Day #5’s main goal was to make the only significant land travel connection of the entire 12-day journey – from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro. If all went well, 25 of us and our belongings would safely and comfortably travel the 263 miles between the two largest cities of Brazil in a single day. And in fact this is essentially what happened.
The day began with Dr. A and I checking out from the Hotel Mercure São Paulo, where we had been staying, and taking a taxi to the Vila Madalena Hostel to meet the students. After goodbyes to Andrew Weliver’s relatives – very nice ladies who had entertained some 7-8 of our group the day before by taking them into their apartment for a visit, eating together, shopping, etc., and this morning provided us four faculty “adult” leaders with Brazil souvenirs (T-shirts, whistles, arm bracelets, etc.) – and final payment to the hostel staff, we were set to go.
São Paulo had been a very pleasant and interesting experience for everyone, and four nights was just the right amount of time to spend there. But now everyone was super excited to be moving “on” to the faster, younger, more hip world of Rio and all its world-famous attractions. So away we went, whisked by nine taxis to the bus station around 11:00 am, arriving ca. 11:15. This gave us plenty of time to get organized, distribute tickets and allow the students to grab something to eat if they wished, before the 12:20 walk to our gate and departure at 1:00. Again, all of this happened without incident or problem.
The ride to Rio itself was comfortable and smooth, in a very modern, upscale, internet-accessible coach. Our Wesleyan group took up the front ½ of the coach, and the remainder was filled with other individuals, mostly Brazilian, travelers. The 6-hr journey included a 20-minute stop for lunch at a lovely buffet bar (food paid for by weight), and another 20-25 minute stop to check brakes before beginning the long descent on the outskirts of Rio into the city. In addition to some very exciting, impromptu dance music provided courtesy of Mr. Cubela’s iPhone – Michael Jackson, Prince, Jobim, etc. – and an even more impromptu moonwalk in the aisle by Dr. A (!), we were treated to very interesting views of the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro out the window. One captivating sight was what appeared to very large either termite or ant or some other type of insect or animal mounds, quite large and intimidating, and often scattered by the dozens in the outlying fields. If they were termite mounds, we wondered, what in the world would they be feeding on? If they were ant mounds, how big did such ants have to be to create such huge mounds? Eventually the mystery was solved: indeed, they were termite mounds, and the food source was the stumps of trees left after a field had been cleared.
Anyway, the afternoon and early evening were taken up with getting to Rio, so once it happened, everyone was ready to check into the new hostel – Che Largato Ipanema Hostel – situated 1 block from Ipanema Beach. But first, one final taxi ride, and then we were at our destination in Rio! Whoo-whoo! By the time we got the passports all scanned, and people sorted into rooms, it was nearly 10 pm – just enough time to eat! Which we did one block away at another wonderful place, tellingly called Kilograma – another place you pay by the weight (of the food, not the person!) – this time, as the name implies, by the kilo! 1 kilogram of food = 54 reais, or $27. None of us actually ate a kilo of food, but ½ to 2/3 of a kilo was not uncommon. And there was a huge, triple-case full of culinary choices to pick from, including many pasta, salad, and meat dishes, salmon, chicken, beef, pork, so it was all very healthy eating. Another successful, satisfying day!