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Published: February 24th 2017
Three days of no A/C in the bustling city of Rio means Jon and I are ready to get out and into nature. But before we left, we had a date with Jesus. After a winding taxi ride to the monument, we found him…and he is humongous. Jon and I take the poor-man’s route and hike all the way up to the top. Totally worth it, but not for the weak! No paved sidewalks here, we were knee-deep in unkept vertical trails. The hike is two hours straight up and two hours straight down. Some points you need to use a rope to climb and repel yourself. Hiking shoes are a must. There are waterfalls, beautiful flowers and we even saw monkeys.
At the finish line, there is nothing but panoramic views, and of course, Jesus. The white statue has such a breath taking presence that you don't even need to be a religious person to appreciate. Five hundred and fifty-two iPhone photos/Instagram/snapchats later, Jon and I hike back down and onto our next adventure.
We are given two options of getting to Salvador, Bahia: another 24-hour bus ride or rent-a-car. For the sake of adventure, we choose the
latter. Only one problem -- all the cars in Brazil (and most of the world, apparently) drive stick-shift manual. And this American only knows automatic. Jon, who usually drives a manual back in Wales, pulls into the closest empty parking lot, "I'm not driving the whole way there. I will teach you. It'll be fun."
With three Brazilian parking lot attendants watching from afar, Jon begins the first lesson.
“Okay, so now press your left foot down on the clutch slowly. Good. Now once yo--.”
“Okay, that’s okay. Try aga—“
Stalled. It'll be fun, he said...
“What am I doing wrong?!” I panic.
“When you feel the clutch pull, give it some gas.”
The parking lot attendants realize what we were up to and laugh. Must have been quite a show for them. I could hear ‘em now, “Stupid Gringa.” Jon takes out what weed we have left and rolls a spliff. Well, he’s obviously calm enough
. “You’ll get it babe. I’m not worried.” Probably because it’s not his
car I’m ruining.
“I don’t know if you know this, but three people have previously
tried and failed to teach me stick-shift.”
“Well, none of those people are me. So, try again.”
I do it this time. Once I feel the clutch pull, I press on the gas gently and we begin moving. “I did it, I did it—.” Stalled. Dammit!
Spoke too soon.
By the time Jon was through rolling the spliff, I was driving in circles around the parking lot. Even got a standing ovation from the attendants. Once I felt comfortable enough to drive on the main road (with Jon’s help reminding me to change gears – “Second… second!”) We were off.
We are 24-hours away with a virtual map that barely worked, on roads that haven’t been paved in the last decade, guided by signs that we couldn't read. Let the adventure begin!
Imagine: the main highway consist of one-way roads. The roads are pothole-galore. Plus, the speed bumps. Speed bumps! Can you believe?! Speed bumps in the middle of the highway! Some are marked, but most aren’t. We are driving along and as soon as one of us catches a glimpse of one we scream, “SPEEEEED-BUUUMMMMP” and brace for
impact. All going 70mph. Oh, and the only people to share the road with us? Tractor-trailers. Big ones. Some going 90mph…some going 20, and the only way to pass the slow ones is to play a game of chicken with the oncoming tractor-trailers going the opposite way. It wasn’t until we told locals about our decision to drive a car through Brazil that we realized how dangerous it really was. “Are you crazy?! Those trucks will run your car off the road, without blinking an eye!” They said. They weren’t too far from the truth either. Didn’t know you needed to be so close to death to feel so alive!
Along the way, I introduce Jon to all my favorite podcasts. We take turns driving. He drives during the day. And I, until the sun came up…which is worth mentioning. All night, it is pitch black, meaning no street lights. The only light I was given was the blinding ones from oncoming traffic. I could only imagine what lied beyond. It wasn’t until I see the neon pink strip of sky peeking over the mountains did I realize that outside my window is so much more that
what I pictured. Rolling hills of lush green scenery surrounded us. Flowers of all colors bloomed on the ground below. Birds sang while they chased each other from canopy to canopy. I was so moved by the beauty. I pull over on a dirt road, get out of the car and climb on top of it. I am front row to Pacha Mama’s sunrise symphony, listening to the birds flying all around. A small farm sits in the distance, between two mountains. How lucky they are to live in such beautiful solitude. A few deep breaths and a couple yoga poses later, I woke Jon up, threw him the keys and slept until our arrival.
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