Rowdy Rio

Trip Start Feb 19, 1992
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Trip End Jun 28, 1992


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Thursday, February 20, 1992

 The first thing I remember upon arrival at Rio was people trying to exchange money at the airport, it's pretty intimidating since you don't know if they're out to cheat you or not.  Later I realized that inflation was running so rapid at that time that they were simply looking to make a buck on the exchange rates the next day.


The second thing I remember is my friend's camera being stolen out of his backpack before it left the airplane, what a shame.  Before even going to the hotel, we went to the Israeli embassy to tell them we arrived, a practice we kept up at every country, simply so that someone would know where we are.  Low and behold I met a friend from the military, an occurrence which to this day keeps happening, running into people I know all over.
I love it, a great benefit of traveling as far as I'm concerned.

At Hotel Opera, which was in the seedy part of Rio, overlooking the slums, we went overboard and paid extra for a room with air-conditioning (I think it was US$1 or some ridiculously low amount which most backpackers simply refused to pay).  We did not put our passports or cash in the hotel safe deposit box, but carried them on our person in the form of travelers checks, and simply exchange the exact amount of money we needed everyday.  Certainly it was an inconvenience at times, but the hotel got robbed several days later, and we were lucky we had our passports.  Also, since the exchange rate changed everyday in our favor, our exchange practice saved us a lot of money.


Since it was almost Carnival, we went to a local drum party almost everyday; they were great.  Basically a bunch of folks take out drums and start playing and dancing, and people on the street simply join them.  Of course we visited all the places we simply must visit while in Rio, the corcovado, Copacabana Beach, Ipanema, and Sugar Mountain among others.
 


 There were many prostitutes on the strip every evening, even though one would never recognize them until they approached you, turned out these were good girls trying to make some money at the time when tourists are flaunting to the city.  We would see them on the strip, in bars, clubs and more.  Being lily white we attracted most of them thinking they could lure us, but the fear of AIDS kept us away from them.

We ate at many local restaurants, basically followed the locals, which is where we were introduced to beans and rice, as well as our favorite, a food called Pique (sp?), which is basically beef stew served in a soup bowl topped with French fries.     We were also introduced to Sucos, fruit juice made on the spot, with milk and maybe sugar.  Everyday when we got up at the crack of noon, we had at least one Ssuco.  Each Suco cost 480 cruzeros at the time, which was USD$1.  When we came back to Brazil, several months later, each suco still cost USD$1, but this time it was around 3,000 cruzeros. 
Then I understood why I got so many exchange offers at the airport.

One particular evening we decided to treat ourselves to a steak dinner on the Copacabana beach.  The steak was good, but we had to stop every five or ten minutes because beggars would stop by our table (we ate outside) to ask for charity.  The wait staff got rid of them if they saw them.  Later we discovered we didn't have enough money to pay for the dinner, but the waiter said just to give him what we had.  We came back the next day to give him the rest plus a big tip.


We met several English folks and decided to go to a football game with them. Rio has the largest stadium in the world called Maracana, which is huge, beautiful and very organized. We took the subway which was filled with fans dressed in the local team's colors (red shirts)
The whole time we got strange looks, but figured it's because we are strangers in a strange land, until we got to the stadium. We realized that all of us, from some reason are wearing blue shirts, the opposing team's colors. We took our shirts off (the ladies tied them up to be less noticeable), but to the credit of the good folks in Rio they realized what had happened and didn't give us any problems. Still, it was uncomfortable.

 
The other side of Rio.
It was very dangerous to walk on the beach at night, you were told not to cross the street towards the beach.  You could freely walk all you want on the other side, you might get robbed or pick pocketed, but you'd live.  If a policeman caught someone stealing, they wouldn't arrest them, but bring them into an enclosure and beat the living hell out of them.  I only took the camera with me if I knew we were going somewhere, otherwise I'd hide it in the hotel room, which explains why there aren't many pictures.
 
The carnival itself was fantastic.  At first we went to some sort of tourist parade on Copacabana, I couldn't help but think about the scene in Moonraker the whole time. We bought tickets to the stadium parade, and decided to get the expensive tickets which were well worth the money.  We sat at the VIP section, with tables, chairs, waitress service and front row viewing of all the floats and people.  It was fantastic.
 
After ten days, just when we started being able to distinguish between words when someone was talking to us in Portuguese, we moved on and made our way via bus to the Iguazu Falls.
 
Overall Rio has:
Good beer
Nice girls
Good food.
Thumbs up from me.
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Where I stayed
Hotel Opera

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