Brazil and Life on the Road




  • Just moved (Last week) from being the 8th largest economy in the world to being the 7th. (Its also the 5th largest country in the world both by geographical size and population)
  • Brazil borders 10 of the 12 other countries in South America
  • 25% of the population is below the poverty line (compared to USA- 14%, Bolivia- 30%)
  • Brazil has the worlds first sustainable biofuel economy.  In 1976 the government made in mandatory to blend tha gasoline with ethanol (at a 1 to 3 ratio) made from sugarcane.  Then, startign in 2000, every new car sold in Brazil has the capability to fun off pure Ethanol or Gasoline (That is still blended with ethanol).  Every gastation in Brazil has both Ethanol and Gasoline available and any car made since 2000 can mix these two fuels.  So if you have a half a tank of ethanol in your car one day and the next day the price of gasoline is cheaper you can fill the other half with gas and the car will run like normal.  Many cars have also been adapted ot run on natural gas which is available at about 1 in 4 gas stations.
  • Population 190,000,000


***Note: The costs in Brazil vary more dramatically than other countries in my experience depending on what region you are in and if you are in a major city or not.

  • Beer (1 Ltr.)- $2 US
  • Meal in cheap region- $2.50 Meal in bigger city- $4 (note, these prices are for the REAL cheapy dingy places/street food…places my brazilian friends said they would not go near…they thought I was crazy for eating at them.)
  • Hostel/Pousada in big city $18, in small town $9
  • Gallon of gas $5.55, (liter- $1.50)
  • 5 hour bus ride-  $42 (compared to 18$ in Argentina and $11 in Paraguay)

So, for those of you who missed any of the previous posts (you can alway scroll down to read them)…just a quick update.  I bought a VW Bus in Sao Paulo (named Coco) and was driving it all the way to the Amazon.  In the last post I had made it as far as Rio De Janiero where I met  up with Safira and we were about to head north in the direction of Salvador (We left Rio on January 26th…yea i know am a bit behind in the blog). I’m going to keep this post simple and just share a short narrative with you that I hope will give you a better feeling of what it was like to be traveling in and living in a Volkswagen bus in Brazil.  Sorry no new pictures uploaded on Flickr this time but I will be sending out a new post in a couple days with more stories and lots of pictures.


Every time I am woken up by the hands of the oppressive heat it’s a slow reluctant acceptance of the reality of the fact that your sleep time is over. Once you have awoken to discover the weight of humidity and heat that has burrowed into the van, making itself at home, you know that there is no returning to the land of sleep where heat and cold don’t exist, it’s time to get up and get moving.  Today was not so bad.  We had found a road off the main highway into a farmland, from there we took smaller dirt roads past fields, some plowed and unplanted, big chunks of chocolate earth waiting for water and life, others already full of endless rows of papaya trees, sugar cane, or coffee.  We had found a little space off one of these roads where we could back the bus up and not be in the way, it was ideal because there was a lime tree that was on our east side that would stave off the sun’s awakening and was surely to thank for an extra half hour of sleep.

I sit up and look around, feeling decently well rested compared to other nights that were spent in sleepless battles with mosquitoes.  I look around the bus for a bottle of water but don’t see it.  We were running low on water having used most of it the night before to cook our soup.  There are a few blood stains on the white interior walls of the van, remnants of that nights battle with mosquitoes that had infiltrated our makeshift nets meant to let air pass through the van.  The blood is still bright red, probably mine.  A perfect match with the bump that I am scratching now near my big tow.  The bastard.  A good night’s sleep on the road is measured in how many times you awaken to hear a mosquito in your ear and how many time you are able to successfully ignore it vs. the times you are flung into a rage of battle mode, ready to splatter the mosquito and its bloody prize across the white canvas of the inside of the van like a strange work of modern art.

