Our last visitors (Brian’s parents) left Rio on Friday night. Saturday morning we took off on the next leg of our winter/summer vacation. Brian and I left for the Pantanal to get a little closer with nature. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed out of Rio which made us miss our connection in Brasilia. Surprisingly the airline had new boarding passes printed for us and a lunch voucher. We had planned on seeing the first knockout game of Brasil vs. Chile in Cuiabá, but because of the delay we watched the first half in the airport, then listened to most of the second half with a radio app on my phone, until we got too high in the air and the internet cut out for good. Just before arrival in Cuiabá, the flight attendants announced the results of the penalties and then we all cheered.
Exiting the Cuiabá airport we skeptically took one of the taxis lined up outside. Airport taxis seem to be a rip off wherever you go. As we drove off, the meter with the price moved up soooo quickly! We couldn’t believe that a short 10 or 15 minute ride to the city center cost us R$45. It seemed weird that a small city had such expensive taxis, but a quick Google search confirmed that Cuiabá has the most expensive taxis of all the World Cup cities.
Moving on we checked into our hotel and arrived just in time to watch the second game of the day where Colombia beat Uruguay. Afterwards, we walked around the area near our hotel looking for a restaurant to get some food. We were surprised to see that it looked and felt like a ghost town. Nothing was open and there weren’t many people out. After reading a little more in our travel book we made our way to an area that had some restaurants. We reached a praça where we found all the 15-30 year olds hanging out drinking, probably since the Brazil game at noon. It was a big street party. We inquired at a pizza restaurant, but like the taxi, we were blown away by the outrageous cost. Large pizza’s were on average R$80! That’s around $40 USD! We kept walking and settled at a different restaurant that also had stupidly expensive meals, but just split a dish and appetizer.
Back at the hotel we hit the hay early and got 12 hours of sleep. Our second day’s plan was to get a tour scheduled to visit a nearby national park, Chapada dos Guimarães and then cheer for Mexico in their game against Holland. We wandered around the centro of Cuiabá amazed by how dead it was. Today is Sunday and NOTHING was open. There were a lot of nice colorful buildings mixed in with some crumbling, decrepit buildings in the old part of the city, but it was just so weird to see everything shut down and hardly anyone around. We found our way to the posauda that is owned by the same tour company that we will be traveling with into the Pantanal. We went there to see if we could schedule a tour to Chapada for tomorrow. No success initially, but we scheduled to return after the Mexico game to hopefully get more details.
We didn’t have a lot of options for the Mexico game. We decided to check out the Fan Fest in another World Cup city, after having seen Rio’s and Natal’s previously. We made our way there, about a 25 minute walk, and found ourselves inside a fairgrounds-like space with only a few other spectators. We enjoyed watching the game on a big screen TV without having to fight anyone for space or shade. It was an exciting game with Mexico going up one just after half, but it came with a devastating ending when Holland scored two goals in that last few minutes of the game. They were so close to advancing! Ughhh!
We walked off our frustration and went back to the pousada to schedule the tour. We did so with success. We’re now watching Costa Rica play Greece. Los Ticos finally put one in the net and we’re hoping it ends with a win for them (although they just got a red card)! Tonight we’re planning on eating at a Mexican restaurant to drown our Mexicano sorrows like true Mexicans; with good food and drink. I’m sure it will be overpriced with just okay food, but that’s what you get in Brasil!
Tomorrow: Day trip to Chapada dos Guimarães
Tuesday (Brian’s Birthday & USA game!) through Friday: Tour through the Pantanal
Sunday: Back to Rio
Monday: Off to California