Matt and I hit the ground running, jumping on the city tour bus as soon as we barreled into town. Delays getting into Rio thanks to ferries and buses running on “South American time” meant we didn’t even get to our rooms to get beautiful before setting off to sample the tip of the iceberg that is a city of the world.
I don’t use the term iceberg lightly. The landscape is amazing with the mountains throwing themselves into the sky, squeezing up between buildings and beaches and covered in deep green rainforest. The natural beauty of the mountains balance the bedlam below, standing like sentinels guarding great treasures.
First stop with our vivacious and hip (and if you read this Marcio, you know I’m right) guide Marcio, was Corcovado Mountain and good old buddy Christ himself. A bucket list tick for many years, my heart skipped and I had a few tears realising I was finally actually, definitely standing there. I’m the first to admit I’m anything but religious and the sight of a giant statue of a religious figure is generally not the kind of thing to float my boat. It’s all about the setting. High on a hill (don’t sing it), stands this massive declaration from Rio’s population to anyone who sees it, about what they believe. You don’t have to believe in him, you don’t have to be Christian, but I’ll bet you still do what we did and that’s take a photo with your arms out wide. You just do. Just as you don’t need to be Catholic to appreciate the Sistine Chapel, Christ the Redeemer packs a punch and he’s got the best views on a clear day.
We also stopped by the tiled steps and managed to find several that made us laugh, think of someone we know and even a couple from home.
The cathedral may not necessarily inspire from the outside with its 70s grimy concrete influenced by the Mayan pyramids, however once inside the stained glass soaring to the apex on all four sides gives an entirely new perspective.
Lapa by day is a mere shadow of the personality it exudes at the end of the week parties…more on that later, and Santa Teresa with her narrow cobblestone streets, artistic heart and history is superb.
Sugarloaf Mountain is the draw card for its cable car – the third in the world and was used in the Bond film, Moonraker. The cable goes across two summits, ending at Sugarloaf and the views, I have to say, outshine those from Corcovado for their expansive 360 degree access.
We tumbled home later than expected – seems some of our group were more interested in shopping for tacky souvenirs than meeting back at agreed times at each stop so for Matt and I it was a v e r y long day. Back to the hotel for 20mins to finally try and get beautiful before heading out to a buffet churrasco where I had my money stolen out of my wallet. The food was lovely but I was very relieved when Simon bought my dinner as I was flat broke and all ATMs – even the 24hr ones – shut 20mins before we walked out of the restaurant. Add to that having my good sunglasses nicked off Ipanema beach and that’s all the bad luck I encountered, still annoying.
For our last night with the inimitable (except for spontaneous dance moves) Tomás, we hit up the Lapa street party scene and had an amazing time that won’t be soon forgotten. A fresh, and muy grande, caiphirina in hand from a street vendor and a walk up the street found us a rock violinist and his beat-boxing sidekick putting some new spin on recognisable tunes. We found a samba band playing ferociously and pulled out all our best moves, only to be woefully outdone by the local professionals who still showed great joy in letting us into their party. We bought hats and shared thick cigars that tasted like chocolate, whooping it up all night, frolicking in the heat and dancing till our thongs broke. A simple street party, people everywhere only interested in having a good time, a festival atmosphere that reminded me of Caxton Street after a Maroons win at Lang
Park and it happens every weekend…How lucky are Cariocas!