Rio de Janeiro- Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf and Carnaval

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February 18th 2015
Published: February 18th 2015
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Rio de Janeiro- Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf and Carnaval

We are still in the tropics. 22 degrees south of the equator. Hot, hot, hot 90 degrees and almost 100%!h(MISSING)umidity.

Today is Fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnaval (Carneval, Carnival, Carnivaal…take your pick of spelling depending on the country ;-). The streets are filled with people in amazing costumes heading off to the beaches and parks where the Samba Bands from the various schools will be playing tonight. We are people with a purpose today. With only 2 days in Rio, we want to see the most iconic places; Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, the beaches and of course eat some great food!

Rio is a city of contrasts. There are beautiful new skyscrapers and terrible slum areas snaking up into the mountains. There are amazingly nice and helpful people and there are pickpockets. Fortunately we have only met wonderful people and no pickpockets on this trip.

The slums or favelas, have largely resulted from the growth of the downtown area spreading out, and no place for the low income people to go, they were forced up into the hills. In most cities the most expensive areas are those in the hills with beautiful views (think Beverly Hills). In the case of Rio the most expensive homes are around the beach areas like Ipanema and Copacabana. The poorer folks live in make-shift shacks that remain unfinished because the government does not tax unfinished homes. Many are not more than shanties. So, if you are poor and build a house and say…do not paint it, it is not “finished” therefore not taxable.

As we drive through the city we are awed at all of the BEAUTIFUL buildings circa 1920’s. This central downtown area is called Santa Teresa; it has charming colonial architecture, winding narrow streets and an antique tram line. The architecture is so beautiful. Columns, porticos, balconies and porches and tree lined streets. When a building has been refurbished into offices or shops it takes your breath away. Unfortunately there are neighborhoods where the homes are covered in moss and plants growing out of the roofs. People live in many of these homes, but they are in dire need of renovation and maintenance. Cope and I wish we had the resources to restore these areas ;-) The trees on these streets have grown to make the areas very shady and picturesque. Reminds us a little of the Georgetown area of Washington, D.C.

As we move on we pass the unique, modern Rio de Janeiro cathedral finished in 1979, we don’t even recognize it as a cathedral. It is huge and cone shaped. It has four columns of stained glass windows rising more than 200 feet up the side of the building. This is the seat of the Catholic Church in Rio and where the Archbishop resides.

About 15 minutes away we come to the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. It was named Sugarloaf because in the 1800’s sugar was shipped in “loaves” and this mountain looks like a loaf. It will take us 2 cable cars to get to the top. First cable car holding 65 passengers goes between a lower peak and a higher one with people snapping pictures the whole way as we can see the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana far below us. We then walk on a stable, suspended bridge through the jungle to a second cable car that will take us up again to the top of Sugarloaf.

When we emerge at the top people are laughing and looking over the side of the mountain at something. We hurry on over to see what all the commotion is about. Well guess what? It’s Marmosets (am I spelling this right?), and they are jumping everywhere and greet us on the railings and trees. They are small soft and furry. They are jumping and running and leaping from tree to tree. Everyone is more enthralled with these small creatures putting on a show than in the spectacular views. I know I am ;-)

From this vantage point on Sugarloaf we can see EVERYWHERE, 360 degrees. Rio is made up of tropical hills everywhere with beautiful white sand beaches, islands and vistas. There are a lot of people here this morning but it is not crazy yet. We take pictures in all directions and watch the planes come in past us and over the bay. We see the planes scoop in over the ocean, head for Rio, cross over the land that connects Sugarloaf to the rest of Rio, and then dip low over the bay on their way to the runway in the far distance. This is a place that you could stay for hours. But, alas, our hour is up and so we backtrack down the mountain, taking again the two cable cars.

At the bottom our guide is looking for our bus. Cynthia is on the phone with the bus driver. It seems there was nowhere to park so he had to go to a nearby (a couple of miles away) shopping center. We will need to wait for him to return. No a problem, except it is hot. There are so many interesting people around. I have my picture taken with Faviella (not sure of the spelling) who is a very cute “fairy” in her pink wings for Carnival. The heat is getting to us, however, and we’re glad when our bus shows up. We are hungry, hot and tired and our next stop is a fabulous restaurant with an amazing buffet where all through the meal, waiters bring skewers of meats… pork, beef, chicken. They slice off pieces of meat for you and then you grab it with your personal tongs and put it on your plate. The ceiling of the restaurant is wonderful. There is water cascading down the windowpanes and it makes you feel like you are in a waterfall. Nice.

Refreshed from lunch and this cool stop, we head across town in our modern, air conditioned bus, to the 100 foot tall Christ the Redeemer statue on top of a mountain 2100 feet high in Rio. It’s now about 1:30 pm, so people are starting to come out on the streets dressed in costumes for Carnaval. It was fun seeing purple hair, guys in skirts, hats and everyone in headwear of all kinds. People were carrying their chairs, coolers of drinks and their children headed to the beach to party and listen to the Samba bands in the evening. ;-)

To get to Christ the Redeemer, you can either do 220 steps then an elevator and escalator. Or… you can take a tram and an elevator and escalator to get up the mountain. We opted for the latter ;-)

The tram had 3 cars and was red. There is a Cog catch down the middle of the tracks. Halfway up the mountain, the tram coming down pulls over onto a siding and lets the tram going up pass by. The tram climbs the mountain through jungle and after 20 minutes emerges at a station. From the station you take an elevator and then the escalators to the top and hit a zillion people all trying to take pictures of Christ the Redeemer. Since the statue is so large and you are so close to it (the platform around the statue is quite small for the hundreds of people who are there)… someone lays on the ground in the middle of the crowd (hoping not to get stepped on) facing the camera up at their friend with the statue behind them. LOL It is quite the amazing and spectacular site. We opted for the old “selfie”, and the “you take my picture (standing up) and I’ll take yours” method LOL. If you were brave enough to go to the end of the platform you could see across the mountains to Sugarloaf where we spent the morning. Okay, we have our pics, it’s waaaay too crowded and very hot and humid ;-) so we’re out of here and back to the tram line, and then to our bus and back to the port.

Back on the ship and seated on the deck, we are treated to a spectacular lightening storm coming across the bay. We see planes taking off into (what appears like) the storm. In fact as one plane takes off into the dark clouds, we see a huge lightening bolt go from the heavens to the ground right in front of the plane. Yikes! We are happy to be safe on our ship and hope the parties on the beaches aren’t washed out ;-)

We have 700 people leaving us here in Rio and 700 people joining us! I’m not sure if we have mentioned it but this cruise is not mostly Americans, although we do make up a large share. Last night they announced we have over 50 countries on board. We have crew from 52 counties. And… everyone gets along… imagine that ;-)

There is fast and cheap internet in our terminal so we’re off to post this.

Next Port: Buenos Aires, Argentina

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20th February 2015

We have a Brazilian place here in Clovis they come around the meat skewers as well and cut the meat in front of you and you take it with your fork, its yummy we will have to go when you get here.

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