Feeding my way through a rickety, unairconditioned bus, I look for a space to sit my sweaty back against my bags. As I make myself comfortable, I am soon interrupted by Ali and his bags, lifting my legs up to make room. Hugging my knees, I look out of the window to see mountains deep with vegetation above and colourful favelas sitting alongside the road below. I see people cooking on concrete BBQ’s- the smell of oregano chicken sweeps through the bus. The romantic scenery is enough to take my mind to all sorts of places; yet all I can think about is the destination of the journey- Paraty (south of Brazil), and whether we have a hostel waiting for us this time.
I am travelling with four guys now: Ali, Kieran, Will and Alex (originally there were three, but we have adopted Alex from Rio). They are all very laid back and easy to get along with. To me, this is very important, especially when you are the only girl. I know that the guys will give me space when I need it but also help me get involved with activities etc. when I want to.
If I can estimate in my head precisely, I think we have been travelling in the south of Brazil for a week and a few days. It seems like nothing, yet within days I already feel like I have been travelling for months, and because of this, the days simply merge into one. This has proven to be very common along the fellow travellers I have met. However, we all seem to agree on one thing, that the lessons we have learnt are very prominent in our memory.
Here is a little blog about four simple lessons I have learnt during these few days in Brazil and how I came to learn them.
- Check hostel availability in advance before travelling to your next destination.
Booking hostels is not necessary at every destination, and sometimes the best hostels can be the ones stumbled upon last minute. However, if it is a touristy destination, book in advance. The last thing that needs to happen is to arrive at the destination after a long journey and be welcomed with nowhere to stay at all. This happened to us in Ilha Grande, a small island below Rio de Janeiro. This paradise island is a common stopping point for many travellers after the Rio Carnival. A place where people are able to relax and top up on any tanning before taking the next step of their journey. We joined in on this. Being naive travellers, we also thought that an island with the population 8,663 would definitely have somewhere to stay for five backpackers. Oh how we were wrong. We ended up camping in a small campsite for the night which, at the time, seemed like a great idea. It was cheap, had a little bit of adventure to it, and meant we could all go out for dinner that evening. And we did, we spent a little bit more money on a Brazilian fish stew with rice and chips as sides. This was followed by all of us sitting on the beach with full stomachs enjoying the calm and easy lifestyle of the island. Then we had to sleep, without roll mats, or sleeping bags, in one tent. Sorry, I need to emphasise, there were five of us, in one pretty small, unventilated, boiling hot tent. This is when reality kicked in like an iron ball to the face. The only thing we wanted to do after a long day of travelling was sleep, and that just wasn’t going to happen. The signature moment that summed up how we were all feeling was after we all lay down on the hard floor. Kieran decided to blow up his small travel pillow and the sound of his breath inflating the cheap material silenced the tent. There could not have been a better moment of understanding between us about how restless and uncomfortable the night ahead would be. We erupted into laughter before lying awake but with our eyes closed for the next eight hours.
- Embrace the weather.
Don’t let the rain ruin your day. Take it with a pinch of salt. A friend from home told me that there was a rock at the end of Ipanema beach in Rio, where you are able to watch the idyllic sunset in between two mountains (Two Brothers). We rounded up everyone in the hostel who wanted to join and jumped on the metro to enjoy the evening and appreciate the views. As we walked out of the underground we were met with a monumental thunderstorm flooding the city. It seemed like a little obstacle invading our plan and I became adamant that the storm was going to blow over. But it never did, and I had to pick myself up with the motivation that there will be plenty more sunsets throughout our trip. What we did do was enjoy the huge strokes of lighting over the city and the mad journey back to the hostel, wading through rivers of water on the roads and huge droplets of rain.
One day in Paraty, we decided to find the Toboga Falls, which is a rock in the waterfall that is large and smooth enough to slide down. We thought about having a little picnic at the top and cool down from the hot weather by sliding down the rock into the fresh water. However, again, we found ourselves in a storm, not as large as Rio, but the rain did not stop all day. Although it seemed like we should turn back, we decided to embrace the weather and go for it. To our pleasant surprise, the rain enhanced the experience making a fast-flowing water adventure. Taking my time, I glided with ease down the rock, managing to somehow take the ‘wrong turn’, hitting a rather large piece of sediment turning my arse red for the rest of the day. That, I believe, wasn’t the classiest or most elegant of rock slides on my part.
- Dress up for Rio carnival.
Rio carnival has a festive atmosphere different to anything I have ever seen before. The whole city dresses up in tutus, wigs and glitter. There is no need to feel that dressing up will make you a target. ‘Blocos’ are great parties throughout the streets of Rio, full of people dressed up in all sorts of costumes from superman to feathered birds. If you feel like you have made an effort, there will always be someone more dressed up that you. If anything, those who aren’t dressed up seemed to stand out more than those who are. The city really does come alive and you can smell the hedonism in the air. Make the most of the carnival by getting involved, join the parties in the streets, get in the crowds and meet people from all over the world. There’s isn’t another party like it in the world and the atmosphere is incredible. The boys seemed very eager to point out how blessed the Brazilian ladies are from behind. Whatever floats your boat, Carnival is a vibe for everyone.
4. Don’t be afraid to adopt a fellow traveller with you.
Obviously only adopt them if they aren’t a serial killing hijacker.. and maybe make sure you like and trust them and the group agrees on it. I started off travelling with three boys, and now there are four. We met Alex from Milton Keynes in El Misti hostel, Rio. Alex was originally travelling with two guys.One flew home and the other left for Sao Paolo to meet up with a 35-year-old Portuguese divorcee he met at Carnival, leaving Alex to travel on his own. Despite the circumstances, we clicked with Alex very easily and asked him if he wanted to join us before he flies back to England. The five of us have since travelled from Rio to Paraty and now Florianopolis. Alex is a great addition to the group, providing more, if not better banter and helping us on our travels. Although people can be concerned with new strangers travelling together, sometimes the barriers need to be broken down. Travelling involves meeting new people and understanding how to live in close proximities to one another. Moreover, it’s all about looking out for each other and getting along with those around you.