Rio De Janeiro is unlike anywhere else. Go there. I demand it. Will I be starting every entry with INSERT PLACE HERE is unlike anywhere else in the world. Rio is so unreal. Rio is easily one of the most picturesque places that I have encountered. It is amazing how it can stay so beautiful despite it being a huge city with a lot of skyscrapers. If you stand on the beaches Copacabana or Botofogo, just look around. I dare you to not have your jaw open (and I don’t mean just from looking at the ladies! – that is such a horrible thing that you would read in some crappy travel book….and on this crappy travel blog).
The girls and I stayed in a brilliant little hostel that was beautifully cheap. It is no longer very cheap. Now that it is not cheap, I don’t know how much I would recommend the hostel as it was not the best but low prices for me usually equal happiness. On first viewing, our room was disgusting but we grey to love it. It was a three bunk bed job. This is your standard bunk bed with another bed thrown on top for good measure. Our room could fit the bed and our bags. That was it. It was a shed out the back of the hostel if I am honest. This shed resembled a cell. We grew to love it.
We did all the touristy stuff in Rio which was great fun. It is funny, despite being away for a year, I rarely felt like I was on holiday. In Rio, we definitely felt like we were on holiday. I suppose I should describe the tourist attractions. I shall begin with my favourite:
SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN is epic. You can walk up it but we were feeling rather hungover as it was post St. Paddy’s day (ill explain that later) so we opted to get the cable cars which were fun in itself. Pretty terrifying but fun nonetheless. From the sugar loaf, you can see all of Rio. The views up there are breathtaking.
I think from the sugar loaf is where you really see the true beauty of Rio. The sprawling mountains rolling into the distance and the pristine beaches below. We stayed on the top to watch the sunset. Watching the sun set over Christ Redeemer is one of my highlights of South America. It looked so epic.
STEPS OF LAPA were a surprising highlight. I am not sure if there is a lot said about these steps in certain travel books but I would highly recommend it. They are also known as “The Steps Of Madness”. I probably would have missed them but the girls wanted to see them as a Snoop Dog video was filmed there. Turns out U2 recorded a video there as well as Edward Norton’s Hulk movie. Basically, Selaron (Mental Chilean-born artist) keeps himself busy by constantly changing the tiles on the steps everyday to include contributions from more than 60 countries around the world. It is mental but so impressive.
We were fortunate enough to meet him and get our picture taken with him. I am pretty sure he wanders around everyday meeting admirers. Similar to myself. He recognised our accent and brought inside to show us a lot of U2 stuff. Obviously, we pretended to love U2 and bono in particular.
THE FAVELA tour is one of Brazil’s most interesting attractions. What is a favela, I hear you ask? Well, cast your mind back to the opening scene of “Hulk” (Norton version again) and the whole opening of the film is filmed in the favelas. A few scenes in the latest Fast and the Furious film were also filmed there. I really must watch that film. I think I have seen it in double figures at this point but never in English.
I cannot imagine I am missing too much without dialogue. This tour was an interesting experience. The favela is a huge sprawling slum in Rio De Janeiro. People who live in the slum just build their own property on whatever spare land and steal electricity. People in the favela refuse to pay tax or any bills. It is pretty odd. It is obviously quite a poor area but you do see some guys who walk around in suits coming home from work. The Brazilian family unit is very strong so I imagine if people can get jobs they still want to live in or around the favela with the family. The tour starts with a really fun but suicidal motorcycle ride through the favela. We were forbidden to take pictures of any people with guns or bombs. Our guide told us this before we entered the favela….good to know….seems fair enough. An interesting start. There was a child (no older than 15) in front of me on a motorcycle with an AK-47 strapped to him. I am unsure how I felt about the tour if I am honest. It could have been because I was tired and had a rough start to our day (booking tickets to our next destination was a pain) but I was not a fan. It was a bit boring and felt like a zoo at times. “Look at all the poor and sometimes dangerous people”. Some people on our tour were just taking people of normal people in their houses as if they were an attraction. Quite odd. The money from tours do go towards the favelas so they are not being exploited or anything but it just left a bad taste in my mouth. Plus, it gets a bit boring. It seems like a tour people do to say that they have been in a slum as a lot of it is just walking around. There is a charity that works in the favela where you volunteer and teach kids which sounds amazing. To live and work in the favela for a month or two would be such an experience.
CHRIST REDEEMER may be Rio’s most famous landmark. It is incredible from anywhere in the city but when you scale the mountain to see him, its pretty underwhelming. You get a pretty insane view of the city from up there but not as good as Sugar Loaf. I am not sure what I was expecting but when you are up there, it’s a pretty grim looking statue. It is absolutely massive which is impressive but the place is riddled with tourists doing that same pose. Everywhere you walk, you bump into tourists and ruin their photos. Again, I am not sure what I was expecting though.
As I mentioned earlier, we spent St. Paddy’s day in Rio. Easily my favourite Paddy’s day to date. It was so epic. Absolutely no one knew about it which is interesting considering I read that Christ Redeemer statue is going to be turned green for it this year. We went to an Irish bar and the buzz was only ninety. We had lots of fun. I think there may have been 10 Irish people in the bar. Everyone else was American or Brazilian. Brazilians, man. Just the nicest people in the world. So interested in what you like about Brazil and stuff like that.
They seem really eager to dispel the myth that Rio is such a dangerous place. I spent the night talking Brazilian football with them. I explained my love for Ronaldo and how I hate Argentina (I don’t but I just wanted to make friends). I lost the crowd slightly when I said that I was a huge fan of Juninho (Middlesbrough’s pint sized midfielder back in the day) but it was excellent banter.
Myself, Emma and Clara all got separated and we all ended up in different parts of the city. I ended up in a hostel on the Copacabana. It was glorious. Obama was staying on the Copa also but I don’t think he was at the party. After one too many shot of tequila, I decided it was time to leave the party. I was completely broke so I needed to walk home. En route back to my hostel, I had to bypass Botofogo beach which is apparently pretty dangerous. There is a common saying about me that goes “As golden brown as he is fearless”. The gangs of intimidating youths around Botofogo are no match for me but there was only one of me. We met countless backpackers who were robbed on this beach.
So, I needed a cunning plan. Thankfully, I am also know as “Cunning Brown”. As I was approaching the danger zone, I noticed that there were a few sketchy groups hanging around. I had to act quickly. I whipped off my Ireland jersey so I would not look like a drunken Irishman. (Forgetting that I still had shamrocks and the tri-colour on my cheeks…face cheeks btw). I then picked up a black rubbish back and headed home. I looked quite homeless so they wouldn’t mess with me. I had no cash but did had my camera on me so I didn’t want to lose those pictures.
I am seriously so proud of that idea. I hope the lonely planet read this and use it for their tips section.