I woke up on the second day in Rio to find that there was some confusion between Ludmilla and I. She had woken up early and went back to sleep when she couldn’t get in touch with me, so when I woke up and couldn’t find her, I sat around until past noon when she was ready to move again. I wasn’t happy about wasting precious time on such a short trip, but it was nasty and raining again, so visiting Christ the Redeemer wasn’t a possibility anyway. There wouldn’t be any visibility from up there and it would just be a waste of money to look at a cloud.
We took the bus from Botafogo to Leblon, one of the well known beaches to the south. Leblon is an upper class neighborhood with trendy restaurants and cafes, but also very residential, and kind of reminded me of a tropical Recoleta. Traveling in Rio is interesting because the morros, or giant rocks, just jump out randomly and the roads need to abide by the space limitations. Therefore, it can often take you much longer to go a short distance because you have to bypass the rocks. However, this traffic tie up it made less painful with the beautiful scenery that abounds. And in any case, I found the traffic in Rio to be much better than in Buenos Aires, even at rush hour. I found in my short time there that there were no pickets, road blocks, or any other man-made headaches.
Rio for me was a very Latin American city, in that it seemed like a typical image many might hold of South America. Tropical with palm trees everywhere, slightly faded buildings in the grey rain, and a strong sense of pride and happiness throughout. Even on a cold day, it wasn’t terribly frigid. We grabbed lunch and then walked along the beaches of Leblon and Ipanema. Ludmilla pointed out the only house left on the beach in Leblon, and apparently the owner refuses to sell even when they offer him millions of dollars. Almost no one was on the beach, and though we moved on quickly, it was impressive to watch the hard waves crash onto shore. Rio has a pretty rough surf, and it’s actually not recommended to go swimming there. There are many rocks and the seafloor quickly drops off.
Down in Ipanema I treated myself to a fresh coconut for 3 reales and took a few pictures, though it was far from the typical Rio postcard shot. If anything, it seemed like it might be a cloud forest. In Copacabana we walked the strip and got another churro, passing the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel and hoped that the weather was turning. The rain had stopped and it heated up a bit, but the sky was still uncooperative. At 4:30 pm I directed us to Sugarloaf, the iconic rock where a cable car takes you to the top for a view of the city. Ludmilla wasn’t too crazy about going because of the cloud cover, but I insisted. It was one of the icons of the city and one of the things that I wanted to do most, so I didn’t care what the outcome was.
We took a taxi there and paid the 53 reales to get in, and Ludmilla told me it used to be 16 reales. Brazil has essentially had inflation for years, but with a fixed system, they plan on how to lower it little by little every year. We got to the first section for a slight view of the city just before more clouds came in, though taking pictures was difficult. As we got to the top of Sugarloaf it was dark and cloud cover totally obscured the city below. Still, it made for a unique effect on the landmark, and we walked around a bit before heading back down.
I parted ways with Ludmilla and spent the night with Sergio and his roommates, going to bed fairly early, but not before eating another feijoada dish and feeling like I would explode from over-eating. In the morning I walked around until finding one last churro and then headed to the domestic airport via taxi, where I then got a bus to the international airport. This is actually a much cheaper option than taking a taxi all the way to the international airport, and the bus leaves every 30 minutes. So the short trip in Rio ended, and it leaves me wanting more. I’ll have to go back some day to see more of the city and take advantage of the beaches, plus the other sights I couldn’t get to. And of course, there are so many other places to visit in Brazil.
The Brazilians I met were incredibly friendly, and even though I spoke mostly in Spanish while they spoke back in Portuguese or a little Spanish, we were able to understand each other. Many speak English and are eager to practice it. While I have a long way to go before I can say I fully understand Portuguese, it’s amazing how my Spanish skills allowed me to figure things out more easily. Yet every time I reminded myself to say “obrigado” (thank you), “gracias” slipped out. My brain is wired for Spanish. I’ll have to practice more for the next time.