My Last Weeks in Rio

Trip Start Mar 30, 2008
Trip End Jun 28, 2008

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Since my last Travelpod entry, I had one more touristy thing that I had to do. This was to visit the two places Rio is most famous for, Christ and Sugarloaf. It had been raining quite a bit, but one morning, the sun was finally shining and I decided to check this off my list, almost more as an obligation than something I was really dying to see. The Christ is located in one of the many forests in Rio, on a mountain called Corcovado. Unfortunately, when we got to the base, the sky became a bit overcast, and the higher and higher we climbed, the visibility became ridiculously low. Since the climb was so long, I was hoping at some point we'd break through the top of the clouds and get a great view of Jesus above the cloudline. That didn't happen. Jesus was smack dab in the middle of a cloud. I couldn't even see his arms, which is both a testament to how big he is, and how cloudy it was. After standing there for about 20 minutes with a couple dozen other very disappointed tourists, we left. The next stop on the tour was Maracana stadium, and luckily I'd been to a game already, because we just stopped outside of it, and the guide told us some uninteresting facts that I've since forgotten. Next we went to this huge cone-shaped cathedral, which I must say was quite hideous, but at the same time impressive. Seems to me, this money could have gone to something more useful like...anything! Another kind of useless stop on the tour was the Sambodromo, which is where Rio's  samba schools hold their parades every year at Carnaval. I think the hundreds of colorful dancers and Carnaval celebrators are a pretty key ingredient to making this place interesting. Without them, it basically looks like a 1 km dragstrip with concrete bleachers. The final stop was what redeemed the whole tour (it woulda been so great if it were Christ the Redeemer that redeemed the tour). We arrived at Sugarloaf to see the sun set behind the mountains in Rio. The weather had cleared up a bit, except for the occasional cloud bank that would totally envelope the higher of the two rocks that make up Sugarloaf, and the views of the city surrounded with forests and beaches was really beautiful. The funny thing is, we could see Christ more clearly all the way from Sugarloaf than we could when we were standing at his feet.
A few days later, the weather cleared up and we got a few weeks of blue skies and sun. I think the rain makes you appreciate the sunny days more, and it gave me that much more excuse to go to Ipanema Beach almost every day. From what I could tell from my view from the shore, the waves on the surfer's beach, Arpoador, are really incredible, and the surfers are too. They were riding like 10-15 seconds on about 8 foot waves. This is no place for a novice to learn though, so I stuck to splashing around in the water in Ipanema where I wouldn't get run over by a surfer, and laying on the beach. Me and some other people from the hostel also went to visit a beach called Barra da Tijuca which is about 30 minutes by bus. This is about a 12 mile stretch of beach, and because of the ever present Rio haze, you can't even see the ends of it. Unfortunately, the sea was angry that day, but not as angry as the two lifeguards that swam out to yell at me in portuguese that I wasn't allowed to swim. I took full advantage of my being a stupid foreigner and plead ignorance, which was actually the truth. Another day of laying on the beach I guess. This guy we were with named Sunil, an Indian guy living in SF, met some locals somehow. The funny thing is, they didn't speak a word of english and he doesn't speak a word of portuguese. They left to go get some food at the beach stand, he said he was gonna go up and get a coconut, and after 10 minutes, we realized he was up there having a conversation with them. They say 90% of conversation is non-verbal so I guess they understood 90% of what they were saying. Anyways, they were really friendly and they invited us to join them. One of the guys was a cop and he was showing us the bullet wounds he'd gotten in a couple gun battles with the drug dealers. Sunil got one of the girls' numbers. What he's going to say to her on the phone, I have no clue, but I'd love to hear it on speakerphone. Of the three beaches I've been to in Rio, I have to say, Ipanema is the best, which is convenient because it's 2 blocks away.

When the sun goes down on the beach you gotta find something else to do. The nightlife here in Rio is supposed to be one of the best in South America, but I haven't been hugely impressed. The clubs are located really far apart, and tend to be expensive. I paid about $50 to get into one club, with the catch being that the $50 goes towards your bar tab. Coming from L.A. where last call is at 1:30 or so, I mistakenly drank my $50 worth in about an hour and a half and stumbled home vomiting whereas my friends stayed out till 6 or so. I'm too old for all of that. The clubs I've been to, they're pretty much like american ones, except filled with Brazilians. The music that's big down here is Brazilian Funk, and the biggest funk dance right now is from MC Creu. Brazilian girls take Funk as an excuse to act vulgar, and I mean that strictly in a good sense. Here's a link to that song (caution, not suitable for younger viewers, or people over 30 for that matter):
Of course they have bars here that are cheaper. The beers cost about $2, but the ones I've been to have been filled with tourists, and prostitutes. I have to admit I'm only assuming they're prostitutes when it's a nice looking brazilian girl in her 20s with a 50 year old fat, balding foreigner. Or maybe he's just a really good listener or something (ha). There's a very liberal attitude towards prostitution. In fact there's a brothel on the same block as the hostel, and it's not very discrete. The police in Rio are very corrupt, and if you have money, you can pretty much do what you want. The prostitutes in Copacabana literally just line up outside this restaurant and wait for customers. Well, enough about that. The best nightlife in Rio is undoubtedly Lapa, near Santa Tereza. Thursday through saturday, the place is one big street party littered with clubs playing Funk, hip hop, samba, forro etc. It's also littered with litter of course, but the trash and smell of urine are part of the charm in a way. The food and alcohol are cheap and plenty. The street is lively enough so you can just walk around and not even go in anywhere, which is what I did the first night I went. But you also have to check out a samba club. You're in Brazil afterall. We went to Carioca Da Gema and caught the end of a really good samba show. Even though the party in Lapa goes till the early morning, most of the live bands end at about three. Since Lapa is at the base of the mountain where Santa Tereza is situated (I think I'd previously been mis-spelling it "santa teresa") you get the same kind of beautiful architecture mixed with graffiti and murals. Also, there's a huge structure that kind of looks like the Roman Aquaduct that's kind of the symbol of Lapa, called Arco de Lapa, and we were lucky enough to catch some locals doing some Capoeira towards the end of the night under the one of the arches. This was a very satisfying place to wind up my stay in Rio, and I highly recommend it to anyone that every comes to the city.
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starlagurl on

Nice writing!
It made me giggle. Christ the Redeemer, redeeming the trip, priceless.

Good job, keep it up!

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

bkindereit on

Re: Nice writing!
hi, thanks Louise. Yea, I'm a sucker for corny jokes like that. I put some photos in, and added a little more text into that entry, in case you're interested

starlagurl on

No prob!
Come and chat with me in the forums when you get a chance!

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

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