Well this is my second missive from the North albeit chronologically challenged … tings are quite good the weather totally changed and the off-track  pousada (Pousada dos Ventos ) is actually quite beautiful with a garden stuffed with a shedload of assorted art and plants. Leaving Rio in a heatwave of 28C we arrived in João de Pessoa to be greeted by continual rain with a scene that resembled an English summer’s day … an inauspicious start. However the next day the sun rose early and we had a week of perfect weather.

Aeroporto Joao de Pessoa

Now where did I park mah traktor ?

Conde linda (nice)

Conde is a coastal region (county) about three hours flight north of Rio, in the state of Paraiba. Originally settled by the Dutch under the name Mauricéia, it was renamed Conde when conquered by the Portuguese. The capital is João de Pessoa named after the Governor who was assassinated in 1930; this lead to Vargas gaining the presidency a few months later. Conde with a small population of about twenty-three thousand, is largely  undeveloped and resembles what Florianopolis must have been like fifty years ago; being the north-east it has a predominantly black population, and is visibly poor; though there are no favelas there are plenty of shanties scattered along the potholed highways.

Race the final front(eir)

A question that often arises about Brazil is that of Racism. With the levels and endurance of slavery it would be highly unrealistic to expect Brazil to be immune from the spectre of Racism especially as the country is still controlled by a small number of (white) Portuguese families. Indeed, I would add that the darker your skin the more likely you are to lack formal education, and be poor (it is still 

Carnaval 2012

  not uncommon to start work at 10 years of age).

However particularly with the predominance of mixed blood and the northern Afro-Brazilian culture, Brazilians wear their racial origin quite lightly often describing themselves by their skin colour, rather than their racial origin (few Brazilians identify themselves in polling as black). Another factor is that the predominance of Afro-Brazilian culture means that you never feel yourself  to be an other contrasting sharply with Europe; being black you resemble much of the population, confirmed by the oft-repeated phraseyou can pass for Brazilian”. So my mantra is yes there’s obvious economic Racism in Brazil and blacks are totally unrepresented in certain fields such as media, but I’m far less aware of social Racism compared to Europe and the contribution of Afro-Brazilian culture is integral to the Brazilian psyche. Additionally Afro-Brazilian culture is a traditional culture that is valued and respected culminating every year in a Carnival that generates millions of Reals for the economy; real diversity real inclusion. So whilst there is demonstrable discrimination (we remain a millennium away from a black president), you won’t find the vicious racial hatred of the US and Europe in Brazil or political cul de sacs such as UKIP ( the South notwithstanding).

Disability

On the other hand if you are disabled in Brazil, you have a pretty rough time of it say compared to Britain or the US. Despite Mayor Paes’ protestations, Rio remains a nightmare for the disabled. The pavements are literally a foot tall with very few ramps. The streets themselves have enough

Rio pavement

Downtown cobblers

 furniture to fill several IKEAs, as there is a vendor on literally every street corner. Additionally the cute little mosaic (pedras portuguesas) pavements and widespread use of cobbles (paralelepipedo) often in a state of disrepair make  it a nightmare to traverse when abled bodied, let alone in a wheelchair. In addition GPS apps like Future Cities ( the  Sat. Nav. for the disabled) must seem like a parallel universe in a country that has only sixty guide dogs to service a blind population of 1.4 million. You seldom see unaccompanied wheelchair users and I have yet to see anyone try to board a bus with a wheelchair (negotiating a bus is difficult even  if you’re abled bodied 

Bus lift

Bus Lift : NEVER USED IN ANGER

with a rucksack) . The Metro allegedly has support (o atendimento) for the disabled, but the elevators often are locked & I was amazed that the wheelchair gate in Largo do Machado is permanently padlocked without an attendant in sight.
Furthermore, the booking offices are often inaccessible; without the help of fellow Cariocas a wheelchair user would find it impossible to access the main tourist sites such as Pão do Açucar, Santa Teresa, or indeed Copacabana.
Despite Brazil’s 2015 accessibility law (Lei 12.333) the infrastructure of Rio transport remains firmly rooted to the last millennium. Brazil needs to spend a significant amount of its budget on creating a disabled infrastructure that is at the moment a total embarrassment.

Wheel chair in Metro

Metro Wheelie?

Blind in Centro Rio

Danca dos cegos; the blind leading the ?

In da noughty noughty nude
Despite the humble nude being as integral to Art as the portrait (or the bloody selfie) since time immemorial (Adam & Eve), Nudity remains a major controversy in Brazil with its inextricable linkage to sex and our embarrassment around that whole area.

