|Subject: Brazil, part 8|
Friday, September 10, Buzios
I was back at the bus station early. Soon after we left, we crossed a long bridge and I was able see how big the bay really is. There were a large number of huge cargo ships lying at anchor and the bay stretched off in the distance with no end in sight. On the other side we drove on a wide four-lane through rolling hills for a few hours before turning onto a two-lane that took us into Buzios.
The bus stopped on the edge of town: on one side was a huge, empty field and on the other a small town. It wasn't exactly clear where the center was so I just headed in. I walked past low cottages, pass the post office and finally into a little commercial area. I didn't have a map so I was just walking around trying to get my bearings.
The area I wandered into was full of upscale tourist shops, restaurants and bars. As I was walked along I heard something very familiar, a song that I had been playing just before I left home. I walked toward it and found a bar in a courtyard surrounded by tourist shops. There were a couple of giant TV's on either side of the bar and on them was my all-time favorite country singer George Jones playing a song from his latest CD, Cold hard truth.
I was a little taken aback but walked closer, took my pack off and stood listening: ah, so far yet so near. When he was done I asked the barkeep, who of course spoke perfect English, what we were watching. It turned out to be some country satellite channel. I was delighted to hear old George, but also a little disappointed. I hadn't come 5000 miles to listen to the same music I can hear at home. I knew then that I had picked the wrong town to visit.
Anyway, I also asked the barkeep where I might find a room and he suggested a couple of places for me to try. I walked a bit father and found a wonderful little hotel called Vila Do Mar, right on the edge to the commercial area. It had a garden filled courtyard and I got a cozy little room for R$117 (US$61).
It had turned decidedly cooler and looked like it might rain. I didn't care: I figured I would do some shopping and then head back to Rio. I needed to get a couple of presents: one for Paula who's best known for proofreading my travelogues. She was the one who had sent me my credit card. I also needed to get something for Erin, a friend who was going to pick me up at the airport. And then there was mom - surely I should get something for her. I now had my credit card so I spent the afternoon shopping.
In early evening it started to rain. It made this little off-season tourist town seem lonely and empty as people huddled in open-front bars. This really wasn't the kind of place I would have chosen to spend my last few days in Brazil - it was way too hip and worldly. I guess I should have done a little more research before I chose it. I walked around a little, sat in the hotel lobby writing until I got cold and then went to my room and read - I was planning to leave first thing in the morning.
Saturday, September 11, Rio de Janeiro
I caught the 7:00 bus back to Rio and checked into the DeBret for the fourth time. I was really getting to like this place. The staff was real friendly, the location great and the rooms, while a little worn were comfortable. If you are heading to Rio and need an inexpensive hotel, the DeBret is for you. I paid R$99 (US$52) for a beachfront room and R$86 (US$45) for one overlooking the much quieter side street.
Still in shopping mode, I headed to a mall I had passed on the bus each time I traveled downtown. It turned out to be four floors of shops with all the standard goods: music CDs, clothing and home furnishings. Also there were several food malls and one even served the kind of baked treats I had eaten at the bus stops - so I paused and had one.
I'm not sure what I did in the afternoon: my journal's blank so it can't have been too interesting. Anyway, this is a good time to say something about safety.
Tell someone you are going to Rio and they will probably say the same thing: be careful. I had read these warnings in travel guides and government fact sheets, and heard them from fellow travelers and Brazilians alike. I took theses warnings very seriously and was super cautious the first few days, but then I decided they were overstated. I have no doubt that there are bad people in Rio, but I never met any.
I took the local buses everywhere I went and walked Copacabana beach as late at 10:00 at night and always felt safe. On the other hand, I was very cautious and always knew who was walking or sitting near me. I also follow the standard big city cautions: don't walk down empty streets and don't carry/wear flashy valuables - it's just common sense, isn't it? I also look to see if women are walking alone and, if they are, I take that as a sign that things are reasonably safe. Maybe I was smart, or maybe I was just lucky, or maybe Rio has changed - probably more of the latter than the former. Anyway, in the end I never felt any threat and all my experiences in Brazil were positive.
Travelogues of Brazil, Iran, China, India, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Mexico, Greece and Turkey at http://home.msen.com/~burnett