Rio de Janeiro
Christ the Redeemer
From Iguazu, I had my first experience of long-haul bus travel in South America, as I headed for Rio. The journey started at 10 am and finished at 2 pm on the following day! Despite the loss of my music player and the tendency of Brazillians to be noisy, the journey went surprisingly quickly. I decided to brave local bus service to reach my hostel, which was in the Laranjeras area of the city, and quickly came to realise that Rio buses are the least comfortable form of transport I have ever used! The hostel was fairly cheap and clean, but virtually empty, perhaps because it was inland, around 1 km from the nearest beach.
Rio has an amazing setting, with mountains, beaches and tropical weather, which I was able to take in from the site of the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado mountain. I also visited the city centre and spent an afternoon walking along Copacabana beach. However, due to a lack of drinking partners in the hostel and stomach troubles, I didn't see much of the famous Rio nightlife.
Rio has had a bad reputation for violence in the past but progress has been made, to
Rio de Janeiro
Looking west along Copacabana
the extent that the city was seen fit to host the next Olympic Games. I found the locals to be very friendly, with a few people saying "hello" to me in English on the street. The only unsavoury moment was when a teenage boy grabbed my T-shirt in broad daylight on Copacabana and asked for money. However, before I registered what was happening, some people shouted at him and he ran off.
After four days in Rio, I took the bus down the coast to Paraty, an old colonial town not dissimilar to Colonia
, with its cobbled streets and colourful rustic buildings. The hostel was very quiet (on the first night I was the only guest), but the town itself was celebrating, with live music, street parades, and firecrackers (at all times of day) in the run up to Pentecost. On my second night, I was joined in the hostel by Karin and Max, who were coming to the end of their travels, having been to many of the places on my itinerary. They shared travel tips while we shared caipirinhas, a cocktail made with Brazil's most popular liquor, cachaça. The following day suggested I enjoyed them a little
I was told that Paraty has a number of idyllic beaces close at hand. However, the weather was overcast and drizzly, so I opted to stay in the town a couple of days more and take it easy. From Paraty, I headed to Sao Paulo. However, since the best recommendation I had of the southern hemisphere's largest city was "It's not so bad when you get used to it", I decided to book a bus to Asuncion, Paraguay for the same afternoon.
A week and a bit was hardly enough to do justice to such a huge country, however, Brazil was expensive - you get punished in most restaurants for being alone, as meals are priced for two people and half portions are significantly more than half the price, and the supermarkets aren't cheap either. In addition, after making some progress with Spanish, it felt like I was back to square one with Portuguese. Many of the words are similar, but I found the accent difficult to understand. Being unable to say the simplest sentence properly was embarrassing and frustrating, and it meant I couldn't interact with the locals, which, for me, is a big part
Drinking Caipirinhas with Karin and Max
of the travelling experience. I heard that being proficient in Spanish helps with the Portuguese, so I decided it was best to save Brazil for a time when I'm better at Spanish and have someone to share dinner with.
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