Talk about timing: the World Cup is about to get REAL HOT and we’ve landed in Episode 7, Dave’s Brazil Escapade. Believe it or not, this was not planned. Dave and I first agreed to put this series together in February and we never really agreed to publish this post at this time. But it’s a welcome coincidence and we’ll ride the Soccer headlines for what its worth.
Without further ado, here’s Dave’s great Brazilian trip (time period February – March 2008).
I had organised this part of my trip far in advance as turning up to Rio on the day of Carnaval with no plan was likely to get you into a lot of trouble.
Upon arrival at the airport I was immediately ripped off by a porter at the airport. He forcibly took my backpack from the exit to the taxi (around 10m in walking distance) and then demanded a tip. A further tip was required from this too as it involved another porter opening up the taxi door; this was not a good way to make a first impression.
Rio hostels and the beaches
I headed to Botafago, one of the suburbs in Rio which I had never previously heard of, till I did my research (lucky I had booked my hostel around 8 months in advance). If I had done it a year in advance I probably could have gotten accommodation at the better known Ipanema and Copocabana beaches (Botofoga beach was not as good, in my opinion).
The ride itself took around an hour; there were lots of strangely designed houses, the majority of which were in a state of disrepair, it was what I would imagine a ghetto looked like. Later I was reliably informed that these were “Favelas”, where the local criminal types, drug dealers and their families lived, with no police to patrol what goes on.
The hostel greeted me with a free friendly beer (nice touch), some conversation – but I was damn tired so I went to my dorm to crash out.
The hostel was usually $22 a night, in a bed dorm with 20 beds, no air conditioning and reeking of body odour. However because it was Carnaval, the price was $100 dollars a night. I would usually never entertain staying in such a rundown hostel and I considered myself a hardened backpacker, so this accommodation was below my standard.
However as I have learned, initial impressions aren’t always the best as I had a totally awesome time there.
The Brazilian beach look
I woke up and headed out with one of the Irish backpackers staying there; there were many and headed down to Copocabana and Ipanema beach.
We didn’t bother to stop at Copa as the beach was jammed with too many people so we headed up to Ipanema which was marginally less crowded. The beach was crawling with well-built Schwarzenegger type framed guys (I felt inadequate) and a large amount of Brazilian women dressed in scantily clad bikinis.
This however was not as good as it sounds as the Brazilians no matter what size, shape or age you are, have no sense of modesty. All the women were scantily clad, whether they were 18, 78, large or thin, all the guys were wearing “budgie smugglers” (Australian slang for swimming briefs), also not necessarily a great look.
After a few hours of mingling in the overcrowded mess of flesh and sand that is Ipanema, we headed back to the hostel.
Being a tourist in Brazil
When I returned, I befriended – or was befriended – by all of the backpackers within the hostel, I suspect there was around 50 or so travellers including Aussies, Canadians, Kiwis (New Zealand), Paddy’s (Irish) and Poms (English) staying there, half of which were in my room. The initial meeting involved several drinking games (ran by Kiwi’s), plenty of shots, couple of Irish and English flashing their boobs and lots of laughs. I could sense that this was not going to be the most sensible part of my trip. Rio that time of year was quite humid so drinking copious amounts of beer seemed the best course of action. Being drunk as a skunk was also handy, as passing out seemed the best way to fall asleep in the dorm room.
The following morning I took a shower to wash off the crusty remnants of the previous night’s perspiration and decided to head to the big Jesus statue on top of the hill (Christ the Redeemer). I took a public bus to the mountain where there was a train service to the top.
The train ride was quite steep going through some rather rich vegetation and took around 20 minutes to head up the mountain.
Christ is up top
The view from the top of Corcovado Mountain was spectacular; you could see the tourist hub of Rio, the beaches and out to the ocean. There were helicopters flying below our eyesight level.
The statue itself is 41 metres high, arms stretched out seemingly in celebration of the wonderful view of all below. It’s hard to describe in words and photos don’t really do it justice.
The only annoying aspect though was there were so many tourists jostling for the best spot to take photos, it’s obviously very popular.
And the view up top
Danger in Rio
Upon returning to the hostel I was told that two other hostels had been held up at gunpoint.
Rio (during Carnaval anyway) is rampant with thieves. A local jokingly told me that during the celebration, all the locals leave and all the thieves come for a holiday to rob gringos. It was best to be cautious and I decided not to take my camera out at night, nor my wallet or credit cards. Caution was going to be best so unfortunately I was not going to take my camera about as much as I had hoped, and I had just enough cash to get by.
An annoying aspect of Brazil is that a lot of the bank teller machines won’t accept foreign cards, whilst others will change their mind on an hourly basis.
It took me around an hour of wandering about until I could find a machine that would let me withdraw some cash.
Some drinking games
That evening pretty much followed the first, more people checked in and more drinking games ensued.
The official Carnaval was starting the following day so we headed out to a local bar for a few hours (Botofoga is a safe area, not so many tourists which equal not so many thieves).
