South America | Brazil | Rio de Janeiro – The party city of Rio
Ahhh, Rio de Janeiro. One of the greatest cities in the world. I came to that conclusion when I spent the last few days here sightseeing, partying, and lying on the beach. It seemed to be the perfect city for doing those things.
After returning from the remote Pantanal to the town of Campo Grande, I decided to get a flight straight to Rio rather than endure a twenty hour bus ride. With a transfer in Sao Paulo, it proved to be a rather comfortable, if not rather early option since I had to leave at four in the morning. At Rio’s airport I caught a special bus that took me downtown and dropped me near my hostel.
In this way I therefore made it safely to my hostel without my bags getting stolen off me. Although admittedly, as I had just arrived from the Pantanal my clothes and bags were all dusty and dirty, making me look like the proverbial dusty backpacker who had just blown in from out of town. Looking like that most people would have left me alone. And so I was ready to hit the biggest party city of all, Rio de Janeiro.
Christ and the Sugar Loaf
The setting of Rio is one of the most amazing in the world. Several mountain peaks dot the city, followed by sprawling buildings, and then miles of stunning beaches. The most famous beach in the world, Copacobana, lines a four kilometre stretch directly in front of a row of densely packed hotels and apartments. Further down is Ipanema beach, which is just as nice. Overlooking the city is the famous statue of Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, rising up on a peak 700 metres up and visible from most parts of the city.
It was here that I made a trip to see the city from up above. From the base I caught the train up to the statue, with great views of the city on the way up. This is probably the most visited tourist attraction in Rio, which was no surprise when I discovered the top packed with visitors. The thirty metre high statue of Christ towers above a pedestal with hands outstretched, like a protector over the city. There were tourists doing the obligatory cheesy pose with arms outstretched in front of the statue, but I declined to follow suit.
Yet another place for a fantastic view of the city is the Pao de Acucar, or Sugar Loaf. This is a mound of rock right at the entrance of the bay, rising up to 395 metres. I caught the cablecar up here one evening at dusk to watch the sunset, as is my usual policy for anything involving a view of the city from a height. From up here I could again see the magnificence of the city, buildings interspersed with mountain peaks, beaches lining the coastline, and the statue of Christ rising up on one of the highest peaks protecting the city.
When in Rio, one must hit the beaches, and with Barry Manilow’s song firmly stuck in my head I headed straight to Copacabana beach. The locals of Rio are indeed lucky to have such a magnificant strip of sand and surf right on their doorstep. The cariocas – these are what residents of Rio are called – are very much into their beach culture. It was here that I caught sight of numerous Brazilians tanning themselves in bathing suits the size of postage stamps. I would have no objection to this if not for the leathery old men who seemed to think it was also appropriate to dress accordingly.
As I lay on the beach catching some rays, I was also inundated with an incessant stream of vendors passing before me. They were selling everything from beach towels, sunglasses, t-shirts, and jewellery. This would have been the most annoying thing on the beach if not for the fact that food vendors also come right up to you offering snacks and drinks. Some even had portable grills to cook something up for me. And so I thought this was the perfect beach scenario for me, for in this way I could come and lie on the beach without even having to get up.
All-you-can-eat skewers of food
And of course when in Brazil, I had to indulge in the famous churrascarias at meal times. These are all you can eat places serving roast meats accompanied by a buffet salad bar. At one end of the room sits a huge open oven with rotating giant skewers of succulent meats roasting slowly. Meanwhile, waiters scurry back and forth from the oven over to your table holding these skewers and asking you if you want a slice of whatever they are holding. This seems to be the way in Brazil; they try to make you get up as little as possible and will always bring you what you want. As long as you’re paying for it of course.
The best party city of all
The cariocas love to party and just have fun for any excuse; just pop into any club or bar to check out what is going on. One night, a whole bunch of us went to a club which had a live band playing samba music. The whole bar was getting into the rhythm and the dance floor was heaving with Brazilians dancing.
Rio is definitely up there as one of the greatest cities in the world. Many travellers I met have even put it at the top of their list, and several of the people I met in my hostel have returned to Rio two or three times. I would have to agree with this assessment, for with its parks, mountain peaks, very lively nightlife, and magnificent beaches, it must be close to the perfect city.