Current Date: Feb. 19, 2003 11:30 a.m. (Porto Seguro)

Current Itinerary: Had a great day yesterday...can't wait to write about it...I will leave here tonight on an overnight bus to Salvador where I will spend the weekend...very good chance that my friend from Houston will come! Still plan to go to Morro do Sao Paulo for a couple days after that and then to Recife!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Woke early in Buzios and was planning to take the 11:00 bus back to Rio...but in the end I needed one last Crepe at Chez Michou. Rio could wait a couple hours.

Dave and I headed out...stopped at the internet place to see if I had heard from Deb and Brad who were supposed to be getting to Buzios the previous night. Since Dave and Deb are from the same city in Australia, he wanted to meet her...Alas, they were going to show up in Buzios on that same day and we were leaving.

We headed up to Chez Michou for a quick bite before I left. It was finally time for Dave and I to go our seperate ways. We had been traveling together since the previous week in Paraty. I was very sad for us to part...we made a pretty good team and he was an AWESOME guy. Not many guys I would dedicate this quote to, but "If we ever had a problem with Elaine, we could bring in Dave and not miss a step."

One of the great pleasures of doing traveling like this is meeting some the great people that are in the world, and he was certainly one of them. I could tell that if we lived in the same place, we would have been great friends...but I guess we achieved that anyway, even if it was only a week that we spent together. I guess I will have a lot of tough goodbyes as I am traveling along...that's just how it is. Anyway Dave, thanks for the good times man...see you in Australia.

I got on the bus to Rio at 1:00 and got there at 4. I did internet for awhile in the bus station b/c it was the only place that I had been that had a fast connection. From there I went to the HI hostel but there wasn't any beds available so I was forced to go to another place. The other hostel was not the best in accomodations but oh well...I'm sure along my way there will be a lot worse.

Just after getting to the hostel, I was in my room and just getting ready to open my bag and change clothes when I guy walked by and we started talking. His name was Yossi/Israel. He said that he and some friends were leaving right then to go to sugarloaf mountain...which is supposed to be GREAT at sunset. Besides Corcovado (the Christ statue that overlooks the city that I saw last year) it is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Rio. It was something I wanted to do for sure so I decided I could get settled in later and go with them.

So I just started following this pack, not really knowing where I was going. A bus ride later we were there. I had gotten an e-mail from a friend of Doug's, Juliana, that is from Rio. I gave her a call at that time to tell her I was in Rio and we decided to meet up at an Irish pub the following day. Cool, another Irish pub.

Anyway, you have to take these cable cars to get to the top of Sugarloaf...the ride up is very cool. You feel a bit scared because the car gently sways as it is going up and you are thinking, that little wire is the only thing holding up this entire car that has about 50 people in it. Anyway, as you rise up and the city kind of opens up below you, it is a spectacular site. There are two peaks so you actually have to take two cable cars to get to the top. One funny little observation was that they give you this big ticket that has four little stubs on it...they rip off one each time you get on the cable car...but as I said, there are only two cable car rides to get to the top...the other two tickets are for the way down. You have got to be kidding me. The summit is 1200 ft. above the city. The only way to get up there is the cable car. I mean, how the hell else am I going to get down from up there than to take the car back down. Do I really need a TICKET to get back on the car that I obviously just rode to get up there. And what if you lose that ticket? Do you just have to live up there on top of the mountain for the rest of your days? I swear I see so many things down here that are so smart in the way they are done, but sometimes there is stuff that really makes no sense.

Anyway, the view from the top was absolutely beautiful. We got there just in time to see the sunset which was cool. I took some great pictures but I don't think they will come out that well. You could really see the whole city. Rio must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world from an aerial view...there are lots of mountains surrounding it and the ocean is there too. The mountains are different though...sort of like in Monterrey where they almost shoot straight up into the air. I bet the horizontal distance from the peak to the base of sugarloaf is about 200 meters. It really is just straight up into the air. Very nice.

We stayed at the top for quite awhile...I was talking to one of the Israeli girls. She had been on the road for 4 months already. It is very common for Israelis to travel for several months in between highschool and their MANDATORY army time...2 years for girls...3 years for guys. That's right, there is no choice. Everybody has to do it. That would be tough. I know that in Greece they have to do the same and Spain did also into a few years back...and probably many other countries to. Makes me think about how some us really take our freedom for granted.

Anyway, we were talking about home and what things I thought I would miss the most when I got to that 4 month mark. Easy one for me...all of you guys. I have so many wonderful people in my life...and I know on this journey I will meet many more...and I think about that all the time. I know it will get very tough on somedays when I get a little lonely, and my hometeam isn't around me to keep me up. I sat and thought about home for awhile while I was up on top of that mountain. I just wish everyone back home was right along with me on this journey...I was wishing you could all see what I was seeing right then...the beautiful lights of Rio de Janiero...warm breeze in your face...and just loving being alive to see it.

