Regardless, I still had the delightful company of my three long-term travelling companions - Davy Brown, Loz Baldwin and Hannah Woodface - and we had much to look forward to - long overdue beach action, Rio-bloody-de-Janeiro, and the small matter of Carnaval, to name but three - so I put a brave face on this dire situation and tried my hardest to have fun along the final leg.
I was vaguely aware that it had been a while since I last skipped across a sandy shore or majestically belly-flopped into a frothing, salty soup, but only now did I realise that it had been a full 2 1/2 months and three entire countries since I'd last found sand in strange places (all the way back to Mancora, at the start of my Peru blog, in fact). This is, quite frankly, a disgraceful state of affairs for a traveller. So, the first three days in Brazil were spent rectifying this sorry situation.
The coastline of Santa Catarina is impeccable: fine powdered white-sand beaches caressed by spotless seas, temperatures just the right side of freezing. I usually prefer a secluded beachfront spot, free from the general annoyance that is other human beings, but the majority female patronage on these shores was distracting in a much more agreeable manner. Without wanting to offend the more easily-offendable of my readers, I've never seen quite so many delightful derrieres on display in one place. Myself and Mr.Brown convinced ourselves that if these fine ladies were so willing to reveal their bottoms, then they actually wanted us to stare. With this in mind, we definitely didn't spend those three days being massive perverts.
Feeling a little lethargic after all the beach-bumming, we decided to embark on a short hike on our last day in town..... a hike to a beach, that is. Taking a bus to the island's southernmost town, we disembarked and began to trek through thick forest; hugging the sharply-inclining contours of a coastside hill, and then descending after an hour of sticky, sweaty stomping to reach a secluded sweep of seaside. Here, we settled down for a final dose of beach action, smug after the physical exertion required to reach this paradisiacal idyll. Then, of course, it started to rain. Rather enthusiastically. Some might call it a storm. So we went home again.
We were still debating the pros and cons of passing through when I heard from an old friend who made the decision for us. Rodolfo is a hugely-talented graphic artist ('ave a gander at his work, here) who I lived with in London for a short time back in 2009. He's since moved back to Brazil and is currently based in Sao Paolo. Offering to act as chaperone for an evening - how could we say no? Sao Paolo it was!
|Sao Paolo - Theatre|
Nighttime rolled in, and so did Rodolfo. After an emotional reunion and a short, informative history lesson, we followed our new guide to a cosy backstreet bar. This wasn't just any bar picked at random, though - as the excess of giddy patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk would attest. This was an award-winning establishment. Awards won for serving some of the best Cairprinhas in the city. Brazil's signature beverage, the Cairprinha is a sweet, heady mix of cachaca (sugarcane rum), sugar and lime. I'd had no previous experience of the cocktail for comparison, but can say with certainty that the drinks at this bar tasted pretty damn good! We stayed for a couple of very pleasant hours, swapping stories under the signed Pele shirt framed to the wall, before calling it a night and calling an end to our short time in Sao Paolo. Muito Obrigado, Rod - until next time! :)
|Rio - Botanical Gardens|
Basecamp for the first half of our visit was a lively hostel in the downtown Botafago district, while for the final few days we were housed in Santa Teresa - a more secluded area based alongside a shanty town on the side of a hill overlooking the city. Just considering the polar differences in our accommodations, two of Rio's many faces were already apparent - this is a city that refuses to be pigeon-holed.
|Dave @ Ipanema Beach|
All that was left for us now was to sample the legendary Rio nightlife. The nocturnal action at this point of the year was even livelier than usual as Carnaval warm-up was well underway (the official carnival might only last a week, but celebrations begin long before and last pretty much until everyone involved really needs a rest). First-off, we stumbled across a traditional samba band plying their trade down an alleyway and outside a branch of a well-known international bank. Despite the strange setting, an excitable crowd had gathered - energetically bopping along to the beat - along with opportunistic vendors selling cans of beer at a dollar a pop. "So, this is Carnaval?", we thought. A little low key with no more than a couple of hundred people, but great fun and a nice introduction.
However, after a considerable amount of time spent aimlessly wandering the streets and trying to find the next party location, we finally gave in and asked a couple of locals where was good to go. "Follow us", they replied, confidently. Another ten minutes later and we found ourselves in the midst of a seething mass of half-naked bodies - at least a few thousand people had descended onto the wide avenues under the Roman-esque aqueduct arches in the centre of Lapa. Thumping music, cheap booze, widespread debauchery and general decadence; an atmosphere buzzing with anticipation of the festivities ahead. This was Carnaval!!
|Rio skyline at dusk|
Lessons learnt and stricter rejection faces practiced by Lauren and Hannah, we began our final journey as a travelling foursome. As if this fact wasn't depressing enough, this would also be our longest single journey of the trip so far. But, 32 hours after boarding, we finally rolled into Salvador, ready for Carnaval to begin.....
I'm aware that the word count is piling up here, and there is still a lot to spill (and just as much to remain untold) regarding the ridiculous goings-on during Carnival week. As such, I will bring this entry to a close, but the FINAL blog has already been written and will appear in a couple of weeks. Until then, here's some Brazilian snaps to keep you entertained (click any photo to enlarge):
|Ilha de Santa Catarina|
|Ilha de Santa Catarina Lagoon|
|Sao Paolo Skyline|
|Kids playing in Rio Lagoon|
|Diving into Rio Lagoon|
|Rio Botanical Gardens|
|Rio Botanical Gardens|
|Rio Botanical Gardens|
|Jorge Selaron cleaning his steps|
|The Selaron Steps|
|Selaron Steps - English tile|
|View from Cristo's hill|
|View of Sugarloaf Mountain from Cristo's hill|
|View from Sugarloaf Mountain|
|Dusk from Sugarloaf Mountain|
|Sunset over Rio from Sugarloaf Mountain|
|View of an Illuminated Cristo from Sugarloaf Mountain|
|Goodnight Rio (from Sugarloaf Mountain)|