South America | Brazil | Rio de Janeiro – A week in Rio
Saturday 2nd June
Just my kind of day. Got up, ate breakfast, felt tired so had a three hour siesta, woke up, had a delcious ice cream, went for a lie down, got up and went for all you can eat pizza. Fantastic idea – you pay $3 and choose your ingredients, watch the dough being tossed and the pizza being baked in front of you – no soggy lukewarm buffet mush!
While you’re eating, they are baking and when you pick up the last bite from your plate, the waiter dumps another couple of slices on it. It is indeed death by pizza and after 10 or 12 large slices we were ready to explode. Definitely recommended and you can roll nicely down the hill back to your hotel. Tomorrow is the end of our stay in the Mato Grosso do Sul and we head for Rio de JAniero on a 27 hour bus ride.
Tuesday 5th June
Having spent a year travelling to work on the London Underground, spending untold hours stuck in the tunnel before Earl’s Court and wonderng if I’d ever see the light of another day, Rio’s metro system is a dream! With only two lines it’s uncomplicated, cheap at $0.50 a trip, clean spacious and air conditioned. Trains arrive every couple of minutes and leave promptly.
No hanging around in a sweaty carriage, a fat businessman’s armpit in your face and finding that the driver has decided to terminate the service without bothering to tell anyone. Anyway, rant over! As ever, the paranoid warnings about safety concerns seem unfounded and there was no way that we were going to leave the camera at the hotel while we basked on tyhe world’s most famous beach.
To be fair, Copacabana isn’t that spectacular, what with its scores of high rise hotels but it does have its own charm. There are goal posts as far as the eye can see and Brazilians from 4 to 40 take advantage of them to practice the national passtime. After a few hours of sun worshipping (until those damn hotels cast a shadow over the beach) it’s time for a beer (the other national passtime!) and we decide that since we’ve come all this way it would be a crime not to sample Rio’s nightlife.
After a siesta I commit the sin I swore I wouldn’t while travelling – I finally gave in to temptation and had a Big Mac. Perfect way to line your stomach for a night on the beer. After hunting for a few recommended venues, all of which turned out to be strip clubs, we agreed that instinct was better and headed for the beach. The bars along the front are all alike – thatched huts surrounded by patio furniture out on the pavement. You get a bar atmosphere whil enjoying the night air and listening to the waves crashing. We found a bar which was hosting Karaoke. It must be a popular form of entertainment here since people were actually paying for the privilege of humiliating themselves. Two caipirinhas (Brazil’s national drink – a very potent sugar can rum cocktail) and a litre of sangria later, I was up there with the best (or worst) of them paying my $0.50 and screeching ‘Like a Virgin’for any poor passers by to appreciate. I should really be embarrassed, but being a foreigner I was a big hit and if it had’ve been free you couldn’t have prized the microphone from my hand!
Proceedings were starting to wrap up at 2 and we were a bit fed up of people offering to sell us drugs! The plan was to end up in Help, allegedly Rio’s best club, but once we stood up the alcohol hit home, so we did too!
Wednesday 6th June
Ipanema beach seemed the ideal place to recover from a hangover, though seeing all those stick-thin bronzed girls made me feel even worse. I think I’ll maintain a low profile here and keep my wobbly white bits to myself! Other than lying on the beach and eating salgados we did little. I can say that Rio is a good place to have a hangover though!
Saturday 9th June
After another day seeing the usual Rio sights (Sugar Loaf, Christ the Redeemer statue, more beach) we have arrived in Foz do Iguacu. I am very happy that we only have one more hideously long bus journey left, then it’s all sleeper trains in Asia. Foz is a nice city and it’s obvious that the tourist dollar has been pumped back into the local community, rather than into some corrupt goverment!
We checked into the nicest hotel so far – complete with breakfast and swimming pool – and it’s still only $6 each!
Sunday 10th June
Iguacu Falls are quite simply the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen. A bus from Foz takes you to the entrance of the national park, where you connect with a tour bus to the falls. It’s quite regimented, but that at least ensures that you don’t miss any of the falls. We shared the bus with a bunch of rowdy senile delinquents as my mum says – some Argentine pensioners out on a beanie. Luckily for us they had hired a professional guide and didn’t seem to mind us listening in for free!
The guide warned us about Quatis – racoon-like anmals that inhabit the forest and have a tendency to abscond with your picnic, or if you’re particularly unlucky, your wallet! While walking alongside the water, we came across a woman with half a dozen of them clawing at her bag and climbing her legs. It made for a good photo opportunity and she seemed to find it hilarious! I’m not sure I’d have been quite so pleased!