Week 2 - Sao Paulo and Rio - Brazil

A day by day account of the first week in our 2022 travels through South America, Mexico, USA and Canada.

 

Thursday  10th February 2022

Today we decided to shorten our stay in Sao Paulo and head to Rio this Monday coming. Our mindset was not at its best due to the fact that we had had such a big build up to leaving and day to day life in a city was not giving us the feelings that we desired. 10 days is just too much here. We had felt so much expectation on arriving in Brazil and quite frankly, we had probably chose the wrong place as our first stop. It is somewhat of a concrete jungle and although we are not so naive to not expect a lot of poverty, It really has an effect on our enjoyment and comfortably while trying to explore the city. There is a feeling, constant stories and a genuine promise of muggings and opportunistic behaviour which, with a limited budget and a reliance on our phones for navigation and contact with home, is a constant dread.

We also watched a documentary called 'The Most Unknown' which looked at existential questions through science and the things that are theorized but unknown to us at the moment. Part of this looked at the Kīlauea volcano on the island of Hawaii. We got into a conversation about how Hawaii always intrigued Megan as a child and that it would be a very unique and interesting place to visit, with some once in a lifetime sights due to its location. We looked at how much a return flight would be to take while we were in San Diego and were very pleased with the prices. Therefore it is now lightly penciled into the to do list while we are traveling up the Pacific coast.

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Friday 11th February 2022

With our new self imposed time limit on our stay in Sao Paulo, we decided to take this day to see a couple of places on our 'to see' list. A very high priority on our list, backed massively by Megan's massive passion for Art was a place called Beco do Batman or 'Batman Alley'. Famous for street art, graffiti and wall murals this place is amazingly colorful and full of artists, dancers and traders. You literally do walk through a winding alley with impressive pictures staring back at you at every turn. We have always heard people mention noticing the colors in Brazil but it wasn't until we arrived that we really got to understand that it's the real life effect of seeing such vibrant colors adorning the walls in every neighborhood. Coming from a place where that would be unlawful or a very particular commissioned piece, its great to see a place that obviously encourages this kind of thing from it's residents.

From Batman Alley, we took the metro to a large park called, Ibirapuera. On the way from the metro station to the park on the other side we stopped at a supermarket to get food. They had a kind of deli bar from which I got grilled chicken and rice and Megan also got rice but coupled with a salad of sun dried tomatoes, peppers and mozzarella. The park was the biggest in Sao Paulo (of which we could find) and held a couple of really big lakes. We found a football court where there were a lot of small 5 a side teams vicousley competing to be the top team, very interesting to watch. The talent level was very impressive and we lost an hour or so just watching. The sun went down as we wandered around, until it was dark and we left.

From Ibirapuera Park, we decided to walk the 4 miles in order to stop at any places that took our fancy, either for food and drink or for observation. This paid off as we stumbled upon a really small, outdoor leisure complex and bar. This place had two sand courts, focused on Beach Tennis and football/volleyball. Again we really enjoyed the level of passionate competition during the games. As the sun had gone down, and there was a beach vibe, we felt it only right to have a couple of bottles of Corona. Following this we continued our walk home.

Tonight was that night that I got my first wake-up call. As kind of predicted, I was subject to some of Sao Paulo's high level of crime. I had my phone stolen. Luckily my phone was backed up to icloud, therefore when I replace the phone, I should be able to set it up exactly as it was when it left. So hopefully it is a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of the trip. That and also a financial one. At least now we know it can and does happen to you. One of my friends said 'I think that if you are traveling south America, you just have to accept that you will lose something' and I think that is true.

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Saturday 12th February 2022

After losing my phone last night, I spent the whole day without a phone at all today and there was a liberation that I felt, that is hard to put into words. When I have it, I seem to always check it for any little thing I need to know, or even when I become aware of it. Today I did not really think about it and felt a lot more connected and present in the moment. I am obviousley going to have to replace it for my need to be in regular contact with my friends and family, navigation and general traveling tickets/proof of covid at terminals etc. 

Megan headed out early (9-ish) to visit her friend verity in order to help her to cook the large batches of food needed to feed the homeless at the project created by her and ran at Avedida Paulista. I spent the morning doing limitation on potential damage through having a stolen phone. This involved the changing of passwords, cancelling my phone and contacting people to let them know that I was now iced out of Whatsapp due to having no sim card anymore. 

After dinner time, I made my way to a British pub called The Victoria that had been recommended to watch the local team Palmeiras in The World Club Cup Final against Chelsea. I had watched the Semi-Final in a local Brazilian eatery and had been tipped off that the atmosphere would be really good here for the final as a lot of the locals also go there to watch football. Ireland were also being shown upstairs in The Six Nations. I was also drawn there by the promise of Guiness. Magan arrived for the second half and a great day insued. Lots of music, good food (barbecue hotdog and caremalised onions) and drink and general relaxation. We drank until around 8 and then slowly made our way home, stopping a few times as and when we needed another beer. Then a takeaway and bed. 

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Sunday 13th February 2022

This Sunday, as with the last one, was centered around Avenida Paulista and the homeless project that we had become involved in. Although this time, with it being our last day in SP, we made sure to make time to take a long walk around and sample all of the bands, food and atmosphere. The weather was amazing and it felt like a very comfortable and natural ending to our time here.

