Rio de Janeiro - Day 57-65
Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
254Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Friends's Place In Ipanema
Arrived at Rio's shit-hole of a bus station and caught a cab to my friends place in Ipanema. The ground floor apartment is literally a stones throw away from one of the best beaches in the city, excellent! Spend the last few hours of daylight chilling on the wondered Ipanema beach with the beautiful hills of Rio as the back drop. What an idyllic place to build a city!! This evening I went out for a good hearty meal in Ipanema and had a few quiet drinks by the beach. Returned to my friends place reasonably early feeling rather tired after the mammoth bus journey from Salvador.
Tomorrow I plan to have a bit of a wander to get my bearings and do some touristy sightseeing. At some point I will defiantly visit the iconic Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) which has to be Rio's most iconic landmark, plus numerous other sights I have on my long list.
Day 58 - 05/03/09
Today I had walk around Ipanema and Leblon to get my bearings. These districts are the posh upper class areas of Rio where all the young, beautiful and successful people reside. A slightly surreal place to be after spending so much time in horribly poor Salvador. The benefit of staying in this prosperous area is that I feel relatively safe, a complete contrast to crazy Salvador during carnival.
Went to have my long locks chopped off today in Leblon, I was beginning to look a bit like a vagrant, so the trip to the barber was long overdue. I took my Portuguese friend to the barber with me to translate how I wanted my haircut, but I might as well have spoken to the barber myself in English. I only wanted a light trim and a bit of a tidy up, but he ended up taking most of my hair off and my sideburns which I've had for over a decade! Anyway, it's so hot in Rio, it's probably not a bad thing that I've had it all chopped off, it'll grow back of course. The barber was an extremely funny guy, he must of been around 80 years old and when I sat down in the archaic barber chair, he gave me a nod and a wink and hands me a porn magazine, hilarious!!
This evening I met up with some Argentinean and Equardorian guys I met yesterday. We went to Ipanema beach to watch the sunset which is supposedly the best place in the city to say goodbye to the day. The sun goes down behind two forested pyramid like peaks and as the sunlight faded, the lights in the Favlehs on the hillside lit up like a Christmas tree, a beautiful sight.
My friend who I'm staying with is studying at the university in the city so tonight we hung out at a bar opposite the university campus in Gavea which serves cheap beer. Hundreds of students were stood on the streets drinking and chatting. The summer holiday's have just ended here in Rio and classes started this week, so I think everyone was catching up after the summer break. We then headed to Lapa to a Salsa club, from what I've gathered Lapa is the hedonistic party district of Rio close to the city centre. The district was crammed with people bar hopping and generally having a good time. I returned back to Ipanema in the early hours. My first late night out in Rio, no doubt the first of many.
Day 59 - 06/03/09
Went out for a brisk walk along the beach front with my friend this evening in Ipanema. The wind is picking up and I can see dark ominous clouds out to sea. Looks like a storm is brewing and about to blow in over night. Maybe it will cool down the hot humid air which has engulfed the city since I've been here, will be a big relief if it does.
It's Friday night and I've been told that it's obligatory to go out in Lapa and mix with the young, the old, the favelas kids, transvestites and numerous other categories of interesting and diverse people. Certainly was a crazy mix of humans at midnight outside the bars and clubs near the arches in Lapa. We ended up going to an event called "The Carnival Hangover" in a massive arena in Lapa. Must of been five thousand people parting with their last reserves of energy left after carnival. Many famous Brazilian bands played in the various arena's to the feverishly excited crowd. One of the Samba bands who played tonight came second in the Rio carnival top Samba school competition. As you could imagine they were pretty amazing! Half way through the performance the dancing girls made an appearance with their feather head-dresses and tiny jewel incrusted bikini's. I've never seen anyone move like those girls could, completely unbelievable!!! I've never seen so many beautiful people in one place in my entire life, I felt genetically inferior surrounded by these beautiful freaks.
Another amazing night out in Brazil, these people certainly know how to party. Returned to my friends place as the sun was rising, the taxi drove though Copacabna which was surprising busy with dirty stay outs loitering around the beach and fitness fanatics running up and down the beach front.
Day 60 - 07/03/09
This afternoon I went to a random BBQ party in some swish tower block in Barra to welcome new students to the university my friend is studying at. 25 reials for all you can eat and drink, not bad. It was like a scene from an American college movie, I felt slightly geriatric compared to most of the crowd at the party. As the drunken antics started to become more intense we decided to leave and headed to a guys Rio mansion in a gated community somewhere in the city for a swim in his pool. A completely different world to the falvas strewn across the hillsides of the city. Another extremely random day and night in Rio, but very fun of course!
Day 61 - 08/03/09
Another wasted day but interesting night in Rio once again. I'm sure you're seeing a pattern emerging to how I'm spending my time in the city. I think debortourous and hedonistic sums it up nicely.
During the day I just relaxed at my friends place in Ipanema recovering from the previous nights antics. In the evening we went to this really cool bar stroke club called "Casa Rosa" (Pink House). Inside were many tiny rooms and courtyards playing different kinds of Brazilian music including live salsa and samba troops. Included in the entrance fee was a meal of Feijoada which is a typical Brazilian dish of stewed meats with beans in a thick source accompanied by rice and a couple of slices of orange. It was so tasty and offered a great heavy lining for the stomach :o)
I surprising had a relatively early night compared with pervious nights. Tomorrow I definitely need to do some sightseeing in day light hours, I have no excuses!
Day 62 - 09/03/09
Woke-up this morning feeling motivated to see the sights of Rio, the early night and only drinking a couple of beers last night means I'm feeling fit and well, which makes a significant change!
