As it happened, one of Aaronīs old co-workers / travel buddies, Brian, was in Rio de Janiero just as we were passing through. Plans worked out perfectly and we were able to join forces for a week of fun in the Ciudad Maravillosa!
Brian described Rio best as a place where mountains crashed into the ocean and
a city was dropped from above. That seems to fit pretty well as itīs hard not to have all three in your sight when walking around.
Brian was already crashing with a friend in an ocean-side apartment right off Cococabana Beach and we were lucky enough to also rent out a room from Dave, the very simpatico
and informative expat who had moved to Rio a couple years back. It was a perfect location for us to explore the beach and venture out into the city from. Thanks Dave and Brian for the hook-up!
We knew we werenīt going to see everything, but we did hit up a few of the required highlights. Of course we spent some time on the beach soaking up sun and enjoying tasty caporinas
(consisting of ice, lime, sugar and a sugarcane liquor), a favorite local pastime. Conversely, we awoke one day to very windy and overcast weather which provided some the most stunning and fearsome waves we had seen in ages. The surfers loved it and we were quite impressed how the waves carried sand across the beach and onto the streets, a good 100 feet farther than they normally stretched!
At night we visited the barrios of Sainta Teresa, Laranjeiras, and Lapa for some amazing food (Aaron got his feijoada) and live music. We heard two different samba bands during our stay and it was hard to say what was better from the experience - listening to the soulful music or watching the rapid steps of the locals shaking it all on the dance floor. The dancing here is otherworldly and it's often difficult to decide whether to dance or just stop and watch in awe. Though Missi kept up fairly well, she was impressed as the local nightlife took dancing to a whole new level.
No visit to Brasil woud be complete without a rowdy soccer game! The energy in the crowd is loud, unrelenting, and fierce. They sing, chant, jump, yell, scream and wave large flags in a solid show of support for their team. We caught a game between Botofogo (local Rio team) and a visiting Sao Paulo team. WOW! What an experience.
On our last morning, we went with a local on a tour/walk of South America's largest favela. A favela is a shanty town that is commonly built up on the sides of the mountains and have little or no car access.
They consist of mostly chaotic pathways, houses built precariously built upon houses, and sewage lines and electricity that are anyone's guess. They have little or no police control; and in the past they were mostly run by the drug cartels. We were told that when robberies would occur the thiefs would often run to the flavelas were the police would not follow. Although the flavas have been improving with the insight of a new president (and the coming of the 2012 world cup to Rio), there is still much to be done in this complex and diverse city.