What Not to Do in Rio de Janeiro

Trip Start Jun 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 15, 2006

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Thursday, June 22, 2006

So Iīm traveling pretty much like a hobo. But as a friend described it, "But with designer glasses." Iīm wearing a pair of weathered cargo khakis that I bought at Old Navy my sophomore year in high school. I have a dirty black jacket, a black jansport bag that is not very big and a small cheerios bag with my name on it. I strung a piece of rope through it to use as a shoulder harness. GHETTO FABULOUS.

So Iīm definitely underprepared, but it wouldnīt be my style of trip if I was. I donīt even have a dictionary. And that might come in handy. Ok, so the Brazilians will only speak to you in Portuguese if you speak PERFECT Brazilian Portuguese, accent and all. So many people I have met understand English, it is frankly quite scary. But I persist in my Portuguese charms.

Iīve taken the name Alexandro (Aleshandroo) here since it is easier for the Brazilians to pronounce. I also donīt really care for the way South Americans pronounce my name.

To get you up to speed on what Iīve actually done since getting here:

Day 1

I arrived in Rio around noon. I took the onibus in from the airport and viewed a bus that had crashed into the median outside of the centro area. It was quite a big crash, I imagine a lot of people were injured. As I was passing the accident, I saw a car had crashed into the bus. I saw two people in the car, apparently uninjured but quite pissed that they had run into the bus.

I walked the streets of Ipanema and the beach that afternoon. The area is quite shiek and upscale--everything I am currently not. But then some guy tried to sell me weed on the beach and it brought things back to my level. I didnīt take him up on the offer though. I know, youīre all disappointed.

I had a weird steak and potatoe dinner that was undercooked and weird. It had these small berries that were quite bitter in it, I imagine I wasnīt supposed to eat them. The read meat was delicious however, it reminded me of my days as an affable youth in Buenos Aires. Later I walked the beach and had a caipirinha. It was quite strong and I felt a little drunk. I ended up talking to some dude for about 30 minutes about futebol in awkward Portuguese. It was fun nonetheless.

Day 2

Damn this day was fun. I ate an American breakfast of pancakes, eggs bacon and toast. I ran approximately 8 km (5 miles) on Ipanema and Copocabana beaches. Then I watched the Brazil-Australia game on a street corner. And everything stops for Brazlian soccer. Taxis and buses pull over to watch the game from across the street. Service at restaurants is much slower--we all simply sit around and watch the television.

And let me tell you when something exciting happened in the game, the place felt like a warzone. The two times Brazil scored, the city erupted in jubilation. People would run around crazy in the street. Fireworks and firecrackers woudl go off that I had never heard before.

I ended up meeting a friend at a street fair and we went up to the top of Corcovado, the Christ the Redeemer Statue. I imagine that you all expect me to describe it as some surreal, transcendental, life changing experience, but it wasnīt. Instead you get gorgeous views of Rio de Janeiro. I lack the words to describe the view, so I wonīt. Iīll try to get some pictures up eventually.

On the way up the hill, we saw a burnt out car on the way up. It looked like it had been there for a while. I conversed with the driver for a bit, and discovered that he was obsessed with football. Surpise. He told me on three seperate occasions how awesome the Macarana Stadium was. He also mentioned that his kid was really good at football. I told him that son could possbily be the next Robinho. He was quite pleased.

We walked the streets of Ipanema later in the day and watched a Samba/Bossa Nova performance at a small club. The performers were unparalleled.

Days 3 and 4: Of Beaches, Bikes, and Boats

These days were exhausting and an experiment in what not to do in Rio. There is just something unnerving about riding a mountain bike in Rio. I rented a bike and pedaled around the central lake, the beaches, through a dangerous tunnel, and up to the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain. It was 30 km total Iīm guessing (18 miles).

I had a pretty good time until the the issue of mechanical problems and navigation came up. The chain kept falling off throughout the ride. And being an idiot and mechanically challenged, I tried to muscle the chain back on, subsequently making a mess of my hands. I could only then yell to a hapless Brazlian, "Me ajuda!" (Help me!) He proceeded to place it back on elegantly and with a leaf, thus keeping his hands clean in the process.

When I got to a tunnel to ride to Sugar Loaf Mountain, I proceeded in the wrong side of the road. I had to get off my bike and walk against the commuter traffic. Needless to say, the people were super pissed at me. I later read in a guide book that this was an excellent place to get robbed. I suppose I was lucky.

After exiting the tunnel. I continued on the wrong side, since I could not get over. The path narrowed and the chain kept falling off. I stopped to fix it again, progressively getting filthier, and then an old lady managed to run into me. She was pretty angry and told me, "Filho, tem que tirar a bicicleta!" (You have to get rid of the bike!) I apologized to her as best as I could. I continued to Sugar Loaf and took the tram to the top, in my filthy glory. The views were spectaular though, so I guess the process was worth it. I didnīt have to take a taxi or bus either. Now I am a mountain bike God.

I went out to dinner at a fancy, pretentious cafe. It had good music and is definitely a good place to take a date. But instead I sat by the candlelight and wrote in my journal. I pretended to be an dark, brooding, thoughtful intellectual but instead I ended up looking like a dork. But such is the fate of those who travel solo. I guess living ainīt easy. Themīs the breaks.

If I wasnīt such a loser, I would ask a pretty Brazilian girl from the beach to have dinner with me. But it was a good thing I didnīt because I didnīt have enough money to pay for dinner--the check was quite larger than I expected. I had to explain to the waiter in rather embarrased tones that I had to go back to my hotel and get more money. I did just that and left as soon as I could.

Another lesson in what not to do in Rio.

The next day I took a bus and the metro out to the centro. Downtown is pretty much a spectacle that parallels Manila or Mexico City. The streets are bustling with people. After walking around for an hour, I stumbled upon the docks and decided to buy a ticket to the other side of the bay. I heard there was a famous museum out there. I ended up receiving bad advice--I was instructed to take a bus that ended up weaving throughout the city until it arrived at the museum over an hour later. When I arrived, it was closed. Apparently it had been robbed several months before and they were still re-stocking.

I left as soon as I could, walking 5 km down the coast back to the ferry. Not a place you want to be after dark.

Day 5

The good weather persists here. It was sunny and high 70s again. It is dead of winter here, but the water is perfect. I went swimming at the beach and lost my sunglasses in a wave. I am writing this entry in a trendy IMac cafe and there is a annoying American, maybe Canadian, sitting behind me talking on his cell phone. He talks too loud and mentions how he saw a dead body to his girlfriend or wife. The shop owner and myself just stare at each other and role our eyes. Iīm leaving before we get into fisticuffs.
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