Thursday, 23 February 2017

S 22.56.13 W 43.10.30. Getting to Rio de Janeiro. From -11 and freezing rain to a cool and sunny +30

Lots of people have asked if I was excited about traveling solo for five months through South America.  As the day to leave got closer, I found myself repeating the words we heard often while traveling through south Asia –“same same but different”.

I knew the things I needed to do and knew who could help me with the details.  I didn’t need to buy any clothes or kit, just pack what I had.  So, most of the worry and stress I remember from last time didn’t happen.  On the other hand, I’ve never traveled solo and the idea of doing exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it was on one hand liberating, but also very different.

In the past, we’ve always traveled in spring/summer/fall to an area with very similar weather – yes, we spent most of a year in hot equatorial climate, but we started in Istanbul in early spring.  This time, I left home with a spring coat over a fleece jumper and was quite cool with the -11 and a bit of wind.  Twenty four hours later, I arrived in Rio de Janeiro on a lovely cool morning at +26 which peaked at +30.

It was also fascinating how different the trip was.  I've learned (thanks to Nicole from Goway Travel) that if I start my international travel in Grande Prairie, the cost difference is almost nothing and you get to check two bags!  It made it worth taking a chance on Air Canada being on time and not losing my luggage.  Catching United Airlines in Calgary was a series of encounters with friendly staff asking if I needed help – Calgary seems to have put help at every possible spot in the new international terminal where there might be some confusion.  I was prepared for a long challenging process through customs given the current political events in America, but other than needing to take off my boots (and then put them back on again), it was all smiles and friendliness.  The agent asked (after me saying that I was only transiting Houston) if I spoke Portuguese with a smile as he waved me along.  The plane was bilingual (Spanish and English) and once I arrived in Houston, the accents were Spanish or Portuguese – don’t tell me that the US is not a country of immigrants.
Leaving Grande Prairie

A wee herd of bison in Calgary

Kati's advice about Pappadeaux at the Houston Airport was excellent.

And now I am in Rio de Janeiro for two days on my own before joining the Dragoman tour for the next 19 weeks.  I’ve discovered that even in the tourist areas (including the airport), most people speak Portuguese only with perhaps a basic understanding of English, so I shall be polishing up my pointing and smiling skills.  Of course I got crazy lost walking out to explore the area – thought North was South, all the streets curve and have names not numbers.  But I found the Metro, got back to my hotel, checked the iphone compass and headed out in the right direction to find the beach.  And checked out a cool cafe which specialized in food from northern Brazil.  About ten spots at a counter that were constantly full as I had my tacaca (an interestingly spicy soup with shrimp so fresh that they may have still been swimming yesterday) and sucre – a smoothy like fruit drink that was excellent.  No room for the acai – which apparently is a speciality so a repeat is in the future.

Almost there

There are these great maps posted to help you on your way
(once you figure out which way is north)

Tomorrow, a food tour (thanks to Lou and Luke for pointing out how much fun it is to eat local) then the next day out to Santa Theresa which is an artisty neighbourhood.  Then Carnival.  Next week, we head out of this crazy big city and get to check out the natural beauty of Brazil.

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