Rio nearly didn’t make it into our travel itinerary. We had decided that we didn’t really have time to go into Brasil and even though we’d heard incredible things about this beautiful city full of beautiful people, we’d heard some pretty horrible stories about muggings and corrupt policemen too.
We decided to fly from Bogotá to Rio and fortunately had a night stop over in Buenos Aires where we left most of our baggage and travelled on with only one hiking pack and a small day pack.
We’d been a bit blasé about booking accommodation in Rio, we’d emailed a few places but even though some of them got back to us without availability we didn’t try and phone any of the others. We just assumed it would be like everywhere else and easy to find something on the ground. We were wrong. Upon arrival at our 2nd or 3rd hostel that didn’t even have a dorm bed available we were told that it was a public holiday in Rio on the Tuesday (Childrens’ Day) and Thursday (Teachers’ Day) of that week and that there was also a Bon Jovi concert taking place. Basically she told us we’d be lucky to find anything. In desperation we wandered into a holiday apartment block. They didn’t have anything either, but the guy behind the desk got on the phone and managed to communicate to us that he had found something elsewhere. We wandered a little dubiously the two blocks to the apartment he’d found and were met by Rosemary, who, it turns out manages the property and also lives in the same building. The apartment was perfect, and at the same price as a double room in a hostel, a real bargain. We took it for six nights.
The following morning we had a much needed sleep in and headed out for coffee at a great little place in the fort overlooking Copacabana Beach. Fantastic coffee and an incredible view! We liked Rio… a lot. We liked it even more after wandering and eating our way around Ipanema that afternoon. We had high hopes for the night life and headed out in a taxi that evening for Leblon and a Lonely Planet recommended cocktail bar. Unfortunately the bar seemed to have been replaced by a restaurant (interestingly enough the same restaurant that we’d tried to find at lunch and found closed) so we backtracked to our apartment for the guidebook and ended up about an hour later sitting in a delicatessen, rather disappointed in our search for a comfy little bar. We ordered cocktails and decided to make the best of it. About 10 mins later a fantastic little jazz band started up and we realised that while a little different to our expectations… the Ipanema night life was still pretty good.
The next day was filled with strolling the beaches and sampling some more of the excellent restaurants. After dinner we headed out to the intriguing Rio Scenarium in Lapa. We queued for 1hr 45mins thinking that it’d better be pretty good! It didn’t let us down. The club is located over three massive floors filled with antique furniture, props, cars, chandeliers, pictures and sculptures. We spent most of the time just looking at the amazing bits, bobs and furniture around the place.
We spent the next few days doing the touristy things… a walking tour of the city, going up the Pão de Açúcar in the evening and Corcovado to see Cristo Redentor first thing in the morning. We managed a couple of hours on the beautiful Ipanema beach but gave up because it was a little windy. We even managed to catch a pro surf competition at Arpoador. On our last day we met up with Paulo, a friend of a friend we thought we were only meeting for coffee. Paulo decided to show us around and took us for a drive into one of the largest southern favelas, the beautiful old hillside area of Santa Teresa and for a look at the (unfortunately closed for renovation) Estádio do Maracanã. Then he took us to a new local watering hole for a couple of beers. We had such a fantastic afternoon and really saw a different side of the city.
The next morning we were up early for our taxi to the airport and the final big sight of the year…. Iguazú Falls.