Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tropic of Capricorn Part 4

As soon as we leave Paraguay, we enter an area generally called the Brazilian Highland. Funnily enough, despite its vast size and neighboring Bolivia and Argentina and every country in Latin America except Chile and Ecuador, Brazil doesn’t have any high mountains and the highland ranges rarely exceed that of 1000 m. So in terms of climbing I never did find Brazil exciting though in terms of natural diversities and people it’s a wonderful place. I have few very good Brazilian climbing friends. We first go through Parana province that is a major agriculture area of Brazil. We can make a short day / night halt at Londrina thereafter. Actually the route along TOCAP through Brazil is rather boring and flat till we hit Sao Paulo and that’s we are headed exactly.

Soon enough we enter the great metropolis of Sao Paulo. This is not only the largest city in all of South America but is also the largest city in the world that falls exactly on TOCAP. My friends Paulo and Helena live here. Paulo is a nuclear scientist while Helena is a mountain guide. Both are fantastic people and damn good climbers. We have been together on Everest and several other peaks across the world, so obviously a stop at their place. This place is too crowded for my taste, though people from world over flock here for fun, hot girls and salsa and capoeira. What I like to do most here is a walk up the rock cliffs and little hills dotting the sea shore and climb up to the famous statue of Christ with his hands spread into the sky as if he was about to fly. This is a very lively city with people constantly on a feast of something or the other. It’s full of dance, music, good food and all night partying. People are really happy and friendly to outsiders. After Sao Paulo we can take a detour up north and also visit Rio De Janeiro.

Rio, as it is commonly called is known all over the world for its four day carnival where scantily clad women gyrate whatever they can and are worth all through day and night. Despite over hyped and populated the beaches of Rio are really beautiful and lovely as they stretch out for mile after mile along the blue Atlantic. Perhaps it is also the best place to watch the finest women bodies in the most diverse and delectable bikinis, swimwear, and thongs. They even have something like voyeur tourism where tourists sit on the beaches all day just to watch the women. And the women don’t mind all the ogling at all. You can look at a man or a woman through binoculars and telescope if you like or take pictures and no one minds anything at all. The city has great museums, art galleries, lanes and amazing Portuguese churches. Things are cheap and again the people are way too friendly.

So we return after all our merry making and tanning on the beach and again take to the sea from a place called Ubatuba. I have no idea what it means but it sure is funny. Now we are in the South Atlantic. The way ahead is perilous and as devoid of any other human company. We have a continuous stretch of 6100 km till we hit the dreaded Skeleton coast of Namibia in Africa. We may as well take more than a month to cover this enormous distance in our sailing boat. South Atlantic is not known for its good weather so be ready for storms and cyclones and now we need to brush up our skills like how to bail out water and carry out hull repairs and also how to run the bilge pump manually if the motor fails. And as we would be sailing eastwards now, every day, the sun would be rising earlier than the day before. We would begin to observe and understand many geographical phenomenon that happen solely due to the Earth’s spherical shape.

Our boat would be heavily laden at the beginning since we would have stocked up at Sao Paulo. So tropical fruits and salads would be our favored meal perhaps with desserts before and after every meal. There’s a good chance that we would be caught in a TRS (Tropical Revolving Storm) during this part of our voyage and we would get to experience one of the most dreaded natural marine disasters possible. But fret not, I know all about how to navigate outside the eye and the circle. Though we could end up suffering severe battering and damage to our boat but I am sure we will manage to come out of it alive.

What lies when we touch ground is equally challenging and perilous. The skeleton coast of the Namibian desert that we begin to sight now is one of the most dangerous places on earth. Though now it has a road running all through, many die simply due to thirst and hunger since nothing grows there, and hence the name. Recently a friend of mine did the skeleton coast walk and the entire team got nearly wiped out despite modern modes of communication and all safety backups, that’s how dangerous the desert is. I actually have no idea how to cross this desert since I have never done it myself and hence a detour to the Namibian capital city of Windhoek seems to be in order. The best bet would seem to hire a 4 X 4 Landcruiser and simply bulldoze our way through the desert. But for the desert I would have preferred to walk it through but no ways would I do it through this desert. As we drive along TOCAP, expect to see many rock formations and countless sand dunes that are beautiful and ever shifting and shimmering like gold. Now something really interesting; Namibian desert is also a rich source of diamonds and precious minerals and other gems. So there is an outside chance of our finding diamonds on our way. Many diamond seekers have given up their lives here too.

As we exit Namibia, we land up in another hell hole of the world – the great Kalahari Desert of Botswana. Now let’s take a pause before we go further. I can’t take this heat any more.

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