Let me take you to Rio, Rio, fly on the ocean like an Eagle ...
Rio, what needs to be said! We arrived from Iguazu in the late afternoon with plans to watch the sunset from the top of the Sugar Loaf mountain. We had a change of plans though because of some unco-operative weather, so we headed instead to the Lapa district to visit the Selaron steps. Escadia Selaron, are world famous steps created by Chilean born artist Jorge Selaron. The steps are created from multiple tiles, mirrors and ceramics a lot of which were donations from travellers across the globe. Walking along the steps you can see tiles representing numerous cities and countries around the world. We caught a glimpse of a few Australian tiles, but don’t think Adelaide quite made an appearance.
We had some dinner in a Brazilian restaurant before heading out to experience the infamous Rio nightlife. We headed for Lapa for a street party and clubbing district with live music and DJs. It was such a fun night out with the caipirinha’s flowing and plenty of dancing. After calling it a night we caught a cab back to our hotel, just to get off the main street took a solid 10 minutes, because the streets were packed. On the way home, it started to really sink in that we had arrived in Rio as we could see Christ the Redeemer lit up above the city. The weather really wasn’t working in our favour in Rio, having again to change our plans. Our itinerary has us visiting Christ the Redeemer on our first full day in the city, but due to heavy cloud cover, the view was completely obstructed and the Redeemer was invisible. We instead went to the Sugar Loaf. Two cable cars to reach the highest point and we had incredible views over the city and the harbour. Although the weather was not fantastic, we still were able to see one of Rio’s most famous views. After a short while on the mountain the clouds started to clear and we could see Christ the Redeemer on the other side of the city.
With the weather clearing we headed to the harbour and jumped onboard a boat for our private boat party. The city looks surreal from the water; truly the best view of Rio! We docked the boat nearby a tiny uninhabited island overlooking the coast. We enjoyed a BBQ with snacks and caipirinhas all afternoon in the Brazilian sunshine. Swimming, jumping off the boat and climbing the island characterised the remainder of the afternoon. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and we had to head back to shore. We were, however, treated to a most spectacular sunset as a backdrop to the bustling coastal city.
Now I can’t forget to mention dinner … food is life! We had a traditional Brazilian BBQ dinner. BBQ in Brazil is pretty much food galore, we had a buffet with cooked meats, sushi, fish, rice, salad and vegetables. But that wasn’t all. We also had waiters walking around the restaurant with giant pieces of meat to be carved onto each individual’s plate. There was almost every type of cut and meat available. It is impossible to leave a Brazilian restaurant still hungry. Another full day in Rio had us making an early start to reach Christ the Redeemer before the crowds and before the weather turned. We walked along the esplanade to the designated vans for the National Park and after a quick van change midway up, we reached the base of the Redeemer. We definitely did no beat the crowds, it was incredibly busy but being the icon that the Christ is, we couldn’t have expected anything less. Walking around the statue; weaving through all the tourists with their selfie sticks and trying not to trip over those lying on the designated photographer mats we managed to get some great snaps of the statue. The view of the city was obstructed a little by cloud cover but we were just happy that we could visit the Redeemer.
We caught the van back down to the esplanade where we were picked up for our Favela tour. We visited Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil. There were mixed reviews between the group on this excursion, but I thought it was invaluable to my Rio experience. It provided a real insight into life in Rio, rather than just seeing the touristy side of the city. It gave us a chance to really appreciate what we have, how blessed we are in the Western world and to always be thankful for everything, every day.
With the weather still holding up we headed to Tijuca National Park for some hang-gliding, my Rio bucket-list number one. We geared up and practiced our run offs with our instructors. I was really excited but a little nervous, considering that when I’d been parasailing and paragliding previously I’d been ill towards the end. But I guess, third times the charm because I was able to completely and utterly enjoy my experience flying over one of the most incredible cities in the world. It was a such a freeing activity, there was no fear, I just felt completely at ease. It was a whole new angle on the city, with bird’s eye views over Sugar Loaf, Rocinha Favela, Ipanema and Copacabana. I didn’t want my flight to end, but after 15 minutes of pure bliss, my instructor started to explain the procedure to land, something that apparently didn’t need to be discussed before running off the cliff. We landed, not so gracefully, on the golden sands of Sao Conrado.
After our adrenaline-high we drove back to Copacabana and walked to Ipanema for the weekly Hippie Markets. Before we knew it, it was our final night together, after having spent the last unforgettable 25 days with one another. We celebrated with some drinks on the shores of Copacabana and sadly said our goodbyes. With my flight being in the afternoon, I had one final morning in Rio with a few other travellers. We went for a swim at Copacabana which turned out to be a lot more difficult that I had anticipated. The waves were extremely strong, tumbling the strong swimmer that I am for longer than was comfortable with. It made me a little concerned that so many young children were swimming in those dangerous waters.
After a quick bite to eat after my morning swim it was time to head off to the airport, saying my final goodbyes once more. This was seriously a trip of a lifetime, with so many diverse and unforgettable experiences. I definitely pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of and have a new drive to see even more of the world. South America, I will be back!