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Travel Adventure - Backpacking Latin America's Gringo Trail Backpacking Latin America starting in Cuba, then travelling from East to the west coast of Mexico before making our through Central and finishing in South America.

A week in Rio de Janeiro

BRAZIL | Saturday, 26 September 2015 | Views [312]


We arrived in Rio after an 18 hour bus ride from Florianopolis to rain.. have I arrived in London?We were meeting my cousin Loz and her husband Marcio, who is from Rio, at Marcio's parents place in a part of Rio called Barra. We took the bus and a taxi and the elevator up to the top floor of their gated, Sky rise apartment. Both Loz and Marcios mum, Sonia welcomed us with open arms. It was exciting to see a familiar face and Sonia gave us towels, so we could shower and even made a brekky spread for us. A very nice welcome coming off an overnight bus, it felt great. We chatted and caught up on our travels and life back home and met Loz and Marcio's new baby, Sophia, who was born the day after we left. She is so cute with the most chubby cheeks and is a very good, sweet, placid baby. Marcio came home about midday with his kids, then took us to his apartment in Leblon where they offered us to stay for the night and then we're taking us to view Marcio's friend named Ricardo, apartment the next day. He was going to give us a good rate if we liked it and wanted to stay their for our time in Rio. Marcio's apartment was nice and very spacious in a nice part of Rio. Matt and I even got to sleep in their super king bed which was huge and so comfy! We just went out and bought a bottle of wine and take away pizza, ate in and chatted all night catching up on stories. 
The next morning Loz was awake early with Sophia and had bought us these breaded cheese balls for breakfast (I've forgotten what they're called). We then walked to Marcio's friend's apartment in Ipanema to check it out. When he opened the door we realised it was not Ricardo but my sister and her boyfriend were standing waiting inside to surprise us!! Matt was gobsmacked. I heard Bree's voice and her say 'surprise!' before I saw them so was less shocked. I also had an inclining a couple of weeks ago as Bree had messaged me a couple of times asking when we'd be in Buenos Aires and didn't really know why she cared about that and just thought it made sense with Steve as he said he wasn't going to Europe anymore and we'd mentioned to him a couple of times to come meet us over here. Also they would be easily able to organise something with Loz and Marcio being here. Anyway I still wasn't thinking they'd be in Rio and literally thought we were meeting Marcio's mate Ricardo. We gave some excited hugs then went out to get some breakfast and stopped at a pub looking place that was doing a buffet. We were used to this style of eating from all the hostels we'd been staying at and was fairly cheap and lots to choose from. We chatted and caught up on stories from home and our trip. It was good to be with everyone. We must have gone back to our apartment and Marcio soon met us there. He then took us to a bar nearby and everyone tried Chopp - a Brazilian beer (I had a caprinha with cassacha.. Not sure how to spell??  A Brazilian alcohol they put in the Brazilian cocktail instead of the typical vodka one they serve in Australia.. It was very strong and had a more smokey flavour - like the Mezcal in Mexico). He also ordered a few sharing Brazilian dishes for us to try. It was great we also had someone with us that could speak Portugese! Finally getting by with our Spanish, it was like we had to start all over agin with Portugese. We thought it would be similar and although there are similar words it's completely different and the pronunciation is different again. Although we can't string a sentence together to have a conversation, we realised how many Spanish words we'd picked up to get by.
Loz and Marcio went back to Marcio's parents apartment where they are staying and Bree, Steve, Matt and I went to the grocery store to buy breakfast foods for the week and some nibblies and wine to have at home and just stay in for the night. It was good catching up with them. 
Today we had a bit of a sleep in and ate our yoghurt and granola for breakfast. We hadn't really checked out our surroundings yet or even seen the beach! Today's weather was clearing, maybe still a little cloudy but definitely better than the last two days of rain. So we walked along the promenade of Ipanema Beach, a one minute walk from the apartment Bree and Steve rented, it was in a really good spot! And then along to the headland and around to Copacabana beach. Rio has some very lively beaches! Skyrise apartments and hotels line the beachfront. and look like Australian beaches with long stretches of yellow sand and there was even a bit of surf. But the people are a lot more eccentric! There is a bike lane next to the promenade for bike riders, skateboarders and rollerbladers. Women are in bikinis and joggers walking along the promenade or wearing weird and colourful clothes, tight and skimpy and a full face of makeup while exercising. Guys are playing volleyball and soccer on the nets permanently set up and people are selling sarongs, jewellery and handicrafts. We had lunch at a shitty Italian place. There wasn't much vego options so I got a bowl of fried cheese balls and a side of veggies and matts tuna was just tinned tuna (not even drained) on a plate with potato salad. 
