Monday, 11 March 2013

Brasil, eu te amo!

Every day of my trip, I fell a little more in love with Brazil, mostly because of the amazing people I met every step of the way.  My last day ended up being perfect- Rogerio picked me up early to head back to Niteroi for a hiking and sunny adventure at his favorite beach.  He took me to Parque Estadual da Serra da Tiririca, a beautiful state park... one of it's claims to fame is that "even Darwin was here".  I was told that we'd start the day with a quick 40 minute "hike".  
Hiking/rock climbing
I didn't expect to be scaling rock faces but I am glad I brought my sneakers!  The view from the top was spectacular!
View from the top
A beautiful view of the beach, surrounding mountains and Rio across the way.  We also encountered adorable little monkeys, lots of lizards and even some cactus.  After our hike, we hit the beach- the waves were "dangerously high" and so we enjoyed watching the surfers and getting wet but it wasn't the best conditions for swimming.  He purposefully took me to the beach early during the day so I wouldn't boil into a red shrimp... I did get a little burnt but it was all so relaxing- perfect end to a fast-paced trip: the beach was beautiful, we drank ice-cold mate (Brazilian ice tea) and listening to the roaring surf.
On the beach!
 He's in the middle of exams so he had to transfer me to Raquel at the base of Sugarloaf mountain for the rest of the afternoon.
Raquel was such a sweetheart- the only couchsurfing girl who offered to show me around this whole time.  She's 20 and works as a receptionist while trying to improve her English to get in a better public university to finish her biology degree.  We went on a nice walk through town to get to the park- meandering by a beach and a bridge with a good view of the sea and colorful fishing boats.  Then we hiked up Urca mountain which was the first stop of my cable car on the Sugarloaf mountain tour.  It was interesting how Pao de Acucar was my first and last activity in Rio- it was infinitely better to hike through the forest to get there with a new friend instead of immersed in a tourist throng.  So that was an excellent hike- also pretty steep- people were surprised to see Raquel and I attempting it in flip-flops.
Raquel and I, flip-flop hiking queens!
 She brought bananas and we fed the tiny, cute monkeys and made friends with a couple of Italian boys.  
So many monkeys- can you see three in the tree?
We went back to her place, I took the best shower of my life, watched some futebol (I looked for Vitor, the professional futebol player that I met last night but without success) and her mom made us a lovely dinner.  I couldn't have had a better time in Brazil- everything went so smoothly, I met such generous amazing people and hopefully I'll be back.  Everywhere I went, people invited me to come back.
Currently, I'm in the Dallas airport, listening to a samba station on songza and not wanting to go back to reality...  I have a report to write for the American Physical Society International column, data to analyze, a class to teach... oh dear, not going to think about that now...