I knew my South American adventure would take me to Brazil at some point since there is a World Wonder in Rio de Janeiro. After some research, I came to find out that New Years in Rio aka Reveillon was rated as the top New Years celebration in the world. I am into lists, as I have mentioned before, so I knew this needed to happen.
Since I was out of the country in a place where I was not allowed to procure new visas for travel, I had to do some shifty work to get my Brasil visa. I used Travisa services. All in, it took 3 weeks to get it fully processed. My total cost was around $700 including shipping and insurance and fees. It is a very strenuous and annoying process that entails bank account verification, notarized driver’s license, and much more.
All the while, I was working on my flights in and out. Getting in wasn’t bad since I was already in Argentina, but it wasn’t easy. I had to fly into São Paulo then to Rio in order to get a flight at a decent cost. The return flight was even more difficult to acquire. Sure, there is a direct American Airlines flight from Rio to Dallas, but that flight costs $8000 for a one-way. I ended up booking on ticket from Rio to Panama City to San Salvador and a second ticket from San Salvador to Houston to Dallas: a total travel time including taxis of 32 hours, give or take. I actually had to leave the San Salvador airport completely through immigration, then come back in. This process took them almost an hour to comprehend. Then I found out that San Salvador airport shuts down nearly completely at 10PM, so there was no food or drink options.
The next piece of logistical annoyance was getting a hotel. As I said, Reveillon is a huge celebration. There are 2,000,000 people that are partying on Copacabana Beach. This meant that all the hotels and AirBNBs were booked for months. I looked at the JW Marriott, but it was $800 a night. I ended up choose a hotel that seemed close, Royal Tulip. It was only $300 a night or so. This ended up a terrible mistake. If you visit Rio, stay on Copacabana. You will regret the transit otherwise.
Uber is great around the city. You don’t need to speak Portuguese, and it is usually done with good cars. The taxi situation is pretty bad. They are everywhere, but half of them will not stop. They only take cash, and they are difficult to understand.
When I was booking my trip, I decided to take a full day in the largest city in the Americas, and check out the beer scene. My buddy, Scott, put me in touch with a beer contact of his in Brazil. We set a time to meet for lunch. I arrived very early after an overnight flight. When I tried to withdraw money from my account, Wells Fargo decided it would be fun to put a fraud alert on my account and lock all activity. Great… It is 1AM, my account is locked. I lost my Schwab card in Cusco. I have no cash, and I have an hour drive to my hotel. After yelling at Wells Fargo for an hour, I realized the fraud department didn’t open for 8 hours or so. As luck would have it, an Uber driver picked up my fare, so I only had to wait 90 minutes total. Then it was 45 minutes to the hotel. Thankfully the Sheraton WTC took care of me and let me check in super early. The hotel was pretty cool, and even though Christmas was over, there was still a cheerful feel about the lobby.
I woke up from my nap and headed over to Empório Alto dos Pinheiros to meet Doug and try some Brazilian beers. This place was awesome with its patio and indoor seating. They have a weird payment system, but they take credit cards. They had many local beers on tap and shelves and shelves of craft beer. Perfect.
We enjoyed a delicious daily special beef dish and some fresh IPAs. Afterwards, I grabbed a can togo and headed to Beco de Batman to take in some of the famous street art. Some of the neighborhoods did not seem very safe, but I am glad I walked. It gave me a chance to take in the flavour of the city.
I hit up Cervejaria Nacional for some more local brews then headed back to my hotel for a nap.
Concierge set up a reservation for me at Vento Haragano, which is considered one of the top churrascarias in the area. This place did not disappoint. The meat was delicious and wouldn’t stop. Gaucho after gaucho presented his cuts of perfectly cooked meats. I was in heaven.
After this meal, I couldn’t do much more drinking. I went by BrewDog, but they were closed for reason I couldn’t quite understand. I took that as a sign to go home… haha.
I woke up the next day and made my way back to the airport. It was a short stay in Sao Paulo, but I loved it. I definitely need to return for more beer and culture.