At 2pm we booked a tour of the favelas. A mini van came and picked us up with 5 other people on our tour and a very informative, knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide. In the van on the way to the favelas he spoke about Rio's history and how the Portugese invaded, how they brought over 2.2 million slaves in a certain amount of years, the division between working class and the rich and the crime and fighting between the police and the gangsters who used to rule the favelas. Apparently the area has been cleaned up a lot, things are better and the favelas have come along in the past 10 years and is now safe to go through them. Well these ones anyway, apparently there are still some around where there is still violence happening and it's dangerous to go there. It's amazing how one side of the road there are rich hotels and apartments and then right on the other side there are the slums and poor people living in favelas. First we stopped at a place were we could buy artwork or handicrafts off some of the people who live in the favelas. Then we continued up the hill to get a great view looking back over at all the favelas. This one we were at was the biggest favelas and all the houses were built one on top of the other and as many squeezed in beside the mountain. The guide was saying that a lot of the favela houses are illegal as they have just been built on top of another and they don't have a legal address. There are other methods they use to distribute the mail. Also that the majority of the working class now live in these favelas and they are usually labour workers so their houses are pretty good and mended and fixed by themselves as they are handy men. They used to all be brown houses but some are now being painted and the favelas look quite colourful. There are schools, hospitals etc all now being places inside the favelas. Proof how much development and change has been going on in the last 10 years. We then went further down and could have a walk around. We could see the power lines were all tangled and most of the electricity here was being stolen. The area wasn't actually as dangerous or scary as I thought it would be. It also didn't seem 'that' poor. It actually looked more 'rich' than some of the places in Central America we had been. Although as our guide said it has developed a lot in the last 10 years so I'm sure it used to be much more dangerous. It was definitely a developing area which is fascinating considering just the road are rich people's houses! That contrast was surreal. Our guide then took us to a school which was actually funded by this tour company so it was good to know that our money was going back in to the community. We went in to one of the classrooms, which had colourful paintings/artworks all over the walls and there were a couple of kids playing outside. We all bought some traditional homemade chocolate balls (can't remember the name of them) which were yum! We then walked through some of the houses and you could really see how on top of each other they were all built. As you kept walking through it was so built up a lot of the favelas would see no sunlight and it seems very damp. The walkways were very narrow and the houses very small. We then ordered some caprinhas a apparently 'the best' in Rio! ... they were actually pretty good and then the shuttle took us back to our hostel. It was a very interesting tour! We walked along the promenade as the sun was setting and there were lots of people still about and on the beach so we sat and had some more caprinhas at a bar right in the beach. It was a beautiful rich sunset behind the mountains. A good day, seeing a bit more of what Rio is about and catching up with Bree and Steve over drinks. That night we had a nice dinner and all you can eat sushi at a Japanese restaurant. We got to try lots of different dishes and also ordered a bottle of sake and drank it out of square cups which was pretty funny sipping it up. 
Today the sun was shining, it was in its 30 degrees and we finally got some amazing Rio weather! Perfect for a beach day! We had breakfast at a nice cafe called Cafeina, rated highly on TripAdvisor then met Loz, Marcio and baby Sophia out the front at Ipanema beach, which is a bit nicer than Copacabana. Walking down the beach people come at you from all directions selling you an umbrella and beach chair to pay to sit on. When you do though they service you while you're sitting on the beach. They'll bring you drinks, beers or coconuts and you don't have to move a muscle! Mind you there a so many guys walking around selling things like drinks, globos (a weird chip thing that Loz and Brazilians live and got us to try but they are grose haha), ice creams, queijo on a stick and they fry it in a little pan thing, sarongs! Sunnies etc. they walk up and down the beach all day yelling out what they are selling... I don't know how they do it everyday in that heat and sun. It was so nice to have a beach day and be out in the sun again! The water was a little cool but refreshing and nice to go swimming again too! It's also a whole lot of fun just watching the people go past - 90% of males wearing the euro trunks (which is usually 10% in Oz) and 90% of females wearing g string, Brazilian cut skimpy bikinis (again in Oz the other way around). They have no shame and the body types come in all different sizes and ages, if they look good in a bikini/trunks or not. Majority of women wear makeup everywhere, including the beach. The rich wives are laying on their Louis Vuitton towels while their maids carry down their bags and look after their kids. It's crazy but so much fun! 
