Posted by: glenswatman | January 21, 2010

20100111-20 BRAZIL

MONDAY 11 JANUARY
Sergio and Lisette are out at work and Beatriz has had a sleepover so
when we wake up only Gabriel is home.  He
introduces us to the home help “Des” who prepares our breakfast.  Gabriel drives us down to the nearest beach,
Camboinhas, and drops us there for a couple of hours.  It is fairly quiet and we settle under an
umbrella.  In Brazil you can use the
umbrella table and chairs so long as you buy a drink when they come round.  The water is warm but not so hot that it
doesn’t cool you down.  We take a stroll
along the beach then lots of dips to cool off. 
Gabriel picks us up and we spend the afternoon chilling at home with
occasional warming dips in the pool! 
First to arrive home is their younger son Leonardo who also speaks good
English.  When the rest of the family
arrive home we eat some toasted sandwiches before heading out to their other
house.  En route we pass a motel
advertising rooms, 3 hours for R$25 (£8), apparently used by prostitutes.  Now wouldn’t you have thought that a guy who
could afford 3-hours with a prostitute could afford a better room than
that?  Sergio’s’ second house is rented
out for parties.,  People arrive to use
the swimming pool, outdoor fireplace and kitchen area then leave with no need
to clean up.  Although the house has many
bedrooms and bathrooms it is normally just booked for day use.  Of course the down side is that Sergio and
family have to clear up all the rubbish afterwards.  Once we have finished the cleaning that
Gabriel started earlier we head to Itacoatiara beach, a much quieter one with a
huge rock at the end separating it from a smaller, child safe beach.  I try to take a picture with the flash and
then realise that the rocks are covered in loving couples who are somewhat
surprised to be in the spot light!  It is
another very hot evening and to our embarrassment Sergio insists we take
Beatriz’s room as it has air conditioning whilst she will sleep with them. 

NITEROI 2, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY 

 

TUESDAY 12 JANAURY
Today there is only Beatriz home when we get up but the maid Dee has
prepared our breakfast, how spoilt are we. 
I still have lots to do on the Internet and it is nice just to potter
round by the pool and catch up on some reading as I didn’t even read a page on
the cruise.  In the evening we go out
with Sergio and Lisete, first to buy some groceries so I can cook a meal
tomorrow.  Next we visit Piratininga
beach opposite Copacabana and walk for 2 ½ km each way along it. There are a
couple of oil rigs out at sea waiting to be towed in for repairs; they look
very attractive with all their lights on. 
We return via a lookout on the hill passing even more beaches.  It sure is an amazing area for beaches here
but unfortunately they are still all too busy or commercialised for our liking.

NITEROI 3, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

 

WEDNESDAY 13
JANUARY –
Sergio runs his own insurance company and Lisete and Gabriel
both work with him.  Gabriel is left
holding the fort whilst Sergio and Lisete take the day off to show us a bit
more of Rio.  First they stop at the
petrol station where we are asked if we would like water or coffee, apparently
complimentary, both served with biscuits. 
The coffee is in a tiny cup and very sweet but I do enjoy the biscuits.  We begin the tour at Corcovado topped by
Christ the Redeemer, this time parking is not such a problem and they drop us
off to take the bus to the top.  R$24.20
(£8.80) for the bus, lift and visit package. 
It is not too crowded but today the city is covered in a haze so we are
pleased to have got the view photos on Sunday. 
The statue is incredible, the face is so serene and it looks huge close
up.  Back in the city it is time for
lunch and we are in the Flamengo area. 
We want to take Sergio & Lisete out to lunch and Rough Guide
recommended Lamas.  It is a 130 year old
restaurant with white jacketed waiters with dickie bows.  When the menu arrives we hardly recognise
anything but are relieved when Sergio is the same, it seems they are using
pretentious rather than common names for their dishes.  Unfortunately the food is not as good as the
price would suggest but we still enjoy the experience.  Next stop is Sugarloaf Mountain; we arrange
to meet after we have taken the cable car tour. R$44 (£16).  The cars are huge and panoramic with glass
walls all around.  The first car takes
you up to 220m Morro da Urca with some great views but these are surpassed when
we reach the 396m peak of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf).  The views from here are very different to
Corcovado.  We are looking back in
towards the city and can see many of the beaches and across the Niteroi.  After our first day of not really liking Rio
we are rapidly being converted.  The
stunning setting, urban jungle, mountains, amazing panoramic views, hundreds of
beaches and friendly people are winning us over.   Sergio
meets us at the bottom and we set out on a walk around the bottom of Morro da
Urca.  This is a pedestrian way through
the jungle on a path above the ocean, very tranquil and with lots of natural
attractions, banana and jackfruit trees, monkeys and pretty birds (the
feathered variety this time).  Returning
home we pause in Niteroi to photograph the Oscar Niemeyer designed Museum of
Contemporary Art housed in a spaceship like building.  We call in to a big supermarket to do some
shopping and I note that almost everything is either the same price as England
or more expensive, funnily enough the potatoes come from England.  In the evening I cook a large cottage pie,
lucky I did as there are 8 of us for dinner when Leonardo’s girlfriend Carly
join us. 

