Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Feliz New Year

Despite having little interest in this city, fate has provided me with a nice place to stay and a family crimbo. I have spent some time enjoying the delights of Copacabana. The beach, the sights, the music, the pouring rain, the stylish but broken pavement, the hordes of thieving favela kids. I can't help thinking about the time Rio complained about a Simpsons episode where they come here and get robbed by children, attacked by monkeys and kidnapped. Rio got an apology but I think they dropped the lawsuit. My humble opinion is that someone told the Rio tourist board they might not win if it came to court.

This is a catch up post of sorts. I have been based in Rio for a while and sort of settled. I am going to try and write about the places I saw outside of Rio before moving on to the great city itself

Florianopolis and the Iguacu Falls.

Florianopolis s a city about a 1000 k down the coast from Rio. My first impressions of the place and particularly the Isla of Santa Catarinha was that of a Brazilian Phuket. It's a kind of hippy dippy place full of rastas, surfers and other wonderful types. The beaches are nice but my problem is I tend to get bored. I swam a few times but I was interrupted by the Baywatch boys who thought the sea was too dangerous. I was mumbling about Brazilians being pussies until one of them sprang into action for some reason or another. Lifeguards who are that quick and fit indicate that they need to be.

Florianopolis itself is a large city. A fine surpise was the fun market near the bus station and a small park with a ridiculously big tree in the middle. Also of interest was the friendly tourist police who approached us and offered assistance in the risky task of ordering an avocado smoothie. Perfect English, a chummy attitude and relaxed garb made me a bit sorry for them. There was evidence of a real effort to be useful to tourists but the sad truth is that Brazilian cops are still famous for shooting kids more than anything else.

Anyhoo the next stop was Foz do Iguacu on the Argentinian and Paraguyan border. Of note was the interesting discovery of the diffrence between the luxury bus and the "normal" ones. The nice ones have seats like a plane's business class, free snacks and other perks. The basic buses have normal seats but what you are truly paying for is who you share it with. No relaxed couples going off to their beach holiday, enter the world of drunks and bizarrely deformed people. he places you stop for food and bogs are also much more downmarket.

Once in Foz de Iguazu the first priority is to get out of that place and get tpo the rgentinina side. Puerto Iguacu is a bit like Foz de Iguazu except much nicer. It's a bit odd as both towns seem to have the same economic base of tourism and cross border trade. Once settled in Argentina it was straight offt o the falls. This is a case where I recommend you google the place as it's too hard to accurately describe what is a very visual experience. In short, it's shitloads of water going downhill very fast.

After that it was back to Rio for Crimbo and New Year. Copacabana is one of those places that is a New Year's Eve place-to-be. They do put a lot of effort into it. There was huge stages, presumably famous artists and a pretty awesome fireworks display. The tradition is to wear white and I obliged although it was hard to tell if others did due to rain. More a sea of umbreallas and raincoats than anything else. It was a pretty good public party if you are into that sort of thing. I'm not.


Post festivities it was time to go to Paraty, a resort town favoured by denizens of Rio and Sao Paulo. It's a Ye Olde town with Ye Olde Churches and houses and Ye Verye Fuckinge Olde cobblestones. Paraty takes pride in their streets and its uneven cobbles. I hail from a cobbly city and I know good cobbling when I see it. This wasn't it. I did wonder if it was just that no one had bothered to do anything about it for 200 years or if it's deliberate. Is there a commitee to maintain the cobbles and preserve the slapdash and slovenly workmanship of their forebears? Paraty itself has crap beaches so the trick is to take an overcrowded bus to a place with..........nice beaches. Done

Now onto the meat of this post, Rio de Janeiro. Locals call it the Cidade Maravilhosa. This is a true testament to Carioca pride and enthusiasm. It's also a damning indictment of their grasp on reality. In a way Rio reminded me of Paris with regards to status. It's hugely overrated and over romanticised but any visitor to the country should still go there. My problem with Rio is that I can always see the flip side.

Rio has an amazing street life. Rio has lots of quasi indigent people with litle choice but to peddle stuff on the streets. Rio has famous beaches, Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ Redeemer statue. The sights will be overpriced and all will be overcrowded. The pavements are tiled with funky designs. Tiles are hard to maintain hence lots of tripping. Rio has the famous Carnival and will host the world cup and olympic games. Trust me, Rio has other things to spend cash and energy on. I'm always a grump when it comes to world sporting events but when a country has huge social problems it makes things even worse in my eyes. It just seems that Rio's leaders have the same spending priorities as a teenage girl.

Anyhoo it's a short post covering a lot of time because I've not really been on the move and I'm sort of low. I often need to write soon after I see a thing as it feels fresh and intersting. Time tends to delete the funky anecdotes and only the crap stuff stay fixed. I'm off to Campo Grande in the West. Changing places usually perks me up so I will decide what to do on arrival. If I recover all my positivity I will use Campo Grande as a base to visit the Pantanal. If I still feel Braziled out I will try to go straight to Paraguay.

Take care,



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