For our final week in Rio we decided to ensure that we'd fit everything on our list in, which was potentially going to difficult as the weather forecast was suggesting that it would rain for the majority of it. Saturday was to be the first nice day for the week, so we booked our Christ the Redeemer tickets for then. Then it was off to the Jardim Botânico (Botanic Gardens), as the day had slipped away from us and there wasn't much else that we could fit in for the afternoon.
The botanic gardens were probably just like any other (not that we've seen that many to compare them too). We got a map with a path to follow and off we went, as we only had 2 hours before it closed. It consisted of varying sections of garden, like cactus, Japanese and orchid (all of these probably the highlights). There was also some 'historic' trees and monuments and some ruins from a mill once used to create gunpowder. Another highlight was some bizzare trees with smooth golden trunks, they looked like they were from a fairytale. We did also get to see some more mica and chapuchin monkeys, which are always cool to see what there up to!
The next day we got up early (still proving difficult for us to do, leaving us wondering if the flu was in fact dengue?!?!) and went off for the free walking tour through the Centro of Rio (which of course doesn't included the obligatory tip). We got there a little early and so had a coffee and cheese bread (a breakfast option) in Maccas, so we could use the facilities. Something as simple as cheese bread, which is usually really tasty, was completely ruined by Maccas, but I guess that shouldn't have surprised us.
The tour was offered in Portuguese, Spanish and English. We toyed with the idea of going on the Spanish tour, but decided against it, however our tour guide was giving the tour for the first time in English. That and the fact that he spoke towards the builds he was showing us, instead of facing us, meant that the Spanish tour may have been almost as informative. Actually, we did enjoy the tour and learnt a lot more about the Centro of Rio than if we'd showed ourselves around.
For example, we came across a church that only contained one steeple (normally the churches would have 2). We now know this is due to the fact that churches were required to pay tax based on their steeples, so if they only have 1, they pay less tax. A completely useless fact we figured well worth sharing!
From there we visited 'The Steps' (Escardaria Selerón). The photos will do a much better job of showing what they are about, however it was an art project by Selarón to liven up the area, whereby 2000 tiles line 215 steps. We managed to find some pretty interesting tiles that had been used, including some Australian references. We're not sure if the steps are still utilised for their intended purpose, as we heard that the road at the top of the steps is not very safe and it's recommended that the steps only ever be accessed from the bottom. Maybe it's safe for the locals?
Next we saw the aqueduct, which used to bring water into Rio. It's since been used by a tram (Bonde) that trundles through some of the nicer areas of Rio, though it wasn't working while we were there. The fact that a French tourist feel out of the tram on the aqueduct and died and then it tipped at some point and killed 12 people had something to do with the government deciding to 'repair' it. It was meant to be finished in time for the World Cup, however that's been delayed until later this year. There are many suggesting that it'll be lucky to be open in time for the Olympics, if at all. It would be a real shame if it never opened again, as it appears to be a great little tram and is used by residents and tourists to get up and down between the centre of Rio from some of the surrounding suburbs (all up steep hills).
We moved on to one of the 'highlights' of Rio, Catedral Metropolitana de Sāo Sebastiāo, the World's ugliest church! And voted as the ugliest building in Rio. We were told not to worry, it's only ugly on the outside and beautiful on the inside. Ahhhh, no. We've seen a lot of churches since touring South America and some of them have had some amazing interiors, but this is not one of them! The only thing going for it (though we're a little dubious) is the fact that it can fit over 20,000 people in it. God knows how (yes pun intended), but they managed it when the Pope visited last year.
Then, surprisingly, another church, Igreja de Sāo Francisco da Penitência. This one had some history associated with it, which was portrayed in a series of paintings in the hallway to reach the elevator underneath. They showed the church as one of the first buildings in Rio, then the changes over time as the city was built up around it. It was built by the Carioca Lake, which over the years silted up (or was filled in) and now that area is the centre of the city, with massive high rises and a plaza covering it, yet the church still stands.
Finally on to the most important stop, Confeitaria Colombo. Sure we'd been there before, but this time we had inside knowledge and we're told to try the local Brasilian specialty, Brigadeiros. Wow, they are some amazing chocolatey goodness! Simply chocolate melted into sweetened condensed milk and rolled in chocolate sprinkles (or so we're told). And yes they are sickening, however it's a completely satisfied and acceptable kind of sickness, whereby one can walk away with the desire for more (though in a few hours). To the dismay of the others on our tour, we got the last ones!
