Down at the Copa....Copacabana
10.08.2010 - 15.08.2010 21 °C
We arrived back to a rather overcast Rio, which was annoying because most of the sights in the city are best seen on clear sunny days.
The first day it was still bad weather so we decided to have a look around the neighbourhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa. There are some big aqueduct arches in Lapa, over which you take a small tram up to Santa Teresa on the hilltop. It costs about 50p to ride, but the locals get a free ride by hanging off the sides!
Santa Teresa is famous for being quite an arty area and a nice part of town. However we think we somehow managed to get off the tram in the wrong place as what we saw didn't seem to be what all the guide books were raving about. We ended up wandering around for a while trying to find the right area but eventually had to give up! In the afternoon we visited the botanical gardens, which were really quite impressive as they back on to an area of forest and we even spotted lots of small toucans.
The sun decided to come out on our second day so we had to make the most of it! We spent a few hours relaxing on Ipanema beach before walking down to Copacabana beach. Both are amazing beaches, full of all sorts of different people even on a week day. Unfortunately they are nothing compared to those on Ilha Grande because of the noisy main road on the sea front and rows of huge tower blocks. But still its pretty cool having them right in the middle of a city!
In the late afternoon we took the cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain just in time for the sunset. The view is just stunning as you get to see so many different types of scenery all at the same time. Theres the sea and the beaches, then the huge towers of the city centre, with forest covered mountains in the distance. It was made even better by the sun setting and turning the sky all different colours.
The next day it was even hotter so we had to see the other famous view of Rio, from the top of Corcovado, while we had the clear skies. The mountain is famous because of the huge 'Christ the Redeemer' statue that looks down over the city. We had to get a train to the top, which was packed with people, but the view was once again amazing. The view from here looks out over the city and towards the sea, whereas from sugar loaf you look towards the mountain.
In the afternoon we went back down to Ipanema for another taste of 'açai', which looks pretty gross (thick and black) but tastes amazing! Açai is an amazonian fruit grown in Brazil, like a berry but not really that comparable in flavour to anything back home. They serve it as a frozen slushy drink which is really refreshing, especially on the beach! We also watched the sun go down from here, which was really pretty.
In the evening we went out to Lapa with a group of people from the hostel. Lapa is the area of Rio famous for its night life, especially on Fridays when its just like a massive street party. It was just crazy. There are stalls all the way down the street selling cheap caipirinhas and food and everyone stands around talking or dancing to the groups of people playing music until the sun comes up! Considering we were repeatedly warned that Rio is a really dangerous place, we did not see anyone fighting or causing trouble. Everyone was just having a great time! I could not imagine this ever happening back at home! Everyone else from the hostel left at about 3am but we met some locals who showed us some cool places and made sure we got home OK!
After getting back to the hostel at 6 in the morning we ended up sleeping until lunch time, which didn't really matter as the weather had turned horrible again and it rained all day. In the evening Alex went to the Maracana Stadium to watch a football match. Alex: The stadium was built in 1950 to be the biggest in the world, and for the 1950 world cup final it held over 200,000 people (the most ever recorded for a football match)! It only holds 115,000 now as they've seated all the stands but it's still enormous. I saw Flamengo play, who are the most popular team in Brazil (though not the best) and they won 1-0. It wasn't the greatest game of football I'd ever seen but the atmosphere more than made up for it. Even though there were only around 30,000 people the noise was incredible and there were flags and banners everywhere. The Brazilians are so passionate about football and instead of all the tourists sitting seperately we had to mix in with all the locals!
After the football we took a bus to Ipanema to have dinner at a Feijoada restaurant. Feijoada is the national dish of Brazil and is a stew of beans with lots of different cuts of meat. It's served with lots of side dishes of rice, collard greens and beans. There was so much of it we didn't even manage half, and the Brazilians seem to have very weak tastebuds as it was the saltiest thing ever. Sadly not the most delicious national dish we've tasted but it was nice to try the local cuisine.
Today, for our last day in Brazil we took a tour to a favela. Over 50% of Brazilians live in favelas, so we thought we should see the way that they live. We were initially put off doing a tour as we thought it might be a bit disrespectful for rich tourists to go to the poorest part of Rio and take pictures of the poverty but everyone we spoke to who'd done it said that it really wasn't like that at all. We went to Rocinha, which is the largest favela in Rio with a population of about 400,000. There are 811 favelas in Rio State alone and they're a law unto themselves, run and controlled by drug dealing mafia. The police are paid not to enter them and the guide said that in Rocinha there are 2000 stolen motorbikes, for some unknown reason noone in the favela has to pay for their electricity?!
Although it was clearly a lot poorer than the rest of Rio we were surprised at how developed it was. Nothing like the impoverished slums we had been expecting. The whole favela is built on the side of a mountain and we walked to the top which had amazing views over Rio. As there isn't much space they build their houses as high as they can, and instead of buying plots of land they buy someone's roof to build on! Some of the more basic buildings don't even have stairs so they have to climb the stairs of the house next door and jump across to theirs! We saw lots of the mafia with big machine guns that they buy from the police and army and would have felt really unsafe had the guide not explained to us that we would be fine. He told us that the money we pay for the tour goes back into the economy of the favela so the mafia want to make sure tourists keep coming and would kill anyone if they robbed us. The guide also told us that we couldn't take pictures in the main streets because we'd have photos of the stolen bikes or the people with guns. At one point some children showed us the Brazilian 'Capoeira' which is a dance that looks like people fighting but without touching eachother. They were so cute and really got into it. It was a such an interesting experience to see how so many people in Brazil live and we were glad that we'd changed our minds about doing the tour.
And thats all we had time for! Off to start our last journey of the trip - HOME! Can't wait to see everyone! xxxx