The Conquest of Mount Roraima

It all started when I was about 7 years of age, at least as far as I can remember, when my never-ending obsession with maps begun. I found an old Atlas in my house and started attempting to find out the name of places. In Brazil, we have a saying “do Oiapoque ao Chuí”, supposedly the northern and southernmost point in Brazil (which it is now widely known that Oiapoque is not, but this is for another post), so I set off looking where this Oiapoque was, just by using a simple ruler, I started to question that the northernmost was not in the state of Amapá, but it was in the state of Roraima, and to be more precise, very close to the triple border with Venezuela and Guyana.

View of Mount Roraima and Mount Kukenan along the trail

A little while down the road (23 years later), but never forgetting about that mysterious mountain, I had some time off and, that mountain that seemed to be so far away, is no more! Within a week, I had bought the tickets and booked a guide to take me to the top.

In this post, I will attempt to give a short summary of my experience on the way to that place that caught my attention many years ago.

Day 1 – From Paraitepuy to Rio Tök Camping Site

In Santa Elena de Uairén, in Venezuela, we hired a guide to help us up the mountain. After much research, we contacted Leopoldo, and the actual guide that took us up was Gerardo Gallegos. Salt of the earth guy. We then set off to our trip, on a 4×4 to Paraitepuy. On the way, we picked up one of the carriers, and reached the village. Short after the park fees (B$2000, around €0.50), we set off.

View of Mount Roraima along the trail

The first leg of the trek is mostly flat. A small steep hill took us by surprise right in the beginning, but when reaching the top of this hill, you see Mount Roraima and Mount Kukenan on the horizon. They seem quite far away, really far away.

Of we go! A 14km walk awaited us. The scenery made it all the better, while the fear slowly started to set in. That fantasy that I had to go to the top of that flat-top mountain was starting to become a reality with every step I took. And it was getting closer… and closer… until we finally reached the camping site. That classical image of the Roraima to the right and Kukenan to the left greeted us with a very clear evening, a couple of hours before the sunset.

While look at Roraima, we waited for the sun to set behind us. Sunset Schunset, right? That massive wall being radiated from outer space took my breath away! I couldn’t take enough photos! In order to save battery, I put the old camera down and just appreciated the view.

A quick stroll down, there was a bit of time to take a bath at the really cold River Tök. Time to get warm, have some food and rest and get ready for day 2! Check out day 2, 3 etc on Mochilao a Dois!.

View of Mount Kukenan at sunset

For more details and information on a trip to Mount Roraima, visit this post on Mount Roraima by Mochilao a Dois or check out instagram @mochilaoadois for more photos

Now, you will be deported!

Just a fresh top-up on my post on why tourists should NOT go to the 2016 Olympics. Fresh in the news, foreign nationals who are part of protests will be jailed and deported. For more information, read here. It’s in Portuguese, but google can translate that for you!

In short, any foreign national who are caught taking part in the political rallies pro- and against impeachment will be jailed and deported to their country. This is due to many South American buses from Bolivia, Paraguay etc flooding into the country to take part in the commotion.

Again, think loooong and hard about going to Brazil!

Why Tourists Should NOT Attend The 2016 Olympics

Some life updates. After a long time living abroad, I am going back to Brazil! It’s a good feeling, but is it the right time to go back??? Is it the time for anyone to go to Brazil at all?

As we all know, it’s an olympic year and, this year, it’s in Brazil. I, for one, don’t think the country deserves it for several reasons, but they are too long to list, with some historical motives. So, today, I will just list a few present events that should be enough for most people to avoid travelling to the country.

  1. Uncontrollable dengue fever outbreaks
  2. At this stage, even if you are not from a tropical country, you’ve heard of dengue fever, thanks to Brazil! I am 30 years of age and, coincidentally, this is year marks the 30th yearly outbreak of dengue fever in a row! The government promises that the mosquito will be eradicated before the olympics, but how can one make such a promise? It might sound like conspiracy theory, but I grew up watching Brazil’s most powerful broadcasting company. They have been known to work in favour of the government. When I was a child, Dengue was a character in a children’s TV programme. My generation only found out what dengue really was (and how dangerous it was) when we were teenagers!