I had a conversation with some locals which involved screaming ‘Kaka, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho’ as I didn’t know any Portuguese and just about every Brazilian I ran across, with the exception of the hostel, did not speak English.
The Street were pumping
I decided to chill out for a while, and then thought I should purchase a bus ticket to Florianopolis. Rio was a little scary with gunfire; stabbings, robbings and so I thought I should head south to a different area after Carnaval finished which is more relaxed.
Purchasing a ticket proved to be a drama, firstly most of the websites don’t have online bookings and then if they do, some don’t take credit cards from overseas. I took a bus up to the local terminal and after confusing several directions (my Portuguese is terrible) I eventually found it a couple of hours later. After asking four companies, I eventually found one that did have the ticket I wished and I was sorted.
I eventually got back to the hostel after more confusion, figured I’d nap before my first night out for Carnaval.
Give me The Night
A group of us got several cabs and headed down to the street parade in Lapa, this proved to be brilliant and all my previous trepidations (thieving, money and bus tickets) were no longer a concern.
We headed down the street listening to various music pumping out of the clubs, whilst downing several beers. The locals weren’t concerned about thieving from what I saw and I felt relatively safe in a large group.
We ended up at a dance party in the local Shell service station, one of the most amazing (and odd) dance parties I’ve experienced.
Someone pulled up a vehicle into the station, popped the trunk and out blurred a mix of techno music and hard house… Brazilians and gringos were going absolutely mad for it and I stayed for a few hours.
After my ear drums had blown out, we decided to head down to the Arches, a few more beers, some of the local food and then I decided to leave early, around 5 am as I was going to the football the following day.
Soccer is the real Futball
I was very much looking forward to the football match (Flamenco vs. Resende).
Originally I had planned to go on a tour, but the tour operator disappeared (who knows where) and the hostel owner took us by train to the ground.
This proved to be interesting, a couple of the locals got into a rather brutal fight on the station platform we were on and then when the train pulled in. One guy was knocked out and dragged onto the train pulling out. The victor, still on the platform, punched his fist through the carriage window, people screamed and I thought, errr whatever. I was getting used to Rio.
The football game was rather tame in comparison, the stadium was about a third full; Resende isn’t a local team and this was reflected in the crowd. The atmosphere was great though due to the size of the ground the noise was by no means thunderous due to lack of numbers. Resende also defeated Flamenco 3 – 1 which didn’t help.
After the debacle on the train, decided it was best to return to the hostel by cab.
A night out at Lapa
That night the hostel organised free food and beer for everyone staying which was pretty nice. Later in the evening, we went back down in Lapa.
Lapa is seedy, which is why I enjoyed it; much more than Copacabana or Ipanema.
A few fights kicked off at the Shell service station so most of our time was spent down at the Arches. More dancing was involved, a lot more booze and I chatted with several travellers as well as any English speaking Brazilians.
Another thing to be aware of down there is the lack of toilets i.e. there are none, so when your bodily urges take you either go in public but do not look for somewhere private or more than likely you lose all your cash.
I finished up at the respectable time of 6 or so.
The following night was the Samba parade. I originally had no plans of going due to the expense involved, but then my luck came in and an old guy came to the hostel selling tickets for 50 reals ($35 AUD). This was an opportunity not to be missed.
Upon securing my ticket, I headed down to Ipanema to work on the tan and found a local street party along the main strip. The local street party I was told had approximately a million people, dancing around to samba with drums constantly banging away… I decided against drinking and hit the beach. This again involved watching the locals dancing about in their inappropriate swimwear which I was now finding hilarious, and I then headed back to the hostel.
A group of us headed down to the Sambodromo at about 8 in the evening. This was safe so I took my camera (refer to photos). It was totally amazing, the colours, the dancers and then floats.
Being up in the cheap section was quite funny, a lot of the crowd in the cheap section were Australian and it was a pretty good vibe. The parade itself runs from 8 pm till 6 am, there is six parades and they take about an hour and a half between each show, they run over two nights and I went on first night.
The music doesn’t change and there was a half an hour lag between each samba group.
Though spectacular, I only made it to parade 4 before deciding to pack it in and head back.
And there’s me in the parade, the bald guy
A mermaid themed float
Winding down from a party
By now I’d been out so many times, slept so little and drank so much, that I have entered the immunity to everything phase. I could no longer get drunk or no longer had any fear of anything. I also no longer required sleep nor could I get sunburnt. I am no longer hungry, nor do I require sleep and I can’t get sunburnt. I was kind of like the “Terminator” I suppose. I’m not sure how healthy a state this was but I’d lost some weight and I looked pretty tanned.
Carnaval was coming to a close though and I was starting to get think this was a good thing.
I spent the afternoon at the Botofoga street party that was around the corner. I drank a few caprinias and followed the party truck driving slowly around the local area. Thousands of people were doing the same thing or lined up on the footpath, there were also an endless amount of street vendors selling alcohol and snacks; it was a pretty good vibe.
The only thing I found a little odd about it was the amount of what I suspected to be underage girls dancing about the place and whilst I was felt up, I figured the prudent thing was to leave off making out with multiple partners unless I was positive they were an adult. My inhibitions did not seem to constrain the local Brazilian men that made out with any female that came within grabbing distance.
