Oi (Hi in Portugese) Happy New Year or Feliz Ano Novo as we say hear in Rio. Its been a hectic festive season which started by running from house to house throughout Cordoba (Argentina) saying Hi to all Zoe's family. Christmas Eve is the traditional time to celebrate Christmas over here and we spent Lunch at her fathers having Zoe's favourite dish which he cookd specially - Mackerel Pie! - don't diss it, I was just gratefull not to be served 16 ounces of some land based Herbivore. Got into a very funny conversation with Ed her Brother and Cotty his beautiful wife about a new restaurant that has opened in Cordoba - Its a vegetarian restaurant probably opened by some Europeans because my new found Argentinian friends stammered with utter confusion about why would you ever have a meal without meat - either this or it was sheer incomprehansion as to what, exactly, a vegetable was. Pretty much all the food here is Salad and Meat (a lot of) rarely with bread and I have yet to see a potato, it does perhaps go a long way to explaining why obesity is so low here, and everybody has such fantastic figures. They're all, inadvertantly, on the Hopkins diet! Christmas eve night was spent with Zoe's boyfriends family in a very well to do neighbour hood. Esquailes Cousin is a politician here and was telling me excitedly about how he had met Tony Blair in London - This I explained was no longer something to be proud of, he was a big fan of Churchill and strangely Margaret Thatcher (no one mentions the Falklands war here). His face (and everyone else's) dropped when I excitedly told them I had visited the Eva Peron cemetry in Recoleta in Buenos Aires - they were of the other political persuasion, so foot well and truly put in it. The next day - Christmas day was spent lazily round the pool at Monicas and I notice some Carrot grated into the Salad which accompaniess the Whole BBQ'd piglet. Yippee! Spend the next 2 days wandering Cordoba on my own as Zoe and all her family have gone back to work (start back on the 26th here). Get drinking with a fella in a Bar who is really keen to speak English and when he strokes my arm and suggest drinks back at his place, the penny drops and I move on - he did though give me a Jesus Bracelet!?!?!? Horse riding I booked with some Gauchos is cancelled and the post office takes me a morning to organise posting a few things home - If you think we have Bureacracy in the UK - South America seems to raise the bar considerably higher. Finally on the 27th its tears and farewells at the station and I get my bus to BA, am panicking a bit as the ferry looks full for the next couple of days and I need to get to Montevideo for my flight the next afternoon, so get on the next one I can and then bus to Montevideo in time to go out that night. I meet Janiesta a columbian girl and some fellow Europeans as well as a bunch of cool Mexicans who introduce me to their little tradition - Every now and then between sips of beer they take a small bottle of chilli sauce and rub a small bit over their gums, I'm assured its not really very hot and two minutes later I am crying profusely downing a bottle of water and feeling violently sick - the numbness subsides a few days later. We head to Bodeguita del sur which is a Salsa Bar and great fun, we stay up till dawn. The flights fine the next day and I'm back in Rio where the city is gearing up for New Years, Copacabana and Ipanema are a wash with stages, stands stalls, big screens et al. Everywheres full and the atmosphere is almost tangible. That evening I meet the lovely Michelle - shes 21, Brazilian, speaks English, so enough said - we play a lot of pool and drink a lot of beer and alls good. New Years Eve then!!!! Well what can I say, 2 million people on Copacabana beach, 8-10 mega cruise ships making it look like there's another city out at sea, almost everyone wears white and throws flowers into the sea for their future prosperity. The Fireworks are typically Brazilian - flash, Spectacular, Beautiful and totally disorganised - they eventually finish at about 12.30. I go for a swim with my flower in what seems like a sea full of flowers and fragrances, jump seven waves and make my wish on the last as is the tradition. Candles, Prayers, Cuba Libras and Caiprynihas are abundant. Remarkably our group of 20 stays surprisingly together until about 4am when me and Michelle peel off to head alone to the far end of Ipanema beach where she says there is the best spot to see the sunrise. She's not wrong and we have a fab morning together till about 9am, when, almost falling asleep, we head home. New Years day is a write off!!!! - Embarrasingly I had Macdonalds for Lunch and Dominos Pizza for supper, they were the only two restaurants open anywhere which for a number of reasons didnt surprise me!