Month: May 2007

Rio De Janeiro – Ipanema

Kruse is in Rio.  It should be awesome, and kind of is, but is raining – and got here at 5am after no sleep and much bus travel and watching Spiderman 3 in Portuguese.

But – left Oro Preto – bus to Belo Horizonte.  Another bus to Congonhas.  Helpful lady told me no bus to Rio from Congonhas.  Have to go back to Belo Horizonte.  But, the bus is at 11:20pm, and last bus from Conhongas to Belo Horizonte is 10-something.  But, bad news, luggage storage closes at 5pm.  Is at this time 4pm.  Want to go visit 12 Prophets, then go onto Rio.  So… walk with backpack.  Don’t know where to go.  Just walk, then remember reading something about them being at a basilica on top of a hill.  See a basilica.  On a hill.  Big hill.  Walk up it.  Hard – not happy when I get to the top, and see something that would be cool, but not worth an hours climb in the sun with my pack.  But – Aleidijinho’s (sp?) masterpiece.  And – on way back down, before I find a long-awaited bar – get offered a lift by local.  Old brown pickup truck with little motorcycle&rider as statue on bonnet.  Very very cracked windscreen. How could I say No?  Lift to bus station – and he chases down the bus just leaving.  I try to say “No – it’s alright, I want a cerveja before I go anyway.”  So – taken to local bar.  Eat local food, my new friend rolls cigars with raw tobacco and corn husks.  Good times.  More amigos arrive.  New friend offers place to stay.  I accept – this place is great, and actually being local is awesome.  More time.  New friend gets very drunk.  Doesn’t like cerveja – only drinks cachaca.  Not very many – but pretty quickly looking rather dopey.  I decide to catch tonights bus instead.  But – he insists on driving me to bus station, rather than me walking across pedestrian bridge.  45 minutes till next bus – lots of hugs when I leave.  Brilliant town, kind of regret leaving early – but suspect my friend may have been a little man-friendly.

Bus to Belo Horizonte.  Another bus to Rio de Janeiro.  Rio de Janeiro.  Awesome.  Except, I arrive at 5am, after 2 hours sleep – don’t know where to go, and bus station is in very very dodgy neighbourhood.  Wander around in daze for a while.  Consider waiting until tourist office opens.  Instead – wait until bar opens – eat a ‘pasteleria’ and drink a cerveja.  Pay for a taxi to a hostel in Ipanema.  6am – can’t see anything – but realise the next day that this one address is actually for 7 different hostels.  As well as 5 family residences.  But – apparently the chap that saw me first and therefore grabbed my business, won the “Rio Hostel Of The Year” award.  When?  Don’t know.  Who judged?  Don’t know.

But – very big crowded, very packed dorm room.  I take it, and go to sleep with all my stuff still in pockets.  All good.

This morning – I wake up in Ipanema.  Turns out my hostel is called the “Girl From Ipanema Hostel”.  And, it turns out that Ipanema girls do deserve to have songs written about them.  Except they don’t always look ahead.  A lot of them do look at me.  Watched beach volleyball for a while.  Cloudy day, but moments of sun, and realising that I’m sitting on Ipanema beach watching locals play beach volleyball.  Sweet.

Back to hostel, teach a guy working at the hostel how to illegally copy a DVD for his girlfriend.  And drink a bottle of passable Brazilian red wine, followed by several cervejas.

Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto is indeed another pretty old colonial town.  Steep cobblestone streets.  Lots of churches.  Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Baroque architecture, and work done by Aleijadinho.  The best one the church Sao Francisco de Assis.  The interior was ridiculous.  Couldn’t take photos – but found one on internet here.  Doesn’t really do it justice, and is only one part of the church.

Also went down a goldmine.  Rather deep, going down on one of the original carts.  New cable though, I think.  Rather deep, and big.  Went for a swim in a subterranean lake down there.  Fairly cold – and water so crystal clear that you couldn’t tell if a section was centimetres deep or metres.

And that’s about it.  Current plan is to catch bus to Congonha (sp?) – look at Aleijadinho’s masterpiece of statues of the 12 Prophets, and then continue on to Rio de Janeiro either tonight or tomorrow.  Quite excited about going to Rio, everybody raves about it.  And it’s Rio.  Just need to find a hostel where I won’t be robbed every time I walk out the door.

Brasilia

Spent a couple more days in Lencois.  Went to see some more waterfalls, climb a ‘mountain’, see a couple of caves.  One cave has water which turns bright blue at a certain time of day.  Unfortunately (or fortunately?) – the model that was rumoured to be in town – was indeed in town.  And she was having a photo shoot at the cave.  Sorry lads – didn’t get any decent photos.  A couple of bad ones – but the light in there was awful.  And she wasn’t a particularly attractive model.  Amusing though – watching her at the local cafe – with her little retinue of bootlickers following her around.  One guy whose job it seemed to be to carry her iPod with speakers.

