Brazil > Rio > Copacabana Beach
Our flight went exactly as planned. So far, so good. We arrived to be greeted by numerous pick-up services but not a single one was waving a card around with our name on it. After being hassled by local Brazilians with a passion to rip tourists off, a very kind man rang our hostel to inform them that we had arrived - a long conversation later confirmed it, no pick up for us. I thought 3 confirmation emails would be enough, I was mistaken. The very kind man told us where to book a taxi which turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we ended up paying half the original price. Awake for roughly 18hrs, all we wanted was to go to bed.The taxi ride soon changed that. I thought we had asked for a ride to Copacabana Beach, instead, it felt like we'd paid for a few laps around a race track, no care for indicators, red lights and they rarely used the break pedal. No rules. Although the other cars put up a good fight, we definitely won the race. Combining that with arriving at our hostel at night in the dark, to be greeted by a very moody receptionist was not the best way to start our travels. By the time we reached the room, the strong stench of urine that occupied the room, sent this very tired lady to tears. Nick, ever the optimist, managed to keep my spirits high and the clichéd phrase ´lets sleep on it`, never worked so well. Ok so it took at least 2 sleeps, but it worked.
On the first day we decided to walk around the area to get our bearings, and most importantly, see how close we were to the beach. Two right turns and we could immediately see the fuss that surrounds the famous beach that Barry Manilow loves to sing about. Our first thought however was, who does Mr. Manilow use as his muse as we couldn't see girls with `dresses cut down to there`, only material cut through their behinds & lets just say, we are yet to see a Brazilian Babe. Don't worry boys, the camera is ready for when we are privileged with such a sight. Football on the beach hypnotized Nick and I for a long while - the boys alone were so good, showing us exactly why they produce some of the best footballers in the world. It wasn't until a female player joined in that really made Nick feel inadequate and very jealous! Dinner on the beach and an early night filled our evening and finished our day nicely. On day 2 we threw on our tourist persona's and arranged for a couple of sight-seeing adventures; first we visited a Favela i.e. a shanty-town - when asking the middle and upper class of Rio to describe any Favela, their response is simply `to drop a bomb on it´. On entering Rochina, the Favela, we were told to each jump on the back of a motorbike - Nick's life was put in the hands of a 13yr old boy eager to show off so by the time we reached the top, he was a nervous wreck. We started at the top of Rochina and from there, would then walk through to the bottom. It was very hard to take in and digest what we were seeing, the smell is the first thing that hits you as they have no sewage system and only have running water in different areas of Rochina for 30min periods per area. Although the government could theoretically go in and make them move at any point, this particular Favela holds 2000K plus and so the occupants, knowing this, are extremely settled and even though they live on small mountains of rubbish in which animals live and grow, what fills their homes came as a slight shock. Computers that were better than what our Hostel offered, TV's, radios blaring out 80´s U2 classics, bars and launderettes. No matter how many luxuries they had though, the smell, the animals and the buildings decorated with bullet holes bought us back to reality quick enough... As we said before, it's all very hard to comprehend; the million pound location and views from worthless homes.
Next stop, Sugar Loaf Mountain. Nick and I decided to skip the organised tour and make our own way there with Karen, a lovely lady we met on the Favela tour. It was great traveling on the local buses, extremely straight forward and a third of the price. There are two parts to Sugar Loaf, and the first stop offered good views but the second stop was even better. A thousand pictures later we sat down, cold beer in hand with the sun shining down on us. What a tough way to spend an afternoon... Another lovely meal on Copacabana and the second day was over.
By day three we felt that we still needed to feed our tourist appetite so the three of us jumped on a bus and headed to the Christ Statue. Even approaching the big man himself took our breath away and it simply got better the closer we got. We had been impressed by the views that Sugar Loaf had to offer, but this was something else.
By the next day we both had withdrawal symptoms and Nick's ´Í need to be brown´ syndrome led us to the beach all day. It has a lot to offer when people watching - a great way to spend a few hours, and it was free! Rio is already proving to be more expensive than anticipated and we're getting through Brazilian Real like monopoly money...
Day 5: Too much sun makes Nick a silly boy. Hit with sun-stroke, we spent the day chilling out at the hostel. Come 4pm though we were on a bus to the Maracana Football Stadium ready to watch Botafogo v Vasco. Nick was like a kid on Christmas Eve, hoping and convinced he was receiving a game-boy, but unlike Christmas day, the game didn't disappoint. 4-0 to Botafogo who, fortunately, we were sat with. The air was electric. We are already planning to go to another game in Argentina.
Easter Sunday: It being Easter, we relaxed during the day with Kinder Eggs to make us feel at home. We had traditional Brazilian Stew for dinner which was very yummy and this was followed by a Capoeira show. It was a group of girls and guys from the Favela that we visited previously that put on an amazing show. The guy who led it, looked just like Usher and I couldn't stop thinking of you Parysa! I'm sure you would have loved to have been scooped up into his muscley arms and so I danced with him, out of duty for you, not because I wanted to... They pulled up the audience at the end of their performance and made us dance with them, which was great fun and we are already planning to go to another show/lesson when we head back to Rio at the end of our 2 months. This ended our week perfectly as we were leaving for Ilha Grande the next morning...