I went to Brazil. I still can’t quite believe it. It was something of a whistle stop visit and even while I was there I kept asking myself if it was real. I saw some of the most iconic landmarks on the planet took one of the worlds most spectacular train rides and visited one of the most idyllic and peaceful islands I have ever been to all in the space of a few days.
I arrived early in Rio after my night time flight from Atlanta. I managed to get some good sleep on the plane so I was ready to go as soon as I got there. I was met by Cristina, who had arrived in Rio and hour before me, and we hopped in a cab to Ipanema where we were to be staying.
The traffic in Rio is pretty spectacular! We crawled much of the way in from the airport past people selling drinks, snacks and newspapers in every lane of the 3 lane highway with no danger of getting hit as we were moving so slowing. The main road form the airport takes you right through some of the most dangerous parts of Rio, right past the notorious favela. The shacks and makeshift homes and buildings cover every habitable part of the hills on the outskirts of the city. I saw them from the window of the plane as we landed and it looks as if they are stuck to the side slopes like a colourful patchwork blanket however, it is not recommended to venture into these areas and certainly took that advice.
Our hotel over looked the beach in Ipanema, a truly spectacular view from the Dois Irmãos (two brothers) in the West to Arpoador and Copacabana in the East.
We arranged for our cab driver to come back later in the day after we had a chance to check in and explore the beach. he picked us up and took us all over the city to visit Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain. This was one of the best ideas we had. While Rio does have a pretty decent transportation system we travelling with limited time and having a cab take us around eliminated the need to make many different transfers from trains to buses and it meant we arrived exactly where we needed to be. The traffic in the city during the day was not as bad as it was on the journey from the airport so we were able to move around pretty easily.
Our first stop was Sugar Loaf Mountain. You need to allow a decent amount of time to make it to the peak as you have to take 2 separate cable cars but it is worth the time as the view across the city is incredible. We had such luck with the weather as the patchy cloud cover meant it wasn’t too hot but there was still plenty of sun. Despite the fact that it was pretty busy (although not as busy as during the peak season) the summit has many paths and tracks which take you away from the main public areas where you are able to get some peace and quiet.
We called ahead to our cabbie and he was waiting at the bottom of the mountain for us, ready to take us on to Cristo Redontor. It is hard to grow up anywhere in the developed world and not be aware of this iconic structure. It has become inextricably with the city of Rio and to the outside world a symbol of Brazil itself. I had grown up seeing this beautiful statue without ever really thinking I would get to see it in person and I was not in the least disappointed.
We arrived at the top of the mountain Corcovado and approached the statue from the back. You first see the head and the outstretched arms peak above the trees as you ascend the steps and as you reach the top and walk to the front it is revealed in all its glory. Aside from being able to see the statue you are able to see for miles in every direction. We had chosen a good time of year to come, just as the Autumn was coming, so it was not too busy and we were able to spend time and take all the photos we wanted.
We made our way back down the mountain and back to our hotel in Ipanema. We managed to time it perfectly so we were able to see a sunset over the Dois Irmãos.
We made our way to the other end of Copacabana Beach and visited the fort that was once used to protect the the city. From there we walked along Copacabana to towards Pedra do Arpoador, the outcrop of rocky land which separates Copacabana from Ipanema. We stopped along the way and got some Açaí. It is a purple smoothy made from the berry of the Açaí Palm and quite delicious!Again we could not have asked for better weather. We passed by the statue of Tom Jobin which strands at the edge of the beach and past the cool little bird box shaped book swapping library. I wish I would have had an English book to leave in case any more gringos like my came by looking for something to read!