Rio de Janeiro
From the moment we arrived in Rio, locals began trying to sell things to us. It started with a taxi, as we stood outside the airport attempting to acclimatise to the dense, humid heat. Our driver told us that his taxi was air conditioned, that the bus was close for the night, that he would lower his price and that Rio was unsafe for two English girls.
Our pathetic attempts at Portugese started here. We commented on the heat, on the beauty of the lights and on the various angles from which you could see Christo (Christ the Redeemer) looming over the city. After that we were silent.
We dropped our things at Hotel Augustus and walked the 100 metres to the huge white, sandy Copacabana beach. It was 9pm and still hot, although the sun had set. As we walked down the beach beside intimidating, crashing waves, a man rushed up and told us to leave the beach immediately because boys would steal our cameras. We werent sure if it was a threat or friendly advice but we left anyway, tired from a 10 hour flight (not six, as we had guessed without checking), and got some cheapish food at a touristy restaurant. We were pleased wed made it so far.
We spent the next morning on the beach having a great time in the surf and admiring the incredible bodies of men and women alike. Beach vendors shouted at us about sunglasses, sarongs and Coca-Cola. Rio is not as cheap as expected, so weve started keeping our costs down by eating only Ruffles for lunch. After a morning drenched in factor 30 we realised the sun was too strong to bear and sensibly (we thought) retired beneath a shady umbrella by our hotels tiny rooftop pool.
Much to Carols horror, as a smug mediterrean-skinned type, we were both burned already in splodgy red patches across random body parts like the neck and side. Of course, drawing more attention to our useless Englishness was exactly what we wanted.
From this vantage point, we looked at endless tower blocks and corrugated iron rooves beside tropical plants and looming, forest-covered mountains. On the pretty pavements were a few sleeping street-children, men digging up roads by hand with flimsy tools and lots of people with dogs. Carol is relieved we are not likely to be eating dog meat.
That night we sat under a palm tree on the beach and watched barefooted Brazilians playing football, volley-football over a net and doing press ups on bars. Needless to say, I didnt join in for fear of putting them to shame.
The next day, after stuffing our faces as usual with the awesome breakfasts at Augustuss (papaya, mango, pineapple, rolls, crepes, sausage and onion etc etc) we set out to do the tourist thing and rode a tram up a mountain to visit the imposing Christ. The view of the city and surrounding mountains was great – I just had to keep Carol informed of whether there was any ground beneath where we stood and she was fine.
After, with some more pointing and speaking some Spanish/English/Portugese hybrid, we found a bus to the ferry station and sailed over to Niteroi. We had heard it was beautiful but were surprised to find seemed like a smaller, smellier version of Rio that Carol likened to the Brazilian Milton Keynes (still far more beautiful than anywhere Ive been in a while).
Hot and bothered and misdirected, we found a bus station and travelled to the Museo Del Arte Contemporaenea – a white, apace-age round building with fantastic views, its own lake and very cool art involved super-imposed photos/abstractions and cartoon-like sketches all over the walls. We were happy again.
Then we found a windy path down to a secluded beach and swam with locals, nervously leaving our things under a tree but gradually realising they were both friendly and kindly understanding of our excitement at the place.
Muy bueno, nodded the boys beside us and we briefly tried to communicate in broken English. We walked along a spit and waded through water beside some rocks. holding our backpacks over our heads and watching the fishermen, tiny houses in the hills and not-so-far-off oil rig. It probably wasnt the cleanest or richest spot but it was our favourite place so far.
We ate fajitas, sipped seriously strong Caipirinhas on the beach and ignored small piles of peanuts and talking stuffed parrots that were proffered our way and then it was all over. Were off to a beach 7 hours north at Vitoria now, with no clue what to expect, as usual.
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posted Thursday March 2008