With the tour ending shortly after, we thought about what to do for lunch. We walked around for a while until we decided to head back to Confeitaria Colombo. A little expensive, but the food on offer is just as good as the sweet goodies that are available! We then had to race back to Copacabana for the first semi final, Brasil Vs Germany.
We'd decided to watch it at the same beach side kiosk that we'd watched the previous Brasil game, as we'd befriended a few people there last time and knew they'd have the free Brahma promo running again. We were also trying to catch up with our Aussie friends that we'd celebrated with in Curitiba. They had suggested Fan Fest, but as our previous experience with it wasn't great we'd said we'd mind them seats at our table if they changed their minds.
About 30 mins before the game and after defending the table, we got a text saying that they were in Fan Fest and would be watching the game there. Just then, a Brasilian girl asked us if we are Australian and if the table is free (in perfect English) and, as luck would have it, it now was. She asked if she could bring her friends over and we said sure. Next we were introduced to a couple more Brasilians and finally Fergus turns to have a guy introduce himself. 'Hi, I'm Les'. After the introduction Fergus said to Lindsay, "how do you like sitting with the SBS crew?" Lindsay replied 'I couldn't work out why he was familiar!'. Yes it was Les Murray. Then Craig Foster came up and introduced himself. We'd managed to save the table for Australia's leading soccer presenters!
5 minutes before the game started the sky opened up over Copacabana and chaos ensued at the kiosk, as those standing on the fringes pushed into the middle to get out of the rain. This prompted some uproar (and swearing) from the SBS guys, as they could no longer see. Then the power to one of the TV's went out and we were forced to turn around and watch on a TV behind us. The great seats that we'd saved for so long, no longer had a good view. It also meant that the staff panicked and brought out everyone's bills, as everyone had moved tables and in case they did the runner.
Brasil Vs Germany, we don't need to say much about the game as it will be remembered by all for a long time yet. We will simply say that a 7-1 defeat for Brasil shocked EVERYONE! At 2 goals down everyone thought that Brasil would have an almost impossible chance of coming back. At 4-0 everyone was speechless, and at 5-0 down at half time about 60% of the crowd in our kiosk left. We can't be sure if they would have stayed if it hadn't bucketed down. We'd like to think they would have, but were not too confident on that. Even the SBS crew left at half time to get some dinner.
As soon as the game finished it bucketed down again, possibly a sign for Brasil? We headed home to change then went to meet up with Suz, Esther, Keith and Nathan. It was still raining when we left home and we got absolutely soaked on the way to the bar where they were. There was so much rain that even the streets were flooded. We'd changed out of thongs into shoes, which meant that knee deep flooded streets had become something we didn't want to deal with. We stopped on the way at a pizza joint to get dinner, in the hope the rain would die down and thankfully it did so we made it to the others and chatted over some drinks.
On Wednesday, we made another attempt for the Dali exhibition. We set the alarm for 6:45am, so that we could be there early and avoid the queues. That time came and went and so did 8 and 9. Finally at 10 we forced ourselves out of bed. It still wasn't easy to get up in the morning after our sick days (it had nothing to do with drinks we'd consumed and the late night we'd had). Still we were determined to check out the exhibition, so off we went, willing to put up with the queues.
When we got there the queues were non-existent! Somehow we managed to luck a good day to visit something. We were inside the exhibition after waiting for only about 15 minutes. The exhibition contained a lot of Dali's lesser known pieces, which included paintings, drawings, photos and movies! We didn't even know that he dabbled in all those mediums, and so much outside of Surrealism.
There were some pieces that we were aware of and it's always interesting to see the originals and how they differ from your imagination, e.g. they are far smaller in size than you thought they'd be. Dali also managed to get some incredible detail into his work. You could stare at a piece for a long time and every now and then see other intricacies and quirky references that he'd put into it. Thanks also goes to the 'critics' (American tourists) who gave their opinions as to how the works 'spoke to them'! It was also possible to take photos, which seemed a little odd, but we didn't hold back.
We'd been told about Real Gabinete Portuguez de Leitura (or the Reading Room) by Non, Reggie and Frank, and decided to fit that in before finding somewhere for the next semi final. It is incredible! It's got books that date back to who knows when, which reach almost 3 storeys high. The books are so old that your not allowed to touch them or use flash photography. If we'd had more time we could of probably sat their for ages, in the silence, taking it all in.
