| Entry 45 of 77
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My trip to Rio started early and ended very very late. The guys at the hostel wolk me up earlier than 12.30pm, 12.10 to be exact. And when you have not had any sleep the extra 20 minutes was very much needed. I had prepared my bags and all my things and I was wearing the cloths I was to be wearing on the plane so all I needed to do was get in the cab and head for ViruViru airport. I arrived early because even though I tried to explain that there was no hurry, he speed like a mainiack. I checked in early and paid for the flight as instructed. But at this airport you are not allowed into the international lounge until 1 hour before the flight. It was 1am and my flight did not leave until 4.15am. I had hours to wait. I had some really bad airport food (from a 4 page menu they only had one thing you could order. I fell asleep on the floor near the gate, and when I wolk it was past 3am so I moved through to customs. An old man in front of me all of a sudden threw up this yellow liquid, he and his wife amandoned that spot and went to a different line. He then threw up in that line but just walked forwardas if everything was normal. The wife just handed him a towel as if this happens all the time. It was very very strange. Standing in the line I met two other Australians from Melbourne when I warned them about the vomit. In true South American style the line marked ¨tourist¨ which we were standing in, was hardly moving. This did not bother me at all but a man pushed past us to get to the front of the line and we al staired at him with absolutel dismay that he would be so bold. Recognising this look, he explained that we were all in the wrong line. This was infact the line for nationals who need to pay tax and we shodul be in the Resident line! Of course...so we moved to the line with more vomit in it and slowly went through. Now it was only a short wait until the flight was ]due to leave and the boys noticed that I was really tired. They gave me a sleeping tablet in sympathy and said it would kick in in only a few minutes....well did it ever! The plane landed in Campo Grande and took off again and I did not even know. We then landed in Sao Paulo and I was the last off the plane in an absolute daze. I didn't realize I had to change planes, get my la]uggage and recheck in for my flight to Rio....and so it took a really long time, I was wondering around in a daze while a good 1 million Xmas passengers were desperately trying to check in. It was a line the rivaled any Heathrow congenstion...I came across a flight attendant in tears who had been pushed out of the way by an angry mob of people who had rushed the gate. Of course there was no gate number for my flight as it was delayed for un unknown amount of time so a few of us were sent to number 16 to wait. Here I thought I could try and call the hostel to say that I would be late on the ferry...but what was I thinking...there were hundreds of phone s but for only phone cards and I was informed as a matter of fact that noone sold phone cards in the airport, you just have to have one! Again I wasn't too worried by this ...I really have adopted the south American psychy! But a wonderful masuse noticed I was having problems and with one of her 10 cards she made the call for me...what a great girl! After a good hour I wondered back to the screen to see if a gate number had been issued...number 23...so we wondered down there. I had wolken up a bit by now, only to discover that Gol airlines had changed the plane and there where 7 too few seats. The airline was requesting that 7 people volunteer to take a flight at 5pm the following day (Xmas Eve). There was absolute anarchy when this was projected over the intercom. One man took himself to the counter and screamed and yelled at the man who litereally just stood there and took it. There was no way I was volunteering ...and that was the way most people felt but the airline insisted that they would not take off until the number of people required (now 3) came forward. I met a guy named Eduardo (18 from Rio but had lived in Bolivia for a year with his mum) and played cards with him. After another hour the last 2 people wlaked forward and everyone cheered...we were going to leave for Rio. Because of the whole stuff up with flights there we no assigned seat numbers so it was a free for all when we got on the plane. Eduardo sat next to me and we began to prepare to play cards again...but he started to be a bit weird...I wondered if he was many hours before when he first sat down next to me at the gate...but I passed it off as a difference in language and culture...but I should have paid attention to my first impressions. He first asked me if he could kiss me. I said no. He said he wanted to, I said he was crazy. He said what would you do if I tried and I said don't you dare ...but he did and I shuved him. He then turned really cold and kind of ¨postal¨ so was totally relieved when he said he was moving.