    This guy was the character Dengue, in “Xou da Xuxa” (look it up if you don’t believe me!):

  3. The Zika and Chikungunya Viruses
  4. As well as the known Dengue virus, there are “new” viruses in Brazil to worry about: The Zika and Chikungunya viruses. Even though these are not new viruses, they are new to Brazil and they are believed to have been introduced to Brazil during the Confederation’s Cup. All three diseases are transmitted by the same mosquito: aedes aegypti. The latter two can be asymptomatic in both men and women, but as most of you know, it can be dangerous to pregnant women. The Brazilian government says that no link has been made between microcephaly and the Zika virus, therefore it is safe. The WHO says otherwise.

  5. The H1N1 is back!
  6. Remember swine flu? Well, it’s back, bigger and stronger and has killed more than 80 people in Brazil in the first three months of the year. Read here. No new vaccine has been developed to fight the new strain of the virus, so, better pray not to catch it!

  7. The melting economy
  8. Thinking that economic crisis means cheaper prices? Think again! Rio is as expensive as ever! The collapsing economy has forced local business to hike up the prices pre and during olympics as a last fast buck before they close down shop. I just returned from Brazil and I could feel the absurd prices in other regions of the country, so, if you think it’s the right time to go, based on economy only, you are sadly mistaken!

  9. The brink of political collapse
  10. If you’d like to understand better what’s happening in the country at the moment, I would be more than happy to write a post about it, but I will summarise it for now. Brazil is in the brink of political meltdown, with everyone in the top of the pyramid involved in some kind of corruption scheme. The president is about to be impeached, former president being given government jobs to gain some kind of immunity, the head of the house of deputies, who put forward the impeachment process, have been found with million of Brazilian public money in accounts in Switzerland, the president of the Brazilian senate involved in dozen of corruption scandals……….. just to name a few. It’s an interesting time to be in Brazil to see all of this going down, but in times like this, anything can happen and you can be caught in very violent revolts between fanatics, pro- and anti-government. Be careful! The biggest problem is that if the president is out, these people, including the vice-president, much of the same! So, it seems that the country is on the beginning of a long and arduous struggle for survival.

I am going back to Brazil to work. I am Brazilian and have family in Brazil and often question myself: “Why the hell am I going back?”. If you are a tourist, save your precious money and go somewhere else! I bet you will have a better time and be safe from the horrible moment the country is going through. Better safe than sorry!

A Seca Em São Paulo: É Culpa de Quem??

Who is to blame for the drought in Sao Paulo??

Como é época de eleições no Brasil, escreverei esse post em português.

Acabei de retornar do pais que me deu vida e da cidade que eu tanto amo, provavelmente na época que eu menos gosto: Eleições presidenciais, para governadores e deputados. Tem pessoas que dizem que, para conhecermos uma pessoa, temos que viver com elas… mas conhecemos muito mais sobre elas quando o assunto e política ou fanatismo político.

Dado esse fanatismo político, eu encontrei um conflito até que interessante nesse tempo que passei no Brasil. Como a maioria da população sempre tenta achar um culpado para os problemas, mas tendo um pouco de preguiça para sentar e analisar a fundo o caso, sempre culpam os mesmos seres: Seres Políticos… e se não chove e os reservatórios secam, bem, e culpa dos políticos. Mas é culpa dos politicos mesmo? Esse problema é tao preto no branco assim? Bem, vamos analisar um pouquinho a situação em que a grande Sao Paulo se encontra.

Hoje, o sistema Cantareira, que abastece a Grande Sao Paulo, atingiu record histórico de 3% da sua capacidade total. Isso é culpa de quem?? A resposta que sempre vem na boca da grande maioria da população é que a culpa é do governo, que o governo não faz nada como medida preventiva para casos assim. Então, vamos analisar a culpa do governo em situações como essa.