Around 9 we decided to head back towards the hostel...good thing I still had my ticket to get back down:) A confusing bus ride later, we made it back...I was finally able to settle in and grab a shower and was ready to go out.

One of the Israeli guys had heard of some bar in the barrio called Lapa so we decided to there. I wanted to go to Ipanema but I'm always up for trying different stuff.

It was a bit of a battle with the Taxi drivers but we finally negotiated a fair price to get to where we wanted. When we got to the place in Lapa, there was an R$8 cover but it was only open for another hour...so decided not to go in. We were all pretty hungry so we decided to just go to a bar instead...not an easy thing to do with that group. I am more of the school of seeing a place with people and just going in...if it isn't good, you can always just have a beer and then leave. They did not seem to agree with this philosophy...each stop consists of a 5 minute analysis of the Menu...then another 5 minute discussion in Hebrew and then nobody wants to go in. After 3 stops like that I was getting pretty fed up and regretting hitching my wagon to this group. We were very far from the hostel though...an expensive cab ride if you do it alone so I didn't have much choice but to stick it out. We FINALLY decided on this pretty cool neighborhood bar. We go in and I order a chopp...this is the word for draft beer here in Brazil...the girls in this group had been traveling for a couple weeks in Brazil, they all drink beer and they had not learned what "chopp" meant yet (and I believe two of them had come from Argentina where the term is also used). Never mind that on every corner there is a picture of beer with the word "chopp" right below it. You could not know a single word of Portuguese and figure this out. That is a pretty good sign of what I consider to be a bad traveler. I mean, they travel (which is good) without really doing it right (for the record, Americans are notorious for this and it is very hard to break that stereotype) They do not get to know the places they visit or the culture very well...a shame I think.

Anyway, the bar was nice and we had some good food. The guy, Yossi, who had invited me to Sugarloaf was actually very cool, but the rest of the group was pretty lame. I could tell he was sort of sick of them, but his girlfriend was there so he had no choice but put up with it.

We got home pretty early but I still wanted to do something. Out on the patio area of the hostel there were a bunch of people talking in Spanish so I decided to go hang out with them. It turned out to be these four girls from Chile, one guy from Germany, and I guy from Mexico (who was studying in Germany). They were all really cool and we hung out there for about an hour. I told them all my story about how I had ended up on my trip and it was cool. I also told them about Buzios and I actually convinced the Mexican guy (Daniel) and the German to go there. I'm sure they loved it. I am on a crusade to get everyone I know to go to that city...it is FAB-U-LOUS.

Anyway, I really enjoyed chatting with all of them and I almost felt like going back to Buzios myself after talking about it. Went to bed in my room that was pretty much a sauna around 3.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Woke around 9:30...went down and had a little of the free hostel breakfast...no papayas were left though...DAMMIT!! I met a pretty cool guy from England and we talked for awhile. He was traveling for a month and had been in Florianapolis (I was there last year) so we talked about that for awhile.

My plan for the day was to find an internet place that I could upload my pictures at and then head to the beach. I ended up finding a place that I could also install programs so I ended up spending almost the entire day there working on my pictures, adding to the website and writing journals. I really wanted SOME beach time though so I left there around 5. Went back to the hostel and dumped all my stuff and then headed to Copacabana beach, which was a short walk from the hostel. When I got down to the beach, I remembered why it is the worst of the Rio beaches...it is a bit dirty and certainly can't compare with the praia do Sono. Anyway, it does have a decent atmosphere since it is so popular. Lot's of people out playing sports and in the water. By the way, if you want to see something amazing, go to Rio and sit and watch the foot-volleyball players on the beach. It is very common on the beach there. It basically the same thing as what we know as volleyball...except you cannot use your hands. I don't think I have to tell you the level of skill and athleticism required to play this game. I could really watch those guys play for hours...sometimes there are quite long volleys that just blow me away.

Anyway, I sort of decided to just walk along the beach and people watch. Before I knew it I had walked all the way to the end of Copacabana beach...so I decided to walk over to Ipanema, which is where I originally wanted to go anyway. It is a very short distance to walk from one to the other. I decided I would go and look for the guy that owned the stand on the beach that had taken Tony and I diving off the rocks last year. The stand was still there and the girl who worked there was the same, but sadly,the guy (can't remember his name) was not around. Oh well. I walked a little longer towars Leblon and then realized that I was a solid hour walk from the hostel so I had to turn around. I trekked along the beach all the way back to the hostel and it was a very pleasant walk...also aided by the fact that you can stop and buy beer on the beach while walking.

