Published: August 24th 2007August 17th 2007
Looking to the heavens
Reflections of Christ the redeemer, Rio de Janeiro
Touching down in Rio made me realise three things: 1.
We are so over long bus journeys (our trip to Rio being our last and longest at 23 mind numbing hours) 2.
We only had 2 weeks until we headed home......and 3.
I am officially an old fart
The first two speak for themselves.... but let me explain the third.
When trying to book a hostel in Rio we had discovered that they were both pricey and few in numbers, especially in the area we wanted to be based Copacabana/Ipanema. So with little choice I made the fatal school boy error of booking one with a rooftop bar!! 3 words that would usually make anyone who was a fan of a decent nights kip run a mile.
Upon arrival the rooftop bar became an even greater aspect of our stay as the door to our bunk bed containing cupboard was located on the rooftop, right next to (you guessed it).....the bar.
In an effort to soldier on we signed up for the hotel´s weekly BBQ, mainly as it was about 3 metres from where we planned to sleep and headed out to meet our
One of the worlds new seven wonders keeps watch over Rio
travelling buddies. What we found were a bunch of 20 year old topshop models - all wanting to have drunken sex with each other on the stairs - so after a couple of hours of enduring 2 CD´s worth of Bob Marley remixes (D&B Bob Marley, Gangsta rap Bob Marley etc etc) they moved on to Barbie Girl and we called it a night.
2 hours later the combination of a 23 hour bus journey, lack of sleep and the sound of American college grads shouting 'Oh yeah, awesome´ right outside our room made me crack and I did what any self respecting 45 year old would do.....I went and complained.
1 hour later the bar was finally empty after 3 Irish girls who had locked themselves in the toilet to sing Westlife songs had left (very reluctantly) and at last we managed to sleep. The following morning I was woken at 6am by some strange roaring sound so got up and jumped on the internet to try and find us a new place to stay, only to find not a single hostel on a single website with any availability!! oh b@llocks
Earlier in our trip this is
The mighty Maracana
I tries to get a chorus of you'll never walk alone going on 89 minutes, but they couldnt hear me over the drums that were just in front of us.
the sort of thing we would have endured, but when you only have 2 weeks left every day, minute and hour becomes precious so after realising for an extra 40 quid over the next two nights I coud get us into a half decent hotel I clicked ´confirm booking´ ran back upstairs told Carla to pack up and after a coffee we said our goodbyes and left (I would name and shame the place, but to be honest the staff were great and if you are a 20 year old single binge drinker who enjoys eating breakfast to the sounds of 50 Cent at high volume then you would probably love it).
So we headed to our new home, Carla fell over and in the style of a tortoise on its back couldn´t get up without the help of a passer by, and arrived to find I had (without trying or realising) booked us into a half price room deal at a 4 star hotel overlooking the beach complete with rooftop pool and bar, gym and sauna, all you can eat buffet breakfast and complimentary shower cap (someone is still looking down on us!) Copacabana
Looking down on Copacabana
Rio's beauty is even more obvious from the top of Sugar loaf mountain
the entire length of Copacabana beach under a clear blue sky, which has to be the only way to see one of the World´s most famous beaches. It was just as camp, outrageous and over the top as I had imagined and I had never seen so many different size, shape and colours of arses in such a confined area. When it comes to bikinis in Rio - one size fits all.
But it´s not confined to the beach, people walk around in bikinis and lycra speedos everywhere including the bank and the bus stop and little kids play football and dance in the streets at every opportunity - the place really lives up to every one of the Brazilian stereotypes except the negative ones ie - the beaches aren´t overcrowded and it feels like one of the safest big cities we have visited in the whole of South America.
But by far the most spectacular thing about Rio is its setting - it´s breathtaking! Huge boulder like mountains, green forest covered hills, white sandy beaches and a surprisingly clean and clear ocean. The city fills in the gaps available and the infamous favelas sneak up the sides of
Never too old for lycra hot pants
"Romaro, you gotta wear a silly little hat to match your silly little trunks if you wanna keep walking down Copacabana with us, eh!"
the hill beyond - and the view from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain takes it all in and is one of the best of our whole trip, although it should be at over a tenner each to get the cable car to the top.
That´s one of the only downsides to Rio and Brazil generally - the cost of everything from accommodation, to travel, to food is way more expensive than the rest of South America. The only cheap places to eat are buffet style restaurants called ´Comida per Quilo´ which basiclly means they weigh your plate and you pay a price per kilo. We love these places and get all our meals in them as the food on offer is really good - although you tend to choose on a quantity versus weight ratio making heavy food groups like potatoes and meat on the bone a no go, but rice, beans, flour and general salad items (except tomatoe) a bargain. Because of this we are now both experts at getting a massive plate of food for under 3 quid based solely on our knowledge of each foods quantity versus weight ratio. Christ the Redeemer
Matt the redeemer
Silly Gringo photo #1
on a towering peak which rises from the centre of Rio is its most famous attraction - the statue of Christ the Redeemer. A must see, but again not easy on a budget so we went at sunset to make the most of the 25 quid it cost us to get up there. Was it worth it? If you manage to block out the noise and bedlam of those people that seem to go to awe inspiring places all over the world just to act like idiots (seriously just stay at home and be an idiot, it´s much cheaper) than yes it is! especially when the fading light makes the huge figure change from brown to blue to black as the sun sets behind the mountains that surround the city.
We were in Rio just for three nights before heading slightly south for 2 final destinations before returning in a weeks time for the final 2 days of the trip and on our final night before moving on we joined up with the gang from the hostel to visit the World famous Maracana stadium (the Irish girls were well prepared for a night at a packed and sweaty football
Carla the redeemer
Silly Gringo photo #2
stadium, all sporting short skirts, chunky belts, beads and heavy eye make up).
The reason I was so keen to go on this particular night was the fact that it was a derby match making the whole occasion and atmosphere even more electric. As we approached the ground the noise was amazing, Flamenco fans running down the road banging on cars and letting off fireworks and as we made the final approach through the turnstiles and up to our seats the excitement was fever pitch.
Carla´s previous stadium visits had been Roker Park and Kenilworth Road so she was bound to be impressed, but let me assure you that the initial view took my breath away. Until safety laws made the place all seater it could hold nearly 200,000 people (unofficially) and even though the night´s attendance was 60,000 it was still only 2/3 full - but you wouldn´t have known it from the noise.
Our adopted team was Fluminese, whose fans we were stood with. It turned out to be the wrong choice as we lost 1-0 even though Flamenco finished the game with just 9 men, but it wasn´t the football that makes a visit to
Just before I ran in and Bobby Moore'd him. Copacabana beach with Sugar Loaf in the background
the Maracana, it´s the Maracana itself...Constant noise, a continual drum beat, a fantastic view and loads of blokes walking around carrying cool boxes and selling beer at less than a pound a time....it´s everything a football stadium should be, even if you wake up the next day with a massive hangover.
Rio has been fantastic and we are so glad we are back in a week for a second visit, this time to Ipenema and hopefully a tour of one of its favelas.
Next stop some island living.
There are more photos below