NITEROI 4, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

 

THURSDAY 14
JANUARY –
Steve is feeling weary all the time, think it is a
combination of him not sleeping from pain in his hand (the skin is now raw and
the nerves are growing back) and the general heat and humidity.  So I spend the day doing more Internet whilst
he festers.  The family return in the
evening and shortly after that we get a thunderstorm and heavy rain which
clears the air.  For supper they have
order pizza but not the type we are used to. 
They are all small individual ones with either cheese on or chocolate
spread and chopped nuts – yes that’s right chocolate pizza.  Worse still Leonardo eats them both
together!  I have now got Couchsurfers
lined up in our next 4 ports of call and must sort out transport.  Sergio is a great help finding buses on line www.autoviacao1001.com.br but we
are a bit shocked to find the fare from here to Sao Paulo, about 6 hours
journey, is R84 (£30).  Things are even
more expensive as we have just found out that the exchange rate is down to
R2.75 = £1.   A big contrast to approx £1
per hour that we were paying in other South American countries.

NITEROI 5, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

 

FRIDAY 15 JANAURY
After the storm the air is much fresher and we both feel better for
it.  I take time through the day to work
on and promote my blog.  We are amazed at
the Couchsurfing responses as almost everyone I write to ends up inviting us to
visit.  Looking at our onward plan I see
that our 6-hour journey tomorrow is going to take us all of 7cm down the
map!  We should have hot weather all the
time now so will leave some warm clothes here and pick them up on return.  In the evening we play cards and teach
Sergio, Gabriel and Lisete how to play “Arsehole” which they seem to
enjoy.   Lisete cooks a tasty meal
including local “pastel” and kind of mini fried pasty with cheese inside.  What a great start to our visit to Brazil
having such a wonderful family to stay with. 

NITEROI 6, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND FAMILY

 

