The lost month stands for the dates between 22nd October and 15th November when I was busy spending time with Roy and Picklu… Neesha and Brian were also with us in Part 1 of this journey… I think maintaining a blog is very difficult when you just have 4 weeks to holiday with your husband in such an action packed continent like South America. I briefly wrote a summary called ‘Journey with the guys’ outlining what we did. After that, I felt really guilty for not having penned down my thoughts about everything that we did in the past month. This post is a salvage attempt. A post where I hope to recall everything that we did in the past month and put it down in a detailed manner. There are 3 parts to it –
Part 1 – Brazil (The perfect beginning to the holiday and a place I cant wait to go back to)
Part 2 – Buenos Aires (This part may be more pictorial… even if I spend 4 hours thinking about Buenos Aires, I dont think I will be able to say too many nice things)
Part 3 – Peru (Phew ! P for Peru… P for Picchu.. P for Potatoes.. P for Pollo.. and P for Puma.. you will know what I mean later)
Part 1 – Brazil
We started with Rio. Even if I tried, I cannot forget the wondeful time that we had. So, here is my advice on spending 5 days in Rio….. a little touristy but you cant miss the touristy stuff when you are there….
First and foremost, the internet increases your hope in Rio by talking about something called a ‘Rio Pass’. It is supposed to be a pass which lets you do all the touristy stuff like Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf, Samba Clubs, etc. With the objective of saving 50 Reals, we spent half of Day 1 just hunting for this pass. Spotting a Penguin in Rio is more probable than spotting a Carioca who knows about the Rio Pass. When we started getting blank stares even at the Tourist information office, we gave up on the Pass and just decided to get on with things…
So, this is what we did …
– Christ the Redeemer – One of the seven wonders of the world – We took the train up to Christ the Redeemer.. Learning – We went there in the afternoon and the sun is behind the Christ glaring at the lens and hence, photos look pretty pathetic. Moreoever, the crowds in Rio descend on the place making a solo picture of you and the Christ practically impossible. We struggled to take pictures by cutting out the others and the heat got to us and we were pretty snappy by the end of it. However, the soothing face of Christ after the photo hungama was worth the visit. (Cost for this is 48 Reals up and down – you can walk all the way up .. takes around 4 hours in total I think and you don´t have to pay to see the monument if you walk up)
– Sugar Loaf – Its 2 mounts along the coast of Rio with a fabulous view of Copacabana, Ipanema, Boatafogo bay and the city in general…. It has two levels and costs 11 Reals for every level of cable car. After chatting with budget backpackers in the hostel, we figured out a really cheap way to do this. We walked upto Level 1, not very strenuous (if you have done Huyana Picchu) and strenuous (if you want a lazy holiday). We took the cable car to Level 2 and returned to Level 1 by cable car too. That was just 22 Reals. And we hung around till 7 pm in Level 1 and that is the time the place shuts down. So, they just send you down for free by cable car. Potentially, did this at half the cost. The view up there was fabulous but being stuck on top (without a jacket) and hiding from the chilly wind was a part I would have liked to skip.
– Copacabana and Ipanema – If you hear about Brazil, you hear about beaches. And if you hear about beaches, you here about these 2 beaches… Sandy beaches with Caparinha, Coconut water and Beer flowing from the stalls takes care of the thirst on a hot day… Perfectly fit Brazilians playing foot volley, cycling, running, exercising, swimming make you feel obese… Fancy hotels (where they say people like the Rolling Stones love to stay) tower on the other side… Whatever the case, wear your skimpiest, suck in your stomachs and head for this place. (Watch out for the perfect spot to hang out.. there are numbered posts along the beach… some of them stand for locals, some for kids from the favelas and some for gays even… so, scout aruond and hang out in the place you feel most comfortable)
– Prainha – the beach so bloody beautiful that you don´t crib about the 1.5 hour hot bus ride to that place… a beach for surfers (which means fit hot men), the only way to get there is through this bus called the Surf Bus. The Surf Bus leaves Largo do Macado Metro in the morning at 7 am and 10 am and gets to Prainha 2 hours later. The same bus gets back in the afternoon. The bus costs only 3 Reals.. the real catch however is not the cost or the time or the distance… its the bus itself…. Finding the bus and where it will stop is an adventure… No one really knows about the Surf Bus (It is ´Rio Pass´family)… So, perseverance pays off if you hang around long enough and hang out with people who look just as lost as you do waiting for the bus.. the bus will find you..
– Botanical Garden or Jardim Botanica – If you want to see wierd plants, creepy trees and stuff like that, this is your place. Though Brazil comes up with fabulous flowers and fruits and all, the botanical stuff is outright creepy to look at. There is something extremely carnivorous about their plants for some reason. Only the orchids looked normal… I was quit worried walking around (they did have man eating plants there). Anyway, finding a grass patch to sleep may not be a good idea thanks to the wierd reptiles I saw slithering around).
