Posted by: glenswatman | February 3, 2010

20100112-21 BRAZIL

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.  There is an exhibition by “Abelardo da Hora”
who has an interesting style of female figures with prominent boobs and
bums.  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 curvaceous – 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 “SESC” 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

 

THURSDAY 21 JANUARY – A great
start to the day when we hear that Claire has passed her next lot of exams to
be a chartered accountant, this means she now has a diploma.  Luiz walks home at lunch time and tells us
the city is in chaos, with cars at a standstill, due to all the flooding after
it rained for most of the night. 
Unfortunately Luiza does not arrive back in time to share the delicious
fish and prawn stew that the maid has cooked. 
Fortunately Luzia makes it back in time to drive us to the subway to
connect with our coach.  We are booked on
the 2pm Valle de Tiete http://www.valedotiete.com.br/
bus to Laranjal Paulista, R32.77 (£11.50). 
Our journey takes us through very green countryside much like England
other than a few fields having termite mounds. 
There are many problems on the road and our journey takes almost 4-hours
instead of 2 ¾.  We call Cassiano who
soon arrives with his daughter Carol.  We
are their first Couchsurfing guests and they are very excited.  Carol has offered her room whilst she is
staying next door with her grandmother. 
Cassiano’s wife Edilene speaks no English but we still manage to
communicate well.  The family have a
dream to travel in a motorhome so we are happy to tell them how wonderful it
is.  The pizza meal is of a variety
called “Portuguese” with ham, peas and cheese. 
Cassiano tells us he is a pharmacist now working with AID’s patients,
whilst Edilene is a public health inspector. 
Edilene heads out to work with the local scout group whilst Cassiano
takes us on a walking tour of the town. 
It is so nice to be in a small place without the high rise
buildings.  Returning we call in to his
brother Luciano’s (a dentist) house.  We
meet his wife Roberta and children Rodrigo (12) and Cecilia (4) both are
learning English and although shy they want to chat to us.  Settling down to bed we realise our proximity
to the church, which chimes the time every half hour!

LARANJAL
PAULISTA 1, COUCHSURFING WITH CASSIANO AND FAMILY

 

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