One of my travel companions is gone.  The life of her dream state cut short by the heat she must have woken up and gone for a walk.  The other is snoring quietly in the front seat; the hand of the heat touches everyone at different hours of the morning.  I open the side doors to the van and relish the cool fresh air that greets me, air that no one else would ever describe as cool and fresh but to someone who just woke up in a Volkswagen heatbox its like jumping into a swimming pool.  I jump out of the van and walk barefoot across the dirt road to urinate in the plowed field.  I notice the dirt stuck to to my feet, your feet are like the barometer of cleanliness.  Aside from swimming in some local rivers and some jumps into the ocean, the closest thing to a shower I have had in the last 5 days is washing my hands and face with soap in a gas station or two.  But those who say that cleanliness is happiness have never lived this way.  Memories of wild dives into Brazilian jungle rivers and jumping over tropical ocean waves, that’s happiness.  But its not only happiness, its feeling alive.  Those people can have their cleanliness.   Right now I’m not thinking about when ill finally get to shower but about what river we will cross today, what remote beach we will stumble upon, waiting for our arrival with open arms of golden sand and fish cooked over a fire by the guy who just brought it in on his 10 foot boat earlier that morning, devouring it in the shade of a palm tree along with the juice from a lime and the best mango you have ever eaten in your life.  Ill shower when we reach Salvador in a few days.

I turn around to look at Coco, my van, admiring her in the early morning light.  It’s always a great pleasure to wake up and see our campsite in the first light of the morning, to see our surroundings in a new light.  Im hungry.  I always seem to be hungry, surprisingly since I don’t think I’m expending much energy these days, mostly spent behind the wheel.  Breakfast is always the same and never gets old.  Come to think about lunch and dinner rarely waver either.   For breakfast its a bowl of granola and oats and sliced banana with some powdered milk and whatever warm water we have around poured on top.  This is usually followed by whatever other fruit we have laying around, almost always mango.  Its mango season here and its no secret.  Mangos are everywhere.  Driving along the highway and through small towns you see mango trees with branches sagging to the ground laden with thousands of mangos.  If you dont feel like jumping out to pick some off the ground there is almost always some little girl sitting in on the side of the road at a little wooden table with a few buckets of mangos for sale.  A bucket of about 12 mangoes might set you back 2 Reals (about $1.20).  If nothing else its worth it just to see the smile come across the little girls face when she makes a sale.

For lunch its always sandwiches.  We buy supplies…bread, cheese, ham, cucumber, tomato, and butter and someone makes sandwiches while I drive.  For dinner its vegetable soup (couple bullion cubes, vegetables, and rice or trigo), or pasta.  Like anything you eat when you are on an adventure, it always tastes great…no matter how simple it is.

So I wander back to the car and prepare some granola and eat it.  I look in our fruit box to see what else we have.  Mangoes of course, bananas, and some pineapple we bought on the side of the road the day before.  I grab a mango and dig in, juice dripping down my chin onto the floor of the bus.  I find a bottle of water but its not potable, we had just filled it up from the sink of a gas station.  I try and clean up my sticky hands so I can brush my teeth and try to get these damn mango fibers that are always and forever stuck between my teeth.

I look at the sky…there’s a few clouds.  Would be great if they hung around for a while.  Of course Coco has no air conditioning and driving in 90 degree (32 C) heat with tropical humidity can test your patience.  I had to hang a towel on the back of the driver seat to absorb all the sweat.

I look around our little campsite and throw some dirt over the remnants of the small campfire that we cooked our soup over the night before. I find the pot charred with ash on the outside and gather up the other dirty bowls and spoons.  We’ll wash them in the ocean later.  I lay down again on the bench in the back of the bus with the map in hand.  Silvina, the Swiss girl we met at a hippie gathering a few days earlier who decided to join our crew is still snoring in the front seat.  I marvel with jealousy at how she could possibly still be sleeping with this heat.  Then I open the map.  Where should we go today?


4 thoughts on “Brazil and Life on the Road

  1. thanks for the up date , stay safe , have a good time ( how is the wine ?? )

    bill palmer
    las vegas nv.

  2. take care of yourself Jordan You do know that mosquito bites are not always harmless Sounds like you are having a great time, enjoy yourself!

  3. Very interesting, just read about your travelling in Brazil at Folha de São Paulo newspaper May 1st.
    Hope to have time to read all your adventures…

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