Leaving behind Pedra Menina and the coffee-filled hills of Caparaó, our next stop would be Búzios, a seaside town in Rio de Janeiro state. Another new state, new landscapes and our first sight of the beach since way back in March, and far up north, in Salvador. Another milestone: on this day, we would hit the 5,000km mark on our car journey.
Our pleasant surprise of the day was the lift we gave to two locals just leaving Pedra Menina the same time as us. They wanted to get to Espera Feliz, a nearby town. Espera Feliz, literally “happy wait”, was on our way, so they didn’t need to wait any more. They were happy. That was a joke there, for anyone who missed it. Haha!
Búzios, according to the reviews, is a famous beach resort, full of glitz and glamour and over 20 beaches and coves around it. We found the beaches, we found a crummy hostel, but we also found a town that feels like it reached it’s peak a few years back, and is now in a slow, interminable decline. It’s not yet gone to ruin by any means, but like many of those old Irish seaside towns now shuttered by cheap flights to Spain- Búzios is showing its age.
We got an hour’s entertainment from watching the TV news on our second morning in Búzios – a story about rogue balloon sellers. Traditionally children’s party ballons are filled with Helium, a lighter-than air inert gas. But in Brazil, some dodgy guys have been instead filling them with explosive Hydrogen gas, burning some unfortunate children who popped their balloons at the wrong time. Now, parents, there’s something you never thought you’d have to worry about. Until now!
At a bar called Fish Bone, where we took a brief coffee break, we had the unexpected pleasure of meeting Shaun, from Gweedore, Co. Donegal, travelling with his Scottish workmates on a lads trip to Rio. When I began to speak and mentioned I was Irish, I must have launched into full force 100% Cork mode- he asked me “are you putting that voice on?”. No, that’s just Cork, like.
Down the coast, about an hour and a half closer to Rio de Janeiro, is the lengthy strip of Cabo Frio, and the nearby beach town of Arraial do Cabo. Cabo Frio is best avoided, judging by the number of police cars we passed at 2 in the afternoon. Arrial do Cabo has a strange feel to it- a seaside town, close to Rio, beaches galore- but with the look of a featureless town from the interior, transplanted to the coast. A few small restaurants here and there, a few places to stay, and a maze of one-way streets.
I suppose the constant rain those few days didn’t help in making it feel a bit like an Irish holiday, driving from place to place to enjoy a misty view, before heading on to the next spot. Rinse, repeat.
The cliffs out past Arrial do Cabo are worth a visit, especially during stormy seas, as the huge waves break beneath you. We admired the courage of the local fishermen, heading out in their little boat to very unwelcoming seas.
A drizzly seaside tour was followed by a drizzlier, expensive motorway journey to Rio de Janeiro city. The Cariocas (people from Rio) sure love their toll roads! Thankfully the city of Rio is a step up from this eastern bit of the state, known as Região dos Lagos (Lakes Region). Its famous sights, it’s people and it’s music more than made up for a couple of boring misty days on the coast. Rio here we go!
We weren’t so good at being “crazy cheap” these few days, but it’s a pricey area…
- Aldeia do Produção Hostel, Búzios: R$55 / €14 per person per night (dorm)
- Hostel Caravela, Arraial do Cabo: R$50 / €12 per person per night (dorm)
- Dinner at Pimenta Síria restaurant, Búzios: R$30 / €8 each
- Dinner at Bacalhau do Tuga, Arraial do Cabo: R$60 / €15 each
- Coffee & juice at Fish Bone bar: R$14 / €3.50 each