O país inteiro no dia das eleições

Culpa do Governo do Estado de São Paulo.

O governo de São Paulo tem culpa? Claro que tem, afinal, a SABESP é do governo estadual! Eles são os únicos culpados? Não! Mas darei um passo de cada vez. Existe uma lei universal chamada “lei da continuidade”. Em palavras para todo mundo entender: Se pegou aqui, tem que sair ali. Nada é perdido, nada é criado. Se água está saindo dos reservatórios, ela está evaporando, indo para os comércios, residências, indústrias etc. Mas depois de abastecida para as casas, evacuadas através de banhos de horas, descargas de 10L, arroz e feijão, resfriadores de caldeiras… para onde essa água vai? Para estaçōes de tratamento de esgoto, é claro! E essas estaçōes de tratamento de esgoto desaguam onde? Logicamente, deveriam cair de volta, tratada e limpa, no sistema de abastecimento de onde a água inicialmente saiu. Isso acontece? Não! Se isso acontecesse, o Rio Tietê, Pinheiros etc estariam limpos e pelo menos 60% da água que usamos estaria retornando para esses desertos. Isso não acontece e é culpa de quem? Do governo, sem dúvida! Mas não vou culpar o governo de um partido ou outro, pois o Sistema Cantareira foi idealizado nos anos 60. Planejamento urbano, sistema de esgoto e saneamento básico etc são todos responsabilidades do governo. O Governo do Estado tem culpa? Sim! Por não ter feito um sistema sustentável que retira e devolve a água limpa e tratada para o sistema de abastecimento, afinal, quase tudo o q consumimos volta para o esgoto (com uma pequena porcentagem parando na cintura, claro… mas isso não e culpa do governo! hehe)

O Rio Pinheiros, em 2014… aceitável?

Variações Climáticas.

A atmosfera tem culpa? Claro que tem! Mas isso é uma culpa coletiva. Existe um consenso de 99% dos cientistas que mudanca climatica existe. Culpa do governo (nāo só local, pois mudança climática é um fenômeno global) por só ouvirem os 1% (pois é mais leve nas contas publicas a curto prazo), mas também da população que polui de todas as maneiras possíveis e acham que é responsabilidade do resto do mundo limparem por elas.

Quando se ouve no jornal que choveu X% da média do mês de outubro, a média é feita da seguinte maneira: Pega-se a média de chuva dos últimos 40 anos e se compara com o que caiu no mês do ano a ser comparado. Estamos no dia 24 de outubro de 2014. Quase 80% do mês já passou, mas só 20% da chuva esperada para o mês de outubro caiu. Já é um mau sinal. Precisa chover muito até o fim do mês para compensar essa falta de chuva e tentar encher, mesmo que parcialmente, os reservatórios. Mas então a culpa é da mudança climática? Sim! Mas em partes, pois mudança climática só acontece por causa dos…..

Seres Humanos (Excluo Políticos)

Cortem todas as árvores, pavimentem toda a superfície da terra e continuem poluindo para verem onde chegaremos! À lugar nenhum! A Grande São Paulo tem uma área enorme… ãrea tão grande que consegue gerar seu próprio microclima, i.e. o clima da Grande São Paulo e mais quente e seco que seu arredor, verde e arborizado. Não é impressionante que São Paulo está seco, mas qualquer pingo de chuva que cai alaga metade da cidade? O Rio Tietê foi retilineado, assoreado, poluído com tudo imaginável… mas não foi a natureza. Tudo isso terã um efeito no clima local. São Paulo é um tapete de concreto, não existe lugar para a pouca agua que cai ir. Quase não existe área verde para vazão de água, os poucos bueiros que devolvem a água para o sistema de abastecimento estão entupidos com sujeiras que nós, seres humanos, jogamos pela janela do carro (sim, carro, pois ninguém mais quer andar de transporte público…). Todos esses fatores fazem com que, se a chuva não cai diretamente sobre a represa, nunca chegará à ela.

