A Travellerspoint blog

April 2009

Rio, Brazil

sunny 36 °C

Ah Rio! The land of the naked people!!

OK, so the "tourist attractions" in Rio really are amazing. The Sugar loaf, two enormous Granite peaks jutting up into the sky line, provide the most incredible views of the city. And from above I would say it is one of, if not the most, beautiful views I've ever seen. The setting is ridiculous; mountains, beach and all things city, i.e. high rises, traffic, millions of people in an extraordinarily small space - from above it is in-cred-iiible. By day you can see many of the cities Favelas, the slum areas, stuck on the hillsides like crumpled post it notes. They are all through out the city but always on higher ground. Some of them have micro populations of more than 25,000 but to look at the from afar they look like they might just blow away. By night these areas, unlit, disappear into the darkness leaving only the spectacle of Rios lights. A truly magnificent sight, although a little disturbing to watch half the population slip into blackness. When I see places from above I always image what is going on down there, in Rio I found it all quite upsetting. I found the city to be really paradoxical. On one hand it is breathtakingly beautiful but at the same time horribly ugly. Absolutely amazing but equally shocking. This goes for a lot of the people too; ugly beautiful and beautifully ugly. I guess it is better to go back to ground level to explain my self.

So we were staying in Impanema, near the beach. Now, there is no smoke without fire and the roots of the reputation of Brazilian women can be seen to be burning bright here. Obviously they are not all stunners, but it is safe to say that when they are aesthetically blessed in Brazil it is beyond ridiculous how gorgeous they are. In a desperate attempt to match up to their female counterparts the men make themselves quite an eyeful as well. Think QVC shopping channel - Absolute Ab Increase - Feel the burn Fat burner - Muscle men in Lycra. This, it seems, is the aspiration of the Rio Male, basically beeeefcake. So Impanema is basically a parade of the beautiful, and desperately wannabe people. There is very obviously a lot of plastic surgery, apparently bum implants are overtaking breast implants. Don't get me wrong it is amazing to see, but a plastic barbie world.

Generally speaking, regardless of age, shape or physical condition if you are female you wear a thong bikini and if you are a man you wear speedo's. Now as Rio is unique in that it is a city on the beach, the beachwear spreads throughout the whole city so there are men in ONLY speedo's and flip flops literally every where you look. In banks, supermarkets, markets, buses. You name it, there are speedos out in full force. And what I really mean by that is man bits jiggling around everywhere you look. Not, in anyway, pleasant. A lot of Errrrr, oh God, don't know where to look, oh no he saw me looking, but I didn't want to be looking, now he's smiling, and I'm cringing, look the other way, OH GOD! it's happened again and so on and so forth. They love it. It is hilarious but honestly, some decency please!! Shows how bloody British we ae doesn't it! In truth it is really liberating, and a nice quirk to their culture. I mean if you take beachwear out of the conext of the beach what it really is is waterproof inderwear. Can you imagine nearly everyone walking around Holborn in their underwear? If you think about it long enough it is quite nioce that people aren't set on disguising all their lumps and bumps and if your blessed with a beautuful body well ...
There is also an element of phsyical apreciation. It is not just westerns but the men are very vocal about these things which

Much to my horror, Claire actuallly chased a pair of red speedos down the street for photographic eveidence. She, not being the most subtle, got caught and so we had to resort to sneaky pics on the beach. The colour co-ordination displayed by the Rio gay male is some really spectacular. Turqiose flip flops, turqiose speedoes and a delightful turquoise scarf wrapped .... Oscar Wilde ....

What else? Shops. Shops and the beach, which is odd. Despite how beautiful it is, it feels so weird to have a beach in the city - it doesn't seem real. A faux beach to match the faux people. So this is Impanema, how we found it, and Copa-Copa-cabana is pretty much the same, although a little more 1970's degrading grandeur.

Without getting into facts and figures Brazil has an enormous population most of which is on the coast (except all the rich political criminals living in Brasilia). 40% of the population are living under the poverty line. What is so shocking about Rio is that the impoverished live right on top of the ridiculously rich. The Favelas are a stones throw from the 5* Hotels and the luxury apartments. So the same expensive-shop lined streets are being walked by sparkly high heels, also the dirty shoeless feet of the hundreds of people with out a penny to their names, not to mention the unwitting ipod-camera-cash clad travellers. I wont go on, but it is not hard to see why Rio has the crime rate that it does. You throw people with far far too much in the same bowl as people who have absolutely nothing and some people are going to get robbed. In fact, most people get robbed. Although this doesn't discourage people, not at all. Rio has got it's die hard fans. I guess people are accepting of the crime as it is so overtly obvious why it happens. I thanked my lucky stars when we crossed the boarder to Argentina with all of our things.

