Day 93: Rio In A Day

Wed. 14th November 2012

RioAt breakfast, it is time to say goodbye to everyone – the eight others who we have been with since Lima 45 days ago, as well as the three (four including our tour guide Zaida) who joined us in Santa Clara 16 days ago. The partying last night went on a long time after we left and so there are a few tired/hung-over faces. Thank you all for our great adventure across South America – we will always remember the amazing things we did.

Afterwards, we decide to walk down street and book city tour for this afternoon, as weather is not forecast to get any better and clouds are higher today and it isn’t raining. As we walk down to the tour office, we also check out the Metro station, which looks straight forward for our transfer to Centro on Friday.

We walk back to the hotel along the beach front. As this is Copacabana Dave cannot wait to check out the beach for those thong bikinis that Rio is well known for but there is not a soul sunbathing. The beach is windy and empty, but at least the Wi-Fi there is free.

We met up with six others from our old group to go on the City tour and squeezed into a sixteen seater minibus which was already half full by the time it arrived at our hotel and off we went hoping the weather would be kind to us and remain clear enough to see the views.

The famous statue of Rio!Luckily the first stop was at the Cristo Redenter (Christ the Redeemer) statue, which is situated on the 700 metre peak of Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park not far from the centre of town. The statue was constructed between 1922 and 1931 and is said to be the largest Art Deco Statue in the world. We reached the peak by road and were a bit disappointed not to go on the train, but never mind. The views from the top were amazing with just a few wisps of cloud around. It is a good place to start to get an idea of the layout of Rio without paying the extortionate price of a helicopter trip. We were also lucky with the weather and just in time to see views before the clouds came in.

Save our tram mural The next stop was the area called St Teresa where we went for walk and saw the mural in memory of the tram crash which put an end to the tram travel in Rio and also some of the local art.

View looking up at Cathedral windowsNext we were heading for the Cathedral so thoughts of the usual 17th Century buildings with nave, alter, side chapels etc came into our mind so we did not expect what came next.The latest of a series of Cathedrals for Rio was built between 1964 and 1979 (younger than us but we won’t go there!). It is Mayan style, as we had seen in Yucatan, and has standing room for 20,000 people. There are stained glass windows on four sides which are 64 metres from floor to ceiling.

Lapa stepsLapa steps American Heros!The sights were coming at us in all shapes and sizes and next was no exception. The Lapa steps are nothing like the Spanish Steps in Rome. The steps are the life’s work of the Chilean artist Selaron and the colours were a sensory overload! It was interesting to spend some time just looking at all the different pictures and colours on the tiles and the names of many places all over the world. Even the Simpsons had a place next to iconic Americans – Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy. Part way up the stairs was an art gallery (another fridge magnet from here for our growing collection) and Selaron himself was sat there watching the tourists go by.

There was not any time to stop at the usual places a city tour would visit in the Historical centre. That will have to wait until Friday when we change hotel and will have time to exploring the centre of Rio on foot.

Cable cars to Sugarloaf mountainThe final stop on the tour is to visit the Sugar Loaf mountain, so named as it looks like a type of Portuguese bread apparently? The first of two cable cars takes us to Morro da Urca, which gives good views back towards Rio and Christ the Redeemer. It also gives views of the harbour including an enormous yacht, which is well beyond our budget and over twice the size of any others.

The second cable car keeps going up to the top of the Sugar Loaf which is 396m high and has views of the city airport watching the planes take off and fly by as well as back towards Rio and Christ the Redeemer.

View across to Chris the RedeemerThe tour with “Don’t be a gringo – be a local” (www.bealocal.com) was over 5 hours long and an excellent start to our stay in Rio. The weather could have been better but at least the rain and low cloud stayed away.

Dinner was simple at a “kilo restaurant” and quick as it was just the two of us! However it was strange not being part of a sixteen strong group which we will miss, as well as all our new friends who have now gone their separate ways, some home (old and new homes!), some staying longer. We will miss them but thanks to Facebook will still be able to keep up with them.

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