SATURDAY 16
JANUARY –
Sergio, Lisete, Gabriel and Beatriz all pile into the car to
take us to the bus station.  We have a
bit of trouble finding a bank that will accept our visa debit card, (Bradesco
does), so arrive at the bus station as they are boarding for our 9.20am
departure with the 1001 bus company.  Our
expensive tickets include a packed lunch and newspaper but the seats themselves
are no better than the ones in the other South American countries and in fact
have less leg room.  It takes about
1-hour to clear the suburbs of Rio but soon we are travelling in areas of
jungle with flooded muddy rivers.  This
is the region that was hit by heavy rain over the new year with a couple of
coastal cities getting bad mudslides. 
The lunch box is so good that we spread the 4 snacks out over the
journey, 2 packets with 2 crackers in each, 1 packet with 2 sweet biscuits and
1 other filled sweet biscuit – it is a bit harder to make the small drinks
carton last though!  The bus stops for
about 15 minutes part way through the journey. 
Our driver is a bit of a mad man travelling very fast and overtaking
many other coaches.  At least we arrive
in Sao Paulo on schedule at 3.20pm.  The
bus station is directly above the metro station so it is easy to make the
transfer and buy the tickets, R$2.65 (95p). 
With good advance information we make the metro connection then walk a
couple of blocks from Paulista Street to where our new host lives.  We are the first guests for Sergio and
Paulina.  Sergio is Brazilian but speaks
excellent English whilst Paulina is Chilean and speaks less English but more
than our Spanish.  They have a spacious
apartment and have offered us a spare room with double bed and bathroom.  Tonight they are holding a party for some
other Couchsurfers and asked us to join them all.  Before the others arrive Sergio escorts us on
a walk up Paulista Ave to get our bearings. 
He is very knowledgeable and explains the history of the area.  Once we return guests Karina from Brazil and
her Italian boyfriends Paolo have already arrived.  They both speak English and we chat to them
as we help with the food preparation. 
Next to arrive are Sergio’s cousin Juliana and her flat mate Claudia
from Chile who both speak a little English. 
Finally Priscilla and her Chilean boyfriend Jair appear and they both
speak English well.  The conversation
around the room fluctuates between English, Spanish and Portuguese with maybe a
little Italian thrown in but we all want to understand each other so things
work out really well.  Claudia has
brought the stuff to make sushi and watching her prepare the rolls I great
entertainment especially when she enrols others to give it a try.  The group all met at the Sao Paulo weekly
Tuesday meeting and decided they would like to see each other more often so
suggested this kind of get together with everyone bringing a little food.  Thus we have a delicious meal with many
different foods and great conversation. 
Claudia’s boyfriend Silvio and Juliana’s boyfriend Zig (pronounced
Ziggy) arrive making 12 in all.  They
like to play games afterwards and ask us to teach them “Arsehole” so we split
into 2 groups with Steve and I each leading one.  A raucous time follows with everyone enjoying
the game and making a lot of noise when promoted to President.  It is 1am by the time everyone leaves.

SAO PAULO, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO AND PAULINA

 

