We checked out of our room at 11 and sat on the veranda typing our blog notes up-to-date. On our way to the bus station we picked up plenty of food for the journey then boarded on time. The bus was more of a standard coach than the long haul coaches we’d been used to so we were immediately worried that our near half price tickets were going to mean more than just un-serviced.
Thankfully it turned out we were just transferred to the company depot at the border of Brazil. We filled out the necessary immigration paperwork there while the proper bus was prepared and then boarded the Cama class coach. This was much more like it. From there it was a quick whizz to the border and through the simple & efficient immigration process with no silly customs checks. We were on the trip then for many hours, entertained (ha!) by ropey movies and given a late stop for food (which we didn’t need) before an overnight that went smoothly.
We arrived in Rio de Janeiro around midday after the best part of 24 hours bus travel. The usual creaky-legged stumble off the bus and round to the back to wave luggage tickets at a somewhat disinterested clerk and acquire our huge bags ensued. We wandered through the bus station and set about the familiar few arguments with Taxi conmen before we eventually cut the fee in half to something like reasonable.
We were driven through Rio to our digs – the Bossa in Rio hostel located on the edge of the Santa Teresa district up a big cobblestone hill. While an undoubtedly beautiful location the gaff is built on a hill that makes our place back home look like a bungalow on a flood plain – plenty of exercise was guaranteed for the duration. After settling in to our 10 bed dorm we resolved to keep pushing ourselves for now and sleep later. In desperate need of summer clothes we got some guidance from the ever helpful hostel staff and took a wander to one of Rio’s malls located near Copacabana. Fi’s swimsuit choices were limited to minimalistic use of string while I was more successful and grabbed a couple of pairs of rough and ready cargo shorts to deal with the daily slog.
Lest we forget – Rio was the first significant heat we’d both experienced since northern Australia. Both of us were reminded in no uncertain terms that 11 months travel had taken its toll on us physically and that we really need to find somewhere to stop and get our eating and exercise regime back on track. We got back to the hostel on an evening bus with all the inappropriate paranoia that’s fuelled by every well-meaning advice giver effectively painting Rio post-sunset as a horror movie cliché where night time means certain death or in the very least a guaranteed mugging – thankfully no such threat materialised.
Our evening saw us take a stroll up the hill along the old tram tracks to Bar De Maneiro for Feijoada which is effectively the Brazilian national dish – a heavy yet tasty mix of sausage, black beans and pork stew accompanied by white rice, kale, cassava flour and pork scratchings – very nice. An Antarctica and a Bohemia were suitable accompaniment beers – both nice. We rolled back down the hill and called in at a street party with live Samba for a few beers. It was Rio in a nutshell – crazy wild and awesome amongst the spectacular old buildings. We finally rolled back and conked out for what was to be our longest night sleep of our time in Rio…
Sunday saw our first experience of Bossa breakfast – mega tasty with a highlight of fresh fruit and build-your-own cheese & ham toasties. In a hostel? Off the chart. I got chatting with Leo, a Brazilian chap in the throes of setting up a hostel in his home town and doing research in Rio. We also met Nicole, a Canadian girl in town on business who works in foreign policy development. A bit of comedy footy banter ensued with a couple of German chaps too – Florian (a Bayern Munich fan) and Steve (a Borussia Dortmund fan).
It’s this kind of vibe that puts hostels at the top of the list when it comes to travelling – even if you could afford to stay five-star in every city you visited you’d be missing the point. A good hostel holds the potential to create a melting pot of people from around the globe and I’ve been lucky enough to make new friends in countless countries that, had I been sat in a glitzy private hotel room, I’d have never met.
Off the cuff we joined Nicole for a wander around Santa Teresa – we snapped loads of street art under the beautiful blue sky and blazing sunshine. As luck would have it we discovered a mutual love for beer and set about celebrating that with a few all over the area interspersed with a unplanned but well-coaxed visit to the tram museum (Santa Teresa used to have an active tramway until a deadly crash a few years ago but it will be renovated and returned by the World Cup) and a stumbled upon 5-aside locals game with more action than the entire Euros – goals celebrated by the crowds and teams like they were playing a professional cup game, a sprinkling of silly violence and everyone involved was crushing beers like it was the end of the world. The locals sure know how to do a Sunday.
Suitably exhausted by our Brazilian Super Sunday we set off back and found a tiny roof-terrace bar aptly named ‘La Drinkeria’ that wasn’t much more than an enterprising homeowner who promised the three of us the best Caiparinhas in Brazil. 4 each and a sunset over the city later and we were in no position to argue/walk/talk any sense. Returning to the hostel we waffled through tales of the days’ events to anyone that would listen including the magnificent Tom, a 52 year-old chap from Arizona on an odyssey that put ours to shame with 14 months covering Asia, the Americas and Europe. His Americas leg involved leaving home [that’s Arizona] on a motorcycle and travelling all the way to Buenos Aires – unbelievable. He was in Brazil after completing that leg and enjoying the highlights before the final stage in Europe. Of course, while most of this information was doubtless garnered on this night I was frankly wasted and so had to reacquire it over the wonderful days that followed. I’m confident we met Ray & Dan and probably Raquel & Vanessa but I was in no position to responsibly remember so we’ll introduce these cast members later in the tale. We inhaled takeaway pizza and as the throngs departed in the early hours I draped a Brazilian flag over a soundly sleeping couch-bound Nicole and we hit the hay.