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Published: February 24th 2008
Rio de JaneiroTony says
Rio from Corcovado sumit
Wow, where to start...we're here! It was difficult to say goodbye to everyone at the airport, but I'm glad our friends and family were there to see us off, I can't say how much we both appreciate it. I had to make a special effort to hold back the tears as I wanted to make sure I said my goodbyes properly, if that's possible? The embraces seemed all too fleeting and I wish I could have said more. I hope that in the days before we managed to let you all know how much we love you all, and how much we will miss you. Leaving brought many mixed feelings, intrepidation, anticipation, apprehension, excitement! Although it was unpleasant I dont mind saying it was hard to keep the grin off our faces for a long while after boarding our flight, we were finally underway!
The flight itself passed with little incident, though a rather large man behind Karen took umbrage to her reclining her seat, he was eventually moved though. What else can I say, 11 hours of cramped hot conditions was surely a small price to pay for the wonders to come, not even an hour
long delay at London and again at Sao Paulo dampened our spirits. But I can safely say I am not a fan of long haul flight, ouch.
Upon arrival at Rio our first challenge, well mine really was to figure our how to use the bank ATM´s, its less than simple on 1st attempt, trust me. You have to keep inserting your card, pressing different buttons. The gauntlet of taxi firms was successfully, if not stress freely negotiated and we soon arrived at our hostel, Trip Hostel. It is set in an idylic colonial area of Rio called Santa Teresa, old buildings blend with new and the whole area is sprawled over a hill above the main city of Rio, giving rather nice views. Its difficult to discribe but though we were undeniably happy to be here, I couldnt help but feel a bit overwhelmed with it all, its busy, very hot and we were both tired.
The hostel calmed the nerves though, its clean and tidy with helpful staff. Our room was great and we had a private bathroom. A breakfast of fruits, rolls and cakes was served on a balcony ovelooking the lower city area of
Jesus says hello!
Lapa and lush green plants and trees add to the splendour. We were hungry so headed out for an exploratory excursion around Santa Teresa, it wasnt long before we found lovely resteraunts and shops. Choosing carefully we ventured in for our first taste of Rio.
I ordered steak on a bed of sweet potato with an Amazonian fruit juice sauce poured all over, oh my goodness, it was deelish, the sauce was out of this world, the steak was perfectly cooked and full of flavour and I soon polished the whole lot off. Karen's meal was equally fab. And that was that really for the 1st day, we headed back to the hostel for a well earned rest.
The next day we set off early to do the tourist thang. We navigated to the foot of Christ The Redeemer (a statue of a bearded dude on a huge hill) the Corcovado. We hooked up with some dodgy mini bus company to take us to the sumit, it actually turned out fine and was great value for money, perfect really when I think about it. We came, we saw, we conquered. Fantastic panoramic views of the city were wonderful.
The bonde - The wee yellow tram that ran outside our hostel in Rio
I felt happy and slightly care free high up there. It was only down in the city I couldnt shake off my constant apprehension, we have all heard the tales of muggings etc. But as the day progressed this did ease slowly but surely.
We then took in the famous beaches of Rio, Ipanema to Copacabana. Somewhat as expected these were a slight let down, but none the less fab to see. They were not the most wonderful of beaches, busy, a bit dirty and with a large road running behind them. Though we did manage to take in some Footvolley, which is essentially Volley ball with no hands allowed. All I can say is no wonder the Brasilians are so good at football, it was good fun to watch. And that was really the end of that. Oh yes, one last thing...Speedo swimming trunks, what are they all about? The Brasilians love em though and all the guys wear them.
The next day it was off to Ilha Grande. On the way to the bus station a young boy asked us for money, and gestured that he was hungry, the look in his eye told a sad
Footvolley, spot the ball!
story and said that he was not lying. We had seen the favelas on our travels around the city, but it was this incident for me which really brought home the poverty, it was deeply thought provoking and I think I will remember him. Karen says
Our first stop on our travels is almost complete. I am feeling pleased with myself that we survived Rio de Janeiro without any major hiccups.
Rio is a mad city and has been quite an overwhelming place to start. From the moment we left the airport I felt like a real gringo, which I always imagined I would but nothing prepeared me for it. The first frustration was the language barrier, few people speak any English and the few sentances of Portuguese I had taught myself were quickly forgotten. Every little task that you take for granted at home becomes a real trial and adventure when you cannot communicate easily. For example, getting a taxi into town was a good laugh for all those spectating me struggle to bargain with the taxi driver in a mixture of Spanish and English (it had quoted a lower price in the Bible that is
Late afternoon stroll along the beach
Lonlely Planet and I was determined not to get ripped off!). This has made me really eager to learn the lingo so as to ease our way around Brazil. So far I can understand the necessities, as numbers etc are similar to Spanish and they seem to understand what I sat in Spanish and for the rest we use the old international sign language of gestures and pointing!
RDJ is everything I imagined it to be and more - noisy, vibrant, busy and very very humid. Despite the forecasts I had looked at before leaving forecasting clouds and rain, it has been sunny all day but with heavy rain showers in the afternoon (which are a great relief to us).
My first overwhelming impression of Rio was the sun and how green it was. At the top of Corcovado (where Cristo el Redentor is) you can see great verdant expanses, the city is vast and surrounded by dense green jungle. Secondly, I was struck by the weird shapes of the hills that enclose Rio, I can't really describe them but they are really curvy...I especially like Sugar Loaf mountain.
We haven't come to close to the Favelas - we didn't fancy the tour - but from a distance you can see how people live crammed into the hills, with no windows, electricity, sewarage. Despite not venturing into the favelas I have still been shocked at some scenes of poverty and as Tony said seeing the children begging really makes you think about the discrepancies between the rich and poor - especially when you walk 5 mins down to the beach and there are plush hotels and fancy restaurants.
The neighbourhood of our hostel was great for us, as it was sat on the hill above the hustle and bustle of the centro of Rio in what seemed to be the leafy suburbs. It had a nice bohemian feel and a funky yellow tram that took us up the hill outside our hostel. We didn't have time to do any sunbathing on the beaches in Rio, we'll save that for our next stop, quite relieved I don't have to get the white bits out just yet. The people here are all very different and make a colourful, diverse population- I have to say I feel very peely wally amonst them!
The other thing I wanted to say is the smell, it is smelly, I know it often pongs a bit in hot countries but this is something else! In the centre where there are LOTS of traffic and rubbish on the street it pongs big time! and there are lots of dogs (homeless) wandering the streets. The heat is tiring too and we are looking forward to moving on tomorrow, hopefully Ilha Grande will be a little more tranquil! (Dad, check out the title - it's our cheesy song!).
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