Awfully sorry I’ve been off the grid the past couple of weeks, I’ve been whirled away by the kaleidescopic tornado of sights, smells and sounds that is Brazil.
I’m bitterly disappointed that I only had two weeks in this immense country, really it’s as sinful as eating a magnum here that is not dulce de leche flavour that I didn’t get enough time to get into the funk of Brazil. I think if we’d had a couple more weeks to get to know each other it could be my favourite country so far. Despite my total lack of Portuguese (it’s nothing like Spanish, don’t listen to anyone who tells you so), whenever I was in need of directions somebody would help me out with a smile and a wave and a pointer and a little bum pinch. Sexism is still as common as fezzy facial hair here, but it’s done with more of a playful grin than a rapey leer so it’s (kind of?) okay.
In order to avoid minimising Brazil more than I already am with my schedule, I’ll split this bloggle into sections by city. First up: São Paulo.
We’d been warned by guidebooks and gringos alike that São Paulo is gargantuan. The biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere, we flew in from a stopover in Paraguay and it took about 20 minutes to fly over half the city. Teamed up with a surprisingly non-douchey Wild Rover bartender, it took 2.5 hours to navigate the sprawling shuttle/metro/bus system to get to our steamy hostel in bohemian paradise Vila Madalena where we collapsed in a sweaty, midnight snacked haze. Carnival was beginning and Brazil was buzzing, which meant buses were booked and we were bummed to learn we had to leave São Paulo that night for a dumb amount of buses to get to Paraty, where we were hoping to spend carnival. This meant we only had one day in São Paulo to explore the city centre, wander Batman Alley admiring the psychedelic street art, and eat eat eat. Big shoutout to helpful Carlos who gave us directions and bought us a bag of mystery fruit, and Julia our guardian angel who gave us samples of every ice cream flavour on earth and also drove us home. Despite being an unnavigable mammoth metropolis, São Paulo has this amazing small town friendliness to it which was totally astonishing and also a gorgeous refreshment from Bolivia’s somewhat colder shoulders.
Many fitful naps on bus terminal floors later, we made it to Paraty to Party for the week of Carnival! First a side note on this world famous festival: I know nothing at all about it and neither does anybody else. It’s essentially a week long street party centred around extravagant samba performances, loud loud loud music, and displays of drinking, debauchery and disorder. I dunno, it’s fun. The craziest spots are Rio and Salvador, but I’m actually really glad we were in a smaller beach town for the week because it meant carnival was less about scoring smooches and more about boogieing with children and grandmas. We met so many awesome people that week, I want to talk about them all but you would be bored – if you ever read this, you know who you are and you rock. Every night we donned our most ridiculous clothes (Winning Outfit I’m proud to say goes to me with my floor length purple rain poncho, trekking boots, Jesus socks and sparkly 420 hat) and hit the main square for street food and endless dancing before following insanely loud live parades through the streets so cobbled it hurts to walk on them. Every night was the ultimate in hedonism and holiday attitude – middle aged fat men laugh with girls in sexy outfits and their buff boyfriends alike, kids set off fireworks, grandmas flash their knickers in drunken yolo moments, British schoolboys match Brazilian break dancers in DF battles, everyone gets proposed to and nobody sits down. We felt one hundred percent safe and happy the whole time, so what happened next was absolutely out of the ordinary and unexpected: there was a shooting in the middle of the party a couple of metres away from us when two men broke into argument. At first we were just confused and thought the running and screaming was part of the carnival mood, but when we saw crying men, screaming women, friends carrying bleeding bodies and blood stains on the floor we followed the crowd and ran for it. It would have been much more scary if we could understand Portuguese; we didn’t find out until the morning that 10 people had been injured, one of whom died – and to think that we were less than 10 people away from the shooter was not a comfortable moment. I want to stress that this was really weird, though – we weren’t in a dangerous area at all and it was a one off fluke accident. People in hostels tell horror stories about travelling in South America all the time and if you tried to take a lesson from them all you’d never leave your couch. I learned from this one that guns are bad and you can’t see the future; take from that whatever pearls of wisdom you will.
Rio de Janeiro
For the last night of carnival, and Mia’s last night in #americabutsouth, we lucked out big time and leeched off the wonderful Joel’s generosity, crashing with him and some of his mates in a penthouse apartment right on Copacabana beach. After a sketchy bus which we lurched onto at 3am still full of our lethal vodka/water mixture and 5 dinners (legit), we spent our first morning in Rio stumbling around the atmospheric Copacabana being offered zipper bags and prostitutes. That afternoon and evening we Rio-lly celebrated Carnival at several street dance parties where Mia and I both affirmed our white chick status when trying to keep up with the bouncing behinds of every Brazilian babe in sight. Stuffing a still-sparkly Mia into a cab to the airport at 3am was bad (miss you my girl) but the rest of Rio was GOOD. My newly adopted mates cooked me yummy things, took me to Sugarloaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer for panoramic views of Rio and the sea of accompanying selfie sticks at each of these tourist hotspots, and actively participated in consistent childlike behaviour during intense games of ‘the floor is lava’ and ‘get down mr president’. Between late night reggaeton dance parties at the apartment, having caipirinhas delivered on the beach, and deciding the latest hunger games movie is a dud, we bonded in Rio. And I’d say we bonded with Rio as well, I rate it erotic (5 stars). Convenient and functioning public transport system, friendly people, good variety of food, very gorgeous, could be a little cheaper but on the whole I thoroughly approve.
For the last few days of my trip I have been determinedly holidaying in the little beachside gem of Trindade. It’s a teeny town with a street and lots of sand and very little else which suited me just fine. I was staying at the superb Kaissara hostel which made me feel at home before I flew home and hung out with the usual suspects of beyond interesting people who all made me pre-emptively bored of Sydney and jealous of their future travels. I happily spent my last morning overseas having a solo dance party on the deserted beach at sunrise, which seemed a more fitting way of working out my emotions than a tantrum.
Should wrap this thesis now and go get on my triple bus, triple flight, 60+ hour journey home. Basically if you like happiness, variety, nice people, natural beauty, and fun, get over to Brazil.
Nuts and actually not so many nits,