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Published: January 24th 2011
Thu 30 Dec 2010 to Thu 6 Jan 2011 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
We arrived in Rio on 30 December but we're going to start the blog with New Year's Eve...
We are now in a Portuguese speaking country so what little Spanish we have picked up is useless here. It's like starting all over again. NEW YEAR'S EVE
Went out at 8pm but Metro tickets were no longer on sale. They had been selling them during the day with set time slots for this evening. Managed to find a hotel porter that had a couple for sale, only one way though.
The Metro was packed, arrived at the Copacabana stop and followed the crowd headed for the beach.
Copacabana beach was packed with thousands of people enjoying free outdoor concerts with big name pop stars (we didn't know them though). It was a great atmosphere on this beautiful white sandy beach. Many people were dressed in white and throwing white flowers into the ocean as part of the religious festival of lemanja.
Stood on the beach with the warm waves lapping at our feet drinking a few beers and a bottle of
red. Many people were in the warm waters. Life is good.
Midnight was met with a fantastic firework display. Probably one of the best we'd ever seen. Truly magical.
The fireworks were set off from multiple floating platforms out at sea all along the beach. Behind them there was a row of luxury ocean liners lit up like Christmas trees.
With no metro ticket to get home we hung about for a bit, queued 45 mins for an average hot dog. No taxis or buses available so eventually decided to start walking home. Rio is split up into different districts by mountains with tunnels and urban highways. It's really not a place that you should be walking about at night. Just before the first tunnel Ken climbed onto a private coach and asked if they were going to Flamengo. The driver said 'No' but a drunk but very happy teenager said 'Yes' and convinced the driver to let us on. We put our trust in this lad, who spent the journey clowning around and making the whole coach laugh (probably at our expense). But he lived up to his word and stopped the coach for us at
exactly the right spot. We were very lucky.
It was a fantastic night! Exploring Rio
For the rest of our time in Rio we explored. There are many things to see and do. We loved Rio, despite the fact that it rained most days with a fine drizzle that wasn't quite enough to make you wet but made you feel damp all day. The sun came out for our final day on Sugar Loaf Mountain.
The metro is air-conditioned. Why can't they do that in London?
Drank too many Brahma's and Caipirinha's at an old man's bar a few nights. Beaches
Copacabana and Ipanema are great beaches, full of beautiful people drinking coco milk straight from coconuts, lazing in the sun or playing foot volleyball.
The sunset over Ipanema one night was great. Lots of people gather on a big rock to watch the sun go down. Christ the Redeemer
– This was probably the busiest weekend of the year to visit this. Queued for over an hour to buy tickets for 4 hours later. Eventually caught the train and were at the top just as there was a break in
the rain. Great views from up here. Buses
The bus drivers are maniacs, they all think they are in a grand prix race. Sitting at the back once we actually left our seats when we went over a bump. You pay at a turnstile while you are on the bus but this is very difficult at the speed they drive. Great fun though.
One night we waited ages for a bus from Copacabana to home. Didn't see one but got on one we thought was going in the right direction, but when we realised it was going past our district but the long way around we rang the bell to stop and found ourselves in the middle of a park at midnight. A very stupid thing to do, felt very vulnerable and ran out of the park and hailed the first taxi we saw. We knew we weren't far from our hotel but the route was along deserted streets. Getting ourselves in this situation scared us a bit and we vowed not to let it happen again. Botanical Gardens
– This is worth visiting. Tram to Santa Teresa
– Not much there really. The drizzle
didn't help. Interesting to see people hanging on the outside while we went over an aquaduct. Hmmm... Not sure we'd have done that. Favela Tour
– Very interesting and not voyeuristic at all. Have you seen 'City of God'?
Rocinha first where we were told not to photograph people or up the stairs where young boys hang about with walky-talkies to warn the drug gangs if trouble is on the way. Children under 18 years old are used as they can't go to prison. The life expectancy of someone working in the gangs is 23 years old! Were also told to absolutely, definitely NOT photograph any motorbike as they are all used by the gangs. This favela is under control of the Amigos dos Amigos (Friends of Friends) gang and they mark their territory by spraying 'ADA' everywhere. We were assured that we were probably safer here than in other parts of Rio as the gangs don't tolerate anything that attracts police attention and if anyone does commit a crime here, especially to tourists then the gangs mete out there own form of justice.
The favelas are full of normal people with nowhere else to live. Favelas
are built on unused government land, normally up the side of steep hills and mountains. This means that they have some of the best views in Rio. If they manage to stay there for 5 years then they legally own the land and property and can sell it on like any other house. Most times the electricity is illegally spurred off the mains and at night the lights flicker and surge.
All the houses are built very close together up the hillsides and the only access to them is up steep alleyways and stairs. There is no ambulance or fire access. The government is just starting to help these communities.
Then onto Vila Canoas which has no drugs but is still under ADA control.
Many of the favelas are right across the street from some of the richest neighbourhoods but they don't bother each other as crime against rich neighbours would mean the police. Sugar Loaf Mountain
– Hot, sunny day. Two cable cars to get you to the top where there are fantastic views of the city with condors and frigate birds circling overhead.
We loved Rio. We were there for 8 nights and
there are still things that we didn't manage to do.
Maybe next New Year's Eve ... ;o)
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