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Tudo bem en Rio de Janeiro (Part 1)

BRAZIL | Thursday, 20 November 2008 | Views [2368]

Goncalo Coehlo, the Portuguese navigator, arrived at what is now Rio de Janeiro on new years day 1502. Thinking that the Bay of Guanabara was the mouth of a large river he named the place “January River”. We arrived, slightly bleary eyed after a long but uneventful (and therefore satisfactory) 23 hour bus journey. One thing I could tell for sure was that Brazil had spent the 10 years I had been away building its economic power and developing a significant middle class. We had only seen one or two McDonalds so far since Lima, they were everywehere now. Most of the cars were new (as in less than 10 years old) and the only exceptions seemed to be old VWs kept because they're cool rather than from necessity.) Oh and it's expensive but I think I mentioned that already :)

So we pulled into Rio and decided to try and find somewhere to stay in Copacobana, as much because of Barry Manilow as for any other reason. We left the bus station and caught a bus, but not before being accosted by a very aggressive homeless teenager looking for a few coins whom I had to literally shout at in order to get him to move on. We knew Rio had an edge, but weren't expecting to find it quite so quickly!

We weren't in the mood to traipse around looking for a place with our backpacks on so once we found a street we knew had somewhere on it we went up it – we could always stay for one or two nights before moving on. So home was to be the Che Lagarto Hostel Rio, part of a chain all over S America, with a bit of a reputation for parties but hey – that's par for the course in Rio isn't it?

A big blackboard adorned with “All you can eat, all you can drink bbq tonight – don't miss it!! $R40 starts at 8” greeted us as we were buzzed through the industrial strength gate, presumably protecting the hostellers from the sleepy homeless outside rather than vice versa. We asked for their finest cheapest room and received 2 beds in an 8 sleeper dorm. After a few seconds of deliberation we decided that the all you can eat / drink would be good for meeting people and getting a low down on the city before venturing out ourselves.

We met quite a big group of early twenty somethings, Patrick the English bartender who was on his way back from a Miami to Patagonia motorcycle ride and who ended up staying and being offered a job, Gavin, from Sligo heading up to Columbia with Luke, a professional Aussie Journeymaker. Josh and Ben who were hostelling until they could get English teaching jobs and then an apartment. Igor, a Brazilian taking some time out before finishing his masters, Mitch the aviation law expert on holidays from Seattle and Sarah and Malika who were on a round the world trip half way from Oz. They're a great crowd, lots of fun and the reputation of the party hostel was upheld on our first night.

I think it's only fair to mention that there were a lot of locals at the bbq aswell – staff from the hostel, friends and friends of friends and they were all very welcoming, patient and fun to be around. If you ever go to Brazil, go armed with 2 very important words: Tudo Bem! which can be used in almost every situation but means all is well essentially.

The following day it rained solid all day, enough time to allow us to catch up with tinternet and have a nap and things like that. We then headed to a incredibly expensive English pub to watch England V Germany and Scotland V Argentina, El Diego's first game at the helm... We left as soon as the games were finished, not major fans of paying more for a small beer than you would for a pint in Soho or Temple Bar. We followed Gavin and Luke (who seemed to know about these things) down to Ipanema beach where we all sat outside a Cabana for the rest of the evening, taking in our first views of the famous Rio landscape with its high domed slopes practically rising out of the bay itself.

We had made tentative plans to, weather permitting, hit the beach the following day which also happened to be a Brazilian holiday. Luckily the weather was ok with sunny spells so we borrowed some bikes from the guys at the hostel and cycled our way down to Copacobana beach and across past the fort to Ipanema beach. This was what I had always imagined Rio would be like! Throngs of people on the beach itself, playing beach football (or keepy-uppy) volley ball, surfing and generally lying around looking cool. Roller bladers and cyclists weaving in and out of mirco-bikini and speedo clad, bronzed pedestrians on the street, closed to traffic for the holiday. Beach vendors touting their juices and shades and their shrimps that they will cook on a mini portable bbq in front of you! Big curling waves which break right on the beach with an undertow which is incredibly strong. And the view – what I had thought looked good the previous night really came alive in the sunshine – seas of skyscrapers separated by massive rolling green spits of land reaching into the sky. Rio just oozes atmosphere in every way. Plus it was lovely to finally hit the beach after crossing the continent and never really having had the opportunity in Peru on the Pacific.

The group had decided that a good way to combat Brazilian consumer prices would be to cook in the well equipped hostel kitchen and share the cost. Quite keen to show off my spag bol skills (and anxious to avoid someone else's dodgy omelette) I volunteered to cook and Claire took a role in procurement,. We headed up to the local supermarket and picked up the goods to feed the 10 of us, the only thing that we felt would be a little excessive was mushrooms. At GBP£3.50 for a small tin of probably fairly nasty mushrooms we decided that that was a bit steep. I guess the Brazilian climate is not really suited to growing edible fungi. It all went well and we played cacho, the Bolivian dice game for a few hours while all the younger crew headed out partying, apparently it was Sean's birthday. Now, we had never met him but the fact that he had been in the hostel for 5 weeks was impressive. And he was from Derry.

The following day we decided that it would be a good idea to move from the 8 sleeper room, which was right beside the bar so you could hear every bump and beat of the music even through the earplugs. We moved up to a 6 sleeper which was filled with smelly hungover 18 year olds and littered with dirty boxer shorts. They moved rooms too, I think we cramped their style. Everyone's a winner!

Tags: bbq, beach, cooking, football, party, portuguese, rio


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