A Travellerspoint blog

South American Transit

You will probably be arrested.

overcast 25 °C
View Will and Sams World Tour 2009 on willandsam's travel map.

Having had a crazy couple of weeks in Rio, it was time to move on (and dry out) in Peru... This was the 48 hours of travel that we had been dreading.. a flight to Santiago, Chile for a 9 hour stopover, before a connecting flight to Lima.. We were then in for a 21 hour bus trip over the Andes to Cusco, a regional capital and centre of the old Inca empire. Filled with dread but also a strange masochistic desire to get moving, we headed to Rio Airport at the civilised time of 430am.
Being in Rios tourist centre you dont get an idea of the true scope of Brazils poverty, but as the sun pushed through the smog on the way to the airport, squalid slums stetched forever.. The way people live here makes you guilty for spending anything, or for having the opportunity to travel like this...
Anyway we checked in and headed into the bowels of the airport, all of which looked like it had been stuck in a 1968 timewarp. We almost expected to be fed fondue and given a complimentary pair of travel flares before boarding... Nothing was open except duty free so Sam was happy! I dragged her out of there to board the plane, chuffed that ´my wallet was still intact and we had an exit row seat (thanks Qantas club). Noone told us that these exit row chairs didnt recline at all. 5 hours and 15 minutes of sitting in a church pew later, we decided that we really didnt need the extra 1.6 inches of legroom after all, and if the plane did go down i would deliberately block the exit.
After a quick stopover in Sao Paulo, the descent into Santiago was beautiful.. The city is built right next to the snowcapped mountains of the Andes, so the views are fantastic. After Rios 60´s splendour we expected Santiago airport to perhaps refer to the Wright Brothers feats as breaking news.. but we were blown away, the place looks space age and has more shops and restaurants than Mascot! (which isnt heaps but after 6 weeks in South America it feels like NASA HQ).
We managed to talk our way into American Airlines 1st class lounge.. free food, drinks and cable TV. Sweet. We then decided that Chile is the best place ever. How wrong we were.
Our boarding time approached, and we headed to the gate.. As we approached, over the loudspeaker came a bunch of mumbled Spanish, followed by ´Mr William McCloy´. This was repeated a few times with increased urgency, as we broke into a run.. At first we wondered whether we had spent too much time enjoying free food, and were late to board, but they werent calling Sams name. Strange...
We got to the check in desk, where the flight attendant was flanked by two Chilean Military police. I walked up and identified myself, at which point i was told that they has found a restricted substance in my bag, and could i please follow them. As the blood drained from my face, i followed them down the gangway. Nobody spoke a word of English and my spanish is limited to ún cervesa, por favor´ (Beer, now) so it was quite a scary sensation to be heading off with these moustachioed gun toting nutcases. Anyway, they put me in a van and we drove off into the night, away from the plane which was now being boarded by all those who hadnt yet been arrested. We drove to the other side of the airport, where we came upon more official looking hairy chilean people all standing in a circle around a bag. Sams bag.
From what i could make out from our ensuing game of charades, the dogs had sniffed something suspect in Sams bag.. They wouldnt let me open it, and they wouldnt open it, so much walkie talkie action happened, with lots of arm waving and arguing, none of which i could understand, while my heart rate topped 200 bpm for the first time since the City to Surf.
Heartened by the fact that that i could be out in 3 to 5 years with good behaviour, I was taken away again (without the bag) to the Police station in the airport (apparently they need one) where there were yet more cops with guns. Not normal guns either, big shiny M16 style machine guns. With all the moustaches and weaponry it felt like an episode of Spanish Magnum PI.
More arguing and arm waving later i was sweating like Schappelle Corby, and we went back to the location of the bag, which by then i was sure was filled with either Cocaine, Marijuana, explosives, Osama Bin Laden, or 400 illegal immigrants. They finally let me open it, and lo and behold what did we find... Not old Osama and his illegal imigrant family strapping dynamite to themselves while operating a Heroin Lab... but a half full can of Mortein.
My relief was short lived, however, as they all saw the can and stood back a few paces. While they yelled at me, i picked up the can, and pointed to the dead cockroach on the front. Bug spray i said, several times. Apparently that doesnt translate, as they backed away from me even further. Miming the killing of a fly, i tried to explain the purpose of the can, but they werent having a bar of it. I decided against spraying it to demonstrate, lest i be cut down in a hail of bullets and misunderstanding. Eventually one brave officer of the law took it upon himself to investigate the can, and i was released from the clutches of Chilean law to live another day. Medal of honour for that man, for bravery under fire (of bug spray).
I was released from custody after a severe dressing down from the head idiot, none of which i understood (but as a wiped the spit from my face, i got the jist of it). I got back to the plane, walked down the gangway to find Sam blocking the flight attendant from closing the plane door, and yelling that if i didnt get on the plane, nobody was bloody well leaving. She saw me and immediately burst into tears. Fair enough though as id been gone for 45 minutes or more, and since i was freaking out, i can only imagine what was going through her mind. We boarded, and worst of all, were subjected to Keanu Reeves movies for the next 4 hours.
When your in South America, dont look at anyone, dont speak, dont even breathe. Just get out as fast as you can!

