On The Road Again (FreddieMays)

On Sunday I packed my bags and got well and truly on the road again. This time it was a long, long way down the road – thirty hours south to Rio.

I was dreading it after the reverse journey to get to Salvador three months ago. That time I was landed with the seat outside the bog with the squeaky door and right by the water dispenser so I didn’t get a minutes peace.  But this journey was a doddle!  It has to be said that he standard of coaches in South America is very good, probably due to a complete (and completely inexplicable) absence of public railways. It’s weird: you could fit Ireland inside Brazil 100 times over but you can’t get a train 200 miles from Rio to Sao Paulo, or between any other major towns for that matter.

Reclining seats, miles of leg room and only about 20 passengers – yeah that’s the sort of coach journey I like. Remarkably all the remaining passengers got off at the stop before Rio except me and one other passenger. So we had the coach completely to ourselves for the last 4 hours.

So I arrived in Rio on Monday night having managed to sleep 18 of the 30 hours. As usual, I didn’t have anywhere to stay. The “not bothering to book anywhere to stay” approach has been my routine every time I’ve arrived at a new destination, and barring my trip to Salvador when I spent my first night in a favela, the policy has worked OK. This time I knew exactly where I was headed though – to my old home from home – The Stone of a Beach hostel in Copacabana.

Although I am a huge fan of this place and one of their longest ever staying guests, even I have to admit that the Stone of a Beach is probably the biggest khazi in Brazil (I will give some examples shortly). But for whatever reason, I love it here so returning was a no brainer. This was my home for 12 weeks all through the world cup and beyond.

It’s pricy, noisy, not particularly clean and some of the staff take the “stone” a bit too literally (consequently ballsing up anything that requires organisation). Most importantly for me, the internet was, shall we say, “variable”. But I still found myself jumping in a cab and telling him “take me to the Stone”.

I had a second unexpected pleasant surprise. Expecting the usual fresh-off-the-bus-gringo reception from the cabbies I was determined not to yield an inch. They would quote 50 and I would beat them down to 35 – the usual routine. But it turned out I didn’t even need to haggle. The very first one quoted 25, which is the ACTUAL price if you got a metered fare. I couldn’t believe that everything was going so perfectly. There just had to be a catch. Probably he would drive me to the woods and chop me into little pieces or something.

I arrived at the Stone of a Beach and checked into one of their more “upmarket” sweaty overcrowded stone floored rooms – an 8 bed dormitory strewn in towels, pants and socks for a bargain 50 reais a night.  It wasn’t long before I was reminded what a shite hole it was….

A muscled topped tattooed Argentinian was residing there. My mate Joao says Argentinians are all arrogant pratts. I disagree – I’ve met dozens of lovely Argentinians but Joao was definitely right in the case of this bloke.  He absolutely loved himself. The following afternoon a guy from New York checked in and crashed out after a long journey. Soon I noticed a horrific smell, like the crustiest cheesiest rotten feet you could imagine, marinaded in a vat of French blue cheese and then exposed to the sun.  I figured that it had to be the sleeping American – he’d been travelling for 24 hours. I woke him and asked him if it was his feet that was causing the stench but it wasn’t him. We set about finding the source of the smell and we spotted a suitcase with a bag of dirty washing. Sure enough the stinky stench was coming from there. Just then the tattooed muscle topped Argentinian strutted in and said:

“Damn, what is that smell?” He was pissed off and his tone was far too accusing for my liking.

“It’s that pile of dirty shite over there” I said. Me and the American guy both pointed to it.

AHA! Well what do you know? It turns out it was HIS.  “No no my stuff doesn’t smell” he said as if to defend the honour of his filthy socks. Then he staggered us both by saying “Here, they’re OK – come here and smell them”, and he opened the bag.

Well let me tell you Mr muscle top got told to feck off so fast and with such ferocity that he realised my opinion was not up for discussion.  “Come here and smell them????”  Let’s just say I’ve had better offers!  To be fair he was apologetic after realising he was the cause of the stench but he didn’t actually do anything about it. And the sad thing is, after a while of suffering the smell it gets so you don’t mind it.

