A brief venture into Brazil!

Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
Trip End Aug 24, 2012

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The bus from chui to Porto Alegre took around 9 hours if I remember right, and when we arrived we headed straight to the ticket offices to try and book a direct bus to rio. The next bus to rio was two p.m the following day, and it was only 10pm, so we last minute decided to get a bus to a seaside town called Florianopolis instead, and then at least we could have a decent night sleep in a bed and be a little closer to rio for the next bus journey.
Floripa was very quiet when we arrived there at six the following morning, and after a really long taxi to our hostel, we were dropped at a bridge next to a pretty little harbour of boats and told to walk across and our hostel would be there. After trekking around for around an hour with our bags on while the sun came up, we eventually found the hostel (kind of wishing we hadn't and could check into another hostel claiming we couldn't find it!). The hostel was kind of run down, the staff were all over the place and hadn't a clue what we were saying (una reservation?) but we eventually got to a bed and went to sleep for the next few hours to get over another horrendous bus journey - so far Brazilian buses aren't a patch on Argentinean! We woke up around two p.m and went for a wander around the town as I had read it was meant to be really nice. It was a roasting day, the first real bit of heat we had experienced since Oz. the beach was really nice and packed with people, there was a little promenade of shops etc, we had a little walk then went to a supermarket to pick up stuff for tea, still pretty tired and not really in the mood for the beach. Next day we caught another long expensive taxi to the bus station, unsure why we didn't choose a hostel by the bus station, and found a bus to rio, which was to take us 24 hours much to Snellers disgust. I tried to imagine a nice luxury comfortable bus with wifi and drinks served, but the reality was a bus not much nicer than your average coach in England, and made us long for the aeroplane meals and flat coke they served on our Argentinean journeys. After what was more like 25-26hours, we finally were approaching rio, getting an instant look at some of the poverty with the old run down shacks lining the roads and the clearly dodgy areas surrounding the bus station. We got a taxi to our hostel and checked in, the hostel was full of travellers and seemed like a really nice place to stay for a few days, a couple of blocks from copacabana beach . The staff spoke English and were able to tell us all the tours they had on offer, leading us to book a shanty town or "favela" tour for the following morning. The rest of that day was spent pretty much in the hostel, sorting out a massive load of laundry to wash out any traces of bed bugs from Karumbe.
We left for the biggest favela in brazil, La Rocinha, the next morning, in a mini bus along with a guide and seven other people. What we hadn't anticipated was pulling up at the bottom of the massive hill characteristic of any favela, and being shipped out of the bus and straight onto the back of a waiting motorbike to take the ride right to the top of the town. The ride was so much fun although definitely a little scary at times as the bikes weaved in and out of traffic turning tight corners etc. it took a while to get to the top,which made us realise just how big this favela was! At the top, we started our walking tour back down, we were told there were four main streets to the favela, and we would be walking down street 1 right to the bottom again. Rather than walk out in the open, straight away we were led down a little side alley and through some really narrow, damp passageways, up a tiny staircase, to the roof of one of the buildings. Up there you could see the whole favela and it gave us some perspective of now far it went on for. Our guide was really good, he pointed out things such as the local schools, water tanks on all the rooves, the traditional red brick finish to the houses, and told us some history about the town including how it has recently come under police control so is no longer controlled by dangerous drug lords. Apparently, a lot of people could afford to move elsewhere but choose to stay in La Rocinha due to the neighbourly quality of life. Some of the houses even had sky plus HD satellite dishes on the rooves! Next, we carried on wandering down through the streets, past houses that had fallen down long ago, piles and piles of rubbish, and sewage water just running past our feet. It was clearly quite a poor quality of life, very cramped and dirty (up to 100 000 live there!) . We were taken to a local bakery and encouraged to buy stuff, then past some local bracelet makers and encouraged to buy stuff, to an artist workshop and encouraged to buy stuff and finally to a children's daycare and encouraged to make a donation. We were also given a drum and dance show in the street by three young lads, who we also donated money to. The tours are a great idea, because we were told at least half of what you pay to go on them will go back to the community and hopefully make a difference. So we didn't feel too bad about not picking up a bracelet or a canvas! Finally we were shown some of the efforts the government are going to tidy up the place, such as massive warehouses for recycling, and even a mid-construction cable car system so people don't have to walk the steep road to the top of the favela.
Back at the hostel we had a big BBQ with the other guests, then had a few beers at the hostel in preparation for the Lapa street party that night. We had been recommended this by a few people, where every Friday night the main street in the district of Lapa is closed off and everyone just buys a load of drinks and sambas on the streets. After meeting a couple of English girls and chatting with them, we headed out to get a taxi with everyone else only to find that it had gone without us, and so we wandered down to copacabana and caught a cab there, which turned out cheaper anyway (robbing hostels!). In Lapa, there were so many people, stalls, bars to chose from. Me and Snellers stayed out for a bit, had a wander around, found out the choice was either pay a ridiculous amount to get into a club, or wander in the rain, and so got in a taxi back to copacabana. Yet more evidence to support the fact we are old and boring. But it meant we woke up early the next day, intending to spend the day exploring the other neighbourhoods in rio, having planned to do Christ the Redeemer on the Sunday when the weather was supposed to be nicest. However, we stepped outside the hostel, saw the blue sky, and decided to head to Christ that day just in case Sunday wasn't so good after all. Big mistake. Although