Posted by willandsam 10:12 Archived in Chile Tagged transportation Comments (2)

Jeebus

Dedicated to my loving brother..Jamie Jimbob Dennis

sunny 42 °C

Well as promised Will and I spent our final days in Rio being very touristy...having conquered the soccer then Sugar Loaf we decided to take on the iconic Christ Statue aka Jeeebus , Jimbob (Jamie check out this guys chin only slightly smaller than yours). Practically locals now we took the bus, not feeling our best, Will had a slight case of food poisoning, we had to check out of our hotel so we had no base ie no bathroom and it was about 42 degrees. We arrived safely at Corcovado Mountain only to discover it was a Saturday and 3 huge cruise liners had arrived and every American tourist and their annoying nintendo playing child also wanted to visit the statue..this meant a four hour wait for the train...arghhh in the heat with Will camping outside the nearest toilet just incase we needed to make a mad dash..

Finally our train was boarding, to fill in time we had been looking through our photos, classic, some really good ones, well done on our behalf..the train took about 45mins to reach the top, it was so hot that we both stuck to the seats and when we got out a lovely patch of sweat had migrated itself on our backs and pants...ewww back sweat and to make matters worse it looked asthough we had both wet ourselves...moving on..

Not really knowing what to expect i hadnt really taken into account that we would have to walk upstairs, isnt that why we took the train to reach the top..what is this we are on holidays, unlike all the fat American tourists who had decided to take the lift, yes there is a lift, we sucked it up and ascended the first flight. Well there is some good news and some bad news...

Good news...we hadnt reached the statue yet but even still the view was absolutely gorgeous, we could see Sugar Loaf which meant we were higher and our previous A4 piece of paper experience was all but a distant memory..
Bad news...we switched the camera on and hey presto the red light no battery light flashed before our eyes..the whole point of this Jeebus trip was to take some great pictures, it is the memories, it is all about the memories and the big statue with the ridiculous chin and Will and I doing embarrassing poses infront of the statue pretending we look like the statue minus the big chin...breath in breath out...

So with this we limited our picture taking, forgot about the view, fingers crossed, sprinted the final stairs and busted out as many pictures as we could before our camera went dead. I actually have to say the Christ Statue - The Redeemer, as it is known was pretty cool. It is huge (approx 38 metres and weighs 635 tonnes about 600 of that are his chin). The craftmanship is pretty amazing and it just spins you out that they can place something that huge on a random mountain.

All in all it was a successful day, oh minus the part when we finally arrived at our hostel only to find they had no record of our booking and that "sorry man we are full" oh and also this encouraging comment " yeah like it will be totally hard to find accommodatio on saturday night"...so we went back to our original too expensive hotel and they had a cancellation which we greatfully jumped on...

Ahh Praise the lord...

Posted by willandsam 10:24 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Rio - The best place in South America

i mean, that we have been too...

