We have a spare morning before the flight to Rio and have promised the girls we would cook lunch for them as a thank you and goodbye so we head to the local market to get supplies. We were thinking Fajitas as we know they don’t get chicken very often as its expensive and it’s something fairly easy to make as well as pancakes for dessert. However we can’t find the flour wraps anywhere and don’t fancy making them. So rice and not too spicy chicken it is. The market, bustling as usual, with dogs roaming, kids playing, even a man using an old fashioned pedal powered knife sharpener was a joy to experience one lag time. We had to head down the meat isle for the first time today, and poor Michelle as a veggie did have an interesting time. It’s full of whole plucked chickens, complete pigs, pigs heads, and general parts of animals that haven’t been skinned or chopped yet. Very interesting. We go for the easy option and buy chicken breasts so we know what we’ve got. We are lucky we aren’t at the San Pedro market as it has live chickens you can have killed whilst you wait. That’s a step to far for me I’m afraid. The chicken costs four times what the rice and veg have cost, so easy to see why the girls don’t get it often.
So off to cook. The mamita (mum in charge) is a different one today and had already started preparing as she didn’t know we were cooking, but was very happy to stop and let us cook. Now let’s give you a feel for the kitchen. A small dark room, no outside Windows just a window into the girls communal area. The room has the sink on one wall, an under stairs storage area that had no shelves but all the vegetables, cooking pots and well an Aladdin’s cave springs to mind. There’s a three stove gas cooker, although one doesn’t work, a wooden table by the Aladdin’s cave to chop on and shelving on the other wall. Although this has medicine, photos, general supplies on one half and the other half has draws and cupboards so has the plates, cups, cutlery etc stored in it. Four of us trying to manoeuvre in the tiny kitchen was quite a dance. Lindz bless her, was very worried we would cook food the wrong or a way they wouldn’t like it so kept checking with them, using the godsend that is google translate. I was less worried and just chopped and stirred. To be fair the mamita didn’t really have a break from cooking as she prepared some of the vegetables for us and one of the girls was like our sous chef and helped throughout as well.
Michelle through her illness, we now think is sinusitis, played games with the girls whilst we cooked but was struggling feeling awful. Her contribution to the main course cooking was to add two big table spoons of the garlic and onion sauce they gave us. Their faces when she added that was priceless. As if to say oh my, do you actually know how to cook. It was potent to say the least!
So Michelle battling through illness had to cope with what was a rather hectic spell. Little Zuwela constantly hugging me at every opportunity, her and Virginia running around like nutters. Maria and Roxana piercing their ears in the TV room with just an earring and an ice block to numb the ear? Ouch! Lots of blood!
Another volunteer came along whilst we were cooking, Karen, who now lives in Cusco as she has a boyfriend here, but is a Scottish primary teacher and volunteered five years ago so keeps the volunteer link by popping in for a few hours and teaching some maths to some of the younger ones. She’s fluent in Spanish so was very useful as our translator!
Well it all went down a treat, the garlic taste had been neutralised with other flavours and it did taste good, even if I do say so myself. We all sat together, Maria said grace and everyone tucked in. Some even had second helpings so really loved it! Although one girl, Virginia I think, spent a good hour and a half finishing hers. Not sure they are used to such a variety of vegetables. I think we had five. They have to clear their plate or they can not leave the table. A good old fashioned rule in my eyes,(I had to ask my dad to leave the table as a kid as well!) Her sister, Karen and some of the older girls all helped feed her, encourage her and she bloody finished it! So she was allowed a pancake. The girls wanted to help with making the pancake making (I mean who doesn’t like to try and toss a pancake) and Maria took charge after Michelle had mixed the batter up and we had found various utensils. The pan was most defiantly not non stick so the ‘tossing’ was rather hard. I think we managed it by about the 10th one. Again, all went down a treat. Girls even put the toppings on ours for us. Didn’t like to say I don’t like chocolate sauce so had to grin and bare it.
