Tuesday 31st May 2011 – Update from Brazil
So, here we are again… Leaving another section of our trip behind.
Not as much adventure to report as the previous countries, but still the most unbelievable time here. Two weeks went way too quickly. We started in Sao Paulo for 4 nights without meaning to stay that long, but Rohan had hooked up some interviews for his website www.diwireless.com.au and we hung out with Cesar and some local bands he’d organised for Rohan to interview in their skate shop/art space.
The following night we went to a local show at a place called Hanger 110 and then out for beers in the city where everyone doesn’t go out until midnight – then they don’t even go into the clubs. They just stand in the street outside and drink cheap beers that people sell from their car boots. Awesome to have some local knowledge and company. Cesar was amazingly kind and drove us around, showed us a few of his local hangs, and introduced us to Açaí na tigela (“açaí in the bowl”) which is a typical Brazilian dish made of frozen and mashed Açaí palm fruit from the Amazonian region. It is served like a thick smoothie in a bowl topped with granola, honey and banana and is absolutely delicious and addictive. We had to try not to eat it at every chance we got for the rest of our time in Brazil.
Sao Paulo was cool though, absolutely massive (biggest city in southern hemisphere apparently), and easy enough to get around as we had a lot of western conveniences and the subway which was a welcome change. Was a bit weird at first coming from Bolivia, with the subway plus everything being close to normal Oz prices. We went to MASP (Museum of Art Sao Paulo) to check out a Portrait & Impressionism Exhibit. A few of the well know masters were there – Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and more. Was really cool to see some paintings I’d studied back in high school.
We also had a day out to the coast, about one and a half hours by bus. It had been cool in the city so was hoping for a bit more sun in Santos, but it wasn’t too much better. Was nice to get out of the big city and put our feet in the sand though. Just walked along the beach then sat at one of the beach bars in the beach chairs and drank beers, then got the bus back. A nice and relaxing city break for a day.
We moved on from Sao Paulo to Paraty which was a little colonial town by the Atlantic. Not much to do there but it was quaint and cobblestoned, and we could take boat trips from the hostel out to beautiful secluded islands to snorkel and swim. We felt like rock stars! Lots of lazing on remote beaches and beers at sunset, very much a change of pace from what we had been doing for the first 5 weeks. And some of the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen. The forest pretty much runs straight into the ocean and right along Costa Verde, the stretch of coast between Sao Paulo and Rio. Heaps of little surf towns which were begging us to return one day and drive and camp along the beach.
Most tourists have left the Brazilian coast now that summer is over but it’s still warm and in the high 20’s. Nights are still cardi weather though. The streets were nice and quiet, not crowded at all, and we could bargain the room rate as it was low season. A combination of blue skies, warm sun and the islands made Paraty definite highlight.
Onwards from Paraty, we travelled north 4 hours by bus to Rio de Janeiro. So exciting, we had both always wanted to see this place. We ended up staying 3 blocks from Ipanema beach. Had to change hostels the first night as the one we’d checked into had bed bugs! We checked the mattress seams before bed luckily (just as Victoria and Lewis had shown us after their horrible experience in London) and saw them. So complained and they put us up in the sister hostel down the street which is much nicer, and for the same rate 🙂 so happy as this was a much cleaner and overall better hostel.
For the next week we walked the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana a bit and watched the beautiful bronzed fit brazilians wander the beach. There are different sections – the beautiful people, gay people, tourist people and the family people. It was super obvious and quite funny to see the separation.
During our week in Rio we did quite a bit. The weather hadn’t been super kind, so we got to see a bit more if the city rather than laying on the beach all day. We went up to Corcovado, the Christ the redeemer statue which overlooks the city. You know the one? FAMOUS! Awesome panorama of city and amazingly beautiful with all forest and mountains surrounding it. We also walked the colonial and bohemian area of Santa Marta and watched the last trolley trams in Brazil. For one of our nights we went out of to see a Botofogo v. Santos football game which was fun, and another night we went samba dancing at an old club in Lapa. We met locals who taught us both how to do it, and many capirinhas later weren’t too bad at all.
We also hooked up a tour of Rochina favela, or slums as we call them. Rocinha is the largest favela in Brazil with 300,000 residents, and the area is full of dwellings stacked on top of each other and dark and narrow alleyways weaving through the hills. The living conditions actually weren’t as shocking as expected but it was strange to walk past guys with machine guns slung across them or pistols under their shirts. The areas are controlled by ‘the guys’ and there is alot of drug related crime but most of the community live out of harms way if they aren’t involved.
In Rio we had the chance to hang out with some locals we met, an established punk band, Carbona. Rohan was able to record some more interviews for his website, then a couple of the guys from the band took us out to a local hang, down by the marina and we had beers and pastels (pastry goodness) overlooking the water.
As much as people had warned us we haven’t had any problems so far with the crime they report here, but we’re being careful and not taking much out. It’s been swell here in Brazil, and we hope to return one day. I’ll miss the acai and the empanadas. But i won’t miss the language barrier. Turns out that spanish is alot more different to portuguese than i had thought. I promise to know more Portuguese next time so that Rohan doesn’t have to do all the talking, because it’s quite frustrating saying the same thing 5 times and then them finally understanding me. Even when I knew what words to say. My pronunciation sucks!