As we boarded the bus to Rio De Janeiro the realisation that this was our last bus journey, our last destination and the end of this epic adventure dawned on us. 11 months of traveling, 17 countries and this is our last stop – where has the year gone?
We were a little nervous abut Rio, we’ve heard horror stories about the safety since the beginning of this trip – is it really as bad as they say? Well I guess it was time for us to find out!
We booked a hostel called Cabanacopa through a recommendation. It’s a great hostel apart from being at the top of a deathly steep hill – you get juicy calves just looking at it!
Apart from the hill we were in a fab location, two blocks from the infamous Copacabana Beach, so of course many beach days were on the cards – but first the iconic tourist attractions that Rio has to offer!
The two must do sights on our itinerary were; Pao de Acucar, The Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the Christ the Redeemer Statue. One thing that Fran,Leanne, and I have improved greatly on during this trip is our level of spontaneity – one thing that all travellers must have in huge measures.
When it comes to adventures that involve epic views it’s important for a clear and sunny day. So when you wake up in the morning, peek out of the window and see “Christo” surrounded by clear blue sky, you know this is your day to go meet and greet the big guy!
I have seen so many glorious pictures of sunny Rio that it totally did not cross my mind that it can also be overcast and rainy. Conditions that are actually good for walking around in the city because it’s less hot (the beaches are still awesome and less crowded!), but not for clear views from the top of mountains. Hence: do the sky-check! Looking good? Alright then, hit the road!
With the weather perfect, we decided to check out The Sugar Loaf Mountain first. Rio de Janeiro is not what we would call a walkable city – it’s huge! The sugar loaf mountain is situated in Urca, and chances are your accommodation isn’t anywhere near that. We decided to take the bus, it’s by far the cheapest option but possibly the most deathly. Just imagine what it’s like to be a sock in an empty washing machine.. Okay got it? Now you’ve got to try your hardest to get a seat, if not hold on for your life! Saying this it always gets you where you need, double time and unscathed – what more do you want?
There are two different ways to get up the sugar loaf mountain, which also means two different prices. You can either use the cable car from the base to get to the first hill (Morro da Urca) and then onto the second one, the ticket will cost 62 R$, or you can walk up, and buy your ticket for the cable car from the first hill on to the second (Pao de Acucar) for around 22 R$.
Hell no did we walk, I flat out refuse to walk up anymore steep mountains for the foreseeable future. We did however get a cheeky discount with our student cards, a huge half price off – winner!!
The views from the first hill are mind blowing, you can see all of Rio and it’s hundreds of islands that go on and on into the distance! It looked stunning. It was such a surreal feeling to eventually be here looking down on Rio De Janeiro – we really made it! All these emotions and we weren’t even at the top yet!
We crammed ourselves into the second cable car and shot to the top in a matter of minutes. Okay these views win, wow, absolutely mesmerising, we could see for miles. We had the most perfect weather, so naturally we got snap happy and tried to take in all of Rio’s beauty!! We spent much more time here than we thought – there’s a lot of beauty to take in!
The next day we decided to keep our tourism ball rolling and head to Christ The Redeemer.
I would say one of the most iconic landmarks in the world and it was our turn to see it – such a crazy feeling! Many people see Sugar Loaf and Christ on a package tour, we however like to be different and the frugal travellers that we are made the decision to do it ourselves. It was actually surprisingly easy – minibuses run all the time from Copacabana beach and for a fixed fee of 53$R they take you all the way up the mountain and include your entrance fee – cheap as chips – and you don’t have to walk anywhere 😉 !
Once we made it to the top, overlooking Rio de Janeiro, at the feet of the largest Art Deco statue in the world and Rio’s most renowned landmark, it felt like nothing really mattered anymore – we had made it – except of course how to get the perfect shot of yourself in front of the statue, no room for jumping photos however!
The views were exceptional – this is the highest point in Rio and it is said that you can see the statue from wherever you are, I can see that being true. He sits proudly at the top of a mountain watching over the people of Brazil with a solemn yet somewhat scary looking face – iconic was definitely the word that kept springing to mind.
I feel a little lost for words when describing it; it was a truly special experience. Clouds rolled through the sky, people laughed, moved, posed, leaned on the wall and gazed over the city, you could sense it was a magical experience for everyone there!
