Brazil Rio de Janeiro
Brazil Rio de Janeiro
(Quite a long blog but hard to find enough words to describe this incredible city).
Brazil Rio de Janeiro, up there with famous world cities such as New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Sydney but this place is different. As soon as you approach the city and you glimpse the famous mountains in the distance, you know you have arrived in a special place, and it’s just a matter of time and an anxious wait to set foot on the world-famous beaches.
Brazil Rio de Janeiro Beaches and Burns
We arrived at the bus terminal which is well planned out with taxi companies inside the arrival hall. The only problem was the taxi fare of 90 Reals or nearly $40 Dollars to our hostel. The other problem was the location of our hostel, it was going to be worth the trip with one of the best views of Rio you could find, but if you are familiar with the city of Rio you might notice that the best views come from the favelas. We stayed in the Vidigal favela, a relatively peaceful favela with a visible police presence but you do have to be vigilant, and we witnessed plenty of police raids while here reminding you of such problems. Our trip to the hostel was eventful but worth it, the taxi dropped us at the bottom of the favela and after a discussion with guys on motorbikes we were informed we would have to complete the journey on the back of a motorcycle! With large and heavy backpacks this could be difficult but the fact that we spent every last Brazilian Real we had on the taxi was another issue. There was no ATM available so luckily our generous taxi driver paid our bike fare, he did originally overcharge us for the taxi journey but nonetheless we were extremely grateful he paid for us so overlooked this.
After a five-minute trip up, up and up and around winding streets we reached our hostel but poor Paula received a nasty exhaust burn on her leg in the process, so be careful if you intend on doing the same!
After settling into our room we went to the balcony area to take in the most amazing view above Rio and the nearby famous Ipanema beach, we just stood motionless as we savoured every single moment mostly in disbelief that we were finally here. The next issue we faced was the lack of food and the fact we were extremely hungry and without money, this meant trouble. Again fortunately there was a pizza restaurant beside us and after explaining our story they agreed to feed us and we would pay as soon as we found an ATM. This generosity sums up the spirit and nature of the favela dwellers and you would find it difficult to find the same in the more “upmarket areas” and “fancier establishments”. After a satisfying meal we headed back to or room and finally went to sleep bout 3am making our planned sunrise rising more difficult.
At 6am we awoke after some effort and made it the ten steps outside to view the sunrise over Rio. The morning was quite misty and as we were tired we headed straight back to bed missing the sunrise, we’ll see it tomorrow!!!! Later that day we made our way down through the favela by taking the stairs, we weaved through narrow streets passing homes as people went about their business, it was hard not to be on guard as we stuck out like a sore thumb but we were not pestered or told to leave. After reaching the bottom we walked further towards the beach areas and immediately witnessed the difference between rich and poor when we walked into the Sheraton hotel to use their ATM, it does unsettle me to see overpaid guests being over-demanding to lowly paid workers but that’s the world we live in I guess. After reaching Ipanema beach area we could not help but people watch, some of the most beautiful people you will see seem to magnetise here.
Women and men toned to within an inch of their lives jogging along the promenade or strutting along the beach wearing extremely tight and short bathing suits, it’s amusing to watch and it’s obviously a serious lifestyle for people here. Also along the beach are many traders selling drinks such as coconut juice complete with shells and many traders selling handmade jewellery and beach blankets.
Brazil Rio de Janeiro Statues & Soccer
After all the entertainment we headed onto the streets of Leblon & Ipanema desperately seeking an ATM and some food, after several unsuccessful attempts at Brazilian banks we finally found a machine that accepted our card, the relief was so great Paula cried as she was about to collapse with hunger!! We went to the first place we found, good ol Bob’s Burgers, the fast food place we first dined in at Sao Paulo bus station. After devouring the food we headed for a drink as I needed to see the end of the Manchester United Chelsea game, after a satisfying ending we left and walked through a nearby market outside General Osorió station. Here people enjoyed the Sunday sun as they browsed through the endless market stalls.
After leaving the market empty-handed we headed back towards the promenade and enjoyed a corn and coconut juice before making the long trek back to our hostel before nightfall. We took our motorcycle transport back up the hill and even though the riders tried to charge ten Reals each or $4 Dollars, we stuck to our guns and only paid 2.50 Reals, or 1 Dollar, which is the standard charge. As usual they see a chance to overcharge foreigners, which really pisses one off, but after standing our ground they backed off. As the supermarket was closed we ate dinner in a tapioca restaurant beside us, I had never previously eaten this kind of food but greatly enjoyed my meat filled tapioca whilst Paula enjoyed hers with chocolate, we had a good chat with the locals all curious to know where we had come from, but extremely friendly and pleasant to converse with. We relaxed that night in our hostel as the rain fell busily planning our Rio itinerary for the next few days.