SUNDAY 17 JANAURY
Sergio and I are the first up so I start on the dishes whilst he goes
out to buy some stuff for breakfast. 
After breakfast we set off in the car to visit the city centre.  Sergio is training to be a tourist guide so
when we begin in the city centre he knows just where to go.  We look at many important buildings for which
he has really interesting information.  Visiting
the Mosteiro Sao Bento is named after “Fray Bento” and this reminds us of the
brand of corned beef we have in England. 
Inside the church the Benedictine monks are doing the Gregorian chant
and in an adjoining room there is a queue to buy the bread and honey made by
them.  The Martinelli building was the
cities first skyscraper and kept rising higher to keep up with the title of
highest building against another in Buenos Aires.   The only
university building in the centre of city (for lawyers) has a board saying that
provided no one puts graffiti on the building they will make a monthly donation
to the local community and this excellent idea is obviously working as the
building is clean.  Sergio explains that
in Brazil one person out of a gang will put their graffiti signature (usually a
kind of symbol with entwined initials) in the strangest, highest or most
bizarre place possible then the rest of the gang have to follow suit.  On the outskirts of the centre we stop to
admire the magnificent “Sao Paulo Monument as Bandeiras” sculpture celebrating
the expedition into Brazil.  We stop for
a bite to eat at an open air Sunday market. 
There is a stall selling “pastel”, a large deep fried pastry with a
variety of fillings on offer for R$2.50 (90p). 
The girl on the stall welcomes us to Brazil in English and tells us it
is her dream to visit England.  Nearby is
a stall selling sugar cane juice to which they add either pineapple or lemon
juice, R3 (£1.05) for a large glass. 
Again the sellers on the stall are extremely friendly.  On Paulina’s suggestion we take it with lemon
and it is delicious.  We return for a nap.  Tonight Sergio & Paulina are out playing
football so we are going out with our next hosts Luiz & Luzia to a Samba
rehearsal.  They are a similar age to us
and also have their current guest Ron with them.  It is a long way to “Casa Verde” where the
event is being held so time to chat en route. 
They are also new to Couchsurfing and very enthusiastic.  After asking directions numerous times we arrive
at the hall, R15 (£5.50) admission.  This
event is being held by the group that won last year, “GRCES Mocidade Alegre”.  Teams enter by performing a song and dance
routine whilst walking in the parade.  Anyone
can hire a costume and pay money to follow the parade but cannot do the samba
en route as this is restricted to the main team.  The costumes are on display and we have fun
trying on a few headdresses, very heavy and uncomfortable.  The Sao Paulo Couchsurfing group have
arranged for some members to gather here so we meet other hosts and their
guests.  The event begins with a long
build up of the music, the minute the beat changes to samba the crowd starts to
gyrate.  We are given a sheet with the
words to this year’s song and shown the basic dance moves and actions that go
with it.  A parade comes through with the
3 main characters giving a demonstration and then it is our turn.  The music is so loud you can feel your empty
beer cans vibrate.  There is no choice
but to follow the 4 a breast line as we begin the song and dance routine.  The circuit goes around the hall then outside
into the entry street before returning. 
We think it is one circuit but are completely wrong, by about the 50th
lap we almost know the words and the routine. 
Had the words been in English we would surely be word perfect and this
is the objective.  In the middle of the
hall the main samba troop practice their more complicated routine along with
another group of very young children.  It
begins to rain and for the first couple of laps it is very pleasant to cool
down as everyone is sweating buckets. 
Unfortunately the rain gets very heavy so we move into the costume room
to watch.  Others continue and begin
having water fights but eventually things have to wind down and the band stops
playing.  We’ve had a fantastic night and
really enjoyed it all.    It is 11.30pm when we get dropped off,
arriving back just before Sergio and Paulina.

SAO PAULO 2, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO & PAULINA

 

MONDAY 18 JANUARY
In the morning we watch a movie that Sergio’s brother made “Café com
Leite”.  It won the section in the film
festival and with the prize money Daniel is making another one.  A lot of it was filmed in Sergio’s house as
Daniel used to live there and the bedroom scenes are set in the room we are
using.  Daniel joins us for lunch so we
have lots of questions for him.  Take an
afternoon walk back along Ave Paulista to photograph some statues.  In the evening we are joined for pizza by
Paulo & Katrina.  After they leave
Sergio teaches us a Brazilian card game, truco. 
Easy to learn to play but with many twist and bluffs that would make it
very intriguing.

SAO PAULO 3, COUCHSURFING WITH SERGIO & PAULINA

 

