Posted by: glenswatman | March 23, 2010

20100211-20 BRAZIL

THURSDAY 11 MARCH
We were originally going into town alone to take the hop on hop off
tourist bus but Johann says his Dad will take us on a tour.  First Erasmus takes Johann and Elizabeth to
school as this week they are doing a cake decorating course.  Once her returns we set out and first notice
the bus system here.  They have a special
lane in the middle of the street and bus stops are these clear tubes with a
ticket office at the entrance.  We are
surprised to find ourselves on Winston Churchill Street.  By the time we have bought out onward bus
ticket it is time to pick up Elizabeth and Johann for lunch.  He takes them back at 1pm but by the time he
returns at 3pm Steve is watching Liverpool on TV and there is not enough time
for a tour.  When Johann returns he
suggests and evening drive so we set off towards the city centre but with heavy
traffic the 15 min journey takes 1 hour. 
First we go to the botanic gardens and as it is dusk the glass house is
lit up and looks amazing.  We are very
surprised to see so many people wandering around the park but Johann says this
is an extremely safe area.  Time to eat
and we make our first visit to the Brazilian fast food chain of “Habib’s”.    We find the Arabic food is much tastier
than MacDonald’s and cheaper too.  Next
we drive to the historic centre and walk around to admire some of the flood lit
buildings.  Curitiba seems to be the
first to try many things in Brazil with other cities following once things have
been proved.  In the city centre there is
an old tram which is used as a children’s crèche.  We have to make a photo stop in “naked man
square” with Steve below the huge statue. 
The Oscar Niemeyer museum is famous for the architecture with part of
the building shaped like a huge eye.  Final
stop is the Couchsurfing meeting at Memphis pizza restaurant. It started at
6.30pm but is still going strong when we arrive after 10pm.  A few people speak English and we are also
joined by a Turkish couple who have packed in work to backpack South America. 

CURITIBA 2, COUCHSURFING WITH JOHANN

 

FRIDAY 12 MARCH – Johann
& Elizabeth have more classes so his Dad takes us for a mini tour.  It takes over an hour to cross the city and
reach the first attraction of the “wire theatre”, an amazing construction of
steel tubes and glass.  A little further
along is an interesting park with fountains, waterfalls and a forest but we
don’t have enough time to explore properly. 
At the bus station we take the Catarinese Executive coach, $72 (£24)
leaving at 12.45pm.  It s the expensive
executive version but the only difference is a larger gap between seats and not
even any food provided just a lunch stop mid way.  The journey is quite interesting as we drop
down through the tropical forest passing many lakes.   We reach the coast just on dusk and arrive at
Santos bus station at 7pm.  Cristina
arrives to pick us up at 8pm having been stuck in traffic, the congestion in
these big cities would drive us crazy.  We’ve
almost reached her home when the car breaks down.  She has already had it repaired but there is
obviously still a problem.  Once it has
been pushed to a safe parking place we walk the last 6 blocks to her home.  Cristina lives in an apartment above her parent’s
home along with her 18 year old son and 14 year old daughter, they are both
out.  It’s getting late so we all walk to
a nearby restaurant for dinner.  It is
very busy but we manage to get an outside table.  The meal is great, very good chunks of meat
in onions and sauce, crispy chips and garlic bread, very good value at R$10
(£3.50) a head.  All the meals are huge and
most people seem to leave loads.  Cristina
is very lively and a fun person and keeps texting her friends to try and get
them to join us but no one arrives.  We
walk back along the edge of one of the 4 canals within the city.  Her son Caio is home and he speaks good
English and is studying at university.

SANTOS, COUCHSURFING WITH CRISTINA

 

SATURDAY 13 MARCH
Cristina is at work when we get up and her son Caio is on the
computer.  It is 10am so we head for the
beach.  Following the canal it takes
about ½ hour to reach the main beach.  Santos
is another huge bay backed by high rise buildings and the beach is already
packed.  We bag some chairs and an
umbrella and buy a drink from the owner which qualifies us to stay all
day.  The water is pleasantly warm and
the sand is all hard packed and flat so great for walking.  I want to read my book but there are so many
people around that people watching takes over. 
Brazilians are famous for the G string bikini bottoms and whilst many
look great in them there are more who really should not be wearing them.  No one seems to care what they look like and
fat people are in the majority.  I
actually feel quite good about how I look and that’s saying something!  Vendors pass by selling corn, ice creams, hat
clothing and most things you might require. 
We leave at 4pm and return home and shortly after Cristina and daughter
Nyla arrive, she was out at a birthday party and did not arrive home until 1am
so we did not see her yesterday.  Steve
takes a walk to the nearby Santos stadium, Pele’s home ground.  Around 8pm Cristina is ready to go out.  We call on her Couchsurfing friend Ligia and
she and her Mum joins us to go out to dinner. 
We’ve only just ordered when Cristina’s boyfriend pulls up, they have had
a bit of a row so whilst we all eat she sits in the car with him sorting things
out.    All seems well when he gives us a
lift home around 10.30pm.  Cristina then
gets ready to go to a club, we politely refuse the invite.