Indian King from Voyage Pittoresque by Maurice Rugendas

Similar to the European breastfeeding controversy we seem to have totally confused a basic functional aspect of humanity. However, the Brazilians have an ambivalence to female nudity; the tropical climate precursoring the daily display of increasingly vast expanses of flesh; the fio dental cossie has become de-rigeur to the Brazilian beach, no matter how unaesthetic or inappropriate it may be.
Every year the carnival is celebrated with the Rainhas centre stage, often literally wearing a coat of paint for a costume, as they samba down the Marquês de Sapucaí. For these reasons one presumes that Brazilians would have a more enlightened view of nudity, but in many ways this bacchanalian overture often conceals a schizophrenic attitude that is apparent in the approach to Naturism. Tambaba is one of only a few designated naturist beaches, though unescorted males are excluded from this northern garden of Eden. Presumably a gay couple would be fine, but again the main reason for this restriction is the all too predictable predatory macho male behaviour that persistently raises its ugly head on naturist beaches. I’m old enough to appreciate that you have to be rather insouciant about these primal urges, but there comes a point where rules have to be laid down or things become a bit unwholesomely indiscreet; dogs could be forced to hide!

Running on nua

Tambaba runs south until Rio Grau, which forms a natural end point, and features some planet of the Apes style cliff scenery. I used this area for my daily run, and was confronted a couple of times by shall we say fools who obviously resented my nude incursions. I brushed this off with a are you the nude police ? comment, but it seems that narrow minds aren’t the total reserve of Europeans; On reaching Rio Grau on the Bank Holiday I experienced a chorus of derisive  hoots from the other side of the river . I would hope my unexpected audience were hooting in a fairly good natured fashion, compared to the intolerant idiots I had previously encountered. There are obviously much more offensive things in the world than nudity or breastfeeding, such as ignorance.

Tambaba beach

Tambaba

The region of Conde is home to about seven picture postcard beaches (considered some of the best in Brazil) that stretch for more than twenty kilometres. running from Gramame in the North to the naturist Tambaba in the South. The first day we went to Tambaba the naturist beach but the second day we went to the next beach up Coqueirinho driven by our driver to the falésias (cliffs); Apart from the falésias there’s the bog standard beachfront restaurant ( the bloody Canyon) and a steady flow of dune buggies that crawl all over the various beaches, usually filled with inappropriately fio-dentalled tourists.

Bored with the typical Brazilian beach scene I ran (clothed) to explore further up the beach coming across some spectacular coastline and the far more interesting Art Bar in Praia Tabatinga ; the menu featured Goat (Cabrita), a meat that is rare in the more European South. Disappointedly the food didn’t match the decor as the goat was not properly cooked; another brick at Brazilian cuisinal practice.

Ganga nua

We went back to Tambaba for the weekend as they were hosting the 8th Brazilian Nude surfing championship; They held a Reggae (ganga) party on the Saturday; we felt slight wallflowers as everyone seem to know each other (cliquey) and as is the norm the sound levels were off the scale making communication impossible.


The restaurant Bilous transformed into a disco for the night ; it was rammed, taking an age to get served some pretty ropey beer. However, the large band led by Wagner Oliveira put on a passable performance of Brazilian Reggae. An obviously very close knit group, we left pretty early as they continued on into the early hours. The next day( Sunday) we were tipped off about the five o’clock inauguration of Fred Svendsen’s sculpture accompanied by cakes, and the cute lickle monkeys. We also were introduced to 12-year-old Reginaldo da Silva Filho aka Guinho who apparently came all the way from Joao de Pessoa for the competition.

champione surfe nua 2015 : Reginaldo da Silva Filho

The Great Wave : El Guinho

Apparently he has been practicing since he was five and shyly posed with his prize a board that was bigger than him! During the day However I vainly tried to capture some pictures of the kite surf, having to cope with the usual consternation a camera causes on a naturist beach: it’s only bloody art for god’s sake. In between shots I whipped into performing a Vinyasinha, and was very surprised to be approached and then accompanied by Rosana in a nude sun salutation … does it get much better than this? …Well yes we ended up at Tulipas restaurant where we had my best meal of the trip… a prawn/pineapple dish prepared by their Dutch chef/owner(André de Meer), who related the story that he had been robbed three times including the beach and whilst shopping for a pot in João de Pessoa at gunpoint in the shop? That kinda explained the presence of the Policia Militar on the beach. You’re never far away from the economic problems that riddle this paradise. Following the Tulips we went into Conde for some cans and came across a type of block which consisted of teenagers driving around or parked up with their music turned up to eleven. Curious way to spend an evening but it looked fun and cheap.

We only really explored the tip of the iceberg of Paraiba but I suspect I will be back, as being close to Natal the airfares from the UK are often at basement prices. The place is quiet compared to Rio/Florianopolis as the exploitation is still in its infancy. You really need a decent car as unlike Florida the distances are huge & there’s a lot to explore but mind those potholes!

Big up to Donna who should be safely ensconced on her spiritual enlightenment course in … Brasilia?