We finally arrived in Rio De Janeiro with its soaring mountains, powder white beaches not to mention an abundance of samba sounds and the odd cappirinha!
We arrived quite early at the hostel, but still managed to miss most of the Royal wedding being dragged out by BBC World & therefore only saw the edited highlights. Kate looked lovely & all that and I felt very patriotic and proud to be British, but I am really glad we missed the wedding fever in the UK & the media's second by second microscopic coverage it all looked too much!
Much refreshed & in order to appreciate the full range of what Rio has to offer I spent the first afternoon on Marcelo Armstrong's Favla tour. There is no way to sugar coat Rio, despite its party name tag, it has a reputation for crime & violent, but as I saw on the tour it is generally between the police & the drug lords running the larger favelas. The fact that Brazil has managed to pay off its IMF debt and has seen some double digit growth in the last eight years has also served to temper the crime rate as more and more economic migrants move away to the north of Brazil rather than into the overcrowded city. Even the favelas have prospered in this time with most hovels now being refurbished into reasonable albeit basic brick abodes, with metred electricity, schools and in Rocinha (the largest Favela with 250,000+ residents) there is a new hospital.
Day two saw us going on a city tour so we could appreciate the sights without taking the wrong street! Rio is surrounded on two sides by powder white beaches with turquoise waters and flanked by mountains covered in rainforest. We had a short walk in the Tijuca national park and then visited the chinese temple nearby which is supposed to have spectacular views of the city and Christ the Redeemer (voted one of the new worlds seven wonders in 2007). Alas the cloud base covered it all so we could only see a bit of Ipanema Beach. So I was a bit disappointed as we actually approached the Corcovado to see the iconic statue up close and personal, fully expecting to only see his feet. But as you can see the cloud mysterously disappeared right at the top so you had a perfectly clear view of him! Yippee.
Our Final part of the tour was around Lapa and the very picturesque Santa Teresa, which is set on a small hill overlooking the city. It is very olde worlde with cobbled streets and an old trolley car that rumbles up and down the hill. Our final stop was one of the most eccentric. A famous set of 215 steps whihc have been decorated over the last 20 years by a Chilean artist, who is a permaent fixture constantly tweaking the tiles and persuading you into his shop. He is quite a character and the tiles have been send from all over the world so its great fun trying to find ones form your own country!
I spent the next couple of days at the beach, and enjoying the hippie market, bought some Havainas, tried the local restaurants (including a a fantastic all you could eat Parilla!) and really got into passionfruit cappirinha's! There was also teh release of the new dreamworks movie Rio that was caputring everyones imagination (see right!) On our last full day I walked from our hostel about halfway down Ipanema to Ponta do Aroador that seperates Ipanema from the famous Copacabana beach, then walked the whole length of Copa (4.5km) down to Brazils iconic Sugar Loaf mountain and managed to get up the cable car just as dusk was falling. The view from the top was magical and will stay with me forever.
Rio is definately on my revisit list. Quite frankly 4 days is just not enough time to do this town justice and although I would actually visit Brazil at carnival time I think I would give Rio a swerve and see it in Salavador then come back to Rio to party! Girls you had better hope I win the lottery soon. Unfortunately our time here is done and tomorrow we take a flight to Iguassu - onwards and upwards!