Bananal: São Paulo’s most influential 19th Century City

Bem vindo em Bananal – Welcome to Bananal

Bananal started In 1783, when a small chapel was erected in the rough lands along the Bananal River in the old Captaincy of São Paulo. It became one of the richest and most influential cities of the region during the 19th century “coffee cycle”.

The valley of the Paraíba River has always been one of the main travel routes in Colonial Brazil, for the transport of gold and diamonds from the mines in Minas Gerais to the port town of Paraty, from where everything was shipped to Rio de Janeiro and further to Portugal. Towards the end of the 17th century, small villages emerged all along this gold and diamond route, providing lodging for travelers and drovers.

In 1708, a new route, that connected the mines in Minas Gerais directly to Rio de Janeiro, was opened. This new road (known as “caminho novo”) was not only less precarious, but also reduced the travel time to Rio de Janeiro from three months, to only one month. Because of the opening of this new road, the small villages in the Paraíba Valley lost their reason of existence and almost disappeared, but thanks to the cattle trade, coming from Rio Grande do Sul, to supply the mining region, the valley again became an obligatory passage.

In 1770, the road connecting Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo was completed, and to populate the region along this road, Sesmarias (grants) were given to people who were engaged in the construction of the road. This is how a man called Joao Barbosa Camargo and his wife, became the owners of the Sesmaria of the Bananal River, and the city of Bananal was born.

One of Bnanal’s most important townhouses – former city getaway of one of the rich 19th century Coffee Barons

During the first decades, the agricultural activity in the region was predominantly subsistence farming (Growth of crops only for consumption by the farm family), but the situation started to change with the arrival of the coffee culture, with its much bigger farms, fuelled by slave labor.The name Bananal is believed to be derived from the indigenous word “Banani” which means “with lots of curves” referring to how the Bananal River makes its way across the landscape. Another explanation of the name refers to the many banana plantations that existed in the region.

The profits from the coffee trade were used to buy more slaves and expand the farms up to the point that the fazenda homes had become large estates surrounded by workshops, senzala’s (slave quarters) and a coffee terrace (large open space to dry the coffee).

Around 1840, Bananal had become the second largest coffee producer in the province of São Paulo and a lot of the richest farmers of the Paraíba valley were concentrated in the region around the city. These farmers began to refine their way of life and the fazenda’s main houses were transformed into palaces, decorated with imported furniture and frescoes of European painters on the walls. They also started to use slaves in domestic service.

one of the top attractions in Bananal: the metal train station, imported from Belgium as a sort of building package, which was very revolutionary in that time.

The “coffee barons” of Bananal formed the elite of the Empire, and with their money deposited in banks in London, they extended loans to the emperor to finance the war in Paraguay. They also financed the construction of a railway that passed through most of the fazendas and went all the way to Barra Mansa in the Province of Rio de Janeiro.Since 1822, Brazil was no longer a colony of Portugal, and the influence of the presence of the emperor in Rio de Janeiro made that the farmers, who were also given noble titles, started to adopt the way of life of the French court. They erected luxurious houses in the city to spend time during festivities or between harvests. At one point, Bananal even had two orchestras, consisting of slaves, specialized in European opera music.

For some time, the city had its own currency, and one of the most powerful landowners in the city, Vallim Manoel de Aguiar, had when he died in 1878, only in public debt bonds, almost 1% of all paper money issued in Brazil.

But the prosperity based on the “green gold” didn’t last very long. Towards the end of the 19th century, the land began to show signs of exhaustion and the opening of another railway (Santos-Jundiaí) facilitated the flow of products from further inland to the coast, allowing the expansion of coffee plantations in western Sao Paulo.

This is said to be one of the most beautiful architectural “ensembles” of Bananal, consisting of three early 19th century townhouses, facing Pedro Ramos square

In the 1950’s, the region suffered yet another setback: the construction of the “Via Dutra” highway from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. This new highway replaced and deactivated the old “Estrada dos tropeiros” passing through Bananal, Arreias, Silveiras and São José do Barreiro, which became almost like ghost towns. (According to the writer Monteiro Lobato, who lived in Areias and witnessed the decline of the region)The final blow came with the abolition of slavery in 1888. The children of the landowners could not keep the wealth inherited from their parents and pastures for cattle took the place of coffee. The power, influence and wealth of the families of Bananal and the rest of the valley, was forever lost and all that remains are memories of this glorious period.

Today, Bananal is becoming more and more a touristic hotspot, attracting tourists from all over the world, not only to learn about its history, whose testimonies are the beautiful townhouses in the city and the many preserved and restored coffee farms in the region, but also to enjoy the natural beauty of the Serra da Bocaina (Bocaina mountains), holding the largest Atlantic rainforest reserve of Brazil.

Brazilian sex motels – 10 things you should know.

A motel in Brazil is not quite the same as in, for example, the US. In Brazil, you go to a motel to have sex, or at least try…

When you come to Brazil, whether it’s on vacation, a business trip or other purposes, and no matter if you’re a man or a woman, there is always the possibility (chance, risk, call it what you want…) that you end up in a situation where you need a room for one, two or three hours. (for sex, what else? Nespresso? Yeah, right!)

So what do you do? If you’re in Rio de Janeiro, you might find a hotel that rents rooms by the hour, but a more obvious choice would be a motel, because that’s where people go to have sex around here.

OK, but how does it work? you might ask. Well, it’s really not that hard (which is not what I would want you to have to admit to the girl you just took there :)). Here are a few pointers for all you SINGLE, UNMARRIED people out there who are planning to come to Brazil at one point in their lives, with no intention whatsoever to cheat on their spouse or other people they have a relationship with.

Nothing better than to be informed, right?

  • Don’t pick a sex motel that looks cheap. If it looks cheap, it usually is, meaning that things might just not be as clean as you would like it. The more expensive ones usually are surprisingly clean. (see the links at the end of this post)
  • You don’t NEED to bring protection. It is usually available (sort of a room service thing.) at no extra charge. Of course this is for the normal stuff. you might find a kind of menu (like a mini bar list) where they offer various sex toys, gels and other stuff to “enhance the experience” and these, of course, are not free. I have serious doubts that any of those gels and oils really work, but that’s on a personal note.
  • Luxurious motel room

    Most sex motels will have different kinds of rooms or suites, from basic to luxurious. Obviously the luxurious ones will take a bigger bite out of your budget.