Rio Day One
I landed and could feel the energy. Millions of party-going adventure seekers were traveling in, and their emotions were filling the atmosphere. I grabbed my bags and an Uber and it was off to the hotel. From the start, I should have been leary about this hotel. It took them 40+ minutes to check everyone in… each… after wasting nearly two hours of my life, I got to my room to feel a beastly warm breeze. I don’t want to focus on the negative for several reasons: first, it dilutes the value of Brazil, second, I have already wasted too many hours, and third, I don’t want more headaches.
After dropping my stuff, I made my way to Bar Urca. I heard they had amazing views and great crab cakes. I opted to avoid the restaurant and just order food from the bar. It was a great decision. This was an excellent decision.
After a bite, I headed over to grab some brews from As Melhores Cervejas do Mundo. This place was great. Small, but they had 6 or so taps plus many local bottles.
Next, it was nap time. I stopped by the pool for a coconut and a kiwi caipirinha. It was a little crowded, so I left. That night, I went back out to explore. I hit Delirium for some food and a beer, then headed to Hocus Pocus DNA. I was very impressed with Hocus Pocus. The waitresses were very well-versed in beer. The atmosphere was fun. The space was a little small, but I am just a big guy.
I knew I needed rest for the next day, so I closed out and headed back.
This was the main reason for coming to Rio. I was pumped. I had an all morning tour of the statue and Sugar Loaf mountain. With every tour, you roll the dice when it comes to fellow tour goers. I have had quiet, loud, big, small, annoying, fun, and everything inbetween. I lucked out bigtime with this tour. Evan and Paloma actually lived in Dallas. And Paloma is from Peru. They were amazing. They loved food and beer. So we had a great day. We were the first to get up the mountain, so it wasn’t terribly crowded at the statue.
When I planned out my World Wonder adventure, I actually had very low expectations for Christ the Redeemer. I thought, why should a statue be on the list. It isn’t really significant or anything. Wow. Was I wrong. Everything about this. The aura, the atmosphere, the energy, the tour…. EVERYTHING was splendid and inspiring.
We did some touristy pictures and just absorbed everything we could. Next we headed to Sugarloaf mountain. The views up there were idyllic. I felt like I had been transported to another world.
After our tour, I invited Evan and Paloma to join up with the Couchsurfing group I was meeting for Reveillon. I am glad they are cool, for I really did not look forward to celebrating New Years alone in a crowd of 2,000,000. We agreed to rest and get ready for reveillon then meet back at Copacabana around 8 or so. I grabbed my white outfit, and fought with a taxi driver. Then struggled with an Uber driver. Then walked. Then grabbed another cab. Then walked some more. But I made it. I texted them and waited… and waited… finally I went to buy a cup for some libations, when I saw Evan and Paloma walking my way. Apparently, some favela kid had stolen his phone. Luckily, he found me. We got our flowers and got ready for an awesome night. Later, an Argentinian couple met up with us. He recognized me from my WhatsApp picture. We also met four awesome Brasilian girls and one cool dude. We were ready for sure. Beers flowed, dancing happened, Good times were had, the concert played. It was an awesome night.
Then came time for the big show. Against many recommendations, we made our way to the beach for the fireworks. Surprisingly, there was plenty of space. Then I discovered why… these favela kids would gang up in groups of twenty or so… Then they would run through the crowds stealing everything they could. I don’t understand how Rio and Brazil let this happen. It destroys the environment and atmosphere of the celebration. Evan and I were cocked and ready to drop anyone that came close. They formed a flying V so I could take my pictures for the group. I saw some of the danger people talked about. But we faced in standing tall. These thugs wouldn’t ruin our trip.
The fireworks were phenomenal. I am ecstatic we were on the beach. After it all ended, the roadblock made for some logistics nightmares. I walked over 4 miles just to get a cab. Then I got to the hotel. Of course, my room was still hot. UGH. 3 hours later, I started my journey home.
I am so happy I was able to visit Brasil. I felt like my travel goals were fulfilled, and I know that Jeff looked down and smiled. Another plus side, I now have a 10 year visa. So, I guess I should visit again.