I travelled to Rio de Janeiro in April. I’ve never been to South America before, mainly because of

  1. It’s really expensive from the UK.
  2. South America unfortunately has a reputation of being slightly dangerous…though one could argue not more so than European society. However, I feel slightly safer and less nervous using my Mac in a London coffee shop than say one in Brazil or Guatemala where there might be an eagle-eyed opportunist…

I was prepared for the inevitable distress, potential mugging and also the challenge of not knowing the language and thankfully…in a country where they might not use English much. I always feels slightly downcast when I go to a foreign country and try to use some of the lingo…and it’s so bad, they know I’m foreign and respond back in English. There’s so many comments I could make about the poor quality of language teaching in the UK state education system, but that’s another post/rant….

I decided to Couchsurf in Rio, as that would be a good way to meet locals who are probably a lot street smart than a guidebook. My first host lived further away from the city than I had expected. It was evident that this was the “less affluent” area of Rio, near the shanty homes and where there was shops with a few shelves of meagre goods. This was real life Rio–not the glam, beach version often portrayed in the media or whatever glossy magazine that you see. A majority of those who were not affluent were typically of African descent. I am ashamed that I felt predisposed to feel nervous and guarding my property in the event of any crime, however what I experienced were very welcoming, friendly and helpful people who gave directions to an often lost and confused young woman. I was rarely hassled. I discovered that a few places like museums and Jardim Botanic were closed on a Monday however I did visit the art mecca that was Parque Lage on my first night. I was also treated to a spectacularly scary and non Health and Safety assured motorbike ride from my host in the pouring rain—-without a helmet.

Don’t try that at home kids. The “driving” and road system in Brazil was so fascinating to me that I think I coined the expression: “If there is a gap, Cariocas will drive through it”. Not catchy, but so apt.

Rio is intense. Maybe it was the heat, humidity, mosquitos and the longing for fresh fruit and vegetables, but I was’t enjoying it. I was getting tired of eating Ham and cheese (strange cheese) sandwich each day. I did enjoy the acai and availability of juice drinks…which were less polished than the smoothies and juices on offer in Jamba Juice or the plethora