The Botanic Gardens

Trip Start Feb 06, 2007
Trip End Jan 14, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hotel Riazor

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sunday November 18th, Rio
This hostel looks straight out of a House and Garden magazine, but there are 'Thou Shalt Not' notices all over the walls, no other travellers around and the atmosphere is about as frosty as an iceberg. Add another miserable breakfast, and we moved down the road to Hotel Riazor. The huge man on the door has a welcoming smile, it is 15R cheaper, there is drinking water, which make up for the shabby room.
The journey to the Botanic Garden gave us a taste of the lunatic Rio bus drivers. They have only 2 speeds, stationary and flat-out. You need something to hang on to as the bus lurches around corners and comes to screaming halts at least 10 metres past bus stops. The botanic garden is one of the loveliest we have seen, excepting Adelaide of course. It has a superb collection of cactus, another of bromeliads, the lakes, lawns, statues have pathways and tall palms between, and they hand out free MAPS at the gate. We got in without paying, a perk of the over-60s, and spent hours there. One of our favourites was the well-named cannonball tree. Fruit hang off the trunk, and resemble outsize brown cannonballs, with matching weight. No kidding, if one of these fell on your head it would be curtains. The café sold turkey breast sandwiches, made with wholemeal bread, and not stale. Full marks.
Just along the road was the Sunday Antique Fair. Like yesterday, it was mostly full of junk, with a few very overpriced nice pieces. At least we don't have to worry how to get something breakable home. Another half hour walk away is Leblon beach, with a conveniently placed bar half way there. Musicians were just finishing as we arrived, heading off to the next bar.
Leblon and its neighbour Ipanema are lovely beaches, but the sand is very sloping by the water and tiring to walk on. We sat on the wall by the footpath, but given that there was only one public toilet along the entire 3 kilometres, which cost 1R, you can imagine that any wall had a distinctive pong. Why the local council doesn't install toilets is a mystery. We hiked inland and found a fast food joint with loos (and ice creams).
The first part of the beach has loads of volleyball courts, mostly in use. Other people were using small bats and keeping a ball in the air for ages. Further on there is a section taken over by gays, lesbians and transvestites, but they were all discreet, and we only saw 2 people where we could not say if they were male or female. But by far the majority of beachgoers were families and couples, enjoying Sunday's traffic-free road. A rocky headland separates Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. From the top we watched wetsuit-clad surfers in the decidedly chilly water.
Heading back to the metro, as by now Barb's legs were complaining, we heard loud music coming from the beach. This time a group of fellows with things that rattled and banged had their sound amplified megafold, and a slinky female in glittery red top and oh-so-short shorts was samba-ing. What a pity, the best vantage point was also the stinkiest, and it wasn't just pee.
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