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Saturday, September 18, 2004


Buzios Follies

Everyone told me that I must see Buzios, a little resort up the coast from Rio. So I got up up Thursday and headed off for the bus station. I decided to go by mass transit rather than a taxi. Now, this in theory would involve:

1. Bus to subway station
2. Subway to nearest stop to bus station, which is not particularly near
3. Walk or get another bus to the bus station
4. Get yet another bus to Buzios.

Steps 1-2 worked fine. Step 3, however, ran into problems when the bus I was on drove past the bus station and onto, first the motorway, and then an vast industrial zone containing absolutely nothing except endless rows of automobile components stores. I mean, literally nothing else. In its way, it's one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen. You'd think there would be the occasional cafe or drugstore, but nooo. Anyway, the bus did not stop until near to the city zoo, which is nowhere near the bus station, and by this time it was almost noon, so I decided to give up on Buzios for Thursday and instead booked myself on a tour for Friday.

Not the best decision I've ever made.

This bus tour, which was advertised in both the hotels I've stayed at, works a little like this:

Get up at some god-awful hour of the morning and sit on a coach for four hours, shivering in the over-eager air conditioning and looking out the window at the squalid houses and undistinguished landscape of northern Rio state. Many pleasant views of the industrial zona norte on the early part of the trip. When you get to Buzios you can sit for one hour on an unremarkable beach attached to a two-bit country club, which to be fair will bring you overpriced caipirinhas if you ask often enough, and where you will have an unmemorable lunch. You will then be driven to the shore where you will go for a brief sail on a motor vehicle to look at the coast of Buzios. (The coast of Buzios is pleasant rather than beautiful, and not worth the trip). Then you get to wander round Buzios town for an hour, and then you go home. The trip is supposed to last ten hours; in fact it lasts twelve, so you will get back around 20:00, which is not especially late for Rio.

What I have just described is the best possible scenario for this trip, and even that would be a waste of time. What actually happened was that it was cold and overcast all morning. (Because of the location of Buzios they get more or less the same Antarctic currents that make swimming off the coast of Cape Town such a bad idea. The water off Buzios is maybe warmer than off Cape Town, but choosing between them is like setting the precedence between a louse and a flea). And then, during the boat ride, it started to rain. Oh boy, did it start to rain. It was about the worst rain I've ever experienced, and cold, too. And it rained the whole time I was in Buzios, and most of the way back. (Did I mention the over-eager air conditioning on the bus? Just what you need when you are sitting around in wet clothes).

As for Buzios town, it is full of shops selling tourist tchotchkes, and expensive restaurants. The town reminded me a little of the Hermanus/ Gaansbai area of the Western Cape: partly the weather, and partly the sheer sprawling Lebensraum of the place. (Buzios is, like Hermanus, a center for whale groupies). There are also a shit-load of dive shops. From what I saw the vis in the water is not especially good, although I imagine there are some interesting reefs. Still, diving in water as cold as Buzios's is not my idea of fun. I tried it at Cape Town, and never again.

Buzios is supposed to be a major party town, and I suspect it genuinely is. The streets in daytime have a forlorn and neglected feeling to them, which reminded me of Patong Beach on Fire Sermon Day, when all the bars were closed. There's nothing quite as dispriting as a party town when there isn't a party going on.

Buzios? Maybe it's a good place, if you go in summer, and if you stay a couple nights, and if you aren't dumb enough to go there on a stupid tour. As for me, this trip was one of the biggest wastes of time in my entire life. You have been warned, people.

xj. He screws up, so you don't have to.

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