the skies were blue throughout our journey to the tram stop, and most of the way up in the cute little red tram, just as we were nearing the top a massive cloud descended over us and all you could see was grey mist! We got off the tram, climbed the steps up to the top expecting the scenery to take our breath away, and you could barely even see your hand in front of your face.. Christ was nothing more than a big metal base covered in cloud. Needless to say, I was not impressed, so we decided to stay up there a little while to see if the cloud blew over. No such luck. At one point. The sun shone briefly and we could just about make out the outline of the statue and it's outstretched hands, and everyone up at the summit, hundreds of people, let out a collective cheer. But within seconds, it had clouded up again, so we decided to cut our losses and head back down, with me convincing Snellers to come back up the following day (as per original plan) as in my opinion we couldn't leave rio without seeing the view from the top of the hill! While we were up there we had met some guys from our hostel who had paid around 50quid to do the tour with the hostel, rather than take the bus and pay themselves like we had, so at least there was someone worse off than us haha. After the Christ failure we spent the rest of the day figuring out how to get to Lapa by bus, getting to Lapa, and exploring there. We hadn't expected to find much, but I had heard of these famous steps that we thought we had better check out. The steps were actually really impressive, about three storeys worth of tiled stairs, decorated in bright reds and yellows, with lots of feature tiles dotted around from all different countries. We found the UK section, never expecting to find an IOM tile, but about a metre away I spotted the three legs and we were suitably impressed firstly that the IOM even had a tile and secondly that we had managed to find it! After Lapa we headed back to the hostel and made ourselves some dinner, planning on waking up early to get to the Christ before the queues.
On Sunday, which was a roasting day (36 degrees!) we headed out to Christ the Redeemer for the second time, along with the girls we had met on street party night and a couple of other guys from the hostel. We were treated as experts in the field as we had done the journey already! When we got to the tram, the queue was huge, and the next tram available was two hours away. There was a minibus service up to the top which only cost about a pound more, and we tried (and failed) to get a bit of discount due to having seven people. It turned out they would only accept cash, so me Snellers and one of the girls, Louise, trekked down into the town centre to find an ATM. None of them would accept our card, and we had already kept the others waiting for around half an hour in the heat, so we got in a taxi, who took us to a 24hr ATM and then back up to the others. Eventually we got into our minibus, which took us first of all half way up the hill where you can see gorgeous views of the city as well as Christ from a bit of a distance, and then took us all the way to the top, as we all celebrated not having to wait in the massive tram queue at the bottom. Our smugness didn't last long though when we got up to the car park at the top and had to then queue up to buy tickets, then queue up again to catch another bus to the statue. This took around 45mins, in the baking heat. Finally though we arrived at the top, and it was definitely worth the second trip and long waits. The panoramic views of rio were incredible, and the statue itself just massive, well worth seeing up close. They only downside was the sheer amount of people up there, you could barely move for tourists and to get a picture without other heads in it was pretty difficult! When we were all photo'd out we got a drink and headed back down. Two minibuses and a local bus later we were back at the hostel, and after a quick change we went out to ipanema beach where there was a market on that day and where we were also planning on meeting up with Hollis and his girlfriend steph for a few beers that night. The market was really good, I think even Snellers enjoyed himself after complaining all the way there (I think the brazil tshirt he bought may have sweetened the deal a bit). We purchased a couple of the obligatory souvenirs before buying a crate of beers and heading down to the seafront to meet Hollis and Steph. Ipanema beach was absolutely gorgeous, most people say it is better the copacabana and I would definitely agree. We got there just as the sun was setting, and the beach was still full of people, mainly brazilians in tiny swimsuits playing beach volleyball. We all sat for a few hours until it got dark, then moved onto the promenade as the beaches are reportedly the most dangerous places to be at nighttime. after finishing our warm beers on some steps, we went to a couple of bars before realising the cheapest beer we were going to get was in a tiny pizza place, so we sat there the rest of the night, they even let us use their kitchen toilet although we had to wear a very unflattering hairnet to do so! It was a great night, and really good to hear all their travelling stories.
We had originally planned to leave on monday lunchtime on a bus to iguazu, however last minute decided to stay one more day and spend a day chilling out on copacabana beach. First, we went for a wander to the Havaianas shop round the corner and stocked up on flip flops as both of ours were looking pretty well worn after months of continuous use. It was so much cheaper than buying them from home so we went away happy and headed for the beach, stopping en route to pick up a massive watermelon slice. Unsurprisingly, Snellers was immediately in the sea, in waves miles bigger than any we've ever seen including australia. I was happily reading on the beach until he came back, sat for about a minute, and announced he was bored, so we walked back to the hostel via a beachfront bar. That night we ate the hostel dinner again (chef Tuna - very good at what he does!) and packed our bags ready to leave the next morning.
On tuesday we said a sad goodbye to rio - what an amazing city (good job really considering it took around 48hours total in buses to get there and away) - and were on a bus bound for Foz do Iguazu, the city at the Brazilian side of the famous waterfalls. Just the 24 hour journey this time! And the bus was well below par, very uncomfortable seats, no drinks or food service or movies played. Not impressed.

Will deal with Iguazu from both sides in the next entry!

Much love

Wils x
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Snellers Senior on

Rio sounds amazing if a little scary. Must have been amazing visiting the favella, a real eye opener.

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