Friday, 22 January 2010

DIARY BRAZIL Rio de Janeiro


Trivia question - Where is the deepest underground in the world? - Answer at end of blog
PLEASE BEAR WITH ME AS I FIGURE OUT THE BLOG POSTINGS, I AM NOW THINKING IT BETTER TO PUBLISH THE DIARY IN RELATION TO EACH CITY OR AREA THAT WE VISIT.  THEREFORE THE FIRST PART OF THIS DIARY IS A REPEAT AND THE LAST PAGE OF EACH DIARY WILL PROBABLY ALSO END UP BEING THE FIRST PAGE OF THE NEXT ONE.
SATURDAY 9 JANUARY – My little sisters 50th birthday, boy if life flying by quickly.  This morning we arrive in Rio and the Captain has said it is a spectacular approach.  I wake at 5am, put the TV on to the bridge camera and wait.  It is still dark and Rio is lit up in the distance so I will linger in bed until it is worth getting dressed and going out on deck.  I keep glancing up at the TV but there is little to see, until I wake again at 8.30am to see all the containers in the port!  Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL, is somewhere we have always wanted to visit, having seen so many pictures of Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain.  We can actually see the statue on the hill from the dining room but it looks smaller and less impressive than we expected. 
Exchange rate is around Reals 3 = £1 and we need to get off the ship to get come currency.  Stern Jewellery Company offers a free shuttle bus, the catch being that you must do a tour of their factory.  This works out well as the factory is near Ipanema beach so we have a long ride through the city to get there.  We are amazed by the amount of graffiti everywhere, most of it black symbols but some is really nice art work.  The gem tour is not bad as you go at your own pace with a headset.  As soon as we get to the salesroom we explain to our personal shopper that we have no interest in buying any of their beautiful pieces and she soon lets us pass through.  Walking down to Ipanema we are amazed to see so many people walking the streets in their swimwear.  Far too many fat men in Speedo’s for my liking but Steve is pretty happy to see the girls with their bum floss bikinis.  The beach is heaving with people, wall to wall umbrellas so you could not get a tan even if you wanted to!  Of course it is weekend during the school holidays but even so you would have to pay us to visit this kind of beach.  We walk along and Steve checks out the water which is very warm.  We pick up some money from an ATM, taking extra care to normal, and return to Sterns store.  This time we are put into a car with another couple from our ship and the journey back is along the back of Ipanema and Copacabana Beach with a stop for photos of Sugarloaf Mountain.  First impression of Rio is that there are some very nice tourist attractions but the sooner we can get them done and get out of the busy city the better.  Back on board we have our final cruise weigh in, I have gained 7lbs and Steve 8lb which is not too bad over 20 days but we I suspect it will take longer to lose it!  In the evening we have the free bar from 5pm – 8pm and get a chance to have a last drink with many of our new ship friends.  We have time for a last game of cards with Vic, Gwen & Louise with Neal making up the 6th.  Round off the evening by watching Julia & Julia film in the showroom whilst poking Steve to stop him snoring.
HAL 20, RIO DE JANERO
SUNDAY10 JANAURY – Disembarkation is very swift and we get off a little early.  Our Couchsurfing host is waiting for us Sergio with his wife Lisette and son Gabriel.  Straight away off they take us off on a tour and up towards Christ the Redeemer.  We chat a lot en route and see many areas off the city.  There is another mountain near to the statue and although it is hazy we get superb views of the city and across to the statue.  Driving up to the statue the road is clogged with cars and parking impossible.  Sergio thinks we will be better returning to visit during the week.  He suggests we head south of the city to some of the quieter beaches, Recreio Dos Banderirandes and Barra Da Tijuca.  Unfortunately although we enjoy the drive down there the beaches are still very busy and parking impossible.  It is clear to see that Brazilians love to visit the beach even if they have little elbow room once they are there.  Sergio manages to find a parking spot near Sao Conrado beach where we can look up to the “Two Brothers” mountains and see hang gliders jumping off.  We have already realised that in Brazil lots of youths act as parking attendants and wave you into a space for a tip but here we also see them putting cardboard on your windshield to protect against the sun.  Nearer the city Sergio drives us up another mountain for excellent views over Ipanema Beach.  Rio has a superb setting with lots of small round top mountains, miles of beautiful beaches and lots of bays.  One thing that has surprised us is how much “jungle like” green vegetation there is everywhere.  In the same area we see a new memorial to the Air France flight that went down last year as many passengers were from here.  Back in the city we drive into the Rio carnival area.  Today the floats and parade no longer go around the city but all gather in a long street lined with terraced seats.  It is an amazing area and lots of work is being done.  One of the workers tells us tonight there is going to be a rehearsal and it is free so maybe we will get chance to see the poor man’s version.  We drive past a sign showing the temperature to be 40C but with the humidity it feels even higher.  Rio Maracana Stadium is our next stop.  This is the place that holds the record for the largest crowd, just short of 200,000.  It is being renovated for the Olympics and the World Cup Football.  There is a walk of fame with many famous players’ footprints.  There is a huge bridge linking the city with Niteroi and from it we get fine views of the port with the Veendam and other ships.  We see oil rigs in dock for maintenance and lots of ships being built.  It is a nice drive on the other side past lots of attractive beaches but Sergio says the water is polluted.  We stop for a meal at a busy restaurant and have our first chance to try the Brazilian buffet system.  Once you are seated you are each give a ticket on which they mark your drinks order.  You then take the ticket to the buffet and at the end have your plate weighed and a price sticker based on the weight is added to your ticket.  At around 3.30pm we arrive at the family home.  It is in a gated community on a hill with glimpses of the beach.  We have our own room with bathroom and are very happy to be here.  In the afternoon Steve has a nap whilst I sit out by the pool.  Their daughter Beatriz, 12 going on 17, is there along with her friend Beatriz.  The pool water is like a warm bath but it is still very nice to take a nap.  I sit out in the shade and Lisette brings out drinks and snacks whilst Sergio helps me with our onward trip.  Just after 7pm we head back towards Rio.  En route we see many cars broken down having over heated on the hills.  We are surprised to see the Veendam still in port. The area around Carnival Street is crazy, traffic is backed up and parking is impossible.  Sergio tries down lots of side streets and it is lucky he knows the city as we often veer into bad areas where he knows not to linger.  Eventually we give up but we can already see that we would not like to be anywhere near here for the real thing.  It looks worse than a major football final.  We’ve caught up with Sergio’s sister’s family and together decide to return to Niteroi.  Again parking is difficult but in the end people take a risk and park in the outside lane of the dual carriageway.  It is a balmy evening and very pleasant walking along the promenade behind the beach and people watching.  Sergio’s sister Leah has a toddler Maria Clare who loves to check out all the other children and dogs.  Her husband Raymon has brought along some beers so Steve is very happy to partake and amazed that you can stroll along drinking alcohol.  Reckon we could get used to that side of Brazil very easily.  It is a really hot night, probably the hottest we have had since our summer in Florida.  We lie on the beds with the fan going and just sweat it out. 
NITEROI, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