SANTOS 2, COUCHSURFING WITH CRISTINA

 

SUNDAY 14 MARCH – We
are amazed when Cristina gives us a knock around 9am; she got in at 4.30am but
doesn’t look tired at all.  Her car seems
fine when we set off for the drive to the port but breaks down before we get
there.  There’s a bus stop nearby but the
bus driver tells us we would be better taking a taxi.  The taxi then tells us to walk as the port is
only 2 blocks away.   We must get lost as
we walk for around ½ hour with Cristina frequently stopping to ask
directions.  Check in is typical Brazilian
organised chaos but having done paperwork on line we jump most of the queue and
end up on the first bus load to board the Royal Caribbean International
Splendour of the Seas.  Docked behind it
is the HAL Veendam that we went to Antarctica on.  Having booked a regular outside cabin class H
we are happy to have been upgraded 5 levels to a balcony class M, cabin 7626 on
deck 7.  It is at the back of the ship and
has a balcony big enough to fit 3 chairs, 2 sun loungers and a table and it is
virtually private.  Walking around the
ship we find the indoor and outdoor swimming pools and have a go playing
shuffleboard and mini golf.  The bulk of
the passengers are Brazilians but we do hear the occasional American, Canadian
and English voice and all the crew speak English.  At the spa raffle Steve is lucky enough to
win the mini facial which he passes on to me. 
To take into account Brazilian eating habits early dinner is 7.30pm and
late dinner 10pm.  We are on early and
seated with Englishman Rex, Canadians Walter and Leila and a Porto Rican couple
Juan and Nilsa.  After dinner drinks come
by way of the duty free shops alcohol samples. 
Following the welcome show we do the “name that Michael Jackson tune”
quiz and team up with John & Diana. 
Diana was born in Chile and grew up in Brazil but has English parents
whilst John is from Preston but grew up in Brazil.  Manage our usual 2nd in the
quiz.  At night we have a problem in our room;
it sounds like we have a cicada (type of cricket) hiding in the ceiling and it
chirps intermittently.  I keep call
reception and they dry to send someone to listen to it but they don’t arrive in
time.  Eventually someone does and confirms
our suspicions.  We are offered a
different room to sleep in until they can deal with the problem in the
morning.  Steve declines as he has found
out his deaf ear is immune to the pitch of the cicada so he can sleep through
it but at 2.30am I relocate.

 ROYAL CARIBBEAN
INTERNATIONAL, SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS

 

MONDAY 15 MARCH –Steve
manages second place in the morning mini golf and wins a key chain.  There is a lunch time buffet by the pool
where they cook enormous paella.  There
are lots of contestants for the belly flop competition; many have obviously
been in training for months judging by their lack of waists.  We spend a most enjoyable day either
sunbathing on our balcony, eating or moving about the ship.  I give some thought to the cicada
problem.  The maintenance crew won’t do
anything about it until they hear it themselves but there is no noise in the
day as that is when cicadas sleep.  I
speak to reception about this and we are offered a move to the cabin I slept in
last night.  Junior Suite 8536 is a
beautiful room about 30% larger but with a narrower less private balcony but I
am happy to trade this off in order to get a good sleep however Steve is not
happy losing his private balcony and even less happy when he finds the guy on
the balcony next to ours is smoking. 
After our formal dinner we join the Captains reception, not to have our
photo taken with him but for the free champagne.   The show is all dancing and not our sign so
we head for the quiz and find we are the only ones to show up.  Apparently the Brazilians never read the day’s
programmes and head to either the pool or the showroom and stay put waiting to
see what happens.  Make a last stop at
the solarium for a pizza. 

RCI SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS, SAILING

 

TUESDAY 16 MARCH –
It is a dull drizzly morning as we anchor off from Buzios.  This was a small quiet fishing village until
Brigit Bardot arrived in the 60’s.  After
being tendered ashore we set out walking along the waterfront with many
sculptures including one of Brigit and such a lifelike one of 3 fishermen in
the water puling in a net that I rush to take the photo before they move!  There are 18 beaches here and one of them is
a naturist beach. It has stopped raining so we walk to Praia Brava then make
the walk up over the hill to get to the naturist beach of Olho de Boi.  On arrival there are a couple of coloured
guys running a rustic bar with beach chairs and umbrellas, R20 (£8) and another
guy with a smaller set up.  We stay for
about an hour and another couple arrive. 
It begins spitting with rain and looks like worse is to come so I
suggest we head back.  At least when it
rains here it is not cold and in fact is rather pleasant.  Back in the town the drizzle has stopped so
we walk the main area full of shops and restaurants and can’t believe how many
people off our ship are dining out. 
Being cheapskates we go back to the ship for our free dinner.  Before evening meal there is a meeting of all
the English speaking people on board, quite a small gathering considering the
size of the ship.  It is Italian night
and we are serenaded by the waiters singing to us and parading around the
restaurant.  Next is the “welcome back”
for past guests with free booze and snacks and incentives to book further
cruises.  Again the quiz show has only 3
people show up and is cancelled so we hang out in the casino using our $30 for
$20 chips on the roulette betting black and red together in order to turn them
into cashable chips.  In all the years we
have done this we have only lost once when 0 came up.  The casino host is from Romania, very chatty
and keeps giving us betting credits so we do very well out of it.

