Arriving into Rio is quite interesting, you drive in through the favelas (slums), where the houses are just built on top of each other, all in this red light weight bricks. Then come into the nice suburbs of Rio with big apartment blocks and fancy buildings. It is a city of contrasts. It is quite a surreal feeling to see places like sugar loaf mountain and Christ the Redeemer, places that you know from photos and movies, and then to catch a glimpse of them on the skyline.
Rio was a place that I had heard mixed reviews about, so due to what turned out to be unreasonable paranoia, I had booked us into a nice hotel just one building back from Copacabana beach. Now after dorm rooms this place was a palace! We were met by doormen who took our bags to our room. We checked in and found we had a king bed which was bliss. It also included a huge buffet breakfast ahhhh so good.
First thing we did was to head out and explore Copacabana beach, the waves there were huge, massive dumping waves. Zac was most impressed with the numerous games of soccer on
the beach and the Futevólei, (which is volleyball played with out using the hands or arms), it is very cool game to watch. Copacabana has a black and white paved board walk that runs the length of the beach, we walked along this and found there was a film festival on which ment there was a huge outdoor screen set up on the beach. Pretty cool, if all the movies had not been dubbed into Portuguese. The boardwalk is full of people walking, beside this is an exercise lane which is the place to be seen running, riding bikes, skating or rollerblading. There are also loads of workout stations along the board walk. The people here seem really image conscious, but it seems like a really healthy culture.
We spent our time in Rio doing all the touristy things we went up to sugar loaf, twice in the end, once at sunset and once earlier in the day. We walked up to the first mountain, called Urca mountain, to watch the sunset which was incredible from here the sun sets almost behind Christ the Redeemer. We stayed up here and watched the city lights come out, it was really
pretty. We had planned to walk back down the mountain but when we got to the path it was pretty dark, so we went to get a ticket for the cable car to go to the bottom, and were told it would be free after 7 pm, nice bonus! So we got to hang around a bit longer to enjoy the sights. We then caught a local bus back to Copacabana.
The next day we ventured out to Maracana Staduim as Isaac was really keen to see as much of this famous stadium as possible. We were told by some fellow travellers that they were letting people in for a stadium tour even though the whole place is being pulled apart and rebuilt for the world cup. We caught the metro out there, (Rio has really great public transport). When we got there we walked around the outside of the stadium to find the museum, this is the only part of the stadium open to the public. We spent an hour or so wandering around here, but there were no stadium tours, the place is a total worksite. It didn't matter it was still cool to see the history
of the stadium and Brazillian soccer. From here we raced back to the hotel because we were being picked up at 4 for a much closer experience with Brazillian soccer.
Isaac had spent many hours during parts of our trip trying to work out which soccer game we would be able to see while in Brasil. His list of players to see included Clarence Seedorf and Deco and we ended up scoring tickets to a game, Fluminense (Deco) vs Botofogo (Seedorf). We made it back in time to get changed and meet our pick up. It was a bit of a shoddy tour, when we had done this in Buenos Aries we had a guide that explained the process and stayed with you and watched the game with you. This one was a little different... After an unofficial tour of the city looking for one group of people who were out sightseeing, and a long stop outside the cathedral in Rio so they could finish taking photos, eating and drinking and really just wasting time, (there were some guys on the bus getting more and more annoyed as it was beginning to cut it fine for making kickoff...). The
tour leader stayed there and left us with the taxi driver and we headed off. I was beginning to get a little worried as the tour leader had not told us anything just handed out the tickets, so I was not sure how we'd be getting back from the stadium. We arrived and were dropped off where another guide met us told us to be back at the same spot 30mins after the final whistle. Then he divided the group in to supporters of each team as they have different entrances and exits from each other, (we'd had to pick which team we wanted to sit with, we'd chosen Fluminense.). He then walked us to the gate for Fluminense supporters through a huge crowd of people singing and milling around, past a big row of police on horses. He then pointed us towards the gate and left... Now we had no idea how the seating worked, we went through the gate were patted down by security and followed the crowd. Basically there is no seat allocation in this stadium. You just go in and find a seat, or a stairwell to stand in, or a wall to lean on. It
Rio de Janerio
Walked past Botofogo club rooms on the way to Pao de Açucar.
was a little chaotic to say the least. We walked in on the lower level, and it was packed, the fanatical supporters seemed to sit up on the upper level so we thought we'd try for a seat below them. After a little looking we found a seat. The teams came out to warm up and not long after that the game started. It started with a roar, people threw little bags of flour, bags of something like glitter, and inflatable team plastic bags. Luckily we were under the cover of the upper tier, people a few rows ahead of us got covered in flour when people above had not thrown them properly.
The game and the supporters were not quite as passionate in their singing and chanting as the crowds as the Boca fans, but they were very passionate about the perceived injustices by the ref. The game was looking like a draw when in the last 10-15 mins Fluminense scored which whipped the crow in to a frenzy. Shirts came off and were waved wildly around it was pretty cool to see how excited the crowds get. This fuelled the singing and chanting again. The game finished
Rio de Janerio
Some Graffitti near the clubrooms.
with a 1-0 score line. We followed the crowds out of the stadium they sang and sang, it sounded awesome in echoing halls and walk ways. We got out walked to where we were told to be the rest of the group were already there. We hung around and waited for our taxi home. We were one of thelast groups to be picked up, a taxi van pulled up gestured wildly for us to get in. Not quite sure how he knew us and how half the group knew him but we piled in and some how made it back to the hotel. All in all a great night, we then also got to watch the game on tv later that night.
The next day we headed up to Cristo Redentor we had a wonderful clear day. We caught the bus out to the cog train. When you arrive there you are bombarded with guys trying to get you to take the car ride option to the top. We checked out both options and decided to get the car ride up as it made another stop at a lookout which the train didn't. We arrived at the top about
Pao de Açucar, Rio de Janerio
Otherwise known as Sugar Loaf Mountain.
11, we had amazing views over the city. It was very crowded up there which made getting photos a little tough but we succeeded, and then both camera batteries died. Not all bad we then got to enjoy the view. I must say I had thought that the statue would be bigger, it is big but defiantly smaller than I had thought.
From there we headed in to the centre of the city to try and find the Aerolinas Argentina office, we had been trying to book flights though their web site for ages, they have the most useless booking system of any airline I have ever encountered. We ended up with a really helpful guy to book our flights, it was a little crazy, we booked our flight to El Calafate and back to Buenos Aries and then for $20 less than this return we got a flight to Santiago added on. We were pretty pleased with ourselves and left there happy.
Later that afternoon we went for a walk along Ipanema beach, just over the headland from Copacabana. We were treated to a stunning sunset, the beach itself was filthy. So many bottles and cans and
other rubbish. We headed back to Copacabana, where Zac decided to battle the freezing water and the huge dumping waves to have a swim. He didn't want to leave Rio without saying he had, had a swim at Copacabana. I stood on the beach to keep watch as the beach is defiantly not a swimming beach. It went well he emerged unscathed.
For dinner we went to a per kilo resturant, basically you buy your food by weight. It was a buffet style place, we opted to buy the all you can eat option as per kilo could get quite expensive...
The next morning we were heading to the airport, we got up early and wandered out to the main street along the beach to wait for the bus. You have to be on the watch and just flag it down as there are no official bus stops for this. We flagged this down and arrived at the airport without any problems.
It was a little sad to leave Brazil in the end, we had a wonderful time. It is a beautiful country, the people were really friendly and we always felt safe there. But we left
looking forward to the next adventure... Patagonia.
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