Category Archives: Brazil

Final Map

Here ends our story. After traveling for almost eight months in South America, (yes, it has taken us a long time to write the last few blog posts!) we headed back home to make arrangements for new adventures.

We covered a lot of ground and while we could have moved faster and seen more countries, we didn’t want to just tick the boxes but actually to experience the places we visited. It truly has been the trip of a lifetime. We experienced so many wonderful places, met so many people – both travelers and locals, and loved every minute. If you have ever wanted to go to South America, you should definitely do it! It certainly won’t let you down!

Adios amigos,

Mark and Saskia.



¡Six Months!


¿Donde en el Mundo es Carmen Sandiego?

G'day from Trinidad, Bolivia. We recently celebrated our fifth month on the road in South America and we thought it was time for an update. We've been in Bolivia since the 28th of June and have had a great time. Currently exploring Bolivia's share of the Amazon Basin, which is a welcome change from the altitude and cold of the altiplano.

So where have we been? Well, the map below tracks our travels to date. Basically we have covered the southern half of the continent and we are now making our way north. The plan is to spend August in Peru before travelling through Ecuador and Colombia. Our goal is to get to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, the most northern point of interest on the mainland. We will be pretty stoked if we achieve it.

We are well behind on our posts but keep touching base for more stories – there's a ton of content coming your way!

Thanks for reading,

Mark and Saskia


To Swim in an Aquarium

Our trip to south western Brazil included three stops: the Pantanal via Cuiaba, Chapada and Bonito. The last stop was tagged on when we learned about the amazing snorkelling to be experienced in the many rivers nearby.


As you can see, the water here is crystal clear. The cause? To quote Lonely Planet, “the river waters spring from subterranean sources in a limestone base, almost entirely free of clay, which releases calcium carbonate into the water. The calcium carbonate calcifies all impurities in the water, which then sink to the riverbed.” We filmed one of those springs in action.

The following shots are taken from a two hour snorkelling trip along the Rio Prata, near Bonito.


A freshwater crocodile, a caiman. Sorry for the blur, he is in the centre of the pic.


And to wrap it up, a bit of film…


The journey so far…

As we sit here in San Rafael's autumnal sun, sipping on local wine, we started going over our travels to date. We pulled out our map to look at where we have been over the last three and a half months.


The journey so far has basically been four different chapters:

  1. Patagonia, including the Navimag trip, Torres del Paine, El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier, Mount Fitz Roy and Ushuaia.
  2. The cities of Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, including a visit to the Tigre River near BA and a few days in Botucatu and Paraty, Brazil.
  3. The tropical paradise that was the journey from the Pantanal to Iguazu Falls, via Paraguay.
  4. North and western Argentina, including Córdoba, San Rafael, and Mendoza (as well as Bariloche and Salta which are next on the list).

As you can see in the picture above, we are now in Argentina's wine region and quite close to where we started in Chile.

It has been one amazing adventure after another! To paraphrase a friend, all the bus trips and shitty hostels are worth it when we find ourselves drinking cocktails in Rio or staring at the Devil's Throat in Iguazu Falls.

We have now 'dropped anchor' in San Rafael, where we have been working with an organic farm collective for a few weeks. It has been so nice to get some rest and have time to hone our español before we start off on the journey north (which we are still working out!).

We would like to say thanks for stopping by to read our stories. This blog has been good fun, we hope it is entertaining our friends and family back home. Cheers also to the other bloggers on WordPress that have visited and left a comment or liked a post. Always nice to have a bit of validation!

Dos Condors.


Iguazu Falls – Brazil

Both Brazilians and Argentineans will argue that their side of the falls is better (the river is the border between the two countries), so we thought we would check out both. The Brazilian side of the falls has a nice walk with an amazing panoramic view and a platform that lets you look over the edge of the falls facing the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). So before we crossed the border back in to Argentina we spent an afternoon on the Brazilian side and watched the sun set with little coatis (animals like raccoons).

Even though we took loads of photos, they don't really do it justice. We took a few videos as well so you can get a sense of how massive it was, which we will post separately. To be honest, you have to go there to appreciate it.




Ah yes, the beautiful game. The crowds, the players, the cry of 'goooooal'.

You won't be surprised that our list of things to do in South America included seeing a live game. Our first attempt was the famous Boca Juniors of Buenos Aires, however we found that tickets here are grossly marked up for non-members. Our second attempt was to see the Corinthians play in São Paulo. This time it worked out.

The Corinthians are the reigning World and South American club champions, having won the 2012 FIFA Club World Cup and the 2012 Copa (thanks Wikipedia). So we were quite lucky to see 'em play a home game. We made a video to try and capture the experience.

The Corinthians stadium also hosts the Football Museum of São Paulo. This is an awesome multimedia extravaganza. Our favourite part was the radio section, which played a series of clips from famous announcers throughout the decades. Why did we like it? Because an astute ear will notice the evolution of 'gooooooal' over time 🙂 Good fun, highly recommended!

A group of deadly strikers.

Brazil will be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014, which kicks off in São Paulo on 12 June. We saw that work was underway on both upgrading existing stadiums and construction of new stadiums. Some are pessimistic that Brazil will be organised in time, but that's always the case with these events. Fixtures are already up, if you love soccer this will be huge!


