Welcome to Rio

Trip Start Nov 17, 2010
Trip End Feb 27, 2011

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Monday, February 7, 2011

07/02/2011 - Monday
The flight from Manaus to Rio de Janeiro took only 4 hours, but we skipped forward two hours due to the time difference and arrived in Rio around 6am. Our friend Wayne was flying in from Sydney to join us for our last two weeks in South America, however his flight wasn't arriving until 4pm in the afternoon.  We decided to head to our hostel first, then surprise Wayne by picking him up at the airport.

Our options were either take a R$80 taxi to our hostel in Ipanema, or pay R$8 for an express bus, so we took the bus.  The only downside was that the bus had its air conditioning on 10 degrees, or that's what it felt like. Most people ended up putting on more clothing!  The trip to the hostel only took about 45 minutes, we caught a glimpse of Christ the Redeemer high up on the mountain before losing sight of it in the city.  Unsurprisingly we missed the stop we were supposed to get off, and ended up having to walk for 10 minutes back in the opposite direction until we arrived at the hostel.  Because check-in wasn't until 1pm, we were allowed to leave our backpacks in a storage area and were given breakfast.  Both of us had a nap as well in the TV room, which wasn't the best idea as it was full of mosquitos.

We woke up after 4 or 5 hours sleep (still in the TV room) and went to find out how to get back to the airport.  We were told the airport express comes once every hour past Ipanema beach, so we headed down one block and we were there.  The weather was beautiful, a sign said 39║C, and it certainly felt like it.  The beachfront also looked exactly like it does in pictures and videos, complete with girls in bikinis and tanned men in tight black speedos.

While we were waiting for the bus I bought a drinking coconut.  What happened next was a bit unexpected - a bus pulled up at the bus stop just as we spotted the airport express, but instead of waiting for that bus to move, the airport express just changed lanes and sped off, on the other side of the road!  So we ended up waiting 30 minutes and the bus didn't even bother to stop.  As you can imagine we were quite pissed off, but we didn't want to miss picking up Wayne so we ended up waiting another hour and getting on the next airport express.  Unfortunately that didn't work so well as it was peak hour and instead of taking 45 minutes to get to the airport, the trip took almost 2 hours.  By the time we arrived at the airport the plane had already landed for well over 90 minutes.  After walking through the entire airport and not seeing any sign of Wayne we went to line up for a bus back to Rio.

Arriving back at the hostel some 6 hours after we left to pick up Wayne, I was told by the person at reception that he had already checked in and went out to find an ATM.  We were relieved that he had made it safely but felt a bit bad that we weren't there to meet him.  Around 20 minutes later while we were sitting in the beer garden Wayne finally walked in, and we all had a good laugh about our failed trip to pick him up.  Later we went out for some drinks with Crystal, a girl from Perth who was staying in our room, and also happened to be on the same flight as Wayne.

08/02/2011 - Tuesday

We spent the morning walking around Ipanema, and bought some cheap Brazilian alcohol (possibly Cachaša) as well as some interesting mixers - Antarctica Guarana and Grape Fanta.  We ate lunch at a 'kilo restaurant', where you fill your plate with food at a buffet, then it is weighed and the price is calculated.  I was a bit ambitious to try and consume almost 800 grams of mostly grilled meat. In the afternoon we bought tickets for a Favela Tour, and spent time doing laundry and other things.  That night we had a great time at a nightclub which was mostly filled with Brazilians.

09/02/2011 - Wednesday
We were all quite hung over the next morning, and didn't get out of the hostel until after midday to check out the beach.  In the afternoon we decided to visit Christ the Redeemer, so we got details for the bus and headed out.  Keeping up with our terrible luck (or lack of Portuguese) we managed to somehow miss the stop for Christ the Redeemer (Corcovado) and ended up at the end of the line.  Thankfully the bus driver spoke to another bus driver who was heading in the right direction and let us on for free.  We arrived to find that the trains heading up were already closed, although there was a taxi service for a bit cheaper fee.  We debated whether it was too late as the sun was already going down, but we were talked into going up as the sunset from the top was supposed to be a great sight.

Two van rides and 30 minutes later we were at the top entrance of Christ the Redeemer, and we reached the base of the statue after some more sets of stairs.  The view from the top was indeed amazing, even more so than the statue itself.  By the time we found a bus heading back to Ipanema it was dark already, and we ended up playing cards on the bus until we arrived back at the hostel.  That night we checked out Baixa Gavea, a place where locals go and drink in and around the streets.

10/02/2011 - Thursday
Oliver was sick so I went walking down Ipanema beach with Crystal and Wayne.  We walked the length of the beach until we reached a small rocky area with a lookout at the top which provided a lovely view of Ipanema.

Further around we arrived at Fort Copacabana, a military base which also contains a museum.  We also walked around the back which lets you up above the fort, and you can see the large cannons which were built in the early 1900s to protect the harbour.  The whole area was very nice and had large trees with plenty of shade.

11/02/2011 - Friday
On our second last day in Rio, we met a tour group outside a fancy hotel on the main Ipanema strip, which took us into Rocinha, the largest and most notorius favela in Rio.  First we were driven to a small street market set up mainly for tourists, where we were allowed to get out and buy the art and paintings on sale.  We were strictly told not to take pictures of the people, only the surrounding views.  After that we were driven into an underground garage which led to a balcony out the back of one of the houses, where we were free to take pictures.

After Rocinha we were taken to a much smaller and friendly favela, and we visited a school for disadvantaged children, which was set up by a wealthy resident of Rio.  The children there were taught how to read and write, use computers and other useful skills that they would otherwise not be able to afford.  We were also taken through some of the buildings there, many with small and cramped alleyways and stairs.

We finished the tour and headed straight for the bus stop, this time to get to PŃo de Aš˙car, Sugarloaf Mountain.  This involved catching a bus to the other side of Rio, then catching two more cable cars until we reached the main lookout area.  The views here were just as impressive as Christ the Redeemer.

To finish off an action packed day we went out to check out the Lapa street party, which was basically streets lined with people drinking alcohol and dancing.  It was a very different experience and I can only imagine what Rio would be like during Carnaval.

Finally our time in Rio was coming to an end, and after a week of sunshine and 40║C weather we couldn't really have asked for more.
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