So time to say goodbye. Our translator let them know and they seemed quite sad, Gladys said ‘you as well’ to me, which made me feel a bit special and equally bad for leaving.
Maybe see them again in three years, who knows!
So up to get luggage, we have half an hour to spare so raced to the Artisan market, bought souvenirs and gifts and then headed to the airport. Now although we have ditched three suitcases full of donations, there were still three people, three large suitcases, two small suitcases and hand luggage. The taxis being the size of fiat 500’s were always going to be a squeeze! So I put the others in first then got myself a taxi after. We had 55 mins until flight takes off. Not sure Michelle was comfortable with it but we made it, the check in man wasn’t that impressed, the girl weren’t sitting together (I forget about things like that as I don’t care where I sit) but who wants to wait at an airport for hours?! Done enough of that this holiday so far.
First flight just 50 mins. Did we take off on time….of course not. It’s Avianca. I managed a brief sleep in my extra leg room seat just behind business class. As close as I’m going to get unless I marry someone rich next time! I have an American 7ft man sat next to me. He bloomin needs the extra leg room as his legs go on for ever.
We have a three hour wait for the second flight. Michelle has decided she needs medication to help sinusitis so we head to a chemist. £25 later she had strong pills!
Second flight the girls are seated together but I’m at the front of the cheap seats again although not quite the leg room seats.
Good journey, I sleep most of it although wake for the lovely ravioli dinner? And here we are, in Rio the land of the carnival and for three weeks the Olympics!
Off to baggage reclaim, and here our troubles start. We are called over and told the plane was too full so our cases are still in Cusco. Oh dear god. All of ours plus six others. Fuming.com.The plane wasn’t even bloody full!
After about half an hour of detail swapping and complaining, we have to leave luggageless and see if our transfer to out accommodation is there. No surprise that it’s not. Michelle had found the accommodation, it was cheap, pictures looked good, three rooms and seemed OK. I had found a variety of places but she wasn’t keen, I forgot her OCD tendencies when looking for accommodation and that my suggestions were not likely to hit the radar, ha ha. Anyhow we had all agreed, paid upfront via booking.com. However it has seemed dodgy and unlikely to exist since booking.com cancelled the booking, then reinstated it back in October 2015. Booking.com had continued to reply to message saying all was ok alright the hostel stopped answering their phones! The only bit of luck regarding this was that Michelle and Lindz had starting chatting to a random completely nutty lady at Cusco airport when waiting for me. She has accommodation in Rio which we can stay at. She had also gone and checked where the ‘apartment’ should be and it’s all closed down. So for rather more money than I wanted to pay, we at least have accommodation and will be safe at 5am in the morning. We get an official cab, after some ‘wide boys’ tried to get us in their cab first without ID. £30 later and we are at this apartment of Anamaria. Doorman on guard 24 hours but she doesn’t answer the door (it is now 6am). I’m starting to think it was another scam? After about 10 mins of knocking and calling she answers the door. Phew!
So in we go. All in one room with no luggage but so tired we just want to sleep. The room is two bunk beds, the window is wide open and the noise from traffic is awful. We try and shut one window but the noise still filters through. Going to be a long week of trying to sleep!
We awake at about 11, me and Lindz do anyway after a good long sleep, Michelle was awake early as usual and pottering about.
I have tennis tickets for the evening session but we need to get orientated around town and buy some essentials. Anamaria guides us around town. Now let me explain her to you. She’s Portuguese but lived in New York for 30 years or something, has a New York twang. Lived in London as well and seems to have four passports. She has apartments all over the place that she says are rented out, and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t worked a day in a long long time. About 5ft 5, slightly over average build, bleach blonde hair. Wears sunglasses all the time (I think they are prescription) and wears flowery, colourful floaty dresses. I’m pretty sure she talks to anyone and everyone in the street, and seems to have a story for every conversation you start. She’s even been in jail for 90 days for some kind of money laundering?
