Thursday, 23 January 2014

Resurrection Time!

So I am apparently the worst blogger ever! I went to Brazil with the intention of documenting my time there, and managed a month. Faaaaail. Especially considering the best of times occurred during my last month there.

So here's a promise I intend to keep; I will update more! I will, I really will!

So an update may be in order just to bring everyone up to speed; I am in Northern Ireland at Queens University Belfast. I have been here since about October, with only a short diversion over the Christmas period to Tenerife and the Western Sahara in Africa.

Also this is me:

This coming summer however, I will be on the most amaaaazing epic whirlwind tour of South America - so hopefully lots of stuff to post, people to meet, and friends to make. Catch you guys on the flip side!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

National Archives,Tijuca Rainforest and a dog named Steve

I finally made it to the Tijuca rainforest! First I had to to take a bus into Rio Centro, and then back out of Rio in the Barra direction - so whilst I was in the city centre I stopped off here:

The official name is "Arquivo Nacional e a História Luso-brasileira", and they have an entire exhibition at the moment dedicated to the colonial history of Brazil - which was really interesting, especially the role of blacks in establishing a new society separate from that of the colonial masters - the white portuguese.

Then it was on to the Tijuca Rainforest:

Waterfalls! And flowers I do not know the names of:

I also have no idea what kind of animal these little guys are - but they are everywhere!

After spending some time in the rainfores it was back to the surfschool for the second day of English classes - and halfway through a dog wandered in. No one seems to have a clue where it came from, but apparently it just lives in the surf shack and wanders in and out in the evenings! Me and my friend who is from Northumbria - i.e. I can understand the Brazilians better than I can decifer his accent - decided we'd call it Steve. I'll try and get a picture of Steve tonight!
Tomorrow (Wednesday) we're all going surfing - so I'll let you know how that goes...

Guava, the Botanical Gardens, Wild Monkeys and Rocinha Surf School

Breakfast today was this:

This is guava – it is amazing.
Around 10am I decided I would quite like to see the rainforest, which is ironic considering the forest creeps down into the foothills upon which Rocinha is built, but shhhh! So after trying, and failing, to get the bus to the Tijuca Forest, I took a walk along the beach in Sao Conrado instead; – the surf was up to two metres high today, as the wind was absolutely crazy. (I also really need to figure the buses out at some point... And, yes mother, I do have a timetable for all the good it’s done me!)

Giving up on the wild forests, I decided to try tamed ones instead – and so it was off to the botanical gardens, the back of which does border the Atlantic cloud forest (jungle for the uninitiated). The gardens- especially the forest walk - was amazing, and definitely worth the six reais (£2)!

You can just see the statue of Christ the Redeemer from the park: 
The best part of today had to be this though (however the carnivorous plants are a close second!), look, wild monkeys!!!
There was even one in the picnic area!

Aren’t they sweet!?
After I’d finished up at the gardens I actually managed to get on a bus going back in the right direction, (though that may have had something to do with the help provided by my new friend the policeman, Manolo - who was incredibly nice after I got past the fact he had a Russian issue Kalashnovik (AK47 assault rifle) strapped to his chest... )

After I returned to Rocinha I just had time to head up the hill on a mototaxi – with bags of shopping balanced, so no holding on (eeek!) - before I had to hike back down the mountain to go to the surf school, where I taught my first English class with the other volunteers. It’s so laid back and there’s a fantastic atmosphere – halfway through everyone stopped so a few of the guys could play guitar, have a bit of a sing-song, reminisce about life etc.
Crossing back over Via Apia after class:
Tomorrow I’m going to try for Tijuca again... Wish me luck...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Rocinha Guest House

For anyone who is interested in taking a gap year, or having a rather unusual summer vacation - this is where I am staying:

Rocinha Guest House

The people here are very friendly - and compared to travel in other countries, the prices are very affordable. For two months stay, the price for a shared room is 900 reais - which in England is about £300.

 Also, who wouldn't want to wake up to this:

Plus, you will get to experience a culture unlike any other - the people here are far more open and friendly than the UK - they even talk to each other on the street, even if they have never met before!

Check out their FaceBook for more photos!

Buses, Sex Motels, Motorbike Taxis and Acai Juice

So the first night in Rio was definitely eventful to say the least - I landed at 9pm local time, and proceeded through customs the fastest of any country I've ever visited. Then came the bus issue. I asked a information desk man where I could get the bus to the other Airport, Santos Durmont, as Galeao International airport is far out of the city of Rio, whilst Durmont is in the center a few blocks from where I stayed. Not a problem the man says, I help you myself! And so he walks with me down to the buses and helps me load my cases - onto the wrong bus. I ended up in Barra de Tijuca. Not entirely his fault, as there are two buses for Barra - and one does stop at Durmont on the way - the bus I ended up taking in the opposite direction back to Durmont.

Landing in Rio:

Then came the hotel, after taking a taxi from Santos Durmont to my hotel, and straight through the red light district which, in retrospect,  perhaps should have been a hint, I realised that Motel in Brazil - far from Premier Travel Inn etc.connotations in the UK - is a place where people go to have sex. Saying that, it was clean and the staff were friendly.

 The next day I took a taxi out to Rocinha to meet this man; Elliot, who runs a business helping volunteers and visitors find accommodation in Favelas in Rio. We explored Rocinha and Vidigal, and he showed me a variety of guest houses and spare bedroom rentals, though for now I am staying at the Rocinha Guest house - ready for the view?

Pretty cool, huh? The way we got up there is even better than the view itself - balanced on the back of what are called 'mototaxis' - motorbikes with handles at the side of the saddle for you to cling on to whilst the riders race each other up the spiral hill at 60/70 miles an hour dodging oncoming traffic. Elliot says he doesn't like them - but to be honest I think they're pretty awesome!


Later that day we went down to the sports center at the bottom of the mountain - it's quite a long walk down winding alleys and steep staircases, and I know I am going to get lost at some point. Halfway down we stopped at a juice stand, where I was introduced to Acai - pronounced A-sigh-ee - made by blending the berries with banana and crushed ice, mmmm. I think I found a new favourite food! At the sports center there was a skateboard party for the younger kids who live in the favela - and helping run it was a man called Bogao - who runs the Rio de Janeiro surf school. I will now be volunteering there for two hours a day teaching English, and on Tuesday through Friday, I get to go out with the other kids at the surf school surfing for two hours. Which is a pretty good exchange in my opinion!

 Today I don't know what I'll do yet, as it's Sunday and I don't begin my volunteering assignment until tomorrow - I was thinking perhaps touristy stuff like Christ the Redeemer.