I went straight from da clubz to the airport and was so out of sorts I didn’t notice the time difference in my 6-hour layover and almost missed my connecting had the very nice stewardess not let me run frantically across the tarmac, air traffic controllers yelling at me, the passengers on the plane glaring at me as I took my seat in the back.
Luckily, I had the warmest welcome party waiting for me in Cuiabá, ready with pizzas and celebrity heads and a home—which I had been without for so long. It was twelve days of sleeping in, home-cooked meals, lazy days binging The Wire, shopping with little sisters, a cake a day, all-you-can-eat Brazilian food, Cool Snap, Settlers of Catan, “Africa”, beers, sneaking onto roofs, jamming sessions and sing-alongs. Roadtrips to national parks, hiking to hidden waterfalls, looking for lost keys. We went to the most beautiful mirador, where it felt like we were standing on the edge of the world. We lay on our backs precariously close to the edge, laughing till we clutched our tummies, and watched the sunset. It is crazy that nature gives us freely something to be awed by on a daily basis; something as simple as dawn and dusk. It was the kind of day that inspires songs; Ricardo played it for us, crooning on the ukulele in the early morning, bringing tears to our eyes. There was such a fondness amongst Tiago’s family and friends that bled my heart dry.
Rio de Janeiro has over 150 different hostels listed on hostelworld so trying to pick a good one felt impossible, but luckily I stumbled upon a great one in Books Hostel on Lapa, full of friendly faces and deceptively strong happy hour caipirinhas. It was the week before the Olympics, so tensions were running high–a potent mix of excitement, anticipation and hostility. There is no other way to best describe Rio other than alive. It is packed with things to do and see and taste. From the beaches of Copacobana and Ipanema filled with sculpted abs and toned tummies, to the sprawl of favelas on either side, running steeply hillside, houses piling on top of one another, trying to outbuild their neighbours for the best view. The peaks of Dos Hermanos, Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ de la Redeemer where you could spy the city meeting the sea with a cold beer in hand. The colourful explosion of mosaics at Escadaria Selaron; the moving solar panels of the Museum of Tomorrow; the graffiti splattered walls of Santa Teresa; the raging street parties of Lapa– Rio is vibrant and vivacious and the manic-pixie-dream-girl you will fall in love with however begrudgingly.
Dos Hermanos, Rio de Janeiro
Ilha Grande by comparison was much more relaxed and quiet, reading Sylvia Plath on the beach, seeing seahorses in the water, sunbaking on boats. Curitiba consisted mainly of food and friends, drinks, music and art exhibitions. By the time I reached São Paulo, my very last stop of my Central and South American trip, I was tired and sad and broke. I was literally 50c short of the deposit required at the hostel which luckily the receptionist let slide, and had not eaten the entire day. Luckily the hostel bar worked on a tab system, so I lined my stomach with cachaça instead and a lively game of Kings broke out. I felt almost numb on my last day. A whole group of people swung by and boogied the night before and Tiago, Vitor and Ricardo dropped me off at my bus the next day, serenading me with our song and running alongside the bus until I was puddle of tears. It was painfully nostalgic to leave, but boy what a time it was.