Rio. Wow. The city certainly lived up to the tagline of the ‘marvelous city’, at least in our eyes. It is possibly, scratch that - definitely the most visually spectacular city we have laid eyes on, and don’t get us started on the vibe…
Our hostel was parked up the Leme end of (Copa)-Copacabana beach on the hill and adjacent to a friendly favela (or shanty town of unregulated housing for the poor, and often run by drug dealers).
Walkway up to our favela - very colourful neighbourhood
We had heard some stories about Rio being a tad dodgy, so we were eager to put our extra vigilant tourist pants on (i.e. carrying only the cash you need for the day, leave valuables at the hostel, take taxis in the sketchy parts of town, don’t eat yellow snow etc etc). We applied all this logic and to be honest, never really felt threatened. Apparently the city has graduated from super-dodgy to just regular dodgy in recent years. With the added pressure of hosting the two largest events in the world over the next three years, it seems like the bootstraps are being pulled up.
The afternoon we arrived we nipped down to the infamous Copacabana beach for a pre-sunset swim and gushed at our surrounds (meaning the hills – it was too chilly for the speedo/bum floss brigade).
The amazing beach in all its splendour
That night we had planned to dine at a famous Brazilian BBQ all-you-can-eat number. We got all the way there, seated and then were advised of the price when we realised we hadn’t brought enough cash nor plastic (blame the over-zealous vigilant tourist pants) and had to awkwardly vacate, citing a card left behind and that ‘we would be back in 10’. Bit of a blow out. To be fair paying AUD$60/head seems nothing short of outrageous these days (considering we would enjoy burgers with everything for AUD$1.75 the following night).
Our first full day of exploring included a heavy-hitting itinerary of the Big Jesus aka Christ the Redeemer, Escadaria do Selarón (tiled steps by Chilean artist), popping our acai cherries and a gondola ride up Sugar Loaf for another vista of the city.
We struck it lucky with the weather and enjoyed an amazing view from the Big Jesus as well as up Sugar Loaf before sunset where we had mind-blowing views of the city (will try and let the pics do the talking).
Sweet view huh? And the city behind is not too bad
The big man himself
Sugarloaf really needs to be seen to be believed
We also enjoyed our first taste of the famed açai – a superfood from the Amazon which incidentally tastes like a delicious fruity icecream when frozen and blended. Amazing.
Looks bad but tastes SO SO good!
On our second day we signed onto a tour of South America’s largest favela – perched on the other side of the hill from Ipanema beach, some of Rio’s prime real estate. It was an interesting insight into the lives and challenges of the cities poorest residents. This favela had approx. 70,000 inhabitants and is one of over 1000 in the city.
Images trying to portray how millions of people live in South America (Alex - it is not ALL like this)
We watched some Brazilian kids dance - we have it on video - really cute!
As we were leaving the police were about to enter and undergo a massive raid for drugs and weapons. We got to view some of the action from the outside
The afternoon was spent in stark contrast – watching the body-beautiful Brazilians flaunt it (cos they got it) on Ipanema Beach. Never have you seen more washboard abs and budgie-smugglers on a stretch of sand. We expected the women would be vain, but oh no no no – the Adonis is alive and well here.
Some of these views are pretty impressive!
Some are a bit in your face perhaps!!(Flossing is the norm here)
The things vendors tote around the beach with them trying to sell is incredible
That night we managed to get our Brazilian BBQ (at a slightly more affordable establishment). We amazed as large lumps of meat (of various cuts) on skewers sailed around the room with knife-wielding waiters until we could eat no more. Iron count safely through the roof.
That capped of our short, but very memorable stay in Rio. We are already hatching plans for the next trip for another dose.