First Impressions

Flying into Rio on our cramped little Airbus A320, after six hours from Santiago via a ground stop at Sao Paulo, I get my first whiff of the smell of the city as the cabin air cycles, even before we’ve landed. I’m concentrating, trying to isolate the flavour notes.

First up: charcoal and meths. Goodness knows why. Street food vendors use these little braziers beside the airport; maybe that’s it, but it’s definitely charcoal.

Next, walking through the airbridge: sweet aviation kerosene. And something floral, the closest New Zealand equivalent would be feijoa.

Then just dampness: like walking into a laundry where the clothes dryer has been running on a cold night.

Little yellow signs at the PASSPORT CONTROL. ESTRANGEIROS lane. Show the cards to a bored security officer. Wave and through. Baggage pickup takes forever. And three smiling faces at the exit lane (salvation!) and finally the thirty-plus Rio heat, even at half past midnight, hits like a jet engine exhaust. Those air conditioners are good; it was chilly on the plane.

Driving through the Rio night, passenger’s seat alien on the right, concrete median barriers with retroreflective cat’s eyes on the newly privatised toll road. I count three toll stops, around R$10 for the 150k journey, up the Serra and into the mist, cooler now but hardly less humid than Rio. More speed cameras than I can count – a dozen? No traffic at this hour, two or three AM. Bush, ferns and trees, like New Zealand back country, climbing up the hill and then down into Friburgo.

It’s not like Hamner Springs at all, really, that´s just the sense of being surrounded by bush-covered virgin hills, you could say Auckland or Wellington and capture half of the sense of motorways, but there’s no Kiwi equivalent for cobblestone roads, concrete aqueduct river like the canals from Half-Life 2, crumbling dusty little European houses, power lines snaking out a zillion feeds, a general sense of lazy sprawl and organic disorder.

It’s nearly 2pm and I haven’t shown you the house but we’ll look at that later. It’s time to go shopping. And camera.

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3 Responses to “First Impressions”

  1. W. Says:

    • natecull Says:

      Yes! Very much like that, except with more jungly evergreens instead of deciduous trees, older cars, and things in a general state of warm disrepair.

  2. W. Says:

    I guess cobblestone makes for at least half the character of a street. It’s comparable to what a carpet does to a room. As they say, the carpet is the soul of the room. I grew up with lots of cobblestone. Still love it.

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