25 May

Anyway – caught a bus to Brasilia.  24 hours after getting to bus stop in Lencois, arrive at bus stop in Brasilia.  The city of the future.,  Everybody had told me not to bother coming – nothing to see.  But, a city that was created because some Italian guy dreamt about a new civilisation appearing with it’s capital in a certain place – “So, let’s build a capital in that place…”, seemed like it could be interesting.  A city built from scratch in three years.  Well – got here, and was pretty quickly annoyed with it.  Back to the Brasil of beggars and touts.  Also – planning a city from scratch seems like a good idea.  But only if you remember that there are pedestrians.  Maybe they did it on purpose, foreseeing the futuristic Segways.  Also – all hotels in one area.  Nice idea.  Except only expensive ones get built there.  So, after a short time looking for a hotel, deciding it wasn’t worth going out to the suburbs for a cheap room, I figured I’d catch a bus out that same night.

Went to a shopping mall.  Brasilia loves shopping malls.  Very futuristic, in a Clockwork Orange or Brazil kind of way.  Exterior wall of shopping mall covered in external air-con units.  Inside – cubicles.  Whole thing – flat, ugly.  I figure that this mall wasn’t designed by Niemeyer.  Seen a couple of buildings that I assume were done by him (I think all the public service buildings were) – and lots more curves.  All curves, really.

Anyway – stopped for snack & cervejas in the mall.  Watched a homeless woman (in front of her two young children) snatch a bottle (empty, phew) off my table, as she wanted to use it as a weapon against a large woman she’d been having a yelling match with.  Figured this was a sign that my decision to leave was the right one.  Caught bus from central bus station (huge.  Unbelievably massive.) to the long distance bus & train station (lots of buses, no trains), and got the next ticket to Belo Horizonte.  Where I am now, and have a ticket for one hour from now to Ouro Preto.  Another small pretty colonial town, apparently.  Accommodation looks expensive, so will probably spend little time there, then onto another small town, then Rio de Janeiro.  Am hoping the accommodation in Ouro Preto isn’t too expensive, as I will have been travelling for maybe 48 hours by the time I get there.  And would like a shower, and to sleep in a bed.

Lencois

Well – left Salvador.  On a hungover 6 hour bus ride.  I know I’ve been travelling too long here when I saw a 6 hour bus trip, and thought it was too short – maybe I should go somewhere different so that I’ve actually moved a decent distance in my generally intended direction.

Lencois – nice.  Small.  Cobblestone streets.  Horses roaming around streets.  Drum bands roving streets.  National park next door.  Went on a daytrip to Brasil’s tallest waterfall.  Not much water, but plenty of fall.  Had to lean over a rock outcrop to see it from the top.  Little pool at the bottom.  Then – last night looked at some photos taken by guys who’d done a 3 day trek – including visiting the bottom of the waterfall.  The little pool is actually quite big.

Otherwise – haven’t done much.  Today – slept in.  Got a cold, ate some soup, drank some cerveja, had a siesta.  Oh – and my pousada here has a hot (well, warmish) shower.  First warm shower I’ve had since Venezuela.  Celebrated with a shave.  Plan for this evening – more soup, more cerveja.

Salvador

Am in Salvador.  Everytime I’ve met somebody in Brasil, they’ve asked if I’ve been to Salvador yet.  Now I can say yes, and then respond to the further couple-dozen questions it entails.

Yes – it’s the oldest city in Brasil.  Yes – it was the capital for 200 years or so.  Yes – it’s got the largest african influence.  Yes – it’s a musical mecca.  No – I haven’t gone dancing.  Yes – I went to a Candomble ceremony.  Yes – interesting, but repetitive.  No – beaches were pretty average.  Yes – a heap of hawkers.  Yes – very annoying.  Yes – historic centre pretty cool.  Yes – nightlife is ridiculously long and intense.  No – didn’t like it when guy telling me he had The AIDS asked for money for food, then snatched rest of cash out of my hand – and refused to give it back, pretending to be angry because I didn’t want to pay for his ‘medicine’.  No – I don’t think there is a medicine for The AIDS.  Yes – I think he did use the term “The AIDS”.  Yes – did watch some Capoeira.  No – it was shit.  Yes – they did ask for money, and got angry when I wouldn’t give a ‘donation’ for the second time.  Yes – I thought I was going to have to give a demonstration of drunken brawling vs Capoeira.  Yes – festivals constantly, including one tonight (something to do with museums?  Told by AIDS man that there would be a good Capoeira demonstration here.  Hopefully by same crew that they & I got mutually angry with this afternoon.)

