Day 234 - Rio de Janeiro (Redeemer)

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End May 01, 2008

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We nearly fainted when we woke up early, opened the windows... and saw BLUE sky above us! Woooh! After 3 solid days of clouds and rain, the sun has got his hat on, hip hip hip hooray :) 

The weather here can change very quickly so we were determined to make the most of the clear skies while we could.

We practically inhaled our breakfasts and were running out the door before 08:30, which I know is a bit late for most of you worker bees but it was early for us!

It was a public holiday today (again), so we knew that it would probably be even busier than normal out and about, with many more Brazilian tourists around than usual.

We decided to head for the Corcovado mountain first, which at top of it boasts one of the seven modern wonders of the world, the famous 31 ft statue of Christ the Redeemer with arms outstretched, blessing the city below.

It was a bit of an arse to get there, we had to take a public bus which took a very convaluted route but eventually pulled up at the Corcovado train station about 40 minutes after leaving Ipanema.

Tram sign

We were immediately surrounded by taxi drivers offering their services, to take us up to the top of the mountain.

This seemed a bit odd to me as clearly every single person getting off the bus at this stop had probably travelled half of Rio in order to catch the hill train, so why would they suddenly change their mind and take a taxi instead?!

We bought our expensive tickets up there (R$36 each), found the entrance point to the train platform and joined the front of the queue at 09:41.

It would have been much easier to take a seat and wait with all the other people, but we really wanted to get good seats in the train either of the statue or the city below, so we decided to stand instead.

At 9:55 the next train pulled in (they leave every 20 minutes) and we were pleased that we were going to get first choice of seats.

When I got to the barrier, the guy scanned my ticket and I walked through the barrier. I waited for Katie to join me on the platform, but just as I started to walk back to see what the problem was one of the blokes asks to see my ticket.

He looked at it very seriously and then told me that we had to wait for the train leaving at 10:40... an HOUR after we bought our tickets! How ridiculous.

So we sat down for a while and then joined the front of the queue again, finally taking our front row seats on the left side of the carriage, hoping that from here we would either see the statue appearing, or have good views over the city to our left.


Wrong and errr... wrong!

Quick tip - if you take this train, sit on the RIGHT side going up, which has wonderful views over the lago and Ipanema & Leblon's beaches.

There is absolutely nothing to see on the left or at the front. D'OH!

Oh, sorry, there are some erm.... trees.

KT tram

We did have one lightning quick 'blink and you'll miss it' view over the city!

Tram view

When we got off at the top we sped past the other tourists and walked up the steps, eschewing the elevators and escalators as we could do with the exercise and it's normally faster anyway.

Half-way up the stairs we had a lovely view of the back of the statue, I'm not totally sure why I bothered to take a photo, but here you go anyway!

Christ´s back !!!

We got to the very top of the mountain a few minutes later, somewhat sweaty but happy and walked quickly towards a viewing platform in front of the statue, which looked like it would provide some incredible views out over the city in front of us.

The only problem was that half of Arkansas appeared to be there at the same time as us! 

All around us were fat, loud, obnoxious Americans, pandering to the very worst of US stereotypes and the type of people that I always tell my friends are only about 0.001% of the US population.

They must have been on a convention or something, they were EVERYWHERE; ominpresent or more accruately 'ominaudible', although I've probably just made that up. They were so NOISY! 

To get to the best viewing platform you have to weave in and out of people who were lying on their backs to get photos of their friends or loved ones in the same frame as El Christo himself.

I started off being very considerate, waiting for people to take their shot and making sure that I wasn't in their shot or disturbing them in any way.

I soon realised that everyone else around me was mowing through their photos, nudging past the poseurs and practically walking on top of those people who were lying spreadeagled on the ground. It was clearly dog-eat-dog up here!

When I (EVENTUALLY) got to the front of the viewing platform it was like a tin of sardines.

I stretched my broad shoulders as far as I could, to buy a bit more space for a photo, but it was hopeless.

You could just about get a decent photo of the amazing view, but it was almost impossible to get a good one with me or Katie in front of the view.

You could get a shot, but always with someone else's hair, elbows, camera or whatever encroaching into the shot.

Thank God for the "trimming" function on digital cameras, which allowed me to crop out any unwanted distractions...

CtR 6 

They weren't exactly the shots I wanted, but they were the best I could do without having Billy Bob's head or Emilou's marshmallow man arms!

CtR 7 

With the 'people' shots done I spent some time trying to get some good photos of the views below us.

To be fair I think that Stevie Wonder would have had a pretty good chance of taking a good photo up here ;)

CtR 4 

You can clearly see the 'Sugar Loaf' mountain in the middle of this next shot; you might even be able to see the cable car going up it, on which James Bond famously battles Jaws in 'Moonraker'!

CtR 1 

Here's a bit of video showing the gorgeous panorama...

Panorama video 

...and here's the Big Guy Himself.


He seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to Fernando Torres, Liverpool's number nine?!

