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Published: August 7th 2013
August 7, 2013
Ola, Cidade Maravilhosa.
Greetings from Brazil, the land of sun, sand, samba (and soccer). After a long and arduous journey that involved flights delays, missed connections, lost luggage and an unexpected overnight stay in Sao Paulo, we finally arrived - with our luggage - in Rio de Janeiro (River of January in Portuguese, because the the European settlers thought that bay was the mouth of a large river). The title above means "Hello, Marvelllous City", as the cariocas (Residents of Rio) call this place. Indeed it is the most physically beautiful city I have ever seen, sprawling between huge rocky outcrops, golden sand beaches and with lush rainforest trees permeating all the streets. The people have been nice and friendly, although most do not speak English. Portuguese is the language here, thanks to settlement by Portugal around 1500. I had attemtped to learn some basic Portuguese before leaving, which has been useful in restaurants, etc.
I had booked a great little B and B on the border of trendy Ipanema and Copabocana beaches. It turned out to be run an an Amercian expat , John, and his partner Cindy, a local Brazilian. We all immediately hit it off. They have been absolutely fantastic - took us around the local neighbourhood when we arrived and we went for brunch with them at a great cafe that would not be out of place in Paris. We immediately felt safe and secure with John and Cindy at hand.
If you haven´t heard, Brazil is booming, with a blossoming economy, and big events such as soccer world cup and Olympics coming up. Large numbers of people hae been lifted from poverty, yet big discrepencies remain between rich and the poor, the latter live in incredible ramshakle slums called favelas that cling to the sides of the mountains encircling Rio. There have been mass protests in recent weeks over government corruption, poor services while huge amounts have been spent on big events (e.,g soccer world cup). So far, we have not run into any protests and thing seem calm.
We spent the first hot sunny day sitting drinking the Brazilian national drink, Caipirinhas (rum+ lime cocktail) on Ipanema beach, and watching the parade of people. (For you oldies - Ipanema, as in the song, The Girl from Ipanema). The beach was absolutely packed with people of all ages, sizes, races, sexuality ,etc. Many, many buff bodies. Different sections of the beach have different people- there is a gay section, a family section, hippy section, oldies section etc. But of equal interest to me were the large numbers of black frigate birds soaring high over the beach (they usually belong out to sea !). (Vicki, also lots of soaring black vultures).
Yesterday, John organised a driver to take us to all the sights in one fell swoop. We went first up Corcovado to see Christo Redentor (the Christ statuewith amazing views back over the city, and where we saw a funny capuchin monkey), then to the bohemian area of Santa Teresa (where train robber Ronnie Bigs hid out and held Sunday barbeques), and then the awesome cable car up Sugarloaf Mt for more brilliant views back towards the beaches, and city, and where we saw a family of highly motile marmoset monkeys !
Food wise, we have been trying local dishers such as feijoada (beef and black beans stew), chuascaria (Big slabs of meat that they come to your table to slice until you explode), and various pastels (meat or vege filled pastries). There are Sucos bars on ever corner (selling all sorts of fruit drink,s many from Amazon fruits, such as the popular Acai). Beers have been good too.
One evening, we were sitting in a open air beach bar having a late arvo drink on Copacabana beach and an old guy came up, trying to peddle his wears. I ended up buying a bracelet and a small glass of Acai juice. We wished he would then nick off, but he helped himself to a seat at our table, leaned forward and said in broken English as I drank the juice:
"Would you like some cocaine with that ,sir?" I said "No, not right now thanks."
He said : " Would you like some women, then? I have the best women in Copa, the best in Rio, the best in all of Brazil and South America."
"Um, no thanks."
He looked across and Ross, then back at me and said:
" Men, then ! I have the best men in Copa, in Rio, the best in Brazil and all of South America." I replied " no thanks."
He became instant, and said: "Then you must want BOTH. I have the best women AND men in all of Copa, in all of .etc..."
I shot a glance at Ross, we skulled our drinks and beat a retreat, citing the fact that it was our bedtime (at the late hour of 6.30pm).
Well, today is a little cloudy, we hope to go the the Botanical gardens later on, where I at told there are toucans.
Bye for now
Craig (and Ross)
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