26.06.2008 20 °C
Having left Buenos Aires to escape the rain and cold, the rain and cold decided to come along for the ride. We had hoped for beautiful weather for our first glimpse of Iguazu falls, but as we got off the bus it wasn't quite the totally tropical experience we had hoped for... The bus ride itself was the most luxurious of my many, many bus experiences around the world. In Bolivia it was a case of wearing as many woolly jumpers my sleeping bag would fit in, then shivering for eight hours on a lumpy seat. In Cambodia, it was being wedged between the hard seat and five backpacks, rattling along a dirt track and emerging looking like a mud woman. In Argentina, it was food, wine, champagne, super-reclining seats. Brilliant. Anyway, all ready for action having had a good night's sleep, we got off the bus and found more cold miserable weather. All the same, no amount of cold wind or rain could hamper anyone's enjoyment of Iguazu, which is absolutely stunning. We're planning to go back, after a substantial faff trying to figure out when to go to Rio it turned out that we didn't have time to see the other side of the falls, but we were planning to return through Foz do Iguazu (the Brazilian equivalent of Puerto Iguazu) on the way back anyway, so no biggie. In the mean time, here's a taster...
So, another bus, this one 20 hours and similarly painless, and we're in Rio.. or frio de Janeiro, as we've called it since spending the first three days here either trying to dodge the rain or submitting to fate and getting ourselves soaked. The famous Rio attractions – taking in the view from Jesus' point of view at Corcovado, or chilling out at the beach with beer and coconut – are generally associated with hot weather, so while we waited for the sun we've been exploring other Rio activities. Our hostal, cheerful and cheap is an exception to the rule that Rio, and even Brazil in general, is surprisingly expensive (for budgeteers like myself). Our first hostal quote was 35 Reais a night for a dorm room (about £10, which is what I have paid in Edinburgh, and what we each paid in Amsterdam for a private room for three of us!), so that was a near hernia moment. Fortunately this place is less than half that price, although still a lot compared with the rest of South America, particularly the Andean countries, on which I had budgeted. Oh well, it's Rio, and we won't be here too much longer. Anyway, aside from being cheap this place is sociable and fun, with lots of activities to keep us amused while the rain poured down outside. The owner, Freddy, is teaching us some Portuguese, and with the Spanish I'm amazed at how much we've been able to get by and talk to people here. During the caipirinha mixing class we managed to hold up some sort of conversation with the chief mixer, a guy from Curitiba (our next stop) who speaks no English, just with Spanish, our tiny Portuguese and lots of pointing. We've also checked out a little market near centro, walked around Copacabana beach to the metro (not far from the famous Copacabana Palace.. Laura and Luke: I'm amazed!), and yesterday went to Cinelandia and Santa Teresa. Cinelandia is the home of the grandiose buildings, which are good for photos, and the Catedral.
The catedral was inaugurated in 1979, which may help to explain the choice of building materials: concrete. To be exact, a concrete cone, which can hold 20,000 people standing inside. The only architectural saving grace for what is essentially a monstrosity, is some lovely stained glass.
After being awed by the aesthetically displeasing catedral, we headed to the Tram and took the ride around Santa Teresa, which is a crumbling colonial district up in the hills, with cobbled streets and stunning views of Rio between the houses.
After that it was a slap-up arabic meal in Cinelandia, and a slow walk home holding our tummies having over-done it somewhat.
This morning I finally woke up to some sunshine, and we packed our bags with beachwear and did what we came here to do – nothing on the beach. Only after, of course, some lunch at a delicious comida a kilo place – literally, you pile some food onto a place buffet style, then they weigh it and you pay per kilo, inspired. Unfortunately, Lucy and I still approach the comida a kilo as if it were all you can eat, and keep getting carried away and over-doing it! (Can you sense a theme here?)
So, here's a beachy Ipanema photo, and watch this space from some from Corcovado soon...