Saturday, 17 May 2008

Rio de Janeiro

The bus ride from Campinas to Rio takes about 7 hours, including a half hour stop which happened to be in a place that had lots of beans in a buffet, and well, I love beans! So it was a happy arrival in Rio, where I booked a hostel bed during the bus ride. At Botafogo beach, from where it is easy enough to go anywhere. I was quite surprised really to see that Rio really does look like the pictures, those little hills and beaches and forest are right there in the city, and of course the Christ statue watches over everything in its quiet magnificence.

The weather wasn't the greatest to begin with, but I still wanted to see the beaches even if they were empty and walked up to Copacabana and eventually Ipanema. The odd thing to me about these beaches was that they don't have any breakwaters so the waves are humongous! Great for surfing, but not so for swimming. At Ipanema I thought I was imagining it when I heard someone call my name, but no, there were the Swedes from the conference! So I hung out with them the rest of the day, pretty nice.

The next day I decided it was time to go up and meet Jesus, since he had been watching over for a while already. It's quite impressive, the statue, especially when it's lit up at night. There is a train that goes up the mountain, leaving from Cosme Velho (which can be easily reached by bus from Largo do Machado metro station). Built in 1884, this was the first electric railway in Brazil and with even live music included, it is quite a nice ride. At the top of the Corcovado mountain stands Cristo Redentor or Christ the Redeemer, a statue of about the size of a 13-storey building. It's also a good place for taking pictures of the city in general.

The idea was to then leave for somewhere else, possibly the national park they decided to protect in my name(!) to honour my visit to the country, but after considering the short time left, the long distance to anywhere north and the cooler weather in the south I decided to just stay in Rio. So I spent the day at the beach, and discovered that they sell smoked tofu in the health food shops... it's quite expensive, even more so than the similar stuff in Europe, but tasty and useful when the vegetarian restaurants are either closed or just too difficult to find without a map. Another easy option is to go to the pizza places, pick the vegetarian pizza and ask for it without cheese (sem queijo).

The following day I headed up to the Sugar Loaf mountain (Pão de Açucar), which provided quite nice views again. And then on to a restaurant in Botafogo called Vegan Vegan, I had seen it before but as usual it was closed whenever I was ready to go there, it's only open from 11:30 to 15:30. But everything they serve is vegan, and this was feijoada day! It was really tasty, the lemon pie I had for dessert wasn't as good as the coconut custard I tried the following day.

I went to the Ipanema beach from there, rather nice but on the way back there was a negative experience as I walked through a tunnel and around the mid-way point saw a greoup of three guys coming the other way. I smelled trouble but knew I had nothing valuable so I went on. When I was passing them, one of them, a teenage boy put his hands in my pockets and said "money, gringo", while another one, a grown man, was taking my bag. Despite the pockets being empty I was much more keen on keeping the kid out of my pants than on anything in the bag so the guy got away with it and ran to the other side of the street. I wasn't nearly bothered enough to run over the traffic to get a bag with just 35 reais (13 euros) in it, so I just waited annoyed and after taking the plastic bag with 20 reais in it the guy brought the bag back to me. Unfortunately my postcards were in the same plastic bag, losing them bothered me a lot more than the money.

The incident gave me a puzzling question though, although it was just one man and two teenage boys, having nothing valuable made it an easy decision to do nothing. But I started wondering what would I have done if the same situation would have occurred when I had my wallet and phone etc on me. Would I be willing to hurt anyone for the sake of stupid material things? I still don't have a definite answer to that. I guess I would've tried running away, despite only wearing flip-flops.

The day left a bad image in my mind of Rio, and so I was even more determined to head back to São Paulo the following evening. I checked out of the hostel, took my bags to the left luggage counter at the bus station and went to see the Botanical Gardens. This was autumn and definitely the wrong time of the year for that. Hardly any flowers at all, and the trees didn't seem so exciting. Afterwards I walked over to Ipanema, seeing all passers-by in a much more suspicious way than I ever had before.

It was already getting dark after 5 pm so I just sat at a beach bar watching the sea and people playing volleyball until I figured it was late enough for dinner. I had read that one vegetarian restaurant, Vegetariano Social Clube, would be open until midnight so I searched and found it. I ordered the tempeh à portuguesa and it was really tasty! I never had tried tempeh with seaweed before but they seemed to go together quite well. Afterwards I just headed to the bus station, waited for an hour or two and then took the overnight bus to São Paulo. It seems there are more people in the overnight than daytime services, but it was still comfortable enough. Seven hours, but I couldn't really sleep on the bus. The picture collection of the Brazil trip overall is here.


Guess Who said...

The guy even bothered to bring you bag back?! He is really not professional! :-P

Anyhow, why don't you learn some "few forest kungfu" while you're in China?!! More useful than tango in real life.

Jari (travelling-vegan) said...

What blasphemy is this? How could anything be more useful than tango?! :-P Anyhow, if my ethics stop me from hurting anyone for the sake of meaningless material things, it wouldn't make any difference if I was the world champion of kungfu. Therefore I would call it far less useful than tango in real life. :-)

Jari (travelling-vegan) said...

As for bringing the bag back, I think it was just a return of common courtesy. He knew I could've caused trouble had I wanted to, so he should be reasonable also. They should've left the postcards in place though, but that was the kid's doing.

Guess Who said...

Alright, gimme all your credit cards with passwords and cash, otherwise I'll hurt...err...myself. B-) It's so easy to "rob" you. lol

But seriously, what if they did use violence or did something nasty to you, and you would let them be because you don't want to hurt other people?

Jari (travelling-vegan) said...

Oh, here, I'll move over my savings plan too, just don't hurt yourself, ok?! :-P Well, as I wrote on the blog, I still don't really know how I'd behave if was something valuable. This time it was just peanuts and I would've been more than happy to give them the money had they asked nicely.

I think it would be a different situation if I was threatened or even subjected to violence, then it would seem quite natural to defend oneself. But to defend pennies that I couldn't care less about, nah.

dreamy said...

Jesus statue is indeed impressive, an all encompassing gesture. It reminds me that he certainly won't encourage people to eat meat.

Oh, is it ok to enlarge the pictures next time? I can't see clearly :D

Jari (travelling-vegan) said...

Oops, clicking on the pictures was supposed to lead to a bigger version! I'll fix that soon. In the mean time, the larger pics are here:

Bruna Vasconcelos said...

Hi! Certainly you don't know me...I'm from Rio de Janeiro and I'm really sorry about what happend with you in your visit here...That things are negative for us, we know but please don't keep a bad image from's not a rule, only happens, unfortunatelly! Bye and back soon...

Anonymous said...

Anyone tried refeitorio organico, rua 19 de fevereiro,
Its a splendid restaurant, mega buffet plus a la carte, plenty tofu, vegetables and desserts.
Best veggie place i have ever been to.

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