Back in Sao Paulo

Fri, 11 Apr 2008 10:39:12 +0000

Big Spender Index Rio de Janeiro

Coming from Bolivia, landing in Brazil certainly feels like a return to the first world. The airport is nicer than Heathrow, anyway (plus, bonus, they give you your bags back after you land). Also, the R$28 price for the airport bus has a distinctly first world aftertaste to it.

After getting into Tiete busport I booked a bus ticket to Rio de Janeiro. I wouldn't exactly describe myself as a Copacabana kind of man. But having crossed a continent and back, I thought it'd be a good trick to have photographed the oceans on both coasts. And besides, I've been to New York and old London town, so I may as well complete the trifecta*.

It's nice to land in a city where everything is familiar. Same bus station, same metro system, same hostel with the same people who recognise me straight away. When I first landed in Sao Paulo I was terrified by the prospect of sweating my way across a continent of bureaucratic and logistical incomprehensibility. Now I don't have anything scarier ahead of me than Canada.

Being a Wednesday, stuff was open today, so I thought I'd catch up with some of the attractions I missed last time. I went to the museum of religious art for a start. The best thing about that place is the building itself. It's an old monastery, built of timber and adobe. Some of the artworks are built into the original building. In one room, they've left the plaster off so you can see the original construction materials. It's fascinating that such an impressive edifice can be built with such apparently crude techniques: apparently one approach to building the walls involves "hurling" lumps of mud at the wattle skeleton, which must have been way fun. The actual exhibits were interesting, but fairly familiar stuff. Obviously I'm spoilt by European museums. It's interesting to think of Brazilian sculptors and painters trying to keep up with the accomplishments of their Portuguese colonial masters a couple of centuries ago, perched on the edge of the jungle.

I also went to the nearby art museum, which has a collection of 19th and 20th century paintings. I must admit, more modern art isn't really my thing, and this art gallery didn't have much for me. But I did enjoy some of the scenes of ordinary Brazilian life from the turn of the century. Somehow that's a place and a time that I've never once thought about before. I'm less convinced by "Contacion", a gigantic piece of multicoloured patchwork apparently vomited over the atrium from an upper balcony. Fun, certainly; but what is the artist trying to say?

Then a bit of shopping: some sunscreen (almost as expensive as the last lot, Brazilians must not use much) and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (not a patch on the orange juice in Bolivia). Dinner was "churrascaro", which turned out to be a small steak sandwich. Not bad. I followed up with one of those meat-inside-mashed-postato fried things, and of course some cake. I even got a 600ml beer, since I'm suddenly feeling so healthy. This last made me slightly unsteady: I'm going to need to get back in form if I'm going to make it through Milwaukee unscathed.

So I feel like I'm winding down the South American adventure pretty gently. I've got everything booked and ready to go for the next four or five days at the least, and I'm ready to completely waste my time in Rio for a couple of days.

* Non-Australians may need to google up this reference.

Big Spender Index Rio de Janeiro