EAA The Final Countdown – Brazil, Baby!
It’s finally here! The Olympic Games in all it’s glory …and Brazil seems to have achieved more bad publicity than good. I felt like I wanted to put in my 2 cents worth, give you all my opinion on the country that was, for me, unforgettable.
In 2014 Ryan and I travelled to Brazil at the end of our Epic American Adventure (see under the Travel tab for other instalments). I bet you’d forgotten that I even went to South America, let alone was sharing my blogs. To be honest, so had I…I’m a bad little blogger, I know!
Anyway, I’m back on track, and for you here is the penultimate episode of our adventure – Brazil was our final country, and, if I’m honest, the reason for the trip in the first place. We didn’t just go for shits and giggles, far from it. We went for the FIFA Football World Cup.
Before we joined the Fanatics tour group for the cross-country Follow Australia tour, we took the time to explore the wonders of Rio de Janeiro. I wrote about it in two massive posts. I’m gonna post one today and one tomorrow, and then, sadly, the EAA series will be done. To keep with the authentic feel, I’ve included the photos in their original size (aka, too busy to edit right now!)…they’re mostly of Rio, as I didn’t feel safe enough/like I wanted to be THAT kind of tourist enough to take the tablet out to take photos anywhere else (seeing as our phones got stolen…). Also, if you’re after the football…I’m sorry, but it’s not featured too much in this post haha.
From a very hungover Emma, circa June 2014…
“Well it’s still a few days from the very end but the atmosphere here for us is definitely starting to wind down. We have spent the last nearly three weeks on a whirlwind roller coaster with a lot of ups, a few downs, and a hell of a lot of beers. I’ve split it into two posts so that you won’t go cross-eyed!
We arrived in Rio after dark and grabbed a taxi to take us to our Hostel – situated in the supposedly upper class area of Santa Teresa. Our cabbie seemed to think he was being filmed for the next instalment of The Fast and The Furious, or perhaps there was some Grand Prix Brazil that we has just walked into without realising. He was actually not too bad a driver. Unfortunately he had his ego crushed when, driving around for about 30 minutes, he had to ask someone for directions to our Hostel. We’d had an inkling he had no idea of the area, and it was only after asking the 4th person that he pulled out a GPS – seriously!?! He’d had a GPS all along and only just decided to pull it out – what a blow to his racing cred! We FINALLY made it to the Hostel, checked in, and found a pizza restaurant a little while away where we had the biggest pizza I’d ever seen. While the area of Santa Teresa wasn’t what I expected from an upper class area (think a hilly suburb with old mansions surrounded by fences topped with jagged glass shards and a constant battle between concrete and the surrounding jungle), there were quite a lot of tourists walking the streets at night which boosted our confidence a bit.
|The view from our hostel’s deck.|
We spent the next day discovering that our guide book doesn’t always have the correct information, and after catching a death-defying bus to a deserted town square for some non-existent markets (another square in which we felt very unsafe and promptly got a taxi away from), we decided we were too cranky to venture out again and spent the rest of the day at the hostel. We still hadn’t booked our last two nights accommodation in Brazil, and so decided that after much fluffing around we would see how much it would cost to spend our remaining days in the hotel that we would already be staying in with the Fanatics before our tour ended (we left a few extra days in Sao Paulo after the end of the tour just to relax before heading home). I was amazed to find that it was still available, and not only that, but about a 3rd of the price the Fanatics wanted to charge for extra nights booked through them. We decided to splurge and book it – meaning this hostel we were currently in would be our last hostel! That put us in a much better mood after our crappy day.
We had a bit of a problem in that we didn’t have enough time to do all the things in Rio that they say you should do. We decided, rather than go and see Christ The Redeemer, that we would head off the beaten track and do a favela tour instead. A favela is the name of an area (there are several in Rio) where it is particularly poverty-stricken, crime is rife, and the socio-economic level is incredibly low. The government in Rio had been working to improve the conditions in these favelas. We would be completely safe on our tour and in fact the people living in the favelas (we were told) welcomed the visitors as it was a chance for them to sell their wares and spread the message about their terrible conditions. I expected something similar to a shanty town, however was a little disappointed to discover it was a lot like La Paz in Bolivia (though more criminal activity). We did walk past a man just lying on the sidewalk in the middle of the main street, and our guide told us he was dead. But I’m still not convinced!