  • For reasons of discretion, every room should have a separate garage box,from where you have access to the room. Just park your car inside, lock the door and enter the room.
  • Once inside the room pick up the phone and let the receptionist know that you are going to use the room. You don’t have to dial any number. The connection is automatic. While one of you is on the phone, the other one can already activate the sauna or the Jacuzzi (never a dull moment  ). In case you can’t figure out how to operate these (or you have a hard time finding the porn channel on the TV), again, just pick up the phone and ask. That’s what the receptionist is there for.
  • After you did what you came to do (have sex, or just watch TV… right?), you once more pick up the phone and ask the receptionist to “fechar a conta” and someone will come to the room (very discretely. The person never enters the room) and receive your money. (yeah, I know, that phone is possibly the most important instrument in the room :))
  • Sometimes, paying with a card can be complicated because the wireless card reader doesn’t have a signal all the way to the room etc., so I strongly suggest that you have cash on you to pay the bill. You never know.
  • If you’re an adventurer and pick up someone from the sidewalk, make sure that your great looking woman isn’t a guy… Seriously… these guys are amazingly good at what they do.(dressing up as a woman)
  • Also make sure that your sex partner is of age. Unfortunately, many under-aged girls and boys are still forced to roam the streets of cities like Rio de Janeiro and sell their bodies to support their families or their own crack addiction. Please stay away as far as possible!!! If you get caught having sex with a minor in a motel, you will suffer dire consequences. You’ll end up in a Brazilian jail, which is already a frightening place, even known to be deadly for child molesters (most inmates have a woman, daughter or niece, so rapists and child molesters are very unpopular in there), and almost certainly your face will be shown on national TV as well.
  • If you come to Brazil as a couple though, I think it could be a great and fun idea, as well as an offbeat experience to try out a few of these motels. No kidding, it could give your sex life a boost.
Another way motels come in handy, is when you find yourself in a place you don’t know and you’re unable to find a pousada or hotel right away. A motel is safe, not too expensive AND has a private and closed parking. Especially when you’re traveling on a motorcycle, this can be a lifesaver. Only downside: sometimes, the neighbors keep you awake, but then there’s always the porn channel on TV.
Check out the websites of these three classy sex motels in Rio de Janeiro.
  • VIP’S Suites – Leblon – Rio de Janeiro
  • Motel Skorpios – Barra de Tijuca – Rio de Janeiro
  • Motel Hawaii – Barra da Tijuca – Rio de Janeiro
For addresses and  other information of the better motels all over Brazil: Click Here
Here’s another great post about “casual sex in Brazil” by Robert Shrader (@leavyrdailyhell)

Hope this was useful, or at least entertaining.

What about you? Did you ever end up in a Brazilian sex motel? Leave a comment and let me know… 

Brazil: 30 stunning pictures from two years of travel

I have been traveling across Brazil since January 2009 and have taken thousands of photos. Some of them better than others of course. It was a tough process, but here is the selection of my 30 most stunning pictures of Brazil.(so far)

Secluded beach and blue water near Arraial do Cabo – Rio de Janeiro

Late afternoon on a beach near Cabo Frio – Rio de Janeiro

Steep cliffs at the costa das Baleias – South Bahia – Brazil

Sunset over the Rio Parana – Mato Grosso do Sul

Overlooking the Serra dos Órgãos – Rio de Janeiro State

Fishing boats on the beach near Arraial do Cabo – Rio de Janeiro.

Pedra do Roncador – Rio de Janeiro

Lopes Mendez beach on Ilha Grande (favorite beach of Ayrton Senna)- Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro after sunset, seen from Suga Loaf

View over Rio de Janeiro (by day) from Sugarloaf mountain The first beach is Praia Vermelha… in the background to the left: Copacabana Ipanema and Leblon.

Sunset in Piçinguaba – São Paulo

Sun setting at Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas – Rio de Janeiro

Morning mist in the serra da Mantiqueira near Caxambu – Minas Gerais

Pedra Azul – Espirito Santo – Brazil

Deserted beach – South Bahia

Sunset over Monte Pascoal – Famous landmark – Bahia

Dirt Road in South Bahia

Dirt road in the Chapada Diamantina – Bahia

Dirt road near Pedra Azul – Minas Gerais

Diamatina city center – Minas Gerais

The rugged landscape of the Estrada Real – Minas Gerais – Brazil

Spactacular!! Iguassu falls – Parana

The biggest man made forest and second biggest urban forest in the world: Tijuca – Rio de Janeiro

Beach near Trindade- Rio de Janeiro

Morning mist near Nova Friburgo – Rio de Janeiro

Rocinha, biggest favela in South America – Rio de Janeiro

Climbing up to Christ the Redeemer -Rio de Janeiro

Ititiaia National Park – Rio de Janeiro

Serra do Rio do Rastro in Santa Catarina – South of Brazil

I hope you enjoyed these pictures… Please scroll down and leave a comment to let me know which photo you liked the most.

Motorcycles and me – a never ending love story

The kind of bike my uncle used to have and where I had my very first rides on as a kid.

My love for motorcycles started way back when I was a little boy and all in awe about my uncle’s old Flandria. During the school holidays, I used to spend a lot of time at my grandmother’s house, and stood by and watched my mom’s little brother (my uncle) tinkering with the engine, or just cleaning it.

A few times he took me along for a little spin, and I remember feeling completely exited and overwhelmed by the power of the 50cc engine. Of course, I was very small and a 50cc for me was huge…

Close to my grandma’s house was a motocross track, and every year around Easter there was an important world-champion race, that lasted an entire weekend. I remember watching the riders doing their training sessions from my grandmother’s house with binoculars during the week, and on saturday and sunday, nobody could keep me away from that track.

The Belgian motocrossers have dominated the sport for decades, and for me, going to those events was kind of like a Rolling stones concert with the Beatles as opener. All the world’s best riders were present and gave it all they had. Names like Joël Robert, Roger de Coster, Sylvain Geboers (father of Eric Geboers), Harry Everts (father of Stefan Everts) are probably no longer in people’s memories, but for me, these guys were gods, and in my dreams I was riding like them… Those were good times actually.

My first bike was one like this, only, mine was grey: a Yamaha RD 50cc

This bike was pretty famous amongst my generation as one of the best bikes to “tune” (basically: make it go faster) and instead of the limited 40 km/h my RD was able to do speeds up to 110 km/h (downhill and down wind of course).During my teen years I continued to be fascinated by Motorcycles, anxiously awaiting the moment when I would turn sixteen so I could finally get a bike of my own. When the big moment arrived, I had saved up some money from a few student jobs I did, and bought a used Yamaha RD 50cc from a friend.