CtR 2

The weather was still pretty good but it was cloudier than earlier and seemed to be getting cloudier still; it was a shame that it took us over an hour to get to the top of the mountain, the delay meant that we missed a big chunk of clear skies :(

We did get a great view over the Maracana stadium though.

Maracana view

After the photos we made our way back through the photographers on their backs, with their buddies/wives/kids with arms stretched out like airplanes in front of them.

It was rude not to follow their lead ;)

CtR 3 

This is a shot of Katie looking over towards Ipanema (where our hostel is), with Ipanema beach to the left and Leblon beach to the right, behind the lake.

CtR 5

It was only then that I remembered I had the video camera with me. 

Our wonderful but not inexpensive Sony mini DVD recorder has been playing up for months.

It has wiped about 3 full discs worth of memories so far and caused me to swear even more than ginger Norwegian left backs who choose to attempt a dive header in the last seconds of injury time when the ball is on the floor, rather than hoofing it into row Z. Anyway...

Losing some amazing video footage has really hit me hard, so I just hoped that it wouldn't do it again up here because we had footage of the Iguazu Falls, the Pantanal, the north coast beach of Jericoacoara and also the west coast island of Morro de Sao Paulo on the disc.

I took some quick footage, then went to switch off the camera and saw the message that broke my heart: "FORMAT DISC?" This meant that it had wiped the disc again so that it was blank.

I swore very loudly and promptly went into what I believe the great philosipher Plato would refer to as "a right strop".

Katie knew that I was gutted and furious and sensibly let me silently burn off a few brain cells before we took the escalators down to the train platform.

Again we had to wait a long time for a train back down the mountain, but at least this time we knew where to sit and had a much better view out of the windows.

When we reached the bottom of the mountain we got the public bus back to Ipanema (the loooooong way around via Leblon) and grabbed some lunch at our favourite little snack bar again.

I think the thing we like most about this place is that it does a fantastic glass of iced acai, which is a local black berry full of anti-oxidants and bursting with health, which is now very much our drink/desert of choice!

KT acai 

Here's a photo of the cafe, which is on the corner of the main road in Ipanema, in case you want to try for yourself!

Lunch spot 

By now the clouds had nearly disappeared and the sun was still shining brightly when we left the hostel, so we decided to head to the beach, to get some photos of the golden sand and the big crowds.

It was like a weekend, the beaches were absolutely PACKED!

This was the view to the left of Ipanema beach, walking towards Copacabana...

Ipa 2 

...and this is the view to the right of Ipanema beach, looking towards Leblon.

Ipa 1

When we got to the rocks at the end of the left side we had some great views back down Ipanema beach.

Ipa 3 

We really love staying in Ipanema, it's got a great atmosphere, an excellent beach and its less developed & built-up than Copacabana.

Ipa 4 

We walked out onto the rocks to get the best possible angle back towards the beach.

Al Ipa

After that we made our way up the beach towards the devil's beach (a.k.a. dog beach!) before cutting inland and following the sea to get to the beginning of Copacabana beach.

Devil´s beach 

This was the last view we had of Ipanema beach before walking back inland.

Ipa 5

Katie suggested that we go to Copacabana Fort to take some photos over the famous beach and towards the Sugar Loaf mountain, so we walked to the end of the heavily armed pier, took some snaps and then continued walking along the main beach.

This is another perspective of Sugar Loaf mountain...

Sugar loaf's one of the cannons from the grounds of the fort...


...and here are some of the surfers riding a wave back towards Copacabana beach.

Surfer Copa

By now it was about 3:30pm and the sun was starting to disappear behind the high rise hotels and apartment buildings which line the beach road.

This meant that some parts of the beach were totally in shadow already so we'd missed the boat a bit on this beach.

Hopefully we can get some better shots tomorrow if the weather stays good.

Copa beach 1

Copa beach 2

We walked to the bus stop in the middle of Copacabana and caught a public bus heading east towards the cable car which takes people up to Sugar Loaf mountain.

We really wanted to see the view from the top of the mountain during the day and also at sunset, when the views are supposed to be fantastic, but we had a feeling that we were going to arrive just too late to enjoy the day view.

We paid our R$35 each at the cable car office and headed up to the first stop, a mountain between the city and the Sugar Loaf mountain.

I managed to sit us on the wrong side of the cable car, so we had nice views of the Red Beach to our right, while everyone on the left had breathtaking views over the city! I wasn't having a good day with my seat selection :(

We took a few photos from the top and then changed cable cars, to get the second one up to the top of the famous Sugar Loaf.

I got us in the right spot this time, but I knew the view from the top would beat any photos taken through the cable car glass, plus I only had a bit of space left on the memory card!

This was the view from the first mountain...

Sugar 1 

...I really like this shot as we headed towards the top of the Sugar Loaf...

Sugar 4 

...and this one taken from the top, looking back at the climbing cable cars and Ipanema beach.

Sugar 8

By now the sun was definitely on a one way express ticket below the horizon and the sky was beginning to show flashes of colour to give us a taste of what to expect from the sunset.

Sugar 3

Unfortunately (as has been so often the case on our travels!) at the very last minute some clouds appeared just above the horizon, hiding the sun and diluting the colours of the sunset.