sunny 33 °C

After the culture shock of Buenos Aires, the natural beauty of Iguazu Falls, and the complete isolation of Bombinhas, Sam and i were both ready to get a bit of beach-cocktail-sleep-repeat action going on.. We almost didnt make it to Rio, as our long booked accomodation fell through at the last minute... We thought we might give it a miss, but just a couple of days before we were due there our American friend Marshall (he speaks Portuguese so we recruited him from Buenos Aires - yes we are using him) sorted a hotel room just a couple of blocks from Copacabana beach... sweet!
So off we trekked on yet another 17 hour bus trip, from Itapema north to Rio.. By this stage we were bus veterans, and settled in for yet another punishing journey. A day and a night later we rolled off the bus (which wasnt much more than a school bus) and we were there... We had heard repeated warnings of the dangers of the city.. People getting held up at gun point, mugged, pickpocketed, murdered etc... so we set off with sam clinging to me like a newborn...
After paying far too much for a cab (haggling is hard work when you havent slept for several days) we broke the sound barrier on the way to Copacabana. Road rules do not apply in this city.. the one rule is you go as fast as you want, wherever you want and if anyone gets in your way you just yell and throw whatever is handy... in fact, on the way we saw a couple of cop cars stoped on the side of the highway.. we wondered what they were doing, and if there had been an accident.. Well turns out this poor guy has come off his motorbike and was lying on the road covered in blood, but the cops werent helping him, they were arguing over who got to take the bike.
Seriously.
We made it to the luxurious Hotel Angrense (we still dont know how to pronounce it) and got shown to our room. After the hostel dorms of the past month a real hotel room was like staying in the Taj Mahal! We even had our own bathroom! Unheard of..
We decided to immediately find the closest bottle shop and celebrate our arrival, which resulted in waking up the following morning with a splitting headache, and opening the door to find the mercury had already risen above the 35 degrees mark. At 9:30am.
We dragged ourselves down to the beach and acroos about a km of boiling hot sand.. tired, grumpy and hungover, only to be rescued by the good men of Rio Bahia... one of the many companies working the beach... They set us up with an umbrella, beach chairs, cocktails and food... they even brought a watering can around to wet the sand near our feet cause it was so hot. It was paradise!
After necking a ton of beers and food, we decided that this is simply the best way to spend a day at the beach (ie with every need catered too). We were just a bit worried about the cost.. But for three of us to be looked after all day it resulted in the princely sum of R$15 - thats ten bucks. Thankyou god.
We then did exactly the same thing for the next 5 days, slowly turning a shade of brown dark enough to mix with the locals. We did nothing touristy, just sat on the beach. It was perfect. And then Carnival started!
We didnt know what to expect when the opening day began.. would the streets be filled with gun toting murderous pickpockets, alternatively doing the Samba and then robbing people blind? Not so... The real action is at the Sambodromo, a huge staduim purpose built for the event, where the 14 main samba schools of the city have a competition (samba-off?) which results in 5 days and nights of outrageous costumes, a lot of bum-shaking and even a few nipple-tassles. Excellent.
Prices were high for a ticket to that though, so we checked out the action on thr streets... All over Rio there are bloccos - basiclly block parties where famous samba bands roam the streets, with huge hoards of dancing, hammered brazilians following. Its surreal... many of the men are dressed in drag, everyone is shaking their money makers all over the shop, and cars are trying to get through. Yes, the streets they go down arent even closed. Its unbelievable.. Al the dancers, musicians and crowds are followed by an army of street hawkers selling everything from cheap beer to jewellery to body parts. Well not body parts but pretty much everything else. You can get street corn cobs, street hot dogs (possibly actually made of dog), street cocktails, people were even hawking staplers. Why?
These parties start randomly as far as we could tell. Some at 8am, some at 1am, and just roam the streets until everyone passes out. Craziness.
After 5 days of this, we are both grateful that everything has clamed back down, and we can try to get some sleep before the Inca trail. Its now Thursday, and we leave on Sunday for Lima, Peru. I really hope we can detox enough before then. But right now i could smash a beer or two....

Posted by willandsam 07:52 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

SugarLoaf Mountain

It blows....no seriously it was very windy

snow 0 °C

After days of lying on the beach and consuming litres of alcohol daily we decided to see more of Rio than just the beach and our hotel room..after our successful soccer match expedition and our new frugal travel way of life we decided to take public transport out to the Pão de Açúcar - SugarLoaf Mountain.

Some history setting the scene...

SugarLoaf Mountain is situated from the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. Rising 396 metres above sea-level, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. Basically you catch a glass cable car from the base of the Babilonia mountain, it runs along a 1400m route between the peaks of the Pão de Açúcar and Cara de Cão. The view is meant to be absolutely breathtaking..or is it....

Everyday since we have arrived in Rio it has been beautiful blue sky, everyday we have been lying on the beach and we look up at the mountain and marvel at how beautiful it looks and wow look at the cable cars, everyday we meet someone new who has gone up to the mountain and had an out of body experience just by witnessing something so beautiful. So how could we not go.

It has been recommended to us that sunset was the most beautiful time of day to experience the mountain. This was tricky as you had to time it to perfection, the problem was everyone told us a different time, 5:47 be on the first cable car, 5:41 try being on the second cable car, 5:30 make sure you are at the top..!?!?! So we gambled and arrived at the bottom of the mountain at about 5:10. Now i would just like to add the whole day had been beautiful blue sky, infact when we arrived it was still beautiful, sunny, warm...yeah you see where im going with this..

We jumped on the first cable car all tourist like, camera in hand, giggling cos we were about to go on a ride, reminding ourselves now this is why we travelled to see the world...we arrived at the top and it was beautiful, the view amazing, the only problem was that is was getting quite cloudy. We could see but it was like there was a fine mist lying on top of the city. After several pictures a drink (there is a bar..yesss) our excitment was building as if at this level the view ws amazing imagine the top..ooooo...!!!