Got back to the hostel with just enough time to shower and then go and meet up with Doug's friend Juliana. I recruited the four Chilean girls that I had met the night before to go out with me. The place was within walking distance so we headed out on foot. About 15 minutes and one wrong turn later we made it. Juliana was really nice and I wish that we could have hung out a little more. We had solid hour that we got to talk though and that was cool. I got to fill her in on Doug's life since he apparently was doing a poor job of it...that's right buddy...I am picking up your slack. After awhile, the girls from Chile wanted to leave. I really wanted to stay and chat with Juliana longer but I figured we didn't have too much more time anyway...it was getting late and she had to work the next day. Anyway, I was glad I got the chance to talk to her. Her english was amazing...virtually no accent, well no Brazilian accent...more of an English accent. It was weird...the pub was very small and there were only Brazilians in there, yet everybody spoke english. I imagine that sort of thing can't be too common. Anyway, I promised Juliana I would keep in contact with her so welcome to my list!! It is funny, usually people don't think I mean it when I say I will keep in touch and that they will get e-mails from me. I always try to tell them that they don't know what they have gotten themselves into by giving me their e-mail address. Well, I guess now they know:)

The girls and I walked somewhat aimlessly for a few minutes and then somehow managed to catch a bus to Ipanema...I knew that there were several places to go to there.

At first, I started getting into the same problem from the previous night...I see a place with people...I go in...I need to remember that everyone does not do things that way. We went into a couple places for about a minute each and then they wanted to go somewhere else. We finally settled at this great bar that I think was called "The Emporium" or something like that. It was very full and many people were standing outside on the sidewalk drinking and talking, but you could still hear the music. We stayed there for a few hours and really had fun. We met a few cool locals. We caught a bus back to the hostel around 4 or so and went to bed.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Woke up around 10 and chatted with a bunch of Poms (Australian word for English people...learned it from Dave...not sure if it is insulting but I don't think so. It sounds cool so I am going to use it unless someone informs me that it is inappropriate) in the room next door to me for awhile. Convinced everybody in their room to go to Buzios. I think I have gotten somewhere in t he neighborhood of 10 people to go to that place...and I am positive they are all satisfied with with their choice.

Anyway, those folks were really cool and I sort of wished I had hung out with them a bit more during my time in Rio. C'est la vie. My plan was to check out of the hostel, store my bags, and then head to the beach for a few hours. Then I would head up to the bus station around 6 to look for overnight buses to Guarapari. While packing all my stuff up, an Argie guy that I had met the night before and the one who was in the bed above me came in and we talked for bit. They were so cool. I think Argies might be the most friendly of all the people I have met...but it is a close race. I went down and checked out of the hostel, but I wanted to take an overnight bus so I knew I would be spending the entire day in Rio. One of the Argie guy's let me store my bag on his bed while I went out to do some things in the city. I grabbed a quick and delicious by the kilo meal and then headed to the internet place. I spent about 2 hours there answering e-mails and doing some instant messenging. By then, I didn't really have enough time to go to the beach so I headed back to the hostel. I had to fix my sandal that had broken back in Buzios and I knew that was going to take awhile. Unlike last year however, I did not have to worry about the needle and thread b/c I had brought it with me. As I often say, experience is the best teacher.

There are somethings that I think only a backpacker will understand, and this might be one of them. There is such an amazing feeling of gratification when you have an item that you brought with you that you knew you may or may not use...and you finally use it!! I mean, you just think to yourself, I am so glad I have carried this damn thing around. Now, I know a needle and thread is not a big item and requires little effort to throw in your bag, but that is of little consequence. It doesn't matter how big the item is (although the bigger it is, the more gratifying it is) it just matters that you were smart enough to bring it. Let's not forget the one hour Wal mart debacle I had to go through last year trying to obtain a needle and thread.

Anyway, I fixed my sandle (woohoo) and headed for the bus station. It took a whole hour to get there by city bus...but it only cost about 40 cents...much better than the 6 dollar cab ride I had taken to get there. Gotta economize when you are on the road.

Got to the bus station and was sadly informed that the next bus to Guarapiri was not for another 4 and a half hours. Oh well, I thought...I can work on journals for a while. A couple hours later, I grabbed some food and then decided to call Duane and say hi. It was good to talk to him. Finally it was time for me to get out of there...thank god...there is no A/C in that place and it was not exactly cool. I drank 3 liters of water in the time I was in there.

Leaving the bus station in Rio was a very surreal feeling...for the second time on the trip, and for the first time of many from that point on...I was headed to destination unknown...I mean to say that Sao Paulo, Buzios, and Rio were all places I had been before. From that point forward, it was all going to be new. I wondered about how my next month would be and about all the people I would meet. I mean, I had already done so much. It was an interesting thing during my time there in the hostel...when people asked me how long I was traveling for and my answer was a year, it felt good b/c for once I was the one with the good answer. I used to be so ashamed to say two weeks or three weeks...so many people you meet at the hostels are traveling for many months. Now I am one of them...but even more gratifying is that I am really still at the very beginning. At that point, I was exactly two weeks into my journey. Life is good.
I wonder a lot about where I will be and when 3 or 4 months have gone by. Will I get bored? Will I hate it moving from place to place so much? Somehow I doubt that but I guess you don't know until you get there. Either way, I look forward to the road ahead with great anticipation...just as I have over the past several months.

I fell asleep peacefully, my head dancing with the thought of moving closer and closer to the unknown.

AC

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