Anyway, on our familiarisation tour, we see outdoor gyms of a different sort, men doing pull ups etc on the beach front. It’s bloody 40 degrees and I’m in my jeans! I buy a whole new outfit, shorts, vest top, Havana flip flops and knickers. We grab some fruit and drink, get cash out and head back. Only about 10 mins walk from the beach. Interestingly Anamaria had said her over apartment was a beach view. She shows us where it is and if you can see the beach from their, I’m a supermodel! Anamaria encourages us to try a local street traders coconut juice. Straight from the coconuts into a bottle and very nice it was too!
On every street corner there’s a tourist trap. Fake Olympics t shirts, bracelets, scarves, bandanas, flags, selfie sticks, purses. You name it, it’s here and usually in Brazilian colours so very colourful indeed.
I put my clean clothes on only to realise the knickers were kids sizes! I persevere for about 15 mins but they are digging in, commando it is!
So now to get to the Olympic venue. You need a travel card you buy at the station. The girls very kindly walk with me to the station and we head off thinking we know where the station is but end up walking about 20 mins and have to ask volunteers (they are everywhere just like London 2012) where it is. Eventually we find it but can’t get a travel card. You need to be at a different station. As I nearly burst into tears when no one can help me a local man and his wife come to my rescue and tap their travel card in for me to get to the station I can buy the travel card from. It’s about £6 travel a day, and these venues the not close at all. The tennis takes me a good two hours with this slow start, I am convinced I’m going to miss the whole Venus Williams match? The Olympic park is certainly no London. No selfie sticks allowed in, I mean what on earth am I going to do with a selfie stick? Poke you in the eye. I understand not using them in the events themselves as they are annoying, but why can’t people take them in? No iconic Olympic sights about like the birds nest or Beijing or Olympic Stadium and Aquatics (Pringles) centre of London, although as you arrive at the all pic Park what looks like the athletics stadium is in fact centre court. Also at the Park is swimming, synchronised swimming and diving in an outdoor pool, cycling, judo and some basketball. I pass Clare Balding and Mark Chapman getting ready for a BBC broadcast. If only I had my GB clothes on I’d of danced in the background. But I take a selfie instead and behave very British.
Into centre court and a great match it was. The ball boys and girls aren’t boys and girls more men and women. And they are certainly no match for the awesomeness of the skills shown at Wimbledon. The volunteer on door duty by my seat is pretty damn useless. He just lets them come and go as they please, mid game, mid point. If you saw the Venus match at all, and her moaning and looking into the stands, well that was where I was sat and in the directions of these wandering spectators. It’s no Wimbledon!!
The crowd were all behind the underdog, Flipkens. And what a good match for the neutral, tight points, games and match in the end. Venus should and could of won but serving for the match lost her composure and Flipkens took her chances.
The atmosphere is pretty good, it’s not full at all but the crowd are chanting and cheering. All good fun. I’m sat beside some Americans who have an even more detailed itinerary than Michelle, which is hard to believe. A few British in front of me, one with a flag as a shawl and a GB hat. Not lots of Brits as yet but then I’m not at a GB event.
So day one complete. I’m here in Rio, one set of clean clothes, no toiletries, no GB fan gimmicks, and staying in the nuttiest woman’s apartment that is being decorated as we speak, has two random friends of her staying and is not quite what the pictures she sent portrayed. But I love it already.
I meet some ex Pom, then Aussie now living in Rio people (did you manage I follow that?) who took me under their wing and travelled back with me. We found all the tourist guides for Olympics and maps so I am armed for the week and I bought a travel card for tomorrow so I have non of the dramas of today. Lots of useful advice from the ex Pom. Zika is not about at the moment as its winter. There will be mosquitos in the morning but different types. So many free tickets about so not likely to sell my spare, even though Anamaria thinks she can. The metro, which is brand new, is so new it was finished two days ago, but will be one of the best things to come out of the Olympics here. Do Christ the Redeemer in the morning as you get the best blue skies then, I’m paying above the odds for the apartment (kind of thought that) but at least I’m safe, and just enjoy being here.