When we left the area, we set off on our own to a completely different zone of the city – Copacabana Beach. This area of the city really showed us our first glimpse of the amazing World Cup atmosphere. Everywhere you looked there were hawkers selling Brazilian football jerseys and paraphernalia, people from all over the world were wearing their football jerseys while proudly strolling down the promenade. Here on the beach, we found all the Brazilian babes, bums, and beverages we had read so much about. We enjoyed a caipirinha (a classic Brazilian drink made of sugar, lime, and caçachas liqueur over lots of ice.) We hired two beach chairs and sat on the beach with a beer and watched the sites, including men carrying giant beach umbrellas with bikinis strung all around them for sale. A very relaxing afternoon! The next day it was raining so we headed to a couple of the shopping centres nearby to wile away the day.
|Or very mini, but good, cappuccinos|
|A McDonald’s dessert stand|
The following day (our last in Rio) we went on a walking tour and discovered some of the fascinating history behind the country. We headed back to the beach to get a bikini for me (NOT the g-string kind) and had a night out at a nice Santa Teresa restaurant before preparing for a hectic day tomorrow.
|The amazing Lapa Steps|
The start of the World Cup! Well…our fanatics tour, anyway.
When we arrived in Cuiaba it was again late at night (in fact 1am). It was disgustingly hot. We arrived at our first hotel… And were not impressed. Even in the dark, what we had expected to be a 3 star package was a dingy drive-in like motel set up, set in the middle of an industrial area, with a Brazilian Fanatics representative who spoke very little English. We were far too tired to do anything other than crash in our bed. The next morning we decided to forego the walking tour to try to find a laundromat… It turned out that because Brazil was playing the opening match of the World Cup that day, everyone was having a public holiday! No laundry for us. We only realised this, however, after taking our laundry with us into the centre of town, intending to drop it off before heading to the Fanatics fan site to watch the Brazil game. This eventuated in us carrying around our dirty laundry for the remainder of the day/night while we partied with the rest of the Fanatics… Not how I pictured our first day in the World Cup. In each city the Fanatics have set up a location where we have our own beer tent, food, music, and giant televisions showing all the important games. In Cuiaba the site was held at an old army base – complete with swimming pool. Despite the disappointing hotel and laundry debacle, our first Fanatics party was great. It was so good to be surrounded by people from home, and we finally received our Fanatics tour kit (a huge package of a hoodie, T-shirt, two singlets, hat, beanie, and scarf each!). The Stafford Brothers were featuring just for the Fanatics and put on a good show. It really made us feel like we were at home.
The next day we started all over again, with the added bonus of Chubba and Lloyd meeting up with us (they’d arrived that morning). It was great to catch up with some friendly faces! We had a swim before heading off to the stadium within walking distance to watch the Socceroos in their first group stage game – Australia v. Chile. While walking down the dirt streets, the brand new stadium suddenly came into view. The contrast between the shiny new stadium and the living conditions of the people who lived next to it really made it easy to understand the objections Brazilians had to the World Cup. This run down city now had a massive stadium built purely for the foreigners to enjoy the football, and I could not fathom why this city had been chosen. Whatever the reason, we were here now, and we were determined to make the most of it.
The game started extremely poorly for Australia, however we then dominated the match for 60 minutes. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to put us in the lead and we lost 3-1. We headed back to the fan fest dejected (after wandering around lost for a while) and prepared for a flight at 5am the next morning. I don’t have any photos of this city, as I wasn’t secure enough to feel OK about taking my tablet anywhere out of the hotel.”
Ready for the next instalment for the rest of our world cup experience?