TUESDAY 19 JANUARY
Paulina invites me to join her for a trip to the “25 March” street
market.  Leaving the metro we meet up
with Claudia then begin to shop.  This
area is full of stores selling fashion jewellery, extreme bling in many cases.  The girls know which store is the cheapest
and even I can’t resist a couple of items although trying to deliberately buy
items that look cheap and fake is no easy task! 
Other stores in the area are selling things for the carnival, all you
may need to make your own jewellery, soft toys and underwear, quite a
combination.  In the underwear stores the
girls are looking for an outfit to give as a give of their friends hen
night.  It is like an Anne Summers store,
the front part regular underwear but upstairs the more erotic stuff and behind
a further door a sex shop.  The all
female staff is very friendly and down to earth and talk about everything as if
they were describing any everyday item with no embarrassment at all.  The Brazilian girls are clamouring to buy
sexy dressing up outfits and “accessories”. One of the funny things in the
store is a sort of bum bra, a padded pair of knickers to make your bum look
more curvy – guess when you ask does my bum look big in this you want a yes
reply!  Pick up some tapioca on the way
back, a speciality dish from up north. 
At the street stall the man sprinkles a pile of tapioca flour into a dry
frying pan, add your topping (coconut and cream for us girls R3, $1.10) then
when it is almost ready folds it in half and cooks both sides much like an
omelette – delicious.  Steve & Sergio
take the cheese option R4 (£1.40).   Steve & Sergio are amazed how long we have
been out, (almost 5-hours) but there is still time in the afternoon to walk to
the nearby “SESCA” building.  This is a
kind of community centre where they offer many things free, yoga classes,
exhibitions etc.  This week the
exhibition is about travelling.  Another
feature of the building is the viewing area from the roof top café.  A second exhibition is an audio thing with
lots of different size and shaped clay pots scattered around a room, each one
has a sort of speaker inside and the sound emerges from all of them and is
supposed to be an amazing experience – none of us get it.  After being dropped off at the metro we make
our way south to where Luiza is waiting for us. 
Luiz picks us all up and takes us to their nearby office.  They deal in lasers and he tells us some of
the more unusual uses such as getting a level for a paddy field so that all the
irrigation channels hold the water. 
After work we settle in at their apartment and meet their street
dog.  We are chatting so much that before
we know it 8pm has come round and we can go out.  Luiz’s car number plates mean that on Tuesday
he cannot enter the city centre until that time.  The Couchsurfing meeting is in a room above a
bar.  On arrival we are given name tags,
green ones show someone from outside Brazil along with their country, red is
for first time visitors and the others have black.  We soon begin to mingle and many people stop
to introduce themselves with about half of them speaking good English.  One called Fernando speaks English as if he
were an American and we have just complimented him on his skills when he asks
if we are both “retarded” now.  We nearly
fall over laughing, whilst Fernando quickly realises his mistake and keeps
saying no I mean retired.  We tell him we
are both!   Everyone is so friendly and
we get lots of invitations to visit people or to meet up, it seems that
Brazilians really like to be with foreigners so who are we to complain.  Last week there were around 150 people at the
meeting but there are less tonight which means it is a little easier to hear
and talk to people, we notice that in Brazil everyone talks very loudly
wherever they are.  There are many really
interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life, full time
travellers, professionals and students all chatting together.  On the way back we finally get chance to talk
to Luiz & Luiza and compare notes on who we have spoken to.    Back
at their home they insist we have a light meal, bread, ham, cheese and tomatoes
before going to bed.  They cannot sleep
on an empty stomach whilst we prefer to do just that but eat a little.

SAO PAULO 4, COUCHSURFING WITH LUIZ & LUIZA

 

WEDNESDAY 20
JANAURY –
When we wake up Luiz & Luiza are at the office but the
maid has arrived and our breakfast is on the table.  Luiz told us she has to travel over 2-hours
each direction to come and work for them. 
It seems this is common as this is distance between the areas where the
business people and the less fortunate people live.  Luiza arrives to pick us up and drops us off,
along with Luiz, at the metro.  In the
centre of the city we take the free ride to the top of “Edificio Banespa” for
fine views.  Well I say fine views as
really all you see are thousands of high rise in every direction, testimony to
Sao Paulo being the 3rd largest metropolis in the world.  Return to the office to pick up Luiza so we
can go to lunch. It is one of those buffet places where you pay by weight
(R$26.90, £10 kilo).  The meat choice is
great with different cuts roasting on the BBQ and they carve whatever you
want.  Luiza takes the afternoon off work
and drives us to the centre.  Parking is
interesting as they put a magnetic block with a number on the roof, give you
the same number on a coupon and expect you to leave the keys so they can park
it for you.  Steve is a bit weary so
stays with the car whilst Luiza and I head to the market.  It is in a beautiful building with stained
glass windows depicting how the products are grown.  The meat sandwiches they sell are huge with
about 20 slices of meat in each one, shame we have already eaten.  In the evening we order take away pizza to
round off the day.  The rest of the
evening we looks at photos and they tempt is with pictures of the beaches up in
Bahia but in reality it is too far north for us on this trip.

SAO PAULO 5, COUCHSURFING WITH LUIZ & LUIZA

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