Rio de Janeiro

I flew into Rio at 5am in the morning so was slightly daunted about getting to my hostel.  I didn’t have any  money; didn’t speak any Portuguese; only had a mental image of the google map directions; wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get into the hostel; and wasn’t sure of the transport link between the out-of-town airport and Copacabana, one of the beach districts of Rio.  I managed to get some cash and fumble my way to the bus stop, and luckily a fluent Portuguese/English Austrian girl called Gudrun overheard me struggling and helped me out and I soon found myself outside Hostel Pura Vida, which is at the entrance to Favela Pavão-Pavãozinho in between Copacabana and Ipanema, two of the most affluent districts of Rio.  Ironically, this was one of the safest places in Rio, as due to recent social reforms there is a 24-hour police post at the entrance to the favela.  In addition the favela bosses take measures (mostly deadly) to discourage crime against gringos, as to avoid unwanted attention from the law.

After resting/wandering around for the day I met up with Crag and Paola and we experienced (for the first time of many) the carb fest that is the Prato Feito.  Basically a portion of meat (chicken breast or beef) with chips, rice and refried beans.  Versions of this vary but you will never leave feeling hungry and there are hundreds of places offering the same thing.

The next day we set out to explore the bohemian central district of Santa Theresa, which required catching the 115 year old historic tram up the hill.  The tram is a popular tourist attraction because of the scenes offered of the city and riding this old rickety thing round a place with loads of street art and interesting old buildings is pretty cool.  The assumption was that despite the age and appearance the tram was safe, so it was shocking to hear that 4 days after we rode the tram 5 people died in a terrible accident, put down to poor maintenance.

To leave Santa Theresa you can walk down the steps from the Snoop Dogg video ‘Beautiful’ which are quite a spectacle (apparently the largest piece of art produced by an indivdual in the world). There are 250 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in a mosaic of over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world.  I even saw a tile from Sheffield celebrating the marriage of Gemma and John (or some other English sounding names, I can’t remember..).

Selaron or ‘Snoop Dogg’ steps:

On Friday and Saturday I hit up the street party in Lapa.  Lapa is the area directly beneath the hill where Santa Theresa lies and on Fridays and Saturdays comes alive with a massive street party.  There are hundreds of bars and clubs and the rich and poor gather to party the night away to the various Brazilian music styles: Funk, Samba, Pagode, Forro……Needless to say the party didn’t stop until the early hours.

On Sunday I decided I couldn’t visit Brazil without witnessing a football match. And it just so happened that the biggest derby in Brazil was happening on that very day!  So off I went to watch Flamengo vs Vasco de Gama (2nd and 4th in the national league before the game).  It was a surprise to me that the stadium was only 2/3rds full but it didn’t appear to detract from the atmosphere.  The whole game is spent stood up by fans home and away; the samba drums, literally, do not stop;  each part of the stadium has one of those massive flags that covers the whole segment;  huge flags are constantly being waved; there’s ticker tape and streamers; and songs a sung the whole time in unison.  The fanfare is quite amazing.  Unfortunately I kind of got the feeling this was to make up for the poor standard of the football.  Having watched a few games on TV it is clear the national league does not replicate the standard of national team (who mostly ply their trade in Europe..) and despite the best efforts of Ronaldinho and ex-Lyon sharpshooter Juninho Pernambucano, the game ended in a boring 0-0 draw.

Flamengo fans:

Big flags:

Under a big flag:

My penultimate day in Rio I did the ‘must-do’ activity and caught the train up to the Cristo Redentor (“Christ Redeemer”) to take a look at the Big J and more importantly the stunning views of the city offered by being at the top of a 700m rock cliff.  By waiting a few days I managed to go on a day that was absolutely clear and so the views were like nothing I have experienced before.

Big J:

It’s massive:

Redeemed ; )

Panorama of Downtown/Botofogo (East of the city) (the camera does it no justice):

Leblon (southwest of the city):

The days inbetween I was mostly visiting the beach and verifying the rumours about swimwear worn by the locals.  Even though it’s winter in Brazil temperatures were reaching the 30s and although the sea was not warm it was bearable, and jumping/ducking the big crashing waves ensured you didn’t get cold.

Clouds looming over Ipanema beach:


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. mum
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 17:59:52

    lots of people are lovin your blog Dom – catherine, mary, rose, ken, christopher, Eilis – so keep at it, a brill read.

    also keep alert to risks……..don’t like near misses!!

    lookin forward to Argentina stories……

    love Mum xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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