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Sunday 17 Jan 2010
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Planning time...

Arriving into Rio I booked hotels, rather than hostels, as I'd initially prefer to have a room to myself with A/C so I can go ahead with planning the upcoming trip using my laptop etc (as many ppl know, I've been bogged down with things I had to do at home before I could leave, so I haven't had a chance to plan anything beyond the Arrival/Departure dates!). Once I'm organised, it's hostels all the way! Brazil isn't cheap, and is easily on par with Ireland expense-wise (except the price of alcohol) and hotels here are costing me around 86-110 euro per night!! But the comfort and ease is more than worth it.

Office on the road!
Office on the road!

I have to say, taking the laptop along with me on this trip has been absolutely crucial and has saved me so much hassle thanks to the Skype and WiFi capabilities, not to mention it will be invaluable for managing my photos once I start. Travelling without a laptop in this day and age is pure lunacy in my opinion. Thankfully it's only a cheap ASUS I picked up for 120 euro, so getting robbed won't be such a major headache should it happen *knocks the proverbial plank o' wood*

The downside to the ASUS is its tiny keyboard, and the "Up" key is in the place where the "Shift" key is supposed to be so it makes touch-typing an erroneous experience. Sooooo... I've toted along a Dell keyboard and mouse in my backpack too ... check the pic to see my "portable office" setup Cool

Yesterday after discovering that the price of a room in my hotel was rising to 150 euro per night (!), I scarpered off down to the "poorer" side of Copacobana beach where my hotel is costing a measly 86 euro per night. I unfortunately didn't get a chance to take advantage of the former hotel's prestigious location on the beachfront due to Iberia's 6 hour delay! The new hotel is also within stone's throw of a large favela, so the recommendation is to not head out late at night (if fact this seems to be a general rule of thumb for the whole city). The advantage of this hotel is that it's got free Internet (normally you have to pay), so rather than touring around Rio, I'm going to make the most of this place and try to organise the next few weeks here....

Back to Rio... my initial impressions of the place are: outstanding surrounding natural beauty, but rather impoverished neighbourhoods. It reminds me a lot of Havana, Cuba in many ways (the cracked/broken pavements, crazy drivers, tall 60s style apartment blocks). The only really "wealthy" section I've seen so far is the huge shopping mall near my hotel called "Rio Sul" where the well-off traverse 8 floors of shops, people-watching or buying more beach gear. Copacobana, where I am based, has the most stunning backdrop though, which first only truly became apparent when I walked down to the beach-front and swivelled around. My jaw dropped. Steep HUGE mountains and dense monkey-filled rainforest encircle the apartment blocks. It looks like the tall jutting rock formations of Halong Bay, Vietnam have been yoinked out of the sea and dropped here. Very dramatic and breathtaking. Our hotel has a pool rooftop section with a great view, so I'll try to get a few shots at sunset!

While admiring the view from the top of the hotel that night, and marvelling at how the hills seemed so close you could touch them, a member of staff pointed out the large poorly-lit favela to our left, and then further up along, a huge luxury complex of apartments bearing down on the poorer folk: "Policia!". Seems the police here like to keep the poor kids in check, and rub it in their faces.

I'm also amazed at how many people walk around here topless in the baking sun all day (just the guys mind, relax!). The incidence of skin-cancer must be one of the highest in the world. When I tried to read a note on a white piece of paper, the glare was so strong I had to put my shades on!

I haven't had a chance to swim yet as I forgot to pack my trunks (doh!), but I bought a new pair in Rio Sul yesterday afternoon so I'll try to get a bit in later today.

I *HAVE* had copious alcohol though despite myself, starting with a vodka-drenched coconut by the beach (where I met a black guy who told me he was Japanese and showed me several photos of Bruce Lee movies "he starred in", even though the guys he pointed at in the pictures were white), Skol beers, and ending with a Caipirinha under the stars (a lethal drink containing Cachaca and pineapple, but you would nary know there was any alcohol in it from the taste)... enough to make this lad delirous and almost bebado on the hotel roof while staring out over the mesmarising Rio skyline. When in Rio...

I also partook of one of the rather confusing lanchonetes for lunch, where you get a ticket off the girl at the door; get a plate and proceed to pile it high with food from a buffet, then bring the ticket to the girl at the buffet who WEIGHS the plate and tells you how much you owe (at which point you realise it's actually not that cheap at all!!). In the course of eating the food and paying, you need to hand the ticket around to about 3 other ppl, then finally give a bit to the girl at the door.

So back to today, I'm gonna head down to the beach to take a quick dip (thankfully it's not 42 C today as it was yesterday!), then come back and make the most of this free Internet and book hostels/trips for next while.

One final thing, the language issue. Despite what people say, Portuguese is COMPLETELY different to Spanish. The only thing that's frequently similar are the first letters of each word. So, eh, I'm getting by with a lot of pointing and Spanglish. Laughing


Well! ... I've spent the past several hours tossing between my laptop and my South America Rough Guide and have come to a pretty solid conclusion. ROUGH GUIDES ARE THE WORST TRAVEL GUIDES IN THE HISTORY OF BACKPACKER-DOM!

They lack the fluidness and user-friendliness of Lonely Planet guides and have me even more confused than I was initially! Say for example I wanted to find out about towns north of Rio, in Lonely Planet the guide is written in such a way that the next entry is the next town. In the Rough Guide the next town could be somewhere far west, or far south. It's just useless for planning! RG also lack the excellent historical accounts, so you arrive in a new place knowing nothing about the history!

Thankfully I've found that it's possible to buy Lonely Planet books in PDF format, so I think I'll do that. At least I'll have a better chance of getting solid itinerary plans.

Also I've booked another two nights in yet another hotel for an even CHEAPER price... if I had a Lonely Planet guide I would have known about the cheapest hotel straight away! Doh!  *rant over*

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South America Twenty Ten

Travel blog by peterforan



After previously dipping my toes in Latin America via trips to Cuba and Central America, it's time to go for the big splash! 3 1/2 months to take in as much as I can, armed with little more than my camera, laptop and a few dodgy Spanish phrases.

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    Office on the road!
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    Rio de Janeiro


    Fast food, Brazillian style
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    Rio de Janeiro


    Tired Pete looking out over Rio
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    Rio de Janeiro


    Cristo from the back