Any more questions?  Hopefully leave tomorrow.  But lady who conned me into overpriced ‘trip’ to see Candomble ceremony (no, not going to explain – look it up) reckons buses to my planned next stop are either early in morning, or late at night.  And only a 4 hour trip or so.  So – either have to get up ridiculously early, or arrive in town in middle of night.  Might break up this 4 hour trip a little, and go to town where the old ladies roll Brazil’s best cigars in the basement of some old building.  I’m certainly sick of Salvador’s hawkers, ‘offical tourist vendors’, beggars, and young girls wanting me to go drink with them.

So, skipped old lady who talked me into overpriced Candomble wanting to walk me around town today – and probably gonna skip her offer of an organised trip up the coast, and then the next day a sailboat around the harbour.

In other news, have been mistaken several times for a german.  But never for a scot.  Make of that what you may, Nathan and other doubters.  Although – to be fair, I resemble an albino a lot more than I did when I arrived.  A lot of sun here.  And the strawberry in my hair has never liked the sun too much.

Guayaquil, Banos, & Quito

28 Sep, we arrived in Tumbes. Small border town. Lots of hawkers wanting to put us in a taxi, and pretend to drive us across the border – but actually drive us to an out of the way spot and rob us. No such luck, suckers. We’re wise to your lies. So, we try to catch a bus. But, don’t have enough money. Try to haggle the price down to what we’ve got, but the lady won’t have a bar of it. So – Ben goes to get some more money. Then – all smiles. But, it turns out, we can’t buy tickets off her anyway. She tells us to catch a ‘moto’ (a tuk-tuk) to the company’s bus terminal. So we do. But, the tuk-tuk can’t handle the weight of three big gringos & their luggage. After a block, it stops. One tyre is completely flat/coming off it’s rim. So, we get another one. More powerful, faster tuk-tuk. Get to the terminal, and buy our tickets. Easy. Then, wait for bus. Bus arrives. We get on it. Very very comfortable bus. Big comfy seats. Only three seats across. We sit down the back, because we’re the cool kids. Bus across the border – into Ecuador. (Queue cheesy techno music.) Many hours later, we arrive in Guayaquil. Dropped off at the airport, so we go into the airport and buy Ben a ticket to the Galapagos Islands. Then, taxi into town. Find a hostel – then try to find some food. Then – disaster strikes. NO CERVEZA! In the entire country! For the entire weekend! Election weekend, apparently, and there’s some law preventing the selling or consuming of booze for the weekend. I am less than pleased. We get some juices instead, and then I drink some of a bottle of wine left over from Lima. Not much though – before we all fall asleep with exhaustion. And trying to forget this nonsensical prohibition.

29 Sep – the nightmare is still with me when I awake. But, I soldier on. We walk down to the waterfront, and admire statues and gardens and stuff. It is hot, so I put my head into a fountain. Then, I discover remote control boats. Awesome. I loved the remote control boats at Fantasyland in Hastings – but never had the money to use them. Now, loaded up with my US$ (goddamn stupid country uses seppo dollars as their currency) – I was determined to make up for that. Expensive though – 1 dollar for a turn. But, Pen & I paid up – and had a go. Ben was too chicken. It did not live up to my dreams. My boat was stuck in a right turning circle for the first half of my time. I still managed to ram Pen once, although by accident. She’ll claim that she rammed me – but ’tis lies. Unless she somehow cleverly rammed me with the middle of the side of her boat. Ha! I don’t think so. Anyway – time ran out pretty quickly, and I walked away unsatisfied. Back to the hostel, where lightweights Ben & Pen had a siesta. Not used to this tropical heat, the newbies.  I wasted time on the internet.  Then, everybody was up and about again.  Time for a shave.  So, we find a barber.  Ben is too scared to allow an Ecuadorian at his throat with a straight razor – so I show him how it’s done.  Get myself shaved – except leave the moustache please.  So – he left the moustache.  Then he groomed the moustache.  Leaving me with a professionally groomed moustache.  That’s another thing off the “things to do before I die” list.  Did I mention a couple of weeks back that a llama spat at me?  That was also crossed off the list.  Ben, reassured by my brave demonstration, then plucked up the courage to have a go.  He also got himself shaved, but leave the moustache please, and even went so far as to get a haircut.  Then, two of us looking pretty damned fine, we resolved to have a fine dinner out.  We dressed up Pen as best we could, then got into our suits.  Taxi to a pricey hotel, and then got ourselves a seat at their swiss themed restaurant.  Waitresses, contrary to the expectations laid by my guide book, were not wearing cowbells.  We were diappointed, but hungry – so decided to stay.  Had another go at ordering booze.  No go.  Juice then, and fondue.  Turns out that forcing us to be sober is a bad idea – as we misbehaved worse than ever.  Ben threw bread.  I didn’t – because I’m a good boy.  Even the waitress seemed to pick up on the mood of things, and flirted outrageously with me right in front of Pen.  Including a lingering touch of hands when giving me one of my many juices, which would have forced any movie to get an instant “X” rating.  Ben was rather jealous – hence the lack of tip at the end of dinner.