The project has a number of different travelers/expats working each time we were alongside a French agricultural worker who lived in SP called Nordim who had become quite fluent in Portuguese.

In order to be close to the bus terminal (Tiete) for our 7am bus to Rio the following morning, we booked a hotel 500m in Santana neighborhood. We helped Verity back to her apartment with the pots and pans and made our way to the hotel by Metro. It was dark by the time we got to the hotel, but still warm enough to enjoy the swimming pool on the roof. I did a quick gym session after this and then we called it an early night.

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Monday 14th February 2022

We were up early at 6am in order to get the bus at 7. We were using a company called FlixBus that everyone traveling in South America seems to know. The journey was a 6 hour one, but fortunately most of the long-distance buses here have ‘semi-beds’, which means that the seat reclines to around 45 degrees and a dropdown from the seat in from supports your legs. We were very happy with the comfort level and the space. Due to our early get up, we both slept most of the journey and spent the last hour listening to music and writing.

We arrived in Rio at 1pm. The taxi’s, even when they are charging double the price, still are relatively cheap. We jumped in a general taxi outside the Novo terminal station, to take us from there to our hostel in Leme, an area at the East side of Copacabana beach. The journey was around 15Km and he charged us R$50, which is about 7 pounds (Uber is R$25 for the same journey). We arrived at the bottom of the hill to the hotel and began the immense winding incline to it. The hill is so steep, that there are 125cc motorbikes taxiing people up and down for R$3(40 pence).

Our Hostel was named the Merasias do Leme, we received a very warm welcome and were shown to our private room. Due to the fact that we travel as a couple, it is often the same price to get a private double room rather than two beds in a dormitory. In this hotel the price was exactly the same. After we had dropped our bags, we made our way down to take our first steps on Copacabana beach and to swim in the sea.

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Tuesday 15th February 2022

Today was the day that we have been waiting for and aiming towards. It has been our best day so far. Sao Paulo did not feel liberating at all, so this amazing landscape and sea air feels unbelievable. We spent the whole day hiking. We first took at short walk to a place called Fort de Leme, which was around a one hour walk to the top of a hill overlooking the sea, Copacobana beach and a great view of Christ the Redemer. Looking at the statue we decided that following our decent from here, we would walk towards Botofogo where we could get a bus towards this wonder of the modern world. We made our way down from the fort, interacting with the tiny monkeys and lizards. Although we hadn’t taken any food up with us, so the monkeys would not come so close to us.

 

We arrived at entrance to Christ the Redeemer at were greeted by an English speaking, Brazilian girl who asked for our proof of covid vaccination and passports. This was the first interaction in a couple that meant that we had no chance of going up that day. As with everything in the pandemic, there is no way of knowing when and where you will need proofs and tests, as it does not seem to work on a rational basis. We had been crammed in on many buses and Metros and mixing with lots of people in hostels and cinemas and not once since the flight been asked for our vaccination proof. Therefore we did not take it out, we had also left our passports at the hostel as carrying it in Brazil can be the first step in losing it. She went on to show us a screen which was a live feed from the top, it was completely grey. She said if you went up there now, you would not even be able to see the whole statue from the base, never mind any kind of view. She told us to come back another day and make sure that it was as early as possible, before the weather and climate forced clouds to wrap around the summit. We left and walked the whole journey back to Copacabana beach (8 Km).
 

We then walked the full length of Copacabana along the roadside of Avenida Atlantica. Vendors popped up every few feet as the sun started to go down. We bought a very strong Caipirinha each as we walked, when it was finished, we grabbed another, our spirits were as high as they could be. When we got to the west side of the beach we left the front and ended in an Irish bar, a couple of blocks back. The bar had live music on, a solo acoustic performer, we drank, danced and ate. The food was amazing, it was very simple, a pile of chopped up beef steak covered in a very rich sauce, served with bread. Beautiful. We thought that the night could not get any better or more significant until the performer started to play ‘Like a Stone’ by Audioslave, which is one of our favorite songs and one that has been with us through some very tough and important times. It felt like fate and peaked an already amazing night. We also performed with him and on our own.

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Wednesday 16th February 2022

Today, it hit us how much we had spent in a short time away and how if we do not start to earn or do something to stretch out our money, we would be home a lot earlier than we have planned or wanted. We had to spend some time focusing on putting irons in fires. We also wanted to increase the amount we were learning and developing ourselves. We spent the day looking into opportunities.

 

We Signed up to an exchange program called workaway. Even though it cost around $40 (American) to sign up for the year, after research and conversations with people, it was very apparent that it would only take one project on here to pay for itself. We looked at lots of opportunities and sent out some messages. One that seems very promising is a moth working in a school in the south of Brazil, teaching English. It offers free accommodation and three meals a day, staying with a family connected to the school in return for us working teaching English Monday to Friday, 4 hours a day. If something like this could come off, it would save us around 600 pounds in that specific month at least. Along with giving us new skills and more access to learning Portuguese and Spanish. We also contacted the parents of children that we used to teach in China, agreeing with a couple of them to teach lessons on Zoom in return for payment via Paypal. We will make this work.

After a full day working, we returned to the beach and jumped straight into the sea. We stayed until the sun went down and then relaxed back at the hostel.

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