Life in Brazil was dramatically different from what we were used to after having spent much of the previous 15 years in oriental countries.    
on the old bridge halfway to Trancoso
    Upon our arrival in São Paulo, we immediately rented a car. As it was not possible to fit the kids, the dog and all the luggage in, we had to get a roof rack for our huge metal box filled with all that we considered salvageable from the last five years in India and Nepal.    
    On the same day, we started the drive up to Bahia, following more or less the Atlantic coastline passing Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. At nightfall we looked for some roadside motel. To our dismay, the first two or three places we checked were rather sleazy joints with round beds and big mirrors, of the sort that rent out their rooms by the hour.    
    In Minas Gerais, a lush, hilly state with dairy farms and agricultural sites, we got two speeding tickets. It was obvious that the first policeman had informed his colleagues farther up that some gringos with cash were coming.    
    Until Porto Seguro, a small historical town in Bahia not far from our destination, the roads were ok, but when we left the ferry that had brought us to the other side of the bay, there wasn't much of a road anymore. Just a broad dirt path, and as it had rained recently, most of it had turned to mud, or was even completely flooded. Due to the desolate road condition, about halfway to our destination village we landed in a ditch and lost the roof rack. Luckily nothing inside the box got damaged through the fall. I was relieved to find that my chinaware Buddha statue, a present from friends, was still in one piece.    
    Near Trancoso, the road made a right turn, while straight ahead we noted a path, consisting of two strips of concrete, leading upwards. Fearing that the regular road might bypass the village, we carefully drove up the steep incline. Only later we learned that the road we had left doubled back and led to the village, while the path we had taken was only used to walk down to the river and up again.    
the path we drove up on our first day
    Thus appearing right on the village square from a direction nobody was used to seeing cars coming from, we drew quite a crowd. To our astonishment, we got hugged and kissed by complete strangers.    
    We soon found out that an obnoxious German guy we knew from Nepal had informed everybody of our arrival, and had invented some adventurous stories of what we'd bring with us from the Himalayas. The same spaced-out dude had arranged a house for us to rent. And a pretty little house it was, built by a guy from São Paulo who lived with his family in the second house on the property. The house we were to call "home" for the next two months was quite charming, with much wood, empty bottles embedded in the walls and a live tree growing in the living room and through the upper floor. It was constructed in the typical style preferred by the community of dropouts from the south of Brazil that came here in search of an alternative life.    
Rashid on the porch of our first accommodation
    We still had a bit of money, so for the first few weeks, at any time of the day (or the night, for that matter), our place was usually full of visitors who enjoyed our hospitality, free food, drink and smoke included. After a few weeks we unvited everybody we knew to a big party. It was a huge success, still remembered by the locals many years later.    
    For the party we had bought a great quantity of meat for the customary churrasco some two or three days in advance. Unfortunately, the meat was hardly in the fridge when a power failure left us without electricity. After a day the meat started to turn blue at the edges, and we got more worried by the hour. We consulted our new friends. No problem at all, they reassured us, we'll just cut the worst bits away.    
    Slowly, our funds started to run dry, and by the time we were about broke, we waited in vain for our newfound friends showing up. Word had spread that the fat times were over. Hardly anybody even passed to say hello anymore. With just a few exceptions, one of them being a long haired vegetarian of German descent aptly called Vegetal, who owned a house, a few horses that lived more or less on the village green and some property. This guy often invited us to share the meals of rice, beans and vegetables he and his fellow lodgers prepared. We became good friends, and Vegetal not only presented four years old Rashid with a rooster and a hen, but ourselves with a nice piece of land out in the bush.    
    The charming little house we lived in turned out to be too expensive for us, so we moved to a cheaper, less pleasant place on the other side of the village, without either a view nor a garden.    
    Our new home was a crude, unfinished raw brick building surrounded by a patch of bare, sandy ground. By that time it was winter; at night, temperatures fell to around 15° C. We covered ourselves with hammocks and clothes, but still slept badly because of the cold.    
    On one of those winter nights a bloodcurdling noise apparently straight out of hell made us all wake up with a start. The sound not only was frightfully weird, but terrifyingly loud as well, and it took us quite a few moments to realize its origin: Right outside the wooden shutters of our sleeping quarters, less than a meter from where we were lying, a donkey had started to bray at full power.    
    A couple of days later we had another, less comic and decidedly unpleasant nighttime experience: Woken from our sleep by a loud knock on the door, on opening I was confronted by two young guys and a gun pointed at me. It took us half the night to convince those creeps that we had nothing worth to be stolen among our meager possessions. Towards morning they finally left. We easily recognized one of the thugs as the son of the local grocery store owner, but that didn't help at all because at that time there was no police station in the village.    
Fatima celebrating her 8th birthday at the "kindergarten"
    Whenever I went to Porto, I bought stacks of Marvel and Disney comics, which I read to get familiar with the Portuguese language.    
    Fatima and Rashid, eight and four years old on our arrival in Brazil, and attending some rather improvised "kindergarten" ran by two girls from the southern states of Brazil, picked up the new language from their playmates at a much faster rate.