Sao Paulo - The New Year

Trip Start Sep 07, 2012
Trip End Aug 18, 2013

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Sao Paulo,
Thursday, December 27, 2012

Our arrival into the city of São Paulo, Brazil was far from fun. As the 8th largest metro area in the world (20 million people) we didn't expect roses but we ended up on, lets just call it, the "stinky" bus. We had the last four seats in the back and the toilet was not in good working order.  We of course attempted to explain this to the driver and crew, but they had no clue what we were saying (this was common in Brazil). By the time we pulled into the Sao Paulo bus station we were all thrilled when the 4 hour ride was over. 

We had a really hard time finding a place to stay due to the New Year holiday. All of the good hostels and B&B's were booked and the high rated hotels were too expensive. So we ended at one of the Mercure chain hotels in the business district area of Times Square. It was comfortable with a lot of space and included a pool, so there was no complaining here but it fit the gray concrete jungle stereotype. The large hotel was run with seemingly one person and several security guards out front. We think they were security guards based on their lack of interest in helping us as we arrived by taxi, their black clothes and demeanor.

Prior to arrival in Sao Paulo we had grand ideas of seeing the sights within the city, but it stormed every day with the rain and lightning coming down fast and furious. It felt right to just hang around and reflect on our 3.5 months in South America as well as prep for the next phase of the trip.

Besides, the entire neighborhood was void of people and character. We found an open grocery store and made most of our meals in the tiny kitchenette. It was so dead around the hotel that one night we attempted to make pasta using boiling water from the tea kettle and the microwave. We choked it down but it was not glamorous.

One night, after doing another Google Maps investigation, we spotted a restaurant somewhat within walking distance. We knew it was going to be a long walk so on the way out grabbed two of the many hotel umbrellas. We were stopped by one of the way-more-than-needed security guys who rudely ordered us in Portuguese to put them down. We looked at him like he was insane. We looked at the sky, our kids, the umbrellas and our room key and said, "take it easy, we'll be right back with your umbrella's, we're just going to dinner." He motioned no, so John went back to the front desk and had to plead, "It's good advertising...and what are they there for if your guest's can't use them?" With reluctance she agreed to let us use the precious bumbershoots but not without talking and gesturing with all the security guards who were not at all happy as we left with the umbrella's open as the rain started to fall

We watched a lot of movies, caught up (ha ha) on the blog, did lots of math, and Skyped with family and friends . We still had no plan for how to tackle Australia for a month so also spent a lot of time doing research and determining our accommodations for Perth and what we were going to do next.

Sao Paulo was also the place we planned to receive a box of supplies and medicine from home. Our friend Lisa had coordinated for it to be shipped via DHL to a Regus business center. We had become a "free" premier member of the Regus chain prior to leaving home so we chose an address in Sao Paulo and gave it to Lisa. But fate conspired against us. The pricey 2-day air package got stuck in the US because of Christmas and then it got stuck in Brazil customs. With the Regus office closed for the New Year we made at least an hour of pleading phone calls with DHL to get it unstuck and in our hands at the hotel. Lisa tried valiantly on her end and we even had the office manager at Regus, whom we had never met, put quite an effort into helping us. It was not to be though as the package cleared customs just as the country shut down to party on New Years Eve. It would be to be sent back to Lisa in Seattle and shipped to Australia instead.

To rid ourselves of the disappointment of dealing with the package and needing to wander, we decided to just head downtown. Without much in the way of research, we chose a landmark and hopped in a taxi. It turns out that we found our way to the main street of downtown Sao Paulo, which was blocked off for the New Years Eve celebrations.  The massive size of the city was made apparent by the enormous stage and blocks and blocks of equipment set up for the crowds coming that evening. Yet still, all of the shops were closed so after taking a look around we headed back to the hotel to finish packing for our evening flight.

Our flight left at 3:30am so we watched the celebrations unfold on TV and rang in the new year. We then headed to the airport to catch our first ever Qatar airways flight. We would be traveling through the country of Qatar and it’s capital city of Doha and Qatar airways had recently been awarded the prestigious airline of the year award. Watching fireworks go off, tired, and checking into yet another flight was a fair way to spend our last hours in South America. But the fun didn't stop there. The very friendly Qatar employee was ready to hand us our boarding passes when she said, "Where's your visa?" We said, "As US citizens, we can get a Visa on Arrival for Australia" After 30 minutes of back and forth, the supervisor approved (they had to use a function key on their Windows XP machine to override the system) and we were on our way to another part of the world.

We loved our time in South America. We were so blessed by the people (locals and travelers alike) that we met as well as the cultural diversity we experienced and sites that we saw. We are proud to have made it all the way from top to bottom: from friendly Colombia, to the Hourani tribe of the Amazon, to the Andes mountain range, to Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls, to the mega cities of the the Atlantic, to the amazing wildlife all over, to the windswept steppe and mountains of Patagonia. South America gave us to much and it was a truly awesome place to spend the first four months of the WT.

We do admit however that we were looking forward to heading into an English speaking country and maybe not standing out quite so much with the girls blonde hair!  So long South America, bring on Down Under!
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