10.12.2012 - 17.12.2012 35 °C
Wow what a city, Rio de Janeiro tops our list of big South American cities, by a long way! Beautiful beaches, mountains, rainforest, friendly people and a great vibe. We met up with some friends here who lined us up with some accommodation in a shared house with them (thanks to airbnb.com). Much more reasonable rates for a private room compared to hostel rates, which are starting to get a little crazy now before they peak for Christmas, NYE and Carnival. It was great to catch up with James and Fleur who we met in Bolivia about 6 months ago.
We had a week in Rio, and filled in our time very easily. We headed up to Christ the Redeemer for a spectacular view across the city. Also spent afternoons on Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, with a freshly made Caipirinha cocktail in hand of course. Friday night in Lapa was a fantastic atmosphere, people milling throughout the streets, music coming from some talented live street bands, and many little street vendors selling varieties of the famous caiprina drink. We met up with some of our French housemates and our night disappeared into the crowd of Rio's young hipsters, old men serenading on guitars and bars lining the streets.
The city centre reminded us of a mix between Buenos Aires' large looming buildings, and Melbourne’s small laneways filled with tables and chairs. Quite a contrast to the coastal suburbs of the city. The Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil was holding a French impressionists exhibition we spend an afternoon visiting. Lucy of course found an excuse to purchase a pair of Brazilian made Havaiana sandals in one of the shops dedicated to the endless varieties of patterns and colours!
On Sunday night we headed to the Sambodromo, where the main Carnivale parade is held in February. Here there were schools practicing their parades and generally having a fiesta. It was great to see, and gave us an idea of what it would be like during Carnival.
A favela tour showed us a contrasting poorer side to the city. We wound our way through make-shift houses, laneways, staircases, open sewers and local people who seem to be able to navigate the favela maze, which an outsider would quickly become lost in. Rocinha, Rio's largest favela is home to 100,000 people and this is only one of 700 others in the city.
Finally we made it up to Sugarloaf on our last night, as the weather improved and the clouds parted. We walked up to the first cable car station, which was a great walk through lush rainforest like scenery, with little monkeys running through the trees above our heads. We then caught the cable car up to Sugarloaf ($26 Reals instead of R$53) and then stayed up there to watch sunset, and then the city light up in the dark, a beautiful sight. Then the cable car was free all the way back down after 7pm. We tore ourselves away from the astonishing view and caught the last cable car down at 9pm.