Rio de Janeiro
-- Story by Erin --
31st: Memorial Day weekend in the States, and we are thinking about how our
family and friends are spending the 3-day weekend. We left Cuiaba and the Pantanal.
The weather has finally cooled a bit. We take a few days to get to Riberao Preto, where
Dagny is (our contact with the BMW Clube do Brasil). The road is paved but turns ugly with
potholes and broken pavement for much of the 1,000 kms. The small towns we stay in are
nice and friendly. One of them, Sao Simao in Goias State, is along the banks of a
beautiful lake. Its a very nice, clean town. Obviously the locals are very proud of
their city and take great care to keep it nice.
Arrive in Riberao Preto in Sao Paulo state 4 days later.
This is formerly a big coffee producing area but now taken over by sugar cane
plantations, partly to feed the need for alcohol for the cars of Brasil. We go immediately
to the BMW dealer there, Eurobike. A great group of guys who drop everything to help us do
our oil change and various other small bits. We find a curious, cheap, clean hostel in the
city center. The whole place is decorated like a Chinese restaurant.
Next day we meet Dagny, our contact through the BMW Club do
Brasil, who has given us so much great information via email. She treats us to lunch with
some friends of hers. Her friends later take us to a big book fair where we scour the
place looking for a good Portuguese/English dictionary. That night, Dagny and her husband
pick us up for dinner and take us to the famous restaurant/pub called Penguim (Penguin in
Portuguese). A great art deco style place that specializes in ice-cold draught beer made
in-house and lots of good deli meats and cheeses to munch on. Several other local members
of the club arrive with their families to welcome us as well. We spend a pleasant night
chatting about bikes and good routes to take in the north of the country.
Friday, September 6th: Leave RP early as we have
a long drive ahead of us. We aim for a small seaside village called Paraty. The ride is
fine, all superhighway until we get to the coast. Its a nice ride along the coast
for about 150 kms, weaving between jungle mountains and pristine beaches. We reach Paraty
about sunset and the view rounding the mountain and down into this bay is gorgeous. Paraty
is a popular weekend retreat for Cariocas (locals) from Rio. The town center is fairly
large and the old Portuguese architecture is still intact. The whole town is declared a
national historic monument. This weekend there was a big festival with lots of music, food
vendors and handicraft sellers. We decided to stay an extra day and enjoy it some more
before pushing on to Rio.
Get on the road early to do the 200 km ride to Rio. Wanted
to arrive early to give ourselves time to hunt down cheap accommodation. Find the city
center with no trouble and it all seems so deserted, like many city centers on a Sunday.
The weather is overcast and gloomy with a damp chill in the air. We check out several
hotels recommended either by friends or from our guidebook. All are expensive and some
dont even have parking. A few curious and kind locals (including Elcino and Karla
who we later become friends with) stop to chat with us and help us search, taking us to
some other neighborhoods as well. We finally find one place for $20US/night with parking.
Thats still expensive but we take it and decide to look more the next day.
Monday, we call a guy who is advertising apartments for
rent. He lives very near our hotel and shows us 3 of his apartments. They are decent,
clean and near the metro station and other amenities. Its not Copacabana or Ipanema
beaches but we assume thats out of our price range. We take one of his apartments
thats under his house, for $12/day. We have a kitchen so can prepare our own meals
and save some money. But, we have to park one of the bikes in a nearby parking garage for
$3 extra per day while the other bike is parked 20 or so kilometers away at the local BMW
dealer, waiting for a few parts.
We organize Portuguese lessons with a teacher named Guto.
Hes a nice guy who teaches privately. Chris and Elcino ride around town in the
morning to get parts for my bike. In the afternoon we ride out to the BMW dealer and
change the chain, sprockets and put a new battery in the bike.
Wednesday, Sept. 11th: Everywhere there are
memorials to the 9/11 attack last year. We cant find a TV that has CNN or BBC so we
have to watch the images on the local stations and read about the memorial services on the
That night, we have dinner in the trendy neighborhood of
Santa Theresa at a hip little restaurant with Carlos, a local m/c rider referred to us by
the folks in Riberao Preto and his friend Tico. They are very nice and talk to us about
places we should visit and introduce us to some very good food and special Samba music,
which is played live in the restaurant by some friends of theirs. Elcino and Karla join us
there as well and bring photos with them of the northern part of Brazil, to show us the
lovely beaches and quaint villages.