RCI SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS, BUZIOS

 

WEDNESDAY 17 MARCH
Anchored off Isla Grande the weather is worse than yesterday with
proper rain.  This island has been left a
nature reserve and covered by jungle rainforest with many walking tracks.  There is no public transport, the only
motorised vehicles being for police, fire service and medical.   It
stops raining just after we anchor up so we take an early tender and are
surprised to find less than 20 of us on board. 
The town is quite attractive with a kind of Caribbean laid back feeling.  Heading along the coast we do the circuit
walk past a couple of nice beaches, the ruins of an old prison, an overgrown aqueduct
then wade across a natural pool to get back.  Next we explore the village which has lots of
backpacker accommodation and camping.  It
begins to rain heavily so we return to the ship.  In the shuffleboard golf I take second prize
– a pen the same as the first prize.  I really
enjoy my free facial (value $101) with Sandra and learn that unless you spend a
great deal of money on beauty products ($80 for an eye cream) they are unlikely
to be very effective so I will now just stick to the cheapest I can find!  Unfortunately the “love and marriage” game
show is all in Portuguese and the main show is dancing so we opt out of both.

RCI SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS 4, ILHA GRANDE

 

THURSDAY 18 MARCH
Anchored off Ilhabela the weather is slightly better so we get ashore
as early as possible.  The main thing to
do on this island is a boat trip to the beaches but with rain threatening it
doesn’t seem worth it.  The town has an
attractive blue and white church and a pleasant waterfront with some really
good steel sculptures.  We take the local
bus R2.20 (£70p) to the ferry to see a little more of the island but this place
is really about the beaches.  Back on
ship the weather brightens up so we sit on the deck above the pool deafened by
the incredibly loud music that the Brazilians love.  The evening show is songs from the movies and
more to out liking.  The famous Royal
Caribbean game “The Quest” has to be held on the pool deck and only has 3 small
teams competing whereas on past cruises this has been the highlight of the
whole cruise with almost everyone taking part. 
The midnight buffet is well attended but once we have taken photos of
the food we head to bed.

RCI SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS 5, IHLABELA

 

FRIDAY 19 MARCH – A
day at sea so we get up late and enjoy brunch in the Kings Restaurant.  Steve has a platter of steak, prawns and
caviar, just because he can!  We have sun
on our balcony so enjoy sitting out and even order a room service lunch –
making the most of our last change being waited on.  Late afternoon I have a go at the rock
climbing wall but only make it half way up, think I try to do too much with my
arms rather than my legs but would do it again. 
Steve fits in a game of table tennis with our table companion Rex who is
80 years old, travelling alone and very active. 
In terms of ports of call and on board entertainment this has not been
the best cruise but we have thoroughly enjoyed 6 nights in one place and not
having to plan anything.  . 

RCI SPLENDOUR OF THE SEAS 6, AT SEA

 

SATURDAY 20 MARCH
We are amongst the first off at 7.45am, straight into a taxi to the
bus station.  He tries to charge us R50
but we have checked on the ship and give him the R20 (£7) they suggest and he
seems perfectly happy. The 8.15am Ultra bus to Sao Paulo, R16.25 (£6) takes 1
hour then its  45 minutes by subway,
R2.65 (95p) to Tiete bus station where we meet Couchsurfer Marcela.   She lives 1 hour away by Marron bus, R12.65
(£4.50) in Jacarei.  Her Mum Lucia meets
us, she speaks little English but seems to understand quite well.  Back home Marcela’s Dad Vitor speaks good
English and also Italian as he lived and worked there.  They are the same age as us.  We have a nice private room with an en suite
so not much of a come down from being on the ship.  The family are extremely friendly.  Their son Victor arrives home then we go out
for lunch.  On the way back we make a bit
of a tour including the aviation company where Vitor works.  It is really hot when we get back so we appreciate
the fresh lemonade that Vitor makes with the lemons from his tree.  Within the tree is a birds’ nest with the
bird perched there oblivious to my photography. 
In the evening we go to a restaurant in town.  There we are joined by Marcela’s friend Bruno
who has lived in the States and later on by another CS friend Bruno and all his
friends so the party quickly grows and we have a really good night.  When we leave the restaurant we are in the
middle of an almighty thunderstorm and the rain continues through the night.

JACEREI, COUCHSURFING WITH MARCELA

 

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