Simon Calder: A New Romantic rendezvous in Rio de Janeiro

Travelling in South America comprises a grand tour through improbability. Uncertainty can beset the traveller immediately on arrival: forget the usual red channel/green channel arrangements, because in some countries it is usual at Customs to assess whether inbound passengers have something to declare on an entirely arbitrary basis.

An official invites you to press a big button that randomly operates one of two lights. If it is green, you stroll blithely through; red means you may be some time. I first encountered this at Bogota, one of many South American countries that has become far safer and more welcoming in recent years (even if the standard of English has not; the airport taxi pre-payment voucher reads "Dear User, before abandoning the vehicle we recommend not to forget its baggage and elements of hand").

Arriving at Sao Paulo in Brazil on a delayed flight from London to research 48 Hours in Rio de Janeiro (see pages 10 and 11), I took an hour to get through passport and customs checks. Since the boarding pass for my connection to Rio said "0825" in big numbers, I assumed that was the departure time. I rushed through a barrage of bureaucracy to get to the plane, only to discover that 8.25am was the official boarding time, and the flight was actually scheduled for 9.30am – or, as it turned out because of "operational difficulties", 10.30am. Arriving an hour late in Rio, I then had to queue up again for an hour for passports and customs – like flying to Heathrow, going through all the formalities, boarding a domestic flight to Manchester and getting tangled in all the same red tape.

But the Cidade Maravilhosa, the marvellous city of Rio, has some advantages over Manchester, such as crumpled terrain, drenched in rainforest, that crowds down on to beautiful beaches. Oh, and it has a tropical climate, of course.

The flying time from Rio to Sao Paulo is around 50 minutes, compared with all day on the bus; furthermore, intense competition among airlines linking Brazil's two biggest cities means fares are more reasonable. I paid £60 for a hop between the two.

For the flight to Sao Paulo, I reached Rio's international airport at 5.30am, in good time for my 6.40am flight, only to find that the schedule had changed, without me being told. The flight was now departing in a quarter of an hour and, no, I wasn't getting on it.

"You can take a flight to a different airport that's quite near," suggested the helpful check-in agent.

So I did. South America often leads you to places you were not expecting to be, but the attitude seems to be, "it'll work out fine in the end". And it usually does, as I found out when I returned to Rio after my stay in Sao Paulo.

I walked out of the arrivals hall to find a crowd of people chanting "Simon! Simon!". They turned out not to be readers of The Independent Traveller, but were "Durannies" – music fans out in force to welcome Simon Le Bon and the rest of Duran Duran, who were playing in Rio.

Sensing an opportunity to hear a rock star's view of travel, I grabbed my audio recorder and asked a couple of banal questions. "Good flight?" was about as profound as it got; Simon Le Bon sensibly got on with signing autographs while we talked. At the end of this Paxman-esque grilling, he turned to me and said cheerfully, "I watch you on telly. Do you want to come and see us? I'll put your name on the door." And he did.

Later that same evening, at Vivo Rio, the city's leading rock venue, I was impressed by several things: the sheer energy that these pop legends put into their performance; the fact that also on the guest list was the UK's Consul General in Rio; and the remarkable facility Brazilian fans seem to have for memorising obscure Eighties pop lyrics in English. "Save a Prayer" is worth savouring when being chanted by a crowd more used to speaking Portuguese.

A while ago, I saw Ray Davies of the Kinks perform "Waterloo Sunset" at the South Bank Centre in Waterloo. Having seen Duran Duran play their greatest hit, "Rio", as the climax of a triumphant gig in Rio, I wonder which geo-musical phenomenon I should try to catch next? Answers on a email – or musical score.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells