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Monday, 23 April 2012

Itatiaia! (again)

We don't have a car either!

A recent post from fellow bloggers Qualidade de Vida inspired me to let the universe know that we don't have a car either! A year and a bit into our adventure and I don't reckon we'll ever have one either. Driving in Rio is not for the feint hearted and taxis, buses, boats (not to mention the slowly expanding metro*) all ensure that we get from A to B and back again all in one piece.

Once in a while, however, our desire to head for the hills means that we hire a car and take off for the weekend. Its not that we can't do it on the bus (we often do) - its just that sometimes there is no substitute for a ride into the wilderness with nearest and dearest. And once in a while that means splashing out R$550 odd for a 1 litre VW to join the loopy Carioca racetrack.

This time we visited Hotel Pousada Esmeralda - a few hours drive out of town and a few kilometres from the entrance to the Itatiaia National Park.

The hospitality was just what the doctor ordered - three hearty meals a day and ducks quacking their way around the place to the delight of our little man.

One thing that I love about Brazilians in a restaurant is just how seriously they take their food, and just how eloquently they describe every last morsel. Now this means that when something is worth complimenting the whole table can pretty much sing together to the glory of the potatoe. I'm not kidding.

And equally if the punters decide that something needs sending back for a 5th and 6th time, then so be it. I've seen the patience of a hundred waiters unabashed by the most discerning of diners.

Anyhow, Pousada Esmeralda does the trick. Proper hearty mountain food. Somehow a trip into the mountains seems so mean that the tourists need to ignore the fact that its still in the mid 20's and wrap up like they're on some sort of polar expidition. This is a place for fondue and log fires. Honest.

Anyhow - if the hulabuloo is all a bit much and you fancy a trip out,  then why not pull on the old hiking boots?

*metro will eventually be so crowded they might need Tokio style 'pushers' to squash the punters in at busy times....

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Getting Mugged In Rio

Oi - Get off my nuts......

I´ve travelled a fair bit. Any number of time-killing Facebook surveys will concur. I know what's risky and what's plain daft. Truth is the most significant skirmishes of my life have been back in my green and pleasant land. And both were neither green nor pleasant.

Anyhow, crime in Rio is a worry. And even though there is no doubt in my mind that it feels safer here now than it did when I visited in 1998, I can say, once again from shitty bitter experience that it pays to be careful out there.

A few weeks ago some fella in Lapa offered to throw his remaining booze away if I gave him some money for food. This quickly escalated into 'I have a big knife if you want to do this another way etc etc. The street was really crowded and for once in my boozy life I was totally sober. He kindly told the police in a passing car that I was just a gringo who was making a scene. They promptly disappeared. Nice. I ran off and jumped in a cab - although it did take some argey bargey to wrestle him away from the door. I cancelled my plans to go for a beer and just went home instead.

So. All in all no big deal. Except everyone I tell (especially the cariocas) say I should have handed over my stuff. Hmmm. Next time I will.

And that's precisely the problem. Next time. I'm now an overly cautious big tall gringo who has properly damaged his mojo. I know the chances of getting mugged are slim if you are careful, but now I feel that they´re just not slim enough. I really hope its not too long before I can wander beyone my cosy Copacabana local without feeling like somebody wants to have it away with my meagre pocketful. Yesterday somebody stopped and asked me directions to the metro. As I pointed up the road, I´d already worked out that if it was going to be a toss-up between giving him my wallet and trying to punch his lights out, then the wallet was definitely going to have to go.

Ok - not that it needs saying, but heres a few security ideas you might like to try out:

  1. Try not to be on your own for too long-  if you don´t end up robbed, paranoia might drive you to distraction (or maybe that´s just me)
  2. If you are on your own, then try not to be plastered.
  3. Don´t carry loads of cash - but always have at least R$20 as a muggers consellation prize.
  4. Don´t be a posey bastard, talking loudly in English  on a posh ´mug me´mobile phone while reading a half folded map. That would just be ridiculous.
  5. If in doubt, don´t walk - get a bus.
  6. If in doubt about about the bus, get a cab - even though they´re getting pricey, a ride accross town won´t leave you destitute.
  7. If the worst happens and someone want´s your belongings, just hand them over.
  8. Don´t show the entire bus the contents of your wallet when you bay the bus conductor.
  9. Keep a copy of your id and card numbers at home.
  10. If you happen to be of the big tall gringo persuasion, don´t assume your´re ever going to blend into the crowd.
  11. Don´t wear a collection of jewellery only Mr. T could compete with. Better still, don´t wear any.
  12. Don´t frolic on the beach after dark. That one´s a classic.
  13. Don´t hang out in the 40th floor Bar at the Othon Palace watching frolickers get mugged. Thats just mean.
  14. Put your wallet in your front pocket.

I reckon there may well be more. - Any ideas?

Monday, 9 April 2012

Reasons to feel like a cheerful Carioca. Part 1.

We have houseguests again! - Always a welcome diversion and a chance to rediscover this and that. I don´t reckon I´ll ever tire of nipping up Pão de Açúcar. This lastest time included a sunset that I´ll remember for a while!

Anyhow - when people visit and I have to work, I try took line them up with a few bits and bobs to supplement what the Lonely Planet has to offer. And this time I`ve noticed that I`m actually starting to develop a slightly more natural rapport with this cidade maravilhosa. This in turn makes me feel like I actually (and only occasionally) know what I'm doing.

  1. I know bus numbers.
  2.  I know where to peep out of the cab window to grab a cheeky view.
  3. I have first hand experience of at least a dozen conveyors of pork sandwiches.
  4.  I have a carioca card. (though I don't really know why)
  5.  I drink coffee sold from the back of some bloke`s car.
  6. I don't notice that the bus driver seems to be posessed by the devil anymore.
  7. I read the paper on the metro. (well.... I actually only read the easy bits)
  8. I'm developing a creative sense of timekeeping. (not sure if this is a good thing)
  9. I've started folding all my money into a big wedge that actually amounts to very little.
  10. I've used my credit card to buy a coffee.
  11. I've sat on a bench outside a restaurant queing to get in.
  12. I've worn outlandish fancy dress in public.
  13. I'm developing a tolerance for beer beyond my wildest dreams.
  14. I sometimes find myself eating a piece of toast with a napkin.
  15. I eat feijao in the pub with my 2 year old.
Now  - I know these are small moves - and I know that I'll forever be a big tall 'rob me' gringo - but for the moment at least, I feel like I've turned a corner. Get in.

(still reckon it'll be a while before I go to the supermarket in a pair of swimming trolleys though)

Try one of these....

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