Porto Alegre

Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
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39
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Trip End Jun 23, 2010


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Where I stayed
Albert Hotel

Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio Grande do Sul,
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

30.11.09

Up bright and early to catch the bus to Porto Alegre, capital of the state we are in, Rio Grande do Sul. Gulped down a quick breakfast because we were in for a 6 hour bus trip.

Oh, Hallelujah, it's raining again!

I ran back to the elevator to get my raincoat from my room to cover my plaster cast.

It’s a steep walk downhill to the bus terminal, but we did it in record time. However, we were unable to dodge the lashing, summer rain and so we were a tad damp when we hopped on the bus. It won’t be the last time I’m sure.



1.12.09

Our first impressions of Porto Alegre were that it was an old city, but it’s not really so old, by historical standards. It was teeming with people and bustlingly busy in the city centre. It reminded us a little of India with its density of people in a small area. The many poor people in the city were busy collecting recyclable things like cardboard, empty bottles, copper wire from low voltage light transformers, and anything which could turn a quid. Horses and carts were many. They were laden with materials which had been collected from outside the premises of the many shops and stalls in the city. I’ve obviously been sheltered in little Frederico Westphalen for too long as I found the crowd quite overwhelming .

We found a little coffee shop where we could sit outside and watch the hustle and bustle of the crowd. A few kids asked for money, there were some buskers, singers and street entertainers. It was very busy and we soon began to relax and almost blend in.

There was one group of entertainers I fell in love with. Four Indian/Peruvian looking girls, obviously from one family, were singing in 4 part harmony, gently hopping from foot to foot in unison keeping to the rhythm being played on guitar by their Dad, (I presume) who was quite seriously looking on at his progeny, making sure the girls were performing properly. The girls were all dressed in a calf length purple skirt and a white blouse. It was so moving and tuneful; they were drawing quite a generous crowd.

We booked into the Albert Hotel where the rooms were large and the TV had some English programs. The queen sized bed looked tempting after the long bus trip. I made us a cup of coffee and we headed out into the street again for dinner. We decided we’d go to the most popular restaurant, where the locals eat. After walking a few laps of the city street and not really being familiar with the area, we saw a line of people and joined the queue. When we started to get towards the head of the queue, we saw a familiar sign on the front of the restaurant…. McDonalds.   Oh well, at least we knew what we would be eating.

Breakfast was delicious at the Albert Hotel and we dallied a bit overlooking the river port of Port Alegre during our meal.

Because we were at Port Alegre on a mission, we thought we’d better get on with it. We needed to purchase summer riding jackets, as the ones we have are much too hot for the warm conditions here in Brazil, and those we will encounter in Chile, Peru and probably all the way up the western coast of the USA. We caught a taxi to the outskirts of Porto Alegre. The driver had 2 ID licenses on the front window of the two operators of the taxi, one I recognized was of the current driver. The trip from the hotel to the Hypomoto cost R$21.60. We gave the driver R$25 and everyone was happy.

We were met at the shop by the owner Beto Marshall, who is also an avid rider. Beto broke both his wrists on separate occasions within 3 months of each other, a year ago,  just by "stop and drop" incidences, like mine.  We selected 2 jackets, a yellow one for me and black for Des, which was not in stock at the time. Beto made some phone enquiries and took us to lunch while we waited to hear if stock was available for Des’s jacket in Porto Alegre.

Yes, there was to be a delivery of the jacket by 10am the next day. The buffet lunches are not “All you can eat” as in Australia. Our plate of food was weighed by the lady at the checkout and because it was under a certain weight (usually 665gms), it was at a set price, over, and it would have cost more.

After we left the Hypomoto Motorcycle Shop. The driver of the taxi which took us back to the hotel took us on a loop via the airport, which brought the meter up to R$25 and we were a long way from the hotel yet. We then noticed that there was no ID in the taxi. We realized we were being taken for a ride. Des pulled the driver up on the meter reading, shook his finger at him and raised his voice. There was an obvious communication barrier, but we’re confident he got Des’s meaning. When we arrived at the hotel the meter was up to R$40.16. This could be embarrassing. We paid the driver R$40 without saying a word. It must have pricked his conscience because he gave Des R$10 back.    

When we went out to dinner at 9pm, we were amazed at how quiet the streets had become. All was tidy and the streets clean. The café we dined in was just about to close, so we bolted down our food quickly and asked to be let out. The manager kept the door locked, while he visually scoured the street up and down from a small window in the upper part of the door. When the coast was clear, (apparently), he opened a half door and let us out. That was a bit freaky. We had been warned to be careful in Porto Alegre, and had seen quite a lot of security. Even the guard in the travel agency wore body armour.  Although, it was different at the Gambio (Cambio or money exchange). There, people were changing, God knows how much money, but there was no security for them coming out into the street. The staff though, were behind bullet proof glass, and spoke to the customers with an intercom system.

We changed some Australian dollars there for Brazilian Reais. I had the good sense to check the rate on the internet before we went, so I had an idea what I would accept. One Australian dollar was worth R$1.6273 (Br) . I thought if I get R$1.5 and a small commission charge, I’ll be doing OK. I was surprised to get $1.6 and no commission. Wow, I’m in clover!! The Australian dollar is very strong at the moment, lucky for us.

When I changed money in Fos do Iguazu, I was not so clever, or lucky. I wanted to change some money before we got back to Frederico Westphalen, as they don’t take Australian dollars there. It was the morning we were leaving the falls and I raced across the road (looking both ways, twice) to exchange some money. I asked the exchange rate and the 'person in charge’ came around the counter and asked me how much I had. I told him $500 Australian, which he took from me. He smacked it onto the counter, jabbered something in Portuguese to the staff, and gave me a handful of dough and a receipt indicating an exchange rate of $1AUS to R$1.2 Reais. I was done like a dinner! Leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but makes you smarter next time.
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Comments

joe leeuwrik on

Very interesting.
But watch where you are going.
Hallo from Mum en Me.

joe leeuwrik on

Where are you stowing the extra jackets ?
Dad.

Rogério on

Porto Alegre is much better than that. The problem is the downtown, which is really abandoned. The main area of business has moved since the 50s to an avenue 3km away from the old downtown.

Of course, Porto Alegre itself is to blame for abandoning its downtown in such a way. Its the first place in the city tourists see, and what a bad first impression it causes.

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