Saying goodbye to the United Nations
The evening involved the various nations within the hostel bellowing out their national anthems as well as other songs. There were a lot of people leaving the hostel the following day, so we figured on celebrating before parting ways. I had only been there for a week but if felt like splitting up a family.
Several of us then headed down to the local bar, I was given free food as I had brought people from the hostel there a few times over the week and they were thanking me for the for bringing in the patronage. There was more conversations about Kaka, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho and I ended up out till 6 am again.
I didn’t get up too much on my last day; I was all partied out by now and figured just to relax. I headed down to the local beach and took in some rays, and then headed to the local cinemaplex – i.e. a movie theatre – and took in a movie (always good to sit in a dark room with air-conditioning).
Spent a quiet one back at the hostel and said goodbyes to the few stragglers had not left as yet.
The next morning I was interviewed by a reporter for a Brazilian national magazine, who visited the hostel, I thought that was kind of a cool way to finish off Rio.
I set out on my bus ride, from Rio to Florianopolis which is approximately 750 km. It didn’t sound too far but somehow still managed to go for 18 hours or so. It cost me around $100 AUD which I thought was expensive, but the plane fares were far more expensive so it was still the cheapest way to travel.
After the journey, I arrived in Florianopolis. The town itself looked pretty dingy, unit blocks dotted all over the place, but luckily I was staying on Logoa island, just to the east of the town.
Logoa, the mini Ibiza
Logoa is a gorgeous island, and it’s pretty large to fully appreciate it (I think you need a vehicle and unfortunately I was running through my cash and couldn’t take advantage of this place as I otherwise would).
The island is a holiday village for rich South Americans, with group backpackers, strategically located about the island.
The various towns I saw were the beaches are amazing, crystal clear water and perfect white sand. People were also more appropriately dressed on the beaches. .
How the Bar Service works
This was the first time I ran across the more traditional way of bar service; the rule involved paying when you finish drinking.
Upon entering a bar, you are either provided with a piece of paper which you can’t lose or a heaving fine is involved, its marked by your bartender indicating how many drinks you get, and then pay upon leaving. That or you have to negotiate your bar tab at the end of the night which can cause a lot of confusion, especially with drunk gringos and bar staff that don’t speak any English.
Portuguese is quite a difficult language to get the hang of and sounds nothing like Spanish (not to my ears anyway).
The island life in Logoa
The first hostel I stayed at was friendly enough, though it was very quiet and they didn’t have the knack of arranging any activities.
A few of the lads and I went out the first night and sampled some of the local bars, the beer wasn’t too good, but the caprinias were excellent and more than made up for it. After downing a few and learning the ins and outs of bar etiquette, I packed it in for the night.
T12 Saturday session
The next day I caught up with a mate I met in Austin earlier in my trip at his hostel, this place was much more of a party atmosphere and I ended up on a party bus from there to the North side of the island, a party called the “T12 Saturday session”.
When we reached the T12 place, I was stunned by how many gorgeous people there were there, I felt out of place being a scungy backpacker, but thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was interesting to see how the rich like to party.
This place had dance floors, a massive swimming pool and various marques located around the complex, it looked like something from Ibiza – I was very impressed.
The party was like…
The Final Days
I couldn’t really get a conversation out of the locals and they also sensed that I was a backpacker and had no interest, so I had fun with the backpackers from the bus, dancing to techno music in the pool.
The next day was spent recovering from the previous night and then I decided to move to another hostel further up the island, for a couple of days. This hostel was located on a beach; it looked like a Greek building from ancient times.
I arrived at the hostel, and then headed down to the beach and did some surfing (I got up….. yes).
The night involved meeting up with a lot of new backpackers, Aussies from Sydney mostly, having a few laughs and then going down to the local beach once the hostel bar closed. This was quite bizarre as the bar consisted of a tent blaring out really annoying Bob Marley music.
I waltzed with an English girl I met at the hostel (literally waltzing), then a pack of wild dogs came to the party, followed by local cocaine dealers. And to finish off the night, we played 5 a side football, Australia vs. Brazil. It was quite surreal.
View from the hostel
The next day involved more sunbathing and some beach cricket, the locals found it quite a spectacle. There were a few more nights at the hostel bar and on my last night I didn’t partake in too much festivities due to being sick from the previous nights, as well as suffering from a sunstroke.
The following day it was off on another bus trip, this time for 14 hours. I was leaving Brazil and heading to Argentina.
The Travel Bug
The Travel Bug is a collaboration project that goes through Dave’s travel journals around the world. We started this series a while back and landed in the US in our last post. His travel diaries continue through to Argentina, in approximately 3 weeks time.
He is on another trip at present (Vancouver, USA, Copenhagen, Paris, around the UK, Spain and South Africa).
PC likes getting the job done by day and writes, designs and codes during his spare time. He also enjoys having a drink with Dave and hearing his tall travel tales.
We hope to entertain you through this collection of stories.