Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rio Day 10 - Thursday March 2nd

We managed to make it to the zoo today...and it was open! Yay! We saw lions ... and tigers ... and bears! Oh my! Oh, and baby monkeys fighting.


David and a giraffe contemplate each other.

In the evening we wanted to try something new for dinner. After getting quite haughty disdainful looks at our choice of attire from the first place we tried, we ended up going for dinner at quite a nice restaurant.

(sorry, but I can't seem to make the photo uploader work today. I will edit this post with photos if I ever do get it working. -B.)

(photo uploader working again. photos added 060326 -B.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Rio Day 9 - Wednesday March 1st

Zoo day! Or so we thought. Worried about the possibility of places being closed on Ash Wednesday, we specifically asked 2 or 3 people whether the zoo was open today. Yes! they all opens at 8am! We decide to go a little later, figuring that most places wouldn't open until noon today.

Out we bus to the zoo. Get off where the bus man tells us. Walk through highway traffic as we try to decifer the road signs that all lead to each other, no zoo in sight. Finally we get there...and the zoo is closed. Open 9am-5pm most days, but closed today. Not really unexpected, I suppose.

I figured that we had to do something at this end of the bus ride before heading back, however, to make the busride worthwhile. Walking around was out of the question, as David was still slightly lobster-like, and I still had blisters on the bottom of my, walking on my feet funny in bad shoes had also done a number on my ankles, which were by now the size of my upper calf.

We wandered over to a little park and found a very small river with a man renting canoes by the half hour. So...we rented a canoe and went up and down the teeny tiny little river.

Me, paddling.

Photos of Jang and David wouldn't upload properly, but all my Brazil photos can be found here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Rio Day 8 - February 28th

Since we got home at 7am, most of the day was spent sleeping. I've never slept until 2 in the afternoon before. Both Boy and Nancy snirked at this, both apparently quite practiced at sleeping half the day away. We didn't do much all day. Boy and I went for a walk while Nancy and AJ took a nap (yeah...they got up at 2 then went down for a nap at 4). We figured we'd conserve energy for all the Shrove Tuesday celebrations. Yee-ha! At about 7 we started asking around about parties going on and where to find them. As it turns out, parties start early on Fat Tuesday and end by about 9. You would think one of our 5 or 6 guide books would have mentioned this slight deviation from the rest of the week. But no.

So off we went in search of a party. We found one in Ipanema that was just starting to peter out. Stayed there for a while, then caught the metro to Lapa, where we had been told there was an amazing party every night. The metro is open 24 hours during carnival - but when we got on at 1045pm, we were told it would close in 15min. This did not bode well as a 'hey the whole city parties all night' outlook. When we got to Lapa, we called to ask where to head for a party. We were told to just look around. Se we aimed for a club that we were told of, then we heard music. So...we followed the music. After half an hour of following a faint beat through a sketchy area of town, asking for directions in an hourly 'hotel', and telling AJ for the billionth time that it's not a great idea to wander away from us without warning us first...we found the source of the music. A rave going on on the other side of a lake. With a gated and locked path between us and said rave. Sigh.

On the bus-ride home, Nancy spotted what appeared to be a street party. Off the bus we hopped and headed over. It turned out to in fact be a Transvestite/Transgendered Beauty Pageant. We stuck around for about an hour, lots of fun...and lots of rhinestone G-strings. Towards the end, I guess they needed some filler, as this was airing live nationally and they had 30sec with no contestants. Nancy and I were stading right up front so as to get a better view when we were spotted by the production staff. The Carmen-Mirana-esque MC dragged us into the spotlight to teach us the samba on national TV.

No street parties, but we did end up dancing the samba with a Trannie Carmen Miranda on Brazillian National TV.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Rio Day 7 - February 27th

During the day, Boy and I went to the Botanical Gardens on the advice of the competent staff lady of our hostel. It was beautiful! All the flowers and plants that I had hoped to see in the urban forest. There were carniverous plants, cacti, there was even an Amazonian section.

