Mention Rio and most people respond with “Carnival!” I have to admit I anticipated Rio with a show-me attitude. Just what makes this city so special to so many? The three things that were must sees were the Sugarloaf Mountain, The Corcovado or the large iconic Jesus statue, and the beaches. And of course the sail in was said to be spectacular.
Gathering my camera and my Kindle, I sat out on the Promenade Deck (what we on Deck 7 call our balcony) for sail in time. Around 10:15 I could see the first of the two famous beaches, Ipanema and almost make out what I thought might be the Christ statue since there was only one object atop that hill and the other hill had several (later I realized they were communication towers).
Then a second beach came into view more prominently. Copacabana, I presumed. The beaches certainly were huge. I think Copacabana alone was said to be 4 kilometers (about 3 miles). The sun was not at the best angle for taking pictures but I soldiered on thinking that I may not get any more chances at shots from the water.
A few photos of the single figure on the hill and with a little help from zooming in on the camera’s view screen I could tell that indeed that was the iconic statue. When I saw the cable cars heading up to another mountain, I realized it had to be Sugarloaf. So, I thought to myself facetiously, I’ve seen the statue, Sugarloaf, and the beaches. Do we have to stop?
The city just seemed to go on forever. Lots of towering white buildings along the shore I assumed were probably hotels, apartments, condos and an airport with a short runway that made landing look precarious.
I soon saw the cruise terminal distinguished by the lineup of buses waiting to take passengers on excursions. We had nothing planned for the afternoon but went for an early lunch anyway and exited the ship as soon as we were done.
We had been warned that the neighborhood around the pier was not desirable but that the shuttle would take us to the Copacabana Palace (hotel) and would run until 5:30 PM even though we were overnighting in Rio. On the shuttle we struck up a conversation with another couple and agreed to share a cab to Sugarloaf Mountain. We’d missed the cable car ride in Cape Town because we’d waited. We didn’t want to miss another.
The taxi driver spoke no English but Michael pointed to the spot on the map and he nodded his head. We squeezed in and were off with the meter ticking. At the terminal we had exchanged some USD for BRL (for a hefty 20% fee) because we knew the taxis would not take USD or credit cards. Our ride cost about 17 BRL (about $6 USD).
As we walked toward the ticket office, Jeanne remarked that the last time they’d done this the lines were so long that they almost ran out of their allotted tour time. We breezed through and soon were boarding the first of two cable cars. It took us to a smaller hill in front of Sugarloaf. Then we got on the second and found ourselves high above the city with a spectacular view of buildings and beaches.
Sugarloaf Mountain is named for its shape which is said to be like a loaf of bread (baguette maybe?) and in earlier days when there were more birds there, it was covered in guano (bird do). Interesting origin.
Jean and Michael we knew wanted to spend a bit more time than they’d had before so we wandered around and sat and people watched for a while. When they were ready to leave, we all went down and found a cab to take us to the Copacabana Beach. The other couple wanted to walk out to an area where there was a fort but we knew the walk to the pickup area for the shuttle was going to be long enough for us so we parted ways.
It was a good hour walking back with a stop for something to drink and some papas (fries). It was fun trying to give our order to the waitress. Thank goodness for pictures and a little Spanish even though they speak Portuguese. We boarded our shuttle bus around 4:30 and got back to the ship about 5:40. Yup. A 25 minute ride turned into an hour and ten minutes in unbelievable traffic. The last shuttle didn’t get back until almost 7. Thank goodness the ship wasn’t sailing that night!
Our show for the evening was a local Samba show. I need to learn more about what Samba really is because they did more drum playing than anything and of course paraded some lovely ladies in, well, almost nothing. It was called Carnival and the costumes of several in the show were from Rio’s Carnival. They were amazing!
The next morning we were scheduled to see the third of the must-sees, Corcovado. It was a Saturday and our guide said traffic should not be as bad—not by his standards it wasn’t. We made it to the mountain and thankfully another from the tour company had purchased our tickets. The line for tickets was huge.
We boarded the train that takes you to the top. There is also a road for cars and buses to travel but this was a lot more fun. Once to the top, we had to take an elevator and two escalators to reach the base of the statue. It was either than or walk up over 200 stairs.
We were given an hour to explore. Bob and I were done in fifteen minutes. There’s not that much to see and the crowds were jostling for position to take pictures of each other with their arms outstretched. Oh, by the way, this is Jesus before the crucifixion. His arms are outstretched in greeting to all in Rio or as an embrace of Rio. The story Bob liked best though was that when Rio stops sinning the statue will bring its hands together and clap.
While we waited for our time to gather for the trip down, we walked down the 200 steps and wandered a bit through a couple of souvenir shops, talked to other shipmates who were done as well, and then when we were all together, rode the train down.
|Look closely. Little mosaic tiles.|
The rest of our tour through areas of interest included the beach and a lagoon that they were picking dead fish out of trying to get it fixed somehow for the Olympics. One more interesting point: We had seen what looked like grandstands for a football stadium but there was no stadium. Turns out there are grandstands on a half mile long stretch of road where the Carnival parades each year.
I might be tempted to return for Carnival—once, but I think I’ve seen Rio and I’m not a beach person who would come for the sunshine and sand.