MONDAY 11 JANUARY – Sergio and Lisette are out at work and Beatriz has had a sleepover so when we wake up only Gabriel is home.  He introduces us to the home help “Des” who prepares our breakfast.  Gabriel drives us down to the nearest beach, Camboinhas, and drops us there for a couple of hours.  It is fairly quiet and we settle under an umbrella.  In Brazil you can use the umbrella table and chairs so long as you buy a drink when they come round.  The water is warm but not so hot that it doesn’t cool you down.  We take a stroll along the beach then lots of dips to cool off.  Gabriel picks us up and we spend the afternoon chilling at home with occasional warming dips in the pool!  First to arrive home is their younger son Leonardo who also speaks good English.  When the rest of the family arrive home we eat some toasted sandwiches before heading out to their other house.  En route we pass a motel advertising rooms, 3 hours for R$25 (£8), apparently used by prostitutes.  Now wouldn’t you have thought that a guy who could afford 3-hours with a prostitute could afford a better room than that?  Sergio’s’ second house is rented out for parties.,  People arrive to use the swimming pool, outdoor fireplace and kitchen area then leave with no need to clean up.  Although the house has many bedrooms and bathrooms it is normally just booked for day use.  Of course the down side is that Sergio and family have to clear up all the rubbish afterwards.  Once we have finished the cleaning that Gabriel started earlier we head to Itacoatiara beach, a much quieter one with a huge rock at the end separating it from a smaller, child safe beach.  I try to take a picture with the flash and then realise that the rocks are covered in loving couples who are somewhat surprised to be in the spot light!  It is another very hot evening and to our embarrassment Sergio insists we take Beatriz’s room as it has air conditioning whilst she will sleep with them. 
NITEROI 2, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY 

