Marc & Nora ROUND THE WORLD 2005/2006 - Join us!

South America-Travelogue  |  Travel time: September 2005 - July 2006  |  by marc and nora L.

BRAZIL: Rio

Rio de Janeiro

Arrival & Sugar Loaf Mountain

Checked into the hostel (Rio Hostel)in the bohemian hillside district of Santa Teresa and without wasting anytime we were on our way to Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar) for sunset. Public transport here in Rio is an experience in itself. Once you manage to squeeze through the extremely narrow turnstyle which is at the entrance to every public bus (fun with 70L camping rucksacks) you sit back and hold on for this is the fasted bus journey you will ever take. These guys are famed for their crazy over the top full speed driving through the city of Rio. It is truly mad! But great fun!

Making ourselves understood in Brazil:

Nobody of us speaks Portuguese and we kind of assumed that we would get around with Spanish - what a misconception!
Finding the right bus and getting off at the right stop was a real difficulty for us at the beginning. but we soon found out that once we got on the bus and asked the driver whether he is going to the place we wanted to go we could relax in the bus - either the driver or the conductor would always shout to us or pass the message on to other passengers who would tell us when to get off...even without asking for it! how nice!

Anyway we arrived at the cable car terminal at the base of Sugar Loaf mountain and paid our 35 reals for the return trip. The cable car ride is in 2 stages. The first takes you up to the summit of Morro da Urca (215m) the second takes you to the summit of Pão de Açúcar (394m). The view is, as promised by the guide books, fantastic! You have a 360degree view of the city below you...copacabana, Down town Rio, the harbour and of course the statue of Christ. It was a bit cloudy when we were up there but then as the sun started to set the clouds dispersed and we were granted with a beautiful display of red and orange on the horizon. Perfect place to sit back and enjoy a cold beer.

View up to the Sugar Loaf

View up to the Sugar Loaf

View from Sugar Loaf

View from Sugar Loaf

Sunset from Sugar Loaf

Sunset from Sugar Loaf

Fear & Paranoia in Rio

The thing is with Rio is that its reputation for crime and robbery overwhelms you long before you can even think about relaxing and enjoying this beautiful city. For the first days we were in a constant state of paranoia as we wandered through the city. Some people you speak to, the guide books, the press all plant this negative seed of fear in your head and it takes a while before you can begin to dismiss it as over exageration. Of course you have to be careful and of course there is crime and that tourists are easy pickings but is this not the same world over in any big city which suffers to a certain extent from localised poverty...London, Paris? Anyway it was a couple of days before we would even dare to let the people in the street know that we were lost by opening up a street map or guide book in full view of everyone. Its clear that a tourist looks like a tourist and everyone can see it but so long as you don´t have a camera on full display everywhere you go, carry lots of cash with you, have your wallet clearly sat in your back pocket and stray into the clearly dodgy areas (favelas of which there are many neighbouring seemingly ´safe´ neighbourhoods) then you should be ok. Just minimise the risk, thats all you can do!

Santa Teresa

The next day we wandered up the hill into Santa Teresa is a nice barrio of cobbled streets with fantastic views over the city. It has a generally run-down appearance but its run-down in a nice way full of crumbling early 19th century mansions and walled gardens. The only tram (bonde) in Rio runs from Centro up into the Santa Teresa hillside and takes you across the mid 18th century Arcos de Lapa (Roman style Aquaduct). Unfortunately they were pulling up some of the tracks (we know because the noise woke us every morning at 7am)and the workers were striking whilst we were there so we didn´t get to travel on it ourselves but did catch a glimpse of it once or twice as it trundled by the hostel. After lunch in a nice little santa teresa cafe we walked down through the barrio of Lapa and into the city centre.

On the way down we went via a stairway which which has been transformed into a work of art by the Chilean Artist ´Selaron´. This guy has been here for over 20 years and is transforming a rather rundown corner of Lapa with his paintings and ceramic mosaics using tiles from every corner of the world. All of his paintings feature a, sometimes partially limbed, pregnant women and when asked why this was so he just replied in heavily accented english: "Personal Problem!" and that was that....we bought a picture nevertheless.

