A brief stop in Sao Paulo, monkeys and the big man
29.04.2012 - 04.05.2012
The bus to Sao Paulo was non eventfull, but the bus station at Sao Paulo is massive. It's spread over two floors with different sections for the local and international buses and then for the tube and bookings, its a little like a labyrinth! Not so much fun when you've been deprived of sleep the night before by a phantom snorer..... we ended up getting a taxi to the hostel but i strongely advise using the tube as its alot cheaper and probably faster! We stayed in dorms at Lime Time hostel. The hostel is really nice but basic. We spent the rest of the day looking around the city and visited some of the parks and the big markets, FYI the food one is awsome!!! Loads of cheese and salami. We got massively lost on the way back for about 3 hours but eventually got home, quite a good way to see the city to be fair. The next day, realising that to us Sao Paulo is just another city, we headed straight for Rio, using the tube this time to get to the station.
After hitting MEGA traffic on the way to Rio, we arrived 3 hours later than expected, in the dark and a little dis-orientated. We headed for the local bus station which the guide book advises to avoid at night and we found out why. The station has become a bit of a beacon for the homeless and even put me on edge. Not safe as you become the centre of attention as soon as you go in. We jumped the first bus that looked remotely like it was going where we wanted to go and headed down to the Copacabana district of Rio. It was a really nice area to stay and close to all of the main sights and its got an amazing beach!!! Its quite a touristy area of rio but there is still loads of local night life to see. We made the massive mistake of not realising that it was a nation half term or something because everything was booked out and we ended up trapsing around the whole area with our packs until a random lady took pitty on us and guided us to a hostel close by, El Misti House. The hostel was booming with life because of the holiday so we had a few drinks and got our heads down. Because the hostel was so busy we ended up in separate dorms for the first night but managed to get the same dorm for the rest of the stay. The dorms are triple layered bunk beds for 12 people. Could not help feeling sorry for the people on top as one wrong move when they were asleep and they would wake to the sound of themselves hitting the floor.
We awoke to a thunderstorm!!! Not wanting to waste a day though we headed out to see what Rio had to offer, avoiding the main sights as it was a bit of a shitty day. We headed over to the Ipanema, Botanico and Lagoa districts. We walked to them from the hostel as Rio is a bit like London in the sense that nothing is actually that far apart or so we thought...... the maps are just a little out of scale. The Botanico gardens are huge and worth going to see if you have the time but are quite far from anything else. Rio has a bike rental thingy where you pay online and then pick the bikes up at one of the points closest, would have been really usefull!! The Ipanema beach is huge a lot like the one at Copacabana but it attracts a lot of really good kite surfers. Worth checking out on a windy day, its like watching a competiton or something, huge jumps and even better wipe outs. The town itself is very western though and at times could be anywhere in the world, apart from the fact they have loads of haviannas everywhere. Not wanting to skip anything, we decided to walk home, stopping only to take on beer and food... Took around seven hours in total to do the round trip.
The next day we headed to see Christ the Redeemer, the statue that looks over Rio. Don't bother taking the tours as they are massively over priced and its really easy to do on your own. There are buses that run straight to it and it saves about £50!! Not only that but you're not rushed around it either. You can either get the funicular, a train thingy or a mini bus up there. The mini bus is cheaper but only run when they are full so we took the train. When you buy your ticket you get given a time for the next available train going up so get there early or you can end up waiting about an hour for a space. It's only aout £20 and includes your entry to the statue. The views are stunning, you can see the whole of Rio and the surrounding areas, its really impressive but its weird though actually seeing the statue as it looks a little like a back drop after seeing it in so many movies and pictures, surreal to be there! We spent about 2 hours up there taking in the views and enjoying pengiun beer then headed down to try and fit Sugar Loaf mountain in. We jumped the bus back towards the hostel, jumping off about half way so that we could walk down to Sugar Loaf. Basically we just asked the driver to kick us off at the closest point. Sugar Loaf has two gondelar stations, one at the bottom and another at mid station. If you're tight and are starting to actually enjoy walking everywhere, like us, you can save some money by walking up to the mid station. The entrance is off to the right hand side of the army base at the bottom. The walk is really worth it as its littered with little monkeys that screech at you and other wild life and it only takes about thirty minutes. Just make sure you turn left as soon as you get the chance onto the mud path otherwise you end up at the town inbetween the two mountains. Then just take every left turn after, going right just brings you to other view points. Once there, we bought our ticket for the second gondelar to the top. The views from mid station are breath-taking enough but the top gives you just that little bit more. Looking back towards the JC statue, it gives you a real prospective of the city and is so peaceful, made me feel like a kid looking at an ants nest. Big tip is to charge your camera the night before though, I learnt the hard way running out after about 5 minutes at the top, turning the camera on taking a quick photo and then turning it off to save battery. I lost the game quickly! We stayed at the top until we lost the feeling in the tips of our fingers then headed back down to mid station. We figured that by buying the ticket to the top at mid station we would be able to get it down to the bottom from there, we were wrong, and set off walking down with just a mini light to guide us, sketchy!!! That night we found a local Salsa and Samba night at one of the clubs, with free beer until 12 and Salsa dancing til you couldn't stand any more. Turns out some of our friends, Nico and Claudia, were also in Rio at the same time so we met them there and spent the rest of the night trying to convince the bar girls to give us more than one free beer at a time and laughing the night away. Lucy had her very own 'Dirty Dancing' moment when a local started to dance with her and span her off when he realised she couldn't dance!! Well and truly sozzled, we headed back to the hostel... Rio nights AMAZING!!!
