Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hot hot hot!

Editor's note: Okay, the posts have resumed. Realised I couldn't deny my Scottish-based readers the pleasure of my waffling for any longer!

Bloody hell Brazil is hot! Arrived in the morning of the 18th, and was in the airport, a concrete 60s-looking creation, thinking "wow it's hot".. then I went down the boarding gangway to the domestic flight to Foz de Iguassu, and for a moment was exposed to the real heat, then realising what I thought was hot was actually air-conditioning! It's hot hot hot!!

[Geek aside]: Back on the flight from Santiago to Rio. Gold star sticker on LAN's homework (or should I say "tarea"?!) - laptop power supplies in-seat that accept regular two pin plugs, European and US. Contrast with BA who require a stupid proprietary adapter (available in their Duty Free Shopping for a mere £60-80), and for what, may I ask? Although in First, they often have a spare handy that you can borrow. Still, that's not the point! Anyway, there are four of us in 16 seats in business, so I am spreading! Dinner is about to be served, well it's only 3:30am local time, so why not? [/Geek aside]

Arrived in Brazil, off the plane, to immigration. A big chap behind the desk asks me "how long will you be in Brazil?" in an intimidatingly-deep voice. I say I plan to leave the first week of New Year. So 2 weeks is enough for you? I almost say yes... Then think.. now is 18th, I want to leave 8th.. Can't I have a month? After all, I am eligible for three! Anyway, manage a month after asking nicely. This then gets removed later, though that's another story.

Out and try to get some money. Tried HSBC. Tried Bank of Brazil. Tried ABN. Tried Debit card, tried Visa. Multiple cards and banks all not working? Started to worry. In the end, Amex worked. Not good. Can't be taking money out using AMEX for the whole time I'm here, it's gonna cost a fortune!

Across to Terminal 2 for check-in to my TAM domestic flight. Queues like British Airways haven't seen at Gatwick North Terminal when there's a bit of fog on the runway! The queue advances slowly. Normally in this sort of situation, staff walk along the line seeing which flights people are queueing for and fast-track those cutting it fine. Not here. I get nervous. I have a very pretty Brazilian girl standing next to me, but I'm not in the mood for small talk. Yes, I'm feeling grumpy! Make it to the front of the queue 40 minutes before my flight. Someone else is arguing with the check-in staff, presumably because he hasn't been allowed to check in for his flight after the delay! No surprise here after 30 or 40 minutes queuing! TAM's website has on-line check-in, allowing one to "beat the queues" - and they weren't joking! I of course was not eligible for this facility.

The first airport security in a long time not to object to my laptop (hmmm) and I'm into lounge. Quick net access (free! woo!) then we board. Incidentally, before we go on, they've whacked on the "no liquids or gels through security but okay if you purchase for inflated prices in duty free" thing here at all airports, just like back home, but it's obviously not whole-heartedly because in 5 South American flights not once has my sun-cream, anti-bacterial handwash, or 3 litre Camelbak (often partially full) been questioned. I've pointed them out myself on occasion, but to no avail.

On to the plane, experiencing the intense heat before stepping on board! Right to the back of the plane, and a nice snooze on the flight. By now I've been travelling for over 24 hours and I'm exhausted! We take off and circle around Rio high above, banking almost deliberately to maximise the view. It's absolutely beautiful (sorry, no photos, was too tired and camera was in overhead locker, of course I regret this now!) - not only are there the famous bits that one knows, i.e. statue of Christ (couldn't quite make it out - just a white dot) overlooking Sugerloaf Mountain and Copacabana beach - there is in fact a huge archipelago, with islands dotted about the deep blue water, and an enormous coastal bay of which Rio is just one small part. I look for the "City of God", the large area of slums outside of Rio, as made famous in the film of the same name, but am not sure which bit it is or what exactly I am looking for.

Brazilians say: "God made the world in six days; the seventh he devoted to Rio" (pronounced 'Heeoo' by locals).

We follow the coast down, over Paraty, where I plan to spend Xmas, and Isla Grande, a large nature reserve, then turn inland, over thick forest and winding Amazonian-looking rivers. At Foz de Iguassu, out into the oven, and a quite expensive fixed-price taxi, 42 reals, £10, to my hotel, Luz. It's a rather ugly block near the Rotoviaria, the long-distance bus terminal. Friendly chap on reception, but fairly grim otherwise, and not cheap! My room has two small beds, an aircon unit in t
he wall, a fridge and an orange bathroom, once I battle through the strange circular lock with key that only works one way in, despite fitting fairly well through the full 360 and completely in two positions. Dammit!

The rain comes in during the second afternoon

Net access, but costs money! 25 reals per day - £6! Grrr! Finally in a country forward enough to charge huge amounts for access! Well I'm not paying that! You can all wait! Worse, if you use the "net cafe" in the hotel, it's 10 reals per hour, with no fractions of that possible. In town it's only R$3, which is more acceptable.

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