TUESDAY 12 JANAURY – Today there is only Beatriz home when we get up but the maid Dee has prepared our breakfast, how spoilt are we.  I still have lots to do on the Internet and it is nice just to potter round by the pool and catch up on some reading as I didn’t even read a page on the cruise.  In the evening we go out with Sergio and Lisete, first to buy some groceries so I can cook a meal tomorrow.  Next we visit Piratininga beach opposite Copacabana and walk for 2 ½ km each way along it. There are a couple of oil rigs out at sea waiting to be towed in for repairs; they look very attractive with all their lights on.  We return via a lookout on the hill passing even more beaches.  It sure is an amazing area for beaches here but unfortunately they are still all too busy or commercialised for our liking.
NITEROI 3, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

WEDNESDAY 13 JANUARY – Sergio runs his own insurance company and Lisete and Gabriel both work with him.  Gabriel is left holding the fort whilst Sergio and Lisete take the day off to show us a bit more of Rio.  First they stop at the petrol station where we are asked if we would like water or coffee, apparently complimentary, both served with biscuits.  The coffee is in a tiny cup and very sweet but I do enjoy the biscuits.  We begin the tour at Corcovado topped by Christ the Redeemer, this time parking is not such a problem and they drop us off to take the bus to the top.  R$24.20 (£8.80) for the bus, lift and visit package.  It is not too crowded but today the city is covered in a haze so we are pleased to have got the view photos on Sunday.  The statue is incredible, the face is so serene and it looks huge close up.  Back in the city it is time for lunch and we are in the Flamengo area.  We want to take Sergio & Lisete out to lunch and Rough Guide recommended Lamas.  It is a 130 year old restaurant with white jacketed waiters with dickie bows.  When the menu arrives we hardly recognise anything but are relieved when Sergio is the same, it seems they are using pretentious rather than common names for their dishes.  Unfortunately the food is not as good as the price would suggest but we still enjoy the experience.  Next stop is Sugarloaf Mountain; we arrange to meet after we have taken the cable car tour. R$44 (£16).  The cars are huge and panoramic with glass walls all around.  The first car takes you up to 220m Morro da Urca with some great views but these are surpassed when we reach the 396m peak of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf).  The views from here are very different to Corcovado.  We are looking back in towards the city and can see many of the beaches and across the Niteroi.  After our first day of not really liking Rio we are rapidly being converted.  The stunning setting, urban jungle, mountains, amazing panoramic views, hundreds of beaches and friendly people are winning us over.   Sergio meets us at the bottom and we set out on a walk around the bottom of Morro da Urca.  This is a pedestrian way through the jungle on a path above the ocean, very tranquil and with lots of natural attractions, banana and jackfruit trees, monkeys and pretty birds (the feathered variety this time).  Returning home we pause in Niteroi to photograph the Oscar Niemeyer designed Museum of Contemporary Art housed in a spaceship like building.  We call in to a big supermarket to do some shopping and I note that almost everything is either the same price as England or more expensive, funnily enough the potatoes come from England.  In the evening I cook a large cottage pie, lucky I did as there are 8 of us for dinner when Leonardo’s girlfriend Carly join us. 
NITEROI 4, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

THURSDAY 14 JANUARY – Steve is feeling weary all the time, think it is a combination of him not sleeping from pain in his hand (the skin is now raw and the nerves are growing back) and the general heat and humidity.  So I spend the day doing more Internet whilst he festers.  The family return in the evening and shortly after that we get a thunderstorm and heavy rain which clears the air.  For supper they have order pizza but not the type we are used to.  They are all small individual ones with either cheese on or chocolate spread and chopped nuts – yes that’s right chocolate pizza.  Worse still Leonardo eats them both together!  I have now got Couchsurfers lined up in our next 4 ports of call and must sort out transport.  Sergio is a great help finding buses on line www.autoviacao1001.com.br but we are a bit shocked to find the fare from here to Sao Paulo, about 6 hours journey, is R84 (£30).  Things are even more expensive as we have just found out that the exchange rate is down to R2.75 = £1.   A big contrast to approx £1 per hour that we were paying in other South American countries.
NITEROI 5, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY


