Sao Paulo; It´s A Jungle Out There !


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South America » Brazil » São Paulo » São Paulo
March 12th 2007
Published: March 18th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Home for the week. The tenth floor of the Staybridge Suites.
Thursday 8th March to Thursday 15th March, 2007.

At 13.40 and at the fourth attempt I finally departed Paraty for the six hour bus ride south to Sao Paulo, the world´s second biggest city and home to 22 million Paulistans, 22 million and one if you included my brother in law Russell who had arrived on business 36 hours earlier. My seat was at the very front and I immediately made my self comfortable in the hope of sleeping through the trip but the heat within the still stationery bus made that impossible and so I sat back and waited for the air conditioning to kick in.

Initially I thought it was just me, that my body was handing out what it considered to be justly deserved punishment for staying up late and consuming copious amounts of Argentinian red the previous evening with Manu and the Irish girls but when I noticed beads of sweat the size of dew drops forming on the forearms of the Brazillian guy next to me I thought again. Literally any bodily movement, even a turn of the head would set the pumps off again and I soon realised that sleep was not going to happen and sat as rigid as possible willing the minutes to pass. I likened us to a bus load of sinners being transported from purgatory to the gates of hell and vowed to myself to behave in future. We made our first water stop after two hours and the little driver upon opening the cabin door with an apologetic smile to explain that the a/c was only functioning at twenty five per cent was met by a violent tirade of abuse from the suffering passengers. Poor man, it wasn´t his fault. Thankfully after three hours the route eventually involved cutting inland from the coast and rising through the hills and as we rose the temperature dropped, things finally became bearable and we eventually pulled into the terminal in Sao Paulo at twenty to eight.

My first opinion of Sao Paulo as I literally sped through it in the taxi was simple; a vast claustrophobic lump of concrete. The cab ride to the hotel lasted over forty minutes and cost more than the six hour bus ride that had preceeded it and when I arrived at reception I was handed a note from Russ to say he´d gone to
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Vivienne was very proud of her new tattoo.
the game that I should have been accompanying him to and that he´d left a ticket in the room. I couldn´t find it.

I went for a walk and was fifty metres from the hotel on my return when the heavens literally opened forcing me to spend the next thirty minutes sitting in a bar waiting for the thunder, lightning and torrential downpour to subside and when I did eventually get back Russ had returned. It was good to see him.

With Russ at work the following day I filled my tanks to capacity with the complimentary breakfast and set off to explore. I had no idea of our whereabouts within the City, the district of Itaim Bibi, and also no idea of what sights I should be attempting to locate. The Lonely Liar lists just four noteworthy things to see which doesn´t say a lot for such a big place so for today I thought I´d just walk and take what comes. After two hours I had come across nothing, nothing but concrete tower blocks and concrete roads congested with cars that wouldn´t think twice about knocking you to the ground. And not one patch of grass.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Eye Eye, another of Camila´s friends tattoo´s.
The question ´How on earth can people exist here´? was going through my mind repeatedly when it occured to me it was highly unlikely if I walked all day I´d see anything different, u turned and returned to the hotel.

I´d been in touch with Camila, a friend I´d met in Thailand two years ago, via e mail and gave her a call on my return to the hotel. She said she was going to a party later that evening where a friend of hers was DJ´ing and invited me along so after Russ and I had dined at Joacin´s, a US style diner joint close to the hotel and famous throughout Sao Paulo I went out front to meet her. It was 11.15pm and I was just wondering to myself if Paulistans worked on the same time schedules as Carioca´s when a small car with darkened windows slowed to an almost standstill and then, when prompted by the hooting of horns from behind accelerated away again. Two minutes later it was back, this time standing it´s ground as it held up all behind. I had no idea what car she owned and, unable to see in and with horns blaring all around risked arrest, being run over or worse shot as I approached and opened the door. Thankfully it was her.

As we drove she told me that although she´d lived in Sao Paulo all her life she had reached the stage where she felt she just had to get out of town and having spent 24 just hours there Í could understand why. Camila is an only child and close to her parents and is awaiting the job opportunity that will allow all three of them to set up a new life in a new country. The dangers of Brazillian cities, in particular Rio and Sao Paolo are well documented back home but the story she told me confirmed that it is not just Gringo´s who are in danger but normal everyday folk. Just last week she was getting in her car after a night out when a guy had approached and tried to force his way in with a view to absconding not just the vehicle but her as well. Fortunately she had somehow managed to lock the door but just after Christmas she had had an even scarier experience. Her father, a successful businessman had received a phone call from some inmates of one of Sao Paolo´s prisons saying that they had his daughter hostage, a boast followed by the scream of a girl. He was told to go to the bank, withdraw an amount of money and take it to a specified destination and was in the process of doing so when she, just by chance, called him. He´s been on medication for his nerves ever since. Laws in the City have also seen a recent change whereby it is now not compulsory to stop at a red light after nightfall, scary. I did as I was told and locked my door.

