Up at 09:00 for brekkie: jam on toast, melon and real coffee. I look around and decide that all the westerners in the hotel must be on a Dragoman Tour. It turns out I'm not wrong.
I turn my mobile phone on for the first time. I need to phone Visa to sort my card out. (Ironically the only way to make international phone calls from the hotel is with a Visa card. That wasn't going to work!) Anyway Visa have blocked my card due to fraud. But get this, there has been no fraudulent attempt on my card but "Visa Intelligence" thinks that there could be!? Better than that I now have to phone them up every time I want to use the card so they can unblock it and watch the transaction go through! I try it out at a HSBC cash point. It works, I get cash, I max out my daily limit. I fear for the future of my mobile phone bills.
I move out of my single room and into a Dragoman paid for empty triple room and pay for last night on Visa (via another phone call). I take the Metro underground to find an American Express shop and con the girl behind the counter into giving me US$ for R$ (as previously she told me she could only exchange R$ for Travellers Cheques - Amex doesn't take Visa!) Then it's over the road to the infamous Copacabana beach! It's a long stretch of beach with a main road and pavement running parallel to it. The beach is bleached white and is choc-a-bloc with people and shade umbrellas. I dip my feet into the sea and grab a beer in a bar. Gloating over my victory with Amex I phone my Mum.
At Rio Sau, a 5 story indoor shopping centre, I look for a replacement camera because I figure I really should have a working one. Only I can't find any Casios, just Sony. Though I do pick up a pair of long beach shorts, but only because my existing 2 pairs are too big! By the time I walk back to the hotel I've missed the Dragoman Carnival meeting. Not that it was important, just the usual, "don't wander around the beaches at night" nonsense. (Too late!)
Now, coming fresh from the wilds of Guyana, which I consider to be a real country of adventure with no tourist facilities, I imagine the truck trip to be a sanitised guided tour to get from A to B with all the obvious highlights laid on. I am also aware that other people on it think a truck trip represents the ultimate hardship in foreign travelling - as indeed I did when I tried it some 6 years ago. And I wonder how I would react to that, now that my views are somewhat different. I later speak to John, a 36 year old (not on a my Dragoman trip) who's booked himself on a real extreme adventure of a life time having done nothing like it before. I say nothing but smile politely.
I have a glorious hot shower, the first in a long time and find a local bar. After observing one of the regular drinkers he introduces himself to me, Francisco. He's a professor of History, has lots of large colourful animal tattoos, has seen most parts of the world and even spent a couple of years in a Brazilian jail for political beliefs. He also loves London, the pockets of communities, the pub lock ins and the startling difference between new and old building architecture standing next to each other. He also describes the beauty of seeing Nelsons Column stood so close to the modern statue of the crippled woman. Whatever, I help myself to his food and order another beer.
Posted by Steve Eynon