So after almost a full day of travel from our doorstep in Berlin where it was alternating between snow and rain, we’re arriving in Rio de Janeiro. Marta, ever the optimist, points out how green it is. I, the disgruntled armchair environmental crusader, point out that the industrial area we’re flying by has a very noticeable layer of brown smog that we’re passing through. She throws me a quick “dickhead” look and continues to marvel at the mountains and forests. She’s definitely more right about this.
We disembark and even though it’s only 8 am local time the temperature is already 24 degrees. I’m not a fan of the heat but after the last few months of Berlin, this is exquisite. We hit the toilets (where I proceed to finish my chicken before Customs throw it away… yes, I am disgusting) and are suitably impressed by the cleanliness. Because that’s how we roll.
As soon as we have our bags, I slap on my sandals and we’re good to go. We hit the main terminal, grab some cash from an ATM at a terrible exchange rate, and push out the doors into the oven that is the open tropics.
Standing around dazedly for a moment a woman rushes up to us and asks us if we’re looking for a taxi. She’s got ID so we go for it. We’re ushered past an insanely long line of people who we can only assume are also waiting for taxis for whatever reason and are sent on our way.
Because of Carnaval (they start at 7 am) there are many roads blocked. Our driver is unfailingly polite and insists on trying to converse via a translation program which is accurate enough though I wish he’d just look at the road instead. He continues to point out landmarks in excited Portuguese which we pretend to get excited about while thinking only about food, showers, and sleep.
The roads are shockingly ordered. After having traveled through Asia and heard stories from other travelers about various countries around the globe I was expecting chaos. But, at least in Rio, people drive carefully and attentively (for the most part). It’s a welcome relief knowing that we won’t have to deal with the insane traffic that plagues many other places. Definitely one less thing that needs to be obsessed over.
To pass the time in the cab Marta and I decide to unleash some of the pent up aggression of the past day’s travel by having a stupid argument. No one wins but we wear ourselves out a little more which becomes useful once we make it to a bed.
Arriving in Lapa after several extended detours and a ride that costs almost double the norm, we make it to our AirBnB. Our host is an incredibly charming Brazilian woman in her mid 40s by the name of Malu. She explains the local dangers, mostly pickpockets, and how to circumvent them such as carrying your bag on your chest and, surprise, not putting things in your pockets, then she’s off.
We dump our bags, experience our first Brazilian supermarket (picture a slightly larger convenience store with an open freezer that has a deli counter), then head back to the cool embrace of A/C set to 18 degrees.
After a quick snack session we are rapidly unconscious. Me faster than Marta, which prompts her to wake me by saying “Beep” progressively louder until my thoroughly confused brain needs to check what’s going on. She chastises me, I grunt an apology, we pass out in unison.
Several hours later we’re awake but intensely lazy. We loll around the bed organising other flights and bookings for something to do that doesn’t involve outside. Carnaval is knocking at the windows, but neither of us are keen to answer. We continue to drift in and out of reality for a few more hours.
Finally, fueled by the instant coffee that I thought Marta was mad to bring, we head out for a little exploration and to hit up a recommended restaurant that is famed for its use of indigenous style and ingredients.