13.12.2007 - 17.12.2007 32 °C
When our bus drove through Rio, the first thing that hit us was the awful smell of sewers and the view of thousands of run down and derelict houses. We began to question why everyone raves about this place, to us, it looked like a dirty and overpopulated city. We then arrived in the centre and got a taxi to Copacabana, where we were staying. The city seemed to transform itself into an impressive place, surrounded by mountains, with towering white buildings and pretty pavements full of mosaic white and black tiles. We definitely knew we were staying in a more glamorous area.
Typically, when we reached our hostel, our room wasn't ready yet, so we decided to hit the beach for a couple of hours while we waited. The famous, Copacabana beach was fascinating to see with all the beautiful people posing on the beach, women in the tiniest of bikinis and men in Speedos! The waves looked ferocious, the sea was so blue, the sand was so yellow against a backdrop of high, white Seventies style skyscrapers all along the front. Sam thought it looked like a tropical Torquay!
When we returned to the hostel, our room apparently still wasn't ready. An hour later we were still waiting so Sam finally reminded the guy at the desk who had totally forgotten and raced us up to our room. Our private suite consisted of bunk beds in a room the size of a shoebox and was in between the bar and the TV room, though we were thankful to have our own private space.
We spent the rest of the day on the beach and just as we got back to the hostel it began to pour down with rain. We had a few drinks in the hostel bar, where we met a guy from Putney. We quickly realised his budget was a bit more flexible than ours when we arrived at the restaurant Marius, which was a seafood and meat restaurant that charged 38 pounds a head! Too late to turn back, we decided this would be a once in a lifetime indulgence! (We should have really realised the expense, when we walked down a red carpet in order to enter the place and all the seafood was displayed in beautiful ice sculptures). Inside was also amazing, as it was covered in nautical antiques of all shapes and sizes hanging from the ceiling. Even the floors in the loos were covered in semi precious stones! It was quite an experience.
Sam's theory of trying everything twice soon backfired when he was full after the mountain of his first plate. The seafood was absolutely out of this world, though we found the meat a little too salty. By the end, we were all totally full, although Sam was possibly full with pain!
The next day we woke to pouring rain and with no chance of visiting the beach we decided to go to a bookstore in Ipanema. After realising that this was a waste of time, we proceeded to walk the main high street of Ipanema in the pouring rain in the hope of finding some Christmas presents. Soaked to the bone and miserable, we resorted to going to a shopping mall just outside Copacabana. This was also Sam's idea of hell, but at least we were inside and out of the rain.
Tired and moody, we headed back to the hostel for a few beers and then ended up going to a churrasco with some other people much more in our budget limitations.
The next day was still pretty unpleasant, so we did the usual uneventful tasks of organising buses and accommodation for our next visit. We then went to Leblon to find the street and house that E-J's mother had lived in forty years ago. Sadly it had become a derelict building with graffiti all over the walls, but the canal down the middle of the road still made it a reasonably attractive place.
When we got back to the hostel we unexpectedly bumped into Liv and Ali, a couple we had originally meet in the Galapagos. Excited to meet again, we caught up with each others news and we decided we would join them and their friends for a night out in Lapa.
That night was the hostels weekly BBQ and it was amazing. After taking full advantage of the BBQ and salad, a group of us headed to Lapa to see the famous street parties. There were lots of people in the streets with vendors selling beers and Caipirinhas at every corner. We then headed into a club, which had the amazing deal of entrance fee and then as many Caips as you like for free. By 2:30am, we were ready for bed with the knowledge we were going to have one hell of a hangover from the amount of pinga we had consumed!
The next day our heads were in agony, but the sun was shining, so we wanted to take full advantage of this and see some of the main sights. We therefore joined the hostel tour of Christ the Redeemer on the Corcovado Mountain. As we joined this last minute, we had to share a seat on the minibus and going around and around as we climbed up to the statue did not do our hangovers any good!
Before reaching Christ the Redeemer we got an amazing panoramic view of the city from a good vantage point below the statue. The structure of the city was amazing, surrounded by the sea, with various different bays and large mountains dotted around the place. There were buildings growing from the valleys and huge skyscrapers everywhere. The Sugar loaf looked so impressive and it was the first time we were able to appreciate how and why Rio is so beautiful.
When we reached the Statue of Christ the Redeemer, sadly he was in the cloud, but through the cloud we were able to make out this massive landmark and understand why it is one of the new great wonders of the world.
For a second or two the cloud would suddenly part and there would be uproar of applause from the Japanese tourists. They also constantly posed in front of the statue in the same stance as Christ for a photo.
Behind and under the statue there was a little chapel, which Sam was totally taken aback by. E-J was slightly concerned that Sam may have seen the light and decided to become a born again Christian!
On our way back we passed through the old town of Saint Theresa, appreciating the Bohemian architecture. We then walked down a staircase of coloured tiles; designed by an eccentric old, chap from Chile. He had a tile dedicated to every country along the wall. Sam had great enjoyment talking to him particularly when he started slamming some of his artwork on the wall to show how strong they were.
When we finally returned, our hangovers were now at their peak, so we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon chilling on the beach. That night we went for a quiet meal together, before settling into the bar for a few drinks.
On the Sunday, a group of us decided to sunbathe on Ipanema beach. Sam started his morning by sitting in an English pub to watch the footy. E-J and another girl found the hippy market, which sold some amazing stuff and great gifts for Christmas.
By 6pm, we decided we would watch the sunrise from the Sugarloaf, so headed there only to find out it had just closed due to engineering faults. E-J, with a boiling trantum was just about to throw herself into a very angry mood, when Sam pulled her a side and reminded her we were in the presence of other people and we may be able to see it tomorrow.
That night we ate out with our friends from the hostel and then said our goodbyes, preparing ourselves for our early start the next morning.
The next day a prearranged taxi took us to the Sugar Loaf and by 7:45 we were outside the entrance to the cable cart waiting for it to open.
It was great to be one of the only people there and we were able to really appreciate the clear sights in the crispness of the early morning light with no crowds around, unlike many of the other main attractions. The only frustration was the limited time we had, but we made the most of it and took in the spectacular views. It was great to be able to see another panoramic of this magnificent city.
We then returned to the cab and made it to our bus completely exhausted, both already talking about when we could come back to this incredible city.
Sam's comments: Fantastic city, already want to come back, although my stomach suffered a lot from my theory at Marius of try each thing twice!
E-J's comments: I loved Rio. It is a place that I would definitely like to revisit, though with more money so that I can indulge in the amazing luxuries the city has to offer. It is an incredible place, so full of diversity. You cannot believe that somewhere so beautiful as this can also be so dangerous.