Quite unexpectedly, Rio has become my favourite place to be (with the exception of Kashmir but I was born there so it doesn’t count). Saying it’s my favourite place is quite a statement given that I was actually only there for a day and a half and I was petrified of getting mugged as soon as I left the airport. So, let me explain ...
Everyone told me “Be careful, it’s City of God country”. I have no doubt the ‘wrong’ parts of town are dangerous but my experience was overwhelmingly positive. And how is man known for being so hard to please erm pleased? Was the sea? The sand perhaps? That beautiful sky? Or the hot rays of sunshine on my skin? The people? The food? The stunning scenery? Actually, it was all of the above. There are beaches and then there are the beaches. Rio has character and atmosphere by the bucket load. It’s very hard for anyone not to fall in love with Rio.
The start of the relationship
Flying from Sau Paulo where I’d been working for 3 days, I arrived in Rio late Thursday night. The flight was delayed so I missed an evening in Rio. So off to the hotel I went and checked in and slept soundly till 7am. Friday morning and my adventure began. The highlights of my stay:
Christ the Redeemer
If you think of Rio, a few things spring to mind and this colossal monument is one of them. The statue is 130 ft tall and 98 ft wide. It weighs 635 tons and is located at 2300ft on top of the Corcovado Mountain overlooking the city (you can’t really miss it). In July 2007, Christ the Redeemer was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a list compiled by the Swiss-based “The New Open World Corporation”. I’m not sure I’d agree but it doesn’t matter. It’s impressive! The tour guide told us it was made of concrete shipped in from Switzerland but a quick search on the internet says it’s made from soapstone. Not sure what that is but in any case, it’s a great monument and the views from Corcovado are spectacular. Actually, getting to the top by tram is good fun – it’s very steep to walk (although people do actually do this).
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Cable cars take passengers up the mountain in two stages, the first stopping at the Morro da Urca, a smaller mountain in front of Sugarloaf, and the second continuing on to the summit, each stage taking three minutes. Again, the views are spectacular and it’s well worth a visit. I had a moment of mental peace while I was up on Sugar Loaf. There is even a club there but I didn’t get to check it out (this time). For all you film buffs, Sugar Loaf is where James Bond battles Jaws in Moonraker!
Everywhere I looked I saw people playing volleyball or football, people basking in the glorious sunshine and buff men strutting around in the tiniest Speedos (slightly disturbing as I’ve never seen so many men’s crotches in my life). I walked the entire length of the beach and back again. It was fabulous. The people were great, the weather was great, I managed to burn despite my sun cream factor 30 but I didn’t care. Sitting down drinking coconut milk watching the world go by was simply wonderful. I was introduced to a drink called ‘Guarana’ – sugary, syrupy, tasty and full of caffeine it will wake you up and keep you buzzing. One can was enough though …
I sincerely regret not staying for longer in Rio. It’s left its marked on me. I need it. I want to lie on that beach, swim in those waters, watch those people walk by and feel content. Because that is what I realise Rio did for me. It washed away my troubles and woes and, for a short time at least, I was happy to be me.
“Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand …”
“Tall and tan and young and lovely, The girl from Ipanema goes walking, And when she passes each one she passes goes "a-a-ah!"