I've been such a bad customer that I almost don't feel bad that I'll
be paying this dude R$150 (~$75 USD). My wimpy watch alarm is no
contest for the alcohol of yesterday evening teamed with my
ever-lurking narcolepsy, so I arrive to my 8:00 downstairs meeting
with Daniel only after a lady who works at the hostel comes and wakes
me up around 8:30. Yep, I'm that guy.
Cool is Daniel's truck, ~a late '90s Ford Ranger that's a lot like the Dodge Dakota I just bought. His is definitely cooler because of the tank at the front end of the bed, ~the diameter of a BBQ's and as long as his truck is wide. For $1,000 U.S., he had a mechanic install a conversion kit so his car will run on natural gas. The cylinder only holds enough gas for ~100 miles at a time, but filling stations are at most gas stations, it's less polluting, costs ~half as much per mile as gas, and his annual car tax drops from about a grand USD to less than 200 bucks. Plus, as occurs while we're driving, he can switch to normal gas when the cylinder runs out with the flip of a switch and without shutting the car off. Heat doesn't hurt and it's bulletproof; Daniel says the latter is an important consideration in Rio. If there were filling stations in the U.S., I'd have one put in my truck tomorrow; if I can figure out a way to rig a homebrew filler, I'm still tempted to do it myself. Maybe Austin needs a commercial natural gas conversion and tank filling station? Maybe everywhere else with high smog levels, lots of environmentalists, and lots of trucks / SUVs (the tank is quite large) needs one, too? Maybe this is business idea #5,281 that I won't follow through upon?:)
Ok, back to why I'm in the truck in the first place: I'm going to climb the K2 route up the upper section of Corcovado, the mountainside upon which that really famous Christ the Redeemer statue spreads its arms. Or, more accurately, I try to climb it: I make it through the first of 4 pitches (~50 meters worth of climbing, a little under the rope's length) only using bolts as holds (a big no-no for serious climbers that prevents me from claiming to actually have climbed the route), Daniel's guidance (at my behest) on almost every single step, and his diligence with the gri-gri (=climbing device for belaying, etc.) saving me from what would surely be a lethal fall hundreds of meters when I slip attempting a step. Even though we only climbed maybe 40 meters vertical height, looking down we see a cliff of what's gotta be at least 200 meters, the city like anthills below us, because we began our climb at a plateau maybe 2/3 of the way up and cut left of the plateau. I may act hardcore, but I'm more than happy to heed Daniel's advice and not attempt the rest of the climb, especially considering that the next section is a horizontal climb during which turning back would be much more difficult. As I belay back to terra firma, I'm humblingly reminded that there's a huge difference between walking the walk and climbing the climb.
We hike a trail up to the statue. It's cloudy, so we can't see the city, but the statue's neat to see up close. Nothing too amazing or worth hanging out at, just a big sculpture that looks like it does in the postcards and during any movie featuring Rio's obligatory fly-by shot.
Even with advice from Daniel, a vague plan and a heavy pack are a bad combo for a long mountain biking expedition. I'm tired around 20 miles into it, when wrong turns have me asking some girl who can't be more than 18 but is fluent in English for directions. My original plan, courtesy of Daniel, was to make it to Guarantiba today, but the beyond incredulous look from this girl and the consensus among multiple people she asks that there's no way I could arrive before dark force a revision to a target of Prainha.
Some hours, highway, and a tunnel or 2 that are uncomfortably narrow later, I'm in Prainha. Unfortunately, cheap pousadas (= hostels) aren't. I wander around asking for one, finding nothing below R$70 ($32 USD) per night, and then take a break to stuff my face in a churrascaria. I put away probably a good double-digit slices of pizza and several piles of pasta before feeling pleasantly bloated. I feel the diarrheal effects of drinking local water and eating weird stuff to excess then start dozing while I wait for the bill. To do: get this narcolepsy thing checked out. Asking around a bar near the beach eventually yields some kid relatively fluent in English, and his generosity gets me a spot on the floor of his friend David's very humble abode. R$20 (~$8 USD) and the generosity of strangers is good for a dirty mattress in a clean wooden shack within feet of the beach. David is the typical surfer dude, complete with long blond hair and hippie hoodie. He speaks no English, so the "thumbs-up" and "hang 10" signs are our main forms of communication. We're also sharing the room with 2 beautiful puppies, 2 of the 4 dogs he has. At least they're cute until the damn thing whining wakes me up; I feel like they may have something to do with these bugs that keep biting me...