So Rio as a tourist ....

The Christ Redeemer is very cool. It is such an iconic image. Often with these things you have seen so many pictures of attractions that it kind takes something away from seeing it yourself. But it really is so impressive. It again gives you incredible views of the city and the statue it's self is really cool. It is an Art Deco statue, I think the largest in the world, and to me it doesn't have the creepiness of a half dead man hanging off a cross. It is, simple, beautiful smooth and awesome and it a warm feeling in you that you cant quite explain.

As Kathryn will tell you, we spent the carnival in Floranopolis which is like playschool compared to Rio. I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like being there the week before. We went out to Lapa, which is a really old neighbourhood in which they were still very much celebrating the Carnival. It was all a bit too much. The Caprinia's are ridiculously strong, making you feel a little disarmed after just one. The streets are jam packed. I'll say it again, JAM PACKET. You cant move. The men grab at you and are constantly trying to get a trophy kiss, even if it is by force, off of a Western girl. It is relentless and it doesn't matter how many street corners you turn you can not get into some breathing space, for at least a square mile. By 3 am we'd had enough and piled in a taxi home. That said, the Carnival culture is amazing, the whole thing is based on fantasy hence the wild costumes and it is all about the street parties; drums, samba, caeporia, and cocktails but going to Lapa is like going right into the mush pit of a good gig with no escape. An experience for sure but too intense for the likes of me n Lil' Claire.

The extremeity of the classes permentates every aspect of the city and the nihgt life is no different ....

Rio, is obviously famous for it's nightlife but to be honest we wouldn't really know. Other than not really being in the mood for it, cosmopolitan clubbing is not really our thang anyway. Dancing with sand between the toes and sunrise go together, not 50 quid entry and 10 p/drink. Frankly, our budget couldn't afford it and we can do that in London.

I think thats it! We had whizzed around a bit whilst Kathryn was with us so we took some time in Rio to breath, catch up on our blog, load some piccies and prepare for our mammoth journey down to the End of The World. Oh and we finally caught up with Lucy even though it was only for a night!!

Posted by Peacocks 15:52 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Sao Paulo to Rio, Brazil (LP)

White sand, buzzing jungles and pay p/kilo food.

40 °C

So it's my turn again and I have to confess I am no longer in Brazil. I did, however, scribble down some thoughts whilst I was and I'm going to put them in as I found them;

Roughly 15 March 2009

A usual occurrence; it's early and I am sitting outside my room, writing. I'm surrounded by normal things; paper, pencil case, water bottle, bikini drying but, what is really surreal is that I am in jungle in Brazil. If I look to my left, I can see Claire dozing back to sleep in our little wooden room looking like a princess tented under a huge white mosquito net. It is 7am and I, of course, am awake and keeping one eye on the breakfast area for my first shot of coffee. Keeping me company is a little green hummingbird about 3 inches tall that keeps coming for his breakfast from the illuminous orange and hot pink flower right next to me. A good choice I think. The insects hum and click and I can hear the two lovely owners, jewelery and yoga fanatics, chatting to their guests in any one of about 5 languages that they appear to be fluent in as they get breakfast ready. And now i'm wondering if toady's breakfast beat yesterdays banana muffins? and then I wonder how much of this, the finer details, am I going to remember in a month, a year, 10 years? So I'm taking note, I hope you don't mind.IMG_3651.jpg

Anyway, So Brazil has been different for us. It is incredibly beautiful. In terms of postcard-beauty, vibrancy of colours etc it is probably the most beautiful country in South America, but it is both of our least favorite place. Why? Well, we are now a man down as our little Cous-pot has gone, it is unbelievably EXPENSIVE and the language thing is a BIG problem. Although we're not exactly fluent in Spanish, (cough) coming here and realising that we can not communicate verbally with these people at all is frustrating and often embarrassing. Terrible really, but not wanting to fill our heads with Portuguese, (my school French springing from my subconscious unannounced is causing me enough problems when attempting Espanol as it is) we are both really keen to get back to a Spanish speaking country, to carry on our learning, but also because travelling is such a different experience when you can't communicate.

