Fred's world tour
Week 3 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
13th until 19th of October 2012
- Partied on the streets of Lapa, drinking Caipirinhas until the early hours.
- Explored the bohemian district of Santa Teresa.
- Walked down the famous 'Escadaria Selaron' (Tile staircase of Selaron) and met the creator.
- Take the funicular to 'Christo Redentor' (Christ the redeemer) and awe at the views over Rio.
- Watch the sunset over Rio from the 'Pao de acucar' (sugarloaf mountain)
- Delta hang-gliding over Rio and land on San Conrado's white sandy beach.
- Run and stroll along the beaches of Flamengo, Botafogo, Copacabana and Ipanema.
- Take a motorbike tour of two favelas (hillside slums) including where Michael Jackson filmed the music video for his song 'The don't really care about us'.
- Take a beginner's class of samba.
This week started with a short flight from Florianopolis to Rio de Janeiro's domestic airport of Santos Dummont. It was a hairy landing approach dodging the famous hills of Rio but meant I could walk straight into downtown. I was unfortunately welcomed with cloudy skies and more rain later as if its been following me from Buenos Aires. Still, I was excited and rearing to see the highly recommended 'ciudade maravilhosa'. It was named after the Portuguese arrived in January 1502 and they though it was at a mouth of a river hence 'Rio of January'. All hostels were booked up because it was a national holiday so I managed to find a not-so-good hostel in Santa Theresa. It was in fact a blessing in disguise because the other backpackers at the hostel were a great. We all had a disco nap and walked down to Lapa the party centre of Rio which happened to be just down the hill.... a very steep hill. Lapa was crazy, streets closed off, people were partying everywhere, clubs lined the road and stalls selling the very best caipirinhas for £1.5!! With clubs open until 8 or 9am it was hard to stay until the end because I didn't bring my sunglasses unlike all the locals in the know! Five in the morning was late enough for me. I didn't want to waste the next day.
Unfortunately because breakfast at hostels are only served until 10am it means no lie-ins for us. Then again it was a good excuse to kick start the day and 'carpe dium' . The view from the hillside hostel for breakfast was great and this view was only going to get better as we walked uphill and round the bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa. Artistic graffiti paintings covered the walls, tram tracks lined the road (currently not working due to tragic death a year ago) and quaint restaurants gave it a great authentic Brazilian atmosphere. From parque de Las Ruinas we caught our first view of the 'Pao de acucar' (sugarloaf) on a beautiful day.; Then we walked down the selaron stairs. These stairs are the creation of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron whom has spent decades collecting tiles from 60 countries around the world to decorate this stair case. To this day he sits there next two his own house selling art and continues to add touches to the staircase. He is so at home on the stairs that when I got a picture with him he was picking his toes :-) . to finish the day we cooked our own food and sampled a few tipples at local Santa Teresa bars.
The next few days Mark, Johanna and I did some of the big name sights of Rio. Took the funicular to the Christ the redeemer statue which is currently one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The views were great and I don't think I have ever taken so many photos from one place before. Also what I didn't realise is that there is a tiny, cute little chapel inside the base of the Christ.
We also walked around the famous beaches of Copacabana and ipanema which was very beautiful and a surreal experience. Including going to the cafe where 'the girl from ipanema' was written by Tom Jobin. Going up to see the sugarloaf by cable car was pretty special. What was even better was seeing the sunset from there and also waiting to see Rio at night all lit up.
I also managed to convince Jo to come and go delta hang-glide with me over Rio. The flight was short but very special seeing rio from the air and being able to land of the pristine beach of San Conrado.
On the thursday I spent time seeing the sights at the centre, met up to have lunch with a friend's friend which is always fun. I then managed to cross the bay by boat to Nicerio to see the MAC (museo de arte contamporaneo) a flying saucer shaped art gallery designed by the famous Oscar Niemeyer.
The boat back dodged some planes landing at the Santos Dummont airport which made for an interesting trip. On my return I saw the impressively modern/odd shaped cathedral right next to the Lapa viaduct arches and I also booked myself in for a Samba class on Friday. Not at the same place I don't think God would approve! :-)
Friday would mark the end of one week in Rio! I didn't think I would stay here this long but i've enjoyed every minute of it. Jose has persuaded me to stay the weekend. Afterall Friday and Saturday nights are the best in Rio. However before that all kicks off I had organised to have a motorbike tour of two of Rio's Favelas (hillside slums). This guy was recommended by Mark the guy from Holland. The operator is an English speaking favela resident with a motorbike and the 'know how' of the area but otherwise that's it. No tour operator licence and no website. This could go either way and thankfully for me it went really well. The first Favela was the most dangerous one 3years ago and it also happens to be the one where Michael Jackson filmed the music video for his song 'they don't really care about us'. The production crew for the video had to pay off drug dealers to get permission to film there! In the last few years Rio's favela 'passifying' initiative has slowly but surely been clearing out the drug gangs from the 300 favelas and Santa Marta is one of them. It was an eye opening experience. It had areas of colourful art, dingy cramped spaces and some very smelly streams flowing through it. The government had installed an elevator to get to the top seeing as its also the steepest favela in Rio. We took that and then meandered our way through, pass the Michael Jackson statue and murial. The rest of the day involved going some good city viewpoints and also a city park with amazing geology.
After this there was the Samba class in downtown. Despite the instructor only speaking Portuguese I was able to get a grasp of the basics by copying and so it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable lesson. I'm not quite ready for Carnival yet but maybe soon.
To finish my week we went out and sampled Rio's nightlife once again.
The plan for the coming week is to stay in Rio until Monday then get to the Iguazu fall on the border with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
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