blue sky above, sensed the flower-smell from a nearby bush and took deep breaths to store as much pure oxygen as possible. We returned by the evening.
waterfall of smoke
Waterfall of smoke
Another good spot was Cachoeira de Fumaça which meant Waterfall of Smoke. It was a dry season; the river course had narrowed down allowing only a thin stream of waterfall fading into a thick, fine mist before it ever reaches the ground.
The Chapada was a nice place to spend a few blissful days. It had a stunning beauty, waterfalls and rocks provoking awe and wonder. I trekked along creeks, green valleys, deep gorges and getting in or out of caves made of rare sandstones.
Eventually, I left the place for another exotic place, Salvador.