''Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand.
Just like that river twisting through a dusty land...''
And now for the bus rides of all bus rides...
24 hours from Iguassu to Rio. And Brazilian buses are a far cry from the Cama buses...
Yes, we spent an entire day of our holiday on a single decker bus. No food service, no movies and no fully reclining seats.
To top it all off, there were 5 Portuguese people sitting right behind us who chose to have a party in the back of the bus. They talked to and laughed at each other across the aisle for most of the journey. Was more like a shouting competition.
Just when they had mellowed out a bit, the bus would stop for a short break. Then they would come back refreshed and talk even louder! I tried to shhh them, but I don't think that makes sense in Portuguese. maybe it would have been easier to deal with if we understood what they were saying. Then again, probably not.
Rio is another big city. At this stage in the game, we are really sick of cities. But who in their right mind would go to Brazil and skip Rio??? Not to mention it is the home of the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches (sing with me... ''Music and passion were always the fashion at the Cooooo pa. They fell in love.'') Rio does have a charm that no other city we have been to has. It looks as if buildings are carved right into the mountains they're so close. You can see the mountains from all parts of the city and the beaches and sea as well. The favelas in the mountains stand out like a sore thumb over the posh Brazilian city. All you can see is tiny, crumbling shoebox homes stacked one on top of the other - they are home to thousands of Rio's poor.
As it turns out our friend Ben took a 2 hour flight to Rio the night before (the b***tard) and he gave us the name and address of the hostile where he was staying.
We took a taxi there on the off chance they would have a room for us. They only had 2 beds left on an 8 bed dorm. For some crazy reason (probably the fumes from the city), we decided to take it. In the course of one day we broke 2 of our own rules -- no 24 hour buses and no dorm rooms! Couldn't do too much damage in 2 nights, right?
Threw our bags on our bunk beds, had quick showers then met up with Ben for a tour organized by the hostile to see the big Jesus and Sugar Loaf Mountain at sunset.
The most famous sight in all of Rio (and I would argue one of the most recognized in the world) is the looming statue of Cristo Rodento (Christ the Redeemer) with outstretched hands high atop the Cockade mountain peak. At 83m high and made of stone, Jesus is quite impressive up there and you can see him from most parts of the city. The view of Rio from where he stands is most panoramic and I wondered if He was able to see the statue of Mary in Santiago from his height.
From there we drove to Sugar Loaf Mountain. To reach the summit, you have to take 2 cable cars to 400m above Rio. I heard the best time to be at the summit was at sunset. And I double checked to make sure the tour would be there at that time. But, the tour guide said we had to be back at the bus at 5:30. The sun only started falling at 5:25. We got a few decent pictures, but we missed peak sunset and I was not happy. I confronted the guide and he said, ''Oh, you did't see sunset? Oh well, we have to go!!!'' It was still light out.
After the tour we hit Copacabana beach with Ben. We sat at a cafe on the sidewalk to people watch and enjoy our first caipirinhas. This is the signature cocktail of Brazil and involves a lot of cachaca (like vodka) and a lot of limes. Potent but tasted delicious especially given the surroundings. Saw loads of kids playing soccer on the beach, scantily clad women showing their coconuts and loads of people taking their early evening strolls or runs on the beach. We then went back to the hostile for a couple drinks then went to an authentic Brazilian charrascura meal. The restaurant was recommended by the bartender at the hostile. All u can eat meat feast and salad bar for 11.90 BR (about $5USD) We thought we had a meat feast in Argentina. That didn't even come close!
We sat down in this huge place and ordered drinks. Then we got up to help ourselves to the salad bar which went on for miles. Filled our plates with assorted salads and sat back down., Within a minute, the meat started coming. A waiter turned up with filet, cooked 3 different ways. If you say yes, he carves for you as much as you want then moves on to the next table. After that, another guy came with the sausage. Then another with the grilled chicken, then the roast. Then the pork. And it just kept coming and coming. And we kept eating and eating. This is crazy!!! It was so good and so much fun that we went there again the next night. That was probably the best value for money meal we have had in 7 months!
The only downside is that we had to roll ourselves out of the place an were in no mood to be social for the rest of the night. So we retired to our bunkbeds early.
The next day we toured the town a bit with Ben. We took the subway to the Maracana stadium, the largest football stadium world. You can imagine L in his element. Too bad the place was under construction in preparation for the PanAmerican games in 2007. It was quite impressive all the same -- at one point it held 185,000 people! We also got to tour the locker room where Pele once showered and prepared for his games. There was a guy on the warm up green that bounced a soccer ball on all parts of his body and even sat down and stood up with the ball without it ever touching the ground -- for a good 6 minutes. Now that's talent!
They also have a walk of fame, much like in CA, with the famous players' footprints.
After we left the stadium, we took the subway to a cable car that started running more than 100 years ago. Don't think they've attempted to upgrade it at all over the years. The car showed its age as it squeaked and rocked back and forth up a mountain. At times we were a bit afraid it would derail! But it didn't and we got to see another part of Rio and a great view all for 20 cents.
As I mentioned, we went back to the meat feast for dinner and had another early night because we had to wake up at 5:20am to take a bus to Buzios.
Now a word about hostiles in general ... If you've never experienced dorm life on your travels, you're in for an experience. They're great if you're 18, single and on a budget. Not so great when you're and old married couple like us.
The problem with having 8 people sleep in 1 room is that everyone is on a different schedule. We walked in the room around 11pm and there was a Japanese guy asleep, fully clothed including shoes on, in his bed. So we tried to be quiet as we rummaged through our bags to get settled for the night. Then 2 English guys walked in not noticing (or caring) about the sleeping guy and talked to us loudly about their plans for the night. They said they would probably be coming back as we were waking up (read on...)
We then used the showers and toilets (which were located separately across the hall) and climbed up the beds. I think it's been 30 years since I slept on a top bunk???
Within 30 mins, 2 new guys checked into the room. They told L they got kicked out of another hostile (this is promising...), dropped their bags and left for the night.
Finally a few short hours of peace. Until they started coming back... About 3am, one of the English guys came in with a girl. Lets just say they were not exactly keeping their hands to themselves... Then the other 2 came back around 4, then the last English guy just after 5am. He was burping so loud we were sure he would lose his cookies all over the room. Fortunately, he kept them in.
Didn't even need an alarm to wake us up at 5:20am. Funny, no one seemed to budge when we left. Oh well. Could always sleep on the bus.