Tuesday, September 09, 2008

QUESTION: What is adventure travel? ANSWER: Leaving your hotel room!

Today, I plunged into the dangerous streets of Sao Paulo. I have been repeatedly warned by locals and visitors alike that downtown S.P. is swarming with criminals* ready to rip off my jewelry, money, camera and other valuables. But for me, adventure travel is all about risk, even if that just means leaving my hotel room.

The biggest danger I faced so far was going nuts from working long, solitary hours at in my hotel room at Green Place Flat. Sunday and Monday, I have been holed up tackling projects related to the wonderful Adventure Travel Trade Association South American Summit (which was Wed.-Sunday). It's been a wild ride:
* Sorting through piles of business cards and tour company materials from the conference.
* Uploading photos, catching up on email, posting updates and entering data.

A visit to Ibirapuera Park was the perfect break from the city bustle. More on the park, below.

I've spent seven nights at this hotel and am now buddies with desk clerks Renato, Ishmael and Arturo. I will leave Sao Paulo this Thursday. Where to? I am thinking Rio and the Amazon, not sure yet. My mountain bike tour in Peru with Sacred Rides starts Sept. 27 in Lima ...

Today's Highlights:
1. Marilyn Diggs - I found Marilyn online, by accident, through one of my favorite writer's websites, Travelwriters.com. I noticed that she lived in Sao Paulo and was an American, an accomplished writer and painter. We exchanged emails and she generously offered travel advice on Sao Paulo and Brazil in general. She has been here 20 years. I accepted her kind invitation to meet her today and will write more about that fun encounter.
Marilyn Diggs, an American writer and artist, has been a resident of Brazil for 20 years, She invited me to her home today in the neighborhood she called "the Manhattan of Sao Paulo."

2. Ibirapuera Park - This oasis of calm in the traffic-choked city of Sao Paulo was just the boost I needed. Like San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Ibirapuera Park houses several prominent city museums. Thanks to Marilyn's recommendation, I visited the Afro-Brazilian museum, which was Smithsonian- quality (top notch!). I watched the runners and cyclists do their afternoon workouts and sat by the lake watching the black geese. I also had a delicious buffet lunch at a restaurant in the park and was thrilled to find leafy greens there!

3. Money - At last, a cash infusion! Big thanks to the one Citibank ATM in Brazil that was in the mood to accept my ATM card. Til now, I survived on cash loans from conference friends.

4. Shipped stuff to California - The only crime I encountered was the outrageous cost of shipping a backpack of my surplus stuff (mostly clothes) to the U.S. I also sent my cell phone since it is useless here and would be expensive to replace if stolen. Part of the reason for the $$$ was DHL had to send it 4 days express mail - they did not have any other options. Given my investment in time and money to get to this shop, I decided it was worthwhile to send the stuff so I don't have to schlep business clothes with me through the rainforest and the Andes.

* CRIME REPORT: Despite dire warnings, during my first day as a solo female visitor in Sao Paulo, I did not feel unsafe in the business district or at the park. I was home before dark. I kept a close eye on my purse, walked with purpose, did not pull out a map and was pleased when I was addressed in Portuguese. I took care not to wear my camera around my neck, a backpack or beltpouch which might indicate "tourist."