The place she took me was small but the music good and her friends went out of their way to make me welcome, especially DJ Robert and his wife Vivienne who, at the end of the night invited me to their apartment the following evening. Despite four or five large Vodka´s Camila had no qualms about driving me home insisting you never get stopped by police here and dropped me outside the hotel at 4.30am.

With Russ busy the next day I spent the day lounging in my camp bed, disturbed only by a phone call from Alex, one of Russ´s work team to say he´d pick us up at 3.30pm to go to play soccer, a game organised on our behalf. At 3.30pm Russ and I waited in the lobby and at 4pm and true to Brazillian form Alex arrived accompanied by his girlfriend Renata. When you speak to someone on the phone that you´ve never met you always develop a picture of them in your mind and Alex was nothing like I´d imagined. I expected a lithe, athletic young man but instead was greeted by a big bear of a chap in his mid twenties wearing a huge, warm smile and dressed, presumably as a show of friendship, in an England shirt. As Russ and I squashed into the back I couldn´t help compare our legs as I´d jokingly done many times in the past, big Russ´s almost three times the circumference of mine with one of his calves almost equal in girth to my thigh. God help me if I went into a fifty fifty tackle with him.

The game was played on Astro turf at soccer legend Rivelinho´s sports centre and was my first
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Robert the DJ and Camila.
action for four months. Initially I ignored what I knew would be the consequences the following day, aches in parts of my being that I´d forgotten even existed, and ran around like a twelve year old set free in the playground but after an hour or so, as a result of the heat and playing in trainers not suitable for such tomfoolery I had slowed to a rather inevitable walking pace.

At one point the ball came looping through the air towards me at an angle that was just asking for a Brazillian style scissor kick. I had a split second to decide, sensibly chest or head the ball and live to tell the tale or throw my tiring body into the air in search of glory and risk a visit to the local A & E. Of course I chose the latter. Connecting with the ball as intended was the easy bit, it was the landing that was the major concern and with the first part successfully accomplished, the ball cruelly grazing the top of the crossbar I closed my eyes and breathed a huge sigh of relief as my already aching limbs achieved a successful reunion with
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

And my hossts for the following night Robert and Vivienne.
the ground earning a few whoops and claps in the process.

With the game won, and despite Russ later trying to claim his team had done enough to catch our runaway start, I requested substitution and watched the last fifteen minutes from the sidelines. Russ had amused me throughout, cajoling and encouraging his colleagues and team mates whilst ignoring my taunts of ¨he´s only got a left foot¨, with the one exception, a small guy named Denis who apparently is the team IT genius. Denis had adopted a shoot on site policy long before Russ´s continued observations got through to him ¨Pass the bloody thing Denis. It´s a team game¨ he shouted. My biggest compliment was saved for the bar where we all went after for liquid refreshment courtesy of IBM. Igor, a lovely guy dressed proudly in his national strip but unfortunately for him blessed with the body co-ordination of a Pinnochio with broken strings telling me I´d played just like a Brazillian.

After dinner with Russ I took a cab to Robert and Vivienne´s top 26th floor apartment and spent another pleasant night in their company. The view from the window was spectacular, simply lights as
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Camila drives me home after a skinful of Vodka.
far as the eye could see in every direction drilling home the sheer vastness of this huge City.

A planned day at the beach for Sunday was unfortunately cancelled and heralded another welcome day of r & r for me as Russell again spent time on his business as manager of a software development team comprising members based in Brazil, the UK and the USA. The expected aches and pains hadn´t materialised for either of us quite as expected but that was all to change on Monday morning and after sharing a nice bottle of vinho tinto over dinner we retired to our mall for a nightcap. The Staybridge Suites, three huge towers situated around a large heavily securitied mall area of eateries and watering holes has no bar within but relies on the mall below. Each place is forever busy, no doubt as the result of patrons being able to feel safe and secure, a sad reflection on the dangers of the City. I introduced Russ to a new tipple, Caipivodka, a mix of vodka, lime, sugar and ice and he seemed to take to it like a duck to water.