We then went to a place for lunch called Tropicana which Loz and Marcio recommended. Cheap and you choose what different salads etc you want and they dish it up for you. It was really good food! We then went back to our apartments, had a rest and then showered and got ready to go out for drinks. Another lovely sunset as we walked along the promenade to the bar. It was a really nice bar right on the beach front. The lay out actually reminded me of Northies but a lot nicer and it was table service with really good waiters! We sat at the front bit outside under cover. We all got cocktails to start with. I started with a caprinhas but it was so potent I had to get something else, lychee, ginger and mint I think it was. As we had a late lunch we just ordered small appetisers and nibbles to share and we're all delicious. We ordered bottles of wine and beers and had a great time catching up. Even baby Sophia joined us at the table and slept through the whole thing, she's a very good baby! I hope my baby is like that! :) I ordered a bottle of white as everyone else was drinking red and thought I'd just take home what I didn't finish... I finished the whole thing! It was a great night and Loz, Bree and I, especially were very drunk by the end of it. 
Well as you can imagine we woke up with very sore heads this morning. Loz came to the door and was feeling exactly the same. We decided to head back to Cafeina for breakfast. I just had a juice and at the end decided to try one of the Nutella cakes that were sitting in the display. Unfortunately it wasn't as good as it looked. We then went back to the beach, the swim was good to get rid of the hangover. We also went back to Tropicana for lunch coz it was so good yesterday and knew now how the ordering system worked. Loz and Marcio went back to the parents apartment and we just chilled back at our apartment for a bit. I was hoping to do something touristy like see Christ the Redeemer this afternoon coz felt like we hadn't done/seen much of Rio yet since we'd been here and usually Matt and I are on the go at seeing all we can but I don't think everyone was feeling up to it. We were up for just a casual dinner tonight since we weren't feeling the best. Steve's friend recommended a place called Peace & Love. We walked through a really lively street with nice restaurants and bars on it to get there but this restaurant we went to was pretty basic and the food was too. I think it was fairly cheap though. 
This morning Bree and Steve went hang gliding. Matt and I chilled for the morning then went back down the beach - the weather was being very good to us and it was super hot today. We were meeting Aly and Riley who we met white water rafting in Costa Rica messaged us to let us know that they were arriving in Rio and to meet up. They asked where we recommended to eat (we realised we actually hadn't been many places) so went back to Tropicana to meet them. It was good to catch up and hear their travel stories, especially of Venezuela and the Galapagos which looked incredible in their photos. We then went down and sat on the beach for a bit and Aly and Riley experienced Rio beach for the first time! I felt like I was charred from this morning so hired an umbrella to sit under the shade and the boys had beers. Their friend they were meeting in Rio made a spreadsheet itinery for them to follow and we both realised that a night out in Lapa was on the cards for both of us so we decided to meet up with them later on. We saw Bree and Steve back at the apartment after their hang gliding, they had a good time and their photos looked pretty cool. We decided to get cheese and crackers and nibblies again and make homemade caprinhas at the apartment before heading to Lapa. I was already feeling tipsy before we left. I realised that caprinhas are made from muddled limes with sugar, ice and casasha only! We took a cab to Lapa. On our way we saw Christ the Redeemer illuminated with a blue light. Coz its on top of a mountain and it was night time, it looked like it was just floating in mid air, pretty cool! We arrived in Lapa and the streets were packed!! I had never seen that many people poured out on to the streets, heading out on the town. I think people didn't necessarily go in the clubs and bars but just hung out on the street. It made for a really good vibe. We were meeting Aly and Riley at a bar but when we got in there we couldn't find them. We were a bit late from our loose meeting time. We sat and had a drunk and waited for them and got on to wifi to message them (the joys of being overseas and having no phone makes meeting people a bit harder!) they eventually came over, they had gone over the road to get some food. We then continued on to a popular bar where they have a live jazz type band playing. Everyone was dancing. We sat and had a few drinks and chatted before getting up and dancing ourselves. After many drinks later, our dance moves seemed to have improved! Again we were very drunk on our cab ride home but another fun night.