I would just like to add at this point i didnt even realise there were two sections to the mountain, the second teir where you ride the cable car to the top is around the other side and if not for the thought that there might be another bar or souvenir shop where i could buy something i may have just gone straight back down happy with what i saw...

As we rounded the corner we both stopped dead in our tracks...the entire top of SugarLoaf ws covered in cloud. One big huge white stupid annoying cloud sat smugly on the top, just waiting daring people to venture up the mountain..

Will and I were sure the cloud would pass as like explained before, rarely is there a time you can't see the top. So we waited and waited and it is quite weird, basically the cloud is so thick all you can see are the cable cars going into white nothingness. It looks so bizarre, and although I know if you cant see the top then there is no way once you are at the top you can see the bottom, i somehow optimistically (Will perhaps might say stupidly) thought it might not be so bad once were up there.

Well i was wrong, we got to the top and it was like we were at the snow. The cloud was so thick it was a if we were back at a highschool disco and that fake smoke was being spayed from every corner. Not only that is was freezing. It was soo disappointing. you could see everyone just standing there unsure of what to take pictures of. Will was to say at the least slightly upset, i quote unquote quite loudly " oh this is crap, if i wanted to see white i would have stayed in my hotel room and wrapped and A4 piece of paper around my head" I pretty sure there may have been some other expletives however for the viewers comfort i have deliberately left them out. Will was convinced the cloud would pass and so we stayed another hour, me shivering, Will taking pictures of paintings of SugarLoaf, that we thought if in doubt we could pass it off as the real thing, but still no view only white, and so feeling very defeated we headed back down having not experienced any out of body moments and spending $90 Reis, only to get on the wrong bus back home and spend an hour driving around random Brazilian suburbs...

Tomorrow we are going to the beach...

Posted by willandsam 07:56 Archived in Brazil Tagged gay_travel Comments (2)

Brazilian Soccer

Its not the NRL

sunny 34 °C

Waking up with yet another major Carnival hangover, Sam and I decided that for the first time in a week we needed to do soemthing that didnt directly involve consuming huge amounts of cheap cocktails.
I know, wierd.
Anyway, on the beach the day before we hazily remembered a local approaching us to offer his services as a guide to the first semi final of the Rio League soccer... Apparently you need a guide... He was offering transport and tickets for the low low price of $80R, which is about $50 Aus. But when you are drinking $1 Cocktails that seems like a small fortune, so in our over confident state we decided that we didnt need a guide and we would get out there and wing it.
Interesting choice.
When we woke up on game day we immediately checked lonely planet for some guidance.. It said, and i quote...
For a true Brazilian experience, head out to Maracana Stadium on game day.. just be sure to sit undercover.. it is common for those on the lower level to be pelted with dead chickens and bottles of urine.
I am not joking. That is really what it says.
Laughing this off we tracked down the train station, only to find it closed. Hungover in the extreme, we walked in the 34 degree heat to the next one, to be confronted by a seething mass of humanity.. We have become quite used to incredible crowds of Brazilian people, but this was another level.. Anyway we managed to get a ticket and board a train, despite a complete lack of Portuguese, and it was actually quite cool inside and almost empty.
For a while.
We stopped at a station called Flamengo. Coincidentally, one of the teams playing that day was also called Flamengo. At that point, 75 thousand screaming singing fans all got on and pushed us into a corner... For the next 30 minutes, as our faces were rubbed with sweaty Brazilian armpit and several thousand beers were consumed by the increasingly frenetic home crowd, we seriously complated our foolhardiness at thinking we could do this on our own.
Covered in other peoples sweat, and with hangover still banging, we made it to Maracana. We somehow bought a ticket (again, no portuguese) and found a seat, thankfully on the top level. Sam promptly fell asleep, while 25000 flamego fans (flamengans?) chanted, threw stuff and generally went ballistic.
They were playing Resende, a weak second division side with no supporters and no hope of winning, but who immediatly went ahead 1-0. Normally this would silence a parochial crowd, but not here.
When they went 2-0 down, we realised why they have a moat around the ground, and attack dogs patrolling the sidelines. Not only that, every couple of minutes military helicopters cirlce the ground, with guys hangin out the sides with machine guns. Scary stuff. The ref had to be escorted off by 8 or more armed security guys at half time. In the end Flamengo went down 3-1, several people probably died and we got home in one peice, thankful for the experience but keen to get to Leichhardt to watch the Balmin tigers run around in front of 150 bored aussies...

Posted by willandsam 05:29 Archived in Brazil Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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