Grand 19th century mansions and a gothic cathedral were not the first images I had conjured up when I thought of Brazil. As I enter Petropolis, barely 50km from the beaches of Rio, I could have been forgiven for thinking I’d been transported to Europe and dropped into an Alpine town.
In the lair of Maximón
In Santiago de Atitlán, Guatemala, David Whitley comes face to face with a saint that most definitely doesn’t meet with the Catholic Church’s approval
“In Rio people say that the girls in favelas have the nicest legs,” Augusto tells me. “It’s because they are always walking up these steep hills.” And they really are steep. I cling to the back of the motorbike as the big brute of a man who is in control speeds up and around the hairpin corners of the pot-holed road that runs through Vidigal. I fight the temptation to hold onto the driver for support and after about 10 minutes we reach the end of the road. We are at the top of Vidigal, one of the larger favelas in southern Rio de Janeiro. The area has recently been ‘pacified’ and the streets and alleys of Vidigal, once firmly in the control of the drug gangs, are now patrolled by a highly visible police presence.
In Guatemala, David Whitley realises that lake towns do it better than seaside towns
The Pisco Wars
There are no two ways about it: the first beverage you try when you arrive in Peru or Chile is pisco. It’s a grape-based brandy made by using the bits discarded during the wine-making process mixing them with sugar and letting them. Every winemaking country has its own cheapo hooch. Italy has grappa, France has merc, Turkey has raki – and Chile has pisco.