We arrived in Rio after a 25 hour bus journey to welcoming blue skies and sunshine, we'd pretty much had non stop rain for the last week! The journey was fine once we settled into it although the bus did smell like people regularly lived on it on for a day, the seats weren't the comfiest and the suspension was questionable - as we were sat over a wheel arch it was somewhat like being on a roller coaster at times! We had directions that the hostel we were staying at in Botafogo was a short ride away on a local bus so we yomped off with our backpacks. The 30 minutes felt like 3 hours in the packed sweaty conditions - J reminded me it was nothing compared to what we would experience in India. It was 4pm, very hot and we needed a cold beer or two. Luckily the hostel had a bar and a wicked roof terrace with a view of the iconic Christ the Redeemer. Whilst in the bar we got chatting to a Brazilian dude who invited us to a Block party in Leme at the end of Copacabana beach so we showered quickly and went to enjoy the live music and Samba dancing on the beach. As we strolled down Copacabana beach we both had massive grins on our face as we took in that we were in Rio de Janerio!
We slept in longer that we meant to due to poor sleep on the bus and nearly missed breakfast - it turned out it wasn't much to write home about anyway. The metro was super easy to find our way around with beaches only a few stops in either direction. So of course we hit Copacabana beach to catch some rays - or shade for me. It is so beautiful, by far the best beach I have been on to date. Brazilians are clearly very proud of their beaches. The sand is gorgeous, the water is clear and with the constant passing market of beach traders it makes for a very lazy day. They work bloody hard, trekking up and down in the heat carrying their wears - everything from sarongs, cold beers, prawns on sticks to grilled cheese cooked in front of you on mini BBQ's. Most things can be bartered down in price - J's specialty/my nightmare! I don't know why I feel so uncomfortable - I really need to get over it! With Brasil having some of the largest Japanese communities outside of Japan we headed out for some Sushi for tea and it was delicious, washed down with a few Caipirinhas (Caipis for short) of course!
We left early for a trip up sugarloaf mountain (well earlier than the day before anyway, we had loads of washing to do - I will really appreciate my washing machine when I come home!) The views were immense, I didn't have any expectation of what it would be like as I hadn't really heard much about it, but wow! It literally took my breath away! You go up on a cable car but there's a really cool midpoint where you can just hang out for as long as you like - so we did just that, whiled the afternoon away drinking beers enjoying the spectacular views! At the very top we quite literally had our heads in the clouds! On the way back we went via Copacabana beach and enjoyed as much street food as we could stuff our faces with with. We've been enjoying food even more when we don't have a clue what we're ordering and it turns out to be super tasty. Follow us on Pinterest to check out all the yummy food we're trying!
Conscious we only had 5 days in Rio and wanting to make the most of them, coupled with being told to avoid the masses when visiting Christ the Redeemer, we opted for a 7am start. Even though I'm not working, mornings are still not my thing. We had our day bags ready the night before for a quiet early exit but we woke to find a new overnight roomie had strewn all sorts in front of our lockers - the delights of shared dorms and inconsiderate messy idiots! Not the best start to the day. I'm sure there's much more of this to come. Top tip: if you suffer from travel sickness like me, take your pills before you head up Corcodova mountain, I forgot and felt pretty rough from the bumpy trip up and down the mountain. Being one of the biggies on my bucket list I'm still trying to take in the awesomeness of seeing Christ the Redeemer with my own eyes. It was impressive. Not so impressive were the hoards of posers and selfie addicts - people lying on the floor and climbing on the "do not climb" walls with drops to your death on the other side to get the best shot, it was bedlam - and that was at 9am! For the rest of the day we headed down to Ipanema beach and chilled on the lush sands with beers and intermittent swims in the deceptively strong but extremely fun waves.
Unfortunately most of our last morning was taken up trying to figure out how to get to São Paulo to catch our flight to Chile the next day - I'm not sure I can communicate how frustrating online bookings on South American sites are! After hours we didn't end up being able to book anything so called it a day and headed out to another Block party. We were told the first one we had been to was just a warm up but this was the real Carnival deal but we had no idea what to expect. These parties were scheduled pretty non-stop for the next 2 weeks. One minute we were walking down a normal street, then we turned and corner and there was a party bus blasting music and thousands of people dancing in the street. It was frantic and enchanting in the same instant. The bus moved and the people along with it, passing street vendors selling cold beers and water. Perfect! We partied away vowing that we had to come back with friends one year and see the whole of carnival out, not just the first couple of days. It was such an infectious vibe. People just having the most fun; laughing, dancing and being happy. At the end of the party there was a massive water cannon that soaked the crowd - much needed in the heat. It was crazy. After the main event gatherings surrounded small bands that had struck up sounding out drum beats like no tomorrow. After several hours we needed a break (being 30 and all) so we walked a few blocks to Botafogo beach and sat a while watching the lit up bay with yachts bobbing in the water against the backdrop of sugarloaf mountain. We weren't ready to leave Brasil. On the way back to our hostel we got one last Caipai as people continued to party hard into the night.
A 6am start and our time in Rio had come to an end. We reluctantly trudged to the bus stop with backpacks trying to wake up, eating some delicious figs we had got from a pop up market outside our hostel the day before, sharing our departure with the last of the night Carnival goers on their way home. The journey to the bus station definitely woke us up with the driver going so fast that he was bracing himself! From there we took our next buses for a 7/8 hour journey to São Paulo airport still feeling melancholy about leaving the party early but excited to experience Chile, we'd heard a lot of good things about it from new friends we have met on the road.
- We love Rio and wish we had had more time. The city just has great vibes everywhere and people are so happy, warm and welcoming.
- It's safe as long as you are sensible, same as anywhere, don't listen to the media.
- With dutiful and copious repellant application we managed to not get any mosquito bites so hopefully we don't have the Zika virus!
- The beers are cheap - less than £1 for a can on Copacabana beach, you can't complain at that!
- Sugarloaf and Corcodova mountains are something that you need to experience - I can't stress this enough. If they're not on your 'things to do before I die' list they should be. Fact.