Eventually, I ended up having an accident with it and I didn’t have any money to repair it, so I sold it.

Not very long after the accident with the RD,  I turned 18, old enough to buy a real motorcycle, but my parents were against it, the accident in mind, and talked me into buying a car instead, which would be safer. So… At 18 I had a car instead of a motorcycle, but I noticed that a car had a few advantages that were quite important for me at that point in my life:

  1. My first REAL motorcycle: the Suzuki Marauder 800cc

    At 19, I met the girl who would become my wife, and she had a problem with motorcycles, to put it mildly… actually she downright HATED them and everything connected to them… To her, everyone riding a bike was a pig. No more, no less…end of story. was learning to play the guitar and dragged it along with me everywhere I went, and with a car, that was a lot easier – and safer – than on a bike. I had already destroyed one guitar in the previously mentioned accident, and wasn’t looking forward to go through that again…

  2. With a car, you could give friends (read “girls”) a ride to the parties, and my Citroën Diane was very popular I must say…
  3. A car was drier and warmer than a motorcycle (ok, this is a weak one)

So out of love I had to get to terms with the idea that riding a motorcycle would be something I could only dream about for the rest of my life.

My Suzuki Bandit 1200cc… I got a good deal on it because nobody seemed to like the color…

All those years I had kept my secret desire to buy a motorcycle carefully tucked away, but when I got single again, there was no one to tell me what to do (or not to do) anymore, and it didn’t take longer than ten days before I had my first real motorcycle on my driveway: a secondhand Suzuki Marauder 800.So then you get married, and you have kids (two of them) and a career (only one), and before you know it, you’re twenty years further … and divorced.

I had a lot of fun with it. I took it to the south of France and back, blew up the engine, had two accidents (both times a car coming out of a street without looking) and that was the end of the Marauder…

Time for a change, and the shop owner where I bought the Marauder had already told me that if I wanted to travel some more, I would be better off with a heavier bike, like the Suzuki Bandit 1200 and since he made me a good deal on a brand new one in his showroom, I was easily persuaded.

I took the Bandit across most of Europe, once doing 8000 km in three weeks, and after 1,5 years I had done 40.000 km.

Me and my Honda CB1300… A real beast.

I knew that in Brazil, I would need a bike that could handle both on and off-road riding, and back in Belgium I had already made up my mind that I would go for a KTM 650 or 990 Adventure, but once in Brazil, I found out that the KTM’s were extremely expensive and there was no dealership in Volta Redonda.It was around that time that I had my eye on a very beautiful Honda CB 1300 that the bike shop had in the window for quite some time. I had told the shop owner once: “don’t sell this one, after I worn out the Bandit, I’m going to buy it”. Sure enough, I ended up getting my third bike in 4 years…Untill I moved to Brazil.

After some research I learned that the best (price – quality) dual sport bike available in Brazil at the time, was the Yamaha XT660R. The Yamaha dealership in Volta Redonda also gave me a very good impression and so I decided to buy the XT660R. I would rather have bought a Teneré, If they would have been available, but that wasn’t the case.

My bike of choice for the Brazilian roads: the Yamaha XT660R. The Teneré would be even better, but not available in Brazil

Most adventure riders will tell you that on a motorcycle road trip, it is all about the freedom, the independency, the feeling of being more in touch with your surroundings.I rode tens of thousands of kilometers with the XT660R and took it into pretty rough terrain and it turns out to be a great bike. Perfect to go and explore a country like Brazil, where road conditions often make it necessary to have a bike capable of more than just smooth asphalt.

Fact is, on a motorcycle, even the most regular trip can turn into an adventure.

A motorcycle also makes it easy to meet people. Especially in Brazil, I have people (not only fellow motorcyclists) come up and talk to me all the time, asking about the bike, where I come from, where I’m going and I usually end up getting lots of great information about the region I’m traveling through.

For me, a motorcycle is by far the best way to discover a country like Brazil (or any other country), and I will probably be riding as long as my health allows me to…

Do you play Sinuka? or Pingie-Pongie? – Brazilians say the funniest things

I remember walking downtown with Fernanda and seeing a sign saying “SINUKA BAR”. When I asked her what this meant, she was surprised that I didn’t know

Signs like this one are very common. People don’t really care a lot about the correct spelling of what they put out on the street… “Bancon” should be “Bacon” and “Ergues” should be “Eggs” the correct spelling of “mixed” is “misto”

What people were saying sounded nothing like the online course, where you hear the native speakers talk slowly and with a lot of articulation. Now I was thrown into the deep end and I felt I was drowning in the ocean of words and sounds around me…When I arrived in brazil in january 2009, one of the first on my to-do list was to start learning Portuguese. I had taken some online lessons, but of course that was nowhere near enough, so my first three months in Brazil were seriously frustrating, because I couldn’t understand almost anything.

After a while I started to understand a few basic things here and there, and I started noticing that it was kind of funny the way some foreign (mostly English)  words are pronounced by the Brazilian people. 

For example, it is very hard for most people here to pronounce a word with a closed end. Like the word “DOG”. Usually, it would sound more like “Doggie”… The word “HOT” would sound something like “Chotchie”. An “H” at the beginning of a word is not pronounced, and if it is, it sounds more like a soft “ch”. If you’re wondering why the “h” isn’t pronounced as “h”, well it’s because an “R” at the beginning of a word is pronounced as “H”… “Rio de Janeiro” sounds like “Hio d’Janeiro”.

Sayber Café – Cyber café… you figured that one out, right? Sometimes it is not so difficult.

It does become kind of confusing (and inconsistent) when you have words that actually HAVE a “ie” at the end. You would think these words would be pronounced correctly but noooo… Walkie-Talkie becomes “Wok-Tok”… Whisky becomes “Whisk”

Then there are the words that I would call “Brazilianized”. I remember walking downtown with Fernanda and seeing a sign saying “SINUKA BAR”. When I asked her what this meant, she was surprised that I didn’t know. It’s sinuka, she said… don’t you know sinuka?

Honestly, I was thinking that it was some kind of japanese food, but then she said that it was that game you play on a big heavy green table with colored balls and a stick, and then I knew. It was SNOOKER.

