Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Boys From Brazil are Back

Chatting to the fishermen on Copacabana Beach, I see that they catch all kinds of fish that I cannot even put a name to - well with the exception of Espada (A.K.A Black Scabbard fish), which I've seen in Cape Verde and Madeira.

What puzzles me about the fort at Copacabana is that although its function was defense, somebody went to a lot of trouble to also make it decorative.

Even the soldiers bathroom has very ornate wroughtwork.

This photograph (below) reminds me of an old sea movie - I keep expecting Gregory Peck to appear in an 18th century captains uniform, clearing his throat, in a Hornblower-esque manner.

21st century Brazil has a number of technical refinements. The cycle station below allows you to phone a number on your mobile, in order to hire a bicycle.
The cost of the hire is charged to your mobile phone account and once the payment is cleared, the bike is remotely released from the rack, for you.

This display board tells you which sun factor suntan lotion you need to use on a given day for a particular skin colour.
It also tells you if it is safe to swim off the beach or not.

Tchau from Brazil.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Boys from Brazil

Regular readers of this blog will know that one of its features is that each seemingly unconnected post has a gossamer thread linking each subject.

This year has been a busy year for travel and todays blog finds me in Brazil - Rio to be exact.

The photograph below shows Ponta de Arpoador - or Harpooner Point, in the background.
This is the piece of land jutting out into the sea, where the original Brazilian indians and Portuguese settlers used to harpoon whales who came too close to shore.

Beyond and hidden by the point, is the famous Ipanema Beach.

The next photograph (below) shows Copacabana Beach. Just above the line of luxury hotels on the beach is one of the many Favela's in Rio. These are basically, slum housing. Many these days are ruled by drug lords and are no-go areas for ordinary folk. Tourist companies make deals with the rulers of these mini-kingdoms and take in small buses of tourists, to see what life is like in the favela.

The BOPE or special police are high trained in urban warfare. I hear that there are plans to clear the favela's before the world cup comes to Brazil in 2014.

I saw one of these BOPE patrols next to us at traffic lights. They were driving a matt black 4x4 which reminded me of something out of the "Mad Max" movie.

The occupants were dressed in SWAT gear, wearing body armour and the muzzle of an automatic weapon was resting outwardly through the open front passenger window, with the barrel in the crook of the driving mirror.

Late at night, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between the sound of gunfire in the favela or the bangs of firecrackers, which denote the latest drugs delivery.

The photo below shows some of the guns on Copacabana Fort, which was built by the German arms company, Krupp, for the Brazilian Army in 1914.

The guns have mainly been fired to suppress or support internal uprisings.
In 1922, the fort was controlled by army rebels and fired at their own battleship, which returned fire and with 2 direct hits, forced the rebels to surrender. The largest guns have a range of some 14 miles.

Copacabana Beach is a beautiful beach of some 4Km in length. The sand is clean and fine. I was there in the southern hemisphere winter - the daytime temperature was about 28 Degrees C.
I'd hate to think how hot it gets in summer !!
This advertisement hoarding hosts a secret:
In the edge of the hoarding are green buttons. If you press them, a cool, hydrating water mist is emitted, which you can bathe in, to rejuvenate you after time spent in the hot sun.
At a distance, it seems quite weird to watch people standing, waving their hands around themselves as they bathe in the invisible mist.
On the left of the picture, you can just see the famous Pao de Acucar, or Sugar Loaf mountain.

One of the strange things about Rio, is the way that the ultra poor and super wealthy, mix.
Copacabana is not a particularly safe place, especially at night.
Walking the beach in daytime, will see you stopped by beach vendors trying to sell you drinks, t- shirts and so on.
Locals build sand sculptures and every photograph you take, will cost you.
It is recommended that you wear cheap beach wear and don't show watches or cameras.
I was advised to carry about 10 Brazilian Real (about £3). They said "if you get mugged, just give them the ten - don't refuse or give them nothing, as if you are unlucky, they will stab or shoot you without remorse".
Mugging seems to be readily accepted by the Brazilians as a kind of poor tax.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Getting Canned in Stavanger

Well, we eventually arrived at our destination, Stavanger.

Here we unloaded lots of specialist oil exploration equipment and very nice it was too.

Not a lot of people know this, but the man who invented the sardine can key came from Stavanger.

Once a principal fishing port, Stavanger conquered the world with its canned brisling - 50 million cans went out in one year alone, in its heyday.

We managed to eat brisling that had just been smoked. They put skewer like pieces of wood through the eye of the fish and hang them in wood smokers. Beautiful..

Stavanger was (and to some extent still is) the heart of the Norwegian shipping scene. This is a replication of a ship owners office from the early 20th century.

This is the "nosy mirror", allowing you to see what is going on in the street, without being observed yourself.

Old and new - a viking longship overtakes an oil rig undergoing repairs at the offshore base.

Our first sight of Norway - the Norwegian pilot trying to board us in a stiff breeze - sorry these aren't in a sensible order..
And so, this brings us to the end of the voyage.
I flew back to the UK from the modern Sola airport at Stavanger.
Where are we going next ? - no idea..

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The Boys Icelandic Road Trip

Is Iceland, Greenland, and vice versa ?

The islands were definitely wrongly named.

From my perspective, Greenland is icier and Iceland is greener - silly Vikings.

Well, we had a few technical problems on the trip back from Greenland and had to put into Iceland. The pale skinned trogs got busy in their boilersuits in their +40 Degree C engine room
and the bridge boys went on an Icelandic road trip.

Can't remember or pronounce where we went, but the views were breathtaking.

Exhibit A, m'lud is an example of a seriously breath sapping waterfall.

We exhausted all the geezer (geyser) jokes, but here is a shining sample of a diamond geezer.
They wheeze asthmatically and bubble like a pease pudding junkie in the bath (probably smell similar as well)..

and then they go - whoosh - sorry didn't get enough vertical zoom out on the top of this one.

This is the Strokkur geysir (no nudge nudge jokes please - the lads have done them all).
It erupts every ten minutes or so and shoots up to 90ft in the air.
It caught me out every time and the water feels like it comes from a kettle.
I touched the run off some way away and it was still so hot, I could only keep my finger immersed for a second or two.

This is why nobody wears whalebone corsets anymore - this is a creepy old Icelandic whaler.
You can't see it with your naked eye, but the funnel bears the motif of a blood stained whale - complete with red paint - urggh .. I can think of nicer things to show on a funnel.
Don't dress things up, these Icelanders.