Rio de Janeiro Day 3 (Santa Teresa)

We woke up early again today, as our flights were that evening.

It was really hot today, probably around 95-100 Fahrenheit.

We were staying in the center of the city right by Santa Teresa which was a popular destination. This was the “art” center of the city so we thought we would check it out.

(central landmark)

After walking by the central landmark of the center, we could see a giant mural on the sides of a building.

(mural)

We found the stairs heading up to Santa Teresa after walking by the center of the bar district.

(stairs)

(el centro)

All of this is much sketchier at night when there are people lurking in the corners, prostitutes (some transvestites) on the streets, and passed out homeless people around.

My initial opinion on Rio and the area we were in was that it was a complete shit hole. Which in part, is still mostly true. However, with the graffiti, which makes it look even worst, I started having a different perspective on. You have to have a very open mind, but I started looking at it more as artwork. Without the whores and drunk guys there, it really was art.

(stairs 2)

(stairs 3)

When we reached the top, it became a little less artsy and a little trashier.

(top of stairs)

However, there was still artwork to be found.

 

(artwork 2)

At the top of the stairs we took a left and followed some railroad lines.

We found some sculptures made of garbage.

(garbage art)

We were told there was more to see down the road but we were really hot and just wanted to hit the road.

We got a little lost and took a different way out and ran across this. I thought it was so awesome. I might get it blown up.

(freedom)

We hit the road and plenty of traffic. The drive overall took about 7 hours.

We stopped half way to try to take a nap/break under a random tree at a gas station.

(tree)

As we climbed under the barbed wire and a rock fell on my foot, we climbed to the top. Sweating our asses off we threw down the sheet under the tree, only to be attacked by bees. These things were fucking aggressive, and I’m allergic so I started booking it down the hill. After a sting to the face and back, we left. Scratching my arm on the barbed wire on the way out, we headed the rest of the way to Sao Paolo to the airport.

So I sit here now reflecting on the amazing trip I had, as my brother is airborne on separate flight. I will be arriving in Boston tomorrow afternoon only to fly to Seattle for our road trip to Whistler for a week long ski trip! Sometimes life is incredible.

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Rio de Janeiro Day 2 (paulo amendoim favela tour)

We tried to go out last night but the bars were pretty dead since it was a Monday night. We were also both exhausted and not even interested in a beer so we walked around for a half hour or so to check out the area then decided to pass out.

We woke up early, since it was our last full day in Rio de Janiero. I wanted to do a Favela tour, as I had read about these in my guide book and they interested me a lot. I gave the guy at the hostel the information from Lonely Planet- Paulo Amendoim (3322 8498, 9747 6860).

We had plans to meet at the Copacabana Castle. Copacabana is the beach area, and this was the nicest hotel (apparently Sting stays here and they have a walkway coming from their room straight out to the stage on the beach). I went into this place it had diamonds for sale on displays in the walls, marble floors, and free apples. FREE APPLES!

Anyhow, I was to meet this guy there at 9:30am. I expected to be with a bunch of dump tourists, and thought we were going to be in a van or something.

My brother didn’t have much interest in going and we made plans to meet back up on the beach at 12:30pm across from the Castle.

So as he searched for parking I wandered over. I found the guy Paulo who could speak English but was pretty hard to understand. It was just me and him, and after we both waited around for no reason for 15 minutes on the corner (I thought he was waiting for other tourists and he thought I was waiting for my brother)we headed off.

We walked a few blocks into the city and jumped on a van-taxi. They dropped us off at Rocinha (pronounced hocinja) which is Brazil’s biggest Favela. The book said there are over 200,000 people living there but Paulo said these numbers probably weren’t right since no one came to his door.

We entered Rocinha, it did not seem too different than any other shitty part of the city at first. There were legitimate stores that accepted credit cards. Apparently there are also “classes” within the favela itself, and we were in the “middle class” area. The poorer areas are unsafe to visit.

(Rocinha downtown)

Paulo is a social worker, and he works in the administration building (yes, administration building..) to help the residents get jobs, make sure they comply with rules, are paying for their electricity, etc. I had read in the book that the residents of the favela use stolen electricity and water, he said it used to be the case but they have been working to make sure the residents have electric meters. There was also a health organization that would walk around and give people medical attention if necessary.

Paulo was super social and knew everyone in the favela. I was surprised how close the community was, everyone knew everyone. I guess that is what happens when you live in such close quarters. The people seemed like regular working people, I did not feel unsafe especially with Paulo’s escort.

(Rochina typical view)

I asked Paulo how much the people here earn per month, he said that a full time working maid would make about 480 Reals per month. This equates to about $280. Rent in the favelas can cost 300 Reals a month, so they don’t have too much extra money. Surprisingly, most of the homes I could see inside had a TV and a stereo. I even saw someone with a flat screen TV.

