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Rio de Janeiro

After a long tiring journey up from Puerto Iguazu we finally arrive in Rio de Janeiro and make our way by taxi to our hotel Poussada Girasol on Copacabana. It's a basic place but we're glad to see it's really clean and the staff is really nice and friendly, unlike what we'd read in many of the Tripadvisor reviews of other hotels in Rio. The guy who checks us in doesn't speak any English but he understands enough to fill in the gaps for when I run out of Spanish vocabulary and then answers back in what Brazilians call Portuñol, a mix of Portuguese and Spanish. We've heard a lot about guided tours of the favelas from other travellers and find a brochure for Favela Tour in the reception and book a tour right away. The guy in reception also recommends a restaurant just around the corner for a traditional Brazilian buffet. We are in two minds about whether to go out for dinner or not but do in the end decide to go out despite being completely bushed after our journey up from Puerto Iguazu. It’s a good thing we do because as soon as we’re sat down in the restaurant we start feeling more energised and less tired. We go for the full wallop buffet which entails unlimited various grilled meats and salads and desserts. There is a buffet table with all sorts of salads, rice, pasta, fruit and cakes and there are waiters that come around with the meats on skewers fresh from the grill and they cut off portions for you. We’re obviously lightweights at this buffet business and after eating more meat than I thought possible we hand in our towels to the big surprise of our servers – it looks like they almost take it as an insult that we don’t want more meat. If I could I would, as it’s really, really tasty stuff with so many varieties of different sausages, plain or salt or garlic infused beef, pork or lamb, also chicken hearts and the likes but we didn't go for that this time around... I don’t know how much time we spend in the restaurant but it is really late by the time we wobble out of there. Even though it’s really late and I'm really tired I'm still not able to sleep so decide to try to catch up a little bit with the blog with the result that I end up only getting a few hours’ worth of sleep before an early start the next day. We have a fully packed program in order to get to see as much of Rio as we can. We only have one full day here and want to make the best of it.

We manage to drag ourselves out of bed fairly early in the morning to start our day of sightseeing. After breakfast we go to have a look at the Sugarloaf Mountain. Initially we plan on taking the bus but as we have to be back again in time for our favela tour we decide on taking a taxi to avoid running out of time. To get to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain we have to take two cable carts which takes us up the about 400 meters to the top. The first cable cart goes swimmingly well – there is no queuing required so we’re on the halfway point in a jiffy. Once there we decide to have a little walk around here before continuing to the top but this turns out to be a bit of a mistake. When we get around to taking the last cable cart up to the top a few bus-loads of tourists have just arrived and the queue is unbelievably long. It takes us an hour and a bit from when we join the queue till we finally get onboard the cart. At the top we get the gorgeous panoramic view of Rio and the harbour – it’s a bit hazy but still a great view and well worth the waiting in line to get up here.  After soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the view with a couple of beers we decide it’s about time to get down. We hope to get some time to have a bite of food before our tour of the favelas but hit more queuing again as we try to get down from the mountain – it’s again a few large tourist groups hogging the cable carts. It looks like we won’t have a chance to get much food before our tour so when we finally get down to the middle level we quickly get some ice cream and pick&mix fruit salad – what a wonderful idea – before getting onto the last cart to take us down to ground level. Again we hail a taxi and go directly to our pick-up spot for our next adventure.

[caption id="attachment_2397" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2398" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2399" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2400" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. Half way up to the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2401" align="aligncenter" width="533"]View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2402" align="aligncenter" width="533"]On the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. On the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2403" align="aligncenter" width="533"]View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2404" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2405" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2406" align="aligncenter" width="545"]View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro. View from the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption]

