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Tuesday 19 Jan 2010
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Leaving Rio... or at least ATTEMPTING to!

Getting the tram down from Corcovado took about 1-2 hours. By the end of the trip, it was around 5pm! Alas I wasn't going to get time to see Sugar Loaf, but to be honest I think the view I had was perfect plus I probably saw more than I would from up there (Corcovado is higher than Sugar Loaf).

I took the bus to the "Largo do Machado" metro (the driver was very helpful in pointing out where I needed to get off). This is actually a delightful little neighbourhood full of wonderfully-decorated little cafés and walk-in "sanduich" bars. It was into one of the latter I stepped to pick up my (now) staple drink: Vitaminas (think smoothy, but with every conceivable fruit and milk added too). "Yummy" doesn't even begin to describe it.

I noticed the guy putting 2 _table-spoons_ of sugar into my drink, but I didn't manage to catch him in time. Brazillians LOVE sugar, so I've had to be sure to ask for "sin azucar" when ordering pretty much anything here!

Then I took the rather excellent and very clean/modern metro back to Candelaria. To be honest the city's transport systems are perfectly safe and most people are willing to help you out, so I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Additionally they are cheap. The whole trip to Cristo Redentor (including 2 buses, 1 metro plus the tram) cost me about 40-50 BR$ (about 20 euro). Getting an organised tour for the same would have cost me about 180 BR$ (75 euro)!

In fact, I neglected to mention an interesting piece of information extracted from the otherwise crazy guy on the flight over to Rio who wouldn't stop talking. It turns out all his mates are either drug dealers or muggers (nice), and he told Leo (who then told me in English) that the metro was the one place you WOULDN'T get mugged, even at night. Good thing to note I reckon!

So... after checking out of Hotel Itajuba in Candelaria, I had a quick sprint to the nearby city-centre airport in a slight rainy downpour for my flight to Salvador... I was worried that I was checking in late but I shouldn't have as there was a considerable queue already lined up. Processing was slow, but it quickly transpired that the 9pm flght was delayed to leave due to bad weather in Sao Paulo.

In Brazil, since the flights are often interconnected due to a limited supply of aircraft (i.e. to get on your flight to Salvador from Rio, you need to wait for it to arrive from Sao Paulo) whenever there are problems at one airport, it affects them all!

Behind me in the queue I became acquainted with Luiz, who speaks perfect English. I am very glad I met him as, over the course of the next period, his bi-lingual skills would come in very handy... and yes this is yet ANOTHER "Problem with plane delays" story... Twice in a week, that's gotta be a record.

Y'see.. the city airport closes at 11pm. Now, it seems like a fairly obvious thing that if a 9pm flight is going to be delayed and leaving in about 2 hours, there are going to be major problems getting the flight to leave with no.. er.. air controller working... yet this took the airline company, TAM, several hours to communcate to us.

So we waited and waited.. told to regularly check the screens for the Gate number. I even went through security. By this stage Luiz was quite ticked off, so he suggested we try to go into the "TAM VIP Lounge" and see what they could do for us. So a bit of complaining from Luiz gets us in here where we get free coffee and internet and TV.. "better than being stuck in the waiting area like those other losers" I thinks Tongue out

Eventually we get an announcement. We're going to have to be transferred to the main airport (which is open 24 hours): GIG, as this airport is closing (it was now around 11.30pm). GIG is 30 minutes away. Sooooo... our luggage is offloaded off the plane (our plane DID arrive eventually btw, but wasn't allowed to take off because of the time!!), and we wait around for 40 minutes jostling between several luggage areas trying to find which one our bags will come out of!

Finally.. getting our bags, we now have to wait for buses to transport us over to GIG... another 2 hours... yadda yadda

Long story short, we eventually get over to GIG, check in, have to WAIT another 4 hours for our departure plane to arrive (during which time I manage to kip off for about an hour.. not to mention there was almost a riot amongst some of the passengers!), before we FINALLY board the flight to Salvador at around 5am!!

Now... to make the flight as "comfortable" as possible, the AC is perpetually stuck at around 7C (you can even see the cold air being blown out!) and I'm left shivering in my tshirt for the whole flight..

Either I did something very wrong in a past life, or I'm just incredibly unlucky, but I don't think I've ever had such bad experiences on planes as I've had in the past week.

Somebody shoot me...

On a positive note though, I got to Salvador which, despite an initial "hiccup" is actually a really cool little place! Cool

Oh yeah and before I forget, I had a good chat with Luiz about many things in SA and Rio. For one he told me that most SA's aren't terribly keen on Argentinians, saying that they view themselves "above" the others. I'll hopefully be able to judge this for myself when/if I get there! Plus an Argentinian joke... A Chilean guy is discussing what he loves about his country: "I love that we have so many different cultures, so many different climates, great food and people... but most of all we have the Andes which help keep the Argentinians out!" Ah it's probably better the way Luiz told it Embarassed

Luiz also helped me understand the favela situation. Historically, of course, they were the areas the former slaves moved to when slavery was abolished. The flat areas of Rio, being so few and far between, are prime real estate and so any buildings you see built on hills are basically favela housing! Until recently, all the favela houses were made from bits of discarded rubbish, but now brick houses and small bits of electricity have been provided.

He said he doesn't think it will ever change. I asked "What about future generations? Can they not break out through education?". He said that basically any "free" university places are seemingly reserved for those with cash. In other words, if you are born in a favela, you are stuck there for life (unless a charity pays for your university of course!). Sad sad situation.

1 Comment for this Travel blog entry

Mum Says:

24 January 2010

Wow Peter what a palaver at the airport - your must have been exhausted! Lucky to have Luiz to interpret for you and get you into VIP lounge? Well, well that's my Peter! By the way I thought they speak Portuguese in Brazil - so 'sin azucar' spanis

peterforan Replies:

25 January 2010

I think it's similar in Portuguese.. probably "sem acucar" instead of "sin azucar" though... but they understand me :)

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