The second semi was Holland Vs Argentina. A less important game for us, and for Brasil, plus we were running late, so we decided to watch it in our room instead having to pay for food or drinks in a kiosk to justify being there. That game that was far more worthy of a World Cup semi final. We were probably cheering on Argentina, though given the close contest, we weren't too concerned who took it out. Final score, 4-2 in penalty shoot out. The worst way possible to decide a game!
We'd previously booked a favela tour for Thursday, in the hope the worst of the bad weather was over. It was a day that started out with a lot of rain, but it stopped mid morning. We'd booked the afternoon tour, so we thought things were looking good. We went out for lunch and as we ate the weather got worse. We decided to head home and grab our rain jackets, and good thing we did. As we started our tour the rain, once again, pelted down. This reduced what we could do on our tour, which was a great shame.
The tour we booked on was the 'original' and the 'only one that visits 2 favelas'. The first favela was Rocinha, a favela that was pacified (the police go in and push out (or kill) the drug dealers that previously controlled it) a few years ago. It was built along and old 'racing' road, which would have been a lot of fun in it's day, now it's almost bumper to bumper. The Favelas have been built up on public land, and Brasil has a law that if you build on land and no one complains about it, after 10 years the land is yours, free!
Rocinha is one of the biggest favelas, with an estimated population of over 100,000 people, though the official census states 70,000. It has also had some problems, whereby the drug dealers have tried to claim it back since pacification, but did not succeed. The main street is still the only place that it really deemed safe. The rest of it is made up of alley ways, which you could easily get lost in. We didn't get to walk through the commercial area of it, as there was just too much rain, but we did get to have a great view of it from a balcony. You have to walk through a mechanics workshop out on to this balcony that has an amazing view over the entire favela.
With the pacification of the favelas, they are becoming prime real estate, with rental prices getting up towards 700 Reais a month ($350). People on a basic wage barely earn that a month. The government has offered to put in a cable car in Rocinha, which they've done for other favelas, but the locals are protesting against it as they still have open sewerage systems and poor health care, which they considered (as one would) a higher priority.
The second favela was Vila Canoas though on the way to that we stopped at Para Ti (For You), a before and after school care for kids from the favelas. It was started by an Italian couple (the husband was the head of Renault in Brasil), who watched the kids in the favelas suffer due to low incomes. They decided the kids needed somewhere to go before or after school (as school is either in the morning, or afternoon, but not both) to complete their homework and other education related activities. They've since passed on and their daughter has continued the work. She turned the family house into a guest house and people can stay at the guest house and volunteer with the kids.
Vila Canoas has been pacified and is considered safe, so it can be walked through, which is good, as it's so small (3000 residents) that to see any of it you need to walk through it. At the entrance there are the 'best caipirinhas' in Rio, so we ordered one to be on hand when we returned from our walk around the favela. The walk took all of 10 minutes, which may have been due to the size, but probably more to the rain. It even had a river running under it, which they'd managed to build completely over. The roar of it was deafening, due to the amount of rain that was falling.
We got back for our caipirinhas, which were really good, but it could have simply been that we were too wet to care. For the trip back we followed the coast back to Copa, this probably would have been a great view, but the rain greatly reduced the visibility and the traffic was bumper to bumper, which is standard when it rains in Rio.
Having not seen too much of the favelas, the next day we decided to head out to take a cable car (Bondinho do Alemão) that has been put through to a number of pacified favelas, with 6 stations from Bonsucesso to Palmeiras. Thankfully the weather was better, though the blue sky was still eluding us. The cable car is discounted for those that live in the favelas and provides better access for residents to get to work. For anyone else it's 5 Reais a trip. We thought we'd be the only tourist heading up, but there were some others. It's a great ride, as you travel over the houses of the favelas, with a birds-eye view of peoples backyards (well rooftop space). We even saw some pools in some yards, not bad living at all.
When we got to the top we stopped for our pre-packed lunch. Lindsay was brave enough to buy some water from a grubby little boy, who sold us the water for 2 Reais (very cheap) but wanted 1 Real extra for himself, which he asked for on several occasions. We wonder how long it'll take him to work out that if he charges 3 Reais he can keep the 1 for himself without out anyone being any the wiser? Thankfully the water was sealed and tasted like water should, plus it didn't go through us in any unpleasant manner.
Apart for the cable car there didn't seem like much else to do. There were some small food and handicrafts stalls but mostly they were closed, and we weren't sure if we should be walking through the streets, so we made our way back down.
