We arrived in Rio on Saturday night after a long flight for a visit to this exciting and romantic city. Unfortunately, we hit a patch of cool rainy weather,so a lot of our expectations were not fulfilled to the degree we might have expected.The weather kept most people off the beach, so the Girl from Ipanema was missing, as was anyone else resembling her.
We stayed at the Sofitel which was at the end- of Copacabana beach and arou7nd the headland to the left was Ipanema. The beach was 5 kilometres ,long with clean , groomed sand for its entire length. It was very reminiscent of the Gold- Coast with the esplanade along the beach lined with tall apartments and hotels and much less expensive ones back a few blocks from the beach.
Our Sunday began with a tour to the top- of the peak with the statue of Christ the Redeemer. This is the most famous land mark of Rio. We travelled in a series of diesel belching clapped our 4WD vehicles that were much more for show, than effect. Some of them had trouble getting up steep hills on the bitumen roads, let alone any off-road travel. our route travelled through some of the middle class suburbs until we eventually neared the top of the peak. (our last few kilometres were in min buses and then we took a lift for the last 60 metres to the very top of the peak.
The view from the top was fantastic. It might have been more than fantastic on a bright sunny day, but we could see all of Rio and it was a pity that the clouds started to blow in over the time –we were at the peak. Because of it’s size, (16 million people live in this city) there are a large number of slum areas, or Favellas (I think is the correct spelling in Portuguese). The big difference, is that these slums are situated on the hillsides, where people can get a great view, rather than in flat areas as may be the case at home. The wealthy suburbs in Rio are along the beach. I understand that this is because in the early days of settlement, building technology did not allow for houses to be built on such steep slopes. Now, the slum dwellings are constructed as as a series of small block= buildings, without water and sewerage, but with a great view. It sounds like there are different degrees of being poor in Rio de Janeiro as our guide told us bat one stage,that the area we were passing fitted into the category of being ‘poor, but not miserable.
After our time at the peak, we were to do a walk through some of the urban forest area around the city. BY now it `was raining and this trip was cut short. However, we did make a couple of stops and were able to see that the broad leafed rain forest was pretty similar to other sub tropical forests including some in far north Queensland.
We had a little snooze in the afternoon and then it was off to dinner and a Samba Show.The dinner was a multi course buffet in one of the most interesting restaurants I have seen. The whole interior was decorated wit memorabilia which hung from the ceiling and walls = old navigation lanterns, ships bells and hundreds of 9ther nautical items. The main course was comprised chiefly of different meats which just `kept coming in small serves until we admitted default and called a halt.
The Samba show was at a show room in Ipanema and was interesting although a little disappointing. The girls were very attractive and their costumes were very grand and ornate, but they all wore skin coloured tights that crinkled at the ankles –and knees as they moved. If I’m going to see an exotic show- like this, then I want it in the flesh! However, the last act in which the girls wore huge, ornate costumes from the Carnival and was very spectacular.
On Monday, we visited the other famous landmark in Rio – Sugarloaf Peak. Th8s hill is at the northern end of Copacabana Beach and the peak is reached by travelling on two gondolas with the cables being strung between the top and the ground, via an- intermediate hill. This gave us another spectacular view of the city and by the time we reached the top, the clouds had lifted and again, e had a spectacular view. We stayed at the top for nearly 40 minutes taking it all ion and then returned to ground level for a trip downtown.
Downtown mostly consists of the financial and business district4. There are a lot of grand old buildings. We stopped at the cathedral which was a very unusual and impressive building. It was comical in shape and made out of concrete. The walls were honeycombed ( a bit li8ke a beehive) and once inside, we could see four gigantic stained glass windows that went from floor to ceiling/. They wee stunning.
We had lunch at Colombo’s Cafe, which is an institution in Rio. Again,- we had a three course lunch with very interesting food.
We had some free time in the afternoon and while Jill had another snooze, I went for a walk around the local area. It is a lot more safe to walk around here during the day than on the previous evening when the doorman made sure that I had taken off my watch of before leaving the hotel. There wasn’t a great deal to see – the beach was empty because it was cool and cloudy and the streets were just full of apartments and a few small shops. I did notice a crew form the armoured van collecting money from a little supermarket. Their uniform had a distinct military appearance, they wore bullet proof vests and had big guns. I don’t think-that the policemen that I saw were as heavily armed or protected.
This morning, we are on a flight to Iguazu, so I-have a few minutes to type up this section of my diary.