PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 March, 2008, 12:00am


Lonely Planet


'Emerald seas', 'breathtaking views', 'astounding variety' - welcome to the cliche-rich, hype-heavy world of the modern backpack guidebook.

Somebody should impose a ban on gushing.

The mannerism results in writers wearing out their stock of superlatives and sounding like dizzy public-relations professionals.

That rant notwithstanding, this Lonely Planet guide is essentially sound. It covers the key destinations scattered around the world's fifth largest country and adds depth to the standard format via categories such as 'History' and 'Itineraries'.

One 2,300km circular itinerary begins and ends in Rio de Janeiro. The classic journey takes the reader through 'picturesque coastal towns, surfing spots, magnificent gold-mining towns and South America's largest metropolis, with opportunities for boat rides and a pretty train journey en route'. Enticing.

Another section, titled 'Snapshot', highlights the country's 'grievous social problems'. Crime, the guide says, continues to rocket.

Despite his anti-corruption stance, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (known as Lula) has been tainted by several scandals. On one occasion, several of his 'operatives' were caught carrying almost US$800,000, believed to be the payment for a dossier of damaging information on rival Geraldo Alckmin.

Regardless of such episodes, and largely thanks to ethanol production, Brazil's economy is booming.

This book achieves the aim of all guidebooks; it makes you stop worrying about your carbon footprint and want to pay a visit to a country whose soul is as much African as South American.