We then went to the Sambódromo, where Carnivale ends (not worth the trouble unless Carnivale is on), and then Santa Teresa. Santa Teresa is one of the more picturesque places of Rio and it doesn't disappoint. The Bonde, mentioned earlier, would normally run through here and although we were disappointed that it wasn't running, we could see from the tracks why it may have tipped and why it needed repairs. We didn't have a good map of Santa Teresa, so we kind of made it up, as well as using Google Maps. But we think we managed to see most of what it had to offer.
We got to Parque das Ruinas, and old building on top of a hill that has been done up as a cultural space and lookout. It gave us a great view over Rio, with a view up to Christ the Redeemer, which had cloud cover just below it making for a pretty cool picture. We then headed down to the water's edge, at Enseada da Glória, in the hope that it would have somewhere nice for a drink and/or dinner. It had absolutely nothing! So with the both of us starving and sick of being on our feet, we headed for Copa and hit up a buffet joint that was pay by the kilo.
We thought that it was about 35 Reais/kg, but alas not, we had mistaken the all you can eat pizza price. It was about 60 Reais/kg and when you're starving and they give you the world's biggest plate it's pretty easy to get close to 1kg worth of food on the plate! The next issue was the fact that we had to pay for the food, so we were bloody well going to eat it! We stuffed ourselves on principal and then headed home to lie down!
Saturday had rolled around and it was time to head to Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor Corcavado). We'd decided to do it right and head up Corcovado in the train. We got to the train station about 45 minutes before our 12:30 booked departure only to be told that the train was broken and we'd have to take a mini bus up, WTF!?!? Thankfully we took a toilet stop and then asked if the confirmation slip we had would get us on the bus. We had to change the slip for tickets. In that time the train was fixed and we were booked on the 1:20pm train! Damn straight the train would be running, this is not an attraction were willing to miss! However the massive stamp put on our tickets said "Zero Visibility". Insert Profanity!
You can't change the weather, some things have to be accepted. We had some lunch and then jumped on the train. The railway is quite steep in some areas, starting amongst peoples backyards at the bottom, then up into the jungle before the summit, well as close as possible. Then there are a few stairs to climb, unless you prefer the elevator and escalators, up to Christ. There wasn't zero visibility, but it wasn't good. Admittedly there were times when we couldn't see him at all, but hey we're ticking off one of the wonders of the world!
Even with the broken train and limited visibility, the crowds were still out of control! It's very difficult to move around to get a spot where you can take pictures of Christ and/or the (non-existent cloud covered) view. We slowly made our way around, and when we got a good photo spot, stayed put for as long as we could. There were heaps of Argentinians up there and they were continuously chanting, pretty awesome and some very catchy songs, though we've got no idea what they were saying! Interesting fact that may not be know about Christ the Redeemer, he's covered in tiny little triangles of soap stone! Not sure why, maybe it's to give him more radiance? But it's very impressive to see the work that would have gone into that.
The weather kept tempting us with the hope of clear skies, so we sat at a cafe and had ham and cheese toasted sandwiches with coffee/hot chocolate, as it was now pretty cold up there, hoping the weather would improve while we did. Almost, we went to leave and then we got a break in the cloud, so we headed back up to a tiny little patch of blue sky, but not much. We thought about staying for sunset and twilight, but as it was getting cold, there was no guarantee of clear skies and the Brasil Vs Holland play-off for 3rd and 4th was soon to be starting, we headed back to the train and then off for a bar to watch it.
We ended up in a Pizza joint, where the TV picture wasn't great, but as the game had started we decided to not look any further. Once again we were cheering for Brasil and although they defended better than their last game they still didn't look like a team worthy of winning. Holland took it out 3-0. Oh well no need to party that night, we could save it for the Final!
The day of the World Cup Final in Brasil had finally (sadly) arrived. What our trip has been based around was coming to close. We started the day slowly and then headed off to Ipanema, for their Sunday markets, though with limited time before the game started. As far as markets go the quality is pretty impressive, though with a tight budget and no room in our bags (well not wanting to carry things for the next 8 months) we simply looked around at what was on offer.
With the game getting ever closer we headed home, grabbing some subway on the way. Once back home we fuelled up on that and the local guarana drink, as well as a quick change, Lindsay into something warmer, Fergus into the trusty old Hahn Socceroos shirt. We met up with our Aussie friends to make our way to Fan Fest, but we settled on the TV outside Fan Fest (which meant the drinks and food came to you!). With an hour and a half to spare we managed to get reasonably close to the screen.
