One Week in Rio: Travel Report Part II

On the fourth day in Rio heavy rain already welcomed us in the morning. And that shouldn’T really change over the next two days. Due to the weather situation, we spent the day in closed rooms. At home, in a restaurant and various shops, so-called “lojas”. After we had waited for a rain break, we went to the main street, Rua Dias da Cruz, looking for a cozy restaurant. Finally we went to a typical Brazilian restaurant with “serviço completo”. This means that a garçom, a waiter, serves food to the guests and there is no buffet. In Brazil there are numerous restaurants, namely “self-service”, offering buffets. The billing is based on the food weight. Depending on the city and restaurant the price for one kilogram is between ten and thirty Reais.
After lunch we were looking for an umbrella. Because, unfortunately, neither I nor my Brazilians picked up one from home. And finally it’s raining that often in Rio de Janeiro at that time. Normally. We went to three different stores and none of them sold umbrellas. We were told that due to the continuous rain umbrellas are sold almost all over the city and the remainders of stock are offered for inflated prices of 50 Reais and even more. And that was true. A saleswoman wanted to sell us an umbrella for 75 Reais, which are out 17 Euros, at the shopping center Nova América. Of course, we didn’t buy. We had luck and could buy a cheap umbrella from a street vendor for just ten Reais. But that was our sixth day of the trip. So we spent two more days with sopping clothes and dripping hair. But at 30 °C, that’s not that big deal.

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We escaped from the disappointing umbrella shopping to Thiago’s apartment. Because the next day was “São Sebastião”, a public holiday in the state of Rio de Janeiro. And so we four, my friend, I, Thiago and his girlfriend, wanted to venture a little trip: to Teresópolis. This small town is located in the Serra dos Órgãos, a national park, which is up to 2000 meters. We wanted to spend a night in a secluded ranch that specializes on life in harmony with nature, body and spirit. Accordingly, the rooms had Indian names.
At nine o’clock in the evening we hit the road to the secluded ranch. The distance between Rio de Janeiro and Teresópolis is about 90 kilometers. It took more than one and a half hour to fight our way through the heavy traffic, the darkness and the rain. To make matters worse the secluded ranch is on a dirt road which became an unpredictable track due to the aquaplaning. The car bottomed up a few times, but we survived the trip unscathed. We collapsed into bed and were looking forward to the next day. The rain lashed like a drum roll against the wooden house the entire night and I could hardly fall asleep. Not least because my Brazilian was snoring loudly next to me. Completely exhausted I tortured myself to get out of bed in the next morning. And it even got worse. Because our trip fell trough. The rain hadn’t stopped. Nevertheless we decided to go on an excursion to the waterfall after breakfast. In Brazil, there are probably hundreds of such small waterfalls.

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We walked along a small forest path to the natural swimming pool, which was not usable, of course. After we went to mentioned waterfall. It was hidden between trees and rocky slopes. And it was so small that I can’t even remember the name. Also on the signs there was just written “cachoeira”, which means waterfall in Portuguese. Thiago and I took a few pictures, trying not to fall into the water. Finally the floor was wet and slippery by the sustained rain. I even survived an attack of a black wasp with the Latin name “Polybia paulista”. Finally – and that was something I had learned in Brazil – wasps are a less dangerous animal species. One should be more concerned about snakes or spiders crawling on the floor. These are extremely and exclusively dangerous. Because which small animal crawls on the floor without any protection mechanism?

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After half an hour, we went from the waterfall to a yoga and massage house. But this was closed for holiday. Against us it started to rain more. I put my camera protectively under my shirt and we walked hastily to the room. Of course, we arrived completely soaked. Subtropical rain shouldn’t be underestimated. Within seconds a drop of water can become a water avalanche. Just as quickly if it comes, the rain vanishes again.
So we took a shower again, rested a bit and afterwards we wanted to go for lunch into the dining room. Somehow it seemed as if we were almost the only guests. Because the dining room was – except for a granny with her daughter and her grandson – completely empty. Not bad. We were able to enjoy our meal in silence and could simply admire the wonderful location of the secluded ranch. Finally as the city Teresópolis, it situated on a mountain in the national park. The view is amazing and probably more tense-filled on a rainless day. Although the rainy mountain landscape is a picture of what one doesn’t see every day, but this gray and drab is awfully sad.

