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Brazil

Up the Amazon by boat through the rainforest

date of entry 20/10/1997
mileage 174,861

capital Brasília

area 8.514.215 km²

population 202.740.000

GDP 2.492 Bill. US-Dollar

official language Portuguese

Otto visited the biggest country in South America on many occasions. The Holtorfs covered around 30,000 kilometres there in his company. They often drove on unpaved tracks laid by loggers. In the process, they saw a lot of the country’s nature, but they also experienced its destruction along these routes. One highlight was Otto’s trip up the Amazon River to the rainforest city of Manaus. This city of rubber barons makes a great show of its splendid opera house, where stars of the music scene make frequent appearances.
  • It also left sandy tracks between grazed-down hills. Biodiversity here was a thing of the past.
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  • Brazil is a land of great distances. Otto covered around 30,000 kilometres there, many of them on unpaved tracks.
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  • This sign at a border crossing in the north illustrates the dimensions of this huge country.
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  • One of the sights is the Iguazu Falls, right on the border with Argentina. They are about 82 metres high.
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  • Light breaks through in the spray of the foaming water, which seems to roar into the rainforest from every direction.
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  • In the vicinity of the Iguazu Falls, Otto met a bunch of coatis.
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  • Many of the smaller towns have preserved their Portuguese colonial character.
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  • For Christine Holtorf, here at the Tropic of Capricorn, this was her first visit to South America. Gunther Holtorf had already spent more than a decade living in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, and he had also travelled extensively by car in Brazil during that time.
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  • The capital, Brasilia, is located in the middle of the Amazon region. It was planned on the drawing board in the 1950s and was intended to look spacious and modern. Wide roads were laid out to accommodate motor traffic, which then was only just developing.
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  • Even today, many of the public buildings designed by top architect Oscar Niemeyer – such as the Palácio do Planalto here – appear rather futuristic, but also a little cold.
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  • It is in stark contrast to the rampant city of Rio de Janeiro with its Sugarloaf Mountain...
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  • ... and the world-famous beach promenade of Copacabana.
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  • The slopes around the city, and the city centre itself, are covered by favelas, shanty towns created without any planning or permits.
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  • All over the country, you encounter its colonial past – as well as cult VW camper vans, which were built in the old style until recently at Volkswagen do Brasil.
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  • In many places, the old buildings have been restored.
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  • Street traders offer fruit and vegetables from the region.
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  • In order to penetrate deeper into the Amazon region, Otto was loaded onto the "Bandeirante II", one of the many ferries that ply the mighty Amazon in the direction of Manaus.
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  • It was often a tight squeeze. The car had to share its deck space with the many passengers.
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  • The journey up the Amazon took several days, and the passengers’ hammocks were hung all over the decks.
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  • Eventually, the ferry reached the port of Manaus. At that time, travelling by ship was the only way to reach the regional capital.
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  • In the past, Manaus grew rich from the extraction of rubber for the tyre industry. Ambitious rubber barons financed a huge opera house in the middle of the jungle.
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  • It is now air-conditioned and is still used for performances. Renowned singers are often happy to be enticed into the primeval forest, because the opera season in the Brazilian winter coincides with the summer break in Europe and the USA.
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  • The opera house contrasts sharply with the dwellings of the indigenous people on the edge of the rainforest.
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  • Not all the bridges were as well maintained as this one.
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  • Many were half-destroyed by the rising waters of the Amazon and its tributaries...
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  • ... while others had first to be repaired by Gunther Holtorf single-handedly.
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  • And with some, you had to just pray and hope.
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  • Transport was in short supply outside the towns. Here, the Holtorfs came across a motorbike carrying six people.
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  • Time and again, Otto was also confronted by large herds of cattle.
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  • The tracks through the rainforest were narrow and winding.
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  • The land on either side had often been cleared and grazed by herds of cattle.
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  • This left behind desolate areas where the soil was eroded by the rain and soon became infertile.
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  • Video: Brazil – visiting the land of the beautiful language

Otto was here before ...

Argentina

date of entry 22 October 1997
mileage 175,953

Paraguay

date of entry 23 October 1997
mileage 176,582

Argentina

date of entry 24 October 1997
mileage 177,112

Chile

date of entry 30 October 1997
mileage 178,866

Bolivia

date of entry 04 November 1997
mileage 179,910

Peru

date of entry 14 November 1997
mileage 181,920