Friday, December 31, 2010

Rio: Kickin it with the 30-something wanderers

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro by bus on Monday the 27th around seven in the evening and my first experience was poop. The first taxi driver quoted a price double what the hostel told me it should cost. The second driver, who didn't turn on the meter despite my insistence and then turned it to the higher priced bandeira 2 in what I thought was a scam (though learned later, was not [oops, my bad])--actually made me get out of the taxi 2 blocks away from the bus terminal, which we both knew was a sketchy area. The third price was also a rip-off, but I took it anyway, in a huff, because I was out of patience and only wanted to safely get from Point A to Point B.

"Get your act together, Rio." I thought.

Point B was Rio Hostel in Santa Teresa. Because I was exhausted by work and travel, and because I have visited Rio three times before, and because I was most thrilled at the prospect of relaxing in the company of new friends (first 3 days) and old friends (next 3 days)--I had no intention of lifting a finger to sightsee, no intention of partaking (this time) in the madness at Copacabana na hora da virada. Nope. I just wanted to hang out, meet, read, sleep, wander a little, and clink a few glasses in the evenings.

I got exactly what I wanted.

My first impression of the Santa Teresa hostel was average. And from an accommodation standpoint, it is. Good showers, decent beds, average charm.

Excellent rooftop bar and patio with a little pool.

What made my stay far better than average, however, was the tribe of travelers (as is frequently the case). The night I arrived I met the Chinese-American Francis; Ryan and Todd, the retired Canadians; Jens the German Convention Engineer; Breno the Carioca and Vanessa the Gaúcha, a hard-partying duo that live in Belém do Pará (among others); all but one sharing an unusual characteristic for hostelers, we were aged 34 to 41.

Ryan & Todd

This brings a couple of notable differences to the experience.

1) We still partied hard, but only one bottle of hooch got smashed over the entire three days.

2) I had the delightful and unexpected sensation that my favorite hobby, traveling--and, more specifically, hosteling--was growing with me.

I was surrounded by neat people of my ilk who, for whatever reason and with whatever experience behind them, have made a conscientious choice and effort to take their lives on the road.

Jens, me, Frank, Tim, and Sarcastic Brit #1

Ryan speaks Japanese and just finished a 40,000 km bike ride from his native Winnipeg to Chile. Pfft.

Todd has had so many surgeries to correct hockey-related injuries that he is nearly robotic. And he is the Giver of Absinthe.

Vanessa works at the Theatro da Paz and sometimes gets funny looks due to her irresistible urge to get her groove on.

Americans Frank and Tim had the most opposite personalities and interests but the tightest bond of any brothers I have ever known. Super cool guys.

Dutch Elsa just left her position as a counselor with the penitentiary system to do a kiteboarding and culture tour of South America.

And there was Dutch Skip, Francesca of Milan, a few sarcastic Brits for good measure, and so many others...

Elsa and Tim (Apparently, double-fisting would be a trip theme, as you will see in the next post.)

My stay at Rio Hostel gave me itchy feet. One of the options for 2011 I have been kicking around my head for some time now is a slow backpacking tour of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, et al. Hmmm.

But first, New Years Eve...