When I was 16, I travelled to Brazil as part of a World Challenge Expedition through school with 13 other pupils and 2 of our teachers. I found my diary I wrote at the time recently, so have decided to edit it, remove some of the 16-year old me random thoughts, and write it up. To travel there, we had to fundraise the £2770 per person in the 2 years leading up to the trip and then plan and organise everything ourselves while we were there, supervised by our 2 teachers.
We checked over our kit, making sure we had enough clothes, camping supplies and general kit for our 5 weeks away. Then we slept overnight in J-block before travelling to Manchester airport the next day.
We travelled to Manchester Airport on the school minibus, before flying to Heathrow, then Madrid and finally arriving in São Paulo.
Landed in São Paulo after about 3 hours sleep, got off the plane and had to do some immigration (‘stupid’) form filling in, involving a lot of repetition. No-one spoke any English, which made it tricky. We had to arrange accommodation, so me, Karen and Katie were dispatched to ring up. First we needed a phone card, which we got without much fuss from the very determined ‘I only speak Portuguese’ man behind the counter. Then we had to dial the numbers and couldn’t work out how to use the phone. Katie got through to someone but they hung up on her, so a nice Portuguese speaking man who spoke fluent English rang up for us.
Photo: São Paulo Bus Station
Next to sort out was transport to the hotel. Johnny and I were sent to the tourist info to find out. Eventually we managed to get on a bus and went downtown. It’s strange because Sao Paulo is on a hill, so it’s pretty squashed together- houses are crammed into tiny gaps between bridges or in narrow streets, basically using any space they can.
The Hotel Itamarati turned out to be a lot better than we were expecting. We had lunch before splitting into groups to complete various tasks. Charlie, Mike (teacher), Karen and me had to go to the embassy to drop off our itinerary in case we needed to be contacted. Easier said than done. We got off the metro alright and set off down a street near a huge cemetery. Instead of gravestones, they have little stone houses, and they were really packed in as well. The pavements aren’t flat or tarmac, they’re concrete slabs which aren’t equal or level so there’s massive holes and ridges and ramps which we kept tripping over. There are lots of little kiosks selling you anything from haircuts to car stuff.
Then we got lost. We were in the right area, but we didn’t know how to get any further, so we had to ask people in the kiosks, who told us different directions and contradicted each other. As we went further down a main road, the traffic got heavier for rush hour and there weren’t any pedestrian crossings, so you have to run over busy intersections- Karen and I nearly got run over by a car and a motorbike.
The embassy was a huge, marble building directly opposite some slums. Walking back in the dark was quite scary because street lights were few and far between and the gaps in the pavements were even harder to see.
When we got back to the hotel, Ruth was in pain because she’d hurt her foot somehow. We had pizza for tea- very Brazilian. We went to bed at midnight- someone outside was still doing roadworks which was a bit crazy!
We had a meeting in Dave’s room to sort out our group kit and to change over group leader (we rotated every day). We split the kit out evenly to carry in our 60l rucksacks.
Breakfast was brilliant- papayas, cheese, bread and cold custard (we think- we couldn’t understand the labels). Some people went to buy food, I stayed with the group guarding the bags in the hotel. We made friends with the hotel porter when we were trying to ask about food costs- they didn’t mind the fact we couldn’t speak Portuguese. They even found someone on the phone to translate for us when we got really stuck.
At about 4pm, we went to São Paulo cathedral, which was huge. Strangely, there was a group of men gambling right outside and a group of men shouting from what we presumed was The Bible. When we went back to the hotel to get our big rucksacks, the hotel porter gave us his address so we could send him a post card from England (I can’t remember if we ever did?!). At 5pm, it rained. Apparently it rains every day at 5pm, something to do with the climate.
Photo: São Paulo Cathedral (photography wasn’t my strong point…)
Then we had to negotiate the metro again, which was sooooo busy, especially because now we were carrying 2 bags each: our day sacks on the front and our 60l rucksacks on our backs. We were going to the bus station so we could get a night bus to Teresópolis. The bus station is better than any bus station at home- much nicer and cleaner!