Which leads to that other linguistic hurdle for Portuguese speaking people: Words beginning with “sn”. There are no Portuguese words beginning with “sn”, only foreign ones. The way they pronounce it is like “sin”… the “oo” sound in portuguese is spelled as “u”, and the “ker” at the end becomes “ka”

The funniest example of how a word can get deformed, I heard in a chocolate boutique near Itacaré in Bahia. The lady at the counter, after learning that I was Belgian, proudly told me that they were using the famous Belgian “Callebaut” chocolate to make their bonbons, just that it took me a while before I knew which chocolate she was referring to, because it sounded like “Callibutchie”.

Gelo Gelado – Cold Ice (maybe they have warm ice too?)

Finally, if you walk into a snack bar (Lanchonete) you will notice that the name of some items on the menu begin with “X”… X-bacon, X-egg… Conveniently, the letter “X” is pronounced as “shees” (close enough to cheese, right? :)) so the snack bar industry can save some space on the menu by just putting “X” instead of “cheese”.

So here are my favourites:

  1. Snooker ==> Sinuka
  2. Hot-dog ==> Hotchie-Doggie
  3. Ping pong ==> Pingie-Pongie
  4. King kong ==> Kingie-Kongie
  5. Big bang ==> Biggie-bengie
  6. Bang-Bang (cowboy movie) ==> Bengie-Bengie (I guess you were able to figure this one out)
  7. Walkie-talkie ==> Wok-Tok. (when the “ie” is there, they don’t pronounce it)
  8. Whiskey ==> Whisk
  9. Hardware ==> arduaire (I know, but if you hear somebody actually say it, it makes more sense.)
  10. Callebaut (Belgian chocolate brand) ==> Callibutchie
  11. Ford ==> Fordgie
  12. Fiat (the car brand) ==> Fiatchie

Now that I think about it… I need to have somebody say “boogie-woogie”… I think that could end up being number 13

I’m sure these are just the tip of the iceberg… Feel free to comment with more examples.

10 tips for independent travelers in Brazil

Here are 10 things to keep in mind when you are planning to take a road trip in Brazil.

  •  Driver’s License: If you’re going to drive in Brazil, you need an international drivers license, or a translated and authorized copy of your local license. A translation is only valid for 6 months. If your international license doesn’t have Portuguese, it has to be translated too.
  • Use a SPOT tracking device : once outside an agglomeration, you can be almost certain that cellphone coverage is unavailable..
  • Learn Portuguese: Brazilians are very friendly, open and hospitable people. Being able to speak and understand at least basic Portuguese (preferably a little more than that), will bring great enhancement to your trip. Except in the big cities (Rio, São Paulo), you will NOT find people who speak anything else than Portuguese. Oh and when asking for directions, take anything the locals tell you with some grain of salt, especially when they tell you it’s “pertinho” (close). Everything is pertinho, but in reality it’s pretty far.Things are relative in Brazil, distance and time in the first place.
  • Be friendly and humble when you meet local (usually poor and simple) people. They will respect you for it.
  • Avoid the bigger roads. They are loaded with trucks. BIG ONES, up to 30m and 60 tons. These things are fast, loaded to the maximum (probably over capacity in some cases), loaded badly, causing them to tip over to one side and a lot of them drive dangerously. They will overtake at high speeds with poor or no visibility on oncoming traffic or block the entire road on ascents when they are supposed to keep to the right side…. As a general rule, it’s best not to assume that anyone (except you of course) is going to follow the rules.

    Avoiding the bigger roads…

  • DON’T drive after dark. It is dangerous because of the stuff you can encounter on the road. Farm animals, cars or trucks with no lights or no brakes. Driving at night will also make you miss out on a lot of great scenery…
  • Make sure you have enough cash with you. In some more remote places you cannot pay with cards. Also try not to carry big notes, because it could be a problem to change (troco). You don’t want to be forced to buy something you don’t want just because the shopkeeper doesn’t have change to a 100 R$ bill. Twenties and tens are best.
  • Carry different credit cards. Sometimes they accept only one kind (like VISA or MASTER). Also sometimes international cards are  not accepted.
  •  Start watching out for a gas station once your tank is below half, and preferably choose one of the big brands (BR, SHELL, TEXACO, ESSO…) . You never know when you’re going to find the next one. Once, I was forced to buy gasoline from a local, who had stored it in 2L plastic bottles in his garage. He charged me twice the normal price.
  • Hitchhikers : The safest thing to do is to NOT pick them up. Especially in poorer areas, LOTS of people are trying to get a free ride. I myself – trusting my gut feeling – picked up hitchhikers on 4 occasions. A little old man on a jungle road, An elderly woman on her way to her family, a worker on his way home, and another elderly lady with a little boy. All  these people were really nice and gave me good advice about the places that I was planning to go to. If you trust your gut feeling, go for it, if you don’t, better not pick up anybody.

Hope this was useful – All comments welcome.

[tfb username=’mototoursbrazil’ count=’true’ lang=’en’ theme=’light’

How I almost got shot in Rio de Janeiro

Santa Teresa – Rio de Janeiro

Obtaining a CPF number brought me to Bangu, one of the “hot”  neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro.

The CPF is like the SS number in the USand serves as a form of identification in Brazil. You will need it to get a cell phone number, rent a house, open a bank account or buy furniture, a car, motorcycle or other non edible stuff…

So what is that stuff about almost getting shot? Ok, here goes…

My consultant in Rio de Janeiro (Robson) knew a person of the Receita federal in Bangu, one of the neighborhoods in the western area of Rio de Janeiro. We would go there and do the application again, and this time, the procedure would go correctly.

View over Favela Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro

It was a 50 km drive from Copacabana to Bangu and we decided to take my car.

Since neither of us had been to Bangu before, I was using my GPS to guide us. you might have heard stories about people (tourists) getting in a heap of trouble after their GPS guided them in a very wrong part of Rio de Janeiro, and we were about to find out first hand things can go from bad to worse in a hurry…

Getting closer to Bangu, I noticed that Robson was getting a little nervous. He grew up in Rio, and even lived part of his life in a favela, and had already told me a few scary stories. When we entered a clearly poor part of Bangu, he got even more tense.

At one point – according to my GPS – we had to cross the street and enter in the street on the other side, so I checked my left and right for traffic and crossed. The second we entered the other street, Robson shouted: “STOP THE CAR! STOP, NOW!”