The smell of the place was absolutely rancid; it smelled like stagnant water and trash. There was garbage everywhere. The first hour it was exciting and the second hour I just wanted to leave. The stench stayed in my nostrils for hours. The people living here must have been raised in these conditions because it doesn’t seem to bother them at all, the only way you could be happy in those conditions is if you knew nothing else.

(Rocinha dump)

There was water running underneath all the walkways and all around the favela, from the mountains? I don’t know. But in all the water was garbage. So unsanitary. There were exposed/broken water pipes everywhere.

(Rocinha water pipes and garbage)

The electrical was something else; it looked like for years they just ran new wires when one shorted out. Something told me these were not up to code.

(Rocinha wiring)

I actually saw an electrician working on the wires… how could he possibly know what he was doing??

(Rocinha electrician)

We each paid 4 Reals and jumped on the back of a couple dirtbikes for a ride to the top of the favela.

(Rocinha view)

I paid Paulo (he charged 75 Reals, Lonely planet said it was 60 but it was a couple years old edition..) and he sent me back on another van taxi to Copacabana. Unfortunately, I got off at the wrong beach and had to take another cab back to the Castle.

It was surprisingly easy to meet up with my brother, and we chilled on the beach for a few hours.

(Brazilians playing soccer)

On the way back to our hostel, we stopped by the famous Sugarloaf.

(sugarloaf)

These are cable cars that bring you to the top of Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf peaks in the center of the city.

My brother suggested climbing to the top of the first peak, and maybe getting a free ride to the top. I was up for the challenge.

We hiked up about half way, I was bare foot. It was sheer rock and it was so sketchy. I’m not a bad climber but my brother is better than me and I got freaked out  when I started slipping on moss 100 feet high so we headed back down, which was harder than the way up.

After this we discovered that there was actually a hiking path to the top, which proved much less dangerous and an easier ascent.

(view hike)

At the top, we realized we had to pay to get to the top of Sugar loaf but did not have enough money. We met a German couple here and they offered to let us use their tickets; unfortunately they only worked once so we weren’t able to go to the very top. It was a little disappointing, but they said the view was better from Morro da Urca anyway so we were okay with it.

I got some nice night shots of the city.

(Santo Cristo night)

We were able to take the cable car down which was pretty cool as well.

(Rio night)

Paulo had told me about some Samba show going on that night at Pablo do Sal so we went out to try to find it. There was  bigger crowd out this night, and I had a good amount of energy. My brother however was exhausted so we headed in without seeing a Samba show. Overall, the Paulo Amendoim Favela Tour ended up being a good experience.

 

 

 

 

 

Rio de Janeiro Day 1 (Copacabana, Santo Cristo, Corcovado)

We got up this morning around 10am. I was able to sleep in despite the loud street noise coming in through our window all morning.

We had the hostel breakfast (bread and butter with jelly and juice) and prepared for the day.

We had general plans to go see Santo Cristo (the big Christ statue that overlooks the city) and possibly go to the beach.

I suggested to my brother maybe we take a stroll around the area before we leave. We stopped by the car so he could put his bag in.

While we were at the car, a guy came up and said some stuff to us in Portuguese that we didn’t understand. I think he was telling us to pay him money for parking. My brother got freaked out so wanted to leave. The area was still sketchy during the day but not nearly as much as during the night, at least they picked up all the garbage.

We didn’t like our hostel, it literally seems like it is in a favela. It was better by day but there is graffiti everywhere, old broken down buildings, shady characters.. and most importantly the people didn’t seem very friendly and the staff could hardly speak English.

Another hostel was recommended to me on Francisco Muratori which was right around the corner so we stopped by to check it out. We didn’t know it was possible to be more ghetto here, but more ghetto it was, so we went through our GPS tourist destinations as we locked our doors parked across the street from a few homeless people.

We couldn’t really figure it out because it was in Portuguese so decided to head back to the hostel to get our guide books (I had forgotten them there).

The traffic was awful, at a standstill pretty much. It took us 2 hours to drive the 2 miles back to our hostel.

We were feeling pretty frustrated at this point, we had much higher expectations of the hostel seeing that it got 96% rating on hostelworld, the people weren’t friendly, and we just waited in traffic for 2 hours for no reason along with the long drive last night.

Once we got the guide books, it was fine. We found Tijuca National Park in the GPS where Santo Cristo was so we started heading over there.

With the traffic the “30 minute” ride ended up taking about 2 hours. We were off into the jungle with some crazy winding roads up the mountain. A fun drive.

(road)

Apparently we took the wrong entrance into Tijuca park, and ended up at a nice viewpoint, Vista Chinesa.

(tijuca park 1)

We took a random hiking trail at the summit of the hill and trail blazed up a mountain for our own views.

