Beaches, storms and tiny bikinis
17/01/10 - 23/01/10 Rio de Janeiro City, Brazil
I get to Rio in the afternoon and take a taxi to Ipanema Beach Hostel. I hadn't booked a bed so this was a risky strategy but luckily they have one bed left because someone didn't turn up. After settling in, I have a wander round Ipanema, see what the vibe is.
Planted between lush, forest-covered mountains and breathtaking beaches, Rio has many charms. It is a city of urban diversity, with beaches, mountains, skyscrapersand the favelas (slums) all woven into the landscape. The main bits I wanted to see were the two famous beaches: Copacabana and Ipanema, Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar), Christ the Redeemer (Christo Redenter) and fixtures permitting watch a match at the famous Maracana Stadium, where the 2014 World Cup final will most likely be staged.
On my first day I visit Ipanema and Leblon beaches and take some pictures of a nice sunset. Ipanema and Leblon are blessed with a magnificent beach and open-air cafes, bars and restaurants scattered along tree-lined streets. It's all very nice but I find it a bit dull.
Over the next four days we visit Sugarloaf Mountain (nice views), Christ the Redeemer (nice views) and watch Fluminense vs Bangu at the Maracana. The atmosphere at the match, despite only 20,000 attendance, is electric. Brazillians in general are mental about football (futball). In Rio every other bloke wears a football shirt (mostly Flamengo the Manchester Utd of Brazil). The Maracan Football Stadium is Brazil's temple of football. It can currently accomodate 100,000 people but in the past (such as during the World Cup and Pele's last match) it has squeezed in more that 200,000 crazy fans. 200,000 for one match is mental.
The match between Fluminense and Bangu is very one sided (3-0 to Fluminense) as Bangu are rubbish (the Spurs of Brazil...). But it's still a great experience watching a match at this famous old stadium with views of Christ the Redeemer in the background and 20,000 fans going mental, waving huge flags, incessantly beating drums and doing everything but watching the actual match. The football seemed to incidental to everyone having a good time and baiting the opposition fans.
The views from the peak of Sugarloaf Mountain are incredible. Rio is undoubtedly the most beautiful city in the world. Two cable cars take you to the summit. The first ascends 220m to Mono da Urza. When we get there I take too many photos, including ones of the little monkeys that live on these mountains. I'm not sure what species they are but they are cute and possibly quite tasty I don't know.
The second cable car goes up to Pao de Acucar. At the top, the city unfolds beneath you, with Corcovado mountain and Christo Redenter of to the west, and Copacabana beach to the south. The views from here are even better and there's a bar where you can sit and drink cairprinha while watching the sun go down. Unfortunately, when we get there there is a big storm. It's bad enough for them to stop running the cable car so we're stranded there until 11. But it's fun watching the storm from such a height.
The best views though, are afforded atop the Corcovado ('hunchback'). Christ the Redeemer gazes out over Rio, a placid expression on his well-crafted face. The mountain rises straight up from the city to 710m, and at night, the brightly lit, 38m high statue is visible from nearly every part of the city - all 1145 tons of the open-armed redeemer. The first time we get to the top of Corcovado all the views are obscured by rainclouds and it soon starts pissing down and surprise, surprise there's another bloody storm. There has now been a storm every single day I have been in Brazil except one day. And these trpoical rainstorms always last a good few hours. The clouds obscure everything including the statue of Christ and soon we have to leave having seen not much. Maybe it's a sign from God! I decide to go again the day after to get those all important pictures of the statue and the amazing views. But this puts our schedule (yes we do have one!) a little out of whack and means there will be a lot more rushing around in the next few days.
The next morning the weather is a lot better and the panaramic views of Rio from the top of Corcovado is spectacular. We spend the rest of the day visitng Copacabana, which, to behonest, is a bit shit compared to Ipanema and Leblon and many of the beaches around Rio. But still, those string bikinis whoever invented those give that man a medal.
Ipanema and Copacabana
The Maracana from afar
Christ the Redeemer is a lot smaller than it looks in pictures..
Rest of Rio