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Tudo bem en Rio de Janeiro (Part 2)

BRAZIL | Saturday, 22 November 2008 | Views [1691]

Installed in new room and now with the prospect of decent sleep it was time to get out there and see a bit of the town. Normally we would be the last to go on one of these “city tours” that are organised by the hostel but because we didn't know our way around at all yet and it was easy we went for it.

First up was Corcovado, the hill upon which Christ the Redeemer sits, overlooking most of Rio. He represents the peace that exists between all religions in Brazil, which is a little ironic I think, given the image chosen to represent this concept is clearly overtly Christian. It is however incredibly impressive, both the statue itself, which like the Statue of Liberty was made in France and transported over in boxes and the view which is almost 360 degrees around Rio, taking in Ipanema and Copacobana beaches, the laguna, the centre and the Maracanã. Breathtaking (although as we're getting used to by now, filled with everyone trying to get the same photo, in this case the good old Christ has his arms out, we have our arms out number. Happy to say we now both have photos like this due to having turned into pushy annoying tourists ourselves)

Back down the windy road, through the favela (Brazilian shanty town) and into the city, next stop the Maracanã, one of the largest sports stadiums in the world with a (debated) capacity of 200,000 and home to the world cup final in (I think) 1950. Bit of a whistlestop as we only stopped to look at the Brazilian greats halll of fame, complete with Pele's footsteps and then on to the metropolitan cathedral.

This is a modern (as in 70s modern) building built in the shape of a cone, apparantly as a nod to Aztec pyramids. It has a capacity of 25,000 and has 4 enormous 60m stained glass windows leading up all the way to the roof where there is a white stained glass cross. Quite an impressive building, but allegedly still under construction after being dedicated over 30 years ago.

Onwards to the Sambadromo, a kind of permanent set of observation platforms (much as you might see on O'Connell St. at a Saint Patrick's day parade) on a street that seems to be purpose built for Carnaval, Rio's famous 2 week long party. Here the samba schools strutt their stuff and people pay tens of thousands of reals for the pleasure of seeing them do it here. On a November day though, there's not much getting away from the fact that its a lot of concrete. A quick jump into the “museum” of carnaval, which is a simple hoax to entice punters into trying on a costume, which you are told you can do, and then asked for money once you have it on. Simple but effective,

Our last stop of the day was to be the Sugar Loaf, where most of the very characteristic photos of Rio are taken. We took a cable car to a lower hill, Urca, and then another up to the top of the Sugar Loaf itself where we were afforded fabulous views of the entire city, the beaches we had been on, the Maracanã and cathedral and all the way back up to Christ. Incredible views and we were blessed with the weather – some other people had done the tour a few days before and had not being able to see Christ despite being at his pedestal and had no views at all from the sugar loaf. Good notch up another mode of transport with a cable car despite the fact that Claire nearly committed Hari-Kari on the way up due to her vertigo but you know about that from Maccu Picchu! I think that's 19 MOTS!

Having now gotten a good orientation of the city and a decent feel for it, even the Portuguese was improving, and seeing as it was Friday night, we thought it would be a good idea to head out. When we got back to the hostel after the tour we saw a familiar sight on the blackboard... “All you can eat, all you can drink bbq tonight – don't miss it!! $R50 starts at 9” Well, seeing as Claire and I were the only people who did the deal last time we had clearly made them change their approach and pricing structure. This one started a whole hour later and cost 10 Reals more! Plus they changed Patrick for Arthur, A brazilian barman who was much sharper and stingy with the Cachaca (undistilled sugar cane rum used with sugar and lime to create Caiprihinas, the national drink). No matter, we still got our value for money.

While we had been on the tour a group of about 15 missionaries checked into the hostel. They seemed like nice enough characters, but as you might expect somehow managed to turn any conversation on any topic you like into a meaningful heart to heart about how important Jesus is to their daily lives. Within about 10 minutes. Mitch fancied one of them and spent a loong time talking about the role Jesus plays in his life but it didn´t persuade her to commit any sins. Thank God.

My favourite part of the evening was when they went out en-masse and gave bananas and other godly food to the sleepy homeless dudes outside, who, upon smelling the barbeque has started to beg for meat through the gate. They graciously accepted the nice healthy food, politely waited for the god squad to move on and then went staright back to the gate looking for a bit of beef. The bananas didn´t even get a look-in!

At about midnight about 20 of us including most of the staff at the hostel headed on over to Lapa, an area in the centre renowned for its nightlife. It's a very distinctive place with about 6 streets coverging on a plaza nestling under a double aqueduct, all lit up at night. Underneath the aqueduct thousands of people mill around selling beers, salgados (like mini pies) and I'm sure anything else there is a market for. Its also known as a pretty dodgy place, so nothing was bought with us except for cash and a robber's wallet. (Top Tip: keep a cheap wallet containing a few small denomination notes in your pocket at all times when travelling, so you can hand it over quickly if you're asked for it, by a mugger). No photos I'm afraid. We were all having the craic dancing in the street etc when I felt something wrong. A hand in my back pocket and it didn't seem affectionate – it was gently nudging my robber's wallet out . I wheeled around quickly and grabbed the arm the hand in my pocket belonged to. The owner of the arm, a kid who can't have been older than about 16 clearly wasn't expecting this level of response (maybe my bottom is particularly sensitive). I held tight onto his arm and made sure he didn't get anything – no, wallet was still there – while I was doing this he squirmed out of his jumper and escaped, leaving me with his jumper sitting limply in my hand. It seemed as though the second attempted robbery I had been subjected to had not only been unsuccessful (again) but had provided me with the booty of a street kids dirty rip off Nike hoody.

Nothing left to do but find a suitable charitable recipient of the newly acquired garment we decided to call it a night and got more than one taxi home.

Tags: attempted robbery, cable car, cathedral, jesus, missionary, stadium, sugar loaf

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