¡Video! Horse Riding in the Pantanal

Hi all,

Have a new video for you. While we were in the Pantanal we went on a couple of horse rides, which we filmed. The vid below gives a good overview of the different environments in the Pantanal, but unfortunately no charismatic animals in sight.


São Paulo Street Art

We had read that Sao Paulo has a strong street art community so while we were there we tried to check it out. We made a beeline for Galeria Choque Cultural, a small gallery that promotes local street artists, in the hope of getting some advice on where to go. As it happens the gallery is near the centre of the action in Pinheiros.

The staff were very helpful. We scored a couple of free art mags which proved that the art community is alive in well in Sao Paulo. We also got a good steer on the local area – Batman Alley, the local football court and a map showing where Space Invader had left his tiles.

The street art was easily spotted, most notably around Batman Alley. Artists were out in broad daylight painting the streets. Apparently they have no fear of prosecution because the residents here support it.


At left is one of 51 space invader icons left by the famous French artist when he was invited by the art community to 'invade' Sao Paolo. We spotted two, but would have looked for more if we had more time.


A blog on Sao Paulo street art would not be complete without mentioning Pixação. We also talked to the gallery staff about this local form of graffiti, whic has grabbed international attention due to its rune like appearance and alleged political motivations. Despite the hype, the staff hilariously dismissed it as “dogs pissing on a wall.” Unfortunately we did not have time to dig into this further but the video below shares a different perspective.



One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Pay a visit to any of South America's cities and you will quickly be struck by the contrasts. In Buenos Aires you will see piles of rubbish at the feet of glass towers. In Rio de Janeiro, large favelas face towards multimillion dollar penthouse apartments. In Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, the super wealthy travel by helicopter, spending their working days in the sky while the unemployed struggle to survive on the streets.

During our stay in Sao Paulo we were inspired to try and understand what these contrasts mean for the people that live there. Specifically, we wanted to meet Sao Paulo's waste pickers, who make a living collecting rubbish and picking out the valuable material for sale.

Street art depicting a catadore, or waste picker.

We first learned about waste pickers, as they are called, through a documentary based in India. We were confronted by the health issues that people working in land fills or collecting on the streets must risk (infected cuts, respitory disease etc). Some waste pickers live and work on municipal dumps – as many as 20,000 people in Kolkata, India. Bear in mind that some of these landfills are massive (Rio closed the world's largest open landfill last year).

Plastic bottles.

We wanted to understand what working on the streets is like for Sao Paulo's poor and to also better understand if and how people are able to make a living from collecting waste.

Our friend Miranda kindly organised a meeting with the Pinheiros Collective, a small group of waste pickers that had a work space near where we were staying.

The Pinheiros Collective was formed by a small group of waste pickers who at the time were either living on the streets or in shared lodgings. Using carts that they pulled by hand, they would walk the streets at night, collecting trash that had been put on the streets by businesses and households. The trash would then be picked through to determine what was valuable and could be onsold.

In effect, the waste pickers provide an informal trash collection and recycling service. They make money by selling materials such as copper, aluminium cans, paper and plastic bottles to companies that can reuse them. We saw that in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo they contributed to improved environmental sanitation by removing waste from urban areas unserved by municipal garbage collection.

After a chance community event, six waste pickers were inspired to combine their efforts and form a collective. Through a bit of lobbying they secured some council land and by pooling their resources, over time they saved enough money to purchase vehicles to collect rubbish.

The co-op now employs 21 staff. It has successfully sought registration with the government and has been awarded small grants from banks. Working conditions have steadily improved. The staff now use a compactor to compress materials into sellable bricks, where before they had to do it by hand. Work hours are now during the day thanks to the vehicles and a kitchen has been built to serve lunches for the staff.

Compacting equipment.

The impact on their quality of life is impressive. The members of the collective are now earning twice the minimum wage, around USD700 a month, enough to feed a family. They have all moved off the streets and are pooling funding to build humble apartments for their families. Fees are also collected from each member to provide accident/health insurance.

It is not all milk and honey though. Their work place is located under a bridge, which periodically floods and hosts a swarm of mosquitoes. The staff complain of a lingering prejudice against waste pickers and shared stories of bullying from the police. The collective is pushing to be recognised as a legitimate workforce that provides a valuable sevice but struggles to engage with the government.

The Pinheiros Collective is a good case study as it reflects similar group actions taking place across Brazil. Waste pickers are evolving into a politically mobilised and networked labour force. They have a national body that organises events to share success stories and lobby government to recognise their services and remove the social stigma that many waste pickers face.

The collective is an active member of the national catadore network.

It is inspiring stuff. Hope you enjoyed this post. We really appreciated the time given to us by the staff and enjoyed being able to share such a positive story. We think its an interesting model for service provision in poor communities, easily replicated with a bit of support. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you would like to learn more about waste pickers we recommend the following as a starting point:

Don't Waste People, a documentary by Julia Waterhouse (forthcoming)

Women in Informal Employment: Globalising and Organising, Waste Pickers

Many thanks to Miranda for her patient translation and shared interest in our slightly unusual idea. We couldn't have managed it without you!

Thanks for reading.

A bit of street art helps lend some humour.