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After a simple but very tasty, Brazilian lunch we prepared slowly our return journey. In the Brazilian way it means: First of all go to sleep for at least one hour, collect all the things from the floor of the room, pay in cash just before leaving and still have a conversation at the reception. In Brazil, it seems that clocks run differently. Or more precisely: Time is invalidated. An appointment at two o’clock in the afternoon can be at three o’clock, too. Delays are tolerated with a smile. And even people on the street seem to go to their destinations in slow motion. Of course not without getting into other people’s way, without greeting odd acquaintances or without having a conversation with people from the other side if the main road. A strange picture. Like a barker who wants to put across his news, his “novidades”.
The return journey was similar to the outward leg, just without darkness. In between we stopped in Nova Friburgo, a town that has the nickname “center of underwear”. Like beads on a chain there was one lingerie shop place next to the other in the city center. And Thiago’s girlfriend wanted to go there. We three got a small snack – “salgados”, as they are called in Brazil. In the middle of nowhere and more than 10,000 kilometers away from home a men at the next table spoke to his companion in German about money, property and future investments. Kind of funny that one would be happy to hear repeatedly a familiar language in foreign countries. Maybe this is another way of homesickness and nostalgia, the way globetrotters or emigrants have.

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After an hour we went back to Rio de Janeiro. The streets were crowded, actually, as always. Although nobody stayed with us in the secluded ranch, all people seemed to flow back into the city from this direction. Finally all people needed to work the other day. And who can take much time off at the current economic situation? Finally, the country is heading for an hyperinflation and the currency falls in value constantly. Thus, the exchange rate between Real and Euro was 1 to 3, in 2013. Now it is 1 to 4.5. A positive development for all foreign tourists who want to travel to the Olympic Games to Brazil.
In the evening my boyfriend and I wanted to spend some time together and went out to eat sushi, one of our favorite foods. Of course, we had already planned the next day. My boyfriend had a great idea: the Museu de Amanhã. This museum is located in the city center, right next to the Ilha das Cobras in the Guanabara Bay. The name means translated the “museum of tomorrow”. Visions and developments related to the earth’s future are also thematized as well as potential threats and opportunities for the mankind. Of course, everything was interactively. It seemed that we weren’t the only visitors. The line was so long that we had to wait for almost three hours. A pathetic state. Because for the first time within days the sun was shining bright. And my feet begun to hurt incredibly.

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The entrance is ten Reais per person. No bargain when you consider that many museums in Brazil are funded by state or private investors. As a consequence, they are costless. But it’s worth it. In addition to a video presentation on past and future earth developments other subjects come up such as the increasing urbanization, the space exploration and the destruction of flora and fauna. A very important issue, especially here in Brazil. For the past 25 years, more than 600,000 square kilometers of the rainforest – about twice the size of Germany – were destroyed by mankind. With no end in sight. And that can have serious consequences. Finally the rainforest in the Amazon basin is the habitat of many unique animal species and an important factor in the climate regulation. The Museu de Amanhã flags these and other problems. In a fascinating way. Metre-high screens look down on the visitors as fearsome giants with images that are even scarier. A picture gallery with mirrors showing the reasons for which we live. The cultural, political and natural diversity on this earth. Also the sensory sense is addressed.

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After visiting the museum we went back to Thiago’s apartment. The same scheme as the last few days. Metro, taxi and a few meters to walk. The next day we wanted to do a favela tour. Due to the weather conditions this wasn’t possible. As we got to know later, heavy rain in the favela causes landslides and flooding. A life-threatening condition. And so we went to the Escadaria Selaron on our last day in Rio de Janeiro. It’s in the city center, a connection between the two bairros Lapa and Santa Teresa. This staircase is more than 125 meters long and consists of 215 steps, which were decorated with colorful tiles from more than 60 countries around the world. A colorful dab in the otherwise drab area. The artwork was created by the eponymous Chilean painter and ceramic artist Jorge Selaron who lived at the foot of the stairs and was found dead there in January, 2013. The circumstances of his death are still unknown. The police has suspected a suicide. Selaron himself explained in an interview with “O Globo” just one day before he was found dead that he is threatened by a former employee. This is much certain: Selaron built a monument for eternity.

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POSTSCRIPT: Last weekend I returned to Rio de Janeiro and enjoyed two highlights which will be in my long time Brazilian Top 10. On Saturday, I have been to the Olé 2016 Tour of the Rolling Stones in the Estadio Marcanã. I have seen the legends in a legendary building. Incredible. And full of emotions. Just twelve hours later, there was another emotional event: the favela tour. I finally made it to visit the favela Rocinha with a tour guide. It was scary, freaky, full of strange people. And I have seen the biggest gun in my lifetime. Used by a drug dealer. But these topics will be part of my future posts.

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