After I got over that incident I noticed that the plane was ready to take off and there was at least 1 or 2 seats free in ever row!!! If those 7 good people who will possible miss Christmas ever find out then they would be ropable...I know I would. So the 45 minute flight was uneventful but when I arrived at Rio I was extremely late. I had missed the bus that would get me to the boat that would get me to my hostel on Ilha Grande. I was a little worried as I had no idea where to stay in Rio. The information place at Rio was very helpful and gavce me all the information I needed. I got a hgostel, worked out my transport thatnight and the following morning and checked the internet to find out how Elise~' s trip was going. I also went to the counter to try and change my flight to London from Sao Paolo...but again that was a foolish thing to think that in person BA would be helpful...they were attending to a baggage problem...what a load of garbage...so I got a number which they guaranteed would be answered on Mon, Wed, Fri (11-12.15 and 4-5.15pm) CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!
The people who organsied the bus were lovely, it was about 8.30pm and pooring with rain in Rio. I got on the bus and almost immediately met an old lady who understood Spanish, no English and spoke Portugese...this was a new challenge! She also lived in Santa Teresa and knew the hostel I was to stay at but after a while of talking she asked if I would like to go back to her house. So I did. It was a long way past the hostel ...maybe a mistake..but I thought I would go with it. Rio did look particularly dodgy by night and so I was thankful to have another person with me. We were confronting with a man taking a shit next to the second bus stop and also a crazy black guy behind us who was harassing a women on the seat next to her. I jumped off the bus with her (Lana, 62) and we walked towards an institution looking type building. This was worrying when I noticed a deranged looking man at the door with his pants pulled halfway up his waist (definitely institutional worthy). Lana was definately making a B-line for that building. From behind the man appeared a black man in a blue medical like coat. He took the other man by the shoulders and said hello to Lana, moving him out of the way. I had arrived at a nursing home. I had gone home with a pensioner who had been on an ouoting and was going to stay the night with an old lady in a nursing home in Rio!!! What had I done.
I changed my idea about the nursing home thought when the man in the blue coat called the lift for us and there was no reception...I wondered if in fact it was just a high rise building and this man ran the lift. So I got in, still in the dark about where we were going and what on earth I was doing. The next horrendous shock was when the lift did not go up....it went diagonally up...I was completely disorientated and with all my bags on and the jolt of the lift almost fell over. It was an inclinator scaling a really really steep hill. We climbed and climbed...and with every metre we climbed thus improved the view of Rio by night. It was lovely but I was very very keen for it to stop as I was starting to get nervous about the height. It was really really high. With another heart leeping thump we stoped and I squeezed out the door. We came into a wonderful little court yard, Lana spoke with the security guard waiting at the top and then another man that passed us ...she was friends with everyone...by now it was about 9.30 or 10 and there weren't many people around. It was very dark but the light in the courtyard showed all the trees, plants and flowers that framed the residential buildings around. There were hundreds of beautiful white orchids dripping from the tall trees and around them were flying miniature bats.
Her little apartment was tiny. She lived alone and slept on a makeshift level in one of the rooms above a study, her kitchen was a hodge podge of things and the other room was decoirated as a 62 year old women wouldhad and had a wonderful huge window that looked over Rio. She had 2 cats which was a blow as I was exhausted and worried that I would not sleep being so allergic to them. Although she was very poor, she gave me an apple and some yogurt, bolied some water for a bucket shower and put a mat on the floor for me to sleep on in the study. But before she gave me the apple she put on rubber gloves, covered the apple in soap and scrubbed it with a scrstchy yellow sponge in the sink...i was dumbfounded! She also gave me her own pillow which I tried to refuse but she said she had another one (which I did not believe). When I came out of the shower she had made some more food, chicken, potatoes and rice and prepared the table for the two of us with some cordial. Her daughter was in her 30s and moved to France years ago. She had not returned in 9 years and Lana seemed really sad about that ...although i got the feeling she had many friends. For Christams she had a tiny plastic christams tree the size of a milo tin and no presents below it but on the table were 4 little plastic toy cars and some rapping paper which i assumed were going to be given to some children in the building.
She muddled around for a while reconnecting bottled water to the tap so that she coudl drink it. I was terribly tired and even though I enjoyed watching her I went to bed at about 11.30 to the sound of her ordering a taxi for me at 4.20am (my bus left very early). The alarm clock wolk me and she was already up and making some coffee...I didn~t believe her the night before when she said that she would be up. I packed all my things and waited for the cab...but at 5am it still was not there and we had moved out to the courtyard. The security guard from the night before was there and Lana and he started to exchange words, i could only imagine a discussion about what i was going to do and where the Taxi coudl have got wrong in the direction. In the dark, and the silence we coudl here a car coming, the strain of the engine, it was trying to make its way up the steep switchback road to Lana's mounatin top location. On arrival the other two went into a frenzy and they all started to get excited about how i was going to make it in time. I jumped in the car, thanked them and was pleased to see the security guard tell the taxi driver for the 3rd time which way to go to get me to the bus station.