The next day started quite late due to a late night, and slow-moving morning, it was afternoon before we made our way down the many calf burning favela steps. Another nice sunny day in Rio as we headed towards the Leblon area for lunch. We had read about a buffet restaurant which was highly rated and recommended and was evident by the large crowd inside, we ate for around $30 Dollars for two and headed off towards Copacabana beach. The walk to Copacabana is quite a distance from Leblon beach but we were in no rush so stopped for another coconut juice on the way, we passed by the many street vendors with Paula buying a nice pink Panama hat for $8 Dollars, lets hope this time there is no repeat of the Cuban Panama hat purchase which was left on a bus in Mexico!! We finally reached Copacabana beach which we had seen many times on pictures and TV, we both agreed that Ipanema is much more beautiful and peaceful, with Copacabana being an expensive tourist trap.
We took some pictures and enjoyed yet another coconut juice along the beach front before making the long trek back to Vidigal passing kids playing football and adults playing volleyball on the beaches. We were enjoying the city so much we decided to extend our stay for another 3 nights making our total stay eight days. We found another reasonably priced hostel close to Vidigal, without the high ascent but still with breathtaking ocean view so pre-booked for the weekend. We then had to take the motorcycle up the hill but this time the riders refused to budge on their over inflated tourist price so we were directed to the nearby Volkswagen kombi vans. For 2.5 Reals we could be taken to our hostel by van, a trip we were previously unaware of, but at least now we did not have to worry about exhaust burn!
We again ate at the tapioca restaurant from the night before and afterwards watched some TV in our hostel before we would finally hit the beach the next day, but no chance am I wearing speedos!!! The next day we headed to the beach complete with my speedos!!, only kidding, we made the long journey by foot down from the favela and straight to Leblon beach, the beach nearest to us. Leblon is busy but much quieter than its neighbour Ipanema beach. The weather was typically glorious and the sand painfully hot but beautifully clean. We set down our blankets and done some roasting, occasionally heading into the choppy Atlantic waters with strong waves crashing in.
After a couple of hours we failed to notice the tide coming in so before we knew it we were submerged in water and only just saved some of our clothes. Unfortunately our blanket, some clothes and Paula’s journal were soaked through and covered in sand. We moved our belongings further back from the water and laid our wet belongings out to dry. Everything was going fine before yet again another wave came crashing in and drenched all our stuff. This time there would be no time to dry anything so we walked to a local restaurant and back to our hostel in our wet clothes. Served us right for being careless I guess! That night we relaxed in our room hungry as we never got a chance to visit an ATM and we were left penniless for the night.
The next day started late as usual so we had some lunch and again made it to Leblon beach about 2pm. The beach was busier than the previous day with many more food and drink sellers combing the beach. It’s hard not to feel for these guys trudging up and down the beach hauling heavy bags in the hot sun, but they do know how to charge for the privilege! After buying two cups of lemonade for $4 Dollars we were satisfied and spent the next few hours sunbathing and messing about in the surf. This time no dramas with incoming tides so we left the beach dry and wiser this time. We headed towards Ipanema and enjoyed an expensive Japanese meal before walking along the promenade back to Vidigal. That evening we went to our favourite tapioca restaurant for one last time as we would be checking out of the favela in the morning and to another hostel at the bottom of the hill, some 500 metres from the favelas edge. We will miss the awe-inspiring views but not the leg burning descents and 2.50 Reals ascent fee each day.
The next morning we left the favela, as stated sad that we would be leaving the spectacular location, but happy we would not need to descend all those stairs and steep hill each day. We checked into to our new hostel some few hundred metres from the edge of the favela and again it came with fantastic ocean view, hence its name “The Ocean Inn”. We settled into our new room before heading to nearby Leblon beach, not much you can write about a day at the beach, sun, sand and sea so again another relaxing day. Next day Friday, we decided to leave the beach behind for a day and go visit the Estádio Mário Filho, more commonly known as the Maracanã. The Maracanã is a must visit stadium for any football fan and having visited many stadiums around the world, I eagerly anticipated this particular visit. We started the day in Leblon by catching the bus for Reals 3.50, for this price you would be taken to General Osorió station, Ipanema, and given a single trip on the subway system. Maracanã has its very own stop about 16 stops away and the efficient underground service had us at the stadium in about 30 minutes or so. Upon exiting the station, the magnificent Maracanã stadium stood in front of us, no huge crowds but you could still feel a special atmosphere in the air, especially so soon after this summers world cup finals (2014).