Antes de culparem alguém, parem pra pensar se você nâo tem um pouquinho de culpa também! Todos os problemas estão interligados, seja você ser político, ser humano ou parte da natureza… A mãe natureza pode ser boa, mas pode ser cruel para quem não a respeita. Se essa seca não é prova disso, difícil saber o que é!

Four Countries, Two Days

Hi all!

Sorry for my absence! I have been away for the past few days and I am now going away again. Crossing four countries in two days. It sounds way better than it actually is! I left Ireland towards the UK. After that, I took the boat and needed to cross the beautiful country of Wales until I arrived in England. Now, I am just a couple of hours away from flying to Brazil.

It’s quite tiring, but I am not complaining! Just posted this quickly to let you guys know I am still alive and will post some new stuff very soon!

Beer Economics Review: DadoBier Ilex

Who doesn’t like beer? And even more, who doesn’t like caffeine? Mix the two together and you should get an amazing beverage, right? Well, not so much. I will try to explain why.

DadoBier is the first brazilian microbrewery. It’s located in the mid-latitude city of Porto Alegre, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The state prides itself for having the best wine in Brazil and, well, they have the climate for it! Also for making beer, since the southern region of the country is the largest producers of barley.

The state is the second largest producer and the largest consumer of a commodity called Erva-Mate, or just Mate. It’s a herb which is mainly used for tea and has a high caffeine content. If you walk around the city of Porto Alegre, you will see hundreds of people drinking the stuff wherever they go. Think that the British are big tea drinkers? The Gauchos (natives from the state) would put them to shame. Brazil itself is not a big tea drinking country, but the Gauchos consume a whooping 10kg of Mate per capita per year, which puts them ahead of Turkey, the biggest tea drinking country in the world (at 7.32kg/pc/py).

But I digress. So thinking that having the climate and ingredients for a good beer would give them an edge? Well, not so much. Adding a bit of their favourite drink to the beer? That didn’t work so well. Now add that beer to their custom made Cuia-shaped glass? Well, that’s the recipe to get flat and bland beer. In their novelty glass, I couldn’t pour the beer and take a photo fast enough for the head to hold shape. The beer is ok, but the flavour changes quite a bit very quickly, most likely due to oxidation due to the lack of the protecting head.

I have brewed with tea before and I am not sure the techniques they used to add the mate to the brew, but I can say that they were unsuccessful.

Now for the price. The average citizen of Rio Grande do Sul is better off than the average Brazilian. The beer is slightly expensive, at R$14 (£4) for a pint, it is still quite expensive for the local working man. But as it so happens to microbreweries in Brazil, producers manage to keep the clientele very selected. You can find Dadobier online, if you so choose, but most places are out of stock and, in Porto Alegre, one of the few places where you can find the beer is at their restaurant. This leads to you buying overpriced food with it. So, again, just like with Amazon Beer, if you are not part of the elite or pseudo-rich, this beer can be seen as something you can treat yourself to in a special occasion.

Knowing how much it takes to produce beer and having most of the ingredients locally available, overpricing beer that isn’t all that good seems to be the thing to do nowadays. Microbrewers in Brazil are having a field day with the new middle class!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

What better way to capture a silhouette than during the sunset? Well, that’s my favourite time of the day. It’s a time when a silhouette is, somewhat, more meaningful, when it happens more naturally.

Samppras, my travel companion, always looks very contemplative during sunsets, this time overlooking Itapua Beach in Salvador.

People reading this might think I am mad… ah well!

Beer Economics Review: Amazon Beer Stout Açaí

I am not sure if this is a good idea, but I will publish a quick beer review worth of notice.

My girlfriend, who travels a lot, gave me several beers from local breweries from different parts of Brazil, which is great! Yesterday, we decided to drink it and, my God, what a tasty beer!

