(I could name all of my Brazil posts the same to be honest!)
04.08.2016 - 14.08.2016
Ariving early by train to the border means one thing in Bolivia: you have to wait for the border control office to open up. And that seems to depend, not on the hour as suggested by the clock, but when the employees decide to roll out of bed, put down their coffees and make the grand effort to start working. Really, it was only a two hour wait after their stated opening time, so I don´t have much to complain about.
Crossing into Brazil was not as difficult or strict as I had heard. In fact, I didn´t even see the Brazil border control, just handed my passport to a man, (he DID have a police cap) who returned it ten minutes later with my stamp.
For the first time, I had vaguely planned ahead, go me! I had a couchsurfing host arranged in Campo Grande, and I even had my transport booked. Albeit, somewhat vaguely, catching a ride with a stranger who I had agreed to meet at the station (using an obliging backpacker to write in Portuguese for me). This sounds a lot worse than it is, I swear. I had recruited an additional traveller to join me, he also needed to get to Campo Grande to catch his next bus, and we were thrilled when our driver turned up in a great big land rover, with the luxury of air conditioning! Our driver was a very nice Navy pilot, who thankfully spoke very good English, so it wasn´t as bad as I had thought it might be. A six hour drive later and we arrived in Campo Grande, where I met my lovely host family- Daniel, his sister Raquel and their fabulous mum!
As soon as I arrived I was welcomed into the family, and they insisted that I stayed longer than the two days I had initially requested. Although Campo Grande is not a known tourist hotspot in Brazil, they assured me I had plenty of things to...taste. The next few days were spent flitting between places to eat, drink, and snack. Obviously I was not complaining at all!
Once my stomach was filled up on Campo Grande specialities, I moved on to Sao Paulo, to sample their local declicacies of course... 15 hours on the bus and I arrived in the biggest city in South America. Once more I had another couchsurfing host lined up, so I navigated the metro to find my next home! This time I was staying with Paloma, her boyfriend Caca, and their pomeranian fluffball Clara. Here I was even treated to the luxury of an outdoor swimming pool, shared by the apartment block, but as it was 16 degrees, I was the only person crazy enough to brave the cold water. Worth it though!
Once again, I was instantly made to feel at home and treated like a friend from the offset. Paloma and Caca are both musicians, and I was swept along to various gigs to watch them perform, and children´s parties, where I actually ´joined in´on the tambourine. Musical talent at its finest.
Paloma was also incredibly generous with her time, showing me the sites, and of course, ensuring I tasted the best of Sao Paulo food. Sao Paulo is huge, I mean really crazy big, so I feel I barely scratched the surface, but did manage to get to the historical centre, and its beautiful Ibirapuera Park, which is a gorgeous green break amongst the thousands of skyscrapers.
As before, Paloma and Caca allowed me (insisted) to stay an extra night than planned, in order for my onward travel to be better arranged...they quite quickly sussed that I am not one for forward planning! But as my next stop was Rio (and Becky´s arms), Paloma was concerned that I was not arriving at night, with no idea where to go...so I made sure I booked my bus in advance, and arranged with Becky to meet me at the terminal, yay! This is what I love about couchsurfing, not only have people opened their homes to me and given me the best, local experiences of life in XYZ city, but they have all been interested in my travel, concerned for my safety, and extremely helpful in my future plans! I much prefer this method of travel and meeting people, than staying in hostels.
And finally, the day came for me to board my bus to Rio, and travel the last few hours (six) to meet my darling sister! I was beyond excited.