Lapa and the Aquaduct

Lapa and the Aquaduct

Santa Theresa Graffiti

Santa Theresa Graffiti

The Artist Selaron on his steps

The Artist Selaron on his steps

Selaron´s Work

Selaron´s Work

Santa Theresa´s buildings

Santa Theresa´s buildings

Santa Theresa´s streets

Santa Theresa´s streets

View from Santa Theresa

View from Santa Theresa

Downtown Rio

Compared to Buenos Aires, downtown Rio is not a beautiful city. Don´t get us wrong it does have some fabulous archtecture and it does lend itself to wandering but it just doesn´t have that ´feel´to it which Buenos Aires seems to ooze. Maybe that is a little unfair and we were perhaps still viewing it through a thin haze of ´tourist fear´ (it was afterall only our 2nd day). The Praca XV de Novembro is a nice square which I guess you could call the real centre of town. This square is home to one of Rios oldest markets. Within a few minutes of this square (along Rua I de Marco in particular) you will find a some great examples of early 18th century churches and other palacial buildings from colonial times. Another concentration of impressive structures can be found on Praca Floriano which is home to the Teatro Municipal, the Museu Nacional das Belas Artes and the Biblioteca National.

Alley way in downtown rio

Alley way in downtown rio

Teatro Municipal

Teatro Municipal

Downtown Rio

Downtown Rio

Copacabana - "Her name was Nora, She was a show girl!"

We spent the morning trying to find Igreja e Mosteiro de Sao Bento (Benadictine Monk Monastry founded in 1633) only to find out that it was closed for restoration...typical! Anyway after having old Bazza Manilloe´s irritating hit "Lola she was a show girl" bouncing around in our heads for 2 days we headed down to Copacabana beach for a spot of thong watching. Well I guess the fact that the weather wasn´t that great and that it wasn´t the weekend meant that the only bodies on display were those of middle aged european and american tourists. Suprisingly we still had an apetite after viewing this shock image of Rio`s most iconic beach and headed to an all you can eat brazilian style buffet which included as much as you can eat churrascaria (specialised bbq´d meats which is brought to your table on big metal spits).....now literally bursting out of our ´dental floss´ thongs we caught a roller coaster of a bus ride back to the hostel to digest.

Monastry Door - Thats as far as we got (English Iron work)

Monastry Door - Thats as far as we got (English Iron work)

An empty Copacabana

An empty Copacabana

Night Life in Lapa

Being Friday night we decided to head out and experience the Rio nightlife in Lapa with a Slovenian couple who had just checked into the hostel. As with all Latin countries there is no need to head out until the hour of midnight has come and gone. The nightlife is Lapa is just one big street party for the locals and the odd tourist. The place just comes alive at night and its clear that the whole barrio leaves the house and comes to party in the street. In every strret you can find live samba music, dozens of street vendors wandering around selling evertything from cigarettes to chewing gum, guys with trays full of whisky or tequila shots, little bars set up at the side of the street selling fantastically strong Caipirinhas for $1 each and food stalls selling everything from pasta to bbq´s meats. Of course we attracted the drug crazed whiskey seller who wanted to break a bottle over our heads because we didn´t want to buy anything but with this place crawling with police he soon left us alone and moved onto his next victim. As in Buenos Aires the police presence in Rio is incredible. Day or night there is hardly a street corner that doesn´t have a cop in body armour standing on it. After a great night we decided to head home to sleep off the effects of the caipirinhas in preparation for our hang gliding the next morning. It wasn´t until the next morning that Ange (the Slovenian guy) realised that his wallet had been stolen....luckily it was empty). Our camera was left back int he hostel that night so sorry no photos.

Hang Gliding over Rio

The morning was spent phoning around all of the paragliding/hang gliding companies that operate in Rio trying to find us the best deal. In the end we decided to go with "Just Fly" (www.justfly.com.br). Paulo, the owner, is really professional and puts you at ease if you have any fears regarding the safety plus he gives you 10% discount if you book with him directly over ther phone (i.e. not through a hostel).

Traveler Tip: If you are there and decide to do it then whatever you do don´t use the company called "Superfly" because these guys are simply "superarrogant" and if you even mention that you have considered another company then they give you the "Do you know who I am" routine....plus their claim to fame is that Trevor Nelson (BBC Radio 1 DJ) once flew with them...if thats not enough reason to use another company then I don´t know what is!
Well "Just Fly" gave us the most amazing 35 minute flight from the top of the 520m Pedra Bonita in the Tijuca National Park. "3-2-1 GOOOOOOO!" Running straight off the side of a mountain is an odd but exhilarating feeling but one which must be tried at least one time in your life. Just don´t forget the hanglider or paraglider .....After flying amongst the birds with views over rain forests, the Atlantic ocean, Rio´s famous beaches, Rocinha (Brazil´s largest Favela) and most amazing hillside mansions we landed on São Conrado "Pepino" Beach. What a trip!!!

