From Salvador I flew south to Rio de Janeiro for a fun mid-June week. I previously visited Rio in November although only briefly and primarily to see Pearl Jam perform. This time I came to meet friends of old, make new friends and see the famous city’s sites.
Only a few people visited Ipanema Beach on this overcast day
My Rio base was The Mango Tree Hostel. Well located only one block from Ipanema Beach, the hostel is named after a giant 4-5 storey-high mango tree growing in its courtyard. Happily, Till and Julia, friends I’d met in Sucre, were also staying here. One evening Till and I enjoyed a great run up and back the length of Ipanema Beach.
On Sunday I took a bus and BRT across town to Barra, Rio’s second centre and home of the 2016 Olympics. If completed to schedule, Metro Line 4 would have quickened my journey substantially. Barra was also home to Alex, Kíria and their gorgeous son. Alex and I met in Turkey in 2002 when we were both AIESEC trainees. An avid sports fan, Alex bought an apartment across from the Olympic precinct the day Rio became the 2016 hosts.
From my eye most Olympic venues appeared close to completion. An exception was the velodrome which had faced a contractual dispute.
While in Rio Olympic Park’s Arena 1 hosted the women’s Volleyball World Grand Prix tournament. Alex, the fanatic he is, arranged tickets and we saw Serbia play Brazil followed by the start of the Italy-Japan game. Between games an audience member successfully proposed to his girlfriend live on the big screen.
Brazilian broadcaster Rede Globo’s media centre on the left and the temporary Olympic Aquatic Stadium on the right
A chaperone pointing us to the Arena 1 entrance with his oversized cartoon hand
Serbia in red playing Brazil in yellow. Tournament attendees received free yellow Banco do Brasil tee shirts
Two Japanese players attempt to block an Italian spike
With Alex inside Olympic Park’s Arena 1
In the evening I dined with Zoe, an expatriate Australian and another AIESEC alumnus. This time it was fifteen years between drinks. The Aussie-run cafe was closed so we enjoyed a great catch up over sushi. All the best Zoe for your exciting plans with Ramon!
With Zoe at Niksushi restaurant in Ipanema
The Christ the Redeemer statue is a Rio de Janeiro icon. From Ipanema, fellow hostel guest Braden and I bused to the base of Corcovada Mountain before catching the train to the top. Despite the cloudy day the views were still impressive.
Enjoying a caipirinha with Braden. Ipanema is on the coast directly behind
The Caipirinha cocktail and Christ the Redeemer, two Brazilian icons
A Christ the Redeemer cafe worker ready to catch drink cans thrown from below
That night Braden and I feasted at an all one can eat Brazilian churrasco (barbecue restaurant). The meat kept on coming and was so hard to decline. Although we ate lots of food, the restaurant would still have profited from the caipirinhas.
My evening didn’t end after the feast. Christina, Kristina and Laura convinced me to join them and others clubbing in Copacabana. Off we went for a night of glow sticks, face painting and dancing.
The day post-clubbing wasn’t highly productive although I did watch the movie Snatch for the first time.
On the 15th Fernando, John and I travelled via metro to Lapa, a bohemian and historic neighbourhood in central Rio. Lapa is home to the large 18th century Carioca Aqueduct, the city’s famous tiled steps and perhaps the ugliest cathedral ever.
Performing a handstand in front of Rio’s famous Selaron Steps
Lapa’s unflattering-looking Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro
That afternoon took a bus and then hiked up to Morro da Urca (also accessible by cable car). The second cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain wasn’t operating then, providing extra time to admire the great views and relax over a caipirinha.
On the bus from Ipanema I saw this police car in traffic with a rifle casually pointing out the front window
Enjoying a passionfruit caipirinha while waiting for the sun to set over Rio; Sugarloaf Mountain is in the distance
For my final full day in Rio I relaxed at Ipanema Beach with Kate, Šárka, Britt and company. While there I went body-surfing and loved playing in the waves. Afterwards we visited a McDonald’s restaurant for lunch, my first time eating there in many years. I had one of their premium burgers which, dare I write, was edible.
After one week of fun and friendship, my time in Rio ended and I left for my next destination, Paraty.