A local guy gave us directions to Santo Cristo after following signs to Corcovado.

On the way up, some kid said some Portuguese at us. We didn’t understand (notice any theme?) so the kid comes up to my window and holds on. Clearly he wants us to give him a ride up to the top of the hill.  Another kid holds onto the other side window. So obviously at this point it makes sense to give them a ride up the hill, so we did. On the way up, a car tried to pass us. This has now become an unbelievable unsafe situation (taking sharp corners on a windy road doing about 40k with a car passing and two skateboarders on either side). I try to pull closer to the edge of the road so the car can pass and the kid on the ride side of the car wipes out. I thought I ran him over but I guess not. With a tattered shirt he asks if I can give him a ride the rest of the way up in the back. Of course I assume he wants to sit in the back seat, but no, he wants to sit in the trunk.

(skateboarders)

We paid 26.53 Reales for the entrance to Santo Cristo. We thought we were going to take a train up but it was only a bus. They only checked the tickets at the top for entrance so we realized we could have just hiked up and avoided the fee. The line took about 45 minutes, I waited in the ticket line while my brother waited in the entrance line.

(waiting in line)

We saw Santo Cristo and got some lunch.

(santo cristo)

There was a great view of the city; what a beautiful landscape to build a city on. You could see a good perspective of the entire city; the modern ocean front along with the favelas in between.

(view santo cristo)

It was about 5pm at this point and we decided to check out the beach. Copacabana was the beach area and the GPS said it was 36 minutes away. 2 hours later we arrived.

A beautiful beach; it was interesting because in most places you would expect an ocean front resort area to have beautiful modern buildings; here many of them appeared in disrepair. You could see the favelas on the hill side just behind the ocean front hotels.

(Copacabana)

We walked along the waterfront and saw an amazing sand sculpture. They are planning on having the Olympics here in 2016 so I was told they are trying hard to improve their image.

(sand sculpture)

After a nice sunset, we made our way back to the hostel. Only took 15 minutes to get back without any traffic.

(sunset)

Arriving here the second time at night, I was slightly more comfortable. The place is still incredibly sketchy and we are thinking about moving to Copacabana.  However this area in the Centro is supposed to have better nightlife and we intend on going out tonight.

One of the street guys asked us for 10 Realis for parking next to a pile of garbage (I had to get out of the car in the passengers side) and we handed it over. My brother didn’t bring his bag in because he didn’t want any of them to see him with a bag.

We spoke to the guy at reception in the hostel and he confirmed that those guys illegally collect money for parking. If you don’t pay they might key your car. The guys have an agreement with tow truck drivers so the tow truck drivers will only tow the cars that don’t pay the money, and the drivers get a piece of the parking “fee”. He said that the area gets bad on weekends during the day, because the people here are out of work and doing drugs on the street. During those times you have to be especially careful not to have a camera out or a fancy watch because you can get robbed. But told us not to worry!!

(our neighbors)

The owner picked up a kitten on the street an took it in as a pet, the thing looks like it has been through hell, a good representation of the neighborhood.

(kitten)

 

 

Rio de Janeiro Day 2 (Paratay Brazil)

So we ended up driving until about 1am with an hour left to our beach destination, and were so tired that we decided to just sleep at a truck stop.

It was semi sketchy and really stuffy in the car so we didn’t sleep too well. At 3 am we both woke up and decided to just continue our drive.

Since we had blindly entered an arbitrary point into the GPS in Rio de Janiero, it was bringing us inland on the main interstate (116) since this was the fastest route. This was a quick, 3 lane freeway. So we changed the GPS to head us to the 101 coastal road so we could stop by the beaches as planned, cutting across on SP-171.

This probably added 3-5 hours onto our trip since we had already been headed inland we had to head back out to the coast.

SP-171 was a crazy windy road with some great views (but I was sleeping), and we caught the sun rising just before we reached the coast.

(sun rise)

Finally we reached the coast. There were tons of beaches many without even having names the entire length of the road.

(first beach)

We drove up a little further and after a 10 minute ride down a really bumpy road we ended up on another beautiful beach.

(second beach)

We came close to running out of gas when we ran into the city of Paraty. A small city again a rich person’s playground. We actually saw some huge yachts and an airport. We also visited the beach here.

(Paraty)

We decided to go food shopping since we were so sick of the salty food here. Everything has salt, even the water. I think the people don’t know any better. I went to pick out a mango and the cockroach running around in them turned me off. It was the biggest food store I have seen here.

(food store)

We drove further to another no-name secluded beach. It was about a 10 minute hike through the lush forest. The water was very warm.

(third beach)

We drove a little ways up the mountain and there was a fantastic view.