Waking ever so slighty hanging I decided it would be a good idea to go handgliding over Rio, probably one of the best decisions I've made traveling. Its not cheap at about £100 but one of the most exhilarating and scariest things I've ever done. You can book it out of the hostel and you get taken to the landing beach first. From there you meet the pilot and get driven up to the launch sight. After a quick familiarisation with the hand glider they go over launching and landing with you, basically don't look down and run as hard and fast as fast as you can! With the landing, just lift your feet when you feel the ground and start to run......... I was bricking it by now!!! They get you into the harness and let you get a feel for hanging from the glider then take you to the launch platform. This constists of a wooden platform about 4 metres long with a sheer drop of the end. Not giving you time to think about it they clip you in and tell you to run!!! The take off is a bit of a blur as it happens so quick but when your feet leave that platform it's like being set free! You drop into your harness and glide off towards the horizon over the national park and then the favelas and Rio. The flight lasts about 15 to 20 minutes and took me into a thermal, which is an experience in itself, like stepping into an air tunnel. The pilot let me have a go at controlling the glider as well, I don't think I stopped smiling the whole time! When you're coming in for the landing he unclips your right leg so you can put your feet down, leaving you hanging by just your harness, then flys you over the sea and back towards the beach for touch down. I'm not going to lie, I was gutted when we landed... I could have stayed up there all day !!!! Definately the best way to see Rio, forget helicopter and bus trips, this smashes them to bits and there is no other feeling like it.
When I got back, still bubbling with excitment, Lucy suprised me with a picnic to have up at Sugar Loaf, could the day get any better?! We decided to walk again because we're tight and the walk is really worth it. We decided to go up and hit the sunset this time as some of the other people we had met in the hostel had said was stunning, they weren't lying!! There are massive benches and loungers up there that make you feel tiny, you can fit about 6 or 7 people on them! We seemed to be the envy of everyone up there too, recieving scowls and evil looks as they went by our picnic, as the sun went down with Rio as the back drop. Of course, the monkey's joined us aswel. The views are just as impressive at night if not more, the whole city comes to life and it's like watching a scene out of a movie as the sun goes down and all the street lights start to flicker on. We met a couple of other travellers who had also walked up there who told us that the path down was closed after dark and that we either had to pay to get down or wait til the last gondelar at 7pm to go down for free........ we waited and enjoyed the scenery then walked back to Copacabna with the people we had just met.
The next day we checked out the hostel and I went to go and see the Favelas up close before the bus. Again, not worth getting a guided tour as it's a lot cheaper to just get the bus there. Just don't take anything of value with you, I even took off my watch as when I went to leave one of the hostel workers said "you're not wearing that there are you???" so I quickly ran up stares to stash it. The police have just started going into the favelas themselves and have made them a lot safer but its still better to go in a group. There are loads of different ones you can visit, just ask your hostel where the closest and safest one is to go and see. There is a real sense of community there, all the bulidings painted different colours and there's some really good graffiti on them. Not tagging but actual murals and stuff. I spent about an hour looking around and at no point felt unsafe apart from when I got the train to the top and felt a little exposed but was then ushered by one of the local childern to the right path to take down.
Before we got to Rio we had decided that we were going to take a bus from Rio to Buenos Airies, LONG, but it was a lot cheaper then flying. After doing a bit of research we found that there was only one company that did the bus journey, Cruzero Del Norte. We had already reserved our ticket when we arrived to make sure we got good seats and we figured it would book up quick. We bagged two at the front in full Cama, like first class on a plane. Turns out our fears of not getting a ticket were unfounded as no one else was stupid enough to get the bus and we had the whole of the top floor to ourselves. Bring on Buenos Aires !!!!!!
Loz x x x x