I had long days at the Paralympic Games. Especially when the Chef de Mission discovered I could drive the van with almost the whole delegation. From that moment I and my co-volunteer Marcos from Colombia were labeled as drivers for the delegation. Together we get the whole team at the right location. It made the delegation more independent from the other available transportation options like the busses. For us it meant less free time to see other sports because most of the time we were driving around. But that was fun too!
Beside supporting the athletes in the stadium, there was time for a city tour. Thursdays the whole team went to the Barra Olympic Park in the evening. Here they had an interview and video takes for a channel from Sri Lanka. At Friday we went out for shopping. Unfortunately a bus driver hit my mirror! The man stopped to see the damage. He got scared when I wanted to speak in English. In my best Portuguese I tried to get his contact details and we made some photographs. The mirror dangled sadly and with the light out of the frame. I collected the fragments from the street. Driving without a left-mirror is absolutely dangerous in Rio de Janeiro!
Fortunately the shopping mall was 200m close by. I got compliments for my quiet behavior in this situation from my passengers. While they where shopping and enjoying their time in Brazil, I found a solution for my broken mirror. It was easy to find tape in one of the many stores in the shopping mall. Carefully I replaced the mirror in his frame and reconnected the wires of the light. Professionally I taped everything together.
I was proud with the result. Now we could drive back to the Paralympic village! I made a perfect ‘gambiarra’ according to the Brazilians in my Facebook timeline: ‘a workaround, a quick-and-dirty solution, a clumsy or inelegant, yet effective, solution to a problem, typically using parts that are cobbled together’.
The city tour was planned at Saturday. The idea was to travel after the competitions to the famous Christ statue. It was decided that morning and Marcos and I had no idea about this plan. With the car and the van and the navigation we tried to find our way in the city. In minutes we got stuck in Rio’s usual traffic and we lost each other because of the unclear instructions of the navigation system. We tried to find the way individually and finally we arrived near the entrance. But it wasn’t the right entrance! Because of maintenance the road was closed. We should use the other entrance on the other side of the mountain. Ouch!
With just two hours left before sun set we decided to return to Urca and Copacabana. We took a short break in the hills. The athletes were still having fun. The were singing songs from their country and made my mood better. We closed the evening with a relaxed picnic on the beach. The delegation eat, chat, drink and sing together. They had a great time!
Some homeless people came sitting around us. The seats were their beds. I was wondering if we could give the food that was left to them. And that was not a problem for the delegation. It was heartbreaking to see the homeless being so thankful for the food. I was thinking what they could do in the village’s dining hall. Enormous amounts of food from athletes and volunteers is throw away there.
I slept for a while in the van tired of driving the whole day. A powernap worked well to feel fresh again. And that was important because I felt responsible to bring the delegation back home safely. And that’s not an easy job in a city like Rio.
The next morning we had a second chance to find the Christ statue. We planned to leave early, but nobody was on time because of the late evening the day before. We reached our destination easily. It was pretty to drive trough the city on this quiet Sunday morning. I didn’t expected the last part of the trip to be that dangerous uphill. Because of the traffic I had to stop often. With the heavy weight of all those people inside it was difficult to move the van again. I became frustrated because my lack of mountain driving skills. Oh I was so relieved when I delivered the people near the statue.
In Brazil you wait a lot. Waiting to find a parking lot (oh yes I had to return again). Waiting for a motor taxi to bring you back to your delegation (the driver went with 60kmh uphills not caring about the cars). Waiting for the whole delegation is having a ticket to access another bus to the statue. But waiting in Brazil is worth it most of the times. We reached our goal and enjoyed a fantastic view. The Christ statue is one of the highlights of the city!
Driving license plus
After a few days driving in Rio I discovered the unwritten rules of the roads. I had to turn down my window, put my head outside (please check if there’s no motor driver passing you) show my arm and thumbs up. Don’t forget to move your car to the left a little bit before acting. It was the only way to get back on the road when you’re stuck in traffic. Almost everybody will give you some space. Only using your lights will not help. For moving right: ask your passenger!
Sometimes you discover roads without stripes. It’s normal to choose your own space. I think in the middle is the safest point. Another Brazilian phenomena is the ‘Retorno’. It’s almost impossible to turn left on main roads. To turn left you often turn right first. There you can use te secondary road to turn left while crossing the main road. In the beginning this was very confusing for me driving a lot of extra kilometers. You have to stop when the lights turn red. But orange means more gas! Last but not least: use your horn to let other drivers know you’re arriving. After all those experiences with driving in Rio de Janeiro I think I deserve an extra plus on my driving license! 😉