I am no beer connoisseur, but I can appreciate a good beer. And I guess it would have won the title of best beer in Brazil! It is quite subtle, coffee-y taste with not much taste of Açaí, still with a relatively high alcohol content. I wouldn’t expect the extremely hot city of Belem to have been able to produce high quality stout, of all beers, but they did the job! If you know anything about brewing, fermenting at constant, relatively low temperature is crucial, as temperature fluctuation can damage the overall body and taste of the beer. Belem do Para is the largest Brazilian city near the Equator with temperatures averaging around 28C throughout the year. It’s located at the Amazon River Delta and, adding all these factors up, it makes it one of the most humid cities on Earth. All these factors make Belem a nightmare for brewers (and for people to cope with the heat too).

Controlling the brewing temperature must cost the brewery a small fortune on heat belts, AC units etc. Also, everything (except the Açaí and water) must be imported, since the city’s climate is unfavourable for the growth of any of the raw products necessary to produce the simplest beers. All of this is reflected in the price. A 330ml bottle can cost you up to £5. These prices are also not compatible with the means of the average Brazilian, so you can only find it for sale in speciality shops and fancy restaurant, which is a pity.

With a GDP per capita of £3809 (£317/month), and 75% of the population living below that line, most of the population won’t be able to afford one single bottle of this lovely beer.

Well, that’s free capitalism for you! A city, which in my opinion, overcame all the difficulties of brewing a quality product, managed to produce something unique, but only for a selected few.

Now that I have calmed down, I can conclude. It’s a very good beer.

Weekly Photo Challenge II: Zig Zag (Quilt)

Published as part of the Weekly Photo Challenge

Before the week is up, I’d like to publish a photo of my quilt. Why?

When I graduated from University, my grandmother gave this quilt as a gift, but it’s a special type of quilt. Not only my grandmother made it, but it has a piece of clothe from most members of the family. Parts of my great-grandmother’s dress, of the dress my aunt left maternity with my cousin, a pocket from my uncle’s first pair of pants, my mom’s dress when she was 15 years old… well, you get where this is going.

It’s more than just a quilt… it is a quilt that my grandmother made that tells the history of our family! Pretty neat, isn’t it?

City of Sao Paulo – Challenging the Driest Places on Earth

Let me introduce you to my home city, but maybe you know about it after the disastrous World Cup… ah well!

With the purpose of explaining the title, Sao Paulo is as close as you can get from the Tropic of Capricorn. It grew very fast over the last 60 years and what used to be pristine atlantic forest, now is a massive pile of concrete with very little trees.

Its climate is classified as humid subtropical. Humid, you say? Yes, during the summer (southern hemisphere summer, that is), due to a lot of nerdy physics stuff, the wind blows mainly from the sea, which can bring a lot of rain. During very particular meteorological conditions, a streak of cloud which extends from the Amazon all the way to Sao Paulo also brings a lot of constant, heavy rain. This fills up reservoirs and keeps the city afloat during the dry season. During the wet season, any rain is enough to flood huge parts of the city… but that’s beside the point.

This year, these monsoon rains didn’t happen. The average summer rain was way below average. Anyway, it happens! But now, what happened as a consequence? Just another quirk of subtropical climates are the dry winter months. Since the summer rains didn’t come, the reservoirs that supply the city with water are down to below 15%, with no rain in sight.

With dry weather, lack of water in a metropolis that lack trees, only has concrete in sight, and with millions of cars stuck in traffic jams all day, the air quality goes way down and dryness go very high up! How high? Yesterday, 6th of August, 2014, some parts of the city register relative humidity down to 18%, according to INMET, the Brazilian Met service. There in no rain forecasted in the days to come with high pressure dominating the weather, it can (and will) get drier.

How dry is this??? Well, yesterday, the city of Bechar, Algeria, which is in the middle of the Sahara Desert registered 14% and the Atacama Desert registered a 12% relative humidity (the driest place on Earth).

Well, in a metropolitan area with nearly 20 million people, this can be a bit of a problem…