Don’t ask (it’s forbidden to know) what end
The gods will grant to me or you, Leuconoe. Don’t play with Babylonian Fortune-telling either. It is better to endure whatever will be.
Whether Jupiter has allotted to you many more winters or this final one Which even now wears out the Tyrrhenian Sea on the rocks placed opposite; Be wise, drink your wine, and scale back your long hopes
To a short period. While we speak, envious time will have already fled
Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next.
EL TREN DE LA MUERTE pulled in at a border post not far from the town of Quijarro on the Bolivian border and we crossed by foot into Brazil at the city of Corumba. Any minimal Spanish we’d picked up in Peru and Bolivia was going to be useless for the next couple of weeks; we‟d entered Portuguese-speaking country.
Brazil is absolutely enormous and it dominates South America. Take a look at it on a map: it covers nearly half of the continent. It’s the fifth largest country in the world by land-mass, and it‟s the fifth most populous country in the world. It shares borders with almost every country in South America, being bordered by Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana to the north; by Colombia to the north-west; by Bolivia and Peru to the west; by Argentina and Paraguay to the southwest; and to the south by Uruguay. Bar the odd French-speaking nation, Brazil is the only country on the continent that doesn’t speak Spanish as an official language, all due to its colonial history: Brazil became a Portuguese colony in 1500, following the landing of Pedro Álvares Cabral, and eventually won its independence in 1822.
Brazil is often described as a true melting pot and a quick breakdown of its citizens explains why: as at the last official census, Brazilians were 49.4% White, 42.3% Pardo (people with a mixed white, black and Amerindian ancestry), 7.4% Black, 0.5% Asian, and 0.4% Amerindian. Most Brazilians can trace their ancestry to the country’s indigenous people, the Portuguese settlers and African slaves. Due to huge waves of immigration in the last century or so, by people in search of the good life, Brazil can claim such little known facts as the largest Lebanese community in the world, the largest Italian community outside Italy, and the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.
Our first impressions of Brazil weren’t glowing; we were skanked by the taxi driver taking us to the border control station in Corumba, charging us 30USD for a journey that should have cost no more than 10USD. Things here were immediately more expensive than in Bolivia and there were hardly any ATMs anywhere. The global credit crunch may have been in full swing but when it came to choosing which bank’s ATM to use, I wasn’t worried about the bank’s creditworthiness, so much as I was worried about the safety and security of the network the ATM relied upon. It was 26 December and we were racing to reach Rio for New Year’s Eve, so we decided to hop on the bus to the next major town eastwards, six hours away, Campo Grande, the largest town in the Pantanal, a famously inhospitable jungle region.