After Iguazu, we were headed for Rio. After the amazing bus to Iguazu, we weren’t at all fazed by the 24 hour bus journey to Rio, but unfortunately we were not in luck and were massively ripped off and ended up on a shit local bus with no food, that stopped every hour or two – so also ended up taking more like 27 hours. Disastor! So we were wrecked by the time we got to Rio and needed some sleep. After napping we headed out to explore Rio.
We wandered around the city centre and Copacabana beach and got some food in our first “kilo restaurant” – a buffet where you load up on food and then pay by the weight of your plate. That night we went out for dinner to a little local restaurant with little plastic tables out on the street. We made friends with a couple of crazy old guys at the table next to us – although conversation was a bit confusing with us speaking no Portuguese and them speaking only a little English. Luckily, Portuguese is close enough to Spanish for us to get a general gist of what they were saying!
The next day was Jas’ birthday, so we headed up to check out the giant Jesus statue. We caught the little train up the hill in beautiful sunshine, but of course, as soon as we got to the top, the clouds closed in, completely removing the view! So we sat at the cafe and drank a beer until the clouds cleared. It was an impressive sight when they did. Up close Rio is quite run down and dirty – but from above, it’s breathtaking. White beaches and giant steep green hills, with the city fitted in amongst it. That night we went out for some drinks and watched a little band for a bit, a pretty nice and chilled night out.
Our next stop was Salvador for Carnival, but our flight was out of Sao Paulo, so we caught a fancy 6 hour bus down there and spent the night in a hostel there. We had some minor dramas getting out to the airport the next day, but eventually we made it on to the plane and were in Salvador in no time. We instantly liked Salvador – it was hot and sunny, with great beaches and an awesome vibe. It took us a while to find our hostel, but we were surprised by how great it was when we did. It was literally on the side street next to the starting point of the Carnival parades and had a great little balcony on the street to hang out on.
Carnival itself was pretty overwhelming. Salvador is not a safe place, so we went out with only a small amount of money on us at nighttime – no camera, no cards, no jewelry. The parades are amazing, they go for hours, starting at around 7pm and going until sunrise. You can buy tickets for “blocos” which means you get a t-shirt which let’s you follow a particular float in a roped off area. The tickets started at over $100 a night, and we didn’t see the point as you can either follow a float from outside the ropes, or stand in the one spot and see heaps of floats – both for free! The other option is buy a t-shirt for a “camarote” which are like bars with balconies overlooking the street – so you can watch the parade from a safe point (the crowds get pretty rough and were a bit scary at times!) and they include a free bar. But these cost upwards of $250 to $500 a night, so there was no way we could afford them on our backpacker budget. We spent most of our time either standing in the street watching the parades go past, or hanging out on the hostel balcony drinking with the other backpackers. We have never met so many Australians outside Australia in one spot, for some reason Salvador attracts them!