Posted by: robinson2000 | August 10, 2013

Perfect Start to the Holiday!

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Rio de Janeiro – 26th July – 30th July

We landed safely in sunny Rio on Friday (26th) morning along with half the worlds Catholic contingent who had turned up to see the Pope. We boarded a shuttle bus heading for our hostel in Ipanema which took us through some of the more interesting parts of Rio. When I say interesting I actually mean grotty as the bus sped past derelict buildings and potholed roads. For travellers turning up for the World Cup or the Olympics this does not give a good first impression and I seriously doubt that Rio will be able to cope with hosting these massive events.
After an hour on the bus where the man in front of us was taking pictures of the TV screen whenever it showed an image of the Pope, we arrived outside the Mango Tree Hostel in Ipanema, a hostel I had stayed in two years ago when I was last in Rio. Just to confirm this the receptionist flashed up a mugshot of me gawping like an idiot from my previous visit.

The Mango Tree Hostel is a really nice, chilled out hostel with excellent breakfasts. We had a private room and bathroom and relaxed for a few hours before showering and heading out to try a catch a glimpse of the Pope, along with the other 2.5 million pilgrims who had travelled across the world to see him. We walked to Copacabana, about 15 minutes walk from Ipanema, and the streets were jampacked. There was a big military and poliec presence all around Copacabana and there were people from countries all around the world waving their banners and national flags. This was, as we discovered, (readers – our arrival in Rio and that of the Pope was purely coincendental!) the JMJ – jornada mundial de juventud, or in laymans terms international youth day, only it wasn’t a day, it lasted for 5 bloody days and we were sick of the sight of the JMJ logo, multi-coloured matching backpacks and processions of hand in hand chanting pilgrims. There was a huge stage erected at the far end of Copacabana Beach to host the festivities (the Pope gave a speech, there were songs and prayers, performances etc) but we didn’t have a chance on getting near this so we sat on the beach and watched it on the multiple big screens along with the other 2.5 million people.

Eager to get a Brazilian suntan, we headed to the beach soon after breakfast the following morning (sat 27th) but was slighty disappointed as the sun teased us behind a blanket of clouds. It was still a gorgeous setting and we had fun in the Atlantic Oceans waves (which are not gentle in the slightest!). In the afternoon we caught one of Rio’s bone rattling buses to Pao de Acucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain), one of Rio’s most beautiful highlights. We scaled the smaller peak on foot past little monkeys and got a cable car to the top to enjoy a beautiful sunset across Rio’s skyline. The view really was stunning and reminded us just how beautiful Rio really is. In the evening we met up with my Brazilian friends for an evening of cheese and four bottles of wine. It was a great evening with lots of catching up, laughs, food and drink as this was a couple, Valeria and Alexandre (Val and Alex!) I had stayed with in 2005 when I was studying portuguese in Rio for a month. I had such a great stay with them back then in their lovely flat which is just a few blocks from the sandy shores of Copacabana and have since been back to see them a few times so even though I hadn’t seen them for 8 years, it didn’t feel like that at all. Foi muito legal!

Due to the previous evenings festivities, the morning (Sunday 28th) was spent nursing a small hangover but by lunchtime we were raring to go and explore more of Rio. We took another long, loud and bone rattling bus across town to the base of Corcavado for the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Reedemer statue). Luckily we had prebooked our tickets online so the wait wasn’t too long before we were whisked to the top of the mountain by a rickety, charming old train that wheezed itself up the tracks. Some poor people that we met in the hostel had to wait for 5 hours to get the train due to the huge numbers of religious visitors that had swarmed into the city. At the top, the views were as breathtaking as ever once the swirling mist had blown away. Once again the top was teaming with JMJ folks making it difficult to find a good spot to get a photo but with some patience and some well placed elbows we saw some excellent views of the city. In the evening we went on a trip through our hostel to see Flamengo vs Bogofoga at the newly referbished Maracana. In typical Brazilian style (poor time keeping) the mini bus cut it very fine in reaching the ground but we got inside just in time to see the kickoff of this local derby. We were sat in the Bogofoga end of the stadium next to the hardcore contingent of fans with their samba drums beating and their oversized flags waving frantically above their heads. The first half finished 1-0 to Bogofoga after an assist from an AC-Milan legend and Dutch International star called Clarence Seedorf. In the second half Flamengo were all over Bogofoga and even had two disallowed goals much to the joy of the drum beaters next to us but they couldn’t overturn Flamengo’s momentum as they bundled an equiliser home in the dying moments of the game. It was a fantastic experience going to the Maracana as although the infrastructure of Rio doesn’t feel ready for a World Cup, the stadium certainly did.

With our time in Rio drawing to an end we thought we should take life a bit slower and enjoy a relaxing day on Monday (29th) doing not a lot. The morning was spent louging in the sun on Ipanema beach and occasionaly braving the rolling waves that were keeping the life guards busy. At one point we were whistled at and beckoned out of the sea as the currents were quite strong and waves were powerful. In the afternoon we strolled to a lake situated behind Ipanema called Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas where we could hire bicycles and do some much needed exercise. In fact it was a very leisurely exercise as it only took 50 minutes to pedal around the flat cycle path that circled the lake. To finish off our day of leisure we headed out to a fantastic Rodizio restaurant where we gorged on endless cuts of meats that were presented to us on spits by the waiters. You are also given a red and green card with the red indicating you’ve had enough and the green side indicating you want more. What a fantastic idea!! Obviously the red side of my card didn’t see much action as I polished off the best part of cow, along with sausages, chicken hearts and joints of lamb. It was brilliant! (Ben)

With Rio in our rear view mirrow we boarded the double decker bus (Tuesday 30th) for the long haul down to Foz du Iguazu for the next stage of our trip. Rio had been excellent but if you’re thinking of visiting the city for either the World Cup or the Olympics then stay in the Ipanema area, not Copacabana and book your activites well in advance.


  1. Amazing……..

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