30 Sep – the day we get rid of Ben.   All of us get up early, and catch a taxi to the airport.  Pen & I are coming to make sure he actually gets on the plane.  Breakfast at the airport – then I remind Ben he needs an Ecuador hat.  (That’s a Panama hat for you uneducated folks.  The “Panama Hat” is actually from Ecuador – but became named the Panama hat when some seppo president wore one at some ceremony involving the Panama Canal.  File that little fact away, so you too can annoy people with it.)  Anyway, Ben buys an Ecuador hat.  I resolve to wait until sometime when I won’t be paying stupid inflated airport souvenir shop prices.  Then – goodbye Ben.  Pen & I head to the bus terminal – and get ourselves a bus to Banos.  Well – to Ambato.  Get to Ambato – and hop in a taxi to take us to the other bus terminal.  (Multiple bus terminals are bloody annoying.)  But, taxi driver talks me into hiring him to take us the whole way to Banos.  Much pricier than taking a bus – but he seemed nice, and it wasn’t too much.  Get to Banos, and get ourselves a room in a hostel – because it has a jacuzzi and turkish baths.  Which we never get around to actually taking advantage of.  Wander around town.  Very very nice town.  Awesome setting in a valley – below an active volcano.  One can take a night time tour to the top of the volcano to admire all the lava and such.  We didn’t get around to doing that either.  Big waterfall on one side of the town.  Pretty church.  Canyon on one side of town.  Day trips possible to other waterfalls, jungle stuff, rafting, hiking, all sorts.  Altogether – would have loved to spend a week or so there.  Did I mention the setting?  I know I did – but wanted to say again that it was beautiful.  But, we’re kind of short of time.  So – just the one night.  One set of thermal pools is open for night time – right below the waterfall.  So, we went there.  Very busy.  Two main hot pools – packed full of people.  Spent as much time in one as I could handle, then we returned to town for dinner.  I pass on one restaurant – proclaiming the menu to be boring and expensive.  Then Pen notices that one man in there has a beer on his table.  Decision reversed.  We nearly knock the door off it’s hinges getting in as quick as possible.  Food turns out to be rather good as well.

01 Oct –  Check out, and get some breakfast.  Pen gets me with the “pinch and a punch for the first of the month”.  I hate her.  But, I put that aside, and buy her a ticket on the same bus as me to Quito.  Pick one without a toilet onboard though – to make her suffer.  And she does.  Ha.  We eventually get to Quito though – and catch the tram to the new part of town.  Find ourselves a hostel, and check in.  Then, too late, discover that this hostel supplies it’s tenants with 12 litres of free rum&coke on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights.  I realise with dread that today is Monday.  I hate ron.  (Rum, in espanol, is ron).  Pen and I find some quick food, then return to the hostel just in time for the dreaded ron.  It comes out.  One huge stainless steel bucket – filled with ron & coke.  We’re joined by a pair of girls, one english annoying “let’s-go-clubbing” type, and a realtively nice american; one american chap who’s just finished his Peace Corps stint, a loud english guy, a nice quiet swiss guy who reminded me of Hayden, a french guy who I talked rugby with later in the night, and a french guy who is obviously a pervert.  Others floated in and out, but listing the people there seems rather stupid anyway.  Bucket of ron finished.  The deal is, when this happens, that if everybody supplies one dollar, the bucket will be refilled.  So this was done.  If there’s one thing I hate worse than free ron, it’s paying for ron.  Especially paying seppo money for ron.  But – one can’t let the team down.  So – more ron arrived.  Then, I was persuaded to go out with a couple of the folks to a bar.  I agreed on the condition that I didn’t have to put any shoes on.  Instant weirdo status.  But, I went out.  Got into a bar with barefeet, unnoticed by the bouncer.  Some patrons, however, did notice – and didn’t seem to know what to think or say.  I had one beer, got bored, and returned home.

So – that’s how we got to Quito.  Where we still are, and rather hungover.  Having accomplished the dubious achievement of internet and lunch, the remainder of the afternoon is likely to consist of shandies and television.