Had a bit of a stress on Friday when we tried to charge the camera and discovered that it hadn´t charged. Found a photo shop were a very friendly guy worked out that it was our charger that had died and that the battery was fine, thankgod as they are expensive! Bought a new charger but unfortunately couldn´t charge it in time for the day long tour we were going on - gutted!! Had to make do with our trusty disposable camera - not good!! Thankfully the girls on the tour took lots of piccies for us so no harm done!
A very cool, new VW campervan took us to our first stop Christo Redentor (Christo Redeemer), see picture, which sits atop the 710m-high peak known as Corcovado (hunchback). Recently chosen as one of the seven wonders of the world, located in the middle of the Tijuca Forest, the statue stands 38m high and is visible from nearly every part of the city. The sky was clear and the sun was shining so the view from the top was fantastic. To escape the crowds I took a moment in the little chapel inside the statue which was lovely and peaceful.
From here we drove through Santa Teresa, a bohemian neighbourhood on the mountain, with cobbled streets, big old mansions and lots of charm. Saw the bonde (tram) go past which travels up to Santa Teresa from the Centro and is the last of the historic streetcars - free if you hang on and don´t sit down! The tram travels 64m-high, along narrow tracks over the Arcos do Lapa, Lapa´s landmark aqueduct which used to carry water from the forest to the city. We passed the white, arched aqueduct to get to Lapa, our next stop, home to the famous Carioca (natives of Rio). Here we visited Escadaria Selaron (Selaron Staircase) which became a work of art when Chilean-born artist Selaron decided to cover the 215 steps with colourful mosaics. A dedication to the Brazilian people. We managed to meet crazy Selaron and Jem bought a piece of his artwork. In preparation for our next stop, a big hike, we tried a slush of acai berries which are meant to give you lots of energy. We then drove to Urca, a small pleasant borough, home to Sugarloaf Mountain, and ringed by hills. Strolled along a beautiful little beach called Vermelha (means red due to coarse sand), passing an old artist wearing pink speedos (not a pretty sight) and a soap opera being filmed. Then followed the Pista Claudio Coutinho path, which lies between the base of the Sugar Loaf and the ocean, for 5 minutes before taking a trail through the forest up to the top of Morro da Urca (you can get a cable car to the top but on the tour you walk!). We then jumped in a cable car to the top of Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf Mountain). Again the views were spectacular and as it got darker you could see the flashes of the cameras from people on Christo Redentor. Luckily we got to see the amazing sunset over beautiful Rio - a perfect end to a perfect day! Even more perfect was the fact that we were able to get both cable cars down and didn´t have to walk (cable cars are free after 7pm)!
That night we went for a very cheap local meal with guys from the hostel and then headed to Rio´s most vibrant street party in Lapa. The place was full of people samba dancing and the atmosphere was electric. We drank super strong Caipirinhas (for a pound) in the street, chatted to locals and then ended the night in a samba club, trying to attempt to dance (not very well!!). The sad thing is the little kids you see trying to sell chewing gum who are high on glue and up at all hours in the morning. There´s also alot of groping from the locals but once they saw Jem they moved away.
After a lie in yesterday (didn´t get to bed til 6am), we spent the day chilling on Ipanema beach, which is one of the best in Rio, surrounded by Brazilian beauty´s and muscley men. We didn´t make it to the sea in our delicate state, probably a good thing considering the word ipanema is Indian for `bad, dangerous waters´.
Today, our last day in Rio, has been spent saying goodbye to the great people we´ve met and taking a quick browse around the local Feira Hippie (hippie market) which takes place every Sunday in Ipanema. It was set up by artists and you can buy paintings, handbags, furniture, jewellery and lots of souvenirs. Unfortunately I couldn´t spend long there, probably a good thing, and we´re now waiting for our taxi to the airport (would normally get the bus but people have been mugged so decided on the safer option!). Will be in touch when we arrive in La Paz, bye bye xxxx