Monday, 15 June 2015

Sao Paulo (Sampa)

SA - Sao Paulo

24/05 - 25/05

Finally after weeks of planning and much anticipation the day arrived for us to fly off to Brazil for the start of our 6 month South American adventure.  Our loved ones came to the airport in mass to see us off. 
Enjoying our last Wimpy mega coffee and brekkie before boarding our flight to Johannesburg.

Our flight to Sao Paulo was only for the next morning which gave us the opportunity to stay over with Rox's Mom's family in Pretoria. We had tea with her grandparents and spent the afternoon playing touches in the backyard with the four cousins (aged 5-13) . We obviously do not play enough in our spare time because after just 10 minutes, we were absolutely exhausted. Playing is hard work! 

Playing with Rox's cousins in the backyard - Edan, Kean, Tamaryn and Brennan. 
We had a wonderful evening watching dance concerts eagerly performed by the kids, helping with bathing and sharing stories and photos from our last trip! 
We did not sleep too well as the reality of the situation was beginning to set in.  In the morning we were woken with delicious coffee in bed and little home treats which we are not going to experience for quite a while. We were part of the school rush and once all the kids were dropped off, Alan took the last two children to the airport.  
Going through the boarding process was a breeze and as we were waiting in OR Tambo we got in our last phone calls and messages to our loved ones. 
Take-off time! Farewell South Africa... See you in a little bit! 

As we flew over the Atlantic ocean the reality began to sink in... All these doubts started flooded our heads. Would we actually remember how to travel? This nervousness started to creep in but we just convinced ourselves that together we would figure it out... Hopefully! 
We landed in Sao Paulo around 3:30 that afternoon, we were stamped in and then went to collect our luggage. We waited at the conveyor belt for our bags to come along.  One by one people around us collected their things and wandered towards the exit. We were vigilant but our bags just didn't seem to appear. Eventually it was just us and one lonely bag circling the conveyor belt. We went to seek help. It was then that we realised,  no-one in Brazil speaks English! We started hand signalling and trying to communicate best we could. They found Roxy's bag on another turnstile but Joy's was still missing. The helpful airport assistant gestured towards the lone bag we had already confirmed was not ours. But he was persistent that it was the one we desired. Only upon closer inspection did we come to the realisation that it was indeed Joy's bag - the plastic wrap and pressure had squeezed it to half its size. We felt rather foolish and quickly scampered off. 
Now we had to find the bus into town. We had done a little research and knew exactly how to get to our hostel... Well,  in theory anyway. We headed to the information desk and were happy to find an English speaking consultant. He gave us a map and directed us to the bus. Buying the ticket was proving challenging as the ticket sales person did bit speak English and we could not speak a word of Portuguese (perhaps we should have made the effort to learn a little before arriving). Luckily for us there was kind couple behind us who came to our rescue. The bus was air-conditioned which made us happy - we are going  to have to get used to this heat. Upon arriving at our stop, it was 17:30...rush hour in the bustling metropolis of Sao Paulo. As we stepped off the bus we were bombarded by people walking with purpose. No casual strollers here! Now we had to navigate the subway system at rush hour. There were people everywhere! Quite a daunting experience descending into the underground. We knew where we had to go but didn't know where to buy tickets or which direction to move. Obviously we stuck out like sore thumbs with our big backpacks on our backs,  stylish front packs as well as our matching hiking takkies. This worked to our advantage as a passing stranger realised our distress and quickly gave us directions and advice on how to survive the subway at this crazy time of day. We managed to make it through and arrived safely at the correct stop. Our walk to the hostel was up what seemed to be a never ending Road. By the time we finally arrived at our very fun,  party hostel we were hot, sweaty and exhausted. Shower and bed were the only things on our minds although there were free Caipirinhas downstairs. We'll save that one for tomorrow night!  


26/05 - 28/05


04h30 and we were wide awake. Clearly the jet lag was playing tricks on our body clocks. Okay...let's try sleep a little longer.

07h00 and there was no way we could sleep any longer. Perhaps in South America we are just natural morning people.

We spent the day organising our lives. Doing a little research about Sao Paulo, Manaus and Brazil in general. We also chatted to some of the young staff that worked at the Hostel. Bianca was very knowledgeable and gave us some great advice on what to see around Sao Paulo.