Pretty little lake at Botanical Gardens

Amazonian section of Botanical Gardens

In the evening was the Carnivale parade. An extravagant exhibition of flesh and wealth (put on by schools from the poorest districts, which I don't understand!). It was glitzy beyond belief! So cool. And 80min apiece, we stayed for 5 of the 7 schools parading but went home before the last two started - it was 5am at this point. By the time the last school started up it would've been daylight...not sure how the costumes and floats would fare in the daylight.
Boy and I at parade
Got home at 7am, slept until 2pm Tuesday. Later discovered that we have no taste - the school that the 5 of us all picked as our favourite....came in somewhere near the bottom of the pack of 14.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Rio Day 6 - February 26

Not an overly exciting day. Hit some outdoor markets, found a neat little place for lunch. Boy and I went for a nice dinner (Nancy insisted we needed a date night to ourselves...I think she just wanted to be rid of us for an evening!). Upside: we got to have the quintissential fruity tropical vacation drinks:

On the way home we hit our second squalid downpour, but this time we were prepared! By which I mean we cowered under a vendor's overhang until we got tired of standing, then we asked for a plastic bag to wrap our valubles (yes, it was that wet) and we scurried home. Yay to Boy for excellent wrapping skills...this time the money and my camera were not water logged!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Rio Day 5 - February 25

Headed out to Ipanema beach early this morning for the Brazil vs USA women's 2s beach volleyball. As with everything else in Brazil, the information was incorrect, and the game wasn't going to take place until the following day. Also, we had to be back at the hostel early as the soccer game we bought tickets to attend wasn't at 6pm like they had said, but at 2pm. Brazillians have a very lax sense of timing.

The beach was nice, except that everyone got a burn. Even me! David turned into a lobster - this is no exaggeration...check out his colour in this photo:

Also, the ocean stole my favourite sunglasses. As it had already stolen my favourite sunhat in Copacabana 2 days previous, I took this to mean an all-out war between me and the Atlantic ocean. It did make an attempt at my bikini, but I won that particular battle, much to the relief of my beach-mates.

In the afternoon we went to the aforementioned futebal game, the regional championship match. Our bus was "late" picking us up (by this point we realize that this is par for the course when paying for excursions). Turns out "late" meant that our driver decided he'd rather go to the beach instead. After some kerfuffle, they sent us by cab. The game was great, a lot of fun. The crowd was loud and boisterous, it didn't even matter that we were in the gringo section. On the way home, they of course had to fit 11 extra people into the mini-vans (the 11 that got sent up by cab). The end result was about 17 people in an 11 (?) person van.

Rio Day 4 - February 24

Went for a hike in the Tijuca forest (urban forest). Unfortunately, the closest thing I took to hiking boots were my shiney sneaker-slides. Also unfortunately, I had blisters on the bottom of my feet already. So the hike was less than comfortable. In the end not as hikey as we thought....the choice was either hiking up a small, barely-visible trail, or along a paved road. We chose paved due to a misinterpretation of the map we purchased (who doesn't include a scale on a map? They totally covered that in grade 5!!!)

We saw some pretty cool bugs and flowers on our hike. And an awesome blue butterfly, which sadly successfully evaded my camera.


Rio Day 3 - February 23rd

Daytime was pretty uneventful, but in the evening we went to a rehearsal for one of the Samba schools for the Carnivale parade, Beja Flor. This school has won the parade 3 years running ("that's like winning the Stanley Cup!" - quote from Nancy). As you can probably guess, we were a bit tipsy. Well, Nancy was wasted. It was a hillarious, drunken night, and I love the fact that my camera does video :)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Rio Day 2 - February 22

Tourist trap day! We went up Corcovado mountain to see Cristo Redentor (the Big Jesus). Awesome view of the city from there, with many panoramics ensueing. Also, that is a REALLY big Jesus statue.

David poses by Cristo Redentor

In the evening, on our way to dinner, we stopped to watch a Capoeira show at the side of the road. I managed to get singled out for audience participation and one of the dudes jumped - and I'm not making this up - over my head. Keep in mind that I am apx 5'11" tall, was wearing 3" heels and this was done on cobblestone, with no landing mat. The man did a backflip over my head. Seriously cool (and should have seen his abs! :) Sadly, I did not have my camera with me so I will have to wait for Nancy and AJ to return from touring the rest of S.America in order to get copies of their photos.

