Rio de Janeiro, Brazil • August 2013 • Length of Read: 6 Minutes
The following extract has been adapted from my self-published paperback travel book, Crobs Abroad: A Scot’s Misadventures with a Backpack. It follows my mishaps across five different continents as I get comatose drunk on the Thai islands; kicked out of a Hungarian lap dancing club; kidnapped by the mayor of a Peruvian city; and trek for a week across the Moroccan Sahara. If you enjoy this post, then please visit my online bookshop for more details.
There was a little café on the corner block of our hostel. It was tacky: plastic chairs, plastic tables, plastic. A bald man from a neighbouring table kept glancing over. He was also foreigner at first sight. A true gringo. Unlike most tourists we'd met along our travels however, he was clearly apt at conversing with the locals. Sat opposite was a pretty little Brazilian girl who couldn't have yet matured beyond her teenage years. It was surprising therefore that he was clearly and shamelessly more interested in eavesdropping on our uncensored drivel, chuckling away and paying minimal attention to his date. She sat there stolidly, pushing a straw around her glass; head towards the picnic-blanket table cover so any possibility of eye-contact could be avoided.
“Are you guys from New Zealand?” he called over in a strong American West Coast accent. We glanced at each other perplexed, Screen and Skills both sporting Scottish rugby jerseys and talking about the potential marketing opportunity for importing Irn-Bru as a competitor to Inka Cola.
“Scotland bro. You’re American I presume?”
“Ah, my bad guys. Yeah straight from Cali. I’m down here to enjoy the beautiful woman and the beautiful weather.”
Rick was a handsome thirty-something. A real extrovert with a rugged Jason Statham look about him. A computer programmer who could work remotely so decided to split his time 20%/80% between Rio and his hometown of LA. The Pareto Principle in full effect. Over the previous six years of hopping back and forth, he’d become fluent in both Portuguese and in the customs of the city. If it weren’t for his pale complexion one would have been none the wiser of his real origins.
“You lads hit up the whorehouses yet?” he drawled, changing the conversation in a blasé manner and almost shocked at our lack of response. “Aww, you’re missing out boys if you haven’t. 300 Real (£80) will see you through the weekend no bother. And they’re classy, not the dregs and red lights you’ll find in Amsterdam. It’s done properly here.”
We peered over at his date, slurping on the remains of her smoothie and shifting uncomfortably in her camping chair. Whether it was the topic of conversation or the numbing of the plastic was hard to tell.
“Don’t mind her troops,” Rick laughed. “Doesn’t speak a word of English. She’s actually one of those girls herself.”
The penny suddenly dropped. The uncomfortable silence. The lack of eye contact. Rick was treating a prostitute to dinner.
“Classy, you see? Twice a year I get my mates to fly down to Rio for the week and crash at the apartment. I make them run The Gauntlet for their troubles. You boys fancy giving it a shot?”
The gauntlet, as Rick had so aptly named it, was his idea of the ultimate night out in Rio. A harlotry pub crawl if you will. His pals would hit up five or six bars and an equal number of brothels, the last man standing is the one who…well you get the picture. Originally thinking this was an elaborate joke we played along until it became clear that Rick was being completely serious. He was taking his date to the cinema after dinner and then wanted us to join him on a night of debauchery never to be forgotten. His enthusiasm and passion were winning us over. Unsure at first, we were warming to this prospect, however (perhaps fortunately), we didn’t even have 300 Real between the five of us. Skills was pumped up and suggested that he could get some money wired from home and we could pay him back. This was met by a sharp prod from Endy under the table, evidently entertained by the American but not willing to accept his proposal.
“Come on guys, it’s completely safe. They are all checked weekly and you don't just get a lay for your money. Don’t think of them as brothels, more like miniature Playboy Mansions. You get a robe and slippers, can watch movies, and sip champagne, all whilst a host of beautiful Latinas pleasure you to your heart’s and part’s content. I have to head now or we'll miss the start of the picture. Take my email and drop me a line when you get internet access.”
He handed over a plain white business card with his information, gave a salute, and then left arm-in-arm with his date as we struggled to contain our smiles. A comedic computer whiz with a beaming grin and an addictive personality only succeeded by his addiction to ladies of the night. We e-mailed him the next day out of sheer curiosity. How could one not?