Lime Time hostel was appropriately decorated with bright green everywhere. The buildings in Sao Paulo are all filled with graffiti. It is a huge part of the culture of this huge metropolis. Our hostel really embraced this trend as there was chalk graffiti all over the walls in the common area.

We went up to the rooftop to enjoy the view of the city skyline as well as admire the artwork on the buildings surrounding us.

We also happened upon a couple of braai's on the rooftop...perhaps we can have boerie rolls for lunch?

Roxy enjoying the view while perusing a pamphlet about the Brazil

That evening there were free Caipirinhas downstairs at the bar for 2 full hours. We could not miss out on that this time! We weren't too sure what exactly made up this local drink but we were definitely keen to find out and boy did we!!!

Caipirinha is made up of Cachaca (local sugar cane liquor), sugar and lime! They were super strong and each time our glasses were close to empty, they were topped up once again. Bianca introduced us to some more folk from the hostel and we played a few games together. They all decided to go out to a Samba club but our bodies were still in African time, so it was bedtime for us!


We had heard about a free walking tour around Sao Paulo, this was appealing because...
1. We love walking
2. It would be in English
3. It was free!

Roxy entering the subway - we are pros at this now! 

We hopped off at Republica Station and as we accented the stairs, we caught the eye of young man with a clipboard. He quickly beckoned us over...obviously we still stick out. His name was Rafa and he was leading the Sao Paulo Free Walking Tour. He seemed super energetic and showed us where we could sign up.

As we waited for the tour to begin, we had a little fun with the local artwork!

At 11am, Rafa gathered all the tourists together and began the tour by giving us a history lesson on Brazil. Each word that he spoke was with more passion than the last and we all wondered how long he would be able to keep up this energy level...the answer...the whole 3. 5hrs!!!

Once we had we were up to date on the going ons in Brazil,  both present and past,  we began the walking part of the tour. We were exploring the Old Downtown so the tour was mainly going to consist of seeing the significant buildings in the area.
The first building we saw was the first school in Sao Paulo. If you had to look at it from a bird's eye view, you would see that it the buildings are arranged in the shape of the letter 'E' to represent education.

The Italia Building

The Copan Building - a large skyscraper in the shape of a wave. 
The blue netting covering the building to prevent rubble from falling and injuring people while the building is under renovation. 

Roxy at a crossroads... Which way shall we go.?

The streets of Sao Paulo were extremely busy. It did not matter what time of day or night you ventured out, one thing was for sure,  there would always be traffic!

A little church amongst the bustling streets

The Municipal Library

Some beautiful orchids down one of the side streets. Each little Street seemed to house vendors selling all kinds of produce. 

Joy holding her dress as the wind from the subway system blew up some hot underground air - Marilyn Munroe would be proud. 

The local telephone boxes are known as 'big ears' because of there shape.  We were also informed that if you didn't have anyone to call you could always find the number of a 'sympathetic' ear written on the inside of the booth, at a cost of course;) 

Ooh... Looks like Joy has found someone to call! 

The Municipal Theatre was a beautifully constructed building where many  people come to enjoy the cultural side of Brazilian life.

There were a number of these guitars all around the city to mark the upcoming Guitar Parade. 

In the park around the library we found these statues of various literary influences in Brazil's history.

Palm trees and skyscrapers can be seen from the park. 

The Municipal Building with one of the largest rooftop gardens in the world (according to our guide) 

The red shutters of this building caught our eyes as we walked by. 

Crossing the Cha Bridge overlooking the  Anhangavau Valley

Roxy thought it would be a great pic to scare away the pigeons on the railing... We present,  'Birds in Flight'

The oldest church in Sao Paulo 

The three flags beneath the the Municipal building is the Flag of state of Sao Paulo,  the Brazilian flag and the flag of the city of Sao Paulo.

Common park area where people spend their lunch hour taking a break and relaxing with friends.

Joy decided to do as the locals do and rest her feet for a bit! 

It was pretty neat that this huge cathedral even had its own customised Street lights! 

Se Cathedral 

We were even allowed to enter the cathedral and see the beautiful treasures that lay within. 

The organ of the cathedral consists of 12000 pipes but they can only use 10% of them at one time.  Using anymore would cause such vibrations that the very structure of the building would crumble! 

Each influential family of the time was responsible for assembling one stained glass window and hence each one surrounding the cathedral is unique. 

We then took a break from building admiring to visit the first bakery in Sao Paulo -  Santa Tereza 

We got to taste a local speciality - Pao De  Quito (cheesy dough bun)!  Hmm... Looks yummy Rox! 

While everyone else enjoyed the delights of pastries and cakes,  we went for the healthy option and had some apples for lunch! 

The Martinelli Building - the first skyscraper in Brazil build by the architect Martinelli. He had a vision to build a 30 floor building but the government only commissioned him to build 25 floors. He was a stubborn man and in order to realise his dream,  he build the extra 5 floors on the top which he turned into his home. 

One of two Law School Buildings

A digital sign depicting how much tax the government has collected from the start of this year alone.  Our tour guide was quite frustrated about this fact as he could not see how this 8 billion was being used to better the people of the country. 

Inside the Bank of Sao Paulo

Gentlemen getting their shoes polished... One has to look dapper in the city!

Monastery of Sao Bento 

Walking across the Sta. Efigenia Bridge

Altino Arantes Building - the tallest building in Sao Paulo. It has 36 floors and is 161m high. It is not the prettiest building and the top five floors were open spaces that contained only satellite dishes. 

Once the 3.5hr tour was complete we decided to go to the Municipal Market which was just a few blocks away. We had made friends with  few people from our tour so we dispersed from the original group and headed off. Our feet were killing us but the prospect of free fruit kept us optimistic. The market was contained within a large warehouse type building. Each store had its produce displayed. We fortunately had Andre, a Brazilian guy, with us so he was able to ask if we could sample some of the different looking fruit and we even tried some interesting cheese. You could find everything from spices,  fruit, veggies, condiments, meat, fish and even a selection of alcohol. We were really impressed by how clean the whole market was. There were people cleaning and sweeping all around their stalls and even though there was meat hanging everywhere, there was no horrifying smell which would usually be associated with such a place. After wandering  around for a little bit we headed upstairs where there was a row of restaurants. The famous meal that we were told was a must, was Mortadella -  a big meat and cheese sandwich. We weren't too keen on that so opted instead for an equally adventurous Pastel (crispy pastry pie). The filling we chose was called Romeo and Juliet which consisted of cheese and guava. This was a rather unique combination of flavours but one that neither of us would seek out again! 


What do we spy here? 
A South African special!!! Mrs Balls Chutney has found its way into the Brazilian market! (but of course only the hot kind) 

Joy and a Costa Rican girl from our tour. 

Roxy deciding which fruit to sample next

We have only ever thought of Cashew nuts as nuts but we discovered that the nut actually grows on top of this fruit which is popular here and apparently makes the best juice ever! Who knew? 

Rua 25 de Marco is home to one of the largest Street markets in Sao Paulo. It was filled with shops selling cheap knockoffs and glittery knick knacks!

We were dead on our feet but somehow gathered up the energy to face the crowded subway station at rush hour (again) and navigate our way home.

Joy and Andre figuring out the best path. 

Back at the hostel we had a quick noodle dinner and then got ready for the night. We could here loud music rising up from the common area and as we got down there we were informed that they were having a music event. Local bands could come and play a set at the hostel. This was awesome... Live music and caipirinha's. What could be better. We met up with Juan (Mexican man we had met the previous night). We enjoyed a couple of beers and then we're joined by Andre and Peter (German guy) from the walking tour.  The live bands were quite good and we were constantly entertained by the crowd.  Some other guys  kept trying to teach us Portuguese but we could tell by their snickers that the words they told us to say didn't mean what they told us they did.
 Bartender at the hostel concocting the deadly Caipirinhas. 


Roxy,  Juan and Bianca enjoying drinks outside on the patio. 

Once the bands had all packed up,  we were ready to go out! We had missed out on the Samba club the night before and Juan was keen to show us what it was all about.  We found the local Samba club where we were one of the only few foreigners there. We got to experience authentic hot, sweaty, underground Samba dancing! We were surprised and impressed to see how freely and uninhibited the guys were dancing. They could sway those hips and we're not afraid to show it! Juan was also showing us his moves which we attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to replicate! After dancing the night away and having copious amounts of Tequila - the Mexican way (thanks to Juan), we had a quick bite to eat -  Coxinha (chicken with cheesy dough and spices) and made it home just before dawn. Wow... Our feet need bed! 


We woke to a rainy day and thus decided to spend the time hanging around the hostel,  resting and hopefully planning for the next part of our trip. But as the morning passed, the weather cleared and we decided to make the most of our last day in Sampa. 