Later that same evening, after dinner and perhaps too many drinks, we went for a walk along the beach front. There was a little stalking of the boys by a rather aggressive prostitute, but nothing overly serious.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Rio Day One - February 21st

We are back from Rio. Instead of lambasting you all with one big, long blog with a whole bunch of Rio stories all at once, Boy has suggested I split up my entries and post them day by day. I think this is a wonderful, over the next 12 days I will post our Rio adventures as they occurred. Happy reading!

Our Rio trip started out a bit bumpy, as the cab Nancy had called for to arrive at 4:45 didn't show up. After a call to dispatch, she was told it was on it's way. 5am the cab shows (she's supposed to be at my house by this point), and part way it breaks down. Cabbie thinks it's either a mechanical problem, or out of gas. Um...I think you have to put in the gas for it to work, wonderbrain. After some deliberation (Nancy had to tell him 2 or 3 times to call dispatch to send another cab - not really sure what he thought they were going to do hanging out on a street corner at 5am, but he didn't seem keen on having another cab sent) at around 5:15 they get to my place. At the airport, we find that despite asking our travel agent to reserve us window seats, we find that no seats have been reserved for us at all...not that big a deal until you realize that the flight is completely full, and un-reserved seats are the first to get bumped on an overbooked flight. We weren't bumped, but I wasn't pleased with the prospect that we could have been.

After many long hours of flying, sitting in airports and flying again (it's not easy to kill 6 hours in the secure area of an airport...thank goodness for walkie-talkies and pointless range testing...can you hear me now?...and pocket-sized Cranium) we arrive in Rio noon Tuesday. In total, house to hostel took about 26 or 27 hours. Ah...the hostel. We knew from photos on their website that the hostel was small. What we didn't know was that it was the size of a single-family dwelling into which they fit 63 adult bodies. As you can imagine, the space was...confined. We had a 4-bed dorm. A typical twin bed is apx 6 feet by 3 feet. Our room had two sets of twin-sized bunks, and was a grand total of apx 9 feet by 8 feet (I may even be overestimating here). I cannot imagine living in that confined a space with 3 strangers! Our 5th travel mate Jang was in a 16-bed dorm. I never did get a change to check it out, but it was apparently just as cozy.

After storing our bags below our beds and changing into shorts and tees, we braved the mid-day heat of 34C for a walk around the neighbourhood. We found some lunch and wandered down to the beach to eat. After a little while longer wandering around, we decided we were likely to melt, so we chose to head to the mall. Little did we realize that the mall was a long walk away, through much heat and dank smelly traffic tunnels. And all uphill. Finally we reached the mall and cooled off a bit in the lovely airconditionedness of it. There had to be at least 5 ice cream places in the mall, and McDonald's even had a separate counter for it's ice cream. Finally deciding to brave the heat once more, we headed home for an early night, with a stop in at the grocery store for water and fruit. On our way out, we hit a tropical rainstorm. For those who have never been in a tropical rainstorm, it is like a normal rainstorm, only the raindrops are gigantic and there are many more of them. Boy and I walked the 1.5 blocks home and were drenched before we crossed the first sidewalk. There were rivers running down the street. It was wonderful!

We were all in bed by 8pm with plans to be up by 8am for breakfast then brief morning touring. I had to be back in the hostel by 11am to meet with the dude who had originally booked us at the hostel - he no longer worked there and had left the bookings in a mess. As the hostel had no written confirmation of our deposit, I had asked him to meet me at the hostel at 11 in the morning to get me the bank papers so I could settle the bill. We were awoken at 10 by a phone call. Dude had already been hemming and hawing trying to get me to go to his new workplace to pick them up, and now here he was on the phone, and he wanted to drop the papers off TOMORROW morning. I lost it on him, telling him I was only around for 10 days and didn't have the time to be hanging out at the hostel day after day waiting for him to grace me with his presence. I told him to get his ass there by 11, with or without the papers, and explain the situation to the current staff. When I went back to the room, I asked Nancy how we had managed to sleep through her alarm...and she told me it was 10pm, not 10am. Oops. Oh well, he got there at 11 (pm), nothing was truly straightened out, but I told him to just drop off the papers the next day when I was out, so I didn't have to wait around anymore. Spent the rest of the night sleeping badly, as by then some partiers had come home, and our room opened into the foyer - noisy!

Wow...long post! Tune in tomorrow for day 2!!