This post is very image heavy cos Rio is just beautiful.
On my first day, I went out with Leo and Fabiana, my hosts, to go market hopping. We spent the whole day wandering around a few different markets, and it was so tiring. A couple of hours for me is good, the whole day… pushing it a little. They showed me a few different parts of the city, from Lapa, the bohemian neighbourhood, to Centro where some old buildings from the colonial times still remain. In the evening we went out to drink, and listen to samba which you can see a video of below.
Sunday was Pão de Açucar day! Before that, I had to go and pick up my world cup ticket – which took no more than 2 minutes – and then it was off to climb Sugarloaf. It and Cristo are the two most iconic views of Rio, and they’re both quite expensive. To take the cable car up Sugarloaf costs about $30, which is about $25 more than I was wanting to pay, thankfully I’d heard of an alternative – hiking up the back. When you first see it, it really doesn’t look doable, but there’s a paved trail that leads around the side, and then an unofficial, unpaved one that keeps going around before it kicks up at about 20-30% on granite where I got to almost crawl for a while. Then the fun part, where most people use a rope.
I got to the wall, and there was a group of about 12-15 who were on a climbing trip. They were decked out with harnesses and helmets, and had 4 instructors to help them. They looked at me in horror when I arrived without gear, and were just confused by my Vibrams, and asked if I could climb up. The lead instructor, who was up above, told me that I’d have to wait for everyone to go up. I assumed this was some courtesy thing, so I waited. In the 90 minutes I was sat around waiting (getting annoyed), about 10 people went up, they were so slow. With only 3 left, a Brazilian guy came up on his own and just waltzed through and climbed up. I asked how that was fair, and was told that well he was a climber and knew what he was doing. Having watched a good few people go up, there only seemed to be one hardish part, and so I said that I was able to do it without the helmet or harness. If the rope was there as a safety net that’s all I’d need. That was accepted and I started the climb.
Having been sat down for so long my legs had gone a bit, so I needed to shake them around to get warmed up, and then I set off. The first bit went just fine, and then it got up and I started to realise that I might indeed be an idiot. I was pulling myself up with my finger strength, and gripping on to things that really weren’t that big. Thankfully one of the instructors there gave me a couple of pointers on where I should stand and also pointed out a couple of hidden holes. I got to the top and met the instructor who apologised saying he didn’t know I could do it like that. He had told me to stop because he wanted me to be secure and not fall off the mountain. He was having me sit around and when his whole group had gone up he was going to go down, lend me a harness and helmet, and then climb up with me. Nice guy!
The rest of the way up was like walking up some steep stairs for about 10 minutes, before I got to the top and hopped the fence, much to the surprise of some people who had come up officially and didn’t know about the backway. The view from the top, absolutely magnificent. Rio is one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever been to, and the views from Pão de Açucar are absolutely breathtaking. I chose some pics, but it was hard to chose the best. I stayed up there for about an hour, and the only downside was just how busy it was. Being a Sunday, and just before the World Cup, there were people everywhere. If that was anything to go by, Mexico and Chile will have a lot of fans here during the World Cup!
Climbing back down the way I came was decided to be too dangerous, so they let you take the first cable car down to the half-way point for free. From there, it’s the official path that you get to walk down, that heads through a pretty forest where I saw a snake, some small mammals and a bunch of birds.
I took my bus back home from Botafogo, a supposedly middle-class neighbourhood, but it’s where the yacht club is located and the view from the beach there is just glorious.
On the way up
Up the climb
My 3rd day exploring Rio saw me go on a ride passing through the most famous areas of Rio, including the beaches of Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema. There were fun gusts of up to 80km/h to ride in to, that tempted me to throw my bike into the ocean. Just outside Copacabana, I saw a huge amount of federal police on motorbikes flying past, and then the England bus came through, followed by a large army presence. They are training near Pão de Açucar and if I’d gone there on the Monday instead of the Sunday I’d have seen them training and being taught some moves from a local capoeira group. Oh well. The first part of Copacabana beach is closed off as they are still busy constructing the fan zones, for the world cup that starts in 3 days, and just along from there is the Dutch team hotel. I stopped by there, where a bunch of people were waiting, but got bored and didn’t want to sit around waiting to see Robin van Persie and friends.
The road passes the three beaches I mentioned before, and then gets very narrow and horribly busy as it makes it’s way to San Conrado, where the Royal Tulip hotel is – England’s base. There were only a few people waiting outside, and of course it was cloudy. I sat around for a bit, but it really didn’t look like anyone was coming out. I overheard some Brazilians talking about how they were going to take a taxi to the hotel later so they could get into the bar, and then meet and greet the England team. I was tempted to see if I’d be turned away, but as it was almost 3pm I didn’t have time. I wanted to get up to the main goal for the day, Cristo Redentor – my 2nd of the 7th Wonders of the World on this trip (although I’ve also been to the Great Wall of China and Taj Mahal on other holidays).
Cristo is located at 700m, up on Corcovado (hunchback) the highest point in Rio. Being down by the beach, that meant a fun climb up through the Tijuca Forest, the largest urban rainforest in the world. About 1km after leaving the main road I was in forest, and most of the next 15km had almost no traffic as I wound my way up and down the hills and through the trees to get to Cristo. The clouds that had been covering the England hotel, had moved up, and were covering the hill that Cristo was on, so when I got there it was popping in and out of them.
The last 2-3km are done on a private road, and most people do it by van. I had a bike so wasn’t going to do that, but when I got to the top there was nowhere to buy a ticket. They told me to go back down as the tickets are sold there where you get the van. So annoying. The van is ‘free’ and entrance to the monument is 22 reals ($11) with no student discount. I explained how I was a cyclist and it was a bit ridiculous that I’d have to go down again to get the ticket, so after a lot of faffing (and the people at the ticket gate refusing to believe I’d cycled as far as I said I have) one of the ladies from the ticket booth came up by van to sell me a ticket. I’d suggested that I could go around and then pay when I was leaving, but they accused me of ‘trying to be Brazilian’. Whatever.
It was already dark by the time I got up to Cristo, and I guess everyone else took the lift up, because walking up the stairs I felt like I was almost on my own. And then I got to the platform, and saw a huge sway of people standing around all trying to take the same picture of Cristo. There are strong floodlights shone at the statue, and with the cloud and almost full moon it looked ethereal. I’d gone there with the certainty that it was by far the least impressive of the 7 wonders, and while it still might be the least impressive (compared with Machu Picchu, Petra and the Great Wall) it’s still mighty impressive and was worth the entrance fee.
Up at Cristo (Very windy)
Looking down to Rio