As you can imagine, there is loads to do in Rio! With 11 days in this huge city we had a few lesser known locations that we wanted to visit!
These included the oldest and biggest Library in Latin America. This sent Fran’s senses in to over drive, the girl loves a library! It was incredibly beautiful and looked a lot like the library from Beauty and the Beast.
We were given a tour around, unfortunately the interesting rooms upstairs that house one of a kind documents and first editions were closed to refurbishments so we had a basic look around the first floor rooms. Those alone were incredible – all hidden behind huge oak doors, thousands and thousands of books lined the shelves, we even saw the location where they keep every single published newspaper since day 1. They even house the first ever published Bible – now how insane is that!! All this and it’s used as a university library – lucky buggers!
We also went to visit the ‘Lapa Steps’, this is included in some tours, as well as the main attractions but as you know were not one for tours anymore 😉 However through the grape vine these ‘steps’ sounded intriguing and something the three of us wanted to check out – and so we did! A few stops on the metro took us to Lapa, a district in Rio, thankfully we stumbled apon a tourist information point who spoke some English, our Portuguese is severely lacking, and were pointed in the right direction.
You can’t miss the steps, they burst with colour and look incredible.
The designer, a Mr Jorge Selaron born in Chile exclaimed it was his tribute to the Brazilian people! There are 250 steps and around 2000 tiles, collected from over 60 countries around the word. Each step has its own unique tiles and meanings, Mr Selaron explained that the steps will never be finished and are constantly evolving. There are 300 tiles that exist that Mr Selaron painted himself, they depict a pregnant African women and no one really knows why – full of useless facts me! It’s really quite impressive, so much so that it was a group of steps I didn’t mind walking up and down repeatedly 😉
The weekend was dedicated to Miss Livia, flying in from São Paulo for round two of play time – we were excited 🙂
Plan of action for the day was to head to the beach and catch some rays. She took us for a long walk along Copacabana which ended up at beautiful Ipenima beach. It was heaving with people so we left it to Livia to find us the best spot amongst the crowd.
We settled in our seats, umbrellas above our heads to protect us from the intense sunshine and a cold beer in our hands. Today was going to be a good day!
We sunbathed, ate cheese on a stick from the vendors and drank enough beer to keep the previous hangover at bay! To cool off it meant tackling the gigantic and freezing waves of Ipenima beach, watching from the safety of your chair was a joyous and hilarious thing however when it was your turn for a dip, tackling those waves was a mean feat – that we failed spectacularly!!
That night we found ourselves in an Irish bar chatting the night away and drinking a few cheeky cocktails. We are going to miss hanging out with Livia immensely – what a friend for life we all have made!
The next and final day with our Brazilian girl was spent at a lagoon called Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. We laughed until we couldn’t breath as we floated pathetically around the lagoon in pedalo’s the shape of giant swans.
A crazy moment when the realisation hit that we will be leaving Livia today and it may be years before we can reunite. Another moment when the bad side of travelling shines through!
What a great way to end our last day together though, we all had such fun and if it wasn’t a must already – Livia will come to London as its our turn to show her a great time!
Back to being a three again we officially have 5 days before this epic adventures draws to a conclusion! What do we want to do with our last few days? Beach..obviously, we most definitely can’t go home pale.
We spent a day at Copacabana beach but we all agreed we felt on edge here, constantly checking on our belongings and unable to really relax! So for the rest of the week we made the effort to go to Ipenima beach. When I say made the effort, we caught the bus every time – it’s a long way okay but we did always walked back 😉
The weather was hot, blue sky’s and happy people everywhere – this was the life!
I must talk about the Rio sunset! Thousands of people gather at one end of Ipenima beach on ‘The Rocks’ and watch as the sun slowly disappears over the horizon lighting up the sky with colours you can’t even imagine. It’s so spectacular that people applauded once the sun had set – which was a weird and new experience for me – I didn’t hate it!
Our last few days were spent just how we had pictured, completely relaxed it an utterly sensational part of the world soaking up the sunshine!
It’s time to think about entering back into the English cold weather but what greets us on that side will be worth all the shivering!