I stopped the car and looked at Robson, not knowing what was the problem and then he said: “THERE, THAT GUY OVER THERE” pointing at a guy sitting on a porch some 50m away. It was the type of guy you see in movies like “Cidade do Deus” or “Tropa de Elite”… a tall skinny black guy, dressed only in Bermuda and chinelo’s (beach slippers) and a baseball cap backwards on his head. Robson continued: “OMG, HE HAS A GUN. DON’T MOVE THE CAR, DON’T DO ANYTHING…

Ok, at that point I knew something pretty bad was happening. Looking through the windshield, I saw the guy getting up on his feet, holding a gun in his right hand. He started to walk in our direction, pointing the gun at us, meanwhile shouting like a madman. Robson was still saying to not move or he’ll kill us, but the only thing I wanted was OUT OF THERE. I put the car in reverse and took off.

Driving backwards, I had to pay attention not to run anybody over because the street was full of people. I managed to pull out of the street in reverse and take off in another direction. Knowing that the guy couldn’t follow us on foot, but thinking he could call other people, we kept going until we were out of reach…

The whole thing only took a few seconds, but during our escape I heard 6 or 7 shots. None of the shots hit the car – or us.

We will never know what would have happened if we would have stayed put, but it seems to me that this guy’s policy was: “shoot first and ask questions later”.

The important thing was that we got out in one piece and hopefully nobody else got hurt in the process.

Christ the Redeemer – seen from Rocinha – Rio de Janeiro

I am convinced that 99% of the people living in a favela are good, honest and hardworking people who happen to end up there because they are poor, undereducated and have nowhere else to go, but on the other hand, there is this tiny minority of ruthless gangsters, each reigning over their own little favela kingdom with an iron fist and an arsenal of weapons large enough to make any army general jealous.We were able to reach the receita federal office, where we had to wait in line for a while, which gave us some time to recover from the emotions, but this was a huge lesson in reality.

Yes, Brasil é Sensacional, but like any other country, it has its problems and some of them will need a lot more than Olympic games and a world cup to get resolved…

The process on how to get a CPF in Brazil is explained in more detail on this website.

UPDATE 17/10/2011

Today I saw on the news that a man got killed in Rio after taking a wrong exit and accidentally ending up in a favela. The only difference with my situation was that in my case there was only one guy with a pistol, while this man was surrounded by several criminals, armed with machine guns. I realize more and more how lucky I was that day in Bangu.

Driving in Brazil – Practical Survival Guide and Tips

Rio – Santos (BR101) near Angra dos Reis

Brazil is a huge and fantastic country, and one of the best ways to discover it is taking a car or motorcycle and hit the road. Here’s how to do it.

When you’re a European or US citizen, you will quickly notice a number of differences between what you’re used to, and the way people drive in Brazil.

In my opinion/experience, driving in Brazil can be divided into a number of different conditions :

  • big cities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
  • major highways.
  • smaller back roads.
  • tracks and dirt roads.

The “rules” (and I don’t mean “the law”) vary according to which of the above mentioned situations you’re in, but a few things are very general and apply almost everywhere:

1. who has the bigger vehicle, (thinks that he/she) has the upper hand.

2. Don’t expect people to stop and give way, even if you have priority (like on a roundabout).

3. Don’t expect people to use indicators when they are about to turn left or right.

4. Don’t be surprised to see cars and even trucks driving at night without lights.

Big cities – Traffic jams:

In the big cities, chances are that you will end up in a traffic jam. Rio de Janeiro but especially São Paulo are notorious for the hectic traffic.

The already complicated situation is often made worse by accidents, broken down vehicles or storms (flooding).

There are also hundreds of motorcycles (125 – 250cc) splitting lanes, frantically honking their horns often driving at considerable speeds. When you’re driving a car, ALWAYS check your mirrors before changing lanes.

Major highways in Brazil:

 

The BR116 between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. One of the best highways in brazil. Also one of the most expensive in terms of toll booths

Big highways in Brazil are usually in reasonably good condition (except in the north and north east – read more about this later). One of the best highways in Brazil (also the most expensive in terms of toll) is the BR116 (also referred to as “Dutra”) between Rio and São Paulo.Of all Brazilian states, São Paulo is the state with the densest and best road network. a quick glance at a road map of Brazil and you see this very easily.

Most toll roads – like the Dutra – are equipped with a well-functioning tow service . In case of an accident or engine problems, you will get towed to the next gas station (free of charge).

Condition of vehicles in Brazil

the condition of other vehicles on the road (cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles…) goes from excellent to literally falling apart… I’ve seen cars with doors missing, or parts being held together with a piece of rope. You also see lots of cars with completely bald tires. Some vehicles you see here wouldn’t last 10 minutes on the road in Europe.

I don’t want to scare anyone, because a road trip in Brazil can be an extremely rewarding experience. It’s just that with the right information, you can avoid bad situations or at least avoid getting frustrated by the undisciplined or even reckless behaviour of other road users.

Here are five practical hints and recommendations for anyone who wants to venture out on the road in this amazing country.

1. Road conditions and signalization in Brazil

General Situation: As in most countries, road conditions in Brazil can vary a great deal. As a general rule, the roads in the south and south-east regions are in much better shape than those up north.

When you cross the state border between Espirito Santo and Bahia, the BR101 suddenly changes from a double two lane highway with perfect asphalt into a secondary road with potholes and no hard shoulders. No better example of the economical differences between the South-east and the North-east of Brazil.

Independent from the location, heavy rains can wreak havoc, causing land slides, wash away part of the road surface or leave impassable mud holes.

Holes in the road: Sometimes water can wash away the earth under the asphalt and eventually part of the pavement will cave in and a hole will appear in the road… people usually “mark” these places with a leafy tree branch. So when you see something that looks like there’s a tree growing out of the asphalt, there’s probably a deep hole in the road. Needless to say that this kind of “signalization” is very hard to spot in the dark…

 

Worst kind of dirt road. Better stay away when it rains

One good rule of thumb is: when you’re in a dirt road and don’t see any tracks from other cars, (meaning that the road hasn’t been used for quite some time), chances are that the road you’re on is not going anywhere and it might be a good idea to turn around and find another route to your destination.Dirt roads: are very common in Brazil, especially in the rural interior, and are being used intensively by cars, motorcycles, but also by trucks and buses. Some of them have codes (like RJ153 or SP225) and are official state roads and are usually kept in reasonable condition, whereas the “unofficial” dirt roads can be in very bad shape, especially after the rainy season, when landslides make lots of roads very difficult to use.

Signalization: On the major highways, signalization is good, but in more remote areas and small cities and villages, don’t rely on following signs to get somewhere. You will often see signs to your destination for a while until they vanish. In case you’re lost, gas stations usually are a good source of information, but you will have to get it from someone who only speaks Portuguese…Signalization of road works is usually good, even in the dirt roads.

