Heaven and Hell

Trip Start Nov 16, 2007
Trip End Aug 2008

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rio de Janeiro

Everything has to start somewhere, and this tale begins on the Atlantic coast of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. The flight over was uneventful with the exception of a colourful character named Paul. A trainee joiner from Hull, Paul had managed to spend six months of the previous 5 years in a variety of the beauty spots around the world. The intent of these trips became clear on arrival as the last time I saw Paul he was chasing a shapely Brazilian lady who appeared to be practising speed walking.

The bus from the airport illustrated the key feature of Rio; for every beautiful, fascinating and charming place there will be an equally horrific scar. This is similar in many ways to Mumbai, however the transitions seem less defined and the lowest points appear more aggressive.

I stayed in a pleasant area called Botofago, centrally located for all the key areas andf close to a metro station (which is fantastic). Christ the Redeemer sits watching down from the hill above.

A good explore on the first day took me past Sugarloaf mountain and onto the beaches of the Zone-Sul. Copacabana and Ipanema are the real heart of Rio and the array of people is quite amazing. It seems that all of life is on those sands from the beggar to the millionaire.

At the end of Copacabana, I met my friend Denise and we walked down Ipanema catching up. As we went, she pointed out some of the local areas and funny features, including the huge Sheraton hotel at the end of Ipanema. With its private beach and helipad, the owners must have been very proud of it, until the cheeky favella emerged perched on the hillside behind it changed the ambience somewhat.

Denise and I went to the theatre in the evening. A play about an artist´s descent into madness is played out by 3 living sculptures. As the play went on, the sculptures represented elements of his paranoia and sexuality. After having slept for 2 hours in almost 2 days, the sight of three men cavorting naked over each other in a near empty wooden house with everyone speaking Portuguese was definitely on the surreal side. Afterwards we had a speciality of Brazil, Carne dol Sol, beef dried in the Sun.

Another day of exploring, this time the centre of town and up to the Barrio of Santa Theresa on the hill behind the business district. The ride on the rickety old tram is definitely worth going on if you are ever in this neck of the woods. In the evening, I rode the cable car up Sugarloaf and enjoyed the sunset over the bay. The company both ways was interesting, on the way up a group of Yorkshire retirees who seemed to want to talk about nothing but sex changes and porn, and a group of Japanese retirees who I´m sure were talking about something else.

Sao Paulo

Arriving by bus into Sao Paulo, you instantly get a different vibe to Rio. The wide avenues fringed with trees and the large well maintained office blocks show that you are in the industrial and economic heart of Brazil. The city has few of its original features, lost to progress, but what has replaced it is a friendly and well ordered city centre with some beautiful suburbs.

The first night, I stayed at a hostel right in the centre and the following day explored the amazing selection of arcades and markets that fill the bottom floors of the office and residential blocks. In the evening, I walked around the Japanese district near Liberdade, enjoying a good meal and seeing where the largest Japanese community outside Japan call home.

My hostel for the second night was out the back of the new hospital. This is on the edge of the Jardins district which is host to the most exclusive residences in Sao Paulo. Just down the hill from the main business district, Jardins is a seemingly endless set of leafy streets, with very grand apartment blocks and even grander mansions. Interspersed within these are trendy shops and restaurants to serve the residents of this bankers ghetto. I, of course, felt decidedly out of place.

Off to Foz do Iguaçu to see the world´s largest waterfalls overnight on the bus. Pictures when I get to Paraguay.

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