We arrived in Rio and immediately it was apparent that the tranquillity of the Amazon was far, far away. It took nearly two and half hours to get from the airport to the district where we were staying (Leblon). I had my ear bent most of the way by “Princess Anneliese” (usually she will opt fopr the cheapest route but a night without sleep had taken it’s toll). She had wanted to take a taxi but me in my “tight fisted” way had insisted that we take the bus and assured Annie that it would only take an hour. We finally arrived in Leblon, at what I had strained my memory to remember, was the bus stop, $20 better off but with 90 minutes less time in Rio.
The next task was to find our hostel and being reminded that not once during our time in Buenos Aires had Anneliese taken one wrong turn, the pressure was on! I hadn’t been to Rio for 7 months; luckily after again deciding to make Anneliese carry her rucksack and small backpack (she actually always carries her own rucksack and backpack), I managed to take the most direct route and not the “roundabout route” that I had taken many times, when I was last here. We arrived at what was the most expensive accommodation of our trip. For those that haven’t been to Rio, it is the second most expensive city in the world for accommodation (Monaco beats it, just). We had decided to spend a decent amount of money for our hostel here because of the safety issues surrounding Rio. Leblon is the Rio equivalent of Knightsbridge, our room was $50 a night each, which is probably 5 times what we have been spending throughout the rest of our trip. That evening we took a walk down to Leblon Beach and sat enjoying the sunset, and a King Coconut each to drink, before heading back to the hostel to cook dinner and slip into the “tiredness coma” that we both could feel coming on.
The second day was slow starting as we were getting over our missed night’s sleep and an impromptu lie in was taken advantage of. Anneliese had arranged a trip around the Rocinha favela, a trip I had done the last time I was in Rio and one which gives a great insight into the life inside a favela and how it has changed over the last 20 years. This gave me sometime to have a shave (first time in four weeks) and a haircut. That night we devoured a beautifully cooked takeaway Thai curry and a bottle of red wine and retired for an early night.
The next day was to be all about the beach. We decided that we would take a walk along Leblon and Ipanema Beaches as far down as Copacabana Beach. It is a really amazing beachfront and one of the most famous in the world. The sights were all “Very Brazilian” and it certainly lived up to it’s reputation of people dressed in some “rather interesting” get ups! We settled at the far end of Ipanema and spent the afternoon having a beer and watching the surfers. After a day of sun and a stroll back along the beachfront to the hostel, we felt completely refreshed and revitalised and ready for the adventures that the next day would bring.
Saturday in Rio for Andy and Anneliese was to be “Corcovado Day” – Or “Christ the Redeemer;” Rio’s most famous landmark. We made our way by bus to the entrance to the train. Arriving at 10.30 am, we thought that we may have to wait an hour or so for the train up to the statue; however, we had underestimated how busy it was. After being told the next available train was at 5.30pm, we decided to look at the bus option. For those that haven’t been up Corcovado, the bus option is the most stressful and tedious journey that I have endured in a long time. I got duped into this choice last time I was in Rio and had sworn that I would never repeat it. We approached one of the bus “ticket touts” and immediately it was obvious that this journey was going to be equally as bad. I decided to dig my heels in and mention to Annie that we could always walk up the hill (720m in height, actually a mountain, as it is above 600m but thought it would be a better “sell” to use the word hill).
After a bit of discussion and as much descriptive dialogue that I could muster about the stunning views on the route up, we decided that we could both use the exercise, so we followed the direction that the buses were driving and decided to try and find our way. I had read on the internet during my last trip that about five years ago there were many muggings of tourists walking up Corcovado, although the internet had stated that this route was now patrolled by Police. At the lower stages of the trek, it was quite evident why it was renowned for not being particularly safe, as you walk right through a favela. Whilst we encountered a few of the local favela inhabitants and also a very weird looking old man who followed us for a while, the trip up to the first stage went rather well.
Once up to the first stage you then have to buy your ticket for the top and may embark on the free bus ride to the top. A look at the queue and the sense of achievement from walking this far, we decided that it would be best to just carry on, on foot. I will say that in hindsight, the walking option is infinitely better as you get to see so many amazing views of the city and statue. After two hours of brisk walking, we arrived at the top; we lapped up the views, which are absolutely breathtaking and took the usual “Corcovado” photos for the album / blog. After about 10 minutes, we had achieved everything we had set out to do and decided that we would leave the ridiculously crowded summit to all the others trying to get the impossible picture of just them and Christ.
The decision that had to be made was the route down. Bus or foot? Such a dilemma but it was always going to be foot that would win. I reminded Anneliese that we had so far saved an entire $20 by walking and that the lovely Thai curry takeaway that we had enjoyed a couple of nights ago, could be repeated as our efforts would mean that it would only cost us $10, taking our saving into account. Hearing this, and without any hesitation, we were off. It is at this point that I will make a declaration, that you seldom hear from me… I was very impressed with Annie’s speed and enthusiasm at both the ascent and descent of Corcovado Mountain (actual meaning translates as Hunchback Mountain). Never once was there a complaint at the pace (which was never going to be slow) or at the heat which around 85F, an absolute sterling effort bearing in mind Anneliese’s legs are about 3 times shorter than mine. So after a 45 minute descent, Corcovado was complete and Andy & Anneliese’s Thai curry extravaganza beckoned. Feeling particularly pleased with ourselves we decided to splash out on a bottle of red as well – blowing the budget, without a care in the world and some well exercised legs and lungs.
We decided that we would finish off our evening with a wander down to the beach to watch the sunset over the beautiful Rio beaches, for the final time (on this trip). We turned in for an early night, as the next day was a “work day.” A 0430 start with the stresses and strains of traffic, airport crowds and normal people…