Sunday, October 25, 2009

Salvador Airport (Oct 16, 2009)

Day 2 saw me get up pretty late, and after having a breakfast of bread and cheese I headed off with my English friends and two girls from the Czech Republic to see the Christ.

From Copacabana, the bus numbered 583 takes you to the Christ, and 584 gets you back. It is not the last stop, but basically you just get off when half of the bus gets off as that is usually the main attraction on the route. The weather was amazing with only a few clouds in the sky, and this had happened after a week or so, the line to get on the train to the top was backed quite long.

One of the ladies, Suzanna knew Spanish and she somehow managed to get one of the mini buses for 40 Real’s, The train ride is supposed to be better, at 45 Real’s and it also takes you directly to the top.

The bus takes you to a certain point after which you have to get off and stand in line to get into another bus. As we were not aware of this we thought that it would be smooth sailing to the top. Once we realized we decided to hike the supposedly 2 kilometers to the top. The 2 kilometers must have been as the crow flies, because it was more like 3 or 4. Somehow we got to the top, and I have never been more disappointed.

The few clouds were right on the Christ and I could not even see his head. Fog was everywhere, and let alone Christ we could not even see Rio. After waiting there for at least half an hour we decided to leave. One of the modern wonders could not be fully appreciated by me, which was sort of a bitter sweet moment. Here I was – almost touching one of the greatest marvels in the modern world, and ah…well!
I returned back to the hostel, determined to see Rio from Sugarloaf, but it was getting later in the evening, and so I decided to take a short walk on the beach and see Sugarloaf on Tuesday.

Copacabana was pretty crowded, and I walked amidst the crowd enjoying the view of Sugarloaf and the amazingly beautiful Brazilian women. The crowd on Copacabana is a bit older in age, while Ipanema is more younger. I would definitely prefer Ipanema to Copacabana!

Dinner was a huge problem as I had no idea what I was ordering. I only knew the key words – Camaro for Shrimp and so on.

Also, Brazil has eat by kilo restaurants where you just add anything you want on a plate, weigh it and eat it. This is pretty cool, and at 19 Real’s per plate – I would say not so expensive and at least you have some idea what you are eating.

That night I wanted to go to Lapa, but there was no company. Luckily the hostel came to my rescue again. They were having a Favela party in one of the Favelas (slums) controlled by the police. I paid the 65 Real’s for the transportation and entry to this party. Also, quite a few people from the hostel were going and I also came to know a Englishman named Garry on the ride.

Garry had been doing a round the world ticket trip, and after doing Asia, central and south America was on the last day of his year trip. His recommendation – Bolivia. It’s so cool to hear such stories on the road. Even the Czech girls were doing a sort of South American trip, and it’s an experience just listening to them.

Coming back to the party – Brazilian hip hop and funk, with about 2000 people on the dance floor, while we were in the VIP section. Me, Garry and Dave (another Englishman) decided to ditch the VIPs and mix with the locals. It was a wild wild night, and the music was out of the world.

The crowd was young though, I would say around 17ish, but wow…was it something! And a party which plays – C’mon let’s twist again by Elvis, is surely worth it. And then there is the all time favorite – YMCA. Some of the Brazilian girls were impressed, and came up to us too. I talked with a girl for 15 minutes, and the only thing we exchanged was names and that I am Indian and she from Rio. Damn…I need to learn Portuguese!

Rio de Janeiro Airport (Oct 14, 2009)

5 days have passed by since I landed in Rio and it has been a really good experience so far.

Let me start from the beginning. I landed on the 10th, at around 9.30 am delayed by a half hour. This was largely because of American Airlines having a flight all set to leave in Miami, but no captain for the flight. A reserve captain arrived half hour after the flight was scheduled to depart. I was hoping that he was not out drinking somewhere which would have been scary!

Anyway, immigration and customs was pretty smooth. It is the same procedure; they check your passport and visa and stamp it. Also there is an entry/exit paper which is stamped too, and this will have to be in your possession till you depart Brazil. The stamp has a 1 on it, which means you entered Brazil.

Once out the airport I had trouble finding the ATM. It is situated in a place with not much signs. Once you exit catch the escalator to the second floor (for Indians) or 3rd floor (for Americans). There are ATMs of pretty many banks there and one should work.

Once done, there is a bus called Real Autobus at the exit outside. For 7Reals it takes you to the Rodoviaria (Bus station), Domestic Airport (SDU) and Copacabana and Ipanema along with the other main centers too. It will drop you pretty much wherever you want, so it is convenient and a cheaper option than the taxi, which may cost around 50 to get to Copacabana.

A short walk got me to my hostel – Walk on The Beach, a small but safe and easily accessible hostel from Copacabana. The breakfast is free from 9 to 11, and they do provide towels and locks for a minimal cost. The best part was the excursions which they organize. One such helped me a lot on the Saturday I landed, as it was raining and I was kind of disappointed that I would not get to do too much. I saw that there was a soccer game at the Maracana stadium which was being organized. So I joined in for 55 Real’s, and this was an amazing sporting experience.

The game was between one of the local teams – Flamingo and Sao Paulo. As we did not want to be killed, we were supporting Flamingo, and you should have seen it to believe it. This is one of the largest soccer stadiums in the world, and it was pretty packed. The noise was deafening, and emotions were running wild. An experience which I do not think I would have got if it was not raining, and I am so glad that it was.

Also, made a couple of friends – Paul and Simon from England who I hung out with the same night drinking Caipirinha’s which is the Brazilian national cocktail, and believe me extremely potent. Three for the night and I was on my bed –dead asleep. A mixture of the journey, the screaming at the stadium and the drink finally got to me and I slept like a log till 9.30 the next morning.

My first day was not exactly what I wanted – no glimpse of either Pao da Acucar (Sugarloaf) or Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), a very brief glimpse of Copacabana when I got down from the bus and rain all around. But all of this was made up by the pone game I saw at the Maracana, along with the fact that I met a few people who I could talk to and generally hang out with.

The weather reminded me so much of Mangalore, and I was for a moment lost in it. I had begun to love Rio and I will tell you how much as I write my next post on the days after that.

LaGuardia Airport (Oct 9, 2009)

The adventure has begun – for the first time in my life I will be going to a country where I have no clue about the language, about how stuff works there…pretty clueless except for 3 guide books. I guess I finally put my wits to the test.

I am going to Brazil, will be landing in Rio and staying there for the first 4 days. After that I fly Gol to Salvador for 3 days before flying in to Sao Paulo on Gol again. This is the main part of my trip – the Formula 1 race with Jenson Button leading the championship from Reubens Barrichello. Go Rubinho…

Whenever I think of Rio the first picture which comes to mind is the statue of Christ on top of the mountain looking down at this beautiful city. This is the picture I take with me as I head on my best adventure yet.

Follow me as I explore this beautiful country…I know you guys are :)

Boa Noite…Tchau!