The Great Awakening

Trip Start Dec 03, 2012
Trip End Feb 25, 2013

Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We eventually decided to succumb to the tourist trail and hit up the Sugar Loaf Mountain. We felt like sheep, herded through barriers past security guards, paying ridiculous amounts to be crammed into a cable car going up the mountain just to queue to come back down again. The views were nice but the experience itself is far too touristy for our liking. Spent a grand total of 5 minutes at the summit, took a few photos of the view and sunset over the Christ which was lovely and then re-joined the queue to descend. Before we went up (whilst chilling on the beach of course) we saw a helicopter rescue a man who had presumably fallen off of the side of the Sugar loaf and broken his leg whilst attempting to climb up it, harness & climbing gear still on. We got an offer 2 weeks ago by a Brazilian guy we met on the beach to climb it it flip flops and therefore go up for free!! Very glad we didn't take him up on the offer or there may not have been any more blog posts.

The days leading up to New Years were spent in "Pontal" which was a small surf town 45 mins outside of Rio as it was pretty extortionate to stay in the centre. There wasn't a lot to do other than try and understand the manic and complicated bus system and go to the large 5 storey shopping centre which was a little dangerous for our purse strings.

On New Years Eve we headed back to Rio (New Years Eve in Portuguese is called "Reveillon", which literally means The Great Awakening), and what better way to see in the new year than with a 20 minute long firework display along Copacabana beach. Possibly the best fireworks display we've ever seen!! With 10 different launching posts lined out along the beach, and dozens of large cruise ships littering the shore line who had obviously come purely to watch the show and celebrate new years off the coast of Rio. Everyone was dressed in white as it is said that this will bring you luck and prosperity for the new year. So after another nice big meal in the hostel we joined the 2 million people already at Copacabana beach to watch the display. There were various stages with live music on the beach also with a variety of national artists, but after feeling like we were stuck in a sardine can on the vastly overcrowded beach and being pushed and pulled in all directions, we left early.

Sadly we are now at the end of our time in Rio so reaching for the Rio Time out guide rather than heading for the beach every day. We went to a great club/bar called "Carioca de Gema" which is a really old traditional brazilian bar with live samba bands, good food and great atmosphere, our only mistake was ordering a baked camembert as the brazilians should definitely leave the cheese making to the French. We also visited the old quarter of 'Santa Teressa', Rio Cathedral (wierdest looking cathedral in the world like something out of Dr Who), the Lapa Arches which the trams used to run over back in the day, and the famous Steps in Lapa which are featured in the Snoop Dog and Pharell video "Beautiful" - these steps are decorated with tiles from all over the world but sadly we didn't spot the england tile.

As we won't be in Rio for Carnival we thought we would go and watch a live rehersal in one of the biggest Samba Schools in Mangueira. We didn't realise the school was in a favela until we arrived but we went with an organised tour so we knew it must be safe. The school would be best described as a very large but run down town hall with balconies all around overlooking the stage. There was a great atmosphere, very family orientated and everyone was dancing samba after the performances from 4 years old to 84 years old. In Brazil it is very evident that music and dance play such an important role in every day life, especially when going out which is quite refreshing in comparison to Britain's Boozy culture.

"Funky" music is also quite widespread in Rio and is a music genre which originated from the Favelas. We were tipped off about a good funky club called "Castelo das Pedras" out in the hills near Barra de Tijuca. The music was good and certainly an experience but wouldn't hurry back, not sure if the local women were too impresed by the gringa invasion.

After a busy week and faced with thunder storms outside we fancied a chilled night so we headed for the cinema to watch "Life of PI" and then to the Pestana hotel on Copacabana beach which has a roof top bar pool with incredible views overlooking the entire beach lit-up at night.

Small world, we met two girls who live in Paraguay who is studying the same course at Cardiff University as we did and we even have some friends in common. Funny how you can be on the complete other side of the world and it still feels so small.

Our life has been pretty sweet here in Rio and will be sad to leave but on to the next chapter, the North!

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