The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rio de Janeiro - Pre Olympics Version

The following takes place on Days 116 – 127,  Wednesday, March 23 to Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rio de Janeiro is going to be in the news a lot in the next few years, and rightly so. Not only will they be hosting the 2014 World Cup, but they will also be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The first city in South America to host either Olympics. As with most Olympics, Rio is not without controversy. Beijing had the human rights violations, Vancouver had the downtown housing situation, and Rio has the favelas. Much like Vancouver, the controversy is stemming from what the city and country is doing to “clean up” the area. I won’t get much into it as I’m not well enough informed to make an informed opinion. All I know is that it is an issue that many people are keeping a close eye on.

Rio definitely lives up to its hype though. It is a city where doing nothing is encouraged by the local tourism office guides. Sure, they have their tourist traps, but for the most part, people go to Rio for one thing, and one thing only: the beaches.

IMG_4076Getting to Rio de Janeiro was a challenge in itself. From Foz do Iguacu, it was a 24 hours bus ride. Well, it was supposed to be a 24 hour bus ride. We lost time somewhere, and then, with only three people left on board, the police boarded to check our IDs. We had pulled over to the side of the road and I decided to take the opportunity to go to the washroom on board. Bad timing. I flushed the toilet and walked out to see a police officer standing there waiting. They went through my day bag, checked my passport, then gestured for me to go off the bus. They then proceeded to go through my backpack completely. Finding no drugs, they let me repack and get back on the bus.

IMG_3862Rio is an amazing city to really do nothing. I spent days upon days on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Both are huge and attract large amounts of people. The  Cariocas, as the locals are called, come to the beaches in droves. The one thing that’s very noticeable at first glance is the swimwear that everyone seems to wear. It’s easy to pick out the tourists and the non-locals as they are the ones wearing either the knee-length swimtrunks for men and the one-piece swimsuit for women. For the locals, tinier is better. Even kids wear tiny swimsuits. That was a bit much but I don’t judge. I asked one guy why everyone, regardless of body type, wears the tiny swimtrunks and he told me that cariocas love to tan. The smaller the swimsuit, the better the tan. Fair enough.

And considering there were guys running around wearing those swimsuits who were much bigger than I, I gave in and bought one for myself. I mean, when in Rome.

IMG_3949Besides the beaches, there are at least two places that all visitors to the city go to: Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. Both are extremely easy to get to via the massive bus routes that crisscross the city. Though, while easy to get to, both can be quite expensive to see.

Sugarloaf Mountain is a great viewpoint to see the city. Myself, I got there in the mid-afternoon in order to be on the top as the sun went down over the city. To get to the top, one must first take a gondola from the street up to Urca Mountain or, as IMG_3995an alternative, walk up the mountain from the beach. I opted to take the gondola as it’s the same price either way. From the top of Urca, you take another gondola to the station at the top of Sugarloaf. How the hell they managed to build these I have no idea. Either way, the view from the top is worth it.

Christ the Redeemer is another amazing view of the city. The monument itself is a marvel and is probably the most recognizable image of Rio de Janeiro. For myself though, I was a bit disappointed. To get to the top, you can walk for three or four hours(which is not recommended. Many locals will not do it as it is known IMG_4046as an easy place to get mugged), take a taxi(expensive as you’ll have to pay for both going up and going down, even if you’re not taking the same taxi down), a van(the cheapest of the pay options, but will only go with a full load so you could be waiting a little), or the train(a very expensive one at that). The train ride lasts about twenty minutes. For the amount you pay to get up to the statue, it’s a bit anti-climatic. Yes, the view is nice(if it’s not cloudy) but the statue itself is pretty blah. I mean, I’ve seen it before back in Bolivia. That’s my personal opinion at least.

IMG_3896When you’re in Rio de Janeiro, you do have an opportunity to take a tour through one of the largest flavalas  in the city. I didn’t as there was just something off putting for me. The idea of spending money to go to the slums of the city to “see how the people live!” is a bit odd in my view. I’m sure the neighbourhood sees some of this money(I hope) but at a cost of being gawked at by tourists. I just didn’t feel comfortable doing that.

IMG_4243While in Rio, I met a bunch of amazing people. On the beach of Ipanema, I met a couple gents from New York City who ended up buying me a number of beers while we sat in our chairs and watched the scenery. Ross and Lee, thank you very much! It was a pleasure to have met you for that brief moment! The hostel also had a bunch of amazing people. Viktor from Sweden(a fellow “family” member), Freia and Matt from Toronto, Vijay from London, Luis from Mendoza, Ellaina and her aunt from Buenos Aires, and three guys from Northern Brazil but I can’t for the life of me remember their names. It was a good time, and I’m glad I allowed myself so much time to just relax on the beach and soak in the carioca culture.

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