THINGS we have learned in Brazil.
- Restaurants have invented a variety of ways for you to serve yourself or to pretty much stuff your face with as much as you can manage (especially if you are Croatian).
- Service stations, on the other hand, like you to be served by as many people as possible before you are allowed out.
- When you do order something off a menu, food is likely to appear at different times, in an erratic order and after lengthy waits.
- It is hot.
- Ordering a caipirinha is something of a lottery concerning what size and strength you are going to get. It is worth trying your luck.
- Sit around on a beach and somebody will bring you a drink.
- Chunks of cheese held over a pot of charcoal and dunked in oregano are remarkably tasty.
- It is really hot.
- Taking a picture of someone holding a gun in a favela does not go down too well.
- Brazilians like to party loud. All night.
- Sitting among a group of men under rainbow flags is not enough to tip some people off they are in a gay bar.
- Walking on cobbles in flip-flops is uncomfortable.
- It is really, really hot.
The quest for shade from that heat – not easy on a truck day, even with the windows all open to get some air flow – and investigation of self-service meal and caipirinha varieties have taken up much of our time since finally escaping Copacabana beach in the early hours of the new year.
Not that we have left the sand totally behind – a lot of it is in our beds and tents for starters – as having headed into the hills for a few days, we have returned to the coast for what has become known as beach week.
Which lasts about 10 days.
After the chaos of New Year’s Eve, our remaining time in Rio was relatively quiet, a couple of trips to Ipanema beach and a rather quieter post-party Copacabana mixed in with regular trips to our favourite kilo restaurant and a lengthy wait for a table which delayed a farewell meal for those leaving the truck.
We did summon up the energy to head out on a tour of the giant Rochino favela, led down the slopes and through the narrow streets by our knowledgable guide.
The locals certainly seemed to know and trust him, which came in handy when he was called back to sort out a delicate situation when one of our group took a picture in an area policed by young gang members touting guns nearly as big as them.
Having all got out in one piece, it was time to bid farewell to Rio – a point of the trip which seemed so far off in the early days – as we welcomed new passengers on board and headed to the hills.
What greeted us in Teresopolis was heat, a pool, wine and cheese, a couple of prolonged downpours and the neighbours having what sounded like a massive party until most of us were already up for breakfast.
Well, most of us. Lack of sleep from a combination of noise, a deflating mattress and a dodgy stomach kept me in bed for most of the morning and out of the trek through the nearby national park.
Those who did trek at least got back before the heavens opened again.
Thankfully, the rain stayed away from our second mountain retreat at the old mining town of Ouro Preto.
Draped pretty much across the top of a hill, walking its sloping, cobbled streets is not the easiest task but one certainly worth taking on around its pretty squares, churches and markets.
Not to mention plenty of places willing to serve you cheesy chips (with bacon), ice cream, liquid chocolate in a mug and – to top it off – an all you can eat pizza buffet with unlimited caipirinhas, all for about £7.
More than one person struggled back up the hill to the hostel.
Thankfully, we had a long – if very hot – day on the truck to recover which ended at a basic campsite which came complete with a very welcome watering hole to cool off in.
And, one cook group shopping session apart, it was time to head for the beach.
The dunes of Itaunas were our first stop, a lazy day on the sand mixed in with the continued exploration of different styles of caipirinhas – passion fruit before the more traditional lemon.
May need to do some more studying on that subject.