8 months ago, I was in Florence, Italy, visiting 2 American brothers. Their friends were hosting a Brazilian couchsurfer named Andre. After the group of us traveled to Cinque Terre together and hung out in Florence, I had convinced Andre to surf my couch in Reykjavik one day. 2 months later, he arrived in Reykjavik, and I told him I’d have to surf his couch in Rio one day. 4 months later, I was surfing his couch in Niteroi, with only 2 days notice.
It was impossible to reach him earlier since I was floating around in the middle of the Northern
Brazilian Amazon, and I wasn’t sure he would be in Rio since he travels a lot. But, he welcomed me in to his family’s home as a couchsurfer and a friend, and Im so relieved I actually remembered I had the outstanding invitation (I have so many people left to visit I often wonder how many cities I’ve visited without remembering to call someone!)
His home was in Niteroi, accross the bay from Rio, with a spectacular view of the Sugar Loaf hill. You could see Christ the Redeemer from his balcony, and it only took a 14 km bridge to get to the heart of Rio. He took me to Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, we took the gondola up Pão de Açúcar, took pictures from Vista Chinesa, and waded through the crowds up the Corcodova to see Cristo Redentor. I had planned for 6 days in Rio, but on my second day, we took an impromptu camping trip to Ilha Grande.
We were having buffet pizza with some other locals and backpackers on my first night when Digo invited us to go. He said we would need all our camping supplies and food for 3 days since the island is only interconnected by a series of trails and a few boat docks. We had to hike 3 hours to the ‘secluded’ beach we wanted to stay at, but then realized hundreds of other people had made the difficult trek searching for the same paradise… a perfect case of tragedy of the commons.
But, instead of a wild and rugged weekend, we had a fun-filled beach vacation, making lots of new friends while dancing and sleeping only inches from one anothers tents. I learned very quickly that I don’t speak Portuguese, but I can understand it, and when I try to speak, I’m actually communicating myself through Portunol and Spanglish, a mix of Spanish and English with Portugese decoration.