First I walked to Copacabna beach from where I'm staying in Ipanema, it was a pleasant 30 minute walk in the hot morning sun. You can't visit Rio without seeing the world famous Copacabna. I can remember hearing the famous Barry Manalow song as kid and I always thought one day I'd visit Copacabna and now I'm here! The beach curves for 5km with high rises, restaurants and bars covering most of it's length. To be honest I prefer Ipanema, it feels a lot safer, especially after being followed for 10 minutes by some crazy Brazilian pestering me for money, the beach is a far nicer too. Anyway I've now ticked this off the list, next on the itinerary for today is Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). This icon of Rio was recently named one of the 7 seven man-made wonders of the world in the new listing which was voted for by 100 million people online.
I caught a bus from Ipanema to the cog train station in Cosmo Velho which takes visitors to the top of the 710 metre Corcovado Peak (Hunchback) which the Christ proudly stands on keeping watch over the city. The train line was a real feat of engineering when constructed back in the early 20th century with help from the British. The track cuts through some beautiful Atlantic rainforest as it ascends up the steep peak. A series of elevators then took me up the final few ten's of metres to the summit and to the Christ itself. The views from the top are truly jaw dropping. I've been really lucky with the weather today, it wasn't crystal clear but clear enough to see this wonderful city, all I can say is WOW what a sight!! This vantage point gives such a beautiful perspective of Rio, the blue waters, the islands, the green hills and of course the beaches. Even the favelas have a certain charm clinging to the hillsides from up here. I returned back to my friends place on the bus and had a relaxing night in Ipanema.
Day 63 - 10/03/09
I had a walk around the prosperous Leblon district this morning to stretch the legs. Leblon is the adjoining district to Ipanema to the west, the district's are separated by a rather tatty looking painted arch on the main shopping street. Leblon isn't quite as swish as Ipanema but still very pleasant none the less, with tree lined boulevards and a good beach. Then I caught the bus to the Urca district where the expensive cable car takes visitors to Sugar Loaf peak (Pao de Acucar). The Urca district sits on a peninsula which juts out into the bay. Sugar Loaf peak is another one of those iconic landmarks of Rio rising out of the sea offering stunning views of the city. To reach the 395 metre summit there are 2 cable car systems linking another peak to Sugar loaf. Morro de Urca peak (215 metres) is used as a stepping stone and offers great views of the city too. I stayed on the lower peak for while to take in the views before catching the second cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf. Once again I was really lucky with the weather. I could see the Cristo across the city which was partly shrouded in cloud and looked rather mystical with it arms aloft over the city. Not sure which view of the city I prefer, the view from Sugar loaf or the Cristo, it's a tricky one.
I fell asleep on the bus back to Ipanema and woke up in Leblon, could have been worse, could of woke up in the middle of a favelas. Walked back to Ipanema and had another relaxing night at my friends place.
Day 64 - 11/03/09
I've decided to leave Rio tomorrow and head for the capital Brasilia in the interior. Some people would think I was crazy to leave Rio to go to Brasilia, but I must push on west towards the Amazon. So today I had to take the bus to the Rodovirora (Bus station) to buy my ticket in advance for tomorrows journey. What a palaver! A 3 hour return mission to buy the bloody ticket due to Rio's nightmare traffic in the commercial centre! Nevermind, regardless of the nightmare traffic I still love this city, one of those drawbacks of living or staying in a Metropolis I suppose. I'm really sad to be leaving Rio, I've met some great people who have really looked after me and shown me a good time. Some of places I've been and seen wouldn't have been possible without their local knowledge. Staying in Ipanema with my Portuguese friend was perfect, it's safe, close to the beach and excellent transport links all over the city. It was fascinating to watch the young, beautiful and wealthy in Ipanema walking their rare breed dogs, the guys walking down the main street with no shirts on showing off their tanned muscular bodies and of course the beautiful women in tight lycra jogging!! Rio is such an interesting place, I'd really like to spend more time here but I must push on. I'll be back one day, don't know how and when, but never say never.
Before a leave Rio I had to visit the "The Maracana", one of the holy grails of world football. So this evening I went to watch a cup game. The Maracana was build for the 1950 world cup and hosted the final in front of gigantic crowd of 200,000 people, today it's capacity is only a modest 90,000! I went to watch a Taca Rio cup game between Fluminense and Volta Redonda. Just getting to the game was an experience in it's self. I had to catch the metro which was a first for me in the city and it was rush hour. I've been on many of the world's big metro systems such as London, New York and Tokyo but I'd never witnessed the carnage I did this evening. The pushing and shoving with people trying to get on and off the train was dangerous at times, it was a bit like carnival. If you were claustrophobic or had a problem with people in your personal space, forget Rio's metro at rush hour. Arrived at the stadium in one piece and bought a ticket, there were probably only 10,000 people at the game but it was still quite a spectacle with samba bands playing throughout, massive flags being flown and angry Brazilians shouting abuse at the players. Would love to see this place packed with 90,000 passionate fans for a local derby game! Fluminense won comfortably, wasn't a great game to watch but at least I can say I've watched a game in the Maracana!
Day 65 - 12/03/09
I hit the road again today after just over a week in beautiful and vibrant Rio, next stop is the capital Brasilia. I really love Rio, the setting, the culture, the music, it has everything. A said goodbye to my friends and caught a cab to the bus station. Bye-bye Rio for now, but I'll defiantly be back, you never know maybe even on this trip? The rest of the day was spent sat on the bus, nothing more to report. Another long Brazilian bus journey, getting use to these epic journey's now. Should arrive in Brasilia a little after sunrise tomorrow.