Leaving Rio

This post has been sitting in my queue to finish and publish since March. What happened here occured between Dec 29 2009 and ~Jan 7th, 2010.

One of the more interesting experiences I had on my trip was leaving Rio. I had picked up a bug, which turned into the flu a few days later. I’d grown weary of the poor conditions while stuck in Rio and was looking for the first bus out of town. I had planned on seeing Sao Paulo, but the idea of visiting an even larger and even poorer city than Rio was not appealing. I was looking for a ride to Porto Alegre, a large but not enormous port city, somewhere between here and Uruguay. The other option was Pyrate Somehow I ended up buying a ticket to Florinopolis; the hostels wanted big bucks to stay at Paraty, and Ilha Grande was mostly only accessible by boat, and had just had a mudslide that had taken out most of the island. Earlier that morning I’d left behind a beautiful Brazilian girl who I’d hit it off with on New Years, without saying goodbye. I simply couldn’t take the humidity and the city any longer, got up, took a shower and hit the road by 5:30am. I went to see Copacabana beach on the way out of the city. I was supposed to visit the beach with her the day before, but I ended up going to see Christ the Redeemer in the afternoon without her instead.

Leaving the city, there’s only two ways out for a traveler – by air or by bus. Air travel in Brazil is expensive and when I left that morning I didn’t know exactly where I was headed so I decided to leave by bus. In addition to the normal transit system, Rio also has a series of blue express buses that run between the two airports and the bus station, and along the main subway line. The central part of Rio is a canyon by the way. In reality, much of downtown Rio is simply a strip of concrete and grass squeezed between mountains and ocean. 10 story buildings on either side, two blocks deep; to the north (felt like the west) is another block of trash and the homeless, side streets are brothels with men waving at you to come inside.  In the other direction, past two blocks of buildings is an enormous park that stretches all the way to the water.

So I ended up at the bus station, which is shaped like an enormous two story horseshoe. You enter on the lower level, which is a teaming mass of people with their entire life packed in two bags, headed every which way, sort of like the Mos Eisley Spaceport on Tatooine.

Ended up buying a ticket to Florinopolis, an island the size of Manhattan off the coast of Brazil about halfway between Rio and the Uruguay border. Beautiful, rich city with lots to do. I was fighting on and off with the Flu but managed to take the island bus around the area, tried to rent a moped (they were sold out), hiked across the island from beach to beach. Since it was peak tourist season, if you made reservations, they wanted something like $30/night USD, with a minimum of a 7 day stay. I figured that they would waive the 7 day stay if I just showed up, and they had plenty of rooms avalible. My bets paid off and I ended up paying $20/night with no minimum stay. Bonus: excellent wifi! Finally it was time to move on to Uruguay after 2-3 days there.

The bus ride from Florinopolis to Uruguay was something like 22 hours. I thought it was going to be 8. Kind of hard to get off when you have no idea where the next major stop will be. Here’s a shot of the Brazilian countryside from the bus heading south to Uruguay.

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