Day 2- well no time to sleep in, off to hockey which starts at 9am at a different venue to yesterday. The sun is shining, is a beautiful day and I am looking forward to some hockey. The others had got up early, well Michelle who never sleeps got up early and woke us all up. They have decided to head to the airport and find out about the suitcases. They are hoping that they will be on the flight that arrives this morning the duplicate of our flight just a day later. As I have my tickets I’m off and leave them to it. I’m armed with the map, train/metro tickets and sun cream and off I head. It’s the longest journey ever. I thought yesterday was bad. Three trains and a half hour walk, then there’s a bloody queue of 2.5km to wait in to get in. It has taken me three hours to get here. It’s no London 2012. The bonus, if you are hungry or thirsty though, is that you get street sellers on your train selling everything from hair ties, mobile chargers to chocolate to local snacks that look like frazzles! As I’m one for trying the local food out I but a couple of bags to keep me fed for the day.
You can’t not feel safe though. Armed guards everywhere, the army in force, volunteers much the same as London 2012 all around although there seem to be about five different coloured outfits, and street sellers at the stations and entrance to walkways. Busy, busy, busy. Anyhow I’m here, missed match one but this looks a better match. I have worked out why the cups have been collected. They all have a different sports printed on so its a collection challenge! I don’t even drink beer but I feel I need them in my life! Maybe later. I make my way to my seats, well they aren’t allocated so I go wherever I want and get front row. The opposite side (by the dug outs) is a sea of orange as its Holland playing against Spain. A few Spanish flags dotted around, but that is immense.
Yesterday there was wifi at the park available, I was going to buy a weeks worth but my card didn’t go through online, so instead got a whole 30 mins free. Today no phone signal and no wifi. Supposed to be meeting the girls later to maybe do sugar loaf but it’s now 11.30 and I’m staying for this match so won’t be back until maybe 4. A lovely volunteer offers me her phone just so I can check in! The others are off to sugar loaf themselves. A tad sad I’ve missed going together but probably a sign of things to come. Threes a difficult number to travel in, one usually gets left out.
The Dutch are a master class in women’s hockey at the moment. Some of the best players in the world, and since meeting some of them as a volunteer at Lee Valley I know more about them. Thy win easily, 5-0. Lovely atmosphere, the British Lee Valley commentator is out here commentating which is very homely, not sure the Brazilians know the rules that well so need an expert to lead the way! I ask one of the volunteers about the different coloured tops. Yellow and green are generic general all round volunteers. Green are specific events, blue are technical and red she wasn’t sure of. Nice to know. I start my Olympic pint cup collection with a shandy (have to buy a Sprite and a beer but that’s going to prove expensive) and manage to find one on the floor as well, so the proud owner of a horse riding and basketball cup so far.
The journey back was far less stressful. Maybe because I knew it. Bonus news, our suitcases have been returned. The girls early morning trip to the airport was fruitful, if not a huge hassle for them but I’m very grateful. We have clothes! Hooray. Off to meet the others for dinner via the flat for a shower. Now having had luke warm showers at best for the past week this shower was heaven. Hot, powerful and in a clean (ish) bathroom. Oh to be clean and have clean clothes to put on, it is quite a treat.
We eat at what is quite frankly a bloody expensive restaurant for what it is, but the girls found it and have already eaten so I just join, order a snack and a drink and they wait for me. We finish the evening with a walk along the beach, a final cocktail in a beach restaurant with a local playing on his guitar. Quite relaxing, well apart from the constant street traders wandering through, particularly peanut sellers bizarrely, and the ridiculous strength of the cocktail we ordered. No idea what is was but sounded quite exotic with kiwi in it, Erm, not so much! The peanut men out a handful of nuts on your table, leave them and then come back to sell a paper cones worth to you. We had a man selling necklaces as well who started to tell us his life hardship. Not going to work mate, if we like them we’d buy them but we don’t!
Day 2 completed!!!