Speedbumps: To control the speed of vehicles around schools or in village centers and residential areas, there are numerous speed bumps all over the country. The official name is “Lombada” but most people call them “quebra molas” (literally: suspension breakers). this is not exaggerated, because some of these bumps are so high and steep they almost look like concrete half-cylindres. Hitting one of these at high-speed will destroy your car… They should be painted in bright yellow and black stripes for visibility, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Beware!

Flanelinhas: when you park your car in most urban centres, it is very common to see a guy come up to you, indicating that he’s going to keep an eye on your car. They also “help” people to find parking spots and sometimes even offer to wash your car. These people are called “Flanelinhas”, and what they are doing is illegal, but it is unwise to turn them down if you don’t want to end up with a few scratches on your car.

2. Gas stations in Brazil

Important: Running out of gas in Brazil constitutes an infraction of the law, so make sure you fill up before leaving home.

Gas stations in Brazil are still very much operated by humans. Unlike in Europe, where in most countries you need to fill your tank yourself, every station has several attendants who will fill up the car for you. Usually there’s no problem to pay with a credit or debit card, but several gas stations in more remote areas will only accept cash.

Gasoline prices and quality: Gasoline prices in Brazil are high compared to the US (about 7$ a gallon), but lower than in Europe. Some gas stations – usually the small, unknown brands – have lower prices, but this usually means that the alcohol level in the Gasoline is higher than the legal 20-25%. Some gasoline you buy at “cheaper” gas stations has up to 60% of alcohol in it. It is advisable to ALWAYS buy gas at “big brand” stations like BR or Shell.

3. Animals (and other stuff) on the road in Brazil

 

A badly loaded truck AND cows on the road… Double hazard.

Under the “other stuff” category, I would like to mention the kite lines that are extremely dangerous to motorcyclists.Unfortunately, Brazil has thousands, if not millions of stray animals wandering the streets. Cows, horses, donkeys, dogs, chickens, etc., not to mention wildlife, like capivara, tatu, snakes and lizards. It is one of the reasons why it is better to avoid driving at night or at least be extremely careful.

4. GPS

A GPS can be a great tool and save you lots of time and gas as long as it has a good map installed. I have a Garmin GPS that I use both on my motorcycle and in the car. When I arrived in Brazil, I only had the Garmin “City Navigator” map of Brazil that I purchased in Belgium. As long as I was on a major road or a significant city, things seemed fine, but once I started venturing into the interior, I quickly learned that the Garmin map was all but accurate. In fact it was perfectly unusable… (sorry Garmin, but that’s just the way it is..) Learn more on GPS and a great free Brazil map for GARMIN

5. Be prepared

 

Make sure to Check your spare tire: you don’t want to end up like this lady. When I got out the spare, it turned out to be flat as well. Luckily I had my mountainbike pump 🙂

Some food & waterWhenever setting out on a road trip, bring the following:

  • maps of the area you’re going to travel through
  • Flashlight / Headlight
  • A phone card: comes in handy when you’re in an area without mobile phone signal. every small village has at least one payphone (orelhão). You can also call collect (a cobrar) from the payphones
  • Cash for highway toll (there’s no way to pay with any type of card)
  • Cash for gas (especially when you plan to go to remote areas)

and make sure to:

  • Buy adequate Insurance: For yourself and third parties.
  • Learn some Portuguese, or at least have a Portuguese Phrasebook handy.
  • Check your spare tire… (it could be out of air)
  • VERY IMPORTANT: NEVER drink and drive!! Brazil has a ZERO TOLERANCE policy (Lei Seca) and even the slightest amount of alcohol in your system will get you in a heap of trouble.

Hope this was useful. If you ever drove around in Brazil and lived, let me know your story.

Driving in Brazil – Practical Survival Guide and Tips

Rio – Santos (BR101) near Angra dos Reis

Brazil is a huge and fantastic country, and one of the best ways to discover it is taking a car or motorcycle and hit the road. Here’s how to do it.

When you’re a European or US citizen, you will quickly notice a number of differences between what you’re used to, and the way people drive in Brazil.

In my opinion/experience, driving in Brazil can be divided into a number of different conditions :

  • big cities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo.
  • major highways.
  • smaller back roads.
  • tracks and dirt roads.

The “rules” (and I don’t mean “the law”) vary according to which of the above mentioned situations you’re in, but a few things are very general and apply almost everywhere:

1. who has the bigger vehicle, (thinks that he/she) has the upper hand.

2. Don’t expect people to stop and give way, even if you have priority (like on a roundabout).

3. Don’t expect people to use indicators when they are about to turn left or right.

4. Don’t be surprised to see cars and even trucks driving at night without lights.

Big cities – Traffic jams:

In the big cities, chances are that you will end up in a traffic jam. Rio de Janeiro but especially São Paulo are notorious for the hectic traffic.

The already complicated situation is often made worse by accidents, broken down vehicles or storms (flooding).

There are also hundreds of motorcycles (125 – 250cc) splitting lanes, frantically honking their horns often driving at considerable speeds. When you’re driving a car, ALWAYS check your mirrors before changing lanes.

Major highways in Brazil:

The BR116 between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. One of the best highways in brazil. Also one of the most expensive in terms of toll booths

Big highways in Brazil are usually in reasonably good condition (except in the north and north east – read more about this later). One of the best highways in Brazil (also the most expensive in terms of toll) is the BR116 (also referred to as “Dutra”) between Rio and São Paulo.Of all Brazilian states, São Paulo is the state with the densest and best road network. a quick glance at a road map of Brazil and you see this very easily.

Most toll roads – like the Dutra – are equipped with a well-functioning tow service . In case of an accident or engine problems, you will get towed to the next gas station (free of charge).

Condition of vehicles in Brazil

the condition of other vehicles on the road (cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles…) goes from excellent to literally falling apart… I’ve seen cars with doors missing, or parts being held together with a piece of rope. You also see lots of cars with completely bald tires. Some vehicles you see here wouldn’t last 10 minutes on the road in Europe.

I don’t want to scare anyone, because a road trip in Brazil can be an extremely rewarding experience. It’s just that with the right information, you can avoid bad situations or at least avoid getting frustrated by the undisciplined or even reckless behaviour of other road users.

Here are five practical hints and recommendations for anyone who wants to venture out on the road in this amazing country.

1. Road conditions and signalization in Brazil

General Situation: As in most countries, road conditions in Brazil can vary a great deal. As a general rule, the roads in the south and south-east regions are in much better shape than those up north.