Oh my god! My hangover today was worse than the other day... I didn't get up till about 12pm and Bree and Steve had already gone out and got breakfast and come back. Matt and I just had our yoghurt and granola then we dragged ourselves to yep you guessed it the beach again haha. I actually felt like sitting in the apartment all day today in the aircon. It was a Saturday, another nice day and the beach was absolutely packed! I'd never seen anything like it and it wasn't even Summer yet! It was hard to find a spare spot on the sand and you could barely make your way past all the Brazilian bums! We found a spot closer to the water and I got an umbrella coz I didn't feel like being out in the hot sun. I laid there uncomfortable for about an hour before I had to go back to the apartment and lay in the aircon. It was hot, noisy, crowded and people kept on treading on me as they walked past. The hangover didn't make it any better! We did see someone almost get punched by another guy right in front of us as one of the guys selling stuff tried to pick pocket his phone. Steve and Matt saw the whole scenario unfold and apparently there was another fight/pick pocket as they were walking back to the apartment. They bought roast pork buns from a little bar/shop for lunch on their way home. I was starving so Matt came with me to get Burger King coz it was the easiest option and I wanted something greasy. The service was soo slow and I couldn't speak Portugese so didn't realise I had to tell them I wanted my dulce de leche sundae now as most people eat and then order their dessert, even though I ordered take away? A girl beside me thankfully helped me out with the language barrier. I really wasn't in the mood for the slow service though. Being a waitress, it bugs me when they stand around doing nothing :-/ 
We were getting picked up by Marcio at 4pm at his parents had invited us to a party they were having at their apartment for the kids birthdays when their dad goes back home. We witnessed Rio's crazy congested traffic as it took over an hour to get to say from Cronulla to Sutho and only half an hour on the way back. We went upstairs to where they have a pool on the rooftop so we could have a swim. It was fairly late now so I didn't go in but the boys did. We just chatted and looked over the amazing view you could see of Rio up here. A festival called Rock in Rio was on with an amazing line up of Rod Stewart, Elton John, Queen, Rhianna and loads more were playing at. Loz mentioned it to us ages ago before we had even bought our plane tickets about going to it if we were in Rio at the same. We didn't really think twice about it coz we just didn't think we'd be there at the same time. Just so happens we were! And you could hear the music playing and see the lights from the stadium it was playing at from the rooftop of their apartment! That was pretty cool. We also witnessed a glowing sunset over the mountains. What a way to spend the afternoon. We then went downstairs to the courtyard where they were throwing the 'crap' party. We joked about it coz the way they say crepe in the Portugese accent sounds like crap to us. Marcio's family were there and they had waiters serving alcohol and drinks and a cook making the crepes and we could select whatever toppings we liked. It was a great idea and the crepes were really good. They were small so you could try a selection. And they even had some sweet crepes of dulce de leche and we tried a traditional one with a tart guava type fruit which was like a jam with cream cheese. It was delicious! I felt a bit rude as it was a party for his kids but Marcio left to drop us back to our apartment when we were ready. I was ready for bed as soon as we got home coz I knew in the morning I wouldn't have this hangover anymore. No more excessive alcohol for the rest of the trip! 