Hang Gliding Take-Off Platform

Hang Gliding Take-Off Platform

WE¨RE GOING TO DIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

WE¨RE GOING TO DIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Marc in the air

Marc in the air

Thats a long way down!

Thats a long way down!

Marc is flying like a bird
(using his long wings for better aerodynamics)

Marc is flying like a bird
(using his long wings for better aerodynamics)

(Nora writes) The time in the air is dependent on the winds and your body posture. The conditions on the day we went gliding were perfect. Paulo told us that it will be between 20-25 min (normal time is 15-25min)but we managed to stay in the air for 34 minutes which is really extraordinary!

After approximately 8 minutes in the air I could hear Paulo's mobile phone ringing - very odd so high in the sky. All i thought was: "You are not going to answer are you" but he already let go the bar of the hang glider with one hand and reached for his pocket...I couldnt believe it.
Then he answered the phone saying: "Please call later, I cant talk right now, I am flying...No, I am actually in the air NOW, please call later!" and then he hung up...

...what a crazy guy! but i guess with more than 15.000 jumps experience he must know what he is doing...

Nora and the expert Paulo (owner of justfly)

Nora and the expert Paulo (owner of justfly)

Ipanema Beach

Straight after hang gliding we headed down to Ipanema beach to see the rich and beautiful strutting their stuff on the famous strip of sand. This was more like the Rio beach that we had expected. Luckily we hadn´t taken our swimming gear so we were saved the shame of exposing our far from perfect bodies whilst being surrounded by a beach full of perfectly tanned and toned bodies in their thongs and speedos. They just look like they ´belong´at the beach! The surf at Ipanema was also a sight in itself with waves 3m high crashing directly on to the beach - people were simply pounded as they tried to wade into the ocean. Of course the beaches were full of beach volley ball courts...it just wouldn´t be Brazil without them would it? As sunset approached we raced (there is no other way if you chose to travel by bus) to Botafogo beach to catch a glimpse of Sugar Loaf itself during sunset. Beautiful!

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach

Volley Ball on Ipanema Beach

Volley Ball on Ipanema Beach

The big surf at Ipanema - No Swimming allowed!

The big surf at Ipanema - No Swimming allowed!

Rio´s Icon - Christ the Redeemer

We had early start to avoid the crowds followed by a bus ride to the tourist train station in Corcavado which takes you all the way up to the top of Corcavado Hill (Hunchback Hill). The tourist crowds are of course unavoidable so this place is busy all day, every day! The 30m tall, 1000 metric ton image of Christ is unquestionably the iconic image of Rio and to see it in reality is a little sureal but of course seriously impressive! Aside from the statue itself the vantage point from the top of this hill is without a doubt the best in Rio. You can see for miles around. After filling our camera memory cards with pictures of the big fella we made our way back down on the train and caught a bus back to the city centre. With just hours to spare before our bus back to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina we ate lunch in the sunshine in Praca Floriano and enjoyed our final views of Rio.

The Big fella - JESUS CHRIST!

The Big fella - JESUS CHRIST!

Half of the Big Fella

Half of the Big Fella

Kissing Christ...

Kissing Christ...

View from Christ

View from Christ

© marc and nora L., 2005
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The trip
 
Description:
Hello - 5 more days!!! On the 12th of September we are setting off! Our plan is to travel round the world for a period of 10 months. 1st stop: Thailand (1 month) and cambodia 2nd stop: Via Singapore (overland) to Australia where we plan to stay for approximately 4-5 months. 3rd stop: New Zealand (2 months) (north and south island) 4th stop: South America (approx. 3 months) (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and if time and money allows we might visit costa rica)
Details:
Start of journey: Sep 12, 2005
Duration: 11 months
End of journey: Jul 31, 2006
Travelled countries: world-wide
United Kingdom
Thailand
Malaysia
Cambodia
Singapore
Australia
Australia & Pacific
New Zealand
South America
Chile
Argentina
Bolivia
Peru
Ecuador
Canada
The Author
 
marc and nora L. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 14 years.
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