Freedom29's first visitor has come and gone. For eight days we explored, socialized and waited out torrential downpours with Kristin's cousin, Brittney. I briefly considered allowing Britt a guest post to describe her experiences, but, after considering the popularity of Kristin's earlier posts, I just couldn't risk being the third most popular author on my own blog and decided to write the post myself. Don't judge.
Before Britt's arrival, the idea of walking around Brazil with two lovely ladies on my arm had me feeling a lot like "Kevin Long - Rock Star". In reality, the experience left me feeling a lot more like "Kevin Long - Man Purse". Honestly, there were times when those two helped ensure my cargo shorts were more loaded up than Batman's utility belt, and the combination of money, cameras and keys I was carrying probably made me the poster boy for the muggable Rio tourist. Thankfully, I was not depossessed of any belongings along the way and I got even with the girls by pretending from time to time that I wasn't carrying enough money on me for them to buy their precious caipirinhas. Passive aggressive? Maybe. Satisfying? Remarkably so.
For Britt's visit, we planned four nights in Rio de Janeiro (Kristin and I arrived a day earlier and had a fifth night), three nights on beautiful Ilha Grande and our last night in the colonial, waterside town of Paraty and its UNESCO protected historic center. It was a good itinerary with largely disappointing weather. After one rainy day in Rio, the rain started again after our first night in Ilha Grande and never stopped. I found it tough not to feel bad for Britt that so many days of her stay were marred by bad weather and even tougher not to feel bad for myself that we invited down somebody who would bring such foul weather with her from Calgary. Notwithstanding the rain, I would say (and I really hope that Britt would agree) that we still managed to have a really good time and share a lot of laughs. Britt was also a good sport about the comically small room we shared in Rio (which is one downside of letting the backpackers choose the accommodation), which probably wasn't the ideal setting for a person with an actual job to unwind during their vacation time.
Some brief Rio thoughts: If there's a more beautiful city in the world, it's hard to imagine what it would have to look like. Rio's blessed with so many beautiful features that it almost seems like an embarrassment of riches. Kristin loved the long beaches that lined the city (particularly Copacabana Beach), Britt loved the Big Jesus watching over the city, and I loved the severity of the mountains jutting out of the water or protuding alongside neighbourhoods throughout the city. We only saw a handful of the many neighbourhoods I would have liked to have visited, but I found them each to have their own character and worthy of a return visit. In addition to its physical beauty, I also felt like the city had its own pulse that seemed to strengthen with the temperature. On the day it rained, it almost seemed like the city was in a state of mourning or hibernation. The pulse, of course, is a function of the people, and watching the cariocas and their love affair with the beach was fascinating and probably would be a reason to make the trip by itself.
Like other large cities we've visited in South America, there is an obvious divide between poor and wealthy citizens, but the socioeconomic groups live in much closer proximity to one another in Rio, where favelas are built illegally on many of the mountains that I mentioned in the previous paragraph (and elsewhere around and throughout the city - approximately 900 in total). We had an opportunity to visit one of such favela - the largest in Latin America, with approximately 200,000 residents - through an organized tour. I was initially a bit reluctant to pay somebody to take us on what amounts to a tour of low-income people and their homes, but the tour was organized in a way that was not exploitative, was highly educational for outsiders, and we were given numerous opportunities to spend our money in the community and see how the tours are helping to develop social services for people in need. It truly was an eye-opening experience and the individual motor-scooter rides into and up the favelas was a pee-your-pants good time.
Finally, we end off with some unfortunate news. Some weeks ago, Kristin developed a nagging pain in her foot, likely as a result of too much walking and hiking. Sadly, it has continued to worsen and now it appears Kristin has developed a stress fracture in the foot and will be in a boot cast for the foreseeable future. The good news is that the name of the cast is the "Bota Robocop", which is super bad ass and makes me wish I too had robotic appendages. The bad news is that it isn't entirely clear at this point what the injury means to the rest of our trip. Hopefully a few days to heal and bottle of Malbec or two in Buenos Aires (where we arrive on Monday) will shed some light on the situation.
Our pictures from our time with Britt are here. You'll notice that they fall off completely after the rains started.