It was our last day in Rio and we hadn't really done anything touristy. I felt like we hadn't seen Rio at all. I don't know what we did all week.. Went to the beach! Haha so we got up early to catch the first train up to Christ the Redeemer. Steve woke up and said Bree wasn't feeling well so they weren't going to come. Matt and I caught a cab to the bottom of the mountain where the train station was. As we were driving there was cloud covering the mountain where Christ is on top of and you couldn't see him... Uh oh! Just our luck we were buying tickets and the lady informed us that there was zero visibility... what were we to do? It was our last day. We could wait till later but it still might not clear. Was it worth going up now? We could try Sugar Loaf mountain instead but it was early morning when clouds are usually hanging about so would there be visibility there anyway? Maybe the early morning idea wasn't so good. Matt and I had a tense talk about what to do and decided we were here so let's just go up and we were early so there wouldn't be much of a crowd. We would at least see Christ right, just not the view? Anyway we had bought tickets so jumped on the train. It took us right up the mountain, which was a treat instead of having to hike up it like we usually do with most sins these days! The train  actually reminded me of the one you catch in the Blue Mountains, although I haven't been on that one since I was a kid. It was cloudy but you could see a glimpse of a view as we ascended.. Maybe we'll see a bit of a view at the top!? We kept ascending and past through thick cloud, it was a complete white out.. We won't be seeing any view :( when we got to the top we walked up the stairs and we saw the back of Christ with his arms wide open amongst the white  mist of the clouds. It was a little creepy but quite a sight, he was massive! We kept walking up and saw him front on. I was quite impressed by his sheer size and up close you can see the tiny Mosaic tiles he's made from. We took the classic Christ the Redeemer photos and then read some facts about the construction etc. on a screen which was interesting but jammed so couldn't read any more. Apparently there are things inside the statue like a heart which has the names of all the people who helped construct him! As there wasn't any view to look at, which I was a little disappointed about we caught the train back down. 
We then caught a cab to the Selaron Steps. This was really cool. A large outdoor staircase which was covered in coloured tiles designed by an artist. There was a tile for each country and it was fun to walk up and check out each tile and spot Australia! We took some cool photos here, much to Matt's delight. Maybe it a boy thing but he hates photos, taking them and being in them, where as I have to capture everything and I like a bit of amateur photography. We decided to walk back to Ipanema. Not sure if this was a good idea or not. It was a nice walk once we got off the road and along the beach but ended up taking over 2 hours! Along the way we saw a guy yelling at a tranny (a typical sight I think in Rio!), a cyclists at the start of a race and the road was blocked off so not sure if it was due to this? A rollerblading group. We walked along another beach and had a good view looking front on of Sugar Loaf. I really wanted to climb Sugar Loaf this afternoon to see a view since we didn't see one at Christ and Marcio's sister recommended a nice place below it on the hill to have sunset drinks. We rounded on to a bay and saw a good view of Christ who was now perfectly clear with no clouds surrounding it at all. We should have waited and gone to see him later. Oh well, everything is good in hindsight! We were getting pretty buggered now from all the walking and hungry aswell. We felt like a juice so we're looking at places to have one on the beach at Copacabana. Again it was a Sunday so there were loads of people about, a religious parade going down the street, cool sandcastles and street artists drawing pictures in chalk on the road. We bumped in to Bree and Steve who were going for a walk and they said the juice bar near us was good so we decided to keep walking till there. They were right. We got sandwiches and juices and they were really fresh. We met Bree and Steve back at the apartment and Bree was feeling better which was good as we booked a nice dinner for tonight at a place called ZaZa for our last night and to say thanks to Bree and Steve for letting us stay in their apartment for free. They let us know that they didn't want to come to Ilha Grande anymore which we were going to tomorrow and made sense they didn't want to for one night coz they would be too rushed before their flight home the next day. So Matt and I started to email companies on how we could get down there, leaving that a little late. I wanted to do Sugar Loaf this afternoon but everyone ended up falling asleep and when they woke up and we all got ready it would have been too late. We walked down the beach and caught the last of the sunset. A guy was playing guitar, a bit of Pink Floyd while we had some caprinhas at the bar on the beach. We then walked to the restaurant and had a nice last dinner in Rio together. Everyone's food was delicious. I ordered a beetroot tortellini with baked watercress, cream cheese and almonds. We also shared 3 desserts at the end which wasn't as good as the mains. It was a nice dinner to end our stay in Rio. So surreal Bree and Steve were there and joined us on part of our journey!  It was awesome to catch up with family, especially holidaying overseas together but it kind of brought reality even closer and seemed to hit home that we are not far off from finishing our trip and we will be home so soon! 

Tags: beach, brazil, christ the redeemer, copacabana, rio

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