● For full details on our route, transport info, hotel details, etc, look at our Google Maps page

Monday, 12 May 2008

Rio de Janeiro

7th – 11th May 2008

After 5 weeks in Brazil, it was time to head further south to our final Brazilian destination – Rio.

The 6 hour overnight bus journey was supposed to in luxury with a bed! Or so we thought. The road was winding all night long and bear no resemblance to the highway indicated on the map! We arrived into Rio at 5.30am, earlier than we expected, then took a bus and a tram to the hostel.

Rio has a glorious theatrical backdrop of tumbling wooded mountains, stark expanses of bare rock, and a deep blue sea, studded with rocky islands. Best known for the curving Copacabana beach, for Ipanema – home to the Girl and beautiful sunsets, for Carnival, Rio also has some fine artistic, architectural and cultural heritage from its time as capital of both imperial and republican Brazil.

We stayed at the Rio Hostel in Santa Teresa, and luckily the room was available early as it was only 7am when we got there. We had a couple of hours sleep then headed out to explore. Santa Teresa is know as the coolest part of Rio as it is very ‘arty’. Set in narrow curving tree lines streets, it boasts many colonial 19th Century buildings.

A tram, or ‘Bonde’, runs past the hostel and up into Santa Teresa. It dates from ages ago and runs open sided wooden carriages that look like they should be in a museum! A service runs every 20 minutes, and you can see the tram in some of the photos. The locals (and some of the tourists!) like to hang off the side of the tram as it trundles along – this way you get to ride for free!

Time for Work!

Our main task for the day was to both get pairs of prescription sunglasses ordered… quite a challenge with our standard of Portuguese! All attempts were fruitless as it would take more than a week to get them made up – too long for us to wait – we’d be in Bolivia by the time they were ready. Work done for the day, it was lunchtime and the centro part of the city was mobbed… like Oxford Circus at rush hour, only 10 times worse! We wanted a snack and all we could find was fast food and deep fried pastels. Sam was longing for Pret a Manger but we ended up going to Bob’s Burgers! We gave up with the centro and headed back to explore Santa Teresa further.

Birthday Girl
It was Sam’s birthday on Thursday and when we awoke we found the sun was shining and it was sunny and warm… the perfect day to visit Ipanema beach. After another hairy bus ride, we arrived in Ipanema. The beach was very busy – it was the first day of beach weather that Rio had seen for some time and everyone was out taking advantage. This did mean that the beach wasn’t quite as idyllic as we had been led to believe. Compared to some of the beaches that we had visited in the north ot Brazil, Ipanama wasn’t great. Sam wasn’t impressed with the standard of the Brazilian men, and Ady found no need to use his extra dark sunglasses (you know - those ones where you can’t see where your eyes are looking!)

In the evening, we headed out for some food in one of Santa Teresas restaurants. It was very quiet, and a Japonese restaurant was the only place that looked lively. Delicious sushi and noodles were served up and we’d recommend this place to anyone going to Rio. (See the new ‘Links’ section at the right for all of our recommendations as we go along.

After a slow start to Friday we eventually made it up to see the statue of Christ. We had spent the morning sorting out a parcel to be sent home - Sam’s skimpy party outfits and excess flipflops, not needed for hard trekking through Bolivia! This will hopefully lighten the load for the next leg of the journey! The train to Christ crawls round the side of the mountain, and rises high above the city to give some spectacular views.

The 38 metre high statue of Christ stands on a structure over 13 stories high, constructed in the 1931’s from concrete covered in triangular pieces of soap stone. The cog railway leading to the top climbs 700 metres to the top of the Corcovado mountain.

We spent quite a bit of time at the top – it was freezing cold though and Sam soon couldn’t feel her fingers. The compulsory poses are in the photos, along with many others of the view from the top.

Big plans for a night out in Lapa didn’t come to fruition after 60 winks turned into us both crashing out. Couple this with the rain that had closed in, and our hostel seemed like a much nicer place to be than the cold wet streets of Rio.

Keen to have a full day out on Saturday, we planned to visit the botanical gardens and then to do some shopping – Sam was itching to buy a brazilian bikini! The gardens were very green, but not as colourful as we had imagined. After a couple of hours and a couple of hundred photos (don’t worry – we’ve only put the best ones on the web!), we headed to shop. Ady got a haircut and Sam searched for the bikini… we couldn’t find it though and before long we headed back to the Hostel to prepare for a big night our in Lapa… again…!

To begin, some drinks in the hostel were in order. Fresh mint, limes, and rum means only one thing… Mojito time! Brazil’s local Rum helped kick the night off and we had drinks around the pool with the other people we had met in the hostel. Without going into detail, Ady managed to smash 2 separate bottles of Rum (and a glass!) in the space of 3 hours. The full story on this one can wait…

Finally heading down to Lapa close to midnight, a 5 minute walk (10 in heels!) we meandered through the streets on the way to the Rio Scenarium. We had been recommended this place by several people (mentioning no names!) so expected great things… in the end it was a bit like On Anon in Piccadilly Circus. Fun, but you could have been anywhere in the world. We had a few drinks and attempted a bit of dancing but then decided to move on and find somewhere “real”. We went into another bar for a drink, but it was only when we got to the bar that they tried to charge us an entry fee… running low on cash (Scenarium was London prices!) we gave up and headed home…

The end of Brasil

We planned on making the most of our last day in Rio by heading out for the day to one of the beaches, via somewhere that we hadn’t yet seen. When the day dawned, it was apparent that our plans would have to change as a thick grey cloud of that fine rain that soaks you through was looming above. We had to leave our room by 11am and our coach to Sao Paulo wasn’t until 11pm. Feeling a little hung over, we lounged around the hostel pool area, planning the next part of our adventure – Bolivia. By late afternoon, the sky had cleared, so we headed out to Santa Teresa again to see what else we could find. Right on our doorstep were some ruins, which provided a fantastic vista of the city. Further along the street, a group of musicians were playing, providing a much better atmosphere than the Rio Scenarium. A handful of people were watching – we joined them for a few minutes and then headed for some food.

After a delicious meal at Espirito Santa (great steak), we started to walk back down towards the hostel. We could hear the tram further down the street, and when it got to us we hopped onto the side and held on tight! Half way back, the tram passed the street musicians. By now there was a large crowd, so we jumped off and joined the party. There is a video of the music on our Youtube page here, and loads of photos. A great end to our Brazilian adventure.

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