We purchased the guided tour for 40 Reals ($16 Dollars), there was a non-guided tour available for 30 Reals ($12 Dollars) but we opted for the more detailed guided tour. We entered the arena where there were exhibits showcasing the Brazilian greats such as Garrincha, Zico and of course Pelé. There was even recognition of Pope John Paul II visits and the Queen and King of England who were there to witness Pelé’s 900th career goal. After being shown around the VIP area and hospitality area we were taken into the dressing rooms where jerseys hung belonging to this years World Cup’s most impressive players. From here we were taken through the tunnel and pitch side where our guide pointed out the features of the stadium including new roof and water recycling system. After an hour the tour concluded in the press room before you could have a try at scoring some penalties on a computer simulator. Paula took the bragging rights by scoring more than me but it was harder than it looked!! We left the stadium and decided to explore some of downtown Rio which was on our way back.
Brazil Rio de Janeiro End of the Line
After a few stops on the subway we exited at the Centro area, immediately you could sense a change from the more upmarket and tourist friendly beaches area. Downtown is where the real Rio unfolds, people coming from work in the many office blocks, bustling markets and street traders. There was some nice buildings which we took some pictures of but overall there was no real reason to hang about so we headed back to Ipanema and Leblon. Back in Ipanema we done some food shopping as we decided to cook, eating out is quite expensive in the Ipanema and Leblon area as there are many upmarket restaurants and not suitable on a backpacker budget. We stocked up on a large basket of food costing 90 Reals or around $36 Dollars and walked the 25 minute or so walk back to our hostel. We sat around the TV and chatted to our fellow guests from Argentina, Poland and Brazil before tucking into our food. The next day was again spent at the beach as we decided to avoid Corcovado and the statue of Christ the Redeemer until after the weekend rush.
Another scorching hot day in Rio and blue skies as we sunbathed for the afternoon. The beach was much busier compared to the relative peace during the week, many more umbrellas were to be seen and space at a premium. After another few stress free hours we went back to our hostel for a much-needed shower and night in front of the laptop where I caught up on some Premier league football highlights. The next day, Sunday, would again be spent on the beach after watching Manchester United lose the Manchester derby after an idiotic sending off, the few hours there helped me forget all about it as we prepared to visit Corcovado and a world-famous Brazilian landmark the following day.
Again another beautiful morning in Rio as we caught the bus from Ipanema beach direct to Corcovado and the famous landmark, Christ the Redeemer. The bus fare cost 3.50 Reals (US$1.50) and after a 45 minute or so drive we reached Corcovado along with many other excited tourists. As we did not pre-purchase a ticket we queued for about 5 minutes and received our ticket for 1.20pm, as it was 12pm we had a bit of a wait so headed to a nearby burger bar. At 1.20pm we along with throngs of visitors hopped aboard the tram which took us up the steep ascent to Corcovado stopping along the way to allow the other tram to pass. After nearly 30 minutes we reached the last stop and made the rest of the trip to the summit on foot.
There was escalators available but we wanted some exercise, after passing many shops selling miniature statues and souvenirs the great statue of Christ the Redeemer became visible. It is quite impressive but not as big as you would think, yes it is large but compared to the Mother Russia statue in Kiev, quite small. Many tourists gathered to take pictures with a professional cameraman roping us in for the full photo package!! We did however receive some nice pictures for about $20 Dollars in total so we were quite happy. After taking some more pictures of the amazing view with the city, beaches and airport in clear view on this glorious day, we headed back down to catch the next tram. While we waited we purchased a beautiful painting created by a local artist, of a Rio favela, the statue and Maracanã stadium for $12 Dollars so quite a bargain. We then hopped aboard the tram complete with local Brazilian band who played some upbeat and typically Brazilian music. We then caught the next bus to Ipanema and before we knew it were on our way back to our hostel. Overall a great day and we were both extremely happy that we finally visited this famous Brazilian landmark after over a week in Rio.
The next day, our last in Rio, would be spent, surprisingly enough on the beach. One last day to enjoy the sea and lively ocean with its strong, powerful waves. After a relaxing day we went for food that evening before booking our trip to our next destination in Brazil of Foz do Iguaçu, We will miss Rio so much and it was extremely difficult to leave but we need to continue our adventure before we run out of cash!!! We don’t think this will be the last we see of Rio however, as its fantastic weather, great restaurants, friendly people and world-class beaches really touched our hearts and made quite an impression, the fact that our five night stay turned into an eleven night stay speaks volumes. We would gladly give up this Continent chase to stay for good but who knows what the future will bring! Rio de Janeiro, we love you.
Brazil Rio de Janeiro