When you cross the state border between Espirito Santo and Bahia, the BR101 suddenly changes from a double two lane highway with perfect asphalt into a secondary road with potholes and no hard shoulders. No better example of the economical differences between the South-east and the North-east of Brazil.

Independent from the location, heavy rains can wreak havoc, causing land slides, wash away part of the road surface or leave impassable mud holes.

Holes in the road: Sometimes water can wash away the earth under the asphalt and eventually part of the pavement will cave in and a hole will appear in the road… people usually “mark” these places with a leafy tree branch. So when you see something that looks like there’s a tree growing out of the asphalt, there’s probably a deep hole in the road. Needless to say that this kind of “signalization” is very hard to spot in the dark…

Worst kind of dirt road. Better stay away when it rains

One good rule of thumb is: when you’re in a dirt road and don’t see any tracks from other cars, (meaning that the road hasn’t been used for quite some time), chances are that the road you’re on is not going anywhere and it might be a good idea to turn around and find another route to your destination.Dirt roads: are very common in Brazil, especially in the rural interior, and are being used intensively by cars, motorcycles, but also by trucks and buses. Some of them have codes (like RJ153 or SP225) and are official state roads and are usually kept in reasonable condition, whereas the “unofficial” dirt roads can be in very bad shape, especially after the rainy season, when landslides make lots of roads very difficult to use.

Signalization: On the major highways, signalization is good, but in more remote areas and small cities and villages, don’t rely on following signs to get somewhere. You will often see signs to your destination for a while until they vanish. In case you’re lost, gas stations usually are a good source of information, but you will have to get it from someone who only speaks Portuguese…Signalization of road works is usually good, even in the dirt roads.

Speedbumps: To control the speed of vehicles around schools or in village centers and residential areas, there are numerous speed bumps all over the country. The official name is “Lombada” but most people call them “quebra molas” (literally: suspension breakers). this is not exaggerated, because some of these bumps are so high and steep they almost look like concrete half-cylindres. Hitting one of these at high-speed will destroy your car… They should be painted in bright yellow and black stripes for visibility, but unfortunately this is not always the case. Beware!

Flanelinhas: when you park your car in most urban centres, it is very common to see a guy come up to you, indicating that he’s going to keep an eye on your car. They also “help” people to find parking spots and sometimes even offer to wash your car. These people are called “Flanelinhas”, and what they are doing is illegal, but it is unwise to turn them down if you don’t want to end up with a few scratches on your car.

2. Gas stations in Brazil

Important: Running out of gas in Brazil constitutes an infraction of the law, so make sure you fill up before leaving home.

Gas stations in Brazil are still very much operated by humans. Unlike in Europe, where in most countries you need to fill your tank yourself, every station has several attendants who will fill up the car for you. Usually there’s no problem to pay with a credit or debit card, but several gas stations in more remote areas will only accept cash.

Gasoline prices and quality: Gasoline prices in Brazil are high compared to the US (about 7$ a gallon), but lower than in Europe. Some gas stations – usually the small, unknown brands – have lower prices, but this usually means that the alcohol level in the Gasoline is higher than the legal 20-25%. Some gasoline you buy at “cheaper” gas stations has up to 60% of alcohol in it. It is advisable to ALWAYS buy gas at “big brand” stations like BR or Shell.

3. Animals (and other stuff) on the road in Brazil

A badly loaded truck AND cows on the road… Double hazard.

Under the “other stuff” category, I would like to mention the kite lines that are extremely dangerous to motorcyclists.Unfortunately, Brazil has thousands, if not millions of stray animals wandering the streets. Cows, horses, donkeys, dogs, chickens, etc., not to mention wildlife, like capivara, tatu, snakes and lizards. It is one of the reasons why it is better to avoid driving at night or at least be extremely careful.

4. GPS

A GPS can be a great tool and save you lots of time and gas as long as it has a good map installed. I have a Garmin GPS that I use both on my motorcycle and in the car. When I arrived in Brazil, I only had the Garmin “City Navigator” map of Brazil that I purchased in Belgium. As long as I was on a major road or a significant city, things seemed fine, but once I started venturing into the interior, I quickly learned that the Garmin map was all but accurate. In fact it was perfectly unusable… (sorry Garmin, but that’s just the way it is..) Learn more on GPS and a great free Brazil map for GARMIN

5. Be prepared

Make sure to Check your spare tire: you don’t want to end up like this lady. When I got out the spare, it turned out to be flat as well. Luckily I had my mountainbike pump 🙂

Whenever setting out on a road trip, bring the following:

  • Some food & water
  • maps of the area you’re going to travel through
  • Flashlight / Headlight
  • A phone card: comes in handy when you’re in an area without mobile phone signal. every small village has at least one payphone (orelhão). You can also call collect (a cobrar) from the payphones
  • Cash for highway toll (there’s no way to pay with any type of card)
  • Cash for gas (especially when you plan to go to remote areas)

and make sure to:

  • Buy adequate Insurance: For yourself and third parties.
  • Learn some Portuguese, or at least have a Portuguese Phrasebook handy.
  • Check your spare tire… (it could be out of air)
  • VERY IMPORTANT: NEVER drink and drive!! Brazil has a ZERO TOLERANCE policy (Lei Seca) and even the slightest amount of alcohol in your system will get you in a heap of trouble.

Hope this was useful. If you ever drove around in Brazil and lived, let me know your story.

Becoming a vegan – Raw food: the key to a Healthy Life

Almost twenty years ago, I became vegan which turned out to be a life changing experience .

The book that changed my life.

Although I shiver when I think about the way chickens, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, fish and other animals are treated before getting butchered for human consumption, that was not my main reason to adapt the vegan lifestyle.

I’m not a doctor, nor a scientist. I’m just a regular guy who likes to lead a healthy and active life. Ever since I was 16 years old, I have been practicing sports like running, bicycling, swimming, squash, fitness and the occasional rock climb. I guess you could say that as a young boy, I was pretty active as well. My friends and I used to play soccer at a field near my house, play in the woods, make camps or ride our bicycles the whole day.

We didn’t have any video games, computers, cartoon network and all the other stuff that kids get hooked on these days and keeps them from being active, and I guess I’m still thankful for that.

A history of weight problems

A first mayor change in my life occurred when my father, who was military, decided to send me to school in the army at the age of 15. It was one way to get me a cheap education and the same career as he had. But here’s the thing: I’m not really the army type I guess.

Being more of a free spirit, I don’t like/need people to tell me what to do and how to do it (basically having my life run by other people) all the time. The only thing I gained in the army during the six months I was there, was about 25kg and an unhealthy taste for beer… lots of beer.