On Saturday Alex had said that
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Pre match nerves ? Not a sign. Russ awaits the soccer in the lobby.
before we left we must visit the local steak house for lunch and at 12.30 Russ arrived at the hotel with three of his team Patricia, Julio and Eduardo ? to collect me for the short walk. The restaurant is owned by Brazil´s two most successful country music stars and is in a huge room tastefully decorated and dominated by a huge, help yourself buffet. Knowing that meat was the main objective I sparsely populated my plate with a leaf of Iceberg, two slices of tomato, two pickled onions and three button mushrooms before returning to my seat to await the action to begin.

We were given a diagram of a cow with numbered descriptions showing the location of each cut of meat and it´s properties and turned our cards to green. Green up shows the waiters you require more and only when you´ve been battered into submission and cannot manage another morsel do you turn it to red. There´s not been many times since my journey began that I´ve lived up to my nickname and Pigged out totally but today was definitely one. The different cuts of beef, pork and chicken all exquisitely cooked came thick and fast,
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

One Nil. Robbo slots another one home.
sliced with razor sharp knives onto a waiting side plate. Seconds after waving one waiter away another would appear blade at the ready and after half an hour I finally conceded Mr Creosote like and turned my card to red. I reckoned that if all the red meat I´d just consumed was joined together it would have been the size of a chess board, Pig, and whilst the other four returned to the office I counted myself extremely fortunate to be able to return to our room and get horizontal.

My proposed final two nights in Sao Paulo took the same route, dinner then back to the familiarity and safety of our local bar for more Caipivodka, Russ now not even considering the alternatives of, for example a Chopp of beer. Helen, if he comes home with a bottle of duty free Smirnoff and a bag of limes I reckon you´ve got trouble.

We´ve talked more in the last six days than we probably have in the previous ten years about many things that before we either haven´t had the opportunity nor the inclination and as well as learning a lot about the more serious things that make
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Causing Russ to slink away dejectedly.
the world go round I feel as though I´ve got to know him so much better.

At 3am on our final night together I was woken by the awful sound of Russ loudly calling Ralph from the toilet. The sound of someone being violently ill is a disturbing sound but I knew there was nothing I could do and turned over and went back to sleep. The following morning my bowels were misbehaving for the first time since leaving home and we both agreed to blame the chocolate and banana pizza´s we´d eaten the night before.

On what was to be my final day in Sao Paolo I accompanied Russ to his office where Julio, one of his team had promised to find details about my bus to Florianopolis. He called me to his PC and showed me that for an extra eight quid I could spend one hour on a plane as opposed to twelve hours on a bus. No decision to make but time was getting on so he booked the flight for the following afternoon and then spent more time looking for hostel accommodation. Eventually I settled for a cheapish hotel in the Centro area of town and half an hour later said a thankful goodbye to Russ before being winged across town by another member of the team, Claudio.

An hour later he dropped me at the hotel, in an area of town that at first look appeared very, very sleazy. I ventured fifty yards from the door to eat and was preparing to venture out again for a walk and explore later that evening when I got chatting to a Pakistani guy in the lobby. He appeared very concerned, told me I´d last five minutes before I was robbed, that even the police don´t venture to the place just a few hundred yards up the street after dark and almost pleaded with me not to go. I was a prisoner in my own hotel for the night and retired to bed longing for the moment the following day when I´d be set free.



Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


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Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Post match Cerveza´s with Matteus.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

F*** off I´m full. About to transform into Mr Creosote with Eduardo, Patricia and Julio at the steak house.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Cuts like this came thick and fast.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Russ tries to convince me that his side were victorious. I was having none of it.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

The beef joint descriptions.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

The view of the pool from our tenth floor balcony and our local watering hole to the right.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Cheers Russ, the last supper.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

I know what it looks like but it was actually chocolate pizza.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Which could well have been the reason for Russ´s conversation with Ralph later that night.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

Which one first ? Russ eyes up another Caipivodka.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.
Sao Paulo; The Concrete Jungle.

The last two in the bar.


18th March 2007

Caipivodka and Chocolate Pizza - Breakfast of Champions.Did you show them your tattoo Matt?
20th March 2007

Sports Fan...
Talkin of the Pakistani guy in reception over there, have been able to keep up with the goings on in the cricket? And talkin of footballin qualities - Utd and Chelsea are both through to the semis...
20th March 2007

looks like dog shit naan

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