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Friends, football and a boat cruise

Written on: Thursday March 27th, 2008

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Author: Julie

Bom Dia!

After a week in the peaceful town of Paraty, it was time to leave again and to venture to our last destination in South America: Rio de Janeiro, the marvellous city. Our six hour bus ride was uneventful and we drove along a winding highway offering us glimpses of the ocean. Our first sight of Rio de Janeiro, meaning River of January in Brazilian Portuguese, was of towering modern buildings, old abandoned neighbourhoods, homes built up the steep side of mountain slopes mixed in with the infamous favelas.

Our hotel was located in the Copcabana borough and a couple of blocks away from the world famous 4-km beach. The skies were grey but we were hoping that they would clear for a few days so we could enjoy the beaches that this city was known around the world. Our taxi ride took us along its length, the wide beach sands was occupied by only a few runners and the occasional food hawker. It was mostly deserted as the winds were wiping the sand and surf. The black and white wave pattern of the sidewalk ran as far as the eye could see. Our hostel, the Mellow Yellow (60$ a night for a private), was 6-stories high with a TV room, a hot tub, outdoor terrace, a restaurant/bar, a video game room, a relaxation room, a free internet room, and key card security. It was just one step down from a full fledged hotel, if we didn't have to share a bathroom with others on the same floor. Every night they had a cheap set menu of good meals for 6$ where we were treated to huge servings of chicken fajitas, spaghetti, roast beef, crepes, etc.

We spent our first full day wandering around the neighbourhood of Copacabana. We walked the length of the beach, sitting down and enjoying the waves for a while, eating some shrimps on a stick that was sold to us by a food vendor. Quite a few runners passed us by and we can confirm that the Cariocas (residents of Rio de Janeiro) were as beautiful as was said. Gorgeous men and women would run by us in the skimpiest outfits with perfect bodies and faces. Rio is known as the world capital for plastic surgery and it was evident in every perfect face, straight white smile, flat stomach, and perfectly rounded butt. This was a country that made the bikini thong famous, where some of the top models came from. If it was something in the water, I was going to drink it by the gallon. Spaced evenly along the beach were lifeguard towers, occupied by a long lifeguard, scanning the few souls brave enough to enter the water. Most were teenage boys riding their waves on boogie boards. At the end of the beach is he historic Fort Copacabana, built in 1914.

The next day brought the arrival of our most special friend: Mijin, from Ottawa. She would be the first person from home we had seen in six months. We were so excited and best of all she was bringing us treats from home. She had spent the past few days at a business conference in Sao Paolo and would spend three very quick days with us, exploring the city before she returned home. We met her that morning at her hotel near the fort. She was a darling and brought us some clothes we had left behind, and best of all: sugar maple candies and peanut butter spread. Two flavours that we had craved for the past months since we couldn't find either in South America. We spent the afternoon catching up and planning the next couple of days. We wanted to make the most of it, so we stopped in at a travel agent and booked a couple of tours plus got tickets for the football (soccer) game happening that evening at the Maracana stadium.

We couldn't wait to take her to the match. After our crazy experiences in Buenos Aires, we wanted to share the crowds and excitement with her, let her feel the passion for football that all South American people seem to be born with. Our first sight of Maracana stadium was of a large, open sports complex. Our tour guide informed us that it was the 12th largest in the world and could accommodate 95,000 people comfortably but when it first opened it was designed for twice that amount of people. In 1992, an upper stand collapsed killing 3 people and injuring 50. Following the disaster, the seating was converted to an all-seater stadium from free-standing stands and was reduced to its now current capacity. The official attendance at the first game played during the official opening in 1950 was 199,500 but some estimate it to be closer to 220,000 fans. Unfortunately, the turn out for the game between Flamengo (the most popular club with 40 million supporters) and Friburguense was a dud with almost no spectators. We found out later that the home team of Flamengo was expected to win against the out of town Friburguense and they didn't disappoint with a 2-0 win. She was still able to experience a South American football game but without the intensity of the crowds, the singing and chanting, and most of all the random fireworks.

The next day we boarded an early morning bus for our day tour of the Bay of Ihla Grande. Our port of call was the small village of Angra dos Reis, approximately three hours from Rio. We had passed by a few days earlier on our way from Paraty to the big city. It is comprised of 365 islands, which the largest and most important is Ilha Grande, and two thousand beaches filled with natural beauty, legends and social events. It is located in the Fluminense Green Coast, between the States of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Brazil's only operational nuclear power station (the Central Nuclear Almirante Álvaro Alberto) is located here. Our boat was a masted-sail boat with enough room for about 30 people comfortably. We sprawled out near the front bow on soft cushions and watched the shore disappear. The water was a gorgous aquamarine color, the sky was clear, there was a light cooling breeze. It was a perfect way for Mijin to spend a day as she had been working long days for the past months and had been on one plane after another, attending conferences and meetings around the world. She needed a nice refresher and there was nothing better than a day on a boat with friends. We cruised past islands with large mansions belonging to the rich and famous, stopping occasionally at deserted islands where those who wanted could do some snorkelling in the crystalline waters. Little fish were already waiting for the snacks of bread the swimmers would throw overboard for their attention. I jumped in with Kevin but didn't last long as the water was a bit too cold for me (I freeze in water no matter the degree of heat).  The day passed by quickly and sooner than we wanted we were back at port and getting back on the bus for our long return to the city.


From Alex from England! on Oct 7th, 2008

Hey guys, I finally found your blog after losing all the contact details of everyone I met in Ecuador...how are your travels progressing? I can only see up to march on the blog so far. Best wishes, Alex