It was still pretty fantastic, but it could also have been even better.

Sugar 5 

This is a close up of Ipanema & Leblon...

Sugar 6 

...while this one shows the centre of the city with the Redeemer statue to the top right.

Sugar 7

Katie found us a bench seat with perfect views over the city, so we sat there watching and recording the setting sun over the city.
We had great views of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches to the left of Christ the Redeemer and also great views of Flamengo beach, Botafogo, the Lagoe and part of the central area to the right of the statue.

El Christo himself was just a tiny spek behind the city, but the statue has such immense character and presence that it still manages to utterly dominate the skyline.

Sugar 2

The statue can just be seen on the top of the mountains on the left side of the photo below... look carefully!

Sugar 9

While I was taking more photos than you could shake a stick at, Katie spotted a funny Japanese guy that we did the mine tour with in Potosi, Bolivia.

Or more accurately, she spotted a funny Japanese guy who Katie shared a bus with and who I nearly died next to inside the mines!

He didn't recognise us from Adam but we had a quick chat and found out that he's two and a half years through a THREE YEAR round-the-world trip! Lucky git. 

He was an interesting chap so we asked him tons of questions about his travels to compare notes but also to learn from his travels to places that we wanted to visit but were unable to include this time, like China, India, Pakistan, Africa and Antarctica.

This guy has definitely seen more of the world that anyone I've ever met and had a highly amusing Japanese slant on his experiences, which really made me laugh and miss my friends in Japan.

Anyway, yadda yadda yadda, more photos!

Sugar 10

Sugar 11

Sugar 12

Once again (as per Salvador) the sun got a short round of applause from the assembled tourists and then we sped off quickly to avoid the long queues for the cable cars on the way down.

With only one leaving only every 20 minutes we didn't fancy waiting around!

I got some nice shots of the sunset before we left, I love the purple tinge to the clouds.

Sugar 13

Sugar 14

Sugar 15

When we got down to the street level we got a bus back to Ipanema with our old friend, before leaving him in Copacabana and continuing to our hostel.

We weren't sure what to do for dinner but eventually decided to try one of the famous Brazilian 'churasco' (barbecue) restaurants.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, a churasco restaurant is essentially an upmarket all-you-can-eat restaurant specialising in meat.

Usually they provide you with a circle with one green side and one red side.

The waiters carry huge BBQ skewers with different cuts and types of meat on and if they see that your disc is displaying the green side (GO!) then they will bring the meat to your plate and shave off a few slices kebab style or slide the chunk of meat onto your plate.


There is always a full salad bar and often side dishes like fries also included in the price. Drinks are never included and are expensive, but sometimes deserts are thrown in free.

We've been to plenty of all-you-can-eat and pay-per-kg restaurants in South America, but we hadn't yet been to a specialist 'churasco' place; Katie agreed that I couldn't leave Brazil without trying one, which was very kind of her considering that she can't eat any of the meat!

Our friend on the front desk of the hostel recommended two places in the area, one of which was unfeasibly expensive and the other only absurdly expensive.

We tried the cheaper of the two first, which looked ok but nothing special. There was some sushi and fish for Katie but she wasn't that impressed, so we set off to find the other one.

It took a while to find it (like I said, I wasn't having a great day today... I blame that own goal yesterday!), but when we did it was clearly far superior to the other place and as well it bloody should be for R$65 (20 quid) a person, plus drinks!

I'm sure I'll read this when we get back to London and think "Ģ20 for all that amazing meat, what a bargain!" but right now that seems a bloody fortune!

Katie had one look around the buffet and was sold, there was loads of sushi & sashami, seafood salads, huge veggie salad bar, pasta salads, etc etc.

The meat list that I was given was absolutely extraordinary, with a huge selection of different meats, then about 10-15 cuts of each type of meat. It was like eating in a butchers!

We were dressed like backpackers who left home 9 months ago, so unsurprisingly we didn't get the best table in the world, but as soon as the meat waiters located me in the corner they didnīt stop coming over!

I lost count of the different cuts and types of meat I tried at twelve, but left some space for some miso soup, sushi and octopus salad. Yummy scrummy for my tummy!

Deserts here were not included (thankfully!) so we left the place with very full stomachs and very empty pockets.

I managed to talk Katie into yet another frozen yoghurt on the way home, which highly amused the staff who must think that we're addicted to them or something! 

After that we managed to get on the internet, tried to sort out a few days on Isla Grande and read up on United choking at the Neu Camp, as usual! What I would give for Barca to score first at Old Trafford next Tuesday...

We'd really enjoyed a full and exhausting day today and tomorrow we're HOPEFULLY going to go hang-gliding off one of the highest mountains in the city!

This is something that we've both been looking forward to for over 6 months now and we've got everything crossed that we get a clear and windy day tomorrow which would make it perfect conditions for hang-gliding and hopefully something that we would never forget and a definite highlight of our trip.

So I wish you all a thousand good nights and look forward to sharing another packed day with you tomorrow!

Lots of love,

Al & Katie xx
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