Thursday, Sept 12th: Chris cousin Peter is
supposed to arrive first thing that morning but when Chris gets to the airport he finds
out that Peters plane was cancelled and he will arrive in the evening. Around noon
we get a call from Peter who is at the Rio airport and giving us some bad news. The
immigration authorities wont let him in the country because he doesnt have a
visa! They want to send him home on the next plane to Miami. Our landlord finds out that
we might have company and immediately tells us we will have to pay more. By now, Chris is
fed up with our landlords greedy tactics on this and some other things and goes out
to look for another apartment, which he finds, and we tell our landlord we are leaving
tomorrow. Peter's cousin Aldo, from Uruguay, arrives at our apartment around 2pm and he
and Chris scramble to send emails and make phone calls to see if Peter can fly to
Montevideo or Buenos Aires instead and get his visa there. By that evening Peter is on a
flight to BA, and we take Aldo out for a few beers and a walk on the beach.
Friday, Sept 13th: Significant date! It is Day 1212, as well as
marking 3-years, 3-months, 3-weeks, and 3-days of the trip!
We move out of our apartment and into the new one in
Copacabana. It is a nice little one-bedroom place on the 12th floor of a
building just one block from the beach. If you stick your head out the bedroom window and
look left, you can see the beach! We feel quite lucky indeed. We get an email from Peter
which indicates he was successful in getting his visa and he will arrive tonight----more
good luck. That afternoon, Aldo wants to go for a city tour with a taxi and he invites me
along. Chris in the mean time finds parking for our bikes and heads out to the airport to
get Peter. The city tour is nice and we see more beaches and the beautiful inland forest
of Floresta da Tijuca. We arrive back to the apartment about 6pm and Chris and Peter
arrive shortly after. There is much excitement, as we want to know the whole story from
Peter. We go to the beach for drinks and snacks and get very buzzed on numerous
caipirinhas (the local drink made with cachasa their whiskey made from sugar cane-
crushed ice, limes and sugar. Its like a very spiked lemonade! "Friday the 13th" becomes a lucky day for us!
Next morning Aldo and Peter leave early to catch their next
flight to Salvador to meet up with some of Aldos school-mates. Chris then rides out
to the airport yet again to pick up our friend Helo who is arriving from Porto Alegre.
Helo has been a good friend to us this past year, helping with shipping and flight
information (she works for Lufthansa airlines), contact info and various other little
favors. We are happy to be seeing her again in Brasil. That afternoon we take a long walk
along the beaches of Copa and Ipanema and drink more caipirinhas on the beach to catch up
on all the news from Porto Alegre. That night we find a typical boteca (like a local
bar/restaurant) and have beers and some interesting local specialties like black beans
with crispy bacon and spicy crabmeat balls.
Sunday, Sept 15th: Elcino meets us and we four
take the bikes for a ride along the beaches and way out to the end of the beach in Barra
de Tijuca. We stop for lunch at a great little seaside spot with outdoor tables, and eat a
huge fish with lots of side dishes. Our view is of hundreds of surfers below us and the
skyline of Rio off in the distance. Later Elcino takes us up into the mountains behind
Rio, near where the big statue of Christ is, and the forests are beautiful, as are the
views. The forest was replanted in the 1950s when it was discovered that the
deforestation, caused by coffee plantation owners, was changing the weather patterns and
depriving the area of much needed rainfall. The whole area was replanted with native
vegetation and today it is a great sanctuary for both the wild animals and stressed
Cariocas (term used to refer to local Rio inhabitants). That night, Elcinos
wife Karla joined us in Copa for a picnic dinner on the beach. We drank the wonderful wine
made by relatives of Helo and have snacks of meats and cheeses. Elcino and Karla laugh
because they have lived their whole lives in Rio and never had a picnic on the beach
Monday, we go with Helo to the Center and wonder around a
bit. She has to stop in at her Rio office to check in with them on some things and Chris
and I use the internet. Later we all catch the trolley up to Santa Theresa for an
interesting daytime view of this old neighborhood. We get off in the middle of ST and find
a local boteca to have a cold beer and some fried yucca, which is served with a warm,
spicy oil as a condiment. Before Helo has to leave for the airport we have one final
caipirinha on the beach. Because by now weve had a lot of alcohol to drink we catch
a taxi to the airport with Helo to say goodbye. Its a teary, goodbye to say the
least as we try to convince her to come visit us again in the north, in Salvador.
The great guys at EuroBike, Riberao Preto
Celebrating Peter's arrival with a few caipirinhas on the beach.
L to R: Aldo, Chris, me and Peter
Sunday fish lunch while watching the surfers.
Elcino, Chris, me and Helo
The view of Rio around sunset from the mountains behind it.
Laughing it up with a few drinks in a boteca with Helo
An impromptu beach dinner.
The beach gang, including Karla resting against Elcino.
View of the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel from the beach in front.