Saturday, July 20, 2002


20 July 2002
The last chapter of the South American adventure – Brazil, the land of the haves and the have-nots. I arrived in Curitiba early in the morning after an overnight trip from Foz de Iguazu, and found a hotel close to the station. In the last few years Curitiba has undergone an extensive and successful urban regeneration programme, led by Jamie Learner, an architect who was elected the city mayor in 1988. It’s well worth a look for that reason, though there’s not much else for the average tourist. There is a highly rated train trip to Paranagua on the cost and I’ll try to go on Monday. Language may be a problem here, there are not many English speakers.

26 July
The train trip to Paranagua was nice, though the clouds blocked some of the scenery. The plan was to go to the Illa de Mel, an island close to the town. The weather was so bad that I decided not to bother, and headed back to Curitiba. There would have been nothing to do on that island in bad weather.
So I headed earlier than planned to Rio de Janeiro, famous for favelas (shanty towns), beautiful girls and a high crime rate. If you arrive in Rio by plane, they check you for weapons at customs, and if you don’t have any they won’t let you in. I'm staying in Ipanema, which is a safe enough district, and the hostel seems pleasant. In fact it turned out to be one of the nicest hostels of my tour. On Wednesday, Fluminese played Deportivo Toulca from Mexico in a centenary celebration at the legendary Maracana stadium. There were only about 10,000 people but it was still great to see a game at the Maracana. Fluminese won 4-1.
Earlier I had a funny incident at the hostel. The owner had told me about a Danish guest who wanted to go and see the match. I’d been chatting to an Englishman and a black guy when a we were joined by a blond called Per, with a Scandanavian accent.
I said, "are you the Danish guy?"
"No, I’m from Sweden"
The black guy, sounding very insulted says "I'm the Danish guy"
"errr…are you going to the football?"

29 July
Only a week left.
On Friday a bunch of us from the hostel went to Lapa for a street party. It's a great idea. They close off a few streets and put a few guys at the corners selling drinks and food. A couple of went to a "club" which was basically an abandoned house with the internal walls knocked out. A guy with a stereo system played cds and they had a freezer filled with beer at the back. it was great and the entry fee was just r$1, about €0.35. The next day I went to the Sugar Loaf, which gives a nice view of the city. The Lonely Loser declares Rio to be "undoubtedly the most beautiful city in the world when seen from here". It is not a beautiful city, but it is set in a beautiful surrounding. We went to a club in the Leblon district. This is very different to last night. It's more upmarket, more expensive and there are more of the pushy, arrogant posers who are all too prevalent in this city.

christ the redeemer

31 July
I made a mistake at the hostel and forgot to tell the guy I’d be staying on longer. so I had nowhere to stay for three nights. Rather than move location in Rio, I decided to visit Paratí, a small costal town a few hours away. Unfortunately it was a wash-out. I spent the whole first day in bed, suffering from some kind of virus. I had bad stomach pains and a headache. Today I was better, but only fit enough to walk around for a while. The good thing is I had a room to myself. The accommodation is very nice and breakfast was great.

06 August
I returned to Hostel Harmonia in Rio on Thursday, still not feeling great so I didn't do much. on Friday I went to the street party in Lapa again. Beforehand, I finally made it to the Christ the Redeemer statue. It's an impressive statue and there's a great view of the city. Saturday there was another street party, though I can’t remember where. It wasn't as good as Lapa, but the bus ride out there was great. The driver was a raving lunatic who thought he was on a race track. We came back to Ipanema and went for a few drinks at a little beachside café. There we witnessed a nasty incident. A homeless guy sat nearby on the beach finishing off some half empty beers. One of the waiters from the café gave him some hassle and told him to leave. The homeless guy answered back and the waiter hit him, knocking him off the chair. We shouted a lot of abuse at the guy, but he just laughed. One of the Dublin lads who was with us bought him a couple of beers, which cheered the guy up. I have to admit I haven’t found the people here to be as friendly as I'd heard, but maybe it's just Rio.
On my last day I finally had the chance to try hand gliding. I'd made the reservation from the second day in Rio, but the strong wind meant it was too dangerous. I had planned on visiting the favelas but as it was the last day I had to choose. The hand gliding was fun though not as scary as I'd imagined. It was a shame to miss the favela tour, but the City of God was only a couple years away.

handgliding in rio