After a rather unsuccessful, but never the less enjoyable first day we where determined to do better. Our determination paid off and we managed to avoid getting lost and saw some of Rio De Janeiro’s most famous sites. Yes!
To start the day we needed to go back to the bus station and book our ticket to Sao Paulo. This time we managed to avoid the favelas and got to the station in half the time, meaning we could soon get on with the real site seeing that we intended to do.
First a couple of tips about getting around in Rio. If you want speed and convenience go for the tube. A single (Unitario) costs 2.80 Brazilian Real compared to the 2.70 (on average) of a single bus ticket. The tube will get you to your destination in half the time a bus would take, and it is also much easier to be certain you are getting off at the correct stop. Despite this, I still preferred buses. Ok, so they take a bit longer and it can be a bit tricky knowing when to get off, but you get to see the city at the same time and from the relative safety off the bus. We got a bus from Botofago to Copabocana which probably took about half an hour and seemed to take a fairly round about route, but it was really enjoyable. The bus travelled through parts of Rio that we probably wouldn’t have felt safe walking through and is immensely better than staring into the dark abyss while on the subway.
Copacabana seems like a very nice area, and is much more like a European city than other parts of Rio. The tree lined streets are bustling and there is a lot of traffic but the general atmosphere seems very good. We didn’t have time to look around the shops but I’m sure if we did it would have been interesting. Of course the dominating feature of Copacabana is the beach! Its surreal, one minute you are engulfed in excitable metropolitan life, the next, and a few blocks down, you are faced with masses of blinding white sand. The only other place I can imagine it is comparable to is Barcelona, although I could be wrong, I’ve never been there!
After reaching the beach we were very hot and needed to cool down. This was the perfect excuse to plant ourselves at one of the many small bars scattered along the beach and sample Brazil’s national cocktail Caipirinha. At 5.00 Real we couldn’t really complain and we were looking forward to something refreshing. It was STRONG! Much stronger than we were expecting. From what we could work out it is a mixture of Vodka, Lime, Sugar and some other bits and pieces to fill it out. It is not the kind of drink you can gulp but it still provided at least some respite from the scorching temperatures.
On a quick trip back to the hostel to ask about how we would get to Rio’s number one landmark Christ The Redeemer, by chance we made friends with a nice Chilean guy called Ignasio who also wanted take the trip up Covacado mountain. Without him we would have definitely got lost but he spoke very good Portuguese so was able to ask directions.
The most popular way to get up the mountain is by “Cog” train. We had intended to do this but as we stepped off the bus we were approached by a tour guide from Corcovado Car Service who offered to take us up an alternative route for 44.00 Real.
This was worth every penny. Our driver, Elza spoke very good English so was able to point out places of interest along the way such as the Favela where Micheal Jackson filmed one of his music videos. The route we where taken took us 9km though Ticuja rain forest. I can imagine that the train would probably provide a better experience of the forest as we had to stick to the paved roads so it was never that dense, but even still it was a pleasant drive.
The price included two stops, one at the helipad about half way up Corcovado mountain, and the next of course at the top. The stop off at the helipad is well worthwhile and provide a great opportunity to take photos of the stunning views. A short walk back past the car park and through a small portion of forest gives you an alternative yet equally stunning view.
Next the steep drive up to the top! If you look at the mountain from the base it seems as though it would be impossible for a car to scale it, but a long and windy road cut into the cliff side takes you to the top. Once there, you can choose between taking a lift or 220 steps to the summit. We choose the steps as they provided more photo opportunities.
Then you have the statue! It is as impressive from close up as it is from afar. One thing that made us laugh were the number of people taking the exact same photo. Stand at the top of the steps, hold your arms out to mimic the statue, and look really silly for a couple of minutes while your friend struggles to get a good angle from the bottom of the steps. I dread to think how many photos like this have been taken!
I was also surprised to learn that the statue itself is the home to a small church! The doors of the church are plastered in no photo signs, but as Ignasio was looking in one of the security guards said to him in Portuguese “Take the photo I don’t care”!
Finally you have the views! From about 700m up the views of Rio and many of the surrounding areas are spectacular. We were lucky enough to have a crystal clear day and had fun trying to spot were we where staying. We were also struck by the size of one of Rio’s cemeteries. I have never seen such a big cemetery any where before, and this thing literally coved 4 or more whole blocks.
We didn’t get lost, we made a Chilean friend, we found a great tour guide and saw Rio’s number one landmark. Quite an improvement over the previous day! The Corcovao Car Service was a good alternative to the Cog train, providing us with an extra stop and the knowledge of Elza. I think it worked out quite a bit cheaper too! All in all a good day.