Luckily I had to change rooms the next day because of a group booking.  But the next room was even worse! This was a 12 bed dormitory which was full of Aussies.  I lasted about seven minutes in that dorm I think. I don’t think any further explanation is even required but I will spare a few words.  I moved in at 11.45am into this boiling hot dump where there was so much crap on the floor you could hardly see any floor. It should really only have space for 6 but they had squeezed in 12. The air conditioning only works after 10pm and in a climate of 30 degree temperatures and 75% humidity you have to admit, that is pretty tight fisted.  It absolutely stank of sweaty bodies and stale farts.  8 of them were still in bed, groaning, belching and honking up massive greenies and spitting out the nearest window. Charming.  One let rip a massive fart. Oh, the hilarity!  Obviously it had been a bruising session the night before but right now it really was as if they had given up on life. (Given way the Ashes went this could actually be true).  The conversation wasn’t worth listening to but I do recall two lads comparing how many beer glasses they had managed to smash the previous night – “at least 6 mate”. Well done skippy – congrats.  I got my stuff and went down to reception.

“I’d like a different room please”

“Do you have any preferences?” the receptionist asked.

“One without Australians please”, I replied. They cracked up laughing when I said that but I was deadly serious.

The way I’m carrying on you probably wouldn’t believe me if I said the reason I like this place is because of the people. (Well it can’t be the facilities so through a process of elimination it has to be the people). But if you’ll indulge me I’ll continue with my misanthropic rant for a bit because I’m enjoying myself.

I’ve seen very few loud mouth gap year plonkers on my travels, far fewer than I expected, but yesterday I found one who was such a colossal bell end that the odds on him actually being called Tarquin are only 2-1. Holding court in reception at ear splitting volume, this posh wally shouted his life story out to these three girls, who for a reason I will never understand, appeared genuinely interested in what he had to say.  Me and my Turkish mate were in reception using the wifi and we sat grimacing through this tirade of guff such as: a) I went to a private boarding school (you don’t say, with that accent?) b) I played a body double for some two bob actor you’ve never heard of in some two bob film you’re never going to see and c) I’m on a GAP YEAR and I am returning to work….at a law firm.  What a hero.

Bad as it was it wasn’t the content of his banter that vexed. I met another bloke last night who was sweet as a nut and he also went to a boarding school.  It was the sheer volume, as if we absolutely HAD to listen to it because he was so damn important. It’s as if he was talking with the CAPS lock on.
In the words of Ross Kemp, I had to get out of there – fast. He was that annoying.

I went to a shop just for something to do but as I was in the queue I had a brainwave so cunning Baldrick would have been proud.  This idea was solid gold. I sprinted back to the hostel reception.  The plan was to get back, load up the Anti Nowhere League song “SO WHAT” on my laptop and every time he paused for breath (which wasn’t often), hit PLAY.

If you haven’t heard the song in question, it’s not very musical. Basically it’s just a load of thrashing guitars and drums and a man screaming out the words. The first three words in particular are the most appropriate

“SO F**KING WHAT!!” (shouted with real disdain)

The plan was to wait for him to say something like “so last night me and Hugo played drinking games where you had to down your drink with your arm completely straight haw haw” and then hit play:

“SO F**KING WHAT!!”

And see if he noticed a pattern developing.

Unfortunately when I got back my cunning plan had been thwarted. Tarquin wasn’t there! Oh well, at least my heart was in the right place.

Ah, I shall miss this place you know.  My friend and her daughter are coming out here ridiculously early on Saturday 15th (not the 13th as I had thought – hehe, I got here two days early) and I can’t very well expect them to stay at the “Stone”.

So today is my last ever day at the Stone of a Beach. At 6am on Saturday morning I will silently creep out of here for the last time. It could be quite an emotional occasion I expect. As I turn round to say farewell to the Stone, possibly forever……

I’ll probably bump into the Aussies coming in from a night out and one of them will puke in my face.

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