Back on the subway and to Luz Train Station we went. This station is the original station of Sao Paulo and it was quite majestic. 

Our next destination was Parque de Ibirapuera. We knew we could catch a bus there from Luz Station,  unfortunately we did not know exactly where the bus stop was or where the stop for the park would be. We engaged with some local bus drivers but of course our lack of language skills hampered our communication slightly. But by our now mastered art of pointing and hand gesturing we were able to get across what we required. We must have looked so doe-eyed and lost that our saviour walked us right to the bus stop and waited with us. We were able to tell him we were from Africa which he believed was impossible because of our skin colour. Once our bus arrived he scampered up to the window and told the driver where we wanted to go,  that we were African and could not speak a word of Portuguese.
Once we arrived at the park,  the driver explicitly gestured that we should get off... Pretty much like having a personal chauffeur!

Stepping off the bus we could hear the beat of a drum group practising just outside the gates. They were really good and flashes of our night in the Samba club came flooding back!

Into the park we went to experience whatever it had to offer. The whole Park was 4km around and was filled with very artistic pieces. 

Relaxing on the wooden art around the park

Spotting some bird life

As we were posing and enjoying the nature,  a young man approached us. He couldn't peak English (surprise) and started scribbling on a piece of paper,  supposedly drawing a portrait of Joy.  We repeatedly told him to stop and that we did not want the picture but he simply continued  drawing and chattering on. Once complete,  he indicated that he wanted $20 for the 'artwork'. We were definitely not going to pay that but Joy did give him a bit of loose change. He did not look impressed but neither were we. The 2 minute portrait did not capture any of Joy's personality! 

The Observatory was under construction so we could only admire it as one would admire the stars... From a distance

We entered the AfroBrazilian Museum hoping to be enlightened on the path slavery took in the country but as we looked around we realised it was more artistically than historically based.

What an impressive pose... Making abstract art relevant. 

Clouds of the ocean... Brushing up on some scuba hand signals. 

Looking strong Rox 

A replica of a boat that bought slaves across from Africa - it was big and could carry many slaves,  who had been sardine packed into the vessel.
Roxy living out her dream of having a white horse. 

A selection of alcohol... Anyone thirsty? 

Nothing quite like a fresh cuppa! 

Literally have no idea what this was trying to represent! Roxy's worst nightmare perhaps (she has a phobia of bananas) 

Brazil's new star player! 

After spending almost three hours 'admiring'  the art we were ed as culture has filled us to the brim.

On our way out we were delighted to see so many people skateboarding and even rollerblading. Groups of teenagers as well as families were enjoying the evening skating up and down the long concrete passage. We definitely miss those good old rollerblading days of our youth!  

As we left the park the light was beginning to fade and we were still a little unclear as to where we needed to catch the bus back. It was now about 17:30 and the double highway we needed to cross was hectic. A kind lady gestured that there was a bridge upon which we could safely cross. We could not see this hopefully legitimate bridge but took a walk of faith and headed in the indicated direction. Luckily, as we continued the pedestrian bridge came into view.

Over the bridge and it was completely dark now. We were desperate to find the the right bus stop. We had now learnt how to read the bus schedules and found what we prayed was the correct stop. We trusted our instincts and waited... And waited and waited. We were getting quite nervous but just as all hope seemed to be lost,  our number bus arrived. It was rush hour so it was chocker block but we did not care... We were not going to miss it! We squeezed on and it was at this moment that it dawned on us that it would be near impossible for us to recognise where to get off.  It was dark,  we were on the opposite side of the road and we could not  remember any distinct landmarks along the way. It was then that we pulled out our map to look for some comfort although not sure what we were hoping to find. There was an elderly gentleman next to us. He kept peering over just waiting to be tagged in. We jumped at the prospect of guidance and handed him our map and pointed at Luz. He nodded and gestured the approximate number of stops until we would be there. We 'asked' if he would tell us when it was our stop and he calmly nodded.  Hooray!!! Our hero! 
We watched him like a hawk and at our stop he politely gestured for us to get off.  We frantically stumbled out,  waving and shouting 'obrigada' (one of 5 Portuguese words that means 'thank you').
The rest of the trip home was a breeze and upon arriving back at the hostel all we could think of was shower and sleep! Got to get up early for our flight to Manaus tomorrow morning! 

1 comment:

  1. Great Blog --cant wait to hear about Manaus --Enjoy
    PS 100's tournament last weekend great success