Brazilian Diary - Tuesday 1st June 2010

I rose to wakefulness but decided to check my watch before leaping out of bed. Just as well - it was 4:00am. So much for effortlessly sailing through jet-lag - my biorhythms had their own schedule for getting into Brazillian time and weren't going to be rushed over it. I rolled over and made an agreement with my body that I'd stay in bed until at least 6:30.

After a couple of hours of drifting between sleep and wakefulness we renegotiated our agreement and shortly after 6:00 I was down in the hotel restaurant, alone, starting on breakfast and updating my diary.

I'd been sitting at my table for a few minutes when another couple of guests arrived. In a large room where I was the only other diner they came and sat directly behind me at the next table where one of them proceeded to start talking very loudly on his moby. While I was wondering whether this was some sort of interesting cultural contrast to my northern European reserve the miasma of their combined aftershaves washed over me like a chemical weapon attack and I retreated to the far end of the room.

And then then next person who came in also decided to sit right behind me. Bizarre. Was my animal magnetisme finally kicking into life? My new neighbour's choice of personal grooming products were less life threatening so I decided to stay put and the room slowly filled as I worked through my morning repast.

Today we were moving to the venue for the festival, an hour's drive from our current hotel. As we checked out some of the band members helpfully provided some Scottish language tips as we falteringly chatted to the staff, but I suspect describing See you Jimmy as a greeting may lead to cultural misunderstandings in the future. Washington, the driver from our journey from the airport, was there to meet us in the lobby and after loading up the minivan with our collective luggage (and ourselves) we were off and on our way.

Brazil has a much higher than average level of representation in Formula One motor racing and it was soon clear that this was no mere statistical quirk - the pursuit of speed in a motorised vehicle was something approached with determination and dedication by what seemed like the vast majority of São Paulo drivers. As we found our way onto larger roads the risk from potholes diminished (somewhat) and we raced along in and through the traffic - Washington with steely purpose, the rest of us silently invoking Saint Christopher. The one pause for sightseeing came when we passed the São Paulo football stadium which was pointed out to us with something approaching veneration and awe. We dutifully oohed.

As we drove the vast size of the city became more and more apparent, rather than passing into the suburbs that I would have expected in a European city there were just more and more tightly packed buildings. After a while they became more primitive and spartan, clusters of plain brick cubes packed cheek by jowl over the rolling terrain, set back from the large trunk road by the warehouses, depots and other business ventures that lined the carriageways. The houses didn't have the look of deprivation and squalor that I'd seen in some other countries but it was clear that if you had money you moved into the city rather than out of it.

After what was probably around half an hour but felt like 30 laps of Monza we turned off of the main road and started to find our way through smaller streets. Soon it became clear that the road maintenance schemes of São Paulo could be used as benchmarks of quality for neighbouring areas to aspire to. On one stretch of road we had to slow to walking pace as Washington guided our minibus between potholes that could have swallowed us whole! Well, maybe taken a wheel off. To be fair this was by far the worst example of chaotic terrain we had to traverse and soon we were back with more regular potholes and bumps, with more and more greenery appearing between and behind the buildings lining our route. Eventually this became almost pure forest and within a couple of miles we arrived at the imposing entrance to the Hotel Rancho Silvestre, our home for the next five days.