After the longest flight I’ve ever been on, which was actually quite pleasant (coughing/spluttering/snoring man in the seat behind aside) we landed in Rio on Monday at around 8pm local time. Security/customs were a breeze despite my panic that my Barry’s Tea would be confiscated (shut up, it’s 5 months, I need tea. And I got to keep it.). Finding a working cash machine (to pay for taxi, hostel, etc) was not a breeze, however. We must have tried about 6 before finding one that doesn’t only take Brazilian cards. That might be something they need to sort before the World Cup and Olympics. We eventually got to the hostel (and the world’s tiniest room) and… Went straight to bed. No Rio night life for us.
I woke up feeling like death the next morning. I still don’t know if it was jet lag or general plane grottiness or a sinus thing or allergies or a cold, but I spent the first two days of Rio feeling like I wanted to die. It didn’t help me enjoy myself there, or even want to, but we got on with it. On the first day, we headed to the beach. After an aborted attempt to find the Metro (the staff in our hostel, while very nice, were completely unhelpful when it came to giving directions – “I think maybe that street?” was the best we ever got. And this was to Rio’s main sights, not like obscure places.) we took a bus to Ipanema and walked to Leblon through the streets and back along the beach. A nice and relaxed day for our first one. And bed early again cos I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open.
The following day, we found the Metro (with help from Google Maps, not the hostel staff) and did a walking tour of Rio. Despite still feeling like death warmed up, it was really enjoyable. We saw all the central Rio sights like the staircase at Lapa, the aqueducts, the Royal Palace, and cool colonial buildings including an epic cafe (where I didn’t sample the treats and now regret it!) and ate feijoada (traditional Brazilian bean dish). We then went off by ourselves and wandered around Santa Teresa until I felt too ill to continue and we metro-ed home. That night we had intended going out to dinner, but I conked out at 7pm and slept pretty much straight until 8am so that didn’t happen.
However… I woke up feeling semi-human, which I couldn’t appreciate enough. Of course, now Michael woke up with a cold. But still, he was mainly just sniffly and I could move my head without seeing stars, so we took it as a win. We went to see the Christ the Redeemer statue (or giant Jesus) and went up the Sugar Loaf on the cable car, both of which were amazing. And we saw monkeys :D The views of Rio were something else.
On Friday we went on another epic cash machine hunt and the on a favela tour. This was really very cool. It’s basically the slum area of Rio, built up into the hills, where nearly 1/3 of the population live. Basically if you earn minimum wage, you can’t afford rent so you live there. We went to Rocinho. It’s a weird experience really, it’s literally right around the corner from a private school that costs $3000 a month for tuition – most people in the favela earn ~$300 a month. The city-proper beside the favela is one of the richest areas of Rio; it’s all barbed wire and electric fences and guard dogs. Then you get to Rocinho and it’s totally different. That said, it was far more structured that I’d imagined. And I can totally see how it’d be preferable living there to rural poverty-stricken villages or in the city just scraping by. No rent there, free electricity (cos it’s leeched off the main wires), and there is a whole community there with shops and amenities. I thought the tour would be kind of voyeuristic, but it didn’t feel like that. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming.
So that was Rio. It was a weird trip. I think we were both a bit too jet lagged to fully appreciate it, especially in terms of the night life, but it was an interesting experience. The geography of the city is amazing, with lush green forested hills in between blocks with skyscrapers, long beaches, mountains, colonial buildings and favelas. But it wasn’t a city I’d really be in a rush to visit again. And not only cos I was put off by the lack of hot water in my hostel. One hot shower in the last 6 days… Eurgh.
We just flew to Campo Grande, where we are staying for one night en route to the Pantanal. We have been dropped to the hostel – where there is no one, not even staff, and the driver just looks bemused when we ask if there is anywhere to eat and/or get anything to eat nearby. So… hopefully that’ll work out okay. I’m getting hungry now…
I’m super excited about the Pantanal though. Not holding my breath for hot showers there either, but hopefully we’ll see lots of wildlife – and maybe a jaguar??