After spending a week in Salvador, I travelled down to Itacare and onwards to Porto Seguro, where I got a flight to Rio. I didn’t like Rio as much as I thought I would and much preferred Salvador. Salvador was closer to the images conjured by my mind when I thought of Brazil; it was vibrant and colourful, the people relaxed and you could often hear African drumming in the streets.
By contrast, Rio is a drab grey city with bad traffic. I went to the beaches in Copacabana and Ipanema and was underwhelmed; the waves were too rough for swimming and aesthetically, the beaches were average. I couldn’t really understand why Rio is considered to be such an iconic city; presumably it owes much of its reputation to Carnaval.
Nonetheless, I spent a week in Rio and enjoyed my time there. I was staying in Lapa, the nightlife district. Rife with transsexual prostitutes and homeless people, it was a pretty dodgy area.
As with Salvador, there was a surprising number of homeless children in Rio. Occasionally I saw children no older than ten sleeping alone in the street. One night I walked out of the hostel and into a group of rapping street children. They stopped for a moment to heckle me before launching back into their rapping. Even though they seemed hardened, they were still sort of cute.
Most people at the hostel did not stay for long; they were mostly Brazilians staying in Rio for the weekend and the foreigners usually ended up moving to hostels closer to the beaches. But I liked the hostel and didn’t mind that there weren’t many people. There was an English guy who was staying there indefinitely and a Portuguese guy who was there until the end of the week. We passed the nights by drinking beer in our dorm and standing on the balcony where we could watch the people in the street below.
The guys who owned the hostel let me keep a locker there so at the end of the week, I left behind most of my things and went to Ouro Preto. By this point I had over 15 kilos of stuff; I had decided to keep the hammock and was holding onto already read books in the vain hope that I would be able to exchange them somewhere, so it was good to travel light for a change.