From Campo Grande, we jumped on an 18 hour bus ride overnight eastwards to Sao Paolo, the first major city since our arrival in Lima. It was like being back in the developed world; well, the Mediterranean part at least. Sao Paolo is one of the world’s biggest cities and, with more than 11m people, has the most inhabitants of any city in the Southern Hemisphere. Sao Paulo residents (called Paulistas) often seem to get a bad press from the people of their fierce rival city, Rio de Janeiro (who are called Cariocas) for being dull and obsessed with work. Paulistas instead see themselves as the hardworking architects of Brazil economic ascendancy and view their rivals as self-obsessed, lazy slackers. As with most things, the truth is somewhere in between (I certainly saw more people dressed in suits striding around purposefully in Sao Paolo than I did in Rio, where people mostly seemed to wear tiny shorts and flip-flops, but then again, that could be because I was in Rio over the New Year period).
Sao Paolo lacks a certain magic. We started a day of sightseeing on the Avenida de Paulista, a long street of uninspiring high-rise buildings and advertising boards. Sao Paolo is huge and sprawling, with nothing, bar the massive Gothic Catedral Metropolitana in the city centre at Se, of any beauty or elegance. It was in the square at Se that the chasm between the rich and poor in Brazil is at its most stark. This square is Sao Paolo‟s equivalent of London’s Trafalgar Square but at Se there are at least 200 people living permanently on the square; the people who live there don’t seem to disperse during the day and many have built cardboard shacks to live in. We made our way to Vila Madelena, supposedly the hip part of town to go drinking. Unfortunately, most of the bars we found were unjustifiably pretentious, particularly given how lame they were. We did, however, find a decent bar, one with thousands of bottles suspended from the ceiling, with excellent cold chopps (a half pint of lager) and pastels (tiny little parcels of meat and vegetables).