At last....

Trip Start Sep 2005
Trip End Sep 2006

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Saturday, November 5, 2005

After a 32 hour bus journey from Bonito (my new personal best) I finally arrived in Rio. Carnaval town. A tropical city like no other. My plan was simple. Dump my gear off in the hotel, have a quick shower, and go for a stroll along the worlds most faous beach, Copacobana, to do a spot of "people watching".
In my mind I was picturing beaches thick with Miss World contestants. Racks of thonged bottoms, all tanned to perfection. Giggling beauties asking make up the numbers for beach volleyball. A heaving writhing mass of Jay-lo lookalikes frollicking in the surf. Teasing me to come in and join them. That sort of thing.

With hindsight IŽd probably set my expectations too high. The beaches were fantastic, but without the babes. (You'd see better talent at your local bingo hall.) The volleyball was only played by chunky old guys in black speedos. The water was supposed to be polluted, but it didn`t look that bad. I don't think you'd have come out looking like an Andrex puppy. But even so, on a sunny day you never saw people swimming. And Ronaldo was not playing five-a-side with his mates.

Gina and myself did the full tourist tour. Cristo Redentor, a cable car up Paz de Azucar (another mountain in the middle of the city), took a tram up to Santa Teresa and Tangoed on down in the old part of town. Cristo Redentor is the big statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched that you always see on TV. The conditions weren't great but the views were supberb. The city has a really spectacular location, with lots of beaches, skycrapers and lush mountains.

Nobody ever tells you about the weather in Rio, and I thought the sun would be there every morning when I opened the blinds. Actually it gets wet and cold. When I say wet, well it's not what we would call a "soft day" in Ireland. A shower out here is a mini-monsoon. We got caught in one in St Theresa while we were on the (electric) tram. Half way up a hill there was a bang and a flash of light. No surpise really, given the amount of water that was leaking in through the roof. After watching the driver change it with water running over his hands and the fuse box, we sat back and waited to see what would happen when he switched it on. It actually worked.

The beer is superb. Ice-cold (-5) and served in a frosted glass. It even has its own little ice-jacket. It's so good that you can start drinking it at breakfast time and not feel like you've got a beer problem.

The food portions are humungus. What they don't tell you is that in general, most menus list the food as dishes for two people. But it just doesn't say "por dos pessoas" on the menu. Brazilians have big appetites anyway, and even when we sussed it you'd struggle to finish one of these meals between two. But if you didn't know the score and you fancied light lunch at the beach, you end up ordering a dinner for 4 hearty brazilians. The first few times it happened, we just stared at the food in disbelief. I've a good appetite myself but even the sight of all the food would make me doubt my own abilities. I ended up happy enoughwith myself if I could get half way through the main dish, never mind the mountain of chips. And of course Gina would ask me to help her take the bad look off her plate. When you're almost done, and you really want to stop the starving children appear. And that's it, you feel really bad about the wasted food and try to force some more down. Of course the waiters never tell you that you've ordered enough food for four people, you just have to make the mistake a few times, and notice the the others all seem to like sharing. In some of the towns, if you were travelling on your own, you're choices would be pretty limited. But Ronald McDonald could always come to the rescue.
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