(view)

And… a little further down the road we saw a crowd on a beach so we decided to check it out.  I believe the name was Praia Brava.

 

(fourth beach)

We entered our hostel address in Rio into the GPS and it brought us some back country mountain roads all the way there.

(crazy road)

A little ways in we decided to hike up on top of a random hill off the highway and there were also some fantastic views around sunset.

(hike)

The drive took us much longer than anticipated; in total probably around 16 hours. Gas runs the equivalent of about 5 dollars a gallon here so it also gets expensive. Luckily we were running a little 1.4 liter chitty bang bang. We were getting very impatient with the drive and were ready to arrive at the hostel.

When we finally got to the city (around 9:30pm) it was dark and we took a wrong turn. Apparently it was the worst possible turn we could take as it took us over a 7 mile bridge and added 20 minutes to our trip, as well as an additional toll.

It was very interesting driving through the city and seeing all the Favelas and infrastructure. I was very impressed with the highway transportation system it is very modern and efficient. There were toll booths about every 45 minutes which got annoying (costing anywhere from 1.80 Realis to 9.80). The people are crazy aggressive drivers I have never seen anything like it before. Wreckless and dangerous; they probably don’t know any better. They drive motorcycles in the rain with no tail lights and swerve around traffic! On the side of the highway on the outskirts of the city the Favelas started showing up. They were extremely shitty run down slums, and right amidst everything else modern and nice in the city. A Mercedes dealership would sit right next to a slum. The “developing” part of the country is very evident here.

We finally got downtown in the area by our hostel in Lapa and there were protests and cops with shotguns and pistols. There was so much commotion the city was huge we didn’t know what was going on and we were exhausted. We drove down the road which we thought our hostel was on and it was so trashy; old broken down buildings garbage everywhere, we saw one kid throwing cans at another kid. Sketchy/scary place.

(hostel view)

We asked another hotel if they had heard of Lapa Hostel on Rua do Rezende and they hadn’t. So we went back to the sketchy area and parked and we got moved in.

I don’t know how this place got such a high review on hostel world; as far as I’m concerned it’s in a super sketchy area. We will see tomorrow maybe I will feel different during the day but first impressions of Rio is THE sketchiest citiy I have ever been to.

On a side note, my credit card got fraudulently used so they put a hold on my card. Also, I think I hear gang fights outside. Also, I forgot to mention that I saw prostitutes at the bus station outside the city. Classy place!

Rio de Janiero (Florianopolis Ishla Santa Catarina)

We got tons of sleep last night, and someone left the door open and I got eaten alive. I stopped counting at 80 bites. I have no idea where they came from. Mosquitoes? Bed bugs? I do know they fucking suck though.

(bites)

We had plans to head to Rio today so we packed up our things. I spent like 2 hours searching for my toiletry bag and I don’t know what else that place is a time warp.

We said bye to our new friends and exchanged facebooks and made it out the door by like 12:30pm.

My brother really wanted to go to some waterslides called Agua Show, so we headed up to the north part of Islah Santa Catarina to hit up the water slides. It took about an hour to get there with all of the traffic, but they were pretty cool. They were very colorful and some people put a lot of time into constructing it.

(waterslides)

We thought it was interesting how it was left in disrepair with random bricks sticking out of the ground etc that people could trip on, in the States that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

We finally made it on the road about 5pm after eating some disgustingly salty food (like everything else here) at the park and left our clothes hanging out the windows to dry.

(clothes)

The plan is to drive about half way to Rio (maybe in the Sao Paolo area) and sleep on a beach. We have a hostel booked in Rio for tomorrow night.

The people here drive like maniacs, tailgating flashing their high beams and the motorcycles weave in and out of the traffic.

Florianopolis Day 4 (Thong Bikini)

We had only booked 4 nights at the hostel so had to extend our stay. The hostel of 40 is always booked full so we had to change rooms.

We grabbed breakfast and enjoyed the usual time-drifting-by lying in the hammock and headed to town. We drifted down the river and stopped to jump off a couple rocks.

When we got to the beach we walked down to the end and grabbed a couple drinks from a stand. We had the guy blend up coconut juice with pineapple and vodka. He served mine to me in the pineapple and my brothers in the coconut.

We found a shady place in the bushes and enjoyed our drinks as Brazilian girls walked by in their thong bikinis and windsurfers went by.

On the walk back up the beach, we joined in on a volleyball game then went across the road to get icecream.

We heard some island-ish music so went over to investigate and eat some French fries.

On the way back, the river was running much faster so we decided to drift down once more.

After our stressful day, we had to relax at the hostel and later went into town to get some pizza after our 7pm free drink.

It was an early night, I couldn’t bring myself to go out so passed out at like 11. Little did I know but I would receive 37 mosquito bites on my left arm this night. Mosquitos are horrible here at night.