Hello Sao Paulo
Trip Start Apr 04, 2012
30Trip End Jul 18, 2012
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The bus from Rio was relatively painless. It took about six hours, and I only slept probably two of them, but the ride wasn't half bad. There was air conditioning, the seats reclined, and the bus wasn't even full. Although my iPhone battery was dead and I couldn't listen to any music, I still just zoned out and stared out into the lush green countryside, adorned with decomposing billboards and little shacks here and there, an occasional barn with flocks of livestock once in a while. I closed my eyes when we left the Rio bus station, and the next time I opened my eyes we were at the halfway point at a little rest stop.
The Rio bus station itself was a little adventure. We hopped aboard a public bus in Copacabana for about $1.75 USD and rode it to the city center where we assumed the bus station (Rodoviaria) would be. We were informed that a cab there would cost about 30 Brazilian Reals, so we had some idea the distance, but that figure is likely wrong since it was quite a way to the bus station. We passed along the beaches and delved into the city center, where it started to get more crowded and less touristy, and for another 15-20 minutes we just kept sitting in the bus waiting to find what we were hoping would clearly appear like a bus station. Of course, we were the last stop, and with each stop the hills seemed to inch closer, the buildings seemed to grow wearier and older and more impoverished, more broken glass, more kids milling around on the streets barefoot, the roads started to get bumpier. By the time we got to the bus station, things looked a far cry different from the sunny paradise of Ipanema. The favelas were a literal stone's throw from our disembarking point. Literally, with a crow hop or two I could have thrown a rock and it would have hit the roof of the slums. On the way there, I was reminded of an episode of the Simpsons when Lisa Simpson misses her stop and stays on the bus until she finds a neighborhood she is familiar with. As she stays on, the neighborhoods get shadier and shadier, sketchier and sketchier, until she finally gets off at the last stop, a place called "Crackton," with hobos laying in the streets and the sidewalk asphalt full of cracks, the sun going down. Of course to cap off our own bus ride, the moment I got off the bus, a little boy grabbed onto my arm and asked for two reals. I said sorry and walked on, half assuming he was gonna pull a knife and just get the entire one hundred in my pocket.
But, luckily, we made our way. The six-hour bus only put us back 40 USD, and the next one to Florianopolis only another 50, so altogether we will have descended down as far through Brazil as we will eventually go for under a hundred bucks. Today, our plan is to go hop onto the Sao Paulo metro and explore a bit. Apparently, Liberdade, the Japantown of Sao Paulo, is the largest in the world and only a few Metro stops away. If all goes well, I will be gorging on Japanese food for lunch in a matter of hours. There should be a lot of hidden little gems like that in this town of 22 million people. It reminds me of the same feeling when I was in Tokyo for two weeks. Every day I would wake up, pick a new stop or few on the Metro, and just go explore. Every day for two weeks, all day. Then when my time in Tokyo came to a close, I looked at a map to see how much of the city I had explored, and it was like 1% of 1% of it. There is no way you can see this entire city. I lived in San Diego for 20 years and there are dozens of neighborhoods I have literally never been to. Sao Paulo has double the population of Los Angeles county. So, we will try our best to get a good glimpse. However, most of this gigantic megalopolis will remain a shrouded mystery to us.
The hostel we are residing in is called LimeTime. The bed sheets are lime green. The walls are lime green. The outside front wall has a gigantic mural of a...lime. And, every night at 9pm, it's...LIME TIME! Each resident gets a free caipirinha from the bar. We forgot ours last night.