The road back down was extremely steep and narrow, even the littel cab had to do a 3 point turn at every corner. He reversed twice at the bottom of the hill past a sign, changing his mind, past another one, but he did find his way onto a main road and i finally felt as if i was on the right road. I had my bags with me on the back seat which has not been a problem anywhere else in South America, and although i was well aware of how dodgy Rio is suposed to be, after travelling for 3 months i don't think i was actually doing as i should. At the next red light, i saw a man approach the car. My first thoughts were that he was strange looking as he had died his hair blonde and had the darkest black skin. I was thinking that he must have had nice hair before and what a shame it was that he had died it. But as he approached he raised his arm and produced a gun. This shoudl have been a huge shock but i coudln't quite take it in at first. Once it was clear that he was going to reach the car my first instinct was to slide the camera i had in my hand carefully between my legs and sit on it. From my experience with terribile things in the past I know not to watch (so that i do not retain the memory of something horrific or so that i do not catch his eye and therefore in anyway antagonise him). So i looked at my lap and tried not to move or breath. He arrived at the drivers window and from where i was sitting (rear passenger side) I could no longer see his face. There was not a soul around ....
He spoke with the driver in Portuguese (which is only slightly similar to Spanish). I could not understand any of it but i got the gist of it. Pretty quicky the driver grabbed the handfuls of money from the centre dash and gave it to him. They both appeared to be calm which added to the sereal situation. The driver waited ...there was no response from the gunman....but as i watched and waited in silence in the back, the gunman bent down to look at me. He staired straight at me and i could not look away for fear of what was going to happen next. He glanced over my bags and holding his gaze into my eyes, spoke to the driver in Portugese. I was absolutely frozen at this point (not scared). I just waited. This time the driver had a stronger tone in his voice as he spoke to the gunman. He pleaded...
I just sat and waited...
The gun man thought about it...
The gun was very old. Not black but a grey green and had scratches in the metal as if it had been dragged and droped on the road many times. It looked heavy and his hand was very comfortably holding it. He had a fluro yellow brazilian football shirt on and his face was strong but young. I don't know why, and i can't really believe it ...but he steped back from the window and we drove away. He just watched me pass. I looked back and the picture i retain is a tall thin man left standing on a road with the dim light of the yellowórange street lamp distorting the colour of his hair and shirt. He didn't move, the gun was not pointed at us but was held like an extension to his hand. He stratched his face, completely comfortable with the situation and completely in control. After a distance he began to be dwarfted by the concrete mass of the overpass running along side the road and then he disappeared, blocked by a tall buidling as we shot away. I wasn't robbed. I WAS NOT ROBBED. I know it woudl be exciting for anyone not to be robbed but as so many things go south for me i was so relieved.
The taxi driver did not say a word, but he was concentrating hard on getting to the bus station. Both because of the time and i think because on the robbery, we did not stop at one red light and unlike earlier, we took the corners at full speed. We arrived at the bus terimal where there were many people. He put one of my bags on and with the other hand, bunddled me and my backpack into his protection. He escorted me to a security guard and explained where i wanted to go and asked if i could be taken there. I think he thought i was tramatised by the experience...but actually i was just quietly happy about my eascape. Due to the hour and the whole mess i forgot completely about his loss until i was safely on the bus to Manaragitva with two lovely French girls and a Chilean who were also going to Ilha Grande. The poor man, he shook my hand with such vigour, my arm almost came off but i thanked him prefusly ( in Spanish) and had to rush to my bus. I never turned aroudn to wave him goodbye and i never gave him extra for the lossed money and my safety.
Once on the bus, i explained what had happened to my travelling companions. After a while, the movement of the bus, the heat and the extraustion kicked in and i slept the whole way. As a result i didn't see Rio by day...only the gunman standing alone on the street. Rio has showed me both extreme kindness and fear ...
| Entry 45 of 77
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