FRIDAY 15 JANAURY – After the storm the air is much fresher and we both feel better for it.  I take time through the day to work on and promote my blog.  We are amazed at the Couchsurfing responses as almost everyone I write to ends up inviting us to visit.  Looking at our onward plan I see that our 6-hour journey tomorrow is going to take us all of 7cm down the map!  We should have hot weather all the time now so will leave some warm clothes here and pick them up on return.  In the evening we play cards and teach Sergio, Gabriel and Lisete how to play “Arsehole” which they seem to enjoy.   Lisete cooks a tasty meal including local “pastel” and kind of mini fried pasty with cheese inside.  What a great start to our visit to Brazil having such a wonderful family to stay with. 
NITEROI 6, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

SATURDAY 16 JANUARY – Sergio, Lisete, Gabriel and Beatriz all pile into the car to take us to the bus station.  We have a bit of trouble finding a bank that will accept our visa debit card, (Bradesco does), so arrive at the bus station as they are boarding for our 9.20am departure with the 1001 bus company.  Our expensive tickets include a packed lunch and newspaper but the seats themselves are no better than the ones in the other South American countries and in fact have less leg room.  It takes about 1-hour to clear the suburbs of Rio but soon we are travelling in areas of jungle with flooded muddy rivers.  This is the region that was hit by heavy rain over the new year with a couple of coastal cities getting bad mudslides.  The lunch box is so good that we spread the 4 snacks out over the journey, 2 packets with 2 crackers in each, 1 packet with 2 sweet biscuits and 1 other filled sweet biscuit – it is a bit harder to make the small drinks carton last though!  The bus stops for about 15 minutes part way through the journey.  Our driver is a bit of a mad man travelling very fast and overtaking many other coaches.  At least we arrive in Sao Paulo on schedule at 3.20pm.  The bus station is directly above the metro station so it is easy to make the transfer and buy the tickets, R$2.65 (95p).  With good advance information we make the metro connection then walk a couple of blocks from Paulista Street to where our new host lives.  We are the first guests for Sergio and Paulina.  Sergio is Brazilian but speaks excellent English whilst Paulina is Chilean and speaks less English but more than our Spanish.  They have a spacious apartment and have offered us a spare room with double bed and bathroom.  Tonight they are holding a party for some other Couchsurfers and asked us to join them all.  Before the others arrive Sergio escorts us on a walk up Paulista Ave to get our bearings.  He is very knowledgeable and explains the history of the area.  Once we return guests Karina from Brazil and her Italian boyfriends Paolo have already arrived.  They both speak English and we chat to them as we help with the food preparation.  Next to arrive are Sergio’s cousin Juliana and her flat mate Claudia from Chile who both speak a little English.  Finally Priscilla and her Chilean boyfriend Jair appear and they both speak English well.  The conversation around the room fluctuates between English, Spanish and Portuguese with maybe a little Italian thrown in but we all want to understand each other so things work out really well.  Claudia has brought the stuff to make sushi and watching her prepare the rolls I great entertainment especially when she enrols others to give it a try.  The group all met at the Sao Paulo weekly Tuesday meeting and decided they would like to see each other more often so suggested this kind of get together with everyone bringing a little food.  Thus we have a delicious meal with many different foods and great conversation.  Claudia’s boyfriend Silvio and Juliana’s boyfriend Zig (pronounced Ziggy) arrive making 12 in all.  They like to play games afterwards and ask us to teach them “Arsehole” so we split into 2 groups with Steve and I each leading one.  A raucous time follows with everyone enjoying the game and making a lot of noise when promoted to President.  It is 1am by the time everyone leaves.
SAO PAULO, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND PAULINA

Previous diary

Trivia answer - St Petersburg, Russia

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks :)
--
http://www.miriadafilms.ru/ купить фильмы
для сайта glenswatman.blogspot.com

Discover said...

Itacoatiara is a great place to visit when in Rio, take a look at those stunning pictures: http://tinyurl.com/3y2yh94