That’s right, after only six months (I had done really bad at the year-end exams), I was “discharged” and returned to the civilian world, almost an alcoholic and weighing 89kg, which with my height of 170cm makes for a BMI of 30,8, which is Obese (not that I really cared).

I was 16 at that time and my dad made it clear to me that he had no intention to pay anymore for my further education, and that I should start looking for a job, which I did. I started working in the sawmill that was run by my grandfather and his brothers.

The hard physical labor at the sawmill made me lose weight very quickly. After only 3 months, it was down to 75kg. No need to say I felt a lot better by then.

Around that time I also started to do some jogging. After a hard day’s work at the mill, I still had enough energy to go running. It started with 3km, then 5km and pretty soon I was  running 15-20km per day. My eating habits had changed too. Ok, I ate lots of meat and other “animal food”, but there were fruit trees at the sawmill and at lunchtime, I used to climb into one of them and just eat fruit (apples, pears, cherries…).

The 6 months I had spent at the military school hadn’t saved me from having to do my “military service” so at 18, I had to go back to the army for 8 more months, but this time I didn’t come out obese. Running had become my number one hobby and I managed to keep my weight around 70-75, which was still pretty high for my 170cm.

The vegan turnaround: Fit For Life

The second book really goes into the negative way the food industry impacts the health of almost every human being on the planet.

I went to see several doctors, but the only thing could come up with was, that I had “over-trained”, or that I had “destroyed my joints by not stretching enough”. One of them, a specialist, even told me that I had better forget about running for the rest of my life… Ouch. The only solution was to take pills, heavy painkillers, and I felt bad to be having to take them in order to be able to practice my beloved sport.Fast forward… At the age of 28, I had a wife, two sons and was still running a lot, but I started to develop serious pain in my joints, especially my knees. Every time I went running, I was in a lot of pain for a few days. It was so bad that I had difficulties walking up the stairs.

Around that time, my wife (now ex-wife), who never felt good about her weight and was constantly on some kind of diet, came home from her doctor and told me that she had been advised to read the book “Fit for Life“, by Harvey Diamond. She became very exited about it, so after she read it, I did too…

The book basically describes how we can be in control of our weight and our general health by just being logical, going back to the basics and make sure that 70% of what you eat is fruit or vegetables, preferably raw. It is called the method of “natural hygiene“.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of the amount of crap they put inside themselves, slowly poisoning themselves, while they do so much effort to look good on the outside. This book really opened my eyes. Everything was so logical, so clear. It all made perfect sense, and especially because it also talks about how the right eating habits can lead to a life free of pain, I decided to give it a shot.

From one day to the next, I gave up all “animal food” and became a vegan (although at that time I had never heard of the word “vegan”). I started eating raw food like there was no tomorrow.

The first weeks are considered to be a cleansing stage, where your body gets rid of all the toxins that have been stored in in it over the years. Some people have headaches during this period, there can be some diarrhea, or, like I had, a nasty taste in your mouth.

Every day I made myself a huge bowl of mixed salad, and to my surprise, I quickly started to like them. Most people don’t come any further than lettuce, tomatoes and a lot of mayonnaise and ketchup when they think about a “salad”, but you can basically create almost any raw vegetable mix, add some black pepper and olive oil, and you have a fantastic meal.

I use lettuce, rucola, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, apple, raisins, strawberries, kiwi, corn, peas, to name a few things, in changing quantities to bring some variation. I re-discovered the pure flavors of all these vegetables and fruits, without being ruined by tons of salad dressing.

So what was in it for me?

Good question. Most people who heard that I didn’t eat meat or fish or poultry, or cheese anymore, looked at me like I was crazy, and almost everybody asked me where the hell I would get my protein if I didn’t eat meat.

There’s a whole chapter in “Fit for Life” about the subject of protein, but maybe you should ask yourself: where do cows, horses, and other grass eaters get their protein if they never eat meat? Or that other myth that you need to eat meat in order to be strong… I would consider a gorilla or an elephant to be pretty strong, but guess what… they eat only plants. Think about it…

In the second “fit for life” book, Harvey talks about how dairy products, other than what the food industry wants you to believe, are the biggest CAUSE of osteoporosis. That’s right. I know it is a bald statement, but it’s a fact that most cases of osteoporosis occur in those countries where people consume huge amounts of dairy products. I urge everybody to read Harvey’s books. It will quickly become clear to you how the food industry is manipulating the whole world population to slowly poison itself.

Bottom line is, I decided to become vegan and the results didn’t take long to appear. The pain in my knees and other joints disappeared after just three weeks. No kidding. After suffering for almost two years, and hearing from the doctors that I destroyed my joints I was able to run my 25-30 km again.

It didn’t stop there. I have contact lenses, and it was very annoying (and expensive) to have to put them in a special solution once a week to take off the protein excess that gets stuck to them. After a while, I noticed that my lenses didn’t become “misty” anymore so apparently the composition of my tears had changed as well, in a good way.

Also, skin problems, digestion problems, headaches, the throat infections I had two times a year… all gone… You don’t have to believe me, but I’m just telling it the way it was. Once you start eating living food instead of the processed alternatives, I’m sure that you WILL feel the positive impact after just a few weeks.

Now, almost twenty years later, I still consider becoming a vegan one of the most important decisions I took during my life, because after all,  the most precious thing we have is our health, and it saddens me to see that worldwide so many people don’t seem to have the strength to leave the unhealthy lifestyle behind and start to enjoy a more healthy, happier and LONGER life.

I can go on and on about all the positive things that come with a vegan (or as close to vegan as you can get), but then this post would get boring. I’m just incredibly thankful to Harvey Diamond for writing the two books that changed my life. It would be great if just a few people, after reading this, decide to read the books,  and join the growing group of people who take their health in their own hands.

So what about you?

Are you living a healthy, active life, or are you one of the many victims of the modern day food industry? It’s never too late to make a positive change and you don’t have to become 100% vegan to improve the quality of your life in a big way. 

Update: October 4, 2012

Today, while browsing the net for something entirely different, I stumbled upon this video about the treatment of animals destined for the food industry. While every person with half a brain these days should be aware of what’s going on, I think most people choose to ignore all the cruelty, torture and barbaric treatment that farm animals have to undergo so that man kind can enjoy a juicy steak or tasty chicken wings.

Please take a look and decide for yourself whether you want to be part of this.

Please leave a comment and tell me your story.