We’re at the pickup spot for our favela tour about 20 minutes early and consider having a drink in the restaurant next door but then our tour-guide also turns up early, so into the van we go to pick up the rest of the people for the tour. Our first stop is a charity called Para Ti, a charity education centre for kids in the Vila Canoas favela, they have a small stall selling handicrafts and paintings and we decide to support this little charity and purchase a small painting and a bracelet. Next we take a quick walk within the narrow lanes within the favela, finishing off with a stop in a tiny “hole-in-the-wall” bar for a Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail (sugar cane spirit with sugar and lime) it’s very strong and make our bellies all warm and fuzzy. Next stop is the Rocinha Favela – the largest favela in Brazil with a population of about 70000. First we have a walk through the commercial centre of the favela before we head up the hill for a nice panoramic view of Rocinha.  Last stop is along a little strip of street stalls where we can buy some souvenirs to support the local businesses. A few nick-nacks later, and a stop to look at the view, we go back into the van for our return to the pickup point at Copacabana beach.

[caption id="attachment_2407" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The art and craft shop at the Para Ti charity education centre, Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. The art and craft shop at the Para Ti charity education centre, Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2408" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2409" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2410" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2411" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2412" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2413" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2414" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2415" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2416" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2417" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2418" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2419" align="aligncenter" width="533"]The Caipirinha Master, Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. The Caipirinha Master, Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2420" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro. Vila Canoas favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2421" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2422" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2423" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2424" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2425" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2426" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2427" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2428" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2445" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2429" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro. Overview of Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2430" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Overview of Rio de Janeiro from the Rocinha favela. Overview of Rio de Janeiro from the Rocinha favela.[/caption]

After the favelas we wanted to go up to the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer towering over Rio de Janeiro but because it’s starting to become a bit late we decide to skip it for this time and instead head to the Escadaria Selarón, a set of stairs covered by tiles from around the world in the neighbourhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa. But first things first - after all this sightseeing we’re feeling very hungry and before we make our way there we need some food  - we find a small no frills restaurant around the corner and order an enormous plate of late lunch.

[caption id="attachment_2432" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Massive late lunch, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. Massive late lunch, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2431" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art at Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. Street art at Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption]

Feeling rather stuffed we then make our way over to the Escadaria Selarón, we again hop into a taxi as our guide doesn’t really explain very well whereabouts it is. Our taxi driver has little knowledge either but he goes to the general area and start asking around – after a few wrong turns we finally reach our destination. The steps are really quite a colourful and interesting mosaic of all kinds of tiles and were an ongoing project by the artist Jorge Selarón until his death on the 10th of January 2013. He called the project a “tribute to the Brazilian people”. After walking down the stairs to the bottom, snapping away as we go we find ourselves a restaurant and sit down for a few beers while watching life going past.  It’s starting to get late and it’s time we get back to the hotel to pack our bags for the silly early start in the morning. We've really enjoyed our time in Rio and are gutted that we already have to leave and decide to put it on our list of places to re-visit.

[caption id="attachment_2433" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro. Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2434" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro. Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2435" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro. Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2436" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro. Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2437" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro. Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2438" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro. Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2439" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2440" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro. Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2441" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2444" align="aligncenter" width="545"]Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2442" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2443" align="aligncenter" width="533"]Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. Street art, Lapa neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.[/caption]

In the Lonely Planet they've dedicated the best part of a whole page with warnings of all the bad things that can happen to you when visiting Rio - why are they continuously trying to scare us about the safety issues everywhere? For the whole of South America the guide has what seems like an endless list of dangers to scare you. It’s good to know of certain safety issues but is it necessary to write it in such a way as to scare people from going around exploring, and making it difficult to relax and enjoy the places. We've found on numerous occasions that when speaking to the local people they can tell us a very different story about the safety than what our guide tries to scare us with. Generally, to be sensible, a bit streetwise and careful and you'll be fine.

At 02:00 our alarm goes off and half awake, half asleep but not feeling much alive. At 3:15 our taxi arrives to take us to the airport. At this time of the night the roads are very empty and our taxi driver takes full advantage of this of course - It’s like he’s on a Formula 1 race track – this of course means we get to the airport in very good time. Our next destination is Lima in Peru – it’s a three hour flight so it's not too bad, but we’ll be bypassing Lima for now and head straight to Nazca by bus,  which is another six hour journey if all goes to plan.