The only issue with our spot was that the toilets were hard to come by and cost 2 Reais. So before the game we planned our pit stops well, all getting back before the anthems. The crowd was great, with the Argentinians going crazy from the moment of their anthem, though we're not sure if they know the words, or ever have any, because they just appear to make noise! The German supporters weren't as vocal, though that could be to do with the fact that most of them were Brasilian (they hate Argentina and didn't want them winning!).
The first half consisted of a lot of chanting, with everyone in a great mood. A few missed opportunities on both sides, it was going to be a good game! The best thing with our location was the fact that beach vendors came to us, with chips, beers and caipirinhas timed perfectly with when we required them! The caipirinhas were even delivered with silver service (photo evidence of this). Then as half time rocked around the issue of these drinks requiring a bladder emptying came hard and fast! The boys (obviously) had it easy, with the water and pot plants good options. The girls (as always) had a much harder time.
Fergus volunteered to take them through the crowd to the less crowded toilet, as he'd been able to do it all very quickly before the game. Through the crowd in record time, which was surprising, as the crowd had at least doubled since the start of the game. The toilets were located, with minimal crowd. Though the girls line was about 3 times the size of the boys. Fergus, in and out in a few minutes, had offered to wait for the girls. However about 15 minutes later he was wondering if they'd forgotten he was waiting for them (watching the game on a tiny TV at a beach kiosk). Finally they exited and the mission of getting back to our location started. Once finally back the second half was half over.
No more drinks for anyone for the rest of the game! The full-time whistle sounded and it was nil all, extra time! The crowd were all getting a little more stressed and it wasn't as vocal as it has been. Everything was going well until Germany scored, with a cracker of a goal! The Argentinians fell silent, with a few small groups of German supporters going nuts. There was still plenty of time for Argentina to make a come back. However with 5 minutes to go that's when a deck chair went flying through the crowd and the mass exodus started, as bottles and other things started flying. So we were forced to watch the skies while retreating rather than the game.
We managed to avoid the mayhem, we think it was the Brasilians and Argentinians and had nothing to do with any Germans. But missing the last 5 minutes didn't change anything as far as the result went. Congratulations to Germany, they really were the best team of the World Cup and many had picked them to take it out.
And that was it, the World Cup done for another 4 years. Some of the highlights for us. Firstly Australia not embarrassing themselves as everyone had predicted, nice one boys! The Brasilians that we met and the general Brasilian attitude to it all. Probably not what the country needed at present, but the majority of them embraced the spirit and made it a completely incredible time, which we'll remember for life. Then there were all the Aussie supporters we met, a great bunch, thanks to you all. Finally, all the other supporters that we crossed paths with who really gave The Cup an electrifying atmosphere. What a truly amazing time we had!
However the night wasn't finished and we headed off for some dinner and drinks. We'd been expecting one massive party, but the crowds seemed to disperse quite quickly. We guess as Brasil wasn't there at the end our dreams of an entire country partying didn't come to light, bummer! Still we enjoyed the rest of the evening finding a few watering holes. We even met a crazy Columbian fan (an exploration geologist) who'd been to 16 games! He, his brother, son and his friends son. Now that is dedication! He boasted about how good his team and James is, which they are, and gave praise to Australia, as most have.
The night drew to an end and we farewell our Columbian friend, and then our new Aussie mates (yes we do need to hit up Hong Kong 7s!). We went to bed to soak it all in.
The next day (Hangover Day) was our final in Rio. We'd decided we'd spend it on the beach, as we hadn't had any time on it and we'd not even touched the water. The day looked great, but once we got on the beach the wind picked up and the clouds kept blocking out the sun. We persevered for at least an hour, or 2. But at no point did we get warm enough to venture into the water. When we'd finally had enough we walked along the beach, getting our feet wet, in the search of some lunch. Once that was done it was far too cold to head back, so back home to pack our bags and take it easy before having once again to become backpackers and sit on a bus for our next location, Paraty.
Upon leaving we passed through Rio Central carrying a plastic bag with some extra clothes in it we no longer needed. We spotted a homeless man struggling to get the too big shorts he was wearing to stay up and decided he was a good candidate. Lindsay handed him the bag and he thanked us before scurrying off to check out the contents. After examining what was inside he gave us another wave and a big smile. If you are ever in Rio look out for the man with a Socceroos shirt with Porter across the back!
So long Rio, for now. We really hope to be back to this Marvellous City some day!