16 November 2017
After leaving OR Tambo airport, we assumed the position for the 10 hour flight to Sao Paulo. It was thankfully a direct flight, costing about R8000 each and pretty short in comparison to what we are used to. Thanks to Genevieve the awesome lady that assisted us at Flight Centre, who even left us a sweet safe travels note with our tickets. Oh and she also managed to get us super cheap travel insurance for a year costing about R6000. Back to the flight and big respect to SAA. The food was decent and we had unlimited supply of drinks, well H2O in our case which came in bottles instead of little cups that we were offered twice the last time with Air France. On the flight we met a relative who works as an air hostess for SAA, that was pretty cool and she gave us a heads up as to what to expect and places we should see while there. Thanks Evie!
Arriving in Sao Paulo was pretty uneventful, passports were stamped with a 90 day visa and almost no questions were asked. Tried getting a sim card for data (google maps in particular) but the only option for foreigners was a sim that cost $150 with unlimited data for a month. That was definitely not within our budget, so we gave it a miss and decided to wing it using the free wi-fi at some restaurants which was also a great excuse to grab a beer or two. We were planning on taking the public bus but after realising that no one speaks English even at the airport tourist information, we wimped out and decided to get an Uber which cost about R300 to the hostel.
The sky line of Sao Paulo was amazing with a sea of high rise buildings dotted amongst smaller buildings, definitely a CBD vibe comparable to Johannesburg but on a much larger scale. We drove through the city during rush hour which left a few skid marks in our undies. The driving is reckless and I’m still contemplating if cars in Brazil come standard with indicators and brakes because if they do then no one cares to use them. Often felt like we were on the Night bus in Harry Potter books, squeezing between vehicles I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to fit through even if I walked sideways.
Made it to Sao Paulo Backpackers in one piece and we were greeted by a lovely lady named Priscilla who spoke English very well. We booked a “no star rated” double room which was comfortable enough to get a good night’s rest. Actually two nights because for some reason we really felt the jet lag on this trip.
Managed to go on a few walkabouts. This city offers a lot of variety with areas being trendy, upmarket, artsy, grungy or just a weird mixture. Needless to say, being a CBD there are a few no go zones that you should stay away from unless “you want to getta hurt real bad”. We stayed in a mediocre trendy, grungy part of town with lots of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Sao Paulo seems to come to life once the sun descends, music as varied as the city itself can be heard from every street corner, which are crowded with people of all ages enjoying a few drinks after work and socialising.
The hostel which you would think hosted a lot of foreign travellers turned out to be more of a commune with a lot of the residents being locals either working in the city or studying whilst volunteering at the hostel. Most spoke Portuguese or Spanish only and those that spoke a bit of English seemed too shy to try.
On the second day we did meet a traveller named Simon, half Spaniard half Swiss from Switzerland. He is an air steward and travels often in his personal capacity, needless to say he gets great discounts on flights. Like us he loves nature especially mountains. Simon hikes, climbs and has an adventurous spirit, a really sweet guy with loads of stories to tell for his 29 years of age. That night we went out for supper with him, a local named Samuel who was preparing for an interview the next day and really needed a couple of beers to calm the nerves; and a Muslim Turkish delight whose name I can’t remember. Awesome company, awesome conversation, awesome night.
Today we leave to Rio de Janiero so we booked accommodation and did a bit of research on transportation, bus terminals etc. because this time we were going to use public transportation even if we had to use sign language to do so. We have all the time in the world so no biggie if we get lost. I take that back, the bus to Rio leaves the terminal at 23:00 so we have until then.
Oh before I go, we met another youngster named Santa, no not Clause, the other one (pronounced Sun-ta) from Japan, he’s been travelling for about 18 months and has covered as many countries as Santa Clause himself. Santa just arrived from South Africa, whoop whoop! He also travelled to many other African countries and has loads of experience, reindeer not included (sorry I’ll stop). Santa loves surfing and dreams of going to Hawaii, he unfortunately has to wait for his passport to expire because he visited Iran and apparently America will not let him into the country with an Iranian stamp on his passport. Who would have thunk?!