We have spent a lot of time just the two of us recently which has been lovely. Where we are now is wonderful, Trinidad a little coastal hippy town. More our scene than a big city, but I think part of what is so refreshing is that it is just us and a few other travellers chilling out and gathering ourselves, this is commonly referred to as the 'Carnival Hangover'...

At this point it trails off, I obviously went for breakfast. The banana muffins, it turns out, were a one off treat.
So back to the here and now, which is Buenos Aires a month on, looking back at what things spring to mind, i'll do my best to paraphrase.

Isla Grande; Big, beautiful island, in between Rio and Sao Paulo. Mostly jungle and white sandy beaches, looks a lot like Thailand for those who know it; a perfect tourist Island. You couldn't want for anything else. Little shops, quaint restaurants, beautiful beaches, secluded beaches, tranquil bays, surfing beaches, long walks, lovely people, two kinds of monkeys!! In all honesty, don't shoot us, we found it all a bit too perfect, maybe becuase it is suited to the older traveller or those on a short break. That's not to say we didn't enjoy it, it was lovely. It rained quite a bit when we were there but had some sunny spells. We walked a couple of hours through the jungle to a beach completely exposed to the brutality of the Atlantic. The waves are ridiculous, you can hardly stand up and weirdly it drags you sideways along the beach. Anyway, the result of millions of years of this is that sand is so fine that it squeaks under your feet, just like really really fine fresh snow (I want to say bicarbonate of soda, it is the cook in me coming out)
DSC01729.jpg

Trinidad; a local bus ride away from Isla Grande. Interesting as ever getting through the Chessington-World-of-Adventures style turn styles to get on the bus with back packs and all the other shit Claire and I always seem to be carrying. It is on the main land and is again very beautiful, little green islands dot all over the horizon, most uninhabited. Trinidad is of the hippy vein; sandy streets, artisans, surfers, beach restaurants although we were out of season and it was very quite. It suited us though. We did jungle walks, messed around on the beach and drank wine on our balcony. We stayed in the Jungle which was amazing and different to anywhere we've stayed before but the humidity was stifling. All your clothes were constantly damp and already having had our fair share of electronic disasters, we loved it but three nights was enough and we left with our fingers crossed that nothing was damaged. I wrote the above whilst there. IMG_3592.jpgIMG_3444.jpgDSC01739.jpgIMG_3500.jpg

Paraty; Colonial fishing town, meant to be amazing when the streets flood which is quite often. Everything has at least a foot step up to because of it. We didn't see it flood but it rained a lot. Nice hostel, really pretty architecture with a canal. All very "nice". We only stayed a night in the end, with the changing weather in Patagonia always on our minds, we rushed on through, not beofre Claire stocked up on her beloved Cashasha ... it is after all the home to Capharianas. We also randomly bumped into Chris in the que for the toilet in a bar. This travelling world is very small! IMG_3682.jpgIMG_3688.jpg

Sao Paulo; All we really know of Sao Paulo is the bus terminal as we collectively spent at least 24 solid hours there. The city is HUGE. It has has a population of 12 million, and including suburbs spans the length of England. It is the wealthiest city in Brazil; it has 700 helicopter landing pads because the wealthy got tired of being robbed on the roads!!! It does feel "a little" dangerous in parts, you have to watch your self. We went to the Japanese market for sushi. Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese population out side of Japan - really weird to hear Japanese people speaking in Spanish: I don't know why, but it is. The streets are filled with beggars and there are people practicing coeperiera in the parks with drunks cheering them on and trying to join in. Really sad. Buses fine. Fine, fine, fine.

And I think that's it. I feel like I may have been a little negative about Brazil. Looking back it was a wonderful experience and I didn't not enjoy any of it and really did enjoy a lot of it. But you cant love everywhere, "it wouldn't do for us all to be the same" as Little Nanny Lavender would have said. Everyone has their own experiences, so many people we've met absolutely loved Brazil and there are also some that have felt the same way as us.

One thing I will say is Brazil doesn't do anything by half. When the sun shines it is blinding and when it rains you almost drown. It is a wonderfully vibrant place full of colour. The culture is soulful, outdoors, musical, with fried foods, sweet cocktails, flesh, sex and everything else that springs to mind when you think of Brazil. However, in the south, which is where we were, it seems to have been heavily diluted by modernity and tourism. I understand that the north is really the place to go for cultural Brazil. Maybe one day? Oh and we didn't go into the Amazon, or the Pantanals so really we only saw a tiny little snippet. My insatiable desire to tread the earth will no doubt take me back one day to explore the rest.

LP

Posted by Peacocks 11:19 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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