Football – If you are in South America, please head to the nearest football stadium for a match. We went for the match between Fluminense (a Rio team) and Palmeiras (a Sao Paulo team). The non stop singing, cheering, swearing makes the football experience a multi cultural experience. Go with a local and learn the song. Take bottles of water. Slap some sunscreen on. (The only thing more exciting than watching a match in Maracana is supposed to be watching a match in Bombanera, which the guys did)
– Feira, Feira and more Feiras – Feiras are street fairs.. flea markets.. hippie fairs.. and this city has tons of them… Hit Feira Nordestina f
or the food on Sundays and Hippie fair of Ipanema for jewellery.. and Feira Laranjeiras to catch some live music…
– Nightlife in Lapa – A place where they serve alcohol in little chai cups in the streets (the plastic ones in India)… An aqueduct by day and a quiet place, Lapa turns into a Riot at night with music blaring from every little crevice, alcohol pouring from every stall and people moving their bodies in the jam packed atmosphere. You cant be in a Lapa frame of mind if you are not sloshed. However, to just experience the place without drinking, just take a walk and check out the madness.
– Santa Teresa neighbourhood – A Bohemian neighbourhood with quaint cafes, overpriced souvenir stores and a Capoeira Angola school, its a place worth visiting only for the exiting crowded tram ride for 60 cents.
– Samba Escola – Who said you can´t see the professional Samba when it is not Carnaval. The schools of Samba practice all year long for the Carnaval. Head to Mangueira, the most popular Samba School (close to a Favela). The party doesn´t start before 1 am or 2 am and hence, if you are tired (like we were), skip this. Else, take a nap during the day and head there at midnight to hang out till the wee hours of the morning. Some of the aunties dancing will remind you of Bandra Gym (thats what Neesha tells me), but the real fun starts at 3 am or something like that. We missed that.
– Escaderia Selaron- The guidebooks may not recommend this amazing tiled staircase in the Lapa neighbourhood, but its a must visit. A chilean artist Selaron decided to convert a boring old staircase into a moving work of art by pasting tiles from all over the world. What makes it fascinating is the fact that he keeps changing the tiles and hence, the staircase never looks the same… Take a tile from your country and he will put it up for you. Meet Selaron there.. you cant miss him.. he is always wearing Red and has a huge mustache.
– Graffitti gazing – Walk around the city checking out fabulous graffittis… The graffitti speaks so much about the city and its people… ( I have an entire photo album called Graffitti gallery .. check it out on the link)
Apart from the above stuff, we strongly recommend the following things –
– Coffee at small cafes in the morning (Brazilian strong stuff)
– Kilograma food (food per kilo)
– Tapioca with chicken at the beach stalls
– Greasy Pasteils at snacky places
– Coconut water or Beer.. both are mild and refreshing.. (If its beer, have Brahma or Skol)
– Caparinha at the beach stalls
– Cold Acai (a fruit drink)
So…. though our days were loaded in Rio with things, there is something about the air in Rio which makes things seem relaxed.. easy.. slow… Go with the pace.. You can´t help but fall in love with Rio. They did not say Blame it on Rio for nothing.
From Rio, our next destination was Ouro Preto, a colonial town in Minas Gerais. The region famous for Gold mines and fantastic Brazilian food, we decided to head there to give our Brazil leg a small town touch. The highlights of Ouro Preto –
– Food at Maximus.. its the best damn restaurant… Pay per kilo or pay for the buffet.. whatever you choose, it doesn´t matter… the mouthwatering dishes will make you go back for a few meals. Dont be surprised if you stay 2 days in this town and eat 3 meals out of 4 at this restaurant. Wth the local cops for company, its as local as it gets.
– Church overdose – Ofcourse, when you are in a colonial town known for the churches, you visit some of them. They are beautiful.. and if you have not overdosed on churches in Europe, you will find this fascinating.
– The souvenir stores – This little town is full of stores selling T shirts, handicraft stuff and little things that make you want to shop. The ceramic (orpaper mache) lady dolls at the windows of the stores call out to you and you can´t say no.
Just walk around this small town with cobble stoned streets… you will discover small cute things along the way.. a fabulous break from a big city..
From Ouro Preto, we headed to Sao Paulo by bus before taking a flight to Buenos Aires.
We said goodbye to Neesha and Brian in Ouro Preto, reached Sao Paulo in the wee hours of the morning only to be locked out of the hostel for a couple of hours, killed time with a Romanian guy and an English guy outside the hostel door, spent the day lazing around Sao Paulo, partied with Luanda in a samba club called Odoborogado (which means awful) at night and woke up early to head to the airport….
For the guys, 10 days in Brazil was fabulous…. For me, I can´t get enough of Brazil…. Come Christmas and I will be back in Brazil and you will see more sunny sandy blog posts…
Till then, look out for the posts on boring Buenos Aires, P for Peru, Un-Bloviable, Chilean cocktail and exotic Easter Island.