God was partial when he created a few places in the world. Rio is definitely one of them. I spent a good 8 days in Rio and balanced life like a local and a tourist. Though the most popular tour in Rio is called ‘Be a Local Tour’, one can only experience local life if you live with a local. We were fortunate to spend the first few days with a Brazilian couple Ronaldo and Renata, who were couchsurfers. (For those of who you dont know what couchsurfing is check here.
Reaching Rio on a cloudy Friday evening, Neesha and I were tired after the bus journey from Sao Paulo. Though the buses are super luxury buses (about 3 times more legroom than a normal Volvo, temprature controlled air conditioning and a clean loo inside the bus), we were exhausted from carrying our bags from Novo Rodovario (Bus Station) to the place we were gonna stay. Our hosts were Ronaldo and Renata and in Brazil, one calls them Honaldo and Henata. Many times, I have almost landed up calling them Honata or Henaldo. Its tongue twisting initially, but you get used to it.
Local life was restricted to 3 days before Roy, Picklu and Brian landed up. For those who are not aware, this is the leg of my journey where my husband Roy and our friend Picklu join me for a month to travel around and Neesha’s husband Brian joins her. So, the next month will see a lot of ‘tourist action plus hopping around South America like you are never gonna return’. Travel may be rushed and posts may be touristy. Football may suddenly take priority over Capoeira (Courtesy all 3 men). We may be seen with a lot more alcohol in our tables (Courtesy Roy and Picklu). We may not see vegetables for sometime (Courtesy Picklu the meateater).
Anyway, before I begin to describe that leg, the time spent with R&R (shall use that instead of Ronaldo and Renata) is titled ‘Atypical Rio’. Everything unusual that could happen in Rio happened to us in those 3 days. Usual for Rio – Unusual and unexpected for us.
When you think of Rio, you think of sun and sand. The weather we got was cloudy, drizzling and gloomy. Imagine not seeing the statue of the Christ or the hilly terain of the city for 3 days. (On a bright sunny day, you can spot Christ from any corner of Rio) 3 days in Rio and we went nowhere near the beach.. the water… I guess thats one of the first thing anyone does in Rio… walk to Copacabana Beach or Ipanema beach. Ronaldo was also the most atypical Brazilian you can come across in all of Brazil. He doesn’t like the sun or the sand. (There is a money making opportunity here – Meet the only man in Brazil who does not like to go to the beach) Hence, we just hung out with R&R doing what they normally do – unwind in the weekend.
Rio is known for its nightlife… the samba… And indeed, the day we landed up in Rio, R&R had a party to attend at Lapa, the most lively neighbourhood. The party was supposed to start at 12 and our hosts intended on arriving there at 1, early according to them. Considering that we wind up parties in India around that time, we sleepwalked to the party at 1. We were expecting Samba or local music. Guess what… the party played blaring techno and some heavyduty dance music, which I had never heard before. The party was actually hosted by a friend of theirs, who owns a publishing house. It was a party for journalists, PR people and creative people. The party was in the office, which was equipped with a bar and a dance floor. I guess its pretty normal for an office in Rio to get converted into a disco at night. Maybe not. But, we were fortuante to experience something like that. However, since we were not drinking or dancing, we excused ourselves extremely early (around 230) and reached home and crashed.
Day 2, we walked around Laranjeiras neighbourgood (Laranjeiras means orange) and checked out the local Feira (fair) with them. With musicians performing Chorinho (a kind of samba) and some lovely art and craft stalls, it was a relaxing evening. In Rio, things happen when and where you do not expect them to happen. Right in the midst of a really Brazilian evening, a bunch of Brazilian women dressed like ‘Middle Eastern women’ started to perform a belly dancing show. Though it did not look very typical, the crowd were happy to cheer for a group of women clad in exotic colours (somewhat skimpy). There was one old Brazilian man (very cranky) complaining about the exotic dance and after a couple of minutes, we decided to lose him in the croud.
That day, we also tasted our first Brazilian meal outside at a local restaurant called Tasca D’Edgar. Rice, Fejoiada (Beans and meat), Farofa (somewhat like Upma) and 3 different kinds of Pastel (Brazilian flat spring roll) is what we ordered. Was enough to feed an army. After seeing all the meat that was floating in the beans, I desperately started to scrape every last leaf of spinach from another dish. The meat in Brazil can be extremely scary… Shall not describe it cause vegetarian friends of mine who are regular visitors to the blog may stop reading my posts. But, there is no limit to your imagination when it comes to what they can eat. Go ahead and imagine.
More rain on Sunday in Rio and we decided to stay indoor and chill out. Ronaldo’s friend Tiago and his girlfriend Lola landed up for lunch and we discussed many things about Brazil and travel. Tiago did his masters project on life in a Favela and actually lived in a Favela for 2 years. Ofcourse, when you look at him (he is 6 ft tall and huge), you would realise that it may not be very dangerous for someone his size. Humorous by nature, he made us laugh with his stories about how he met Lola (guy meets girl in a bar). I amused them with my ability to eat chilli sauce. The brazilian chilli sauce or Molhos pimenta is not even half as spicy as gongoora chutney from Andhra Pradesh. (They saw a huge money making opportunity – Meet the girl who can finish half a bottle of chilli sauce)
End of the day, I was craving for coffee. Ooops.. I forgot to mention one more aty
pical thing about this couple. They don’t drink coffee. Imagine meeting a Brazilian who doesn’t drink coffee. They both drink Chocolate milk. And they did try to explain to me that Nescal (a brand of Nescafe) had some fantastic advertising of chocolate milk and hence, their generation in Brazil were converted very young. Thats crazy. Imagine 25 – 30 year old South Indians drinking only Milo instead of Filter coffee. Anyway, since I was partially braindead, not having drunk coffee for 18 18 hours, they decided to take me to a coffee shop. With R&R, it is never predictable. With one million tiny places serving strong Brazilian coffee in mini cups, we instead went to a cool bookshop which served ‘Italian coffee’. Atleast, the menu had Cappucino et all.
R&R had extremely different interests too and that made the stay all the more diverse. Ronaldo loved to walk around. Renata loved to drive around. Ronaldo loved watching movies. Renata liked to plan holidays. Ronaldo loved cooking. Renata loved eating out. Ronaldo loved pulling Renatas legs about how long she took to get dressed to head out. Renata just ignored Ronaldo. Ronaldo supported Fluminense football club. Renata supported Flamengo. Ronaldo wanted to just wanted to cross the border to Argentina for their first holiday. Renata thought about exotic international locations far away from Brazil. Ronaldo worked in the second half. Renata worked in the first half. A whole ton of differences.. and thats what made them the perfect example of an ‘opposites attract’ couple.
A perfect start to the days in Rio De Janeiro, Neesha and I gave our goodbye kisses to R&R and left for Hostel Vila Carioca. Roy, Picklu and I were planning to stay in the hostel, while Neesha and Brian decided to stay with a friend of theirs Moana in Laranjeiras.
The guys arrived the next day…. and that was the beginning of the ‘5 Days in Rio’ chapter… My post on those 5 days shall be put up according to Brazilian standard time. (If you dont know what I am talking about, you will when the post comes up)