Rio de Janeiro, Buxios and Ilha Grande: Climax

Posted on July 13, 2011


I spent my first afternoon in Rio waiting for two friends from home to arrive (they were joining me for ten days) and recovering after a bus journey that took more than a day. After the relative comfort of buses in Argentina, I was shocked by the basic nature of Brazilian bus travel, though this may have had more to do with the company- Pluma, for the record – than transport in Brazil in general.

By the time my friends arrived that evening I was already merrily drunk and, along with a group of cling-ons, we had a few quiet drinks at a bar in Ipanema. After our respective travel odysseys we all felt the need to spend the next day in a  quiet manner, and relaxed on Ipanema beach before walking around the coast to Copacabana. It is easy to see why both beaches have earned international renown, in spite of the fact that it was a lot quieter at this time of the year because of what the Brazilians have the gall to call “winter”. I personally was more impressed by Ipanema, though that may have been influenced by its location in relation to our hostel.

We spent the night in the same bar as the previous evening, though it did not end anywhere near as early, but were up and healthy the next day to seek various vantage points over the city. The first was at Christ the Redeemer, where a bus took us to a lookout point before the statue itself. The views were incredible, as we had been lucky enough to make the pilgrimage on a clear day, but the crowds were overwhelming. From here, we taxied across town to Sugarloaf mountain where, at yet more outrageous cost, we took the cable car to the top for more great views and a god sunset. The evening was spent grinding away at a local salsa bar, getting a taste for the renowned Rio nightlife.

Suffering as a result of, shall we say, over-exertion the previous night, we spent the next day relaxing on the beach and by the lagoon, eventually having what was until then becoming an unheard of things, a quiet night. This was in order to be fighting fit for the next evening’s Lapa street party. First we had a Favela tour to negotiate. This proved very interesting, mainly in the respect that Rosinha was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Nevertheless, the conditions that people there live in are obviously less than ideal and the influence of the drug gangs was clear to see. We took a motorcycle to the top of the favela and meandered down through its narrow streets, meeting locals and visiting a childcare centre that tours like ours helped to fund.

After relaxing on the beach it was time to get our party hats on and head to the street party in Lapa. This proved an immense experience, and unusually an inexpensive one, as we drank cold cans of beer from streetside stalls and partied with locals in the open air, not needing to pay extortionate entry to local clubs. It proved popular with both locals and travellers, and we ran into several people that we had met elsewhere in Brazil and South America.

We were up amazingly early the next day to take the hassle-free bus to Buxios, a town three hours north that had gained a reputation as Brazil’s equivalent of the Hamptons. It was easy to see why, with international chain nightclubs lining the golden beaches. After checking in to what proved to be a great beachfront hostel, Nomad, we spent the rest of the day sunning ourselves on the beach, satisfying our hunger with gigantic fish fillet sandwiches. That evening we played cards and drank cheap wine on the beach to avoid the stifling cost of Buxios nightlife, before negating all that good work by trying out the overpriced hellhole that is Pacha. I left early.

Next morning we hired a buggy and drove to a few more of the areas beaches. They were busy, but you could see why, and the food offered at the beach-side bars excellent. Our attempt to return to civilisation was delayed by the probably inevitable breakdown of the buggy, and after a long wait to be picked up and claim a small proportion of our money back. After three months in South America, this was something I was well used to. A quieter night followed, again with cards and wine on the beach and a pasta meal, before we retired to bed ahead of our early start the next morning.

In the event our whole day travelling to Ilha Grande, a trip that required us to go back through Rio, was an unsuccessful one for that day at least as we missd the last ferry and ended up having to spend the night in the dreary and unpleasant town of Angra dos Reis. When we finally made it to Ilha Grande the next day, the weather was not on our side, and in the event all that salvaged the two days spent there was a boat trip around various bays of the island, as we battled the cold and prayed for no rain. It was clear to see, however, what kind of paradise the island would be with good weather.

The end of our time in Ilha Grande signalled the end of my time in South America, and I boarded the first of my three flights to take me to Asia saddened to leave, determined to come back and looking forward to the change ahead.

Posted in: Experience, Travel